This entry is part 6 of 14 in the series Peasant Rebellion

Posted by Maxwellian 2000
Staff Pic-Max
So what do you do when your friends owe you money but are short on cash in this economy? When I can’t get away with breaking legs, I usually accept Magic cards. That’s how I recently came into Survival of the Fittest, Crucible of Worlds, Life from the Loam and Exploration for the first time. Each of those is a pretty penny, and generally only work in decks reliant (over-reliant?) on some sort of self-mill, like Ravnica-era Standard Dredge. I’ve always wanted to give the Dredge mechanic a shot, and given that graveyard hate seems to be the first thing people cut in the Commander deckbuilding process, the meta seemed right to give it a try.

After doing some looking around online, I quickly realized why these cards cost so much: they win the game in short order. Fresh off my vacation to Pauperville, my goal is to build competitive/casual decks that give the pilot a good chance to make some noise at the table, but won’t win on turn three and (hopefully) won’t alienate your opponents (read: friends) too much. In a format that’s as easy to break as Commander, I agree with CommanderCast’s own Sean that competitive/casual balance is struck when a deck can win once it has access to 9 mana. I mean, if everyone else is doing it….

But if you do want to win on turn three, this sort of strategy can make that happen. Check out this list, as outlined in painstakingly awesome detail by Commander forum-goer derbestemann here. In summary, his Karador, Ghost Chieftain build, featuring Hermit Druid instead of any kind of Dredge or discard engines and a degenerate (and highly original, to boot) 5-card Reveillark combo allows him, on turn three, “to secure the win and then scoop, leaving the game untouched and ready to continue.” Yeah, I admit it, I tried it, it works. It’s….intoxicating. MUHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

But as our intrepid deck designer concedes, he plays this deck only online, mostly because of its anti-social nature (although I suspect Imperial Seal and Sylvan Tutor availability might have something to do with it, too :)). And although dreamcrushing is an admirable goal in many contexts, I’d like to be able to use my expensive pieces of cardboard in a manner that doesn’t make my friends want to cry. So today, we will discuss how to get the most out of your valuable niche graveyard manipulation cards like Crucible and Life from the Loam without losing friends.

First of all, I want to explain why I didn’t go with The Mimeoplasm, even though it includes the requisite B/G colors and is certainly awesome with Dredge. For one, everybody and his mother has a “The” deck. For two, having that guy as your general and not playing Skithiryx is like having a blue deck during Zendikar-era Standard and not playing JTMS: you don’t do it. And just like a turn four Jace usually meant game over, that dude warp the deck to the point where you’re just trying to get him under “The”, maybe by the fourth or fifth turn. News flash: infect is effectively quadruple strike in 40-life format. Throw in the thoroughly obnoxious Mirror-Mad Phantasm, and I was real confident BUG would not result in anything close to casual.

So given that the deck has to be at least BG to keep our dredge options as open as possible, and because we know we need a general who interacts with the graveyeard, that leaves us with Karador, Ghost Chieftain or Teneb, the Harvester if we want to go three-color. Jund is out because our graveyard-interacting generals are pretty much limited to Adun Oakenshield, who is just not exciting, and Sek’Kuar, Deathkeeper, who is somewhat exciting, but I’ve already been down that road. So I concur with derbestemann: Karador it is.

Ultimately, the main reasons to play white beyond the superior general options are pretty much Reveillark and Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter, so you can probably see where this is going. It plays more like a combo deck than an aggro deck, so the potential of casting Karador for BGW at any time due to a flush graveyard, then playing a key piece from there, is too enticing to pass up. Hopefully, the build contains enough beaters that a beatstick general is not necessary, but I will have to try Teneb if I find my beaters inadequate and the combo starts to get neutralized more frequently.

First, we need to briefly address the nuts and bolts of a deck like this. That starts with lands. Lots of lands. I’m currently at 45 mana-producing lands, plus Maze of Ith and Glacial Chasm, and sometimes I think that’s not enough. You also need most of those extra lands to be like the Chasm and go to the graveyard of their own accord (think fetchlands, Krosan Verge, Horizon Canopy), the better to be replayed with the likes of Crucible and Life from the Loam. Even off-color fetchlands like Wooded Foothills are helpful here. The “lots of land” plan of course includes Exploration, Azusa, Lost but Seeking, and Oracle of Mul Daya, as well as Lotus Cobra, to make up for the absence of traditional artifact ramp (no Sol Ring!). Also making the cut are staples Wood Elves, Skyshroud Claim, Hunting Wilds and of course Primeval Titan. Kight of the Reliquary is a way to get the Urborg/Coffers dreamteam online ASAP, while Mirari’s Wake is my mana-doubler of choice in these colors, and is especially awesome given the absence of mana rocks.

Next, we have to decide how to fill the graveyard. Hermit Druid is clearly the best in-color way to get that done. It’s just as clearly broken; flipping the graveyard with flashback spells running around all over the place is a little unfair. Yes, Survival of the Fittest is also broken, but it doesn’t enable turn three wins in this build. So I cut the Druid in favor of Buried Alive for pinpoint self-mill and also went with the following Dredge suite, plus Life from the Loam:

Golgari Thug
Stinkweed Imp
Golgari Grave-Troll

These dudes dredge 4, 5 and 6, respectively, allowing for “fixed” self-mill that I have found pretty entertaining. Rather than the grim reality of pending doom absent an immediate answer for Hermit Druid, dredging these cards lets everyone know that a finite number of cards are hitting the graveyard, some of which may actually benefit them (it can be a pain to recur Tooth and Nail). The Thug and the Imp shore up early-game defense, and the Troll can be a fair late-game beater, but the primary purpose of these cards is to fill the graveyard in a reasonable fashion.

Discard is another way to do that, obviously, and Survival, Fauna Shaman and Greater Good are in. In addition to the Dredge cards, Genesis makes for serviceable discard fodder. Another card guaranteed to get some permanents in the yard is Realms Uncharted (and to a lesser extent, Kight of the Reliquary). A typical package for Realms usually involves Petrified Field and Vesuva, hopefully forcing your opponent to make a Hobson’s choice with that Urbog when you have Coffers in hand.

Other discard enablers and discard fodder options just didn’t seem strong enough, and that’s fine, because this deck wants to be able to interact on traditional axes, too, if necessary. If that means hard-casting Golgari Thug every now and then, so be it. I’m also going to mention Recycle here, as it does allow for some discarding. But DAMN this card is sick with all these land drops. Let’s just say you’re going to see a ton of cards in very short order if you untap with this on the battlefield. Obviously this is far from secret tech, but this spell is the nuts in this build. I left out its buddy Null Profusion just because white lets me play Academy Rector to search out Recycle if need be.

I wanted to point out that the presence of Recycle led to the cutting of “auto includes” Sylvan Library and Necropotence. The Library benefits you during your draw step, which means its worthless when Recycle (or Necropotence, for that matter) hits the table. Further, Recycle is so perfect in this deck that old Necro got cut, too, because it’s just not as good late game as Recycle, the two cards are anti-synergistic with each other, and its BBB cost made it hard for a three-color deck to play on turn 3. Finally, Necro is such a notorious threat that it brings even more hate on a deck that rightfully should already receive plenty. No reason to make the target bigger. So Phyrexian Arena becomes the early-game card draw engine of choice. Memory Jar offers explosive pure card draw, while Sensei’s Divining Top is even better in a deck with so many shuffle effects, starting with fetchlands, but also including a plethora of tutors:

Eladamri’s Call
Academy Rector
Primal Command
Green Sun’s Zenith (along with it’s pal Dryad Arbor)
Tooth and Nail
Vampiric Tutor
Demonic Tutor
Rune-Scarred Demon

So after you’ve searched up that missing piece, your Top will get to look at three new cards. Good stuff.

So what are those pieces? Come back tomorrow  for the rest of the deck, including the final list.

Maxwellian2000 is a former competitive Magic player who now plays mostly FNMs and Commander formats, along with Palladium Books’ Rifts RPG and Legos. When not writing about and playing Magic, he works as a lawyer in Kansas and produces music at panoramicrecords.net.

Series Navigation<< Peasant Rebellion 05-Kings of Card Advantage, Part 2Peasant Rebellion 07 – Karador Dredge: Keeping it Casual, Part 2 >>