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75% ? The Work Is Never Done

Welcome back, everyone!

Last week, I tuned up a Talrand, Sky Summoner deck that was submitted from reddit, and while I ended up with a list I was pretty happy with and that I thought was a good adherent to our 75% principles, I received some feedback from a Talrand player.

/u/borichu hit me up on reddit and laid it out for me.

“To be perfectly honest . . . as a Talrand player myself, I hate the list,” he started. That’s fair. As I’m not a Talrand player, I was primarily concerned with making the deck a 75% list, something I think we achieved.

He went on to explain the curve was a bit high, and though I took some steps to protect Talrand, I didn’t go far enough. On top of Swiftfoot Boots, he recommended Lightning Greaves and Darksteel Plate. Nothing unreasonable so far. He also recommended I do something I was reluctant to do, and that is add nonbasic lands. Riptide Laboratory does a good job of keeping you from having to recast Talrand along with his commander penalty because he died. I asked for a list, and borichu came through for me, sending me his idea of a 75% Talrand deck a few days later.

Now, is this the list I would take into battle? Probably not exactly (I like 75% of the changes!), but I think it shows something I want to talk about today, and that is that bringing a deck to 75% does not mean it can’t be improved. I would advocate looking over both lists and finding the cards and strategies you like. There is no one right answer when you’re building a 75% deck—it’s a lifestyle, not a science.

To that end, my Maelstrom Wanderer deck received a facelift recently. As much fun as it was to have a 75% Maelstrom Wanderer deck, I decided it might be fun to have a less fair deck in my arsenal, so I added a few infinite combos and cards I don’t think can ever be 75% (Food Chain, anyone?), and I generally made the deck more focused on being competitive. I still have several 75% decks, but I think it’s important to always tinker with your decks, and if you end up turning a 75% deck into something else, I think that’s fine. When I play with my casual group, Maelstrom Wanderer stays in my backpack, but I’m building so many new decks that I don’t think it will be a problem.

As Long as We’re Talking about Improvements

I was browsing around reddit, and I came across a post by /u/UnpositiveComment. He and his brother recently started playing Magic and got into Commander almost immediately. His brother bought the Eternal Bargain (Esper) Commander (2013 Edition) deck and likes playing with Oloro, Ageless Ascetic. However, if the group gradually becomes more competitive, the precon out of the box could be left in the dust. He wants to end up with a competitive list but also does not want to spend too much money, keeping each card under around $3. Is there a way to accomplish this? Can we make a 75% Oloro deck without spending a ton of money?

Eternal Bargain ? Commander | Commander (2013 Edition)

For reference, this is the preconstructed deck out of the box, and it’s the deck’s starting point. He will still have these cards, so anything we want to include from this list is a good place to start.

An idea I have always wanted to try with Oloro is an extort strategy. When the 75% project was first starting, /u/Darth_Meatloaf mentioned a few of his ideas on how an extort deck with Oloro as the commander could work.

From /u/Darth_Meatloaf in this thread:

Here is a Gatherer listing of every creature with the Extort mechanic.

To add to those, I will also be using:

To provide an example of a big, silly play possible with this:

Assume the following:

  • You have 3 opponents, and everyone is still at 40 health
  • You have 3 Extort permanents, Vizkopa Guildmage and Tainted Sigil in play
  • You have access to enough mana to activate Vizkopa Guildmage's second ability, cast any one spell in your hand and to activate Extort three times (4 mana on the field and a Dark Ritual in hand will get the job done - we'll use that in this example)
  • On your turn, here's what you do:
  • Activate Vizkopa Guildmage's second ability.
  • Cast Dark Ritual, then use the mana from it to Extort three times.
  • (each opponent has taken 3 damage and you have gained 9 life)
  • Vizkopa Guildmage's second ability kicks in and deals an additional 9 damage to each opponent
  • (total damage to each opponent is now 12)
  • Sacrifice Tainted Sigil to gain 36 life
  • Vizkopa Guildmage's second ability kicks in again and deals 36 life to each opponent.

You have now dealt 48 damage to each of your opponents at the cost of 4 mana, and 5 activations.

It's like a feedback loop, but with life.

EDIT: This synergy requires a minimum of 3 living opponents in order to kill everyone from 40 life. If you have two opponents, you'll only deal 27 damage to each of them, but with 4 opponents you'll do 75 to each and with 5 opponents you'll do 90 to each. (6 = 147, 7 = 192, etc . . . )

EDIT2: The minimum number of opponents for this to kill them using only Extort x3 plus one trigger of the Vizkopa Guildmage would be 13, but I doubt you'll be playing a game that big anytime soon.

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic
I have been a big fan of how powerful, inexpensive, and fun this extort business all seemed, and seeing someone ask for help tuning up the Oloro deck seemed to be the perfect opportunity to see if I can’t come up with something here that fits our 75% mentality.

Looking at the (short, unfortunately) list of extort cards, a few of them pop out as cards we’d like to be playing in a Commander deck already. Pontiff of Blight is a card I would include in a Teysa, Orzhov Scion deck that generated a lot of tokens as a fun way to turn every spell into a Corrupt to the dome. Crypt Ghast is a card that the finance community is watching with bated breath given how good it seems in mono-black Commander decks and the historical data associated with Nirkana Revenant. Blind Obedience is a card that would annoy my Maelstrom Wanderer deck quite a bit! Even cards such as Thrull Parasite and Treasury Thrull have utility in Commander, so our commitment to this theme is not going to be too much of a sacrifice.

I think if you don’t play a card like Enlightened Tutor, the combo of Sanguine Bond and Exquisite Blood is not going to be consistent enough to enact more often than in 1 ÷ X games, and since it’s not a guaranteed auto-win anyway and is prone to disruption, I am game adding it. Old favorites like Polluted Bonds are good choices here, and cards like Exsanguinate and Debt to the Deathless are cheap and on-theme. I think we’re ready to start building!

75% Oloro ? Commander | Jason Alt

  • Commander (0)

I didn’t do much to the mana base. I added a few of the buddy lands because the most expensive one is only a few bucks, and they will be a big help to the mana base. I took out a lot of the blue cards from the precon, but having blue mana is still important, so I tried not to cut out a ton of blue mana. The most expensive card I added is Test of Endurance, which is still under the $5 cap that /u/UnpositiveComment specified.

Test of Endurance
Is the deck finished? I don’t think so. I would like to work a lot of cards in there, but I didn’t want to cut more than fifty percent of the original precon initially. I think this is a nice target to shoot for. The deck is much better than the precon, but it still leaves room for improvement after some testing. I think the deck will probably want a few more ways to keep Oloro alive, as all of the life-gain triggers are quite good when he lives, but the great thing about Oloro is that he can gain you life whether he is in play or the command zone. I would volunteer to keep track of life totals for the table or people may end up wanting to choke you to death by the end of the night.

I avoided adding cards I really wanted to add because they were too expensive. Budget alternatives may find a home in the deck in the future—Bribery is good, but Control Magic isn’t terrible, and Enslave is expensive but fits with the theme. Obzedat, Ghost Council would be at home here, but unless the original poster’s brother wants to trade off his Toxic Deluge (something I recommend), we’ll have to settle for the OG . . . Original Ghost Dad, that is. I’d run both if I could. More mana rocks may prove necessary, and testing will bear that out. Extort requires some mana to go over the top, and that cute scenario proposed by /u/Darth_Meatloaf requires you to have enough mana to extort several times and activate your Guildmage on top of playing a spell, and that’s not going to happen if that spell is Baneful Omen or Boon Reflection.

I included a few instant-win scenarios, such as Test of Endurance and the combo with Exquisite Blood and Sanguine Bond because they are easy to interrupt and having interactions that say, “I win now,” are within the rules I set up for this project.

All in all, I think the deck I came up with is a good starting place. I am grateful to /u/borichu for taking time out to comment on the Talrand list. I liked it so much that I welcome all of you to help out and suggest ways to polish this list. I’m sure /u/UnpositiveComment and his brother would appreciate it, and we could all take the opportunity to hone our deck-tuning skills. Even when all of the suggestions are in, the deck won’t be “done,” and that may be my favorite thing about Commander. You never have to be done if you don’t want to be.

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