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Real Life Commander: Abzan Bear Beats

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Hello folks! I hope you are having an awesome day today. Like most of us, I have a history with the game that goes back longer than a few months or even years. I think back to decks that I created and really cool ways to deal with certain game-states. This is a great game with a lot of depth and I have explored much of it. Over time, I had many decks that supported the key things I enjoyed.

One day I was playing with cards that self-bounced and with various triggers and I casually remarked that this was really fun and I was enjoying myself. That resonated, and within a week I had created a 120 card, five color multiplayer deck that I called "Bear Beats." The goal of the deck was to play mostly 2/2 and similar sized creatures with a metric ton of enters-the-battlefield triggers. I only included a handful of support cards. I would acquire strong board positions where I won by swinging with a bunch of 2/2s that had controlled the board after burying my foes in a strong avalanche of card advantage.

Bear Beats was initially inspired by Crystal Shard and Thornscape Battlemage!

I would build a Commander deck around Reaper King for fun, but that wasn't a deck I had in real life. The deck faded. I haven't owned or recreated a new deck of Bear Beats in a long time.

It's time for that to change!

Today I want to build an actual, real life version of Bear Beats for Commander for your consideration.

This deck began only as an Orzhov build. I really liked the recursive flexibility of Ravos, Soultender for Bear Beats, save for the +1/+1 that didn't fit my theme. So, I was running Tymna the Weaver, which seemed the best option at the time. But then I realized that Sidar Kondo of Jamuraa does exactly what I would want a leader to do, so I decided to partner them together and add Green to my deck.

Sidar Kondo of Jamuraa
Tymna the Weaver

I went from Orzhov to Abzan, and added a few new options to the deck. Now if you wanted, you could take off Tymna and then add in either Silas Renn, Seeker Adept to add in both Black and Blue, or Vial Smasher the Fierce to add in Red and Black. Now Silas Renn works very well with Kondo! But only to help artifacts, and that's not this deck. Similarly, Vial Smasher is weak in this deck and has no synergy. Now I guess I could forget Black and do Red and Blue with either Ludevic, Necro-Alchemist or Kraum, Ludevic's Opus, but neither of those work in Bear Beats either.

The key of the deck is simple. Run a bunch of small stuff with awesome triggers, a light spattering of self-bounce and blink effects to keep the deck moving, and then run a few tempo-ish ways to punish bigger dorks at the table. And that's it!

Ready?

Abzan Bear Beats | Commander | Abe Sargent


And there we are!

Let's take a look at some of the cards that we're running!

The reason I wanted to run Black was simple. You have small creatures. They will die. Lots. Black has the best cheap recursive stuff to twin with Bear Beats and always played as the best, most important color, in my previous iterations of this deck because of that.

And I am playing into that here as well:

Gravedigger
Entomber Exarch

As an example, take Gravedigger and Entomber Exarch. You drop one to bring back a dork that had a useful trigger on it, and then cast that dork to keep on going. It's a good solid body to drop after removal of the mass variety (or otherwise). If you have played any Limited format where it's a common, you know how good Gravedigger is when you can chain them. Cast one, bring the other to your hand, then when the one dies, you cast the other and continue the chain. Gravedigger was one of the stars in my first edition of Bear Beats, and I am happy to dust it off today. The Exarch is a Gravedigger when you need it, or a discard spell when you don't. Either of those modes are fine in this build.

Another way to push recursion in Black is the powerful and majestic Living Death

Living Death
Volrath's Stronghold

It's incredibly flexible here. You can usually use it to full affect by killing all of the big stuff that's still around while also bringing back your dead stuff en masse, as well as harvesting some serious triggers. It's good stuff! (*Cough,* Volrath's Stronghold, *cough*).

Right after recursion, another key thing you want Black for is dork killing effects, from Nekrataal to Ravenous Chupacabra. You can pile on the pressure to lean on killing opposing creatures while you are raking in the triggers. I've often swung on an empty board with a few small guys after clearing out the way with the ETB creatures killing effects. It works well here.

White has some recursive effect as well, and that's why I wanted to push their colors!

Sigil of the New Dawn
Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle

Take Sigil of the New Dawn as a good example. Did one of your dorks just die? So sad! Here let's spend a couple of mana and put it into your hand so you can cast it again (and get another trigger). Seems like a good plan, right? And we also have stuff you'd expect like Karmic Guide in here. Now I don't want to add in things that don't fit the deck, like the Sun Titan, which is too big. But Teshar? As a 2/2? It's a Bear that Beats! Welcome to the club!

Custodi Soulcaller

With Tymna as my leader, I know that I am likely to swing at multiple players in order to maximize her card-drawing. With Sidar Kondo as my leader, I know that those attacks will slip through. That makes Custodi Soulcaller a clever addition to our brew. You will often get to attack three people safely, for three cards and recurring up to a 3-drop dork. This has a strong bond with the team.

Throat Slitter

I am also adding a key ninjutsu body here as well, playing to our strengths. I do like Okiba-Gang Shinobi, but it's a 3/2 so you could pull off the bounce-into-discard trick just once, where Throat Slitter can keep on punching people and killing their stuff under Sidar Kondo's unblockability.

This is both a blink deck and not a blink deck at the same time. I am running some obvious blink support like Panharmonicon, Aura Shards, Strionic Resonator, Kaya, Ghost Assassin, Eerie Interlude and such. But this isn't your normal blink machine. I'm running cast and self-bounce triggers like Erratic Portal, Cloudstone Curio, and Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle. You wouldn't run Sidar Kondo as your leader in a Blink build. You'd have bigger stuff, and tons more engines that abuse blinking as well as more Blink effects. This is not a Blink deck, per se, but it does use a ton of enters-the-battlefield triggers to create long term card-advantage that should push you into a dominant position. Cards like Sigil of the New Dawn or Saffi Eriksdotter aren't making the cut for the next Blink Adventure in most builds. But they are here, as Bear Beats is a distinct build that both uses that synergy but also leans into a more well-rounded level of abuse. Bear Beats is a small-creature card advantage machine.

Militia Bugler
Whitemane Lion

After all, most Blink decks aren't running Militia Bugler or Whitemane Lion!

Portcullis

I don't know if you paid attention to Portcullis here, but look at it. Its modern Oracle text is:

Whenever a creature enters the battlefield, if there are two or more other creatures on the battlefield, exile that creature. Return that card to the battlefield under its owner's control when Portcullis leaves the battlefield.

Now that's a pretty nasty card. See why it's here? If you have one of your critters arrive at the battlefield the triggers will go on the stack. It looks around and if it doesn't see too many other dorks out, it will remain. But if it does? Then the ETB trigger it has will still resolve, but then it heads in exile under the Portcullis and won't come back until the Portcullis opens. The Portcullis will shut down a ton of great stuff. If you control a pair of Bears, then no Commanders or other dorks can stick out unless they kill one of your creatures or the Portcullis itself. It answers any typical go-wide strategy that your foe might want to smash your with. But you are still casting and netting those enter-the-battlefield triggers. When the Portcullis is destroyed, you get your stuff back and you'll get a whole new slate of triggers to use! Don't forget that you can target the Portcullis yourself. Your own Acidic Slime or Reclamation Sage and such can take it down too. You can kill it on your turn and then rack up all of those awesome triggers.

This is a good card that a lot of folks just don't respect. Or know about. Show them the power of Portcullis!

Along with the tempo-abuse of Portcullis, we also have cards like Meekstone and Crackdown:

Crackdown
Meekstone

Both of these cards are great at fighting against bigger threats at the kitchen table. They are smooth and powerful additions to my Bear Beats build!

There are some other hatred cards in here too:

Dusk // Dawn
Retribution of the Meek
Fell the Mighty
Elspeth, Sun's Champion

Each of these three can kill stuff that's bigger than your team while not even bothering to touch you. Retribution of the Meek is like a three-mana Plague Wind in this deck. The vast majority of dorks aren't surviving it in Commander world. Dusk // Dawn is, by far, the best of these effects as you can kill anything with a power of 3 with Dusk while, at the same time, setting up its powerful Dawn aftermath. Both of those are just incredibly powerful here. I love dropping Elspeth's, Sun Champion, wiping the board of the bigger stuff, swinging with Bears on a naked board, and then making three 1/1 tokens from there out each turn. Each of these tools are incredibly strong here.

Noetic Scales
Ensnaring Bridge

Another forgotten card is Noetic Scales. Take a look. During everybody's upkeep, if any of their dorks have a power greater than the cards in your hand, you will bounce them. You only have to keep two cards in hand to keep your stuff from bouncing, although you might want to allow some bouncing for the casting of more triggers thus making this a powerful self-bounce engine when you need.

Did you catch Ensnaring Bridge in here? I know! How cool is that?

And there we have it! I hope that you enjoyed my little fun Abzan edition of Bear Beats! Remember this is a real life deck, and requires real life cards. Anything you'd recommend? Any place I went wrong? Anything in here inspire you? I'd love to hear it!

Here's my deck getting built: