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Winning a Fair Flicker Fight with Sarevok and Far Traveler

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Exploring different deck archetypes and concepts in Commander is a big part of why I write articles. Rather than get myself stuck playing the same few decks over and over again, I get to try different things every week. And because I want to speak to as many of you as possible, I spend a lot of time trying to break out of my own style. Yes, there are certain things I do every week - like make sure I put enough mana in my decks! - but I don't want all of my decks to be Enchantments or Ramp or Kindred.

And another nice thing about writing about the decks is I can present them at any level. Sometimes I offer you a deck which could basically be a precon. If you click "buy this deck" you're going to get a deck which functions and all you need is a set of sleeves. On the other hand, sometimes the deck is more of a proof-of-concept. There's an idea, and there's a stack of cards which attempt to see if the idea can happen, but the deck will need some tinkering to fully work, game after game. It also may need some adjustments for a particular meta.

With that in mind, I'd like to look at Brago, King Eternal. That guy has been around a long time now, and he reigns as the eternal king of blink effects. If you want to make some permanents leave and enter the Battlefield over and over again, this guy is your guy. I've lost many times to Brago, from a number of different people. Even kind Brago decks are rough to beat.

There's a certain type of player who would argue there's no point in trying to do blink again until a better Commander comes out. Someone who blinks on Attack rather than Damage, or when it Enters as well as does damage, or adds an extra color but is otherwise the same, or is more evasive or cheaper - something strictly better than Brago. And there's nothing wrong with being that player - the kind that maximizes capability and sees little point in doing something worse.

But other players like to mess around in the sandbox. Sure, a Commander may not be as good, but it also might be more fun, or flavorful, or offer a color combination the "best" one doesn't, or it may just be a challenge to see if you can make something work. Today's deck is an example of that. We're going to do a blink deck, but without Brago and in Orzhov (wb), once again playing into a Commander/Background combination very few people seem interested in attempting to harness.

Sarevok, Deathbringer
Far Traveler

I sort of feel like Sarevok would beat Brago in a fair fight. (I mean, on the Battlefield they just bounce off each other, but I'm thinking a gladiatorial arena or something like it.) I also like that Sarevok has a built-in win condition, something Brago doesn't have; without attacking, we will at least slowly do damage around the table. And by partnering with Far Traveler, we get this kind of funny, hoop-jumpy mini-version of Brago's blink ability, though we don't have to mess around with attacking to do it. We just have to make sure something is tapped.

We also don't get the insane amount of value each turn Brago provides, because we only get to blink one thing. That means we need to wrench value out of each blink, rather than assembling a combo or assuming we'll be able to do everything.

So why do this? Well, if we're the value player, we don't. We just play Brago. But if we're the other kind of player, we do it because it requires we play tighter, build a more coherent deck, and, frankly, lose more often, which lowers our win percentage but likely raises the overall fun at the table. Let's see what we can do.

Sarevok the Far Traveler | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

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Here's our proof-of-concept. In any given game of Commander, there are four basic things which likely need to happen, three of which serve the first thing.

  1. Win. Somehow. Combat damage, combo, decking, whatever, but winning is the first thing we're probably trying to do. To serve that, we need to:
  2. Interact with the board.
  3. Draw cards.
  4. (Probably) ramp.

Because Far Traveler only blinks Creatures, we have a lot of Creatures in this deck. 50% of our deck is Creatures, and all of them do one of those four things. Examples include Ravenous Chupacabra (kill something), Rambunctious Mutt (destroy something), Ashen Rider (exile something), and Luminate Primordial (Exile lots of things). We also have Inspiring Overseer (draw a card, gain a life), Disciple of Bolas (sac a thing, draw a bunch of cards), and Combat Thresher (which is neat 'cause we can play it for its Prototype cost, then blink it and it comes back in its big form). Then we've got Pilgrim's Eye (get a land in your Hand), Loyal Warhound (get a Plains on the Battlefield), and Solemn Simulacrum (get a Basic on the Battlefield). Vrock and Archon of Cruelty are both examples of winning the game.

This deck gets a lot of Plains. That's sort of White's way of dealing with Land fetch - it just gets Plains. So because of it, we have a few of them, plus every dual which doesn't cost an internal organ to play which has the "Plains" type (though note some of our cards search for a Basic Plains, so that still won't work). In play-testing I haven't had any trouble making the colors I need, but I've wanted every bit of ramp I've got; the deck is definitely hungry (all those Enters-the-Battlefield effects raise the price of the Creatures). We also have a couple of Lands we really like (to the point an updated version of this deck might want Expedition Map): Scene of the Crime and Survivors' Encampment. Both of these Lands let us tap one of our Creatures, which is great if what we really need is something from a Creature we can't safely send anywhere without fear of it dying.

Have you ever played a deck which draws a lot of cards? It's really nice. You have lots of answers, plenty to do, you hit your Land drops - drawing cards is great. I've found as I build more and more decks I'm allowing more and more space for straight-up draw effects. I like big ones and small ones, reusable ones and one-shot ones; I often find the person who draws the most cards is very well situated to win the game. So we have a LOT of card draw in this deck. Most of them are cantrips on Creatures, but in our case those turn into three or four cards over the course of a game. Tocasia's Welcome is particularly welcome here (ha - sorry!), since a number of our cantripping Creatures are three mana or less, so they'll get us an extra card. We should see plenty of cards, and when we don't have some other reason to blink something, we should use Far Traveler to draw an additional card.

Ravenous Chupacabra
When I first conceived of this deck, Ravenous Chupacabra was the first card I thought of. It's a Murder with a body we can blink over and over. But being in Orzhov means we have even more effects, like Luminarch Primordial (see why we want the mana?). Meteor Golem is great here. So is Loran of the Third Path and Angel of Despair. We have a number of Creatures which can destroy stuff, and we should draw enough we can find the answer we need.

We have a couple of fun things that do other stuff, too. The Eternal Wanderer will blink something extra for us each turn, Conjurer's Closet will too, and Strionic Resonator will double up on Sarevok's trigger. As I mentioned before, Vrock works well with what we're doing and if it sits out there for a couple of turns it should do some damage. Call for Unity and Cathars' Crusade both make our army a bit more formidable, so one of them should help us figure out how to close out a game. Springleaf Drum is another way to tap something should we need it.

The deck works. It does what it wants to do. Sometimes it might struggle, though, for a couple of reasons.

First, Sarevok's damage isn't going to be very much. Often people will have something leave the Battlefield. Opponents will make deals to trade Pest tokens and stuff so they don't have to lose the life. And when they do, three isn't that much. I can see Blackblade Reforged and other ways of drastically increasing Sarevok's power a worthwhile investment in the deck, so going through a turn without losing something is very costly.

Second, having to tap the thing you want to blink is sometimes a pain. We have the Lands and the Springleaf Drum, plus we can always attack (I prioritized Creatures with Evasion to make this easier), but it's quite likely we need even more ways to tap things down. There are some, though Convoke is fairly rare in this color combination (we have Hoarding Broodlord to help us), so we might want to shove a few more ways to make sure we can tap something down. Unfortunately, Creatures with Tap abilities often don't have ETB abilities, so we can't double up on that well, but it's a thing to watch.

All in all, though, this deck is a fun take on the Blink archetype which should encourage tight play and fun games. It will be interactive, and people will be wondering if they need to crack a Treasure or make a deal just to not lose the life. They'll also worry about what fresh hell you'll unleash with the extra cards you drew, and the groans will be loud when it's Ashen Rider or Gray Merchant of Asphodel. (Blink that guy a few times for real fun!)

I'd love to hear from you. Let me know if you have an unusual Commander/Background combo you'd like to see (we've got one more in this series), and I'd especially like to hear from you if you build this deck - how does it go? What did you change? Please reach out!

Thanks for reading.


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