Monday, June 9, 2014

Homage to Braids, Conjurer Adept: Gods, Robots, and Monsters

Blue Braids is the realist.

Braids, Conjurer Adept

According to my notes, I've been playing this deck for almost an entire year. Things have changed along the way, but this deck is my homage to the blue version of Braids. It's a "blue" deck, but it's not control. If I'm dueling, I like control. But in a multiplayer format like Commander, doing big stuff is the way to go.

And this deck does big stuff.

Wait, where are the counterspells? Well, counterspells aren't in the "spirit" of Blue Braids. She wants to play stuff for free and she wants you to play stuff for free too. Heck, her ability actually bypasses counterspells entirely since the stuff isn't actually "cast" but is instead "put into play."

Well, if you aren't countering things, what are you doing? Just because it's not control doesn't mean that I won't take your stuff from you. I mean, Braids isn't going to let you play your stuff for free without taking a good close look at them. You know, from her side of the board.

The best part of playing this deck is that it does something all good Commander decks should do: it gets out of hand. I'm not talking about assembling the game-winning combo. I'm talking about all of the little synergies that add up to an overwhelming avalanche of card advantage. This deck works like a puzzle. The order in which you do things matters. Timing matters. It all matters.

I call this deck, "Gods, Robots, and Monsters" because that's what it is. It's a machine that summons the big guys. Losing to this deck is almost enjoyable. Almost. I get handshakes and smiles when it starts doing it's thing. It's like the opposite of running a combo deck. Let's have fun.

It's all about the creatures. Slamming into the red zone with the biggest, baddest dudes is a victory all unto itself.

The dreaded Eldrazi. I run lots of them. Ulamog, Kozilek, It That Betrays, Artisan, Pathrazer, and Ulamog's Crusher. Where I play, Eldrazi are hated and feared. But combo is prevalent. And hey, this is Blue Braids. I go big. These could be replaced with the horde from the ocean's deep. Stormtide Leviathan and Lorthos along with the other sea monsters would fit right in and may be more acceptable where you play. Your call.

Ulamog, the Infinite GyreKozilek, Butcher of Truth

The bomber brothers.

Actually, Golems. But in my heart, they are totally robots. Blightsteel, Darksteel, Akros, Platinum Emperion, and Simulacrum are all robot colossus. Steel Hellkite and Memnarch both fit in this category, too. At least, in my mind they do.

Blightsteel ColossusDarksteel ColossusColossus of AkrosPlatinum Emperion

Consecreted Sphinx and Sphinx of Uthuun are both here, as is the relative newcomer, Arbiter of the Ideal. This deck could also go in the flying lion direction with Sphinxes everywhere, but that's another discussion. Diluvian Primordial, Phyrexian Ingester (eww), and Roil Elemental round this section out.

Consecrated SphinxSphinx of Uthuun

Yeah, there are some other creatures in this deck too. The deck wants to play lots of creatures, so the rest of the creatures help us to build the machine. Deadeye Navigator (yikes), Djinn of Wishes, Gilded Drake, Magus of the Future, Peregrine Drake, Riptide Shapeshifter, and Treasure Mage get the job done.

Djinn of WishesRiptide Shapeshifter

The Machine
Despite being a blue deck, this deck doesn't want to draw lots of cards. That's not how it does it's thing. Instead, it ramps, cheats, and manipulates things into play.

Caged Sun, Extraplanar Lens, Gilded Lotus, Mana Vault, Sol Ring, and Thran Dynamo make big mana.

Gate to the AEther, Omen Machine, Quicksilver Amulet, and Temporal Aperture (along with Djinn of Wishes) give us plenty of ways to cast our big guys without paying retail. Oh man, this deck has all of my favorite cards in it. Oh man. It's like hitting the slots. What will I get? Will it be a land? Or an Eldrazi? (When in doubt, rig the game.)

Omen MachineGate to the ÆtherQuicksilver AmuletTemporal Aperture

How do we rig the game? Let's mess with the order of our deck. Crystal Ball, Scroll Rack, Sensei's Divining Top, Soothsaying, Ponder, and Jace TMS. Did I mention Jace TFMS?

SoothsayingJace, the Mind Sculptor

You know all those cool things you put in your deck? Give them to me. Confiscate, Control Magic, Treachery, Bribery, and Blatant Thievery mean that your stuff becomes my stuff. Quit hitting yourself!


All Is Dust, Karn Liberated, Akroma's Memorial, Fabricate, Rite of Replication, Cyclonic Rift, Fact or Fiction, Temporal Mastery, Time Warp, Lightning Greaves, Swiftfoot Boots, and Future Sight. It's like the most badass rockstars of blue and colorless spells got together and made a greatest hits album.

Rite of ReplicationAkroma's Memorial

Here comes my favorite part.

Tick tock. The machine at work. Sure, you can ramp and then hard cast your Eldrazi. It happens. But that's not the machine.

Cast Fact or Fiction at the end of your opponent's turn, dropping your Omen Machine into the yard with Gate to the AEther in play. Play passes to you. Untap. On your upkeep with the Gate trigger on the stack, tap Academy Ruins to put Omen Machine on top of your library. Gate resolves, putting Omen Machine into play. Draw step, Omen triggers. Respond by activating Top to manipulate Ulamog to the top. Cast Ulamog for free with Omen. Destroy stuff.

On your upkeep, put Gate trigger onto the stack. Tap Strionic Resonator to copy the Gate trigger. Activate Crystal Ball, scry 2. Put Djinn of Wishes on top. Play him with first Gate trigger. Reveal Caged Sun and play it with second gate trigger naming "blue." Djinn three times to wish the top three cards into play. God help them if you hit Deadeye Navigator. Deadeye Navigator stuck in your hand? No problem, use Scroll Rack to put it on top then wish him out.

Deadeye NavigatorPeregrine Drake

Deadeye Navigator combos with lots of stuff in here including Peregrine Drake to make infinite mana, Sad Robot to rip lands out of your deck like a boss... oh, and Djinn of Wishes. I wish for MORE WISHES! You can even bond with Sphinx of Uthuun for cards that go into your hand (bypassing the restriction from Omen Machine).

Did I mention that Omen Machine shuts other players down? Especially control players. Suddenly they can't draw and most of the stuff they reveal with Omen is useless. Ha. High-fives from the guy playing Mayael.

Future SightMagus of the Future

Future Sight and Magus of the Future are absolutely nuts. With lots of mana and tons of library manipulation, it's shockingly easy to create a tidal wave of advantage with either of these two cards in play. The Panorama lands are here to make sure that you can keep the machine going when you get stuck, usually on a land. If you've already played your land for the turn and another land is sitting on top of your library, no problem. Have I got the thing for you. For the low, low cost of one mana and a tap / sac, you get to shuffle and try again. It also conveniently gets around Omen Machine. How nice for you.

Memory JarAcademy Ruins

Memory Jar is ridiculous. It's crazy easy to pop it with mana up, cast out your new hand, and then put it back on top of your library with Academy Ruins to do all over again. A couple spins like that and you'll be so far ahead, nothing else matters.

Strionic Resonator

Strionic Resonator doesn't make the products you buy, it makes the products you buy better. Yo! It copies the triggered abilities from Gate to the AEther and Omen Machine. What's better than free stuff? More free stuff. But wait, it gets better. Lots of the creatures have triggered abilities that can be copied too. From the lowly Sphinx of Uthuun. Pick a pile, twice? To the landfall trigger of Roil Elemental. I'll take that AND that. Want more? Ulamog and Kozilek have some nice triggered abilities when they are cast. You know what else is a triggered ability? Annihilator. That's right, double the Annihilator for double the fun.

The Commander
In my heart, this will always be a Braids, Conjurer Adept deck. But most of the people I play with already know what I'm up to and kill Braids on sight. I almost never get to use her. And to add insult to injury, they usually wait until it's just before my turn to kill her off. They all get the benefit and I get nothing.

I was spending too many deck slots on trying to keep her alive with things like Darksteel Plate. The deck was cluttered up and I had to spend even more slots on drawing cards to make sure that I always had something good to play with her ability. I'm sure players out there have gotten this strategy to work, I just wanted to do something different.

Thada Adel, Acquisitor

So, most of the time I don't actually run Braids. Instead, I run Thada Adel, Acquisitor. She is great for stealing Sol Rings (more ramp!), and has an additional upside in that I then know who to target with Bribery. Pro tip: target the guy with Blightsteel.

Empress GalinaSun Quan, Lord of Wu

Other options include Empress Galina, Memnarch, Thassa, Teferi, or even Memnarch. Want to really freak people out? Run Sun Quan, Lord of Wu as your Commander. Giving all of your creatures horsemanship makes them effectively unblockable, plus I like to imagine Ulamog on a horse sneaking by all those pesky blockers.

Hmm. Okay Ulamog, getting by that Storm Crow is going to be tricky. Have you considered riding this horse? I'll bet you can slip right by that darn Storm Crow since you'll be on a horse and he like, won't be.

Consider Cards
This is a tight deck. It's tough to make cuts. But there are a few cards that would fit here, so I'll probably get around to testing them. Copy Artifact and Phyrexian Metamorph are known powerhouses, and would be potent in a deck with lots of juicy targets to copy.

Copy ArtifactPhyrexian Metamorph

Gauntlet of Power might be better than Extraplanar Lens. Planar Portal might be better than Memory Jar. Thassa might be better than Crystal Ball, although I like being able to choose when I scry. Vedalken Shackles might be better than Control Magic or Confiscate. Vedalken Orrery and / or Leyline of Anticipation might be better than just about anything. Palinchron is savage with Deadeye or Caged Sun.

Vedalken OrreryVedalken Shackles

Those Vekalken guys make some pretty nice stuff, don't they?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Thoughts on Thromok

Gruul in the mist.

That's not good at all.

Fire up the Gruul.

No. Just no.

You go, Gruul.

Eh, good enough. Moving on.

EDH (Commander) is a tricky format. It's not about just building the strongest deck. The idea is to build a deck that is "interactive." In some ways, this is the opposite of what you want in a deck built for other formats. Visit the official rules page and click on "philosophy" for more info. In my experience, green and red tend to be the two most interactive colors.

With that said, my collection of green and red cards is weak. I play these two colors the least. In fact, I only play these colors when I play a 5 color deck. So, the cards I have tend to be strong support cards, but nothing I can build a deck around. (The green/red color combination is called "Gruul.")

Thromok the Insatiable

But this guy, Thromok the Insatiable, he's a terror. The deck is spectacular at doing something all Commander decks should aspire to: getting out of hand. This deck gets out of hand in a big way and it's really cool when it happens.

In a nutshell, the deck works like this:
  • Generate tokens.
  • Play Thromok.
  • Smash face.
Classic Gruul.

If you haven't read Thromok closely, go ahead and do that now. You see that "Devour X" ability? That means that Thromok doesn't just get big when he comes out, he gets BIG. He gets X counters for each creature he eats.

Let's suppose you devour 5 tokens. Congratulations, Thromok is now a 25/25. One hit and he's lethal since it's pure commander damage. And devouring 5 tokens is nothing. There are so many cool ways to generate tokens and so many small creatures that give incremental advantage, you're almost always going to see a Thromok that's much bigger than 25/25. Heck, munching down 7 tokens (just 2 more) results in a 49/49.

But it gets even better.

Warstorm SurgeFling

With Warstorm Surge out, someone is about to get smacked. And Fling? Ba-blam.

Vicious ShadowsAwakening Zone

The best part about Thromok is that green/red is a color combination that I don't usually see. Some of the best cards for this deck are inexpensive, especially compared to some of the format "staples" in the more popular colors. Warstorm Surge is downright scary to play against and can be had for less than $1. Vicious Shadows is a game-breaker, doubly so in this deck, and is also less than a $1. Awakening Zone is $2, generates tokens, AND ramps.

Xenagos, the RevelerXenagos, God of Revels

Moving up to slightly less budget cards, there are some amazing options. If you have a newer collection, start trading for both Xenagos cards. They will fit right in. If you're not into trading, they aren't too expensive right now at around $6-$8 each.

BerserkDomri Rade

Don't get me wrong. There are expensive cards that would fit in this deck. Berserk comes to mind ($50) or Domri ($20). But the heart of the deck is built around explosive cards that don't break the bank. If you're looking for a new commander or just want to give a different color combination a spin, check out Thromok.