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Commanding Outlaws - How to Build with Bristly Bill, Spine Sower


New sets are kind of interesting for me. To listen to the internet, each set is a huge deal - new mechanics! New broken cards! New strategies! But when you've been around the game for a really long time, and you don't play competitively, it's hard to get wildly excited about each new thing. I like Magic, and I like it whether or not there are new cards. I like good cards and bad cards, I like new mechanics and old ones, and I like new sets but I also like old ones.

So, when the rest of the interwebs are going crazy building decks around the next must-have Commander or freaking out about the newest broken two-mana creature, I tend to scour the list for cards that fly a little more under the radar. I like seeing if something can be done with them to build a deck which I would enjoy playing.

I also like putting a lot of Lands on the Battlefield, so today's Commander seemed like a good excuse to do that.

Bristly Bill, Spine Sower

Landfall is a nifty mechanic. It takes something we want to do anyway - play Lands - and turns it into an even more beneficial action. And while adding one counter to one Creature may not seem like a big deal, if we can turn that one counter a turn into several counters a turn, we can probably end up with some pretty big Creatures. Then there's that second ability, which does not require a tap - meaning we can do it as many times as we have five mana. Let's say we have a Creature with two +1/+1 counters. If we pay 20 mana into Bill's second ability, we double four times - which means that Creature now has 32 +1/+1 counters. People might notice that.

I also like the deck encourages us to play as many Lands as possible, then gives us a way to use that mana every turn even if we're out of spells. (As a side note, any deck which has a mana-sink ability like this one - where you can put as much mana as you want each turn into it - is worth looking at.)

Here's the deck I put together.

Bristly Bill, Spine Sower | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

I chose a token route. My first thought was honestly Khalni Garden, because we can play that Land, then stack the ETB triggers so the token gets created then picks up the counter from Bill. From there, I wondered how many times we could incidentally make tokens and just give them counters, which we can then use to make the Creatures huge and attack our friends. Next up was the obvious Avenger of Zendikar, which will probably dump a ton of Plants then make them pretty huge, as well as Rampaging Baloths, which will make some large tokens we can then drop the counters on.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. We have 50 Lands. You read that right - the deck is half Lands. Why? We because we don't want to miss a single drop. At the very least, we want to play at least one Land every single turn. Additionally, we're going to search out Lands like crazy, and pretty much all of them are Basic Lands, so our Forests are going to get yanked out of our deck pretty quickly. To be honest, 27 Forests may not be enough, and it's possible we want to replace some of the non-Basics with more Basics, but the non-Basics are really useful. Most of them will function as two Land drops, because they'll fetch another Land for us. That said, if you want to build this but lower the price dramatically, drop the classic fetchlands and replace them with Basics. The deck will work fine, and it will cost a lot less.

In addition to the fetch-Land-style cards (like Terramorphic Expanse), we've got cards like Topiary Stomper and Far Wanderings. I kind of went with high-risk/high-reward cards here; Cultivate is probably better blind that Far Wanderings, but if we hit Threshold Far Wanderings is better. Some of them are just cheap, like Nature's Lore or Three Visits, but Dance of the Tumbleweeds gives us an option later even if we've already pulled every Basic out of our deck (a reasonable concern with this build).

We will need to draw cards. I mean, every Commander deck needs to draw cards, but this one will often wind up with two or three Lands in Hand and nothing else, so drawing is key. Inspiring Call is probably our best one here - instant speed, saves our Creatures, and draws us a ton - but Shamanic Revelation isn't bad either. Audience with Trostani is a fun one which leaves behind a token. Glorious Sunrise is an expensive but non-life-draining Phyrexian Arena. Skullmulcher is wonderful here, and could be a huge problem if it isn't dealt with. Tireless Tracker will probably generate a ton of Clues. Plus we've got a few cards with Ravenous, and we'll often be able to play the cost to draw the Card. War Room is here, too, and does good work.

We need tokens. I started with all the Landfall things that make tokens, so we've got Zendikar's Roil and Architect of the Untamed, which will rather slowly make us big tokens. There aren't a ton, but fortunately, we have other options. Scute Swarm is here, and Hornet Nest. I love Windswift Slice in this deck - kill someone's Noble Hierarch with some huge token and make a ton more!

Finally, we have a few extras (like Hardened Scales and Railway Brawler) and a few roundhouse punches (like Boundless Realms, which ran me out of Basics more than once in testing). Archdruid's Charm does three things we will likely want to do. And Wild Endeavor is a fantastic card for us, because it scales with the game. If it's early, we probably want to make fewer Beasts and get more Lands, but if it's later, we can swap it around - or vice versa, depending on the situation we're in. Either way, options are good. Illusionist's Bracers won't copy Bill's +1/+1 counter distribution (that's a triggered ability, and Illusionist's Bracers doesn't copy those), but it will copy his activated ability doubling counters. That should be worth it.

This deck should be great fun to play, and should be enjoyable to play against as well. It can make some big plays and change the game, but it never cheats or feels unfair. It stops no one from doing what they're doing, and it won't always be able to recover from a series of board wipes, though it's quick enough to throw out early damage that often won't matter. If you're a 75% player, this would be a great one to keep around, because I'd guess with some tight play and a little luck, it'll win about one in every four games, but it will surely always be relevant. If nothing else, you can always replay your Commander, drop a counter on it, and start doubling.

As I played the deck more, I'd start to look at where I was overloaded on effects - it could be we're creating too many tokens or searching out Lands too aggressively. It also might want a couple of ways to grant Trample, either to the whole team (like Overrun) or individually (like Loxodon Warhammer). Haste would certainly change the calculus of the deck as well. It's also weak to fliers and can't do much about combos, so those things might need to be dealt with if they're in your meta.

But all in all, this should be a fun one. Who's your favorite Commander most people ignored? I'd love to hear about it and even see a decklist! Let me know on social media.

Thanks for reading.

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