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26 Decks in a Year, Episode 26 — Domain


I just wish the last deck of the series could be something . . . fabulous.

That was my editor’s response when I pitched my idea for the final—five-color—deck of 26 Decks in a Year.

“Depends on what you consider fabulous, I suppose. Does fabulous have to mean “overpowered and likely to win most games it plays?” Or can fabulous mean “a weird combo deck with a backup plan of a silly tribe?””

We don’t have to optimize in Commander if we don’t want to. We don’t have to jam Sol Ring in every deck, and we can enjoy our friends’ wins as much as our own. And we can love a deck that won’t win every game it plays but that is a ton of fun to pilot.

Karona, False God

I was almost certain from the beginning of this series that, when we made it to five-color, it would be Maze's End. It’s hilarious, it’s challenging to pull off, it can be disrupted, and, most importantly, it can only be done with a five-color commander.

Maze's End
There’s not a lot to the combo. Eleven lands make up the bulk of it—most of which nicely fix our mana—and there are a few spells to search for Maze's End itself. That’s it. Needless to say, that does not a Commander deck-build.

There is certainly a good control-deck option. Take a look Gabriel Nassif’s recent creatureless Standard build, and it’ll make sense—Fog or kill all the creatures, play ’Walkers as defense, draw a ton of cards, and gain a ton of life. But in Commander, we can do that in practically any color combination, and frankly, we can win with much simpler combinations of cards.

There are a few tribes that want five-color. Slivers is one, but Slivers are really powerful, super-obvious, and, frankly, overdone (not to mention expensive). Allies, though, are sort of Slivers-light; they affect each other but aren’t quite as powerful, they still do neat stuff, they’re in all five colors, and we have a set coming out this fall with new ones—so why not start a pile that will let us add the new Allies?

It would be easy to go heavy green and ramp like crazy. That’s rarely a bad idea, and more ramp may be good here. This build, however, just aims to hit its land drops and make sure it finds its colors, which isn’t always easy. We have our 10 Guildgates, of course, and one Maze's End. We also have all five wedge tri-lands from Khans of Tarkir and all five shard tri-lands from Shards of Alara. The lesser known tri-lands are the lair lands from Planeshift. They come into play untapped, but require a land be returned to hand. We started with all five, but testing proved the bounce was too disruptive early, so we have two of them. Command Tower, Rupture Spire, and Transguild Promenade make all our colors. We blew the rest of our mana budget on three of the old-school filter lands: Darkwater Catacombs, Mossfire Valley, and Skycloud Expanse. Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree and Kher Keep round out our nonbasics; plus, we have thirteen basic lands for things like Burnished Hart and so everything doesn’t come into play tapped.

We may as well use blue draw spells because blue certainly does it best. Rhystic Study is never bad. Mulldrifter is great, better with Phyrexian Reclamation, and best on a Mimic Vat. Sea Gate Loremaster taps to draw a bunch. Rogue's Gloves and Bident of Thassa both reward us for attacking. Green gets in on this action with Momentous Fall, which is awesome in response to a removal spell and not bad when we just cast it. And Disciple of Bolas is strong, even if it only kills an outclassed Mulldrifter or whatever.

We never want to stop working toward our Maze's End combo. We probably want to keep that fact quiet as long as possible—depending on the draw, that’s easier some times than others—but we should be assembling the Guildgates whenever we can and preparing to win the game with Maze's End. We have Expedition Map, Tempt with Discovery, Reap and Sow, Realm Seekers, and Crop Rotation to search out the End, and we have Gatecreeper Vine to find gates. (Crop Rotation can also be used to win—if we manage to find all ten Guildgates without Maze's End, we can Crop Rotation at the end of opponent’s turn, put Maze's End in play, untap, activate, and win (giving opponents fewer opportunities to respond). Grim Discovery and Cartographer will both return a Maze's End that was hit by a Tectonic Edge or whatever, as will Obzedat's Aid—though that one can return a lot of nifty things. It may take twelve or fifteen turns to get it together, but then we just win, unlike decks that eliminate one opponent at a time.

Meanwhile, however, we have a whole bunch of Allies that threaten, cause trouble, and answer things, all at the same time. A card like Hagra Diabolist is nasty, as is Turntimber Ranger. Both those cards can get out of hand and sometimes just kill an opponent. Graypelt Hunter is probably the best one that only gets +1/+1 counters, but it can suddenly be huge—just like Oran-Rief Survivalist or Hada Freeblade. Talus Paladin can gain us a lot of life, and Joraga Bard, Highland Berserker, and Seascape Aerialist make combat nightmarish for our opponents. Vastwood Animist keeps adding to the board, and Kazuul Warlord makes sure even the littlest Ally eats his spinach.

Tuktuk Scrapper
Tuktuk Scrapper hunts down nasty artifacts and make their controllers pay for them. Bala Ged Thief gives us a peek and lets us put someone’s best card in the ’yard. Outside the Ally tribe, Acidic Slime, Reclamation Sage, and Indrik Stomphowler destroy troubling permanents, and Big Game Hunter shoots down someone’s fattest dude. Shattering Pulse is a great way to kill problem artifacts. Joetun Grunt is a nifty solution to graveyard decks—someone mills, and we put it back—or, alternatively, we put our fallen brethren back into our library to be drawn again. Duneblast leaves us with the best board state, and Merciless Eviction solves a lot of problems, with options depending on what’s going on in the game.

A bunch of the Allies have specific and really fun abilities. Agadeem Occultist steals from people’s graveyards. Jwari Shapeshifter will be whichever Ally we need it to be at the time. Ondu Cleric gains us a bunch of life. Then, we have some Changelings, which serve as additional allies, so we are able to activate abilities even without another Ally. They also benefit from any creature type chosen if an opponent does gain control of our commander, while Amoeboid Changeling can deny the bonus from an attacker or grant it to a blocker. Mirror Entity is particularly important here—if someone leaves himself or herself open, that card can win the game. Karona is a weird Overrun for most of our creatures; plus, we have a couple of ways to sacrifice the fraudulent deity so we don’t have to share the ability. Erratic Portal is slick—we can bounce Karona on our own turn and not pay the extra mana, and no one can stop us. The Portal also lets us reuse other Allies if we want.

Rite of Replication
Phyrexian Reclamation brings back our best guys. And Mimic Vat is bonkers here with almost every creature we have, though the Allies with the really nasty abilities are particularly fun. Rite of Replication can cause absolute mayhem with Ally triggers; imagine casting that on Murasa Pyromancer! Cauldron of Souls is a fun way to save the team, especially when a bunch of them will cancel out the -1/-1 counters they pick up.

Finally, we have a pair of enchantments that can really change how things play out. Conspiracy and Xenograft both let us make every creature we control an Ally. This means Knight-Captain of Eos, in addition to being a helpful Fog effect, puts three Ally triggers on the stack. Kher Keep and Vitu-Ghazi can activate our Allies. A Big Game Hunter on a Mimic Vat will trigger our Allies as well. And perhaps most importantly, it means the Wolves Turntimber Ranger creates are Allies—so they trigger Turntimber Ranger, making more Wolves, which are still Allies—infinite Wolf-Allies (Ally-Wolves? Wallies?)! That’s good enough to warrant a copy of Hammer of Purphoros for the haste. It’s also worth noting it also goes infinite with every other Ally—the Pyromancer will do infinite damage to creatures, Ondu Cleric will gain infinite life, Graypelt Hunter will gain infinite +1/+1 counters, and Hagra Diabolist will make our opponents lose infinite life.

Karona, False God ? Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

  • Commander (0)

As always, we could easily spend more money. Knight of the Reliquary and Weathered Wayfarer are both very strong and help the Maze's End combo along. Gavony Township puts more counters on our creatures, as does Master Biomancer, which is fine but may be even better come fall. Venser, the Sojourner would be good, too—blinking Allies in and out seems pretty good. A tutor like Beseech the Queen can go find Maze's End even without any Swamps. Better lands are also always good—I don’t know that it wants fetches and shocks, but more filter lands would probably be good things.

Knight of the Reliquary
Weathered Wayfarer

This deck should be a blast to play. We have this low, constant hum of the Maze's End combo, ticking down to the end of the game. Meanwhile, we have all this wonderful synergy among the various creatures in our deck, wreaking havoc over the battlefield with the various triggers. We’ll never completely be in control, but frankly, where’s the fun in that? Just play lands, cast spells, and try to get there. You’ll be surprised how often this deck pulls just the answer you need.

Can Allies be contenders in Commander? Is it worth it to set up a deck like this in preparation for our return to Zendikar? Finally, have you enjoyed the series? Any other thoughts?

Fabulous decks are all in the eyes of the beholder. This one may not be the most powerful or consistent, but it’s funny, synergistic, and not someone you see every day. Plus, it’s cheap! I call that fabulous.

Total cost: $74.83

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