Achievement Unlocked - Which Alt Win Cons Are the Most Satisfying to Win With? Part 2
(Revel in Riches | Art by Eric Deschamps)
A Win is a Win
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.
Today, I continue to 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.
This card sees play in a lowly 115 decks, and that is not without reason. Unfortunately, with the current pool of cards, this card is impossible to win with outside of using Claire D'Loon, Joy Sculptor. Alternatively, you can animate it in an Enchantress deck, but that's a real stretch just to try to make this playable. If you're incredibly desperate for a repeatable scry effect in an Eligeth, Crossroads Augur deck, then this can do the trick, but there are way better options.
Achievement Difficulty Level: Not worth the effort.
A true classic. The simplicity of this one is what makes it so appealing. 100 mana is no small feat, but the beautiful directness of a card that rewards you for spending that much mana is an appealing prospect for my EDH bucket list. Sure, it is an easy win with infinite mana, but what I love about this card is that if you can spend 100 mana you probably could have already won the game another way, but this is way more stylish and difficult. Count me in! This card wants an insane amount of mana. Think Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger or Old Gnawbone. These decks are likely to cause your opponents to become salty, which can be alleviated by dropping a Helix Pinnacle rather than ending the game early with a Finale of Devastation. The most interesting way to use this ability is with Rosheen Meanderer, a deck which already wants to double up the commander's ability and untap it multiple times, and if you do this, the mana can be dumped straight into Helix Pinnacle.
Achievement Difficulty Level: Difficulty depends on how many dice you have for counters.
I love this card so much that it's the primary win condition in my Meria, Scholar of Antiquity stax/land-destruction deck. Yes, you read that correctly. I built a stax/land-destruction deck. Yeah, I do struggle to find a playgroup. Why do you ask?
This is one of the many cards that benefits from the obscene amount of Treasure tokens running around the format. It excels even further if you lean into Treasures with Jolene, the Plunder Queen. Magda, Brazen Outlaw is my favorite fit for this card since it can even search the Dragon up at instant speed. The best part about this card is that it's also just dang solid regardless of win condition potential. It's a big Dragon that can permanently steal an opponent's mana rocks and can become a must-kill if artifacts start to stack up.
Achievement Difficulty Level: Get those Treasure tokens out and you can get this one done quickly.
Laboratory Maniac (and Friends)
I grouped these three together because I refuse to talk about them three separate times. Chances are if you have been playing this format for a while you have run into one of them or at least heard of them. The best combo with these cards is Demonic Consultation due to its efficiency, but it can also be done with Leveler or Tainted Pact. The best of the effects is on Thassa's Oracle as it can win without drawing a card, and killing it in response to the trigger will not stop the ETB effect from ending the game. These cards are pretty hard to play fairly, but you could potentially slip the two creature versions into a Merfolk or Wizard deck. If you do, just know you will attract a lot of hate, especially if you also have access to black mana. These are best left to the competitive scene, in my opinion.
Achievement Difficulty Level: Too easy for a casual game.
Another card that benefits from being a desirable effect outside of its potential to end the game. This being an enchantment means you can blink it for extra card draw. On the surface, this seems like a solid win condition for a Demons deck, such as the new Be'lakor, the Dark Master or Raphael, Fiendish Savior, which were both released this year. It's also a flavorful win for a Liliana themed deck. However, the hidden use case for this card is in a Changeling deck. Changeling Outcast, Realmwalker and other Changelings are much more efficient to cast than the average Demon. Morophon, the Boundless, Reaper King and Tazri, Beacon of Unity are my personal favorite options for this type of deck since they can leverage all five colors worth of Changelings.
Achievement Difficulty Level: Just make sure your Demons aren't actually Demons.
Are you a Timmy or Tammy? Do you love giant creatures? Then this may be the card for you. This card fits best in decks that naturally have as giant commander. Uril, the Miststalker, Jared Carthalion, True Heir and Ramos, Dragon Engine all work well with this card. I love it with Ramos since it's also a three-color card that helps add counters to the Dragon. Even without this synergy, this card can be an engine to put counters on your entire board in a Naya +1/+1 counters strategy, such as Marath, Will of the Wild. It's the best card to use if you've always wanted to win with Colossification.
Achievement Difficulty Level: Could be difficult. Unless you are a Timmy!
Rest in peace, Golos, Tireless Pilgrim. This card lost its biggest supporter a little over a year ago, but that doesn't mean it hasn't gained some extra help. We recently received a new cycle of Gates earlier this year in Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate. These make it easier to play Maze's End in a deck with fewer colors, such as Nine-Fingers Keene. However, my favorite addition of the year is Gond Gate, which makes your tap-land mana base wayyyy more effective. That said, without Golos, this win condition is a lot trickier. Reshape the Earth and Scapeshift are essential pieces to win consistently with this strategy. However, I am still hoping for a five-color Gate-themed commander to come out soon, to take up Golos's mantle. Maybe in the next Ravnica set?
Achievement Difficulty Level: Finally a use for Scapeshift! (Yes, that's sarcasm.) Maybe you can pull this one off even without Golos.
What's that? Another card that is good with Treasures? Oh, brother!
In all seriousness, Treasures are not the only token making this card stronger. Tokens are the easiest way to take advantage of this card, since the copy effect will take so much extra time. Luckily, in addition to Treasures, the last few years have seen plenty of Clues, Blood, Food and even Powerstone tokens, and most of these are easy to produce quickly. Lonis, Cryptozoologist, Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator and Toggo, Goblin Weaponsmith can all quickly win with this off the back of just the commander. My favorite place for this card is Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer. Also, note that you don't need to have eight artifacts that have the same name as the enchanted permanent. You just need eight artifacts in general that have the same name. This means you can enchant any great artifact and make copies of it, while your completely separate pile of Clues or Treasure over on the side will help you win the game!
Achievement Difficulty Level: Pretty easy for anyone who has a Clue what they're doing.
In theory, this card suggests all your creatures went to battle and died valiantly. In practice, you probably milled all those cards into your graveyard. This deck already requires a deckbuilding restriction even if it's not a steep one. However, you are unlikely to pull this off naturally without throwing some cards in your graveyard from your hand or library. This is great in Muldrotha, the Gravetide since not only are you throwing cards in your graveyard, but you can also play this card if you mill it. Old Stickfingers is a great fit because you can throw tons of creatures into your graveyard without accidentally throwing this enchantment in too. Of course, if you do mill this card, you can always use a Regrowth or Eternal Witness effect to get it back.
Achievement Difficulty Level: Finish them! But only if you can mill a boatload of cards first.
The best friend of any commander that has a “pay life” ability. The smaller the amount the better, becase that allows us to get closer to the necessary 1 life. This is an upkeep effect so instant speed life payments are a huge plus! Vona, Butcher of Magan and Licia, Sanguine Tribune are both popular fits for this card, but they both suffer from a high life payment and timing restriction, so they tend to be high-risk. Selenia, Dark Angel cuts both these problems out, and that makes it the best option for life-swapping decks and playing with life totals in general. It also makes it the perfect fit for this effect as long as we can get to an odd life total. Keep in mind that you can stack Selenia's ability to activate it multiple times before it returns to your hand!
Achievement Difficulty Level: A must for any Selenia deck, but I would stay away from otherwise.
Ramses, Assassin Lord
Do you want an alternate win condition in the command zone? Then this is the commander for you. There's not too much to say about this card in the 99, as it does not fit into many other decks outside of Etrata, the Silencer. However, it is a great general in its own right. Notably, the Assassin you attack with does not need to deal the final blow. That means you can win even if a Blood Artist finishes the opponent off after you already attacked with your commander. That opens this commander's strategy up a little, but the most satisfying way to win with this deck is certainly with a ton of other Assassins in the 99.
Achievement Difficulty Level: I mean, it's in your command zone. How hard could it be?
Revel in Riches
I think you know where this is going. Yes, other Treasure-creating cards make this way easier nowadays. Yes, there are no shortage of options for a commander for this deck. Negan, the Cold-Blooded, Vazi, Keen Negotiator and Mahadi, Emporium Master all come to mind. I can't keep talking about Treasures or I will go crazy, but even among the many win-cons that get better with Treasure, this might be the easiest.
Achievement Difficulty Level: Snore.
This one holds a special place in my heart, as it was a long-time win condition in my Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker and Reyhan, Last of the Abzan +1/+1 counters deck. There are no shortage of Simic based decks that focus on counters, with Experiment Kraj being the most popular use for this card. All the best Proliferate effects are in these colors (Evolution Sage and Deepglow Skate are my favorites). Of course, this is yet another perfect card to pair with The Ozolith. The color restriction allows this to fit into slightly fewer decks than other alternate win condition cards - most notably it cannot fit into Selesnya or Abzan decks - but that does not mean it is short of great homes.
Achievement Difficulty Level: A great place to start for those new to alternate win conditions.
Test of Endurance
This is basically worse than Felidar Sovereign, but it does have a few advantages. The downside is that it has no effect on the board and cannot help fuel itself. It also notably requires you to go above your starting life total, unlike the Sovereign. However, it's cheaper, and the fact that it's an enchantment means it's immune to creature removal. My favorite home for this card is Oloro, Ageless Ascetic because sometimes it can come down on turn 3 or 4 and just steal a game if it goes unanswered. Even if you cannot pull off an early win, this is still a reasonable way to win a game in just about any lifegain deck (though it's not particularly playable outside of that strategy).
Achievement Difficulty Level: Honestly, this one is only a challenge outside of lifegain decks.
This card has been flying under the radar since it came out last year. It's currently in 23,881 decks, but for some reason I feel like I have never seen it in a game. This one was in my Eligeth, Crossroads Augur and Kydele, Chosen of Kruphix scry deck, and it certainly proved to be a threat. The effect of raising your hand size is already a desirable effect, and this one's on an efficient creature. Notably, this card is a Wizard. This makes it a viable option for any Wizard theme deck, especially Azami, Lady of Scrolls, who can super-expedite this win condition.
Achievement Difficulty Level: Easy enough that it should see more play.
Part 1 raised a lot of questions on Reddit about exactly what constitutes an alternate win condition. This article focuses on cards that specifically say “you win the game” so I did not include things like combos, because there are metric tons of infinite combos that can end a game. Another strategy I didn't include is mill, which could also technically fall into the category of 'alternate win condition'. I went with a specific definition, but your definition may vary from mine.
There are a few similar effects that I did want to touch on before signing off.
“Target player loses the game.”
Losing the game plays out similarly to winning the game, but it only affects one opponent. Often the criteria is a little less intensive as you will have to pull it off multiple times to win the game. There are many cards that fall into this category, but these are a few of my favorites.
“Draw the game”
One of the most polarizing cards in the entire format is Divine Intervention. This card is very similar to alternate win conditions, insofar as it ends the game, but controversy arises because it draws the game rather than winning it. For whatever reason, this card makes players a lot more salty than the average alternate win condition, and for that reason I encourage you to play this card as frequently as you can. It is the most satisfying way to generate high levels of sodium among your playgroup. Just maybe proxy this one because it is not cheap!
I hope that this pair of articles has encouraged you to consider how you can end the game outside of combat damage. Sometimes, it can be fun to throw one of these cards into your deck just to spice it up, even if you're not dedicated to winning with it. This is especially good when you're using a card that's strong on its own, such as Hellkite Tyrant.
Which of these alternate win conditions is your favorite? What else constitutes an alternate win condition that I did not touch on in this article? Let me know in the comments below.