“Battlecruiser Magic” (especially as it pertains to Commander) is a term used to describe decks that go big and play a lot of big, flashy win conditions. These tend to be decks that are more focused on playing powerful bombs (often bombs for bombs’ sake) than opting to play the most efficient or compact routes to victory.
While Commander has a singular banned list that informs which cards can be played in decks, it’s worth noting there is a lot of variation about just how powerful or combo-oriented different groups of players prefer their decks to be. I’ve been enjoying playing Commander a great deal over the past six months and I’ve been consistent that my interest in the format tends to be focused on “pick-up LGS play.” I want to have Commander decks in my collection that are fun and reasonable to play with other players at LGS game nights.
A “Battlecruiser” deck is a fun strategy to have in your EDH repertoire because they are typically fun to play, filled with sweet cards and players don’t tend to object to opponent’s who play big dumb monsters; whereas powerful decks that utilize mana denial or excessive comboing may not gel with certain groups of players. Typically, the players who tend to most object to fast combos tend to like to play Battlecruiser decks against other Battlecruiser decks (which is why it’s useful to have a Battlecruiser deck for pick-up games). The idea is that rather than trying to combo off with a bunch of free counterspells, we instead just play a bunch of crazy monsters and jam in the combat step.
The Commander I selected for my Battlecruiser deck:
I cracked a foil borderless Tiamat and I just had to build a deck for it. The card is so absurdly Battlecruisery that I just couldn’t help but embrace all the Dragony goodness. I typically don’t play Battlecruisery decks in Commander because I enjoy playing powerful combos, so the deck I’ve created for myself really overindulges by going arbitrarily huge and utilizing all of the sweet Dragon cards that I wouldn’t typically put into my non-Battlecruiser brews.
I also think Tiamat is the perfect Battlecruiser Dragon commander in terms of fluff, flavor and power. Tiamat is an iconic character from Dungeons & Dragons and appears in the Adventures in the Forgotten Realms expansion.
“Tiamat (pronounced: /ˈtiɑːmɑːt/ TEE-a-mat or: /ˈtiɑːmɑːt/ TEE-a-maht) was the lawful evil dragon goddess of greed, queen of evil dragons and, for a time, reluctant servant of the greater gods Bane and later Asmodeus.”
Indeed, my Tiamat deck quite aptly captures the flavor of “goddess of greed!”
Last week, I discussed Dragons in EDH in the abstract:
This week, I’ll be discussing the build of Tiamat that I settled on and discuss how my deck works and some of the specific card choices and configurations that I think are worthwhile to know about especially when taking a Battlecruiser approach to building an EDH deck.
Battlecruiser Tiamat by Brian DeMars
As you can see, the vast majority of the cards in my deck are dedicated to fixing and ramping up my mana production and allowing me to cast powerful Dragons from all across the chromatic spectrum. Mana is really important in a Battlecruiser deck because we’re typically looking to start throwing down haymakers as quickly as possible and trying to attack and pressure the other players at the table.
It’s also significant that the commander, Tiamat, enters play and searches for five beefy Dragons, which means as long as we can hit seven mana with all five colors, our commander will function as our draw engine and keep our hand stocked with more threats to play.
I do have one sneaky combo kill:
If I can fire off a Dragonstorm with a few copies of Storm, I can search for Dragonlord Dromoka and Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund and make a huge alpha strike. So, I do have a card capable of winning a game outright but no tutors to actually find it. It’s more of a random thing my deck can do out of nowhere. I’m also not a very good storm deck which means Dragonstorm is likely to be a play I’d make on turn seven or later and not something I can reliably go off with earlier.
Making big flashy plays and trying to come over the top after players have had a chance to develop their resources is kind of the watermark of a Battlecruiser deck. Dragonstorm is also just a sweet Magic card with a lot of cool history. It’s not like there are a ton of opportunities to play the card outside of a Dragon-themed deck. So, it’s kind of a unique opportunity to play a card that requires a specific type of shell that Tiamat just so happens to supply.
Where I felt it made sense in terms of strategy, I also tried to use as Dragon-themed synergy cards as possible.
Aside from Tiamat, the card I’m most excited to be playing is Zirilan of the Claw. I had never actually gotten a chance to play with the card before, although I have many memories of other players playing it against me in multiplayer going back 20 years. It’s actually one of only a handful of cards in my deck that isn’t legal in the Modern format.
I was pretty selective about which old cards I wanted to use. The players who tend to enjoy Battlecruiser pods tend to not fill their decks with cards that really push the mana envelope like Mana Crypt, Grim Monolith and Gaea’s Cradle. With the exception of Sol Ring, I’m not playing with any cards that really break mana parity with my opponents above what we’d expect to see in Modern. My mana dorks cost one. My Rampant Growths cost two. My Cultivates cost three.
I wanted to be a Farseek deck that puts additional lands into play so I shied away from the cheap mana rocks, but because I’m Battlecruisering, I did elect to play two of the haymaker mana rocks:
Both of these cards are extremely powerful when used the “fair way” (meaning we’re not untapping them multiple times per turn or cheating them into play somehow) which is exactly how I’m using them. Most of the Dragons in my deck cost five or more mana to cast and we want to eventually get to a point where we can play multiple in the same turn.
I’m a big fan of cards like Energy Tap and Sacrifice in Commander. I find they allow players to make some extremely swingy and flashy plays especially in a deck such as mine with a high mana value commander like Tiamat. There’s a cool line where you can cast Tiamat and search up Morophon, Niv-Mizzet Reborn and Scion of the Ur-Dragon (along with two other Dragons). We can Energy Tap our own Tiamat to add seven mana which can be used to cast Morophon, which parlays into Scion of the Ur-Dragon and Niv-Mizzet Reborn. If you have two more mana available after that, you can use Scion of the Ur-Dragon’s ability to turn itself into a Beledros Witherbloom and use the Beledros’s ability to untap your lands. Once you’ve untapped the lands, you can deploy more Dragons from hand and again use Scion of the Ur-Dragon’s ability to change it into a Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund to give your Dragon-team haste. You can then turn Scion into an Old Gnawbone and make a ton of Treasure once inside combat.
It’s kind of difficult to put enough power on the board to kill multiple players from 40 unless you start the turn with a ton of extra mana, but there are a ton of different packages of Dragons that will always lead to even more Dragons. It’s a fun little “race the other players at the table” deck and it’s been a nice change of pace for me to have a deck that just jams a bunch of ridiculous Dragons. It’s not a strategy I would typically select to play, but it’s one that I’ve always wanted to play in a casual capacity.
It’s kind of funny, because I’ve played Magic for almost 30 years and this is the first true “Dragon-themed deck” I’ve ever built myself (I did enjoy playing Esper Dragons in Standard back in Khans of Tarkir). I’m pretty stoked to cross another one off my Magic bucket list of deck’s I’ve always wanted to build and play.
For me, Dragon’s stand alone at the top of the fantasy pyramid of epicness. Nothing is more exciting in a fantasy movie or book than when the Dragon finally shows up. It’s no different in Magic; Dragons are always among the most exciting and flashy cards in a new set. If you really think about it, bomb-tastic Dragons such as the ones I’m playing in my deck are kind of the reason Battlecruiser Magic exists in the first place. It’s sort of a variant of Commander where everybody agrees to jam their flashiest win cons.