This entry is part 1 of 10 in the series The Social Contractor

By ANDY

For those who have been following CommanderCast since the days of yore, you are no doubt familiar with the $30 Wrexial Challenge. In case you aren’t hit up CommanderCast 01 to get the scoop! But here’s the skinny in brief:

“On the first episode of CommanderCast I announced that I’d be trying to build a $30 EDH deck to prove you can build EDH decks with a tight budget that will still be effective in a multiplayer setting, as one of the things I hear often about people who would like to play EDH but aren’t yet is “it looks expensive/you need old cards”. This deck’s goal is to prove the opposite is true!”

It also helps that I like having LOTS of different decks and I had yet to construct a blue/black Commander build, so the timing was perfect.

The commander chosen was Wrexial, the Risen Deep because that episode Byron had been talking about how underrated he is; I just decided he looked awesome and ran with it. So far I haven’t been disappointed. The remainder of this article will include a comprehensive decklist, including reasoning behind the inclusion of each non-basic land card, a brief strategy primer, and a history of changes to the deck since inception and play. As always, if you have comments, suggestions, or hate mail, hit me up at CommanderCast(at)gmail(dot)com.

Strategy Primer:

Overall Archetype:
This is a control deck with a slow curve. Once you have built your manabase, you should be able to delete threatening creatures using one of your mass-removal spells and seize control of the game. You are going to use mass discard to control the board by preventing your opponents from getting their cards into play in the first place, rather than the traditional route of having them played and then blowing them up. The reasoning for this is four-fold:

1) I’ve never played anything like it in multiplayer, particularly in EDH. This means it’s not only an interesting thought exercise to pilot the deck, but it also means your angle of attack is unexpected and takes people time to adapt to. This means you get a few free ambush games!

2) The core cards are cheap, essential for the purposes of the challenge. Most cards cost well under a dollar. Many of the best B/U control cards are ‘expensive’ (over $1 for the purposes of this exercise) so I needed to find an alternative.

3) I assumed it would be powerful given my experience playing hand disruption in the past, only on a smaller 1v1 scale. The card advantage that comes from something like Unnerve is amazing! Hand destruction is completely viable in multiplayer, but like other strategies, requires a shift in thinking. In 1v1, the best discard is pinpoint targeted like Duress or fast and random like Hymn to Tourach. In Commander, slower, more powerful and asymmetrical discard is better.

4) Discard is the best way to make your opponents drop juicy spells into their graveyard for Wrexial to jack them. Milling spells felt weak because they didn’t usually directly influence your opponent’s resource like attacking the hand, while the discard route directly robs my opponents of options.

Once you get accustomed to lacking in early threats and accept you have to just be a late-game monster, you become comfortable with going down to twenty or less life in the first eight turns. Until you hit zero, who cares? There is also some life gain in the deck, which can buy you time until you have control again. Your control elements are strong once they are online so stabilization is just part of playing the deck.

With the discard element, you have to accept that other players also will attack you for it. People like having cards in hand. Don’t start ripping cards out of people’s clutches until you have some kind of available answer in the next few turns to deal with the coming onslaught, or you will probably expire. Also, you need to be aware that you will dump cards into people’s graveyards that they will be able to make use of themselves (Incarnations, reanimation targets, and so on). This is a risk you take for putting opponents in topdeck mode. It will occasionally cause big problems, but the net gain is well worth it. And, of course, you can often make use of those cards yourself…

Smashing Boats Like A Boss:
Wrexial is a blockbuster commander, leaving people scrambling for answers when he hits the table. If he makes contact with an opponent a few times in the course of a game, it often spells doom for the rest of the table. Also, as another plus, he is a recent release that is cheap (usually can be found for $2 at most), both of which were pertinent to the budget and newness constraint. The synergy he has with discard is wonderful. While his power of five is unfortunate as it means he will require five attacks to kill an opponent through general damage, given his giant ass-end toughness, asking for a superior body at six mana is greed incarnate. He survives a God damn Inferno. Once this happens in a game, you get over the five power.

Wrexial is not a total lynch-pin for this deck. It can get by without him, which is important because you shouldn’t always plan on having your general with the popularity of ‘tuck’ spells like Spin Into Myth, Bant Charm, and Condemn. However, the deck is light on threats, so having him available to finish your opponents is awesome. His most important function is giving you access to powerful, off-colour spells like Austere Command so you can attack troublesome permanents like Rings of Brightearth and Mana Reflection that the B/U combination is typically near-hapless against.

Wrexial, the Risen Deep: Your main man. When Wrexial shows up you know he’s running things.

Discard:

Unnerve: Played early this card has been way more effective than I thought it would be. Later on when people’s hands are a bit depleted, it’s also fine. Pretty serious effect for four mana.
Words of Waste: One of the most effective cards in the deck. Because you have so many ways to pick up cards and no way to retain a hand size beyond 7, you can often afford to skip draws to make everyone discard.
Necrogen Mists: It’s been ok so far, but not overwhelming. Gets a lot more powerful with other cards in play like the Grimoire. Good enough to leave in.
Painful Quandary: Not enough experience using it to judge, I haven’t gotten to use it much yet.
Cabal Conditioning: The best spell in the deck. When it resolves, you win most games. It’s fairly easy to either blast everyone’s hand for six cards, but I find myself resolving this for four or three cards pretty routinely. It’s still worth it to seal the deal once your opponent’s hands are battered a bit.
Syphon Mind: Fantastic card draw and discard. So amazing.
Mind Shatter: For the guy who draws cards and makes you think, “I didn’t authorize that!”
Recoil: A nice trick. Vindicates when opponent’s hand is stripped.
Dire Undercurrents: Not feeling this one too much, I don’t have enough mans to make it worthwhile. I’ll probably replace it with something else.

Misc. Artifacts:

Geth’s Grimoire: Essential card, provides ridiculous card advantage and has the added bonus of being protected by the discard it feeds on.
Whispersilk Cloak: EDH staple.
Nihil Spellbomb: Amazing graveyard hate card, outstanding rattlesnake potential.
Fireshrieker: I am a bit light on threats, so this makes any one I play into a bigger deal. With Wrexial, it’s doing DOWN when you hit somebody while he’s wearing this.

Acceleration:

Coalition Relic: I think it’s the most expensive card in the deck. One of my favourite cards.
Mistvein Borderpost: Budget. It works fine for what it is.
Prismatic Lens: Same as above. The colour fixing can help as I don’t have a whole lot of mana fixing lands. Lets me play a third turn Unnerve which is a really nice play.
Drake-Skull Cameo: More budget mana acceleration.
Darksteel Ingot: The best budget mana accelerator.
Dimir Signet: You knew this would be in here. I don’t actually like Signets much but in B/U I don’t have too much choice.
Talisman of Dominance: I actually rather like this guy.

Tricks:

Willbender: The only problem with Willbender is it makes me feel compelled to include more Morph dudes so your opponent’s can’t just know, “it’s a Willbender, Shapeshifter or Brine Elemental.
Redirect: Wasn’t too sure about this one at first, but after you switch up somebody’s Cruel Ultimatum back at them, you realize how good it is.
Chromeshell Crab: Makes people think it’s a Willbender. Hilarious to trade your 3/3 for a Kozilek.
Mischievous Quanar: Can really increase the impact of your discard cards, reusable, and once you did it once, it can have a profound impact on people’s willingness to play spells when they know you’re just going to copy it.
Mnemonic Wall: Shenanigans with Evacuation, otherwise just solid.
Gather Specimens: I like this card more and more as I play with it. Really a fantastic counterspell and trick all rolled into one package. Since my deck is light on win conditions, stealing other people’s big game-enders is amazing.
Blatant Thievery: Similar to the above. When your opponent’s hands are stripped at the end of the game, they will often just be playing their big threats from their topdeck. You can then steal them.
Echo Mage: I haven’t gotten to use it enough. I think it looks fun though.
Withered Wretch: One of the best graveyard haters around.
Suffer the Past: Totally underrated spell. Pinpoint graveyard hate, kills your opponents, gains you life. Instant speed too!
Filth: I’m not sure about this guy in the budget incarnation of the deck. Once I have Urborg in here, he will be a must.

Beaters:

Dread: I don’t want any creature that are strictly game-enders. This guy can kill your opponents but is fantastic at discouraging attackers.
Kagemaro, First to Suffer: Board sweeper, big beater. He’s working out better than I thought he would.
Mindleech Mass: I only got to use it once, and with the discard, I didn’t get much out of him. I might axe him but we’ll see. The ability just looks so juicy.
Steel Hellkite: It’s just really good. Kills enchantments!
Stormtide Leviathan: When this guy pops up, it’s to close out the game. Him and Wrexial have a big old Islandwalking party while beating up your opponents.
Kederekt Leviathan: A reset button.

Card Draw and Manipulation:

Diabolic Tutor: Budget tutor.
Mystical Teachings: I like this thing a lot. Fetches up my Draining Whelk, Envelop, Evacuation, and so on.
Exsanguinate: It’s just a good multiplayer card. Game-ender as well.
Opportunity: Drawing cards at instant speed. Nothing special here.
Read the Runes: This card I like a lot. When somebody is going to throw a sweeper at you, or you’re chump blocking, or you don’t need all those lands, etc. etc. just throw down Read the Runes and pick up some cards. I don’t know if this is the ideal deck for it (a token deck of some sort would make better use of it I think), but it’s been quite a powerful card.
Jace’s Ingenuity: Same as Opportunity.
Mind Spring: It draws cards.

Counterspells:

Draining Whelk: My favourite counterspell, win condition, super demoralizing when your only card in hand is a giant bomb that will change the tide and my Whelk eats it up and beats you to death.
Envelop: Surprise! One mana counterspell! This card rules.
Hinder: For dealing with those problematic generals.
Perplex: In the late game, the choice to discard your non-existant hand is easy, but then you can just Transmute for Words of Waste, the card below, etc. Early game, works fine.
Soul Manipulation: A great little card. All kinds of uses.
Overwhelming Intellect: This card has been absolutely terrifying! It’s not uncommon to draw up 5 to 7 cards with this beast. For six mana, I’m never upset with the results.

Killin Mans:

Barter in Blood: Kills creatures, standard care.
Bane of the Living: Another morph creature to play mind games with. “Wait… it’s not Willbender?” Also does it’s instant-speed Wrath thing.
Plague Wind: Guess what this card is for?
Sudden Spoiling: I love this guy. Can turn a disadvantageous position into a total victory without warning. A powerful card for political purposes.
Evacuation: In my experience, the best creature sweeper because of the instant speed and being fetchable with Mystical Teachings.
Magus of the Abyss: He kills mans. Usually dies to himself when it’s my turn. I might replace him with Anowon, the Ruin Sage.
Big Game Hunter: When I discard at end of turn or after Read the Runes, he jumps onto the battlefield, yells “Toasty!” and kills a dude like it’s not even a big deal. I’m ok with hardcasting him too.

Use Other People’s Stuff:

Memory Plunder: It’s awesome. It also doesn’t remove the card int he graveyard so you can use it again with Wrexial later. Lets you Wrath at instant speed when things are looking grim.
Spellweaver Volute: This thing is awesome with all the discard and such flying around. When you cast something using Wrexial, it gets even better! Also lets you use opponent’s artifact and enchantment removal spells, which is it’s most important application.
Body Double: We all know this rules, especially when you’re making opponents discard their prime mans.
Knowledge Exploitation: Another card we all know is awesome.
Profane Command: Does so much for so little.
Beacon of Unrest: As above. This one can end games.
Enslave: Doesn’t kill creatures per se, but does let me rent them out.

Lands:

Dreadship Reef: Storage land. I like these. At the endgame when your opponents are topdeck and Wrexial is beating, this can build up and give you lots of mana for some huge plays and surprise counterspells.
Duskmantle, House of Shadow: I just use it because it has the colours, but it’s better than I thought it would be. Flipping an important card into an opponent’s graveyard gets the table hype.
Dimir Aqueduct: It makes mana.
Lonely Sandbar Late-game cycler. Also can keep an opponent off their draw with Words of Waste.
Barren Moor Above.
Terramorphic Expanse Fixes my mana.
Hall of the Bandit Lord: Gives Wrexial haste, otherwise rocks.

Swamp: x14
Island: x15

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