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Four Levels of Mono-Red: 500 Dollars


You know what's fun? Attacking for 36. Let's do that.

Jeska, Thrice Reborn

As we saw last time, Red is really good at multiplying damage. We can use that in a tricky way, like with Heartless Hidetsugu, or we can use it in a more blunt-force way, like today's deck. Jeska's first ability allows us to triple combat damage done by a single creature. If the creature has a high power to begin with, that really adds up quickly, so I thought it'd be fun to try that when our budget is high enough we can get some really quality stuff.

A quick note on Partner: I like Partner as an ability, generally. I think it's fun and adds a dynamic to the game that doesn't overly throw it out of whack (like Monarch) and creates fun deck-building opportunities. However, I have found I like using Partners without a partner. It's fun (to me) to have someone be so surprised that I wouldn't use that ability.

The basic idea came about because of Ball Lightning. Here's a creature that's been around quite a while. It's like Red personified - a cheap, high power, low toughness creature with trample that has to be sacrificed at the end of turn. It's a burn spell with legs. (Does a Ball Lightning have legs?) It seemed to me it would be hilarious to cast a Ball Lightning and have it do 18 instead of 6.

Of course, Double Strike is a thing, so it makes that 18... 36. That's likely to kill someone in a game of Commander.

Ball Lightning
But a deck can't be filled with nothing but Ball Lightnings. In fact, there aren't enough Ball Lightning-like creatures to make the whole idea work. That fact led to the classic Stompy theory of Commander - make some giant monsters and smash with them. Unfortunately, they tend to be expensive, so that means we need to think about the mana. (I'm telling you, if we could run as many copies of Ball Lightning as we wanted, there would be an amazing deck with 30 Mountains, 69 Ball Lightnings, and Jeska.)

40 lands. We're only Red here, so we can be a bit flexible with what we run. We've got stuff which grants Haste, stuff that adds power, stuff that adds extra mana, and stuff that makes tokens. We've even got Hanweir Battlements and Hanweir Garrison, in the off chance we might get the combo and Meld them into Hanweir, the Writhing Township. Cathedral of War seems like a no-brainer.

We've also got a bunch of ways to ramp and make more mana. Sol Ring, of course, but also Arcane Signet and a few other two-mana rocks, plus some bigger ones like Nyx Lotus and Caged Sun to really get the mana flowing. We will need all the mana in the early game, because we're going to want more than 10 as quickly as possible. Once we have that much, though, we can start using our lands and rocks that sacrifice themselves for cards or whatever, because we don't need to keep ramping.

We have limited card draw. We're going to be top-decking. We have a good mix of stuff and should be able to make use of just about anything we draw, but part of the risk of All-In Red is it's actually a risk - if it explodes, it really explodes, but sometimes we whiff and that's okay.

And what do we do with all that mana? We cast Eldrazi. We cast Colossi. We cast Dragons. We cast something huge. Then we give it triple damage and send it lumbering toward one of our opponents, often doing enough damage to just kill them outright. The giants I picked were curated pretty carefully, but there are a couple of notes worth making. First, it really doesn't matter all that much. Feel free to run whatever giant monsters tickle your fancy. We want high power levels, though. Nine and higher is best. The options at that size are pretty limited. The second is a huge amount of the cost comes from the Eldrazi. You can drop the deck a lot in cost by simply not running the ones I chose. The common and uncommon ones will do nearly as well and cost a fraction. Run what you brung!

We do have a few ways to interact. Deflecting Swat is obvious and should ruin someone's day pretty well when they smugly cast Path to Exile on our Drakuseth, Maw of Flames or whatever. Blasphemous Act and Hour of Devastation are both pretty good Wrath-style effects in this color. That said, the hope is we won't need to interact much.

Many of the rest of the spells in our deck are focused on providing Double Strike. We really, really want Double Strike. There are things that give our whole team Double Strike, either permanently or for a turn. There is Equipment that does it. There are instants that do it. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger doing 30 is a lot. Ulamog doing 60 is a death sentence.

The other thing we do is get stuff through. Basically, we're running as many copies of Rogue's Passage as we can. Prowler's Helm (I like the idea of a thief's helmet on Kozilek), Trailblazer's Boots, Key to the City, Suspicious Bookcase: all of them are here to push our big dude through. A Goblin may be tiny, it still stops all the damage from a Void Winnower. Who needs that when it's attacking for 66?

Jeska, Thrice Reborn | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

Two of the last creatures I cut were Darksteel Colossus and Blightsteel Colossus. I cut them for different reasons. Darksteel was cut for mana. The top of the curve is very full, and I felt the Eldrazi Titans brought more power with their assorted abilities than Darksteel did with its hugeness alone. However, it's a perfectly reasonable choice if you have one but not one of the Titans.

Blightsteel I cut because of the Infect of it all. Blightsteel wins on its own with Jeska (or Double Strike, for that matter). While I'm not an anti-Infect guy, in this particular build it feels... wrong, somehow? Cheap? Losing to a massive Impetuous Devils is unexpected and fun and hilarious and a great story. Losing to a Double Striking Blightsteel is boring and lame and a reason to not play with you again. However, if that's how your group plays, go for it. It would be very good in the deck.

If your playgroup uses Maze of Ith or its kin a lot, Strip Mine or Pillage might be helpful.

All told, we wound up at $448. If you throw in the two Colossi, it lands at $495.43, and you'll have a couple options to swap in and out depending on playgroup and style, or your mood. Cut the Eldrazi (and don't get the Colossi) and it's much closer to $250.

How do you feel about all-in strategies like this in Commander? Does a creature-based strategy like this have any legs? How would you build it? What would you add or take out? Let us know in the comments!

Join us next time for a $1000 Mono-Red Commander deck! In the meantime, get out there and make some giant monsters.

Thanks for reading.

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