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Combining New York Format and Commander: Part 1 - Setting Things Up


Hello Happy Commander Fans! I hope you are having an awesome day today! Recently Benjamin Nicol wrote up a two-part series where he created a deck with 5 basics and one card from every expansion set 1-95 to get a Commander deck over a two part series. (You can find Benjamin's stuff here).

He didn't realize that running a card from every expansions set (in 4-of, by the by) is a format called "New York." New York has, twice, appeared in the old Invitational, and I wrote about it almost 20 years ago. I don't think Benjamin knew about NYF because the rules of it were not included the rules of the competition. You can use any nonbasic land from any set it was printed in, so I could run Deadly Insect from Masques or Alliances. In the rules, you do need to count the first set, but we don't have space for that and my basics. Also, we'll end with Phyrexia: All Will be One, just like he did. Note that Benjamin only wound up with 35 lands. I will be having a conversation here with him and his picks.

Who am I building around? Let's look!


Horde of Notions

This Five-Color Elemental leading fun thing. This costs five, rocks a 5/5 with three keywords including haste and trample, so you can get in a hit out of nowhere and speed up your Commander Damage kill with evasion. You can also swing and stay untapped to block. For five mana you can Zombify a key Elemental, and that will be the key card I want to build around, with a bunch of ETB triggers to run.

Mercadian Masques; Saviors of Kamigawa

Ashes of the Fallen

This is my Horde of Notions combo to make all of the stuff in my graveyard the Elemental creature type. The enchantment is a 5 drop that will let all of your stuff be Elementals, in your deck for Tutoring, in your hand, in play, wherever. Then the artifact costs two, and then it can arrive and make your non-Elementals in your graveyard Elementals. We are building around these three cards! Ready?

Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Legends

City of Brass
Ashnod's Altar
Sylvan Library

Check out this trio from the first three sets. The City is an obvious addition to my deck with its ability to tap for all of the colors. That's what Benjamin ran, too. Then he ran Strip Mine for Antiquities. I could do that, but instead I need a zero-mana sac effect to sacrifice my Elementals over and over again for free to get the many triggers. This is a mana free sacrifice effect. It's too important not to run. The Library is the obvious choice, although Benjamin went with Land Tax, but this is card sorting, draw, and all on one two drop. Other options include Mana Drain, Sol'Kanar the Swamp King, the legendary lands that aren't banned, and more!

The Dark, Fallen Empires, Ice Age

Fellwar Stone
Rainbow Vale
Swords to Plowshares

Check out this trio of the next sets! Fellwar Stone is a great choice for a two-drop mana rock in a Five Color deck, but I also love Maze of Ith. Jonathan went with the weird Goblin Chirugeon, which can sac to save a Commander. But there's a Five Color land there called Rainbow Vale that can be tapped for any color of mana and then given away, and then they use it and then repeat. There are also great cards here like Hymn to Tourach. Ice Age is dense with the pain lands, Brainstorm, Counterspell, Mystic Remora (which Jonathan went with), and of course my pick in Swords!

Homelands, Alliances

Memory Lapse
Thawing Glaciers

I am just doing two here to get me onto the three per Block starting next set. Jonathan did two counters with these two sets in Arcane Denial and Memory Lapse. I am doing a land and a counter instead. Other good Homelands could include Merchant Scroll and Eron the Relentless. The Glaciers are the best fetch land over time since they can get more than one of each basic from your deck. Although they are slow since they arrive tapped. Other good Alliances stuff could have Force of Will, Kjeldoran Outpost, Diminishing Returns for another draw 7, and loads more!

Mirage Block

Bad River
Buried Alive

Jonathan chose Mystical Tutor, Vampiric Tutor and Mind Stone. Most people have forgotten the friendly uncommon fetch land cycle in Mirage that gives you two colors of lands, plus duals that we'll add into later land slots. I am choosing Bad River since it'll get a Swamp dual land since that's likely my color of emphasis. Then we have the choice of which ETB dork I want from the set that introduced them - the creature-bouncing Man-o'-War, Nekrataal or Uktabi Orangutan. I am choosing the middle. Then Mind Stone or Lotus Vale or super secret tech Winding Canyons might be good here, but I have to run Buried Alive. Swapping a Tutor for lands will now give me 37 lands.

Tempest Block

Living Death
Volrath's Stronghold
Survival of the Fittest

This is rough for me as all the hits are here for this deck. Take Tempest as a good example. That set has three great cards for this deck - Cloudchaser Eagle, Living Death and Goblin Bombardment. The last two are essentials for this brew. Which one do I toss in?

Bombardment is generally considered the best mana free sacrifice engine ever printed. The Death is mass removal and mass recursion in one spell and the best at what it does. The Death or the GBB? The Death. For Stronghold there are tons of good things, but I am doing a Stronghold. Its ability to put a dead dork onto my library is too good not too. What about the last set? Spike Weaver? Ravenous Baboons? Survival is too good not to. I can tutor and fill my graveyard at the same time. Jonathan did Harrow, Mox and Survival, so I am up another land and now at 38. That'll be my most powerful Block addition.

Urza's Block

Phyrexian Tower
Avalanche Riders
Keldon Vandals

Jonathan here choose Gaea's Cradle, Mother of Runes and Pattern of Rebirth. I won't be taking any of those. Saga is dense with the good cards, like but I am also going to go with a land here, the Tower, that taps to sacrifice a dork for two mana. It doesn't take any resources to use, just a tap. There are a bunch of great ETB cards with echo frumping around like Raven Familiar, Karmic Guide, Ghitu Slinger and Avalanche Riders, but I am going with the Riders since I need emergency land removal, and I cannot take this in my Time Spiral slot. In the next set I could do Yavimaya Elder, Academy Rector to fetch out a key enchantment, Bloodshot Cyclops, Elvish Piper, but let's do the artifact removal of the Vandals.

Nemesis, Prophecy

Avatar of Woe
Ancient Hydra

Jonathan did Bribery, Rhystic Study and Skyshroud Claim to get duals. All 5C good stuff. Conspiracy is my Masques card and then Avatar of Woe is easy, since it'll arrive for just two mana if we have ten or more creatures in all graveyards. Very easy in multiplayer. Then there are a few options for Nemesis like Ancient Hydra, Belbe's Portal, Blastoderm, Rootwater Thief, the Seal cycle, Terrain Generator. The Portal will let you drop Elementals from your hand with Conspiracy out. That's a hard combo to get both out at the same time. So, I do Ancient Hydra to pull off counters to deal damage to things. It'll also die from counters and fading and then come back over and over again.

Invasion Block

Phyrexian Altar
Flametongue Kavu
Mystic Snake

Jonathan did Aura Shards, Terminate and a painland. Nice! I like Phyrexian Altar as another mana free sacrifice option. Then Flametongue Kavu is an obvious top card from its set, although there are loads of other goods. I need counters for this brew for when people come after my key Conspiracy or Ashes. Enter the Snake. Sure, it costs three colored mana, but beggars cannot be choosers here. Note that Horde's Zombify is instant speed, so if it's in your graveyard you can activate and counter out of nowhere. That drops my lands to 37 if I hit the same spots.

Odyssey Block

Faceless Butcher

What did Jonathan run in this Spike'y block? A filter land, Deep Analysis and Krosan Verge. I cannot so that so instead...the powerhouse that is Entomb arrives. This is my Buried Alive at instant speed for one card. It's very strong here at setting up the goods and shutting things down with the right creature. There's a lot of great stuff in this set like Wild Mongrel, Moment's Peace, and Call of the Herd.

Then from Torment I like Deep Analysis sure. But this is also the place for Ambassador Laquatus, Chainer's Edict, Circular Logic, and Far Wanderings. I am going with the Butcher to add to my removal suite, and Genesis because it's recursion I can get into my graveyard with the Buried Alive and Entomb. Love it loads here!

Onslaught Block

Wooded Foothills
Seedborn Muse
Eternal Dragon

Here Jonathon ran a fetch land, Seedborn and Decree of Pain. Obviously, we'll do a fetch land here too, and since I already have the Black/Blue one from Mirage we'll do theRed/Green one here. I could also do Grand Coliseum which taps for all five colors. Or Patriarch's Bidding for my brew. I like Windborn Muse in theory to slow down folks, but the Seedborn one is the best choice for my deck too. Scourge is the set that gave us the landcyclers like Eternal Dragon, and Decree of Justice is nice too. I also love Siege-Gang Commander here too! I do the Dragon that can cycle and then get into your graveyard for recursion later.

And now...the Modern format strikes!

Mirrodin Block

Solemn Simulacrum
Eternal Witness

Here I am just going to go with three good stuff picks. The sad robot costs four generic, ramps a basic of any color, and has a death trigger for a card to sacrifice and recur. Nasty here! Skullclamp is a powerhouse card flow equipment in any deck with going wide things. Ideally here you'll want to drop an ETB trigger, equip for one, sacrifice for two cards. Repeat. Nasty here! The Witness costs double green but with a 2/1 body and a Regrowth on an ETB stick. It's also clampable for two. You don't have to cast this on the 3rd turn, so the double green cost is less important here. Love it loads! Jonathan did Sad Robot, Witness but Sword of Fire and Ice from Darksteel.

Champions and Betrayers

Forbidden Orchard
Ninja of the Deep Hours

No matter how good the other lands and cards like Sensei's Divining Top and Ghostly Prison are, I cannot take anything other than a Five Color land in this poor mana base Five Color deck. For Betrayers, what could I grab? Tendo Ice Bridge? A good Shoal? The fun Genju of the Realm? Ink-Eyes? Kira? Jitte?

Nope! I have to do Ninja of the Deep Hours. This powerhouse will let me bounce an ETB dork when it's unblocked and recast it for another trigger. It'll also draw me cards too. Saviors was my Ashes of the Fallen. Jonathan choose the Orchard, Final Judgment and Oboro.

Ravnica Block

Watery Grave
Blood Crypt
Godless Shrine

We are going to each go with all the Shock Duals, just different ones. Watery Grave gives me my emphasized color of Black and my double Blue Snake and my Time Spiral card. Blood Crypt gives me the emphasized color of Black with my backup Red. Godless Shrine is another Black dual, and I'd prefer the Golgari one with Eternal Witness just grabbed, but it's in Time Spiral with the Dimir one, which is needed more.

Coldsnap and Time Spiral Block

Frost Marsh
Draining Whelk

Tolaria West

Jonathan chose for these four did Coldsteel Heart, Vesuva, Pongify and Horizon Canopy. I prefer a land from Coldsnap. I also love the idea of Dark Depths here, but it doesn't tap for mana. Instead, we are doing the Marsh.

The Whelk is a key counter that answers problems in my brew. It the set with the purple expansion symbol too, so this is deep. We need that counter. What about Planar Chaos? Pongify is great, as is Harmonize. But I need a mass removal spell, and the four cost, in my colors of emphasis Damnation is key here. Plus they'll come back with Horde recursion. I do like a land from Future Sight but I don't need the Canopy. Tolaria West would be cool at tutoring for a land from my deck. And it taps for mana. Let's do it!

Lorwyn and Shadowmoor Blocks

Reflecting Pool
Bloom Tender

I already have my Lorwyn card with Horde of Notions, so I can only add in three cards. For Morningtide I could do Primal Beyond, but only tap for Elementals with Conspiracy, Brighthearth Banneret for the same, Fertilid to be an Elemental and gets lands, Reveillark as a tribal good stuff option, Slithermuse to draw cards, and more. Let's do Reveillark! Reflecting Pool is great for Shadowmoor since you can get more than one mana of your stuff. For Eventide I could do what Jonathan did with Bloom Tender. I also love Flickerwisp here as an Elemental that blinks a key ETB dork. Both are synergetic here. Jonathan also did Mulldrifter, Negate and Mystic Gate.

I have 49 cards, room for one more to get halfway done, but we have a full block, so I'll do one more block, and then stop at 52.

Shards Block

Corpse Connoisseur
Exotic Orchard

Jonathan grabbed his Commander and he's with the legendary caring Esika, God of the Tree and Prismatic Bridge. So, he grabbed two legendaries and Exotic Orchard here. I love the Panoramas and Tri-Taps here in the first set. I love ETB Dragon maker Broodmate Dragon but it requires three colored mana or Elvish Visionary to draw a card. We're doing the obvious powerhouse here Corpse Connoisseur that costs five, searches for a dork and puts it into my graveyard on arrival to the battlefield and rocks unearth.

Then the Fellwar Stone land, sure, that'll tap for pretty much all of our colors, sure. And then Anathemancer can be a win con in a three-drop Rakdos colored body with unearth too. It's awesome to bring back over and over again with Horde of Notions. I also really like here Vithian Renegades as a three-drop Gruul anti-artifact spell. Nasty stuff here!

And there we are with 52 cards, let's check out the decklist!

I hope you enjoyed the first half of this challenge of combining NYF with Commander! Ready for next week?

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