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75% – Big and Stupid


Vorel of the Hull Clade
What's big and stupid? That would be the most fun stuff to play in Commander. I've seen games won by unchecked Verdant Forces so many times that my playgroup should write Jamie Wakefield a royalty check every time we get together. The guy in last place has won with a top-decked Craterhoof Behemoth enough times that I started putting Desertion in all of my blue decks. I have KO’d for 280 damage with a Kalonian Hydra and scooped to an Insurrection so devastating that all of us just looked at our boards and said, "I'm pretty sure you win four times over." Commander is the big and stupid format; Abrupt Decay is not very playable, and Boros Battleshaper is a game-breaker. That's what's great about the format. Accordingly, I built one of the biggest and dumbest decks possible. I was surprised to find I haven't written it up yet.

When I saw that CMDR Decks decided to profile a sweet Vorel deck, I almost decided to write about something else—almost. However, there are some fun new toys coming our way from Khans of Tarkir (and probably more to be spoiled soon), so I decided that you can just have two Vorel decks this week (or 1.75 I guess), and you will just have to figure out whom to e-mail to thank for all the value you've received for free this week.

My Vorel deck . . . kinda sucks. I decided to put my own deck through the rigorous deck-optimization process I take every other deck through in this series. While we're at it, we can jam a few Khans of Tarkir cards in to become mentally prepared for the prerelease.

So, what 75% principle are we highlighting this week? I'm not really sure. All I know is that I have a deck that I want to work as a 75% deck, but it's not doing well, and I want to make it better by following my deck-building guidelines. I'm going to treat this deck not like my underachieving child whom I am forced by the laws of nature to love unconditionally, but rather like a deck submitted to me by someone who wanted my advice. Without further preamble and making excuses for my list before I even show it, let's get down to bidness. Here is an attempt at a Vorel of the Hull Clade deck submitted by a reader named J. Alt. That narrows it down too much. Okay, the deck was submitted by Jason A. Enjoy.

Vorel of the Hull Clade ? Commander | Jason A.

If I had to guess why I don't win with this deck, I’d say it is because I need to be left alone and allowed to let things spiral out of control. Also, people tend to react to cards like Kalonian Hydra with a KILL-IT-WITH-FIRE! mentality rather than the that-will-be-a-64/64-in-a-turn-cycle-I-hope-he-doesn't-attack-me-with-it mentality that I really would prefer they had.

Kalonian Hydra
I think we can improve on this, and I think we can jam a few cards from Khans of Tarkir.

First up is Hooded Hydra. Hooded Hydra is a very good Hydra. It is one of the best Hydras. I can probably stop writing now because: How much does Hooded Hydra really need a case made for it? It's very similar to Chasm Skulker, another card I love. Skulker and Hydra both are being jammed in here. I love a Lorescale Coatl with upside, and I love creatures that punish opponents for wrathing and ones that can benefit from a Primal Vigor in a lot of ways.

I also want to try out Hardened Scales. Yes, you're not doubling the counters, but you're adding more counters, and with such a small investment of mana, I think it warrants an inclusion. I wish it had a way to natively put counters on creatures (maybe if you sacrificed it, you could put counters on a creature), but our Sage of Hours shenanigans will have to find another way.

Rather than cut the Sage of Hours for being a durdle monster, I decided to see if there were a few unobtrusive ways to add counters to him without playing Dragon Blood like it's 1998. I found a few, and while I built this deck out of a box of scraps as though my name were Tony Stark, I came pretty close to a decent deck. I did spring for a few of the Hydras, but for the most part, this was derived from bulk boxes and forgotten binders. Cards such as Pentavus were among the first added to the deck, and it hasn't undergone many modifications since I first cobbled it together. It was a good 55% first effort, but instead of tuning it up, I played with it for five months and then became disappointed when I lost. I never said I was a rational human being. I prefer making new decks to tuning old ones, but as this one is starting to grow on me a bit, I decided to give it a helping hand.

So before we bring out the scalpel, let's talk about things I like and that make it a 75% deck. I could use a Doubling Season, but I haven't spent much money on the deck nor felt the need to trade for one. I am sure it could benefit, but Primal Vigor seems a bit more 75%, especially since you can sometimes help out opponents with it. In Commander, co-players aren't enemies until you attack them, and with this deck, you don't have to attack someone twice. You don't leave living enemies, so anything that makes them less inclined to straight murder you immediately is welcome.

Give // Take
The lack of Prime Speaker Zegana is becoming a hallmark of 75% decks. I love Zegana. I don't love drawing the same cards trying to obtain the same win condition every game. Let's mix it up a bit—a homogeneous deck is a boring deck. Besides, I have drawn a lot of cards off Give // Take, but that's harder to pull off, and it’s cooler. I have Rhystic Study; no need to oppress everyone with a Zegana played out onto a board with a 14/16 Master Biomancer.

I like the Hydras I have, and I like durdling with Sage of Hours. I like some of the creative solutions I found to my struggle to natively put counters on Sage, such as Increasing Savagery and Llanowar Reborn. I found a few more in my poking around online, and I will be including them. Fortunately for the deck, everything is good with counters on it, so I'm not really durdling with Sage as much as I am building a deck in which drawing him doesn't cause a shift in strategy, but rather an evil grin and some menacing laughter.

Let's see what we have after we tune up a bit and jam a few new cards. Do I have an excuse for not adding Chasm Skulker weeks ago? I don't need to justify myself to you, man.

Vorel of the Hull Clade ? Commander | Jason Alt

  • Commander (0)

Overall, I am happier with this. I didn't add too much card-draw, and if anything, I heterogenized (that is totally a verb—trust me; I'm a scientist) the play experience by adding more flexible cards. I think Forgotten Ancient is an upgrade on Dragon Blood, Inexorable Tide is an upgrade on Mind Stone, and Experiment Kraj is an upgrade on, "Wow, did I really not have Experiment Kraj in the deck?"

Simic Manipulator
I think with Cytoplast Manipulator and Simic Manipulator both, the deck scales fairly well. It's rare that I have neither of those in a game, and I hear stealing opponents’ creatures is a very good way to win the game. You can crank them up large enough to steal Eldrazi in a turn cycle or two if you put your resources to it and it really gets there.

A lot of my additions were a little bit obvious, but since I'd never sat down before and taken a look, I am glad I did. If I find room in the future, perhaps a Contagion Engine could find its way into the list. Tezzeret's Gambit could be a good utilitarian spell. The sky is the limit, especially with Wizards insisting on printing a new Hydra at mythic and three at rare every single set. Hooded Hydra is among the best we've seen, but I'm sure the next year will bring one even better.

Could this deck eventually become Hydra tribal? If it does, I can't think of a better commander than Vorel. If not, this deck is a lot more 75% in the new configuration. We have a bit more proliferate and ways to add more counters, a few more creatures that benefit from having counters on them, and a few cuts of durdly or substandard cards, making room for better ones. Is this deck going to take the Commander world by storm? Doubtful. I imagine it will win its share (1 ÷ N) of games and will be able to explode out of control and take down even the spikiest of decks due to the sheer volume of unfair things you can do with creatures like Champion of Lambholt.

What do you think? Is the second version playable? Is it even an improvement? Should I focus on a 75% principle and really build toward it, such as by adding a lot more creature-swiping effects, or do you build 75% by using the principles like guardrails rather than like building blocks? Let me know in the comments section! I can't wait for the full Khans of Tarkir spoiler, but with the sheer volume of big, stupid stuff so far, every deck is likely to gain at least one card it wants to try out. Thanks for reading, and we'll see you next week!

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