Monomania Takes on Theros – Sneakers and Creepers
(Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded | Art by Eric Deschamps )
Slip in the Back Door
Greetings, everyone, and welcome to Monomania Takes on Theros. 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, challenging staples and misconceptions about the color pie. For the next few weeks, we're diving into Theros Beyond Death. I've been surprised by the number of mono-colored generals that have been packed into this set! Today’s commander is a new version of an old favorite. He's creeping around in the bushes, waiting for the right moment to call in friends and kick down the back door.
Purphoros 2.0 is indeed worthy of his namesake. While Purphoros, God of the Forge is one of the most potent game-enders in EDH, Bronze-Blooded fulfills a few different roles and seems to perform them well. Just like the old Purphoros, this new Purphoros is as hard to kill as Steven Seagall. Not only is this commander indestructible, but when our devotion to red is less than five, it isn’t a creature—only liable to enchantment removal. Enchantment removal is, coincidentally, the least common form of removal in our format. In addition to being slippery, Bronze-Blooded combines two highly-desirable effects in Commander.
This general is feigning Sneak Attack on a creature, an effect that is famously powerful and competitive in other formats. While the sticker price and activation costs are higher, Bronze-Blooded in the command zone gives us access to this effect at all times, allowing us to build around it. Outside of his Sneak Attack impersonation, the new Purphoros also has Fervor stapled on. Even if we choose to hard-cast a hefty creature instead of sneak it in, it'll have haste. This Purphoros reminds me of a supercharged version of Ilharg, the Raze-Boar, one of my favorite commander options from last year.
Bronze-Blooded has everything I look for in a mono-colored commander option: he's sticky, opens up a new avenue for a general in his color, and does multiple things well. We should be wary, however, of a few very specific words in his text box. Bronze-Blooded specifies that we may only sneak red or artifact creatures onto the field. That means no Eldrazi. While Kozilek, Ulamog, and Emrakul wouldn’t be superb here either way because their best effects trigger on cast, we will miss It That Betrays and Artisan of Kozilek.
I’m already excited, so let’s jump in and see what we can come up with for this yet-to-be-released commander.
There are two important concerns we must address while designing a ramp package for this deck. First, speed is our greatest ally with Purphoros. If we can power out our commander early, we can make a huge swing early in the game. We want a few low-cost ramp effects to reach five mana early. Second, our deck really wants to have the ability to cast our big creatures when necessary, so we want ramp effects that can help us leap up the mana curve. To fulfill our first need, I have included several mana rocks, including Fire Diamond, Coldsteel Heart, and Star Compass.
To fulfill the second need, cards like the ones featured above will do perfectly. Gilded Lotus is a staple of our format and can provide us with a steep mid-game power spike. Extraplanar Lens is my preferred mana-doubling effect, but we could also consider Caged Sun and Gauntlet of Power here.
The new Nyx Lotus has a low floor, potentially only generating zero mana, but it could also potentially produce five or more mana. That kind of mana production will ensure that we can cast anything we may have in our hand under the right circumstances. I'm not overly fond of this card, but in this deck we can construct plays in which it is decent even without much Devotion on the field at the start of our turn. Consider for example, activating Purphoros twice in a turn to drop Tyrant of Discord and Avatar of Slaughter onto the field. Suddenly we can tap our Lotus for six mana.
Getting the Gang Together
To fully take advantage of this commander, we will need a potent card advantage engine to ensure that we actually have creatures in hand to cheat into play. Unlike most mono-red commanders, impulsive draw isn’t particularly powerful in our deck. Because Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded only abuses cards in our hand, exiling cards from the top of our deck doesn’t advance our overall strategy.
These three cards play into our general’s particularities quite well, each drawing a significant number of cards. Sandstone Oracle is an incredible card in mono-red. As the red player, we will almost never be the player with the highest number of cards in hand.
On any given turn, we can activate Purphoros once and drop a terrifying creature, hit an opponent, then sneak in a Knollspine Dragon to draw a fistful of cards. Dragon Mage also acts as an extremely powerful wheel effect. At seven mana, each of these would be difficult to cast on their own, but with our commander, we can take advantage of these effects for three mana each.
In this deck we can circumvent the downsides of cards like Hoarding Dragon and Etali, Primal Storm, as well. When we sacrifice Hoarding Dragon at the end of turn using Bronze-Blooded's ability, we draw the card we searched out earlier. To summarize, in addition to its flat-rate mode, this Dragon can act as a three-mana tutor that also deals four damage to something. Etali is also exceptional here. Whether we sneak her in or pay in full, we avoid her greatest weakness: the lack of haste. With Purphoros, we're all but guaranteed three cards off the top of our opponents’ decks.
Finally, creatures that can replace themselves fit nicely in this deck, especially as artifacts. Because we're naturally running cards like Mirrorworks, this type of effect is a low-risk option that can turn into a decent little engine. Putting one of these under a Mimic Vat can be a good mid-game option to keep up on cards in red.
Now that we have strategies for ramping and drawing, let’s put it all together and see how we’ll make this new Purphoros sing and how he’ll compete with his stellar previous iteration. As always, season to taste.
Among the other notable inclusions, we have cards that try to minimize the downside of sacrificing our giant monsters at the end of turn. Erratic Portal, for one, can allow us to return our most powerful Purphoros targets to our hand, allowing us to reuse threats each turn. While only a one-shot effect, Ancestral Statue can fill a similar role and help us double up on important creatures. Sundial of the Infinite can keep the creatures in play by ending the urn in response to Purphoros's sacrifice trigger at the end of the turn! Meanwhile, cards like Flameshadow Conjuring, Minion Reflector, and Mimic Vat are powerhouses here. Whenever we sneak in a big creature, we can duplicate it for a low cost. Finally, Warstorm Surge is one of our more powerful game-ending effects in this deck and will help us dome our opponents for large chunks of damage at a time.
Sneakers and Creepers
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So what do you all think? Have you built a Purphoros, God of the Forge deck before? Does this Bronze-Blooded God excite you enough to build a deck? What sorts of creatures would you want to abuse? What did I miss? Let me know in the comments below! Remember to EDHREC responsibly: always dig a little beyond the statistics. I’ll see you all on down the road.