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By: Leviathan, Mike Morales
Nov 17 2011 10:55am
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Before I get to the heart of the article I wanted to thank everyone for their positive feedback regarding my last article.  It was certainly something different than I had ever written about before and I wasn't quite sure how people would react to it.  It was pretty cool to see all those old cards again, and I have enough commons that I could create a couple of decks if I wanted.  Although I still think the smartest thing to do would be to sell my money cards to Heath for MTGObot credits, I find that my old collecting habits are hard to break and I am having a really hard time giving the stuff up.  We will see what happens, but I guess that if I ever really want that play set of electronic Force of Wills I am going to pack up the cards and send them off.  Luckily I play a singleton format, so that situation may not happen anytime soon!

Next, I wanted to thank everyone again for all of the excellent advice that was given to me through the comments of my last C&C article, as well as through emails.  I knew that you guys would have plenty of good ideas, and you didn't disappoint!

Lord Erman mentioned a whole new strategy based around Tariel in the comments.  He focused on being a control deck using various techniques to destroy the resources of your opponents.  The first method was through multiple (as in, way more than I am running) Wrath effects.  This would keep your opponents in check while you set up your mana in order to get Tariel out.  

In addition, others resource of your opponents' to attack are their hands.  Here, cards like Myojin of Night's Reach, Cabal Conditioning, and maybe even Persecute and Mindslicer could be used to wreck your opponents' hands.  With all these Wraths and discard spells, your opponents' graveyards should be full of stuff for Tariel to grab.  In order to decrease the randomness of her ability, cards like Withered Wretch and Nezumi Graverobber should be used to sculpt graveyards appropriately.

With all these Wraths and discard spells, your opponents' graveyards should be full of stuff for Tariel to grab.  In order to decrease the randomness of her ability, cards like Withered Wretch and Nezumi Graverobber should be used to sculpt graveyards appropriately.

Lord Erman notes that as Tariel isn't Green, mana rocks are needed in order to make sure that you can keep up with the mana development that those who have access to Green can have.  In addition, Tariel will need a lot of protection, with cards such as Lightning Greaves and Darksteel Plate, as she will often be your only creature in play.

Lord Erman's suggestions are very good, and the deck he is considering sounds like it would be very focused, and certainly powerful enough to win a lot.  It would be pretty much a pure control deck which can have great success.  While the deck I started off with was a control deck as well, it certainly included a lot more creatures.  I still wanted to keep a focus on the tapping abilities of my creatures as well.  As such, a Wrath-centric deck wasn't in the cards for me.  But it is certainly viable, and I'm sure that some of you guys would have a ton of fun with it!

So what did I decide to do?  Here is the deck as it stands currently:

Tariel, Reckoner of Souls
New and Improved!
1 Adarkar Valkyrie
1 Anger
1 Avatar of Woe
1 Bloodgift Demon
1 Coffin Queen
1 Dwarven Blastminer
1 Dwarven Miner
1 Graveborn Muse
1 Intrepid Hero
1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
1 Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
1 Mangara of Corondor
1 Mother of Runes
1 Necrotic Ooze
1 Oathsworn Giant
1 Razia, Boros Archangel
1 Royal Assassin
1 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Stonehewer Giant
1 Sun Titan
1 Tsabo Tavoc
1 Urabrask the Hidden
1 Vein Drinker
1 Viashino Heretic
1 Visara the Dreadful
1 Weathered Wayfarer
1 Withered Wretch
27 cards

Other Spells
1 Akroma's Memorial
1 Armillary Sphere
1 Darksteel Ingot
1 Loxodon Warhammer
1 Mana Crypt
1 Mind's Eye
1 Oblivion Stone
1 Puppet Strings
1 Rings of Brighthearth
1 Sol Ring
1 Swiftfoot Boots
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
1 Sword of Light and Shadow
1 Thornbite Staff
1 Thousand-Year Elixir
1 Ajani Goldmane
1 Animate Dead
1 Goblin Bombardment
1 Land Tax
1 Phyrexian Arena
1 Phyrexian Reclamation
1 Mortify
1 Return to Dust
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Terminate
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Austere Command
1 Damnation
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Grim Tutor
1 Wheel of Fortune
1 Wrath of God
1 Yawgmoth's Will
33 cards
1 Arid Mesa
1 Badlands
1 Blood Crypt
1 Bloodstained Mire
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Clifftop Retreat
1 Command Tower
1 Dragonskull Summit
1 Fetid Heath
1 Godless Shrine
1 Graven Cairns
1 Homeward Path
1 Isolated Chapel
1 Marsh Flats
1 Maze of Ith
1 Miren, the Moaning Well
5 Mountain
5 Plains
1 Plateau
1 Reliquary Tower
1 Rugged Prairie
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Scrubland
1 Spinerock Knoll
1 Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion
4 Swamp
1 Thawing Glaciers
1 Volrath's Stronghold
39 cards

1 Tariel, Reckoner of Souls
1 cards
thousand-year elixir


Some of the changes are subtle, some more significant.  Just for reference, the old list can be found HERE.  Let's break down the changes, and discuss why they happened in a little bit more detail.

Out - Living Inferno, Pentarch Paladin, Stun Sniper
In - Graveborn Muse, Solemn Simulacrum, Kozilek, Butcher of Truth, Withered Wretch:  I actually talked about my problems with Pentarch Paladin in the last article.  His casting cost had triple White, which was unwieldy, and sometimes you would pick a color that would become irrelevant the next turn.  Stun Sniper was small, and her effect was minimal, so she could easily be replaced.  Although Living Inferno could take out multiple small creatures at the same time, I found that most of the time he just cost too much for his ability and he was clogging my hand.  In their place, I included additional card draw with Graveborn Muse, something that the prior iteration of the deck was lacking.  Solemn Simulacrum provides some mana fixing and acceleration.  I went with Withered Wretch over Nezumi Graverobber due to the smaller activation cost, and the fact that it is colorless.  The ability to sculpt graveyards definitely makes the Wretch worthwhile.  Finally, I added Kozilek for a couple reasons.  First, I could discard it to get my graveyard back into my library, which can be helpful.  Second, I ran into a bunch of mill decks recently.  Having the legendary Eldrazi is certainly helpful in avoiding dying this way.  Finally, he can act as draw and a beater as well.  When it came down to choosing between Kozilek and Living Inferno, the choice was pretty easy.

graveborn muse solemn simulacrum kozilek, butcher of truth withered wretch

Out - Boros Signet, Orzhov Signet, Lightning Greaves, Magewright's Stone, Nihil Spellbomb, Wayfarer's Bauble
In - Oblivion Stone, Rings of Brighthearth, Thornbite Staff, Mana Crypt, Darksteel Ingot:  First, I was finding that the Signets were getting blown up.  Like, a lot.  Didn't matter if it was Austere Command or Akroma's Vengeance, they would always be collateral damage to someone's mass removal.  I replaced them with Darksteel Ingot, which won't have that problem, and Mana Crypt.  Now, the Crypt will get blown up as well, but the early game mana boost is just nutty, and if it gets blown up after a couple turns I'm fine with that.  It means I won't have to more damage!  I took out Lightning Greaves because it was anti-synergy with all my untapping artifacts.  Nihil Spellbomb was essentially replaced by Withered Wretch, and I took out Wayfarer's Bauble after I fixed up my mana base a little more.  Magewright's Stone was replaced by Thornbite Staff.  There are still a bunch of creatures that kill things in the deck, and have a way to untap your creatures for free is always nice.  Rings of Brighthearth is a great card that works well with all the activated abilities in the deck, not just those of your creatures.  And finally, I added Oblivion Stone because I found there were games where I just needed to blow up the board.  Plus, you can bring it back with Sun Titan if necessary!

rings of brighthearth darksteel ingot oblivion stone thornbite staff

No change - I kept Ajani in the deck and didn't add any other 'walkers.  He is admittedly not the most powerful planeswalker, but he is good at what he does, which is grant vigilance to your creatures and make them bigger.  The little bit of life gain can occasionally come in handy as well.

Out - Fervor, Serra's Blessing
In - Animate Dead, Goblin Bombardment, Land Tax - I mentioned my problems with Fervor and Serra's Blessing in my last article, but it really comes down to this:  They don't do anything on their own.  Even Ajani can give me a couple life if there is nothing else to do, so I got rid of them.  I included Animate Dead as a quicker version of Tariel.  Goblin Bombardment is a nice sacrifice outlet that I will discuss more later.  And Land Tax is just good, period.  It helps fix your mana, and helps a little bit with deck thinning also.  The thought is that with thinning and an additional draw method in Graveborn Muse, the deck will be a little more consistent and have less mana problems.

animate dead goblin bombardment land tax

Out - Enlightened Tutor, Hide/Seek, Into the Core, Wrecking Ball
In - Vampiric Tutor - These were some tough decisions to make.  Hide/Seek is kind of a pet card, but most of the time it just acted as a glorified life gain spell.  Wrecking Ball was usually used for land destruction purposes, but I already have the two miners for that.  Into the Core was often not versatile enough.  Enlightened Tutor is good, but not as good as Vampiric Tutor.  Why limit what you are going to tutor for?  With these changes we lose a little bit of the ability to eliminate problems at instant speed, but the hope is that our tappers can take care of most of them.

vampiric tutor

Out - Rout
In - Demonic Tutor, Grim Tutor, Wheel of Fortune, Yawgmoth's Will - So I lose a sweeper here, but I added 2 tutors, therefore finding specific answers when needed and making the deck more consistent.  Wheel of Fortune acts as a draw 7, which can add interesting stuff to opponents' graveyards or mess with their carefully sculpted hands.  Finally, Yawgmoth's Will is sort of an experiment.  I know people who swear by this card, and the curve is low enough on this deck that hopefully in the late game I can get more than one spell off with it.  Although I have yet to draw it, I am willing to give it a shot to see how it does.

demonic tutor grim tutor wheel of fortune yawgmoth's will

Out - Cabal Coffers, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, Deserted Temple, Hall of the Bandit Lord, Winding Canyons
In - Thawing Glaciers, Reliquary Tower, Swamp,  Mountain - First thing is that I wanted to cut down on some of my non-basics.  Cabal Coffers is pretty much dead without Urborg, and I found most games I didn't really need all that extra mana when I finally did get the combo together.  Hall of the Bandit Lord and Winding Canyons are both colorless mana producers, and this deck needs colored mana.  I added Reliquary Tower because I found there were times I was drawing a bunch of cards and wanted a way to keep them in my hand.  Thawing Glaciers is there to help out with mana, just like Land Tax.  And adding a couple of basics helps out both of those cards.  Also, I cut back on a land because I found I was drawing large gluts of land sometimes.

thawing glaciers reliquary tower

So the idea was to smooth out mana issues, thin out the deck a little bit, and make things more consistent.  In the last article I mentioned 5 specific issues that I wanted to deal with when fixing up the deck, and I handled all but one of them:  Being able to keep up with Green decks and Primeval Titan.  However, I found that with the increased consistency, as well as the tutors, I do much better.

One of the combos that is included in the deck now is the following:

thornbite staff goblin bombardment

If you put the Staff on Tariel while Goblin Bombardment is in play, and there is at least one creature in an opponents' graveyard, you can win the game with infinite damage to the table.  Just use Tariel to grab a random creature, sac the critter to the Bombardment to do 1 point of damage, Tariel will untap due to the staff, then repeat.  Of course, you don't need Tariel for this, as Kiki-Jiki can have fun with something like Solemn Simulacrum in play or any other creature, and it will do the same thing.  I'm not generally a huge fan of infinite combos, but I made an exception with this.  Of course, if I really wanted to push this further, I would add additional sacrifice outlets such as Altar of Dementia to mill people to death.  But this is a fairly fragile combo which can be disrupted fairly easily, and is good for ending those games that get drawn out a little too long.

The Bombardment is also good for another card, Mangara of Corondor.  With Mangara's triggered ability on the stack, you can sac him to the Bombardment so he isn't removed from the game.  Then, you can bring him back with Phyrexian Reclamation or Sun Titan to take care of another problem permanent.  Mangara can also take out multiple targets at once if you have an untapper.

Another unsung hero in the deck is Puppet Strings.  Unless a creature has shroud or is hexproof, you can tap it down before an attack, keeping you from getting mauled by cards like Ulamog or other scary Titans.  Tsabo Tavoc has also been very good for me.

One card that was recommended for the deck was Necropotence.  I had mentioned that I didn't feel like I had enough draw in my initial version of the deck, and Necro seemed like it could be useful.  However, I think that I would have to include additional life gain effects that I wouldn't otherwise need just to support Necro.  In addition, I have found that Necro players automatically become the primary target of a table, and I wish to avoid that.

So the deck plays as a creature based control deck.  You try and set up your early mana and throw cards out there to gain some card advantage.  Eventually you find a haste enabler, or an untapper, and start using your creature's abilities to their fullest while beating down with some large guys.  The main piece of advice I can give is with regard to the miners.  Both Dwarven Miner and Dwarven Blastminer can make people absolutely crap their pants when they first hit play.  It's best to say something like "I'm only going to use this for problem lands like Coffers" or something similar when you drop one of them, otherwise you will become the biggest target on the table.  People really like their mana bases, especially 5 color players.  Of course, if you mean to blow up every dual land that you see, feel free to do so.  Just expect some hate.


So in one of the games I played with this deck, I was going up against Oona, Queen of the Fae, Phelddagrif and Tolsimir Wolfblood.  I picked this game to talk a little bit about the Purple Hippo, a Commander generally known for being used in "Group Hug" decks.  In the past when I ran into these kind of decks I generally enjoyed them.  Being handed free cards, creatures or life generally isn't a bad thing, right?  But one thing that a pure Group Hug deck does better than anything else is draw out a game.  Generally, the Group Hug player will end up targeting the guy who is behind with all his beneficial stuff, or playing Arbiter of Knollridge to bring everyone back onto a level playing field.  This is really annoying at times, especially if you were ahead and the game has been dragging out for a while.  I don't begrudge the player who likes Group Hug, just don't be surprised if I start going after you if you play this style.  I like my games short.

Anyways, the Phelddagrif deck here wasn't pure Group Hug, using some interesting cards to take advantage of the benefits he handed out.  But I'm getting ahead of myself here.  My opening hand had Thousand-Year Elixir, which is always nice.  Oona started off with Leyline of the Void and Relic of Progenitus, showing that she had a dedicated mill deck.  Tolsimir had a first turn Sensei's Divining Top, which he used every chance he got.  Nothing much happened the first couple turns except for some mana development, me with Darksteel Ingot, Oona with Chrome Mox (imprinting Mana Leak) and a Talisman, and Phelddagrif with a Cultivate.  I make the first significant play with Graveborn Muse to help me with some draw. Oona cast her Commander on Turn 5 and appeared to be the biggest threat.  After Phelddagrif cast his Commander on his turn, I used Swords to Plowshares on Oona to slow her down before she untapped, and attacked her with my small creatures, then played Withered Wretch.

Oona followed that up with Mindslaver, which is always bad news.  Since Phelddagrif was in play, he started handing out the goodies, giving me a  couple Hippos and Oona a couple of cards, which didn't seem like a good idea to me.  Pheldd followed that up with Avatar of Might, showing that he wasn't completely a Group Hug deck.  Luckily before Oona got a chance to use the Mindslaver, Tolsimir, who had been pretty quiet, blows everything up with Akroma's Vengeance.  This thankfully got rid of Leyline of the Void as well.  I follow up the empty board with Mind's Eye, which was an all-star for me this game.

Tolsimir decided to go a little bit on the offensive, with Keeper of Progenitus and Behemoth Sledge.  I played Viashino Heretic to make sure the Sledge didn't get out of hand.  Tolsimir played his Commander, then equipped his Keeper with the Sledge, attacking Oona.  But Oona had Capsize with buyback for the Keeper.  Oona ended up playing Dark Confidant, which is certainly an interesting card in Commander, but I hadn't seen her play anything with a CMC over 3 other than Mindslaver, so I guess it would work ok in the right deck.

Tolsimir replayed his Keeper but I killed it with Mortify and followed that up with Royal Assassin.  Then, Oona's Confidant revealed Power Artifact, meaning that he was planning on creating infinite mana to mill people out.

So, Oona went to Duress me, but she conceded before the spell resolved.  Phelddagrif gave me some Hippos and Tolsimir some life before playing Noble Benefactor.  Tolsimir played Dirtcowl Wurm, a creature that can get large quickly.  I played Urabrask, and Phelddagrif handed out more Hippos and life.  Eventually I got in a pretty good position to deal with all of Tolsimir's creatures, using Vein Drinker and Visara, along with Oathsworn Giant to beat down and kill creatures.  Meanwhile, Phelddagrif was drawing a ton of cards and gets Konda, Lord of Eiganjo into play.

Eventually, Tolsimir concedes as well, probably due to the fact that he was falling behind in resources.  Right after that, Phelddagrif dropped Phyrexian Rebirth, getting a 12/12 horror, but killing the Noble Benefactor as well.  I went and grabbed Goblin Bombardment.  I had enough mana to play Tariel and Yawgmoth's Will, hoping to go for the Vampiric Tutor in my graveyard to get Thornbite Staff so that I could end this drawn out game.  Unfortunately he had Spelljack for the Will, then played Akroma on his turn and moved to beat me down.  I used Tariel on his graveyard but got Hunted Wumpus, which allowed him to drop Chancellor of the Spires and get a Mortify from my graveyard to kill Tariel.  I dropped to (18), but played Wrath of God to wipe the board of everything except Konda, then followed that up with Mangara of Corondor to get rid of Konda.

I managed to get Adarkar Valkyrie and Tariel back into play, and draw Grim Tutor with Mind's Eye when he used the Yawgmoth's Will he stole from me to Phyrexian Rebirth again then play Akroma again.  I used the Valkyrie to save Tariel from the Rebirth, then tutored up the Thornbite Staff on Turn 20 to win it.

I took the deck and played some 1v1 games with it, and it actually did pretty well.  I had a game against a Godo player where in the first three turns he had Mana Vault, Doubling Cube and Mimic Vat, while all I got was Dwarven Miner.  But I drew Return to Dust to get rid of the Vat and the Cube, then Armillary Sphere to help out my mana.  Meanwhile, he got Etched Oracle and Fireshrieker into play.  I followed that up with Visara and Oathsworn Giant, and used Sword of Fire and Ice to get rid of the Oracle.

He used Godo to grab Sword of Feast and Famine, but I killed Godo before he could be equipped with Visara.  After he blew up my Sword, I just continued beating down.  He used Word of Seizing to grab Visara and have her kill herself, but it wasn't enough.


So there you go, a completed deck that you guys helped me out with!  The deck is controlling and not the fastest, but you do have ways to interact in the early game.  Plus, the combo with Thornbite Staff can help you finish slower games.  I enjoyed playing this deck because it was creature-centric, and allowed me to play with some cards that I would likely pass up otherwise.

The deck does have a few issues.  You still do occasionally run into mana issues.  I wanted to get a few more basics in there to interact with Land Tax, but the various color requirements are tough enough that I thought I needed all of those lands that produced more than one color.  In addition you can still fall behind in mana development to Green decks.  But that's just an issue that this color combination has.

The deck is kind of a grinder, but that's fine.  It will likely have problems with combo, but it has a decent amount of answers to permanents and things in the graveyard.  Hopefully, though, I was able to show you my thought process on my changes and why I made them.

Thanks again to everyone for their suggestions!  I had a lot of fun doing this.  At this point, I'm willing to take suggestions on future Commanders to build around.  I have a couple of ideas for upcoming articles, but always like to think ahead.  If anyone has a request, let me know!

Until next time!

Leviathan, aka Tarasco on MTGO
mrmorale32 at yahoo dot com



Yeah this new version is a by bogtrog at Thu, 11/17/2011 - 13:54
bogtrog's picture

Yeah this new version is a lot tighter. I like that you stuck to your guns and keeps the activated ability theme going. I have changed mine up following Lord Ermans plan minus the mass discard. I'll probably post the list here a little later just for comparison.

You are very right about the mana in this deck. It is very color intensive and the mana base is tricky to build. I ended up cutting all but the most essential colorless lands. I also feature a lot of basic land searches rather then regular mana rocks. Like you said Tariel is a grindy commander, and I found that getting there consistently and with the right colors was better then getting there fast. Plus like you said signets and such always seem to end up in the bin.

As for who to build next, personally I would like to see your take on Fumiko the low blood. It has been a pet deck of mine forever, but I never see anyone else try her. She has such an interesting ability. It can really lends itself to an interesting deck style, defensive red.

Here is where I am at now. by bogtrog at Thu, 11/17/2011 - 14:55
bogtrog's picture

Here is where I am at now. It is a very different deck. I am don"t rely as heavily on my own creatures, and I have a lot of sacrifice options.

1 Expedition Map
1 Armillary Sphere
1 Wayfarer's Bauble
1 Traveler's Amulet
1 Mycosynth Wellspring
1 Thran Dynamo
1 Darksteel Ingot
1 Sol Ring
1 Skullclamp
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Darksteel Plate
1 Shield of Kaldra
1 Swiftfoot Boots
1 Thornbite Staff
1 Rings of Brighthearth
1 Thousand-Year Elixir

1 Tariel, Reckoner of Souls
1 Sun Titan
1 Kor Sanctifiers
1 Nezumi Graverobber
1 Goblin Welder
1 Stoneforge Mystic
1 Anger
1 Coffin Queen
1 Charmbreaker Devils
1 Graveborn Muse
1 Weathered Wayfarer
1 Pilgrim's Eye
1 Urabrask the Hidden
1 Geth, Lord of the Vault
1 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Brion Stoutarm
1 Withered Wretch

1 Phyrexian Arena
1 Gate to Phyrexia
1 Goblin Bombardment
1 Debtors' Knell
1 Mind Slash

1 Demonic Tutor
1 Grim Tutor
1 Imperial Seal
1 Diabolic Tutor
1 Steelshaper's Gift
1 Beseech the Queen
1 Enlightened Tutor
1 Ambition's Cost
1 Promise of Power
1 Wheel of Fortune
1 Victimize
1 Mortify
1 Recoup
1 Damnation
1 Life's Finale
1 Catastrophe
1 Day of Judgment
1 Blasphemous Act
1 Phyrexian Rebirth
1 Decree of Pain
1 Chain Reaction
1 Martial Coup
1 Austere Command

5 Mountain
8 Plains
7 Swamp
1 Temple of the False God
1 Clifftop Retreat
1 Graven Cairns
1 Bloodstained Mire
1 Arid Mesa
1 Badlands
1 Volrath's Stronghold
1 Isolated Chapel
1 Buried Ruin
1 Marsh Flats
1 Rocky Tar Pit
1 Command Tower
1 Phyrexian Tower
1 Lavaclaw Reaches
1 Dragonskull Summit
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Kher Keep

Yeah this was a rough deck to by Paul Leicht at Thu, 11/17/2011 - 14:02
Paul Leicht's picture

Yeah this was a rough deck to play against. The interaction between bombardment and Tariel was nasty for sure (lethal in fact) but the worst part was the recurring Mangara + thousand-year elixir. Can't say I loved sitting through that game.

Rings of Brighthearth by Elbinac at Thu, 11/17/2011 - 23:17
Elbinac's picture

Glad to see them getting some love here.
People just don't show that card enough respect from what I've seen.

I'm a big fan of the Rings + Fetch lands.

I examined your list by Lord Erman at Fri, 11/18/2011 - 11:16
Lord Erman's picture

I examined your list carefully Mike, and it's more focused on the general this time. Still I think there are things you can improve. During weekend I will try to find time to build one Tariel deck (I had this general in my mind for some time, so the base of the deck is ready) and will e-mail you the list along with my (most probably) long and detailed comments.


I wouldn't worry about it LE, by Leviathan at Fri, 11/18/2011 - 12:59
Leviathan's picture

I wouldn't worry about it LE, I've already moved on. But you can post suggestions here if you want. Or, if you are going to be very detailed, feel free to post an article!