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Upgrading Painbow


Long ago in the early days of Magic, multicolored cards were scarce. It was truly a rarity to see them show up in sets back in the day. As a child of the 90's, they always got my attention because of how rare they were. It was like seeing a cool oddity - a curiosity of sorts. In the years between Legends and Invasion - Magic's first two multicolored focused sets - there were only 104 multicolored cards. That might sound like a lot, but when you consider that happened across 21 sets including Portal sets, it's quite paltry compared to modern releases. You can see a similar trend between Odyssey and Saviors of Kamigawa as well. Unless you were in an explicitly multicolored environment, you just didn't see gold cards very often.

With so few in those early days, they felt that much more special and unique. You tried to do something to make them work. They just had that certain cool factor to them. And none had that cool factor quite like seeing the very first five-color card of all time. I'll never forget the first time I laid my eyes on it. It had been out for a year or two by then, but I went over to a friend's house to play on his N64 and to play some Magic. He told me, "Hey, you want to see this really crazy card?" He went into his card box and pulled out a copy of the Stronghold classic Sliver Queen.

Sliver Queen

I was awestruck seeing it. There was a card that actually cost one of every color of mana. Was that even possible? It seemed surreal. We'd never even seen a four-color card and even three-color ones were a rarity (only ten were released between Legends and Invasion) and all of them were shard colors. It was a big 7/7 monstrosity meant to bring all these awesome sliver cards I'd seen in my local shop's singles binder and in the couple packs I opened on my own together into one kind of strategy. All that is to say nothing of the stunning Ron Spencer art adorning the card.

Over the years that followed, we'd slowly see more. The Invasion block featured three new ones in Coalition Victory, Cromat, and Last Stand. Then we got another in Odyssey with Atogatog and two more in Scourge with Sliver Overlord and Karona, False God. Over the years we'd see them get peppered into sets until we saw a decent chunk in Conflux - a set with a small five-color theme. After that, we went back to seeing a new five-color card every few years as well as cards with a five-color color identity trickling in. In all that time, in nearly thirty years of this game's existence, we never saw a truly five-color themed product. Until now, that is.

Painbow is the second of the Dominaria United Commander precons that we get to discuss and talk about upgrading. It's truly a full five-color deck themed around an actual, factual five-color commander. Not just any five-color commander either but one of the original heroes of Magic lore: Jared Carthalion. Now this isn't the first time I've talked about Jared in my articles. When his last card - Jared Carthalion, True Heir - came out in Commander Legends I wrote a whole piece about an all original frame deck featuring him. Now he's back and being featured in a deck all his own and it's an absolute spectacle as far as precons go.

Let's check out the list so you can see exactly what I mean.

Painbow Precon | Commander | Wizards of the Coast

When I said this deck was a true five-color deck, I sure meant it. This isn't the first five-color precon we've seen, as there was the old Draconic Domination deck from back in Commander 2017. The thing with that, though, is that it was a deck with three five-color commanders that just featured a lot of two and three colored cards. It wasn't a truly five-color deck. Painbow, on the other hand, is just that.

Iridian Maelstrom
Primeval Spawn

When I say a true five-color deck in this case, what I mean is that it's actually themed and focused around cards being all five colors. I've never seen such a density of five-color cards in one deck and them actually being central to the deck. Including Jared himself, there's a total of ten cards in this deck that cost at least one of each color of mana to cast. That's an absolutely unheard of number of five-color cards and is actually roughly a quarter of every black bordered five-color card in the game. That's not even counting the cards that have a five-color color identity either, as you get even more of those in this list as well.

So, when I say this is truly a five-color deck, man do I mean it. If 10-year-old Paige were seeing this, her jaw would be on the floor in disbelief. I can only imagine the reaction many newer and casual players will have at the sight of a deck like this. The best thing is that, at its core, I think it's doing something truly unique and awesome and, in many ways, doing it right. But it wouldn't be an upgrade article if we didn't talk about the ways that we need to puff it up and improve the list. Let's have a look at an upgraded list and see what's changed!

Painbow Revamped | Commander | Paige Smith

The biggest thing I saw when working on this deck is how good the multicolored selection is. The majority of options present in the deck seemed great and I largely wanted to stick with that. I did end up cutting a few cards, but they were cards that missed the mark. While I know the deck can have issues with mana (more on that soon), there's really no reason to have roughly six board wipes in this deck. I ended up taking out half of them from the multicolored slot (Time Wipe, Lavalanche, and the painfully overcosted Duneblast) as well as some weaker spells like Naya Charm and Unite the Coalition.

Garth One-Eye
Jegantha, the Wellspring
Void Rend

Additionally, I replaced some of the creatures like Xyris, Archelos, Glint-Eye Nephilim, and O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami with cards that I thought either fit a little better or just seemed cooler. For example, The Kami War // O-Kagachi Made Manifest is - in my opinion at least - just a cooler and better way to represent O-Kagachi. I also added in Chulane, Teller of Tales as a way to keep the card draw flowing and the lands coming down. Garth One-Eye is arguably worse than some of the removed cards, but when we're in for that cool five-color flair, he just feels like a must. Void Rend feels like an easy add, as does Jegantha, the Wellspring for that sweet mana fixing value. The best part too is that unless I missed something, there's no double mana symbols in this deck, so you can even run it as your companion too! I did consider putting in Esika, God of the Tree // The Prismatic Bridge but decided against it to make Jegantha work, but if you don't want to do the companion thing feel free to add Esika back in!

So, there were some minor changes on the core cards front, but not many at all and a lot of them were simply personal choices. The real thing that needs some work is the mana base. Oh man does this mana base need some serious revision. One of the biggest complaints about the Draconic Domination Commander 2017 deck was how much its mana base struggled in practice. Unfortunately, Painbow isn't that much better, still focusing largely on lands that come into play tapped. Thankfully the deck has a few options that can help like Battle for Zendikar duals that can come in untapped with a couple basics, slow fetches to grab them, and a pair of lands that can generate five colors with ease.

There's one very simple upgrade here: take out all the non-typed tri-lands, all the Battle lands, and all the slow fetches. Then, replace them with all ten shock lands, the five Ikoria triomes, and the new triomes from Streets of New Capenna. "But Paige!" I can already hear you saying, "why are we trading a set of ten enters tapped tri-lands for another set of ten enters tapped tri-lands?" That answer is simple. By adding the land types, they're more easily fetchable through various means. What's more, if you reach a point in the game where you have too many lands, it's much easier to get rid of them and look for more efficient and usable cards. Having all ten shocks, however, makes it more consistent that you'll have untapped mana more quickly. I also added in The World Tree, Reflecting Pool, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth; and Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth to help with the mana as well as a Field of the Dead to get value from all the different lands being used.

The next issue was the ramp and the fixing that the deck provided you. The first thing I have to say is simply what is up with all these basic land searches?! I count eight cards that search up basics and half of them search up multiples. That doesn't count Farseek either, which can thankfully grab a couple non-basics but will occasionally just be Rampant Growth minus Forests. When you have only eleven basic lands, having this many effects that search up basic lands is rough, as there's going to be a number of times when these cards just do nothing. That's even more true when the upgrades whittled this number down to eight.

The World Tree
Nature's Lore
Joiner Adept

In the end I cut out about half of them including Path to the World Tree, Search for Tomorrow, Explosive Vegetation, and Migration Path. I felt that running Cultivate and Kodama's Reach were fine on their own and both Solemn Simulacrum and Sylvan Reclamation have uses beyond just the basic land. I considered keeping Migration Path due to the cycling but decided other ramp options were just going to be better. These include adding Nature's Lore, Three Visits, and Skyshroud Claim. With eleven forest land type cards in the deck, these can all find a myriad of land types and not be so beholden to grabbing specifically basics.

Additionally, to help the ramp, I added in a couple cheap mana dorks. Birds of Paradise, Ignoble Hierarch, and Noble Hierarch all tap for a bunch of different colors which should help you easily. If you want a little more creature-based ramp, there's plenty to choose from with the likes of Sylvan Caryatid, Utopia Tree, and Ilysian Caryatid at 2 mana, just to name a few. That's to say nothing of all the original Ravnica block Signets if you want to mess around with those. For most part, I was actually pretty impressed with the selection of mana rocks here and even applaud the lack of Sol Ring given this deck's heavier focus on actual colored mana symbols in costs. I added Chromatic Lantern here, as well as Joiner Adept and Dryad of the Ilysian Grove on the creature side to help with the fixing. And if you really need the mana bump, Smothering Tithe is always there to help you out.

Ultimately, I think this deck offers an outstanding foundation and a great way for newer players to check out some serious five-color goodness. The places it suffers most are quite honestly largely due to costs and good old reprint equity. There's no way you're going to see all ten shock lands in a deck like this, nor are they going to include the same degree of ramp without all those basic land types. I do wish we maybe could've seen a few more basic land type duals pop up, and Joiner Adept is such an easy budget throw-in for fixing (the card costs about $3, after all) that its omission feels baffling.

Putting the mana aside, what you end up with is an outstanding showcase of what a five-color deck can really be. The other multicolored cards I largely felt were fine and left as is because I felt the deck needed work in other areas instead. Despite this, there's plenty of flexibility to be had in the overall gold slots, and I encourage you to play around with it and use your favorite pet cards. If you've got something sweet you want to try out, do it. This is far from the sort of deck that's going to win you prizes at highly competitive tables or anything and is more meant to do big dumb things for fun. Play it your way and have an absolute blast with it at your next Commander night!

Paige Smith

Twitter: @TheMaverickGal

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