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Commander Chop Shop #3 – Nicol Bolas Isn’t a Dragon . . .

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 . . . he’s a god!

This week’s deck was submitted through e-mail by a user who chose to remain anonymous. While this is okay, I would prefer to be able to attribute a deck to a player! That being said, thank you all for the submissions! Each week, there is a fantastic group of decks to choose from, and I’m fortunate to have so many awesome lists in the queue in case things ever slow down. I promise that if I’m unable to actually post your deck in an article, I’ll still try to reply with some suggestions . . . or at least answers to direct questions. I must say that this week’s selection really takes me back!

If we can jump in the way, way-back machine, some of my fondest memories of playing and collecting Magic cards revolve around the (then) card type Legend. I collected all of the Legends that were big and splashy. Vanilla legends from the set Legends? Don’t mind if I do! How can I pass up Axelrod Gunnarson? That guy is a boss. I quickly learned that Dragons that were also Legendary usually had some pretty monster abilities. Invasion came and brought with it some pretty awesome Dragons! Monstrous flying beasts that have cool abilities are all right in my book. Then, one day, I saw them: the Elder Dragons! Nicol Bolas was clearly their king; he obliterated the competition.

Imagine my joy when Nicol Bolas became a key storyline character. Imagine my joy (again) when I found out about EDH. When I saw this week’s deck and its Commander, I knew it was serendipity. I needed to help fuel the deck that is meant to be equal parts flavor and efficient. Let’s take a look at what we have to start with:

[cardlist]

[Commander]

1 Nicol Bolas

[/Commander]

[Creatures]

1 Avatar of Woe

1 Clone

1 Consecrated Sphinx

1 Hoarding Dragon

1 Hoard-Smelter Dragon

1 Kederekt Leviathan

1 Mnemonic Wall

1 Reiver Demon

1 Sphinx of Lost Truths

1 Platinum Emperion

1 Steel Hellkite

1 Keiga, the Tide Star

1 Malfegor

1 Ryusei, the Falling Star

[/Creatures]

[Planeswalkers]

1 Jace Beleren

1 Liliana Vess

1 Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker

1 Sarkhan the Mad

1 Sorin Markov

1 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas

[/Planeswalkers]

[Spells]

1 Cancel

1 Deprive

1 Fuel for the Cause

1 Grixis Charm

1 Into the Core

1 Into the Roil

1 Lost in the Mist

1 Negate

1 Rend Flesh

1 Snuff Out

1 Soul Manipulation

1 Spite // Malice

1 Stoic Rebuttal

1 Terminate

1 Barter in Blood

1 Chain Reaction

1 Cruel Ultimatum

1 Damnation

1 Diabolic Tutor

1 Promise of Power

1 Rite of Replication

1 Slave of Bolas

1 Corrupted Conscience

1 Haunted Crossroads

1 Spreading Plague

1 Volition Reins

1 Darksteel Ingot

1 Everflowing Chalice

1 Icy Manipulator

1 Lightning Greaves

1 Manalith

1 Mimic Vat

1 Nim Deathmantle

1 Obelisk of Grixis

1 Prototype Portal

1 Tower of Calamities

1 Mindslaver

[/Spells]

[Lands]

5 Mountain

8 Swamp

9 Island

1 Akoum Refuge

1 Blackcleave Cliffs

1 Bojuka Bog

1 Creeping Tar Pit

1 Crumbling Necropolis

1 Darkslick Shores

1 Drowned Catacomb

1 Evolving Wilds

1 Exotic Orchard

1 Grixis Panorama

1 Halimar Depths

1 Jwar Isle Refuge

1 Lavaclaw Reaches

1 Mystifying Maze

1 Reliquary Tower

1 Rupture Spire

1 Terramorphic Expanse

1 Great Furnace

1 Seat of the Synod

1 Vault of Whispers

[/Lands]

[/cardlist]

The budget we have this week is $40, so we really want to do more pruning than chopping! Let’s get started.

The first thing I notice is that we have forty-two lands, but to go with them, there are four artifact mana-sources, which brings the total to forty-six mana-producing effects in the deck. I think that’s a little much, and I’d like to cut it down a bit. If we trim one of the mana artifacts and three of the lands, that pulls things down to a much more reasonable number. I believe the clear call here is to cut two Islands and a single Swamp. The nonbasics more than make up for the loss. In addition, we already have a glut of 3-mana artifacts; I think Manalith can afford to sit this one out.

If we’re going to cut mana, we should definitely do it for fun things! Reiterate and Fork help keep up the theme of multiple Cruel Ultimatums while also giving us access to the best spells our opponents are playing. Keeping with that theme, we’re also going to add Chandra, the Firebrand. I like being able to Cruel Ultimatum often and repeatedly. In order to make room for Chandra, we need to cut something, and Nim Deathmantle is it. The original list made mention that this card was on the edge, so we have no big problem cutting it.

While we’re at it, I want to revamp our counterspell suite. Stoic Rebuttal is nothing more than Counterspell, and Lost in the Mist is a little underwhelming as well. We replace them with a good free counter (Commandeer) and a saucy one (Spelljack). Again, these also fit the theme of, “I’ll take that, thank you.” Speaking of stealing permanents, I think it’s only fair that we include two more cards that do just that: Sower of Temptation and Control Magic. I pulled Corrupted Conscience—again at the builder’s request—and also Platinum Emperion. He really just creates a giant target, and we want to avoid that!

We could always use a few reinforcements, and nothing helps like our good buddy Tezzeret. Granted, Tezzeret is already in the deck in one form, but I think that adding Tezzeret the Seeker can only help. He lets us tutor up a good deal of artifacts, including Coalition Relic! Relic is strictly better than Obelisk of Grixis, which is now getting the axe.

Last but not least, we have a few fun additions. Profane Command is absolutely absurd and helps us reuse so many great effects. Coupled with Profane, we are adding Shriekmaw. He’s a solid body who helps get around troublesome cards like Gaddock Teeg when needed! We need some card-draw to tie everything together, and what better ways than Fact or Fiction and Deep Analysis? Bonus points if you Fork Fact or Fiction!

A casual observation I’ve made is that large creatures tend to end some games pretty darn quick. To that end, don’t be afraid to use Slave of Bolas and your copy effects aggressively. I’ve also tossed in Grab the Reins as a lovely instant-speed Threaten and Fling. Remember that if you copy Grab the Reins, you can copy the damage dealt by the creature you’ve sacrificed, too!

Let’s look at the final changes we made:

Cards to Remove

Cards to Add

1 Chandra, the Firebrand $10.00 1 Sower of Temptation $7.00
1 Tezzeret the Seeker $5.00 1 Fork $4.50
1 Coalition Relic $2.25 1 Fact or Fiction $1.50
1 Commandeer $1.00 1 Control Magic $1.00
1 Profane Command $1.00 1 Spelljack $1.00
1 Reiterate $0.50 1 Shriekmaw $0.50
1 Deep Analysis $0.25 1 Grab the Reins $0.25
Total $35.75

The final deck list:

[cardlist]

[Commander]

1 Nicol Bolas

[/Commander]

[Creatures]

1 Avatar of Woe

1 Clone

1 Consecrated Sphinx

1 Hoarding Dragon

1 Hoard-Smelter Dragon

1 Kederekt Leviathan

1 Mnemonic Wall

1 Reiver Demon

1 Shriekmaw

1 Sower of Temptation

1 Sphinx of Lost Truths

1 Steel Hellkite

1 Keiga, the Tide Star

1 Malfegor

1 Ryusei, the Falling Star

[/Creatures]

[Planeswalkers]

1 Chandra, the Firebrand

1 Jace Beleren

1 Liliana Vess

1 Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker

1 Sarkhan the Mad

1 Sorin Markov

1 Tezzeret the Seeker

1 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas

[/Planeswalkers]

[Spells]

1 Cancel

1 Commandeer

1 Deprive

1 Fact or Fiction

1 Fork

1 Fuel for the Cause

1 Grab the Reins

1 Grixis Charm

1 Into the Roil

1 Negate

1 Reiterate

1 Rend Flesh

1 Snuff Out

1 Soul Manipulation

1 Spelljack

1 Spite // Malice

1 Terminate

1 Barter in Blood

1 Cruel Ultimatum

1 Damnation

1 Deep Analysis

1 Diabolic Tutor

1 Profane Command

1 Promise of Power

1 Rite of Replication

1 Slave of Bolas

1 Control Magic

1 Haunted Crossroads

1 Spreading Plague

1 Volition Reins

1 Coalition Relic

1 Darksteel Ingot

1 Everflowing Chalice

1 Lightning Greaves

1 Mimic Vat

1 Prototype Portal

1 Mindslaver

[/Spells]

[Lands]

5 Mountain

7 Island

7 Swamp

1 Akoum Refuge

1 Blackcleave Cliffs

1 Bojuka Bog

1 Creeping Tar Pit

1 Crumbling Necropolis

1 Darkslick Shores

1 Drowned Catacomb

1 Evolving Wilds

1 Exotic Orchard

1 Grixis Panorama

1 Halimar Depths

1 Jwar Isle Refuge

1 Lavaclaw Reaches

1 Mystifying Maze

1 Reliquary Tower

1 Rupture Spire

1 Terramorphic Expanse

1 Great Furnace

1 Seat of the Synod

1 Vault of Whispers

[/Lands]

[/cardlist]

Yet again, we’ve made some fun changes and are under budget! I think if I were going to make any more additions, it would be to add a tutor effect of some sort . . . or perhaps Telemin Performance. I think we managed to keep the deck flavorful while still managing to improve on some elements. Thank you all for reading, and join me again next week when we alter up a new creation!

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