I got antsy. As I’m not sure I mentioned yet, I bought one commander in each wedge just in case supplies got low. I wound up buying Mirror Mastery and Political Puppets anyway (they’re in transit), but mainly I wanted to have the option of building around these commanders down the road.
I even fooled myself into thinking I could leave them alone when I got them.
Didn’t happen. I got brewing as soon as I had them, and as my group is Commander crazy right now, there are plenty of opportunities to test my wedge piles. Karador already had a deck waiting, but the others – Tariel, Animar, Zedruu, and The (or if you’re more formal, Mimeoplasm) – had nothing planned. Now with random things from my collection and about twelve American dollars of purchases, some of them are turning from piles to decks. They’re far from ready, but while I’m getting there I thought it best to share where I’m going with them and what strategies and especially cards have shone with the respective commanders. Nothing’s saying you have to build in the ways I am, but if you’re stuck for ideas, here’s the fruit of my labors to date.
(A word about my choices: since color fixing is and should be about getting all your colors out, a URG or WBR cost is easier for a deck than RRR or GGG. I therefore am trying very hard to stay away from the latter costs to make color fixing decisions a lot easier and less focused on the specific card in the hand.)
Everything about Tariel screams control to me. She’s in the colors of great destruction; she’s solid offense and great defense; she wins attrition wars while speeding up her own clock; and she costs a whole lot of mana. With those in attributes in mind, I’ve gone with all sorts of available Wrath effects (and there are many), big creatures, and enchantment destruction on a level with my Radha deck’s artifact destruction. It’s not creature heavy, but if I’m winning, I have opponents’ creatures to choose from, so I don’t need to provide too many of my own in theory.
This deck hasn’t done a whole lot yet, but some cards either make a whole lot of sense or have performed perfectly. Here are some:
Life’s Finale: Really, for almost any strategy that wants to use the opponent’s graveyard, this sweeper is going to make a ton of sense. Clearly, you want to make sure Tariel gets something good every time you can, and obtaining three juicy targets helps there. Unfortunately, this isn’t as useful if your opponents have their own graveyard fun, but even in that instance you can hedge a bit and get somewhere.
Rough and Tumble/Culling Sun: The deck’s game plan is simply to remove the board’s most noxious permanents until turn 7, at which point Tariel and synergistic control can rip the board to shreds. Sweepers of little things get you there. Conveniently, the Tumble half doesn’t kill your commander if you need to use it, but the main thing is that these cards are great at upping your survival rate, and that’s all you’re looking for.
Suffer the Past/Revive the Fallen: Sometimes you need to go the opposite way to minimize Tariel’s randomness (do you want to take the same Sylvan Ranger every time?). Suffer the Past is the more obvious choice to work with this, especially since you can respond to a full graveyard by exiling what you don’t want to obtain randomly, but Revive the Fallen can pull that duty in a pinch (it’s target creature in a graveyard) while doing the normal duties of returning your creatures and clashing.
Razia’s Purification: This is the true star, the card that I wouldn’t play Tariel as commander without. R’s P holds a weird spot in the spell world; giving people the choice of permanents makes it not seem as bad as the awfulness that it is. Similarly, unlike Obliterate, R’s P can’t be used as a desperation move so easily; they’ll just keep their 10/10s and swing them at you. So the time to use this is only when you have Tariel out and can lock up the game, at which point you’re very likely to actually lock it up. From the 4 commander damage a turn to the 7 toughness to the getting other creatures, including creatures that Razia just purified, your board starts growing while it’s attacking and blocking off the same permanent, making the Purification a perfect sweeper to make sure Tariel gets to mean something.
Altar of Shadows: I don’t know how prevalent the Altar is in black-oriented lists, but it is perfectly suited, if not perfectly efficient, for Tariel strategies. Depending on what else is in someone’s graveyard (hopefully nothing for this combination), you can use the Altar and Tariel as a faux-Memnarch for creatures, paying 7 mana at most to kill a creature and reanimate it. If nothing else, repeatable creature destruction isn’t terrible, and mana cost is its only real drawback.
All-in-imar is how my pile’s come together so far. If Animar comes out on turn 3, then it likely will be swinging for at least 5 damage in a couple of turns. The hits keep on coming to where commander damage can accumulate very quickly if left unchecked. Once checked, however, I have a billion little creatures that don’t do much by themselves. Perhaps more of them should be concerned with protecting Animar. All this makes Animar well-suited to duels or 3-player games; if I ranked commander homing, it would be at or near the top. Anything else and it’s a stretch, but it’s a different playstyle than my norm so it’s fun regardless.
A few things that have worked to date:
Alloy Myr: Many of my best starts are with this guy as the first post-Animar play. It’s effectively making 2 mana in this deck, and that sounds hot. Now that I think about it, Scuttlemutt also ought to go in here, since its color changing properties can help Animar smash face.
Plaxcaster Frogling/Razorfin Abolisher: I put these with Animar and T. Mimeoplasm for the same basic reasons of protecting the commander. The way in which they protect, however – working with counter-laden creatures – can deal with other creatures as well, making them great inclusions. I don’t know what gets played frequently that the Abolisher wants to bounce, but it’s nice to have the option at least.
Forgotten Ancient: This one’s probably obvious, but a turn 3 Animar into a turn 4 Ancient is one of the least-expected The Threats in existence.
How many noncreature spells will an Animar deck need? Artifact creatures already work nicely with Animar for possibly being free, but the random countering of annoying spells is itself annoying, not to mention it’s on a decent-sized flyer. Also, any chance to invoke the grave pronunciation of “Gargoyles” from the cartoon of the same name is proper.
Phyrexian Ingester/Crystal Shard: The Shard has plenty of interactions, especially when a few more castings of random dorks matters with Animar out, but the Ingester gets top marks. If Animar has a reasonable amount of counters on it, you can spend about 3UUU to exile two creatures, have a large dork on the field, and pump your commander. I’ll take it. The Shard is fine with the Seedborn favorite Coiling Oracle as well, while the Ingester principles are valid with Invader Parasite.
Living Inferno: Some cards have small impact at their listed mana while being absurd when cheated. The cards with the biggest difference go into reanimator/Elvish Piper decks; the ones with the smallest never get played. But red has several that are significantly better at 1 mana cheaper, such as Cyclops Gladiator, and the Inferno is a proud member of that line. Its activated ability might not be impressive for turn 9, the normal time it would get some love, but Animar has no trouble getting it out two or three turns earlier, where it now is looking bigger and deadlier than anything else on the board.
Primordial Sage: I shouldn’t have to explain this one, but it’s still a junk rare, so it might not be as famous as it could be.
Tower of Calamities: I haven’t been able to test this as thoroughly as I’d like, but one of my Animar theories is that your ever-cheaper creatures should give you more mana for activated abilities than normal. If that’s true, why not insert the Tower?
If you make Zedruu with the wrong/bad cards it will be terrible. I suspect that if you build Zedruu with the right/good cards it will be amazing. I have yet to find this balance. I also have yet to figure out how much of a target the cards can make you. Embargo seems like a fun thing to donate, but as soon as anyone gets something to swing at you they will, just to end the misery. So I haven’t gotten as far here as I have with the other decks, but here goes:
Gravitational Shift: Here’s a “world” enchantment you can actually build around. That seems useful with a commander as confusing as Zedruu. RWU has some sweet flyers already (Lightning Angel, whose omission from the preconstruct is stupid), so why not give them enough power to win the game?
Call the Skybreaker: This is in the URG preconstruct, but I suspect its best fit is here, at least for me anyway. It’s great if you’re using Riku, of course, but I’m not, and Zedruu needs some more good creatures. So here it goes.
Confusion in the Ranks: Yes, there is a purpose for this card in the format. How good this is remains to be seen; I lost from it because the Mirror Mastery deck evoked Aethersnipe to give me nothing in return while bouncing the enchantment and stealing my creature. But it seems to fit so perfectly. And I love Confusion in the Ranks. Red-colored glasses there, I expect, but I rarely wear them, so I’ll use them now.
Thought Prison: As with Embargo, cards that deal damage or make others lose life seems ideal for Zedruu, as your life gain should keep pace while hurting others. Pyrostatic Pillar and Spellshock fall into this same category, and as Zedruu has a hard time theoretically closing the game out with the permanents it donates, cards like this seem valuable.
Captivating Glance: Oh, the oddities this card generates. If you and an opponent agree that another player shouldn’t have a certain creature, you can clash between yourselves the whole game and make it so. At that point, does it matter who controls the aura? Zedruu has an idea…
Endless Horizons: The inherent vulnerability of this card in most decks is because of how many Plains you want to get with it. Here, you’re fine with getting only a couple Plains and then donating it when used up. It’s a different of using it than normal, so it seems worth the mention.
Delusions of Mediocrity: I originally had this in but took it out because I don’t have much enchantment destruction in the deck. It doesn’t seem great if you can’t get rid of it.
Rule of Law/Mana Maze: Getting Zedruu to work is far more mana-intensive than it appears on the surface. Yes, the commander and ability cost 4 and 3 respectively, but you have to have permanents you don’t mind getting rid of and all that. If your game plan involves being slow, why not do that to others as well?
Not that I have this preconstruct, but it’s strong out of the box from what I’ve seen, getting the right balance of your own creatures and others’ creatures for the Ooze to mime and plasm. I don’t know if I’ve struck that balance well, but it should get there at some point. My basic idea is to have evasiony/keywordy creatures on the one hand and undercosted fatties on the other to make my commander evasive and large. Many creatures have awesome abilities but small bodies, e.g. Lone Wolf and Flayed Nim, and giving them bigger commander bodies seems like a solid plan. So what else is there?
Hunted Horror: The more players in the game, the less this hurts you, as someone else might want the Centaurs for blockers. It’s not a great card by itself, but as a provider of 7 +1/+1 counters for the Commanderplasm, double duty makes it work okay.
Rhox: Far and away the best choice I know for this deck. There are good reasons for commanders not to have alternate trample; it’s nasty and kills quickly. Add in self-protection by regeneration and something else to add counters and you’re poised to slay. You could go the truly awful route by adding Spinebiter and a 7/7 to your deck, but I’m not so mean. I don’t think I am anyway.
Shapeshifter’s Marrow: It seems like the Marrow was waiting for a deck like this to get double use out of an opponent’s creature.
Urza’s Guilt: No idea how effective this will be, but everybody discarding three cards seems good. If you don’t think other people will be discarding good creatures, do it yourself. And everyone losing 4 life softens them up a bit.
My wedge decks are far removed in competence from my troika of standbys, but there’s lots of fun in them for right now and these cards are helping. If you’re having trouble thinking outside the box the commanders came in, or in the case of Tariel and Animar not finding the decks suited to their abilities, then maybe these cards will give you some direction. If nothing else they’re weird and cheap, and I always can get behind that.