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Malfegor in the Making


My introduction to Commander happened around the release of Shards of Alara, which means that the majority of our games included legends like Rafiq of the Many, Sharuum the Hegemon, and Kresh the Bloodbraided. Those commanders didn’t change until Conflux and Alara Reborn, where Child of Alara, Progenitus, and other awesome legends were brought into the mix—except one.

I was (un-?)fortunate enough to open a copy of Malfegor at my Conflux prerelease, which was awesome until I was paired against that guy playing domain Spore Burst. The first lesson I learned about Malfegor: It turns out that he is not great against tokens. That was all right though since he was insane against all the Naya, Esper, and Bant decks that tried to play fair, aggressive games.

When we returned from our prerelease, all I wanted to do was jam some games of Commander with my shiny new legend. After playing a handful games, I learned a second thing about Malfegor: He’s pretty bad in Commander. It turns out that Commander games tend to be all about card advantage, so a commander that requires you to pitch your hand isn’t exactly top-tier material.

I tried a lot of things: jamming my deck full of Promise of Power and Skeletal Scrying to make up for the lost cards; going all-in on tutors to improve the density of strong top-decks; and playing a ton of copies of flashback and unearth cards to so that I always had something to do with my mana. It helped, but not enough. Malfegor was still just getting smashed, so I shelved the project. Every now and then, I’ve pulled the old decklist out and tinkered around with it, but I never quite figured out how to make it work.

That’s all changed. Now things are different. Thanks to the tutelage of Alex Ullman in the ways of Necromancer's Stockpile, my recent experiments with Tortured Existence in Grimgrin, Corpse-Born, and the rediscovery of some old favorites from Dissension, I think I’ve finally figured out how to help Malfegor keep up with the card advantage and pressure that other Commander decks can generate.

All about the Cards

Imagine for a second that this card could be your commander:

Angel of the Dire Hour

How insane would it be to have perpetual access to the ability to sweep away attackers at instant speed? Add in some sacrifice outlets and Voltron elements, and you already have an awesome deck that sweeps away threats and hits back harder. Now think about how much worse that effect becomes when you have to discard your hand to make it happen.


Sure, Malfegor hits all players. Sure, he eats creatures whether they’re attacking or not. It almost doesn’t matter how much card advantage Malfegor generates when he hits the board. What matters is that all it takes is one Hero's Downfall; one Swords to Plowshares, and your day is ruined. Suddenly, you’re top-decking while your opponents are rebuilding their boards. Even if you are drawing cards that do things, do you cast them or hold them back in case you need to Wrath again? These generally aren’t great questions to have to ask yourself . . . 

 . . . at least until you find a way to keep the cards flowing, whether or not you have to pitch your hand. The trick is that you can’t really abuse “traditional” B/R one-shot effects like Decree of Pain and Promise of Power. Those are all fine cards, but you’re basically just throwing away a bunch of cards to power up Malfegor again. So here’s the question: How can you give yourself consistent access to an abundance of cards in your hand that you can either pitch to Malfegor or convert to other resources and still be happy with the outcome? Here’s where I’ve ended up.

The Squee Squad

Squee, Goblin Nabob
If all you care about is having cards in your hand, and not what the actual cards are, it’s hard to find much better than Squee, Goblin Nabob. There’s only one Squee, but there are plenty of proxy Squee effects—Krovikan Horror and Veilborn Ghoul to start. Of particular interest are Entropic Eidolon, Sandstorm Eidolon, and Blood Speaker. All of these effects guarantee you some number of cards in your hand to pitch to Malfegor, which means you can spend the rest of your cards on developing your board presence. And what’s the best part? You can tutor up these pieces with effects like Gamble, Entomb, Buried Alive, and Corpse Connoisseur to quickly assemble a critical mass of free cards.

There’s also a handful of powerful madness and flashback cards that are just as powerful when discarded as they are cast off the top. Things like Soul of Innistrad, Call to the Netherworld, and Grave Scrabbler are great examples.

Gaining consistent access to cards in your hand to pitch to effects like Malfegor opens up all kinds of opportunities to grind out new advantages and actually keep up with powerful engines like Skullclamp and Life from the Loam. Having a suite of cards that turn Malfegor’s enormous disadvantage into an almost abusable effect was the missing piece of the puzzle, and now I’m excited to see how far this theme can be pushed.

Trading Old Cards for New

Tortured Existence
Now that the base engine is in place, there are a lot of exciting things that we can do with a bunch of pseduo-Squees. Let’s start with the easy pieces. Effects like Faithless Looting, Wild Guess, and Daretti, Scrap Savant let you literally trade in Krovikan Horror and friends into fresh cards that are more impactful. Necromancer's Stockpile and Undead Gladiator are slower mechanisms of doing this, but you can break up the costs across multiple turns.

You can also use effects that let you discard cards for value. Tortured Existence may be the best example of this, but Trading Post and Chandra Ablaze are also completely reasonable places to start. We could even go super-deep and play Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded. How incredible would it be to finally give this guy a home?

Really, though, what we’re interested in is a way to generate free cards when Malfegor kills creatures—to consistently generate more cards without having to cast multicolored spells, play Swamps, or jump through other loopholes for the Squee engine. What we really want are cards like Harvester of Souls and Phyrexian Reclamation that generate more consistent advantages whenever Malfegor does his thing.

Salvaging Station is a real possibility if we can find enough worthwhile baubles. Liliana of the Dark Realms feeds Malfegor and ensures that we can cast follow-up copies. Sword of Light and Shadow helps stock our hand for Malfegor and rebuys game-ending threats like Baleful Force. As long as you can keep the board clear, these kinds of engines put you far enough ahead to take over a game. It turns out that Malfegor is pretty good at keeping the board clear. The pieces are beginning to fit together.

Malfegor’s Mana

Phyrexian Tower
As with every other deck I build, I’ve put a lot of thought into how I can build a mana base that supports this style of Malfegor deck. First thing’s first: We’re going to want ways to sacrifice Malfegor to rebuy his effect as necessary. I think that Phyrexian Tower, High Market, and Miren, the Moaning Well are the best versions of that effect for this style of deck.

Second, we can worry about generating enough mana to cast Malfegor multiple times. I don’t think this is a deck that really wants a Cloudpost or Urzatron engine, but we can certainly build the deck around abusing Cabal Coffers, Crypt of Agadeem, or Temple of the False God. Adding cards like Vesuva and Deserted Temple ensure that you gain the most out of these ramp lands, particularly with Expedition Map backed by Trading Post and Salvaging Station.

Most important are the awesome utility lands that help put games away. Rix Maadi, Dungeon Palace is especially good since we already have a bunch of cards we don’t mind pitching. My favorite picks for this deck though are Cathedral of War and Winding Canyons. Cathedral of War is spectacular because it gives Malfegor 7 power, which pushes him into three-turn-clock territory. Winding Canyons is exciting because it turns Malfegor into an instant-speed sweeper and even gives him pseudo-haste.

So with the engines and mana out of the way, let’s take a look at where my list is starting:

Malfegor Madness ? Commander | Carlos Gutierrez

  • Commander (0)

Rune-Scarred Demon
My biggest concern for this deck is finding appropriate ways to close out games. Sure, we can just cast Malfegor a bunch of times, but that seems unlikely to get the job done. Right now, we have Sheoldred, Whispering One and Baleful Force as top-end finishers. There are also Rune-Scarred Demon and Bloodgift Demon, which can be tutored for with Blood Speaker if necessary. Lavaclaw Reaches should also be quite helpful to that end, but not having access to something like Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle is a pretty big disadvantage of building the deck with a focus on Cabal Coffers. It’s possible that the deck wants something like Titans, Primordials, or Exsanguinate to help close out games more efficiently, but I’d rather smash in with Demons instead.

There are a few other interesting picks that have ended up in this deck. I’m excited about Charmbreaker Devils as a way to reuse powerful sorceries turn after turn. Given the focus on rebuying creatures, it should be relatively easy to keep Charmbreaker Devils in play as a consistent source of card advantage.

One of the biggest outstanding questions is this: Will the combination of Blood Speaker, Eidolons, and other assorted Squee effects be enough to keep the cards flowing and Malfegor’s effect as powerful as possible? There aren’t especially many Demons or multicolored spells besides Malfegor, and the tag team of Krovikan Horror and Squee can only do so much on their own. I don’t know if this engine is powerful enough, but you’d better believe I’m excited to find out.

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