There is no right way to build a Commander deck but today I’m going to try something that’s new to me. Instead of looking at an interaction or a specific potential Commander, I am looking to Magic‘s past for inspiration. The game has a history that spans nearly three decades and a competitive scene that’s only a few years younger. There have been countless decks that have made a splash only to rotate out of existence or be rendered obsolete. But what if we could resurrect these decks in a new era and in a new format?
To start, let’s take a look at what the famed “Tradewind Awakening” deck does, with the help of MTG Hall of Famer and fellow ChannelFireball writer Reid Duke:
Tradewind Rider is the ultimate “lock” card. By returning a land or an expensive permanent to the opponent’s hand every turn, you can quickly create a gamestate where the opponent is unable to progress. Then, like a python, you tighten your grip little by little, until there’s truly no escape.
This card, and archetype, is a favorite of friend and former CFB columnist William “Huey” Jensen. He won a Masters Series tournament with a similar deck many years ago.
The particular version we’re featuring today levels up Tradewind Rider by pairing it with Awakening, which allows you to bounce permanents at double the rate. Commander players, or Constructed players from a slightly later era, might recognize a similar effect in Prophet of Kruphix.
Tradewind Awakening by Jurgen Hahn
Today’s deck should fit right in with the 100-card world of Commander. Tradewind-Awakening was a Standard deck from the Tempest and Urza’s Block era of Magic. A blue-green midrange value deck, it sought to break the parity of Awakening by pairing it with Tradewind Rider. It could use Tradewind Rider to rebuy cards like Spike Feeder and Spike Weaver to blunt assaults or go on the offensive by bouncing any permanent, including lands. Still, the deck is packed with value, rebuying draws with Wall of Blossoms and driving opponents up the wall with Propaganda. In many ways, it resembles plenty of Simic “good stuff” decks you are likely to see in any Commander pod. So how can we get to 100 cards from this list?
First, we have to find additional copies of Tradewind Rider. While not completely unique, there are only so many variants on the original. Keeper of the Nine Gales has some tribal restrictions as does Galecaster Colossus. Tidespout Tyrant can get downright mean if you can trigger it multiple times in a turn and while Nevermaker has the opportunity to bounce permanents to the top of the library if you can get it to leave the battlefield. Venser, Shaper Savant might just fit here as well. These creatures help to create a core that can replicate Tradewind’s trademark. Sunken Hope is not a creature but it fits the overall theme of the deck and gives us the option of running Barrin, Tolarian Archmage as a secondary card draw engine. Finally, this deck seems almost tailor-made for the broken things Kodama of the East Tree can do.
We can back Seedborn up with Quest for Renewal and Murkfiend Liege for more ways to reset our creatures. Intruder Alarm breaks with the drop of a hat and Retreat to Coralhelm can get us extra uses out of Tradewind Rider, since we are running green and therefore will be ramping.
What else can be saved from the original deck? Spike Feeder might be a bit low impact without Archangel of Thune but Spike Weaver seems like a fantastic inclusion as it can shut down several combat steps. If life gain is important, cards like Essence Warden and Prosperous Innkeeper could make the cut. Birds of Paradise could be joined by the cadre of one-mana Elves as well as Maraleaf Pixie and Gilded Goose. Counterspells are useful for helping to protect your core conceit but Swan Song looks especially attractive here as you can somewhat easily negate the downside of giving your adversary a bird.
No matter what, this deck is going to want cheap cantrip creatures to help churn through cards. Elvish Visionary, Wall of Blossoms, Coiling Oracle and Watcher for Tomorrow all come down early and can be rebought with ease, and who doesn’t love a good Mulldrifter? Seeing as how we are running blue, counters like Silumgar Sorcerer and Draining Whelk could fit the bill as well.
Speaking of creatures, leaning hard on Intruder Alarm could mean going for broke with Memnite, Ornithopter and Phyrexian Walker. At that point, you may want to add white and morph into a Chulane, Teller of Tales deck and go for a copy of Drumbellower to up the untap shenanigans. While Equilibrium would work in any adaptation of this deck, it could especially shine in Chulane.
I think beyond this there are a few directions you can take the deck. The first would be to maximize your ability to run as many copies of Tradewind Rider as possible. This could lead to leaning on Keeper of the Nine Gales and Galecaster Colossus, despite them having disparate tribal synergies. Tribal Tribal decks try to leverage as many creature-type specific bonuses as possible by including changelings. Using Moritte of the Frost at the helm gives you an additional copy of any key creature that also happens to work with both our bounce happy Wizards. Taking this route means cards like Maskwood Nexus go up in value, as do actual factual clones. Phantasmal Image might not be ideal here since you will have trouble rebuying it, but Glasspool Mimic and Progenitor Mimic could be fun. Cards like Universal Automaton and Mothdust Changeling might not look like much, but they could go a long way. Spellstutter Sprite could make an appearance as a piece of cheap interaction that scales with your board presence. If there’s one expensive card I would absolutely try to make room for it would be Crookclaw Elder, mostly because I have fond memories of it from Onslaught Block.
If you think this deck is for the birds, you could return to Bant and run Derevi, Empyrial Tactician. Let’s not pull punches – this strategy is almost built for Stax and resource denial as two of your key cards can bounce lands back to your opponent’s hands. Aven Mindcensor fits this theme exceedingly well and you can run Migratory Route and Beck // Call to get more Birds. In this world, Coastal Piracy effects are your friend. And let’s be real – if we are going to be bouncing lands then setting your opponent’s even further back with Winter Orb and Static Orb is what you want to be doing.
And if you’re going down that dreaded path, then perhaps you want to eschew white for black and swap in Archelos, Lagoon Mystic. Between Pemmin’s Aura, Thassa’s Ire and Freed from the Real, it can be easy to ensure your permanents enter the battlefield untapped – and get to stay that way – while your opponents are always a step behind. This, to me, feels like the most literal translation of Tradewind-Awakening as it seeks to break the symmetry of the stax effects.
How would you update Tradewind-Awakening for today’s Commander? What deck from the rich history of Magic would you want to see given the 100-card treatment?