The old Hidetsugu was all about known information. Ho-hum. What a deterministic downer. The new Hidetsugu has gotten with the times – he’s all about variance! Embrace the RNG and activate that second ability a lot! Don’t think, just tap! Okay, end of article.
Well, if you know me, that’s not really the end. Sure, diving into the deep end of randomness is a ton of fun, but today I have a different kind of fun in mind. The kind of fun where, when we see the top card of our deck, it isn’t a surprise. The hilariously explosive kind of fun.
First, let’s take a look at the poster Ogre featuring four colorful special treatments in Neon Genesis Kamigawa.
The first ability is kind of cute, but what I’m really interested in is that second ability. Sure, we could use it as card draw with a little upside in a similar vein with Chandra, Torch of Defiance, but I think getting a ton of value out of the damage part of this card is much more interesting. The first card I thought of when I saw this card was, of course, Draco.
Years ago, Draco was part of a combo deck with a surprisingly self-explanatory name: Draco Explosion. The goal was simply to exert control of the game until you could Brainstorm a Draco to the top of your library and then cast Erratic Explosion to get your opponent for 16 damage. If your opponent hadn’t lost four life to their own fetchlands yet, you could finish them off with cards like Fire // Ice, Faerie Conclave or the always hilarious line of Cunning Wish for Sonic Burst.
While the dedicated combo boasts only one top finish at a premier event, the well-attended Grand Prix Reims in 2002, Regis Lavoisier’s top 8 placement was unmatched by other enterprising pilots of the same deck. While the combo cropped up in Enduring Ideal and Balancing Act lists in the ’07-’08 era, including Shingo Kurihara’s second place list at Grand Prix Singapore 2007, it was a backup plan rather than the main feature.
These days, while Draco still tops the charts as the costliest creature in Commander (beating out Autochthon Wurm by one point), it has plenty of friends at the top. I’ve chosen a selection of high-cost creatures to add to this list. Why creatures? Well, we can cheat them into play in various ways that we’ll discuss later in case we actually draw them.
Some of these, like the Scion of Draco, are really just here to cost a lot, but many of these creatures have actual applications in this deck. Artisan of Kozilek helps with some reanimation (more on that later), Angrath’s Marauders is one of a few asymmetrical Furnace of Rath-style effects that help our Commander explode opponents’ heads (see also Archfiend of Despair as Wound Reflection: Golden Receiver and Fiendish Duo as Angrath’s Marauders: Seventh Inning Fetch), and of course, Emrakul is just Emrakul. Conduit of Ruin lets you put Draco on top of your library, which seems pretty crucial. Blightsteel Colossus can’t spend time in the graveyard, but it can be used to score a quick infect victory via some cards we’ll see later – after all, poison one-shots are part of our game plan anyway!
Speaking of crucial, we’re going to need more ways to put cards on top of our library than just the Conduit. Let’s get to tutoring and manipulating!
These three can just tutor up what we need to get Hidetsugu moving for big damage. Varragoth, Bloodsky Sire probably only gets to attack one time, but if you’re lucky, someone won’t have much defense going on. Vampiric Tutor is an obvious option, and Scheming Symmetry fits nicely into this deck. After all, whoever you give the other tutor to is probably the person you’re planning to blow up, right? I’m excited to have a deck where people are actively scared when I choose them for Scheming Symmetry.
I stopped short of Credit Voucher, one of my favorite bad cards, but Scroll Rack is easily one of the best cards for this deck. It’s a repeatable way to mess with the top of your library while also refreshing your hand. Sensei’s Divining Top can also help maneuver things a little bit, and I’ve added some additional fetchlands to this deck beyond just Bloodstained Mire to help out with some extra uses for these two. Crystal Ball also provides some consistent scrying, and though it costs more to activate than Darksteel Pendant, I think scry 2 is enough of an upgrade that I’m happy to lock it in.
Brainstone is the perfect rock for this deck, and surprisingly enough, there’s an older, worse version of Brainstone kicking around. That’s right, I’m talking about Conch Horn, a card I remember from my old my old Magic encyclopedia! You can’t fetch it with Urza’s Saga, but at least it only costs one mana to activate. It does what we need it to do, though, so I can’t complain.
Who needs a life total? We can just surveil a bunch to dump what we don’t need into the graveyard and leave the good stuff on top.
These put creature cards from the graveyard on top of the library. How are these expensive cards going to get in our graveyard, though? Well…
Discarding unneeded Dracos and such from our hand is important, and Bog Witch and Skirge Familiar both pay us off with some mana we can use to cast other high-cost spells or just fuel some reanimation. Speaking of reanimation, Chainer allows us to cast some of this good stuff right out of our own graveyard and put it there all in one card!
If you’re looking for a great way to use Blightsteel Colossus, these shouldn’t be surprising to you. Sneaking in a Draco doesn’t provide some crazy benefit, but it might let you get someone for nine, and some of the other creatures we have provide a higher benefit. They’re not doing much else in our hand most of the time anyway.
I’ve included a small reanimation suite just to help us in the event we do put some of these creatures in our graveyard. These two cards live alongside Chainer and Artisan of Kozilek, so it’s not just two cards.
What else can we do with the top of our library? Well, surprisingly, there are plenty of available options!
Calibrated Blast is Erratic Explosion all grown up. It’s an instant and has flashback, which means the new version edges the classic out of the deck. Soulfire Eruption is a nine-cost spell that doubles as something we might actually want to cast in a deck themed on messing around with the top of the library. With Fiery Emancipation, Scroll Rack and the right cards in hand, you could wipe out the table with the Eruption! Only about eight thousand mana required.
Want to push past some of the low-cost nonsense atop your library? Pay life and dig to the goodies! Alternatively, pay 16 life for Draco in a game you’re about to lose just to go out on your own terms. Story equity matters, folks.
Keen Duelist is a new entrant from Commander 2021, and it acquits itself very well here. Much like Scheming Symmetry, your opponents will learn to fear being the chosen player. Baneful Omen costs a lot more and doesn’t draw you extra cards, but it has the upside of giving everyone else some delicious life loss.
One of my favorite cards from near the end of my 60-card casual days, Timesifter, wrecks up the turn order and everyone’s brain by handing out extra turns to people with high-cost cards on top of their libraries. Throw in a copy of Paradox Haze and you’re reliving a bookkeeping nightmare I caused in a six-player 60-card casual game once. Turns out this actually works well in this deck, and while I’m not always a fan of Time Warps, who can begrudge someone who actually has a plan to abuse Timesifter?
Now let’s focus on some ways to amp up the power of our Hidetsugu. We already saw some Furnace of Rath-style effects, but let’s start with some more!
Emancipation is the cornerstone of my Juri deck, and it’s brilliant here as well, turning a revealed Draco off Hidetsugu into 48 damage. Gratuitous Violence is kind enough to at least double damage from our creatures. Wound Reflection makes you wait, but it works every turn on all life loss, including cards like Baneful Omen we play that don’t actually deal damage.
One of the easiest ways to win with Hidetsugu is to give him infect and then flip something huge. Only a few of our cards give us one-shot potential, but that’s why we have damage doublers and other ways to hype up Hidetsugu.
Getting additional Hidetsugu ability activations or doubling up on the ability doesn’t let us use the same card to deal damage twice, but if we can mega-stack our library with something like Scroll Rack or just get traditionally lucky, we might be able to make something exciting happen.
At this point we’re left with card draw, mana ramp including a Cabal Coffers engine, and a tiny bit of removal. Here’s the full list I’ve dreamed up for the new Hidetsugu so far – let me know what direction you’d take this commander in!
Hidetsugu Glass Cannon by Eric Levine