The Commander's Workshop - Elves, Elves, Elves...
Sorry for keeping you all waiting, but here is the next article in my commander deck building series. To briefly recap, I will be taking one of the pre-constructed Commander 2014 decks and over the course of a few months make changes and additions. My fortnightly budget will be $25, so I hope to show that you can make powerful decks on a budget.
Last time I left off with a vote on which deck I would be building around. I left the poll up for a couple of days, and though it was close at the time, the eventual winner was the Green deck, led by Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury.
After going out and buying the deck, I sat down and had a good look through it. What the deck immediately screams at you is ELVES ELVES ELVES. The fact that both Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury and Ezuri, Renegade Leader two of the legends included in the deck revolve to some extent around the pointy eared folks, it’s no wonder they’re such a major theme. On top of that there are some big fatties you want to ramp up into, like Terastodon and one of my personal favourites Thunderfoot Baloth. There’s also a fair bit of Card draw laced throughout in the form of cards like Collective Unconscious and more creature based stuff like Soul of the Harvest. I knew after looking at this deck that I would likely enjoy playing it quite a bit and wasn’t proven wrong. The same day I bought the deck, I headed off to Hobbymaster Takapuna to do battle at the weekly commander club.
We were all split off into 5 person pods, and I ended up at a pod playing against the following Commanders:
As soon as I saw the Augustin player sit down, I knew I was in for a bit of a grind. This quickly proved to be true, when not only did they reveal a Chancellor of the Annex before the game even started, but then proceeded to play Augustin turn two off of a Sol Ring! Matters were further complicated when the Nin player then used a Phyrexian Metamorph to copy the Augustin. This meant that my first spell was going to cost me three extra at minimum, and with the cheapest spell in my hand costing 2G, In wasn’t doing anything until turn six. The game progressed at a rather slow pace after this point, with the Augustin player managing to develop quite a board state mostly consisting of a bunch of big nasty fliers. The Zedruu player was unfortunately both mana and colour screwed for most of the game, not seeing a blue source until a turn or two before they were taken out of the game. They did however cast a Chaosphere, which proved crucial in dealing with the Augustin player’s flyers. I eventually managed to land Freyalise and by using her +2 I was able to get my mana up significantly quicker than before. I eventually ended up with enough of a board state to activate her ultimate to draw my twelve cards, almost entirely to find some kind of overrun effect. I took out both the Augustin and Nin player in quick succession, with the Zedruu player suiciding themselves with a Pact of Negation to counter my Beastmaster Ascension with only one blue source in play. I then easily took out the Daretti player and the game was mine.
This wasn’t remotely something I was expecting, that I would win my first game with the deck. I was pleasantly surprised by this, and went into my next round full of hope that would soon be crushed.
My opponents this time were:
As soon as this game began, I felt that things were going to be different. Zur himself is generally the biggest threat on any table, but it seemed like every other deck was also something to be afraid of. The scion player forwent their first land drop in order to discard a Charmbreaker Devils, which they then had an Exhume for a turn or two later. This of course let them constantly recur the Exhume which allowed them to bring back some of the nasty dragons Scion allows you to put into your graveyard. Gaddock Teeg is a massive pain for this deck, being that it shuts off Freyalise entirely, meaning I was unable to cast my Commander the entire game, which was unpleasant. Rasputin Dreamweaver piloted by the my fellow writer on this site Henry Moore was fairly pleasant to play with, as it did almost nothing to try and disrupt me. This was sensible, as throughout the game all I managed to cast was a couple of elves that quickly fell to board wipes. I then proceeded to draw nothing but lands and CMC 4+ spells that meant I was quickly out of the game.
Feeling oddly somewhere between elation for having won a pod, and miserable simply from playing against some bad match-ups, I nevertheless went home looking very much forward to the next week.
I turned up next week, and sat down at my first Pod, which consisted of:
Scion of the Ur-Dragon (Same player as last week)
As soon as I sat down and saw the double dragon decks, I knew this was going to be an interesting pod. I managed to burst out of the gates quickly with lots of elves, and started to try take out a player or two. On a pivotal turn I had enough power on board to take out both of the Dragon players thanks to a fully charged Beastmaster Ascension. Unfortunately the Ascension was taken out by a timely Nature’s Claim from the Borborygmos player, and I was quickly dispatched. The game ended soon after when the Borb player was able to use a Life from the Loam to recur lands to throw at the dragon players.
For the second game of the night, I decided to use one of my own decks to have a bit of a breather from Mono-green for the night and nearly won the pod, but was crushed by a Price of Progress.
So having got in what I thought was a good sample of games, I turned to the internet once again to vote upon which of the three commanders I should focus my deck building around. The results were a lot more clear-cut this time around, with Titania, Protector of Argoth taking out the top spot.
Titania, Protector of Argoth is probably the hardest general to build around with the limitations I have in place budget-wise, given that what she really wants is fetchlands, which are likely to be somewhat outside of my price range for this series. In spite of this, I endeavour to give it my best shot.
After looking at the card for a while, I decided some sort of Stax approach was probably going to be the best thing for her.
Additions and subtractions are as follows, with some notes afterwards:
+Life from the Loam $4.50
+Zuran Orb $1.50
+Chord of Calling $4.50
+Evolving Wilds $0.30
+Tectonic Edge $3.20
+Centaur Garden $0.70
+Encroaching Wastes $0.50
So a little over budget this week, but I’m not too fussed. Life from the Loam, Zuran Orb and Smokestack all tie into the Stax theme I’m aiming for. It seems like with Titania in play Smokestack will be able to stick around for a while, fuelled by both lands and the Tokens, with Life from the Loam also ensuring I have a healthy amount of Lands every Turn keeping me going. Zuran Orb also helps here, as it lets me stay alive a bit longer, whilst also putting lands in the graveyard for Titania to bring back in a pinch. The lands I’m adding all put themselves into the graveyard some way or another, which I think is important with Titania at the head of the deck.
The cuts are generally just cards I played with and didn’t like, like Grim Floweringwhich didn’t really do anything the games in which I drew it, to things like Commander’s Sphere which has no place in an already ramp heavy deck list this one. Sylvan offering feels like it gives too much to the opponents, and Thornweald Archeris just kind of “Meh” in Commander all around. The lands are mostly just being cut to make room for the more interesting ones, though special shout-outs to Jungle Basin being unbelievably awful in general.
So, that’s the changes for this week. I hope to maybe see and play some of you at Commander Club in the next couple of weeks, and look forward to my next article. Please leave any feedback, ideas and suggestion in the Facebook post I’ll make when this article goes live.