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26 Decks in a Year, Episode 15: Boros


Those of you with an interest in the United States Armed Forces may have heard of a funny-looking aircraft called the Osprey. It first flew in 1989, was adopted by the U.S. Marine Corps in 2008 and the U.S. Air Force in 2009, and has flown missions all over the world. What makes it unique is that it’s the world’s first “tiltrotor aircraft.” What that means is it’s propeller-driven, but the propellers can rotate so they’re facing up or they’re facing forward, allowing the aircraft to work as a helicopter or an airplane. It may not be the best at either, but it’s pretty darn good at both, and that’s more than most helicopters or airplanes can say.

This, obviously, leads us to Commander—or, rather, the most recent “Commander variant” Tiny Leaders. For those of you who haven’t heard of it yet, Tiny Leaders is a singleton format in which your commander and all the cards in your deck must have converted mana costs (CMC) of 3 or less. It’s heads-up—no multiplayer intended—so every deck is fifty cards exactly—except for basic lands—and there’s a starting life total of 25. There’s no Commander damage either.

(A brief aside: I like this format. I think it leads to creativity and can be a great deal of fun. However, a heads-up format naturally creates a competitive metagame; if one wishes to play silly, fun, themey decks, it’s much harder in TL than in Commander. As such, I believe Tiny Leaders is likely to attract more competitive players. Every fan of one is not necessarily going to like the other. Put another way: This is not “baby Commander.”)

My fellow Commander columnist Jason Alt has already done an article on Tiny Leaders. And given its rise in popularity, I figured it only made sense for me to follow suit. But c’mon, who wants to pay $75 for a Tiny Leaders deck? We come here for Commander decks! So, with no further preamble, I offer you the Magic: The Gathering version of the Osprey:

Anax and Cymede

These two grabbed me from the moment I opened a copy at the Theros prerelease. Those abilities just screamed out for a tokens Commander deck! I built one and played it a few times, and then a bunch of friends came over to play this newfangled Tiny Leaders format. I needed a deck, so I pulled apart A&C, threw together a TL deck, and beat all my friends that night with it. Needless to say, these two make a great commander in either format.

Mana is funny in Tiny Leaders though. Because everything has a CMC of 3 or less, we need fewer lands and no acceleration. In the Commander deck, though, that number jumps to thirty-seven plus six mana rocks: all the Boros options, Fellwar Stone, Mind Stone, and a Darksteel Ingot for good measure. Both decks have reasonably low curves, so forty-three mana sources will be fine for the hundred-card deck. A lot of them come into play tapped, and while that’s normally not the best for an aggro deck, in this case, it’s worth it for the colored mana—not to mention, in a multiplayer format, we’re going to use all that mana. Just wait.

Mentor of the Meek
Draw is a bit thin on the ground; we had to make some sacrifices for the big deck to make the little one work. Mentor of the Meek is here, but that’s really it. However, we have a ton of virtual card advantage with all our tokens; a bunch of our cards make two or three, and some make a lot more than that. Increasing Devotion, Conqueror's Pledge, and Assemble the Legion in the Commander version join Dragon Fodder, Raise the Alarm, and Hordeling Outburst in Tiny Leaders to make dude after dude. That’ not to mention guys like Siege-Gang Commander and Cloudgoat Ranger, who bring friends every time they show up. I’ve also gone ahead and—in a column first—added a pre-order card: Secure the Wastes. For w and x, we make X 1/1s at instant speed? Yes please. It’s $3.49 for pre-order as I write this; I hope that won’t change too much in the next few days. If it does, consider Timely Reinforcements, which is far less good but within budget.

All those tokens are quite threatening by themselves. Combine them with Anax and Cymede, though, and they become ridiculous—a single activation of A&C’s ability, and we can swing in for a ton. Activate it multiple times, and it gets really out of hand. We have a couple more big guys here in the hundred-card deck—Tajic, Blade of the Legion springs to mind—but mostly, we’re going to win with a million little guys all growing big and tramply, no matter which version we’re playing,

Soltari Visionary
We have a few answers, too—though again, we’re limited by building the two decks as one. Soltari Visionary makes an appearance as one of my favorite white cards of all time; that thing does work. Oblivion Ring gets rid of just about everything. Chained to the Rocks has the opportunity to shine here—it is super-flavorful and is great here, even dealing with indestructible stuff. Wear // Tear is great in any deck able to produce r and w, and Lightning Bolt and Lightning Helix can at least kill off some little guys. Condemn is mean in Commander and TL—putting someone’s commander on the bottom of his or her library can spell doom for some people’s decks. Phyrexian Rebirth will Wrath the board for us and leave behind a really big dude, while Martial Coup will leave us with a bunch of little ones—not to mention being playable in our fifty-card stack.

The trick to these decks is finding one of a few key spells. Those are, in no particular order: Seething Anger, Conviction, Crown of Flames, Flickering Ward, Ghitu Firebreathing, and Mark of Fury. All six of these spells have ways of returning to our hand after casting—most for a mana cost, though Seething Anger has buyback and Mark of Fury just comes back at the end of turn. With Ghitu Firebreathing and five red sources, we can gain three activations of A&C’s ability. Combine that with Strionic Resonator, and we gain four. Use white mana for Flickering Ward, and we can gain even more, though honestly, once we hit about three, we won’t need to do many more. A few others are just worth running for value—Ajani's Presence is awesome, as is Launch the Fleet. Scourge of the Nobilis makes A&C a lot bigger and meaner, and Temporal Isolation lets them attack without fear. Emblem of the Warmind and Hammer of Purphoros both give all our dudes haste. Glory of Warfare is nasty here, and Cathars' Crusade is even worse—if you have a friend who’s never seen that card in action, that friend is in for a nasty surprise once it gets going. True Conviction and Dictate of Heliod both win games. And our light Sunforger package can go find one of the burn spells in Tiny Leaders, but in Commander, our first target is probably going to be Rally the Righteous, which really brings the hurt. Nobilis of War, Firemane Avenger, and Tajic all care about creatures attacking, but Frontline Medic earns the gold medal for making all our dudes indestructible.

And that leads me to one more comment. Iroas, God of Victory is truly amazing in this deck. It’s so amazing, in fact, that it might be worth making him the commander of the Commander deck every once in a while, just for a different but equally awesome experience.

Osprey Anax and Cymede ? Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

When it’s time to play Tiny Leaders, go through the deck, pull out these fifty cards, and bam! It’s a fifty-card TL deck ready to go.

In both versions, we’re really fast, though reasonably slower in the big version. For TL, start attacking right away, and simply don’t stop unless absolutely no damage will make it through. More tokens are coming, and A&C will almost certainly be online early. Seething Anger is truly spectacular in TL; just casting it once a turn but being able to do it again the following feels a bit like cheating in that format. In Commander, on the other hand, it’s worth it to build an army rather slowly; play out a few guys or an enchantment like Assemble the Legion, and once there’s a big enough group, surprise everyone with a massive alpha strike backed up with two or three A&C activations. Also, hold on to some token-makers when possible; Wrath effects really hurt us, and being able to rebuild an army quickly can make all the difference.

Mimic Vat
If you have a few extra dollars, a Mimic Vat would be the first thing I’d add. After that, I’d probably go with Hero of Bladehold and Angel of Jubilation. Spirit Mantle and Skullclamp would both be great, and Purphoros, God of the Forge would do some serious damage. Márton Stromgald is worth looking at. As always, better lands are welcome; Rugged Prairie and Sacred Foundry, specifically, are really nice in the TL version.

Please let me know if this is something you’d like to see again! I’m never going to stop making Commander decks, but I can try to do another hybrid or two if people are interested. Would you like to see another hybrid deck like this?

It’s not the world’s best Commander deck, and it’s not the world’s best Tiny Leaders deck, but it’s good at both. Plus, it’s pretty neat to show up at Commander night with only one deck box and be able to play both formats!

Total Cost: $72.89

Total Cost, Tiny Leaders Only: $36.17

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