Here's one for the more Spikey players, or those that simply love pure blue. This time I present to you a deck that is arguably the most powerful I've ever built. It routinely stomps on blinged out $400+ monstrosity decks, and yet it costs only a fraction of that price to put together. That is the power of Talrand.
Talrand is incredibly powerful because he grants combat protection and a win condition for you wrapped up into one card. You don't need to jump through hoops to figure out how you're going to end the game, because Talrand will always be that answer. Make a bunch of drakes, swing, win. All you need to do is play a bunch of instants of sorceries, which just so happens to be blue's greatest strength. Isn't that convenient?
With your win condition and combat protection already taken care of, the rest of the deck can be devoted to stopping your opponents from winning. The way blue does this is with countermagic. Counterspell is the best response to absurdly broken cards such as Sylvan Primordial and Genesis Wave. No matter the threat, countermagic is the swiss army knife that can deal with any situation in a fair 1for1 trade... except it's not really 1for1 because you get a free 2/2 flyer out of the deal! Stopping your opponents from winning actually helps you win faster.
Of course, you can't counter everything, and sometimes a permanent that you wanted to counter ended up on the board because you ran out of countermagic or was tapped out. Maybe the entire board is crazy and we need to press the ol' reset button. Luckily for us, blue is also the best color for bounce spells. Bounce the entire board, or just your opponents stuff, and then counter the thing you wanted to before but couldn't. Threat gone!
After a couple turns of stopping your opponents from winning and getting free drakes from the process, your hand will dwindle. You'll need some card draw to keep your hand stocked with goodies. Hmmm, if only we had access to the best color for card draw.. by golly, we are! Blue completes the trifecta with all the card draw we could possibly need.
The end result is a "draw-go" style deck that plays a land and passes the turn, countering the opponent's big plays, bouncing stuff that manages to hit the board, and drawing cards to keep the hand replenished, for the most part at instant speed.
- No individual card costs more than $3.00
- The overall price of the deck is $56.30 at tcgplayer, 4/17/2013
The deck is very straightforward. Essentially it boils down to this:
1) Stop your opponents from winning with countermagic and bounce, gaining free drakes in the process
2) Swing with drakes
3) Repeat steps 1&2
Talrand allows you to devote your deck to answers without having to worry about how you'll win. Blue's "removal" of countermagic + bounce is one of the most powerful ways of dealing with threats, since it's so versatile (doesn't matter if the threat is a creature or enchantment, the same spell usually does the trick) and because some of the most powerful spells can ONLY be answered efficiently with countermagic (Sylvan Primordial, Genesis Wave).
I also feel there's beauty in the simplicity of this deck. Many Commander decks have so many tricks, combos, and tutors to keep track of... it gets mentally exhausting after a while. Even something as innocent as shuffle effects can be a major pain when dealing with physical cards. Some decks aren't just shuffling every single turn, but multiple times per turn. That's fine on MTGO, but with a stack of 100 physical cards this process can be very time-consuming and pretty annoying.
With Talrand, there are no combo pieces to remember. There's very little tutoring or shuffling effects.. You're in a single color so no worrying about having the right lands to play your spells or tapping the right lands for the right mana to cast everything correctly. Nope, you play your Islands and tap 'em however you want without a care in the world.
Blue lacks good budget ramp. There's some, but it's clearly not as good as green in this department. Because of that, this deck starts off slow. It has a very low curve but that's a little misleading. To cast Talrand, you need a counter in hand and the mana to cast it. Otherwise he will be killed, or worse, tucked, and you're put even further behind to try to set up.
People generally don't like countermagic. You might be hated out even if you're clearly not in a commanding position at the moment, just because people know you have countermagic. Though to be fair, if you untap with Talrand out and a counterspell or two in hand, you've won the game. I've regularly won games where the entire table is against me when that situation arises.
Countermagic itself has a learning curve. You can't just waste counterspells on every spell your opponents cast. You have to properly assess how each spell an opponent casts can affect you and only stop the ones that will give you trouble. As a general rule of thumb, don't counter ramp, card draw, or tutors. Counter bombs like Sylvan Primordial. Man, I hate that card.
Journeyer's Kite isn't true ramp but it makes sure you hit your land drops and also can be done at instant speed, letting you keep up your counterspell mana. Also combos well with Forbid and Terrain Generator.
Thada Adel also isn't technically ramp, but I have yet to have a game where I couldn't waltz over to someone else's library and pick up a Sol Ring or two. She's fantastic.
This is why Talrand is so powerful. Look at how much disruption this deck is allowed to run.
Pithing Needle and Grafdigger's Cage are two cards that I've recently fallen in love with. They're allstars in my Zedruu deck but I've recently been adding them to my other decks as well. Pithing Needle is a versatile hoser, shutting down powerful generals like Memnarch and Geth, Lord of the Vault, or whatever else is annoying and on the field, like Academy Ruins. It always has a good target.
Grafdigger's Cage is similarly a hoser in any deck that can run it. It shuts down cards like Green Sun's Zenith, Tooth and Nail, Bribery, and so much more, not to mention stopping all that graveyard shenanigans that everyone runs. Both these cards can be tutored with Trinket Mage. Seriously, these cards need more attention in Commander. Run it, love it.
Card Draw / Tutor:
Mystic Remora is a house. No one will pay 4 when they cast noncreature spells and the cumulative upkeep is negligible for the first few turns. For 1 mana it consistently draws 3+ cards.
Trinket Mage has a pretty sweet toolbox. Relic of Progenitus, Grafdigger's Cage, Pithing Needle, Wayfarer's Bauble, or Seat of the Synod. Something for every occasion.
You don't really need bombs in this deck, but they don't hurt either. All of these cards have effects so powerful that they put you in a massive lead if they are resolved.
I think Stolen Identity is a recent gem that has flown under people's radars. It can't target creatures with shroud, but otherwise it's a slightly more expensive Phyrexian Metamorph that makes additional Metamorphs each time you hit, so you usually make 2 on the turn you cast with the opportunity to make another every following turn. That's insane. Oh, and each time cipher triggers it makes another drake, so that's cool too.
Increasing the Budget:
Some cards here barely go over the $3 card budget, like Rite of Replication and Gilded Lotus. Others are insanely expensive, like Mana Drain. But they all make the deck harder, better, faster, stronger. Here's the end result with these cards included:
I'd stay away from "win more" cards with Talrand. Basically if the card is only good with Talrand out, I wouldn't recommend running it.
Time Warp effects, yes it lets you attack again, but without a drake army it does little or nothing.
Pumping your drake army with Favorable Winds and similar effects does nothing if you don't already have a drake army out, and if you do it doesn't really matter if they're 3/3 or 2/2 since you've already won at that point. The only good pump cards are ones that do something actually useful while pumping as a side effect, like Caged Sun.
Preordain and cards similar to it are fine inclusions and were in the deck at some point. They help fix your draws and are cheap sources of extra drakes. However, I realized after some playtesting that my hand was dwindling way too fast (the downside of having such a low curve) and what I really wanted were cards that gave me card advantage, drawing me multiple cards instead of just replacing themselves. That's why I run cards like Think Twice instead. Though you could make the case to run both.
The MTGO Budget:
- No individual card worth more than 1tix
- Total deck cost is $14.71 at mtgotraders, 4/17/2013