INTRODUCTION: WORKING WITH WHAT WE GOT
So I have been noticing quite a few games recently where people have taken the available Commander precon decks and going straight to battle. Sometimes these decks have a few changes, but many times they are just the stock lists. This made me think that I should take a closer look at them, and see if I can improve them cheaply. Here comes the Deck Doctor to the rescue!
The Doctor will see you now!
I figured I could start off by playing a few games with the stock list, seeing what I like and I don't like about it. Then, start making some changes. As I think most people using the precons probably don't have tons of money to sink into the format, I am going to try and keep my changes budget minded. Let's see what I can do.
THE PRECON: NOT QUITE GOOD ENOUGH
Let's just jump right into it and take a look at the precon, and what we get:
There is obviously a bit of an enchantment theme here, with some control type cards and defensive stuff as well. You also have a commander who can use your opponents' creatures against them. Unfortunately, just looking at the deck it appears that it lacks bombs. There is no single card in the deck that would make an opponent fear it, or worry about having an answer.
After playing a few games with the deck I found that not only were my initial suspicions correct, but the problems with the deck were worse than I thought. First, there was a distinct lack of card draw. I had more than one game where I ran out of cards in hand, and was dying for a refill. In addition, the deck lacked threats. People ignored me most of the time because I just wasn't doing anything. Finally, the deck lacked a re-set button. Ghostly Prison is good at slowing people down, but it doesn't stop them completely. Sometimes you just need to wipe the board. With all that said, I never came close to winning a game with this deck. I got the occasional second place finish just because I was such a small threat that people would leave me alone until I was the last person in their way. But I never had control.
So I decided I needed to include more threats. I also needed at least one board re-set. I was also going to push the enchantment theme a little further with the deck. By doing so, I should also be able to help with the card draw issues. Let's start making changes!
Out - Jungle Lion, Elvish Visionary, Court Hussar, Jungle Barrier, Looter il-Kor, Man-o'-War, Merfolk Looter, Mistmeadow Witch, Raven Familiar, Questing Phelddagrif
In - Dowsing Shaman (.04), Mesa Enchantress (.10), Verduran Enchantress (.12): As I was going to be pushing the enchantments, I had to cut some creatures. Some of the creatures didn't make a whole lot of sense in the deck, like Jungle Lion. I realize that Mistmeadow Witch works with some of the other creatures, but it just wasn't doing enough for me. However, I did include a creature that could help with recursion in Dowsing Shaman, and additional card draw with the Enchantresses.
Out - Illusionary Mask, Relic of Progenitus.
In - None: That's right, I'm not adding any artifacts. Again, the Mask was just not doing enough for me. Relic is good, but I would rather have an enchantment that can hurt people's graveyards. I thought of adding Skull of Orm as another way to recur enchantments, but the activation cost was just too high for my liking.
Out - Concordant Crossroads, Empyrial Armor
In - Sigil of the Empty Throne (.60), Mystic Remora (.04), Sacred Mesa (.08), Mobilization (.60), Mana Reflection (1.00), Web of Inertia (.04), Aura of Silence (.05), Enchantress's Presence (2.75), Followed Footsteps (.50), Future Sight (.25), Hoofprints of the Stag (.15), Karmic Justice (3.00), Land Tax (3.50), Legacy's Allure (.25), Luminarch Ascension (1.75), Runed Halo (2.50): First of all, Concordant Crossroads screwed me more often than it helped me. People would often play big scary creatures and just stomp all over me, so it had to go. Instead, I included several token producers in Mobilization, Luminarch Ascension, Sacred Mesa, Sigil of the Empty Throne, Followed Footsteps and Hoofprints of the Stag. These are your main win conditions, so use them wisely. In addition there is some defense and draw in here as well.
Out - Momentary Blink, Overwhelming Intellect
In - None: Momentary Blink wasn't going to work with most of my creatures now. I liked Overwhelming Intellect in concept, but there were lots of times that I had it in hand and wanted a threat. Or I just wanted to counter something that wasn't a creature. It was never the right card, so it got the axe.
Out - Decree of Justice, Temporal Spring, Rampant Growth, Compulsive Research, Resurrection
In - Austere Command (1.40), Idyllic Tutor (3.25), Wrath of God (2.00): I liked Decree, but it just didn't seem to fit the deck. The rest of the cards weren't needed as well. However, Austere Command can wipe the board while keeping your enchantments around, and Wrath of God is old reliable. In addition, another tutor never hurts.
Finally, I had to mess around with the basic lands a little bit. I had added a few more white cards with activated abilities, so I upped the amount of Plains. I ended up adding a little less than 24 tickets to the deck. If you combine that with the amount you paid for the precon, that's still pretty cheap for a competitive deck. At least the way I'm used to building them. So let's take a look at our new deck
It's not that bad, if I do say so myself. I tried to keep the feel of the original deck. Let's break it down a little.
Kami of Ancient Law, Faith's Fetters, Aura of Silence, Oblivion Ring, Prison Term, Seal of Cleansing, Condemn, Dismantling Blow, Swords to Plowshares: We have a couple of different forms of removal here, with the majority being creature based. But Dismantling Blow provides some card draw, and Seal of Cleansing is versatile. The Kami is somewhat limited, and I always seem to want to be able to destroy an artifact when I draw it. I guess it could be replaced with Acidic Slime or Mold Shambler.
I also thought of adding Seal of Primordium. It is definitely worth considering.
Web of Inertia, Runed Halo, Capsize, Ghostly Prison, Karmic Justice, Moment's Peace, Wrath of God, Austere Command: I added to the defense that was already in the deck with Wrath of God and Austere Command. Web of Inertia acts as graveyard hate, although it isn't targeted. Runed Halo is great for dealing with decks that are very focused around their commander, like Rafiq or Uril. Finally, Karmic Justice is a beast. Most times it comes in handy when someone wipes the board and turns into land destruction. Usually this occurs when an opponent sacrifices himself for the team. Just keep in mind that it is a "may" ability, so you don't have to use it.
There are also a few theft cards in the form of Confiscate and Legacy's Allure, as well as Rubinia herself. I have to admit that Legacy's Allure never worked out that great for me, and should probably be replaced with something like Dance of Many or even the upcoming Control Magic from MED4. Copy Enchantment is pretty sweet as well, and works great in conjunction with something like Sigil of the Empty Throne.
Mana help comes in the form of Borderland Ranger, Krosan Tusker, Land Tax, Sakura-tribe Elder, Coiling Oracle and each of the landcycling creatures. However, if anything I have found that the deck tends to get land flooded. A lot. I'm not really sure what to do about that problem, though, as it seems to be just a product of random luck.
There are 3 tutors in the deck in Enlightened Tutor, Sterling Grove and Idyllic Tutor. You should be able to get what you need with these, whether it is card draw or destruction. Additionally, I have been hit by Acquire and Bribery a couple times while playing this deck. Those people are severely disappointed.
Like I noted before, the game plan is typically to lay low and play defense until you get out a token producer. Once you start making tokens, you are going to have a bulls-eye on your head, so watch out. Let's see how the deck does in practice.
THE GAME: FIGHT!
Here are my opponents for this game:
Drana is typically mono-Black control, capable of making large amounts of mana and killing with commander damage. Kataki is interesting, and a legend I've never seen used as a commander before. I guess there are enough artifacts played that he is useful? All I know is that I am glad that I am not using my Karn deck right now. Finally, Sliver Overlord
is pretty self explanatory. What I really need to worry about from him is Harmonic Sliver
. This means that I somehow need to make sure that he cannot use the Overlord's activated ability. That may be tough.
The Drana player wins the roll. Here is my opening hand:
This hand has two token makers and land. Although it is an aggressive hand, that's a definite keep right there. S mulls to 6. As usual, D = Drana, K = Kataki and S = Sliver Overlord
. Let's get to the action!
Me: Draw Plains. Play Plains, then Luminarch Ascension
. I know that some people think that a turn 2 Ascension is cheesy, but I have found that I can never make more than 4 angels off of it before it is dealt with. So I don't think it is that out of control.
D: Nothing. Has to discard Heartstabber Mosquito
to get to 7 cards in hand at the end of the turn. That's too bad.
K: Plains, then Serenity
. No worries about the Ascension now, as that is a perfectly acceptable way to deal with it. Plus it fits his anti-artifact theme.
Don't forget that it does not hit creatures.
D: Swamp, then Bloodrite Invoker
. This makes me scratch my head because I believe the Invoker will die next turn to Serenity
. It pays to RTFC. My Ascension gets its 4th
triggers. I don't make an angel token before my Ascension blows up. Someone points out that I should have. Oh well. K plays a Plains.
K: Nothing. At the end of turn, D targets S with Diabolic Edict
, forcing a sacrifice of the Overlord. That's a good way of getting rid of him.
Me: Draw Mesa Enchantress
. Play a Plains, then the Enchantress. I want to maximize my rewards for playing an enchantment next turn.
Never seen this one played before.
S: Pays to keep his Ingot. Then plays a Mountain.
D: During her upkeep, sacrifices Moriok Replica
(35) to draw 2 cards and pays to keep the Totem around. Then plays Smallpox
. That clears the board of creatures, and everyone loses a land. I discard Oblivion Ring
, which is a tough choice, but I wanted to keep my land cards in hand to help with token production. And everyone loses 1 life.
S: Crucible of Worlds
, then plays a Mountain out of his graveyard. At the end of his turn I make a Pegasus token.
Me: Sac a Pegasus, draw an Island and play a Forest. I attack K with a Pegasus (38) and S with one also (38).
Me: Sac a Pegasus, draw Simic Signet
and play an Island. I attack K with 4 tokens (34), D with a token (33) and S with 4 tokens (34).
Crazy good with enough mana.
Holy cow, I wasn’t expecting that one from a sliver deck. He then turns my Mana Reflection
into an artifact in order to steal it, but I target Memnarch
with Swords to Plowshares
in response (38) so he can’t take it. I’m glad that I had that answer in hand. I make 8 more tokens at the end of my turn.
Me: Sac a token, and draw Capsize
. I attack K with 9 tokens, and he blocks and kills a token but drops to (29). I attack S with 5 tokens (33) and D with 2 tokens (31) as well.
S: Plains, then puts a mess of counters on his Gemstone Array
. Attacks me with Essence Sliver
. I make a bunch of Pegasus tokens to block and kill it, but he still goes up to (36). I then make 6 tokens
Me: Sac a token and draw a Plains, which I play. I attack K with my team. This may be a bad move, since his Linvala keeps the other two commanders in check, but I'm worried that he may be packing additional enchantment removal. He blocks and kills 2 tokens, but drops to (14)
S: Forest. At the end of the turn, I make 11 more tokens.
Me: Sac a token and draw Armadillo Cloak
. I attack K with everything but 4 tokens, taking him out
The remaining 4 tokens go in S’s direction (32). At the end of my turn D sacs Moriok Replica
to draw 2 cards (29).
S: Nothing. At the end of his turn, I make 11 more tokens.
Me: Sac a token and draw Auramancer
. I attack S with my team, killing him.
At the end of her turn I Capsize
(with buyback) the Pestilence
, but she kills all my tokens in response. I then Capsize
(with buyback) her Emperion and make 5 tokens. D has to discard Doom Blade
to get to 7 cards in hand at the end of the turn.
Me: I sac a token and draw an Island, which I play. I attack with my team, dropping D to (12) while I go up to (46). I then play Land Tax
just for the draw since I have more land than D, drawing a Plains, which I play.
Me: During my upkeep, she uses Pestilence
a couple times to make me expend resources to feed Sacred Mesa
, knocking me down to (44) and wiping out my team except for the Centaur. But I manage to keep the Mesa fed. I draw Fertile Ground
. First, I Fetters Pestilence
, drawing Willbender
. Then, I play Fertile Ground
, drawing Idyllic Tutor
. I use the Tutor to search up Seal of Cleansing
, which I play drawing Legacy's Allure
, which is probably the weakest enchantment in the deck. I use the Seal to destroy the Emperion. I then attack with the Centaur, knocking D down to (5) while I go up to (53). I then play Willbender
face down and Legacy's Allure
, drawing Dowsing Shaman
, and finally play my Plains.
D: Swamp, then Cadaver Imp
, returning the Emperion to her hand. I can't seem to get rid of that guy. I guess I could have used Willbender
here to make the Imp target another creature in D's graveyard, but I didn’t for some reason. Then plays the Emperion again.
At the end of the turn I make a few tokens.
D: Doesn’t draw an answer and concedes.
Most games where I won were similar to this: Get out a token producer and have it unmolested, then swarm people. Of course, I got lucky here in that both my Mana Reflection and Sacred Mesa went the entire game without being touched. The deck doesn't really make tokens quickly, so you have to keep on your toes for a while and keep pumping them out while you can. It is pretty slow and reactive, so if you like that kind of play style, this deck may be for you.
However, although I improved the deck, it still isn't as good as the decks that I typically show you guys. I did manage to win a few games, and in those that I didn't I usually came in second. I don't think that I had a game where I wasn't a major threat at some point during play, so at least I was able to meet my goal in that respect.
The one thing that was the most frustrating for me was the land flood. I always seemed to draw a ton of land, especially at the most inopportune times. I even had a game where I pulled all my basics with Land Tax, yet I continued to draw my few non-basics. Scroll Rack may be worth considering just for this purpose. If I were to change the deck more, I would probably push the enchantment theme even further, and get rid of some more of the creatures. There are plenty of powerful enchantments out there, such as Dovescape, Archmage Ascension and Solitary Confinement that are worthy of consideration. Heck, you could even push this deck into an Enduring Ideal deck by adding Mystical Tutor, Personal Tutor and then cards like Paradox Haze and Wheel of Sun and Moon. I considered going this route, but thought it might be a little more expensive than I wanted to go. As it is right now, this deck will cost you around 44 tickets (20 for the theme deck, then 24 for my additions). Of course, feel free to make your own changes and ignore my suggestions if you want.
On a side note, has anyone else out there played the stock Rubinia deck and done well with it? I'm curious about whether my experience is abnormal with it.
Anyway, I hope you guys enjoyed the deck. In my next article, I'm going to be taking a look at the Xira Arien precon. After that I am pretty open, so I am asking you, the reader, about what you want to see in the future. Do you want me to build around a specific legend? Does your deck need some doctoring? I'm always up for helping people improve their decks. Is there a specific topic you would like for me to discuss? Feel free to say something in the comments, or send me an email at the address below. I figured that now would be a good time to hear what you guys want. Otherwise I am just going to keep doing what I have been doing!
Until next time!
Leviathan, aka Tarasco on MTGO
mrmorale32 at yahoo dot com
CONQUEROR AND COMMANDER ARCHIVE