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Convertible Commander: Lord Windgrace


Lord Windgrace
About a year ago, I was flipping through one of my binders and I noticed I had a bunch of powerful cards I wasn't playing. I started my column-writing career as a budget deck-builder, and while I've moved away from hard budgets, I still build with a thought to cost (no original duals, or even shock/fetch lands, in my builds). I also am a champion of "fair" play; not that I mind power, but I generally want to build decks which will be fun for everyone at the table, not just me.

Looking through my colorless rares, though, I started thinking: why do I have this collection if I never play with it? Most of the time, my playgroup is casual and not overly competitive, but every once in a while we bring the heat. If that's the case, it's okay for me to have a deck which plays a powerful, unfair, unfun game intending to win. I just won't play it all that often, but at least some of these powerful cards will get a chance to see some play. So I built a Narset, Enlightened Master Superfriends deck. I told my friends they would have one turn to get rid of her, and if they didn't, they'd probably lose the game. On turn five of her first game, I had ramped once to six mana and played her. On turn six, I attacked and turned over my first four cards, which gave me one extra combat step, one extra turn, and my first planeswalker. I continued taking the rest of the turns until getting infinite combat steps with Aggravated Assault and Sword of Feast and Famine. I don't play it much, and it doesn't always win when I do, but it's a fun, heat-filled deck.

Thus began my love of the Superfriends archetype. Narset doesn't need an optionboard because, while some of the deck is consistent (take extra turns and attack steps to get free Narset triggers), the way she wins is different every time. Sometimes a weird combination of planeswalker activations gets there, sometimes it's infinite attack steps and Narset beatdown, sometimes it's something else. I never know how it's going to go.

The bummer about her, though, is two-fold: first, she misses Black and Green, which have some really fun 'walkers, and second, most of the Red 'walkers really don't belong in her spell-heavy, tricky shell.

Fast forward to our most recent slate of Planeswalker Commanders. It was Abe Sargent, fellow writer on this website, occasional collaborator, and all-around super-positive guy who pointed out how Lord Windgrace, built correctly, basically says this: "over the next three turns, draw four extra cards and put two extra lands on the battlefield." Bingo.

Lord Windgrace | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

There are 61 legal planeswalkers in Jund. We probably shouldn't just run them all plus 39 lands and call it a deck, though if that's your thing, go for it. Instead, we're looking for non-parasitic abilities which are strong on their own or with other planeswalkers. (A parasitic ability is one that requires another specific group of cards to be useful: Nissa Revane really needs Elves to be useful, for example, and Angrath, Minotaur Pirate needs Pirates. Koth of the Hammer, too, is a bummer, because that guy is cool but really wants a ton of Mountains to be any good, and that's hard for a 3-color deck.)

In order to maximize Windgrace's first ability, we're also going to need a lot of lands. Besides, we're often going to have a couple of 'walkers in our hand we'd like to cast, and having lots of lands on the battlefield will be really helpful with that, so we're going to run 50. You read that correctly. Half of this deck is land. That gives us a wonderful chance of having one at any given time to discard to his ability, plus having one (or more) to play on each of our turns. Don't worry about it, though, because everything else we're playing is so powerful it'll make up for fewer action spells. We also don't worry if our lands go to the graveyard, because we can get them back with our commander, so we're running all the slow fetches (like Bad River) and Terramorphic Expanse/Evolving Wilds. The two Bicycle lands we can run (Canyon Slough and Sheltered Thicket) are here, too, because we can cycle them for a card and get them back later. Blighted Fen and Woodland both have powerful abilities which seem good if we can reuse them, plus we have a couple of ways to destroy nonbasic lands in case something just needs to go. We include a ton of color fixing lands, with just enough basics to give us targets when we search and make sure we hit that fourth or fifth land drop untapped to play Windgrace on time.

A small suite of cards lets us put more lands on the battlefield than normal or play lands from the graveyard. Burgeoning is probably the most silly if we play it in the first couple of turns; with this many lands in our deck it's conceivable we'll play our commander on turn two in a four-person game if we've got it turn one. Wayward Swordtooth, Exploration, and Azusa, Lost but Seeking all give us additional land drops, while Ramunap Excavator lets us use those extra drops to play from the 'yard. All of these are helpful to power out our expensive spells and make use of our extra cards from Lord Windgrace.

When the commander draws cards, we often don't need more additional draw than that. The hope is, no later than turn five, we'll be drawing an extra two cards per turn, taking a break every now and again to put a couple of lands we've discarded back onto the battlefield. Some of our other 'walkers draw us cards, too, so keep an eye out for abilities like that and how to stack them to get the best value.

Black Sun's Zenith
One of the problems with running this many planeswalkers is they're often susceptible to attack. There are two ways to protect them: wall off and block or kill whatever's attacking. This deck looks to do the second; several low-cost kill spells are here to give us cheap ways to keep attacking creatures off our Superfriends' backs. If your playgroup fancies indestructible creatures, consider switching a couple of the kill spells out for Vraska's Contempt and Tragic Slip (and possibly running Black Sun's Zenith). A few mass removal spells round out the package. That said, we can't reliably stop an onslaught from three or four other players gunning for our 'walkers, so some part of us is just counting on attrition. If we have three, four, or even five planeswalkers on the battlefield, it'll be pretty tough to get rid of them all through attacking.

Maze of Ith and its newer sibling, Mystifying Maze, might be good here. When they're on the battlefield, people notice and don't bother attacking, which might keep our 'walkers alive a bit longer. The problem is the color requirements of the deck: most of the spells require more than one color to cast. After testing, if it seems the deck can handle another land which taps for 1 or doesn't tap for mana at all, they might be worth the slot.

Finally, we've got a small package of cards which help our Superfriends. The Chain Veil, of course, and a few Proliferate cards (including Contagion Engine, a great mana sink), and - ahem - Doubling Season. You may know I HATE that card, precisely for the reason it's here. No one playing it is doing anything nice or particularly fun. But in this case, we aren't trying to be nice or fun; instead, we're trying to win with planeswalkers, and one of the best ways to do that is to make it so most of them can ultimate the turn they come into play. That said, cutting it for anything else will both make the deck nicer to play against and lower the cost some. Another mass removal spell (hey, there's a spot for that Black Sun's Zenith!) would not be bad. But to make this deck fire on as many cylinders as possible, the Season really wants to be here.

The biggest problem is going to be winning the game. There's no obvious way. Vraska the Unseen tokens buffed up with Vivien Reid's emblem might get there eventually, as would Windgrace's cats. Angrath, the Flame-Chained can ultimate for the win if it's late enough. Garruk, Primal Hunter can make a bunch of Wurms. Liliana Vess's ultimate is a Rise of the Dark Realms, which might be able to win. Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker can beat people up in his dragon form. Vraska, Relic Seeker can set someone to 1, while Sorin Markov can do the same to 10, which often puts an opponent in a tough spot but doesn't just kill them, though that's sometimes enough for a Chandra activation to win. Winning with Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded would be pretty spectacular, because no one likes that guy but he's actually pretty good here.

That explains, however, why there's no optionboard for this Convertible Commander deck. There's no need. Optionboards help make the play experience different by creating even more variance with a small number of cards. This deck will be high variance from the very beginning, and every game will work out differently depending on which 'walkers are cast and manage to survive.

If you play this kind of deck, you probably owe it to your friends to know the cards and interactions really well so you can play quickly, because it's no fun for them if you take several minutes each turn with a deck that does not wrap things up soon.

Does Lord Windgrace have what it takes to lead a team of superheroes into battle? Will the card advantage make up for the relative slow pace? Is there a planeswalker not in here which should be? Any arguments for (or against) Doubling Season? Let us know in the comments!

Thanks for reading.

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