Deadly Disguise Precon Review
Suddenly Everyone in Ravnica Thinks They’re Columbo.
Hey friends. Welcome back for another round of precon guides here at EDHREC. We’re digging through all the clues to see if these preconstructed Commander decks for Karlov Manor are any good.
Let’s begin the investigation with Deadly Disguise, which is led by .
Who Are the Commanders for Deadly Disguise?
Kaust is a 2/2 Dryad Detective for just two mana (one green and one red/white hybrid, which can be paid with either color) that draws you a card when you deal combat damage to a player with a creature that was turned face up this turn. You can also tap Kaust to flip an attacking face-down creature. So the plan here is to attack with a face-down creature, get in for damage, and flip it before damage is dealt.
Our alternate commander is , a 5/5 Bear for five mana that draws cards on entry equal to the number of 2/2 creatures you control (2/2s are colloquially referred to as “bears” in the Magic community, harkening back to and other 2/2 Bears through Magic's history). She also pumps your 2/2s +3/+3 when they attack.
Duskana seems a bit out of place here at first glance. I mean, what’s a Bear doing in the middle of a plane-wide mystery? But keep in mind that almost all face-down creatures are 2/2s. So even if we don’t flip the attacking creature, it at least has a better chance of survival, or doing more damage, as a 5/5.
Here’s the full decklist for Deadly Disguise:
Deadly Disguise PreconView on Archidekt
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What Are the Themes and Strategies of Deadly Disguise?
If this deck could be summed up in one word, it’s “Surpriiiiiiise!”
Deadly Disguise is packed full of creatures that can be played face-down, and cards that allow you to play other cards face-down. There are several mechanics that do this, including two that are new in Karlov Manor. Disguise and Cloak, which are upgraded versions of Morph and Manifest, respectively, offer the added protection of ward 2 to the face-down creatures.
As with already existing Morph decks, such as (4550 decks) and (685 decks), the goal is to flip your creatures at the most opportune time, and keep your secrets closely guarded.
While the deck is full of surprises, its main way of winning is good old-fashioned combat. enhances your 2/2s +3/+3 when they attack, a boost they’ll retain if their base power/toughness changes mid-combat. and both give deathtouch to attacking creatures, which can make a 2/2 much more likely to get through for damage. makes sure that your 2/2s are much harder to block (this is a non-bo with Duskana, btw). can pump a single creature, can give you an extra combat, and and can make all your creatures bigger for an alpha strike. Duskana and Mirror Entity work especially well together, since Duskana looks at base power/toughness, which is exactly what Mirror Entity adjusts. Spend two mana to turn everything in to a base 2/2, swing with everything and get the Duskana boost, then spend more mana to activate Mirror Entity again to make everything much bigger. But don't expect to pull this trick off twice.
There are also token and +1/+1 counter sub-themes in the deck. These frequently happen when creatures are flipped, like with , , and . Obviously these effects are there to assist with the deck’s goal to dominate in combat.
There are some really neat tricks in the deck as well. is a fun one, because it keeps all your nontoken creatures from dying. Since it brings them back face-down, most creatures can just be flipped over for their Morph or Disguise costs.
How Do You Play the Deck?
With this deck, timing is everything. Knowledge of steps and phases is key, particularly the combat step. There will be many times when you want your creatures to flip after blocks but before damage. Thankfully, Morph and Disguise can be done at any time and don’t use the stack, so you don’t need priority. But you will need to be vigilant for the best time to flip.
Decision-making is very challenging with this precon. Especially in the early turns, it can be difficult to decide whether you should spend your mana on a face-down creature, which could affect the game later, or spend it on something that will build your board state now. I honestly don’t have an answer for this conundrum. You’ll never have enough mana at the beginning of the game to do a lot, so it requires a bit of patience. And a few extra turns to set up.
The ramp and card draw suites are decent. As I said, you’ll never have enough mana in the early game, but more ramp won’t necessarily fix that, since you’ll just be spending your early turns on ramp spells. But I want to draw attention to two mana-producing creatures, and . Both give you red mana related to combat, Tesak for attacking and Neheb for damage dealt in combat. The thing is, you don’t have a lot you can do with this mana. Tesak is far more useful, since the mana can be used to flip creatures during combat, while Neheb’s mana during post-combat main is frequently going to go unused. Unless you’re itching to hard-cast that . Regardless, these are not great, or reliable, ramp sources.
In playtesting, I found I had a hard time getting face-down creatures to the board reliably often. This was partially a mana issue, and partially just not enough ways to get them out. So if you can get an enabler in your opening hand, you’ll have a much better game. By enabler, I mean something that allows you to drop face-down creatures on the board more easily than the individual creatures themselves, such as , , and . Mastery of the Unseen is particularly powerful if you manage to keep on the board.
You may find that Kaust, Eyes of the Glade doesn’t do a whole lot. That was my conclusion in playtesting, anyway. Flipping a creature at no cost is definitely solid, especially with high Morph costs like and . But it requires that creature to be attacking, which means they have to sit on your board for a whole turn, and Kaust also can’t be summoning sick, since he needs to tap for the ability. And his card draw is incidental.
The deck requires a lot of setup, and a lot of patience. Couple that with the required understanding of the combat step and complicated decision-making, and I can confidently say this is not a deck for beginners.
What Are the New Cards in Deadly Disguise?
We’ve seen what the deck does, so now it’s time to talk about the most exciting part of precons: the new cards!
Each of the four decks for Karlov Manor comes with a I love modal spells, but I’m not particularly high on this one. The draw mode, especially, feels bad. But there will certainly be game moments where Goading a huge threat will feel like three mana well spent.. This is a Clue artifact for one mana that can be sacrificed to draw a card, Goad a creature, or Cloak the top card of your library.
I mentioned earlier. The design of this card suggests it’s not necessarily at home in this deck, as it has nothing to do with 2/2s or face-down creatures, and there's definitely no Dog synergy. More likely it could find a home in decks. It does provide something our deck does need though, and that’s haste. However, there aren’t many consistent ways to get counters on our creatures. And if we do, they’re no longer 2/2s, which ruins other strategies like Sidar Kondo.
For our other new creatures, we have , which makes more Oozes when it or other creatures you control flip. Not useful outside of this and Kadena, but the surprise deathtouch can be useful. throws +1/+1 counters on creatures when they’re turned face up. Again, no use outside of flip decks. And then there’s , which is a callback to from War of the Spark. This is one of those cards that can be amazing in just the right situation, but situational cards rarely have an impact in the format. Still, I might play it just so I can say I did it once to great effect, then take it out of my decks.
can be tapped to let you cast a Morph or Disguise creature for free, but the real benefit is doubling those flip triggers.
decks that want a lot of flyers though, like (1449 decks) or (1373 decks). and are both good in this deck, and almost no other. Ascension’s ability to Cloak your top card could have some uses in
is a really powerful three-for-one. The Cloaked creatures given to your opponents may seem like a drawback, but really there’s not much opponents can do with the 2/2s if they’re not built for it like this deck is. Frequently they won’t even be creature cards, so will simply be a 2/2 speed bump. And you can technically target a permanent of your own as well, if Cloaking your top card would be more beneficial than having whatever permanent you’re getting rid of.
And last is . While it has face-down in the text, it’s not necessary for the card to be fun. With a deathtouch creature it’s a board wipe. With a lifelink creature, you gain a ton of life. It’ll definitely find a home in decks.
Is Deadly Disguise Worth Buying?
Is this deck any good? Here’s my final grade:
This is an easy pass for me. The deck is too complicated for beginners, and the new cards are too niche to have value for established players. It also plays very awkwardly and is led by a weak and uninteresting commander. The new cards are fun, but only a couple will see play outside of Morph/Disguise decks, particularly and .
The deck has a lot of synergy and is mostly well-focused, outside of a few head scratchers like Neheb. But there’s a reason that the Morph theme isn’t terribly popular, and that’s the card pool. Most Morph cards don’t have much value after they’ve flipped, which means they’re less attractive to Commander players. Also, most of the good Morph cards are outside of this deck's colors, so they’re not even a consideration for an upgrade. The precon for just did face-down cards so much better.
There was only one element saving this deck from being an F, and that’s the decent reprint value. A couple of real heavy hitters here with and , and a few other solid cards like and .
Can I make this deck any better? Find out in my Upgrade Guide for Deadly Disguise! And check back soon for more precon guides here on EDHREC.