Today I'll be tuning a deck set to me by Panahinuva. Panahinuva's deck uses Bosh, Iron Golem as it's commander, and is designed for multiplayer play.
Based on the feedback from last week I'm going to tune up the deck, making sure to keep Bosh as the General, then run it through a test game on Magic Online.
At eight mana, with an activated ability of converted mana cost four, Bosh isn't the world's most competitive competitive. He has the ability of a pressure deck, but not the overall mana cost. He is, however, rather appealing in that he's not terribly frightening as he's in red, often considered the worst of the Commander colors.
As such, multiplayer-speaking, you may be able to keep the heat of yourself while you set up your kill conditions: a slow, creeping army that suddenly goes big.
The deck sent through is rather slavish to the modular theme (counters, counters, and more counters), playing most of the Arcbound creatures avaialable as well as a number of 'clockwork' creatures, backing this up with some proliferation enablers (including the original proliferators, Energy Chamber and Power Conduit).
Although it has great synchronicity betweeen cards, individually the power level of many of thechoices is pretty low. However, as tempting as it is to add Worldgorger Dragon and in keeping with the recent deck-tuning feedback, I'm going to try to keep to the theme and not drop in stock-standard power combos.
After I mentioned on Twitter that I was putting together a Bosh list, a chap named SgtContro DM'd me his own Bosh list. Here's what it looked like.
Sgt Control's deck took a very different take on Bosh, using a mix of fast mana and land destruction to keep down opponents while smashing face with some pretty large creatures. What surprised me was the lack of instants, sorceries and enchantments in both decks. I can understand the appeal of going 'all-in' with artifacts as they do tend to be somewhat fragile on the multiplayer board.
Looking at the deck list I certainly wanted more disruption, faster mana, more recursion, and some alternate sacrifice outlets than Bosh. Scrapping around I came up with 54 cards thought of working into the deck. 54 cards is a lot, so they can't possibly all make it in.
Here's what did.
The Fast Mana Suite
If Bosh is to reliably apply pressure, then a fast mana suite won't hurt to include. The fast mana suite, in case you don't know it, is as follows.
The suite has less of a downside in Bosh than most other decks. First, he has no problem with the fact the fast mana suite produces colorless mana. Second, he can sacrifice away the Mana Crypt and Mana Vault if life totals become dangerously low.
Sacrifice Support Suite #1: Sac Outlets
With all the sacrifice effects going on I wanted to build a sacrifice support suite.
- Bosh, Iron Golem: We're not going to get far without out commander. His sacrifice ability has certainly set the theme for this version of Bosh. Again, I'm not a huge fan of the eight mana as he's just so slow, but if you make it to the late game then he does become somewhat of a beast. The important thing to note is that he does damage equal to the converted mana cost of whatever he sacs, so power and toughness buffs are less useful for the big lunk. His ability also does not cause commander damage either.
- Goblin Bombardment: One of my favorite red Commander staples, this sac outlet can put a great deal of pressure on opponents. It's also the perfect Control Magic foil for your creatures.
- Claws of Gix: With a deck this slow, having a life-gaining ability seems a must. It also gives an easy out to Mana Crypt and Mana Vault if required, clawing a little of that life gain back. Incidently, has anyone noticed that the win/loss ratio on those two cards on Magic Online seem to be 66% win and 33 % loss (and 1% coin lands on the side and has to be reflipped)?
- Throne of Geth: Helps against Control Magic, and works wonders with the counters-matter theme the deck retains. Due to the large amount of artifacts in the deck it will always have a target.
- Trash for Treasure: I've not used the card before but wanted to test how it goes. I imagine sacrificing a Junk Diver or a Myr Retriever feels pretty good.
- Kuldotha Forgemaster: The deck has so few tutors that even one that requires sacrificing several permanents seems fine. When you're able to get extra value out of those sacrifice effects, more is better. Note that I'm not running Lightning Greaves in this deck, so he's a little slower than usual. Why not Greaves? Because with so many sacrifice outlets I don't feel the need to protect anything, and I already know I'm not going to kill my opponents quickly. So no Greaves.
- Copper Gnomes: It's not really a sac outlet, but it is a sac effect, and I've been using this card to power out a very, very fast Blightsteel Colossus. I'm not running old Blighty in this deck as I wanted to keep the threat of infect out of my opponents vision. This actually came up in a game during testing (details further down the article). Gnomes has been treating me very well.
There's a pretty broad range of casting costs amongst those cards so should be able to have a sac outlet any time I need it, to varying effect.
Sacrifice Support Suite #2: Sac Value
If I'm sacrificing all this stuff, I want some ways to get extra value out of the stuff that's heading to the graveyard dying.
- Furnace Celebration: There's no value like incremental value, and two mana for two more damage anywhere you want it is certainly incremental. With all the sac outlets, this kind of damage stacks up over time and kills a lot of utility creatures out there.
- Vicious Shadows: A fine, fine red card, one of the best in fact. The other day I played against this card with Gin & Taxes and almost died from the life loss of having 14 cards in hand. Worthy of any red deck, especially good here in a deck with so many ways to force it to trigger.
- Stalking Vengeance: Pseudo Vicious Shadows on a stick, Stalking Vengeance does a fine job of ending games. Unlike Bosh, Vengeance does damage equal to the power of the dying creature, so cards like Nim Deathmantle really shine with Vengeance.
- Mimic Vat: If you have a deck that can pick and choose what goes under the Vat then the Vat is awesome. Some decks, such as mono-blue, have a hard time getting the right cards underneath (although there are few cards you don't want there anyway). Bosh has a easy time making it happen, improving all your sac outlets along the way.
- Skullclamp: With the high number of recursion engines and mana sinks in the deck, what there's little of is card draw. Skullclamp fills this niche nicely, especially when we get to take advantage our out Arcbound creatures, recursion cards, and on-death triggers. Also, it's out-of-this-world broken. Did I mention that?
- Blade of the Bloodchief: Panahinuva included this great equipment in his original list, and I think it's worthy of a spot. With the modular creatures it can get out of hand very easily, even with the lack of vampiristic characteristics. The low equip cost is also appreciated as it becomes easy to move around and gain extra value.
- Darksteel Forge: Not a sac value card per se, what it does is protect your sac fodder until you're ready to ship it off the board. Controlling your own destiny is very important in Commander, and Darksteel Forge acts wonder in regards to keeping your game plan intact.
Sacrifice Support Suite #3: Recursion
- Junk Diver: A 1/1 flyer for 3 mana is no Storm Crow but its ability is perfect in this deck. Sac Junk Diver, get back something worthwhile, do 3 damage off Bosh, etc, seems good. If there is ever a thing as synergy then this card embodies it.
- Myr Retriever: Effectively the same ability as Junk Diver, it's good to note that one can endlessly recur the other. Endless sacrifice fodder is exactly what a good Bosh deck wants.
- Scarecrone: Another recursion tool, Scarecrone gets additional benefits from being able to sacrifice itself to draw a card. This can be very beneficial with the next two cards
- Lifeline: Scarecrone becomes a card-drawing machine with Lifeline (and another creature) on the board. 1: Draw a card seems fine by me, allowing you to find exactly what you need to lock up the game. Of course, the effect is symmetrical, so if your opponents happen to have their own way to abuse the card you could be in trouble.
- Nim Deathmantle: A must for any Bosh deck, the Deathmantle is the perfect big-mana effect. If you can cast Bosh, you can generally sac a creature for three-and-a-red then recur it for four, meaning you can truly rain pain down upon your opponents.
- Couldron of Souls: As Bosh doesn't care about power or toughness, the instant recursion of Couldron is appreciated. You could even sac Bosh to himself if you so desired. Our ability to get +1/+1 counters onto persisted creatures is also pretty high, allowing for a broken long-game.
- Mana Echoes: Put in largely to test, I have visions of endlessly persisting Arcbound creatures, creating more and more mana for Bosh as they return. Dream big, I say.
Voltron, form! Okay, we're not necessarily assembling a doomsday machine, but the Arcbound gang do a good Voltron impersonation. The creatures I chose are as follows:
- Arcbound Crusher: Will grow and grow and grow thanks to your recursion engines, such as
- Arcbound Reclaimer: It's a pity it doesn't move cards from your graveyard to your hand, but I guess that would be a little too ridiculous. But hey, he has a giant beam of light shooting out of his neck, so he's gotta be awesome regardless.
- Arcbound Sith: If you can get him down early, he's fantastic, kind of like a slower Skullbriar, the Walking Grave. Otherwise he takes a little bit of work to get going, but once he's a 4/4 or above there's plenty of ways to help him grow through combat.
- Arcbound Fiend: Flexibility is key in Commander and the Fiend helps you maintain a variety of threats. Sometimes the ability to maintain one big creature over many little ones is desirable, or visa versa. This guy helps you accomplish that.
- Arcbound Overseer: He costs as much as Bosh, and only works with other modular creatures, making him pretty narrow. However he suits the deck so we can forgive the extravagant cost.
- Arcbound Ravager: Nom nom.
- Arcbound Lancer: First strike is one of the better keywords in Commander, and while a 4/4 first striker isn't that great, with a little bit of work he can be a 10/10 first striker, which is a very hard force to deal with in the Red Zone in any format.
To be frank, I’m not sold on arcbound creatures in Commander, but I felt it necessary to give them a try.
Counter Makers / Creature Makers
Arcbound creatures love counter generation, so I’ve included some of the best.
- Steel Overseer: He's slow and clunky but in a loveable kind of way for this slow, clunky deck. He general needs a lot of creatures out to be worthwhile, and in any truly aggressive environments he's not going to stick around more than two or three turns, but he's great at doing what he does so he's worth a try.
- Contagion Engine: The best proliferator in business, works best in decks with Doubling Season, but is a fine choice for this one as well. It's one of those cards you keep discovering interactions for, and as it doubles as a removal spell it almost always gets my vote.
- Contagion Clasp: Contagion Engine's little cousin, it a fantastic little card. It's a useful political tool; being able to proliferate your opponent's cards to get them out of a jam can, on the odd occasion, be pretty useful.
- Energy Chamber: It's not quite proliferation but it's enough to get it started. Very useful for getting the Arcbound engine up and running.
- Core Prowler: Although it's tempting to tune the deck to have small theme of infect in this deck (infect has an excellent recursion card in [card]Corpse Cur) I'm staying away from it for purely political purposes. Infect draws a lot of attention in Commander, and in a deck this slow early, unwanted attention is a terrible thing.
- Prototype Portal and Soul Foundry: While I'm usually very hesitant putting potential own-goal two-for-ones in a deck, the number of sacrifice outlets in the deck demands this kind of risk/reward plan. We won't be out-resourcing our opponents through card draw, so a metric ton of damage instead through a constant stream of cannon fodder is required.
Value Creatures / Sac Fodder
The machine needs grist for the mill. Here’s where my addled brain went.
- Solemn Simulacrum: Sad robot, so sad. He's being reprinting in Magic 2012, so it will soon be a good time to pick him up (once his price settles down post release). At best he's a 3-for-1, at worst a 2-for-1, and you can't ask for much more than that. With any kind of recursion engine going he is truly silly: perfect for this deck.
- Mycosynth Wellspring and Ichor Wellspring: They are card draw and sacrifice fodder. You'll be happy to see them early game and will be easily able to cycle them late game so they'll rarely be dead. The added benefit they give your recursion engines are also very useful. Drawing cards is something good.
- Epochrasite: I have a soft spot for this critter as it ended up in my very first Commander deck. It's the little robot that could, continually coming back time after time after time. The fact that it has counter interactions makes it the perfect sacrifice fodder, ensuring a slot in the Bosh list.
- Hoarding Dragon: A relatively unloved rare, I'm choosing this over Clone Shell as it can also be a relatively effective beater, unlike the Shell itself which generally sits around doing nothing. The dragon acts as one of the few tutors in the deck, if you're willing to pay the cost for it.
- Duplicant: Fine, colorless removal that gets so much better with a sacrifice/recursion engine behind it. Take their biggest critter, sacrifice, return, do it all again the next turn? It's what Commander is made for.
- Sculpting Steel: You can't combo out in the same way as you might with Sharuum, The Hegemon decks, but its utility and versatility are very real in an artifact based deck. Three mana for a second [card]Darksteel Colossus is rarely a bad deal.
- Fissure and Lava Flow: The cost is barely an issue. The added utility of being able to take out a utility land if required, such as Maze of Ith, is pretty desirable. Clearly Fissure, as an instant, is the better card, and the deck would have had Chaos Warp as an alternative to Lava Flow if Chaos Warp was available on Magic Online at the time of writing.
- Scrapyard Salvo: A janky little card, it fits the theme of the deck nicely. You won't get much value on turn 1, but by turns 7 and 8 this can become pretty brutal.
- Jaws of Stone: A card that, after testing, should almost certainly be Earthquake, I chose Jaws of Stone as I wanted a little versatility in my removal. What I should of added was another sweeper, as the deck is just so soft against a fast early game.
- Oblivion Stone and Nevinyrral's Disk: I've included both the artifact-based mass removal cards. The Disk is slower but I'm happy to run it because it does force your opponents to have the removal in a single upkeep regardless.
- Karn Liberated: Karn is such a good card it's hard to go past him, especially given the flavor of the deck. If you manage to pull his ultimate off prepare to have various insults, food-stuffs, and furniture hurled at you.
Finally we have ways, other than Bosh, of killing our opponents.
- Wurmcoil Engine: He a machine alright (pun totally intended). The colorless Titan, Wurmcoil Engine has all the right attributes for Commander: a realistic converted mana cost, inherent card value, lifelink, and deathtouch. With Bosh he does double duty due to his token generation ability.
- Sundering Titan: I like the guy as he really punishes powered-up, billion-dollar mana base five-color decks, just like the ones I love to run, with little repercussion.
- Spine of Ish Sah: Another piece of colorless removal, as sacrifice fodder to Bosh it becomes a little extreme. Sacrifice, deal seven, return to hand, crush another permanent, reboot. Perfect.
- Moltensteel Dragon: This card is a one-card combo, especially in a pressure deck like this. Works better with Stalking Vengeance than Bosh but is still fantastic anyway.
- Triskelion and Triskelavus: Given the amount of token shenanigans in the deck, these two are a shoo-in. The ability to get the tokens off then sacrifice for full value to Bosh make them pretty versatile as well.
- Unwinding Clock: Everyone I speak to seems down on Unwinding Clock, so I think they might not have tested it all that much. It is bonkers in an artifact-based deck. Crazy good. Seriously.
- Darksteel Colossus: I've run with Darksteel over Blightsteel Colossus purefuly for political purposes. Bosh doesn't have an amazing early game, and depending on how your opponents feel about or fear the Blightsteel if they know you have it you'll be a big target in the early game. This Bosh deck has few defenses.
Here's the final decklist:
- I took the deck out for three spins in the Magic Online multiplayer room. Here's how they went.
- Game 1
- The first game was against Momir Vig, Simic Visionary and Mayael the Anima.
I had a great start with a small combo going on and playing the beatdown role, getting through for four a turn using a combination of Myr Retriever, Goblin Bombardment and Nim Deathmantle.
Unfortunately, the Mayael player dropped out fairly quickly, leaving me with the light beatdown and no disruption to stop the Momir Vig player shuffling up some great creatures, and he quickly ramped into a Seedborn Muse, then Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir. I'm pretty sure I misplayed this game, and should of tried to play out more permanents than relying on the tiny combo I had going, possibly going for Karn Liberated, but I recklessly forged ahead on the beatdown/combo path as below.
Missing the opportunity to play out Karn cost me, as my opponent layed out a Tidespout Tyrant with counterspell backup, stopping me hard. I ripped a Fissure to kill the Tyrant and delay him a turn, but a Body Double on his next play saw the Tyrant come back and my permanents slowly but surely disappear off the board.
- Game 2
- The second game was much more fun, so naturally Magic Online decided to keep no record of it. There was myself, a Kemba, Kha Regent player, a Horde of Notions player, and a fourth who dropped quickly didn't affect the outcome.
- I mulliganed into a two land hand (a recurring theme) and the Horde player mulled to five with onw land, complaining bitterly, but as a good sport decided to stick with it. What happened then was one of the most astounding land-ripping streaks I've ever seen, with the Horde player laying down a green source turn 2 followed by a Khalni Heart Expedition, then a Cabal Coffers, and soon a Primeval Titan fetching a Vesuva and a Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth for an astounding amount of mana.
- The only thing keeping him down was the Kemba player, who had suited their General up with a Pennon Blade and a Whispersilk Cloak, then laid down a wicked White Sun's Zenith for many kitties. I top-decked a Nevinyrral's Disk.
- I played it out then PM'd the Kemba player, letting him know I would not activate it until after his attack step against the Horde player. Seeing my sweeper, the Horde player realized he had the most to lose, but failed to top-deck removal against the disk. Instead everything was sent against me. I lived, but Horde player died to commander damage from Kemba immediately thereafter. I popped my disk, and the Kemba player and I started one-on-one.
- I popped down Bosh, he played out Kemba again, and then the war of attrition began. However, I ripped three key cards; Solemn Simulacrum, Mimic Vat, and Junk Diver. Now a Junk Diver under a Mimic Vat is not a combo, as the Diver needs to hit the graveyard to work. However Sad Robot under a Mimic Vat is perfect for a deck as hungry as this one. Then I hit Unwinding Clock and Skullclamp, and the deck went into overdrive. Drawing two cards and a ramping each turn, providing amazing amounts of cannon fodder for Bosh, and slowly but surely overwhelming the Kemba player.
- Game 3
- The four players were Intet, the Dreamer, Ghost Council of Orzhova, and Jenara, Asura of War. I kept a relatively loose hand of two mountains with lots of seven-costed gas, which was a mistake from the start.
The Intet player gets off to a rocket start, which is almost always trouble because any blue-green based deck with a fast start can be very difficult to reign back. While everyone else merrily ramps away I manage to hit four lands and lay down a pretty useless Core Prowler, loudly telegraphing that I am not playing an infect deck to try to keep the heat off my back.
Unfortunately, my replay is corrupted from that point on but it doesn't matter: the Intet player cheated out a Jin-Gitaxias, Core Auger, drew seven cards (filling up to 14), and left each us in turn without a hand. The game quickly ended from there. I guess there's not much you can do about that.
- Ultimately I don't think I've built the deck right. More importantly, I missed the need for some level for land-ramp, and I would probably slim down to two Sacrifice Support slots in order to gain a land-ramp slot. This is a hard task for Red, where you generally have to use things like Wayfarer's Bauble and Journeyer's Kite.
- The second thing I'd add is more sweepers. The deck can cope very well in the late game using Bosh's ability as spot removal; it's getting to the late game that's a problem. As such, more Earthquakes and Comet Storms need to make their way back into the removal suite.
- I think I'd like to add more planeswalkers to the deck, probably Koth of the Hammer and a Chandra of some description.
- I wonder if I thought enough about power level. Surely adding a Goblin Welder and a Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker in there would of pushed the power level up, but they might of been too much of an old trope.
- Finally, I really didn't tinker with the mana base much. Some more utility lands, such as Maze of Ith would not have gone astray.
However when the deck came together it was a thing of beauty, an unstoppable force. When the deck failed to ramp it was a timid thing, relying on the comfort of strangers to get it through to the late game.
- My question for the readers, as usual, is how would you build the perfect Bosh deck?
- Coming Next Time
- I've had a few requests to update the 'best archetypes in Commander' article based on the cards that have come out in New Phyrexia, Commander, and magic 2012 since that time. I plan to do just that. And if you have a deck you'd like tuned, don't forget to drop me a line with a deck list!