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The Vold and the Beautiful



It's well known that my favorite way to build 75% and my favorite thing to do once I'm built that way is to steal their creatures. I love it. I've tried to avoid having it become a crutch and therefore the only way I try to build 75% decks but I keep coming back to the same well. Depriving them of something is removal and having something is board development and doing both at once is better than the sum of its parts. However, that almost always puts me in Blue because other colors are a little weaker at that unless paired with Blue. If I want to build Red with no Blue, I'm stuck Threatening, and while Threatening is very good, it's not as good as stealing stuff forever, and I sure don't like to give things back. I've been dealing with my desire not to give them back a living creature at the end of the turn by sacrificing whatever I borrowed, like a bad neighbor who borrows your weed whacker and brings it back with the spool all twisted and gnarly, expecting you not to notice, like you didn't stand in my garage and watch me load in a fresh spool while I showed you how to tap the head on the ground to feed more line, Jerry. Like a bad neighbor who knows who he is and who is disinvited from my 4th of July barbeque, I'm going to return their stuff in far worse condition than I got it. Is there a way to put myself even farther ahead while I pull those shenanigans? Well, there is, now!

I had a Shattergang Brothers deck that was very slow and tried to borrow their permanents and sac them to Shattergang Brothers' abilities rather than saccing my own stuff. It was fun but not that effective. It ended up being very card-intensive to get things going and without a ton of threats of my own, I was really relying on them to supply the firepower needed to beat them but also give me small things to sac to kill their big things. It was a mess. I didn't think there was a way to pack all of the Threaten effects, card draw, ramp, removal and finishers into the deck and I tore the deck apart. Don't worry, the pieces of it all went to good homes - The Shattergang Brothers would have wanted it that way.

I sort of forgot about a deck that was mostly fueled by the Threaten and Sac routine when a new commander was printed in the Brawl decks. It took me a few weeks to get to it because I wanted to perfect the things I was doing with it. Stephen Johnson also wrote a very good article about Korvold and I didn't want to write mine right on top of his. It's been weeks and I am ready to unveil my take. Sure, it's fun to draw cards when you sac a fetchland, but did you know it's also fun to draw cards when you Captivating Crew a Dragon and Fling it into their grill. I want to do both, and Korvold is going to show us how.

Korvold, Fae-Cursed King

Korvold, who is voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, is the Jundragon I've been waiting for. Not only is he a sac outlet, he grows bigger and draws cards, filling your hand with treasure until you feel like a dragon yourself, jealously guarding a giant cache of hoarded wealth. Drawing a lot of extra cards is good, and with Korvold, the sky is the limit. You can deck yourself if you manage to sac enough permanents, which means you can have very big turns if you manage to cough up a ton of things to sac. I plan to have a ton of things to sac and I plan to succeed where the Shattergang Brothers came up short.

My deck will differ from a stock list by including as many Threaten effects as I can manage. I have been jamming Captivating Crew into every deck I build for a long time and I don't plan to stop anytime soon. Not only are Threaten effects kind of my thing, repeatable ones are even better. Helm of Possession is another repeatable swipe effect that doesn't see nearly as much play as it should. You can even sac one of their creatures you're supposed to give back to permanently steal another one. Everyone loves Rishkar's Expertise but Kari-Zev is an expert at stuff, too, and it's time we gave her a shot. Mass Mutiny, Mob Rule and Insurrection are known global Threatens, but I want to generate enough mana to make Harness by Force a, errr, a force to be reckoned with. Zealous Conscripts is a card I like a lot and we could pair it with Kiki-Jiki. You know what happens to the creatures Kiki-Jiki makes? That's right, you sacrifice them. Even Sarkhan Vol, a card I haven't played since the month it was printed, is going to make an appearance.

To that end, I realize my build is going to be a bit more mana-hungry than most. My plan for this is to go rich on the land mixture and include lots of ways to play extra lands. If you're drawing a lot of extra cards, you can just slam those lands rather than discarding them to hand size restrictions. Playing a ton of extra lands and tapping those lands for extra mana means you can keep dumping the extra cards you draw from Korvold and you can put a ton of mana through intensive cards like Captivating Crew. If I want a mana rock, I'll steal it, but I'm mostly going to try and play an extra land or two every single turn.

Some of the extra lands I'll be playing will be lands from my bin. Saccing a Strip Mine to kill a Nykthos is fun, bringing it back with Crucible to blow up a Gaea's Cradle is more fun, drawing 2 cards is most funnest. With access to a lot of fetches, including a few new ones, and some utility lands that do interesting things when you sac them, playing extra lands and playing lands from the graveyard has never been more effective or more fun. I may even leave Burgeoning in the deck even though I ALWAYS cut Burgeoning because it's almost always bad. It could be that I only think to play Burgeoning in decks that have lots of other ways to play lands and by the time it gets to someone else's turn, your hand is empty, so maybe I should play Burgeoning in decks that DON'T have lots of ways to play lands and therefore need Burgeoning's help. But also this one.

What does such a deck look like in practice? Let's take a look.

The Vold and the Beautiful | Commander | Jason Alt

This is a very good start. I feel like it's not quite there because the mana curve is a little bit high and there are some tough cuts I made on cards that I really wanted to play but which might be a little too cute, but I accomplished what I wanted to.

Compared with a stock list, there are fewer cards that create tokens. I added Avenger of Zendikar which isn't quite a stock card but which plays very well with our "play extra lands" cards but cards like Tendershoot Dryad, Awakening Zone, and From Beyond usually show up. Zone and Beyond are especially good because the tokens generated have built-in sac clauses. Those were very late cuts and you may want to put them back in. I like what I made room for, however. If you do add a few more token producers, Mycoloth is an excellent addition to the deck. You could cut a land or two and Sakura-Tribe Scout to make room for that package.

I came close to including a Reanimator sub-theme but didn't have the room. Being a little greedy and dredging with Life from the Loam is a good strategy if you have ways to bring dead creatures back and Rise of the Dark Realms becomes another Insurrection-tier card in that instance. You have Eternal Witness to get back a big spell you dredged and since you can loop Witness with cards like Hell's Caretaker and Phyrexian Reclamation, it does a lot more work than it does in my list. I'm less concerned with maximizing value from my creatures since I have more access to their creatures than a stock list. Cards like Animate Dead are virtual Control Magics in this deck, though, so consider making room for those since they can get your creatures as well if you're into that.

I may need one or two more sac outlets but I have quite a few, though fewer than most stock lists. Evolutionary Leap, Food Chain (it doesn't trigger the same cards that sacrificing would but the mana is so nice) and Perilous Forays are all cards I considered. Forays in particular works very well with my build and it was the 100th card so it would be the first thing I added back in.

This deck is fine at stealing creatures, but I would like a few more ways to take things that aren't creatures, namely mana rocks. If you can find room, consider adding cards like Praetor's Grasp to get their mana rocks to help develop your board. Those cards are better early but can still get important pieces late in the game and they're a mini Jester's Cap effect to boot. If you're playing more Reanimator cards, Gonti is going to do a ton of work.

To play this deck, develop early by getting as many lands into play as you can and play Korvold a turn or two early if possible. Your hand will likely contain something to sac or some way to sac something and if push comes to shove, you can just swing with Korvold to try and draw some cards. I tend to cut stuff like Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots but they are probably quite good in this deck in particular and you may want to find room. Them killing Korvold is worse for us here than in most decks I build and having haste means you get the draw engine going sooner. As soon as you have a way to sac creatures, start picking their best creatures off and creating an imbalance on the board. Stealing a creature not only makes your board better, it makes them more vulnerable to the whole table so make sure you subtly encourage everyone else to exploit the weakness in their defense. Once you get a lot of mana going, you should have ways to spend it. Every few games, you'll get the Kiki/Conscripts combo and every few of those games, you'll end it. I don't think a two-card combo with no tutoring is that degenerate in a 75% deck and it's no worse than Insurrection in terms of how bad it feels to lose to it. Games have to end and if the opponents are soft enough to have no outs to a combo like that, the game needed to get wrapped up.

That does it for me this week. I continue to find new homes for 75% artifacts I really enjoy playing like Mimic Vat and Helm of Possession and I continue to have more fun building Red and Black decks than I do Green and Blue ones. It's a weird time to play Magic, a lot of other formats are miserable and there are more new products coming out than most of us can afford but Commander continues to be the best format, Wizards knows it and they're catering to us like never before. Take heart in that knowledge, and take their creatures while you're at it. That does it for me - leave me questions and comments below. Until next time!

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