With the advent of modal double-faced cards in Zendikar Rising, mana bases around the world in all kinds of formats have changed. These double-faced cards are showing their power in both Limited and Constructed, and some have even made their mark in Commander already. While reading one of Matt Nass’s recent Modern newsletters about the no-land Belcher deck in Modern that uses copious amounts of these double-faced cards, a question came to me – is it possible to build a deck in Commander where every card in the deck is double-faced?
Mana is the biggest question, so I looked at that first. It turns out you can play 37 double-faced cards that can be played as lands from your hand. Time to take a look at them and see if the combination points toward any particular strategy. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll be playing these as lands almost all of the time, so it’s important to be cautious about tying your theme to any of them in particular.
Creatures // Lands
Alot of these are not good most of the time. Kazandu Mammoth will suffer from your inability to ramp hard, and honestly, I have little hope for any of these being played on their front faces besides Glasspool Mimic and maybe Tangled Florahedron.
Spells // Lands
Again, many of the front faces of these cards are not going to be strong, and the ones that are strong often have restrictive casting costs. You’re locked into a five-color deck here, so casting spells like Emeria’s Call and Agadeem’s Awakening will be pretty difficult. I could certainly see myself casting Bala Ged Recovery, Hagra Mauling, Shatterskull Smashing, and Ondu Inversion a decent amount of the time, so this category isn’t a total loss.
Land // Land
These will be the best lands in this deck, as they’re flexible and enter untapped. This deck will get significantly better when the “Pathway” cycle is completed (which they said would happen soon-ish during the preview stream, if I recall correctly). If there are more MDFCs with lands on the back you might even be able to move out of the five-color realm into something more focused.
Land // Creature
The 37th land happens to be from quite a while ago – Shadows over Innistrad came with Westvale Abbey! While it’s colorless, it means you can have a full “mana base” of double-faced cards, though you’re definitely below what you’d usually want in a five-color deck. You’ll also have some problems with tons of your lands entering tapped, but that’s just how this has to be!
So, uh, what now? Most of your cards are, at best, situational, so what should your theme be? For that matter, what’s your Commander? There are currently no five-color double-faced Commanders, though if things keep going the way they have been, maybe there’ll be some sort of 5C Omnath that’s a creature on the front and a planeswalker on the back. Until then, though, I think I’ve settled on this one:
Morophon may not have two faces, but when you think about it, it has infinite faces, right? Well, not really, but at least there are tons of choices for its creature type abilities. Morophon will do a great job of supporting our double-faced cards in this deck. There are only so many double-faced cards to play, and an overwhelming number of them are creatures from the Innistrad block or Shadows over Innistrad block. Most of those happen to be werewolves, and helpfully enough, the humans that turn into werewolves have both types on their front face but usually just werewolf on the back. That means if you pick werewolf, you can get the cost reduction on the front face and keep the pump once they transform. I know this isn’t a traditional werewolf tribal deck, but you only have so many choices both in terms of Commanders and cards to play.
This should clue you in to how limited the choices were: there are a total of 50 creatures in this deck! You’ve already seen seven of them, and they’ll be lands most of the time, so let’s talk about the other 43.
Here are all the double-faced creatures that are just generally good. Avacyn and Nicol Bolas are powerful enough to present serious threats to opponents, and Ulrich can be very strong if it’s able to transform repeatedly.
Looting can be very powerful in a deck where many of your cards are situational. You should expect to use these mostly in attempts to actually make land drops.
Ideally you can steal an awesome creature or someone’s commander with this. Soul Seizer got its own section because it’s better than many of the other cards you’re playing.
Ramp! You’re going to need some sources of ramp because you can’t play Rampant Growths or anything else like them.
These are the top-tier werewolves in the deck, other than the ones mentioned early that I described as generally good. I’m particularly excited about Mayor of Avabruck in this deck, though transforming Sage of Ancient Lore into an enormous trampler is kind of the dream as well. Actually, the dream is transforming Geier Reach Bandit into Vildin-Pack Alpha and just slamming transformed werewolves, but that seems like it’ll never actually happen.
I call these “compromise werewolves” that are here to fill slots and be werewolves. I stayed away from the ones I thought were truly awful, but that left some that were just generally bad. Wolfbitten Captive is probably closest to jumping up into the above category – it can brawl.
And here’s the list of “compromise non-werewolves.” Nissa looks pretty bad in a deck with no Forests and getting to seven lands to transform her is a dicey proposition. At least you can use Golden Guardian to kill off your own board in an attempt to slowly exit the game?
You know there’s zero instants and sorceries in this deck, so it’s time to move on to the very small number of other noncreature spells available.
There’s sort of a theoretical world where you get to ultimate Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon and kill everyone, but realistically she’ll make some wolves and enable a couple okay attacks.
Maybe you can sacrifice some wolves and search up some of your better creatures, but that requires getting to the back half of the card, which is going to be an exercise in frustration unless you can snipe a Llanowar Elf or something.
The idea that these artifacts might become lands is one of the things that gives me hope for a deck like this. The difficulty level of some of the transform conditions – well, that’s something to worry about later. Treasure Map is always at least kind of sweet.
Remember when I said this deck needed more ramp? Here’s a terrifying example of just how badly…
Okay, this card is actually awful, but the upside of maybe transforming it is so silly that I couldn’t resist.
I can see why people neglect this one, but this is maybe the best deck ever for this card. That is an indictment of both this card and this deck.
Again, the idea that these might become lands is so tantalizing that I end up overlooking how impossible that will be for some of them. When are you ever going to get Storm the Vault to turn over? At least with Arguel’s Blood Fast you can get there pretty fast. Search for Azcanta is one of the best cards in this deck as it lets you toss cards aside in hopes of finding the small number of sweet ones in this deck; at worst, it might help you draw something to cast.
So that’s everything I did include. Let’s talk about some high-profile double-faced cards I didn’t include:
These depend on instants and sorceries, and this deck has only 23 cards that fit that mold, meaning it would be tough to satisfy their conditions on any reasonable timeline.
With no basic lands in the deck, it’s tough to justify this one.
Honestly, those are the big names I’d think of in the world of double-faced cards that didn’t make the list, so I’m not worried about justifying the exclusion of the rest of them. When you have 140 eligible cards for 99 slots, most of the work is about exclusion rather than inclusion, frankly.
Let’s take a look at some sample hands, which I think is the most fun part of this deck. Your openers are going to look absolutely insane. Ideally you want to keep a hand with four to five land-eligible cards in it, or failing that, a hand that has some card filtering options.
So here there’s only two lands – Branchloft Pathway and Akoum Teeth. That’s not great, but at least you can play a turn two Azor’s Gateway and try to draw some more lands or even go off while no one’s watching. I’d keep this one and probably regret it later.
Any hand with Search that can cast it is pretty much a snap keep, but this hand was kind enough to provide three lands and a few spells we can actually play. Unfortunately, the ideal play pattern here means we won’t be able to play Kessig Prowler on turn one or Nissa on turn three because of the tapped lands, but that’s fine because both of those cards are awful in this deck.
You might think this hand doesn’t do a lot, and really, you’re right, but it has six lands, and that means it’s a snap keep. Honestly, the more land you have the better the hand is in this deck, as you have more and more options. Don’t worry about not being able to cast things right away – you might eventually draw something. I could see dropping a few lands in this hand and then firing off Valakut Awakening to look for more gas.
Overall, if you’re looking for a deck that wins every game, or even a decent number of games – any games – this deck isn’t for you. If you’re looking to confuse your opponents with a deck that no one in their right mind would ever play, well, you’re welcome. Speaking of deck lists, here’s the whole thing. Enjoy, and have fun with it.