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Convertible Commander: Numot, the Devastator


Back in the days of Shards of Alara Standard, there was a card called Sprouting Thrinax. It was great: brg for a 3/3, and when it died, it left behind three 1/1 Saproling tokens. So you could play your 3/3 on curve (mana fixing back then was good, too), beat down for a bit, then... what? One of my buddies had the idea to pair it with Earthquake! You could Earthquake for five, hitting both players, any blockers they may have thrown up, and still have three power on the 'field to continue the beats. That got me thinking. What if we used Earthquake to keep the ground clear and throw a lot of damage around equally, but made it so the effect wasn't equal? Enter Archetype of Imagination.

Archetype of Imagination

We can make sure our stuff flies and make sure their stuff doesn't. When we do, our Earthquake will do plenty of damage to each of us players, but all their stuff will get hit and all ours won't, leaving us with a board of evasive attackers ready to finish off a set of weakened opponents. Sounds good, right?

Of course, the problem is there's only one Archetype of Imagination, and it manages to be the target of spot removal a lot of the time, even if you ask nicely. It's useful that it's both a creature and enchantment, because that means we could dip into a third color to search for it, but that also makes it even more fragile. We could look at Green for Eternal Witness effects, or Black for Reanimate effects, but then we're a slow combo deck (searching for the Archetype, combining with the board state we've apparently built, then casting Earthquake, and reanimating our Archetype if something goes wrong) and it seems too fragile, even for a casual game. On the other hand, White gives us enchantment searching which lets us get the Archetype, but it also gives us access to a major tribe - Spirits - which tends to fly already. This is great, because then the Archetype is just gravy. We can cast our Earthquakes with no worry of damage to our board, because it already flies, and if we get the Archetype out, it means we'll hit more of their stuff. Seems good.

Red has a few Spirits, including Ryusei, the Falling Star, which has a mini-Earthquake tacked on to its 187 effect, but more importantly, Spirits make us take a much harder look at a normally ignored card type, Arcane. Arcane was tacked on to non-creature spells back in Kamigawa block. There are some Spirits which care about Arcane spells, so the traditional "whenever you play a 'X'..." text we're used to seeing with tribes became "Whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane spell...". Sometimes spells were just labeled "Arcane," but other times they had the ability "Splice onto Arcane," which said "As you play an Arcane spell, you may reveal this card from your hand and pay its splice cost. If you do, add this card's effects to that spell." So now we get Spirits that get extra stuff just by playing spells with relevant effects, plus the spells themselves help each other out, allowing us to recur much of our deck.

So we're Jeskai Spirits. We still need a leader. Jeskai's pickings are fairly slim; there are six Jeskai commanders. Ruhan of the Fomori wants to attack every turn. Zedruu the Greathearted gives all your stuff away. Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest wants a bunch of pump spells. Narset, Enlightened Master is stupid overpowered and probably shouldn't be running any creatures. And Jodah, Archmage Eternal pretends to be Jeskai but is actually five-color. That leaves Numot, the Devastator.

Numot, the Devastator

We've built him before, almost exactly three years ago. However, that was a very different deck, where the only similarity in the deck or article isthat I still think Numot is a jerk. But Numot flies, and we really want fliers in the deck. Let's see where we wound up.

Numot, the Devastator | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

The deck is fairly cheap to operate, so mana ramp isn't really necessary. Our 40 lands should be plenty to keep us playing our spells, and eventually we'll hit enough to cast everything we've got. Because we're mostly making one effect per card, we don't really want to draw mana rocks. We've got reasonable fixing of color plus a Tectonic Edge just in case (though if you're in a meta with lots of stealing, run Homeward Path instead). Play your lands and cast your spells.

We also don't need to run a ton of regular card draw spells because of Splice onto Arcane. It's unlikely we'll ever have to actually cast one of those because we've got so many other Arcane spells to splice them on to! That's a lovely form of card advantage. We'll still need to actually cast creatures, so we have a few actual card draw spells (Arcane, of course) to keep the cards flowing.

We're mostly a flier deck, of course. We've got Spirits for days, at every mana cost. Most have abilities which matter a fair amount, and we should use them when they come up, but really we just want to attack with them. Play out Spirits for a few turns, get in some damage, then when everyone else has started to build up a board, hit 'em with an X=7 Earthquake effect, kill their boards, and keep swinging.

One thing about going mostly Arcane is there aren't a ton of answers, but there are some. Ultimately we can get rid of just about anything, but we don't have a ton of redundancy. The only exception is our Earthquakes: we have four of them, and with any luck we can ride them plus a bit of flying damage plus some strategic blocking to a win.

Because the Archetype is worth finding, though, we're running a couple of spells to hunt it down. If Enlightened Tutor and Idyllic Tutor (plus Plea for Guidance, though that's not nearly as expensive) aren't your cup of tea, either because of price or because you don't want to run tutors, there are quite a few Spirits which didn't make the cut, and you can't go wrong with a few more traditional removal spells like Swords to Plowshares or Cyclonic Rift.

That's a deck, and a fun one at that. It lets us play a fairly unusual tribe in an even more unusual way, plus leverage a good card in Earthquake so it's even better. The problem is, what do we want to transform this into? How can we make a different play experience without changing the bones of the deck? A commander swap isn't really an option because of our limits. Cutting a color could be interesting but then we're just... what? wu Spirits? wr fliers? Here's what I came up with.

That's a lot of cards! 27, actually. We're cutting 100% of the instants and sorceries. That's all the Earthquakes plus all the Arcane spells. Why? It all starts with a public library.

My dad plays a lot of Magic. He plays with me, in tournaments, at local shops, and once a week, he runs a casual Commander afternoon at his local library for kids from mostly the local middle school. Most of these kids are quite new to the game. They have limited resources and limited access to cards, plus a lot of them are still learning about the game, some still figuring out the basics, others just beginning to grasp strategy. Every once in a while someone will show up from a shop or the high school with a highly tuned (or even just moderately powerful) deck and just smash the table with these kids. And that does absolutely nothing good for the world.

It's a game, and no one should just be allowed to win. But beating up these kids with a cudgel doesn't help them enjoy the game, nor does it really teach them anything other than they're not good enough to play it. They need decks that are not overly complicated but demonstrate something new. They need to see cool new cards but not at their most brutal, just at their most fun. They should gasp at the sight of a mighty dragon, not scoop dejected when they lose to a turn-4 combo they don't understand. Keeping decks reasonable but fun helps everyone - we get a fun game with excited opponents, and we develop a team of younger players who will go on to be more involved and better players later. Win-win.

That's what this optionboard does. We take out anything particularly tricky and instead demonstrate two primary concepts: evasion is good and ramp is good. Lots of less experienced players think a vanilla 8/8 is awesome; losing to a swarm of flying 2/3s will teach them why evasion is so useful. And lots of less experienced players would rather jam another big dude or splashy spell than a three mana rock, but when they're stuck with a grip full of 6-drops and four lands while we're playing 7-drops on turn five, they'll see why ramp is useful. Plus, we get to slot in some Dragons, Angels, and Sphinxes and get our inner Timmy/Tammy on.

The optionboard iteration will roll over to a reasonably tuned table - but that's what the original version is for. Every player should have a simple, straightforward, "fun", much-less-powerful deck in their stable for the situation where they wind up with a group of brand-new players, just wanting to see that Angel they've never seen before. This is a great way to do that without having to have a whole deck dedicated to it.

When the ground shakes, it's not scary if you're in the air. Now go get 'em with some ghosts. And show some new players just how fun this game can be.

Thanks for reading.

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