Intellectual Offering — Breya, Etherium Shaper

That’s right; Commander 2016 is here, and that means it’s time to proclaim your favorite commander as fast as possible lest someone else in your playgroup snaps them up. Time to begin the never-ending process of tweaking and reassembling that comes with a new deck. Everyone has their opinion of what cuts to make and what the obvious inclusions for these decks are, why listen to mine?


I’m Sam. I’m a Commander player and a judge. I’ve been playing magic for 14 years, no breaks. I waved goodbye to other constructed formats in 2010 and haven’t looked back. For me, this is what the game is about. I don’t consider myself a “Spike,” a player who wants to win all of their games. What I want out of a game is for everyone to have fun. That means having conversations; you'll need to talk with people to know that we share a common definition of what fun means.

I think Commander players tend to take a great deal of pride in their decks. For the most part, they are all original brews and as such are much more personal than the deck you take to your Standard Friday Night Magic tournament. It’s because commander players are all so detail-oriented with their decks that want to be very metered in my recommendations. As such, in each installment of this series I will make an Intellectual Offering to the deck in question which will contain three cards to add, and three cards to cut, all of them based on the most or least played cards in that deck as per EDHREC. I won’t draw a hard line as to what that means; if I see a card being included in 33% of decks that I think has absolutely no business being there in any circumstances, I may go after it. Likewise there may be a card with a similar percentage of occurrences that I will encourage more people to play. In general though the cards to cut will come from the Signature or Top Cards sections of the deck’s page.

The Precon Effect

Commander 2016 offers us a fantastic opportunity to examine one of the biggest pitfalls I see people making when they use EDHREC to help build their decks, the over inclusion of cards simply because they were in the preconstructed deck. Unsurprisingly I refer to this as “Precon Effect” and will be using this term from here on out. Clever, I know, but it's a serious issue.

Here's how this effect works: I go down to the local game store and buy my new Invent Superiority deck. I can't wait to get home and start tweaking it. So to get organized the first thing I do is enter the original list into Tapped Out and then run it through EDHREC to see what suggestions the website has for me. Problem: by adding the exact decklist as it came out of the box I'm generating an inherent bias towards those cards. As more people do this those are the cards that begin to show up as the Top/Signature cards for the deck. Then my friend comes by. He only bought a loose copy of Breya, Etherium Sculptor because he has a large collection and doesn't really want to spend the $35 on the other cards in the deck. He opens up EDHREC to see what cards other people are for sure including in their lists and bam, he's assaulted by a slew of cards from the preconstructed deck! But this is what people are playing, right? So he adds them to his deck and goes about his business, blithely unaware of how suboptimal some of the cards he's added are. When he goes to feed his deck back into EDHREC it just reinforces the bias. That's the Precon Effect.

With the release of Commander 2016 we have a perfect opportunity to observe the Precon Effect in its natural habitat. Breya is the (almost) answer to a lot of people's prayers for a Blue/Red artifact-centric commander and as such, she's exploded in popularity. I personally find her an interesting case as she doesn't herself push the deck in a specific direction, having fairly generic blue, red, black, and white abilities. This means that, in theory, people will take her in multiple unique directions, making decks should be more personalized. In practice, however, she has the least diversity of any of the new commanders and I believe this has a lot to do with the Precon Effect.


You don't have to look past the Top cards section to find the first instance of Precon Effect: Trash for Treasure. This is not a good card. The inclusion of this card suggests that your deck will contain many value artifacts that can be swapped out as your needs change throughout the course of a game. I have two problems with this: first, why would I rather play this over Refurbish? Yes I get that there are some synergies with cards that have effects when they leave the battlefield, but I think there are much more efficient ways to capitalize on those type of effects than a three mana sorcery. Goblin Welder and Daretti, Scrap Savant both give this deck repeated uses of this effect, and both have much higher potential upside due to their other abilities (or applications in the case of Welder). My second issue with this card is that it encourages the use of other, not as powerful cards, on the premise that they’ll become useful when we swap them out with our powerful cards that our opponent’s have destroyed. Personally, I'm against having any trash in my Commander decks, which brings me to my second offering to cut.

Ichor Wellspring. This is a pre-cracked Clue token that contributes to metalcraft abilities and gives you another card if it somehow ends up going to your graveyard. That doesn’t sound too bad on the surface, but let’s break this down for a second. The first statement essentially says this card represents {2}: draw a card. As a one-shot effect that doesn’t really impress me and isn’t something I’m going to play in my decks. The second statement points out that this enables metalcraft abilities. Duh, basically every card in your deck should do this, so that’s not really a point in this card’s favor. Barbed Sextant enables metalcraft and we aren’t playing that. The third statement is the only saving grace for this card; it refunds you a card if it dies. But making this die will take a non-zero amount of work. There’s nothing built into the card that enables this, so we’d need to rely on something else. While our commander acts as a sacrifice outlet for our artifacts, I would still argue that there are much better things we can be stacking our graveyard with. This card is just lazy, it says, “hey Breya, let me get you to a better card that you could have drawn, had you not drawn me.”

The last card is another shining example of the Precon Effect. Chief Engineer is terrible. I think a lot of people just haven’t drawn it yet and thus haven’t read it. Sheeple, Convoke only works on creatures. You can’t tap your Ichor Wellspring to cast your Sol Ring. It doesn’t work that way. You need to be tapping a creature to cast the artifact. The average Breya deck only contains 25 creatures, a lot of which are much more valuable for their activated abilities than their potential to generate mana. If you’re tapping a Goblin Welder to cast Spine of Ish Sah, something has gone horribly wrong. You just shouldn’t have enough creatures in play for Convoke to matter. And if you do, for example, have an army of thopters, you should be killing people with them, not casting your Izzet Signet. Don’t play Chief Engineer. Yes I realize that at the time of writing this article only 44% of you are playing it, but that’s 44% more than is acceptable.

Then Draw.

Now that we’ve taken out the trash, it’s time to add in some treasure. The first card I’m offering to Breya is Mirrorworks. This card is insane. If you’ve never had one in play it feels like cheating. You know that sinking feeling you get when the Riku of Two Reflections player untaps with her commander in play and a grip full of cards? That’s the feeling your opponents will have when you untap with this in play. How this isn’t one of the signature cards for this deck is beyond me. Breya wants tons of of fodder to sacrifice; Mirrorworks doubles up all of the best cards in the deck for the extremely small investment of {2} mana. And these aren’t Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker copies that disappear at the end of the turn. These are the real deal. Just at a base level you can double Breya whenever you cast her to get two extra Thopter tokens. That on its own is great. Now Imagine this with Wurmcoil Engine, or Spine of Ish Sah, or my personal favorite Solemn Simulacrum.

Now that we’ve got a ton of spare artifacts lying around, what should we do with them all? May I offer you a Ghirapur Aether Grid to go with your new Mirrorworks? Grid helps put a clock on your opponents when the deck’s larger threats have been disabled. It gives the deck reach in closing out games that doesn’t require us to sacrifice artifacts to Breya. Can’t attack with a Myr Battlesphere for fear of leaving yourself defenseless to an opponent’s counterattack? Ghirapur Aether Grid is here for you. Sure, it’s less damage to use the Grid, but not having a target on your back is a huge thing in Commander, and flying under the radar as you chip away at an opponent until you can swoop in for the easy kill (or better yet, point out the opportunity to someone else and let them do it) is a powerful option. In addition having the ability to pick off utility creatures with only a few artifacts in play can be extremely disruptive to opponents with more grindy decks. Nothing feels better than kicking the legs out from under the reanimator player when they go to start killing people with cards like Blood Artist.

Speaking of kicking the legs out from under the reanimator player, I’d like to make my final offering a simple one and straightforward one: Nihil Spellbomb. This feels like a gigantic upgrade to the aforementioned Ichor Wellspring. You can’t both sacrifice Spellbomb to Daretti and exile a player’s graveyard, but that’s fine. If you need the effect, you’re going to really need it; you can get back the other artifact with basically any other card in the deck, and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if the correct play in most situations isn’t to just sacrifice the Spellbomb and immediately get it back with Daretti to have future protection online. I personally think all Commander decks should have a couple ways to deal with problematic graveyards, even silly theme decks like my Nin, the Pain Artist tap abilities tribal deck runs Tormod’s Crypt and on occasion Junk Troller when the local meta starts to run heavily towards graveyard-based strategies.


With all that in mind I’d like to share with you my personal build for Breya. Be forewarned: this deck isn’t your typical value-oriented, goodstuff artifact deck, I’ve designed it for maximum shenanigans. I’m sure plenty of you will be able to identify the deck that this was (loosely) based off of:

That’s my take on Breya, but what’s yours? Are there other examples of the Precon Effect in this deck that are more glaring than those I pointed out above? Got a suggestion for a deck you’d like me to make an offering to? Drop me a note in the comments section on this article.

Until next time,


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