Enchanting Commander – Spread the Sickness by Grant Hislop
I’ve been known to partake in the occasional game of Commander. To borrow from the World’s Most Interesting Man ™, I don’t always play Commander, but when I do, I play very good decks. One thing that struck me as being really amusing recently, was in response to my Black Set Review for M14, in relation to me writing off Dark Prophecy as terrible, a gentleman replied ‘This could be really good in Commander, I hate this guy’, or something to that effect, I’m paraphrasing. That sort of statement always makes me chuckle, not just because it’s someone being mean about me, but because it’s just so ridiculous.
Consider a format where both Necropotence and Yawgmoth’s Bargain are legal: Would you play Dark Prophecy in that deck? Even if you were only allowed one copy of each? Consider also, Demonic Tutor, Vampiric Tutor, Imperial Seal and Grim Tutor are legal, and on colour. How about now? Probably not, right? Necro and Bargain both don’t care about how you’ve built your deck; Dark Prophecy does. Necro and Bargain can be activated at any time you choose; Dark Prophecy can’t be.
Why then, whenever someone rubbishes a card, are the ‘It’s good in Commander’ crowd so eager to join in the discussion?
Commander is a casual format
Here’s the thing – Commander is a casual format. Bad cards and bad players very frequently rule the roost in casual formats. Bad players don’t have less opinions about cards than good players, they’re just wrong more often. Oftentimes as well, players can be bias regarding how good a card is in their one specific deck that they’re inclined to believe it’ll be just as good everywhere else as well, leading to the propagation of ‘It’s good in Commander’, when it’s really not. Just about every card in Magic’s history COULD be used in Commander, but very few of those cards SHOULD be used.
While I appreciate that for many players, budgetary concerns are a thing, and that they just don’t have access to the card pool that would afford them to build better decks, budgetary concerns really don’t affect the viability of a card, and it shouldn’t be presented as such.
One thing that I’m a fan of in Commander is building decks to a theme. Whatever that theme is, I like to make the deck as good as it possibly can be, budget be damned. Also, for the most part, I try to build my decks with as much interaction as possible, and include few, if any ‘I win’ combos. When the theme I’ve chosen calls for it, I’d prefer any combos to end the game immediately, ala Kiki Jiki/ Pestermite than drag out under some sort of lock that renders the game horrendously boring to my opponents.
I don’t like using off-colour fetchlands, and I enjoy it when my decks are truly Highlander decks, so prefer not to run more than one of ANY card, including basic lands. Also, and these are just personal things, I build decks that very often are all-in on a single card, rendering the strategies quite vulnerable to Counterspell and friends, which is a card type often extremely under-appreciated in Commander, and if I’m not planning on winning with my general, I like him to be terrible.
The deck I’m going to show you today fits these criteria, with a small caveat; This deck can take quite long turns. There is a lock, of sorts, but the game will be 100% over when it occurs, as there’s no wiggle room, nor is there a card in Magic that could break it once it’s assembled. There is also an alternate route to victory, and it’s not entirely reliant on casting its key card.
Additionally, and most enjoyably, this deck draws a tonne of cards. A tonne. I’ve had to put stops in the deck to prevent myself from decking myself, as that is a legitimate concern when playing this deck.
Without further ado, I’ll show you the list I’m talking about, and then break down the card choices, similarly to how I usually do when discussing sixty card decks. I try as hard as possible to include as much redundancy as possible when building my decks, to increase the consistency, which should make this relatively simple to do.
At any rate, here we go:-
General:- Angus Mackenzie
Aura of Silence
Dance of Many
Defense of the Heart
Leyline of Sanctity
Journey to Nowhere
Pursuit of Knowledge
Rites of Flourishing
Seal of Cleansing
Seal of Primordium
Sigil of the Empty Throne
Sphere of Safety
Flagstones of Trokair
Minamo, School at Water’s Edge
This deck is a lot of fun (for me). It draws tonnes of cards, spends the early turns setting up defences, before killing over the course of one or two explosive turns. Absolutely brilliant fun. The deck is hopefully going to be gaining a lot in the next few months as well, and while the Commander format isn’t as volatile as the Standard format, significant changes have been known to happen. One extremely positive thing about this deck is that there are very few, if any cards here which are likely to get banned at any point soon, which is always a plus.
How the deck works
I like the idea of using Enchantments to win in Commander, as people still don’t pack nearly enough ways to deal with Enchantments, to their detriment. Artifacts die all the time, but that Oblivion Ring you cast on turn three can still be sitting around on turn fifteen.
So, how does this deck win. Firstly, the main route to victory:-
I have absolutely no idea why Genesis Wave is still legal in Commander. None whatsoever. The brains on the banlist committee decide to ban legitimate win conditions like Biorhythm, and leave stupid, unfair cards like Worldgorger Dragon and Genesis Wave up to player’s discretion. In any case, Genesis Wave is absolutely ludicrous in this deck, as we’re very capable of making enough mana to cast it for our entire deck on turn four or five, if we’re lucky.
For those who’re more combo’lly challenged, the way this one works is this:- Enchanted Evening makes all permanents Enchantments. Opalescence makes all Enchantments creatures with P/T equal to their mana cost. Mirari’s Wake makes our creatures bigger. Everyone else’s lands die. Concordant Crossroads gives everything haste, and we attack for heaps with an army of 1/1 lands and other Enchantments that we’ve played over the preceding turns.
Now, while it is true that our opponents are likely to have some sort of board presence, they are completely unable to develop their boards, due to their lands no longer being able to produce mana when they enter the battlefield, due to being 0/0 creatures, unless they’ve got an Anthem effect out.
If they do, just for kicks, we could cast:-
Presumably at this point, we’ve burned through enough of our deck to have Threshold. At this point, the only player able to have any board presence whatsoever is us, and there isn’t a free Disenchant to unbreak the lock. GG’s, everyone else.
So if our primary gameplan is to Genesis Wave goodbye to everyone else as quickly as possible, what do we do if it gets countered?
Well, you could always just cast all three of the necessary components. You’ll probably draw them, given that you’re running:-
These cards are the backbone of your deck. Getting one into play gets the engine running. Getting two into play does something that would make Jeremy Clarkson blush and say ‘that’s quite rude’, or words to that effect.
You really want to see at least one of these in your opener, obviously with Argothian as the ideal scenario, and Femeref as the worst of the bunch. If you’ve got a way to find one, great, but really, unless the hand is ridiculous, you should probably mulligan until you find one, and given Commander’s liberal mulligan rules, why wouldn’t you?
While we’re using these Enchantresses to dig our way through our deck, what if there was a way to end the game? Well, that’s why we play:-
This deck has a tonne of throughput. Sigil turns that dig into a legitimate win condition. I’ve had games where I’m attacking with fifteen 4/4 angels on turn five, while I’m digging for Genesis Wave. At that point, it’s probably a good idea to just kill them with Angels, right? Another instance where Concordant Crossroads improves the speed of the kill exponentially. As discussed, this deck generally has either one or two fundamental turns, and while Sigil is the slower path to victory, Concordant Crossroads means that you’re not vulnerable to Wrath of God effects – just kill the White players as soon as possible.
The third win condition isn’t really much of one:-
And we hope our opponents can’t ever deal with Solitary Confinement and they’ll deck themselves. Yeah, depending on our opponents, that might actually be a possibility. It’s usually just a part of the early defences though.
Finally, and understand that I only include this for completion’s sake – we could kill them with creatures. Hahaha, pretty funny, right? Kill our opponents with a bunch of African women, a giant, an elvish druid, an old lady (?(I’ve never known the gender on Academy Rector)) and the homeless guy that lives in the bus stop with his bottle of Frosty Jack’s finest onion based Cider. Unlikely.
So, if these are our ways to win the game, how do we actually get there? Well, if we’re going to Genesis Wave for our deck, we’re going to need to make a tonne of mana. How are we going to do that? Well, how about:-
If the Enchantresses are the engine in the deck, then Serra’s Sanctum is the liquid Dinosaurs that make it run. Look at it this way; Tolarian Academy is banned in Commander, and for good reason. This deck plays a similar number of Enchantments to what a dedicated Artifact deck working to exploit Academy would. While Blue Mana is historically more useful than White, in this deck, that’s not the case. Again, I don’t know why this card is legal in this format… Also, Mana Reflection….
In any case, we’re running a bunch of ways to either find it, or make it produce even more mana. While I’m not typically a big fan of the all the eggs in one basket approach, in this case, given the number of times we’re going to be looking to activate Serra’s Sanctum in our fundamental turns, we’re going to want to get as much use as possible out of it, which is where Fertile Ground and Wild Growth come in, to make an activation just that much more obnoxious.
Minamo and Deserted Temple are primarily there to untap Serra’s Sanctum a bunch, so I can use it multiple times in a turn, though I suppose Minamo could be used to get an extra use out of Angus Mackenzie, if you’re under a lot of pressure. I’ve never used it for this though, in north of 50 games with the deck.
As an aside, in those games, I’ve cast Angus two or three times. Those were all in my local EDH league, where you’re actively penalised for not casting your general. He’s completely unnecessary, and could really be any Bant coloured at all. While I’d advise you to avoid any generals that trigger alarm bells, like Rafiq of the Many of Jenara, Asura of War, pretty much any of them would do. Arcades Sabboth could provide an alternative route to victory, seeing as he’d only have to hit three times to kill an opponent, while still being bad enough to ensure that you’ll probably get a couple of turns grace to establish yourself before everyone tries to kill you.
Exploration and Burgeoning give us a way to use the volume of lands we’ll surely be drawing, and are unexciting, cheap Enchantments that hopefully draw us cards and allow us to develop our board for the big turn.
While the deck does have a tonne of dig, sometimes you want to make sure you’re digging to the thing that you want. For that reason, we run:-
Not a particularly large Tutor package, and I don’t think I’m at the stage where I want Worldly Tutor, though given how differently the deck performs with an Enchantress out, playing Green Sun’s Zenith might be an option. In fact, that did used to be in the deck, but we used to be allowed to play Primeval Titan, and that was very different.
Defense of the Heart is a relic from Primeval Titan times, and is probably the first card I’d cut here. While searching up a Sun Titan and an Academy Rector is pretty sweet, finding Primeval Titan, and consequently Serra’s Sanctum was its primary goal, as Serra’s Sanctum is just that necessary for this deck to function.
I suppose it’s possible that people might want us to not waste 10-15 minutes of their time while combo’ing off. In that case, it seems wise to stop them from doing that, punishing them for doing so or removing their capabilities of even trying to. In that case, we are obliged to run:-
Aura of Silence
Leyline of Sanctity
Journey to Nowhere
Seal of Cleansing
Seal of Primordium
Sphere of Safety
Removal, hurdles and punishments
These can be broken down into three categories; removal, hurdles, and punishments.
First up, the removal spells are the simplest. Cheap Enchantments that deal with troublesome permanents that are causing you concern. Journey, Sphere, O-Ring, Soul Snare and the Seals fall into this catergory. I suppose Treachery does too, but I usually use that on my big turn to get an extra activation or two out of Serra’s Sanctum. Treachery targeting the biggest creature on the table, then untapping Serra’s Sanctum, Deserted Temple and Minamo feels just as dirty as it sounds.
Punishments are just what they sound like. Martyr’s Bond and Karmic Justice are pretty strong incentives not to blow up our permanents. People don’t tend to like two-for-one’ing themselves. Hell, in Commander, they don’t even like one for one’ing themselves….
Lets say that our opponents do manage to break their way through our hurdles, and overcome our punishments for doing so. What are we going to do? Just play out the rest of the game, and hope for the best? Nah, we should probably have some recursion, right? In Commander, the mark between good decks and bad ones is that usually, the good ones will have something to do with their graveyard. Whatever it is, any way to get any extra value whatsoever out of a card that’s already been cast is gold. This deck is a good deck.
Replenish is obviously the biggie here. Just cast it, and it’s like that Fracturing Gust never happened… It’s solid as a way to get an important combo piece back if it’s been stripped away or destroyed, and the fact that it’s one sided is just ridiculous. You might be tempted to try Open the Vaults, or possibly even Faith’s Reward or Second Sunrise, but I don’t think they’re necessary. I like having one reset button in the deck. I don’t think it needs two.
Eternal Witness off a Genesis Wave returning a Replenish to pick up the missing combo pieces is pretty filthy, as is Sun Titan returning Eternal Witness to do the same thing. Assuming that your opponents can deal with Serra’s Sanctum, both of these cards can return it to let you do it again.
While the Graveyard theme isn’t exactly pushed in this deck, it’s good enough for what we’re looking to do with it.
While we’ve covered most of the important facets of this deck, there are some additional slots available. I’ve chosen to fill these slots with:-
These cards offer card draw, utility or both. I’m never going to be excited by any of these, but for the most part, they’re cheap Enchantments that draw some number of cards, as well as triggering my aforementioned Enchantresses. Boom.
The last non-mana slot in the deck is an interesting one. I needed a stop, to prevent us from decking ourselves when running this deck. I chose:-
No cards left in your library? No problem, just put a study counter on Pursuit of Knowledge. It’s similar to Attunement, in that you can trade cards now for more cards later, but its primary use is to stop you from killing yourself while you beat up your opponents with your Lands.
The rest of the deck just makes mana. Included again for completion’s sake:-
Flagstones of Trokair
There’s nothing particularly exciting here. These mostly just make the colours that we’re running, as I’ve already covered the fancy lands above.
As I said above, given Theros’ supposed Enchantment subtheme, I’m hopeful that this deck will gain a few things from it. If you’re interested in making any changes to the deck, there are certainly a few flexible slots, basically anything in the card draw/filtering section, and I’d suggest replacing Defense of the Heart with Green Sun’s Zenith from the off.
The only other thing that I’d like to mention is the absence of Sensei’s Divining Top. I hate that people view it as an auto-include in every deck. It’s not even close to being good enough here. I run Mirri’s Guile, and that’s sort of similar, but the rest of my deck is built around Enchantments, so I get extra value. I’d estimate that people poorly using Top adds at least five minutes to most Commander games, and that, to me is unacceptable. Have a think about why you’re including Top in your deck. If you’re unable to think of any reason other than ‘because everyone else is running it’, cut it.
Stay classy, mtgUK