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Commanding Construction: Building Systems with Obosh


I hope everyone is having a great 2022 so far. My old playgroup dissolved over the last couple of years due to the pandemic, people moving away, and general changes in interest, so I'm delighted to go into this year with a new, larger, and wildly diverse new group of regular players! My group has people who have been playing for decades and people who have been playing for mere months. The power level of the decks varies, as well, which makes for fun and swingy games.

It was partly the existence of players new to Commander in my orbit which led to my end-of-year top-5, a series of deck-building tips for new Commander deck-builders. As I thought about my next run of four decks, I thought it might be fun to explore this process even more; the tips work as a sort of template for how to construct a deck which will function and have a chance at winning at a table. We can look at four different commanders and see how differently the decks turn out even when using the same construction technique, and also put my tips to the test and see if they work!

While we're at it, let's work with a rather extreme budget; I'd love for at least a couple of these decks to be cheap enough a player can construct one to have as an extra deck, but I'd also like for them to be cheap enough that players on rather strict budgets can reach for them. Let's start today's with a $30 budget on Cool Stuff Inc. That's... really cheap for an entire Commander deck. (Though keep in mind I'm not charging for basic lands.)

I needed a Commander, and I wanted to pick something which is relatively new so it's more likely to have been opened in a recent pack, and something which hasn't been built on or talked about to death. I started looking through lists and thought this guy was worth a whirl.

Obosh, the Preypiercer

I love Black decks, I like Commanders which have an impact, and I like using cards in a less-common way, and using a Companion as not-a-Companion is a great example of that. I also like decks which push life totals down, which drive the game along and force players to act. Because Obosh is our Commander, we don't have to use only odd-Mana-Value cards, but we definitely get a benefit for packing our deck with them.

Using our tips as a guide, I got started. And of course, the first thing I did was set aside 40 slots for lands! We have a five-mana Commander and we're going to want to do some damage, and that means casting spells. We'll want to hit those land drops - but you knew that, right?

Then I looked to ramp spells. There will be no Green land-fetch spells, so we're going for artifacts. Our Commander is five mana, so we are going to use that to determine we want 10 ramp spells. In a vacuum, mana rocks which create multiple colors are better than those that create colorless, so I prioritized the various Rakdos ones (Signet, Cluestone, Keyrune, Locket) as well as a couple others which offer mana of any color (Spinning Wheel, Cultivator's Caravan, Fountain of Ichor). One other thing I looked for were three-mana rocks which can turn into creatures; while we're not going to do a ton of attacking, if we can get a free attack on someone with an odd-costed rock, we'll do double damage!

Next up is card draw. We have a couple of options. We can go with expensive Artifact-based repeatable draw like Jayemdae Tome, risky impulse-style draw from Red (which involves either discarding in addition to drawing or getting to cast from Exile for a limited amount of time), or draw cards and lose life from Black. I like all three, but for this deck, I'd rather get more cards for my mana and I don't want to be pitching into the 'yard, so we're going with the third option. We have 10 examples from Sign in Blood to Fell Stinger (note Fell Stinger, should it not Exploit itself, qualifies as an odd-mana creature which can do double damage). The only exception is Bonder's Ornament, which is a Jayemdae Tome that taps for mana, so it's playing double duty for us as our tenth mana rock and eleventh card draw spell. It's possible the deck wants one more, but we have the Cluestone and the Locket which can be cashed in for cards later.

I already know we're going to be running a number of direct damage spells (more on that in a bit), but we definitely want at least a few ways to get rid of problem threats. It's always nice to have a Murder when someone comes at you with a 36/36 Trampler or something. It's worth mentioning Unlicensed Disintegration, because it destroys a creature but is also odd, so with Obosh out it'll do six damage to the creature's controller!

Now we want to define our gameplan. There are two reasonably obvious ways to build around Obosh: creatures with odd mana costs and ways to grant evasion or damage spells with odd mana values. I chose the second for no reason other than I didn't feel like having to base whether or not my game worked on whether or not my Whispersilk Cloak survived.

As such, we have a bunch of damage spells which will get doubled by Obosh. A lot of them are variations on Fiery Temper - three damage for three mana, sometimes with another effect. A few specifically worth pointing out are Breath of Malfegor, which does five to each opponent (which will actually be 10), Fall of the Titans, which could kill two players with enough mana (and it's mana value is always one, so it's odd), Meteor Blast, which can throw eight damage at a bunch of things, and Sizzle, which does six damage (with our Commander) to each opponent for three mana.

Guttersnipe seems like a good addition, since it'll do four damage each time we cast one of our Instants or Sorceries, including card draw spells. Other creatures worth including are Angrath's Marauders, which doubles all our damage output, Clackbridge Troll, which either threatens 16 damage or draws us a card and gains us some life at the expense of our opponents' stuff, Galvanoth, which gives us some free spells, and Kaervek the Merciless, who will do twice the mana value's worth of damage for each spell our opponents cast. Oh, and Lightning Skelemental has too funny a name not to include. Angrath, Captain of Chaos can make us a blocker or two but also grants each of our creatures Menace, in the off chance we want to do a little attacking. Heck, that Skelemental could benefit from some Menace.

It's worth noting each of our Enchantments. Price of Knowledge is high cost and high impact, but if it survives even a single round of play it will do a lot of damage. Double Vision gives us a free copy of a spell; imagine casting Breath of Malfegor with that on the table and doing 20 to each opponent. Finally, Sulfuric Vortex forces each player's life total down, including ours, further forcing the table to act if they want to just not die.

Once I had the deck in place, I could look at mana requirements and build my mana base. The deck is approximately 60% Red and 40% Black, so I added all the dual lands I could afford (comes into play tapped lands are fine here, since we don't have to hit the ground running super-fast) and Rogue's Passage, again to facilitate the corner case where attacking makes sense. Mountains and Swamps rounded it out.

We came in at $29.14, which is a heck of a deal for a deck which will certainly make an impact at a table. People will point their removal and damage at you, because they'll want you to stop hitting their life totals, but the game will move and the plays will be explosive. It should be fun.

If you can afford it, this deck would really like a Brash Taunter and a Drakuseth, Maw of Flames. Definitely jam one or both if you happen to have them or don't mind spending a little extra. Red Sun's Zenith might be a good add since it comes back. Torbran, Thane of Red Fell would add some additional damage, not unlike Guttersnipe. And Fiendish Duo would almost double the cost of the deck but would be awfully good.

Oh, one final note: Earthquake is kind of in here as a finisher. Assuming everyone else is lower than you in life, you can pour all your mana into Earthquake and shake loose a victory.

Now get out there and push the game along.

Thanks for reading.

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