Archenemy: 60 Card and Commander (EDH) Variants
Nicol Bolas, Magic’s ultimate Arch has returned. In honour of one of the original gangsters, let’s build a deck… or two!
First off, let’s get a grasp on Scheme cards and the role I feel they serve in a custom built game. Scheme decks consist of 20+ cards, and you can have no more than two copies of any Scheme card in your deck. This in and of itself is a great exercise in deck building, and in addition to your deck, it’s a excellent way to further theme the table’s playing experience. I like to look at my Scheme cards as bombs in 60-card decks, and utility cards in Commander games. My philosophy to this design is simple: Make the decks thematically appealing and fun to play against. Let the Scheme cards either be the penultimate expression of your evil genius, or ramp and answers for your Commander.
Also, Scheme cards can sway the tide of a game, so if you’re playing against only two other players, try starting the Arch-Enemy off with only 30 life instead of 40. Also in a 2-on-1 game, you can further turn down the difficulty by only drawing a Scheme card every other turn. In my experience, these options help the game remain balanced while still keeping the functionality of the Archenemy convention.
I tend to shy away from control strategies when building an Archenemy deck. They can often be “sour” (Bringing the Right Deck to the Table), unfortunately Bolas loves that Grixis-flavor, so we’ll indulge the Elder Dragon… this time.
Zero to 60
Custom Archenemy decks are quite cantankerous as they can become too overwhelming too quickly in a 60-card game. Decks with a lot of countermagic, denial, and spot-removal run the risk of draining the *pop* factor of the game. This can lead to games being harsh and not a lot of fun for anyone at the table. Of course, Nicol Bolas is a real villain, so he’s plays by his own rules.
The only rule we will enforce over the Dragon Supreme is budget: We ball on budgets down here in Dominaria, so the 60-card will cost less than $50 (including Scheme cards) Speaking of, the Arch-Enemy deck will include 2 copies of each of the following Scheme cards:
- All Shall Smolder in My Wake
Little known fact: Dragons invented fire.
- Every Last Vestige Shall Rot
Nicol Bolas wants everything you own to turn to suck.
- Feed The Machine
“This thing is actually blood-powered.”
- I Delight in your Convulsions
Because life gain!
- Your Will is Not your Own
Classic Bolas… making people do his bidding for him.
- Behold My Grandeur *NEW*
Bolas’ brains is at least twice the size of Jace’s. That’s irrefutable.
- Choose your Champion
“Come, now. Die with some honor.”
- Look Skyward and Despair
- The Dead Shall Serve
Zombie theme runs thick in Bolas. This just helps out.
- Which of you Burns Brightest?
Return from the flame whence ye came!
The deck functions like the oppressive Dragon himself, and his vanity is in no short supply. I know what you’re thinking: “But Dylan, this deck doesn’t look like all that much.” And you’re right. The Scheme cards in this deck provide the real power. All this deck tries to do is speed ahead and get Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker out as soon as possible. Basically, you keep the board clear and allow Bolas to do all the heavy lifting.
As far as creatures go, Anathemancer and Possessed Skaab work from opposite sides of the spectrum: The former comes out early, throws some damage and then waits to strike again late-game. The latter stays in your hand until you need to reuse that Grixis Charm or Murder.
As above, so below. The Scheme cards of this deck work as big finishes and flashy spells. The deck picks the board while the Scheme cards come out swinging. Under budget, fun to play, and teeming with flavor, this deck feels villainous enough to put on a show the next time you’re gathered around the kitchen table with your friends.
Born to Lead… sort of
The Nicol Bolas Commander deck, while being under a $125 budget, doesn’t include Bolas as a commander, but he is the driving force behind the EDH concept.
Crafting a Commander deck for an Archenemy game is no small undertaking. Scheme cards don’t need to be carefully selected in custom Commander games like they need to be in the 60-card variant, but I do like to follow the “one-of” card in my Scheme deck as well, so play how you will.
Archenemy EDH games are often intense and long. To make games easier on the players, modify The Commander Damage Rule (21 points of combat damage from a particular Commander) to 21+x from all commanders, where x is ten times the number of players facing off against the Arch-Enemy. For example, with a 2-on-1 set up, the Arch-Enemy loses when they are dealt 41 points of combat damage from both opposing player’s commanders combined. Coincidentally, I use this formula for figuring out the Arch’s starting life total as well. 40+y life, where y is ten times the number of players facing off against the Archenemy. For example, with a 3-on-1 game, the Arch-Enemy would start off with 70 life, lose the game when they are dealt 51 points of combined combat damage from all enemy Commanders combined, and the players would start off with 40 life, per usual.
Yes. That’s a lot to change. In my experience, this is the best way to ensure an epic and well-balanced play experience. Unlike the 60-card rules change, always flip Scheme cards. Arch-Enemy EDH games are generally more high powered than your Arch-Enemy 60-card bouts, so keep those Schemes popping!Scion of the Ur-Dragon
The main goal of this deck is to swarm your opponents with dragons. Bolas himself makes three appearances in the deck, while Scion of the Ur-Dragon just holds his spot to make room for more goodies in the deck. But wait! This deck is under budget! Well, Nicol Bolas, God-Pharoah isn’t priced yet (probably around $30) and if you have any better lands at your disposal I encourage you to use them. Remember, commander decks love robust mana bases.
Dragons are expensive to play, so the first couple turns will be ramp and Scheme card shenanigans. That’s fine. Dragons come and dragons go, and with the amount of recursion and mass-removal spells in the deck, expect graveyards to fill and empty fairly regularly. Each color in the deck works on a simple premise: I do a specific job.
White splashes in for mass removal and artifact/enchantment destruction.
Green comes in for ramp and artifact/enchantment destruction.
Blue helps mainline the deck’s draw speed.
Red steps in and lends a hand… erm… wing to the dragons in the deck.
Black handles recursion.
Once the deck gets rolling, it’s a lot of fun to watch the Scheme cards interact with the Council cards. Plea For Power and Capital Punishment have interesting implications when they follow a Every Hope Shall Vanish or a My Crushing Masterstroke.
Only 20% of the cards in the deck are creatures, but with mass removal gems like Decree of Annihilation and Crux of Fate it’s alright to take some damage early on and reset the board when the creatures become a nuisance.
Remember, you’re playing Commander and Archenemy games to have fun with your friends. Quintessential casual Magic. Building fun decks and playing them against friends in casual formats is always a fun experiment in deck building. With the Archenemy format, challenge your friends to build decks that are fun to play against your Archenemy deck. Remember, teammates can block for each other Archenemy games, and it’s always a grand deck building endeavor to craft decks that work well on a team. Conversely, building a deck that handles multiple opponents simultaneously is a fun exercise as well.
For each Archenemy deck, a super villain. Whether it be a a dastardly lich, an evil barbarian queen, or a wizard determined to turn everything into frogs, building the world around your deck is the most informative (and fun) part of building for Archenemy.
Well, that’s my take on Magic’s biggest baddie! I hope you folks enjoyed!