Chaos Incarnate - Precon Primer

Chaos Incarnate
(Kardur, Doomscourge | Art by Helge C. Balzer)

Kardur, the Starter

Hey friends! The precons just keep on coming, and so the Scrap Trawlers are back with some more primers and upgrade guides for you. This time we’re turning our attention to the new Starter Commander Decks that Wizards released on December 2nd. These 5 two-color decks are marketed as a way to get your friends and family into playing the best format of Magic. And just in time for the holidays! The decks are built with beginners in mind, so we’ll have to keep reminding ourselves of that as we review, and obviously temper our expectations as to the efficacy of each deck. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about them! I’m Andy, and today I’m bringing you the deck led by one of my favorite Rakdos legends, Kardur, Doomscourge.

Dance, Puppets, Dance!

Kardur is a 4/3 Demon Berserker who has a quasi-goad effect when he enters the battlefield. Until your next turn, all creatures your opponents control have to attack someone other than you. Now keep in mind this isn’t technically goad, as it doesn’t affect your opponents’ creatures. Rather, it affects your opponents, so it will also cause any creatures that enter with haste to be required to attack as well. Then, because it wasn’t already awesome enough, Kardur drains life from opponents whenever an attacking creature dies. Any attacking creature, doesn’t matter who controls it.

I’ll confess to having tried to build a Kardur deck myself at one point. But the problem with having Kardur in the command zone is that you lose that element of surprise that you would’ve gotten from playing him from your hand. Also, Kardur is one of those rare commanders that you don’t want to play ASAP. He’s better to be patient with, and cast when the board is full so you can drop him and watch your opponents slap each other about. Because of this, I’m not thrilled with this choice as the leader for a beginner deck. But we’ll come back to that later.

As with most Commander precons, the deck comes with an alternate leader, and this one happens to be one of my other favorite Rakdos legends: Kaervek the Merciless. Kaervek is so good, dishing out damage whenever your opponents cast spells. But he also has a tendency to get hated off the board quickly. So I wouldn’t recommend him as a commander for beginners, as there’s nothing more disheartening to a beginner than not getting to play with your commander.

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What's it Do?

Alright, so here’s where we talk about the deck’s themes and strategies, how it’s supposed to win, and whatnot. But I gotta tell you, it took me a not-small amount of time to figure this deck out. To be honest, I’m still not totally sure. The deck is all over the place. It feels like someone dropped a box of bulk and cheap Commander staples into a pile and called it a deck. Which is ridiculous. But then it dawned on me…isn’t that exactly what beginner Commander players do when they build their first decks? In most cases, I believe it is. But that doesn’t mean Wizards should build a deck that way and sell it.

The deck is called Chaos Incarnate, so one might assume a bit of a chaos theme. But, aside from Chaos Warp, nary a chaos to be found. The biggest themes of the deck are direct damage and creature destruction/resurrection. Direct damage is supported by cards like Magmatic Force, Kaervek the Merciless, Tectonic Giant, and Brash Taunter (my boo), with some damage enhancement coming from Dictate of the Twin Gods

The deck is exceptionally heavy on removal spells, with Archfiend of Depravity, Deadly Tempest, Blasphemous Act, and Reign of the Pit to name just a few. And then we’re trying to get some of those tasty creatures back to our battlefield, with Rakshasa Debaser, Sepulchral Primordial, Dredge the Mire, and Profane Command. Now you may be asking yourself, why would I want Kardur, who wants my opponents to attack each other with as many creatures as possible, to lead a deck if I’m just going to kill all my opponents’ creatures? And that’s a very good question. A good question indeed.

I would’ve expected more goad effects in the deck, since that’s our commander’s theme, but all we’ve got is Geode Rager. There’s a sub-theme of dealing damage for instants and sorceries with Guttersnipe and Thermo-Alchemist, but with only 22 instants and sorceries in the deck, it’s not exactly a reliable strategy. 

How to Play it

In playtesting, I found the deck functions best when you’re really focusing on the direct damage. Unfortunately the deck doesn’t have enough of it, so you’re also going to have to attack. Thankfully there are a few beaters in the deck to satisfy this need, like Indulgent Tormentor and Bloodgift Demon.

The deck’s average mana value is 4.00, which is way higher than it really should be. It’s somewhat balanced out by having 40 lands in the deck, but I’d much rather see a lower curve and one or two fewer lands with more cheap, but effective spells. As is, make sure your starting hand has some ramp, because you’re gonna need it to cast your spells. There’s a lot of card draw/advantage in the deck, but much of it is on expensive cards like Sunbird’s Invocation and Coveted Jewel, so you can’t rely on cheap card draw to find your ramp in the early game.

Hang onto Kardur until the best moment, which is when your opponents all have threats on the board. Use their creatures against each other to chip away at their life totals enough that your direct damage effects and flying demons can sneak in and finish the job.

Final Thoughts

This deck does a poor job of supporting its commander’s abilities. It chooses to focus more on a variety of red and black’s greatest hits, like direct damage and graveyard recursion. Because of this, the deck has an identity crisis that I can only imagine would be confusing to a beginner. And, frankly, I don't think Kardur is a good choice for a beginner commander anyway. The decision of when to play him is complicated, and I'd rather a beginner start with a commander that is always good to have on the field.

Verdict: Skip it

Veterans of Commander won’t find much in this deck for valuable reprints, with the only notable cards being Lightning Greaves and Archfiend of Depravity. And the lands suite is one of the cheapest I’ve seen, including such duds as Urborg Volcano and Stensia Bloodhall. Even for $30, which seems to be the typical price for these decks, it’s just not worth it. And beginners will be better off with one of the other decks from this series.

We’re not done yet! If your Aunt Rudy gave you this deck for Xmas and you just wanna make it better without spending a lot of money, I’ve got you covered in my next article, which goes over the best cards to add to the deck to make it better. So keep your eye out for that! And don’t forget to check out the other budget content from Scrap Trawlers over on our YouTube and Twitch pages. Until next time, remember to budget…before you buy it.

Scrap Trawlers is a Magic: The Gathering budget EDH streaming and video group, with gameplay, deck techs, chats, and more. Catch our videos at Andy, Nick, Lenny, and Bert.