Achievement Unlocked - Which Alt Win Cons Are the Most Satisfying to Win With? Part 1
(Battle of Wits | Art by Jason Chan)
Are You Winning, Son?
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.
First, I'm going to take a look at some of the more unique ways to end a game of Commander. Some of these are harder to pull of than others, so let's take a look at the best ones for beginners and the ones that will likely take a few tries before you can check them off your to-do list.
Approach of the Second Sun
This is a control player's dream. There's no need to ever enter combat to win the game. There isn't too much to winning with this card, but it's a great fit for a deck short on win-cons. Azorious springs to mind. A great addition to a Brago, King Eternal or Kwain, Itinerant Meddler that can draw a bunch of cards, but needs help ending the game. Blue is a great companion color with this card, because you want to speed up the process rather than waiting seven turns. However, avoid adding too many colors, because fetchlands and ramp spells feel pretty awkward in your hand when you're trying to dig up this spell.
Achievement Difficulty Level: Piece of cake.
If Approach of the Second Sun is too easy of a challenge for your Azorius deck, there are other options.
This card has a lot of downsides. First, it's a creature, making it easier to kill. Second, and more importantly, in a multiplayer game you will never be able to filibuster long enough to make this work. Luckily, there are cards that can help. This is a much more interesting way to win with your Atraxa, Praetors' Voice deck than ultimating a planeswalker. Evolution Sage and Lae'zel, Vlaakith's Champion can speed up the process, while The Ozolith can give the strategy some resilience.
Achievement Difficulty Level: Not for the weak of heart.
Now this is a satisfying and clean win! Winning the game with only a single permanent is an achievement that certainly will make an impression on your opponents. This card is begging to be played in a deck that can destroy its own resources. Child of Alara is an option, but the clear favorite deck to slot this one is into Atogatog. Almost all Atogs have the ability to destroy your own permanents for value. Perhaps most crucially, Psychatog can discard cards to make sure your hand is empty as well. If you want to lean into the meme even harder, you can play One with Nothing to complete the combo.
Achievement Difficulty Level: Your odds are looking barren.
Battle of Wits
For years, Commander's rules have made this card essentially unplayable, but that is no longer the case… kinda. Well, this one is still basically impossible unless you and your playgroup are willing to bend the rules a bit and play with silver-bordered cards. Claire D'Loon, Joy Sculptor allows us to turn our tokens into real cards once they leave the battlefield.
- Play a ton of token creators, such as Ancient Gold Dragon
- Combine with cards that shuffle your graveyard into your library, such as Elixir of Immortality
- Repeat until you can no longer shuffle
If you convince your friends to let you do this, please bring enough sleeved tokens to make it work. Also, maybe buy them pizza after and don't make them play against this deck every week.
Achievement Difficulty Level: Near impossible? Only recommended for the maddest of lads.
Some cards only get easier and easier to make work over time, and Biovisionary is the perfect example of this. Sure, we can't play multiple of them, but every few sets a new Clone effect is printed, such as the new Pirated Copy, and all those variants make this card even stronger. Esix, Fractal Bloom is a perfect home for this alternate victory condition. My favorite feature of this card is that, unlike many win conditions, this card wins on the end step rather than the upkeep. This means it can win the very same turn it comes down, unlike many other cards on this list.
Achievement Difficulty Level: Dipping your toe in the alternate win condition pool.
Another win condition dealing with counters, but this time we want to move in the other direction by removing counters. As I started brainstorming, the first thing I thought of was turning this enchantment into a creature with Opalescence and removing the counters in a Falco Spara, Pactweaver deck, but upon reflecting and looking at the EDHREC data, I think there might be an easier way. This card combines well with Dark Depths's best buddy, Vampire Hexmage. Black is also a great complement to white for this card, since it's only really playable in a lifegain deck, which is one of the more popular archetypes for the color pair. There are likely easier lifegain win conditions, and even alternate win conditions, but this one is a great addition for an added challenge or redundancy.
Achievement Difficulty Level: The challenge for those who already have won with Felidar Sovereign.
This card does a whole lot of nothing in 99% of decks, but it really does pack a punch in a coin-flipping deck. Okaun, Eye of Chaos and Zndrsplt, Eye of Wisdom are the classic combo. Recently, however, Krark, the Thumbless and Yusri, Fortune's Flame have given us some new options to test our luck with. If your deck is dedicated to this strategy, then the hurdle is not too hard to climb, but I don't recommend this one unless one of these is your commander.
Achievement Difficulty Level: Reasonable if you're feeling lucky.
The more I look at this card, the more I dislike it. It falls into the same category of so many of these cards, where they benefit from Proliferate to increase the number of counters as quickly as possible, but I think it's probably the worst of them. The upsides? It's colorless, which makes it the only option on this list that can fit into literally any deck. Also, although it triggers on upkeep, it can win at instant speed if it has enough counters. All that said, 20 counters is so many, and the hoops to jump through on this one are higher than others, and the payoff feels rather uninspired. The easiest commander to pull this off with is probably Vorel of the Hull Clade, but if you're looking for a challenge, throw this in a Guile, Sonic Soldier deck. Combine that with Coretapper, Power Conduit, and Energy Chamber for a charge-counter-themed win condition.
Achievement Difficulty Level: Not for those who forget their upkeep triggers.
Scute Swarm on its own makes this card appealing. I just said 20 is a lot for the last card, but when it comes to creatures, 20 is a lot more reasonable. This card fits nicely in just about any token deck, and with new commanders such as Cadira, Caller of the Small and Jinnie Fay, Jetmir's Second coming out each and every year, this card will only get more support. The biggest downside is that this triggers on upkeep and falls hard to a board wipe. Perhaps even more significantly, this card is a downgrade to just about any Overrun effect. However, if your friends are tired of dying to your Craterhoof Behemoth every game, then this card could be a more palatable game-ender for the table.
Achievement Difficulty Level: Worth a shot, if you can’t find another way to win with just 20 creatures.
A true classic. The best part about this card is that it is never truly dead or useless. It will always be a creature that can block and attack with two relevant keywords and a relevant creature type. The lifelink even helps fuel the win condition. This card is a must-have for any self-respecting lifegain player, and it may even find its way into your Cat deck if you're playing Arahbo, Roar of the World.
Achievement Difficulty Level: Reasonably easy and a necessary part of any player’s bucket list.
Halo Fountain shares qualities with each of the two cards above it on this list. Much like Epic Struggle, this card benefits from the constant influx of token creators and token-centric commanders. Where this card excels in comparison is that, much like Felidar Sovereign, this card still does something even if it's not winning the game. It gives creatures pseudo-vigilance, creates tokens, and can draw cards in a color that is always desperate for extra card advantage. It may be hard to win with outside of mono-white, because of all those pips, but this card won’t let you down in Bennie Bracks, Zoologist. It also might be good enough in certain decks that don't even plan on using the win condition. Kitt Kanto, Mayhem Diva and Emmara, Soul of the Accord can benefit from the ability to tap and untap your creatures without risking them in combat.
Achievement Difficulty Level: Totally possible if you're willing to play mono-white.
Happily Ever After
The epitome of hoops to jump through. This feels to me like an attempt to fix Coalition Victory, but it's much harder to pull off. This card fits best in a Group Hug deck that has all five colors, such as Kenrith, the Returned King or Karona, False God. However, some players already hate playing against this strategy, and players hate playing against five colors, so if on top of that you drop this card, you're likely to get some aggro sent your way. There are so many checkboxes to hit, and it doesn't trigger until upkeep. This card is honestly just kind of bad, but of course, that's the reason that I love it! Happily Ever After turns out to be high up on my bucket list. I have not found a deck of mine to slot this into, but if I ever pull it off, I might have to retire from the format on the spot.
Achievement Difficulty Level: Pull this off and you can replace Kenrith on his throne.
With that, we're halfway through! Keep your eyes open for Part 2 in the future! Which of these is your favorite? Are we still waiting on your favorite? Have you ever won with Happily Ever After? Let me know in the comments below.