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Before I was even calling it 75% (or anything, for that matter) I was building the method we’ve outlined in this series. There were certain cards and strategies I avoided and certain ones I was drawn to. Some of the reasons behind how I build decks didn’t make sense until I looked through my decks and deck ideas and essentially rubber duck debugged them. I avoided certain cards and strategies out of a desire to avoid, among other things, boredom. A deck capable of milling itself completely then bringing back a Laboratory Maniac is pretty consistent. A deck capable of doing this early and often is pretty good: It’s also boring to me. I loved to have a lot of different ways to win and the way I won (or at least tried to) varied based on what I drew and what my opponents were up to. Too much consistency and/or too much linearity felt like the enemy and it led to the kiss of death for a deck, in my opinion — it led to boredom. Boredom is the antithesis of 75%, both our boredom and our opponents’ as well. So what do we do when the deck itself is starting to make us feel bored?

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic
I don’t like getting bored with my decks and one of the ways I keep myself interested is by building a lot of decks and keeping them in heavy rotation. This keep things fresh. Another way I avoid boredom is by knowing when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. In this case, folding ‘em is scrapping the deck and holding ‘em is doing . . . not that? Keeping the deck as-is, I guess? Let’s talk about folding ‘em this week because I probably don’t need to write an entire article on how to leave your decks alone and not make any changes — I am counting on your innate ability to know how to do that without instruction.

Why would we ever scrap a deck, let alone one so successful we’re bored with it? I have decks which aren’t super good and I never think to scrap them because I keep cannibalizing their good cards, slowly weakening the deck but telling myself it's fine because I don’t play it often enough for its glaring weaknesses to call attention to themselves. They escape notice, therefore, they escape summary destruction. I should really update this policy; how much good stuff can there be in a deck I need to continually raid for spare parts if the deck doesn’t win on its own already?

Just like bad decks, sometimes a good one needs to be scrapped as well, and that’s what I want to explore today. If we’re going to turn a deck so good and consistent we’re bored with it into something else, how do we make sure the new deck won’t be equally boring? How do we ensure we’re not just making a bad version of the previous deck? What’s a good candidate for transformation? I think I have a few ideas.

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic can (and has been) written about for days. Not only is it the most popular deck of all time on EDHREC, in terms of the number of people who have made decks with it, it has experienced a resurgence in popularity, becoming the second-most-built deck of the week, falling behind only Meren of Clan Nel Toth and edging out some recent popular favorites like Ezuri, Claw of Progress and The Gitrog Monster. What about Oloro makes building a deck around him so alluring? Being in Esper colors is a draw — card draw, board wipes, tutors, Sphinxes of the Consecrated variety —Esper has a lot going for it. Also, being a source of card draw is huge because card advantage wins games. I like card drawing so much I’ve thanked people for targeting me with a Wild Draw 4 in Uno and I’m convinced it won me a lot of games, and that’s a game where the object is to empty your hand.

Finally, Oloro is a source of life gain you can’t interact with, because Wizards hates Magic players and loves when someone has to announce lifegain every upkeep. There’s nothing you can do about it besides stop inviting that person to play with you, which is too bad because he’s the roommate of the guy who hosts EDH night, so you’re stuck with him. This makes you start to regret ever trading him that Bribery because he always uses it to get the same card, oh WOW my Consecrated Sphinx, real original, Ben . . .  I realize that’s very specific, but I also realize everyone has their own story about how annoying it can be to play against Oloro. Jason Rice has a whole article devoted to why you should be able to interact with what your opponents do in his Unified Theory of Commander series which you should read if you haven’t because it’s all stellar.

I built an Oloro deck — well, that is to say I jammed a bunch of new cards in it that weren’t in the pre-con. I call decks like that a first draft. I just want a working prototype of the deck to jam a few games with and see where the weaknesses are so I can shore them up. I feel like I’m not the best deck architect on paper. I can add all the cards I want but I need to play games to see if there is something I’m missing or if my mana base works. I’m getting much better as I build more decks, but I still recognize I build decks like Edison invented the light bulb — a lot of trial and error, then I just steal a design from someone else and then take the credit. I’m going to pull an Edison because I don’t need an example of a deck that’s 75% to start with, merely one we’re sick of winning with. The part of Nikola Tesla will be played by Delandel, a deck-builder who posted his deck on tappedout.com for me to find. It looks like a pretty solid, consistent and powerful deck and I’m going to enjoy stripping it down to a skeleton and building on top of the remains.

Oloro Lifegain ? EDH |Delandel

If I’m Delandel, and I am sick of winning, or sick of people wanting to jam all 100 cards of my deck somewhere unmentionable because they’re sick of me gaining 2 life a turn no matter what, and drawing extra cards, and having access to blue mana, maybe I want to switch gears. This deck has a strong lifegain theme and it would be a shame to strip that out entirely. It also has some good cards and synergies related to controlling the game. What if we took a color out and looked at what we had left? Let’s see if there is anything left when we make this an Orzhov deck.

  • 1 Command Tower
  • 1 Exotic Orchard
  • 1 Forbidden Orchard
  • 1 Godless Shrine
  • 1 Homeward Path
  • 1 Isolated Chapel
  • 1 Kor Haven
  • 1 Mistveil Plains
  • 1 Orzhov Basilica
  • 14 Plains
  • 1 Reflecting Pool
  • 3 Swamp
  • 1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
  • 1 Vault of the Archangel
  • 1 Archangel of Thune
  • 1 Ashen Rider
  • 1 Auriok Champion
  • 1 Avacyn, Angel of Hope
  • 1 Blood Artist
  • 1 Crypt Ghast
  • 1 Falkenrath Noble
  • 1 Felidar Sovereign
  • 1 Knight of the White Orchid
  • 1 Kokusho, the Evening Star
  • 1 Pontiff of Blight
  • 1 Ranger of Eos
  • 1 Rhox Faithmender
  • 1 Rune-Tail, Kitsune Ascendant
  • 1 Serra Ascendant
  • 1 Solemn Simulacrum
  • 1 Soul Warden
  • 1 Soul's Attendant
  • 1 Treasury Thrull
  • 1 Vizkopa Guildmage
  • 1 Weathered Wayfarer
  • 1 Return to Dust
  • 1 Swords to Plowshares
  • 1 Tithe
  • 1 Vampiric Tutor
  • 1 Elspeth, Sun's Champion
  • 1 Elspeth Tirel
  • 1 Sorin Markov
  • 1 Austere Command
  • 1 Debt to the Deathless
  • 1 Demonic Tutor
  • 1 Exsanguinate
  • 1 Merciless Eviction
  • 1 Reanimate
  • 1 Toxic Deluge
  • 1 Angelic Accord
  • 1 Bitterblossom
  • 1 Bloodchief Ascension
  • 1 Exquisite Blood
  • 1 Faith's Fetters
  • 1 Land Tax
  • 1 Leyline of the Void
  • 1 Necropotence
  • 1 Phyrexian Arena
  • 1 Sanguine Bond
  • 1 Test of Endurance
  • 1 Chromatic Lantern
  • 1 Coalition Relic
  • 1 Fellwar Stone
  • 1 Orzhov Signet
  • 1 Pristine Talisman
  • 1 Relic of Progenitus
  • 1 Sol Ring
  • 1 Wayfarer's Bauble
  • 1 Well of Lost Dreams

When you strip out the Blue cards, cards producing Blue mana, cards with Blue activated abilities, and Oloro, you’re left with 84 cards. That's a lot. I was expecting to have a lot more gaps to plug, but it appears Blue was mostly in here to let you use Oloro and draw some cards. We can find suitable replacements for those effects as soon as we find a Commander to use. I think I have one in mind. Why not Karlov of the Ghost Council?

Printed in Commander 2015, Karlov is a great lifegain Commander, but he has the added benefit of being a commander your opponents can interact with. Additionally, he forces you to stay out of Blue with its countermagic, card draw, and tutoring. We have some of those things in Black, but they are more costly which makes things fairer. No more 2 life a turn, no more triggering massive card draw on our commander, and no more being bored with our Oloro deck. I’m not saying Delandel would get bored with this Oloro build (which actually doesn’t look super oppressive or linear), but I am saying I was fed up with both playing with Oloro and against him. Karlov’s release gave me an excuse to cannibalize the deck and build something new and fun while keeping most of the cards from the pre-con set aside to build a Daxos the Returned deck. Call the Spirits turned out to be the best $x (whatever MSRP was) in store credit I ever spent.

Instead of leaving our Oloro deck in our bag, we can use the cards in the deck in a way that feels more 75%. We’ve stripped some of the consistency which comes from free lifegain and abundant card draw, but kept the power level high. You get a ton of lifegain triggers, which powers Karlov and keeps Test of Endurance and Felidar Sovereign live as win conditions. If we take out all of the tutors and lose the card draw from Consecrated Sphinx and Duskmantle Seer we can even safely (or “safely” I guess) leave in the Sanguine Bond/Exquisite Blood combo, since we’re not going to luck into drawing both pieces more than 1/x games. Besides, I really don’t have a problem with game-ending stuff in 75% decks as long as they’re not the only way we aim to win and we don’t just tutor for the pieces every single game. Drawing that combo naturally is a legitimate way to win and shouldn’t be discounted because it’s good. 75% doesn’t mean terrible, remember?

So what would a Karlov deck that’s built with 75% (heh) of the cards in an existing Oloro deck look?

Olorlov? EDH |Jason Alt

What I ended up with used a vast majority of the cards already in the Oloro deck and a few fun additions which synergize well after we stripped out Blue.

I added lands like High Market and Miren, the Moaning Well to increase our sources of lifegain as well as Scoured Barrens. Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is solid in a three-color deck, but it really shines when you can safely run a card like Cabal Coffers because two-color mana bases are much more stable. Coffers should power some large Exsanguinates or Debt to the Deathless . . . es. Debts to the Deathless? Look, Coffers is going to gain us a lot of life. The mana should be more stable and that’s just what happens when you cut an entire color.

I added a lot of redundant copies of creatures we had already, but also some fun stuff like Defiant Bloodlord and Serra Avatar. Pious Evangel is a card I have been wanting to run since it was spoiled and this is a perfect deck for it. I even added Erebos, God of the Dead to act as another Greed. I took out Necropotence so I could leave in the Blood/Bond combo. If you find yourself never getting the combo, let alone getting it more often than every 1/x games, maybe re-evaluate, but I think Underworld Connections, Phyrexian Arena and two Greeds should be good. We want to keep our hands full, not draw thirty cards digging for a combo piece. The deck is going to play quite well as-is.

I added some decent Enchantments and some cards which pair better with Karlov than with Oloro such as Sunbond. If I tuned this a bit, I might want to add to the commander shenanigans with something like Illusionist's Bracers but the deck looks pretty good as it is right now.

If we were bored with Oloro before, what we have now does some of the same things, does a lot of things different and uses a lot of the same cards. If you’re bored with a deck, it might not be necessary to scrap it entirely if the cards can live on in another form. Changing the focus by changing the commander is also a good way to take a non-75% deck and try to make a 75% deck from its spare parts. After all, a good way to make a 75% deck is to use a limited card pool, and what card pool could be more limited than the remains of an existing deck? This is a good way to ensure the cards you’re using are powerful and synergize well with each other. Maybe you have a deck you’re sick of that could live on as something else with a few tweaks. You never know until you try.

That’s all for me. Join me next week where I’ll be talking about something else. Until then!