One of the Commander format’s main appeals is that it’s slow. That fact allows us to play with the enormous creatures and game-breaking spells that aren’t viable in other formats, and it also gives players the time to put together unique synergies that might normally be deemed overkill.
I don’t want to give any of that up, but the fact of the matter is that sometimes you aren’t looking for a three-hour game. Maybe somebody has to leave in an hour, really likes aggro, or is just plain tired.
The obvious solution would be to play a different format, but none of those problems implies you don’t want multiplayer, and a lot of playgroups don’t tote around sixty-card casual decks. What’s a mage to do? Why, make the Commander games go faster, of course!
Obviously, I’m not the first one to think of this; you’ll find Heartless Hidetsugu decks pretty much wherever you look, but that’s not the approach I want to take. Hidetsugu diminishes the impact of everyone’s plays, cutting the differences players make to one another’s life totals in half with each activation. Moreover, it robs people of the sense that they’re playing the game. Instead, players just watch everyone’s life dwindle until somebody steals the win. I want to speed up the game while leaving my opponents feeling empowered. And for that to happen, they need to make things go faster for themselves. I know just the person who can teach them to do that:
Fumiko is well adapted to let you turtle up behind defenses while your opponents beat one another senseless, but since we came here for aggression, that’s not the route I want to take.
After being on the board for a turn, Fumiko essentially makes everything unblockable. This is great in that it gives us an excuse to forgo the usual suspects with enters-the-battlefield triggers for some saboteurs.
|Cunning Giant; Butcher Orgg; Mordant Dragon; Balefire Dragon; Umezawa's Jitte||Blow up creatures|
|Goblin Vandal; Rustmouth Ogre; Steel Hellkite; Akki Underminer||Blow up other things|
|Dragon Mage; Mask of Memory; Sword of Fire and Ice||Draw cards|
And once we’re being rewarded so much for hitting our opponents, it’s only sensible to figure out how to do so more often.
Of course, we’re still going to wind up in a bad spot unless we discourage at least a few of our opponents from attacking us. Fumiko the Lowblood will be able to take most ground pounders in a fight, but a little bit of insurance won’t hurt.
|Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs; Crawlspace; Stuffy Doll; Thunderstaff; Batterskull; Akroma's Memorial||Discouragement|
|Curse of Stalked Prey; Furnace of Rath; Avatar of Slaughter; Mightstone; Thran Weaponry||Encouragement|
With that out of the way, all that’s left to do is round out our aggressive plan with some heavy hitters. We end up with this:
I want to wrap things up by showing you how the deck plays out, and luckily, I have access to some rare primary source material on the matter.
A Brief History of Interplanar Warfare by Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
“I hereby place you, Fumiko Ishiokia, under arrest by order of Mikaeus, the Lunarch himself!” The captain of the guard bellowed.
“I’d like to see you try, Thalia,” the young woman sneered. She hefted her katana and prepared to strike.
I sighed. Perhaps it hadn’t been such a good idea to bring the notorious Fumiko the Lowblood to visit Innistrad, but in any case, I had better put a stop to the violence. I drew up mana and had just begun to raise my right hand when a deafening roar knocked me from my feet.
Cromat by Donato Giancola
The strange entity unfolded its translucent wings and raised them for flight, but just then, a small figure on a rooftop waved its arms, and a fully-grown hydra fell out of the sky and pinned the oddity to the ground. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on, but I did know that it was my responsibility to make a record of it. And to hide—definitely hide.
The four figures squared off in the corners of the plaza beneath my perch.
All four looked warily around and began to gather mana. The warriors brandished the mystical artifacts they’d planned to use against one another—Thalia a Brittle Effigy and Fumiko Umezawa's Jitte, won from him in combat. Mayael’s eyes shown as she outraced her competitors in the accumulation of mana, and Thalia took the opportunity to dive into the thick of things, heralded by a Ballyrush Banneret. Not to be outdone, the Lowblood rushed out as well, but the more discerning Anima summoned some Wood Elves to defend her.
A few taunts from Fumiko sent Thalia and her Banneret charging toward their mutual foes, and Fumiko used the distraction to make a stab at Cromat with the Jitte. The Anima stayed her course, gathering a truly staggering supply of mana.
What was she planning?
Thraben’s Guardian took note and rushed the elf before laying down a Soul Snare and summoning Lodestone Golem. Fumiko, too, assaulted the elvish shaman, but then caught Thalia completely off guard as Umezawa's Jitte gleamed with a sickly, pale light. Her purpose soon became clear: With the captain of the guard out of the way, Fumiko unveiled a piece of Phyrexian handiwork.
Mayael turned the Lodestone Golem’s Swords to Plowshares and then went to Recross the Paths over and over again. The Cromat monstrosity sprouted a Gilded Lotus before being assaulted by Thalia’s Banneret, then Thalia herself limped back onto the battlefield.
Fumiko climbed into the narrow Crawlspace beneath a nearby porch, and not a moment too soon. Mayael the Anima called forth a horrifying being the likes of which had never before been seen on Innistrad.
Its unearthly bellow shattered the Brittle Effigy that Thalia clutched lose to her, and at the Lowblood’s jibe, she hurled herself toward the Batterskull. Cromat, meanwhile, called up an ally that could only be described as Purity incarnate.
All of this had given Fumiko just enough time to protect herself from the looming eldritch horror. With the tug of a needle, she brandished a Stuffy Doll made in Mayael’s likeness, making it clear that any attack on her person would come with undesirable consequences.
Her monster thwarted, Mayael summoned the Terastodon, which she angrily instructed to crush Fumiko’s equipment. The elephant obliged, crushing Cromat’s Lotus underfoot as it went. Ulamog’s subsequent attack upon the multicolored illusion caused it to vanish in a puff of smoke. The remaining three combatants eyed one another uneasily.
Thalia and her Banneret dashed themselves upon elephant tusks in a blood rage, and Mayael’s monsters took the opportunity to charge Thraben’s wounded guardian. Ulamog fell into the Soul Snare, but Thalia nonetheless sustained a couple of grievous injuries. Mayael’s forces continued their assault, and Fumiko’s eyes lit up, anticipating a chance to strike. Mayael was not so easily caught unawares; her Seedborn Muse had given her an idea for self-defense, and now secure, the Shaman called forth another horror from the beyond.
In the subsequent attack, Kozilek consumed Fumiko’s elephants and the building that formed her Crawlspace, but the doll’s magic held, and Mayael was sent reeling back. The Anima regained her composure and sent a call skyward. It was answered by none other than Avacyn, Angel of Hope.
Fumiko pulled forth the Staff of Nin and focused on the image of Akroma's Memorial in her mind. If only she could find a second to form one more mana bond, her voodoo doll could act as a protection against even airborne foes.
Eyes screwed up in concentration, Fumiko didn’t even notice when Mayael unleashed the sea of mana at her disposal into a Genesis Wave twenty-three feet high. It served as the bridge for the army that had been chasing down Ulamog and Kozilek, led by none other than the Avenger of Zendikar. As the tide ebbed, the Anima grinned devilishly. “What’s that you’re picturing, Lowblood?”
The wave sloshed once more against the waterlogged church of Avacyn and uncovered a statue.
“It seems even your role models have turned against you,” she crooned, “I guess that means your time is at an end.” With that, hundreds of creatures leapt into the air, but Fumiko never felt their ripping claws, their crushing limbs, their stinging thorns. She was smothered far too quickly for that.