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It's a Balmor Blitz!


Every Magic player has a type. You probably know what I mean here. It's the kind of deck and the kind of playstyle that you like. Sure, sometimes the most competitive of us just play whatever's good and enjoy the variety. Even amongst many of the most hardened grinders, though, there's that deck that makes you go, "ugh, do I really have to play this?" You might do so, begrudgingly, but it's far from your favorite kind of deck to run and your ability to play it may suffer as a result. You're far more in your element when it's a deck you know how to pilot and know how to do so well.

For me, I think most people know what kind of decks I like. Give me a good Green Ramp deck or a rock solid aggro build and I'm all there. Combo and midrange decks end up fitting into a close second. My absolute bane, though, are control decks and even worse - tempo decks. Control decks I don't mind piloting, but you get into mirror matches, I lose focus and make a lot of mistakes. It's a big reason I don't pilot them more often. With tempo strategies, it's worse, as I struggle to wrap my head around a lot of the critical decision points when it comes to playing those decks. These are truly my kryptonite when I'm playing competitive Magic.

You'll note the keyword of "competitive" Magic there. Once you start getting into a less competitive and cutthroat environment, the sky's the limit with what I'll pick up and play. In Commander and Limited I'll happily play a more spells-based game with control and occasional tempo-oriented playstyles. My favorite Commander of all time - Sharuum the Hegemon - is basically a combo-control deck. In these spaces, with more variety to what you can expect to see at the table, it pays to try cool and interesting things you might not normally play with. Balmor, Battlemage Captain fits this notion perfectly for me.

Balmor, Battlemage Captain

Balmor fits the traditional Blitz style "spells matter" strategy. You want to cast a bunch of spells and slam in for a ton of damage as quickly as possible. This kind of deck - depending on the color combinations utilized - can feel very much a mix of tempo, combo, and aggro all in one mix. Mono-Red variants typically tend to be all-in aggro builds trying to assemble a perfect sequence of cards to set up a kill as quickly as possible, hence the combo element. You may also try removing obstacles in your way with burn spells that simultaneously trigger abilities to power up your creatures such as Monastery Swiftspear and Soul-Scar Mage.

With an Izzet Blitz sort of deck, you lean into the removal side a lot more. Not only are you utilizing your burn spells to act as removal, but you're also utilizing bounce spells and counter magic to stop your opponents' game plans while furthering your own at the same time. In this sense, this sort of strategy has a bit of those tempo leanings. All this interplay while trying to line up creatures for attack makes it feel very weird for me to run this sort of deck. Try as I might, it's one of the rare archetypes I struggle with in a competitive sense. But in other, more easily accessible formats like Commander and Limited? I can excel at running this kind of strategy!

As I've continued to play Dominaria United drafts, Balmor has continued to perform strongly. Even if you're not in a dedicated spells archetype with your deck, he provides a solid attack in the air and can perform incidental pumps when you happen to draw and play any instants or sorceries in your deck. When you get an opportunity to build around him in something like Commander, though, he can be an absolute force to be reckoned with. That is what inspired me to craft a deck around him and see how well it can perform.

Let's check out the list!

Balmor Blitz | Commander | Paige Smith

Card Display

When it comes to running a deck like Balmor in Commander, it's actually impossible to get the true authentic blitz experience you'd get in Constructed. Those kinds of decks tend to focus on pushing through pinpoint damage with a small number of creatures enabled by tight deck construction with plenty of redundancy in a 60-card deck. That sort of thing is simply not feasible in a multiplayer format utilizing a 100 card singleton deck. You won't often find the exact set of cards to enact a quick kill, there's higher life totals involved, and you're usually dealing with more than just one player.

As such, we have to find some way of getting creatures on the board while simultaneously hitting a critical mass of spells. Thankfully, Blue and Red have some of the best ways to do this. I'm sure that at this point if you've been playing Magic at any time in almost the last decade, you've come to be familiar with the likes of Young Pyromancer. It's a deeply iconic card that's captivated players young and old. Cast spells, make creatures, overrun your opponent. Players love this sort of thing and it provides a fantastic outlet for creature creation just for casting the spells you're often trying to play to power up your existing team.

Young Pyromancer isn't the only card in your arsenal to make creatures this way either. Since the printing of that original token making critter, we've seen plenty more come around. Talrand, Sky Summoner is an old favorite that predates Young Peezy, even, and the tokens he makes fly as well! There're also cards such as Murmuring Mystic, Metallurgic Summonings, Shark Typhoon, Saheeli, Sublime Artisan; and Deekah, Fractal Theorist. Each of these makes different creature tokens just for the simple action of casting spells. You can even get non-creature tokens in the form of treasures courtesy of Storm-Kiln Artist in much the same way!

Metallurgic Summonings
Ral, Storm Conduit
Harmonic Prodigy

Casting your spells won't just fill your board with creatures or power them up continuously, though. There are several cards in this deck that provide you with additional effects when you cast your instants and sorceries. Cards like Electrostatic Field, Firebrand Archer, Kessig Flamebreather, Guttersnipe, and Ral, Storm Conduit all provide you ways to slowly whittle away your opponents' life totals the more spells you cast. Archmage Emeritus, on the other hand, draws you cards to keep the ball going. Niv-Mizzet, Parun actually does both in one - drawing you cards when you cast your spells and pinging when you draw cards. Best of all is that many of these triggers - as well as the creature generation ones and Balmor's - all double up when you have a Harmonic Prodigy on the board.

In order to make all these abilities trigger, though, we need an actual suite of spells. Given the nature of Commander, these are generally spells that need to be of a certain quality. Your usual combination of spells requires a lot by way of counter magic, card draw, and removal either by way of bouncing or hard removal. Card draw is easy enough - just run each of Preordain, Ponder, and Brainstorm as you'd expect of any good deck of this nature. Expressive Iteration and Izzet Charm will also draw you cards reliably. That's all to say nothing of the aforementioned Archmage Emeritus and Niv-Mizzet, Parun as well as Trail of Evidence giving you tons of clue tokens to sacrifice.

Countermagic is also straightforward. Counterspell, Disallow, and Dismiss all make for great counter material. If you have access to the likes of Cryptic Command, Force of Negation, and Force of Will, I'm naturally going to recommend each of those as well. Removal gets a little bit trickier, however, as normally spot removal is pretty bad in Commander. Thankfully there're some good options, as Pongify, Rapid Hybridization, Abrade, and Shatterskull Smashing // Shatterskull, the Hammer Pass each provide outstanding pinpoint removal. There're also a couple one-shot cards that can be overloaded like Mizzium Mortars, Vandalblast, and everyone's favorite Cyclonic Rift. In a pinch, Anger of the Gods and Sweltering Suns will provide you with powerful board wipes. With the number of ways to make creatures your deck will be playing, it won't be very hard to come back from that either.

Trail of Evidence
Mizzium Mortars
Whispers of the Muse

Unfortunately, the number of spells this deck can run is somewhat limited by the nature of Commander. To help mitigate this, we're going to utilize a particularly potent kind of spell to keep the ball rolling: buyback. Buyback is a mechanic printed during the Tempest block that allows you to pay an extra cost and upon resolution of the spell, the spell will return back to your hand. Casting a Whispers of the Muse over and over can net you tons of cards, while Shattering Pulse and Capsize can provide removal. Arguably the best spell here is Forbid, as it allows you to continuously counter spells. It has a very real buyback cost of discarding cards, however, so while it can be powerful you have to use it very carefully. The last buyback card is an especially cool one from Future Sight: Haze of Rage, a card that not only allows you to get it back but also storms and gives your attacking board a massive power boost.

What you end up with is an awesome spells-focused Commander deck that's excellent to pick up and play if you want to try something a little different. It's a great way to jam some games with friends, swarm boards, and take players out. Best of all, it's quite budget friendly! Very few of these cards are worth serious dollars (Cyclonic Rift, Seasoned Pyromancer, Shark Typhoon), and in most cases it's not hard to find a decent alternative that might only cost a few cents. So, break out your token boxes, sling some spells, and get ready to have an outstanding time with friends. Just make sure you shout "everyone attack!" and have it turn into one hell of a Balmor blitz!

Paige Smith

Twitter: @TheMaverickGal

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