Krenko Commander

By the time this article goes live, Return to Ravnica previews will have kicked off with the PAX party. Unfortunately, I haven't seen those yet, so I'll be looking at something a little different this week: Commander. Although building a hundred-card deck on a budget may seem daunting, especially with nearly every card in Magic available, it's not as difficult as it appears. Magic 2013 has provided us with a cycle of legendary creatures that are great for building inexpensive Commander decks. Playing only one color means you don't have to worry about sucking up funds with the mana base, and since each of these is the cover rare for an intro pack, getting your hands on a foil copy is very easy. Krenko, Mob Boss lends himself particularly well to a budget Commander deck since there are many strong Goblin-related cards that are commons or uncommons.

Since this deck has sixty-four unique cards, I'll be presenting them in small groups throughout the article. However, here's the full decklist for those who prefer it:

Pump Effects

Although Krenko is very good at pumping out a mob of Goblins, a bunch of 1/1s aren't going to kill your opponent very quickly. Therefore, I've devoted a large portion of the deck to things that pump up the power of your Goblins, enabling you to end the game much more quickly.

Patron of the Akki
Goblin King, Goblin Chieftain, and Adaptive Automaton are your basic Goblin lords, giving all your tokens +1/+1. Patron of the Akki and Goblin Wardriver only hand out bonuses when they attack, but that's when you want them most anyway. Akki Lavarunner is a bit weird, requiring you to sneak in an attack before it gives you anything in return. Haste makes that much easier, however, and once you've done that, all your creatures, spells, and enchantments will deal a bit of extra damage.

Quest for the Goblin Lord, Orcish Oriflamme, and Konda's Banner are less vulnerable to removal than the creatures, but they require a bit more effort as well. Sword of the Paruns gives all your creatures a significant power or toughness boost as needed, and it can also be used to activate Krenko multiple times in one turn.

Homura, Human Ascendant will give your creatures a massive boost if you can kill him off, and Rabble-Rouser becomes more and more powerful as you make your Goblins larger. Goblin Bushwhacker will only boost your team once, but it also gives all your creatures haste, letting you attack will all the Goblins Krenko summoned earlier in the turn.

Rage Reflection will effectively double the power of your creatures, and Marton Stromgald, Coat of Arms, and Shared Animosity will square it. These cards will often end the game almost immediately after you play them.

Mercadia's Downfall is an odd card, but in a format with so many nonbasic lands, it can be extremely effective. The wording on the card is a bit difficult to decipher with regard to multiplayer, so here's how it works: If you're attacking multiple players, you can choose any one of those players to be the defending player for the purposes of this card. This means that you can send the main portion of your force at the player you want to kill, with a lone Goblin token attacking the player who controls the most nonbasic lands. You can choose that player as the defending player, giving your Goblins a larger boost.

Other Win Conditions

Sometimes, attacking just isn't an option. If that's the case, this collection of spells can make sure you win the game anyway. Voracious Dragon can kill someone even if all your Goblins are just 1/1s, and Warstorm Surge can take down troublesome creatures as well as opponents.

Boggart Shenanigans, Vicious Shadows, and Goblin Bombardment ensure that even if someone wipes the board, you can still deal a fairly large amount of damage with your creatures. If you happen to draw Goblin Bombardment and Vicious Shadows together, you can often end the game on the spot.

Token-Making Spells

Although Krenko can get the party started on his own if necessary, it certainly helps things along if you already have a mob waiting for him. Beetleback Chief, Siege-Gang Commander, and Goblin Marshal each bring a few friends along, and Empty the Warrens will usually make at least four tokens later in the game.

Goblin Offensive can make as many creatures as you have mana for, and Chancellor of the Forge will straight up double your creature count. Goblin Warrens is a bit slower, but it can make a new Goblin for every 3 mana you spend, which can really add up over the course of a few turns. It also triggers Boggart Shenanigans and Vicious Shadows twice each time you activate it.

Removal

Every deck needs a way to pick off troublesome permanents, and although it might not be the best color at the job, red can certainly get things done. Gempalm Incinerator will not only take out a creature at instant speed, but it will draw you a card as well, making sure you don't expend all your resources.

Arms Dealer might make you sacrifice a Goblin token or two, but being able to leverage those tokens to force opponents to attack each other rather than you is invaluable. Brittle Effigy can fill a similar role, and it can also be used to quickly deal with hard-to-kill threats like Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre.

Aftershock
Aftershock is among the most underrated removal spells in Commander. It's comparable to Wrecking Ball, trading instant speed and 3 life for the ability to kill artifacts and the removal of the black mana requirement. With the number of powerful artifacts that are played in the format, this seems to be more than a fair trade.

For instant-speed removal, Fissure and Cinder Cloud can get the job done, albeit not extremely efficiently. Blood Frenzy is a cheap way to get rid of a creature, and although it does have its drawbacks, those suddenly become advantages if you cast it on a creature that's attacking someone else. One opponent takes an extra 4 damage, and another opponent loses his best creature.

Spine of Ish Sah is expensive, but it's among the very few ways red has of dealing with enchantments. It may cost you a turn, but there will often be times when if you didn't have it, it would cost you much more than that.

Tuktuk Scrapper kills an artifact and leaves you with another Goblin on the board, and Shattering Pulse can kill artifacts over and over again, often throughout an entire game.

Tide of War and Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician certainly don't fall within conventional ideas of removal, but that's usually the role they serve. Ib Halfheart will give your Goblins the ability to trade up for larger creatures, and the seemingly dangerous Tide of War is actually all-upside in this deck. Since your creatures will almost inevitably be smaller than your opponents’, it won't change anything if the coin flip goes against you. If it goes in your favor, however, things change dramatically. Not only are the opposing creatures killed regardless of size and things such as indestructibility or protection from red, but your creatures will live to fight another day.

Although this deck usually doesn't want to be clearing the board, sometimes you just have to do it. Blasphemous Act is my choice for the job. When you really need a sweeper, it will often get the job done for as little as 1 mana.

Card-Draw and Selection

Red decks typically have trouble with card advantage and quality, but this deck fares better than most in that area. Staff of Nin and Illuminated Folio will easily give you an extra card every turn, and Crystal Ball can go a long way to ensure that you draw what you need.

With the ability to make so many Goblin tokens, this deck is particularly well-suited to take advantage of Jar of Eyeballs and Slate of Ancestry. The latter will often fill your hand with more cards than you can handle, while the former will often let you look through a quarter of your deck to find the perfect card for the situation.

Moggcatcher, Goblin Matron, and Goblin Recruiter each let you tutor up whatever Goblin you want most, whether that be a lord like Goblin Chieftain, a token maker like Siege-Gang Commander, or a removal spell like Tuktuk Scrapper or Arms Dealer.

Mana Acceleration

"Krenko Commander"

Although many of the spells in this deck cost only a few mana, you'll still want to be able to make it up to at least 6, and you can take advantage of much more mana than that.

Wayfarer's Bauble and Worn Powerstone are two of my favorite ways to accelerate in Commander, doing fair impressions of Rampant Growth and Explosive Vegetation, respectively. Wayfarer's Bauble give you an additional mana source as soon as turn two, and it’ll be one that won't be eliminated by an Austere Command or Planar Cleansing. Although Worn Powerstone is more vulnerable, it's also much more powerful, potentially jumping you straight up to 6 mana on your fourth turn.

Caged Sun will not only double your mana, but pump up all your Goblins as well, and although Journeyer's Kite isn't technically acceleration, it will make sure you have a steady stream of lands throughout the game.

Ability Granting

Umbral Mantle is in the deck solely to allow you to activate Krenko several times in one turn. This ability is extremely powerful in this deck. Even with only 6 mana and no other Goblins on the board, you can make seven tokens in a single turn. Beyond that, things start becoming ridiculous, with the mob of Goblins quickly growing beyond control.

Commander staples Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots will not only help protect Krenko, but they allow you to activate him immediately rather than having to hope he live to see your untap step. Anger and Fervor also give Krenko haste, but they will grant it to all your other creatures as well, allowing you to attack with the Goblin tokens that Krenko just produced.

Goblin War Drums and Caterwauling Boggart make it much harder for your opponents to survive your attacks, and they become especially potent with a Tide of War on the battlefield.

This is an enormously fun deck, filled with odd cards that most players won't even recognize. If you like Goblins, massive hordes of tokens, or obscure cards, or if you're looking to get into Commander without breaking the bank, be sure to take this deck for a spin. You won't be disappointed.