My Most Hated Deck

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This week I want to take the chance to talk about something I've been thinking about for awhile: the most poorly recieved deck I've ever built. Not my Child of Alara Lands Deck, and not my Zubera Combo Deck, but something altogether more straightforward, and seemingly more fair and interactive.

The first deck I built was a Bant deck with all best ramp spells and creatures that I could find in my collection in those colors, and as many ways to cheat on mana costs as possible. The deck was built around one of my favorite cards at the time, Phelddagrif. Don't give me that look; I promise I'm not talking about Group Hug! The deck I built only cared about Phelddagrif's first ability; the one that gives other players creatures.

You see, the deck wasn't built around "fair" ways to cheat on creatures like Natural Order and Polymorph, though it did run them at the time. My deck was built around Oath of Druids and Defense of the Heart, and all you did was put the most offensive, non-interactive creatures into play you could think of. Things like Painter's Servant and Iona, Shield of Emeria, while the pair was legal, or more recently Bringer of the White Dawn and Treasure Mage fetching Mindlsaver. Sidenote: I know Bringer isn't technically legal, but my group is pretty lenient regarding what decks Bringers go in. Let's dive right in and take a look at what makes a deck like that function:

Phelddagrif Oath

As you can see, the deck so far is just a giant pile of tutors and card selection, trying to get Defense of the Heart or Oath of Druids into play as quickly as possible. If that doesn't work, then you'll just play out kind of like a ramp deck, except that your top end is infinitely more unfair than any other ramp deck I've ever played with. The thing is that green creatures tend to be inherently fair. Sometimes terrifyingly efficient and gigantic, but still fair. White and Blue get some of the dumbest creatures in the game, especially when you consider the interactions between them. If I were to build this deck today, here's the selection of creatures I'd use:

Big, Dumb, Fatties

So there's a couple of interactions here that are pretty important, but, first and foremost, the idea is to fetch whatever combination of creatures is most backbreaking, and then make it as difficult to deal with either one of those creatures as you can. For example, you can fetch Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur or Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger against a primarily Blue or Green table respectively, and then protect the guy with Aegis Angel. On the following turn you could Copy the Aegis Angel. If they deal with your combo of dumb guys, you just get Karmic Guide or Body Double, and if they deal with that, you get Reveillark.

Honestly, the deck probably wants an Adarkar Valkyrie more than I'm willing to admit, mostly because of the obscene interaction between the Valkyrie and legendary Kamigawa dragons like Yosei, the Morning Star and Keiga, the Tide Star. With Sun Titan and Phantasmal Image, you could lock out multiple players, or steal multiple creatures every turn. Right now, this kind of interaction is approximated by Reya Dawnbringer, which is generally more powerful, but more of an endgame card than a "protect my guys" card.

And then you've always got the ever-popular combination of Iona, Shield of Emeria and Sakashima the Impostor. The first game I ever played with this deck, I [card Oath of Druids]Oathed[/card] up an [card Iona, Shield of Emeria]Iona[/card] on turn four, and then [card Sakashima the Impostor]Sakashima[/card]'d my Iona on the next turn naming the two colors people were playing. That sure was a fun game, wasn't it?

The last card here is something I'd be interested in trying if I were to build the deck again. Back from the Brink is an amazing card advantage engine in the late game, especially if you're casting the kind of bombs that this deck tends to cast. The problem with it is that once you've recast the creature it's gone for good, unless you run something like Riftsweeper. Worth it? Probably, but you'd have to be pretty careful about which creatures you recast with Back from the Brink, and which ones you wait to recur naturally.

So, what's the supporting cast for a deck like this? You want reasonably costed threats that are going to run away with the game if they don't get dealt with, and which don't require additional investment every turn, so that you can focus on ramping and cheating out fatties. Planeswalkers are the ideal partners to a strategy like this. They provide you with an alternate way to generate card advantage, they must be answered, and some of them even interact favorably with your big, stupid creatures!


Now, the Jaces are pretty straightforward. They're generic card advantage in a format like Commander. The Garruks and Venser are much more interesting. Garruk, Primal Hunter serves as a threat and a card advantage engine not to be underestimated with any of your gigantic creatures. Oddly enough, though, Garruk Relentless is probably the most powerful planeswalker in this deck. As long as you can find a way to flip him, he serves as a very powerful defensive mechanism, and also helps you tutor up answers, recursion, or threats as appropriate for the current gamestate. He's certainly not as powerful as your Plan A, but he's still a great role player.

Finally, Venser, the Sojourner serves a very interesting purpose in this deck. Not only do you have powerful "enters the battlefield" abilities that you'll always be happy to trigger again, there are also creatures like Iona, Shield of Emeria, which can be blinked to name a different color, or you can pick new targets for Sakashima the Impostor and Aegis Angel. The most interesting thing about Venser is how threatening a table finds him. In my group, at least Vensers go ultimate a startling amount of the time, because people are less concerned with Venser himself than with the creatures he's blinking.

Now that we've covered the framework and support cards of the deck, there's just one more component: the acceleration. Acceleration is incredibly important since you won't always be able to cheat on mana costs. But even when you can, having a ton of lands lets you do even more broken things that you would be able to normally. You get to start doing stupid things like recurring Defense of the Heart and tutoring up Copy Enchantment to double up on Defense of the Heart on the next turn.


Swiftfoot Boots and Lightning Greaves may not technically be acceleration in the same way that these other cards are, but they give your Titans haste, and let you do other stupid things with your gigantic creatures, so they're honorable mentions here as far as I'm concerned.

Now, the previous lists of this that I ran had much less acceleration, and more cantrips, but I think I like this set up better. This gives you a realistic chance to cast the gigantic threats at the top of your curve, rather than just messing around with the top of your deck until you manage to "combo" and drop a threat. Sure, the games where you Ponder or Preordain yourself into a stupid creatures on the third or fourth turn are awesome, but I'd rather sacrifice that explosiveness for consistency and redundancy.

That said, with the addition of the Praetors from New Phyrexia, I don't see myself tutoring up terribly many of the other gigantic creatures any more, and so you could probably cut things like Keiga, the Tide Star to make space for cantrips to make the deck a consistent turn five deck instead of a turn six or seven deck.

As always, the last thing I want to look at before summing up the deck list is the mana:


Alright, so most of it is fixing, but there are a couple of standout cards here. There's the obvious interaction between Forbidden Orchard and your key pieces, Oath of Druids and Defense of the Heart. This probably the most narrow inclusion in the whole list, and is frequently just worse than a basic land. The problem with cutting it is that you're then completely reliant on Phelddagrif to trigger your Oath of Druids and Defense of the Heart, and that's not really a place I want to put myself in.

Next, there are cards that play well with gigantic creatures. Things like Mosswort Bridge are stupidly easy to activate, and let you cast gigantic and unfair fatties at instant speed. What's not to love? Vesuva is purely in this deck to copy Mosswort Bridge, or other people's strong utility lands, like someone else's Cabal Coffers when someone had an Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth in play!

Lastly, Winding Canyons plays a similar role to Mosswort Bridge, but is both better and worse. Winding Canyons is better because the effect is repeatable, and the interaction with Seedborn Muse is just about strong enough for me to want to run the two together. However, Mosswort Bridge comes with a free card and lets you cheat on mana costs, and I definitely don't want to play down how valuable those effects are! Now let's take a look at the final list:

[deckbox did="a129" size="small" width="560"]

So, here's the problem with a deck like this: when the game is playing out the way that you want it to, no one else gets to play. You'll have locked them out with [card Yosei, the Morning Star]Yosei[/card], [card Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur]Jin-Gitaxias[/card] and [card Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger]Vorinclex[/card] or some such, and no one will be able to do anything about it. On the surface, the deck looks like a very Commander-friendly deck, with giant creatures and lots of ramp, but when you actually play, the only thing your deck does is prevent other people from playing. You're not smashing face with giant fatties, you're locking other people out of the game with them, and actively trying to limit their ability to interact with you. In my experience, people would rather play against a wacky combo deck, even if that archetype is traditionally the least interactive.

So there you have it! Out of all the decks that I've built in recent years, decks of this style are the ones that have been hated on the most, as surprising as that is. Next week, I'm hoping to have finished up a deck I'm really excited about building in a color combination I've personally never played before!  Meanwhile, if you've got any questions, comments, criticism, or decks you want to talk about, be sure to get in touch! I'm always glad to talk shop!

Carlos Gutierrez
@cag5383 on Twitter

6 thoughts on “My Most Hated Deck

  1. wow. this deck looks very interesting. seriously, if i looked at the deck list, as you said, i'd think its just fatties and ramp. but man, thats some dirty stuff.
    and just repeating point above, but as your group is lax on bringers, i doubt they have a problem with garruk. but just for other people, he is black and green.

  2. Uh actually in commander the rule is no MANA SYMBOLS that are not found on your general. As Garruk relentless doesn't have any black mana symbols on him, he is just fine.

    1. Mana symbols in the casting cost was the old way to figure out legality, now it is color identity, Garruk Relentless has a G/B color identity and would not be allowed in decks that don't have a G and B color indentity as well.

  3. Actually this deck looks to have 98 or 99 cards, not the 100, and the rules per the EDH rules site is that the mana symbols in the general's color identity, and garruk relentless has no black mana symbols on him.

  4. weird I didn't see my post and reposted wrong info. Sorry about that, I didn't realize the color identity went to the colors, not just the symbols anymore… crazy.

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