Well, I started this a while ago: the quest for a Standard-legal Commander deck that was built entirely by Muse Vessel readers. It’s actually taken me so long to get it together to that Standard has shifted (more on that later), but I put it together shortly after I got back from Nawlins and played it a couple of times this week. Bottom line: it’s a bit rough round the edges, but the raw power of the general totally blew me away. Let’s start with the card ideas you guys gave me and how I put it together, then how it played, and finally some ideas for the future of the deck.
The restrictions I placed on myself in building this deck were that I could only use cards suggested by readers, I would strictly adhere to a mana curve of at least 10 cards in each of the five CMC slots, and I would build around J.K. himself as the primary win condition. That means the deck is much less about me and much more about you, which, frankly, can only be a good thing. The only thing I get is naming rights!
Here are all of the cards suggested, sorted by the aforementioned CMC slots:
And here’s the man himself:
Metalcraft, creatures and lots of attacking—with blades!! Never underestimate the importance of flavor text! Looking at the options, there are some clear themes that could play to Jor Kadeen’s strengths, as well as some actually scary possibilities if he stays on the table for more than a turn or so. To start with there’s a distinct weenie theme, which, when combining Myr, Cat tokens (not to be confused with Meerkat tokens, which will be unveiled in M13 if MaRo has his way) and some of the best equipment ever printed, this deck has the potential to just knock people out of their sho, especially with cards like Shrine of Loyal Legions simultaneous triggering metalcraft and threatening lethal damage with J.K. Thanks to an avalanche of suggestions from a reader named Malhaku, there is also the option of turning this into a dedicated Myr concoction, although I would then be legally required to name the deck Shredder.™ There’s also a bevy of planeswalkers on this list and a none-too-shabby big flying monster sub-theme, which is exactly what you want when the weenies can’t quite go all the way.
The great thing about crowd-sourcing a deck is that the card selections will be totally different from what you would naturally choose yourself, even within the narrow confines of a Standard Commander deck in only two colors. The downside, though, is that flashy spells will trump removal (which in red includes face-smashing reach) and acceleration. Of course, a flagrant Timmy like me won’t mind that, but it does mean that, in addition to working on the themes I mentioned above, I’m going to have to favor any and all cards that fill those utility holes. There is an additional limitation in that white and red aren’t traditionally the colors of brutal, grinding, recursion-based strategies, but I know myself too well; anything that lets me recur or recycle my graveyard is probably going to make the cut. The only other personal touch I would add is to exclude Blightsteel Colossus, because I find infect to be kind of cheesy in Commander. With those considerations in mind, it looks like the first version of the deck practically builds itself. May I present to you, J.K. Rolling!
And for those of you who don’t dig the spreadsheets:
16 Mountains—this will have to go up a little bit
Hellkite Igniter (strong, but I might prefer the Hoard-Smelter)
Thopter Assembly (instant metalcraft—20 points of flying damage plus a big 5/5 body)
Test Driving the Machine
So I took it for a spin in two games, and then lent it to a friend for a four-team 2HG game, before he audibled and switched to another deck. It’s not as many games as I would like, but I’m still super-busy at work and I’ll be playing this deck a lot until J.K. rotates, so it’s a good start.
In the first game, a four-way, I kept a four land hand with white and artifact spells but no mountains, probably a rookie mistake, and proceeded to draw Into the Core, Chandra Nalaar and Inferno Titan before drawing my first mountain. Bad beats! Still, Steel Overseer, the red Shrine and Ajani Goldmane in the first four turns might have been enough to take it home if my buddy Dan hadn’t opened with a first turn Sol Ring into Everflowing Chalice for one, second turn Inexorable Tide, and a well-protected Karn Liberated by the fourth turn. I hung around long enough to play the Inferno Titan and beat up the other two guys a bit, but I wasn’t able to get enough creatures to get around Dan’s proliferating beasties. Even at the end I think I could have had a shot if I’d drawn White Sun’s Zenith in the last three turns, but Dan seemed destined to take that one—when I scooped, he showed me the Jace, the Mind Sculptor in his hand and said, “Give me a minute, I think I can play his ultimate the same turn I play him!”
The second game, a six-player FFA, was a much better display of what J.K. can do. I got stuck on three lands for a bit, and never had more than four, but an Iron and an Alloy Myr helped me to get J.K. out, metalcraft locked in, and some fearsome beats scaring the crap out of the table. Once I got a Sword of Feast and Famine and a third beater (who just happened to be my good buddy Urabrask), I knew I could take out anyone I wanted, and when I top-decked a second plains to go with my Hero of Bladehold, I was all set to kill everyone!! Even a Dread from one of the black mages wasn’t enough to save him, because J.K. made the Hero’s soldier tokens into 5/1 beaters, so I could hit for ten a turn without losing any of my creature cards! In fact, I was able to dish out so much damage to so many people that I accidentally killed one guy—when I added up the damage from my declared attackers it turned out to be 22, instead of the 10-15 I’d intended. If you want a Commander who can accidentally deal too much damage, then look no further!
In the end, Deathcloud for three from the Dread player killed everything but J.K. and the Sword of Wreck and Face, while the Ghave player that I’d been enjoying talking to so much that I forgot to beat the crap out of her decided that I was too much of a threat to keep around. You can’t win ‘em all, but if you can kick ass in most of them then you’ve got a good deck, and J.K. Rolling has the makings of a very good deck!
I’ve already made one change to the deck – apparently I’d forgotten to put in Steel Hellkite, so I took out the Auriok Survivors and put back the flying Pernicious Deed. Math is hard!
J.K. is a unique deckbuilding challenge. Maintaining metalcraft and having enough creatures to make the most of that +3 power takes up a lot of space, and there’s only 99 cards. That makes it really hard to squeeze in the little things that help you to take on all comers and survive the greatest variety of threats. For example, in the first game Brent played a Meekstone in order to slow down Dan’s two 15/15 modular critters, and I realized that I would almost certainly have to kill him before I could do anything about Dan, because I had no way to execute my gameplan with a Meekstone in play and almost no way to deal with it directly. A couple of Revoke Existence or O-Ring type cards would have gone a long way towards helping me win, and perhaps allowed me to build a better alliance with Brent (instead of silently hoping Dan could kill him for me), while an early Red Sun’s Zenith would have been a nice way to deal with Karn.
One big change is that I now have mixed feelings about the 1/1 mana myr. They are certainly the obvious choice for the deck, but the danger of losing a 1/1 (or 4/1) and thereby giving up metalcraft and having your whole game go to crap, possibly in the middle of your attack step, is a little too dangerous for me. That’s why I am very tempted to take out the Gold and Iron Myr and replace them with the two Wellsprings. I’d also like to see a Manalith to help with color fixing, and ideally a Darksteel Ingot, although I guess there isn’t much chance of that being printed for a while now that Mirrodin/New Phyrexia is behind us. Darksteel Myr (or his juggernauty brother) is worthy of more consideration too—it’s still highly killable in my meta, but it’ll last a lot longer than anything else, and an indestructible 0/1 with a sword or Batterskull is a nice way to come back from a board-sweeper.
Other cards that I consider to be on the chopping block are:
- Unwinding Clock—due to the relatively low number of artifacts that benefit from this—it doesn’t do jack for equipment or shrines, for example
- Koth—not enough mountains, I hate to say!
- Myr Galvanizer and Reservoir—at some point you have to either go al-in on a theme or scale right back, and I don’t think the Myr have what it takes in a Commander deck without tutors
- Kemba—she’s cheap, powerful and on theme, but this isn’t exactly an equipment deck. I took out the Survivors for the same reason—a strong card in the right situation but not good enough the majority of the time to justify its inclusion ahead of cards that are usually much stronger
- Elixir of Immortality—I usually include at least two forms of lifegain in any Commander deck, just in case things go long, and I love reusing things that have gone to my graveyard, but once I realized how quickly J.K. is going to be finishing games, this became unnecessary. Victory’s Herald stays (and makes the cut over True Conviction) because it combines large amounts of lifelink with evasion, which is key.
By the rules of the game, I can’t add any cards that haven’t suggested already, but I would happily make the following changes for now:
l Myr Galvanizer>>>Darksteel Myr
l Myr Reservoir>>>Myr Turbine
l Koth>>>Darksteel Juggernaut
l Unwinding Clock>>>Plague Myr
I know what you’re thinking: “for someone who doesn’t like Myr, you’re sure adding a lot of them!” The difference is that Galvanizer and Reservoir depend on having other myr, whereas these ones function independently. Turbine makes dudes and gets you to metalcraft, the Darksteels help you to keep metalcraft after everything else has got blowed up, and the Plague Myr is just acceleration (that is likely to draw removal away from your later threats).
Now the next step is up to you. I hope you guys accept the challenge and take ownership of this deck, and you can start by recommending 1-for-1 card swaps in the forums (as many as you like, I guess), starting with but not limited to adding M12 cards and replacing M11 cards. We still have until September 30th to play M11 in Standard, but I’d hate to get disqualified from FNM if I play J.K., so let’s keep him as up-to-date as possible. I look forward to hearing from you!