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The Fury of the Nine Hells

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You know, Magic, and Commander in particular, is a HUGE tent. Really, really big. We have more deck diversity in this format that just about any other, and a big part of that is because the format (and the culture surrounding it) at least attempts to take an open-minded approach to deck construction. We can build aggressive decks, control decks, and everything in between. We can build around a pet card or tribe. We can build Group Hug decks with no win conditions, or just attempt to pull off something ridiculous. We have a lot of options.

But sometimes, I just want to hit people really hard in the face with a big creature over and over.

Karlach, Fury of Avernus
Flaming Fist

Let me get this out of the way really quick: This is not a deck that's going to win every game it plays. In fact, it's going to lose sometimes for a really stupid reason, like someone manages to stick a Marit Lage token or otherwise huge creature we simply can't get past. That doesn't mean it won't be fun, and it doesn't mean it's not a great deck to play. Any deck which takes huge chunks of life out of peoples' totals is worth having around, because it forces the game forward and makes people actually play.

But it will win some games, and when it does, it will win in spectacular fashion.

TITLE | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper


In some ways, this strategy is reminiscent of Xenegos, God of Revels, though not exactly the same. In Xenagos, the goal is to pump another creature; with Karlach, we're going all-in on Commander damage. We're going to send her in with Double Strike, then we're going to send her in again during our second Combat phase. If we do it right, we'll kill someone with a single attack and scare the daylights out of everyone else at the table, to the point they'll probably start digging for removal.

Unlike with my previous version of Xenagos, though, I'm not going to abandon all good deck-building practices for this one. We're not going to completely eschew card draw, and we are going to ramp some. We're still not going to run any removal, though; with this deck, we're going to swing for the fences and nothing else. If someone manages to play a creature big enough to stop us in the time it takes us to reach lethal, either we did bad threat assessment or good on them.

40 lands, as usual, will help at least get us to our fifth land drop, which is pretty important because that's when we cast Karlach. Ideally, we hit at least one mana rock along the way, so a good line is mana rock on turn two, Flaming Fist on turn three, and Karlach on turn four, so we can suit her up and swing on turn five. We do have some three-mana rocks, though, as a concession to better abilities; Commander's Sphere and Boros Locket can both draw us cards in a pinch, Seer's Lantern lets us Scry with extra mana, and Cultivator's Caravan becomes a not-insignificantly-sized Creature we can actually attack with should Karlach find herself out of commission.

Once Karlach is out, we're going to start throwing Equipment at her like she's made of magnets. A great example (following up on the previous line of rock-Flaming Fist-Karlach) would be playing Goldvein Pick on turn five, then Equipping Karlach and swinging at the poor sap who has spent their first five turns doing nothing but playing mana rocks and a Staff of Nin. Our 6/5 Commander comes crashing in with Double Strike, doing 6 damage and making a Treasure, then doing 6 again and making another Treasure. Then we untap Karlach and go to our second Combat phase, where we do it again, so we net four Treasures and that player dies from 24 Commander damage.

What if everyone played a creature? Well, how about Tenza, Godo's Maul? We'll make Karlach an 8/7 with Trample. Now we're doing 32 Trample damage over two attack phases, which means someone better have at least 12 points of Toughness on the 'field to survive.

We have a number of Equipments which grant Trample, most of which give us a Power boost too. +1 to Power means he kills in a single hit, so we should have a fairly threatening Commander fairly early on. However, there are other good things to do.

Sword of the Animist continues the flow of Lands; more mana with a deck like this is never bad. Plate Armor comes with a discount and provides a little protection, and Godsend makes blocking much harder. Fiendlash makes blocking with a giant Creature a lot less interesting, and Blackblade Reforged is always good when looking to power someone up. Shadowspear helps a lot if we're facing an indestructible blocker. And I really like Trailblazer's Boots to make our Commander effectively unblockable.

Our big pieces are Argentum Armor and Kaldra Compleat. Both of those should cause major problems for the table if they're not handled before we can attack. And our one non-Equipment-based pump is Eldrazi Conscription. It's expensive, but play that and either a) someone dies or b) someone kills it. Either way, we've forced the table to respond to what we're up to.

We've also got some Equipment which draws us cards, like Rogue's Gloves and Mask of Memory. Some of them make us discard, but we don't need to put six Equipments on Karlach most of the time, so many of them are redundant. We can dig for something that sneaks us past a blocker (the aforementioned Trailblazer's Boots, or Skeleton Key, or Rogue's Passage) or something like Fiendlash or Blazing Sunsteel.

Pretty much everything else is there in support of suiting up Karlach and sending him trundling off to battle. Auriok Windwaker, Brass Squire, Magnetic Theft, and Kor Outfitter all help us reducing Equip costs, which is especially awesome when we get an early Kaldra Compleat or whatever. (Imagine dropping that on turn six, then dropping Kor Outfitter to Equip it for nothing. That sounds hilarious.) Puresteel Paladin is great in any deck with lots of Equipment. Leonin Shikari and Sigarda's Aid give us some flexibility to move things around at Instant speed, and Treasure Hunter and Remember the Fallen can get us stuff back from the 'yard in the event someone decides to break one of our toys.

We do have a few of the new Creature Equipments which Reconfigure rather than Equip; remember this when triggering Puresteel Paladin (they do) or Equipping for a discount (they don't).

There are a number of cards we're not running, of which Stoneforge Mystic is the flagship. If you want to do Equipment tutors, they're out there and go for it, but to me, smoothing out the bumps takes away the point of a deck like this. If every single time you play this you run the table over in six turns, no one will want to play against it again. If they don't know how it's going to go, it'll be appealing to play against again, because maybe they can figure out a way to race you! Our one exception is Fighter Class, which is truly there for Level 2. I recommend getting something innocuous or more in a support role if you play it, like Champion's Helm or Goblin Morningstar.

We're also not running any of the Swords of X and Y. This is a choice for budget. I know when I see decks which cavalierly throw in $30/$50/$100 cards, I'm less interested in the rest of the deck. I'd rather present a deck much more accessible to everyone at any budget; if you've got a Sword of Fire and Ice you want to throw in there, get down with your bad self.

If you really wanted to add some ways to interact, it's easy enough in this color pairing. Board wipes and point removal abound. Make sure you add Chained to the Rocks, because that card is awesome and you don't get to play it all that often. Also, it's worth noting this deck basically rolls over to Maze of Ith and any Pacifism-style removal. C'est la vie, I say, but if one were to add some answers to this deck, one should probably start there.

The deck runs about $230, but you can cut it down by a lot by simply replacing Champion's Helm with Bearded Axe. Do a couple more basics in place of the choice lands (which should still be fine) and run the Equipment you have; it can be a $100 deck.

Would you play this, or something like it? High risk/high reward, very little interaction? What are your thoughts on pushing the game along by actively attacking and doing damage? Let us know in the comments!

Thanks for reading.


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