Casual Encounters- Upgrading EDH decks with Commander 2016

reyhan

I have recently been switched on to Commander and have relished the opportunity to brew and build again in a format that I am relatively inexperienced in.  The goal I set before myself was to build a three-coloured Commander deck for each of the five Khans from Fate Reforged.  The basic premise being that they were fairly readily accessible and seemed to have useful abilities that could be utilized in a Commander game given the right circumstances.  Also, the hybrid mana activation costs seemed very unique and something that I wanted to try and use to the best of my abilities. 

Well, I have completed all 5 decks (for now) but am always on the look for new and fun additions in new sets and products.  The great news is that we have had a huge influx of Commander cards get released with Commander 2016 and my brain is humming thinking of some of the additions that could be made to each of the decks.  Today I’m going to highlight a few of the cards that I’m really excited for that come out of the new Commander 2016 sets and where I might see them fitting.

Abzan

Commander: Daghatar the Adamant

My Daghatar deck plays more or less like the greatest hits of Abzan from Khans of Tarkir block and is capable of doing some really heavy, creature-based attacks.  The strategy is not flaw-proof in a multi-player game, but it is really true to me as a player because there is very little that I like to do more than playing efficient Green fatties and crunching my opponent. Daghatar can allow for a repeatable source of +1/+1 counters to move around, which is fairly minor, but could prove to be highly annoying and generally make combat a bit of nuisance.  

There are a number of sweet additions that could be used to bolster the deck from the new Commander decks, but my eyes lit up when I saw Ravos, Soultender.  My Abzan deck largely lacks recursion and this little addition is recursion on a stick and the deck is packed with amazing targets from Sidisi, Undead Vizier, Siege Rhino, Den Protector, Wispweaver Angel, or Green Warden of Murasa.  We will look at Ravos again in a little bit, but needless to say he would make an excellent addition.

Another card that really grabbed my attention was Reyhan, Last of the Abzan  because in theory the Abzan want to make use of +1/+1 counters and Reyhan allows you yet another way to get maximum use out of the counters you do get into play.  Playing Reyhan and Daghatar in conjunction with one another seems like a dead obvious synergy and one that I am intrigued to try and to see if it is truly as good as I think it is.

Simply because I like to do silly things Cruel Entertainment struck my fancy but is likely not good enough to warrant a deck slot.  Sylvan Reclamation seems to be a very solid spell to allow you to deal with enchantments and artifacts, but the versatility offered in the early game to Basic Landcycle is appreciated. Lastly, Mana Gorger Hydra isn’t exclusively from Commander 2016 but is just a card that can get out of control so quickly that it is well worth adding.

Temur

Commander: Yasova Dragonclaw

This deck wants to make combat miserable by stealing my opponents creatures and then smashing them over the head with their own things.  There is also a slight value engine in the form of Temur Sabertooth and a Species Gorger that allows me to replay my value creatures.  There isn’t much that this deck wants from Commander this year because most of the decks are premised on playing along a totally different axis, but Evolutionary Escalation seems intriguing as a way to boost the power of Yasova and allow her to steal virtually anything on the table. Bloodbraid Elf  and Etherium-Horn Sorcerer seem like good choices, but primarily for the Cascade ability. Otherwise the options here are a little limiting.

Mardu

Commander: Alesha, who Smiles at Death

This is perhaps my most fun deck because the synergy here is pretty clear.  Alesha rewards you for playing creatures with power 2 or less, so any interesting creatures in any of the combinations provided by Alesha make for an intriguing addition.  

By FAR the most interesting addition is Ravos, Soultender because Ravos also allows you to recur all sorts of ridiculous things.  All Alesha wants to do is to get back her soldiers from the yard and Ravos plays right along making them pretty much best friends.

Tymna, the Weaver is another extremely interesting option because it allows you to go out and draw cards for having attacked and dealt damage, both things Alesha is really encouraging you to do already.  

Vial Smasher the Fierce is another interesting target, but the fact the damage she deals is assigned randomly is less interesting and often serves more as a detriment.  I want to control where the damage goes, meaning Vial Smasher is further down my list despite the fact that the creature has an interesting ability.

Grave Upheaval is very intriguing because an Alesha deck is relying on the fact that many of the creatures are smaller but have powerful synergy linked to their ability to be recurred.  However, Grave Upheaval allows you to go and reanimate  something from your opponent’s graveyard giving it plenty of versatility. Who knows what treats your opponents have hidden in their Graveyards?

There are plenty of interesting options in these colours and it really comes down to how you want to play Alesha and what sort of ETB effects you are looking to recur.

Sultai

Commander: Sidisi, Brood Tyrant

Ok, yes, Sidisi is from Khans, not Fate Reforged, but I was having a hard time tracking down a Tasigur so I opted for the more inexpensive Sidisi as a way to get access to my three colours.  Of all the decks that I have this one is the one most interested in ramping because of things like Villainous Wealth that I want to cast for big value multiple times.  To that end, Collective Voyage is exactly the sort of spell I want to hit early in the game and see if we can’t get it to do something kind of nutty.  When I tried it out with my playgroup in a 6 person Commander game Collective Voyage landed us 17 basic land cards apiece meaning that I could untap and make good use of Villainous Wealth to devastating effect.  

Another strong addition is Swan Song because inexpensive counters that have such a minor drawback are well worth their weight in cardboard.

Keening Stone is something that grabbed my attention too because it serves a very versatile purpose in a deck intent on self milling.  The first and obvious approach is to mill yourself and a single activation could very well yield you all the graveyard fodder you would ever need.  However, the fact that after you have milled yourself you can then turn and mill your opponents and eat a huge chunk of their library is extremely appealing. The way I see it, most decks are very effective at removing creatures and threats that damage their life total.  However, many decks have a harder time dealing with something that attacks them on a totally different axis…namely milling.  Keening Stone could be a very potent win condition to mill out your opponents and be very difficult to address making it a great addition.

Jeskai

Commander: Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest

This is the least tested of my decks, but the intent is to have it play kind of like a combo deck.  The plan is to use the Prowess triggers on Shu Yun to make him explosive and then give him double strike to try and deal lethal in a single attack. With a deck packed full of instants and sorceries, I’m not really looking for more creatures, but rather some interesting spells to complement the game plan.

The obvious first one that jumped out at me was Order//Chaos because it gives Shu Yun the evasion needed to get in for a strike, and allows him to turn on his Double Strike for maximum damage.  Add in the fact that it is a versatile card due to its split nature and you have the making of a really solid addition to the deck.

Conqueror’s Flail is another very interesting addition because it too can make Shu Yun into a one-hit wrecking ball.  For a mere 2 mana and then 2 more to equip I am getting +3/+3 ? The turn you cast this Shu Yun becomes a 7/6 creature, and then gets double strike.  Add in Order//Chaos and you almost have a kill in a single turn.  If you have any burn that goes to the face or any other way to pump Shu Yun you could be walking away with an easy kill.

The final piece is that these colours have a hard time ramping to any degree because of the fact that they don’t play Green, but yet still need to play more expensive threats or have mana open for non-creature spells.  Commander’s Sphere is a very reasonable mana rock that you can sacrifice to draw a card making it extremely useful in the late game if somewhat innocuous.

I know that with the new Commander decks just coming out that it seems strange to be taking them apart for pieces to use elsewhere, but when there are so many tantalizing pieces and plenty of interesting things to do and change up, these actually all seem like useful and relevant things to do.  What things have caught your eye to make use of in other that you have built?  Let me know in the comments down below or find me on Twitter at @bgray8791.  Thanks very much for stopping by and as always, be sure to stop by next time for another Casual Encounter.

Bruce Gray

@bgray8791