Achievement Unlocked - Building a Deck Around Battles

(Begin the Invasion | Art by Campbell White)

Picking Your Battles

Have you ever made a Commander bucket list? Welcome to Achievement Unlocked, where we take a look at the cool and unique things you can do in this format other than just winning.

For the first time in a long time, we were treated to an entirely new card type, and I couldn't wait to build around it. I set out a deck that was committed to playing and flipping battles while finding the best ways to take advantage of the new card type.

We are still pretty short on battle options, so WUBRG makes sense, and Omnath, Locus of All felt like a flavorful fit. Not only that, but it plays exceptionally well with the card that inspired me to build this deck. Begin the Invasion is my kind of card. We can use it as a toolbox to find whatever battles we need and dump them directly into play, and with enough setup the card can outright win the game. It doesn't take many battles to get our mana's worth, but what cards are worth searching up?

Are Battles Worth it in Commander?

Short answer: it depends. Honestly, very few of this first batch of battles are generically powerful enough to slot into just any deck. Those are covered very well within our set reviews. Let's jump to the ones that are powerful specifically when building around battles.

I immediately wrote off Invasion of Arcavios. The rate on the front side is terrible; the card on the back is powerful, but this battle seems incredibly difficult to flip with seven defense counters. However, there is a lot more to this card then meets the eye, and much of that centers around its interaction with Begin the Invasion. Sure, it can search for the spell, but it can even find it if it has been exiled or is in the graveyard. That also means when you cast Begin the Invasion and bring this card into play, you can put Begin the Invasion back into your hand to cast it again. In a pinch you can use it to find an answer to a key threat or to grab another game-ending bomb, such as Ruinous Ultimatum.

Invasion of Fiora is both generically powerful and exceptional in this deck. The effect is strong and you will frequently want to clear the board entirely unless you can enable an attack with just one option or the other. It also offers a repeatable board wipe effect that you can keep around even just to threaten recurring the effect. It will often be one of the most important cards you search up with Begin the Invasion. Additionally, it has just four defense counters, which is the key number in this deck because it pairs well with the next battle on my list.

Invasion of Regatha is arguably the most important card we can search up with Begin the Invasion, as it allows us to immediately flip another battle we put into play. Even just casting Begin the Invasion for seven mana allows us to pull these two cards and immediately start generating advantage off Marchesa, Resolute Monarch, and we can use her the next turn to flip another battle.

Invasion of Zendikar plays out similarly, as, if we can immediately flip it, we get a creature with haste that can immediately pressure another battle. This card is close enough to Migration Path and similar cards to warrant an inclusion on its own. Just remember this battle does encourage you to run a few more basics which is a small tradeoff for the upside.

The most important factors to consider a battle for this deck or any deck are:

  1. How good is the front side? In other words, would I play the front side on its own?
  2. How easy is it to flip?

Invasion of Vryn flies under the radar, but the front side is serviceable if slightly underwhelming, but it has a low defense counter number in four. The back side also plays very well with our plan to cast Begin the Invasion. Invasion of Tolvada, on the other hand, is a bit of a trap. The front side is nice and hits more than just creatures, but not hitting battles is a huge downside. The back side seems like it would be good at pressuring battles, but the cost to flip is high and the card itself is slow. Most of the strength in a card like Bitterblossom is its ability to come down early and generate value all game, which this can rarely do, and the fliers aren't big enough to kill your opponents on their own.

How to Win Your Battles

It's important to note that to flip a battle you must deal damage to it or otherwise remove the counters. Destroying the permanent does not cause it to flip. We didn't get a ton of support for removing counters in the set. Etched Host Doombringer is a little underpowered, and Portent Tracker is a little slow. The only consideration that just about makes the cut is Render Inert. It's overcosted but importantly it at least gives you the card back.

Vampire Hexmage has gotten a ton of hype since the set has been spoiled as it can immediately flip a battle. Hexmage pairs particularly well with Invasion of Ikoria, as it can search for the Hexmage, which you can immediately sac to flip it (or any other battle). Hex Parasite is mana-intensive but can have a similar effect throughout the game.

The traps in this category are cards that remove a single counter at a time. Chisei, Heart of Oceans, Power Conduit, and Scholar of New Horizons are too slow to be worth a card slot in our decks. Aether Snap, Cemetery Desecrator, and Thief of Blood are clunky, but they can all flip a battle or multiple on their own.

Directing Damage at Your Battles

As soon as I realized that you stay in control of battles that you give opponents, I thought of Chain Lightning. I love the interaction of copying the spell again and again to ping down battles. However, I don't think this is actually that strong, in particular with a deck that's playing all five colors. I prefer Meteor Blast and Violent Eruption. They're also mana-intensive, but they synergize extremely well with our commander.

Two-damage spells that fit well in this deck are Warstorm Surge and All Will Be One. Generally, I find these sorts of cards way too clunky at this high of a mana cost, but they synergize extremely well with battles. All Will Be One unfortunately cannot hit battles itself, but it lets you gain extra value from your battles and clears the way for you to attack them. Warstorm Surge works better if you already have a few battles on the battlefield. Many battles flip into creatures that will then trigger Warstorm Surge which can hit another battle and potentially create a chain reaction.

Creatures that Win Battles

Chrome Host Seedshark costs a bit more to create creatures than Monastery Mentor, but many of the downsides are secretly upsides. Incubate tokens can dodge board wipes and then immediately pressure battles, and in addition the Shark itself pressures battles better than the Monk. 

Initially, I was drawn to cards that can create multiple flying tokens, such as Lingering Souls, Sweep the Skies, and Migratory Route, but I turned cold on these options rather quickly. Their evasive bodies are nice, but frequently you will need to commit four or more to flip a battle.

I prefer to go a little bigger with my token-creation to make enough creatures or big enough creatures to pressure multiple battles at once. Luckily, our commander can help us out with this because there are a variety of cards that accomplish this that also have triple mana-pips. Entreat the Angels has a few odd play patterns with our commander. We can take advantage of the Miracle cost, but if we do we're not taking advantage of the three-mana discount. However, both those situations are strong enough to make this a solid inclusion. Emeria's Call doubles as four mana for two Angels, and if we can't get the discount we always have the out to play it as a land. 

The last two sets have also given us board wipes that leave creatures behind. White Sun's Twilight and Sunfall both clear the way while leaving us with creatures that we can use to pressure battles. Planar Outburst does the same, but the creature even has haste that can flip a battle and leave us with two creatures while everyone else has to rebuild their boards from scratch.

Broodmate Dragon is generally not a strong card, but if we can get the three-mana discount we effectively generate two bodies that can take down a battle on their own for just three mana, and it's not the only creature with a strong ETB. Drakuseth, Maw of Flames also has three colored mana-pips, but it doles out damage that can hit any target and take down multiple battles.

Blinking and Doubling Your Battles

Battles are nonland permanents and thus they can be blinked. The best of these effects can repeatedly flicker our battles. Brago, King Eternal does this every turn and can effectively give all our creatures who attacked battles vigilance. Battles are also noncreature permanents, meaning they work great with Displacer Kitten for repeated triggers. The trick here is finding a balance between flickering and flipping battles. Frequently, you won't want to flicker a battle if you already exhausted resources damaging it. However, some battles are better left undamaged and repeatedly flickered. The front side of an Invasion of Mercadia will frequently be much more powerful than its back in Commander. We don't even need to flicker at all to trigger it again if we have Yarok, the Desecrated. Not only does it work well with our commander, but it also doubles our battle triggers.

Making the Most of Our Commander

Omnath, Locus of All is primarily a five-color value engine with a little bit of flavor thrown in. Its primary purpose is to facilitate this experiment with battles, but that doesn't mean we can't build around it a little bit. Our deck so far has not taken advantage of our commander's ability to the fullest. This card is strong on its own, but many of our removal and card draw slots can make our deck stronger if we include cards with three colored mana symbols rather than the staples.

Endless Detour and Void Rend are both flexible removal options that we can potentially cast for free with our commander. Wargate and Guided Passage give us options for tutors, while Villainous Wealth and Genesis Wave let us put either our own or our opponents' decks directly into play. Riveteers Charm and Abzan Charm are just a few of the charms that allow us to draw cards while also having additional alternate effects tacked on.


Battles are an interesting new card type, and I can't wait to see what other interactions I will discover as they continue to evolve, as we're sure to get more in the future. Right now is a great time to invest in some of the ones that interest you, and in good support cards, because the card type is bound to grow stronger the more it is supported. Begin the Invasion, in particular, will be an interesting card every time we get new battles, and most importantly it is insanely fun.

What battle synergies did I miss and what would you include in this deck? Who is the best battle commander and what would your ideal battle commander in a future set do? Let me know in the comments below!

Battling it Out

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Commander (1)
Battles (18)
Lands (35)
Creatures (14)
Instants (8)
Sorceries (17)
Enchantments (2)
Artifacts (4)
Planeswalkers (1)

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Ben is a Michigan native who fell in love with Magic just a few years ago in 2019. He loves making big splashy plays in Commander as well as crunching the number to optimize his decks. Outside of Magic, he works in marketing and loves a great cup of coffee to start each morning… maybe with a splash of hot chocolate for his sweet tooth.

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