elcome back to the Lab, minions! This week features some exciting previews for the new Commander product here on DailyMTG, so if you haven't already, you should probably go check out today's preview now. I'll wait.
Everyone back? Great, let's get started.
One of the primary issues facing the Commander format is the disparity in the power level of decks built by different players. As a casual format, the goal is not to build the most powerful deck you can, and every player constructs a deck with a different idea in mind. Some players find things like infinite combos and land destruction unacceptable, while others enjoy these aspects of the game.
The goal of a game of Commander is not necessarily winning, but creating a game environment in which every player has fun. This becomes even more difficult when you consider how nebulous the idea of fun really is. However, one of the things you can do to foster such an environment is to build decks of differing power levels. If you play with people who hate infinite combos, locks, and land destruction, having a more casual deck allows you to play a real game with them rather than crushing them all in the grip of your super-combo. On the other hand, if you run across a group of more cutthroat Commander players, having a deck that can handle that kind of pressure can keep you from feeling left out of the game.
Today, I'll be taking a look at the first of two very different Commander decks. Both use interesting Johnny strategies to win, but they operate at different levels on the casual spectrum. We'll start out by taking a look at the more cutthroat of the two: A Riku of Two Reflections deck designed around a card that is not Riku of Two Reflections.
Commander - Riku of Two Reflections
This deck is built to do one thing: Cast Warp World. As many times as possible. Ok, maybe not as many times as possible, because then you'd be sitting at the table until you died of starvation, but at least enough times to allow you to kill everyone.
There are three parts to keeping the world warping continuously. The first is returning Warp World from your graveyard to your hand. Fortunately, there are quite a few creatures that will do this when they enter the battlefield.
Put any of these onto the battlefield with Warp World, and you can return it to your hand from the graveyard, allowing you to cast it again if you have the mana. Now, you might still have mana floating from before the world warped but, if not, you'll need to be able to produce some now. That's the second part. Almost every land in this deck enters the battlefield untapped, making it much easier to muster up the eight mana to cast Warp World again. I've also included a number of pieces of mana acceleration, most of which also enter the battlefield untapped. This also helps you get your first Warp World set up much more quickly.
The last part to enabling you to cast Warp World as many times as you want is making sure the number of permanents you're shuffling doesn't get smaller each time. Since there's always a chance of hitting an instant or sorcery when flipping cards off the top of your library (even though this deck only has seven of them), you'll need some permanents that put tokens onto the battlefield, making your number go up instead of down. This also helps make that first Warp World big enough to ensure you hit an Anarchist.
Avenger of Zendikar
Chancellor of the Forge
Wort, the Raidmother
All these tokens will also come in handy for winning the game. Even without any other shenanigans, if you manage to Warp World until your entire deck is on the battlefield, Chancellor of the Forge will make 160 hasty goblins all on its own. Of course, 160 damage isn't that much. I'm sure we can do better.
To be able to attack with all those creatures you just got, you'll need a way to give them all haste. Fortunately, there are a number of permanents that can do that and more. In the end, I chose to include Fires of Yavimaya, Akroma's Memorial, and Ogre Battledriver. The Battledriver also makes all your creatures a bit larger, and Akroma's Memorial grants a whole slew of handy abilities.
If you can't put your entire deck onto the battlefield for some reason, you'll need a way to pump up the creatures you do have. Craterhoof Behemoth is the best one, making for a truly absurd amount of damage. With a deck-sized Warp World you can easily exceed 100,000 damage, and with the help of Riku of Two Reflections you can approach one million. Beastmaster Ascension is less impressive at only a couple thousand damage, but it still gets the job done. I've already mentioned Ogre Battledriver, and although Eldrazi Monument only gives +1/+1, it also makes all your creatures indestructible, protecting you from cards like Rout and Starstorm.
Although attacking for enormous amounts of damage is my personal cup of tea, I wanted to include an alternative win condition in case that wasn't feasible for some reason. To this end, I added Hedron Crab to the deck. If you do manage to go infinite with Warp World, you can use the landfall triggers from Hedron Crab to mill out all your opponents.
To avoid having to allow your opponents to untap before losing the game I included a Temple Bell, and to avoid yourself losing due to your entire deck being on the battlefield at the time, Words of Wilding went in as well. Words of Wilding can also help make more permanents for Warp World earlier in the game if you're not particularly concerned with drawing cards.
Now, there are two things I've neglected so far. The first is getting Warp World into your hand in the first place, and the second is being able to actually interact with your opponents. Let's start with the former.
Card Draw and Tutors
Honden of Seeing Winds
Ring of Three Wishes
Sensei's Divining Top
Although using twelve mana to search up a single card with Planar Portal isn't exactly ideal, this deck is quite adept at producing large amounts of mana, and it shouldn't be too difficult to reach that level within the first several turns of the game. Other tutors are more efficient, but there's safety in numbers, especially when dealing with a ninety-nine-card deck.
The last thing this deck needs is a way to respond to the actions of your opponents, particularly those who mess with your plans of world domination. Cards like Leyline of the Void can definitely put a damper on your world warping, so you'll need some way to deal with the problem.
Removal and Counterspells
Glen Elendra Archmage
Spine of Ish Sah
In addition to dealing with problem cards, the counterspell creatures, along with Boseiju, Who Shelters All, can protect Warp World from any opposing counterspells. Also, if you've copied Warp World with Riku (which you should do the first time, if at all possible) and you have the win on board after the first one, you can use one of these creatures to counter the Warp World still on the stack and save some time.
Let's see, that should leave us with just one card I haven't talked about yet: Gather Specimens. Although it's difficult to categorize, it's undeniably awesome when cast immediately before a Warp World, and putting together the fourteen mana required to cast both isn't particularly difficult in this deck. Not only will you get all your creatures with Warp World, but you'll get a bunch from your opponents as well, who will be left with nothing but some lands and maybe a few stray artifacts and enchantments under their control.
One Reflection to Go
That's all the time I have for today, but look for Part 2 in two weeks, when I'll be expounding upon a deck from the more casual end of the spectrum. In the interim, I'll be hopping back to Theros next week to explore one of the new mechanics this set has given us. Although none of the major keywords in Theros seem to lend themselves particularly well to combo decks, I'm certainly not one to back down from a challenge. Tune in next time to see what I've cooked up. Until then, may you find time to reflect on how you warp the world you live in. See ya!
Mike Cannon signed on to write From the Lab at the end of 2012. An ardent casual player and lover of bizarre synergies, he'll be bringing you a selection of crazy combo decks every Monday.