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Commanding Candlekeep: Durnan of the Yawning Portal


You know what most Magic players like? Value. We like it when a card punches above its weight, and we're willing to jump through hoops to wrench more value out of our cards. Tarmogoyf is a really big creature for two mana if you just build your deck right. Treasure Cruise can be an Ancestral Recall. Ghalta, Primal Hunger is a 12/12 that can cost two; Phyrexian Dreadnaught is the same for {1} (thank you, Sundial of the Infinite).

Candlekeep Sage has proven to be quite the little value engine. We can really lean into it, use it as a subtheme, or have it be there for incidental value, but no matter what, having our Commander draw us a card every time they move around is great value.

Why all this talk of value? Because in addition to drawing us cards, today's Candlekeep Commander is going to take us all the way to Valuetown.

Durnan of the Yawning Portal

A 3/3 for four is no big deal. That's a Hill Giant. These days for four mana we expect a lot more. The nice thing is, what Durnan lacks in stats he makes up for in ability, because not only is he going to extend our hand with the best creature out of our top four every time he attacks, but he's going to give that spell undaunted. In a four-person Commander pod, that means Mulldrifter is a 2/2 flier that draws us two cards for two mana. Conclave Naturalists is a Naturalize at its normal cost, but it leaves behind a 4/4. Tovolar's Huntmaster is a 6/6 which makes two 2/2 tokens... for two. That's Ghalta numbers, y'all.

Let's look at the decklist, then we'll talk through it.

Durnan EDH | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

Card Display

Pretty much every Magic deck starts with mana, so as per usual, we'll start there. Our 40 lands are present and accounted for, but we've actually got kind of an interesting situation. Normally, with a four-mana Commander, we'd lean into two-mana ramp like Arcane Signet and Rampant Growth, with the idea of getting our General out on turn three. However, because we want to play Candlekeep first, and Candlekeep is three mana, we're going to skip the two-mana ramp and just curve out naturally. We could run Sol Ring in the hopes of an explosive start, but I'd rather have another answer or great creature than count on luck, so we'll just play lands and see what happens. We do have some deck thinners to help out later; Solemn Simulacrum is a Rampant Growth stapled to a 2/2 with a cantrip, and Explorer's Scope and Sword of the Animist both will hunt lands when we attack. Considering we're likely to have Durnan die at least a few times over the course of a game, that extra mana will come in handy. Lantern of Revealing is great in any deck which plays with the top of its Library, too.

We want to take as much advantage as possible of Durnan's ability, which means we're going to play Creatures. But we're in Simic, so we can simply run creatures that draw us cards! Mulldrifter already got a shoutout, but we have a bunch more which draw us a card when they enter the battlefield or otherwise draw us extras. Garruk's Packleader will trigger a fair amount in this deck, and Aesi, Tyrant of Gyre Strait will grant us more and more value as time goes on. Aesi especially loves Sword of the Animist! Hunter's Insight is a nifty little combat trick to refill our hand. Goggles of Night does two things we want, draw and scry. In addition to the draw, we have a number of creatures which will help us stack the top of our library when they enter. Be careful! Think through what draws you have remaining as you stack so you get the creature you want on top but not in your hand, while drawing the lands and the Equipment.

If you look, you'll notice all the creatures have a mana value of four, five, or six. This is by design; it means most of the time, we'll be casting creatures for one, two, or three mana (Prime Speaker Zegana is an exception thanks to her colorful casting cost, but she's worth it). What this means is we're going to get six drops for three and five drops for two. We'll be able to build a great board state much more quickly than other decks, and we'll be able to threaten serious attacks with it as we go along. Many of the card-drawing and Scrying Creatures are Sphinxes, which happen to fly, and many big Green creatures have trample, so we've got some options kicking around for evasion, too. Then there's Earthshaker Giant, who Overruns our entire team for three mana and leaves behind a 6/6 with trample. Old One Eye at least gives all our dudes Trample and is a reasonable threat on its own. Let's face it - we're a Stompy deck. We're beating face.

But that doesn't mean we can't deal with some issues the table might bring. Green very nicely brings Artifact and Enchantment removal with Indrik Stomphowler and the like. We've also got some great fighters, of which Kogla, the Titan Ape is the best. (Also Durnan is a Human, so we can make Kogla indestructible and draw a card by returning our Commander to hand, which saves us the Commander tax!) I'm also a big fan of Draining Whelk sitting over there in exile, staring at our opponents, knowing that any spell they cast can be countered for three mana and leave behind a big ol' flier.

We have a few fun creatures that do interesting stuff. Temur War Shaman seemed worth it with all the scry we have. Rampaging Baloths gets out of hand pretty quickly. But the other thing we're actually doing is running a bit of an Equipment subtheme. We have Equipment to get Durnan through (Hot Soup, Trailblazer's Boots, Prowler's Helm, and Whispersilk Cloak), plus an Aura to do the same thing (Aqueous Form). We can also make him much harder to block effectively by making him huge with something like Bone Sabres or Argentum Armor. Then if we're getting him through, we may as well stick a Scepter of Celebration or a Goggles of Night on him and get some value from the attack. And even if we don't get something to help him through, it's okay, because we'll draw when he dies and draw when we recast him.

This deck looks, to me, like an absolute blast. I love playing in the Combat Phase, and generating such silly value is delightful. This deck is also surprisingly affordable, and with just a few tweaks wouldn't be expensive at all. Very few of the pieces are essential, and there's nothing saying you can't run seven or eight-drops in the deck, so run the value Creatures you've got.

What would you want to Exile with Durnan? How would you build this deck? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading.

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