When looking to create a truly epic experience in Commander, the boundaries of conventional deck building need to be pushed or even torn down. If you really want to push the boundaries and have a unique deck that does things that no one has ever seen before, you need to reach beyond the obvious and chase the obscure. Use the examples from all the epic tails from your childhood and build a Commander deck in their image.
Step 1: Choose a Destination for your Journey
The first thing you need for an epic adventure is achieve a seemingly impossible goal. Once you achieve this goal, the sky will part, the Earth will shatter and your enemies will bow before you. This should be true even if up until that final moment of completion you are dirty, barefoot and hopeless.
Set the goal of your deck to something as hard to achieve as you can. Maybe you need 40 goats and a Coat of Arms out, or you need seven cards to create a Rube Goldberg device that requires you kissing a red headed girl to save the universe.
The most important aspect of selecting a nearly impossible task is to make sure that once you achieve it you really do win. A doomsday device that doesn’t work is just a paperweight. It’s ok if it takes some time to go off once assembled, but if it does activate make it worth your time.
The other important aspect to an epic plan is a backup plan. It’s hard to tell if you are supposed to be a good guy or a bad guy in your epic adventure, so don’t plan on ‘the good guy always wins’ principle protecting you. If you can’t replace a component of your machine you may end up as a one-episode villain or a plucky sidekick that teaches the audience about mortality. Actually, one backup plan is probably not enough. Have a lot of backup plans. It’s disappointing to see a story end abruptly. In real terms, you don’t want to randomly lose games to someone using a Codex Shredder and taking the one card off the top of your library that you need to win. Plans should go something like this;
Plan A: Destroy the world by throwing flaming goats at everyone. (By that of course I mean using a Comet Storm fueled by the death of about 45 goats; maybe Deserted Temple + Rings of Brighthearth + Mana Echoes + Springjack Pasture + Comet Storm?)
Plan C: Screw the goats, use your army of mana dorks boosted by an overrun and have the meek conquer the word.
Plan D: All the little things are dead. Bide your time to use a Fireball to kill the other last man standing.
Step 2: Find a Map
Frodo would never have made it if he didn’t have a guide. You will never be able to find your way without a little help. The more obscure the goal, the more necessary it is to have tutors, draw engines, and other ways dig through your library.
I advise making sure you are in the right colors to find the tools you are looking for. If you are searching for artifacts, make sure you play blue. For enchantments you need white. For creatures you need green. If all else fails, you can resort to turning to the dark side and running the black tutors.
Engines are better than single shots when you have the choice. You will get a lot more work done with a Survival of the Fittest than a Demonic Tutor. If you do have an engine, you also want ways to find that engine. It may sound silly and a bit Da Vinci Code-esc to find a map that leads to a map that leads to a treasure, but it still works better than wandering around aimlessly for thousands of years hoping Tom Hanks will figure it out for you some day.
If you are averse to tutoring or your color identity doesn’t support it much, I suggest the strongest draw and dig packages you can get your hands on. Memory Jar, Sensei’s Divining Top, and Mind’s Eye are in every color. There is no excuse to just pray to the gods of MTG that you draw exactly what you need to win.
If I was looking to achieve the plans listed above, I would probably be running a Zedruu deck with Expedition Map, Salvaging Station, Tolaria West, Eye of Ugin, Artificer’s Intuition, Reshape, and really anything to help me get what I needed.
Step 3: Never go on an epic journey unarmed
One of the biggest mistakes I see players making when they set themselves upon an epic quest is not packing ways to protect themselves. What other game do you play where you don’t make sure you have the proper armor and weaponry to make it through to the end? The first rule of surviving an epic tale is stay alive. You will never reach your goal if you die on the doorsteps of your house.
It’s important to have both proactive and reactive ways to survive until the last piece of your master plan is in hand. While it’s important to have instant-speed answers to stop yourself from being impaled by a charging boar, you should also setup defenses so that you don’t have to spend your full attention on guard duty. If You can shut down ways of winning without harming your own plan, put those pieces in place. For example; if you don’t need a ton of artifacts you can always place a Null Rod into play to guard that front. It may be good to have Linvala, Keeper of Silence watch your back while you are building your machine. In any case, it forces your opponents to deal with your fortress before dealing with you.
On the same note, think about what walls can be put up that completely shut you down and have ways of dealing with them. If you are playing a mono-colored deck, pack a Duplicant, Karn Liberated, All Is Dust, and Spine of Ish Sah just in case someone gets an Iona, Shield of Emeria to shut you down.
Go out there and push yourself to build more obscure decks. Always remember, having fun doesn’t mean always losing.