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Commanding Outlaws - How to Build with Akul the Unrepentant

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Like most people, how much I play Magic ebbs and flows depending on what else is going on in my life. Post-breakup, living alone and working a lot? I played a TON. The year after my daughter was born? I hardly touched my cards.

One of the periods when I played a lot was Zendikar block. There was a lot to like about that set, but the Eldrazi were high on the list. When we think about targets to cheat out onto the Battlefield, it's hard to imagine something better. Of course, the Eldrazi also brought us Annihilator, that terrible triggered effect which forces your opponents to sacrifice their own stuff, often in large swathes. It was no fun to play against, so the Eldrazi provoked a love-hate relationship. Most of my friends avoid the older Eldrazi at Commander night because it's such a miserable effect.

So you should be delighted to hear today's deck only has one Annihilator-bearing card in the deck!

Akul the Unrepentant

We get a somewhat-difficult-to-cast but otherwise strong Creature here. 5/5 with two relevant abilities for four mana? Honestly, there's a Voltron deck here - drop a bunch of stuff to buff this dude up and just swing. You're in the colors to finish people off with burn, clear the field with removal, and even Earthquake most Creatures away. Fireshrieker would work great here.

But his second ability is particularly fun. We can sacrifice three Creatures and cheat something out from our Hand. This can be very powerful, and it seems like it'd be fun, so let's try that.

The deck will need to do the following things:

  • Make mana
  • Draw cards
  • Make tokens
  • Cheat out haymakers
  • Interact with the board

Let's take them one at a time.

40 Lands is a good start, always. Most of our Lands make color, because Akul is a pain to cast with a bunch of colorless Lands, but even still he doesn't always come out turn four. We have a few utility Lands like Kher Keep (make Tokens) and High Market (sacrifice Creatures), plus we have some point removal so Arcane Lighthouse is helpful. Reliquary Tower, too, in case we end up with more than seven in our Hand.

We're going to draw a bunch of cards, because we need a mix of things to make the deck work, so we can safely run more mana sources. Besides, it's quite possible we'll want or need to simply cast one of our big Creatures, and lots of mana will be helpful with that. In addition to Sol Ring and Thought Vessel, we've got a number of rocks which make colored mana. We're also running four Bobbleheads! The one which draws is the real reason, but Charisma Bobblehead makes Tokens with extra mana and Endurance Bobblehead can help protect one of our big guys in combat. Besides, I like the idea of the Bobbleheads supporting our haymakers. We've also got a number of other rocks which draw cards in a variety of ways.

With all those tokens around, so we can use them to draw cards, too. The classic here is Skullclamp, which can churn us through our deck at an alarming rate. Relic Vial is a slow, more expensive second 'clamp. Then we've got Bankrupt in Blood and Altar's Reap to turn a Creature or two into a few extra cards. We have Decree of Pain and Dregs of Sorrow, both of which double as removal and card draw. And because we have so much mana, neither of those cards is a problem for us!

In order to dump our big dudes, we'll need a bunch of Tokens on the 'field. As a rule, I stuck with cards like Hordeling Outburst or Thatcher Revolt. We want cards which will make us three Tokens so we can immediately sac them and drop a big guy. However, it's not that simple, because not every card makes that many. So, we end up with Song of Totentanz and Dark Salvation, so we can dump a bunch of mana and make enough Tokens to be relevant.

The selection of haymakers was interesting and fun. Truth is, you can use whatever you want, but I made a pile I'd want to play. The only Eldrazi is It That Betrays, in part because it feels like one of the least terrible to hit the Battlefield, but if you want to run the huge ones and be a real meanie, feel free. This could also be a good place for any Demons and Dragons you've got kicking around and have wanted to play. That said, I'm a big fan of Cityscape Leveler here. I tried to double up on removal with these Creatures, so Tyrant's Familiar and Drakuseth, Maw of Flames are both good. Archon of Cruelty will make life difficult for other people. Elder Brain is great fun here, and is a card I need to remember to play more.

For removal, I focused on cards which Exile, like Hurl Through Hell and Eat to Extinction. There is certainly an argument for cheaper ones like Terminate and Anguished Unmaking, but we can afford to be a little less efficient and a little more thorough. We probably want to block aggressively with our Tokens (we should be able to pump out enough), so we should save our removal for really serious problems.

Life's Finale joins Decree of Pain for board wipes. We probably don't want too many more, because we'll reliably want to keep our own stuff, but I still maintain a couple of board resets is pretty important in most Commander decks.

That's everything! We make mana, we draw cards, we make some Tokens, and we drop some huge thing. But it seemed to me we shouldn't just stop there.

As long as we're playing out these big Creatures with nasty effects, it's very likely people will kill them. Therefore, a small Reanimator package seemed to make sense - as long as we're getting big stuff for cheap, we may as well do it multiple ways. We can sit on Profane Command or Zombify till we get Wrathed, then surprise everyone by bringing our Brainstealer Dragon back. Should be fun.

Second, a couple of ways to grant Haste seemed worth it, so we have Chariot of Victory and Haunted Cloak. Why not Lightning Greaves? Because the extra abilities are relevant and we can afford the higher mana cost.

We will sometimes wind up with other people's stuff, via Sepulchral Primordial or Molten Primordial, or that Brainstealer Dragon. We'd probably prefer not to give them back, so we have a few ways to sacrifice Creatures. We can also use these effects with our own stuff if we need to, which is particularly useful with Goblin Bombardment. Sometimes we just need to do some damage to someone.

Finally, any time we have a ton of Tokens, it's worth it to consider we might just attempt to win with them. With the right set of circumstances, we might try for a push with a bunch of small Creatures. That's where cards like Goblin War Party come in. That card is perfect for our deck. Most of the time, it'll make us three Tokens. Sometimes, it'll buff up all of our Tokens for a big attack. And very occasionally, we'll Entwine it for an even bigger swing. You See a Pair of Goblins is our other one - slightly less good, but also cheaper.

Akul the Unrepentant | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

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A big part of this deck was looking for multi-use cards. The buff spells which also makes Tokens are a great example, but also things like Dark Salvation (which makes Tokens and kills something) or Release the Gremlins (which destroys a bunch of Artifacts and leaves Tokens behind) are really valuable. I'd rather have a spell which works well in lots of situations when we have a deck like this, which sometimes will struggle just because it has to jump through so many hoops. Sometimes we're going to draw nothing but Token generators and mana, with no haymakers - if that happens, it's nice to have some options.

Make some mana, draw some cards, create some Tokens, and drop some huge dudes. Should be a fun game.

Thanks for reading.


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