I love a random card challenge. There is nothing that pushes our collective deck-building more than a random challenge. Head over to Gatherer, see what random card arrives, and then build around it!
For my Commander challenge, I like to grab a random legendary creature (or a planeswalker with the text that it can be used as a Commander). It needs to be something I haven’t built around already, nor something that’s so uber-common that you’d be bored (unless I have a unique Abe-ish take on it).
Clearly, I’ve really been in a random Commander mood recently, as this is my third straight build. I just love it! Many of my favorite Commander decks I’ve ever built have come from this challenge!
Let’s delve deeply into another project and see what we can unearth.
My first card?
Well, it may not be a winner, but my #2 card is!
That’s the most powerful card drawing spell of all time!
Then my card arrives just a few hits later at the 19 mark:
This is Toshiro Umezawa, a major character in Kamigawa who is also the founder of the Clan Umezawa on Dominaria. Later Umezawas, such as Tetsuo and Tetsuko, come from Toshiro’s clan. Tetsuo Umezawa is one of the few non-planeswalkers to actually score a major victory against Nicol Bolas.
So Toshiro Umezawa, called “Toshi” by his friends, is a cheap Commander who needs a few knobs turned to work.
He will trigger only when an opposing creature dies. That means he won’t trigger if you sacrifice or lose one of your own dorks. It won’t work if you exile them instead or bounce or tuck them either. It will never work on a Commander that heads to the Command zone, so you need to ensure that this will happen in any Toshi deck. If you don’t plan on this, then your foe can easily counter you by not letting their stuff die.
Your foes need creatures to die. What do you do if your foes are playing a relatively creatureless deck? What if they just don’t cast them against you when Toshi is out? I want to have some ways to force them to get creatures. Note that this works on tokens as well as non-tokens.
You Need Instants in Your Graveyard - In fact, you need enough instants in your graveyard to have a good number of effects, as Toshi exiles your instant each time he goes off.
Toshi Isn’t an Alternate Cost - You will need to still use your mana for the instant, you don’t get it for free when you jump through these hoops.
What would work in a Mono-Black environment?
Before I decide on that, I need to decide on something else.
Every Mono-Black build in Commander needs to figure out if they are going heavy Swamps with stuff like Cabal Coffers or Caged Sun or not. Most other mono-colored Commander decks use their mono-colored nature to allow them to play a bunch of lands that just make colorless mana to shore up their deck’s needs, and you’ll see cards like Arcane Lighthouse or Reliquary Tower running around the block.
But Mono-Black often wants to do something else. Is this a deck that wants to abuse the massive mana potentials of Black? Or something else?
I am committing to that abuse. We need mana to cast our extra spells, so I need to commit to that additional potential.
Here’s muh next question. Consider Oathkeeper, which is amazing in a Toshiro build, but comes from his Mono-White enemies of Konda and General Takeno. Do I include cards for mechanical value even if they aren’t hitting flavorful notes? For this deck? Yes. I’m not feeling a strong fidelity to Toshi’s clan or character. Mechanical ties like Oathkeeper are fine by me.
All right…deck time!
Toshi’s Safari | Commander | Abe
- Commander (1)
- 1 Toshiro Umezawa
- Creatures (17)
- 1 Burnished Hart
- 1 Crypt Ghast
- 1 Doom Whisperer
- 1 Erebos, God of the Dead
- 1 Geth, Lord of the Vault
- 1 Gonti, Lord of Luxury
- 1 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
- 1 Harvester of Souls
- 1 Liliana's Shade
- 1 Liliana's Specter
- 1 Nirkana Revenant
- 1 Noxious Gearhulk
- 1 Pontiff of Blight
- 1 Rune-Scarred Demon
- 1 Shriekmaw
- 1 Stinkweed Imp
- 1 Tomb Robber
- Instants (26)
- 1 Crypt Incursion
- 1 Dark Bargain
- 1 Empty the Pits
- 1 Entomb
- 1 Expunge
- 1 Geth's Verdict
- 1 Grim Return
- 1 Hero's Downfall
- 1 Malicious Affliction
- 1 Mausoleum Secrets
- 1 Necrologia
- 1 Price of Fame
- 1 Scour from Existence
- 1 Spoils of Blood
- 1 Succumb to Temptation
- 1 Sudden Spoiling
- 1 Tendrils of Corruption
- 1 Thrilling Encore
- 1 To the Slaughter
- 1 Tragic Slip
- 1 Treacherous Urge
- 1 Undying Evil
- 1 Vampiric Tutor
- 1 Without Weakness
- 1 Word of Command
- 1 Wretched Confluence
- Artifacts (12)
- 1 Armillary Sphere
- 1 Expedition Map
- 1 Extraplanar Lens
- 1 Gauntlet of Power
- 1 Jet Medallion
- 1 Lashwrithe
- 1 Mirari
- 1 Oathkeeper, Takeno's Daisho
- 1 Primal Amulet
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Sphinx-Bone Wand
- 1 Umezawa's Jitte
And there’s the deck!
One quick note about Toshi before we head in.
Imagine that you have your leader on the battlefield. You have some mana available. Your opponent has two dorks out. You draw Murder. If you cast Murder to kill a dork, and thus trigger Toshiro, can you use it to cast the Murder you just played?
Yes you can!
Creatures destroyed by an instant that you cast normally can cause a trigger that allows the instant to be cast again. For example, cast Terror on an opponent’s creature. The creature is destroyed, triggering Toshiro’s ability, and then the Terror is put into your graveyard. You can put Toshiro’s ability on the stack targeting the Terror and then recast it when the ability resolves.
This is from Gatherer’s rulings on Toshi. So yes, you can get two Murders. For this reason, you’ll note some instant removal spells all over. From Geth's Verdict to To the Slaughter and others, we have a number of fun instant removal spells that destroy so you can get them twice.
For my build, I wanted to emphasize instants that were cheap. When I could opt for a cheaper instant, then I went for that one. After all, I must cast the spell again, so anything I can do to reduce its cost makes sense.
On a similar note, I have Jet Medallion and Primal Amulet that can reduce the cost of my stuff generally. We’ll go a whole lot further in this deck from Jet Medallion that we will from a mana-producing mana rock.
Note that the Primal Amulet can swap over to a Fork land if I desire. It’s a “may effect” and I can leave it as is if I prefer. I considered running Mirari for similar effects and it wound up as my final 65th card. Both of these will increase the power of your additional spell casting that we’ll be doing with Toshi.
I wanted to run a few ways to put cards into my graveyard to prepare for a Toshi Trigger.
One cool way was cycling!
Take Expunge as a perfect example. If you need to kill something extra, then you can cycle it and then Expunge for your trigger. That can also work with Without Weakness, and these cards will also cycle early for cards and then still be available turns later for their effects.
For a similar way to help load up your graveyard with stuff, check out Tomb Robber. Discard a card. Was it an instant? Great! Is the card you reveal an instant? Great! You can either put it back and then draw it later and net two casts, or put it into your graveyard now for later use. If you drew a land and you didn’t need it, discard the land and keep on going! Dig my Tomb Robbing Friend, Dig!
Another way to get some cards in my ‘yard is Surveil from Guilds of Ravnica.
Price of Fame works well from a bunch of angles. It’s a removal spell you can cast twice as an instant. It can cost 50% fewer mana if you target a legendary dork, which is incredibly common in Commander. And, you can surveil as you cast it. It’s a win-win-win card. Meanwhile Doom Whisperer is great as you can just pay life as you desire for surveilling fun times. And it’s a beater too which helps as a win-con.
Another way to fill up your ‘yard is to do so directly!
Entomb is great here as you can easily grab two instants. It’s mega-cheap. Final Parting is fun as a Tutor effect that can also set up a future card for your graveyard. Both of those are fun in the sun with powerful effects for your deck.
These are two other tutor effects in my deck that are also instants. Instants for the win!
You can also ready see the various Mono-Black cards in here such as Coffers, Cabal Stronghold, Expedition Map to get the Coffers, as well as cards like Armillary Sphere, Burnished Hart, and Myriad Landscape that get you two Swamps. Shoot, I’m even running Liliana's Shade and Liliana of the Dark Realms to increase your Swamp fetching fun times.
We’ll need to counter-up Liliana of the Dark Realms to ultimate in this build!
And there you are! As always, thanks for reading. Anything in here inspire your own deck-building? Anything I missed that has a strong synergy with my Toshiro Umezawa build? Just let me know!
Appendix of Random Builds
Did you enjoy today’s Randomly Selected Commander Deck? Awesome! Why not check out the others in this list!
- Random Commander #1 - I randomly get Gwendlyn di Corci! That sounds like a discarding fun-time with engines like Megrim making an appearance.
- Random Commander #2 – Apparently staying in Legends, I randomly get Elder Dragon Arcades Sabboth. I build a fun and flavorful intellectual Dragon theme with cards like Think Tank included.