Replacement Commanders - SURPRISE! Izzet Another Krenko Deck?!

Well, Izzet?

Aha! Hello again, you lovely readers! I know, you are surprised and astounded, but I promise you, my name is still Seth Cross and this is the real, actual-factual final installment of the Replacement Commanders series for Commander 2018!

A few articles ago I wrote about Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer, and toward the end of that article, I made an offhanded comment about how Krenko, Mob Boss would work well as a hidden commander in a Brudiclad Tokens deck. I said that if the idea got enough people asking, I would build a list and provide a link to the decklist in the next article. Well, not only did someone comment on it in the comment section of that article, but so many people contacted me on Twitter and my Praetor Magic Discord server and even supporters for Praetor Magic via Twitch subscriptions that I couldn't say no! In short order, a list was made! I had so much fun making the list that I decided a link was not enough; we now have a special ninth installment of the series!

If you have not read the series before, Replacement Commanders is inspired by the additional legendary creatures that come in each annual Commander precon product that could lead the deck but are not the face card. This means the decks fit their colors and their general theme, but their abilities do not have the true spotlight. For example, Brudiclad works fine as the commander of the Exquisite Invention deck, but Saheeli, the Gifted is the real commander of the Izzet artifact deck. Brudiclad wants to helm a pile of token-synergized cards. As it turns out, Krenko (and the Goblin tribe in general) are great at providing them.

Why is Krenko a “Hidden” Commander?

Before we answer the question above, let us take one step back. What is a “hidden” commander? Simply put, a hidden commander is a card that sits in the actual deck that is the key piece of the list, even though a different card (Brudiclad, in this instance) sits in the command zone. The reason some people do this is to expand on the deck's capabilities by adding extra colors, or just for the sake of keeping the deck's true strategy hidden. I have spoken before about an Omnath, Locus of Rage Landfall deck helmed by Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis to give me access to two more colors and a plethora of other Elementals. For this deck, Krenko is the key piece, because he can create a huge field of Goblin tokens instantly, which Brudiclad can either turn into other tokens or just turn other tokens into even more Goblins for even more shenanigans.

Building Izzet Goblins

Starting the decklist, I made a few decisions that I felt were important for the overall feel of the list. Replacement Commanders is meant to emulate a precon-level deck (though sometimes splurging on a better lands, because a good mana base can make a deck run much smoother). To assist with that 'precon' feel, I opted to go easy on the infinite combos. Having spoken at length about my own Krenko Combo deck, I felt the deck should be more “new player friendly.” I also had to look at what value adding blue to a normally mono-red deck would be and I landed on card advantage, artifact tutors, and a touch of control.

Wait… Artifact tutors? What for?

I am sure, for the most part, there are not too many questions about why we would want to add card advantage or even a touch of control to any deck, let alone a mono-red one. Still, you may be wondering why we want to add artifact-specific tutors, as opposed to tutors in general. As we look at the full decklist, we'll see a few special artifacts that we may want special access to. Thornbite Staff, for example, is part of one of our wincons and a key part of the only real infinite combo in the deck. Alternatively, Helm of the Host can get out of control if we keep it on Krenko for even a turn or two. In a Krenko deck, Altar of the Brood is an instant wincon with all the Goblins we create. Finally, Vanquisher's Banner, Herald's Horn, Skullclamp, and Thousand-Year Elixir are all powerful synergies for the deck.

We have multiple means to go and grab any of these wonderful artifacts, because redundancy is a beautiful thing. Fabricate is a great card, while Whir of Invention can be cast for a mere three blue mana if we assemble an army of Myr tokens. Inventors' Fair can also find more artifacts, and when all else fails, we can take our chances with Gamble and hope the discarded card is not the card we tutored for. I do want to note that I considered Godo, Bandit Warlord as a means to find both the Staff and the Helm, but I knew the temptation to simply fetch the Helm out, attach it to Godo, and go infinite that way, would be too great. As I stated earlier, I tried to tone down the combos for this particular version of the list.

Krenko's Tutors and Toys

Since we have ways to go find the key artifact pieces of the deck, it only makes sense that, with a hidden commander deck, we have ways to go find the most important part of the deck too: the hidden commander. Luckily, Goblins are already pretty equipped to do this, so we did not have to look far for these cards. Gamble works to fetch Krenko too, though a safer bet is something like Goblin Matron. Moggcatcher is a more repeatable tutor, though I imagine most players who see us tutoring Goblins up are going to become very (reasonably) worried very quickly. The final tutor is Goblin Recruiter, which may be the most powerful of all of them, because it allows us to pretty much stack all the Goblins in the list on top of the deck in the best order. I struggled with the question of whether to add Goblin Ringleader to the list, and ultimately decided that the deck did not need to go that far to get the Goblins into our hand.

Once we have Krenko in hand, the question is this: how do we get him on the field and get value out of him before the table realizes what we're up to and tries to remove him? The easiest answer is to give him haste, so we can get at least the first activation on the stack before someone tries to cast removal. Red has no shortage of cards to pick from to enable this. Commander staple Lightning Greaves is a must, while the extra spicy Thousand-Year Elixir is great because we can double activate Krenko if we have the mana to spare. Fervor, Goblin Chieftain, and Goblin Warchief are all staples of any Krenko deck. We even packed utility lands to help, since paying three life for Hall of the Bandit Lord seems like a small price to pay to get an army of Goblins at our disposal. Let us also not forget the obvious Anger, which just needs to be sacrificed to ensure we have haste all the time! Luckily, we are running Goblin Bombardment and Ashnod's Altar to help out, not to mention make extra use of all our spare tokens!

Is it Goblin Support or Izzet Goblin Support?

Adding blue to a Krenko deck opens many possibilities. For one, we get to play one of the best board wipes in the game in the form of Cyclonic Rift. Then, we can toss Stasis in there for -

I'm kidding, I'm just kidding! There is no Stasis in this list. Just a little New Year humor. However, we are able to add some interesting blue removal in the form of Pongify, Rapid Hybridization, and even Reality Shift. I also included the red staple Chaos Warp to give us something to do for enchantments, while Goblin Trashmaster and Vandalblast are our main removal for artifacts.

Blue gives us its specialty of drawing cards with Bident of Thassa, Rhystic Study, and a slightly dangerous Kindred Discovery. There is a very real chance of decking ourselves with this last card, and you may notice that I did not include Laboratory Maniac in the list, so make sure you play these cards with care. Blue also grants us several ways to make token copies, hence the inclusion of Psychosis Crawler. Using Saheeli's Artistry, Tempt with Reflections, or Zndrsplt's Judgment to make multiple copies of Crawler, we can confidently draw our entire deck with the knowledge that the Crawler army will end the game before we ruin out of cards. I did think of Rite of Replication for the deck, but wanted to look at some other unique token makers, since Rite has been printed in two Commander sets previously (2014 and 2015, specifically). Finally, if copying tokens with spells isn't enough, we can use Thousand-Year Storm to copy our spells that copy our tokens; even copying Krenko's Command a few times can do a lot of work.

One of the most important ways that blue contributes to the deck, however, is its ability to get Krenko back into our library if he gets removed. We're not too worried about targeted exile spells, since we run quite a few sacrifice outlets, especially for Goblins. If he lands in the graveyard, though, we need ways to get him back. Izzet normally struggles with creature recursion that Golgari accesses so comfortably, but that doesn't mean we're out of options, just that we have to be creative! Once Krenko's in the yard, why not shuffle him back into the deck, to draw or tutor up again? Day's Undoing, Time Reversal and even the Aftermath portion of Commit//Memory are all the unique types of Windfall effects that allow us to shuffle our graveyard back into our library, giving us another chance to draw Krenko out. This also works to disrupt graveyard-based decks, so there is a bonus there, as well.

End Step, End Game

Overall, the deck wins in a couple of different ways. We already looked at the idea of making multiple Psychosis Crawlers and drawing our deck to kill the field before we deck out. We also previously mentioned Thornbite Staff, which creates an infinite loop with any sacrifice outlet, one of the few dedicated combos in the deck.

For other avenues toward victory, the deck runs both Impact Tremors and Purphoros, God of the Forge, not to mention Boggart Shenanigans if we sacrifice Goblins (spoiler alert: we will). Then there's the tried and true method of simply creating an army of 1/1 Goblin tokens and rushing the enemy with the help of Shared Animosity and other tribal lord effects. If we do not have Purphoros or Tremors, Altar of the Brood can work with the Staff loop to mill our opponents out, too! Take a look at the full decklist and see if I missed any wincons:

Replacement Commanders is a total joy. It's rare that I'll get so engrossed with an idea that I can't help but obsessively build, research, and write about the deck in a short time span... but that's exactly what happened with this article. I do not know if it's because of the challenge of a hidden commander, or simply because this particular list was built around Krenko, one of my favorite cards in the game. Perhaps it was just because you awesome readers showed interest in this random little idea, and it inspired my motivation! Either way, it is a treat to keep bringing these crazy ideas to you, s thank you all for reading everything I brought you in 2018. I hope to keep doing more of the same in this new year.

Next time you see an article from me, it will be the return of Uncommonders! Replacement Commanders will return next year for the Commander 2019 product!

In the meantime, if you enjoy my crazy takes on this great format, make sure you follow me on Twitter and join the Praetor Magic Discord server. We also have our own YouTube channel and Praetor Magic Twitter handle. We stream on the Praetor Magic Twitch channel three times a week, playing our budget format of 3DH (3 Dollar Highlander) on Wednesdays and Fridays at 9 PM EST, while our Monday stream is our weekly live podcast, Reflections of the Council.

Shout-out to my favorite comment from last week's article, from the article page itself. Kelzam wrote:

Honestly I don't understand the inclusion of Graveyard Marshal in Varina builds. It's ability conflicts with Varina's, which costs only 2 generic mana and doesn't require the exiled card to be a Creature. It's really weird to be exiling your Creatures from your graveyard in a deck like this where you're running cards like Liliana, Untouched by Death and Living Death.

I completely agree, Kelzam! If it was not for the flavor of having a “marshal” in the “undead kingdom” theme, I would not run anything that exiles things from our own graveyard in a Varina, Lich Queen deck. For the most part, I am not thrilled that many recent reanimation spells have seemingly nerfed the archetype because they tend to exile your resources. Hopefully Wizards of the Coast does not make this a permanent direction!

Thanks for reading! See you all next time!

DM Cross started playing Magic: the Gathering when he was 8 years old. Currently 29 years old, he's become an avid lover of the EDH/Commander format and is constantly keeping an eye on everything coming out to see how to tune and tweak his favorite decks. DM can be found on Twitter @DM_Cross