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Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North
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Ravnica Allegiance Build-Arounds

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When Guilds of Ravnica had just come out, I wrote an article called "Guilds of Ravnica Build-arounds" that was a new kind of "set review" article. Instead of talking about a large number of cards, lots of which probably wouldn't make the cut in any of my decks, I decided to buckle down and write about a small number of high-power cards that could warp the deck they were in or have one built around them. I think that's something I want to continue and since no one told me they hated it last time, I'm running it back. Some cards are obviously very good and I will accordingly try to find cards that might not be obvious to people who don't often build 75% like I do. Ravnica Allegiance is a good set with a lot of powerful cards. Last time I kept the preamble short so let's continue that tradition as well and launch right into the thick of it. You'll get what I'm going for.

Simic Ascendancy

Vorel of the Hull Clade / Pir and Toothy - While it's sort of obvious that basically any deck that deals with +1/+1 counters could potentially use this if it has access to these colors and Atraxa players are already planning the most boring wins possible, an underrated aspect of this card is its very first ability. Cards like Pir and Vorel in your command zone can help the number of counters on a creature get out of hand quickly and that's why they're powerful commanders, but an overlooked aspect of those decks is that sometimes it can be difficult to get that first counter on the creature. Take for example a card like Sage of Hours. A deck like Vorel or Pir could use a card like this because one counter on sage can become 2 then 4 very quickly. However, Sage of Hours is mostly used in Ezuri, Claw of Progress and less often in those others. The reason? Ezuri can just put all of the counters Sage needs on it at once. While I have used Vorel to double a creature's power from 1024/1024 to 2048/2048 and Ezuri has never put over 1,000 counters on a creature, putting 5 on Sage of Hours is arguably more effective than that. Am I advocating running Ezuri in all cases? Of course not. I run Pir and Toothy with the skeleton of my discarded Vorel deck but I don't run Ezuri at all anymore. What I am saying is that Simic Ascendancy addresses a fundamental issue those other decks have - putting the first counter on a creature that has a difficult time getting counters on its own. This is two mana cheaper than Adapting Incubation Druid, for example, and saving those 2 mana for something else can vastly improve an early turn. I think Simic Ascendancy is best in a deck where the commander affects the number of counters on something because those are generally more powerful than the commanders who put the counters on themselves. The difference is in what the rest of the deck looks like - creatures that get counters themselves like Kalonian Hydra are incredibly powerful and game-ending and are basically wasted in an Ezuri deck if Ezuri is in play and you don't have other cards from your deck out yet. I'd much rather have Pir in play than Ezuri in that instance. Pick decks where every ability on the card is important. I'm sure people will jam this in their Atraxa deck, but this is better than just doing that.

Experiment Kraj - This is sort of the same deal as the commanders above but the rest of the deck looks very different. In this instance, Ascendancy is vital because the rest of the deck affecting the number of counters on creatures won't even matter. Kraj doesn't get better at using an activated ability if the creature has 24 counters on it instead of just one. When you're going wide and shallow, the deck's infrastructure being able to put counters on creatures is even more important. Sure, Kraj can grant counters but you'd rather keep your commander untapped to use the new abilities, rather than tapping for something a Dragon Blood could do.

Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca - In contrast with the other two points I made here, I think you can KO some fairly quickly with this because you're going to go fairly wide. If you get off Kumena's five merfolk ability, you will be putting a ton of counters out at once. Kumena is a bit overlooked, I think, but this may be where I end up in my quest to find a Simic deck that I'm not embarrassed to take a 5 minute turn using. I borrowed a hilariously underpowered Kumena deck in a pod with strangers and managed to get within a few life points of winning. This is sneakily a very fun and powerful deck and if you're putting a bunch of counters on Kumena, you can turn into a Voltron deck on the fly and surprise people. I think Kumena deserves a second look given all the new Simic cards in Ravnica Allegiance.

Smothering Tithe

Teysa Karlov - This is the obvious spot for this card to end up and even though it's obvious, I think its synergy with Revel in Riches is worth mentioning. Treasure tokens will pop up every once in a whole since MaRo has declared the mechanic "deciduous" which means it won't be evergreen but won't be abandoned, either. "Revel in Rhystics" as I like to call it, is not only strong, it's going to be more interesting in the future with cards that interact with Treasure tokens. It's not just Teysa and Marchesa decks that benefit, either.

Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis - I like the idea of giving your opponents opportunities to draw cards with cards like Arcane Denial, Vision Skeins and my favorite, Forced Fruition. Mechanized Production is a fun way to win with the treasure tokens in a deck like this. Kynaois and Tiro could run this silly combo and other ways to win the game with a lot of treasure tokens, including Hellkite Tyrant. You could make them draw with Fevered Visions, wheels and Temple Bell. You can turn gifting them with cards into a lot of mana which you can use for any number of fell purposes. You can even use the new card, Rampage of the Clans to win the game with a ton of treasure tokens and deprive them of combo pieces in the bargain.

Ethereal Absolution

Daxos the Returned - I like building enchantment prisons for opponents and while this is a slow card, Daxos creates creatures that are somewhat sizeable, synergizes well with Serra's Sanctum and is a deck people aren't really prepared for anymore. While these colors make it tough to avoid getting blown out by Merciless Eviction (besides Teferi's Protection, I guess. RIP tokens) you do benefit from one dirty synergy - Ethereal Absolution and Humility. It should be fairly easy to win the game when you're the only one with creatures. There isn't much reason not to play Estrid if you like enchantress (I made the switch a year before Estrid was even printed, using Rubinia Soulsinger) but with Orim's Chant to also synergize with Humility, you can make creature combat fairly miserable and also shut down their creature-based combos.

Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim/Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter - Absolution is a useful way to deal with their graveyard strategies and also, your commander's ability scales off of the power or toughness of the sacced creature meaning the power and toughness boost on a free, 1/1 token is significant.

Ertai, the Corrupted - I like having a steady source of both creatures to sac to Ertai and spells in their yard to exile. The creature entering play also trips Intruder Alarm, untapping Ertai. Ertai is underbuilt and that could be because he's super annoying, but he's not Oloro, so that's good.

Font of Agonies

Selenia, Dark Angel - This is a goofy combo deck sometimes and it has gained a lot of popularity over the years. You carefully control your life total, play a spell to swap life total with someone and murder them. Being able to pay four at will with your commander is useful, Font gives you real value for something you were going to do anyway and it synergizes nicely with cards like Necropotence and Slaughter. Swords to Plowshares and similar spells are useful and being in White and Black gives you access to the best - Vindicate, Mortify, Unmake, Anguished Unmaking, Utter End... the list is a long one. That said, having a reusable source of removal is solid and this is a good deck for it.

Vona, Butcher of Magan - I heard you like removal. How about a commander that puts almost enough counters on Font to kill two creatures? Don't forget to serve with your lifelink creatures to get your life total back up.

Maralen of the Mornsong - This deck is annoying to play with and against but if you're not doing the 90 Swamp Ad Nauseam version, Font is solid.

Treasonous Ogre decks - Treasonous Ogre is a solid card and it may be the best reason to pay life since Griselbrand got Griselbanned. I don't have a ton to say on this topic, but I think people are sleeping on Font and that's a mistake. It does work.

Do you want me to do something like this for the next set? More importantly, will you be made if I try to get out of here without a deck list? Fine, that's fair. I recently dismantled my Vorel of the Hull Clade deck and turned it into Pir//Toothy as I alluded to earlier. Here's the list.

Pir//Toothy | Commander | Jason Alt


Updated for new cards from Ravnica Allegiance, my list looks something like

That does it for me this week. Join me next week where I'll be brewing something new and spicy with new cards and possibly a not new commander. Join me, won't you? Until next time!