Getting The Most Out Of Your Commanders From Commander 2016
With the Commander 2016 launch weekend behind us, a few of the writers within the Manaleak.com writing team have penned their ideas down including what they are looking forward to from this set the most. I hope you enjoy the article.
Have you guys picked up Commander 2016 yet, what do you think of the set so far?
When I first laid eyes on this commander, and saw a 4/4 Flying, Vigilance, Deathtouch, Lifelink for 4 mana, I was impressed. That alone is fantastic value in a creature, and represents a difficult threat to deal with and a solid attacker and blocker. When I read a little further and saw the word “Proliferate”, I was immediately incredibly excited for the implications of such a card. Quite apart from the simple value that can be gained from +1/+1 counters in standard green/white deck archetypes – with cards like Avenger of Zendikar, for example, or Cathar’s Crusade – there are some incredibly synergistic deck archetypes that can shine with Atraxa at the helm.
The first, and most obvious example (and the deck I run myself) is Superfriends. Planeswalker tribal has been a longstanding Commander archetype since Planeswalkers became a card type, with the most common being five-colour or Bant. However, with Commander 2016, I predict that Atraxa will replaceChild of Alara as the premier face of Superfriends decks everywhere. (Not to mention the Doubling Season Fish that comes in her precon, as if you needed another reason to buy it).
Atraxa, quite apart from her fantastic ability, has the four best colours for Superfriends as well. Even though losing red means cutting some ‘walkers, and losing Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker is upsetting, there are actually very few red planeswalkers that really make a big impact on five-colour decks (with the exception of Ral Zarek and possibly Sarkhan Vol) as most of them tend to be artifact-centred likeDaretti, Scrap Savant and Dack Fayden or, like Nahiri, the Harbinger and Sarkhan Unbroken, have vague utility but could be easily replaceable. While this isn’t the same in all five-colour decks, generally speaking, red is the most underused colour in planeswalker tribal. Personally, I only run six red cards in the entire deck, so losing the fifth colour isn’t a massive sacrifice, considering the benefits reaped from having your entire board gain an extra loyalty counter every turn. For free. Not to mention the deathtouch/vigilance/flying/lifelink blocker you get to protect the loyalty counters.
In place of those red ‘walkers, there are many possible ways to take your deck. You could streamline your combo elements (Doubling Season, The Chain Veil et al.) by replacing them with extra tutors, you could run more mana rocks or land tutoring to ramp faster, or even slam in some extra-turn cards to really get the most value out of your new commander. There are plenty of possibilities and hopefully there will soon be many new and exciting types of planeswalker decks coming onto the Commander scene.
The other archetype which is very rarely seen in Commander, but which might benefit greatly from Atraxa’s existence is Infect. Controversially, in Commander you only need to do 10 points of poison damage to kill someone, despite the number being 15 in Two-Headed Giant formats. Until now, Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon has been the only commonly played Infect commander, and the restriction to mono-black has been a big hindrance. These decks usually end up being Voltron as it’s hard to construct a well-rounded Infect list with only black cards.
However, with Atraxa, Infect may be making a sudden splash onto the scene. Not only does she encompass all four colours of the Infect mechanic, which allows for all the best cards featured in Modern and Legacy Infect archetypes to be run, but her ability really shines as Proliferate can add extra poison counters to players as well. Therefore, even if you’ve only taken one poison, it’s pretty easy to put you on a fast clock just by having the commander on the field. For anyone who’s been dying for a decent Infect commander, this is the one you’ve been waiting for.
As mentioned above, Atraxa can also be good as simply a solid green/white core build utilizing tokens and counters, while providing the permission of blue and the removal of black to back it up. Though this requires more work with the manabase than some of the more traditional green/white creature decks, the usual archetypes are pretty soft to boardwipes and struggle to interact with some of the more combo-oriented decks. The addition of blue and black as supporting colours will help to make the deck less susceptible to these flaws, as well as providing their own benefits in card draw and tutoring.
All in all, the implications for this commander are pretty huge. The four colours provide such a wide scope for inclusion of many different angles of attack, and the core mechanic is useful in a variety of different ways – Proliferate is a powerful build-around. Atraxa will certainly be a force to be reckoned with, and when combined with existing archetypes or even just certain legendary creatures that have existed as common commanders in the past such as Momir Vig, Simic Visionary, The Mimeoplasm or Prime Speaker Zegana, there is plenty of scope for building a unique and exciting deck with her.
That’s the sound of the pillowfort siren going off in my head when I look at this legendary creature. Those of you who’ve followed my articles since I started will know I have an unhealthy love for Zedruu the Greathearted and this deck lets you play more colours. It’s like the love child of Zedruu the Greathearted[/c] and Angus Mackenzie (weird image right). On top of my love of pillowfort-y style decks Theros was also the first set where I really got into magic with Guardians of Meletis playing a huge part in my first ever Commander brew I made from scratch (a sweet Phenax, God of Deception mill deck). Because of both of these factors this card stuck out with a sore thumb with a big BUILD A DECK WITH ME sign taped to it’s back.
Let’s do the usual and take on this card in bite sized chunk:
Mana Cost: RGWU – This is of course the crux of the card and the theme for the new commander set. Having four colours gives you access to a huge amount of cards and in this case allows you to take two of the best pillowfort commanders in Angus Mackenzie and Zedruu the Greathearted and combine them to make a fort of the highest quality pillows (probably made using gryphon down or something of that nature. Those would be some incredibly comfortable pillows, probably).
P/T: 2/8 – This is a weird one. 2/8 is an incredibly good body for 4 mana, but it’s only good for one thing. Blocking. This fits with the Pillowfort-y theme of the deck and can even let you block the big, bad Zurgo Helmsmasher himself at least once.
Ability: At the beginning of your end step, draw a card. Each player may put a land card from his or her hand onto the battlefield, then each opponent who didn’t draws a card. – This is what really drew me to this card. Letting people ramp up and get to the crazy part of the game as soon as possible or letting people draw more cards is what grouphug and pillowfort decks are all about.
Creature Type: Human Soldier – If you’re a fan of tribal decks this is a biggie. Being able to run all of the good Naya soldiers as well as the few blue soldiers (Battlewise Hoplite) and good blue spells is a game changer.
So what cards for you play with a general like this? One of the best ways to approach a group hug or pillowfort deck is to see what ways your general assists your opponent’s and build around it. In the case of Kynaios and Tiro they both let’s opponent’s draw cards and let them play extra lands, two things that you can easily do more of.
Keep your friends close and your enemies closer
One of the first cards that came to mind when I saw this card was Rites of flourishing, this is mainly because it does both the things that you want to do, give enemies more lands and let them draw more cards. Along the same vein is horn if greed. While it doesn’t let your opponent’s play more lands it does give them a benefit for all of the extra lands that they are playing and everyone loves drawing cards! And of course all of the Howling Mind effects are great in this kind of deck so dig out all of your Dictate of Kruphixs and that Well of Ideas from the 2014 Commander decks.
So what’s the big deal with giving everyone a bunch of extra resources? Why do people play group hug style of decks?
The main draw to a deck like this is playing the “politics game” where you give your enemies stuff (cards, extra land drops, life, etc.) so that they can do a bunch of crazy things and letting them play whatever they want so that they ignore you and then you can play out your game, unimpeded because you gave everyone a bunch of resources (WARNING: this does require a lot of experience with commander politics – See my article about that here: What You Need to Know About Politics in MTG Commander, by Paul Palmer
One for you, two for me
The best way to get the most out of helping your opponents is to make sure that you get something out of it too. One of the best cards to do this (and the most literal representation of the title of this section) is Consecrated Sphinx. Your general allows your opponents to draw a bunch of cards, which you can then use to draw more cards. This means that while you do help your opponents out they’re not the only ones having all the card drawing fun.
Card drawing isn’t the only thing that you can do this with though. With card slike Rites of Flourishing and Collective Voyage you can run Burgeoning allowing you to use all of those lands that you’re drawing off of Consecrated Sphinx and allowing you to ramp up even quicker than that mono-green player in your playgroup (you know the one).
Not the face!
These aren’t the only important parts of building a pillowfort though. You actually need the fort. This can be done really easily with the prison cards like Propaganda, Ghostly Prison and Sphere of Safety but having green opens up some other options.
With green in your Commander’s colour identity you can run a bunch of fog effects, protecting other players to gain allies or stopping people from one-shotting you with that Craterhoof Behemoth. One really good way to do this is with Isochron Scepter imprinting a card like Respite or Tangle to be able to cast the spell multiple times (this gets silly with Seedborn Muse.
So that’s my look at this new commander. I’m a huge fan of this kind of playstyle and since seeing this general I have become much more excited for this set.
Now I’m a fan of casual, politics focused decks but I can appreciate a powerful deck as much as the next person and that’s where I think Breya comes in. Whether you’re playing a token strategy or simply focusing on the control colours of Breya the fourth colour gives access to so many more cards. Giving Jeskai decks access to cards like Go For the Throat and Hero’s Downfall or Grixis decks the trio of exile spells, Swords to Plowshares, Path to Exile and Dispatch thanks to the ease that you can get metalcraft allows them to deal with all of the indestructible threats they would struggle to deal with otherwise.
It’s about what Breya can do for you
Breya fulfils so many roles that a control deck wants. She is a removal spell, a way to stabilise your life total and a win con that, given enough time, will eventually win you the game. Not only does Breya give you all of these options she also comes into play with two thopters and if there is anything that Pia and Kiran Nalaar or Lingering Souls have taught us it’s that cards that make flying tokens are worthy of a spot in in eternal formats, and Breya is no exception.
G/W Tokens? More like U/R/B/W Tokens
For a long time token decks have been restricted to green and red abusing cards like Avenger of Zendikar and Krenko, Mob Boss but there are a lot of powerful artifact token generators that already see play in the format from Myr Battlesphere, Myr Turbine and even the standard all-star Hangarback Walker, Hangarback Walker being especially good with Breya’s ability. With the release of Kaladesh we got as whole new breed of artifact creature tokens, Servos. As anyone who’s played with or against BW Fabricate in Kaladesh limited they’ll know what a powerhouse Marionette Master is by itself but imagine having a general that can Lightning Bolt an enemy and trigger Marionette Master twice. That’s synergy.
But tokens isn’t the deck I want to talk about, let’s talk about good stuff
Personally I think that Breya is good enough to build your deck around a strong artifact subtheme. This means that instead of running Grave Titan you’ll want to run Marionette Master or Myr Battlesphere and instead of Jace, the Mind Sculptor your planeswalker of choice would probably be something more along the lines of Tezzeret the Seeker or Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas. This type of deck would most likely consist of a control shell, stacked with removal, counterspells and card advantage supplemented by utility creatures and powerful haymakers like Blightsteel Colossus and Wurmcoil Engine. All of the previous cards can even fit with the artifact focus, Dispatch, Stoic Rebuttal and Skullclamp (with Stoneforge Mystic to tutor it.
I could go on for pages and pages about how I would personally build Breya and how much potential that card has but that’s something I’ll save for a much more in-depth article where I can spend the time that Breya deserves.
I didn’t expect the partner mechanic and I definitely didn’t know that a two coloured legend would be one of the would be one of the most exciting cards to me from this set.
And here she is:
Oops, wrong card, I mean:
I’ve always wanted to play an affinity style deck in commander and this is the perfect card for it. One way to approach this deck is to play Akiri with a black partner so that you can use the powerful removal like Unlicensed Disintegration, Go for the Throat and Hero’s Downfall as well as giving the player access to a ‘’second’’ Cranial Plating. The other option is to add blue into the mix with a U/R or a U/W partner giving what is essentially a Boros deck some much needed card advantage.
On the other hand you can just focus on artifacts like Breya. The focus in this deck will be much more focused on mana rocks and equipment, building up Breya’s strength and equipping her to form a semi-Voltron deck. Similar to Kalemne, Disciple of Iroas. The deck doesn’t want to fully focus on the voltron strategy like Zurgo Helmsmasher but instead wants to focus on good value cards that gain you an incremental aggressive advantage. Assemble the Legion, Godo, Bandit Warlord and Sun Titan are a few of those cards that generate huge value while also being able to become aggressive with ease. This is one deck that I will be aggressively brewing for and building towards as I personally think that Akiri will be one of the strongest Boros generals once these decks are released.
I haven’t gone into much detail in this article but I’ll hopefully be releasing a number of more in-depth articles including ones about Kynaios and Tiro, Breya and probably Akiri too so keep an eye on my profile or the Manaleak.com Facebook and Twitter feeds.
Thanks for reading and enjoy the other great pieces on this article!
Mike, Kerry & Paul