I hope you are having a great day today!
Today we are going to be taking a walk on the Spike side of Commander.
This is Overburden.
This is not a nice card. Note that the modern Oracle text reads, “puts a nontoken creature onto the battlefield.” In Commander, no one wants to bounce their lands. No one. It’s a big brake on a lot of nontoken strategies. Normal creatures will now have a hefty toll on arrival, as they set back mana development. Overburden isn’t nice, but it’s something you can play around.
I saw Overburden in my stack of Crap Rares and I was inspired. And then I did some research and became a bit shocked.
I saw that it’s now around 4 dollars for the card and almost twenty for the foil. Who’s running this card? How overly Spike-ish do you have to be to run it? I went and checked EDHREC. According to it, 1244 decks use Overburden that are registered with it.
That feels like a lot of decks!
But others in that general area include cards like Azami, Lady of Scrolls.
Some quick numbers according to Gatherer:
There ae 467 mono-colored Blue enchantments of various types
According to EDHREC, Overburden….Overburden….OVERBURDEN, is getting played around 60th overall for enchantments and is the 6th most played card from its set. Only Avatar of Woe, Rhystic Study, Plague Wind, Spore Frog, and Foil are higher charters. And this is a set of casual all stars like Avatar of Fury, Mageta the Lion, and even fun cards like Squirrel Wrangler.
What has happened to Commander? I feel like it’s Spike-d hard.
Anyways, with the modern tendency for this format to be overly Spike-y, I want another tool in my tool chest to help fight Spike Commander decks. It’s annoying when you head to the local card store, and grab an EDH game, only to find that you are paired against three nasty Spike powerhouses all designed to win in a few turns and hey, I’m playing my fun Surrak Dragonclaw Beasts deck!
It’s even worse when I paid an Uber to get there and I am paying for the privilege of getting defeated 15- minutes after the game began.
Hence,this is a valuable solution.
Overburden reminded me of an old Commanderdeckbuild I made for an Impossible Commander series I used to have. For that series, I would grab a tough-to-build around Commander that was in the wrong colors or had a virtually impossible concept, and then try to build a deck around that leader.
For my 8th edition of that challenge, I build a creature less deck around Shauku, Endbringer, a Mono-Black creature who cannot attack unless there aren’t any other critters in play. I delved into some anti-creature tricks from Black, among which was my favorite, Tainted Aether:
Unlike Overburden, this works on all critters, not just nontokens. But I do like that it’s doing when you are trying to be really abusive.
For the record…
EDHREC says that:
Tainted Aether is registered 762 times which puts it pretty far back there. The 50th enchantment is used 1231 times, for comparison. Shauku, who is a lousy card in the modern game, is used 327 times.
There’s another card out there that plays into these fun-times (828 on EDHREC) -
This is Spreading Plague. Whenever a dork manages to make to into the battlefield it slays anything that shares a color with it, making multicolor leaders very powerful agents of death but also mega fragile. It’s a very powerful tool to keep creatures down when on the battlefield. (In a similar way to Spreading Plague we have Death Match – it’s a may effect, and it won’t kill stuff outright so it’s a lot weaker -but most people will use it on each other’s stuff).
Now each of these cards can be avoided.
Overburden? Run tokens! For example, a Mono-Blue Commander build around Talrand, Sky Summoner might not have any other dorks other than Talrand, but Overburden works quite well as your many 2/2 Drake tokens wouldn’t trigger the land bouncing of Overburden.
Spreading Plague? Run Colorless stuff! Your stuff won’t die if it doesn’t share a color. However, you can’t use your stuff to kill otherseither, just as an FYI.
What about Liability? Like Overburden, it shares a “nontoken” phraseology. (Just 93 on EDHREC). Of course, 1 life loss without you getting anything in return isn’t that popping or interesting in a 40 life scenario. If you were gaining it? If someone were losing two life instead? Sure! It’s not an auto-include, but it’s in the back of my mind.
Vile Consumption (258 on EDHREC) is probably better. It’s easier to make work and the cost is just on dorks. Don’t forget Breathstealer's Crypt from Visions either! (619 of them are registered). It forces anyone who’s drawing a creature to either pay 3 life or discard the critter outright. That’s a nasty card my friends!
Portcullis (556 decks on EDH REC) remains one of my favorite cards because it’s both awesome and flexible. If anyone tries to bring a dork ono the battlefield, then it looks around, and if there are two or more folks out there, then it heads to the great exile zone in the sky until the Portcullis leaves, and then it comes on back. It’s a solid Armageddon effect when you have two dorks out. Cast, drop, and then attack freely. People can kill other creatures to get theirs to stick. When someone kills a creature and them casts their own, I like to flash out a dork in response, and then mine arrives before theirs, and it heads out! You can also use this to “store” creatures - they can’t be killed, shuffled, etc. They notch a trigger for their enters-the-battlefield majesty. They are immune to removal, and when the Portcullis dies, they arrive to the battlefield anew. It can also serve as another “No Creatures Allowed” sort of card.
I’m sure you can see the value in Noetic Scales here as well. In a mostly, or exclusively, creature-less deck, it’s a powerful tool of bouncing. It’s also manageable so it doesn’t feel as gut-punchy. On the other hand, Sunken Hope might be welcome in a deck with a lot of enters-the-battlefield stuff. Sure, I’ll bounce my Eternal Witness or Mulldrifter! And since they choose, it may not be as nasty as others out there.
Obviously, I don’t have any extra copies out there due to the sheer cost of this card, but it also fits the theme of our deck nicely. (if you really want to pimp out this idea, The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale suggests itself).
I’m sure you can see where we’re going.
So here my main question -
Who leads my deck? What colors?
It’s clearly as least , but there aren’t any major bodies out there with a presence that breaks this deck or takes us home. Now there are two potential colors to look at. Red and White. White can add things like Ghostly Prison and Humility. Meanwhile Red gives you damage-on-arrival effects. Both colors can also give you ancillary means of shutting stuff down. Red can hurt mana, life-gain, and something like Stranglehold. White can run things like taxes and tempo. Both have interesting cards to suggest to this build.
But who is the better leader to lead it?
The strongest one-ofs that suggest themselves to me are:
These five leaders all suggest themselves, and for different reasons. Sygg is great, early ,and can draw a ton of cards for a pure Dimir build here with these various damage effects we’ve seen thus far. For Grixis, Nicol Bolas is great. He’s a fast 4-drop, and then you can exile him over into a planeswalker, and you can then hurt dorks while he’d there. Note that it’ll be harder for your foes to take him out if no one has critters, so he can continue to provide a non-creature presence on the board. His flip is a little pricey on the mana however.
For Esper, I have three solid options. The planeswalker Aminatou will allow me to play a total creatureless deck, which is fun! She can also help you find key pieces of this cards more quickly. Oloro is great because you never have to cast him, and you’ll gain 2 life each of your turns, so he has a strong impact. Finally, we have the powerhouse of Zur. When Zur swings, you can fetch out an enchantment onto the battlefield if to cheap enough and many of these entries are. Consider getting Overburden or something similar onto the board for free. It’s pretty compelling, right? Right!
All five of these are good. I remove Sygg. Red or White? White. Goodbye Nicol Bolas!
So, who’s next? The first two play into the theme of creature-less more. And they won’t create a deck where I need Zur to attack to get some stuff out. I can win without ever casting Oloro and Aminatou is good. The synergy, or lack thereof, of Aminatou isn’t perfect, so I pull her. She’s just here as a non-creature to hold the deck down. But both Oloro and Zur work perfectly with this deck. In fact, I could run Oloro as my Commander and Zur as my only creature.
(Now I could partner and add in all four colors. I could do Azorius + Rakdos, Dimir + Boros (yuck),or Orzhov + Izzet).
My favorite combo of this is Ludevic and Tymna
Or I could just do Breya and get the four colors and move on, and never really cast her. But Ludevic is much like Sygg and could work as something I’d actually cast.
So Brago or Zur?
Zur is feared. But he has serious synergy with this build. It has to be Zur.
Creatureless Zur | Commander | Abe Sargent
- Commander (1)
- 1 Zur the Enchanter
- Planeswalkers (9)
- 1 Gideon Jura
- 1 Jace, Memory Adept
- 1 Karn Liberated
- 1 Mu Yanling
- 1 Narset Transcendent
- 1 Ob Nixilis, Reignited
- 1 Sorin, Grim Nemesis
- 1 Teferi, Temporal Archmage
- 1 Tezzeret the Seeker
- Instants (11)
- 1 Crush Contraband
- 1 Cryptic Command
- 1 Disallow
- 1 Dissolve
- 1 Force of Will
- 1 Hero's Downfall
- 1 Insidious Will
- 1 Silumgar's Command
- 1 Swords to Plowshares
- 1 Unmake
- 1 Utter End
- Sorceries (9)
- 1 Damnation
- 1 Demonic Tutor
- 1 Exsanguinate
- 1 Idyllic Tutor
- 1 Profane Command
- 1 Replenish
- 1 Supreme Verdict
- 1 Vindicate
- 1 Wrath of God
- Enchantments (19)
- 1 Aura of Silence
- 1 Blind Obedience
- 1 Breathstealer's Crypt
- 1 Collective Restraint
- 1 Humility
- 1 Land Tax
- 1 Leyline of Sanctity
- 1 Leyline of the Void
- 1 Overburden
- 1 Phyrexian Arena
- 1 Planar Void
- 1 Propaganda
- 1 Rhystic Study
- 1 Search for Azcanta
- 1 Spreading Plague
- 1 Standstill
- 1 Steel of the Godhead
- 1 Tainted Aether
- 1 Vile Consumption
- Artifacts (14)
- 1 Armillary Sphere
- 1 Chromatic Lantern
- 1 Darksteel Ingot
- 1 Everflowing Chalice
- 1 Expedition Map
- 1 Guardian Idol
- 1 Lightning Greaves
- 1 Meekstone
- 1 Mirage Mirror
- 1 Noetic Scales
- 1 Scroll Rack
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Torpor Orb
- 1 Ward of Bones
- Lands (36)
- 4 Plains
- 5 Island
- 5 Swamp
- 1 Arcane Sanctum
- 1 Ash Barrens
- 1 Cabal Coffers
- 1 Celestial Colonnade
- 1 Command Tower
- 1 Creeping Tar Pit
- 1 Faerie Conclave
- 1 Fetid Pools
- 1 Irrigated Farmland
- 1 Kor Haven
- 1 Mana Confluence
- 1 Maze of Ith
- 1 Mishra's Factory
- 1 Mutavault
- 1 Reflecting Pool
- 1 Rogue's Passage
- 1 Scoured Barrens
- 1 Shambling Vent
- 1 Temple of Deceit
- 1 Temple of Enlightenment
- 1 Temple of Silence
- 1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
And there we go!
This deck went into a few more tempo and “No you don’t” spaces. For example…
Did you notice these four cards? The Voids are perfect at ending the charades that a lot of Commander decks lean on with their graveyard shenanigans. In a similar way, Torpor Orb is great at shutting down the heavy use of “enters-the-battlefield” triggers and even Standstill can slow stuff down and ensure that you are getting full value of Zur as you can still fetch out enchantments under a Standstill.
The deck has a lot of friends. This is an obvious shell for some planeswalkers! It’s hard to attack into ‘walkers. For this reason, I increased my planeswalker kill with things like Utter End, Vindicate, Silumgar's Command, and Hero's Downfall. The first ‘walker I hit up with Gideon Jura, as he swings just like the man-lands or man-artifacts like Guardian Idol. I also liked the addition of Tezzeret as he can tutor for something like Torpor Orb and toss it onto the battlefield. Or he can grab Meekstone.
Many of the ‘walkers I added gave the deck some strong flexibility. We have the card drawing of Ob Nixilis or Sorin, Grim Nemesis, the creature kill of Sorin or Ob Nixilis, and the value of Karn Liberated and such.
Don’t skip past Yanling here either. She can make Zur unblockable for bonus loyalty, or ensure a man-land hits. She can also draw some cards with her other ability, and getting a Time Walk and Sleep together in one effect also is a great way to finish this game! More planeswalkers ensue such as Narset who’s great at drawing not-creatures and not-land and others.
I also finished up with some removal, mana making, and even a Guilds of Ravnica appearance with Crush Contraband.
With the cards here, the goal is to win with man-lands, Zur, draining effects from various spells in here, and a lot more. You can finish with Exsanguinate, hit someone hard with Profane Command, use extort on Blind Obedience, and such.
And that’s my (Spike) deck! I hope that you enjoyed looking at it! Anything I missed that should get tossed in? Anything in here that resonated with you? And thanks for reading!