Welcome, everybody, to another journey into the realm of multiplayer Magic!
Today, we’re going to look at a format other than 60-cards Free-for-All. Instead, we’re going to focus on the multiplayer format that’s all the rage at the moment: Commander, formerly known as Elder Dragon Highlander or EDH. The rules of Commander differ a bit from normal Magic rules in certain aspects, so here is a short overview:
- You start with a life total of 40.
- Your deck must consist of exactly 100 cards, one of which is your Commander. All cards but basic lands must be singletons and you may only use cards that either have the same color(s) as your Commander or are colorless. This is called Color Identity. Please note that hybrid cards and split cards count as all of their colors. So if your Commander is Rith, the Awakener who is white, green and red, you are not allowed to play Augury Adept (it’s also blue) or Hit // Run (it’s also black). Kitchen Finks wouldn’t be a problem though.
- In addition to the usual ways of losing the game, you also die when you are dealt 21 points of combat damage by the same Commander over the course of the game.
- Your Commander has to be a legendary creature and starts the game in the so-called Command Zone, not in your deck. You can cast it from there whenever you could cast a creature spell. If it has flash, you can cast it whenever you want. If your Commander would be exiled or put into your graveyard from anywhere, you may instead put it back into the Command Zone. From there, you may cast it again! However, for each additional time you cast it after the first time, you have to pay an additional 2 colorless mana.
Example: If you cast Rith, the Awakener (your Commander for the sake of this explanation) and she bites the dust some time later, you can choose to put her into the graveyard or into the Command Zone. If you opt for the Command Zone, you can cast her again. However, the next time you want to cast her, she costs 2 colorless mana more, making you pay 8 mana in total. If she dies again (Stupid dragon! Just stay alive for once!), you’ll then have to pay 10. Then 12. Then … Ah, nobody cast their Commander that often! Unless you’re playing Isamaru, Hound of Konda…
And that’s basically it. Doesn’t sound too complicated, does it?
Now, when it comes to building a Commander deck, there are generally two ways to approach this: You can either choose your Commander first and build a deck around it, or you build a deck and then decide which Commander to use. I usually prefer the first option for a very simple reason: Your Commander is the only card in your deck that you can cast reliably during any given game. (Except when you’re mana-screwed. Duh.)
Considering that this is a 100-card singleton format, it’s far from clear which cards you’ll draw in the course of a game. Sure, you can use tutors (cards that let you search your library for certain other cards, for example Diabolic Tutor, Fabricate or Green Sun’s Zenith) to maximize the chances of getting a specific card more often, but even these tutors have to be drawn before you can use them.
So, having explained the usual two ways of building a Commander deck, I promptly went and applied a third way to do it: I settled on the colors I wanted in my deck. This is an approach I wouldn’t normally recommend, but in this case I decided to build a 5-color monstrosity just so that I could play ALL THE CARDS I WANTED! That’s right, folks, I wanted to have a deck where I love every single card I draw. You see, if you build around your Commander, there always comes a certain point where you look at a card and say to yourself: “Whoa, that would be sooo cool with my general! But ewww, it really sucks on its own…”
So when I set out to construct this 5-colored deck, this was something I actively tried to avoid. I wanted to look forward to every single draw step, I wanted to cackle with glee whenever my hand reached towards the top of my library! In short, I wanted a fun deck.
Choosing a 5 Color Commander
Having settled on my colors, I needed to find a figurehead, a 5-colored legendary creature. The following are the options I had when building the deck:
Atogatog – Uh, no. Even though this guy holds a ton of nostalgic value for the old-schooler in me, I will never ever let it near a deck of mine.
Child of Alara – This might have been an option if not for one teeny-tiny problem: DON’T YOU DARE DESTROY MY COOL THINGS, STUPID BABY!
Cromat – Our legendary illusion here is a very versatile creature, and I could see myself playing him (Uhm, it?). However, in the end it just boils down to personal preference, and the legend I ultimately chose excites me far more than Cromat ever will. He’s definitely not bad though.
Horde of Notions – This one is cool! The catch: I would be too restricted in my card choices. I mean seriously, you should build an Elemental deck around this, and that was not what I had in mind. Fun fact: A friend of mine misread the name and used to call this Horde of Nations for months…
Karona, False God – What the hell?! Isn’t this far too dangerous? It looks like fun – in a suicidal way…
Progenitus – Too expensive. Also, we already had a Progenitus deck in our group.
Reaper King – Clone, Heat Shimmer, Followed Footsteps, Phantasmal Image, Stolen Identity, Spitting Image, Cackling Counterpart, Phyrexian Metamorph, Rite of Replication. And changelings with blink or bounce effects. Just saying.
Sliver Overlord – See Sliver Legion.
Sliver Queen – Funnily enough, this is the last legendary creature on the Gatherer list. And if you’ve read my very first article here at MtG Casual Play, you’ve already known this was what I chose as a Commander. “But Kuchisama, this is also a Sliver!” Yep, you’re right. But it does not need other Slivers to be efficient. It also plays well on offense and on defense. In addition, the mighty Queen also provides us with various angles of attack as I am going to show you in a few moments. With her at the helm, you’re never dead in the water as you can just pump your mana into her token producing ability if you have nothing better to do. But the best reason for selecting Sliver Queen as my Commander? In comparison to the other creatures listed here, it gave me the biggest bang for the cards I wanted to put into the deck!
Sliver Queen EDH Primer
So without further ado, here is the deck, card by card:
Acidic Slime – One of the best utility cards ever. Period.
All Suns’ Dawn – There is no better card for getting a lot of your stuff back from your graveyard if you are playing 5-color. This is a work horse. Even getting only three cards is well worth it. Just don’t forget that multicolored cards can count for any one color.
Aura Shards – Between this and Harmonic Sliver, artifacts and enchantments really have a hard time staying on the battlefield. Some decks completely fold to this card, especially if you control an active Sliver Queen.
Austere Command – The most flexible mass removal spell out there. I’m not the only one who thinks that this should have a place in any deck with white in it.
Azorius Guildmage – This little girl is a Swiss army knife. If you keep a bit of mana open, she single-handedly shuts down a number of opposing Commanders such as Captain Sisay, Arcum Dagsson, Shattergang Brothers or Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. In addition, there is an awful lot of other cards that have activated abilities, for example Pernicious Deed, Void Stalker, Mindslaver or Karn Liberated. The list goes on and on. Well, and as if that weren’t enough, she can also tap down potential attackers or blockers. She may not be the prettiest girl in town but she’s immensely useful.
Bant Charm – Ah, the flexibility! The amazing flexibility! I absolutely love it. Just don’t get too entranced by the option of tucking enemy commanders. If that Steel Hellkite has to go, kill it. If Cyclonic Rift would ruin your day, counter it.
Boundless Realms – This is the most resistant mana doubler in the game. But even if it only gets you five or six lands, that’s still cool for only . This card has taken my playgroup by storm, and rightfully so. In Commander, mana is everything. Which holds especially true if your general can work as a mana dump.
Bringer of the Blue Dawn – Before we had Consecrated Sphinx, there was this guy. Tell you what: He’s still good! I prefer him to the black one because tutoring every round is really time-consuming and draws the heat like nothing else. Also, the life loss can really add up over time.
Capricious Efreet – This guy doesn’t care that I like him, that I think he’s cool with my Commander or with Darksteel Ingot, Purphoros or Thassa. He hates me. He really does. Otherwise, my playgroup wouldn’t have forbidden me to remove him from the deck… Oh, and by the way, you can choose only one permanent you don’t control if there is something you definitely want to see gone from the battlefield. This would increase the chances of hitting it to 50 percent.
Charmbreaker Devils – Every deck needs a bit of recursion. The Charmbreaker Devils are a goofy choice that will always make the other players smile. But don’t underestimate their power – this deck has a number of crazy instants and sorceries that can gain you a lot of advantage, in particular if you can use them multiple times. Repeated Violent Ultimatums anyone? Even getting Bant Charm back for a second use is great already.
Cultivate, Kodama’s Reach, Explosive Vegetation, Darksteel Ingot, Coalition Relic, Chromatic Lantern – The ramp package. The first three are staples in any green deck. The ingot gives you every color you need and won’t be a casualty if someone casts stuff like Akroma’s Vengeance or Fracturing Gust. The relic and the lantern help you immensely with color fixing. Those cards aren’t exactly exciting but they get you all the colors you need and thus accelerate your game plan.
Cyclonic Rift – I have never cast it without overload. That should tell you about its power level and how it’s used best.
Damnation – There are people who say that this is not Commander material and that you have better options. Let me respond by saying sure, Austere Command offers you more flexibility, and Decree of Pain may draw you a lot of cards. However, Damnation is cheap (uh, mana-wise). It allows you to clear the board early in the game or do so later and immediately follow up with your own threat. A card that does this even better is Blasphemous Act, although in Commander, 13 damage frequently isn’t enough. Take a look at Lord of Extinction or Hamletback Goliath if you don’t know what I’m talking about. If Damnation‘s price tag is too high for you though, replace it with Day of Judgment as the no-regeneration clause doesn’t come up too often.
Demonic Tutor – I usually eschew most of the tutors that let you search for cards without any restrictions. The exceptions in this deck are this and Increasing Ambition as they are either extremely cheap or repeatable. Also, this is the only Demonic Tutor I possess, and it was a present. Of course I play it!
Eternal Witness – There’s just no way around this card if you play Green in your deck. It’s that good.
Ethersworn Adjudicator – A friend of mine has argued that Steel Hellkite would be a better choice but the dragon’s problem is that it has to connect. It is powerful, no question, but if it can’t get through, no removal for you, and I have been in that sad situation a bit too often. Also, I like the art of the Adjudicator better, ha!
Exsanguinate – This is a win condition as well as welcome aid for when you are low on life. Now that I think about it though, it’s also very, very boring. But it can be searched for with Mystical Tutor to steal otherwise unwinnable games. Hooray! Oh well, I guess this probably has to leave the deck.
Gemhide Sliver and Manaweft Sliver – Those two guys are incredible! They ramp and colorfix your mana and have cool synergy with Sliver Queen! All the tokens she produces can also tap for mana now? Meaning even more tokens next turn? This can get out of hand quickly.
Hallowed Burial – Sometimes, destroying things just doesn’t get the job done.
Harmonic Sliver – As I mentioned before, this is not a real Sliver deck. However, there are a few Slivers that work extremely well with their Queen, and this is one of them.
Havengul Lich – This guy is a monster, and a 5-colored deck is the perfect home for it. If they leave it unchecked, your opponents are in for a world of problems as any creature in a graveyard is fair game. Based on the nature of this deck, you can grab anything you like because colored mana will never be a problem. I love it!
Idyllic Tutor – Purphoros, God of the Forge, Mirari’s Wake, Mana Reflection, Thassa, God of the Sea, Honden of Seeing Winds, Sylvan Library, Steel of the Godhead, Aura Shards. Those are all of my enchantments in the deck, and you should always find something you need among those. Perhaps I’ll add an Oblivion Ring or a Detention Sphere for removal purposes – in exchange for the Exsanguinate from above.
Increasing Ambition – For when searching your library for a single card just isn’t enough.
Invoke the Firemind – This used to be Diabolic Revelation but at one point I noticed that games tended to become unfun after I used it to search for a dozen cards or so. Then I switched to this. The three colored mana symbols in the upper right corner always seem a bit expensive but you can never have enough card draw, and being able to burn someone out of the game if you have the required amount of mana is quite cool. And with the amounts of mana this deck can produce, this is a very dangerous possibility. Flexibility, guys, flexibility.
Krosan Grip – This would not make the cut without split second. Not. Ever. Since it has split second though, it is one of the most badass non-creature removal spells out there. So, you are sitting comfortably behind your Oblivion Stone, waiting to blow up the world as soon as my horde of Slivers starts looking your way? Too bad you’ve waited too long.
Life from the Loam – With so many cool nonbasic lands in the deck, you need to have a way to get them back if they are destroyed. Life from the Loam does that. Repeatedly. Nice synergy with Terramorphic Expanse, Evolving Wilds, Ghost Quarter and Tolaria West.
Magister Sphinx – Yep, I play that card. Yep, I love that card. No, I’m not a douchebag as far as I know. But I have played against Beacon of Immortality and against kicked Rite of Replications on Rhox Faithmender a few times too often.
Mana Reflection – Doubling your mana is powerful. Mana Reflection even doubles all the mana produced by mana sources other than lands. This means that controlling this, Sliver Queen and Gemhide Sliver / Manaweft Sliver works like a dream come true.
Medomai the Ageless – Well, duh. I have never even drawn him since adding him to the deck. In theory though, he should be quite powerful. Considering that there should always be an opponent at your table who doesn’t control any fliers, Medomai could easily give you a few extra turns in the course of a game.
Mercurial Chemister – Draw two for only one blue mana every turn? Thanks, man! Oh, you can also blast away at our enemies’ creatures? Well, go ahead then! I like employees with a diverse yet powerful skill set.
Mirari’s Wake – How awesome is that card in this deck!? It allows Sliver Queen to produce twice as many tokens and pumps them, too? Absolutely fantastic! I have won a lot of games on the back of Mirari’s Wake.
Mystical Tutor – There are some very powerful instants and sorceries in the list. Being able to search them out for at instant speed right before your turn can definitely come in handy. Are there a few annoying permanents on the battlefield? Violent Ultimatum. Need something back from your graveyard? All Suns’ Dawn. More lands? Boundless Realms. Or just go for the kill with Titanic Ultimatum!
Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker – One of the few ‘walkers that are as good in multiplayer as they are in duels. Bolas is pure evil and can turn around a game all by himself. One of my favorite planeswalkers Wizards have printed so far.
Odds // Ends – What a hilarious card! One half protects you from creatures, the other one does wacky stuff! Give it a try, people! I have copied a Cruel Ultimatum with it that came my way, used it to destroy Akroma, Angel of Fury and Scourge of Kher Ridges at the same time, and countered an Exsanguinate that would have killed the table. I absolutely love it!
Prophet of Kruphix – Combine this with Sliver Queen and mana doublers (in particular Gemhide Sliver / Manaweft Sliver) for massive amounts of tokens. The flash-granting ability is the icing on the cake.
Proteus Staff – Great against enemy Commanders and amazing with Sliver Queen tokens!
Purphoros, God of the Forge – Awesome win condition! With the right amount of mana, this guy allows you to kill the table if Sliver Queen is on the battlefield. Everything I said about him in my last article applies here as well. The first copy of Purphoros that I bought went into this deck.
Rite of Replication – In multiplayer, clones are always welcome tools as they allow you to adjust to the power level of your opponents’ decks. The Rite is the granddaddy of them all. If you can manage to cast it with kicker, it should spell game over for at least one of the other players.
Shadow of Doubt – I put this in the deck because I had always wanted to play it and never managed to do so. Being able to basically “counter” all tutors is extremely cool. Your opponent has spent his mana and wasted a card while you have prevented them from searching for something powerful. To add insult to injury, you also drew a card. Now that’s just plain mean. My funniest experience with this? Casting it in response to a Vampiric Tutor: “Nope, you don’t get to search for your mass removal spell. Oh, but you still lose that 2 life…”
Skullclamp – An absolute staple in token decks, this allows me to basically cast Divination every turn if I have Sliver Queen on the battlefield. And this is only the worst case scenario. Goes well with Martial Coup, too.
Sliver Legion – Coat of Arms only for you (unless someone else is playing Slivers, of course). In the form of a 7/7 beat stick? Hell, yeah! And it’s thematic. I have chosen this over Tromp the Domains because it has board presence and can defend you if necessary. I didn’t want it as the Commander, but as a supporter it really shines here.
Solemn Simulacrum – Hm, I think that S is the letter with which the most names of Magic cards begin. I can’t say for sure and I’m too lazy to check, but that’s certainly the impression I have.
Steel of the Godhead – This has an ongoing feud with Whispersilk Cloak. You see, the Queen has 7 power, meaning that she can kill any opponent with three hits through Commander damage. So making her unblockable is quite the serious threat. The nine life Steel of the Godhead provides me with when it’s enchanting my Queen as well as the nine unblockable damage instead of only seven from a Whispersilk Cloak in addition to its fetchability (is that even a word?) with Idyllic Tutor slightly pull it ahead in my opinion.
Sylvan Library – Extremely cheap for a very powerful effect. It gets even better if you can manage to shuffle your library repeatedly.
Thassa, God of the Sea – Two completely different functions in a single card. The first ability smoothes your draws and is therefore very welcome at any stage of a game. The second ability says that you can kill any opponent with Sliver Queen in only three turns. Nice package.
Titanic Ultimatum – Boom, you’re dead! And I have gained enough life so that my other opponents cannot exploit the situation. Attacking with everything has never felt so good!
Tsabo Tavoc – Ah, the killer of legends! Interestingly, this bad girl is better on defense than on offense but she’s powerful nonetheless. I don’t draw her all that often for some reason, but whenever she is on the battlefield, she is a force that must be dealt with. Not least because she really, really doesn’t like opposing Commanders…
Uyo, Silent Prophet – So somebody tell me there are no powerful moonfolk around! This lady can make devastating spells even more devastating. And she can counter counterspells by copying them and choosing the original counterspell as the target of the copy. Take that, evil blue mage!
Violent Ultimatum – Raymond Swanland is one of my favorite Magic artists, and this is one of my favorite Magic cards. Win!
Wargate – It’s obviously becoming a theme here: flexibility! This card offers it in spades, people. You can even search for a land (any land) if you pay only . Great card!
Utility Lands for 5 Color Commander
The land section is full of lands that can produce more than one type of mana, something that is absolutely essential if you’re playing all five colors. A few others have special functions:
Bojuka Bog – Not much to say here. Graveyard hate is a must nowadays.
Boseiju, Who Shelters All – Sometimes, getting a crucial instant or sorcery countered is not an option.
Ghost Quarter – In Commander, there are so many awesome nonbasic lands that you have to be able to handle those of your opponents. This is a great way to do so. Can be brought back for another go with Life from the Loam.
Kessig Wolf Run – The deck can generate stupid amounts of mana. And you can also choose a creature you don’t control. Do I have to say more?
Vault of the Archangel – All of a sudden, those puny 1/1 Sliver tokens look a lot more dangerous. And I won’t even talk about the big monsters.
There are many different nonbasic lands that would be cool here, but due to the inherent mana requirements (we’re playing all five colors after all), the number of lands that can only produce colorless mana should be kept as low as possible.
Finally, here’s the deck list:
MULTIPLAYER MADNESS IV – The Queen of My Dreams
Cards I would add if I had them:
Edric, Spymaster of Trest – Being able to produce lots of tokens means being able to draw lots of cards. Also, since Sliver Queen can really gum up the board, Edric might cause your opponents to attack each other. A very cool and powerful card!
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite – Not much to say here. Make your own army bigger, shrink those of your opponents.
Cards I’m on the fence about:
Cathars’ Crusade – All of a sudden, your Sliver Queen doesn’t produce puny critters anymore… This might even be better than Elesh Norn as it comes down earlier and makes your dudes even bigger. However, it doesn’t work in a vacuum, so you need the Queen out to have it do its thing. Its sheer explosiveness can be devastating.
Fight to the Death – This can get rid of a lot of creatures for only two measly mana! However, the right situation has to come up first so this might end up sitting in your hand accomplishing nothing.
Gahiji, Honored One – Interesting for its political aspect. Probably worse than Cathars’ Crusade though.
Grimgrin, Corpse-Born – Hm, this mighty zombie might still be weaker than the Ethersworn Ajudicator I mentioned above. Considering that they fulfill similar roles and that the Vedalken Knight is more flexible, Grimgrin is probably not going to make it into the deck.
Maelstrom Nexus – I once had this in the deck but there are just too many cards I don’t want to cascade into. If some of those leave the deck at one point in the future, this is a powerful option.
Obzedat’s Aid – This can bring back any permanent! And returning a Mirari’s Wake or Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker to the battlefield can be crucial.
Pharika’s Mender – Interesting but I like Obzedat’s Aid better as the extra body is probably not needed and the Aid offers more flexibility and synergizes better with the rest of the deck (Nicol Bolas, Mystical Tutor, Charmbreaker Devils or Uyo, Silent Prophet etc.).
So, that’s my Sliver Queen Commander deck. If I want to play with a theme, I’ll bring Karador, Ghost Chieftain or The Mimeoplasm to the table. But if I want a relaxed game just to have fun, this is my deck of choice.
Curing Staleness with 5 Color Goodstuff!
I know that there are people out there who look at the deck list and scoff. I can hear them saying something like: “Bah, that’s just goodstuff. How boring.” And in a way, I can understand them. But I created this deck specifically when Magic was growing stale for me, when I would sit there during games and wonder why it wasn’t as fun as it used to be. I thought about it some more and came to the conclusion that I needed to return to the times (Time travel, yay!) when I would just go through my card selection, pull out cards that I thought were cool, shuffle it all together and call it a deck. Sometimes, it wouldn’t work, but other times, I would find the weirdest interactions and really enjoy the experience. Those were the moments I wanted to recapture with this deck.
And I can only advise you to do the same. If Magic has lost some of its luster for you, stop thinking too much about the mana curve or the ratio between creature and non-creature spells. Don’t fret over the number of removal spells or whether a card is considered a boring staple by others. If you enjoy playing it, then by all means, put it in your deck!
Because this is what Commander in particular and Magic in general are all about: enjoying yourself and having fun.
July 25, 2014:
OUT: Rite of Replication
IN: Dictate of Erebos
Ever since I saw it for the first time, I’ve wanted to add the Dictate because it is conditional mass removal (flash it onto the battlefield right before some of your Sliver tokens die to make your opponents cry) that then goes on to shape the game in your favor. But what should I remove from the deck? In the end, the decision was fairly easy because I needed Rite of Replication for my new Reaper King Commander deck which is full of clone effects.
August 30, 2014:
OUT: Tsabo Tavoc, Sylvan Library
IN: Eldrazi Monument, Detention Sphere
Although I really like Tsabo Tavoc, I have to admit that she’s basically nothing more than a glorified wall as she’s waaay more defensive than offensive. Sure, she prevents your opponents from casting their commanders which is nice but I’d much rather play a card that allows me to attack if the situation is right. I haven’t attacked with Tsabo Tavoc even once, so she’ll have to look for a job elsewhere. In addition, Eldrazi Monument pumps my tokens and also protects Sliver Queen – who then in turn feeds the monument to keep it on the battlefield. If this isn’t synergy, I don’t know what is.
Sylvan Library was simply needed in another deck, so I chose to replace it with removal in enchantment form that can be searched up by Idyllic Tutor.
September 12, 2014:
OUT: Uyo, Silent Prophet
IN: Constricting Sliver
In combination with my Commander, this new beastie absolutely controls the board. Uyo on the other hand never really lived up to her full potential. I didn’t draw her very often, and if I did, returning two lands to my hand always sucked because the deck is so mana-hungry. So I’m going with the removal option that might actually win me the game. It’s unfortunate that it doesn’t allow for exiling tricks with your own creatures. Imagine exiling Medomai the Ageless and Magister Sphinx with sliver tokens, and then following up with Wrath of God! That would have been too cool! Oh well, you can’t have everything, right?
October 01, 2014:
OUT: Shadow of Doubt
IN: Dragon Throne of Tarkir
Every queen needs a throne! This new card from Khans of Tarkir fits thematically as well as functionally. Nice! And Shadow of Doubt was cute and all but couldn’t win you the game.
Okay, this is it for today. Until next time then. May you always draw cards you like!