These days, all the Commander I play is online. I’ve actually veered away from MTGO – once that announcement came out about the upcoming update to the Multiplayer scene, I decided to wait for that, especially after the popularization of webcam Commander. I enjoy paper cards so much more than “digital objects” so getting to play my actual decks is huge.
That said, one of the most important considerations in webcam Commander is the limitations of the webcam format. Stealing permanents, enchanting other players’ permanents, and so on is a lot more difficult, and sometimes cards can be hard to read through webcams and the internet. It’s important to consider how your deck works online and whether or not it can be easily interacted with over an online platform! That way, everyone gets to have fun and have an enjoyable experience rather than a frustrating one.
With that in mind, I’m going to spend a few articles taking a theme that I think will translate well to online play and creating a deck for it. I’ll start with a popular concept – Commander damage. How can we take a Commander, grow it to unusually large sizes, and then attack people for 21, all at once or over a few turns? Maybe the Exalted mechanic is the answer – it’s easy to stack up some Exalted effects on one part of your playmat and make it easy for opponents to count along. So who’s in charge of this deck?
I know, you thought I was going to say Rafiq, right? Well, Rafiq is seen so much more often, and he’s not actually as big or evasive as Jenara without help. Jenara is also a great mana sink, which I really appreciate in a Commander. The goal here, then, is to take Jenara, make her big with Exalted effects as well as some other powerful pumps, and attack for huge amounts while applying a “protect the queen” strategy and making sure she survives long enough to do her job. Let’s start by talking about the Exalted effects we’ll be playing:
Notice that all of these share one important characteristic – they’re cheap. If a creature’s primary attribute is having Exalted, then in my mind, it needs to cost just one or two mana. Sorry, Guardians of Akrasa. Obviously Noble Hierarch is a ramp creature first and an Exalted bearer second, but it ended up in this category.
These four are a little stronger than the rest, and more costly as a result. Giltspire Avenger is a solid “rattlesnake” card, and Battlegrace Angel’s lifelink is a very powerful defensive tool, while Sublime Archangel and Rafiq set our one attacker up for a huge hit.
Ardent Plea seems like it violates my “if you’re mainly Exalted, cost 2 mana or less” but in reality, it’s more than that – the way this deck is built, you’re likely to get another Exalted effect or a ramp spell off of the cascade, which means Ardent Plea’s a great package deal here. Finest Hour, meanwhile, is more than a second combat step – if you attack with the same creature again, you get to double up on Exalted! Angelic Benediction’s tap effect can really mess up a player’s blocking plan, which is how it made the cut.
These aren’t Exalted per se, but they certainly mimic the effect. Angelic Exaltation is a lot like Sublime Archangel, as it effectively provides your other creatures with Exalted, and Sigil of Valor is much the same.
Colorless lands are a risk in 3-color decks, but this one has Exalted. That’s kind of free (except that it’s actually not, but still!)
Is Exalted the only way we can pump up our huge creature, whether that’s Jenara or something else? Heck no. We have a few other ways to pump up a creature, starting with a selection of auras:
Kestia and Staggering Insight are both great ways to keep cards flowing to your hand. In a deck like this, it’s easy to lose out on X-for-1s when your board gets wiped or lose a lot of mana spend equity when your Commander dies. Given that those are both basically guaranteed to happen at some point in a game, we’ll need some draw engines. Rancor is a great repeatable way to get damage through with trample, and Spirit Mantle and Steel of the Godhead do some similar work in terms of providing a way to get past blockers. Finally, Shield of the Oversoul is more of a protective measure, but the addition of flying can help a non-Jenara creature get past some ground blockers.
Equipment is also a big contributor, obviously – here’s my suite of armaments.
Hammer of Nazahn, Darksteel Plate, and Champion’s Helm are all powerful protective tools that can help keep a creature – ideally Jenara, in the case of Champion’s Helm – alive to attack over and over again. Hammer of Nazahn even helps you get cards like Loxodon Warhammer and Behemoth Sledge equipped so you can trample over and gain a boatload of life. Trailblazer’s Boots is almost always going to make a creature unblockable, as even mono-colored decks have nonbasics. Finally, Sword of the Animist is an incredible repeatable ramp tool that improves your future draws – one fetchland doesn’t do it, but an every turn effect sure does!
Now that we’ve worked through our many pump effects, let’s talk about some other creatures that love to work alone.
These three cards all share one idea: let’s have one attacking creature and one blocker. Mirri is a little less fair than the other two, but she has to attack and be tapped to do her work. Stoic Angel can really slow down a game, but an Exalted deck does a great job of breaking this symmetry. Mirri can be a great attacker if she can survive combat, and I liken effects to these to cards like The Abyss in their practical applications. I didn’t include Dueling Grounds because these effects at least come with creatures attached.
Knotvine Paladin sort of resembles a backwards Sublime Archangel, while Grunn is just a huge solo attacker, kicked or not. Plus, he’s so delightfully on theme!
I also included two wrath-style effects that help us with our “one big threat” theme. Obviously it loses us our Exalted creature base, but we can keep some other tools to help things stay in our favor.
I love that Divine Reckoning has flashback. It’s such a great deterrent for opponents to build huge boards again after the spell resolves and really reduces some of that post-Wrath malaise where you’ve spent mana and therefore don’t have as much mana to rebuild with immediately. Hopefully you’ve been planning for it! Time Wipe is a little simpler – it’s just a Wrath that effectively draws you a card, though it’s a creature card of your (limited) choosing.
Let’s move on to ways to protect our big attackers (and our board in general).
These creatures are broadly useful as defensive players. Shalai passes hexproof to the whole team, while Sigarda augments effects like that by adding on an anti-sacrifice clause. Asceticism could be a good complement here, but I couldn’t quite find room. Bastion Protector acts more like a Flagbearer, as the Commander isn’t at a huge risk while the Protector is in play.
These three provide some team-wide indestructibility, with Dauntless Escort acting like one of the Seals from Nemesis while the other two are more surprising. Flawless Maneuver’s upside is being free sometimes, where Unbreakable Formation can also theoretically enable a “go-wide” attack when necessary.
It’s important to keep opponents guessing, and Blossoming Defense can turn combat into a game of “do they have it?” that really favors the aggressor. (That’s us! We’re the aggressor!)
These are more active defensive options that act by removing a problem permanent or countering a spell, but that doesn’t make them any less important. They can also be offensive options, but usually we can punch through defensive cards without too much help as long as they’re not something like No Mercy. Bant Charm is a favorite of mine because of just how flexible it is!
This aggressive style of deck can run out of cards fast. We already talked about some draw effects, but let’s add some more:
This deck is interesting in that it both wants to go big and go wide, and thus multiple different card draw options can be leveraged. In this case, I chose green effects as they’ll be easiest to cast in a deck that’s largely Selesnya with a splash of blue. Rishkar’s Expertise and Greater Good both key off the size of an individual creature, whereas Shamanic Revelation plays well with a wide board and sets you up for a good recovery from the inevitable board wipe.
That’s most of the fun stuff – it’s time for some ramp spells.
We already have Noble Hierarch, but some more ramp creatures won’t hurt. I favor Pilgrim over Llanowar Elves because it helps you branch out your mana. Faeburrow Elder is an amazing turn 3 play that enables some very powerful follow-ups, while Birds of Paradise and Sakura-Tribe Elder are more traditional and consistent but less explosive.
I prefer ramp spells that cost 2 mana, so these get the nod over Cultivate and Kodama’s Reach.
Again, I prefer the cheaper rocks, but Commander’s Sphere gets my nod in 3-color or greater decks due to the “cycling” effect. I know this looks like a ton of ramp, but this deck really wants to get out ahead and start its plan fast before other decks can get their footing and set up.
We talked about one land earlier, but I do have another 36 to help us cast some spells. Obviously manabases deeply depend on budget and card availability, so I won’t go too deeply into my choices, but I’ll highlight a few small things:
Of all the creature lands available to us, this one is my favorite for this style of deck. Why? It’s properly sized at the base level, it flies, and it has vigilance. It’s hard to hate on Colonnade for any reason other than availability, and with the reprint in Ultimate Masters, it’s a lot easier than it used to be to get your hands on a copy.
If you can get copies of these into any 3+ color deck, I strongly recommend it. They’re such powerful fixers and they ask so little of you. Fabled Passage is the much more affordable option thanks to the M21 reprint, and hopefully Prismatic Vista gets some love in a Masters set or similar reprint product soon.
Those are the important notes – here’s the whole decklist! I’ll be bringing you some more webcam-focused decklists before (and after) CommandFest, so make sure you stay tuned for more suggestions.