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Convertible Commander: Vial Smasher the Fierce


For those who have played Commander for a while and have gotten beyond the need to win every game, it can be great fun to explore strategies and ideas which would be, for lack of a better word, worthless in competitive Magic. Winning is key in heads-up, and while playing a rogue strategy may succeed occasionally by surprising the field with an unexpected tactic, the point is still to win. But Commander gives us the freedom to play around with "bad" strategies because we like them. We can play Mono-White Vampires, or Temur (urg) draw-go, or five-color Maze's End, and other players will just be curious what we're up to. This leads us to today's deck, which uses a relatively new commander with an unusual ability, but approaches it in an unexpected way.

Vial Smasher the Fierce

This little goblin is lots of things. There's a Rakdos (br) Goblin deck here for sure, or perhaps a Berserker deck. Partner opens up a bunch of opportunities, too, of course. My first thought was to pair it with a bunch of instants and cards with flash so we can maximize turns -- cast a spell on everyone's turn and throw that damage around! But Commander is really about big, splashy spells ("Battlecruiser Magic"), so the challenge of figuring out how to cast a bunch of huge spells which would do a lot of damage got interesting.

One more thing before we look at the decklist. Back when Commander was just a part of a much larger Magic playgroup, I had one Mono-Black Commander deck headed by Sheoldred, Whispering One. One of my buddies opened a rare he'd never use, so he handed it to me, thinking I might. I looked at it, fell in love with it, tried to find a spot for it, and never could -- it was just too expensive, too build-around, too do-nothing for even a fun Commander deck. That card was Baneful Omen, and today, that's going to change. Because today, we're going to do Rakdos Big Enchantments.

Rakdos Big Enchantments -- Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

Baneful Omen
Once the focus landed on enchantments, the deck came together rather quickly. The goal is simple: ramp like crazy, play out Vial Smasher, and start landing giant spells each turn, hitting for big, unblockable damage each time. Those spells are all devastating because they're so giant, and it becomes a question of which opponent will not get hit by the next random giant spell. It's crazy, but we're working with 52 mana sources.40 lands, and because we really need a whole bunch of big mana to pull all this off, we want to make sure we get at least two or three pieces of ramp in our first several turns, and ideally we get a good cross-section. Traditional pieces like Sol Ring and Mind Stone come down early, boosting us into mid-level ones like Mana Flare and Hedron Archive. Finally, we land on Dreamstone Hedron, Black Market, and Altar of Shadows, which is unusual but great when we've got access to a ton of mana. We ramp, we ramp, and we ramp some more.

A few of our lands do extra stuff, but mostly we want color, because a number of our spells are color intensive. Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth helps with that, as does Chromatic Lantern. But Mirrorpool lets us copy one of our spells (don't forget it can be useful to copy a simple card draw spell late game. Plenty of mana but no cards? Cast a Sign in Blood and copy it for four cards. That should help.) and Arcane Lighthouse is becoming ever more important. Bojuka Bog and Homeward Path also solve the occasional problem.

Black does like to draw cards, so we've got a few ways to do that. Phyrexian Arena and Underworld Connections, of course, are great enchantments in the color which give us a steady stream of new action. Night's Whisper and Read the Bones are great, and Toil // Trouble is really fun. Succumb to Temptation is a nice new Sign in Blood variant which lets us get in a few extra damage, because we can cast it on an opponent's turn and get an extra Vial Smasher trigger.

So, once we've made all the mana and drawn all the cards, what are we going to do with it? We're going to cast some really big spells, a bunch of which are funky enchantments most people won't play. That Baneful Omen is awesome here; we cast it for eight mana (doing eight damage to someone), then we reveal. If we're lucky enough to reveal, say, Havoc Festival, then everyone takes six, for a total of 14 for the poor schlub who got hit by the Vial Smasher trigger. Next turn, we play that Havoc Festival, hitting someone for six, and reveal, how about, Death Pits of Rath, and everyone takes 5. Now, in two turns, everyone has taken 11, someone has taken 17, and someone else has taken 19 (or, if someone is really unlucky, they've taken 25). We've got a bunch of big spells. Cast 'em and do some damage. You are sure to have everybody's attention. The rest of the table will try to kill you, so cast more spells and kill them first. Either way, the game will definitely end and you can shuffle up for a new one.

In Garruk's Wake
Several of our spells are answers. Both of these colors, of course, are wonderful at killing creatures with spells like Terminate and Unlicensed Disintegration. Curtains' Call is great because it's nice and expensive, which we want in this deck, but we can make it cheaper just by having opponents. It's a six-mana spell no matter how much we pay for it, though. Along with our spot removal, we've also got a nice suite of Wrath of God-style effects, though we're using the bigger, more effective ones most often. Decree of Pain can draw us a lot of cards all at once, which is fun, and In Garruk's Wake not only won't force us to recast Vial Smasher but will get rid of any pesky 'walkers hanging out with our opponents. Deadly Tempest is wonderful in a deck like this, because most of the time we'll barely take any damage, but that Saproling player will suffer.

The really enjoyable part of all of this is the brute power of many of these cards -- ain't nothing subtle here. Vicious Shadows works great in a deck like this, because we're killing a lot of creatures and it costs seven mana. Mogis, God of Slaughter may never turn on, but he's darn hard to kill and makes things really tough when there's already a lot of damage being dealt. That two extra can really matter, but maybe it's better to take it because otherwise they take the damage from Vicious Shadows! Rite of the Raging Storm is another great way to pass around even more damage. And while it's not an enchantment, Insurrection may just end the game.

A quick note before we look at the optionboard. Avatar of Woe and Avatar of Fury are the only other creatures in the deck besides the commander; I count Mogis as an enchantment in this deck. Because it's quite common for their alternate costs to be met, these are reliably two-mana creatures with massive CMCs. Sometimes a big flying creature is just what it takes to close out a game, anyway. However, it would be easy to drop them for a couple more spells and go with a creatureless build, which might be fun.

For our convertible optionboard, we're going to drop the enchantment theme and instead go with another approach -- just use many big spells as possible, particularly as the first spell we cast during a turn.

We're going to cut most of our enchantments for this package -- I'd keep Phyrexian Arena, Underworld Connections, and Mogis personally, but it's your deck. We're going to play a bit more with some cheaty-er spells (Delve makes Tasigur's Cruelty much cheaper, and the traps are often going to have their conditions met, but the CMC and Vial Smasher damage doesn't change) and go with some really powerful effects. Rise of the Dark Realms, like Insurrection, can simply end a game of Magic. Blasphemous Act gives us another wrath effect without having to pay for the whole thing. Army of the Damned is a huge Vial Smasher trigger while simultaneously giving us a rather impressive army. Beseech the Queen is one of the fairer tutors, because it tutors face up, but it's nice for us because it has a CMC of six, despite regularly costing less. Adding Paradox Engine will offer us more mana throughout a turn cycle; if we use our lands to cast an instant, it'll untap all our artifacts, which gives us another shot at another instant on the next player's turn. Like the enchantment build, this uses spells rarely seen at a Commander table, but ones we wish we could play because they are so splashy.

There's an argument for some protection for our Commander in the 99, because so much of the deck relies on having him on the battlefield. Finding a couple of spaces for Lighting Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots might not be a bad idea, or perhaps even a Darksteel Plate. That does make the deck a bit less fun for others, though; with Vial Smasher just sitting out there, your opponents are all going to feel like they've got a shot, even as life totals plummet. Start protecting her, and they may get the sense all is lost and not enjoy the game at all anymore.

What's your favorite massive card no one should ever play? Have you found a way to play it? Please let us know in the comments! Also, I'd love to hear how you'd adjust this deck to play your favorite cards!

Now go out there and surprise your playgroup with Big Enchantments -- Rakdos style.

Thanks for reading.

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