Well, it feels good to be back! After a long hiatus, I am very pleased to be back and writing content for Three Kings Loot.
Yes, that’s right, I am BACK!
If you used to frequent the Three Kings Loot website, I had a series entitled “Casual Encounters”. I broke down fun, casual sixty card nonsense for your enjoyment. I have since taken a break from writing and moved on to other interests. My interests in other formats evolved, and life moved on. But now I am back and very pleased to be able to share my thoughts with you once again.
What do I play now? I have moved on to playing Commander, but I still play in a very Casual sense. Budget friendly decks are my go to, full of unusual, underplayed, or janky cards. I love to brew up decks of all sorts, but there are a few constants. First off, I usually avoid brewing with infinite combos. Many of the game groups I play don’t much enjoy those elements. Stax pieces that lock a player out of the game are also frowned upon. However, I still love creating decks that generate value through both combat and spell synergy.
The Epic Experiment
So, what is this Epic Experiment business? Back in January 2020, I started a Commander-focused podcast entitled The Epic Experiment Podcast. My co-host and I talk Commander every week, discussing new Commander deck builds. We decided that in order to differentiate ourselves from some of the other podcasts that we would create a limitation that would set us apart. We wanted to keep cards accessible, and keep decks that we brew budget friendly for our listeners. Our one year anniversary is rapidly approaching and we are both so happy with how far it’s come.
The result was what we call ‘The Epic Experiment’ format, where only use cards that have been printed since the Return To Ravnica block. There are loads of super powerful cards that have been printed and are still accessible without forcing us to break the bank.
What you can come to expect from me in each article is some sort of theme or topic that is getting air time in the world of Commander. Regardless of the topic, you can always expect a deck list and a few highlighted card selections that should clock in around $100-$150 based on what Moxfield.com generates for card prices.
For my first article of 2021, I wanted to break down some of the ways in which I brew up new decks each week. I want to show that deck building isn’t as intimidating as one may think, and to help some new voices in the deck building world.
How to Build Your Very Own Commander Deck
Let’s be clear folks, I am not making Tier 1 decks that win in a hurry. I aim to build a deck that is a modest power level that typically seeks to win through creature combat. I rarely put infinite combos in my decks, but prefer to create incremental advantage through a number of moving parts. Some call this sort of deck “Battle Cruiser”, others call it “Casual”. In the end, I just prefer having fun. Sure, winning happens sometimes, but I prefer to have my decks “do their thing” and enjoy my game instead of prioritizing winning.
Ramping Your Deck
The foundation of any functioning Commander deck starts with your ramp package. There is a direct correlation between spending more mana and having a chance to win the game. Therefore, ramping effectively is integral to any strategy. Now, as a player who looks to control his budget cards such as Mana Crypt or Mana Vault are far too pricey and so I need to make other budget choices. The obvious things are Sol Ring, Arcane Signet, and a host of other two mana artifacts. However, if you want to go off the beaten path, you can go down the path of favorites of mine like Spinning Wheel, Heraldic Banner, or Lockets from Guilds of Ravnica and Ravnica Allegiance, and other mana producing artifacts.
The choice of ramp options expand if you are a player in Green because you can play additional lands with a plethora of spells. Cultivate, Kodama’s Reach, and Farseek lead the charge, but other options exist. Grow from the Ashes, Circuitous Route, and Migration Path fill this second tier of options, not to mention the options available to you through a host of creatures to help you find lands of a variety of sorts.
While artifacts and additional lands make up the most common options, there is a growing suite of cards that create Treasures, or artifacts that produce a mana of any colour when sacrificed. There are very expensive options like Dockside Extortionist and Smothering Tithe, but budget players may be more familiar with things like Prying Blade and an unblockable creature or Pitiless Plunderer. This new option gives decks of all stripes a way to keep pace and cast some of those haymakers earlier than anticipated to hopefully sneak a win.
In each of my decks I dedicate eight-to-ten slots for ramp and I prioritize playing extra lands over artifacts. I put special value on creatures that have ramp effects because once the effect has been used, you now have a body to attack and block. Farhaven Elf, Solemn Simulacrum, War Priest of Thune and the like get my continued attention for exactly these reasons.
Monster, Be Gone!
A functioning Commander deck must have ways to remove your opponent’s threats and so some form of removal is key. Again, I allot six-to-ten slots to address problems of all sorts, not just creatures. I play two or three board wipes, with the remaining slots are dedicated to targeted removal spells. I am very fond of creatures with these abilities, so Reclamation Sage, Ravenous Chupacabra, and War Priest of Thune are all big favorites of mine. That said, I do value instant speed interaction, so Murderous Cut, Heartless Act, Heroes Downfall, and the like always get a good long look before I declare a deck to be ready to be played.
Many other players talk about generating card advantage, namely in the form of drawing additional cards. But after having a guest on our podcast, I have broadened this idea and just call it ‘generating advantage’. This is a way for you to generate additional resources, and leverage them in some way to pull ahead of your opponents. It could be drawing cards off the top of your deck, or it could be saproling tokens or treasure. I have a good ten-to-fifteen sources of resource generation in whatever strategy I intend to brew.
Since I play very few infinite combos, I need to create other ways of winning my games. My trademark win-cons are hard to deal with permanents that will often end the game reasonably quickly. In some of my decks there are things like an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger or a Craterhoof Behemoth, but more often than not it is something less typical and far more budget friendly. An example of something that I might try to use as win con from the most recent Kaldheim might be something like Koma, Cosmos Serpent, Scute Swarm from Zendikar Rising, or an Eldrazi like Deathless Behemoth that we make unblockable or flying. As we go through our articles, I will often point where budget options that will still make your deck fun to play.
The rest of the deck will have a variety of value pieces, pet cards, or other interesting selections. I will try to explore some of these to help newer and experienced players control their budget.
Now, To This Week’s Deck…
And now for the good part! This week’s deck submission:
This Maja Bretagard Protector deck is a Green/White looking to take advantage of the Landfall trigger built into Maja. This should help you generate all sorts of advantages and push your deck into the winners circle by virtue of the raw number of tokens you produce. This deck also highlights some of the tenets I maintain as I build my decks.
For example, the ramp package contains selections like Circuitous Route, Cultivate, Grow from the Ashes which seem like auto includes, but also Spinning Wheel, Avacyn’s Pilgrim, a Nissa’s Renewal. My favorite piece of ramp tech in this sort of deck is Sakura Tribe Elder and Emeria Shepherd because they work together to loop and allow you to get all the plains in your deck out in one fell swoop because of the Landfall interaction on the Shepherd. This synergy can very quickly help a G/W deck get ahead on mana and hopefully pull ahead in the game.
My advantage generation in this Maja Bretagard Protector deck is fairly self-evident because the commander is all about Landfall. But there are other ways in which you can get there. Mentor of the Meek is a solid addition that can allow this sort of token deck to refill its hand, as can Huatli, Radiant Champion. Avenger of Zendikar, Felidar Retreat, and Admonition Angel are other Landfall payoffs that this deck will leverage to great effect and can make sure this deck has plenty of bodies on the battlefield to make use of. However, the fun one here is a convoked March of the Multitudes and the hope is to cast it for about… oh… maybe a million (but if X=ten, I’ll be pleased).
The removal is pretty clear with Austere Command, Hour of Reckoning, and Realm Cloaked Giant playing the role of the sweepers. Then there is plenty of other removal in the form of Knight of Autumn, Beast Within, Generous Gift, and Acidic Slime playing the roles of targeted removal. While this is a little on the light side, it can deal with a variety of threats. This will hopefully buy you time to have enough tokens to take over the game with Maja Bretagard Protector.
Lastly, the win-cons in this Maja Bretagard Protector deck are a little different. The deck is built to go WIDE, so overrun type effects are your go-to tools for your end game. No Craterhoof this time, but his little brother End-Raze Forerunners makes an appearance along with spells like Return of the Wildspeaker, Shalai, Voice of Plenty, and Divine Visitation. If making a pile of large tokens isn’t enough, Divine Visitation is the start of a super powerful enchantment package that pushes up the power level of this deck, but also the budget. Regardless, making 4/4 Angels with Flying seems like fun and makes the grade as a potential win condition.
Overall, the Maja Bretagard Protector deck clocks in at $140 USD according to Moxfield.com and should give a newer player a starting framework that is hopefully within their budget and allows them to get into the game and enjoy playing Commander with their friends.
Well, that wraps up this week’s article. Look for me in the future to expand on some of the ideas raised here! Whatever you are doing, and wherever you are, stay safe. This is Epic Experiment Podcast signing off and wishing you all the best wherever you next play Magic.
Do you have suggestions of what to help boost this deck’s potential? Then leave your suggestions in the comments below!
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