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Beluna Grandsquall in Commander


One of my favorite things in deck-building in Commander is finding an interesting strategy for making the most of a new Legendary creature. Sometimes the "angle" I think I found is genuinely novel and sometimes my clever idea is a little more obvious than I thought it was. Today's column is about a new Wilds of Eldraine commander who cares about an odd little mechanic introduced in Throne of Eldraine: adventures!

Permanents with the adventure subtype have the ability to be cast as an instant or sorcery. The text box on these cards is split right down the middle and when you cast one of these cards you "send it on an adventure". The card gets put into exile and you can cast these permanents out of exile for their regular casting cost. You can only cast the instant or sorcery part of an adventure card from your hand, but you can cast the permanent part of the card from either your hand or from exile if it was sent on an adventure.

That's a lot of words and if you build this deck you should read up on the mechanic and the various rulings around it. That's always good advice for building a new deck with mechanics you're not familiar with, but let's take a look at today's commander.

Beluna Grandsquall

This 4/4 Giant Noble perfectly illustrates the adventure subtype. I can cast her for 3 mana or I can send her on an adventure for 5 mana. Her Adventure is an instant speed spell that will mill seven cards and then put all cards with an Adventure from among the milled cards into my hand. When Beluna is on the battlefield, she has trample and she will cut the cost of permanent spells I cast that have an Adventure by 1 mana.

Neither of Beluna's abilities is all that powerful. I could build a Giant typal deck around her as a low-to-mid powered list and have a grand old time, but she really wants me to build around Adventures. I'm never one to ignore an obvious build path, so my first step was to go through my collection and make a pile of every card I could find in Temur colors with an Adventure on it.

Adventure Time

The first thing I realized was that there are a lot of cards with the Adventure subtype. There are enough to nearly build an entire deck, so long as I was willing to play some pretty mediocre cards. Beluna's power ceiling isn't that high to begin with, so that wasn't a problem.

The second thing I realized was that I could partially satisfy many of my deck's basic needs through cards with Adventures on them.

Beanstalk Giant
Tempest Hart
Stormkeld Vanguard

Beanstalk Giant's Adventure is Fertile Footsteps, which is an overcosted Rampant Growth. Tempest Hart's Adventure is Scan the Clouds, which lets you draw 2 and discard 2, just like Careful Study or Faithless Looting without flashback. Stormkeld Vanguard's Adventure is Bear Down, which is functionally identical to Naturalize. I'll often be paying more for the same results when playing these cards, which will push this deck's power and speed down a bit.

While I didn't run across many other Giants, I found a wide range of creature types that have the Adventure subtype, with the most prevalent being Dragons. I'm not sure why Eldraine has lots of Dragons going on Adventures, but I love dragons so I'm not complaining.

Amethyst Dragon
Emerald Dragon
Sapphire Dragon

Amethyst Dragon can be cast as Explosive Crystal, a sorcery that deals 4 damage divided among any number of creatures. It is a 4/4 red Dragon with flying and haste for 6 mana when cast as a permanent. Emerald Dragon can be cast as Dissonant Wave, an instant that can counter target activated or triggered ability from a noncreature source. When cast as a permanent it's a 4/4 Green Dragon with "flample" (flying and trample). To round out the cycle in this 3-color deck I'm running Sapphire Dragon, a 5-power, 6-toughness Blue Dragon who will let me scry 2 whenever it attacks or blocks. It has an Adventure option as well. I can cast it as Psionic Pulse, a 3-mana instant that will counter target noncreature spell.

My flight of adventurous dragons also included Young Blue Dragon and Young Red Dragon (there is no Young Green Dragon), Dread Linnorm (a Snake Dragon), Sailor's Bane (a Dragon Turtle), Sword Coast Serpent (a Serpent Dragon), and Fang Dragon (sadly, just a Dragon).

He may not have an adventure, but I'm also running Lozhan, Dragons' Legacy, a Legendary Dragon Shaman. He will push out damage to any target that isn't a commander whenever I cast an Adventure spell or a Dragon spell.

Storyteller Pixie
Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald

I've got lots of random creatures with Adventures tacked onto them and a handful of cards that support the Adventure card subtype. Storyteller Pixie will draw me a card when I cast an Adventure spell. Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald will create a 2/2 green Wolf creature token when I cast a spell from exile. Nalfeshnee is a 4/6 Beast Demon who will copy any spell I cast from exile. Any permanent spell copied by Nalfeshnee will gain haste and get sacrificed at the beginning of the next end step. That's fantastic for an Obeka, Brute Chronologist deck, but in Beluna Grandsquall I'm going to be losing those tokens every time.

P.S. I Love You

It's always worth asking how a deck plans to win games. Many casual decks just commit creatures to the battlefield and attempt to slug it out in the trenches. This deck should be able to do that, though not in an overwhelming manner. Beluna Grandsquall should be able to play a fair game if that's the sort of game you want to play... but what if we wanted to find a more interesting way to win?

What is interesting to one player may not be interesting to another player. As you wade deeper and deeper into the format, what you find interesting is very likely to change over time. You might delight in discovering some efficient combo and you might love the feeling of tension you experience as you try to find the right window to attempt to nail down the win. A few years later you might find that combo - or even all combos - boring and tiresome because you're done with winning "on easy mode" and would much rather win on the battlefield the old-fashioned way.

We each have a different journey through Magic and through EDH, but when I build a deck like Beluna and realize there's a cute trick just begging to be included, I find it hard to resist. This one starts with a chaotic old Red card.

Possibility Storm

Possibility Storm drives some players crazy, but which I just love. If it's on the battlefield you can't directly resolve any spell cast from your hand. Instead, the spell will be exiled and you'll exile cards from the top of your library until you exile a card that shares a card type with the original spell. You then cast that revealed card without paying its casting cost. The exiled cards all get put on the bottom of your library in a random order after your target spell is cast.

While it's a nasty lockout when combined with Drannith Magistrate, which prevents casting spells from anywhere other than your hand, in this deck it's a key setup piece for our wincon.

An Adventure card is a permanent in every zone except the stack. What that means, dear readers, is that with Possibility Storm on the field I can cast any sorcery Adventure and I would then reveal cards until I reveal and cast the only true sorcery in the deck: Primal Surge.

Primal Surge
Temur Ascendancy
Beastmaster Ascension

I can hardcast Primal Surge the hard way, but if I've got Possibility Storm on the table I'll be able to get to it reliably and for much less than 10 mana. Primal Surge will have me reveal the top card of my library. If it is a permanent, I'll put it onto the battlefield and repeat the process.

With only one non-permanent spell in my deck I will either put my entire deck onto the battlefield (if I hardcast Primal Surge) or I'll put every card not exiled by Possibility Storm onto the battlefield and the exiled cards will be put on the bottom of my library. The former play should be able to win the game. The latter could put all of my library, none of my library, or any amount of cards in between onto the battlefield based upon where Primal Surge is found when I cast a sorcery into Possibility Storm. To me, this kind of wild gamble can be a lot of fun.

I need this deck to be able to win if I do end up putting my entire library onto the battlefield. That might seem obvious, but if this play is going to be stopped I want my tablemates to have to interact and I want to have a chance at responding to their interaction.

I have Temur Ascendancy as a haste enabler and Tempest Caller to tap all the creatures target opponent controls. Another haste enabler might be worth including, but this list has just the one. Beastmaster Ascension is in the list to try to make sure I've got enough power to finish the job.

Glen Elendra Archmage
Keeper of Fables
Laboratory Maniac

If I flip my entire library, this turns into an all-or-nothing strategy. If I swing and someone casts a fog, I would lose by drawing from an empty library on my next turn. I included Glen Elendra Archmage so I can hopefully be able to counter a fog, Aetherspouts or overloaded Cyclonic Rift. If I have an opponent with an absurdly high life total I'll still need a way to win from this position. Even with Beastmaster Ascension pumping up my damage output, I can't beat someone with a life total in the hundreds.

I felt compelled to run Keeper of Fables in Beluna, because I love the card and it fits perfectly with a faerie tale adventure themed deck. It forces me to draw if one or more non-Human creatures I control deal combat damage to a player. Drawing from an empty library makes you lose the game. Rather than cut Keeper of Fables out of the list, I decided to throw in Laboratory Maniac and Jace, Wielder of Mysteries, so if combat damage can't close out the game, drawing from an empty library can give me the win!

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Primal Surge Beluna

The list below is very much a first draft. It's a starting point and will need to be played and refined to get it to the point where it's playing smoothly and efficiently, even as a low-powered deck. My decision to go all-in on creatures and permanents with the Adventure mechanic definitely makes the deck weaker. I left out a ton of staples, starting with a cornerstone of the format: Sol Ring.

Not running other sorcery spells impacts the deck's ability to ramp, as I'm not running my "holy trinity" of ramp spells: Rampant Growth, Cultivate and Kodama's Reach. I could make up for that with artifact ramp easily enough, but I'm probably going to trot this list out in paper and see how it does before I make any major changes. I'm not morally opposed to playing Sol Ring and could easily see adding it later on.

If you wanted to tune this list down, you might drop out Primal Surge and the package of win enablers that I included around it. You would still have a fun, interesting deck and you might make an argument that loading in more ramp/draw/removal staples would more than make up for losing that explosive wincon. I enjoy explosive game-enders, but some players would rather have to grind every game out through long combat-intensive turns.

I'm not sure whether it's worth tuning this list up, but I imagine you could rework this list to be more efficient and better at digging to its wincons. I don't think it will ever reach high powered territory, but cards like Rhystic Study, The Great Henge and other familiar high powered staples would help. The fact that Possibility Storm costs a whopping 10 mana has me thinking this list will end up needing a lot more ramp if it's going to be able to hardcast that sorcery in an average EDH game.

Beluna EDH | Commander | Stephen Johnson

Card Display

There is a solid argument that this list should really run two or three other sorcery spells in addition to Primal Surge. I've played a list like that and when I went to cast Primal Surge I explained to the table how it resolves and assured everyone that I had no idea if I'd end up flipping seven or seventy permanents onto the battlefield. I think I had another sorcery in hand already so I was optimistic that it would go well. I had everyone's attention after explaining Primal Surge, and I proceeded to start flipping cards off the top of my library... There was genuine tension in the air as I flipped one permanent, two permanents, three permanents, and on the fourth card hit an instant and the entire table and everyone watching roared with laughter! It was genuinely hilarious, in no small part because I had ratcheted up the tension, and I even had to laugh at my own bad fortune.

I think hitting Possibility Storm will let you recreate this kind of moment, though hopefully it will turn out better for you than it did for me. Not knowing how powerful a spell is going to be can be really fun, but you should know some players just loathe chaos and will remove it as soon as they can.

If you were to run multiple instants and sorceries (not including Adventures, which are permanents except when they are on the stack) your deck will play very differently. You won't have that overwhelming "win button" but you might actually have more fun. You may want to run ways to shuffle Primal Surge back into your library so you can go for it several times over the course of the game. I could easily see playing this list in a few games and then updating it to have a few extra instants and/or sorceries once I've hit the Primal Surge win at least once. I like to get a deck to "do the thing" but I also like variety.

Early Results

I got the chance to play a Beluna Grandsquall list fairly close to the list shown above in a few games. My results weren't great, though my sample size was only a handful of games. The first conclusion I came to is that it's a terrible, horrible, no-good idea to throw 32 Adventure cards into a deck and expect anything much to come of it.

It was a worthy experiment and I like experiments, but there wasn't enough synergy to keep up with the other decks at the LGS I play at. The lack of anything resembling a real wincon and the fact that I left out even basic staples like Sol Ring, Rampant Growth, Cultivate and Kodama's Reach were both issues. A lack of card draw meant I wasn't pulling into lands to keep up even with the lack of a real ramp package.

I tweaked the list a bit, dropping out weaker Adventure cards and adding in some cards to help firm up the basic needs of an EDH deck, but I still never felt like I was getting closer to seeing the deck to live its best life. I never got a glimpse of Possibility Storm or Primal Surge.

I joke that this is a terrible deck, and to be sure - it is... but it is also a fun deck to take out for a low powered table. You might still get struggle, but I think there is something to be said for having a wide range of decks in your Commander arsenal. That does mean having some lower powered decks that you can pull out for games against new players, precons, budget decks and other games where your usual decks might be too powerful.

It's worth noting that I have no issue with powerful plays that can end games in lower powered metas so long as you're not tutoring for them and they aren't happening that often. That was my experience with this list. I would have loved to be able to tell you that I got Possibility Storm out, caused all kinds of havoc, and maybe even won a game. Sadly, that wasn't the case.

Final Thoughts

Whether you're trying to aim high or just build an incredibly Adventure-heavy EDH deck with Beluna Grandsquall, I love that Wizards of the Coast keeps giving us interesting Legendary creatures to build around. I like to think of new commanders as puzzles to solve. I might think I'm clever as heck to have realized that I can have a deck with dozens of instants and sorceries and play a Primal Surge wincon, but I'm equally sure there are better, cleverer ideas for Beluna out there in the wild.

My lists are nearly always first drafts. It's worth reiterating - don't be fooled into thinking this deck is going to hit its wincon that often. I'm not running tutors and will have to draw into Possibility Storm for my best chance at hitting Primal Surge. Even then it might just get countered - even through Possibility Storm - but I think it's genuinely fun to add these little tricks and wincons into decks. I especially love that you'll never know how many cards you'll end up exiling into Possibility Storm before you reach Primal Surge.

That's all I've got for now. Thanks for reading and I'll see you next week!

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