Wallet Warriors: Commander 2017, Which Deck Should You Choose?

Kilian Johnson
August 21, 2017
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Hey there Wallet Warriors! So it’s currently Christmas in August for us commander players and I’m losing my mind. Commander 2017 is about to hit the shelves and Wizards have knocked it out of the park for another year in a row. I absolutely love the commander products and love what they do for the commander community. The pre-cons have always been a great introduction to the format for new players who may not be looking to drop hundreds of dollars on a Gaea’s Cradle right out of the gate.

Alright, with the gushing out of the way, what are we doing here? In this article I’ll be going over each of the new decks, what you’ll be getting yourself into if you wanted to pick one up, and some budget ways to beef them up a bit. I’ll be mainly focusing on how the deck will play with the Eminence commanders because they are primarily built with them in mind. If you want to see the full decklists, check here!  Let’s not waste any more time and get right into Five Color Dragons!

Draconic Domination

 

I still have have a hard time believing Wizards actually made a five color dragons deck. This is the ultimate theme for a Timmy player where you just want to play huge flashy creatures and beat people into the ground. The Ur-Dragon is not only one of the most badass dragons in the game but a very powerful commander. The Ur-Daddy’s Eminence ability is tied with Edgar Markov’s as the best of the bunch in my opinion. Effectively creating an emblem at the beginning of the game for free which reduces the cost of your dragons by one is obviously great. This deck wants to be spending the early turns either setting up with additional ramp or curving out if possible, playing a five mana dragon on four, then a six on five, and so on. You want to overwhelm your opponents with threats. Then, after the inevitable board wipe or removal spells you’ve forced out. You can bring out the show-stopper that’s been sitting in your command zone and not only refill your hand but cheat more huge things into play.

Now if you’ve decided that this is the deck for you, let’s talk about some budget upgrades you’ll be looking to do to add a bit more potency. Keep in mind these are simply my suggestions and the overall idea behind them should hold more weight than the actual card choices.

Suggested Cuts:

  • Ryusei, the Falling Star
  • Bladewing the Risen
  • Niv Mizzet, Dracogenius
  • Tyrant’s Familiar
  • Rain of Thorns
  • Nihil Spellbomb
  • Armillary Sphere
  • Monastery Siege
  • Crucible of Fire
  • Palace Siege
  • Curse of Bounty
  • Taigam, Ojutai Master
  • Territorial Hellkite
  • Fortunate Few
  • Fractured Identity

Suggested Additions:

  • Thunderbreak Regent
  • Harbinger of the Hunt
  • Skyline Despot
  • Sarkhan’s Triumph
  • Taurean Mauler
  • Crib Swap
  • Temur Ascendancy
  • Fires of Yavimaya
  • Merciless Eviction
  • Fellwar Stone
  • Signets
  • Journeyer’s Kite

There are a few things we’re aiming to change here. First, we want to lower the curve of our dragons. Dragons aren’t generally very cheap but we want as many solid five cost dragons as possible so we can start dropping them on turn four or three. Second, we need more mana fixing. Budget mana bases can work but you need the fixing to support them. Signets, Fellwar Stone, and Journeyer’s kite are all solid options. The basic landcycling spells from C16 are great as well (Sylvan Reclamation and Grave Upheaval for examples). We also want to cut some dragons with specific mana costs like Bladewing the Risen and Niv Mizzet, Dracogenius.

Finally, we want some more board wipes and removal. This deck is not going to win fast so you’re going to need some answers for what your opponents are doing. Merciless Eviction and Blasphemous Act are where I would start but by all means, don’t stop there.

Manabase Upgrades

Now I want to go over the mana base. The bulk of the non-basic lands you get in this pre-con are the tapped three color lands. The easiest way to upgrade the mana is to cut these tapped lands in favor of untapped lands. My suggestions for replacement lands are the Panoramas (I.e. Bant Panorama), Battle lands (I.e. Prairie Stream), Shadow Lands (I.e. Port Town), Pain lands (I.e. Adarkar Wastes), and Slow Duals (I.e. Cloudcrest Lake). Having some tapped lands is fine but I would aim for 6-8 max.

You could also cut some basics for any of these lands I just mentioned. I also want to mention that the Mirage Fetches (I.e. Flood Plain) are good budget alternatives to Zendikar/Onslaught Fetches. They pair very well with the Battle lands and Amonkhet cycling lands because they have basic land types.

 

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Feline Ferocity:

 

Okay after that craziness let’s settle down to something a bit more reasonable. Green/White Cats… Wait, cats? Oh my god that’s so cute and awesome! Cats have been getting the belly rub of their lives in Magic recently, with all the cat tribal cards coming out of Amonkhet. Now they get their own pre-con commander deck! Arahbo, Roar of the World has a very straight-forward but strong Eminence ability. You can pump one of your cats every turn by +3/+3. This deck is looking to play a few cats and make them enormous with Arahbo and the strong equipment package. This deck looks very straight forward on the surface however I believe the hidden strength is in the toolkit of kitties. There are a lot of utility cats in this deck. From Leonin Arbiter and Relic-Warder to Alms Collector, Arahbo is not all bark… er, roar… whatever, you get the idea.

If you hate elitist “dog people” and want to show them up on the battlefield of commander, this is probably the deck for you. Now let’s go over the changes I would make.

Suggested Cuts:

  • Temur Sabertooth
  • Spirit of the Hearth
  • Phantom Nishoba
  • Crushing Vines
  • Wing Shards
  • Relic Crush
  • Hero’s Blade
  • Curse of Bounty
  • Curse of Vitality
  • Traverse the Outland

Suggested Additions:

  • Adorned Pouncer
  • Pride Sovereign
  • Regal Caracal
  • Leonin Skyhunter
  • Loam Lion
  • Mirri, Cat Warrior
  • Prowling Serpopard
  • Skyhunter Skirmisher
  • Lost Leonin
  • Selesnya Charm
  • Swords to Plowshares
  • Sigarda’s Aid

For this deck we’re looking to lean away from ramp and lower the curve to be more aggressive. We can pretty much throw in every cat from Amonkhet since they’re all great. Adorned Pouncer can crack in for eight on turn three! You can also cut a few lands since we’re shaving some big kitties. I also want to mention the obvious addition if you have the cash for it. Brimaz, King of Oreskos is pawing at the door desperately wanting to join his cat brethren.

Arcane Wizardry

 

Moving right along, we’re now looking at the Grixis Wizards deck. While Inalla, Archmage Ritualist’s Eminence ability is very strong, the list that comes with her is a bit confused. There are lots of great wizards here but not many that you get value from copying. Havengul Lich, Azami, Lady of Scrolls, and Vela the Night-Clad are all sweet but benefit very little from Inalla’s first ability. What we’re dealing with here is a value control deck. You’ll be hard pressed to find a creature in the deck that doesn’t provide some kind of value. You want to survive into the late game and drown your opponents in card advantage.

That being said, this is the deck that has the most room for improvement which is really exciting for someone obsessed with deck building… but I wouldn’t know what that’s like… Anyway, what should we change?

Suggested Cuts:

  • Corpse Augur
  • Magus of the Abyss
  • Body Double
  • Mercurial Chemister
  • Etherium Horn Sorcerer
  • Vela the Night-Clad
  • Opportunity
  • Curse of Disturbance
  • Marchesa, the Black Rose

Suggested Additions:

  • Vedalken Aethermage
  • Mystical Teachings
  • Wanderwine Prophets
  • Panharmonicon
  • Deadeye Navigator
  • Diluvian Primordial
  • Cruel Ultimatum
  • Docent of Perfection
  • Brainstorm/Ponder/Preordain
  • Gurmag Drowner
  • Silumgar Sorcerer
  • Dualcaster Mage
  • Champion of Wits

Ideally you want to replace the wizards that don’t want to get copied with ones that do! So obviously we’re looking to add more wizards with enter the battlefield abilities such as Champion of Wits.

We want to add in some top-end because getting tons of value from your wizards is great but you need to do more than draw cards and bounce permanents to win games.

We also want to upgrade the instants and sorceries because a lot of our wizards interact with them. The efficient card draw spells in Brainstorm, Ponder and Preordain are great when paired with creatures like Archeomancer and Nivix Guildmage.

Wanderwine Prophets lets you take a bunch of turns if there is an opponent open to attack. The way this works is a bit complex but the gist is that every time the prophets enter the battlefield you need to copy it and have the copy exile the original with the champion ability. This way when the copy leaves play and the original returns you can do the same trick to exile the original and use it’s ability over and over, if you have the mana to copy it enough times.

Vampiric Bloodlust

 

Last but definitely not least, we have the Mardu Vampires deck. Led by Edgar Markov, the head of the largest family of vampires on Innistrad, this deck aims to swarm your opponents with bloodsucking vampires. There is a very on flavor theme of draining life and benefiting from lifegain. This is my personal favorite list straight out of the box because it seems to be the most focused thematically and strategically. I also think Edgar Markov is one of the best, if not the best new legend to come out of this product. Tacking on a free 1/1 to every vampire you play may not sound like much but one of the weaknesses the vampire tribe has had in the past is the inability to produce tokens. Other tribes like zombies and goblins have always had an affinity for swarming whereas vampires have relied on large non-token creatures.

This deck is very solid out of the box but there are still some changes I would make if you wanted to pick it up for yourself.

Suggested Cuts:

  • Damnable Pact
  • Ambition's Cost
  • Consuming Vapors
  • Curse of Disturbance
  • Curse of Vitality
  • Crimson Honor Guard
  • Outpost Siege
  • Underworld Connections
  • Skeletal Vampire
  • Vein Drinker
  • Licia, Sanguine Tribune
  • Bloodsworn Steward

Suggest Additions:

  • Bloodline Keeper
  • Kalitas, Bloodchief of Ghet
  • Ascendant Evincar
  • Drana, Liberator of Malakir
  • Necropolis Regent
  • Indulgent Aristocrat
  • Stensia Masquerade
  • Vampire Hexmage
  • Drana’s Emissary
  • Phyrexian Arena
  • Snuff Out
  • Slaughter
  • Westvale Abbey

The vampire package in the deck is very good but the notable exclusions are definitely Drana, Liberator of Malakir, Bloodline Keeper, Necropolis Regent, Indulgent Aristocrat and Ascendant Evincar. These all pump up your vampire army while being fairly costed. The removal package and card draw can also be upgraded fairly easily. Snuff Out and Slaughter are two of my favorite removal spells in black and are great with our life linking vampires and Phyrexian Arena is just great card draw.

Conclusion

If you’ve stuck with me to the very end, congratulations! Hopefully you now have a better idea of which deck fits your playstyle. The pre-constructed commander products have always been great and this year is looking no different. Whether it’s Dragons, Cats, Wizards or Vampires I’m sure you will make good use of whichever you choose. See you all in a couple weeks!

 

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