Leviathan's picture
By: Leviathan, Mike Morales
May 19 2010 12:58am
Login to post comments

I.  Introduction

So a while back, Wizards made From the Vault: Dragons, available online, and I was one of the few (suckers) who purchased a set.  I greedily clicked open the little pack, and found a whole bunch of foily goodness inside.


As an aside, this didn't turn out to be the greatest investment, as the most expensive card in the deck is Bogardan Hellkite at 2 tix.  Hellkite Overlord was actually pretty cool for a while, since you were able to get it before Shards came out, but the luster quickly wore off.  Eventually I figured I should put these cards to good use.  So I had all these cool, dragony cards, but I didn't have a dragon based deck (except for an old tribal one that tried to abuse Kokusho, The Evening Star).  What could I do with these cards?  Why, make a Commander deck, of course!

II.  The Deck:  A Phoenix Rising

There were a couple of different possible Commander choices in the set.  Let's take a quick look at the guys that I didn't use:

Kokusho is obviously banned in this format.  Nicol Bolas did get some awesome new art (in my purely subjective opinion) but I thought that making your opponents discard their hand was just mean.  Plus, I already had a Lord of Tresserhorn deck in those colors.  Niv-Mizzet seemed sort of combo oriented at the time, and didn't allow me to play my black cards.  Rith was cool, but didn't really fit what I wanted from a dragon themed deck.  Pumping out little saprolings just didn't make me wanna go "RAWR!"

Therefore, I decided to use this guy:

Bladewing was dragon themed, which was important, since I wanted to use as many of my dragons from the FTV set that I could.  Obviously Nicol Bolas, Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind and Rith, the Awakener are all pretty cool dragons that can be used as Commanders.  But none of them screamed out "Use your dragons!" quite like Undead Bladewing did.

Now the theme of the deck is pretty simple:  Play dragons, then bring them back from the dead.  You can also use stuff to put specific cards in your graveyard so that you don't have to wait to play them.  Bladewing costs a lot, so you mana ramp should be helpful.  In addition, you can play destructive stuff to make your deck feel more dragony.  I will admit, although initial versions of the deck basically used every card that I could put in from the FTV sets, I later took some out, either because they weren't strong enough, or they were just too risky (I'm looking at you, Form of the Dragon.)  So without further ado, let's look at the deck.

Bladewing the Risen
A Commander Deck
1 Bladewing the Risen
1 Anger
1 Ashling the Pilgrim
1 Balthor the Defiled
1 Bogardan Hellkite
1 Cairn Wanderer
1 Dragon Mage
1 Dragon Tyrant
1 Dragonspeaker Shaman
1 Flameblast Dragon
1 Fledgling Dragon
1 Graveborn Muse
1 Hellkite Charger
1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
1 Knollspine Dragon
1 Jaya Ballard, Task Mage
1 Malfegor
1 Mordant Dragon
1 Rakdos Pit Dragon
1 Rimescale Dragon
1 Rorix Bladewing
1 Ryusei, the Falling Star
1 Scourge of Kher Ridges
1 Shivan Dragon
1 Shivan Hellkite
1 Taurean Mauler
1 Vampiric Dragon
27 cards

Other Spells
1 Thunder Dragon
1 Darksteel Ingot
1 Foriysian Totem
1 Journeyer's Kite
1 Loxodon Warhammer
1 Oblivion Stone
1 Rakdos Signet
1 Basilisk Collar
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Gilded Lotus
1 Armillary Sphere
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
1 Talisman of Indulgence
1 Mind's Eye
1 Gratuitous Violence
1 Phyrexian Arena
1 Rage Reflection
1 Sneak Attack
1 Cauldron Dance
1 Starstorm
1 Entomb
1 Moonlight Bargain
1 Grab the Reins
1 Buried Alive
1 Beacon of Unrest
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Damnation
1 Decree of Pain
1 Earthquake
1 Living Death
1 Patriarch's Bidding
1 Rolling Thunder
1 Void
32 cards
1 Akoum Refuge
1 Barren Moor
1 Blood Crypt
1 Diamond Valley
1 Forgotten Cave
1 Ghitu Encampment
1 Graven Cairns
1 Kher Keep
1 Miren, the Moaning Well
1 Molten Slagheap
1 Rakdos Carnarium
1 Rocky Tar Pit
1 Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep
1 Shizo, Death's Storehouse
13 Snow-Covered Mountain
7 Snow-Covered Swamp
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Spinerock Knoll
1 Temple of the False God
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Volrath's Stronghold
1 Thawing Glaciers
40 cards

Patriarch's Bidding


Let's take a look at some of the card choices:

Patriarch's Bidding

Balthor the DefiledBladewing the RisenBeacon of UnrestPatriarch's BiddingLiving Death
Balthor the Defiled, Bladewing the Risen, Beacon of Unrest, Patriarch's Bidding, Living Death:  So you are going to have a bunch of critters going to the graveyard.  You are obviously going to want them to come back.  Many times you are going to be hardcasting your dragons, and they will get destroyed by the various Wrath effects that are  played.  These are the ways that you can get your creatures that are in your graveyard back into your library.  But, Leviathan, you ask, how do you get your large dragons into the graveyard?  By using the following:
Graveyard Enabling
Sneak Attack

EntombBuried AliveSneak AttackJaya Ballard, Task mageCauldron DanceMoonlight BargainKnollspine Dragon 
Entomb, Buried Alive, Jaya Ballard, Task Mage, Cauldron Dance, Moonlight Bargain, Knollspine Dragon:  Say you have some large creatures clogging up your hand, how do you get them in your graveyard?  By discarding them to Jaya!  Or by dropping them into play with Sneak Attack!  What if you have the mana to cast Bladewing, but you don't have anything good in your graveyard to reanimate.  Cast Buried Alive, put Anger, Bogardan Hellkite and Thunder Dragon in your graveyard.  Then your guys are hasty and you can kill a bunch of weenies or a bigger guy!  Moonlight Bargain is good at both filling up your graveyard and card draw, and Knollspine Dragon can dump your hand into your graveyard.  I managed to pick up Entomb a long time ago, but I got only one.  Should have picked up more when Legacy first came online.
Haste Enablers

AngerLightning Greaves
Anger, Lightning Greaves:  If you are spending a ton of mana to get huge dragons out into play, you don't want to give your opponents a full turn to find answers.  You want to attack now.  Anger is a great target to dump into the graveyard, and the shroud provided by the Greaves really comes in handy.  Fervor was another option, but didn't quite make the cut.
Mana Help
Foriysian Totem
Armillary SphereDarksteel IngotGilded LotusJourneyer's KiteRakdos SignetForiysian TotemTalisman of IndulgenceDragonspeaker ShamanThawing Glaciers 
Armillary Sphere, Darksteel Ingot, Gilded Lotus, Journeyer's Kite, Rakdos Signet, Foriysian Totem, Talisman of Indulgence, Dragonspeaker Shaman:   A lot of your spells cost a lot to cast, especially your Commander.  Obviously these will help you get the ball rolling.  People will generally know what your game plan is based upon your Commander, so you can't really slow roll.  If you have a full hand, Thawing Glaciers can have the side benefit of making you discard something for Bladewing to resurrect the next turn. 
Card Draw
Knollspine Dragon
Sword of Fire and IceMoonlight BargainKnollspine DragonMind's EyeGraveborn MusePhyrexian ArenaDragon Mage
Sword of Fire and Ice, Moonlight Bargain, Knollspine Dragon, Mind's Eye, Graveborn Muse, Phyrexian Arena, Dragon Mage:  Card draw.  Pretty simple really.  Obviously it pays to have one of these available when you cast Malfegor.  Knollspine Dragon is actually an enabler as well, as you can dump a hand full of fat and other stuff you may not need for a whole new hand.  Dragon Mage accomplishes the same task while making everyone discard their hands.
Oblivion StoneAshling the PilgrimStarstormDamnationVoidLiving DeathDecree of PainEarthquakeRolling ThunderJaya Ballard, Task Mage 
Oblivion Stone, Ashling the Pilgrim, Starstorm, Damnation, Void, Living Death, Jaya Ballard, Task Mage:  Destruction.  This isn't a particularly fast deck, so there are multiple ways of getting rid of creatures.  Ashling is a decent early game card, but is great late game when you can blow her up the same turn you play her.  A lot of your spells can handle weenie hordes that come about, and Rolling Thunder can hit all creatures, because almost no one plays with Horsemanship.  Jaya's ultimate generally clears the table, and she can turn any card in your hand into a Lightning Bolt.  Since you are going to generally have a fairly full graveyard, Living Death pulls double duty here.  Oblivion Stone is your lone answer to problem enchantments
Destructive Dragons
Vampiric Dragon
MalfegorBogardan HellkiteShivan HellkiteVampiric DragonFlameblast DragonMordant DragonScourge of Kher RidgesRyusei, the Falling Star
Malfegor, Bogardan Hellkite, Shivan Hellkite, Vampiric Dragon, Flameblast Dragon, Mordant Dragon, Scourge of Kher Ridges, Ryusei, the Falling Star, Thunder Dragon:  Each of these dragons give you creature control in one form or another.  Most of them, like Shivan Hellkite, Vampiric Dragon and Flameblast Dragon take a decent mana investment, but they are usually worth it.  Ryusei and Thunder Dragon act as pretty good sweepers, and the Scourge pulls double duty.  Malfegor is generally used when I have some method of recovery through card draw, but he makes his appearance when necessary.

Large Enchantments
Gratuitous Violence
Rage ReflectionGratuitous Violence
Rage Reflection, Gratuitous Violence:  It's not often that you are going to have more than 2 creatures out at a time.  It is therefore important that you creatures hit as hard as possible.  These two enchantments make your dragons doubly mean, and can really put the hurting on an unprepared opponent.  Again, having these out while being able to give your dragons haste will make people a little worried.  Plus, they felt very dragony.

Life Gain
Basilisk Collar
Loxodon WarhammerBasilisk CollarDiamond ValleyMiren, the Moaning Well
Loxodon Warhammer, Basilisk Collar, Diamond Valley, Miren, the Moaning Well:  People are going to see what you have coming, and if it looks like you are going to do something powerful, they may start gunning for you.  This isn't the quickest deck, so a little bit of life gain is very helpful.  Warhammer makes your dragons hit harder, and Collar on something like Flameblast Dragon or Mordant Dragon can kill creatures dead for a minimal investment.  The lands are great for when someone blows up the world, and to protect your general from tuck effects.

What about enchantment hate?  And graveyard hate?  Even artifact destruction and combo breakers?  Bah, you don't need to worry about these things!  You have mighty dragons!  They destroy your opponents' creatures and breathe flame on your opponents' heads!  Let the other puny planeswalkers worry about insignificant things like enchantments and artifacts.  Seriously though, this is pretty far on the casual scale, and you are going to rely on your opponents to mess with each others' game plans while you assemble your dragon army.  You have a couple of outs, but you basically have to draw into them.

Graveyard hate kind of wrecks this deck.  If you find that you are always running into Relic of Progenitus or Tormod's Crypt, you can start packing Pithing Needle, naming the hate that you expect, and Sadistic Sacrament and Jester's Cap, searching your opponent's deck and removing the offending cards.  This deck isn't the fastest deck either.  But since you are playing Commander, you probably are going to have at least a few turns to set up and get ready.  The big killer is if you don't get some form of card draw.  It's easy for you to dump a bunch of cards in the graveyard and not be able to take advantage of them.  Card draw helps you find ways to use everything.

Finally, I once used Balthor the Defiled for some mass reanimation, only to have a Wrexial, the Risen Deep player use Gather Specimens on me and everyone else.

Gather Specimens
A beating when it works.

Although I was able to Decree of Pain right afterward, it still made me scared when playing against a blue player with open mana in other games. 

Unfortunately, not nearly as many of the card from FTV: Dragons actually made it onto the above list.  The survivors are Bladewing the Risen (obv obv), Bogardan Hellkite, Thunder Dragon, and Shivan Dragon, which stayed in the deck purely for nostalgia value.  Two-headed Dragon was one of the last dragons cut, he just didn't seem powerful enough.  But I think getting in four of these cards is actually a pretty good showing.

III.  The Game:  Fight!

So let's look at our opponents:

Azusa, Lost but SeekingWort, Boggart AuntieGodo, Bandit Warlord

Azusa is usually a ramp deck that tries to get out a ton of land for huge mana spells.  Wort is obviously going to be goblins with recursion based around her Commander.  Godo should be equipment themed.  Of the three, Wort is probably the biggest threat, due to the ability to abuse things like Goblin Recruiter, etc.  If I recall correctly, I had just played in a game where the Wort player had won, so she is going to be target number one.  Interestingly, there is no white or blue being played in this game.  This is a huge boon for this deck, as you don't typically have to worry about other people's destruction and/or combos.  Azusa, Lost but Seeking wins the roll, and chooses to play first.  Here's my initial hand:

I have four lands, which is good enough for me, and I keep.  The Wort player mulls to 6.  The Snow lands are there for use with Rimescale Dragon.  Rimescale doesn't come into play this game, so I am going to short hand the lands to their basic equivalents.  As usual, A = Azusa, Lost But Seeking, W = Wort, Boggart Auntie, and G = Godo, Bandit Warlord.
Round 1
A: Forest, Elvish Herder.
W: Dragonskull Summit.
G: Mountain
Me: Draw Basilisk Collar, play Spinerock Knoll, putting Decree of Pain under it.
Round 2
A: Forest, attacks G with Herder (39).
W: Mountain.
G: Mountain.
Me: Draw Darksteel Ingot, play Swamp.
Round 3
A: Forest, Azusa, Lost But Seeking. Then drops Oran-Rief, the Vastwood and Wirewood Lodge. The fun is about to start!  Attacks me with Herder (39).
W: Swamp, Goblin Warchief. Everyone seems to be ramping.  Attacks A (38).
G: Mountain, Uthden Troll.  Awesome!  Another instance of a card you wouldn't see played in another format.
Uthden Troll
Hell yeah!
Me: Draw Cairn Wanderer.  Play Mountain, Darksteel Ingot, Basilisk Collar.
Round 4
A: Wood Elves, getting Sapseep Forest. Gives the Elves a counter with Oran-Reif. Attacks W with Herder and Azusa (38).
W: Swamp, then Mad Auntie. All gobbos have haste due to Warchief, so attacks me with Auntie (37) and A with Warchief (35). Prowls out Earwig Squad, targeting A. He removes Terastodon, Strength of the Tajuru, and Eldrazi Monument.  I ask what kind of stuff W see's in A's deck, and she notes that it is "very fair."
Earwig Squad
A conditional way to search out an opponent's library.
G: Mountain, Shield of Kaldra. Attacks me with the Troll (35).  I will gladly take my lumps from someone playing with Uthden Troll.
Me: Draw Ghitu Encampment, and play it. 
Round 5
A: Magus of the Library. Treetop Village. Animates the Village, then uses Oran-Rief to give the Village and Magus a +1/+1 counter. 
W: Sulfurous Springs, Lightning Greaves, then Goblin Lackey.  Equips the Greaves onto the Lackey.  This could be real bad.  Attacks G with everything except the Lackey (28), which comes at me (33).  She drops Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker into play using Goblin Lackey's ability. Since G was dealt over 8 damage, I activate the Spinerock Knoll to play Decree of Pain. I draw 10 cards, which hopefully you can make out below, where I drew everything to the right of the Cairn Wanderer..
G: Mountain, Magma Phoenix.
Me: Draw Foriysian Totem. Play Temple of the False God, then Foriysian TotemAshling the Pilgrim and Lightning Greaves. Attach Greaves to Ashling and attack W (37). I discard Fledgling Dragon, Dragon Mage, Thunder Dragon and a Mountain. When I have to discard, I usually get rid of dragons, as I can reanimate them later.
Round 6
A: Urza's Factory. Plays Azusa, Lost but Seeking again, Forest and Tectonic Edge.  She adds a counter with Oran-Rief to Azusa. Only has 1 card in hand now.
W: Re-plays Wort, Boggart Auntie and attaches Greaves. Only has 1 card as well.  Having two players in top deck mode is great, but the recursion is going to start with Wort.
G: Mountain.
Me: Draw Forgotten Cave, play Mountain. Attack W with Ashling, pumping it twice (34). I then pump Ashling one more time to wipe the board, which also takes out Magma Phoenix, dealing 6 damage to everyone in total. I go to (27), A goes to (29), W goes to (28), and G goes to (22). We don’t really notice something that we should… A uses Tectonic Edge to take out my Temple of the False God. I cycle the Forgotten Cave, drawing Volrath's Stronghold.
Round 7
A: Quicksand, then Mold Shambler kicked, taking out my Basilisk Collar. Uses Oran-Rief for the Shambler, then attacks me with Treetop Village (23).
Mold Shambler
Can take out anything but creatures.
W: Mountain. This is when we notice what we should have noticed when I popped Ashling. There was a bug, and the Commanders in play at the time, Azusa and Wort, didn’t get the opportunity to be RFG’d. It appears that "destroy" effects, such as the Decree of Pain I played earlier, were fine, but that damage effects that killed the Commander, weren't.  

Nobody likes bugs.
This understandably makes the W player a little upset. So she transmutes Shred Memory for Goblin Recruiter and plays it. She then searches up Boggart Birth Rite, Goblin Wizard, Skirk Prospector, Warren Instigator, Lightning Crafter and Goblin Chieftain. Equips Recruiter with Greaves and attacks G (21). At end of turn, G returns Magma Phoenix to hand.
G: Mountain, Magma Phoenix.
Me: Draw Starstorm, play Swamp. Play Cairn Wanderer, and equip Greaves. I attack W (24).
Round 8
A: Llanowar Druid, and uses Oran-Rief to pump it. Attacks me with Treetop Village (19) and W with Mold Shambler (20). 
W: Boggart Birth Rite, returning Wort, Boggart Auntie back to her hand. Casts Wort, equips Greaves. 
G: Mountain, Brutal Deceiver.
Brutal Deceiver
Wow, this player gets mad props from me for his card choices.
Me: Draw Rakdos Pit Dragon. Play Volrath's Stronghold, which gets a groan from the other players, then Bladewing the Risen. As Bladewing comes into play, A uses Sapseep Forest to gain 1 (30). I return Thunder Dragon to play from my graveyard, killing Azusa, Llanowar Druid, Wort, Goblin Recruiter, and Brutal Deceiver. Due to the bug, which with this action confirms that it only happens with damage, Azusa and Wort go to their respective graveyards. I equip Thunder Dragon with my Greaves, and attack A with Cairn Wanderer and Thunder, pumping them once with Bladewing (19). At this point, W quits, as she has an empty hand and can't replay her Commander any time soon.
Round 9
A: Forest. A has no cards in hand now. At end of turn, G casts Beacon of Destruction, targeting A (14). 
G: Shivan Hellkite and Skullclamp. Equips Magma Phoenix with the Clamp.
Me: Draw Taurean Mauler. I play Rage Reflection, and attack G with everything, pumping the dragons once with Bladewing and killing him.  Rage Reflection can end games fast.
Round 10
A: Doesn’t draw an answer, and concedes.

IV.  Conclusion

So, admittedly this is more of a fun deck than a super competitive one.  As a matter of fact, this deck probably has the lowest winning percentage of any of the decks that I have written about so far.  But occasionally you want to just throw out big goofy stuff and play with cards that would never otherwise see the light of day.  I don't think that a deck based around Bladewing can become some sort of unstoppable monster that has a great winning percentage online, due to the weakness to graveyard hate, enchantments and combo, but you will win some games.  As a matter of fact, this game was pretty much to ideal.  Although the Godo player didn't seem to have a huge collection, Wort definitely had a good deck, but wouldn't have had too many answers once I got going.  Azusa seemed to just have a ton of lands and not much else.

The bug described here actually lasted for a while, and as of the time I'm writing this, I'm not sure if it has been corrected.  So keep your head up and watch out for this bug.  I don't think that it really would have mattered that much in this game, but I know other games where it would have.

Something you may wish to do is add a couple more tutors, like Grim Tutor, Diabolic Tutor, etc.  This will give you the opportunity to find more answers to problems as they arise.  I had a game where an opponent searched up a Terastodon but couldn't play it right away.  I had a good board position, and wanted to keep it, so I tutored up Void and made him discard it.  Obviously it helped that I had the tutor in hand.

Some additional graveyard hate can help versus recursion.  Tormod's Crypt and the new Suffer the Past can both come in fairly easily.  These would also be helpful to use before playing Patriarch's Bidding or activating Balthor the Defiled.  Shattering Pulse can help versus artifacts, and Nevinyrral's Disk would be another out against enchantments.  If you play this deck, make sure and go after the Esper opponents first.  Anyone playing Sharuum the Hegemon or Merieke Ri Berit is probably going to wreck you, but you should at least go out swinging.  As I noted, combo decks are a big problem for this deck, and theft decks can be bad as well.

I hope you enjoyed this week's deck.  Come back next week, when I present a deck using a mono-Green Commander!

Leviathan, aka Tarasco on MTGO


there was also a problem with by JustSin at Wed, 05/19/2010 - 12:50
JustSin's picture

there was also a problem with a Commander discarded from hand, you couldn't remove it then either

I like Bugs! 80) by Raddman at Wed, 05/19/2010 - 13:36
Raddman's picture

I like Bugs! 80)

I thought you made a living by Leviathan at Wed, 05/19/2010 - 15:17
Leviathan's picture

I thought you made a living killing them? Didn't know about the discard bug. That's annoying.

I'm in the management side of by Raddman at Wed, 05/19/2010 - 16:06
Raddman's picture

I'm in the management side of that business so you are sort of correct. But, part of my job is to go to schools and educate children and teachers about insects and their importance. I also personally have a few tarantulas and one scorpion to keep things interesting in the house!

Cool, sort of a "respect the by Leviathan at Wed, 05/19/2010 - 17:42
Leviathan's picture

Cool, sort of a "respect the things you hunt" vibe. The educational aspect is pretty nice of you. Its hard to find the extra time for stuff like that.

I really enjoy teaching by Raddman at Wed, 05/19/2010 - 18:07
Raddman's picture

I really enjoy teaching children about insects, probably the same reason why I enjoy writing. The nice thing is I don't have to use valuable extra time because my employer lets me do it during business hours. The only problem is that sometimes it does interfere with my daily duties of running a service business. It's all good though because I really do enjoy it.

Nice article as usual. Next by DirtyDeeds at Wed, 05/19/2010 - 15:18
DirtyDeeds's picture

Nice article as usual. Next green deck...tokens im guessings.

Thanks man. Although the deck by Leviathan at Wed, 05/19/2010 - 15:48
Leviathan's picture

Thanks man. Although the deck will have Beacon of Creation it won't be token themed. It is going to use Molimo.