Upgrading Oloro, Ageless Ascetic – Esper Commander by Ru Macdonald
When I first saw [card]Oloro, Ageless Ascetic[/card] my mind’s eye bounced from [card]Firemane Angel[/card] to [card]Staff of Nin[/card] to an inverted [card]Phyrexian Arena[/card]. It was a good first impression.
You have probably read a trillion reviews and articles on the new Commander 2013 products. I know I have. In addition to this, the most commonly focused upon deck commander appears to be Oloro.
Don’t go! I discuss how unique Oloro’s FIVE abilities are and what effect they have upon card choice during deck design. I will then follow this up with an upgraded Oloro decklist of my own design for your perusal.
PS. Once again I am struck by how different some cards look when you view the larger image. For example, the small card version of Oloro does not do his chiselled looks justice.
Oloro, Ageless Ascetic appears to just have a ‘drain your opponents for 1 and draw a card’ ability, but it is so much more. Oloro provides five mechanics when considered as a Commander. This is not counting the niche points like ‘being a 4/5 creature’ or a ‘blue, black and white permanent’.
Gains you 2 life every turn, regardless of being on the battlefield
The second part is key. In any format of Magic the Gathering, free stuff is INSANE! If there are any mono-red aggro Commander decks they will struggle to fight through +20 life in the first 10 turns. Seeing as most games go much, much longer than 10 turns, we can safely assume that we will gain approximately 1 million life.
What does this mean? It means we can use our life as a resource. In commander games this is already partially true due to the higher starting life total; validating cards like [card]Sign in Blood[/card] and [card]Read the Bones[/card] as auto-plays for black. We can go much deeper with this concept with Oloro. The first cards that spring to mind are [card]Slaughter[/card], [card]Moonlight Bargain[/card] and [card]Promise of Power[/card].
It also plays better to use the extra life we are gaining, so as to keep us appearing balanced politically. Often during the early-mid game attacks will be decided based on who has the most life, so as to “knock them back down to size”. Thus, we should convert the abundance of life that we will be gaining into value.
You gain life every turn
I’m not scraping the barrel, honestly! What this implies is taking advantage of ‘when you gain life’ triggers. The deck already conveniently contains the daddy for this ([card]Well of Lost Dreams[/card]). [card]Sanguine Bond[/card] and [card]Archangel of Thune[/card] play well with this effect also.
You can make your opponents lose life
A combatless way in grinding out your opponents is a useful tool to have access to. It will get on peoples nerves after a while though. Unfortunately there are very few cards that interact with ‘whenever opp loses life’. We do have [card]Bloodchief Ascension[/card] which could be pretty effective and [card]Exquisite Blood[/card] which combos off with Oloro. Both of these cards would draw some heavy hate though.
You will be drawing an extra card per turn
Other than the obvious (that drawing cards is good!) we can gain synergy by gaining life and drawing a card during an opponents turn to fire off a chance at a miracle. Hallelujah! [card]Psychosis Crawler[/card] and [card]Archmage Ascension[/card] are synertastic with extra cards too.
Cards with lifegain stapled on allow us to draw a card
This means that when trawling through the hundreds of playables for an Esper Commander deck, the ones that gain life in addition to another effect must be rated higher. If the mana cost is slightly more expensive then we should go for the synergistic card. I.e [card]Terashi’s Grasp[/card] over [card]Disenchant[/card].
Except in this case Disenchant is still actually just better due to being an instant. Not my best example…
Upgrading Oloro, Ageless Ascetic
Three colour decks want early access to all their colours and will not take no for an answer. Due to the format being slow we have the luxury of playing slow lands such as [card]Arcane Sanctum[/card], [card]Azorius Chancery[/card] and even [card]Rupture Spire[/card].
After adding every dualish land we have lying around and throwing in the format staples ([card]Reliquary Tower[/card], [card]Temple of the false God[/card], [card]Command Tower[/card]) we still have room for a few utility lands.
Any land that can gain us life can essentially draw us cards. [card]Jwar Isle Refuge[/card] type lands are groovy, but we were probably playing them anyway. Less common though, welcome [card]Vault of the Archangel[/card]! Come to me [card]High Market[/card]! In addition, High Market allows us to protect Oloro from ‘tucking’ effects.
We are playing black and thus it would be inexcusable to not play [card]Bojuka Bog[/card]. Similarly, seeing as we are playing blue we have another two auto-includes in the form of [card]Halimar Depths[/card] and [card]Tolaria West[/card]. T Westside is primarily used for finding Reliquary Tower but has been known to find a [card]Pact of Negation[/card] or [card]Engineered Explosives[/card].
These tasty colours allow us to play a couple of the best charms – [card]Esper Charm[/card] and [card]Dromar’s Charm[/card]. Dromar Charm gains the bonus of netting a card when you choose the 5 life mode.
Some strong counterspells present themselves in [card]Absorb[/card] and [card]Punish Ignorance[/card] as they bump up to a 2 for 1 when you are able to draw a card from them. For this reason I was tempted by the rest of the counterspells that gain you life. However, I prefer to work on a ‘worst case scenario’ system when designing a deck, and I don’t really want bad cards in my deck that only become ‘good’ if Oloro is on the battlefield.
[card]Spinal Embrace[/card] is a card that I always felt couldn’t quite make the cut for my UBx Commander decks before, but the relevance of lifegain pushes it over the playability line this time! It is a combat trick monster.
The rest of the spells are just card draw, counters and sweepers that I feel are auto-plays for these colours.
Artifacts and Enchantments
Not rocking the boat too much here. I have seen [card]Pristine Talisman[/card] played in Commander before but I have never joined that party. It’s a no brainer here though due to the lifegain.
This is also definetly a [card]Trading Post[/card] viable deck. Every ability is relevant! Stalls, gains life, gains incremental value over time, makes goats..
[card]Blind Obedience[/card] looks also good in this deck due to the non-wrathable extort trigger it provides.
We want them to gain life or convert our life into power. I have also instilled a artifact sub-theme to the deck. This means that [card]Treasure Mage[/card] has more targets, [card]Scarecrone[/card] becomes sick and [card]Trading Post[/card] earns it’s keep!
I have included all the [card]Phyrexian Arena[/card] type creatures; [card]Bloodgift Demon[/card], [card]Baleful Force[/card] and [card]Erebos, God of the Dead[/card]. We will not miss the life but we sure can use the cards!
The most rogue inclusion is [card]Stormscape Master[/card]. She allows you to protect Oloro or drain and enemy (and draw a card). Plus, she keeps [card]Archaeomancer[/card] company who had been complaining about the lack of non-monster females on the team.
The Deck List
City of Brass
Creeping Tar Pit
Jwar Isle Refuge
Temple of the False God
Creeps & Heros
Artisan of Kozilek
Erebos, God of the Dead
Obzedat, Ghost Council
Oloro, Ageless Ascetic
Sharuum the Hegemon
Sheoldred, Whispering One
Sphinx of the Steel Wind
Fact or Fiction
Promise of Power
Read the Bones
Sign in Blood
Trinkets and World Auras
Well of Lost Dreams[/deck]
That’s it! As I always say, if you are inspired by just one of the cards mentioned here, then I’ve done alright. The deck is available on tappedout.net where you can view all the ‘maybes’ that got cut along the way.
I will address a few issues in case they come up:
No [card]Mindslaver[/card] and [card]Academy Ruins[/card] in a sub-theme artifact deck?
Only 3x basic lands? What if someone casts [card]Blood Moon[/card]?
Mindslaver often ends games with a soft lock that is unpleasant for your opponents and makes them hate you as a person.
If someone is casting Blood Moon in Commander then they should go play Legacy instead. This deck is designed to be fun first, and competitive second – the way Commander should be.
Next article will be a list of commander ‘packages’ you can add to help you increase consistency and synergy in your mad, hay-making bomb machine of a commander deck!
Till next time nerds!