60 to 100 — The Greatest (God-Pharaoh's) Gift
Smell that? No, not your weird uncle and his "cologne", that he keeps hanging from his rear-view window. Yes, that other smell. The good one. It's that post-Pro Tour smell. Some innovation popped up like I told you it would, and, since I am a man of my word, I'm here to jam the most fun Standard deck into Commander. Thankfully, Pascal Maynard and his brew did not disappoint. With Thanksgiving later this week it seems only fitting that we talk about a "Gift,"(not Gifts Ungiven, that's a different deck you silly!) we can all be thankful for.
Side note, I'm really glad Pascal had such a great run at the Pro Tour. He's one of the few pro Magic players that I've met in person, getting to play next to him and talk at GP Louisville a while back, and he was terribly nice. Like, you could tell just by talking to him he's Canadian. Anyways here is the list that took Pascal to a Top 2 finish at Pro Tour Ixalan, and boy is it a sight.
Do you think in his testing sessions anyone bothered to tell Pascal that he was playing a 60-card Commander deck? 7-mana artifacts? Embalming creatures? graveyard strategies, oh my! I'm well aware that the days of aggro decks winning by turn five aren't too common anymore, but actually hard casting God-Pharaoh's Gift like he did seems crazy in non-Commander formats. We've heard people talking about how they love when players do Commander things in non-Commander formats and this is a prime example. This article almost feels like a freebie to be honest. I could just end the article here but that would be disingenuous of me and I'm a man of my word, remember?
Selecting God-Pharaoh's Chosen
So we have a deck focused on some one-by-one reanimation and gaining a ton of value. Since God-Pharaoh's Gift automatically makes the power and toughness of the creatures 4/4 it ruins our idea of cheating out fatties. What the 60-card version does well is abuse creatures with "enters the battlefield," abilities though, as evidenced by the full playset of Angel of Invention and Champion of Wits. These cards actually hold up in Commander though, the angel is played in a little over 2,600 decks report to EDHREC, so it's not exactly innovative in 100-card formats. If we decide to keep both cards we're going to need a white/blue legendary to help out.
Naturally Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun jumps out since he is both on color and deals with tokens which are helpful if we're gifting ourselves with new copies of creatures. At this time there are only a couple hundred Temmet decks, so he's not the most popular kid around. Of the four multicolor legendary creatures in Amonkhet he is safely the least popular. While I do love some underground tech or less seen commanders, Temmet is fairly uninteresting to me. I'll take the loss on flavor if it means doing the deck justice. If we wanted to play strictly white and blue only, Brago, King Eternal would be a WAY more powerful option not only in terms of the commander itself but is also set up to abuse abilities triggering when our stuff hits the battlefield again and again.
I'm going to stray away from Brago, Kind Eternal however. Coming in as the number nine all-time commander just seems overdone. If you've read my articles you know I'm not terribly fond of going with the most popular options, at least not as a default. Adding a color lets us get a little more creative and help open up some avenues to abuse our build-around cards more.
Since we're somewhat of a graveyard deck black seems like an easy include. Reanimator strategies are right up black's wheel house along with disruption and all the removal we could ever want. Sharuum the Hegemon immediately jumps out since we would be able to put any key artifacts into play. Partner commanders give us lots of flexibility with extra colors, so adding black to the white and blue means we could play one of my favorite partners in Silas Renn, Seeker Adept. My favorite candidate to add to the mix with black actually would be Sidisi, Brood Tyrant since she actively puts a massive amount of cards into the graveyard without even trying. The only downside of running Sidisi, Brood Tyrant is that we lose our access to white which feels like a key aspect to the deck. It sucks, because I still have to look for an excuse to play Sidisi now...
So we're not adding black, and we're definitely not adding red. Red doesn't give us much in terms of graveyard help, it does add lots of draw/discard effects which would be useful but not irreplaceable in blue. That only leaves green for our splash color then. Green gives us ALLLLL the utility, plus ramp, payoff cards and is just generally great when paired with blue. Allegedly. A quick look at the top-played green cards features creatures that have abilities that trigger when it enters the battlefield even! Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have our winner. Picking a commander in white, blue, and green is easy too. There's only one legendary in those colors that specializes in enter the battlefield abilities, but he's one of the best at it.
More Triggers Than a Gun Show
Now that we have our direction and a better focus on the deck we can start maxing out our "enters the battlefield," text. Sure, we obviously need our generic toolbox creatures that every green deck plays. Eternal Witness, Reclamation Sage, Mulldrifter, but you've heard these recommendations before. It doesn't take a scientist to figure out that Panharmonicon is really good in Commander when you're flickering this in and out of the battlefield. The numbers all speak for themselves. I owe it to all seven of my readers to do more than that!
Gee thanks Matt. You're sooooooo original...
What I will do is give you some analogs for the staples you should be playing already. I've been looking for a home for Faerie Artisans, and I think I finally have it. The most artistic of faeries doesn't trigger off our our own creatures, but we do get to take advantage of any abilities they get. Steal a Kozilek, the Great Distortion trigger? Sure! Get a copy of Noxious Gearhulk? Yup! Faerie Artisans is one of those cards that has made the rounds among the EDHREC writers as something we would build around more but never felt right. Well here I would say it does!
There are a few cards in Standard right now that I'm sure fit in the 60-card version of the deck here. Cataclysmic Gearhulk makes for a repeatable Tragic Arrogance to help the obnoxious tokens players not get so out of hand, or those pillow forts from getting too cushy. Cloudblazer was an all-star at my prerelease and acts as Mulldrifter 2.0 for any deck that can play it, so why wouldn't you make room for it? A new addition to Roon decks with Ixalan coming out that I'm excited to abuse a bit comes in the form of Tempest Caller. Don't tell Jason Alt that I'm finding any excuse possible to play more merfolk though....
See, not all my recommendations suck!
Getting ready for Santa
Now that we know the WHAT to our deck, we need to figure out the HOW. We know we want to make God-Pharaoh's Gift trigger every turn, so that means we need to get some creatures in our graveyard. Our carryover from the 60-card version Champion of Wits does plenty of looting each time we get him into play, plus Merfolk Looter and Frontline Sage are some reliable sources of discard along with helping us find our key cards.
We also can go BIG with our self milling, like, YUGE. If we need a graveyard dump there's nothing more reliable than a big fat Traumatize. Literally half the deck. Right into the yard. Bing bang boom. Academy Elite is a nice way to take advantage of the work everyone at the table is doing too, doubling as a beater or a way to draw more cards. Plus we can even reset them with our commander! I'm telling you folks, there are some silly things we can do in this deck. Academy Elite only coming it at just over 600 decks brought to EDHREC seems...like people need to play it more often than they are.
"Dang Matt, you really made up for those first additions!"
Now then, lets see the final product.
Leftovers for the road
- When you have so many ways to draw cards like we do in the deck we can get away with playing fewer lands, which means more room for awesome cards! Farhaven Elf and Wood Elves getting flickered also are ways to get all of our lands when we want them. We're not quite to the area of White Weenie-type land counts, but when you have to cut a few less bombs it's helpful.
- What is more fun than casting Primal Surge and waiting to see how far you to go into your deck? Not a whole lot. We don't want to put our entire deck into play, we're not playing Laboratory Maniac like a goon. My editor probably would recommend it but I'll practice some restraint here.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Someone's cruisin' for a firin'...
- If you ever wanted to go deeper with the unofficial angel tribal theme, Roon is a surprisingly great commander for that strategy. Lots of angels with lots of different effects worth repeating. I didn't even make room for Resolute Archangel!!
And there we have it. Anyone who says that there isn't anything for us Commander players at the Pro Tour events just isn't looking hard enough. Let me know what stood out to you and if I did Mr. Maynard right with the port over into Commander in the comments. Don't forget to let me know what decks you'd like to see transitioned next as well! Thanks as always everyone!