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How Brimstone Trebuchet Inspired a Commander Deck


If the trebuchet isn't your favorite meme war machine, what are you even doing with your life? It's capable of launching a 90 kilogram stone projectile over 300 meters and I got winded just typing this sentence. Are there any good catapult memes? How about the mangonel? Anyone extolling the virtues of the ballista? Actually, never mind on that last one, Walking Ballista is legit. Still, if we're going to talk about our favorite siege weapons, we have to give it to the trebuchet. It sounds French, which means people are going to underestimate it and there is a variation on the trebuchet called the "Warwolf" which I don't know much about because I'm not the kind of guy who has swords up on the wall in his house (that's a 16th century Flamberge you're admiring, m'lady) or offers his guests Mead from his own apiary, but it sounds badass. You want to know what else the trebuchet can do? Inspire decks.

Brimstone Trebuchet

This card is somewhat unassuming, although I was initially a big fan given how much I loved wreaking havoc with Lobber Crew back in the day. This is just as easy to untap and did you know that in my favorite format (Commander isn't my favorite format) this card is even more nutter butters? In 2-Headed Giant, Brimstone Trebuchet deals 2 damage to their life total because it hits both players. I was feeling pretty good about my 1 trebuchet in my Boros Knights deck and my partner's Golgari Knights deck when we ran into an opposing team with 3 copies of Trebuchet and a card that really brought the pain. That card? A creature that looks like he may need a Trebuchet to launch him because he can't jump the distance into a castle.

Torbran, Thane of Red Fell

Torbran makes Trebuchet deal 3 damage to each opponent for 6 damage total. Play a Knight and untap Trebuchet and they'll be in serious trouble. Am I planning to build a Trebuchet deck in Commander? No, we can dispense with that talk and focus on my main man Torbran. Juicing Trebuchets in 2HG is pretty saucy but is there more he could be doing? True, we can dome the whole table for 3 each with a few siege weapons, but could a card like Torbran make Grapeshot viable in Commander? Could the same deck play Dragonstorm to get us some nasty Dargons to have their fire breath amplified? Could we get the storm count high enough to just win with Aetherflux Reservoir and not have to worry about Grapeshot? I don't know, but I'm going down the deck brewing rabbit hole for you. Let's think about what deals small amounts of damage easily and often and see if any of it helps us out.

The first two cards that came to my mind are Power Surge and Manabarbs. My mid 2000s era partner in crime Rob Weathers had a spicy casual Vintage deck he called PSMB which used Power Surge and Manabarbs to establish a "Damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario which he circumvented by using Sphere of Law to nullify the damage to himself. Electing to tap out and go the Manabarbs route? He has Candelabra of Tawnos to make sure you get dinged by both. Was the deck the best deck ever? Well, no. But I spent a lot of hours smashing every deck I made from every format against it. It was the final boss in my Bethmo gauntlet and while it's WAY too far for Vintage, especially today, I liked the Choice of Damnations. Power Surge is a little weak without Manabarbs also out since people can just tap out due to the removal of mana burn so it likely doesn't make the cut, but Manabarbs seems like a real saucy inclusion.

When I started thinking that way, a bunch of other cards popped out. Repurcussion. Pyrohemia. But the more I started thinking about how to get away from the stock list and really try a storm deck out, the more fun I started to have.

Total bulk cards like Firebrand Archer and Electrostatic Field stood way out. If you could cast a bunch of cantrips and cards like Mana Geyser, those sources of damage could bolt people each time. Use a few Wheels to fill your hand back up and you could make every Pyretic Ritual count. Grapeshot is a nice finisher, but the spells that dug for it would deal them a lot of damage and you might not even end up needing it. Remember, it says red source, meaning Empty the Warrens could threaten lethal, especially if you had a Goblin Bombardment. The deck was starting to come together - I was going to eschew stock cards like Heartless Hidetsugu and go full combo pile. This was going to be fun.

What would such a deck look like? Is there enough card draw to keep it going? Are there enough finishers? The only way to find out was to brew up a list and see where it took us.

Treasonous Ogre
This is a little loose and will tighten up with some testing, but I think this is quite a bit more exciting than the stock Torbran list.

You want one, explosive turn ideally but the deck is set up to punish them a bit over a longer game. It's best to get a few artifacts in play to double your mana or make your spells cheaper. If what you have isn't doing it, anything from Stone Calendar to Helm of Awakening can help out. You don't have a ton of spells that generate more mana than they cost but you have lots of ways to double, triple or quadruple spells and that's how you're going to win in a big turn. Tapping 5 Mountains for 10 mana with Treasonous Ogre backup is doable on turn five or 6 and you can cast a lot of your deck with that, but you likely won't need to do a ton. You will want your Instants and Sorceries to do a lot of the heavy lifting because a lot of your amplification comes from this. Torbran and Guttersnipe out together can turn Bonus Round into Seething Song into a few card draw spells and Ignite Memories into a ton of damage. You'll want Firebrand Archer and Electrostatic Field to stick around if you can manage it because they'll turn Instants and Sorceries into a ton of damage with Torbran out.

I included a Cheerios combo with some Kobolds and Cloudstone Curio because Curio is fine with just spells like Solemn Simulacrum to bounce back and Akki Rockspeaker to replay. You have a lot of ETB damage with your Dragons and if you run them out for value and gate them to each other to keep the board clear, that's fine. If you manage a Cheerios combo, you can make your Storm count infinite and win with any of your Storm spells. Dragonstorm got a huge boost with the printing of Scourge of Valkas, which can basically kill one player if you get 5 dragons into play at once. Your Dragons have additional utility, though, in that Runeborn Hellkite and Knollspine Dragon can refill your hand and let you keep the shenanigans going. Storming into a pile of Dragons forces your opponents to have the removal to keep them from killing them in one attack and their ETB triggers should clear the board.

Past in Flames
I am sure the mixture of draw spells, mana spells and doublers is a little off, so please feel free to play with this list. The main takeaway is that instead of longer games where you whittle them down with Pyrohemia and Manabarbs, we're hoping to win in one glorious turn. That means we may whiff occasionally, but it should be a hell of a show. Past in Flames, Storm spells and absurd cards like Repeated Reverberation mean that that one turn is going to be a big one, so try and win because you're the archenemy if you don't.

So what's 75% about this pile? To me, going all-in on a big turn feels less consistent than playing a lot of damage doublers like Furnace of Rath and winning that way through chip damage. We're going big and hoping they don't counter a key Seething Song or we don't draw all Dragons with a Winds of Change when we needed a Bonus Round. The high power, low consistency route is the hallmark of a well-constructed 75% deck and we can aim to win 1/x matches where x is the number of players in the pod by introducing a few elements of chance without sacrificing any power. Speaking of Gambling, I excluded Gamble because I knew it would be a second copy of Past in Flames when I played it, but if you think you have more restraint, give it a shot.

That does it for me this week. No room for Trebuchet but plenty of room for other cards like Thermo-Alchemist and Syr Carah, the Bold that are even better in this build. Don't forget to share on social media and leave me a comment below. Until next time!

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