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Are You Not Entertained?


"Are you not entertained?!" - Maximus, Gladiator

Today's Commander is an entertainer, but much like Maximus, who was in the business of killing, not entertainment, I think we can find a way to make sure our opponents are surely not entertained.

Baeloth Barrityl, Entertainer
Raised by Giants

I played a game just this week where Goading was a key player in how the game turned out. A lot of decks look to win in the red zone, even at more competitive levels, and Goad can make certain much of that damage goes somewhere else. Baeloth forcing everyone else's Creatures to attack each other, and not us, is quite powerful. But as you've figured out, Power 2 isn't particularly high; a lot of Creatures in a regular game of Commander will be bigger than that. Enter our Background. By making Baeloth's Power 10, suddenly the vast majority of Creatures on the Battlefield will be flying around whacking each other. Along the way, there will be blocking and creatures dying, generating Treasure tokens for us. The Commander and the Background together make something of a Goad Pillow Fort, because as long as there are two other players in the game, all the attacking will aim away from us.

This list is quite focused. Let's take a look.

Are You Not Entertained? | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

We're going to spend some time talking about mana. This deck has a lot of it. I've gone over before why I think 40 lands is the standard starting place for a Commander deck, and I stand by that. If you're willing to risk being mana screwed, by all means, cut some lands. I hate being mana screwed, so I want to hit my drops. That means running 40 lands. We'll make use of it. We've got a few dual lands, most of which come into play untapped; we can play a tapped land on turn one, but after that we really want to have a few drops where the land isn't tapped, so we can't run too many. We do have a couple utility lands; Bonders' Enclave will almost always be live for us (with a 10/10 Commander and all), Labyrinth of Skophos and Mystifying Maze are places to dump some of that mana in the event something slips through our Goad fort (or we're one of the last two players in the game). Kessig Wolf Run is another great mana sink and a way we can win the game. Arcane Lighthouse gives us access to our opponents' Hexproofed Creatures, and Homeward Path keeps us from getting wrecked by someone determined to steal our stuff. Reliquary Tower is useful, too, when we draw a boat load of cards.

Nature's Lore
Vastwood Surge

But the real key to this deck is the full 20 additional ways we have to make mana. We have ten - ten! - ways of adding extra mana to our pool at two or less mana. Sol Ring, of course, but also several two-mana rocks and a couple of two-mana land fetch spells (note both Nature's Lore and Farseek can get a dual land with the types "Forest" or "Mountain). We then have an additional ten spells which get us even more land, most of which fetch two. Exploding Vegetation, Cultivate, and Vastwood Surge get us two lands each, in some combination of Hand and Battlefield. (Druid of the Emerald Grove isn't a sure thing, but seems worth the risk. About half the time it's a Cultivate with a Grizzly Bear attached.) That's 60 ways to make mana in the deck, which is a lot.

The thing is, we really want to get ahead of the table on mana. The hope is we play a ramp spell on turn two, then another one on turn three, so we play our Commander on turn four and our Background on turn five, with mana left to spare. We get as close as we can to guaranteeing that by playing a lot of ways to do exactly that. If you see a hand with three lands and four ramp spells, especially if one of the ramp spells is two or less, you keep that hand. Our Commander/Background Fort will keep us alive with plenty of time to figure out how to win. On the other hand, if you see a hand with zero ramp, ship it. One in every five cards is a ramp spell, so it's worth it to mull down and have at least one. If you can't cast Baeloth at least one turn early, get a new hand.

Once our Fort is up, we can take our time. Drawing cards is always useful, so we have several spells which let us draw equal to the highest Power we have, which will often be ten but sometimes even more. This is where Thought Vessel and Reliquary Tower come in, because Soul's Majesty for 10 will almost always force us to discard otherwise. That's okay, though, because we can discard excess ramp. Momentous Fall and Life's Legacy may seem a little strange, but we have enough large creatures with which to win the game that we can afford to sacrifice one for a massive new grip. Momentous Fall is also a wonderful response to a Wrath of God, because nothing says "I'm about to rebuild" like ten new cards.

Soul's Majesty
Momentous Fall
Life's Legacy

We also have a couple of little ways to draw. Arcane Encyclopedia and Seer's Sundial are both good ways to use extra mana, and Trading Post turns our Treasure into cards, as does Destructive Digger. Ohran Frostfang allows us to use the fact most players won't have blockers to draw some extra cards, and Owlbear Shepherd gives us a free one just for having our Fort in place.

Because we're likely to have a few extra Treasure tokens kicking around, we may as well have a few ways to use them. Breya's Apprentice isn't card draw, but it does let us do that Impulse-style draw. (Professional Face-Breaker does the same.) The Apprentice also can buff up our Commander in the event someone decides to have an 11/11 or something we can't otherwise Goad. Capenna Express is a fun train we can Crew with a single Treasure. (Plus, how fun is that flavor? You pay the fare and the train goes.) Treasure Map can turn into a card-drawing machine, and even if it doesn't, the Scry is helpful. Greater Gargadon is a hilarious turn-one play and our Treasures can speed it along. Stimulus Package can make us an army of Citizens.

We can also take care of more challenging threats through the Fight mechanic. Take a look at Prizefight. Because we'll almost always have a bigger Creature, we can use Fight spells to clear the board of that last remaining blocker or something which will otherwise hurt us badly. We also have a few Naturalize effects to get rid of an actual Propaganda or other annoying Artifact or Enchantment.

We are running Hellkite Tyrant. There's a possibility we could just win the game with Treasure tokens, and it's a big Flyer, so it plays double duty in our deck.

On that note, we have a few big Fliers and Tramplers. The idea here is we'll have a ton of mana and no one will be attacking us, but they will be attacking, so creatures will be tapped and we'll have a relatively high life total. After we get set up, we can play out one (or maybe two, depending on the situation) huge Creatures and, well, kill people with them. If everyone's been attacking each other for three or four turns, there's a good chance Triplicate Titan will just end the game for someone. Ghalta, Primal Hunger, too. Or Earthquake Dragon. The key is just to play one or two; don't over-extend into a Wrath of God or something. Just play out one or two huge guys and time your killing blows for when the person will actually die. If one of our Creatures dies, no big deal. Play another one. Do note you can play Panglacial Wurm off a ramp spell, even if the ramp spell fails to find. If you draw Rampant Growth but you've already pulled all the basics, go ahead and search anyway, and play your 9/5 Creature straight from your library!

Triplicate Titan
Earthquake Dragon
Ghalta, Primal Hunger

I considered running Emrakul, the Promised End, but ultimately decided I liked some of the other ones better. It'd certainly be a solid choice. And the cost of this deck comes down substantially if you replace Ancient Copper Dragon with, well, just about any other Dragon. Nothing wrong with swapping that one out for a Steel Hellkite or something.

What do you think of a Gruul Pillowfort deck? Have you used Goad in Commander, or had it used against you? Let us know in the comments!

Thanks for reading.

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