Convertible Commander: Rosheen Meanderer

Rosheen Meanderer
Anyone who has followed my columns for any length of time knows I’m a huge proponent of a 40 land mana base. I’ve mentioned it in most of my articles. My theory is simple: if we have mana, we can play our spells. Playing spells is more fun. Magic is, at its core, a game, and games are meant to be fun. Commander, of course, is particularly aimed at fun. We play a casual format of a game, so we should have fun. If we play our spells, it’s more fun.

Of course, that fun comes at a cost. The more lands we run, the fewer spells we have access to, and lots of those spells we cut would be fun to have. Butcher of Malakir is awesome! Omniscience is rad! Playing every version of Gideon Jura is really cool! But some of those spells are really expensive, and if we run them all, we run the risk of a hand overloaded with way too many expensive spells and nothing to do before we’re run over by a tighter, faster deck. Worse, because we’re running too few mana sources, we just don’t draw enough mana at all, and wind up stuck on four lands with an Oversold Cemetery on the field and our six-mana Wrath of God effects staring at us, unused.

A long time ago I read an article by Travis Woo about drafting a core set (I can’t find it anymore, so if someone can, please post it in the comments). His argument was to never mull except for no-land hands and always run 18 lands. Running 18 means you’ll almost certainly draw the lands you need. But the key was to run a few mana sinks, like enchantments and creatures with activated abilities. (My favorite example of a card like this is Frontier Guide. An early one in a draft game can mean you’ve got every land in your deck on the field before the game is over, so you’re drawing nothing but gas.)

In Commander, where we often run ramp and other forms of mana acceleration, a way to use all or most of that mana every turn is quite powerful. Mana sinks become almost necessary. And a great way to do that is with {X} spells. A Genesis Wave where {X}= 14 will almost always win the game, and even if it doesn’t, it’ll be awesome, hilarious, and really fun. Of course, an {X} spell has the advantage of being really flexible. We can cast a Fireball for {1} to kill a key Birds of Paradise, for {5} to kill Omnath, Locus of Rage, or for {8} to finish off an opponent.

Since we’ve been playing with strict limitations in this series, what if we built a deck built around nothing but {X} spells? And who better to lead it than a commander designed for the very spell we’re trying to cast?

Savageborn Hydra
This is what could be called the “moderately playable” version of this deck. We start with the aforementioned 40 lands, but ultimately the goal is to cast {X} spells for huge numbers, so we’re actually running a bunch more than that. We’ve got 11 mana rocks, ranging from Sol Ring to Worn Powerstone (there’s an argument to running more expensive rocks which tap for more mana, like Hedron Archive, but more two-mana rocks which tap for {1} will give us more explosive starts). Then, because we’re in {G}, we’re running some traditional ramp spells like Rampant Growth and Peregrination. The truth is, these are mostly interchangeable. But what we really want is for 60% of our deck to get mana to the table.

The rest of the deck is a cross-section of the {X} spells available to us in {R}{G}. We don’t draw cards, particularly, but we’ve got so much ramp we’ll be pulling lands from our deck like crazy, so that’s good card advantage. Plus most spells we cast should have fairly large effects, meaning each of those spells is worth more than one from our opponent, another form of advantage.

We’ve got some really fun threats, mostly in the form of Hydras. Feral Hydra, for example, gives us a big ol’ threat which can be made bigger on following turns with more mana. Savageborn Hydra is an even better version of Feral, with the Double Strike and all. Hangarback Walker is here, of course, because {X}= 15 is amazing with that guy. Hydra Broodmaster, too, is really neat here, because our commander’s ability can be used on costs that contain {X}, which means we can use the Broodmaster’s Monstrosity with that extra mana so it’s really huge. That’s a lot of really big dudes thumping around the battlefield. We can also just fire off a Fanning the Flames at an opponent’s dome. Sometimes 20 damage will just do it.

Red gives us some wonderful answers to problems, too. Something like Molten Disaster will do a good job of killing most things on the board, and Rolling Earthquake kills everything. Both spells have the advantage of lowering life totals into direct damage range. Clan Defiance, adding{G}, does the same thing, and Heaven // Earth takes a bit longer but works at instant speed. Bonfire of the Damned ruins a token player’s day. Red Sun’s Zenith is a better old-school Fireball, ending a particular creature’s life and coming back for more when it shuffles back in. Check out Sudden Demise, which gives us some extra focus. Plus we’ve got Builder’s Bane, which is similar to the more recent Release the Gremlins but does the damage right now.

We’ve also got some clever extras. Wave of Indifference lets our giant hydras get in, and Outmaneuver means we don’t care if they’re blocked. Choking Vines is a surprising Fog effect, and Strength of the Tajuru will bump up our hydras and other creatures. Wildest Dreams can Buyback our whole graveyard, or at least some key pieces.

But now we get to the real point of today’s article: the optionboard.

This list represents every {X} spell available in the color combination, as well as a few extras with {X} in an ability. (It’s possible I missed one or two — I’m only human! If I did, please list it in the comments.) It’s worth a look; there’s some wild stuff in here. Sigil of Distinction, for example, is a solid {X} spell in most decks. Making a creature bigger is hardly ever a bad thing, and in a game where you’re staring at a lonely 0/1 plant token and a mess of lands, drawing this can mean a pretty massive change in the board state. Having trouble with your friend’s Angel deck? Try running a few cards like Arashi, the Sky Asunder, Squall Line, and Hurricane. A deck running a large amount of mana rocks might benefit from Lifecraft Awakening. Tribal Unity is a great mana sink in a tribal deck. Avalanche will destroy the player who runs nothing but Snow lands. Burn from Within takes care of someone’s obnoxious God or other Indestructible creature. New Frontiers would be fun in a Group Hug deck or wonderful in a lands matter deck like Omnath. Heck, even Stream of Life has its uses.

The point is this: next time you’re building a deck, take a look at the {X} spells available in your colors and try running a few. It won’t be every game, but every once and a while, you’ll be glad you did.

What mana sinks do you run in your decks? How else do you deal with land flood or mana screw? Please share your secrets in the comments!

Thanks for reading.

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