Hey there everyone. It’s Unkle Kaka time; once again I’m vomiting out my own blend of madness. Last time we took a quick interlude as I needed to rave and rant about being an older and experienced player trying to play nice with newer and less-experienced players. Today, we’re sliding back into the realm of storm decks and Commander. Specifically, I want to look into the viable Commanders for a storm strategy.
The Storm Lords
There are many ways to choose your Commander. I’ll be blunt here. I tend to go about this the reverse to what it seems many of our peers do. They often talk about starting with a Commander and building around that centrepiece, but I believe this is a limiting strategy in the sense that it restricts you to the handful of obvious lines of play, delimited either by the ability or colours of your chosen Commander. I prefer to start by deciding on my strategy, how I want to be able to kill the board. Once I have determined how I want to do the dirty deed, I analyse the resources required and fit a general to these needs, choosing from many options. Honestly, this approach may often as not generate the same outcome as building from the general, but I feel that it prevents me from getting too hung up on any restrictions to the options at my disposal.
Banners of the Great Houses
Working from the starting point of choosing our strategy before our Commander, we should be aware of the colour choices that our strategy will be asking for. Once again, we will be putting the conventional cart before the horse. We know we’re building storm, however as previously discussed there are many avenues of attack when it comes to storming home for the kill. All the colours bring something to the table for storm, so literally every colour is open to us.
I’m not saying every colour is “good,” simply that they are all viable. Going for a mono-white Commander like Avacyn, Angel of Hope would badly nerf yourself due to lack of strong options for the important axes of play. Lack of draw power, indiscriminate tutoring, mana ramp and general cheaty bullshit all combine to make mono-white a bad choice. On the flip side, mono-black and mono-blue storm lists are very viable. However, they have the tendency to devolve into flagrant combo piles filled with two-card monte, as opposed to encouraging wins you have to earn.
Next up we have allied and enemy colours. Mana-base complexity increases exponentially with the number of colours added, so we have to weigh up what value adding additional colours brings against this cost. Adding a second colour is itself a complex decision. Which colour am I using and to which do I add? What tools do I get from my primary hue? What weaknesses do I need to cover? This brings me to the colour wheel.
The idea behind the colour wheel, as I understand it, is to help WotC R&D to maintain the flavour and power balance of the cardboard we love, and not to just start printing all the good cards in blue (Editor’s Note: Again)(which I think is foolish, because that is clearly where they belong). It’s also supposed to enable them to push design limits, by letting WotC print effects that are out of colour with an in colour drawback.
The way this plays out within the colour wheel means that you have to go up to a tertiary colour to be able to cover for all the weaknesses of any individual colour. The second address some of the weaknesses of the primary colour, the tertiary offsets the weakness in the first two, and the strengths of the first two hide the weakness of the third. You sacrifice the greater competitive focus of a binary colour system, but with three colours you ensure you fully eliminate the open weak point that mono and two-colour decks must contend with.
Aside from the tri-colour generals, the only other colour option is a five-colour Commander. I am assuming you can tell that for these kinds of lists I prefer a more complex colour selection to allow maximisation of available tools and redundancy of options. Choosing to play in five-colours is a double-edged sword. I’m not talking about “OMG u r playing such colours, you are gotta be hermit droo-id combo herp-derp” stigmas. You are playing a combo deck, and frankly I’d probably get that response even if I windmill slammed a Pearled Unicorn onto the table. I am referring to the edges as the plus side of having all your bases covered. You have all the tools and there is no such thing as a weakness to your fortress. On the flip side, by pushing into five colours you are moving much father up on the complexity scale.
The Game of Thrones
What I am trying to establish here is that in my humble opinion, three colours is probably the optimal balance of stability, reliability, power and choice. Choosing five colours definitely offers the advantage of additional choice and redundancy, but with the sacrifice of stability and reliability.
Let’s start with the five colour options. There are 12 different legendary, five-colour creatures. You can find them here.
Of these options, four of them are Sliver lords, and three more are directly really only good in specific combo lists (Scion of the Ur-Dragon, Horde of Notions and Atogatog). This leaves five playable options. Progenitus offers a very meaty, nigh untouchable player-killer clock, while Cromat and Karona, False God offer great combat options and tricks, but that’s not really what we’re about here. This leaves two playable options: Reaper King, and my personal boomstick of choice, Child of Alara.
I’m a fan of these two options for storm for two main reasons. First of all, they are offensively defensive. Reaper King works well in conjunction with any list that is going to be initiating some kind of creature recursion loop, something loaded out with a pile of cheap and crappy things that will allow you to tactically Vindicate as needed.
Golden Baby, on the other hand, offers two modes: “set and forget” and “hairpin trigger.” In “set and forget” mode, you are basically running it out there and just daring an opponent to turn sideways at you. By simply asking the question of “Do you feel lucky punk? Well do you?” In “hairpin trigger” mode (which ironically is pretty similar to “set and forget”, the difference being how you politically publicise your willingness and ability to detonate the board) you can simply feed the baby into the blender of global thermonuclear war on a whim.
As mentioned, your best choices for a Commander are the shards and wedges. There are a lot of shard and wedge choices out there. You can pretty much choose whichever one takes your fancy based on the tools you have chosen to wield. In that sense we are kind of “choosing a Commander for the colours,” and that is generally a frowned upon practice. What I would like to do here is suggest some of the better and more obvious choices. Just a reminder, we talked about colour selection in earlier sections of this series.
- Damia, Sage of Stone: Damia offers the BUG colour identity. Damia’s big advantage is the free hand refill each turn. Storm wants gas, and storm wants mana to fuel her. Damia does both.
- Nekusar, the Mindrazer: Nekusar offers the RUB identity, and through his inbuilt Howling Mine offers a card draw boost similar to Damia’s.
- Narset, Enlightened Master: Narset, with the WUR colour combo, does lose some of the indiscriminate tutoring ability black offers. However, Narset is a great tool given she can drill up four free spells just for a combat phase.
- Jeleva, Nephalia’s Sourge: Jeleva also allows free spells to be cast on a successful swing into the redzone. The rules are different to Narset’s activation, however, free spells are free spells.
- Intet, the Dreamer: Intet brings us to the RUG section of this list. Like Jeleva and Narset, Intet offers free spells enabled by a successful foray into combat.
- Riku of Two Reflections: Riku offers card advantage in a different way. For a low mana cost, Riku give you the ability to Fork your spells and to clone your warm bodies. It’s not free, but two bites out of every cherry is going to be worth it.
- Sharuum the Hegemon: The WUB colour identity. Sharumm offers one main thing: free tactical recursion to play.
- Sen Triplets: Still in the WUB, Sen Triplets offers a dual-mode ability. Not only does it allow you to shut out one player packing countermagic, it also allows you to tactically add additional tools to your hand, your opponents’ tools.
- Derevi, Empyrial Tactician: Derevi may seem like an off choice. The comes-into-play untap ability and the ability to untap on combat damage can make a huge difference in the mileage you get from creature abilities.
I’m going to apologise. I know there are a lot of folks who don’t like playing blue. I also know that every single warm body I am suggesting is blue. As I have stressed, you can build storm using any colour combination. It’s just that in my humble opinion, the best wedge and shard options are blue. I would love to hear in the comments below if there are any other options you prefer, and why.
The House of the Faceless Men
To conclude, I would like to remind you of a few points. Firstly, while all colour options are viable, three-colour builds are probably the best while five colours offers the most deck options. Using an unusual and unexpected Commander may disguise what your deck is doing for a time. If you want to build with your Commander in mind, choose how you want to kill, and then see how you need to make that happen. Choose your Commander based on what you need as much as what you want. Most of all, do whatever makes you happy.
And remember kids….. In the words of House Baratheon: “Ours is the Fury”