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Commander & Change: Dragonlord Silumgar


Last week, former editor of this very site and Commander format knight-in-shining-armor Adam Styborski wrote an article on another site I immediately loved. It’s worth the read for anyone interested in the health of the format, but to summarize, he looks at the top five cards we should all stop playing in our Commander decks immediately and forever. (Granted, he explains the corner-case situations where the cards are worth it, but his arguments are strong.) The list, in order (and without his expansions) is:

Before you throw your phone or (for those of you old-school enough) flip your laptop off your lap, his thesis is this: “Getting caught up in ‘what’s the best card for my deck’ is a trap. ” This is, to me, the most concise version of an argument I have over and over with Commander players everywhere. Yes, Sol Ring will jump the deck forward if it’s in the opening hand. Yes, tutors make relatively inconsistent decks more reliable. Yup, Damnation is the most efficient wrath effect available for Black decks. But we’re looking to create an experience, not just win the same way every time as quickly as possible. Why is it so important to be out ahead early? And is that worth a slot if it is, at best, middling in the mid or late game? Don’t we play this format because we get a different game each time? Isn’t the upgrade Life's Finale offers worth the extra 2 mana in a format which hard casts Progenitus? We get to make whatever we want here, and it doesn’t have to be, as it should in Standard or Modern, the most efficient.

Commander & Change gives us opportunities to play with this. We can build a deck which has a couple of different versions, one to slake the thirst which much of the player base clearly has for “the best” and one for a deck which lets us play a fun, more goofy creation with randomness and the thrill of top-decking for just the right card. In that spirit, our commander this week has a clear path for building. But what happens if we look at it a different way? What if we take a creature which is meant to be abused and, I don’t know, do something else? What if we just want to suit up a big ol’ dragon and swing away?

Dragonlord Silumgar

See, this guy is expensive without terribly exciting base stats. 6 mana for a 3/5? But that enters-the-battlefield effect is enticing, right? We figure out a way to flicker him or just recast him a bunch of times and we can steal our opponents’ entire board away. Add some sacrifice effect and it’s a one-sided wipe. Many of you can, I’m sure, come up with even more insidious or clever things to do with this ability. But what if we just equip him and attack, letting the steal effect be a side note to the endgame?

Dragonlord Silumgar ? Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

Mind Unbound
We’ve got an expensive commander and the colors of death and card draw, so that seems like a good place to start. Forty lands help us get the mana, with some utility lands like Arcane Lighthouse and Ghost Quarter and some inexpensive duals like Dimir Guildgate and cards like Terramorphic Expanse to smooth the color requirements. We’ve also got some artifact ramp, but before Stybs jumps on me for going against how this whole thing started, the goal is not to jump out ahead, but rather make sure we have some stuff to do in the first few turns and help us play our bigger spells later, plus some of them do nifty things like give us cards or turn into creatures.

Ponder and Brainstorm are unusual choices for a Commander deck, but here they do good work. In the early game, they help us smooth our draws and make sure we’re hitting our land drops. Later on, they give us a cheap way to look at a few more cards and get something into our hand. With 6 mana, Ponder into Icefall Regent may just be a lifesaver. Meanwhile, we’ve got Mind Unbound for massive draws, Blue Sun's Zenith for repeatable ones, Treasure Cruise for cheap ones, and Dragonlord's Prerogative for fast ones. Lim-Dul's Vault is kind of funny, but we can drop it at the end of our opponent’s turn and look at a whole bunch of cards. Crystal Ball does good work with leftover mana, helping us to lands or action as the need requires.

Most of the time we’re going to hand our Dragonlord a sword (or spear or ring or something) and reign down fear from the sky, but sometimes that just won’t do it, so we’ve got a bevy of dragons and a random avatar to help out. Silumgar’s younger (and strangely tougher) version, Silumgar, the Drifting Death is here, plus Deathbringer Regent and Ruthless Deathfang. Kokusho, the Evening Star and Keiga, the Tide Star both make for terrifying presences on the battlefield; combine with High Market for extra fear. Avatar of Woe is simple quality, good at removing opposing threats and carrying a Loxodon Warhammer.

Life's Finale
Life's Finale makes an appearance, as does Deadly Tempest, Decree of Pain, and In Garruk's Wake, all good choices to clear the board of those who choose to play a bunch more creatures than they should (at least against us). Crux of Fate is fabulous for us, of course, since it will leave us with almost every creature we’ve got. Plus we’ve got some spot removal — Murder, Hero's Downfall, Tragic Slip, even Doom Blade and Go for the Throat (and the lowly how-dare-you-be-a-sorcery Ruinous Path) all help to get rid of nasty commanders or random Eldrazi stomping around.

Beacon of Unrest and Praetor's Grasp both deserve special mention, because they’re here as simple quality cards. Beacon of Unrest lets us use the best of everything dead, whether it’s one of our dragons or someone else’s Terastodon. Praetor's Grasp, meanwhile, is both more and less limited, because we can look at everything they’ve got left it their library but can only cast things we can make the colors for. Fellwar Stone and Darksteel Ingot both help, but often times we’ll just wind up getting someone’s Sword of Feast and Famine. We can always aim at a Black or Blue player, which might get us something good.

Finally, we’ve got our equipment. Rogue's Gloves and Infiltration Lens both help us draw more cards, while O-Naginata and Loxodon Warhammer give some needed power boosts and trample to boot. Hero's Blade will snap-equip when our Dragonlord joins the fight, or, frankly, to either of the stars. Tenza, Godo's Maul doesn’t give us the benefit for being Red, but it’s still +3/+3 for a single mana to equip. Fireshrieker plus any power boost gets scary in a hurry, and Trailblazer's Boots turns our Commander practically unblockable. Haunted Cloak is our haste-giver. Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots are “better,” but the Cloak gives us more abilities for its higher price tag, and besides, the Greaves and Boots are a bit overplayed, aren’t they? Argentum Armor is huge and amazing, plus a ton of fun, so it seems worth running.

We’ve got a cool, un-optimized but super-fun dragon Voltron deck here. It’ll hang against fair decks and even give focused ones a run for their money. It’ll be unexpected because everyone will think it’s going to steal left and right, and bam! Throw a Sword of Vengeance on a dragon and attack. No one will see it coming.

Here’s where it gets fun. We can take all 15 pieces of equipment out of the deck and replace it with our optionboard. We’ll stop being a “suit-up-the-general” deck and start being, well, exactly what is expected of a Dragonlord Silumgar deck.

Insidious Will
We add a few cards which straight up steal just like our Commander. Enslave has always seemed a touch unfair, hasn’t it? Control Magic and Mind Control do the same job. We’ve got Deadeye Navigator, which if we’re lucky enough to find, flickers our commander in and out, repeatedly stealing creatures. Mind's Dilation is expensive, flashy, and hilarious. What are they going to do, complain? They put it in their deck! Sire of Stagnation is just mean until someone kills it. Insidious Will gives us great options depending on the situation: counter a Panharmonicon, redirect a Path to Exile, or copy a Boundless Realms. Plus we get some extra sacrifice outlets to join the couple we already had, just to make sure no one gets back what we took.

The easiest way to bust the budget on this one is with the equipment. I’d want all of the Swords of X and Y in here. Panharmonicon, of course, is great too, but I’m finding it’s an auto-kill when it hits the table. Bribery would be good, and Cyclonic Rift wouldn’t be out of line. Preordain, if one is kicking around, is reasonable, but pushed us just over the top of the budget. If you want, swap out the Homeward Path for a Tectonic Edge (or Strip Mine, if you’ve got one), so we can stop others from taking back what we steal.

A special note on Kokusho: he’s pricey. Replace him with a cheaper dragon from Dragons of Tarkir for an easy and more wallet-friendly swap. Also, Champion's Helm would be good here, but is also just out of range.

Untraditional and traditional in one box, all without optimizing anything other than a fun deck to play. What would you do to this deck to make it your own? Do you have a deck where your commander is used in an unexpected way? While we’re at it, what do you think of Styb’s suggestions and how do you make sure your Commander games are fun for everyone? Let us all know in the comments!

Anyway, there’s nothing wrong with just playing around with dragons.

Total cost: $112.69

Optionboard cost: $12.95

Total cost without Optionboard: $99.74

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