Welcome to the Warlord’s Way. Last week I talked about identifying when you’ve been marked as The Threat in your playgroup. This week I’m going to review one of my decks that has consistently gotten me marked as The Threat in my playgroups even though I’ve gone to extensive lengths to tone it down and make it beatable: my Sharuum the Hegemon build.
My Sharuum build isn’t like some you’ll see. I’ve purposefully removed any infinite combo that can kill more than one player (per turn), and I play almost strictly artifacts in my build with a few exceptions. The goal is basically to be a solid beats deck with a lot of strong board control options and a wide variety of cogs for solving problems. (For those unfamiliar with the term, a cog is a converted mana cost 1 or less artifact. The term originated with Fifth Dawn, which had a cog subtheme.) While I do play Trinket Mage, the card that really makes the deck hum is Artificer's Intuition.
When I feel like playing against the table, I get this deck out. I realize what I’m getting into when I decide to play it, and I built the deck around that fact. I don’t run many non-artifact cards because I expect to have to recur everything worth playing in the deck at some point, and the best way to do that is by using Sharuum’s enters the battlefield (ETB) trigger. To that end I added a few things to reuse her without having to pay full price again, which has helped the deck immensely.
Notable Moments Playing Sharuum
Timmy Moment: Casting Treasure Mage, finding Darksteel Forge, and casting it on turn 6 with two fatties to back it up the following turn
Johnny Moment: Casting Sculpting Steel copying Sharuum, recurring the pair through each other one billion times to create an infinitely large Arcbound Crusher and killing my opponents one by one
Spike Moment: Locking the board with Darksteel Forge and Nevinyraal's Disk, using the Disk every turn to keep the board locked until I recurred Magister Sphinx enough times to kill everyone with it and Sharuum beats.
Out of the potential Commanders for an artifact deck, Sharuum is arguably the most powerful. Several other options could be used, including Hanna, Ship's Navigator or Karn, Silver Golem. The reason Sharuum makes such a powerful general is because of a few very powerful black effects that you have available, along with a way to cheat mana costs through her reanimation trigger. Getting a 5/5 flyer along with some other expensive artifact that often costs more than Sharuum did is an amazing tempo shift in a Commander game, and one that should never be overlooked.
Focus #1: Artifacts
If we’re going to call it an artifact deck, we need to have artifacts. If a job can be done by an artifact as opposed to some other type of spell or permanent, it’s doing it here. All of my beaters are artifacts. From the cheap-but-busted Arcbound Ravager all the way up to the annoyingly-difficult-to-kill Inkwell Leviathan, I stick to artifact creatures to get the beats on which is how I opted to win with the deck after several iterations through a more combo-rific build.
By sticking with artifacts to perform all the major functions of the deck, Sharuum becomes an almost sure way to solve the majority of my problems. Once I’ve found a solution card, I have access to it almost continuously for the rest of the game simply by either hard casting or blinking my Commander. The engine inherent in the deck makes for an incredibly powerful attrition engine and lets me fight two opponents at once in ways that I wouldn’t be able to without it.
Pretty much any expensive artifact effect is a potential card for this deck. The deck is focused around accelerating out of the gate as fast as possible, then making up for it with raw power backed up by the Sharuum trigger. When you plop down a Wurmcoil Engine on turn 4, you may be The Threat, but you’re in one fantastic board position to deal with that.
Focus #2: Recursion
Building around Sharuum and an attrition game as I mentioned above necessitates having ways to reuse our effects. As many people have experienced, Commander games often come down to who can reuse their most powerful effects the most often. My build of Sharuum focuses on doing exactly that.
Rather than spending a large number of slots on additional effects to return artifacts to the battlefield or hand, I elected to abuse Sharuum’s trigger more often and more effectively. This provides the bonus effect of giving her some solid protection as well. While the selection of cards to actually blink her is small, it’s a very powerful subset that is repeatable and quickly turns into a mountain of card advantage that is very difficult to stop.
Cards that I’ve played with but I’m not currently running include Voyager Staff and Momentary Blink. Both have a lot of potential in their own right. Momentary Blink is a great flexible card that sticks around to be proactive or reactive in the future, and forces your opponents to play around it. I’d like to find a spot for it again, but I’m having a hard time deciding what to cut. Voyager Staff is a very solid way to protect Sharuum from removal. You can use the Staff to flicker her in response to removal, then when she comes back, return the Staff to the battlefield. It seems cute, but it’s another strong attrition engine the deck can abuse if needed. Right now my meta is more focused on several large evasive attackers rather than big dumb guys running into each other, so I’m not running it, but it might be perfect for you.
Focus #3: Cog Package
One of the most powerful effects in my deck is my cog package, almost singularly powered by Artificer's Intuition. Finding Artificer’s Intuition gives me a huge selection of answer cards to solve multiple problems: Mana Crypt, Sol Ring, and Everflowing Chalice to accelerate, Mox Opal and Mox Diamond to color fix, Capsules and Brittle Effigy to deal with problematic permanents, and so much more. Using Trinket Mage gives me some additional redundancy along with the various flicker effects.
The other great thing about cogs is they are cheap and they make good rattlesnake cards. (See this article if you’re unfamiliar with rattlesnake cards.) If you have a nonblack guy you want to attack with, and I have an Executioner's Capsule on the field, would you really attack into me when someone else is open? Maybe, but most people wouldn’t intentionally lose their creature unless they were sure they had a backup plan or you’d just made yourself that much of a problem for them. The non-acceleration cogs serve as great deterrents to starting a fight with you, especially when they realize you can start destroying their board with impunity by reusing them with Sharuum.
Focus #4: Powerful Non-Artifacts
I admit it. I fell for the “good cards are good” strategy some with this deck. I tried to keep it down to the ones that were actually excellent for what this deck is trying to do both to stay on theme and make the deck a little bit less threatening. I run four planeswalkers in here, all of which synergize extremely well with the deck. Both Tezzerets love artifacts and would never want to be paired with anything else. Venser, the Sojourner is a fantastic way to reuse Sharuum every turn and then keep grinding out incremental advantage with his ultimate. Your cogs even sync up with him well since they all become “exile target permanent” for 0-1 mana. Jace, the Mind Sculptor is probably one of the most broken cards to come out of R&D in years and is great with the number of shuffle effects in here.
I already mentioned Artificer's Intuition, which is one of the lynchpins of the deck. It can most definitely function without it, but the dual purpose of a toolbox and discard outlet for Sharuum to reanimate expensive artifacts and let you cheat on mana can’t really be emphasized enough. I play Enlightened Tutor as another one of my concessions to powerful non-artifact cards that should be in here for the synergy, and I get Artificer's Intuition with it far more often than any other card.
The last few cards are just powerful effects that fill some holes. Artifacts don’t typically have a good way to draw multiple cards at a time, so I’m testing out Blue Sun's Zenith and Stroke of Genius. Sometimes after you dump your hand you really need a way to refill, and these two do a good job of filling that hole faster than Mind's Eye typically will. Not running Demonic Tutor just seems like a mistake in a deck that can run it. Last but not least, Yawgmoth's Will normally isn’t nearly as powerful in Commander as it is in other formats, but with the number of cogs you’ll find in your graveyard, it can quite often be a game winner.
Cards for Consideration
I haven’t gotten a chance to really play the deck much since New Phyrexia was released, but here’s a list of cards I’m considering and why (in no particular order):
I really like the idea of being able to move point removal to where I want it. I also love the idea of being able to hose powerful enchantments that I really don’t want to see on Uril, the Miststalker or similar situations. The possibilities for the card are endless; I just have to figure out what I want to cut.
I love me some Seedborn Muse, and this feels a lot like her in this deck. The one problem is that unlike my decks that play the Muse, I don’t have a good way to utilize the extra untaps. Most of my effects are sorcery speed with a few exceptions, and I purposefully chose effects that didn’t necessarily require a lot of mana to reuse them. Maybe this will find a home, and maybe it’ll be a dud. Only playtesting will tell.
When I saw this card, I automatically assumed it was an enchantment because of Propaganda and Ghostly Prison. Then someone pointed out it was an artifact, and the pondering began. I’m still not sure if it belongs in here or not. I’m not a fan of it on its own necessarily, but I might give it a shot.
This guy is pretty solid and saves himself. I like the idea of attaching a Batterskull to some of my beaters, but realistically it’d be a 4/4 vigilance lifelink for 5 in most cases for me since I really don’t play many smaller dudes to beef up with it. It might make the cut, but I don’t really like equipment in here.
A cog! And he beats! He eats planeswalkers! Potentially good, but right now Pithing Needle gets the job done, so he’s a maybe at best.
Last but not least, the decklist, amusingly titled “I, Robot”:
Until next time, enjoy being The Threat when it's warranted.
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