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By: Leviathan, Mike Morales
Apr 07 2010 11:53pm
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I.  Introduction

Hello everyone, and welcome to the first volume of Conqueror & Commander!  I go by Tarasco on MTGO, and I guess I need to start by telling a little bit about myself before we get any farther.

I started playing Magic when The Dark was impressing us with such favorites as Sorrow's Path, Leviathan and Wormwood Treefolk.  I was competitive, but didn't really play tournaments, and I liked the collecting aspect of the game.  However, I did win a Type 1 tournament using a deck based on Derelor.  That's right, Derelor.  Around the time of Tempest, I was going to travel around Asia and needed some cash.  Bye bye collection, hello beautiful beaches and women who couldn't understand me.  Or they just pretended not to understand me.  Which is understandable.  

Anyway, fast forward a few years, and my friends that I introduced to the game tell me about MTGO, and how great it is.  I resist for a year or two.  When I finally cave in during Ravnica block and get an account, turns out all my buddies were over the game.  I ended up buying their collections, and starting my little hobby all over again.

When I first got back on, I got into the tribal format.  I particularly liked playing decks around goofy tribes like Centaurs or Sphinxes.  Unfortunately, due to my schedule I never had time to sit down for full tournaments, but I did have plenty of fun in the casual room.  That is, until Lorwyn came out.  You can only handle having your Ape deck getting crushed by the 10th Elf deck in a row before you finally start to lose it.  However, you will definitely still see a tribal influence on a lot of my decks.

After deciding to avoid the tribal matches for a little bit, I started playing in the multiplayer room, and later found the Commander format.  Now this was more like it!  Big creatures, splashy spells!  I decided to jump into it with gusto.  And here we are.

II.  Basis of the Series

So basically what I want to do is show you a deck, then take a look at a round by round of an account of a game using the deck.  Basically like what Sheldon Menery does over at Starcitygames, except my series won't be written by a guy with fantastic judging credentials who helped create EDH.  I figure this way people can see the kinds of things they can expect when playing Commander.  Also, I know I like round by round accounts of these games, and I figure you may too.  I also can point out some strengths and weaknesses with the deck that I show.  However, a couple of things to keep in mind.

First, I prefer to win via combat damage and turning dudes sideways.  I don't tend to play many combos.  You won't see me go infinite, at least not on purpose.  I don't really use Counterspells, mainly because I would rather press F8 to speed things along during an opponent's turn.  I avoid playing blue.  As a matter of fact, I also noticed that a lot of my decks lack instants, or at least have very few.  That's just my style, so that's what you should expect.

Second, my decks aren't going to win every single game.  They aren't cutthroat.  You won't be screaming, "The Power!  I can't handle it!" after you see them.  However, they are usually fun, and are definitely viable.  So when you see these decks and think to yourself, "How come he isn't running the Time Stretch/Obliterate/Humility/Smokestack lockdown?" this is why. Not saying I will never use these cards, though.

Next, I get a lot of my deck ideas by watching others, and looking on various boards.  I usually take these ideas and fit them to my play style, and make a new deck based upon my collection.  So if you see me play a deck, and think "Hey, that's my deck he's playing!" it probably is.  Seriously.  I just ripped you off completely.  Hope you understand.

Last, if you are interested, I usually get one game in a night, around 9:30 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.  This is usually when the kids are asleep and I have the time to bang out a game of Magic without their shrill screams in the background asking for attention or food or whatever it is the little hyenas crave.  So if you want, feel free to join me and say Hi!

Without further ado, let's get on to the first deck!

III.  The Deck:  Zhang Fei, the Guy You've Never Heard of

Let's take a look at our general:

 Zhang Fei, Fierce Warrior

Doesn't he smell manly?  Banners streaming in the background, his horse bearing down on you.  Just a mean looking dude.  Zhang Fei, Fierce Warrior is an uncommon from ME3.  He's cheap to buy and no one plays with him.  You probably had no idea what he did prior to seeing him here.   However, upon quick inspection some things jump out.  He's big-ish, evasive, and has a cool name.  Sounds like a perfect Commander to me.

Zhang Fei has horsemanship.  Meaning he is very difficult to block.  In a game where 21 Commander damage will take out an opponent, he seems like a good guy to use.  In each of the games I've played using him, no one has been able to block him.  (I know that there is someone out there that uses Sun Quan, Lord of Wu, but I haven't seen them recently.)  He's also a soldier (and a warrior!) so his creature type can come in handy as well.  Finally, he has vigilance, which is useful on defense.  However, the big thing in the negative column for him is his casting cost.  For 6 mana, you usually expect a dragon sized body.  5/5 is standard, and 6/6 isn't out of the question.  4/4 is large, but not that big.  So we have to figure out how to pump him up, and/or reduce his casting cost.  

Pumping him up is easy.  Make Zhang Fei our version of Voltron, and stick a ton of equipment on him!  Also, there are pump spells out there for soldiers that can help him out as well, such as Daru Warchief, Field Marshal, etc.  The Warchief helps reduce Zhang's casting cost, as does Ballyrush Banneret.  Sounds like we have a deck going.  Let's take a closer look at the deck:

1 Zhang Fei, Fierce Warrior

[Artifact - 7]
1 Expedition Map
1 Extraplanar Lens
1 Gauntlet of Power
1 Journeyer's Kite
1 Mana Crypt
1 Pearl Medallion
1 Sculpting Steel

[Equipment - 17]
1 Fireshrieker
1 Grappling Hook
1 Helm of Kaldra 
1 Konda's Banner 
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Loxodon Warhammer
1 Quietus Spike
1 Shield of Kaldra
1 Sigil of Distinction
1 Skullclamp
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
1 Sword of Light and Shadow
1 Sword of Kaldra
1 Tatsumasa, the Dragon's Fang
1 Umezawa's Jitte
1 Veteran's Armaments
1 Whispersilk Cloak

[Creatures - 28]
1 Argivian Archaeologist
1 Auriok Steelshaper
1 Aven Cloudchaser
1 Ballyrush Banneret
1 Captain of the Watch
1 Celestial Crusader
1 Crovax, Ascendant Hero
1 Darien, King of Kjeldor
1 Daru Warchief
1 Field Marshal
1 Gerrard Capashen
1 Icatian Lieutenant
1 Intrepid Hero 
1 Jotun Grunt
1 Knight-Captain of Eos
1 Kor Cartographer 
1 Kor Sanctifiers
1 Leonin Abunas
1 Leonin Shikari 
1 Loxodon Gatekeeper
1 Soltari Champion 
1 Spirit of the Hearth
1 Stoneforge Mystic
1 Stonehewer Giant
1 Taj-Nar Swordsmith
1 Treasure Hunter
1 Veteran Swordsmith
1 Weathered Wayfarer

[Enchantment - 4]
1 Armored Ascension
1 Glorious Anthem
1 Land Tax
1 Mobilization

[Sorcery - 7]
1 Austere Command
1 Conqueror's Pledge
1 Hallowed Burial
1 Mass Calcify
1 Open the Vaults
1 Steelshaper's Gift
1 Wrath of God

[Land - 36]
1 Emeria, The Sky Ruin
1 Kjeldoran Outpost
1 Mouth of Ronom
1 Scrying Sheets
1 Thawing Glaciers
31 Snow-Covered Plains

Hopefully that adds up to 100.  And look ma, no instants!

So the main plan of attack is to cast Zhang and make him big with equipment.  We don't want to miss any early land drops, so we have things like Land Tax, Journeyer's Kite and Weathered Wayfarer to help out.  The sooner we cast Zhang and start beating down, the sooner we win.  The backup plan is soldier beatdown.  With the amount of pump we have here, we can probably amass a pretty good army.

The deck seems like it is weak against combo decks.  Spirit of the Hearth is supposed to help this, and Jotun Grunt can help fight recursion.  However, Rule of Law and more graveyard hate can definitely be included to help you if you run into a ton of combo.

A couple of cards that should be in here, but I forgot about when I played the match below, are Martial Coup, Decree of Justice, Enlightened Tutor and Marshal's Anthem.  The Anthem can straight up replace Glorious Anthem.  And after playing this deck a few times, I think there is probably too much equipment, so you can take out the Kaldra package for the remainder of the stuff.

So let's take this bad boy out for a test drive!

IV.  The Game: Fight!

My opponents:

Ulasht, the Hate SeedScion of the Ur-DragonChild of Alara

Ulasht wins the roll.

My opening hand:  Snow-Covered PlainsSnow-Covered PlainsSnow-Covered PlainsSkullclampMouth of RonomAven CloudchaserSword of Fire and Ice

3 Snow-Covered Plains, Skullclamp, Mouth of Ronom, Aven Cloudchaser, Sword of Fire and Ice.  I like mana heavy hands with this deck, and decide it's a keeper.

For ease of reporting, U = Ulasht player, S = Scion player, and C = Child player.
Round 1
U:  Highland Weald.
Me:  Draw Shield of Kaldra, play Plains.
S:  Swamp.
C:  Plains.
Round 2
U:  Taiga.
Me:  Draw Plains, play Plains.
S:  Plains.
C:  Mountain.
Round 3
U:  Nothing.  Being mana-screwed sucks.  Games usually go one of two ways with a mana screwed opponent:  Either everyone leaves them alone giving them the opportunity to dig their way out of it, or people pick on the vulnerable guy to get them out of the way.  Typically when I'm mana screwed I usually make a joke or two about it, trying to put people at ease, and showing that I'm a "good guy."  This will usually let me buy some time, and I've managed to come back several times using this method.  Of course, it doesn't always work.  S isn't in too much trouble here, though, since there are no threats out there to do anything about his poor luck.
Me:  Draw Austere Command, play Skullclamp, Plains.
S:  Tainted Field.
C:  Forest.
Round 4
U:  Snow-covered Mountain.
Me:  Draw Thawing Glaciers, play it.
S:  Island.
C:  At this point, U has connection problems. While waiting to see if he comes back, C drops without a word.  As anyone who has played commander knows, due to the length of these games people often drop.  As a matter of fact, my unscientific research (meaning I'm completely making this up, but it feels right) found that about half of games I have played have had someone drop for one reason or another. I know that I've had to bail on games in the past, with reasons being anything from kids having nightmares, kids falling and splitting their head on the ground bleeding all over the place, kids yanking a modem out of the wall, kids beating the hell out of each other, kids pulling off their diapers and trying to pee pretty designs onto the wall.  Yup, about 90% of the time I drop because of my kids.  The remaining 10% of the time, I've had to drop due to connection issues, and then there is the rare instance when the wife comes into the room and asks, "Are we gonna do it, or what?"  Sorry boys, MTGO loses out on that one every time.
Anyway, my point is that if you do have to bail, try to at least say something before you leave, then concede, so that people don't wait around wondering if you're going to be back.  Also, keep this in mind when someone has to bail, and you are ticked off because you needed their Howling Mine to help you draw into an answer.  Sometimes, these things are just out of our control.
Round 5
U:  Spinerock Knoll.  
Me:  Draw (Steelshaper’s Gift), play Plains.
S:  Mountain, I use Glaciers at the end of his turn.
Round 6
U:  Still nothing.  Not good for him.
Me:  Draw Taj-nar swordsmith, play Glaciers, play Shield of Kaldra.
S:  Hammerheim, Yosei, the Morning Star.  Things just got interesting.
Round 7
U:  Plays Springjack Pasture, then Explosive Vegetation for two Snow Forests.  Plays Dragonmaster Outcast.  He has enough land that he can start pumping dragons out next turn.  Of course, I have an answer in hand.
Me: Draw Daru Warchief.  At this point, U is starting to look like he's got enough mana to do some stuff.  I've also seen U's deck before, and know what it can do.  I approach S via pm, and make a comment about how U can be explosive.  Turns out S has had the same experience, so we make the informal agreement to team up.
As an aside, I think using pm's to make alliances and analyze threats is vastly underrated.  Being on MTGO, we don't get the same experience that paper players have with subtle threats ("I will pound you with my dragon if you attack me"), hand gestures (like pointing at someone and making the throat slitting gesture), and the like.  Might as well approach people and see what you can do together against people that are bigger threats.  The worst that can happen is you get ignored.  Some people may not like this, so feel free to flame me in the comments.
So I play Mouth of Ronom, and in a showing of my new alliance, pop it targeting Dragonmaster Outcast.
S:  Island, and attacks U with Yosei (35), cementing the alliance.  Yay!
Round 8
U:  Wolfbriar Elemental kicked twice.
Me:  Draw Plains, play Daru Warchief, attach clamp to him.
S:  Casts Dromar, the Banisher, but doesn't attack.  Hmmm, maybe my alliance isn't quite as strong as I thought.
Round 9
U:  Plays Dragon Broodmother (Yikes!), I use Glaciers.  However, I have an answer to the Broodmother.
Me:  U gets a dragon token, I draw Hallowed Burial.  I then play Austere Command knocking out all creatures.  S uses Yosei to tap down U.  I draw Umezawa's Jitte and (Konda’s Banner) from my clamped Warchief, then, play Glaciers.
S:  Plains.
Round 10
U:  Nothing, tapped out.
Me:  Draw Field Marshal, play him, equip him with Clamp, play Jitte.
S:  Plains, I use Glaciers.  S doesn't seem to be doing a whole lot, I wonder what he has up his sleeve.
Round 11
U:  Plays Pendelhaven, his own Skullclamp, then One Dozen Eyes unentwined, getting a bunch of bugs.  He clamps one of the bugs to draw 2 cards, then passes his turn.
Me:  Draw Extraplanar Lens.  Things are going to go faster for me know.  Play the Lens, attach Shield of Kaldra and Jitte to Field Marshal, and attack U, who doesn't block (32).  He's probably keeping his bugs so he can Clamp them later for more cards.
S:  Diabolic Vision, then Terramorphic Expanse for Forest.
Round 12
U:  Siege-Gang Commander, attacks me with the 4 bugs (36), casts his general, Ulasht, the Hate Seed, who comes into play as a 7/7, then Clamps a goblin token to draw two.
Me:  Draw Mass Calcify, that's a nice top deck.  Good deck, very good deck.  I have to remember to give it a treat after the game.  I cast the Calcify, clearing out S’s board.  I cast the Sword of Fire and Ice.
Quick note about either of the Swords, Sword of Fire and Ice and Sword of Light and Shadow.  I tend to play them later.  I have had games where I drop one of them on turn three because I have nothing else to do, and end up the first guy dead.  People are scared of them, especially since if you're opponents are mono-colored and not green, these can essentially give your critters protection from their deck.  So you become threat numero uno, and no one wants to be that until later in the game when you are more established and can do something to protect your self.
I attach the Sword to Field Marshal, and attack U (27).  I draw Mana Crypt off the Sword. Cast (Steelshaper’s Gift), getting Fireshrieker. I activate Glaciers so people don't have to wait for me during their turns. At this point S sees that I am getting pretty powerful, and makes comments noting that fact.  But I think U already knows this, and has been having bad luck with his draws/my answers.
S:  Plays Khalni Heart Expedition, plays Forest, plays Spoils of Victory, plays Rampant Growth for Island, uses Khalni for another Forest and Swamp.  That's a lot of ramp.  He still hasn't played his commander though.
Round 13
U:  Plays Garruk Wildspeaker, uses Garruk's plus 1 to untap a couple of lands, casts Regal Force drawing one card, and equips Clamp.
Me:  Draw Quietus Spike, play Glaciers.  I attack Garruk with my indestructible Field Marshal, S blocks with Force and draws 2.  Zhang Fei, Fierce Warrior makes an appearance. I also play (Konda’s Banner), equip the Banner and the Sword to Zhang, making him a 9/9 and the Field Marshall 5/3. 
S:  Sylvan Scrying for (Volrath’s Stronghold) and plays it. Then plays Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker.  Uh oh.  Bolas is really scary.  I'm glad I put the Sword on Zhang Fei.  S uses the +3 ability on Bolas to get rid of Jitte, and I gain life by removing counters (44).
Round 14
U: Plays Wooded Foothills, pops it for a mountain (26), plays Life from the Loam for Foothills and Forgotten Cave, cycles the Cave then plays Nemata, Grove Guardian. S uses Stronghold to put Yosei back on top of his library.
Me:  Draw Sigil of Distinction.  Great in the late game. Play Mana Crypt, play Fireshrieker and equip to Zhang, play the Sigil for 7, attach to Zhang making him a 15/15. Attack U with Zhang, and Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker with Field Marshal. I use the 4 damage from the Sword to finish off Nicol, and draw Leonin Shikari and Soltari Champion as well.  I kill U with my unblockable 15/15 double striker.
S:  Casts Yosei and Scion of the Ur-Dragon. U comments that it’s about time Scion is in play, and S admits he sometimes forgets to cast it.
Round 15
Me:  I swing at S. He searchs up Draco with Scion, assuming that he can block Zhang because Draco is colorless.  However, he realizes he can’t block once I remind him.  And that's game.
 V:  Conclusion
So there we go, a nice little win.  It helped that I kept the Ulasht player under control by always drawing an answer, and that the Scion player wasn't too active.  But we got a couple of little lessons out of the game, and got a win.  As I stated earlier, there does seem to be too much equipment in the deck, so make changes accordingly.  Anyway, if you have any comments on the deck, or the article itself, please feel free to comment.  Until next time!
Leviathan, aka Tarasco on MTGO


A picture every few turns by Anonymous (not verified) at Thu, 04/08/2010 - 04:19
Anonymous's picture

A picture every few turns would be nice, it would bulk out the article and save us from trying to remember the board position purely from written instructions.

Thanks for the suggestion. by Leviathan at Thu, 04/08/2010 - 10:53
Leviathan's picture

Thanks for the suggestion. Your right, it can be a little confusing at times. Unfortunately I am still trying to figure out the editor, and haven't figured out how to insert pictures yet. I already pretty much wrote the next article, but hopefully I'll be able to figure it out by the third one.

Oh yeah, if any writers out there want to help with formatting issues or inserting pics, I would appreciate it!

http://jamuraa.com/pure/deck_ by ShardFenix at Thu, 04/08/2010 - 12:45
ShardFenix's picture

http://jamuraa.com/pure/deck_new.php that is the link to the deck builder. Its what everyone uses to make those deck boxes. Also (pic=Cardname) is a good way for pictures as it just throws up a card image wherever you put it. Im still experimenting myself but those are a few tips.

Cool man, thanks for the tip! by Leviathan at Thu, 04/08/2010 - 13:09
Leviathan's picture

Cool man, thanks for the tip!

Hamtastic did a thread on the by Paul Leicht at Thu, 04/08/2010 - 16:02
Paul Leicht's picture

Hamtastic did a thread on the forums about show/hide scripts and I wrote up a little tutorial of my own here:


My approach is slightly different from Hammy's but both can serve to help you control the flow of long articles by hiding lists, spoilers and the like under links. Hope this helps.

Also I recommend you become familiar with the way the editor generates HTML so that you are comfortable altering it.

Adding images is very easy though. Either in HTML use the <img> tag or in rich text mode use the img button on the controls. I recommend previewing each change before saving.

In addition card images are even easier as Jamuraa set up an autocard feature as follows:

Parentheses around a legitimate card name generates a link.
(pic=card name) generates a picture
(tmb=card name) generates a thumbnail.

Further more if you look at Godot's articles as an example, you can see how he sets up a drafting using the file provided by the client filtered through a site linked in his articles (by Ben Peebles if I remember rightly.)

Feel free to talk to me in game if you get confused stuck etc. (Winter.Wolf)

PS mana symbols are easy too with (mana=first letter of color) so for instance (mana=b) generates a black mana symbol.

Thanks for the info. I will by Leviathan at Thu, 04/08/2010 - 18:29
Leviathan's picture

Thanks for the info. I will definitely check all that out. I also posted a question in the forum about my picture issues.

Yw :) by Paul Leicht at Thu, 04/08/2010 - 19:36
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Yw :)

Welcome! I too am a fellow by deluxeicoff at Thu, 04/08/2010 - 16:54
deluxeicoff's picture

Welcome! I too am a fellow "Dark" first-set player...hope you teach your kid(s) magic, I do, it's a great language and math builder.

The Dark was awesome! So by Leviathan at Thu, 04/08/2010 - 18:34
Leviathan's picture

The Dark was awesome! So many strange cards. Amnesia and Blood of the Martyr still stick out in my mind.
Teaching the kids is going to have to wait a little, since I don't have any physical cards and they are pretty young. But one day...

I liked the article. by chucklezdaccc (not verified) at Fri, 04/09/2010 - 01:20
chucklezdaccc's picture

I liked the article.

Thanks, I appreciate it! by Leviathan at Fri, 04/09/2010 - 01:44
Leviathan's picture

Thanks, I appreciate it!

Just wondering if there was a by Elbinac (not verified) at Fri, 04/09/2010 - 01:58
Elbinac's picture

Just wondering if there was a reason for you to not be using Obsidian Battle Axe.
Hall of the Bandit Lord also good for the haste.
Which is always a nice thing to have in commander.

Deserted Temple has some nice interactions.
Vesuva is pretty much always useful.

Basically all utility lands are worth a look over.

I think because I was focused by Leviathan at Fri, 04/09/2010 - 11:35
Leviathan's picture

I think because I was focused on the Soldier theme, I just completely forgot about the Battle Axe. That's a good call. I like it better than Hall of the Bandit Lord, because restrictive lands always mess with my head when making mulligan decisions.

You are right, there is definitely some room for more utility lands. When I first made the deck, I was trying to make it "budget" and stick close to just using basic lands. Obviously I got away from that idea, but didn't do much with the lands.

Thanks for the suggestions!

Best part of the article and by DirtyDeeds (not verified) at Fri, 04/09/2010 - 09:40
DirtyDeeds's picture

Best part of the article and its so true for all of us nerds who actually has a girl that actually consents to sex with us and a family. I do agree that you should say something before you go, regardless or at least finish a round, if in the middle, sometimes that can help a partner in 2hg or 3hg, like Wrath of God or Stroke of Genius before you go.

"As a matter of fact, my unscientific research (meaning I'm completely making this up, but it feels right) found that about half of games I have played have had someone drop for one reason or another. I know that I've had to bail on games in the past, with reasons being anything from kids having nightmares, kids falling and splitting their head on the ground bleeding all over the place, kids yanking a modem out of the wall, kids beating the hell out of each other, kids pulling off their diapers and trying to pee pretty designs onto the wall. Yup, about 90% of the time I drop because of my kids. The remaining 10% of the time, I've had to drop due to connection issues, and then there is the rare instance when the wife comes into the room and asks, "Are we gonna do it, or what?" Sorry boys, MTGO loses out on that one every time."

Yeah, I'm glad I found a girl by Leviathan at Fri, 04/09/2010 - 11:38
Leviathan's picture

Yeah, I'm glad I found a girl who likes me and puts up with my habit. I started playing MTGO after we were married, though, so she likes to say that I lied to her about all my possible vices.

When people leave, all it takes is a "sorry, gotta go" or a heads up to a partner. Real simple, and can make a difference.

Thanks for the comment!