Examining Commander Archetypes #7: Tokens

Take our two-week token generation course, and you too can become a Master Breeder!

The token archetype has representative decks in every format in Magic, and Commander is no exception. As should be obvious, the aim of the deck is to make token creatures, and then utilize them in some way to win the game. Built properly, a token deck is capable of high power levels, excellent consistency, and multiple win conditions.

Unlike other formats, token decks in Commander tend to go all-in on the token theme. While spells like Lingering Souls are excellent for 2-player formats, the higher starting life totals and much higher power level of creatures in the Commander format makes individual token creatures much less valuable. In Commander, the value of tokens is in their consistency and synergy.

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ADVANTAGES OF THE ARCHETYPE

1. The Tokens archetype is extremely versatile. It is capable of more than a dozen win conditions, and token decks can easily support multiple win conditions in the same deck. I will discuss what all one can do with tokens in a later section.

There are also numerous tribal options for a token deck. Just a couple token-friendly tribes are Saprolings, Zombies, Goblins, Rats, Soldiers, Slivers, Cats, Birds, Elves, Insects, Snakes, Spirits, and creatures with the Devour mechanic. I will include a tribal token deck at the end of this article.

2. Token decks have options in all five colors. Green is usually considered the be best color for token decks simply because it has Doubling Season and Parallel Lives, which are extremely powerful cards in the format. However, all five colors have token generators and token support. This article details such generators and support cards better than I could ever hope to. Suffice it to say, they are numerous.

Got ten cents? If so, you have a token general.

3. Tokens can be a budget-friendly archetype. Don’t count on it, however. I will go over the most expensive pieces of token decks, but none of those are absolutely critical to the deck’s function. One can still build a very powerful token deck on a more limited budget. For example, with $35 and Krenko, Mob Boss, you could easily build yourself a goblin swarm deck that your opponents at the table will quickly learn to fear.

4. Tokens is a self-contained theme. People are going to remember all those tokens you generated, and they’re going to remember doing math and watching numerous copies of a token creature hit the table. You’re not fighting your opponents with cards in your hand – you’re fighting them with permanents that come from nowhere.

5. This archetype is less susceptible to sweepers than other archetypes. If all your creatures die, you will be able to rebuild your army much easier through token generators than your opponents who will have to get cards out of their deck to recast.

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DISADVANTAGES OF THE ARCHETYPE

Guess what JUST got reprinted in Magic 2014?

1. Tokens have a converted mana cost of zero. This may not seem like a big deal, and most of the time it isn’t… but when it becomes an issue it really sucks. A single Ratchet BombPowder Keg or Engineered Explosives in a Sharuum the Hegemon deck can shut your entire engine down. Hosers and Sweepers like Consume the MeekCrime // PunishmentCulling SunDeepfire ElementalDroning BureaucratsForced MarchGaze of GraniteLavinia of the TenthPernicious DeedPlaguebearerSever the Bloodline,Steel Hellkite, and Void all become one-sided against you. It is true that most of these spells are not played by default in Commander decks. However, if you show up to your playgroup with a Tokens deck consistently, expect to start seeing a couple of them.

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2. Most tokens have low power and toughness. In fact, most tokens are 1/1 creatures. Now this generally isn’t a huge problem, since Token decks don’t need their tokens to be anything else. However, this means that you are singularly vulnerable to spells like Night of Soul’s BetrayalCurse of Death’s HoldSlagstorm, and Whipflare. It also means that you will either lose a bunch of life, or a bunch of tokens when faced with a particularly large creature with Trample.

This now costs more than most Revised dual lands.

3. The budget of a Tokens deck can get out of hand. Though this can be a budget-friendly archetype, the most bleeding-edge tokens technology can get very expensive. Some of the most powerful token decks run Gaea’s Cradle, which currently sits around $120. Earthcraft will set you back about $18. If you’re running green, you pretty much have to run Doubling Season, which is currently running around $14, a price which was thankfully cut from $25-35 thanks to its reprinting in Modern Masters. These are just three examples, but there are others.

4. Token decks come with a target painted upon their backs. Because tokens are capable of supporting so many different win conditions, your opponents have to assume that you are employing the nastiest amongst them and prepare accordingly. If you drop anything that looks like a combo piece, expect it to get destroyed. If you cast Doubling Season, it will be countered if an opponent can counter it. If you can generate tokens consistently, expect the table to ally against you, to “take you out before you get out of control.”

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WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH TOKENS?

This is the part of the article where I explain the numerous win conditions the archetype can support. Well, there’s a great many things one can do with tokens, so here’s a non-exhaustive list of them:

You can swarm with them! If you can generate a hundred 1/1 Saproling tokens, you can pretty much just run over any opponent you want with them. The chances of them having enough blockers to stop enough of them is rather small.

You can sacrifice them for mana! Using cards like Ashnod’s Altar can generate absurd amounts of mana if you have enough creatures to sacrifice. What you do with that mana is up to you.

If your opponents DON’T ask you what this card does when you cast it, you’re in trouble.

You can use them for control! Your opponents will not be happy to sacrifice their Shivan Dragon because you sacrificed one of your 1/1 Rat tokens with Grave Pact in play. But you know what? A dead dragon is one that can’t eat your face. If sacrifice control isn’t your thing, you can employ effects like Glare of Subdual to tap down an entire board.

You can devour them! Creatures with Devour love having tokens in play as they enter the battlefield. All it takes is five Goblin tokens to make Thromok the Insatiable into a 25/25 creature.

You can enhance them! Even just six 1/1 Snake tokens are a scary sight when Overrun gets cast. A Coat of Arms turns those six 1/1 Snakes into six 6/6 snakes.Beastmaster Ascension turns your weenie army into a shocktrooper horde.

Not shown: the portal to Squirrel Dimension, where the buggers keep popping out of.

You can combo with them! All you need to make Infinite Squirrels is Earthcraft and Squirrel NestGhave, Guru of Spores gets ridiculous with Doubling Season, and goes infinite when you add Ashnod’s Altar. There are countless other combos you can utilize.

You can populate them! Using the Populate mechanic (like that found on Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage) allows you to make a copy of a token you control. This is more useful if your deck can create large creature tokens, like that from Slime MoldingGrove of the Guardian, or even the tokens created by Riku of Two Reflections.

You can gain life from them! Token decks have the capacity to gain a great deal of life, either by effects that gain you life when creatures enter the battlefield, like Soul Warden or Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice, or those that count the number of creatures like Congregate.

You can seek alternate win conditions! It’s not difficult to meet the conditions of cards like Epic Struggle if you can make a bunch of creatures at will. Likewise, you can easily gain the life required for Felidar SovereignTest of Endurance or Celestial Convergence. Or, you could generate the mana to charge up a Helix Pinnacle. Just a couple examples.

As I said, this is not an exhaustive list, and there’s many more things you can do (like use 1/1 tokens to draw a bunch of cards off Skullclamp).

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CHOOSING A TOKENS GENERAL

You usually want your general to either be a token producer itself, or facilitate the use of them through one of the means listed in the previous section. Once again, this article lists all the possible token generals better than I ever could, but I’ll give a quick rundown of some generals I think are amongst the cream of the crop.

Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice: There’s a great deal to like about her. She’s only four mana, in two very desirable colors. She populates at will, and gains you life when creatures come into play, making her both generator and facilitator. She’s perfect for a Selesnya-themed deck, or one centered around the Populate mechanic. She has very little downside.

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Rhys the Redeemed: In the same desirable colors as Trostani, Rhys is capable of some ridiculously-high token generation. His low casting cost means you can probably afford him any time you need him, and his second ability literally doubles your token army. His first ability generates elf tokens, so you can make use of awesome tribal elf cards like Priest of TitaniaElvish Archdruid, and Heritage Druid, amongst many others.

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Krenko, Mob Boss: She is the general I see underestimated the most. Despite being mono-red, she is capable of generating an insane number of goblin tokens. She goes infinite with Ashnod’s Altar and Thornbite Staff. And when she’s not creating tokens, she’s still nestled in the shell of a Goblin tribal deck.

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Ghave, Guru of Spores: Ghave is known primarily as a combo general, despite that fact that he is one of the best token generators in the game. His three colors and ability to generate both tokens and +1/+1 counters turns the number of combos he facilitates into the triple-digits. It’s hard to get that kind of combo consistency. However, Ghave is a great token commander, able to spawn out swarms endlessly with the help of Doubling SeasonParallel Lives, and Corpsejack Menace. He’s also great for Saproling tribal, and can employ almost every win condition you can imagine with his token generation and color selection.

Odric, Master Tactician: This may seem a surprising selection for a token deck, given that Odric is not a token generator himself. However, his ability changes the rules of the game such that you become pretty much unblockable. His low casting cost facilitates token aggro, accompanied with white’s crusade effects, most notably Intangible Virtue. If you can get Odric out at the same time as Darien, King of Kjeldor then you can create some absolutely scary board states.

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Tesya, Orzhov Scion: She is a very strong choice for a token deck with a heavy sacrifice control element. She is capable of generating spirit tokens and has an ability that serves as a sacrifice engine.

Thromok the Insatiable: As previously noted, all he has to do is devour five tokens when he comes into play, and he is strong enough to one-shot an opponent with general damage. He likes to ride with devouring creatures like Dragon BroodmotherMycolothPreyseizer Dragon, and Skullmuncher.

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A SAMPLE TOKEN DECK

(Bonus geek points if you get the reference in the title.)

A Thing About Rats  
General
Marrow-Gnawer

Lands: 38
24 Swamp
Cabal Coffers
Crypt of Agadeem
Swarmyard
Cavern of Souls
Hall of the Bandit Lord
Bojuka Bog
Leechridden Swamp
Ebon Stronghold
Urborg
Barren Moor
Strip Mine
Tectonic Edge
Temple of the False God
Reliquary Tower

Creatures: 30
Pack Rat
Crypt Rats
Gnat Miser
Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni
Kuro’s Taken
Locust Miser
Moonglove Changeling
Nezumi Graverobber
Nezumi Shortfang
Okiba-Gang Shinobi
Patron of the Nezumi
Pestilence Rats
Skullsnatcher
Swarm of Rats
Throat Slitter
Typhoid Rats
Nezumi Bone-Reader
10 Relentless Rats
Ogre Slumlord
Ratcatcher
Adaptive Automaton

Planeswalkers: 1
Liliana of the Dark Realms

Artifacts: 11
Phyrexian Altar
Ashnod’s Altar
Caged Sun
Thousand-Year Elixir
Thornbite Staff
Rings of Brighthearth
Coat of Arms
Lightning Greaves
Skullclamp
Lashwrithe
Strata Scythe

Enchantments: 4
Black Market
Oversold Cemetery
Grave Pact
Attrition

Sorceries: 13
Lab Rats
Plague of Vermin
Patriarch’s Bidding
Exsanguinate
Drain Life
Consume Spirit
Profane Command
Black Sun’s Zenith
Damnation
Plague Wind
Mutilate
Demonic Tutor
Diabolic Tutor
Diabolic Revelation

Instants: 1
Vampiric Tutor

This deck is a Rat tribal deck that uses tokens as an engine to empower several different win conditions.

A few cards in the deck generate Rat tokens: Lab RatsPlague of VerminPack RatOgre Slumlord, and most importantly the general, Marrow-Gnawer. This deck wants to make maximum use of its general, and as such employs five different tutor effects to get it out of the library once tucked.

This deck is, in many ways, the mono-black version of Krenko, Mob Boss swarm decks. We want to use our general’s ability as many times as we can to get an army of rats on our side of the table. We maximize its ability to make rats with Thousand-Year ElixirThornbite Staff, and Rings of Brighthearth.

Once we have a bunch of rats at our disposal, we have many options. We can just start swarming our opponents with them. We can feed them to a Phyrexian Altar or (the less-good) Ashnod’s Altar for mana to fuel a kill spell like Profane Command or Exsanguinate.

Or, we can turn around and play a bit of control, drawing cards off the power of Skullclamp, and cleaning up the board through judicious use of Grave Pact and Attrition. Rats are very good at hitting your opponents’ hands. I’ve included Gnat MiserLocust MiserNezumi ShortfangOkiba-Gang Shinobi, and Nezumi Bone-Reader to help move that process along.

If you want to go infinite, all you need is the general and Thornbite Staff. (And an initial rat to sacrifice.) Just don’t be a jerk about it.

If our token engine gets shut down, this is still a tribal rat deck. We’ve got rats, we’ve got Coat of Arms, and two pieces of equipment that reward us for being mono-black. It’s not hard to figure out.  

$30 Commander Deck – Smash Club

Smash Club
General
Borborygmos

Lands: 39
16 Forest
Mountain
Gruul Turf
Gruul Guildgate
Arena
Contested Cliffs
Evolving Wilds
Terramorphic Expanse
Kazandu Refuge
Shivan Oasis
Fungal Reaches
Kessig Wolf Run
Skarrg, the Rage Pits
Vivid Crag
Vivid Grove
Llanowar Reborn

Artifacts: 4
Triangle of War
Door of Destinies
Slate of Ancestry
Glaring Spotlight

Enchantments: 4
Aether Charge
Beastmaster Ascension
Descendants’ Path
Steely Resolve

Sorceries: 12
Prey Upon
Blood Feud
Hunt the Weak
Cultivate
Kodama’s Reach
Skyshroud Claim
Explosive Vegetation
Rampant Growth
Armed // Dangerous
Blessings of Nature
Reforge the Soul
Soul’s Majesty

Instants: 5
Mutant’s Prey
Pit Fight
Fresh Meat
Vitality Charm
Ancient Grudge

Creatures: 35
Gruul Ragebeast
Magus of the Arena
Ulvenwald Tracker
Advocate of the Beast
Batterhorn
Beacon Behemoth
Bloodstoke Howler
Coalhauler Swine
Fangren Firstborn
Fangren Marauder
Feral Hydra
Garruk’s Packleader
Ghor-Clan Rampager
Gnarlid Pack
Indrik Stomphowler
Kalonian Behemoth
Keeper of the Beasts
Krakilin
Krosan Groundshaker
Krosan Warchief
Marauding Maulhorn
Mold Shambler
Paleoloth
Protean Hulk
Rampaging Baloths
Ravenous Baloth
Rhox
Skarrg Goliath
Spearbreaker Behemoth
Spellbreaker Behemoth
Terra Stomper
Totem Speaker
Ursapine
Valley Rannet
Zhur-Taa Ancient

GRUULBEASTS!!!! WHAT SMASH CLUB FIRST RULE?!?

NO TAAAALKING!!!!!

WHAT SMASH CLUB SECOND RULE?!?

NO TAAAALKING!!!!!

WHAT THIRD RULE?!?

SMAAAAAAAAAAAASH!!!!!!

Smash Club is a red-green deck that has a dash of several different archetypes. It is, at its core, a Beast Tribal deck with a heavy theme centered around the Fight mechanic. It sports a decent amount of ramp, making it able to hit hard and fast in the early and mid-game. There’s also a minor +1/+1 counters subtheme going on.

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HOW DOES THIS DECK WORK?

Something like this.

The first thing you will notice is that the deck has almost as many creatures as lands. Thirty-five of them, to be precise, of which thirty are Beasts.  The primary means of interaction in this deck is the Fight mechanic, found on several creatures and lands, as well as a few spells.  It’s win condition is good old-fashioned Gruul-flavored Smack-in-the-Face.

The five that aren’t Beasts are support cards- Ulvenwald Tracker and Magus of the Arena facilitate Fighting. Advocate of the Beast gives a beast a +1/+1 counter during each of your end steps (and keeps Marauding Maulhorn from attacking a dragon or something). Keeper of the Beasts makes 2/2 Beast tokens. Totem Speaker gives you 3 life whenever a beast comes into play.

You know he’s magical from the Willy Wonka-colored smoke coming out of his nose.

Several beasts in the deck give bonuses to beasts, or creatures with power 5 or greater (which most of your beats are, and all of them can get that powerful easily.) Krosan Warchief regenerates beasts. Ursapine gives a beast +1/+1 until end of turn for one green mana. Beacon Behemoth gives 5+ power creatures Vigilance. Spearbreaker Behemoth makes them Indestructible, and Spellbreaker Behemoth makes them uncounterable.

Within the 30 beasts are several utility creatures as well. Batterhorn doubles as artifact destruction. Indrik Stomphowler will destroy an artifact or enchantment. Mold Shambler destroys a noncreature permanent. Garruk’s Packleader lets you draw cards. Paleoloth lets you get creatures from your graveyard back into your hand.

The remainder of the beasts in the deck smash your opponents’ faces and fight their creatures. Especially Gruul Ragebeast.

For the twenty-five slots in the deck not devoted to creatures or lands…

Six are fight enablers: Triangle of WarPrey UponBlood FeudHunt the WeakMutant’s Prey, and Pit Fight.

Admit it – you’d never heard of this card before reading this article.

Seven serve as tribal support: Door of Destines makes your beasts bigger. Aether Charge lets you do 4 damage to an opponent whenever a beast comes into play.Beastmaster Ascension, once on-line, gives all your creatures +5/+5. Descendants’ Path lets you cast a beast for free during your upkeep if it’s the top card of your library. Steely Resolve gives all your beasts Shroud. Fresh Meat lets us recover from a sweeper by replacing all the creatures we lost with 3/3 beast tokens. Vitality Charm has three modes, one of which lets us regenerate a beast.

Five are ramp spells: CultivateKodama’s ReachSkyshroud ClaimExplosive Vegetation, and Rampant Growth.

Three are draw spells: Slate of AncestryReforge the Soul, and Soul’s Majesty.

A Beast tribal land that lets me fight other creatures? You don’t say…

The remainder have various effects. Glaring Spotlight lets you ignore Hexproof. Blessings of Nature puts a bunch of +1/+1 counters on a creature. Ancient Grudge destroys an artifact. Twice. Armed // Dangerous does what it does, which is awesome.

On the mana base, Contested Cliffs and Arena are yet more fight enablers. Llanowar Reborn gives another +1/+1 counter. Skarrg, the Rage Pits give a creature +1/+1 and Trample. Kessig Wolf Run lets you tap a whole bunch of mana to give a creature +X/+0 and Trample. All the rest produce mana. It’s not the fastest mana base, but it should be fast enough.

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WHERE DOES THE DECK GO FROM HERE?

Utilizing my traditional TCGPlayer.com optimizer settings, the deck comes to a total of $30.27. While this is a respectable deck for that price, it can be much better with the infusion of some better cards.

Let’s talk first about the mana base. It really wants Stomping GroundRootbound CragRaging Ravine, and Cavern of Souls.

It does say “Beasts” right in his name…

Next, planeswalkers. We definitely want Domri Rade for his card draw and fight mechanics. Three Garruks look good. Garruk Wildspeaker generates Beast tokens and untap lands. Garruk, Caller of Beasts has three absolutely amazing abilities for the deck, and Garruk, Primal Hunter generates Beasts and draws cards.

Finally, some more beasts and beast support. Craterhoof Behemoth would be a monster in this deck, and Thragtusk is still a value king. Primeval Bounty would give us even more beasts, +1/+1 tokens, and some lifegain to boot. An Urza’s Incubator would be really nice too.

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A FINAL NOTE

You know, like decks that actually have planeswalkers in them!

This will be the last budget deck I do for a while. I have enjoyed the ones I have posted, but one of the problems of evaluating a limited card pool (in this case, cards that provide excellent bang for your buck), the same cards will keep showing up over and over in different decks. I don’t want my decklists to get stale, so I’m going to take a break for a while while I brew and post decks that are a little less budget-friendly.

Definitely stay tuned!

Examining Commander Archetypes #4 – Reanimator

Though officially named after Reanimate, printed in Tempest, the reanimator deck has been around since the beginning of the game, fueled by old-timer cards Animate Dead and Lord of the Pit. The aim of the deck is simple: get nasty creatures into your graveyard (or an opponent’s graveyard), and then put them into play under your control.  This archetype has historically been very popular – it was even the focus of a Commander preconstructed deck (Devour for Power) and an all-foil Premium Deck (Graveborn).  This popularity is a result of its level of power in all stages of the game (early, mid, and late) and the fact it’s just fun to play.  You get to feel like a necromancer bringing the dead back to life!  So, naturally, the archetype is perfect for the Commander format.
                    
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ADVANTAGES OF THE ARCHETYPE

She used to be completely banned, as opposed to mostly banned. That means she’s powerful.

1) Reanimator decks are incredibly flexible. There is no limit to the number of cards one can have in their graveyard, so you can fill it up with whatever you need. Truth be told, it’s not an archetype in itself, but an engine. With this engine, you can choose from many “sub-archetypes” to play with. Want to go aggro? Run The Mimeoplasm and get some high-power creatures in your graveyard, like Krosan Cloudscraper. Want a side of recursion to go with your reanimation? Karador, Ghost Chieftain is your guy, and he likes to party with the likes of Sakura-Tribe Elder and Dauntless Escort. Is control more of your thing? Kokusho, the Evening Star loves coming back from the graveyard (as long as she doesn’t start from the Command Zone – she’s banned there!) Combo? Totally doable. Toolbox? Yup, reanimator can do that too. Voltron, Theft, Enchantments, Pillow Fort – all (and more) are possible.

Shown above: 75 cents.

2) It’s very budget-friendly. With the exception of Entomb, all of the “engine cards” are pretty cheap. “Engine Cards” refer to spells that reanimate creatures, like Vigor Mortis, and spells that get them there in the first place, like Increasing ConfusionPutrid Imp and Golgari Grave-Troll. Most of the expense in reanimator decks comes from the mana base (for decks that want to be really fast), and/or the nasty creatures you want to reanimate. There’s lots of awesome critters that you can buy for around a buck, like Verdant ForcePelakka Wurm and Balefire Dragon that will keep the empty slots of your deck warm while you save up for misfits the likes of Iona, Shield of EmeriaLord of Extinction, or Dragon Broodmother.

3) It’s a powerful archetype. The whole point of the deck is cheating creatures into play long before they’re supposed to be there. It gives you a strong early/mid game, and even if your reanimation plan goes down the toilet, in the late game you can even cast your creatures honestly, saving your reanimation spells to grab your opponents’ creatures out of their graveyard.

4) The deck’s plan is proactive and simple. 1. Get nasty creatures in your graveyard. 2. Move nasty creatures from graveyard to the battlefield. 3. Destroy your opponents with nasty creatures. If you accomplish these goals, you will win.

5) There are plenty of tribal options that fit within this archetype. Zombies and Angels are probably the strongest tribe for reanimator decks, but Skeletons, Spirits, Clerics, Minions, Vampires, and (believe it or not) Dragons all have strong reanimation capabilities.

 

DISADVANTAGES OF THE ARCHETYPE

Shown above: Hate.

1) Graveyard hate exists, and you can bet everyone at the table NOT running a reanimator deck has some. This is a HUGE problem, because it shuts down your entire engine (thus killing your card and tempo advantage). Thanks to artifacts like Grafdigger’s CageRelic of Progenitus, and Tormod’s Crypt, decks of every color can (and will) run hate against your specific deck. It doesn’t come in just artifacts, either – it comes in every flavor! Enchantment (Rest in Peace), Instant (Ravenous Trap), Creature (Scavenging Ooze), Sorcery (Primal Command), and even Land (thanks a lot, Bojuka Bog!)  Graveyard hate damages this archetype even worse than tuck effects damage the Voltron archetype.  I will discuss how to combat  graveyard hate in the next section.

2) Two reanimator decks at the same table will get in each other’s way. You might think that having another player at the table who is hellbent on getting cards in his graveyard will make your Mortivore even scarier than usual. However, that door swings both ways. He probably has his own Mortivore. Your graveyard isn’t safe from his Dance of the Dead. It’s gonna be real hard to cast that Living Death you’ve got in your hand when there’s another player at the table that has just as many nasty creatures in his/her graveyard. Plus, any opponents who might hesitate to play their graveyard hate cards with just one reanimator deck at the table will have exactly ZERO hesitation to play them with two.

She sometimes does a decent job as a reanimator general, though.

3) The reanimation archetype is beholden to black. If you want to play reanimator, your general MUST have black in his color identity. There just isn’t enough reanimation spells in non-black colors to build an entire deck around. In addition to limiting your deckbuilding options, black is the most common color in the format – so you will see creatures with Protection From Black, and occasionally color hosers like Lifeforce.

4) The reanimation engine requires two pieces to run. While two pieces isn’t really a big deal, it’s very frustrating to have a hand full of reanimation spells, and no creatures in your graveyard. Equally frustrating is watching all your best reanimation spells get milled from your deck.


COPING WITH GRAVEYARD HATE

“But Commander Blog Guy, how can you say that reanimator is a powerful archetype when one card shuts down the entire deck – and everyone’s running it?”

Well, Commander Blog Reader Person, don’t fret! I’m going to tell you how to ensure that graveyard hate never affects your plans for world domination through necromancy!

Wait, no I’m not. Because there is no sure-fire way to beat all graveyard hate. I’m sorry if you hate hearing that, but the fact of the matter is this – people run graveyard hate specifically BECAUSE the reanimator archetype is so powerful. Sorry to tell you that you’re not going to win every game by playing a reanimator deck. If that’s what you’re seeking, then reanimator (and the Commander format on the whole) isn’t for you. You can’t beat graveyard hate every time – but I will tell you how to fight back against it. Here’s some weapons to counterattack those who seek to thwart your plans:

Don’t point it at your feet.

Play Conservatively: Don’t Traumatize yourself and dump half your library into your graveyard if you can’t afford to lose all those cards. Do your best to keep your graveyard stocked with only a couple choice creatures, so if they get exiled you’re not out of the game. Even playing smart, though, instant speed graveyard removal like Purify the Grave or the second ability of Relic of Progenitus will effectively counter any single reanimation spell you try to cast. At least, however, you can minimize the damage and continue on with your plan, minus one piece of graveyard hate from the game.

Shroud Yourself: Many graveyard hate spells and abilities require the controller to target a player. If you can’t be targeted, then your graveyard is safe from these effects. If you have white in your color identity, then the options are numerous: Leyline of SanctityImperial MaskIvory MaskSpirit of the Hearth, and True Believer all protect you from hate spells that target a player. If you’re not sporting any white in your identity, however, your only choice is Witchbane Orb.

The library isn’t a great place for your reanimation targets to be, but it certainly beats the exile zone.

Shuffle Your Graveyard: In the event of a catastrophic spell like Leyline of the Void, you can have options to minimize the damage by returning your graveyard back into your library. Feldon’s Cane is a good spell to cast before aggressively reanimating creatures, because you can activate it at the optimal time for you. Cards like Feldon’s Cane, Elixir of Immortality, and Thran Foundry are great, because having them down makes your opponents think twice about playing their hate cards – because you will minimize the effects of them playing it. They may delay you for a couple turns, but they haven’t taken you out of the game. Not even close.

Countermagic: If you’re running blue, countermagic is not a bad idea. In addition to getting nasty creatures off the stack and into your opponents’ graveyards (for you to reanimate), it makes sure that Ground Seal never hits the battlefield.

Likewise, Stifle and Voidmage Husher can counter the activations of many types of graveyard hate, rendering them useless. Even if you’re not playing blue, you have options. Null Rod is a classic that shuts down all the artifact-based graveyard hate. Green has the Ouphe creatures, like Ouphe Vandals.

Make the Exile Zone a Second Graveyard: Okay, this is easier said than done. The number of cards that will retrieve a card from exile are miniscule. In fact, at present, there’s only three – RiftsweeperPull From Eternity, and Mirror of Fate (and you have to be VERY desperate to use that mirror). If you can run Riftsweeper or Pull From Eternity, however, it probably isn’t a bad idea to save a slot for one of them.


CHOOSING A REANIMATOR GENERAL

As mentioned previously, your general must have black in its color identity – this is non-negotiable. All the graveyard tutors – Jarad’s OrdersEntombBuried Alive… all require black. Most of the reanimation spells in the game require black mana. Black is the mana that fuels the reanimation engine.

I just do not know what to make of this art.

White is a very, very strong color to play in reanimation decks. It sports some of the most game-breaking creatures that you could ever want for reanimation targets: Iona, Shield of EmeriaAvacyn, Angel of HopeBlazing Archon, and Angel of Despair, to name a few. It also gives you access to some great reanimation spells: Unburial RitesDebtor’s KnellReya DawnbringerMarshal’s AnthemKarmic GuideLoyal RetainersResurrectionBreath of LifeFalse DefeatDefy Death,Tariel, Reckoner of Souls and Miraculous Recovery.  In addition, it gives you the best tools to counter graveyard hate – artifact/enchantment destruction, self-shroud spells, and Pull From Eternity.  If you were crazy enough to build a reanimator deck without black , then white would be its replacement. Naturally, Black-White makes for a frightening reanimation combination.

Blue is also a good color to consider, because it gives you means of filling up graveyards quickly. In addition to mill effects like Increasing Confusion, Mind Grind, and Psychic Drain, you also have access to Windfall effects – from Jace’s Archivist and Whispering Madness. There are a great many blue-black cards that increase the power level of reanimator decks they’re in. Havengul LichLazav, Dimir Mastermind, and Oona, Queen of the Fae are such cards.

Blue-Green hosts some great self-milling options.

Green gives you access to some very powerful reanimation targets, notable creatures the likes of TerastodonVerdant ForceSylvan PrimordialLord of ExtinctionSigarda, Host of HeronsWoodfall PrimusVorinclex, Voice of Hunger and many, many more. It also gives you access to Brawn, who gives all your creatures trample as long as he’s in the graveyard. This color offers many spells to send target cards from your graveyard back to your hand, dodging graveyard hate.  Green also gives you ways of milling yourself to fill the graveyard, while looking for cards of use – cards like Mulch.

Red is not a popular color for reanimator decks, unless you’re reanimating dragons, in which case you can’t go without it. The color is also heavily desired in angel tribal reanimator, because it gives access to Tariel, Reckoner of SoulsKaalia of the Vast, and the boros angels (like Gisela, Blade of Goldnight). Even outside of the tribal reanimation decksred still has benefits to offer, however.  The draw-and-discard mechanic that red utilizes (ex. Faithless Looting) is useful for putting creatures of your choice into the graveyard.  Red has its own series of Windfall effects, like Wheel of Fortune and Wheel of Fate. Also, if you’re running red, save a spot for Anger.  Anger gives all your creatures haste if it’s in the graveyard, which means any reanimation spell is an immediate threat.

The “best” color combinations for reanimator decks are probably Esper (Black-White-Blue), Junk (Black-White-Green), BUG (Black-Blue-Green), Pentacolor (all five), Dega (Red-White-Black), or Grixis (Black-Blue-Red). Nonetheless, if you have black in your color identity, it’s hard to go wrong.

The Mimeoplasm is the go-to “aggro reanimator” general. People who hate fun can reliably win games on turn four with the ‘Plasm, usually by dumping creature combinations like Death’s Shadow and Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon into the graveyard before casting Mimeoplasm from the Command Zone. Nonetheless, you can still play him “fairly” and have a very strong deck.  Like all BUG reanimator generals, he utilizes powerful blue and green mill effects to fill up graveyards quickly, taking advantages of large graveyard size to fuel  creatures like Ghoultree and Sewer Nemesis.

Karador, Ghost Chieftain and Teneb, the Harvester are both strong choices for a general in the Junk colors. As an added bonus, either one can easily fit into the same deck, so you have a rare 3-color deck with interchangeable generals. Karador is a very strong recursion general, able to cast creatures like Necrotic Sliver over and over (once a turn) to powerful effect. Also, the way totaling costs work when casting a spell, the “commander tax” is applied first, before Karador’s reduction ability is applied. So, if you’ve cast him twice before, but have nine creatures in your graveyard, he only costs a total of 3 mana (one each of white, black, and green) to cast.

The Esper (White-Black-Blue) combination has two very interesting choices as general, each bringing a different focus to the deck. Sharuum the Hegemon wants a deck full of powerful artifact creatures to reanimate.  Zur, the Enchanter wants a deck full of enchantment-based reanimation spells, like NecromancyAnimate Dead, and Dance of the Dead.  Just be forewarned that both of these generals are well-known as being abusive in other archetypes (Sharuum is a combo demon, and Zur is a well-known Voltron and Enchantment general).  So, they both have targets painted on their backs.  Still, it’s probably worth running one of them (or even a general that doesn’t necessarily have any reanimation synergy, like Sen Triplets) just to get access to these colors.

Sedris, the Traitor King is a Grixis (Black-Blue-Red) general who wants a bunch of creatures with enters-the-battlefield effects.

Blue-Black generals tend to focus on milling your opponents, so that you can reanimate creatures that hit their graveyards. Lazav, Dimir Mastermind is a very strong choice here. Other possibilities include Szadek, Lord of Secrets and Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker.

If you’re willing to go mono-black, you have a bunch of great options. Sheoldred, Whispering OneGeth, Lord of the VaultBalthor the Defiled, and Chainer, Dimensia Master are all very strong reanimator generals. And guess what? You can play every single one of them in your deck.

Scion of the Ur-Dragon and Bladewing the Risen are the go-to generals for Dragon Reanimator. Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund is also commonly used for Dragon Reanimator, even though he himself does not have a reanimation ability.

Reya Dawnbringer and Tariel, Reckoner of Souls are popular generals for Angel Reanimator. However, Kaalia of the Vast is also a popular Angel Reanimator general, even though (like Karrthus) she does not have an innate reanimation ability.


SAMPLE DECK

Here’s an Angel Reanimator deck I built while writing this article. Reanimating unfair angels is its primary goal, but the strong tribal support within the deck gives it a great late game if the reanimation plan is shut down.

Angelic Revivification
Commander
Tariel, Reckoner of Souls

Lands: 39

Swamp
Plains
Mountain
Cavern of Souls
Command Tower
Blood Crypt
Godless Shrine
Sacred Foundry
Tainted Field
Tainted Peak
Evolving Wilds
Terramorphic Expanse
Fetid Heath
Graven Cairns
Rugged Prairie
Boros Garrison
Rakdos Carnarium
Orzhov Basilica
Dragonskull Summit
Isolated Chapel
Clifftop Retreat
Vault of the Archangel
Rupture Spire
Transguild Promenade
Vivid Crag
Vivid Meadow
Vivid Marsh

Angels: 20
Avacyn, Angel of Hope
Iona, Shield of Emeria
Reya Dawnbringer
Gisela, Blade of Goldnight
Linvala, Keeper of Silence
Angelic Arbiter
Herald of War
Deathless Angel
Radiant, Archangel
Sunblast Angel
Angel of Despair
Deathpact Angel
Aurelia, the Warleader
Aegis Angel
Angel of Serenity
Shattered Angel
Silver Seraph
Wayward Angel
Karmic Guide
Baneslayer Angel

Reanimation Engine: 20
Buried Alive
Entomb
Shared Trauma
Mesmeric Orb
Sands of Delirium
Whetstone
Horrifying Revelation
Putrid Imp
Codex Shredder
Reanimate
Resurrection
Unburial Rites
Debtor’s Knell
Animate Dead
Exhume
Defy Death
Dread Return
Necromancy
Living Death
Patriarch’s Bidding

Other: 20

Elixir of Immortality
Presence of the Master
Leyline of Sanctity
Pull From Eternity
Kaalia of the Vast
Luminarch Ascension
Quicksilver Amulet
Coat of Arms
Expedition Map
Sol Ring
Orzhov Signet
Return to Dust
Mortify
Stranglehold
Demonic Tutor
Vampiric Tutor
Liliana Vess
Entreat the Angels
Debt to the Deathless
Mind’s Eye

Examining Commander Archetypes #3 – Tribal

Tribal decks have been around since the dawn of Magic, built around creatures like Lord of Atlantis and Zombie Master before creature types even existed. Today, these decks are full of creatures that share the same creature type, and seek to win games through tribal synergy.

At the time of this article, there are 224 different creature types in Magic: the Gathering. With the exception of those types that have only one representative (sorry to crush your dreams of a Dreadnought tribal deck), most of them can be played as a tribal theme.

Alas, he’s the only one. Wombat tribal would have been off the chain.

The following creature types have 25 or more cards with that creature type, and as such can be easily built around: Advisor, Ally, Angel, Ape, Archer, Artificer, Assassin, Avatar, Barbarian, Beast, Berserker, Bird, Boar, Cat, Centaur, Cleric, Construct, Demon, Djinn, Dragon, Drake, Druid, Dryad, Dwarf, Elemental, Elephant, Elf, Faerie, Fish, Fungus, Giant, Golem, Horror, Hound, Human, Illusion, Imp, Insect, Kavu, Kithkin, Knight, Kor, Lizard, Mercenary, Merfolk, Minion, Minotaur, Monk, Mutant, Myr, Nomad, Ogre, Plant, Rat, Rebel, Rogue, Samurai, Scarecrow, Scout, Shade, Shaman, Shapeshifter, Skeleton, Sliver, Snake, Soldier, Spellshaper, Sphinx, Spider, Spirit, Treefolk, Troll, Vampire, Vedalken, Viashino, Wall, Warrior, Werewolf, Wizard, Wolf, Wurm, and Zombie.

Three things should be noted. First – Nightmare, Rhino, Serpent, and Thrull are close to 25, and should all be considered viable with a little help. Second, there are several tribes that are well-supported, but don’t have many creatures of that type. Of note are Atogs, Eldrazi, and to a lesser extent, Ninjas. Third, Saprolings have precisely zero creatures of that type, but there are so many different ways of making and supporting Saproling tokens that one would be crazy to not consider them a viable tribe.

The good news is, even if a tribe you think would be fun to play doesn’t have many creature cards (for example, Phoenix has 10 cards – 11 if you count Worldheart Phoenix which requires a 5-color general), there are still options. We’ll discuss this more later.


ADVANTAGES OF THE ARCHETYPE

I bet this deck wants some Elementals.  And graveyard stuff.

1. It is friendly to new players. The great thing about the tribal archetype is, the cards themselves pretty much tell you what you’re supposed to do with them. Goblin Chieftain gives all Goblins haste and +1/+1 – it seems pretty obvious that you’re supposed to get a bunch of goblins into play and swing with them the turn they come out. Because the game play is intuitive, most tribal decks can be piloted with lower play skill and still compete at the table.

2. There is a great deal of support for tribal decks. In fact, there was an entire block focused on tribes. Lords (creatures that give +1/+1 and possibly other bonuses to a creature type) exist for a great many creature types. Many tribes have their own mechanics found nowhere else (Prowl, Ninjutsu, Bushido, Kinship, Soulshift, etc.). And, of course, cards like Coat of Arms exist.

3. This is a very versatile archetype. Tribal is more a theme than an engine, so it has a vast array of win conditions. (For example, recall just how many ways Slivers can win the game.) The larger the number of creatures of a specific type, the more options they have. Consider one of Magic’s largest tribes: Elves. Elves can generate tons of mana, allowing you to ramp into huge creatures and X-spells (like Genesis Wave or Comet Storm). They can also generate a bunch of tokens, allowing you to swarm your opponents. There are multiple game-ending combos elves can engage in. Under Ezuri, Renegade Leader, just a couple of them can get huge and wreck your opponents’ faces. A particularly crafty deckbuilder can do every single one of them in the same deck.

Birds and Banding, got it. Wait, Banding?!?

4. Tribal decks are fun. It’s a rare magic player that won’t have fun with a deck full of their favorite creature type. In fact, there is an entire Commander variant where nothing BUT tribal decks are played. It’s very easy to make a personal connection with your deck when you’ve picked out your favorite tribe, and then all your favorite members of that tribe.

5. Some tribes are budget-friendly. You’d be surprised just how cheaply you can build a dragon deck once you already have Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund. If you’re looking at an off-beat tribe, like Warriors, then the creatures of your deck are probably not going to be expensive, and you can afford the tribal support cards (more on these later) to make them awesome.


DISADVANTAGES OF THE ARCHETYPE

Normal people call an exterminator to deal with their rat problem. Tsabo was not a normal person.

1. Though rare, tribal-hosers exist. A couple of them can completely wreck you. If your meta is particularly tribal-heavy, expect anyone not playing tribal to pack Extinction, or worse, Tsabo’s Decree. In addition to these two, Circle of Solace shows up on occasion in Enchantment and Pillow Fort decks. Human tribal decks often run Riders of Gavony, and blue tribal decks can include Faces of the Past – which they run for their benefit, but can easily be tailored for your detriment. Less-popular tribal hosers include An-Zerrin RuinsEndemic PlagueEngineered PlagueOutbreak, and Walking Desecration. Oh, and watch out for specific-tribe hosers too! On a rare occasion, you just might see a Plague Sliver or a Tivadar’s Crusade.

2. Synergies can be broken. Because you’re relying on multiple cards to threaten the board as opposed to single cards or small combos, your board is more vulnerable than non-tribal decks. You are more susceptible to sweepers, because it’s much harder to rebuild a synergistic collection of permanents than it is to play one or two permanents that are powerful on their own.

Lhurgoyf tribal would be cheap, were it not for this guy.

3. Some tribes are very expensive to build. Angel decks want Iona, Shield of EmeriaAvacyn, Angel of Hope, and Linvala, Keeper of Silence. That’s $68 for three creatures. Elf decks can be similarly expensive because of their popularity in Legacy. Same deal with Goblins (see Goblin Piledriver if you don’t believe me.) Slivers not only have a couple expensive members (like Sliver Queen, who is on the reserved list), but they have to support a five-color mana base. Oh, and you just can’t have a Djinn deck without good old $150 Juzam Djinn. Well, you could, but it wouldn’t be a real Djinn deck…


TRIBAL SUPPORT CARDS

In addition to support cards geared toward one particular tribe, the following cards can be utilized to support any tribal deck.

Colorless: Coat of Arms is the most famous and popular one. It rewards you by having multiple creatures of the same type in play. If there are five wolverines in play, each one gets +4/+4. Door of Destinies gives a flat bonus to all your creatures, which increases as you cast them. Urza’s Incubator makes all your tribal creatures cost 2 less to cast. Adaptive Automaton is a lord for any creature type. Brass Herald is a lord that lets you draw some of your tribal creatures into your hand when he comes into play. Konda’s Banner is an equipment that turns a legendary creature into a tribal (and color) lord. Cryptic Gateway lets you cheat tribal creatures into play, as does Belbe’s Portal.  Volrath’s Laboratory and Riptide Replicator let you make tokens of your chosen creature type.

Land: Though there exist many tribe-specific lands like Riptide Laboratory, there are two lands that are universally good for tribal decks: Cavern of Souls produces any color of mana and makes your tribal creatures uncounterable, and Mutavault is a man land that turns into every creature type.

White: Only two tribal support cards exist in this color, and neither are exciting. Shared Triumph gives your chosen creature type +1/+1, and Crown of Awe gives your creatures a one-shot protection from black and red effect.

BlueCall to the Kindred and Riptide Shapeshifter allow you to cheat tribal creatures into play from your library. Peer Pressure lets you steal creatures of your chosen tribe that your opponents control. Crown of Ascension gives your creatures a one-shot flying effect. Distant Melody lets you draw a number of cards equal to the number of tribal creatures you have in play. Faces of the Past allow you to untap (or tap) all your tribal creatures when one goes to the graveyard. Mistform Warchief can tap to make your creatures cost 1 less to cast (though he doesn’t have to tap if you’re playing Illusion tribal.)

BlackPatriarch’s Bidding is a powerhouse. It lets every player choose a creature type, and return all creatures of that type to the battlefield. If your deck is full of the same creature type, then that’s a massive board advantage for you. Aphetto Dredging lets you return 3 tribal creatures from your graveyard back to your hand. Cover of Darkness gives all your tribal creatures Fear. Pack’s Disdain is a removal spell that gets more powerful by having more of your tribe’s creatures in play. Crown of Suspicion gives your creatures +2/-1 until end of turn.

RedMana Echoes is a tribal combo machine, capable of generating infinite mana easily. Roar of the Crowd is a burn spell powered by the number of tribal creatures you have in play. Crown of Fury gives your creatures +1/+0 and first strike until end of turn.

Green: Green has some amazing tribal support cards. Descendants’ Path gives you the chance to cast a tribal creature for free every upkeep. Alpha Status is two Coat of Arms enchanted onto a single creature. Steely Resolve gives your tribal creatures shroud. Luminescent Rain gives you 2 life for each tribal creature you control. Tribal Unity makes your creatures huge for a turn if you have sufficient mana. Reins of the Vinesteed is a +2/+2 aura that, when it hits the graveyard, comes back to the battlefield and enchants one of your tribal creatures. Tribal Forcemage gives your creatures +2/+2 and trample until end of turn. Bloodline Shaman lets you put the top card of your library into your hand if it’s a tribal creature. Crown of Vigor gives your creatures +1/+1 until end of turn.

 

 

COPING WITH LOW-MEMBERSHIP TRIBES

So what do you do if you’re in love with Basilisks, but there’s only ten of them in the game? Well, you have a couple options.

Zuko here doesn’t have a creature type, so he will be forever tribeless.

1. Add a second tribe. Let me be clear – ONLY one more tribe. There is a rare selection of generals capable of supporting three different tribes (Kaalia of the VastLovisa Coldeyes, etc.), but if you have more than two, then the synergy of your deck is going to be shot. If Tribal synergy is going to be the strongest focus of your deck, then two tribes is an absolute maximum. The best two-tribe combinations are the “race and class” combinations. Faeries and Rogues, for example. Since there are several Faerie Rogues in the game, those creatures that have both types will synergize with both Faeries and Rogues. To help make this work, you can…

2. Force some creature types. Enchantments like Xenograft and Conspiracy will turn all your creatures into whatever type you want. Unnatural Selection will make your creatures a specific type for as long as you have the mana to keep them that way. Standardize and Mirror Entity will do it for a turn. Runed Stalactite turns whatever creature is equipping it into all creature types. Artificial Evolution will permanently change one creature’s type.

Believe it or not, he’s a Mutant Ninja Turtle.

3. Employ some changelings. Certain creatures in the game have the Changeling ability, which makes them all creature types. Some more notable changelings are Taurean MaulerAmoeboid ChangelingChameleon Colossus, and Shapesharer. Because changelings are all creature types, they can fit into any tribal deck of the appropriate colors. Yeah, so maybe it seems weird having a deck half full of Basilisks, and half full of changelings, but you know what? Maybe being a basilisk is so awesome that all these creatures, who can be anything they want, choose to be basilisks. That’s what I’m going to tell anybody who questions their presence in my basilisk deck, anyway.

If you’re running blue, the Mistform creatures (like Mistform Ultimus and Mistform Skyreaver) function like lesser changelings and can change their creature types to whatever you want, provided you have the mana.

4. Go non-tribal. If none of these options work for you, then you may wish to consider abandoning the tribal focus, and instead putting as many creatures of your favorite type into a different archetype. All those basilisks fit right into a deck heavily focused on Deathtouch. Even if the deck isn’t relying on tribal synergy, it’s still a Basilisk deck if you want it to be.


CHOOSING A TRIBAL GENERAL

The absolute most important thing is your general’s color identity. Unlike other archetypes, you can’t pick your general first and then build around him/her. You already know what 1/3 of your deck is going to be, and your general has to squeeze into those colors.

There are a great many generals that synergize with a specific creature type, and I will give a few examples shortly. However, it should be noted that this is not a requirement – Xira Arien would make a fine Tribal Insect general, though all she does is draw cards and fly.

Dragons: If you want to go five colors and nab all the awesome tri-colored dragons (like Numot, the Devastator), then your choice of general should be Scion of the Ur-Dragon. If you can reanimate, recur, or return cards from the graveyard to your hand, then the Scion is a never-ending dragon tutor. If you don’t want to go five-color, then Karthus, Tyrant of Jund is a very popular general. Dragons are popular enough in Commander that his enter-the-battlefield ability is completely relevant, and hasty dragons are a scary force. Bladewing the Risen is also very popular, able to recur and pump dragons. Of course, any of the elder dragons (like Nicol Bolas) are excellent flavor choices.

SliversYou have three choices. They’re all good, and they enable different types of decks.

GoblinsWort, Boggart Auntie gives you access to black, and brings your goblins out of the graveyard back to your hand, making her great for a recursion deck. Wort, the Raidmother gives you access to green, and is a solid choice for a token or swarm deck (finishing with something like Overrun.) Krenko, Mob Boss is a combo machine, and even if you don’t like combos, she can put an insane number of goblins into play without going infinite.  Krekno with a pair of Illusionist’s Bracers is downright frightening. Squee, Goblin Nabob is a great flavor choice for old-school players.

 

Elves: There are a total of 21 legendary elves, so you have plenty of options here. Ezuri, Renegade Leader has become the default tribal elf general, and with good reason. She’s inexpensive, casts Overrun whenever she feels like it, and her ability to cheaply regenerate elves makes her deck very resilient to sweepers and targeted destruction. Eladamri, Lord of Leaves is a somewhat less-popular elf general. He’s a classic lord, giving forestwalk and shroud to other elves. Though not as versatile as Ezuri, making your other elves impossible to target (and block, if your opponent controls a forest) makes it much harder to interact with. Rhys, the Redeemed is a very strong elf token general.

 

Angels: Even though she’s not an Angel herself, it’s hard to find a better Angel general than Kaalia of the Vast. Her ability to cheat very expensive angels into play early in the game is practically unfair. For mono-white, Avacyn, Angel of Hope turns your heavenly army into an indestructible army. Sigarda, Host of Herons gives you access to green’s powerful tribal support spells, and gives your angels protection from forced sacrifice effects. Aurelia, the Warleader gives you access to the boros angels, and gives you a powerful win condition by having multiple combat phases.

 

VampiresOlivia Voldaren gives you access to red and black, which enables you to make use of the vampires from the Innistrad block that get larger the more damage they do. Her ability lets her sire more vampires (and then steal them), making her a solid choice for vampire general. Anowon, the Ruin Sage is another great general if you’re willing to go mono-black (and there are more than enough black vampires to support this choice.) Whenever he’s out, each player has to sacrifice a non-vampire creature during your upkeep, making him a solid control or reanimator-oriented general. Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief is another popular vampire general – her draining ability makes her well-suited to control the board and do 21 general damage reliably.

WizardsAzami, Lady of Scrolls is a powerhouse wizard general. She’s able to turn all your wizards into a massive card-draw engine. With this mass of cards, you can dig for combos with the help of Descendant of Soramaro, control the board with bounce and counterspells, or hit hard with creatures such as Sturmgeist.  Ertai, Wizard Adept is a very strong choice for a more control-oriented wizard tribal deck, given his ability to counter a spell with four mana whenever he’s untapped.  Teferi, Mage of ZhalfirNiv-Mizzet, the Firemind, and Ertai, the Corrupted are other possibilities that are worth considering.

Zombies: There are several good choices here. Grimgrin, Corpse-Born loves the zombies that regularly come back from the grave. His ability to destroy your own creatures and your opponents’ can generate a massive amount of +1/+1 counters, quickly, making him a serious threat for 21 general damage. He’s also at the center of several infinite combos (and the Night of the Living Dead ultra-combo.) Mikaeus, the Unhallowed is a wonderful thematic choice, being the highest ranking member of the church of Avacyn who was tragically assassinated and raised as a member of the undead. His abilities give all your undead +1/+1 and undying – ensuring that your horde of the damned keeps fighting on. (Also, enabling quite a few infinite combos.) Other good tribal generals to consider are Thraximundar and Balthor the Defiled.

Merfolk: Sygg, River Guide is the most popular Merfolk general, able to protect your Merfolk army by giving them protection from the color of your choice. Empress Galina is another good choice for Merfolk general, and her ability to take control of your opponents’ legendary creatures is a good start to a thievery deck. Thada Adel, Acquisitor is another strong thievery Merfolk general, though she also would be strong in an Islandwalk theme – blue magic has several ways of turning your opponents’ lands into Islands.

 

 

SAMPLE DECKLIST

Here’s a tribal Golem deck I built while writing the article. While Karn, Silver Golem seems to be the obvious choice for general, I decided I wanted all six Splicers from New Phyrexia. That put me in Bant colors (white, blue, green). Alas, there weren’t any generals in those colors that made much sense, but I chose Ragnar, because regeneration is always useful, and he looks like he belongs in a heavy metal band. I could see him rocking out with some golems. So, here it is…

Heavy Metal Tribe  
General
Ragnar

Lands: 39

Island
Plains
Forest
Command Tower
Seaside Citadel
Bant Panorama
Evolving Wilds
Terramorphic Expanse
Mirrodin’s Core
Shimmering Grotto
Tendo Ice Bridge
Tarnished Citadel
Grand Coliseum
Aysen Abbey
Unstable Frontier
Temple of the False God
Cavern of Souls
Academy Ruins
Buried Ruin
Alchemist’s Refuge
Winding Canyons
Gavony Township
Ghost Town
Strip Mine
Tectonic Edge
Dread Statuary
Mutavault
Darksteel Citadel
Reliquary Tower
Homeward Path

Creatures: 31
Blade Splicer
Master Splicer
Sensor Splicer
Maul Splicer
Vital Splicer
Wing Splicer
Adaptive Automaton
Altar Golem
Arcbound Bruiser
Arcbound Overseer
Arcbound Reclaimer
Blightsteel Colossus
Brass Herald
Colossus of Sardia
Darksteel Colossus
Darksteel Sentinel
Enatu Golem
Glassdusk Hulk
Golem Artisan
Guardian of the Ages
Junktroller
Karn, Silver Golem
Lodestone Golem
Mycosynth Golem
Phyrexian Colossus
Platinum Emperion
Precursor Golem
Solemn Simulacrum
Voltaic Construct
Arcum Dagsson
Master Transmuter

Artifacts: 17
Conversion Chamber
Darksteel Forge
Golem Foundry
Golem’s Heart
Guardian Idol
Rusted Relic
Titan Forge
Unwinding Clock
Voltaic Key
Coat of Arms
Urza’s Incubator
Mind’s Eye
Mana Vault
Basalt Monolith
Sol Ring
Mirrorworks
Nevinyrral’s Disk 

Enchantments: 4
Call to the Kindred
Alpha Status
Steely Resolve
Doubling Season 

Sorcery: 6
Fabricate
Tribal Unity
All is Dust
Cyclonic Rift
Harsh Mercy
Stroke of Genius 

Instant: 1
Enlightened Tutor 

Planeswalkers: 1
Tezzeret the Seeker

This deck really, really wants a Mishra’s Workshop, but I could never justify the $380 cost, and assume most of my readers can’t either. (Same deal with Wasteland, but that’s a fraction of the Workshop at $50).

You may notice there’s several creatures that have some issues untapping, like Colossus of Sardia. This is one of the things you’re saving your artifact tutors for – to grab a Voltaic Key or Unwinding Clock to make sure you don’t have to pay a bunch of life to untap them.

Some things are just unfair when made indestructible.

Another thing you may notice is that the mana curve of the deck is a tad high. This is why Basalt Monolith and Mana Vault (which ALSO benefit from the Key and Clock) are in the deck. You can also cheat high-cost artifacts into play by judicious use of Call to the KindredMaster Transmuter and Arcum Dagsson.

Getting Darksteel Forge down as quickly as possible makes the deck nasty – just the forge and Platinum Emperion makes you very, very hard to kill. Since there are a great many cards in the deck that produce golem tokens, and several cards that come into play with counters, Doubling Season has been included.

$35 Budget Deck – Warrior Tribal

So, I’ve got the budget-building bug after last week’s bonus article, Budget Deckbuilding. But, my compulsions are to your benefit! I’m going to go through each step of the “Leveraging Your Budget Dollars” as I build another $35 budget deck. So, let’s start from the beginning…

1. Decide what type of deck you’d like to build. Well, I’ve always loved Lovisa Coldeyes, but never had an excuse to build anything with her.  Her art is exquisite – you can tell she’s at home on the battlefield, but there she is, sitting upon a throne, bored.  She’s surrounded with implements of battle, but she sits clean, her armor and clothing completely missing any trace of the blood of her enemies.  It’s the kind of picture that you just can’t help but dream up stories about.  Anywho… she lends herself to the tribal archetype, being a lord for Barbarians, Warriors and Berserkers. It’s a shame that she doesn’t give herself the bonus (unless you make her one of the above), but that’s okay – she’s still awesome.

2. Seek out cost-efficiency. Okay, so chances are we’re not going to be able to afford to put all three types in there, because keeping synergy coherent between more than one creature type is expensive. So, let’s hop onto Gatherer and find out how many of each tribe we have to work with in mono-red. There are 27 red or colorless barbarians – that’s not enough to build a deck on. Of berserkers, there are only 28. So, Warriors it is. Thankfully, Gatherer counts 162 of those – so we have plenty of options.

I have picked 32 Warriors I really like:

Lovisa’s 32 Warriors  
Adaptive Automaton
Bloodmark Mentor
Boldwyr Intimidator
Borderland Behemoth
Brighthearth Banneret
Cyclops Gladiator
Deep-Slumber Titan
Falkenrath Marauders
Furystoke Giant
Goblin Balloon Brigade
Goblin Marshal
Godo’s Irregulars
Hamletback Goliath
Hammerfist Giant
Hammerheim Deadeye
Impelled Giant
Jeska, Warrior Adept
Kargan Dragonlord
Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs
Manic Vandal
Markov Blademaster
Markov Warlord
Ogre Battledriver
Ogre Geargrabber
Sandstone Warrior
Stingscourger
Sunrise Sovereign
Tahngarth, Talruum Hero
Vengeful Firebrand
Vulshok Battlemaster
Wrecking Ogre
Zealous Conscripts

One thing in particular I like about this list was the racial subtribal themes building up.  There are 9 giants and 8 humans amongst the 32 warriors, which give us some more options to play with.

All right, let’s plug Lovisa and her 32 warriors into TCGPlayer.com’s optimizer, allowing for all conditions up to and including Heavily Played, and see what we get. The number I get is $15.72, which is awesome for 1/3 of the deck. Assuming 38 basic lands, this gives us $19.28 to fund the remaining 27 cards of the deck. That gives us plenty of purchasing power.

3. Use what you already have, or can trade for. Well, for the purposes of this exercise, I am going to assume that the deckbuilder has nothing but basic lands. So… we have Mountains we can use, and that’s it. Next step…

Thanks, Magic 2014!

4. Decide what cards your deck can’t do without. How much tribal support am I going to need? Well, unfortunately, Warriors just don’t make an impact on the battlefield without some help, like Dragons would. So we definitely need some support, and Coat of Arms is where we start. That knocks $5 off our budget, but it’s worth it. Thankfully, Magic 2014 has greatly reduced the price of Door of Destinies, so we can include that too. These are really the only cards I would imagine the deck “can’t do without” at this point. Everything else should be negotiable.

5. Accept the limitations of your budget. With roughly $15 to spend, there’s a great many cards that all mono-red decks want that are going to be out of range for us.Blood Moon is the big one, but there’s also Wheel of Fortune, so we will have to get some card draw elsewhere. As awesome as it is, Gauntlet of Might is right out.

6. If you want speed, play a mono-colored deck. Done.

So much hurt.

7. Make smart cuts. Okay, here’s where I fast-forward, and let you know that my original iteration of the deck came to $40.69, which meant I had to make some changes. The card I hated cutting most was Shared Animosity. The budget was tight, and as useful (and thematic) as it is, there just wasn’t room. Yes, this reduces the power level of the deck, but it doesn’t cripple it. The good news is, we’re talking three dollars here, so it should be easy to acquire the card in the future. I also had to get rid of Gratuitous Violence. Everything I said about Shared Animosity applies to Gratuitous Violence as well. Both these cards belong in the deck, but the deck still does well without them. Nonetheless, they are high-priority acquisition targets for the deck in the future (if you’re unwilling to increase the budget by five bucks to include them now.)

So… Here’s Lovisa!!!!

Coldeye Legion  
Commander
Lovisa Coldeyes

Lands: 38
38 Mountain

Creatures: 34
Adaptive Automaton
Bloodmark Mentor
Boldwyr Intimidator
Borderland Behemoth
Brighthearth Banneret
Cyclops Gladiator
Deep-Slumber Titan
Falkenrath Marauders
Furystoke Giant
Goblin Balloon Brigade
Goblin Marshal
Godo’s Irregulars
Hamletback Goliath
Hammerfist Giant
Hammerheim Deadeye
Impelled Giant
Jeska, Warrior Adept
Kargan Dragonlord
Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs
Manic Vandal
Markov Blademaster
Markov Warlord
Ogre Battledriver
Ogre Geargrabber
Sandstone Warrior
Stingscourger
Sunrise Sovereign
Tahngarth, Talruum Hero
Vengeful Firebrand
Vulshok Battlemaster
Wrecking Ogre
Zealous Conscripts
Brass Herald
Giant Harbinger

Enchantments: 3
Leyline of Punishment
War’s Toll
Warstorm Surge

Artifacts: 8
Coat of Arms
Door of Destinies
Strata Scythe
Obsidian Battleaxe
Silver-Inlaid Dagger
Foriysian Totem
Fire Diamond
Wayfarer’s Bauble

Sorceries: 13
Relentless Assault
World at War
Screaming Fury
Spire Barrage
Warp World
Jaws of Stone
Shivan Meteor
Aftershock
Rally the Horde
Wheel of Fate
Reforge the Soul
Into the Core
Ruination

Instants: 3
Downhill Charge
Fury Charm
Savage Beating

It used to be a regular moon, until Lovisa showed up.

Plugging the deck into the TCGPlayer.com optimizer, setting for the same conditions listed previously in the article, the deck comes out to $34.70 – just under budget.

Given a few more dollars, this deck really wants Blood MoonGratuitous Violence and Shared Animosity. A $10 infusion would dramatically increase the power level of the deck by adding these three cards.

Magus of the Moon would have been useful too, but I would definitely acquire Blood Moon first. It’s just a better card. Koth of the Hammer would also love a spot in this deck, and I would love to switch out Wheel of Fate or Reforge the Soul with the much better Wheel of Fortune.

Nonetheless, this is a solid budget Warrior deck, and looks like it should be fun to play. The deck is at its best when it gets a squadron of Warriors together, preferably with Lovisa in play, under either a Coat of Arms or Door of Destinies, and assault a weak board multiple times through the aid of spells like Relentless Assault.

Slivers!

Bonescythe-Sliver-M14-Visual-SpoilerNow that the spoilers of M14 are complete, and Slivers have been reintroduced to the world of Magic in a big way, it’s the perfect time to talk about my favorite tribe.

First discovered on the plane of Rath, slivers are a species in constant evolution. Part of a hive mind, they are able to share their abilities with other slivers. One sliver on its own is a threat – but even just a couple slivers together quickly becomes a force of nature.No other tribe in Magic comes close to the contentiousness of Slivers – players tend to either love them or hate them, with very few opinions in the middle. This is with good reason – slivers are easily one of the most powerful tribes in Magic, matching the synergy of elves and the power of dragons.

ku-mediumHowever, even with the release of new slivers in M14, don’t expect to see too much more sliver action at the Commander table. Slivers tend to be an all-or-nothing proposition – you either go full tribal to take advantage of their wicked synergy, or you don’t use them at all. A single sliver on its own isn’t really powerful enough to be a threat at the table. You might see Harmonic Sliver in a deck that wants creature-based enchantment/artifact destruction, or Sliver Queen in a 5-color token deck. Maybe some crazy person is doing something weird with Hivestone. Or perhaps a less-crazy person is splashing a couple slivers into their Changeling deck.  On the whole, however, slivers are going to stick to their own hive.


SLIVER, DO YOU SPEAK IT?

Slivers are a tribe that grows exponentially. With each sliver you play, every creature on your board gains a new ability until every creature on your board is an unstoppable murder machine. Currently, there are 90 slivers (not counting shapeshifters). Each one delivers a different benefit:

“Huh, there’s a LOT of P/T guys here… I uh… don’t feel so special any more…”

Power/Toughness IncreaseArmor SliverBarbed SliverBattle SliverBlade SliverBonesplitter SliverFirewake SliverFrenzy SliverFungus SliverMagma SliverMegantic SliverMight SliverMuscle SliverPlated SliverPredatory SliverSedge SliverSinew SliverSliver LegionSpectral SliverSpined SliverSteelform SliverVampiric Sliver, and Watcher Sliver.

Double StrikeBonescythe Sliver and Fury Sliver.

First StrikeSpitting SliverStriking Sliver and Talon Sliver.

TrampleBattering SliverGroundshaker Sliver, and Horned Sliver.

RegenerationClot SliverCrypt SliverPoultice Sliver, and Sedge Sliver.

HasteBlur SliverFirewake SliverHeart Sliver, and Reflex Sliver.

Pulmonic (adj.) – “Of or relating to the lungs.” Pulmonic Sliver apparently turns all slivers into gigantic lungs.

VigilanceSentinel Sliver, and Synchronous Sliver.

EvasionGalerider Sliver (flying), Pulmonic Sliver (flying), Shadow Sliver (shadow), Shifting Sliver (can only be blocked by slivers), Two-Headed Sliver (can only be blocked by 2 or more creatures), and Winged Sliver (flying).

ManaBasal SliverGemhide Sliver, and Manaweft Sliver.

DamageAcidic SliverCautery SliverPsionic SliverQuilled Sliver, and Thorncaster Sliver.

Life GainDarkheart SliverEssence SliverSyphon Sliver, and Victual Sliver.

DefensesCautery Sliver (damage prevention), Crystalline Sliver (shroud), Hibernation Sliver (return to hand), Lymph Sliver (damage prevention), Pulmonic Sliver (return to top of library), Root Sliver (cannot be countered), and Ward Sliver (protection from one chosen color).

Card DrawDormant Sliver (at a heavy price, probably should not use this one), Mnemonic SliverOpaline Sliver, and Synapse Sliver.

TutorsHoming Sliver and Sliver Overlord.

TokensBrood Sliver and Sliver Queen.

DiscardDementia SliverMindlash Sliver, and Mindwhip Sliver.

DestructionHarmonic Sliver (Artifacts and Enchantments) and Necrotic Sliver (Permanents).

OtherFrenetic Sliver (bounce/sacrifice), Ghostflame Sliver (makes colorless), Hunter Sliver (provoke), Mesmeric Sliver (fateseal), Mistform Sliver (become other creature types), Quick Sliver (flash), Screeching Sliver (mill), Sidewinder Sliver (flanking), Sliver Overlord (gain control of slivers), Spinneret Sliver (reach), Telekinetic Sliver (taps permanents), Toxin Sliver (pseudo-deathtouch), and Virulent Sliver (poisonous 1).

Venser had some weird hobbies.


Nothing
Metallic SliverSliver ConstructVenser’s Sliver, and Plague Sliver (makes slivers deal one damage to you during upkeep).


Changelings
: There are a few changelings worth giving honorary sliver status to. Amoebid Changeling turns other creatures into slivers (which lets Sliver Overlord steal them.) Changeling Titan and Taurean Mauler may find a place in sliver aggro decks. Mirror Entity makes your slivers huge in the late game. Shapesharer gives you a “clone sliver.”

 

 

CHOOSING A SLIVER GENERAL

There are exactly three legendary sliver creatures, and they’re all five-colors. Though it is entirely possible to play a sliver deck without a sliver general, your deck will be worse off for it. It’s not like you can even “hide” your deck type behind a non-tribal general – the jig is up the moment you drop your first sliver. Each sliver general lends itself to a different style of play…

Sliver Overlord is commonly regarded as the “best” sliver general, because of its tutor effect. For a mere three mana, you can search for the one sliver you need. Ready to deliver the death blow? Grab a Shifting Sliver. Blue mage got you down? Tutor up a Root Sliver. Getting rocked in the air by angels? Snag yourself a Galerider Sliver. The overlord is the most flexible of the generals, lending itself to different styles of play. He is probably the strongest toolbox general in the game, and you can use him to build a sliver army capable of multiple win conditions.

Sliver Queen was the first legendary sliver printed, way back in Stronghold, and remains today a very solid choice for general. During the Rath cycle, there was a Type II (today known as Standard) deck that produced infinite slivers using the queen, Ashnod’s Altar, and Heartstone. Today, with the existence of Doubling SeasonParallel Lives,Training GroundsPhyrexian AltarMana Echoes, and many more such cards, making infinite slivers has never been easier! While the queen lacks the versatility of the overlord, she is a very strong combo and token deck general.

Sliver Legion is the most recent legendary sliver to be printed, and his ability is a Coat of Arms unique to slivers. He plays differently as a general than the other two, and wants to play an aggro game. Imagine the following – turn one, Blur Sliver. Turn two, Muscle Sliver. Turn three, Sinew Sliver. Turn four, Bonescythe Sliver. Turn five, you cast the general, and since everyone has haste, you swing for a total of 84 damage. Your general alone is doing 26 damage, which is Game Over for some unlucky soul. Of course, this isn’t going to happen consistently, but this is the kind of insane damage this general is seeking to do. Sliver Legion is the Timmy of the sliver family – he’s looking to load up his deck with creatures that increase power/toughness, evasion and trample, and smash your face with them.

Of course, never forget that you don’t have to pick just one – you can play all three! While your deck design may favor one of them over the other three, it’s a rare sliver deck that can’t utilize all three of these legendary creatures within their 99 cards.

 

COPING WITH A FIVE-COLOR MANABASE

So, how the heck do you build a mana base for a five-color EDH deck? The good news is that, unless you’re building Legion aggro, you don’t have to be particularly fast. Also, because slivers have low mana costs, you don’t have to hit CMCs above five very often – but you do have to consistently get all five colors down on the board. It does seem a bit daunting, and although you have multiple options, none of them are without drawbacks.

Pictured above: $180.

The Optimal Setup: The perfect 5-color mana base uses the 10 original dual lands, 10 shocklands, and 10 fetchlands, preferably with Crucible of Worlds to keep reusing the fetches – and 8-10 utility lands. Of course, this is crazy expensive. Using the TCGPlayer optimizer for conditions up to Heavily Played, the cheapest you can currently get this set of 30 lands for is $1,183.73. So, unless your discretionary spending budget is a heck of a lot bigger than mine, or you’ve been playing since 1994 and have smartly saved up all these lands, this isn’t the mana base for you.

 

 

“Some day, I’m gonna be a REAL fetchland!”

Basic Landfetch: This is the cheapest version of a 5-color manabase you will find. It runs 5-6 of each basic land, and many if not all of the following lands that fetch basics:

Bad River
Flood Plain
Grasslands
Mountain Valley
Rocky Tar Pit
Krosan Verge
Jund Panorama
Naya Panorama
Bant Panorama
Grixis Panorama
Esper Panorama
Evolving Wilds
Terramorphic Expanse

Thawing Glaciers and Terminal Moraine are possibilities as well. Note that the first six lands listed will also fetch shocklands, just not as fast as the Zendikar and Onslaught fetchlands.

Fast, but unreliable. Like commercial airlines.

Semi-Budget Speed: This is the go-to build if you need your deck to be fast, but can’t afford a mortgage payment to make it happen. It wants 10 Shocklands (which you should have been picking up over the last year), 10 Buddy Lands (the M10/Innistrad duals), and the 10 Painlands – plus several of the 5-color generating lands listed below. This is not a terribly consistent mana-base, but if you just can’t have lands coming into play tapped and don’t have access to the Optimal mana base, then this is pretty much your best option.

 

 

 

If none of these three mana bases work you, and you can afford the speed-loss of having lands come into play tapped, then you can pick and choose from the following options (in addition to basics and basic-fetchers):

If you squint, you can see the slivers hiding in the water.

5-Color Lands: There are many lands in the game that will produce any color of mana, with either a price or a restriction. You should always have Command Tower, because it’s the only one without any drawbacks. Also, Cavern of Souls is a must-have for any Sliver deck, as it produces any color of mana (for slivers) and makes your slivers uncounterable.

Other lands in this category to consider include Vivid Lands (more on these a bit later), Grand Coliseum and City of Brass (1 damage), Rupture Spire and Transguild Promenade(they come into play tapped and cost 1 mana to play), Exotic Orchard (only produces colors you opponents can produce), Forbidden Orchard (gives an opponent a 1/1 token), Mirrodin’s Core (has to charge), Reflecting Pool (only produces what your other lands already can), and Ancient Ziggurat (only for creatures).

Counter-Bounce: This is a manabase style I have developed for my own Sliver Overlord deck. It’s slow, but consistent. It utilizes lands that tap for any color but have diminishing counters on them, and the 10 Ravnica karoos to bounce them back to your hand once you’ve used all the counters:

Counter-Bounce Lands  
Counter Lands: 7
Vivid Meadow
Vivid Grove
Vivid Marsh
Vivid Crag
Vivid Creek
Gemstone Mine
Tendo Ice Bridge


Ravnica Karoos: 10

Azorius Chancery
Boros Garrison
Dimir Aqueduct
Golgari Rot Farm
Gruul Turf
Izzet Boilerworks
Orzhov Basilica
Rakdos Carnarium
Selesnya Sanctuary
Simic Growth Chamber

Alara Taplands: Two-color taplands are too much of a hindrance for a five-color manabase, but the cycle of three-color taplands can definitely benefit a Sliver deck. These lands are Arcane SanctumCrumbling NecropolisJungle ShrineSeaside Citadel, and Savage Lands.

Artifact FixingChromatic Lantern is a godsend. It’s a colorless Prismatic Omen (which you should totally also have.) Any cheap artifacts that produce any color are also worth considering: Coalition RelicDarksteel IngotColdsteel HeartFellwar StoneManalith, and Mox Diamond. Just remember – artifacts are much easier to destroy than lands!

 

LET’S BUILD A SLIVER DECK!

So, now that we’ve got a solid knowledge foundation, let’s build ourselves a sliver deck!  Before starting, we have to decide what kind of deck we want to play – what is its theme (other than Slivers), and how does it win?

Well, I see a lot of slivers that have sacrifice abilities for powerful stuff – destroying permanents, generating mana, and more. So, let’s build around the “sacrifice and recur” theme, utilizing enchantments like Grave Pact and Martyr’s Bond to control the board, by killing our own slivers.

This control strategy is more suited to Sliver Queen‘s combo win condition than the smashy style of Legion or the flexible style of Overlord, as both of these generals very much want slivers to stay alive. The queen doesn’t care if a few of her brood dies – she can just keep making more.

So we have our theme (suicide control), our general (Sliver Queen), and win condition (combo). Let’s figure out how we’re gonna handle the numerical breakdown.

My standard for lands is 39, because that gives a nice even number to figure out the rest of the deck (99-39=60). It’s served me well so far, and can always be adjusted up or down as needed. Running a sacrifice and recursion theme is going to be somewhat black-heavy, so I don’t think one of the pre-packaged mana bases is going to work for us. So, I’m going to take a little bit from each of the other options to make it work.

There are a total of 8 combo pieces that can serve as one of the three pieces for our infinite sliver combo: in addition to the seven listed above, Earthcraft can take the place of Heartstone by having the token that comes into play produce mana (by untapping a basic land). Since most of these pieces work just as well for Ghave, Guru of Spores, we’ll include him as a backup Queen. So, 9 combo pieces total in the deck.

We’ll need some tutors to dig up our combo pieces. I think five cards that do nothing other than tutor should be sufficient here. One of them is gonna be Beseech the Queen, because how the heck are you NOT gonna run that card in a Sliver Queen deck?

Next, we’re gonna need some slivers. Lots of them. In addition to the slivers that sacrifice themselves, we need card draw, protection, and mana. I think 25 slivers should be enough to cover all these bases.

Oh, and we have to have the other two legendary slivers, because of course we have to have the other two legendary slivers. Legion gives us a backup win condition (smashing face), and Overlord gives us tutoring, and a degree of protection from other sliver decks.

That leaves us with 19 card slots left to come up with suicide control options, and sliver support cards. Let’s build it!

A Sliver-Eat-Sliver World  
Commander
Sliver Queen
Lands: 39

Swamp
Forest
Plains
Island
Mountain
Command Tower
Cavern of Souls
Grand Coliseum
City of Brass
Rupture Spire
Transguild Promenade
Exotic Orchard
Reflecting Pool
Ancient Ziggurat
Vivid Crag
Vivid Creek
Vivid Grove
Vivid Marsh
Vivid Meadow
Dimir Aqueduct
Golgari Rot Farm
Orzhov Basilica
Rakdos Carnarium
Selesnya Sanctuary
Arcane Sanctum
Crumbling Necropolis
Jungle Shrine
Seaside Citadel
Savage Lands
Evolving Wilds
Terramorphic Expanse
Slivers: 27

Acidic Sliver
Basal Sliver
Blur Sliver
Brood Sliver
Cautery Sliver
Clot Sliver
Crypt Sliver
Crystalline Sliver
Darkheart Sliver
Firewake Sliver
Galerider Sliver
Gemhide Sliver
Heart Sliver
Homing Sliver
Manaweft Sliver
Mindlash Sliver
Mindwhip Sliver
Mnemonic Sliver
Necrotic Sliver
Opaline Sliver
Sedge Sliver
Sliver Legion
Sliver Overlord
Synapse Sliver
Telekinetic Sliver
Toxin Sliver
Victual Sliver
Tutors: 5
Demonic Tutor
Vampiric Tutor
Enlightened Tutor
Diabolic Revelation
Beseech the Queen
Combo Pieces: 9

Ashnod’s Altar
Phyrexian Altar
Mana Echoes
Heartstone
Training Grounds
Earthcraft
Doubling Season
Parallel Lives
Ghave, Guru of Spores
Suicide Control: 10

Grave Pact
Attrition
Martyr’s Bond
Grave Betrayal
Glare of Subdual
Aura Shards
Steely Resolve
Sterling Grove
Privileged Position
Hex

Other: 9
Coat of Arms
Chromatic Lantern
Prismatic Omen
Patriarch’s Bidding
Aphotto Dredging
Mimic Vat
Nim Deathmantle
Teneb, the Harvester
Black Market

SEE YOU NEXT WEEK!

Over the next few weeks, the Monday updates will consist of articles detailing (and giving a sample decklist for) the popular archetypes in Commander:  Reanimator, Pillow Fort, Voltron, Tokens, Enchantments, Group Hug and more.   Expect one of these articles every Monday until I’ve covered every archetype in the format (which will take no less than 12 weeks – there are many archetypes to cover) – any content beyond this point will be considered bonus articles and posted on a non-Monday-day.  I make no promises for this extra content, but I’ve got the writing compulsion pretty bad at the moment, so don’t be surprised when it happens!