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Convertible Commander: Athreos, God of Passage


Athreos, God of Passage
Three things happened in the last few weeks (while Abe and I have been working on our Budget Commander Boot Camp) which led me to want to write this particular article.

First off, at our regular Commander night recently I played against my buddy James’s Athreos, God of Passage deck. We used that as the basis of a Convertible Commander deck some time ago. His is a Cleric tribal deck which, once it gets rolling, is really resilient. It reminds me, in some ways, of the Marchesa, the Black Rose deck we built way back during 26 Decks in a Year, which I went on to build in real life and still regularly play. There’s just something about stuff dying but not actually going away which makes little, normally inconsequential creatures scary.

Second, Mark Rosewater did one of his more recent “Drive to Works” on Guildpact, the second set in the original Ravnica block. Guildpact, among other things, was our first introduction to the Orzhov Syndicate. As my friends know all too well (as does anyone who reads these articles), my favorite way to play may be Mono-Black, but it’s very closely followed by Orzhov. It got me thinking about the shape for the Athreos deck built for today’s column. Specifically, I liked that MaRo talked about how the theme behind the Orzhov deck is a “bleeder” deck, where you slowly pick away at your opponent. Extort, the Orzhov mechanic from Return to Ravnica block, took that theme and made it the guild mechanic.

Finally, I played a game with my non-budget King Macar, the Gold-Cursed control deck. I ultimately won by using Liliana of the Dark Realms’ -3 ability to give King Macar +14/+14 (Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth was helping), used Rogue's Passage on Macar, and killed my last opponent with Commander damage. The thing was, we’d been at it for quite a while, and I was just picking away at them because no one would play a creature. I had a board state which would let me respond to almost everything by exiling it, so no one bothered. It was a hard-fought win, and I was reminded yet again how much I love to build decks which don’t really win, but instead try not to lose and figure out how to win later.

While I want to go back to Convertible Commander, I’d like to do a few decks with no budget. I won’t go stupid crazy — original duals and the like won’t be included. Because we recently did an Athreos deck with an Optionboard, this is really a third version, so we’re building it alone, but the next few articles will still use optionboard technology, just . . .  no cost restriction for now.

Athreos, God of Passage ? Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

Cabal Coffers
This deck is trying to walk the line between controlling, bleeding, and being fun to pilot while not being completely miserable for the opponents. They’re likely to get annoyed, sure, but it has enough fun elements (rather than laser-beam focus) that it shouldn’t feel unbeatable.

The gist is simple. We’re going to play out dudes. We’ve got some enchantments to back us up (Black Market, for what it’s worth, was the final cut, and I’m not really sure the Treasury Thrull that stayed in is better). We’re going to make some mana (Expedition Map should probably get either Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth or Cabal Coffers, just to get that going) and start Extorting as early and often as possible. We’ll also deploy Athreos, pretty much always on turn three unless our lands misbehave, so we can block early attacks and either get the blocker back or make them pay.

Eventually we’ll start playing some key pieces. Something like Baleful Force will draw us a ton of cards. Grave Pact means when we chump block, everyone else will sacrifice, too. (Combine with Fleshbag Marauder for extra fun. Play it, then sac it to itself. Everyone else sacrifices two creatures, and you get to look at someone and say “do you want to pay 3 life?”). We probably aren’t attacking, just trying to stay alive while, well, bleeding everyone the whole time.

Then we’ll wipe the board. Merciless Eviction is kind of a nonbo with Athreos (since it exiles, we won’t get the trigger, plus it’ll actually hit him if he’s a real boy), but it’s a great reset button for a Superfriends player or someone playing Sharuum the Hegemon. The rest of our wipes just blow up the world, and we’re likely to get at least some of our creatures back. If we only get back the Basilica Screechers, though, and not the Harvester of Souls, we’ve got Beacon of Unrest and Obzedat's Aid to snag back the key pieces we really want. We can even use Immortal Servitude to grab back a few important things (imagine hitting it on 6 with Massacre Wurm, Sun Titan, and Ob Nixilis, Unshackled in the ‘yard?!). Dusk // Dawn makes an appearance; it’ll hit a good amount of our things, yes, but that’s okay because it’ll cost them to keep us off those creatures, and Dawn will return any little guys who died early back when our opponents were willing to pay the life.

Grave Pact
We’ve got a few sacrifice outlets just in case we feel like making someone make a choice or to pair with our Grave Pacts. Round it out with a few answers, some mana rocks, a few Gods, and a bunch more card draw and we’ve got a deck.

This, like most Black-based control decks, is going to be tricky to play. Sweat every choice, and use answers very carefully. Done right, everyone will look up and realize their life totals are in the teens and ours is somewhere mid-70s, and no one noticed it happening.

Black Market really is worth considering. So is Aetherflux Reservoir (I lost to that when James played his version). Pestilence is certainly on theme, and no one ever sees it coming. Blind Hunter, too, is one I have a soft spot for but Haunt is just weird and it’s not strong enough. Profound Journey almost made the cut, and for a more reanimator version would be great. Oversold Cemetery is one of those cards which can be amazing, but only if there’s not much graveyard hate in your meta. Exsanguinate might make a good finisher, though people tend to get grumpy. One way around that might be to make them grumpy with a new card, Torment of Hailfire, from Hour of Devastation. It certainly makes them bleed. Finally, one of the things worth considering would be a bunch of tutors. Black has a host of them, of course, and they could take a deck like this from tricky and resilient to very difficult to beat. Tutors could mean a Massacre Wurm which comes back every turn, which is, y’know, bad for people. But tread lightly, because lots of playgroups don’t like them.

Keep your eyes open for the last couple articles in the Boot Camp (and if you haven’t, shameless plug, go check it out. It’s a series on how to use Commander to teach a brand new player how to play Magic!). In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed this offroad trek into the wild world of budgetless deck-building. What would you do to make a bleeder deck? How would you make this one bigger? Please let us all know in the comments!

Meanwhile, go take all your friends down with a million tiny cuts! Until next time.

Hour of Devastation is now available for preorder at!