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Get a Life


I like the idea of winning with Battle of Wits. A local player promised that if people traded him four copies of foil Battle of Wits, he would build the deck and play it. When he acquired the fourth copy, he built an Esper-colored control deck with Wrath of God effects, card-draw, tutoring, and cards like Dovescape, and he played it in Standard Friday Night Magic events and Pro Tour Qualifiers. It was a lot of fun to play against, but the superb mana-fixing and high volume of answers made the deck frustrating to beat. At the time, I was playing a R/w burn deck with white for Lightning Helix, Shining Shoal, and Wrath of God (Shining Shoal was so good at dealing damage that I could play main-decked WoG in a burn deck. I miss those days), so Dovescape just pulled my pants down completely. Terashi's Grasp out of the ’board helped keep him off his Battle of Wits, but to be honest, I thought it was awesome when he won with it even if it meant I lost. Watching him beat other people was even better.

Battle of Wits
Mortal Combat

I have a Mortal Combat Commander deck with Iname, Death Aspect at the helm, and it’s a lot of fun. You can go the Reanimator route and bring back powerful Spirits like Kuro, Pitlord or you can try to jam twenty Spirits in the ’yard and win with Mortal Combat. Either way, you’re having a lot of fun (and you’re super vulnerable to small amounts of graveyard hate, which is why I don’t play it often). If you are beginning to sense a pattern, it’s pretty clear I like the win-the-game enchantments and consider them great 75% cards.

Iname, Death Aspect
The great thing about having a very difficult time achieving the objectives on the win-the-game enchantments is that it naturally pushes you toward winning 1 ÷ X games. People can trip you up fairly easily, you aren’t guaranteed to draw the enchantment, they have a turn signal to blow it up, and when you win . . . good because that means they aren’t really doing much, and games in which no one is doing much need to end somehow. Cards like Mortal Combat are the perfect blend of power and inconsistency that are the hallmark of a well-constructed 75% deck. The best part about making a 75% deck with one of these enchantments is that if you’re playing with a new group, the players won’t know what you are up to until it is too late sometimes. A regular group will be wise to you dumping twenty Spirits in the bin, but you may catch a new group by surprise.

We have a Mortal Combat deck already, and it’s not very interesting. You add some reanimation spells, some Swamps, and some Spirits. You have to play bad creatures to have enough to trigger Mortal Combat, but you are able to play good ones, too. There: bonus deck. Go jam some Spirits, Vindicates, and Swamps in a deck box with Mortal Combat and Iname, Death Aspect. That’s not what I want to talk about today. Neither do we need to discuss Battle of Wits, a card that is incredibly poor in Commander. You will win so few games with Battle of Wits in Commander that you may end up just taking the card out of your deck entirely. I can’t say I would blame you. So if we aren’t going to talk about Battle of Wits or Mortal Combat, what’s on the docket for today?

How about a little win-the-game enchantment called The Cheese Stands Alone?

I’m kidding—but only a little. I have seen killer Commander decks that win with Barren Glory, and if you have a Barren Glory deck and your friends don’t let you also run a copy of The Cheese Stands Alone, you need better friends. Still, as fun as that is, and how 75% that would be, I actually want to talk about an entirely different win-condition enchantment. What’s the card? You guessed it: Test of Endurance.

Typically, life-gain is underwhelming. Reusable sources of life-gain, however, are very useful for putting the game out of reach. Sometimes, you even win the game because you have a cheaty card like Test of Endurance. So if we’re building around gaining life and having ToE in play (I have to stop abbreviating that way because it looks too goofy for me to even look at it without laughing; guess I’ll write it out long-form every time), we’re in white. Ideally, our commander would provide us with life-gain and some sort of additional advantage. Maybe the commander would make it appear that we are playing a group-hug deck and buy us some time to set up. The answer is pretty obvious. Let’s build around Selvala, Explorer Returned.

Here’s what I came up with

Selvala, Explorer Returned ? Commander | Jason Alt

  • Commander (0)

Test of Endurance
This looks like a lot of fun. Powerful lifelink creatures, Restoration Angel shenanigans, Omnath, Locus of Mana to use as a mana battery, cards that trigger off life-gain, and a sweet finisher in Test of Endurance—this deck has it all. You will look like a durdly group-hug deck, and opponents will draw some extra cards from Selvala, and this may make them leave you alone. They shouldn’t! Your Felidar Sovereign and Test of Endurance are lurking, ready to help you win in a turn cycle if they can’t stop you. Not only that, but you beat so efficiently that you should be able to overpower them with your good creatures if necessary. You almost have an Angel subtheme, which is fine with me. Angels are all about gaining me life, and I’ll let them if they really want to.

So, what do we think? Are cards that say, “You win the game,” not in the spirit of 75% in your view? Are they a great way to win the game? Could we have done more to expand on one of our themes? Are we fooling ourselves if we think our opponents won’t see a Felidar Sovereign or Test of Endurance win coming? Leave it in the comments section below. Thanks for tuning in for another week, and keep the suggestions coming. If you have a decklist you’d like me to take a look at, I’d be more than happy to. Until next week!

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