As promised, this week we're going to dive into some real deckbuilding with the new cards. I was intrigued as soon as I saw The Mimeoplasm; who wouldn't want to fuse their favorite creatures together? Today I'm going to document my deckbuilding process from start to finish.
The first step in building a Commander deck is choosing a theme. If you've been looking to build a deck around Sunforger, you should commit to doing that even before selecting your Commander. If you aren't building the deck as intentionally, your initial theme will often just be your Commander. This is usually a good place to start because you don't have to end up with the theme you start out with, and looking for ways to complement your Commander will lead you to other possible themes.
Once you've picked a centerpiece for your deck, you'll want some cards to support it. There are a lot of things to do with a Dino-Ooze, but being primarily a Johnny I wanted to do something strange, unique, and near impossible to accomplish without my Commander. Now that I knew what I was aiming for, it was time to find some cards for the deck! What could accomplish this task? I needed to look no further than Ken Nagle's suggestion of Triskelion + Polar Kraken? For those of you unaware, this would result in The Mimeoplasm entering the battlefield as a Triskelion with fourteen +1/+1 counters on it! Once you've found a good area to mine, it's time to hit Gatherer. Use Gatherer to find cards that share attributes of the ones you know (and don't forget to start by limiting the colors to cards you can play by choosing 'not Color' for each color that your Commander isn't). This is easy for Polar Kraken, I ran a search for all the on-color creatures with power 9 or greater, and came across:
The legendary Eldrazi and Mirran Colossi were right out because they refused to stay dead, but the rest migrated over to my fledgling decklist. Now for the Triskelion side of things. Working with abilities can be a bit more difficult because there can be variations which your search criteria miss but would still be good in your deck. For instance, if you knew you wanted creatures that grabbed you lands for a Warp World based deck and had an Ondu Giant handy, you might search Gatherer for cards with “When enters the battlefield, you may search your library for a , then shuffle your library.” in their rules text. Such a search would not return Quirion Trailblazer even though it does exactly the same thing as Ondu Giant! For this exercise, I searched Gatherer for cards with “remove +1/+1 counter” which gave me some cards that don't work (like Baton of Courage), but also such hits as Fertilid. Now we're starting to get some cards worked in, but there's undoubtedly more synergy we can squeeze out.
In addition to the cards that immediately sprang to mind, a synergystic mechanic can often yield a diamond in the rough. Looking at The Amalgamation, one of my first thoughts was that the amplify mechanic, from Legions, could be useful on cards with abilities like Canopy Crawler's, and while that wasn't the case the searching nonetheless led me to Mycoloth and Thought Gorger. More interesting was an idea I came up with when looking for cards that cared about power: Persist. The +1/+1 counters that The Mimeoplasm enters the battlefield with will cancel out the -1/-1 counters that Persist gives, so if I have enough, I should be able to exile the persistant creatures in my graveyard for the Greater Good of drawing my deck. In went Woodfall Primus and his less impressive kin.
After squeezing everything you can out of your central theme, it's time for some support. Black is able to tutor with impunity, and green can tutor creatures up with ease, but beyond the ubiquitous Demonic Tutor I wanted synergy with my themes. Entomb and Buried Alive make your favorite flavor of Ooze on the cheap, and fan favorites Survival of the Fittest and Fauna Shaman can keep fueling new types of goo indefinitely. As I discussed last week, replicating card functionality requires not only tutors, but also recursion. There are a lot of ways to get cards back from the bin, but unfortunately that's not where The Mimeoplasm sends them. Our choices are somewhat limited, but I tentitively included Riftsweeper and Mirror of Fate in this role.
Under the Radar
Next, we look to subthemes. Playing a bunch of Persist creatures begs for sacrifice outlets to support them, and what better way to start than with ones that get better with huge creatures? Greater Good, Momentous Fall, Twisted Justice, and Altar of Dementia quickly made their way into the deck. On the other end of things, a lot of these enormous creatures have big drawbacks to balance them (until recently, Wizards seems to have had an aversion to creatures that kill in two hits). Looking over the list, my gaze fell upon Phyrexian Dreadnought and I thought of its Legacy deck. After all, if we're including all of these things from the deep (like, you know, Thing from the Deep) anyway, we might as well get to attack with them. In came the surprisingly short list of Stifles:
And finally, we start to winnow the list down. There are always more cards or ideas that I catch after the culling has begun, but when you find yourself at a loss it's time to start. There is one very important note: keep track of the cards you cut. As you cut cards, keep them in a list below your decklist; these cards may gain relevance as you shift your themes, new cards come out, or even as the rules change. Even if none of those come to pass, this list will give you an easy reference point for new cards to try out when something underperforms. With that out of the way, we begin the process.
As early as it's plausible, you should try to figure out if you're cutting out any themes or subthemes because doing so can dramatically alter the value of the other cards in your deck. Here I chose to cut out the Persist creatures because while slightly different, I felt that the deck would end up too similar to my Shirei, Shizo's Caretaker list. With these cuts, playing Twisted Justice and friends looked a lot less appealing and they came out too.
At this point I started to worry about whether the deck would do anything interesting. It had a lot of cards that interacted well with The Mimeoplasm, but all of them drew cards, made mana, or created tokens. I'm not a fan of tokens as they're a pain to keep track, and I have less fun swinging with them than with huge creatures. So why not just make huge creatures? The token makers came out, and I thought about where I could find more beaters.
Doh! I'd forgotten the Lhurgoyfs! With all of my new enormous */* creatures, the deck was practically an Elvish House Party. Now beating with huge creatures is fun, but it tends to be pretty straightforward and similar from one occasion to the next, and thus removes a lot of variance from the games. In an effort to counteract this inevitability, I cut everything that searches for a nonland. But wait! Now that I've cut the sac outlets that were underwhelming without Persisters, and I've cut my graveyard-filling tutors, how am I supposed to turn Dino-Ooze into something cool?
I guess I could, you know, cast the creatures and battle with them. This is a major change in game plan, and it requires a lot of reworking. Now I actually care what the creatures I'm playing do on the board, and suddenly those Leviathans don't look as appealing. Of course, if I'm not playing a bunch of creatures with horrific downsides, there's not a whole lot to Trickbind, so those effects come out as well. Moreover, it takes a lot of mana to cast enormous beaters that don't have drawbacks; time to add a bunch of ramp. And if I'm ramping, why not Genesis Wave into enormous creatures. And if I'm Waving and playing black, shouldn't I run a Cabal Coffers engine?
But with all of these do-nothings, the deck was looking a little bit short on action, and having already looked through the biggest creatures, I decided to investigate the wonderous world of 8 powered monsters. Haste and untargetability from Gaea's Revenge seemed like a good fit for a 21+ power Commander, and Silvos, Rogue Elemental's combination of Regeneration and Trample seemed beneficial as well, but the real gem was Uktabi Kong. I wouldn't have been surprised to see this in Scars block without the extraneous token making ability; after all, green should get in on the Reiver Demon/Furnace Dragon action. Past that, I tried to think of other fun if more reasonably sized fatties, and in went Sheoldred, Whispering One and Mossbridge Troll.
ALL YOUR (MANA)BASE ARE BELONG TO US
And finally, the lands. Color fixing choices are fairly straightforward and uninteresting (hint, "Shock" lands are better than Scars Duals), but some of the other choices are worth mentioning. I'm running the Cabal Coffers + Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth combination for extra mana, and include Vesuva which works well with the engine. For some reason a lot of lists eschew Deserted Temple which often outperforms Vesuva; not this one. Petrified Field helps keep your mana together, Tolaria West finds your pieces, and Cephalid Coliseum can set up some sick Mimeoplasms. The rest is pretty standard fare, so let's move on to the de...
Wait a second...the new Commander cards weren't on Gatherer when I was making this list! We wouldn't want to leave these great beaters on the sidelines:
*Tweak* *Tweak* There we are, ready for display.
I'm abroad right now, so I won't be able to respond to your comments on this article or the next one when they go up, but I'd love to hear if this was helpful to you, and which parts in particular you thought were good or useless. Also, please feel free to share your thoughts on the deck or on my deckbuilding process. Feedback is always welcome.
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