I don’t ever really write about Commander. Much of my public Magic identity is based around the competitive formats played at high-level tournaments, and I never really felt Commander was my “lane” when it comes to content creation. With the creation of Riley’s Rules of Order, however, and the upcoming CommandFests, I’m more than happy to put myself on record as a filthy casual and share the 100-card stacks I like to rumble with.
— ChannelFireball (@ChannelFireball) September 20, 2019
Right now, I have four decks built. A Knights deck, obviously, a Four-Color Blink list, a highly political list with Oloro, and a weird deck based on my favorite dinosaur, Zacama. I play in a group with a pretty low power level, with a few house bans–no Sol Ring, no obnoxious infinite combos (Adam is the final arbiter of what “obnoxious” is), and, sadly, no Reliquary Tower. Thanks, Duncan.
All the same, my four decks cover a wide spectrum of power level (described relative to my play group), although none are as optimized as they could be. Bear that in mind while reading, and if you’re tempted to pick one of them up, you are of course free to improve them with Sol Rings, fetchlands, and the like.
Power Level: Low to Medium
Until Throne of Eldraine, the commander of this deck was Aryel, Knight of Windgrace. Now that the Knight tribe is solidifying its position into the Mardu colors, however, it’s time for a change: Queen Marchesa–long may she reign–steps in to personally lead my people to victory. I considered Syr Gwyn, of course, but as she wants you to play a more equipment-centric list, she’s not a good fit for my approach.
As you can see in the list below, this is a deck primarily focused on “Glorious Anthem” effects, as they’re known (despite not actually playing the card Glorious Anthem). With a stack of ways to generate Knight tokens as well as cards like Knight Exemplar and Boros Charm, this deck is able to fight through Commander’s ubiquitous sweepers, and I expect the new cards from Eldraine to juice this list up even further.
Commander: Queen Marchesa
1 Rogue’s Passage 1 Slayer’s Stronghold 1 Vault of the Archangel 1 Arch of Orazca 1 Forgotten Cave 1 Secluded Steppe 1 Barren Moor 1 Evolving Wilds 1 Terramorphic Expanse 1 Nomad Outpost 1 Path of Ancestry 1 Cavern of Souls 1 Command Tower 1 Unclaimed Territory 1 Bloodfell Caves 1 Temple of Malice 1 Dragonskull Summit 1 Blood Crypt 1 Scoured Barrens 1 Temple of Silence 1 Isolated Chapel 1 Godless Shrine 1 Wind-Scarred Crag 1 Sacred Foundry 1 Temple of Triumph 1 Clifftop Retreat 1 Tournament Grounds 3 Mountain (343) 4 Swamp (339) 4 Plains (331) 1 Knight of the White Orchid 1 Metallic Mimic 1 Inspiring Veteran 1 Smitten Swordmaster 1 Worthy Knight 1 Order of Midnight 1 Benalish Marshal 1 Adaptive Automaton 1 Knight Exemplar 1 Midnight Reaper 1 Varchild, Betrayer of Kjeldor 1 Murderous Rider 1 Belle of the Brawl 1 History of Benalia 1 Kabira Vindicator 1 Valiant Knight 1 Hero of Bladehold 1 Hero of Oxid Ridge 1 Josu Vess, Lich Vess 1 Kinsbaile Cavalier 1 Aryel, Knight of Windgrace 1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar 1 Pentarch Paladin 1 Knights of the Black Rose 1 Vona, Butcher of Magan 1 Cavalier of Dawn 1 Cavalier of Night 1 Adriana, Captain of the Guard 1 Righteous Confluence 1 Silverwing Squadron - Brawl Deck Exclusive 1 Sun Titan 1 Gideon’s Phalanx 1 Ethereal Absolution 1 Obelisk of Urd 1 The Immortal Sun 1 Vanquisher’s Banner 1 Coat of Arms 1 Marshal’s Anthem 1 Door of Destinies 1 Shared Animosity 1 The Circle of Loyalty 1 Orzhov Signet 1 Rakdos Signet 1 Boros Signet 1 Fellwar Stone 1 Sword of the Animist 1 Heirloom Blade 1 Sigiled Sword of Valeron 1 Stoneforge Masterwork 1 Anointed Procession 1 Waves of Aggression 1 Knight’s Charge 1 Herald’s Horn 1 Sorin, Grim Nemesis 1 Crackling Doom 1 Vona’s Hunger 1 Unbreakable Formation 1 Austere Command 1 Kindred Dominance 1 Boros Charm 1 Winds of Abandon
Obviously, any creature-based Commander deck is going to have a tough time against big Simic decks that don’t care about the board, or white decks that play every sweeper under the sun. Against the latter, we have token generators and indestructible effects, against the former we have… well, we mainly have the hope that other people will deal with the problem. Not always the best strategy, but hey, sometimes it works.
This isn’t a hugely powerful deck, but that’s fine, for several reasons. I find it really useful to spread out the power levels of my respective Commander decks, so I’ve always got one that’s appropriate for any given play group. This one is right towards the bottom end of that spectrum, but again, that’s fine. It makes me happy to make little vigilant 2/2s, and every now and again you can sneak in a win by appearing weak and so being underestimated. Not a very knightly way to win a contest, but hey, it works.
Just remember: you don’t need anyone’s permission to play a “bad” deck. I got stuck in the mindset that it’s “incorrect” to play anything other than the very best possible deck in every format at all times, a mentality that I think a lot of competitively-focused players fall into. You are allowed to build a silly Knight deck, or a Cleric deck, or a deck based around some dumb card you have a soft spot for. If you enjoy yourself while playing, win lose or draw, that’s all that matters.
Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis
Power Level: High
Don’t worry, it’s not a group hug deck! This list actually began life as a Roon of the Hidden Realm deck, kicked off by my long-standing love affair with Restoration Angel and Thragtusk. Flickering creatures for fun and profit has always been something I’ve loved doing, and I managed to incorporate an engine that an old friend, Stephen Campbell, introduced me to: Ghostly Flicker and Archaeomancer.
Slowly but surely, this deck became leaner and meaner, more focused and optimized, until I was never casting Roon. As any Roon player will tell you, Roon sucks, and I won’t be surprised when the Rhino is completely eclipsed in Commander by Chulane, Teller of Tales. I decided to add red, which allowed me to incorporate Izzet Chronarch, Purphoros, and Imperial Recruiter (not to mention Kiki-Jiki, which has house-rule errata “non-Restoration Angel creature”). I cut Roon and instead started playing my boys, Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis.
Commander: Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis
1 Archaeomancer 1 Mnemonic Wall 1 Salvager of Secrets 1 Eternal Witness 1 Izzet Chronarch 1 Illusionist’s Stratagem 1 Eerie Interlude 1 Displacement Wave 1 Ghostly Flicker 1 Ghostway 1 Wall of Omens 1 Fblthp, the Lost 1 Ice-Fang Coatl 1 Elvish Visionary 1 Coiling Oracle 1 Wall of Blossoms 1 Watcher for Tomorrow 1 Dockside Extortionist 1 Satyr Wayfinder 1 Sylvan Ranger 1 Wood Elves 1 Springbloom Druid 1 Elvish Rejuvenator 1 Farhaven Elf 1 Nissa, Vastwood Seer/Nissa, Sage Animist 1 Solemn Simulacrum 1 Deadeye Navigator 1 Brago, King Eternal 1 Panharmonicon 1 Soulherder 1 Restoration Angel 1 Venser, the Sojourner 1 Conjurer’s Closet 1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker 1 Angel of Serenity 1 Fiend Hunter 1 Palace Jailer 1 Karmic Guide 1 Clever Impersonator 1 Duplicant 1 Mystic Snake 1 Acidic Slime 1 Frilled Mystic 1 Venser, Shaper Savant 1 Knight of Autumn 1 Sun Titan 1 Recruiter of the Guard 1 Woodland Bellower 1 Fierce Empath 1 Chord of Calling 1 Imperial Recruiter 1 Green Sun’s Zenith 1 Purphoros, God of the Forge 1 Genesis Wave 1 Craterhoof Behemoth 1 Avenger of Zendikar 1 Lurking Predators 1 Guardian Project 1 Progenitor Mimic 1 Thragtusk 6 Snow-Covered Forest 3 Snow-Covered Plains 3 Snow-Covered Island 1 Snow-Covered Mountain 1 Evolving Wilds 1 Terramorphic Expanse 1 Myriad Landscape 1 Krosan Verge 1 Blighted Woodland 1 Alchemist’s Refuge 1 Homeward Path 1 Blighted Cataract 1 Frontier Bivouac 1 Jungle Shrine 1 Mystic Monastery 1 Seaside Citadel 1 Command Tower 1 Exotic Orchard 1 Hallowed Fountain 1 Steam Vents 1 Breeding Pool 1 Sacred Foundry 1 Stomping Grounds 1 Temple Garden 1 Sunpetal Grove 1 Sulfur Falls 1 Glacial Fortress 1 Clifftop Retreat 1 Hinterland Harbor 1 Rootbound Crag
This deck is quite consistent for a Commander deck, with a stack of two-drop “draw a card” creatures as well as a powerful early ramp suite. It’s extremely mana-hungry, so you want to play and blink creatures that search for lands early and often to set up for your huge late game. That late game is enabled by the overwhelming value engine that is one of the five Archaeomancers in conjunction with one of the five Ghostly Flickers. You use the Ghostly Flicker to target the Archaeomancer and another creature to return the Ghostly Flicker to hand, and in doing so generate incremental value while hopefully messing with your opponent.
My favorite creatures to endlessly blink like this are Mystic Snake, Knight of Autumn, and Duplicant, each of which deal with a different kind of problem and provide endless frustration for your opponents. Past that, however, just dumping mana into blinking a Thragtusk over and over again feels incredible, and even flickering a humble Wall of Omens is a great time.
Eventually your creature-based tutor suite allows you (given enough mana) to win most games from any position. With a Recruiter, you fetch Fierce Empath to fetch Avenger or ’Hoof (or both, with a blink effect), or if you need to assemble your engine you can use Fierce Empath to instead get Woodland Bellower, which then gets Eternal Witness to return a Ghostly Flicker effect. Other ways to get ’em dead quick are, of course, Purphoros triggers, or a good old-fashioned Genesis Wave for a squillion.
I’ve deliberately not included the Deceiver Exarchs and Pestermites of the world due to our house rule against infinite combos, but that is an option for you if your playgroup allows it. Both Imperial Recruiter and Recruiter of the Guard can fetch Kiki-Jiki, which will offer you further consistency with this combo. Alternatively, if you want to get a bit sillier, include cards like Mirror March and Mindclaw Shaman to power down the deck a bit.
This is my all-time favorite Commander deck and chances are if you ever challenge me to a game you’re going to get Archaeomancer’d out by this list!
Still to Come
Next week I’ll be back with my Oloro list–which is unlike most Oloro decks, I assure you–and the weird take on Zacama I brewed up as well. Until then, let me know what you think of these lists, or if there’s anything you think I could improve. With almost 20,000 cards available to play with, I’m certain I’ve missed something!