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CasualNation #49 – My Planeswalker Commander Deck

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Hello, Nation! Over the last month, I’ve built a new Commander deck for playing in real life. I thought it would be fun to share it with you today. This did not replace my old Oros Commander deck, but it did mine it for a few cards.

A while ago, I thought it would be cool to build a deck around the good planeswalkers. Many of them have a different level of power in multiplayer games compared to duels. I wanted all of the good ones. Which ones would I want?

I looked at various three-color combinations. I quickly eliminated Green from contention, because its walkers—Garruks and Nissa Revane—are fairly weak in a multiplayer deck. I knew I wanted White, because both Elspeths, Ajani, and Gideon Jura are a very strong quartet of ’walkers. That left me with two colors to choose from Red, Black, and Blue.

Blue offered weak planeswalkers for a general deck. While Tezzeret is good, he’s not good outside an artifact deck. Similarly, Koth and Chandra Ablaze are not good outside of mono-Red. Jace Beleren is a weak planeswalker for multiplayer, so that left me these monocolored ’walkers to consider:

There’s a nice duo for each color. Also, I had to remember the multiplayer planeswalkers. If I added Red, I could toss in Ajani Vengeant. Red and Black would give me Sarkhan the Mad. Blue would give me Venser, the Sojourner. If you asked me which of these two pairs I thought was the strongest, I’d have to go with Sorin and Liliana. The two Jaces are solid and the two Chandras weaker. Going White/Blue/Black gives me Venser, but also only allows me to play ten planeswalkers total (including Karn Liberated).

I created a list of every planeswalker card I considered playable and useful. After looking at the list, I realized that the best ones were just in radically different colors. Thus, I made a new decision. Let’s play a deck with every color! Now I can play Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker and Ajani Goldmane and Sarkhan Vol.

That left me with sixteen that I wanted in my deck (I would love Garruk, Primal Hunter, but the gggis too hard on the mana base).

Here’s a picture of the planeswalkers in my deck.

Once I had that idea, another one popped into my head. Wouldn’t it be cool to play one of each Honden? What about one of each Sanctuary? That’s the core of my deck, built around the shrines, sanctuaries, and planeswalkers in a five-color deck.

Who is my Commander? There are many five-color Legendary creatures, but most have tribal themes—Reaper King, Horde of Notions, Atogatog, Sliver Overlord, Scion of the Ur-Dragon, etc. None of those fit. That leaves just four choices—Child of Alara, Cromat, Progenitus, and Karona, False God. Progenitus costs too much to play, the Child destroys my planeswalkers, and Karona sucks. The winner, by default, is Cromat.

I envisioned this deck as having these permanents out to control and win, and thus have few true creatures. It will use sweeping removal to keep the board clear of danger, while keeping my enchantments and planeswalkers around.

Once I had that idea, the hook on my deck was complete. Interested in seeing the final version?

"Abe’s Friends"

Well, there’s the deck. This is all of my friends! (With Sanctuaries and Hondens attached.) Once I had given over twenty-seven of the cards in my deck to the theme, I wanted to make sure that I had enough good stuff in the rest of the deck for it to work.

What do you play in a five-color deck? Some will play every “good stuff” card they have, but what counts? Do you count Eternal Witness? Tooth and Nail? Tinker? Death Grasp? Take Possession? Wrath of God? Future Sight? Mirari's Wake? Wheel of Fortune? There’s a lot of room to play with.

For example, do I play cards with the Domain mechanic? If so, how many? I went with exactly one—Collective Restraint, because I think it’s just too good. Other good options, such as Ordered Migration and Allied Strategies, were considered. I prefer Recurring Insight as a massive draw spell, and Ordered Migration is too weak in this deck. What about Sunburst? There are a lot of Sunburst choices available. While I decided to rock just the essential Etched Oracle, none of the others jumped up and shouted my name.

In fact, only a few cards that used and pushed the five-color nature of my deck seemed to interest me. Conflux the set gave me Conflux the card. Plus Shard Convergence—four dual lands for 4 mana is crazy good. After that, I went with All Suns' Dawn because it’s stupidly good in a five-color deck. After that, what comes next? Legacy Weapon seemed good enough to make the cut, and Obelisk of Alara was similarly enticing. What next? I looked through various list and searches, and could find nothing else on-theme for the deck.

I just slid to the cards I knew I’d want. I have a ton of planeswalkers, so I want to protect them. Cards like Propaganda and Collective Restraint don’t protect your friends from being attacked, so I knew that I wanted Norn's Annex. It will protect your allies.

Similarly, this deck has a need to tutor for a specific enchantment. When you have out two Hondens, you really want a third. Perhaps you want the right color to trigger a Sanctuary. With that need, I knew Academy Rector would make the cut in my creature count. After that, what else? I looked at things like Idyllic Tutor, Planar Portal, and other such cards, but nothing seemed just right. So I just looked for other tutor effects. Wargate was perfect for getting a planeswalker or the right enchantment out, so in it went. Demonic Tutor joined the party. When I added Sterling Grove, I finally had my party.

I noticed that I had a lot of other permanents that can control the board as well. Obelisk of Alara and friends works very well in a deck with a lot of noncreature permanents controlling the board. I miss Staff of Domination, but it’s banned.

We need just a few creatures that have some built-in resilience due to Wrathing and a low creature count. Balance was perfect for this deck, but it’s also banned—sad. I have a strong contingent of indestructible cards—Ulamog, both Darksteel Colossus and Sentinel, Spearbreaker Behemoth and Stuffy Doll. Note that the Behemoth can make just four other creatures indestructible, but having it itself was good enough to make the cut.

A few creatures I want to die. Genesis, Glory, Academy Rector, Keiga, the Tide Star, and Solemn Simulacrum all have an effect when they bite it. I’ m happy to have a Simulacrum jump in the way of my own Damnation or Rout. Don’t Terror my Keiga!

I also have a few creatures that do something else. Etched Oracle will sacrifice for some cards. You can do it in response to removal for just 1 humble mana. Another card is Etched Monstrosity. Spend 5 mana and get a 5/5 vanilla creature. Spend another 1 of each mana, and it becomes a 10/10 and a giant number of cards. If it dies, you’ve already gotten what you wanted from it. In a similar vein, Primeval Titan grabs two lands when you play it, and each time you attack. If it dies, you’ve already received card advantage. (See also: Solemn Simulacrum for an effect that has already gone off.)

The other creatures have useful things going on. I can recur Eternal Dragon for another go. Batterskull will return to my hand before I replay it (or I can equip something with it if I prefer). Simic Sky Swallower at least has Shroud to protect it from your Swords to Plowshares, but it’s the most vulnerable creature I have. It’s the card most likely to be pulled out for another planeswalker from Innistrad that makes the cut. (Perhaps Liliana of the Veil?)

If you’ll recall, one of the themes of this deck is mass creature removal, and I tried not to disappoint. Because they make useful creatures after they do their thing, Martial Coup and Phyrexian Rebirth were absolutely essential. Kirtar's Wrath only makes two 1/1 Birds, so I didn’t deem it to important enough to rock. Rout has the instant potential you love. Damnation and Wrath of God are cheap and prevent the possibility of regeneration. Finally, Austere Command is flexible enough to provide some other useful options while also being a full-on Wrath if you need it.

One of the important things to remember is that my friends will be helping out. Some make token creatures to give me blockers and attackers. A large chunk of them provide removal (such as Chandra, the Firebrand, Sorin Markov, and Ajani Vengeant). I don’t need much more creature removal besides my planeswalkers, Wraths, and the occasional card like Legacy Weapon and Ulamog. The same is true for noncreature removal. As such, I did not add things like Vindicate, Swords to Plowshares, or Orim's Thunder to the deck. Why play it? I can tutor for Karn Liberated or Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker in addition to the abovementioned cards.

Once I have fleshed out all of the needs in the deck, I have a few holes. Do I play card-drawing, recursion, tutoring, reanimation, another Wrath? Which way do I go? Clearly, I liked Recurring Insight, so in it went. I thought about Allied Strategies as the next card-drawing spell, but instead I wanted more protection of my dudes, so I ran with Privileged Position.

I have a bunch of dual lands sitting around and not being used, so I decided to add a full set to our deck. It’s a nice fit. To that I added three reliable multicolored lands and the cycle of the three-color ETB lands from Shards of Alara. That gave me twenty-eight very powerful lands. What more do you need? I tossed in one of each basic for Solemn Simulacrum to work its best, and that put me at thirty-three. I’m almost full. Do I have space for those that tap for just colorless? I decided I did, and I thought about which ones were good enough to make the cut.

I dismissed some of the usual suspects. Do you play Volrath's Stronghold in a deck of fifteen creatures? Remember that two of those creatures shuffle back into the deck, two want to linger in my graveyard for abilities, and a fifth exiles itself after hitting my yard. That leaves ten creatures that can be targeted, and Eternal Dragon recurs to my hand. While replaying Solemn Simulacrum, Etched Oracle, and Etched Monstrosity has value, the rest don’t have enough choices.

For the same reason, I discarded Academy Ruins. Legacy Weapon and Darksteel Colossus aren’t possible targets. Many of the rest have Indestructible and are unlikely to be there for a target. The rest don’t have enough numbers to warrant a spot.

What’s left? Homeward Path works, but just doesn’t give me enough sass. Winding Canyons doesn’t have enough creatures to use. (Plus one has Flash already, so it has even fewer.) Strip Mine doesn’t give enough, and I didn’t want something like Blasted Landscape. I could rock Bojuka Bog, Halimar Depths, or Khalni Garden, but are they good enough? Not really.

That left the defensive cards of Mystifying Maze and Kor Haven. With a nice amount of land, I decided to up my land stack by one with Reliquary Tower and call it. I do think that it will sometimes prove useful when you are using your permanents and mana to do things, and thus holding onto cards.

Note that my land choices do leave me massively open to something like Ruination. That’s just the way things go in a five-color deck.

To add to that, I have Sol Ring, Darksteel Ingot, and Expedition Map, plus Solemn Simulacrum, Eternal Dragon, Primeval Titan, and Shard Convergence. I think we’ll be fine mana-wise. I tried to keep the cards to just 2 colored mana, and only a few cards broke that (Conflux, Sorin Markov, Privileged Position).

There were a lot of cards that came close to getting tossed in that I have not already mentioned. Consider Decree of Justice, Gilded Lotus, Lotus Vale, Timetwister, Wheel of Fortune, Memory Jar, Commander Eesha, Maze of Ith, Praetor's Counsel, Replenish, and more. Remember that I mentioned goodies like Eternal Witness, Tooth and Nail, and Mirari's Wake—those sorts of things also were in deep consideration.

Whenever I build a Commander deck, I pull everything I like and put it into a stack, and then parse the stack down into the actual deck. What’s interesting that I chose none of the new Legendary creatures from the Commander release, despite having at least one extra copy of each. None fit the theme of this deck. I’m not averse to playing new cards when they work (Batterskull, Command Tower, and Norn's Annex prove that). I just didn’t see any of those cards making the cut here.

With the enchantment subtheme, I really considered going hard-core and pushing it further. I mentioned Replenish, and I pulled a few of the Seals, plus Soul Snare and Sigil of the Empty Throne. I have thirteen enchantments without even trying, and I could easily have rocked a few more and some more thematic cards.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed seeing my latest creation. Good luck with your own builds!

See you next week,

Abe Sargent

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