Prime Speaker

We’re going to take a break from competitive formats today and talk about a fun, casual format that is consistently popular: Commander.

Commander is usually played with three to four other players, each with a Legendary Creature that acts as a General (or Commander) for their 99-card deck. The deck takes its cues from the General and can only contain cards in that Creature’s color identity. So, the first thing we need to do to play Commander is to select a General for our deck. I’ve taken the liberty of choosing for us, and I’d like to introduce you to Prime Speaker Zegana of the Simic Combine.

The General

PrimeSpeakerZegana

As previously stated, our deck follows the lead of our General. So what is our General telling us to do? Let’s take a look at her abilities to get some clues.

Zegana is just a 1/1, but she enters the battlefield with X +1/+1 counters, where X is the greatest power among Creatures we control. Then she draws cards equal to her own power.

So, that seems like it could be a fairly straight-forward plan. We want to make our General big so we can draw a bunch of cards, so we need some pretty big Creatures. The bigger the better, in fact. Now, if we could just figure out the best way to get some monsters on the field, we’d be all set.

Wait. Monsters? Isn’t Green known for a particular classic monster?

Creatures

Hydras are an iconic Green Creature and many of them have X in their cost, which means we’ll rarely be sad to draw one. As a note, there are a lot of cards in this deck, and I won’t have time to talk about them each individually. I’ll cover what I can. So let’s take a look at our Hydras, both literal and honorary.

ProteanHydra

Protean Hydra comes into play with X +1/+1 counters on it, and if it would take damage we prevent it and remove that many counters instead. The fun part is that at the end step we put twice that number of counters back on. This guy is great on defense early in the game, but it becomes better the more it blocks and, eventually, it becomes a serious beater in its own right.

PrimordialHydra KalonianHydra HeroesBane

Primordial Hydra doubles its +1/+1 counters on our upkeep, and gets Trample once it has more than ten counters on it. It gets out of hand quickly without us needing to really do any additional work. Kalonian Hydra doubles its counters whenever it attacks, and it starts with trample. The only problem with Kalonian is that it doesn’t have an X in its cost, so it doesn’t scale with our mana. Heroes’ Bane is another counter doubling Hydra, but this one can double as many times as you can pay {2GG}. Late game, you should be able to double Heroes’ Bane at least two to three times a turn.

VastwoodHydra HoodedHydra LifebloodHydra

Our next group of Hydras have effects that trigger when they die. Vastwood Hydra distributes its +1/+1 counters to other Creatures upon its demise, making our other Creatures bigger. Hooded Hydra makes a bunch of 1/1 Snake tokens equal to its number of counters, flooding the board. Lifeblood Hydra is going to gain us life and draw us cards when it shuffles off this mortal coil, both of which are great for Commander games.

Hangarback ChasmSkulker

We’ve got a pair of honorary Hydras in this group in the form of Hangerback Walker and Chasm Skulker. Hangerback Walker drops flying Thopter tokens when it dies. Chasm Skulker gains +1/+1 counters whenever we draw a card. When it dies, it breaks into a mass of 1/1 Squid tokens with Islandwalk. Great against any Blue players at the table.

ScourgeofSkolaVale

If we really want those tokens, we are running Scourge of Skola Vale, which allows us to sacrifice our own Creatures to make the Scourge bigger by the sacrificed Creature’s toughness. So we are getting a larger Hydra and an army of tokens. Not a bad deal.

Polukranos HydraBroodmaster

We’ve got a pair of fixed cost Hydras with variable cost activated abilities in Polukranos, World Eater and Hydra Broodmaster. Both have Monstrous X for {XXG}, with different abilities attached to their becoming Monstrous. Polukranos spreads around X damage to any number of Opponent-controlled Creatures, which can really change the board. Just be aware that those Creatures deal damage to Polukranos equal to their power. Wouldn’t want to lose your newly Monstrous Hydra because you weren’t paying attention.

Hydra Broodmaster is a little different. The goal here is not to clear our opponents’ boards. Rather, we want to make our board massive. When the Broodmaster becomes Monstrous it creates X Hydra tokens that are all X/X. So, if you can pay eleven mana, you will make a total of five tokens, all of which are 5/5. It really scales well with our mana generation.

WalkingBallista BowofNylea

We’re running Walking Ballista as a pseudo-Hydra. It is incredibly useful for taking down opposing Creatures, or doing a couple of extra points of damage to finish off an opponent who is still hanging on. To help clear Creatures we can give all of our attacking Creatures Deathtouch with the Bow of Nylea, which can also add more counters to our Creatures. Together these two cards can clear the board. You attack with the Ballista, which gives it Deathtouch, and then you remove counters to do one damage to as many enemy Creatures as possible. The Deathtouch makes all of that damage lethal.

Vorinclex

There are other Hydras in the deck, and I will come back to one or two of them, but I’d like to move on now to the utility Creatures in the deck. Our Hydras need a lot of support to grow up big and strong. The most support we can give them in the late game is Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger. This Praetor of New Phyrexia is an absolute must for this deck. He doubles all of the mana that our lands generate, and he keeps our opponents’ lands tapped down for a turn after they tap them for mana. Speeding us up while slowing our opponents down is always a good idea.

BirdsofParadise LlanowarElves KiorasFollower

Another way of supporting our Hydras is through our mana-generating Creatures. We’ve got low-cost favorites like Birds of Paradise and Llanowar Elves. We’ve also got Kiora’s Follower, which can untap any other permanent, including lands. But the real all-stars of mana generation are Gyre Sage and Selvala, Heart of the Wild.

GyreSage

Gyre Sage gets a +1/+1 counter every time a Creature enters the battlefield under our control if it is bigger than the Sage. Not a problem with all of these Hydras around. And the bigger the Sage gets, the more mana we have for our Hydras, and the bigger the Sage gets.

SelvalaHotW

Selvala has two relevant abilities. First, we get to draw cards if we play a Creature that has more power than any other Creature on the field. Easy enough. Secondly, we can pay {G} and tap Selvala to add X mana to our mana pool where X is the greatest power among Creatures we control. Again, with our Hydras this can create a situation where our mana and Hydras can get much larger every turn. And we’ll always have more Hydras because we should be drawing extra cards.

TrygonPredator

We’re running Trygon Predator as a means of keeping Artifacts and Enchantments under control. If we can get a hit in on an opponent, we can destroy an Artifact or Enchantment that player controls. At the least, we can destroy their mana rocks. At best, we can remove combo pieces.

Brawn ArchetypeofEndurance

I’ve grouped four Creatures together here. They all give useful abilities that can really help us out. We’re running Brawn to give Trample to our team as long as it is in the graveyard. We’ve got Archetype of Endurance to grant all our Creatures Hexproof, while taking it away from our opponents’ Creatures. Finally, we’ve got Wonder and Archetype of Imagination to grant our big Green monsters something they were never meant to have: Flying.

Wonder ArchetypeofImagination

That is a lot of Creatures. Are we even running other card-types? Of course we are. Our Creatures need some backup, after all.

Artifacts

SolRing CommandersSphere ThoughtVessel

We’ve got a suite of mana-producing Artifacts in this deck. Sol Ring is a given. We’ve also got Mind Stone, Simic Signet, Commander’s Sphere, and Hedron Archive to accelerate our mana. We’re also running Thought Vessel to ramp and also remove our hand size limit.

SwiftfootBoots LightningGreaves

We’re running Swiftfoot Boots and Lightning Greaves in an attempt to not only protect the huge investment we’re putting into our Creatures, but also to allow them to attack the turn they hit the field. Nothing shocks an opponent quite as much as dropping a Creature that can kill them in a single hit, and swinging in with it in the same turn.

Enchantments

DoublingSeason

The big Enchantment here is Doubling Season. It not only doubles the counters we generate, it also doubles our tokens. This can make our Hydras and tokens nearly impossible to deal with.

HelixPinnacle

We’ve got one more Enchantment here, and that is Helix Pinnacle. I figure, since we’re going to be generating unhealthy amounts of mana with this deck, we can attack on a second axis. Our opponents will have to deal with the Hydras as well as our Helix Pinnacle time-bomb, and if they can’t then we win.

Instants and Sorceries

RampantGrowth ExplosiveVegetation

Should we have more ramp? I think we should have more ramp. So we’ll put Rampant Growth and Explosive Vegetation in the deck. These will make sure we have more mana, and get some basic lands out of the deck.

RapidHybridization Pongify RealityShift

For targeted removal, we’re playing four cards that do basically the same thing. Rapid Hybridization and Pongify both cost a single Blue mana and destroy a Creature at instant speed. The trade-off is that they give our opponent a 3/3 token in exchange. This shouldn’t be too big a deal, since our Creatures should be bigger than 3/3, anyway. For an extra generic mana we can exile that Creature, instead, with Reality Shift. Our opponent gets a 2/2 out of the deal, by means of Manifesting the top card of their deck face-down. This is potentially problematic if they Manifest a Creature, because they can turn it face-up. An additional generic mana, and a shift to Green, brings us back to 3/3 tokens with Beast Within. The upside here is that we can destroy any permanent, not just Creatures. These spells can help us to clear the way for our Hydras, and deal with troublesome abilities.

CyclonicRift OverwhelmingStampede

We also have a sweeper in the form of Cyclonic Rift, which we can use to set up a final strike. Another way to set up for the ultimate attack is through Overwhelming Stampede. This Sorcery gives all your Creatures Trample and +X/+X where X is the greatest power out of all of your Creatures. As you have probably noticed, we are planning to have very big Creatures. In some cases, you might be able to kill all opponents with the same attack.

Counterspell Disallow MysticGenesis

Now, since we’re playing Blue, we get to keep our Hydras safe through the use of counterspells. Firstly, we have…well…Counterspell. Simple and to the point. A little more expensive, but with a slightly expanded scope, we have Disallow. Even more expensive is Mystic Genesis, which is best used on our opponents’ biggest spells so we can get the largest Ooze possible.

Bioshift HydraOmnivore

The last of our Instants and Sorceries requires that I introduce you to one of our final Hydras. Bioshift can move +1/+1 counters from one of our Creatures to another of our Creatures. That sounds great no matter what, right? Well it is. It gets even better when the Creature receiving those counters is Hydra Omnivore which, when it deals damage to any opponent, does that damage to all other opponents as well. Since Bioshift is an Instant, we get to do this after blocks are declared. It can end the game out of nowhere.

Planeswalkers

As with all things in this deck, our Planeswalkers were all picked with the idea that they can help us make larger Hyrdas.

NissaVS NissaSA

Nissa, Vastwood Seer comes down as a Creature and pulls a Basic Forest out of our deck. When she flips, she becomes Nissa, Sage Animist who either draws us a card or puts a land on the battlefield. Either way, that’s what we want to be doing.

KioraMoD

Kiora, Master of the Depths pulls double duty by untapping a Creature and a Land. Also, if we manage to get her ultimate ability then our Creatures, which should be the biggest around, get to fight when they enter the battlefield. Not likely to happen, but hilarious if it does.

FreyaliseLF

Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury makes mana-Elves, which is great. She also has the ability to destroy Artifacts and Enchantments, which is a bonus. Really late in the game, she might be able to draw us a massive number of cards, as well.

NissaVoZ

Nissa, Voice of Zendikar makes Plant tokens most of the time, which is fine for +1 Loyalty. Why she’s really here is her -2 ability, however. Giving each of our Creatures a +1/+1 counter is amazing. That’s what we’re in business for, after all. She is indispensible.

Land

I’m going to gloss over many of the Lands, because they are strictly fixing, and that’s not what you want to know about. You want the fun stuff. That leaves us with three Lands to talk about.

Novijen

We’ll begin with Novijen, Heart of Progress. For the low, low cost of {UG} and tapping Novijen, we can give every Creature that entered the battlefield this turn an extra +1/+1 counter. Really fun after one of our Token-producers dies.

Nykthos KhalniHydra

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is great in this deck. We’re fairly well skewed toward Green in this deck, which means that we can produce massive amounts of Green mana with Nykthos. To aid in that goal, we’ve got one more Hydra to introduce. Khalni Hydra is not the most impressive Hydra in the deck, but we can potentially play it for free and it has a staggering eight Green mana symbols in its cost, which makes Nykthos a mana machine.

RoguesPassage

Lastly, we have a card that works well with just about all of our Hydras, but with Hydra Omnivore in particular. Rogue’s Passage can make the Omnivore (or any other suitably massive threat) unblockable, which means our opponents need answers or the game is over.

Decklist

Commander

  • Prime Speaker Zegana

Creatures (37)

Instants and Sorceries (12)

  • Beast Within
  • Bioshift
  • Counterspell
  • Cyclonic Rift
  • Disallow
  • Explosive Vegetation
  • Mystic Genesis
  • Overwhelming Stampede
  • Pongify
  • Rampant Growth
  • Rapid Hybridization
  • Reality Shift

Artifacts (9)

  • Bow of Nylea
  • Commander’s Sphere
  • Hedron Archive
  • Lightning Greaves
  • Mind Stone
  • Simic Signet
  • Sol Ring
  • Swiftfoot Boots
  • Thought Vessel

Enchantments (2)

  • Doubling Season
  • Helix Pinnacle

Planeswalkers (3)

  • Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury
  • Kiora, Master of the Depths
  • Nissa, Voice of Zendikar

Lands (36)

Conclusion

That’ll do for now.  Many thanks to Robert McDonough for helping me tune the deck.  If you want to request a General or a theme for a Commander deck, or just want to share your own deck, leave a comment below or hit up the Contact Page.

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