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Seven Deadly Commanders: Greed


"What’s in the box?”

— Mills, portrayed by Brad Pitt in the movie Seven

There’s something great about sitting down with a group of Commander players you’ve never met. Everyone opens their deck boxes, and you look around, trying to see who has which commanders. “Who’s your commander?” becomes our version of, “What’s in the box?”

Also, Commander players often love to push themes. We play suboptimal cards because they have just the right name or flavor for what we’re trying to do. We jam our favorite commanders despite the fact they’re not the most powerful options. We play underrepresented tribes and attempt to make them work even though they’ve never had the love they deserve.

Enter my new editor Evan. In discussion with him, he suggested a series of decks, all built around a specific theme: the seven deadly sins. How awesome is that? Challenge accepted!

We’re going to go in movie order (from Seven), which means we get to start this week with greed. (Movie purists may argue gluttony comes first, and that argument holds some water. In the movie, Greed is found first, but Gluttony died first, so it’s kind of arbitrary what the actual starting order is. I picked greed, but I want to acknowledge those who feel gluttony should be first.) And who’s greedier than this guy, who turns everything into gold with a touch?

King Macar, the Gold-Cursed

We know we’re going to be mono-black, we know we can kill creatures, and we know we want to collect a big ol’ pile of gold—greedy people want to make sure they have more than everyone else, and if we can’t have it, we won’t let them either. That’s a pretty good starting point. Let’s see if we can leverage King Macar’s inspired ability to our benefit, all the while greedily taking as much as we can while denying nice toys to anybody else.

Jet Medallion
Black makes a lot of mana with a little work. We have our forty lands so we hit our drops, and we’re avoiding most nonbasics both because the number of Swamps we have will matter and because we can’t afford an Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. We have a bunch of rocks to make sure we jump up to big mana quickly—Sol Ring, Mind Stone, Worn Powerstone, and Charcoal Diamond all add to our mana count. We also have a Jet Medallion, down in cost thanks to its reprinting a few years ago. Then we have some doublers—Caged Sun, Magus of the Coffers, and Crypt Ghast all make absurd amounts of mana once they get rolling, so as soon as one comes down, we shouldn’t run out of mana. Finally, a few nonbasics round out our mana base. Encroaching Wastes and Ghost Quarter both deal with obnoxious lands our opponents control (greed doesn’t want them to have nice things), Reliquary Tower does a good job of letting us keep more cards than we deserve, and Rogue's Passage can tap down King Macar if an opponent is trying to keep something.

We can also draw a lot of cards, which is great fun when we want all the things. Harvester of Souls, Baleful Force, and Bloodgift Demon just sit there and draw cards for us. Life schmife! Give us the cards! Disciple of Bolas, too, is excellent, and most of our dudes are expendable if it means we get more stuff. Underworld Connections and Greed give us more cards, too, both kind of at the expense of mana, plus, y’know, greed. Decree of Pain and Dregs of Sorrow (x4b for short) both draw cards, too, but that’s sort of a secondary ability.

Pontiff of Blight
We have some big stuff, and most of it flies around, but the vast majority of it is there because the thing has some great ability. Sure, guys like Helldozer and Reiver Demon are big, but do we really care? We win if we have a giant pile of gold and have more stuff than everybody else, not if opponents have fewer life points. In the event we decide to try to actually kill our opponents, it’s going to be sort of random—extort luckiness off a Pontiff of Blight or a really effective Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Exsanguinate, too, can get out of hand, especially with a mana-doubler. I suppose Herald of Leshrac, if left unchecked, could make everyone just scoop.

What we do really, really well, though, is make sure other players can’t have any creatures. Hero's Downfall, Silence the Believers, and Tendrils of Corruption all kill dudes dead. Hex kills a bunch of things, though there must be six targets, x4b is surprisingly effective at 7 or 15 mana, and a nice suite of Wrath of God effects—including the aforementioned Decree of Pain and the excellent In Garruk's Wake—all do a good job of saying no to anyone who thinks we want to share. Finally, we can clear opposing graveyards with things like Nihil Spellbomb and Bojuka Bog.

It’s worth noting we are pretty terrible at taking care of things like enchantments and artifacts. We’ll make it tough for players to protect their Planeswalkers, so we can just attack them to death, but if your meta focuses on noncreature threats, things like Unstable Obelisk and Spine of Ish Sah might want in.

King Macar is among the best ways we have to make sure everyone else doesn’t get to have his or her fun stuff. He activates when he untaps, and the nice thing is he’ll do that automatically every turn if we just can tap him down. Once may not be enough, but we’ll deal with that in a minute. First off, we have to make sure our little 2/3 commander can reliably be tapped every turn. Sure, maybe someone will have nothing and we can just send him in to attack, but too often, people are going to have the audacity of playing something larger than a 2/2. How dare they!?

Icy Manipulator
Enter our wide array of tapping artifacts. Some of them cost mana, some don’t, some require they be equipped to the King, some don’t, but they all do what we need them to do: tap down our dude . . . And they all do it at instant speed, which means we can tap him down right before our turn so he untaps right away (maybe just to tap again with Koskun Falls). Crown of Empires was obvious, in part because it seems greedy to want to assemble the entire set. Hankyu sounds like something you should say to someone when they attack you; Manriki-Gusari would be a weirder thing to say, but hey, keep people confused. Leonin Bola can work twice, and Icy Manipulator gives us a bunch of ways to use it. Paradise Mantle turns King Macar into a Birds of Paradise, which is funny because, thanks to recent rules changes, we can tap him for g or whatever. Springleaf Drum, Thornbite Staff, and Viridian Longbow round out our tappers.

The thing is, a single untapping won’t get us where we need to be, which is to have the ability to deny others while we add to our own treasure. Untapping creatures is less common than tapping them, though, so we have to dig a little deeper. Our best one is probably Thousand-Year Elixir. It gives activated abilities haste, which matters with a bunch of our creatures, and for a lowly 1 mana, we are able to untap King Macar, giving us a free inspired trigger. Umbral Mantle is pretty great once we can get a bunch of mana flowing—with something like Paradise Mantle, we can have a whole lot of exilin’ and make a big pile of gold. Sword of the Paruns works the same way, and with a ton of mana, it can do it all itself. Jandor's Saddlebags are old-school, and Onyx Talisman is hilarious if a bit slow.

Chainer, Dementia Master
So we have ways to tap things and ways to untap things. It seems to be a good time to put in a bunch of stuff that wants to be tapped so we can untap those things to generate more activations. Helldozer keeps blowing up lands—the five-color player with the $1,000 mana base will really not be able to play any spells. Cemetery Reaper can make us a load of Zombies. Magus of the Coffers can get really, really obscene if we get a few untaps of that guy. Try loading him up with Umbral Mantle for infinite mana and an infinitely large Magus—or whatever else, I guess, seeing as how we have infinite mana there. Royal Assassin is fun, as is Visara the Dreadful, and Shauku, Endbringer is a flavorful and fun way to keep exiling more things. (Avatar of Woe is a less painful version, but Shauku brings style to the table, don’t you think?) Chainer, Dementia Master is also a ton of fun with untaps galore, and he leads us into our final greedy behavior: stealing things!

Enslave is a funny card that starts in just about every black list I build and, most often, is pulled out for being a weird one-of. In this case, though, it’s a pretty cool way to grab something so cool we don’t just want anybody else to have it. Helm of Possession is similar, and Ritual of the Machine can turn a random Zombie or whatever into someone’s, I don’t know, Sun Titan or Seedborn Muse. (That would really be bonkers, actually.)

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
If you happen to have a Cabal Coffers and an Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth lying around, jam those immediately. Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx would be pretty good. Arcane Lighthouse would help keep opponents’ creatures vulnerable. Consider an Expedition Map to look for one of those if you really want to be greedy. After that, Staff of Domination should go in—that card will do some serious work with King Macar. Hair-Strung Koto can help with tapping. Phyrexian Arena draws cards like a champ, and most of the time, people leave it alone. Nezumi Graverobber can do a good job grabbing other people’s stuff and controlling others’ graveyards, and Bloodline Keeper and Kalitas, Bloodchief of Ghet both want to be untapped.

But let’s be honest. What we really want to do is have a bunch of stuff: a mountain of gold (I suggest gold chocolate coins in a pile), a few creatures that don’t belong to us, and no one else gets anything. Seriously, we may not beat them, but we’ve won if we have all the stuff.

How would you build a deck built around greed? Any other thoughts for any of the sins?

Now go start turning things to gold.

Total cost: $74.86

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