I want to try something a little different.
We have all read articles about Commander decks (no this isn't the new idea). Most follow a tried and true path:
- Here is a commander I want to use for a deck.
- Here are some ideas that would work with that commander.
- Here is the deck.
- The end.
As a frequent writer of these types of article, there is a reason for this tried and true path: it makes sense. You want the reader to know who the commander is and see it the way you do. Then it makes sense to go through a few ideas that you think would be cool with this commander. Once that is done, you have set the stage to reveal the deck list so the reader can best understand why many of the cards are in the deck, even without the writer explaining each of them.
The frustrating part is trying to do all of this in a reasonable time frame. A standard article length doesn't give the time to really delve into the commander or deck choices. This is where the "something different" part happens. This is a three-part article! I'm still going to follow the tried and true path, but we are going to dig deeper into every part. Let me break down what you can expect in the next three weeks.
Week One: This week I'll be introducing you to the commander for the deck, Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer. Brudiclad is more complex that it appears to be, so the deep dive is going to uncover some keys to how we are going to build the rest of the deck.
Week Two: This is where we take the keys from the first week and look at our options. We are going to do the equivalent of getting the 150 cards we want to put into the deck, then whittle them down to a solid 100 card deck.
Week Three: We review some of the play-testing! We look at the results and decide what cards should go in and what should come out.
With that said, let's get started!
To properly build around a commander, you really need to know the card inside and out. The first thing to look at is the casting cost. In a two-color deck, Brudiclad's color demands won't be a problem at all. By the time you have six mana, you should certainly have at least one Blue and one Red mana without even really trying. The real trick to the deck is the six mana. Six-mana commanders are a dangerous thing. Once they die the first time, you are now looking at eight mana to play it out again. A single bit of mass removal, a forced chump block, or targeted removal and suddenly every accessible mana source you have is dedicated just to putting the commander onto the battlefield. Costs like these can put you turns back as you try to set up the next fun play.
The next part is the fact that it is an artifact creature, with the stress on artifact. This means that your opponents likely have even more ways to remove it. A normal commander can die to creature removal, while Brudiclad loses out to that and Vandalblast! Our commander of choice is looking more brittle by the minute!
Before jumping into the text box, let's check out the 4/4 stats. The ability to do four damage is fine, but Brudiclad isn't in the deck to Voltron it up. The more important part is definitely the toughness. Finally we get a break here. Four toughness keeps Brudiclad from dying to incidental damage. If someone is looking to take out Brudiclad with damage, they are going to have to really focus on making that happen.
That first part of the text box is a great way to start. As someone who is running an Ol' Buzzbark deck, the importance of hasty tokens can't be overstated. You don't want to play Ol' Buzzbark on the same turn as Goblin Offensive ("They certainly are."). They are both X spells and you really want them on separate turns. So you play out the Offensive ("They certainly are.") then sit there with, let's say six, six Goblin token creatures until your next turn when you play Ol' Buzzbark and do Ol' Buzzbark things.
The same is true with Brudiclad. Sure, Brudiclad isn't an X spell, but six mana isn't cheap either. Playing it on the same turn as the Goblin Offensive ("They certainly are.") means you probably aren't getting a truly offensive Offensive ("They certainly are."). The joy with Brudiclad is that if it hits the battlefield first, you can attack the turn you play the Offensive ("They certainly are."). Six hasty goblins swing immediately and are much harder to deal with than six goblins that just sit there for a turn, getting their blades sharpened and their courage pumped up. Since most spells that give you a full army of creatures tend to be sorceries, being able to give them haste is a great advantage.
For the next part, we see we are getting a 2/1 Blue Myr. Sounds great. The real key to that sentence though is that you don't get it until the beginning of combat. You don't get the Myr, then cast a sorcery, or a creature, or an artifact, or a... yeah, you get it. What you have is that you are limited to what you can do on your combat phase.
And here we go into the good part. Choose one of your tokens and all your tokens become a copy of that token! This is when we picture ten 3/3 Wurm tokens with deathtouch, or copying a cool creature and making ten of them! This is why we play with Brudiclad! Oh joy! Oh happy days! Overwhelming opponents sounds like good fun!
And it gets better! It just says token, not token creature. You can make a host of Treasure tokens, or turn the Treasure tokens into 5/5 flying Dragon token creatures. This works for Clue tokens and the new Food tokens! It turns out you can actually turn beasts into food and food into beasts (as long as they are all tokens)! This is where the mind explodes with possibilities!
And then the part of your brain you got from your sensible, responsible parent kicks in and reminds you of the restrictions that are still here. You need to be the one controlling the token. Your opponent running Ghired, Conclave Exile has a cool 4/4 Rhino, but that doesn't mean that you can copy it and get all the Rhino tokens. Well, you can, you just have to figure out a way to copy it and get a Rhino token of your own. You also need to keep in mind that a legendary token creature is still legendary. Ten copies of Ghired attacking and all creating Rhinos sounds cool, but your ten copies will become one copy and you'll be wondering when it all went wrong.
Another limitation is myriad. Myriad as an ability seems like a great way to make copies of cool creatures, but myriad doesn't trigger until after Brudiclad makes all its copies.
A final limitation is that every token becomes a copy. Your token copy of Eldrazi Monument can become a 2/1 Myr just as fast as your Treasure token. The Echo Storm that you used to make copies of Sol Ring doesn't make the Sol Ring tokens immune to Brudiclad. It also means that once you've changed your Thopters into 3/3 Elephants, you can't change them back to tokens that can block flyers until you have another Thopter.
So just what do we want to do with Brudiclad? When I started thinking about what I wanted to do, I realized that an easy trap to fall into would be to make copies of the same tokens again and again. I could build my deck in such a way that I consistently find Dragon tokens or Goblin tokens. I could try to get a mass of Clue tokens, then draw my way to the cool token I want, then make everything into that. This would be plenty fun for a few games, but I don't want to be doing the same thing again and again. I love a good dose of chaos in my games. I thought the best way to make this different would be to copy my opponent's creatures. If I can make token copies of their stuff, I'll be able to do all sorts of weird and unusual plays. Make a copy of Inspiring Veteran and suddenly I have an army of massive knights. Ten copies of Savvy Hunter, making ten Food tokens that become ten more Savvy Hunters on the next attack. I'll leave you to do the math for how many Silverwing Squadrons you can get for the second attack.
To further the chaotic nature of the deck, I don't want to run tutors. I tend to avoid tutors in my decks to allow for more varied gameplay. Obviously this isn't for everyone, and Blue offers artifact tutors in abundance. If you like it, go to town, but just know I'll be avoiding those cards in my build.
So we know the limitations and we know what we want to do. The next step is to stack up the cards that would work in the deck and go from there. Next week I'll provide a whole host of options and how I reached those choices, and put together the first iteration for Brudiclad. I'll see you back here next week!