EDHREC Ultimate Masters Preview Card!
What's in the Box?!?
Welcome to EDHREC's official preview card! I'm Andrew Cummings, and I normally write the Ultra Budget Brews article series here at EDHREC. Today I get to do something pretty exciting, which you've probably already deduced involves showing you a card that's about to be reprinted in Ultimate Masters!
I want to take a second and thank Wizards of the Coast for sending us a preview card. Spoiler season is always something I look forward to; getting to dissect new cards, seeing reprints that will make powerful cards more accessible and being able to brew decks that will be much cheaper is, simply put, exciting and Ultimate Masters is shaping up to be one of the most impressive sets in recent memory.
Alright, let's play a game. I'll give you clues and we will see if you can guess the card. If you hate fun (pro tip: don't hate fun), just keep scrolling.
- It's green
- It's an enchantment
- Its converted mana cost is 3
- It draws you tons of cards
Got your guess? Scroll down when you're ready!
Here It Is!
Let's take at our preview card, Fecundity. First off, the new art is gorgeous. Not that the old art was bad, by any stretch of the imagination (I'm not sure that Rebecca Guay is capable of creating bad art), but goodness, the new Terese Nielsen art pops.
Now, if every EDH deck is a Thanksgiving feast, Fecundity is the mashed potatoes. It's not the all-star of the meal (the turkey/win conditions), it's not the part you crave the rest of the year (pumpkin pie/expensive lands), and it's not the part that'll get you into a fight with your loved ones (bourbon/Armageddon). It's what makes everything else work. Without it, and other cards like it, your deck won't live up to its potential.
Currently, Fecundity sees play in close to 5,000 decks. I'm a bit surprised it's not higher, because the card hits a lot of markers for popularity. It's green, which is notorious for being equal parts powerful and popular in EDH; it has a cheap mana cost and a cheap monetary cost; it's an enchantment (making it more difficult to remove); and as long as you do what it's asking, you will be absolutely inundated with card advantage.
The way we get those cards is by making our creatures die. There are two things that should be noted here: first, if tokens get killed they still technically die, even though though they don't show up in your graveyard; and second, if a commander is destroyed and goes to the command zone instead of the graveyard, it doesn't actually die, so you don't get any death triggers from it. In the former case, you do draw a card off Fecundity, but in the latter case, you do not. I've seen experienced Magic players mix these things up, so I figured it was worth mentioning.
Now, there is a downside to all of this card draw. Your opponent gets to draw cards if their creatures die as well.
People are notoriously fickle about giving out cards for free, as they should be. Opponents using your spells to draw cards is a great way to quickly lose a game of EDH, though you can likely curry some favor from those same opponents by pointing this fact out to them.
If Fecundity is still a card we want to use (and it is), that means we need to set ourselves up to gain more value from it than our opponents possibly can. Like Horn of Greed in a Landfall deck, we can outpace any benefit our opponents would gain from our cards, which makes it super worthwhile. So, how do we do that?
We don't want to rely on our opponents to kill our creatures. They are just as likely to exile them as they are to destroy them, and they aren't going to be interested in helping us draw cards. As a result, we need to make our creatures die ourselves. Thankfully, the creators of Magic have given us many ways to do this: sacrifice outlets.
We know we need to build a deck that does a couple of different things. We need a deck that
- Is focused around creatures
- Can sacrifice creatures at will
- Has access to a dearth of free sacrifice outlets
The last one of these is absolutely imperative. There are lots of sacrifice outlets in Magic, and the line between almost completely unplayable and quasi-game-breaking is often a single mana.
Goblin Bombardment = Yay!
Makeshift Munitions = Boo
As such, the quality of our sacrifice outlets is going to help decide what colors we will play. To find these, I searched specifically for cards that are permanents (creatures, enchantments, and artifacts, specifically) that allow us to repeatedly sacrifice creatures for no cost. I didn't include sorceries or instants, because one-shot effects give us significantly less control. This is not to say that they're bad, simply that we're looking for something more specific and concrete. Here is what I found.
If we're playing Fecundity, we have no choice but to play green. As such, it seemed like a good place to start. Green lacks a dearth of repeatable free sacrifice outlets, but it does have one fantastic option in the form of Greater Good. Greater Good is amazing when you are sacrificing mid-sized or larger creatures, or when you need to fill up your graveyard. It does less well with sacrificing smaller creatures, as the discard adds up quick.
There are a couple of very good artifacts that allow us to sacrifice creatures at no cost. The best of these is Phyrexian Altar, but I'm not including that card because it costs almost $70.
A close second is Ashnod's Altar. Trading a measly token for 2 mana (and a card if you have Fecundity out) is exactly the sort of fair and balanced Magic that Richard Garfield probably envisioned seeing play 25 years later. Altar of Dementia is another option that fills your graveyard or acts as a win condition depending on the size and amount of creatures being sacrificed. Spawning Pit is a hidden gem that should see more play than it does. Thankfully, no matter what color combination we end up choosing, we will get to use all of these.
In the right deck, Blasting Station is incredible, but for it to work at it's fullest, you need to be able to make a lot of small creatures easily, hopefully created by your creatures untimely demise. Also, when you play this, your opponents are going to, understandably, expect some kind of combo finish. Be prepared for the hate this will draw.
Surprisingly, white has two cheap sacrifice outlets: Martyr's Cause and Fanatical Devotion. Of these,Martyr's Cause is probably the superior card. Being able to Fog a source of damage is the stuff pillowfort dreams are made of. Fanatical Devotion is a bit more situational, but no less powerful. If you or your opponent drops a Day of Judgment or similar boardwipe, being able to choose a creature to survive can lead to devastating blowouts.
There aren't any completely free sacrifice outlets in blue, but that doesn't mean the search was a waste. I stumbled upon the existence of Viscerid Drone.
This didn't exactly help me in any way. It simply served as a reminder of exactly how much creatures have changed in the past 20ish years. Also, on an unrelated note: WOTC! BRING BACK HOMARIDS, PLEASE!
It won't be a surprise to anyone enfranchised enough to be reading an article on a website dedicated to EDH, but black is the all-time greatest at sacrificing creatures for its own gain. Viscera Seer is my favorite of the bunch. It only costs 1 mana, has 2 relevant creature types, and gives you card selection in exchange for your creatures. It can even sacrifice itself if your opponents try to banish it in to the void with a Swords to Plowshares.
Yahenni, Undying Partisan is a relatively new addition to black's sacrifice shenanigans. The ability to trade a creature to make your (hopefully) growing Yahenni indestructible is exactly the kind of effect I'm hoping to have on the field. Fallen Ideal is a card I almost never see, but can allow you to make one giant threat after blockers are declared. Sadistic Hypnotist is a card that will make everyone despise you. It's fun exactly once, but it's undeniably powerful and needed to at least be mentioned here as an option for those that feel the need to really flex on their competition.
Lastly, we have Carrion Feeder and the bevy of other cards that fill the same role (such as Nantuko Husk, Bloodthrone Vampire, or Bloodflow Connoisseur). I chose Carrion Feeder because it costs the least mana, and as a result, is likely the best of the group, barring things like tribal synergies.
Red has a number of options when it comes to sacrificing creatures on the cheap, almost all of which are Goblin-related. The most powerful of these, Goblin Bombardment, is related to Goblins in name only. It's easiest to imagine a bunch of Goblins catapulted at the enemy, but whoever created the machinery on this card doesn't discriminate and is more than happy to use whatever life form happens to be nearby as ammo. If you are playing red and want to sacrifice creatures, Goblin Bombardment is a definite inclusion.
The other two, Goblin Trashmaster and Skirk Prospector, are much more recent additions. On the plus side, both of these cards are great. Turning Goblins into artifact destruction or mana is undoubtedly powerful. The downside? It only works with Goblins, so unless you are playing a dedicated tribal deck, they won't work as well as you hope.
There were not as many multicolored options for free sacrifice as I expected. The best one that I found is Scarland Thrinax. Sadly, this is basically a difficult-to-cast Carrion Feeder with a less relevant card type. Granted, it can block, which will matter some amount of the time, but overall, I like the cheaper mana cost.
Given the above analysis, there are three things we know:
- We have to play green, because Fecundity
- We are highly incentivized to play black
- Blue doesn't fit with what we are working towards
I almost took a hard left here and tried to build a Sekki, Seasons' Guide deck, but knew this would be significantly less powerful since I'd be excluding black. Alas.
We are definitely playing black and green, and are not interested in playing blue. The question is then whether or not we add red (Jund), add white (Abzan), or stay base Golgari. This may be my bias, but none of the Abzan commanders looked all that interesting, with the possible exception of Ghave, Guru of Spores, but that deck tends to go infinite if you so much as look at a Saproling. Golgari has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to interesting, powerful commanders, so it is certainly a viable option too.
I decided to go with Jund, because Goblin Bombardment is bug nutty and red has a number of other cards that go perfectly with a card like Fecundity. Once I knew we would be building a Jund deck, I quickly narrowed it down to Kresh, the Bloodbraided, Sek'kuar, Deathkeeper, Shattergang Brothers, or Prossh, Skyraider of Kher. As it turns out, two of those commanders already got to play with Fecundity in Commander 2013. Besides, Shattergang lends itself to being very stax-oriented, Prossh draws a ton of aggro (thanks, Food Chain combo), and I've actually already built Sek'kuar in a previous article. Plus, I mean, have you seen Kresh?
Kresh is a commander that I've always been interested in building. The mix of sacrificing your creatures to make one creature colossal and having access to all of the death and destruction associated with Jund colors is... compelling.
Kresh, the Fecund
This here's a fairly standard Kresh deck, but with a bit more of a focus on tokens than normal. Our deck can be roughly divided up into a couple of categories: Token Makers, Sacrifice Engines, Payoffs, Miscellaneous, and Toys For Kresh.
As noted before, tokens are the easiest way to abuse Fecundity, which is exactly what we hope to do. Some of our best token generators are Tendershoot Dryad, Elemental Mastery, Mitotic Slime, and Izoni, Thousand-Eyed. Tilonalli's Summoner is another great token producer that impresses me every time I see it. Tempt with Vengeance's effectiveness will depend greatly upon your play group. If no one takes the Tempting Offer, it's still a perfectly acceptable card, but if you can talk even one other person into taking your offer...
I already discussed our free, repeatable sacrifice outlets above, so I'm not going to rehash all of that. We're running a few other ways to sacrifice creatures, too. Shivan Harvest is a great card. It's limited to destroying nonbasics, but truly, every deck needs a way to deal with lands like Cabal Coffers and Maze of Ith. Momentous Fall is a card I don't see as often as I should; its power level is higher than it appears at first glance. Evolutionary Leap is a fixed Survival of the Fittest, and any time a card is a 'fixed' version of a busted card, it's likely to still be pretty great. Perhaps my favorite in this deck is Fling. Fling was made for Kresh and Kresh was made for Fling.
We have a bunch of cards that help us win when we sacrifice all of our critters. Blood Artist, Falkenrath Noble, [card]Zulaport Cutthroat, and Poison-Tip Archers are all powerful win conditions and total staples in decks like ours. Death's Presence grows our creatures when other creatures die. Deathreap Ritual pairs up with Fecundity to draw even more cards. Stalking Vengeance is essentially an oversized, overcosted Blood Artist, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Toys for Kresh
Kresh is a powerful build-around card. Adding a few ways to take advantage of him will pay dividends. Corpsejack Menace helps Kresh spiral out of control. Mage Slayer allows us to ignore annoying blockers. Retribution of the Ancients trades some of our counters to kill an important creature.
Since this is EDH, we need to run some amount of ramp and removal. Sakura-Tribe Elder, Yavimaya Elder, Primal Growth, and Awakening Zone all are ramp and sacrifice outlets. Artifact Mutation blows up a pesky artifact and gives you tokens for your trouble. Quagmire Druid is a card I've never actually seen in the wild, but looks great on paper, especially since enchantments are equal parts powerful and difficult to remove. We're also running some of the basics of our format: Sol Ring, Commander's Sphere, Rampant Growth, Terminate, and Rishkar's Expertise. These are all cards you almost need a reason to not run.
There are a couple of cards that would go perfectly in this sort of deck, but I chose not to include for a variety of reasons. First and foremost on this list are Dictate of Erebos and Grave Pact, and to a lesser extent, Butcher of Malakir.
All of these cards are undoubtedly powerful. Your deck will win more games with them in it. That being said, I'm not a fan, because they are almost too effective. If you've ever been locked under one of these, you probably know what I mean. If someone doesn't have enchantment removal, but needs creatures to win, the game is likely to grind to a halt, turning what should have been a 1-hour game into a 2-hour slog. Some people love that kind of gameplay, and more power to them. There's nothing inherently broken or overpowered about the cards. I'm simply not personally a fan.
These cards are all great in this deck for obvious reasons, but the budget builder in me couldn't include them. If you don't mind springing for these, or just have a copy laying around, they'll certainly up the power level of your deck.
Lastly, there are a variety of expensive lands you could include as well to make your mana faster and more consistent - namely shocks and fetches - but I think the manabase we included is functional as is. Your deck will be stronger with them, but you'll have to measure what that's worth to you.
What did you think of the deck? Is is something you'd play, or were you hoping for a different commander? I'd love to hear your thoughts below. Either way, we're getting a Fecundity reprint in Ultimate Masters, which is exciting. It's not a big-name reprint in the vein of Karn Liberated or Snapcaster Mage, but it's a card that's uncommonly (ha!) playable, and reprints like this one will help keep the cost where its easily accessible to any player, no matter their budget.
Until next time!