Monomania Takes on Eldraine — Char Broiled

(Cunning Sparkmage | Art by Wayne Reynolds)

The Last Cookout of Summer

Greetings, everyone, and welcome back to Monomania. In this article series we build mono-colored decks as a way to explore ramp and draw packages that are synergistic with our particular deck’s strategy, and challenge staples and misconceptions about the color pie.

I’ve been impressed by quite a few of the non-white mono-colored commander options from Throne of Eldraine, and I plan on tackling a few of them in the coming months in a subseries: Monomania Takes on Eldraine. Today, let’s fire up the grill. Summer is over, but the weather is still right for a barbecue.


My experience watching and playing EDH in the last month has revealed an unprecedented proclivity for life total manipulation. Between all of the Greven, Predator Captain and K’rrik, Son of Yawgmoth decks on the loose, it seems more common than ever for players to sit at 15 life without worry. This is the perfect time for a commander like Torbran to turn up the heat and make these players sweat.


While burn strategies have never scaled well to EDH, Torbran changes the calculus on previously unplayable damage-based spells. Pyrohemia is being included in 72% of Torbran lists on EDHREC, and it perfectly illustrates why this commander is appealing: sources that persistently deal small amounts of chip damage are incredible with our commander. Every time we activate Pyrohemia’s ability, we’re tripling the amount of damage that it deals. And because Torbran has four health and only affects our opponents, we can activate Pyrohemia three times every turn without killing him. That adds up to nine damage to each of our opponents and their creatures for three mana every turn. The key to Torbran’s power is how he breaks symmetry: Flamebreak and Slagstorm can clear a board while leaving our general on the field. If we cast Electrickery with our commander and Repercussion on the board, not only will Electrickery deal 3 damage to each creature our opponents control, but it will also deal 5 damage to our opponents for each creature dealt damage this way.

There is a multitude of possibilities with Torbran: small goblins suddenly become potent attackers, blockers, and threats to our opponents’ life totals, so we could fill our deck with cards like Mogg Fanatic, Siege-Gang Commander, Krenko, Mob Boss, Impact Tremors, and Goblin Bombardment. There are also a suite of effects in red that tax our opponents with damage such as Harsh Mentor, Immolation Shaman, and Zo-zu the Punisher. I personally decided to make this something of a sequel to my Ashling the Pilgrim deck previously featured on Monomania. While these decks share a central theme, new cards and Torbran's particular qualities actually make them significantly different. If all goes according to plan, we’ll be slinging spells and putting our opponents on a rotisserie.

Fire Up the Grill

This deck has a very low curve, topping off at six mana. As such, our ramp package should be focused on small, early-game jumps. Our goal with this ramp strategy is to cast our commander consistently on turn three. We’re running six ramp effects that cost two or less.


Here we have three of these ramp effects—each of them cost two mana and will allow us to cast our commander on turn three. Ruby Medallion is the clear haymaker in our style of deck. With all of our rummage effects and low-cost spells, we'll be able to cast multiple spells a turn and net the discount on all of them. Once we get our deck’s engine online, this cost reduction will stack and permit us to capitalize on explosive turns.


These cards need no introduction, I'm sure — they're both powerhouses in EDH. Any one-color deck with a high quantity of spells wants these two cards. Both grant some sort of ramp and allow us to Fork our spells. This can lead to more burn or enhanced draw with rummaging effects.

Keep the Heat On

Now let’s examine how we’re going to squeeze card advantage out of this mono-red shell. We’re focused here on wheeling and looting. We aren’t emphasizing overall hand size, we're emphasizing keeping a well-constructed grip.


Up first, we have a set of effects that capitalize on rummaging. Bag of Holding has quickly become one of my favorite colorless card advantage effects for mono-colored decks. In this deck in particular, where we will be discarding at a high frequency, we can quickly juice Bag of Holding’s last ability. It is a surprisingly potent draw effect that outclasses most others. Glint-Horn Buccaneer will allow us to rummage, and is itself a payoff for rummage effects. If we cast the always stellar Reforge the Soul with the Buccaneer and our commander on the battlefield, we can hit our opponents for nine, twelve, fifteen, or more damage in one go.


As I covered in my article on Ashling, cards that rummage are extremely good in Spellslinger strategies that run Fork effects. For anybody who hasn’t yet heard about this particular interaction, if we fork a rummage spell that causes us to discard as an additional cost, the copy will not cause us to discard. Just as we don’t have to pay the mana cost of a copy, we also don’t have to pay any additional costs, we only copy the spell after all costs have been paid.


Finally, we have two cards that cycle themselves when we cast them. Needle Drop is a powerful card in our deck; for one mana, we can Lightning Bolt something and draw a card. It’s no secret that Lightning Bolt isn’t very good in EDH, but stapling "draw a card" onto it swings the needle just enough. This card is an innocuous inclusion, but it has such a low opportunity cost that it absolutely deserves a spot in our deck. Shake the Foundations scales well here, as well. Dealing three to all of our opponents’ creatures wouldn’t be powerful enough to warrant an inclusion in this list, but because it replaces itself, it should perform well for us clearing not only tokens but early-game creatures as well.

The Deck

With all that set and sorted, let’s put the pieces together with a deck list. The name of the game is death by a thousand cuts. We want to keep chipping away at our opponents’ life totals until they’re cooked through evenly. Grab your spatula and, as per usual, season to taste.


Among the other notable inclusions here we have a slew of effects to capitalize on Torbran’s damage amplification. Sulfuric Vortex is a staple in Group Slug strategies, and it's an imperative inclusion here: it will drain our opponents for 1/10th of their starting life total every turn with our commander on the battlefield. What’s more, it'll shut down the lifegain strategies that try to pull out of reach. Flame Fusillade is the resident sleeper of this deck. Currently, it only sees play in 61 decks registered on EDHREC, but with Torbran it has found its forever home. This card is an absolute house, transmogrifying all of our innocent permanents into Kamahl, Pit Fighter. If the game goes late, this spell will end the game in a flash.

Karplusan Minotaur is a fun political tool in this deck. If we win a flip, we get to Lightning Bolt the target of our choice. If we lose a flip, one of our opponents has to decide whether to point 1 damage in our direction, or 3 toward a scarier opponent. Any player that enjoys value will choose the latter. Karplusan Minotaur exemplifies a compelling nuance to this deck: the more we can split up damage, the more value we can squeeze out of Torbran's ability. Inferno Titan, for example, gives us a choice to deal 5 damage to one target, 4 damage to one target and 2 to another, or 3 damage to three targets. This principle holds for Jaws of Stone as well. If we play Jaws with six Mountains on the battlefield, we could deal 8 damage to one target, 3 damage to six different targets, or any favorable combination in between. Be democratic—hit all of your friends and enemies equally to most effectively milk Torbran's ability.


The backbone of this deck is a suite of creatures that slowly ping our opponents to death. Cards like Firebrand Archer and Guttersnipe are powerful in Storm decks, but the rest of these cards cards are suboptimal when they only deal one damage. With our commander, however, they become much more potent; these cards are our most likely path to victory.


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A quick and important final note: every land in the history of Magic is colorless (the only exception being Dryad Arbor). While we are running Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, Torbran only increases damage from red sources you control, so Valakut will not benefit from this effect. Shivan Gorge is currently in 16% of Torbran decks on EDHREC and it seems underpowered here. Ghitu Encampment, on the other hand, turns into a potent blocker with Torbran, dealing 4 first strike damage as a red creature.

What do you think of Torbran? In what direction would you have taken this commander? Is Group Slug an appealing strategy to you? Sometimes, after a two-hour game, I know I like to play a live-fast, die-young deck so that everyone can get to bed on time. Let me know in the comments. Remember to EDHREC responsibly: always dig a little beyond the statistics. I’ll see you all on down the road.

Steven Vincent is an ESL teacher located in Oaxaca, México who uses Magic as a teaching tool. He hasn't introduced his students to Commander yet, but he is inching them toward the format so that he has a play group and can more frequently sate his thirst for EDH.