Commander Deck Check

The veil has been lifted. Counterpunch {B}{G}{W}. Mirror Mastery {U}{R}{G}. Devour for Power {G}{U}{B}. Heavenly Inferno {W}{B}{R}. Political Puppets {W}{R}{U}. The decks, once shrouded in mystery, have been revealed. Nearly nine months ago, whispers about a new product spread around Internet forums. Wizards announced a Commander product to be released in the summer of 2011. Karador, Ghost Chieftain appeared in a prominent position on what was formerly known as elderdragonhighlander.net.

Very little information spread after the initial teasers. There was speculation and debate. We knew that there were five decks coming. Eventually, we landed some images and names of the decks. They were going to feature wedge, tricolored generals. There would be cards entirely new to Magic. The cards would be legal for play in Legacy. It seemed surreal. Wizards was poised to introduce a product filled with Commander cards at a price cheaper than you could realistically build a functional hundred-card Highlander deck. For $34, the preconstructed decks wouldn’t have any real cards. They would have to be junk. Wouldn’t they?

If the decks were filled with useless commons and uncommons flanked by junk rares, the decks wouldn’t have a strong chance of selling. Why would a company take the time to develop a potentially awesome product that would not sell? The answer: They wouldn’t. In fact, the predictions made nearly two months ago have been confirmed as fact. The barrier to entry into the Commander format has been nearly erased. Every deck contains a Sol Ring. Staples are embedded next to new cards that seem amazing. Have you read about the best nonbasic land ever invented? Command Tower will be a format staple for eternity. It is better than a $100 dual land and adapts to fit the needs of almost any deck.

For the suggested retail price, players land a minimum of $60 in value. Here is a cool little trick. Gatheringmagic.com has a front-page link to each Commander deck. The lists can be located by clicking the “All Five Commander Lists Spoiled!” link. At the conclusion of each deck list, the readership has the option of purchasing the entire deck’s content from CoolStuffInc.com. If you want to know the value of the Commander decks, simply click the option and add those cards to your cart. While some of the newest releases are not yet in stock, the staples are for sale. If each card were in stock (excluding the unreleased new cards), the cheapest deck would cost over $60. Devour to Power rings up at around $85.

The exceptional value and availability of format staples will make this an outstanding and successful product. Sure, some of the prices of featured cards might decrease in value, but the bargain will remain outstanding. A few months back, I preordered two copies of each deck. The run for the Commander decks will be three months. In comparison, the run for a typical special release like duel decks or event decks is one month. A set typically runs for three months. Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that there will be plenty of supply and there should be, at least, a second wave when the first sells out.

However, keeping a few of these decks sealed up on your collector’s shelf seems like a smart plan. Open a few, build or supplement the decks that you love, and keep some for the collectability that these decks will have over the coming years. It is hard to see how the player base could ever lose on a product so outstanding. Further, everyone should play in the release events. These events will not only allow you to play the new decks with a bunch of players, but will also allow you the opportunity to pick up the foil promotional cards that accompany the event. Release foils are always fun, but I would argue that players are going to want to secure specific copies of these limited cards. Earlier last week, players could find pictures of the release promos on Twitter. There is something for everyone. I particularly like the foil Basandra, Battle Seraph featuring Terese Nielson artwork. Foil angels are hot and very collectable. I know the promo that I will be chasing. Which ones are you excited about?

Revisiting the Hot List

Over the course of several articles, I floated the concept of developing a hot list of Commander staples that you might want to pick up. The list contains cards that might be used to enhance the preconstructed decks, but did not appear in the contents of the decks. Sol Ring appears in every deck. It would have been on the list, but is featured. Therefore, we exclude it. Sensei's Divining Top did not make any of the decks; therefore, it stays on the list. As new players come to the format, they will want to purchase and trade for hot staples. This seems like a great time to stock up on key cards that might increase in value or might become scarce as the format explodes in popularity.

I will share some of my top selections with the readership. We will cover some of the generic staples that might be used by every deck, and will continue into deck-specific staples that you might want to grab if you intend to modify one of the existing decks.

Jeremy’s Hotlist



Generic/Staples for Three-Plus Decks

  1. Sensei's Divining Top
  2. Ravnica block shock lands (all)
  3. Fetch lands (all)
  4. Original dual lands
  5. Duplicant
  6. Solemn Simulacrum
  7. Color-relevant Tutors (Demonic Tutor, Mystical Tutor, Enlightened Tutor, Vampiric Tutor)
  8. Maze of Ith
  9. Monocolored planeswalkers (Liliana Vess, Elspeth, Knight-Errant, Tezzeret the Seeker, etc.)
  10. Genesis (can’t believe he didn’t make a deck)
  11. Strip Mine
  12. Gilded Lotus
  13. Restock
  14. Capsize
  15. Crucible of Worlds
  16. Life from the Loam
  17. Hallowed Burial, Damnation, Wrath of God
  18. Eventide filter lands
  19. Rhystic Study
  20. Titan cycle

Wizards did a great job of populating the hundred-card decks with some real winners. It makes sense that they could not flood the decks with every valuable and desirable card. However, the aftermarket additions to power up and modify the existing decks are ample. This is a list of twenty cards or card categories that jumped out as logical. While you don’t have to have Beta dual lands to play Commander, a little boost to the mana base can be helpful. I like the shock lands and fetch lands for stability in multicolored decks.

I have included a few color-specific cards that might go into all three decks of a given color. For example, I like to play Genesis in every deck that has Green mana. There are certainly exceptions, but many folks might like this strategy. Further, the decks are mostly void of planeswalkers (save Garruk), and have few tutors. Both of these card categories can be fun and add to the playability of the decks. If you can get your hands on a copy of Maze of Ith, great board-wipers, or Crucible of Worlds, you might have some great trade-bait or solid ways to strengthen just about any deck.

Many of the choices are fairly obvious to experienced players. Some of them are not intuitive or might represent personal preference, but that is part of the fun of customizing your own deck. Overall, each deck appears like it could benefit from upgrades on land, tutors, and removal. Depending on your local playgroups, you might want to consider stronger mana-ramp options and strengthening the graveyard removal. Few of the preconstructed decks have strong ways to combat graveyard shenanigans.

Counterpunch

  1. Genesis
  2. Buried Alive
  3. Demonic Tutor
  4. Damnation or Hallowed Burial
  5. Eternal Witness
  6. Decree of Pain
  7. Debtors' Knell
  8. Regal Force
  9. Lord of Extinction
  10. Rancor

I previewed a possible modification for a Karador, Ghost Chieftain deck in a previous article. Graveyard themes and token strategies have been popular in the format, and this deck should prove a favorite. If you want to beef up the graveyard theme, you might add the Genesis/Buried Alive/Eternal Witness engine to the deck. Lord of Extinction could drop in for folks who love giant fatties, and Regal Force could complement Skullclamp to aid a deck that looks like it might be in need of some card-draw. Decree of Pain is one of my favorite “big” cards in the format and could also provide wipe along with card draw.

Mirror Mastery

  1. Twincast
  2. Fork
  3. Insurrection
  4. Consecrated Sphinx
  5. Blatant Thievery
  6. Rhystic Study
  7. Capsize
  8. Time Stretch
  9. Pact of Negation or Force of Will
  10. Mystic Snake

I have to admit, this is my least favorite of the decks. I don’t have a real vision of the best way to enhance this deck, so I started with cards that are globally interesting and powerful. The deck looks like it might need a few counters and copy spells to survive. Blatant Thievery is an underused card, and Insurrection gives the deck another win condition. I would be interested in folks posting their opinions on this deck in the forums. What direction would you take this deck?

Devour for Power

  1. Genesis
  2. Coiling Oracle
  3. Life from the Loam
  4. Restock
  5. Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur
  6. Sheoldred, Whispering One
  7. Grave Titan & Primeval Titan
  8. Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and Cabal Coffers
  9. Demonic Tutor
  10. Exsanguinate

This deck features my favorite three-color combination in Magic. Vorosh is my first love and will likely be my favorite deck in the format. There are some simple upgrades that will make this, the most valuable of the decks, one of the most potent. The colors allow you to upgrade the creature lineup with some smooth mythic additions. I like the Titans and the Praetors in this list along with a new win condition. The deck will work like a puzzle. If you assemble the right creatures, lands, and Exsanguinate, you can fire off a mighty victory that will rock your table. Each piece is valuable on its own, and together they have an outstanding synergy. Restock and Genesis will keep the party stocked with goodies and supplement the already-impressive Eternal Witness/Buried Alive package featured in the deck. If you want to go infinite, just add Time Stretch.

Heavenly Inferno

  1. Debtors' Knell
  2. Vampiric Tutor
  3. Demonic Tutor
  4. Urabrask the Hidden
  5. Akroma's Memorial
  6. Academy Rector
  7. Promise of Power
  8. Planar Cleansing
  9. Terra Eternal
  10. White Sun's Zenith

Angels and burn make a killer combination. Black gives you access to all of the tutors and spot removal you might like. The deck can benefit from an upgraded creature lineup and some fancier tricks. Look to improve card-draw, and this deck might make a winner. This is my favorite theme. Angels are awesome.

Political Puppets

  1. Bribery
  2. Acquire
  3. Sakashima the Impostor
  4. Blatant Thievery
  5. Sword of Fire and Ice, Sword of Feast and Famine, Sword of War and Peace, etc.
  6. Stonehewer Giant, Stoneforge Mystic, their ilk
  7. Cryptic Command
  8. Rhystic Study
  9. Fling
  10. Sac outlets

This deck has an interesting theme. Take your opponent’s stuff and use it against him. You could strengthen the theme by using equipment that would make his creatures even better. There are obvious searchers for great equipment out of White. The deck needs a little more card-draw and some way to sacrifice creatures that you have borrowed if they are about to be taken back. I like Fling and the big end game packed in this deck. Reins of Power and Insurrection are strong in a format filled with great creatures and impressive board-building decks like tokens or tribal decks.

Release Events

What decks have you purchased? How are you planning to change them up? What do you hope to play at the release events? Enjoy the preconstructed decks and check out a release event. There are typically twenty promos for each store. Best of luck landing the cards that you want. Leave us some feedback in the forums and point our cards on your hot list. Thanks for reading. See you next week for more Commander content.