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War of the Spark Build-Arounds



I tried something new last time with my set review where I went more in depth on a smaller number of cards to find potential 75% deck improvements and it was met with a lot more positive reception than previous set reviews. Instead of talking about every card in the set that could conceivably ever see play, I am going to talk about cards that improve decks we've brewed in this column. I feel I will spend less time on bad cards that way and I will give more practical advice about building 75%. Let's take a look at the stuff in War of the Spark that either improves a deck we already have or is worth building around.

Some of these cards are obvious build-arounds as ommanders and I'll cover them in their own article. Some of these cards are obvious powerhouses on their own - you don't need me to tell you Jace goes in every deck that already has a Laboratory Maniac. However, there are quite a few cards that will improve decks we already have or embody specific 75% principles and I'm going to go into some detail about them. Let's do it.

The Wanderer

The Wanderer is a pretty decent Planeswalker - I like the idea of being able to double Reprisal and still have an "enchantment" in play that can prevent noncombat damage. The deck I had in mind for this is one we built relatively recently - the Tajic, Legion's Edge deck from the article about secret commanders. Having another way to protect our creatures from damage encourage us to Earthquake early and often. There are plenty of damage-based board sweepers that can kill all creatures, dome your Stuffy Doll for 13 and call it a day, but if you add this protection in, you'll be the only one with creatures and a whole board plus an active Pyrohemia should sew the game up for you.

I think this could go in a deck with Black, also, since Black has some damage-based options, but I think Red pairs best with The Wanderer. Damage-based removal from opponents is sort of rare so if it comes from you, you can be the one who keeps the board clear and still has your creatures live to tell the tale. If you're building the deck, Solar Blaze, Nahiri, Storm of Stone, and Jaya, Venerated Firemage could use a look as well. Why not double the damage with Jaya if it doesn't apply to you? Solar Blaze is great because it's a fixed-cost Chain Reaction type card that gets fliers Earthquakes can't. It struggles against Treefolk and other Sir Mix-A-Lot creatures but it can deal a ton of damage.

Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted

I won't talk too much about Nekusar because this is an obvious inclusion, and the Nekusar deck I brewed in this column like 5 years ago wasn't even a traditional Nekusar deck. I will say it's not just Nekusar who dings people, though. I like Seizan, Perverter of Truth with mine artifacts, Fate Unraveler and Underworld Dreams in a group hug, group slug hybrid build. Other colors give you cards like Kederekt Parasite and Fevered Visions, though, so branch out if you want.

Jiang Yanggu, Wildcrafter

The list of decks that this improves for me is a long one. Vorel, Pir and Toothy, Ezuri - the list goes on. I have a lot of Simic decks that put counters on creatures, and a big reason for that, I think, is cards like Cytoplast Manipulator and Simic Manipulator. Simic Ascendancy is great with Jiang able to put counters on creatures and the deck having proliferate ensures Jiang gets more than 2 activations. Being able to tap something like Fertilid for mana to use its own ability is pretty saucy and you can even throw counters on stuff like Coiling Oracle to make it a mana dork after it outlives its usefulness. I bet if I play 20 games with this in a deck, I'll use Gyre Sage to make one Blue mana instead of the 7 Green mana I could tap it for in a pinch at least once. Could this be my favorite card in the set? Maybe. It's an absurd set but I also love this card because it turns so many creatures into Birds of Paradise and the fact that it can grant counters is something I need (I was playing Dragon Blood 6 years ago. Dragon Blood.) make me excited to jam this in about four of my existing decks. Maybe I AM Simic after all. Sorry, Teysa. We had a good run together. I'll always remember that game when no one wanted to play any creatures because I had a Grave Pact and a Butcher of Malakir out and my friend said "BUTCHER ISN'T EVEN GOOD IN TEYSA DECKS - IT'S EASY TO KILL AND IT'S SO MUCH MANA" and then I sacced Butcher to kill his last creature with Grave Pact and he conceded.

Evolution Sage

This is one of the most hyped cards in the set and while I don't necessarily know if it's as insane as some think, I have decks where I routinely play 10 lands in a turn, not to mention the times I have resolved Boundless Realms. Every deck that wants Jiang wants this, also, and some others to boot. The deck I have that triggers this the most is Tatyova but has no payoffs. I would recommend taking advantage of this by having cards like Boundless Realms, Growth Spiral, Azusa, Lost But Seeking and Urban Evolution in your decks to begin with but also having enough cards with counters to include as a payoff. This has the potential to trigger way more often than Inexorable Tide but even if it doesn't and you just get a 60% chance of proliferating once on a turn, that's still significant. This is going in like 5 of my decks. Pair this with Avenger of Zendikar and it will be tough not to get way too far ahead to catch.

Even decks with no Blue like Lord Windgrace can benefit from having this slugger on their team. There's nothing specific to 75% building with a creature this obviously good but I would sure be remiss if I didn't mention how many decks this will improve of mine.

Flux Channeler

In a similar vein, I feel like this card goes in as many decks, especially if they were already running Inexorable Tide. Getting a counter on this then proliferating it up to a huge beater, all the while getting counters on Simic Ascendancy seems solid. There is a lot of synergy in Simic proliferate in this set and basically any deck that benefits from +1/+1 counters gets a big boost. Even slower, durdly combos like Ezuri and Sage of Hours get a little faster and more repeatable. Maybe take another look at Asceticism if you're going to have this many creatures doing work that used to be done by enchantments!

Storm the Citadel

I am always saying decks don't run enough removal and if your deck has trample, unblockable or flying creatures or just goes wide enough, you can wipe their whole board of troublesome trinkets. It takes a lot of work to hit someone with this, but a 1-sided Fracturing Gust that also helps your creatures deal more damage deserves a look. I am adding this to Saskia Squirrels right away!

Vivien's Arkbow

Deathing Pod, as I call it, is a sneakily good card in decks that aren't doing Birthing Pod stuff because you merely discard. Podding a decent-sized creature into a bigger one then reanimating the creature into play is solid, if not a bit mana-intensive. I think decks like Karador that make use of the yard a lot will get a kick out of this. It's a bit different than Birthing Pod in that you never get to see the creature in play and it's not good for chaining like Pod is, so this will be better in decks where you want the creature in the yard versus wanting it in play. It's a bad Birthing Pod in a lot of cases but it's great in others, especially if you flash the creature in.

Living Twister

Twisty doesn't seem that ridiculous on its face but when you consider how much work I do with Trade Routes in my Tatyova deck, anything that bears any similarity needs a look. You will use this as part Stormbind (If you weren't playing back during that era, the card does WORK) and part Trade Routes. Being able to rebuy lands for landfall triggers in decks like Omnath, Locus of Rage is huge, but Lord Windgrace and other decks can make use of this. Picking up lands isn't easy to do and people are sleeping on this 3 mana ? which is a mistake.

Narset's Reversal

I don't know if I have a deck for this per se, but this is a very 75% spell. Remand doesn't get played a ton in Commander because tempo matters less in other formats, but I like this for stealing their key spells. If they don't have the mana to replay that Teferi's Protection right away, you end up shielding yourself the way they intended to and suddenly their permanents are in play and vulnerable while you're blissfully phased out. Fork is not exactly new but I like the combination of stashing a spell in their hand that's too expensive to replay and swiping a copy seems cool. This is sometimes worse than Twincast and sometimes better and I love it.

In addition to adding these sweet proliferate spells to my existing decks, I'm excited to give Roalesk a try. I'm not used to trying to rebuy my Simic commanders - it's usually better to try and keep them alive. I would build Roalesk something like this.

Roalesk, Apex Hybrid | Commander | Jason Alt

I think this could be a fun 75% deck because of the many ways to "borrow" their creatures and the number of sac outlets. Borrow a creature until it's about to die in combat or a better one comes along then sac it to an Altar or Greater Good. Those sac outlets are great for going nuts with Roalesk who puts counters all over. This deck can win with Simic Ascendancy more quickly than most of my Simic decks and it has a solid base. I hate to make another Simic +1/+1 counter deck but actually no I don't. Chamber of Manipulation even makes an appearance here which makes me happy since Blue doesn't get many threaten effects and this one being repeatable makes it both playable and perfect for a deck with a lot of sac outlets. If you want, jam a Birthing Pod in here to either trade up your Roalesk or a creature you manipulated.

I think this set has a lot to offer quite a few of the 75% decks we've built over the years and the Legendary creatures are begging to be built with. There is a lot to love here, so get brewing. Leave me something in the comments. Until next week!

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