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Convertible Commander: Sweet Child of Mine

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Most of my friends here at Cool Stuff Inc have spent the last few weeks focused on Guilds of Ravnica. Jason Alt talked about using cards solely from the various Ravnica blocks. Abe Sargent’s most recent budget commander deck was a Selesnya commander from Guilds. Stephen Johnson created an excellent Ramos, Dragon Engine deck leveraging the power of the Izzet enchantment everyone is talking about, Thousand-Year Storm. I got in on the party with an all-in-on-the-attack-phase Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice deck. Guilds is awesome, and it makes sense we’ve been writing about it! There are a ton of great cards and we’re going to want to play with them for a while. Something tells me many of you are dealing with playgroups deep into brewing with the new commanders or just with the spicy new cards.

Let’s figure out how to beat the snot out of them.

The guilds of Ravnica and the two-color pairs are different things. In Guilds, Golgari is a graveyard-loving, creature-heavy guild. bg often works the graveyard, but there’s also much more to the color pair. There are creatureless bg decks, ones that don’t care about their ‘yards, control decks, aggro decks, infect decks… all in this color pair. Let’s use Golgari’s focus on the graveyard against them. We can fight Golgari not by combating everything a bg deck can possibly do, but rather by shutting down what “Golgari” decks do. We can do the same thing with all five of the guilds from Guilds of Ravnica. So, let’s hate them all out. Bring your Izonis, your Niv-Mizzets, your Etratas. We’ll smash them all.

Let’s look at the strategies we’re going to hate out and how we want to do that, then we’ll put together the decklist at the end.

One of the biggest spaces being toyed with in Guilds is the graveyard. Golgari is well-known for its graveyard shenanigans, mostly having to do with creatures, while Izzet picked up Jump-start, allowing the ur guild to cast instants and sorceries out of the ‘yard. Meanwhile, Dimir helps them both with surveil. So we’re going to want a bunch of ways to mess with the graveyards of our opponents. Fortunately, we’ve got options.

Nihil Spellbomb
Tormod's Crypt

Nihil Spellbomb and Tormod's Crypt both nuke a single yard, while Relic of Progenitus and Crook of Condemnation send every yard into oblivion. (It’s worth remembering all three are searchable with Trinket Mage and recurrable a bunch of different ways with spells like Eternal Witness or Glissa, the Traitor.) They’re good options. Bojuka Bog is a near auto-include in decks running Black. Agent of Erebos is a Bog on a stick, plus we’ve got more enchantments, so if we can keep it on the battlefield we can mess with more ‘yards. Remorseful Cleric is a Tormod's Crypt as well. Crypt Incursion only hits the creatures, but we gain 3 life for each creature we exile, and a Golgari player will be well-and-truly stuck. Of course, Rest in Peace is the classic, blowing up every ‘yard and making sure they stay that way. Leyline of the Void is another one worth considering, and it’s especially brutal if we start with it in play.

Some of the guilds use life gain. Golgari, Selesnya, and Boros all have some lifelink in their midst, along with some more straightforward life gain. Fortunately, that’s relatively easy to stop. A spell like Skullcrack can do some work for a single turn, but we’re probably better off with more permanent ways to stop any extra life. Erebos, God of the Dead does a sweet job, plus it lets us draw some cards. Everlasting Torment is a nasty twist on Erebos which forces all damage to be done as Wither, putting -1/-1 counters on things. Leyline of Punishment also makes it impossible to prevent damage. Forsaken Wastes is an old school card which can serve as a bit of a win-condition while preventing any further gains, though Tainted Remedy is probably better, because it really makes them pay.

Everlasting Torment
Speaking of Everlasting Torment, the same three guilds have a little +1/+1 counter thing going on. Torment helps counteract that with its counter-counters, but we’ve got more than that. How cool is Kulrath Knight? They can put all the counters they want on their things. Then those creatures just can’t attack or block, and the Knight doesn’t care if the counters are positive or negative! It’s worth mentioning Vampire Hexmage, Hex Parasite, and Thief of Blood here, all of which are additional options. Kulrath Knight just has so much style.

Selesnya and Boros both want to make creatures and attack, too. Selesnya tends to make a bunch of tokens, while Boros prefers to give combat advantages like first strike and flying, and both like to pump up their smaller creatures. We can do something about that. Aether Flash is wonderful here, dealing 2 damage to every creature that enters the battlefield; 1/1 soldiers and 2/2 knights just writhe, painfully, and die. Peacekeeper locks everyone out of combat. Angelic Arbiter forces them to choose between doing things and attacking. Then there are a bunch of Propaganda effects, which force some sort of payment to attack. Archangel of Tithes is wonderful because she helps both attacking and blocking, although her casting cost can be tricky for anything other than Mono-White. But Norn's Annex, Ghostly Prison, and Collective Restraint all do good work. And finally, there’s Infest. Actually, there’s not a lot of reason to run Infest because there are better versions: Massacre, Golden Demise, and Flaying Tendrils all give all creatures -2/-2 with an additional ability. And Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, of course, ruins the day of most token players.

Lots of decks like to draw cards, but the Dimir and Izzet certainly excel at it. That’s annoying. Let’s make their genius dragon and all his friends pay for it. Fate Unraveler seems like a good place to start. Underworld Dreams should also cause them some trouble. Stack that with Spiteful Visions and it starts being a lot of damage. Phyrexian Tyranny is hilarious here, especially if those other two are out. How much damage will they take to draw a card? Or will they just use up all their mana? And of course, that much hated Legend is here: Nekusar, the Mindrazer should make them think twice about drawing any extra cards.

Of course all these decks like to cast spells, but Izzet especially likes to fool around with Instants and Sorceries. So, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, anyone? Glowrider, Vryn Wingmare, and Thorn of Amethyst all do the same thing: make noncreature spells cost 1 more to cast. Stacking a few of those abilities should slow their roll a bit.

A few more things round out our Ravnihate deck. A couple of Wrath of God effects are always good; sometimes our Infests won’t kill everything, and it’s worth it, plus if there’s an anthem effect on the board we may not be able to kill all the tokens without killing the creature giving the anthem. Several counterspells, including Counterspell and Flusterstorm, are here, mostly to fight Izzet but those are pretty useful everywhere. We also have several ways to shuffle our graveyard back into our library. We’ve got three Archetypes for some common keywords. Our ‘yard hate is often pointed at everyone including ourselves, and while we have a good amount of redundancy, we may need to be able to reuse our things. If we can get our ‘yard back before blowing up the world, it’ll be a good day for us. Finally, there’s a quartet of tutors here; sometimes we need to go hunting for a specific tool, and this is the best way to do it.

Of course, we need a good leader to run this pile. How about a giant screaming baby that hates everything? Good? Good.

Child of Alara | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper


Nether Void
Three cards really want to be here but are so expensive I didn’t include them in list. (Robby Rothe talked about this very issue in his most recent 99 Problems.) They’re worth mentioning, though, if you have a massive collection you started in 1993 or are a secret billionaire. They are Invoke Prejudice, In the Eye of Chaos, and Nether Void. All three increase the cost of spells, and would be wonderful in the deck. But, um, Nether Void is like $450, and if you’re going to spend $450 on Magic, I can only, in good conscience, recommend you buy a bunch of shock lands and fetches, not a single copy of Nether Void.

Right, the mana base! This is an expensive one, using fetches and shocks, along with a single basic land of each type for Terramorphic Expanse and Evolving Wilds. There is no need to do a mana base like this for a five-color deck. I have a Karona, the False God Ally Tribal deck I still play which uses the tapped tri-lands and works fine. This is going to be a little more consistent, and will a bit more reliably get you the colors you need when you need them.

Then again, this is more of a thought-experiment than anything else. I suppose if five friends you play Commander with have all built decks which play new Guilds commanders exactly in-line with their themes, it might be worth it, but mostly we’re exploring how adding certain cards to your builds can punish people for trying to win in only one way. Playgroup getting draw happy? Make them pay for it. Too much graveyard? Nuke ‘em. Lifegain getting you down? Shut it down. Answers are out there. We just have to be willing to look and carve out the space to play them.

Which is why there’s no conversion. The idea here is to take what you need and convert your own decks. Not facing any token decks? Take out the Infests and run something else!

What are your favorite hate cards? Please share in the comments! We all benefit from each other’s best finds.

Now get out there and hate your friends. No, wait, that’s not right. Beat the tar out of them! No, still don’t have it… just don’t let them win.

Thanks for reading.