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Killer Commanders: One Hit KOs with Duggan, Private Detective


Strange things are afoot at Karlov Manor.

That's certainly what appears to be going on. I mean, the title of the set is "Murders at Karlov Manor", so I would imagine things are strange. Especially considering the Orzhov are famously connected to death (including not letting it stop people from continuing to serve them).

The thing is, my friends here at CoolStuffInc have this set covered. They've been writing great content about all the awesome new Legendary Creatures and sweet new cards. They've looked at Detectives and Clues and considered lots of ways to work with the new cards. I could jump on the train, but I think I'd rather do something more murder-adjacent than look directly at the set. Let's look at Commanders that murder things. And let's start with this one, which has an absolutely wonderful ability I just had to figure out how to use.

Duggan, Private Detective

Any time a card says something unusual, it's normally worth a second look. "You lose the game." "Skip your draw step." Or, in this case, "Activate only once." Duggan has the potential to be pretty big, given all we have to do is draw cards to get him there, and then for three mana he can do twice his power's worth of damage to a Creature. That's amazing... but we can only do it once. That seems like a puzzle worth exploring.

Let's start with the rules, in case you're not completely sure how they work.

The game tracks whether or not this Duggan has activated his ability. If he hasn't, the game says "okay, he can still punch something extremely hard." If he has, the game says "nope, sorry. He only had one good punch in him and it's all used up. He's going to hang out over here on a bench." That will remain true for that version of Duggan for as long as the game goes on. However, should Duggan leave the Battlefield and return in some way - by dying, for example, and being recast - the game sees a brand-spankin' new card... and that card hasn't punched anyone. So, it can. Again. Which means we can actually punch things as many times as we can have Duggan enter the Battlefield. As long as he has left and comes back, we're golden.

I want to cast Duggan on time, and I want to be able to play my bigger cards on time, and I want to keep mana flowing so when I get an X spell I can make X pretty big, and I want to rebuild after an inconvenient Wrath of God, so we're running our standard 40 Lands. Most of our Lands help fix our colors if they're not basics, but we have a couple which help us in other ways. Blighted Cataract draws cards while Blighted Woodland pulls more Lands out of our Library. Reliquary Tower makes our Hand size unlimited (useful in a deck like this) and Rogue's Passage will often be how we'll win the game.

We have a mixture of Land search and mana rocks here. Normally when I have access to Green, I like to use Land search because it thins my deck and doesn't get wrecked by Merciless Eviction, but in this case a mixture is a good idea. Among other things, we can use rocks to draw cards once we no longer need their mana, and Thought Vessel and Decanter of Endless Water are both really useful for us. Magnifying Glass is too on-theme to not run.

Reliquary Tower
Teferi's Ageless Insight
Rishkar's Expertise

We have a lot of ways to draw cards. I'm particularly a fan of Ever-Watching Threshold, but Garruk's Uprising and Colossal Majesty both do good work. Mind Unbound is underplayed. Rhystic Study is a classic and too useful to ignore, even with how much it annoys people. Teferi's Ageless Insight can get out of hand fast. Universal Surveillance can make good use of a bunch of random Clues, Rishkar's Expertise will love a big Duggan, and Finale of Revelation is great but even better if we can make X = 10 or more. We've also got some early ones like Serum Visions and Brainstorm to help smooth out our draws, get us our Lands, and make sure we have plenty of action early.

I'd probably attempt to win the game with Duggan. Eventually he'll probably be big enough to just kill someone in a single hit, so with a Rogue's Passage or Whispersilk Cloak that should do it. There's also a fun combo with this guy and Stuffy Doll, because Duggan can punch the Doll and send that damage right to someone's dome. But this deck isn't so much about winning as it is about punching things as hard as you can. Sometimes it's fun to just watch the blood spray.

This deck is trying to do a few things, and those things require resources, so it's likely we don't have enough interaction, even with Duggan's punch-heard-'round-the-world. That said, we've got a couple of counterspells in Reverse the Polarity and Confirm Suspicious, and a deck like this does well with a Reclamation Sage. Be prepared to make some adjustments, though, if you find you're not running enough answers.

Deadeye Navigator
But the fun thing is how we play with Duggan. We need him to leave and come back, and our best ways are probably Deadeye Navigator and Conjurer's Closet. Nephalia Smuggler will work in a pinch, and Meneldor, Swift Savior can also give us a flicker each turn. We can flicker Duggan and he's all set for another punch.

And we can use that flicker in other ways. Reclamation Sage, for example, loves to be flickered. So does Solemn Simulacrum and Prime Speaker Zegana. Of course, we can flicker Stuffy Doll so we can choose a new opponent who's still alive (for the moment). Even a Wavesifter isn't a bad choice, with no other options.

We also have some care-about-Clues things happening, like Tireless Tracker, Ethereal Investigator, and Academy Manufactor. We will probably end up with a good amount of them, and they're a great use of excess mana. Adric, Mathematical Genius lets us copy Duggan's punch, Tamiyo's Journal will probably scare your opponents, and Five Hundred Year Diary can get quite out of hand. Mordenkainen does a bunch of things we like, and if we can use his Ultimate, we make that punch really, really hard.

This deck has a lot of moving parts. We need to keep track of our sequencing so we have as many cards as possible in our Hand when we punch, but we also need to play things out. We want to flicker Duggan at the right point, leveraging our couple of Equipment which grant Haste if we have them. (I really like Haunted Cloak here, since it lets us attack right away, push damage through, and then use his ability all in the same turn.) We want to hunt for a way to not have a maximum Hand size, but we don't want to kill ourselves to do it. And we've got to do all of that while thinking about what else we can do, who is the biggest threat, and if we should hold up mana for a counterspell. It's a lot, and it should be fun if you enjoy that aspect of the game.

Plus you get to punch things really, really hard.

What did I miss? More interaction? Some combo I didn't catch? Let me know on socials!

Thanks for reading.

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