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Lore and Consequences: Dakkon vs. Piru


In an age long before the Brother's War, another rivalry sent blast waves across the course of Magic's history

Blacksmith's Skill by Jason A. Engle

We'll be dusting off quite the ancient scroll for today's tale, reaching all the way back to Legends. This set, specifically the elder dragons within, would inspire the Elder Dragon Highlander format, now better known as Commander. Few other formats so deftly blend flavor and function. Commander sees you recruit a historical figure to lead your army. But what's the connection between these legendary cards and their actual legends? It is possible to build decks in such a way that we can see these stories play out in the course of a game? Or, if we prefer to take a more active hand, meddle with the fate of our heroes and villains?

Today, we'll delve into the lore of Magic: The Gathering and fuse it with our deck-building. The resulting Frankenstein's monster will be a pair of fully playable Commander decks, complete with themes and synergies, that also recount a story from Magic's fabled past. All card and deck-building choices will serve to tell the tale, allowing you to regale your playgroup (while you simultaneously crush them).

So, join me, brave brewer, on this quest to recreate the past. And win while doing so.

Dakkon Blackblade by Richard Kane-Ferguson

Forged in blood, driven by vengeance, and on a mission to reclaim sword and soul.

Piru, the Volatile by Greg Staples

One of the last elder dragons, powerful beyond measure, but a slave to planeswalker whims

Swordsman vs. dragon. It doesn't get more classically-mythical than that. Only here, the warrior is far from heroic, and the dragon just as tragic as it is terrifying.

Our Rules

1. Function comes first:

Our mission is to design playable Commander decks that not only detail story arcs, but also seek to win the game. Mystic Forge could serve as an excellent flavor stand in for Dakkon Blackblade's blacksmith shop, but the two cards fit entirely different strategies and don't go well together. Korlash, Heir to Blackblade is a direct descendant of the big man, but calls for different deck design (Mono-Black) than his Esper ancestor.

Korlash, Heir to Blackblade

Bet this guy's real happy about the Cabal Coffers reprint in Modern Horizons 2

2. Flavor still dictates card selection:

A card's connection to Magic lore may disqualify it from this experiment. The notorious Cyclonic Rift is powerful, but also intrinsically linked to the Izzet Guild, with their logo literally stamped right onto it. Don't expect Dakkon Blackblade to wield a Sword of Kaldra. Piru, the Volatile won't fetch up fellow dragons via Sarkhan's Triumph. Cards can only reference planes/characters they're organically linked to. Depending on how much "narrative vs. competitive" matters to you personally, I leave it up to you to tinker with the builds as you see fit. Commander is all about creativity, after all.

Search for Azcanta

Arguel's Blood Fast
Growing Rites of Itlimoc

These are all directly linked to the worlds they hail from.

3. That said, if a card could exist on another plane, it's totally up for grabs:

Today's tale may not involve Mirrodin, but I see no reason for something like Lightning Greaves to be off limits. Such an equipment could feasibly exist anywhere, and the Shroud it provides is an important tool for protecting "Voltron" Commanders. We're allowing wiggle-room when picking cards that could feasibly slide into any narrative. Dragonlord's Servant could represent any old goblin paying tribute (in an attempt to not get eaten).

Dragonlord's Servant

Serve dinner without serving oneself as dinner

With our ground rules covered, let's get down to the lore!

Dakkon Blackblade, A Magic the Gathering Legend

Written by Jerry Prosser, Story by Steve Conard and Jeff Gomez

Artists: Rags Morales and Barbara Kaalberg

Our tale begins in an era after the Fall of the Thran, but long before the birth of brothers Urza and Mishra. An age of Legends, both metaphorical and literal in the case of the set name. A more primitive age, one resembling our history's Dark Ages (though Magic's The Dark wouldn't take place until centuries later). It is a time of warlords and conquerors, with humble peasants simply trying to scrape by amidst the chaos. Which leads us to our antagonist.

Geyadrone Dihada by Aleksi Briclot

The cunning planeswalker Geyadrone Dihada has gone on a rampage, overthrowing empires in her never ending quest for power. She is a classic villain. No hint of nuance or remorse. Just pure, calculating evil. Her latest victim is Carth, a city-state on the continent of Corondor (of Mangara of Corondor fame). She rules over this realm with an iron first...er, tentacle, I guess. This does not sit well with the inhabitants of the land, especially a young rebel, who attempts to assassinate the tyrant. Known as the "Boy of Carth", he'll eventually go on to greater things...

Carth the Lion

Once he grows up

With Geyadrone being a planeswalker - and mind you, at this point in the lore, planeswalkers are essentially demigods in terms of raw power - Carth's coup falls flat. The young Carth the Lion ends up in the dungeon. Things are looking bleak until his cell mate, a manic fellow only known as the Mad Monk, let's him in on a secret. If Carth the Lion truly wants to destroy Geyadrone Dihada, he'll need to turn her own weapons against her. Said weapon's name is Mr. Dakkon Blackblade.

Dakkon Blackblade

Prologue time!

Ages ago, a blacksmith of unparalleled skill (Blacksmith's Skill) was hired by Geyadrone Dihada to forge a unique sort of weapon. One that could claim souls in addition to lives. Recognizing the dormant spark residing within Dakkon, Geyadrone promised untold power in return for his services, claiming she'd make him just as powerful as she. Lured by greed, Dakkon Blackblade spent the next decade crafting his masterpiece, a dark weapon known as the Blackblade. A product of literal blood, sweat, and tears, The Blackblade acquired its soul-stealing properties via cruel craftsmanship. Dakkon Blackblade would quench the steel of the blade using the very bodies of slaves, each cooling the metal with their blood. That's over 3,500 murders to make one sword.

Blackblade Reforged

So yea, don't feel too bad for Dakkon's eventual downfall

Upon completion, Geyadrone Dihada promptly turned the sword on its creator, stealing Dakkon's shadow, and with it, his soul. Dakkon Blackblade does become a planeswalker, but one in servitude to an even darker master. Geyadrone Dihada can now summon the fallen blacksmith to fight for her at will. To make matters worse, she gives his sword away to another of her minions, a certain fan-favorite old-school Legendary.

Sol'Kanar the Swamp King

Boss battle coming up!

Back to present day, and the Mad Monk offers to teleport Carth the Lion to Geyadrone's library, where she keeps a tome that can summon Dakkon Blackblade. Carth sees his opportunity for revenge and happily accepts the offer, stealing the book and an amulet that'll prevent the blacksmith from simply turning around and tearing Carth's head off. This is a good thing, as Dakkon Blackblade makes no pretense about wanting to murder Carth the Lion after the boy summons him. The pair go after Geyadrone Dihada, who responds by summoning up Sol'Kanar the Swamp King equipped with The Blackblade. The ensuing battle sees Dakkon defeat the Grixis-aligned monarch and reclaim his sword.

Piru, the Volatile

Boss battle #2: The Dragon Couple

But things won't be that easy. Dakkon Blackblade may now have his namesake weapon back, but Geyadrone Dihada has plenty of minions left. Ones even more powerful than the mighty Sol'Kanar. She next summons Elder Dragons Chromium and Piru, the Volatile, two of the only surviving elders from the great dragon wars. Ages ago, dragons held sway over Dominaria, and it took the combined effort of all mortal races to overthrown them. The only survivors were the classic five Elder Dragons from Legends (Nicol Bolas, Arcades Sabboth, etc.) and the newly-printed Piru, the Volatile. We don't learn how these pinnacles of pure reptilian strength came to work for Geyadrone Dihada here, but it's telling of her power to sway this dragon power-couple to her side with a snap of her fingers. The pair are forced to fight for her, even though they don't really want to. Dakkon Blackblade has his work cut out for him.

Dihada's Ploy by Jason C. Engel

The final battle begins. Chromium tries to get a few hits in, but Dakkon Blackblade is able to use Blue mana to Unsummon him. One dragon down, but Dakkon is now tapped out. No more spells for him. This leaves only the trusty Blackblade to finish Piru, the Volatile. After a skirmish in the sky, Dakkon Blackblade is able to thrust his sword into the heart of Piru, severing both her life and soul. You'd think the day was won, but it's only now that Dihada's Ploy is fully realized. In an instant, she takes the soul of Piru, the Volatile for herself, greatly enhancing her already-vast power. She also slaps a summoning-seal back onto Dakkon Blackblade, allowing her to summon him at will once again. Dakkon has his blade back, but not his freedom. Geyadrone lets the swordsman and Carth the Lion walk away, revealing in the final moments that it was she who was the Mad Monk all along, manipulating Carth the Lion into freeing Dakkon so he could reclaim his sword and gift her the soul of an Elder Dragon with it.

Yikes, so bit of a dark ending, but a fittingly twisted journey for Dakkon Blackblade, who I guess would go on to have progeny of his own (Korlash, Heir to Blackblade. Speaking of which, Carth the Lion would go on to found the entire Carthalion line (Jared Carthalion), who become pivotal to future stories. So, I guess all wasn't lost. More than that, the climactic battle sets a perfect stage for our dueling Commanders!

Get ready for battle - Choose your character!

Dakkon Blackblade

Dakkon Blackblade | Commander | Matthew Lotti

Dakkon's ever-growing stats made him quite the beating in old-school Legends, but by today's power-pushed standards, he'll need some help. Dakkon Blackblade naturally lends itself to battle-cruiser style wins via Commander damage, supported by ample ramp. While the Esper colors have no trouble supporting Commanders who like attacking, it's not a Shard known for its ample ramp. Our challenge is ramping without the aid of Green. We're gonna have to get creative.

Dreamscape Artist
Admonition Angel
Trophy Mage

Blacksmith's Assistants: Starting things off with our army, we're first looking for soldiers who either help us ramp or provide ramp payoffs. To help get the land-search flowing, we bring aboard the likes of Keeper of the Accord, Dreamscape Artist, Kor Cartographer, Burnished Hart, Solemn Simulacrum, Stoic Farmer, and Boreas Charger. Weathered Wayfarer may not provide technical ramp, but its ability to fetch up any land is incredibly powerful and helpful in getting cards like Rogue's Passage to help us get Dakkon Blackblade through for lethal. Admonition Angel and Trove Warden are also on hand to help us squeeze value out of these lands.

Bastion Protector
Stonehewer Giant
Tribute Mage

On the other side of the creature-coin, because our Dakkon build is a Voltron-strategy, we'll want support creatures who can buff him up and/or help keep him alive. Bastion Protector and General's Enforcer provide direct protection, while Stoneforge Mystic, Stonehewer Giant, Trophy Mage, and Tribute Mage also help search up equipment to suit up our Commander with. Dakkon's gotta have Blackblade Reforged, after all.

Clever Impersonator
Chromium, the Mutable

Finally, we round out our creature count with the likes of Clever Impersonator doing a fine impression of a Geyadrone-disguised Mad Monk, and Chromium, the Mutable added in for storyline purposes. The fact that the latter just so happens to be a giant evasive threat is pure bonus points. Feel free to go with classic Chromium if you'd like, just don't expect the Rampage ability to do too much.

Blackblade Reforged
Profane Tutor

Stock the Armory: In addition to the natural Blackblade Reforged, Dakkon is happy to wield a variety of other weapons to increase his lethality and/or provide protection. Whispersilk Cloak, Champion's Helm, Swiftfoot Boots, and Lightning Greaves also shield Dakkon Blackblade from removal. Sword of the Animist and Sword of Hearth and Home do double-duty, ramping us while providing stat boosts to our general. Sword of Hearth and Home also has plenty of ETB creatures to take advantage of. Steelshaper's Gift, Open the Armory, and Profane Tutor are included to help grab us the weapon of choice per a given situation. Adding to our arsenal, Steel of the Godhead, Endless Scream, and Hatred can all vastly speed up the deadliness of our commander, with Fierce Guardianship, Blacksmith's Skill, and Countersquall providing added protection where needed.

Seer's Sundial
Land Tax
Eternity Vessel

Our spell suite also includes a few more cards to help grab us extra lands or provide payoffs therein. Land Tax is a classic Turn-1 powerhouse that goes perfectly in this build. Annex is a nasty underrated spell that both steals our opponent's best land while adding to our own real estate. Eternity Vessel and Seer's Sundial both refill us in either life or hand with each bout of mana development.

Dakkon, Shadow Slayer
Painful Truths
Rhystic Study

Supporting Tools: Outside of our theme, we also bring in a variety of removal, card advantage, and a backup win-con. Removal comes in the form of Path to Exile, Damn, Austere Command, Cleansing Nova, and, of course, Dakkon, Shadow Slayer. Aside from the aforementioned Seer's Sundial, we generate additional card draw via Ever-Watching Threshold, Mental Journey, Painful Truths, Dark Confidant, Greed, and Rhystic Study. Finally, when games go long, Rise of the Dark Realms has the potential to close things out on its own while also serving as a nice homage to Geyadrone's dark tyranny.

Explorer's Scope
Netherborn Altar
Expedition Map

Mana = Muscle: Rather than employ traditional mana rocks, we seek cards that provide lands to pump up Dakkon with. Archeomancer's Map, Armillary Sphere, Wayfarer's Bauble, Explorer's Scope, Expedition Map, and even Treasure Map all help in this regard. Because Dakkon starts at six mana, Netherborn Altar is also included to help get around Commander tax as the game progresses. Finally, while Smothering Tithe doesn't directly provide us with lands, the sheer excess of mana it does provide more than makes up for it.

Shambling Vent
Creeping Tar Pit
Celestial Colonnade

Land-wise, aside from the classic suite of on-color fetch (Polluted Delta, etc.) and shock (Godless Shrine) lands, we bring in a few utility tools to supplement our strategy. Rogue's Passage allows Dakkon to attack unhindered, while man-lands Shambling Vent, Creeping Tar Pit, Faerie Enclave, and Celestial Colonnade are included to provide additional bodies to pick up Equipment.

Dakkon Blackblade and company stand as an imposing force, especially when fully clad in sword and sorcery. Can the armies of an Elder Dragon Legend stand against it?

Piru, the Volatile

Piru, the Volatile | Commander | Matthew Lotti

Piru, the Volatile shares the clunky cost and upkeep-payments of her fellow Elder Dragons, but tacks on a powerful death-trigger that turns lemons into lemonade. Her inherent lifelink means the wrath-effect triggered upon her demise is likely to grant you quite a bit of life. A nice parting gift. Piru is also an elder dragon queen, so enlisting her scaly brood into the mix feels apt. Because dragons tend to be an expensive tribe, and we're already in the ballpark of working with death-triggers, the path of reanimation feels fitting. Especially given Piru's fated end in the story.

Goldspan Dragon
Timeless Dragon
Nesting Dragon

Draconian Defenders: While allowing Piru, the Volatile to perish and wipe the board, only to immediately resurrect her, is certainly an effective plan, her pack of soldiers are also large, evasive, and imposing in their own right. Some, like Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge, Goldspan Dragon, Timeless Dragon, and Eternal Dragon, help us on the mana front. Dragonspeaker Shaman and Burnished Hart (dragon-food?) also assist in accelerating out our threats. Additional dragons are included for purely offensive potential, such as Hellkite Tyrant, Sunscorch Reagent, and Skyline Despot. We also have a few utility dragons, with Boneyard Scourge able to resurrect itself often, Obsidian Charmaw taking out pesky opposing lands, and Nesting Dragon combining beautifully with Piru, the Volatile's explosive trigger. Dragon eggs hatched in fire is just too perfect.

Brash Taunter
Stuffy Doll
Priest of Fell Rites

Speaking of the aforementioned death-trigger, we also include Brash Taunter and Stuffy Doll to send the damage at our opponents, and a Priest of Fell Rites to assist in returning fallen comrades to the battlefield.

Faithless Looting
Fast // Furious
Cathartic Reunion

The Grave cannot hold a Dragon: Being partially-reanimator, our deck wants a fully-stocked graveyard. Draw-n-discard spells (Thrill of Possibility, Cathartic Reunion, Tormenting Voice, Faithless Looting, Faithless Salvaging, Magmatic Impulse, Fast // Furious) are perfect for this, providing both card draw and graveyard fuel. These are especially important in the early game, allowing us to draw the needed pieces to develop our mana while stockpiling the graveyard for later use.

Demonic Gifts
Gift of Immortality

On that note, our reanimation comes in two flavors: direct return, and return in immediate response to dying. The former (Animate Dead, Reanimate, Exhume, Dance of the Dead) allows us to directly bring back dead or discarded creatures. The latter is to primary use in conjunction with Piru, the Volatile. Cards like Demonic Gifts, Minion's Return, Abnormal Endurance, Gift of Immortality, Angelic Renewal, Grim Return, Supernatural Stamina, and Undying Evil all allow our general to die, sweep the board, and immediately return to action on a clear field. In the case of Thrilling Encore and Faith's Reward, she'll bring friends with her.

Fiery Emancipation
Sanguine Bond
Dragon Roost

When it comes to extra win conditions, cards like Fiery Emancipation and Sanguine Bond pair wonderfully with Piru's explosive nature, and Dragon Roost can continually produce massive, evasive damage.

Dragon's Hoard
Scroll Rack
Underworld Connections

Fang, Claw, and Fire Breath: Supporting tools come in a variety of flavors. Other than the aforementioned draw-n-discard spells, we include Underworld Connections, Herald's Horn, Scroll Rack, Dragon's Hoard, and Stinging Study for additional card advantage. The blood-price on Stinging Study is certainly steep via Piru, but the her lifelink should help mitigate things considerably. Plus, 8 cards in a TON.

Crux of Fate
Ruinous Ultimatum

Mardu is also excellent at the removal game. We'll need to stay alive long enough to get the dragon-train rolling, so sweepers Crux of Fate, Toxic Deluge, Ruinous Ultimatum, and sure-to-be staple Damn are included to keep the threat count low. Crackling Doom is brought it to handle multiple large threats without clearing the field of every creature, and Vindicate provides versatile pin-point removal for any permanent that scares us. Removal is also key to getting the most out of Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge, as the treasure he provides gets Piru online early. We'll need to cast her at last once before we can start doing graveyard shenanigans. That means we'll need eight mana. Speaking of which...

Talisman of Conviction
Curse of Opulence
Smothering Tithe

Dragon's Hoard: Ever the fans of treasure, Piru and her dragons hoard piles of mana rocks to help accelerate things: Talisman of Conviction, Talisman of Hierarchy, Talisman of Indulgence, Sol Ring, Worn Powerstone, etc. Jeweled Lotus, Smothering Tithe, and Curse of Opulence can also provide enough mana, albiet in a burst-fashion, to get Piru, the Volatile onto the table early, staring the explosive game plan sooner than our opponents expect.

Fetid Heath
Graven Cairns
Rugged Prairie

Land-wise, because our general is quite mana-symbol greedy, we bring in each of the on-color Filter-lands (Fetid Heath, Graven Cairns, Rugged Prairie) to help meet her Mardu requirements. Our only colorless lands are Bonder's Enclave to draw cards once the other dragons begin showing up and Myriad Landscape, which helpfully grabs us two basics of any color we're lacking in.

Profane Tutor by Richard Kane Ferguson

Though the history books paint a bleak portrait for Chromium's lover, your Commander table may rewrite the tale. Perhaps Piru, the Volatile survives to incinerate all foes in her path? Or does time repeat itself and Dakkon Blackblade add a dragon to his kill-count?

As we conclude our tragic tale, I encourage you to explore the lore behind your favorite Commander cards! With so many cards to choose from, it's easy to lose sight of the rich histories woven throughout. But they are the pulse behind each world we visit, making them unique and memorable. We'll continue to explore new realms and legends in future installments, and if you've any recommendations or requests, feel free to let me know in the comments. What characters and stories would you like to see next?

Thanks for reading, and may your shadow never be stolen!

-Matt Lotti-


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