“Kill you, you, and you, do 28 damage to you?”
. . . . .
When last we met, I was in the process of trying to justify spending $30 on a copy of Mystic Confluence; the tried-and-true “Upgrade A Pre-Con!” project I was undertaking was in the process of going south after I opened the Commander 2015 “Seize Control” (AKA “Mizzix of the Combo-Tastic”) precon, analyzed the deck with the purpose of tuning it up, and promptly stripped out 29 functional cards – including Mizzix of the Izmagnus himself – promptly installing Jori En, Ruin Diver as the new general and creating a monstrosity of a U/R Judo-esque reactive control-ish deck thing that didn’t particularly have a win condition.
I called the shot – this was shaping up to be a trainwreck.
Instead…well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
TRIMMING THE FAT
To recap, I went ahead and pulled out the following list of cards:
[Deck title=The Cutting Room Floor]
Awaken the Sky Tyrant
Arjun, the Shifting Flame
Rite of the Raging Storm
Mizzix of the Izmagnus
Melek, Izzet Paragon
Seal of the Guildpact[/deck]
The goal, again:
“I want a two-color deck for ease of mana development that runs blue and is very reactive – it isn’t a big-mana combo with Epic Experiment-type deck. I want to take advantage of the other decks and aim for fun and interesting plays, so it will be very focused on card quality and not so much on theme. (read: sorry for the goodstuff!) I’ll steal things and copy things and blow things up and see where things go.”
After much deliberation, I left Vandalblast in (because my poor little brain keeps missing the “…you don’t control…’ part of Overload, so I keep thinking I’ll be taking out all of my mana rocks) and Izzet Boilerworks, because…well, it seemed okay after all.
However, I did end up cutting a few more cards:
These got the axe mostly because I felt I could do better (Mortars, Powerstone, ‘Quake) or I wanted to have a bit more control over my effects (Goods, Looting.)
After my deliberation was complete, I went to work filling the holes.
NEW REAL ESTATE
Temple is in because I do want to work back up to a few dedicated dual lands in this list; eventually, I’d want to slot Steam Vents[/card] and Sulfur Falls, and hopefully a Scalding Tarn to round it all out.
The Lighthouse is pretty self-evident, since this deck wants to filter through the library for the right answers.
THE COMMAND ZONE
The switch to Jori En, Ruin Diver is mostly a case of finding something that fits the plan of the deck. Melek gives up too much information, and this deck doesn’t really want to copy much; Arjun is again way too random, and Mizzix draws way too much hate – also why the various Niv-Mizzets didn’t get a fair shake.
Jori is cheap, so it comes down early, and has a passive triggered effect that will likely be triggered pretty easily on more than just my own turn. This deck wants card advantage, and Jori provides it in a cheap, tidy package that – as the game I’ll share with you proves – is very unassuming and doesn’t attract attention.
From there, I rounded out the deck by bolstering card advantage, upgrading the removal, and slotting in some of my favorite reactive blue and red spells:
- Unstable Obelisk – mana and removal in one package.
- Darksteel Ingot – The best color-providing rock out there due to indestructibility.
- Commander’s Sphere – Makes both colors, and draws a card if the board gets wiped
- Manalith – No-frills.
- Mystical Tutor – A deck like this needs to stay competitive, so a little tutor horsepower is needed to make sure it can counter Rise of the Dark Realms or have the Cyclonic Rift needed to prevent catastrophe.
- Rhystic Study – This needs no explanation; I do find that making the ‘How much are you paying for that?” question into a game tends to cause people to proudly focus on taxing themselves one extra mana per spell, while forgetting to actually just blow the damn thing up.
- Dig Through Time – Anyone who watched this thing while it was legal in Legacy knows all about how strong it is in a deck that can rip through cards in a hurry.
- Thassa, God of the Sea – It’s no [/card]Sylvan Library[/card]; then again, Library doesn’t beat down unblockably and be indestructible. Nothing wrong with another win-con.
- Clever Impostor – The Clone[card] Clone would clone if it…ah, you get it.
- [card]Dack’s Duplicate – Angry, hasty, getting bigger Clone!
- Keiga, the Tide Star – I suppose I need to find a High Market to really take advantage of this, but a 5/5 evasive beater is a solid include wither way.
- Dominus of Fealty – This is a card I terminally forget about until someone springs it on me, and it’s always a serious game-altering beating.
- Grab the Reins[card] – This is a gold standard for me; I love the flexibility, and it’s a great answer to indestructible things.
- [card]Commandeer – In this format, I’ll take this over [/card]Force of Will[/card] any day. People forget there’s a second pitch-counter, and this one single-handedly defines the ‘Judo’ ethos and turns games around.
- Spelljack – I love cards like this; there’s a ton of flexibility to sandbag exactly what you need – in these colors, permanent removal is at the top of the list – and it’s always fun to see who forgets about it. As an added bonus, Spelljack is great at winning counter-wars over your own threats by just scooping up what was going to be played and saving it for a safer time.
- Gather Specimens – Rise of the Dark Realms is becoming increasingly common in this format. And that card pisses me off.
- Counterspell – The classic answer. I’m not a fan of just jamming a ton of counters, but like I said – I like to have an answer when someone goes for Rise out of nowhere.
- Wild Ricochet – Good utility all around. I think I heard it described as “Game Advantage” at one point, and I think that fits.
- Increasing Vengeance – I wanted to get a solid [/card]Fork[/card] effect in somewhere, and because the list is so tight, I went for quantity wherever possible.
- Time Stop – Hands-down, my favorite control card of all time. (Well, it’s tied with Cauldron Dance, anyway.) But seriously – read the card. What *can’t* this card do?
- Void Shatter – Okay, okay. I went heavier on the counters than I wanted to. Izzet decks have a hard time finding the exile effects that white enjoys, and I find that they’re more and more necessary. This is a blue Swords to Plowshares.
- Curse of the Swine – I said “hard time”, not “impossible time”.
- Starstorm – It’s as close to Rout as red gets.
- Blasphemous Act – It costs one. Always.
- Relic of Progenitus – You all play graveyard hate, right? This will get better if I can get my hands on an extra Sensei’s Divining Top so that Trinket Mage can make a useful appearance.
- Goblin Bombardment – This nearly missed the cut. That would have been a massive mistake…
THE WIN CON
- Insurrection – I get it. This is contentious, especially given my hatred of Rise of the Dark Realms. I slotted it in this deck because I felt that it was both a deck a little down on power compared to my usual metagame, and also because that metagame is very greedy when it comes to staying light on removal and going heavy on pushing threats. It still feels dirty to me, so the jury is out as to if it stays in. Time will tell, but for now, it…
…well, it did something.
THE TEST DRIVE
I brought the deck along with me for a home draft of Eternal Masters, in the hopes that we’d get a chance to play a (ahem) real format, and that I’d get a chance to see what it could do. In all honesty, I was afraid that it was geared up to fall flat on its face, but this game was taking place with a newer playgroup, so I figured I would give it a whirl.
The game that it finally saw action in was a five-player free-for-all; the other decks were:
–Grimgrin, Corpse-Born – Zombies, fast and furious.
–Johan – I had this deck on a mid-range token game.
–Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet – Mono-black control.
–Ezuri, Claw of Progress – This seemed like a fairly straight-forward NewZuri Pre-Con revamp, but the owner had a had time finding mana in the early game, and never really got into it.
I kept a fairly weak hand that had a mana rock and Windfall; usually, I don’t like to ruin opening hands in the early game, but in this case, no one seemed to mind refilling and starting over. After that, I was able to get Jori into play, dropped Goblin Bombardment, and drew a card. Rhystic Study followed, as did Talrand, Sky Summoner, but Johan dropped Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite and pretty much stuffed the game into a grinding halt.
At this point, Grimgrin started going nuts, building a growing army of zombies starting with Grave Titan into Army of the Damned. Zombie Master followed. Johan recurred cagebreakers and came at me again, knocking me down ten points of life. Kalitas tutored up Exquisite Blood, but it was destroyed in a hurry.
At this point, NewZuri hit the board with a few land drops and got in the game with Somberwald Sage, but Grimgrin followed up with Risen Executioner, threatening lethal damage to end the game. He swung, but I fired off a Time Stop to shut off the damage, much to the relief of the rest of the table.
I untapped and drew Insurrection. That grimy feeling set in, but I pulled the trigger anyway. No one had an answer.
. . . . .
When the dust had cleared, I took enough creatures from the other players to deal over 100 damage when taking into account the combat and sacrificing the creatures post-combat to Bombardment. I aimed lethal at Yohan, Grimgrin, and Kalitas, leaving about 24 damage aimed at the under-developed NewZuri. He had Arachnogenesis, but I answered by pitching two cards to Commandeer to get the damage through. He went to eight, and two turns later, I topdecked Comet Storm to take the win.
This thing can cook. It’s not nearly ‘optimized’, but it has shed most of the weaker cards in favor of ones that interact with the game to make some really strong plays. It has a better control game, stronger card advantage, and the tools to finish things off- controversially, but final nonetheless.
If I had to keep upgrading, many of the changes would be geared towards smoothing out function further, rather than adding more power. The lands and Top mentioned above would go in, and this deck is geared completely to take great advantage of Scroll Rack. I’d like to figure out a better win-condition angle that doesn’t feel quite so dirty as well, but for now, I really enjoy this thing.
It turns out that Wizards of the Coast is cranking out a pretty decent product after all in the yearly Commander decks. They’re much-more cohesive now, and you can really put in what you want to achieve any level of power while still maintaining the identity that came out of the box. That’s a pretty awesome line of praise.
…Next, stay tuned while I get bored, really read the rules text on Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge at the behest of the GDC team, and toss this thing down *that* convoluted rabbit hole to see once and for all if you can improve upon two different Commander Pre-Cons at once.