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Homelands Commander

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A short while ago, I was e-mailed by a reader, Laurent Lignon over in Paris, about a challenge to build a Commander deck around a Homelands commander. There was a discussion over on reddit about it.

Baron Sengir
Well, that’s just the sort of challenge that I need to get my deck-building mojo going. As you can see, the challenge is simple: Build a deck with a commander from Homelands as your leader; and use at least twenty cards from Homelands in your deck.

I began to think back to that era.

To my mind, the easiest of the Homelands legends to build around is Baron Sengir, with Soraya, the Falconer soon behind at number two. The Baron makes a lovely choice for a Vampire deck. All you have to do is grab a bunch of Vampires, include some Vampire lords like Captivating Vampire and Vampire Nocturnus, and then add in some Vampire-flavored removal and Sorin Markov, and you are done. It’ll take like fifteen minutes to build. Show up with your Baron Sengir deck next week, and people will think you have a pretty fun tribal deck!

But I’m not too sure about the full twenty cards in your deck from Homelands. Why?

Most of the legendary creatures in Homelands have just one color identity. Remember that Homelands is a small set, too, with a very small number of cards.

Suppose you are running a mono-white commander. How many white cards can you run? Nineteen. Some (Beast Walkers, for example) have two colors in their identities. And some don’t make any sense, such as Leeches. Black can’t run Timmerian Fiends, as they are banned. And it’s not exactly an artifact-heavy set like Antiquities was. There are just ten. (And again, some, like Didgeridoo, make no sense in a general deck.)

Plus, there’s a quality threshold. I don’t think we have too many readers out there who are really jonesing for another run of Ebony Rhino in their lives.

So for my Homelands challenge, I will run some Homelands cards in my color, but not as twenty percent of my deck.

Who would I go with?

Well, I’ve already done Hazduhr the Abbot recently. And Soraya is just a lighter version of Kangee, Aerie Keeper. Autumn Willow? Eron the Relentless? Grandmother Sengir? Maybe Joven? That’s pretty much it—unless you want to dip your toe into things like Veldrane of Sengir or Rashka the Slayer. Nope!

We’re going in another direction entirely:

And there we go!

Daughter of Autumn
So let’s look a bit more closely at the Daughter of Autumn deck, shall we? What does it bring to the table?

Well, first of all, you can prevent damage to a white creature and move it to the Daughter instead. That means I need to run enough white creatures to matter. I made sure to include a lot of gold creatures which are, incidentally, also white. More than half of my creature suite is white.

So you can use Daughter of Autumn to protect your stuff from being killed by moving over a damage here and there—just make sure that you don’t move over too much! We can try to keep Daughter alive with Darksteel Plate and then hop over damage a-go-go. That’s a nifty little combo.

We can also cast Druid's Call on the Daughter, and then, as you put damage on her, she’ll pop out some 1/1 Squirrel tokens. Who doesn’t like the occasional Squirrel beating down? Another combo is Rite of Passage. Move a damage over, and then after it’s dealt, give the Daughter a +1/+1 counter, and soon, you’ll have a really big Daughter who can move over a lot more damage. Or you can swing with a gigantic Daughter.

What else do you have?

I added in some other damage-moving. Take a card like Shaman en-Kor. You can use it to move damage to it from another source and then spread that damage out. That gives you the ability to save stuff, and it meshes with the tricks I already tossed in, such as Rite of Passage. You can also toss damage onto Saber Ants or Hornet Nest—which have built-in token-making—Phytohydra and its built-in Rite of Passage (but only better), or even the flavorful and studly Stuffy Doll.

I mean, Stuffy Doll is always a good addition to Commander decks, but in this one, it really works.

Opal-Eye, Konda's Yojimbo
You can pull damage into Kjeldoran Royal Guard or Opal-Eye, Konda's Yojimbo. While the Kjeldoran folks can only send damage that was heading your way in combat to themselves, Opal-Eye can bounce damage from other sources. And then don’t forget that Opal-Eye can prevent some damage as well—if you have mana available. Like this theme but want more? How about Beacon of Destiny?

Now check out Zhalfirin Crusader. Any damage that would be sent to the Crusader can be bounced, on a one-for-one basis, to any creature or player. So you can send some damage its way and then send it to one of your foes or an opponent’s creatures. You can swing with it and then send combat damage back, and the flanking really screws up people on blocking more than you’d think. Folks don’t remember how to play around it. Want to push this theme? Check out Zealous Inquisitor.

Speaking of an ability that people can’t play around anymore, banding has always been a very confusing ability for some. And on defense, it’s even better, and it plays into your theme of dividing damage around for triggering effects and keeping the team alive. So Baton of Morale makes too much sense not to run. Remember that you only need one creature with banding on defense to split damage as you choose, so you only have to activate it once.

And if your foes bring something that’s way too big or evasive to block normally, you can run Kor Haven or use those Kjeldoran Royal Guard.

Blinding Angel
I want to limit my opponents’ attacking. Now I don’t want to run a bunch of Fogs or Festival-style cards. But I could run Blinding Angel to hit someone and then cease his or her mewling. Or you could prevent a bunch of attacking with things like Silent Arbiter and Dueling Grounds to keep yourself from being overloaded—you aren’t keeping your creatures alive with indestructible creatures or such, just damage prevention and spreading it out—there’s only so much of that you can absorb in one attack step.

In order to flavor this thang up, I tossed in some Homelands, and then Homelands-esque, cards. So we have Autumn Willow as the mommy, Joven's Ferrets and Rysorian Badger for some solid bodies, and other old-school creatures from that era (Orim, Samite Healer for example).

There are several folks that have the “feel” of this era for me. I think Tolsimir Wolfblood feels like an old-school guy all day long, and Darien, King of Kjeldor and Selvala, Explorer Returned are both the sort of card that make me really happy. They fit my flavor.

Next, I hit up the expected utility creatures—they destroy other permanents, make mana, or give me some useful protection abilities. Tap Mother of Runes to give your Daughter protection from red, and then when you move that red damage over, you look a lot better! You could also redirect damage from an instant or sorcery source and then used Devoted Caretaker to prevent all of that damage. This way, you can move damage over from multiple sources, from combat, or from a spell like Magmaquake, rather than just saving one like you’d normally be able to do with Mother- or Caretaker-style cards.

Wrap in Vigor
Notice that this deck has a lot of creatures with low casting costs? It seems to be a good place for Reveillark! If you wanted, you could toss in a card like Sun Titan, too.

I chose to steer clear of my normal Rootborn Defenses and similar cards in this deck. Instead, I looked at Wrap in Vigor, and I really like Valorous Stance as either removal or a one-note indestructible trick—both play nicely with this deck.

Check out old-school Debt of Loyalty. You regenerate an opposing creature, preferably one that is about to die, and then, post-regeneration, you steal it for your club. You can use it to regenerate one of your creatures if you really need, but it’s a total surprise to someone when you unveil it.

From there, it’s a simple matter to finish up with support creatures (Spurnmage Advocate) to mana (Cultivate) to removal (Swords to Plowshares) to card-draw (Staff of Nin) to pumping (Snake Umbra, Behemoth Sledge).

That gives us a lot of fun directions to mine with a Homelands legendary creature that was probably not on your short list. What did you think? Anything you missed? How will you handle your own challenge?


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