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Commander Precon Decon: Mardu Humans

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I was a bit slow on the uptake with Commander 2020. Money's been tight during the pandemic, as it is for many Magic players, and so I failed to preorder all of the preconstructed decks as soon as preorders were available. That didn't work out great for me.

So when I happened to come across the Ruthless Regiment deck at a big box store the other day, I snapped it up. It wouldn't have been my first choice - like a lot of players, I've definitely got my eye on the Timeless Wisdom deck, thanks in large part to Fierce Guardianship, but mostly because it contains quite a few cards I'd love to slide right into my Riku of Two Reflections deck.

But I do so love a challenge, and Mardu (or Savai? I guess?) colors represent uncharted territory for me. I've never built a Commander deck in those colors before. That's about to change.

Human Nature

Jirina Kudro

Right off the bat, I put the "face" commander of this deck, Jirina Kudro, to the side. It's become a running joke that the commanders chosen to headline these decks often prove not to be the most desirable ones. Jirina does nothing for me as a commander. Her ability to create tokens for each time she's cast from the command zone is underwhelming to say the least; at four CMC, I don't expect to be casting her more than two or three times in a typical game. But let's just say I cast her four or five times. I would get...four or five tokens? Double that if I have an Anointed Procession in play? That's...ah...not great.

Kelsien, the Plague
Trynn, Champion of Freedom
Silvar, Devourer of the Free

That left me with two viable choices: Kelsien, the Plague or the partners of Trynn, Champion of Freedom and Silvar, Devourer of the Free. Trynn and Silvar are intriguing, but to my eye, they underwhelm as commander choices almost as much as Jirina does. Kelsien was always the most interesting choice for me.

As it happens, though, Kelsien is the one commander in this deck that doesn't explicitly care about Humans, and the precon is jam packed with Humans and cards that care about them. For a moment I considered breaking down my Daxos, the Returned deck and putting Kelsien at the helm there; I'd add Daxos into the 99 and try to use both him and Kelsien to rack up lots of experience counters. But Daxoa and Kelsien want to do very different things - casting enchantments and killing creatures, respectively - and I'm not sure trying to smush the two themes together will yield great results.

In the end, I decided to make Kelsien my commander and keep most of the Humans and "Humans matter" cards from the precon as a sub-theme. Now it's time to make some changes... just some.

Limited Pantry

While I struck out on securing copies of all five Commander 2020 decks, I did manage to snag a booster box of Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths from CoolStuffInc, along with a pretty good deal on a Savage Hunter Brawl deck. I decided that, for now, my upgrades would be limited to those pools - down the road I'll certainly go back and retool the deck, probably in a pretty major way. But as a big fan of working with what I've got handy, this seemed like a fun way to tackle this particular challenge.

Fun... until I looked more closely at what I got from my Ikoria box.

General Kudro of Drannith
Luminous Broodmoth
Ruinous Ultimatum
Mythos of Snapdax

More to the point-- I didn't get any of those four cards. Womp womp.

General Kudro, specifically, would have been such a nice inclusion in this deck - or even its commander. Any creature-based deck in White is happy to have Luminous Broodmoth (my Daxos, Blessed by the Sun deck DESPERATELY needs one), while Ruinous Ultimatum and Mythos of Snapdax are great bombs in these colors.

But we didn't get them, so no use crying about it.

What we DID get from the Ikoria box and Brawl deck are plenty intriguing.

Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast
Syr Konrad, the Grim
Savai Triome
Judith, the Scourge Diva

Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast feels like it has a ton of potential in Commander. I've been guilty many times of skipping straight to a Planeswalker's ultimate ability and overlooking the ones higher up; Lukka is one of those Planeswalkers that's going to ride his +1 a long, long way. In 100-card decks, exiling three cards at a time isn't the biggest blow to absorb. And if we can use that ability two or three times we've essentially - and hopefully - created a secondary hand full of creatures we can cast when we need them. Now, that's not to write off his -2 and -7 abilities. Both are quite good, especially since Lukka enters with five loyalty counters. But Lukka isn't one of those Planeswalkers who lives and dies by the ult, and I love that.

I was fortunate to get five of the Triome lands in my box, including the Savai Triome. I absolutely love these lands for Commander. Drawing a Nomad Outpost in the mid-to-late game stinks; drawing a Savai Triome at least gives us the option to cycle it away and draw an impactful spell. The Triome cycle is a massive hit in my book and I sure hope it's completed sooner than later. (But, like, maybe not before we complete the Battlebond lands cycle... please. Just please let us have them. Please. Thank you.)

Out of everything in my upgrade pool, I think Syr Konrad, the Grim and Judith, the Scourge Diva are the most exciting for this deck. The two of them combined with Kelsien have the potential to create all kinds of mayhem. Konrad and Judith make such a gross, delightful couple. I would watch that ABC sitcom.

Missing the Cut

When we add some cards to a deck, others have to come out. It's not personal, cards. I still love you.

A handful were cut immediately because they went directly into Hot Daxos - Verge Rangers, Knight of the White Orchid, Flawless Maneuver, and Call the Coppercoats. I could have left them in the decklist just for the sake of the argument, but I do intend to play with this deck (and upgrade it further) so I decided to keep things above board.

Now let's spend a moment - and I do mean just a moment - talking about the mana base. It stinks. Every mana base in every Commander product stinks. We complain about it every year and every year we get mana bases that stink. It is what it is.

I removed Wind-Scared Crag, Scoured Barrens, and Bloodfell Caves immediately. I'd much rather have basic lands. Our Savai Triome swaps in easily for Nomad Outpost and the rest stays more or less as is.

Martial Impetus
Parasitic Impetus
Shiny Impetus

Elsewhere, I looked long and hard at the Impetus cards. I was immediately reminded of the curse cycle from Commander 2017. Much as I love the art featuring the Unluckiest Planeswalker, I could never quite get there on the cards themselves. They do things but I'm not sure they do enough things to warrant a spot in a deck. The Impetus cycle feels much the same to me. I'm sure there's a deck where they fit much better, but this one isn't it.

Given what I had to say about her last week, I easily took out Nahiri, the Harbinger. I just don't see her doing significant work in this deck. Fumiko, the Lowblood is always a risky inclusion because opponents I force to attack have a tendency to attack me. This deck doesn't have a ton of life gain - you'll notice I snuck in a Hot Daxos because, as my pet card, I have many spare copies handy at all times - so I'm wary of incentivizing attacks against me.

Without Further Ado

Kelsien, the Plague | Commander | Dave Kosin


There we have it. Play lots of Humans, do damage, ping them with Kelsien, get experience counters, make Kelsien bigger, profit. We'll see how the deck does out in the wild, and we'll revisit it down the road with some more substantive updates.

Dave is a Commander player currently residing in Reno, NV. When he's not badly misplaying his decks, he works as a personal trainer. You can bother him on Twitter and check out his Twitch channel.

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