Tag: edh

Bruce Gray - December 7, 2016

Adding Commander 2016 to Your Commander Decks


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


Kyle A Massa - November 18, 2016

Commander 2016 First Impressions


Play the Ten Drop – Commander 2016 First Impressions

Maybe it’s too early to say, but I’m going to say it anyway: this looks like the absolute best Commander product Wizards has ever released. Whether we’re talking about the Partner mechanic, the astounding number of new Legends, or the delicious mana bases, this year’s Commander has something for everyone. Let’s take a look.


Partner Looks Like a Home Run

When Wizards said they had a solution to the four color problem, they weren’t kidding. Partner will keep us all building new decks for years to come. Mixing and matching Commanders makes the game feel fresh, and it gives everyone so many more options for self-expression, one of the hallmarks of our format.

What’s more, I think Wizards did an excellent job balancing the mechanic. Think of all the broken combos that could’ve been printed on some of these cards. Seems like R&D was very careful not to make any of them too good, yet good enough when paired with another partner. Their collective power will at least match, if not surpass, many lone commanders.

Plus, I think Wizards made an excellent call by printing more enemy-colored commanders than allies. As the great and noble MaRo mentioned a few weeks ago, there just aren’t that many enemy color dudes out there. I’ve always found these color pairs more interesting than the allies, so I’m glad they’re getting a little more love.


The Sheer Number of Potential Commanders is Unprecedented

For both new and experienced players, the number of potential new commanders in this set is staggering. I went through the ol’ card image gallery and counted them up. There are 36 legendary creatures in this set alone (38 if you count Daretti, who can also be your commander). To compare that with some past Commander releases, here’s a breakdown:

Commander 2016 – 37 potential commanders

Commander 2015 – 18 potential commanders

Commander 2014 – 16 potential commanders

Commander 2013 – 21 potential commanders

Commander 2011 – 28 potential commanders

Partner certainly contributed to those numbers, but there are plenty of high-power reprints in addition. Zedruu the Greathearted and Ghave, Guru of Spores, for example, are two outstanding commanders that haven’t seen printing in five years. The deck building options are almost limitless.

And then there are the four-color commanders, which seem very exciting. Though they’re going to be tough to cast (especially on-curve), players are rewarded with some very powerful abilities. Atraxa and Yidris look very strong in particular, and if the numbers on EDHREC are any indication, they’re going to stay at the top of Commander pop charts for a while.


These Are the Best Mana Bases We’ve Ever Seen in a Commander Set

Though I’m still a little salty that we didn’t see the Shadowmoor/Eventide filter lands, the lands of Commander 2016 are still pretty darn sweet.

With inclusions such as the Alara and Tarkir tri-lands, Murmuring Bosk, Grand Coliseum, Exotic Orchard, Forbidden Orchard, and more, players can actually get their commanders out in a reasonable time frame. What’s more, these lands help reinforce any multi-colored mana base, whether they’re two, three, four, or five colors.

And, perhaps best of all, this gets some older lands into the hands of newer players, which is awesome. The Otarian filter lands haven’t been around in forever, which I find exciting. This opens up a whole new spectrum of possibilities for a heck of a lot of casual players.

If these decks sound good to you, I hear there are still a few left in the ol’ Three Kings Loot store. Go check them out!


By Kyle A. Massa – Play the Ten Drop
You can reach Kyle at @mindofkyleam on Twitter or through his site www.kyleamassa.com

Marc Olivier Plante - November 3, 2016

Two Crazy Kurkesh Commander Decks



I’ve been playing Commander since Shards of Alara. It’s the one format I play; not Modern, not Legacy, not Vintage nor Pauper. Standard? Not enough options for me. I want a bit of chaos in my games. I also love multiplayer games. Whenever there’s a new set, I examine all the legendary creatures first. And when I saw this ogre spirit artificer-ish Kurkesh, basically a Rings of Brighthearth for artifacts, I knew I was going to build a deck around him one day.

I have played many mono red commander decks: Kiki-jiki, Heartless Hidetsugu, and Feldon, to name a few. I Regularly play vs Purphoros, Krenko and Urabrask. In all my years of commander, never have I seen a Kurkesh deck. To be fair, I didn’t try to google some, this is just from personal experience – mtgo, friends, customers – no one would approach this Kurkesh. After some research, it appeared to me that Sensei’s Divining Top, Liquimetal Coating (planeswalker -> artifact means double activate with Kurkesh), Keening Stone, Memory Jar, Temple Bell, Tormod’s Crypt, Trading Post, they were all pointing toward the same direction: milling. Or at least some graveyard manipulation of sorts.

So I went all in with milling. A mono red Kurkesh mill deck…

Kurkesh Turbo Mill


For starters, it’s surprisingly consistent. The intense draw it brings to the table, namely Temple Bell, Memory Jar, Howling Mine, Anvil of Bogardan, Font of Mythos, Wheel of Fortune, Wheel of Fate, and Reforge the Soul will make this deck pass as a mono red group hug deck for inattentive players, so you might get a few extra quiet turns out of it as a bonus. But when you start copying the Wheel effects, whether from Kurkesh + Jar or Fork effect + wheel effect, then they might smell that something’s fishy. When/if Mesmeric Orb hits the board, all hell breaks lose. If you are good enough at MTG (i.e. lucky) when you play Mesmeric Orb you’ll have a Mirrorworks in play, making 2 of them. Possibly shenaniganing with Goblin Welder or Daretti to get Mesmeric Orb in the graveyard and back for an extra copy of it, as having  3-4 mesmeric orbs in play is awesome. Having both old Kozilek and Ulamog in the deck ensures that you won’t fall victim to your own nonsense, and Tormod’s Crypt and Relic of Progenitus ensure that your opponents will.

So you wheel, fork the wheels, mill and try to stay alive.

But wait.

Then something happened.

I obtained a Past in Flames.

Sure, I was already playing Mizzix’s Mastery and Recoup to wheel from the graveyard. I once made 9 copies of Reforge the Soul – thanks Howl of the Horde + Increasing Vengeance flashbacked – but I felt that Past in Flames opened more doors then that. Suddenly I felt like I could try to actually use the wheels as fuel for a greater scheme… Storm!!

Kurkesh Turbo Storm

I took the wheeling shell of the deck, removed a few artifacts and most of the creatures, as I had to make space for the cantrips, rituals, and kill conditions. Had to take out the eldrazis, since I aim at crafting myself a graveyard.

So here’s how it plays out: Kurkesh in play, Memory Jar activate, copy with Kurkesh’s triggered ability, now there’s two Jar effects on the stack. Resolve. Nice, you play your turn with the seven cards and at the beginning of the end step, two Jar triggers on the stack. As the first resolves, each players gets ALL of the cards exiled by both Jar effects in hand, so both face down hands, and then the second Jar trigger resolves making all players discard all cards in hand. This is because both triggers are from the same Jar, so when the trigger asks for all cards drawn this turn, both hands are taken so when the second resolves there’s nothing to get and all to discard. Remember, all you want is a full graveyard, this works in your favor.

We’re playing storm so there’s going to be rituals that’s for sure. The mvp of all rituals is by far Mana Geyser. Of use also is Inner Fire and Battle Hymn, all three of which can two-card combo with Reiterate for infinite mana, provided that the spells give 7+ mana. In fact, to start a storm I often go Mana Geyser + copy it with all I can, to make a mana base for the rest of turn to finish the job. Possibly something like: 50 cards in library, 30 in graveyard, cast Past in Flames from hand, wheel from graveyard then with seven cards in hand Inner Fire + Increasing Vengeance then copy Increasing Vengeance with Fork and/or Wild Ricochet, Reverberate, all from Graveyard. As mana and spell count pile up you have a good start to storm off. Fun!

Now, how to pilot such a fine vessel? I play it disguised as a lunatic group-hugging mono red eccentric Kurkesh. Let’s be honest, once you put Kurkesh beside your deck before the game no one takes you seriously, and that plays in your favor. Let them think you’re a lunatic, and when you’re about to die or when the graveyard is full enough, unleash the storm!

Bruce Gray - April 15, 2016

The Gitrog Monster Commander Brew

Casual Encounters – The Good, the Bad, and the UGLY!

gitrog monster

    I love it when a new set comes out.  There are so many new and interesting options available.  Can some cards be used in Modern?  Can that card there be a sweet new addition to an existing Standard deck?  Is a whole new archetype going to emerge with some of these new cards?  There are just so many possibilities and that is a truly exciting prospect.  Old cards and new cards can combine in ways that make for some terrific new options to get my brewing juices flowing.

    Like many players I have turned my attention increasingly to playing EDH or Commander and am starting to like the idea more and more.  I have two decks built already that I play with a friend when we get together once a month and have found the format to be very engaging and lots of fun to play.  I can certainly see the appeal for so many players. However,  when I saw the full spoiler for Shadow over Innistrad I got excited to see one new card get spoiled. This guy!

This is one UGLY dude, but it is in one of my favorite colour combinations. There is just so much text that you can’t ignore it.  I think perhaps the best part of this card for Commander is the fact that you can sacrifice your land to keep him in play, but if you need to you have the option of NOT paying the upkeep, losing your Frog Horror, and having the ability to replay it later when you are comfortably back on top of the land situation.  That just feels like a very powerful choice that can be leveraged by a clever player and is part of the game inside the game with this card.  

 I have to say, it has proven to be a big relief that this guy has been printed. In the last several sets there haven’t been a ton of good G/B commanders to choose from.  There’s Pharika, God of Affliction and she’s pretty solid. There’s  Meren of Clan Nel Toth who is very strong in her Commander 2015 supplemental product.  Anafenza the Foremost gets you Abzan colours, but to get a real nasty G/B commander in a new set is pretty fun and exciting.  It opens up a whole lot of possibilities and blows new life back into this colour combination and gets everyone all excited about building a fun new deck with lots of new treats from the latest set.

    Now, anyone can build a list for a G/B deck. Heck, you could just borrow the G/B decklist from the Commander 2015  product released last fall.  However, sometimes what makes Commander decks fun is when you have a fun theme. The Gitrog Monster lends himself to a very easy theme…and that’s UGLY.  I wanted to build myself a Commander deck for the Gitrog Monster that is using all the most ugly cards I can find. And by ugly…I.mean stuff that is as ugly as we can make it.  Now, my list isn’t perfect and it can’t JUST be ugly cards because it does still need to be relevant and able to get a win, but when it came down to a tie breaker I would pick the uglier card in order to stay as true as possible to my theme.  Here’s the list I’ve put together.


Gitrog Monster EDH- G/B

The game plan for the deck is pretty straight forward.  You want to self-mill to improve your card quality, play gross creatures,  play gross removal and out gross your opponent to victory.  I think the real trick is really in The Gitrog Monster because it is not only huge, but it can be a major source of card advantage once you start grinding away.  Each and every land that you sacrifice to appease Gitrog is an opportunity to draw another card.  Coupled with the fact that you will be dumping things in your yard, have a mild amount of Delve to fuel, can Scavenge up a few other targets or just reanimate them with a number of other spells and you could have something extremely fun to play.  

There is no doubt that this initial version is very budget conscious because I can immediately think of a number of very expensive additions.  Tarmogoyf and Scavenging Ooze both seem like very strong additions to this sort of deck.  Also, Life from the Loam would be a fun addition to this sort of deck as you move get back some lands to keep feeding Gitrog.  Verdant Catacombs and Overgrown Tomb would also be nice additions to the deck. I’m sure that there are a few other things that I could find to help spice up the deck without going overboard and going from being fun to being oppressive and uncool for my friends to play.

What new Commanders are you excited for coming out of Shadows over Innistrad?  Are you stoked for The Gitrog Monster like me? Do you have your eyes on another sweet prize?  Let me know what has got your attention by leaving a comment down below or by finding me on Twitter.  Also, if there are any sweet or ugly cards that I’ve overlooked, let me know.  I’m always on the lookout for cards that are cool or underplayed and might fit the bill.  

Be sure to stop by next time for another Casual Encounter!


-Bruce Gray

@bgray8791 on Twitter


Kyle A Massa - March 18, 2016

Optimizing Your EDH Fun

Play the Ten Drop – Optimizing Your EDH Fun

By Kyle A. Massa


When most people sit down to play a game, they play to win. That axiom is true of sports, video games, board games, and, of course, Magic.

But I’ve been playing Magic for thirteen years now, and the more I play, the more I see what makes the game special: you don’t always need to win to have fun.

No other format illustrates this notion better than Elder Dragon Highlander. For those who don’t know about the format’s origins, a bunch of judges dreamed it up to pass time between rounds at tournaments. If there’s one tenant which EDH was built upon, it’s casual fun.

Now when we talk about fun in EDH, it’s not just about you having fun. It might be fun for you to pull off one of your numerous Niv-Mizzet combos and wreck boards. But how fun is that for your three friends? Or what about that Derevi stax deck you have that taps down the whole board, destroys lands, and generally makes life miserable for everyone? Sure, you’ll win most games with it. But if your idea of a good time is slowly killing your friends, you probably won’t have friends to play with for much longer. Also, you might be a sociopath.

Instead, why not try something that’s fun for the whole table?

Let me give you an example. I built a Zedruu the Greathearted deck a few years ago that focused on giving away the absolute worst permanents you could think of. I’m talking stuff like Grid Monitor, Aggressive Mining, Statecraft––basically, R&D’s cruel jokes that somehow made it through to release. The deck played well and won me plenty of games.

But here’s what I began to notice––first off, no one liked to play against it. In fact, my friends would groan whenever I took it out, and then they’d just start attacking me right away. The fun of those games seeped away because the objective for all my friends changed from “How do I win?” to “How do I not lose to the goat overlord?”

So I tried something new. I deconstructed my perfectly serviceable Zedruu deck and created something much…stranger, we’ll say. I added cards with Will of the Council on them, fun creatures like Arjun, the Shifting Flame, and just plain wacky stuff like Warp World. When making the deck, I went in knowing it wouldn’t win many games. But that wasn’t the point. The point of the deck was to make each game unpredictable, and fun––and not just for me.

So I brought my deck back, and when I took it out, I got plenty of groans again. And then on turn two, I played Liar’s Pendulum, which is definitely not what one might call a competitive card. Everyone knew something was different.

After we played, all anyone wanted to talk about was the Zedruu deck and how much fun it was to play against. They loved the interactive cards, the way I gave away fun creatures, and how they felt challenged––but noticeably not frustrated––when playing against it.

And it was a funny thing. I didn’t win the game. In fact, I didn’t even come close to winning. If you judged the deck on game performance alone, it was horrendous. But, that being said, I and my friends  actually had more fun playing with the ostensibly worse version of the deck.

Thanks again, goat lady. You’ve given us all so much.

To reiterate, there’s nothing wrong with playing to win. You wouldn’t show up to a GP with a Hedron Archive deck, right? (Well, actually, I might do that, but that’s not the point.) All I ask is that you try building an EDH deck that’s main focus isn’t killing everyone immediately. You might be surprised at what you find.

Here’s a decklist for those interested in trying it out!


By Kyle A. Massa – Play the Ten Drop
You can reach Kyle at @mindofkyleam on Twitter or through his site www.kyleamassa.com


Three Kings Loot - August 6, 2015

Commander 2015 Spoilers – Card Gallery and Release Notes

CMD Logo

Commander 2015 Spoilers


We finally have some information trickling in about the upcoming Commander 2015 product set to release in November. This one is going to explore the 5 enemy-colored pairs of Orzhov, Izzet, Boros, Golgari & Simic. As usual we will have a slew of new cards specifically designed for this product, many of which have been viable for eternal play where they are legal. While we don’t know many details yet there is a hint at ‘Experience Counters’ that will make your commander grow in power.

We hope to get more information soon as well as some of the new cards previewed. Stay tuned.

Release Notes

Release Date: November 13, 2015
Three-Letter Abbreviation: C15
Twitter Hashtag: #MTGC15
MSRP: $34.99 (per deck)
Languages: English, Japanese, French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Chinese Simplified

Commander (2015) brings 5 new enemy-colored preconstructed decks to the widely popular multiplayer format, Commander!

Casual players will enjoy playing with these decks right out of the box as well as crafting new Commander decks or adding to their own deck creations using the 15 new Magiccards found in each deck!

With a total of 55 new cards in the set, Commander (2015) is sure to be exciting for any experienced player looking to change-up their favorite decks!

Each Deck Contains:

  • A 100-card Commander deck
  • One oversized Foil Commander card for each deck
  • 10 double-sided tokens
  • Deck storage box
  • Strategy insert and rules reference card
  • 15 new Magic cards (55 for the set in total)





Card Gallery

anya merciless angelarachnogenesisarjuntheshiftingflame1bastion protectorbloodsporethrinaxcallerofthepackcommand beacondaxostormentgrasp of fategreatoakguardianheraldofthehostkarlov of the ghost councilmagus of the wheelmeren of clannel tothmeteorblastmirror matchmizzixs masterymysticconfluenceoreskosexplorerpathbreaker ibexrighteousconfluenceriteoftheragingstormscourge of nel tothshieldedbyfaithsynthetic destinythiefofbloodthoughtvesselverdant confluencewarchiefgiantwretchedconfluence151103-DreadSummonskalemne,discipleofiroasDaxos the ReturnedKaseto Orochi ArchmageMazirek Kraul Death PriestMizzix of the IzmagnusBlade of SelvesFiery ConfluenceGigantoplasmKalemnes CaptainScytheclawBanshee of the DreadchoirIllusory AmbusherSkullwinder




Daniel Clayton - September 25, 2014

Live by the Night, Die by the Night as Olivia Voldaren EDH

Olivia Voldaren edh

Live by the Night, Die by the Night as Olivia Voldaren EDH

 By Daniel Clayton – The Will of the Floral Spuzzem

Vampires have always been one of my favorite creatures in the game of Magic, I still remember back in the day playing with my brother’s cards and thinking that there was not a whole lot that was better than Soul Collector, a 3/4 from Scourge that cost 5 to play and when a creature dies the same turn that it was dealt damage by Soul Collector it comes back into play under your control. You can imagine my disappointment when I found out that Tribal Vampire decks were not exactly competitive decklists. There was a few very short times during Zendikar, Innistrad and then towards the end of the Return to Ravnica set that Vampires entered the standard mindset, but the place that Vampires have really had a chance in my opinion is in the realm of Elder Dragon Highlander, or EDH, as it’s also known. EDH is a format I play pretty regularly even if it’s almost impossible to find tournaments for it, since I live in Delaware most of the time.


Night Life by Daniel Clayton 

Olivia Voldaren EDH / Commander 


Olivia Voldaren EDH deck borrows heavily from another deck that was posted by Cassidy Silver on the 7th of October 2011, you can find it here. While my decklist “Night Life” does borrow heavily from his, I have added a few cards to the list, taken some out, and directly subbed others to make the decklist mine. The commander of my deck is of course Olivia Voldaren, a strong creature with all of the abilities you’d want in a vampire, Flying, the ability to deal damage to other things and get bigger, and most importantly, it has the ability to take control of opponent’s creatures. There are quite a few interesting lands in this deck and some of them are potentially very expensive cards; on a less expensive note, the deck does run almost 20 basic lands in Swamps and Mountains. The deck also runs quite a few fetch lands, from Bloodstained Mire to Terramorphic Expanse and Evolving Wilds. Following up the fetches, the deck does run a compliment of dual lands, in Badlands, Blood Crypt, Command Tower, and Dragonskull Summit. The deck also contains various lands that can be used in conjunction with other cards for combos, such as an infinite mana combo with Cabal Coffers or Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx.  These lands can sometimes tap for lots of mana, first black mana equal to the amount of Swamps for Cabal Coffers and the other Nykthos can tap for any one mana equal to your devotion to that color. Deserted Temple for one mana and taping it you can untap a land, such as these big mana producers I just mentioned. Then Rings of Brighthearth for two mana can copy any spell or ability, this card not only works into this combo, but works well with quite a few cards in the deck making their powerful abilities even more powerful. Another smaller combo built into the deck is Strip Mine and Wasteland with Crucible of Worlds to shut down your opponent’s ability to keep lands on the field. The deck also contains various forms of mana fixing and acceleration in Graven Cairns, Phyrexian Tower, and the two cards we named before Cabal Coffers and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. The rest of the lands in the deck have unique effects that in many cases is not sufficiently covered by the rest of the deck. The first of these is Bojuka Bog, a Swamp replacement that enters play tapped, but makes up for it by exiling a graveyard from the game. There’s Reliquary tower, which removes your hand limit. Shizo, Death’s Storehouse, a replacement for a Swamp that can give a legendary creature fear until end of turn. Spinerock Knoll is a replacement for a Mountain with hideaway that you can activate when an opponent takes 7 damage in a turn. Stensia Bloodhall is a land that taps for two damage to target player for four mana. Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is a land that makes all lands Swamps in addition to their other types, that can boost up Cabal CoffersVolrath’s Stronghold is a land card that returns a creature from your graveyard to the top of your deck. As well as  Shinka, The Bloodsoaked Keep a replacement for a Mountain that can give a legendary creature first strike until end of turn. The creatures in the deck largely contribute to the tribal theme of the deck being vampires for the most part. There are many creatures in the deck that are not vampires, but the cool thing about having Olivia as your general means that you can turn any creature into a vampire. Additionally, the card Conspiracy allows you to turn all your creatures into a specific creature type, both in and out of play. There is also  Mephidross Vampire from Fifth Dawn that not only turns all your creatures in play into vampires, but he also gives them the ability that when they send another creature to the grave they get a +1/+1 counter. The first vampire in the list Anowan the Ruin Sage, is one  that I almost made my general, it’s an outstanding Vampire that makes each player sacrifice a creature during your upkeep. Baron Sengir is an outstanding addition to any vampire tribal deck with two strong abilities and flying, his first ability is that he gets larger by two +1/+1 counters each time a creature it deals damage to dies, secondly you can tap him to regenerate a vampire. As an additional reach against opponents, Blood Artist gives you both more life and takes life away from your opponent each time a creature dies. Bloodghast is one of those creatures that you don’t find on a lot of EDH decklists, but it just feels worth it for a 2/1 that comes back from the grave each time a land enters play. As mentioned before, there are several non-Vampire creatures in the deck like several demons. Two such demons are Bloodgift Demon, a creature that makes a player pay 1 life and draw a card and Charmbreaker Devils, a big flyer that gets bigger when you cast an instant or sorcery and them brings back from the grave each upkeep. Kicker and multikicker are mechanics that when activated they give their spells a more powerful effect, a few cards in this deck take advantage of these kick abilities. Urza’s Rage deals ten damage when kicked and four when it is not. Blood Tribute is a card that takes away half of an opponent’s life, but lets you gain it when it is kicked. And finally Bloodhusk Ritualist a vampire with a multikicker that makes the opponent discard equal to the number of times you kicked it. The set Rise of the Eldrazi gave us many powerful creatures, but for the vampire tribal deck there are few that are more powerful than Nirkana Revenant. She Acts like a “black” Mana Flare for all your swamps and pumping herself for every black mana you spend. Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief acting as both removal and a pump up for this flying vampire. This deck also comes with two token producers in Bloodline Keeper which produces tokens, then if you control five vampires you can flip him to turn him into a lord for vampires. And Kiki-Jiki, I know he’s not a vampire, but it lets you produce token copies of all of your most powerful creatures until end of turn. Vampire Nighthawk is in the deck, because it didn’t feel right to run a vampire deck without it. And the last three vampires all have powerful effects, Bloodlord of Vaasgoth gives all of your Vampire creature spells bloodthirst 3, giving vampires +3/+3 if an opponent was dealt damage on the same turn you cast them. Butcher of Malakir and Grave Pact make your opponent’s sacrifice a creature each time one of your creatures die, and Captivating Vampire takes control of a creature and makes it a vampire if you tap five vampires. The deck contains its three indestructible Gods for their powerful abilities, Mogis, God of Slaughter which makes opponent’s have to sacrifice a creature on there upkeeps or take 2 damage. Erebos, God of the Dead let’s you draw cards in exchange for life and stopping your opponent’s from gaining life. Lastly Purphorous, God of the Forge deals damage each time a creature enters the field under your control. The last three creatures have useful enter the battlefield abilities, there is Duplicant with the ability to make himself a copy of any creature on the battlefield and exiling it from the game as well. Godo, Bandit Warlord let’s you search your library for an equipment card when he enters the battlefield and then each turn he gives himself and all samurai an extra combat phase after the first time he attacks. Solemn Simulacrum searches for a land when it enters the battlefield and draws you a card when it leaves play. There are only eleven instants and sorceries in the deck, but they are some great ones and allow my Charmbreaker Devils to get me exactly what I want almost every time. The deck runs a whooping six tutors in the deck, we already went over Godo, so the others are Demonic Tutor, Vampiric Tutor, Beseech the Queen, and Planar Portal to search up anything in your deck and then Expedition Map to search up one of any land. The instants and sorceries also contain most of the decks removal suite, whether it’s Hero’s Downfall to kill a creature or planeswalker, Shattering Pulse a recurring artifact hate or Damnation which is one of the best creature mass removal spells in the game. The removal may be scarce, but it gets the job done in most cases. Exsanguinate is a pretty big win condition in the deck, with the amount of black mana that this deck can generate. The last two sorceries in the deck are Yawgmoth’s Will which can be extremely broken if you’re able to generate a tremendous amount of mana. It allows you to play out every card from your graveyard, the only problem is that any cards sent to your graveyard this turn are exiled instead. The second to last sorcery is Temporal Extortion which either takes away half of an opponent’s life total or gives you an extra turn. It can be a pretty hefty sum of life or accelerate your board position especially with the deadly combination of Charmbreaker Devils. The enchantments in this deck may be the strongest categories of cards if for nothing else than their sheer abilities of card advantage or mana ramp with only one exception.  The remaining enchantments either generate mana like Black Market, Braid of Fire, or in the pseudo fashion of Heatrless Summoning by making creatures cheaper to play or they generate card draw like Phyrexian Arena and Dark Prophecy at the expense of life. I understand how the power of Braid of Fire can be overlooked, but this is an outstanding ability for Olivia’s first ability and potentially lets you ping down your opponent’s field all the while making Olivia larger. The last powerful enchantment is Stranglehold which shuts down a ton of cards by preventing your opponent from searching their library and from taking extra turns. The artifacts in the deck help to make things easier for you with their powerful effects. The first set of artifacts aim to make your general even better than she already is, whether it’s making her a 1-ping kill with Basilisk Collar, or making her hexproof with Swiftfoot Boots and Lightning Greaves. The next few artifact aim to improve your mana cost such as Urza’s Incubator making all of your vampires cheaper to cast or mana acceleration through Rakdos Signet and Sol Ring. The last artifact in the deck, Relic of Progenitus is a powerful artifact that gives you a way to not only deal with your opponent’s graveyard recursion, but also a pretty solid way to filter cards out of your own graveyard to make Charmbreaker Devils better. The planeswalkers in the deck basically act as curveballs for the deck that your opponent has to have answers for or they begin to take over the game. The first planeswalker on our list is Chandra, the Firebrand, her plus 1 ability can ping  for one an opponent or a creature, her -2 makes all of your instants or sorceries twice as good by copying them and finally her -6 can decimate both your opponents and creatures on the field by dealing 6 damage up to 6 targets. Karn Liberated is probably the second biggest planeswalker in the deck by price and probably the most powerful of all the planeswalkers in the deck. His +4, that’s right +4, exiles a card from your opponent’s hand, then his -4 exiles a permanent from the field while his ultimate at -14, restarts the game with all permanents exiled under him being put under your control. The next three walkers are Lilianas, the most famous of all of them is Liliana of the Veil, a three mana walker that has the ability to make an opponent sacrifice a creature, another makes each player discard a card, and then ultimately make your opponent sacrifice potentially a lot of permanents. The second is Liliana of the Dark Realms that can fetch a swamp for plus one loyalty, as well as a mutilate for minus three and her ultimate creates an emblem that makes all of your swamps tap for four mana. The final is the most expensive of the three Lilis: Liliana Vess, but her abilities are top notch. For starters her plus ability makes target opponent discard a card, then her minus acts as a tutor that puts a card of your choice on top of your library and her ultimate brings back a substantial amount of creatures from the grave to the battlefield all under your control. Overall, I feel that these planeswalkers add a healthy degree of randomness and power to the deck that opponent’s must find an answer to.

Today, we looked at Olivia Voldaren EDH as tribal vampires, a great deck at least in my opinion. EDH is a great format that I feel is under-appreciated by a lot of players because they feel that it’s too weird of a format, or it’s too hard to learn, while these are the types of players that would be most acclimated to join the format as most of the time these players are casual players with too many cards on their hands.

By Daniel Clayton – The Will of the Floral Spuzzem
@Dc4Vp on Twitter
Three Kings Loot - September 12, 2014

Update to Commander / EDH Banlist

Kokusho the evening star - Update to Commander / EDH Banlist

Update to Commander / EDH Banlist

Earlier today, the EDH Council decided to do away with having two ban lists (Banned as Commander vs Banned), and now cards are just banned or not banned. The result was an unbanning of Kokusho and Metalworker, so now you can use Kokusho as your general.