A friend of mine (let’s call him Greg) has asked me for some deck building help – he’s a Magic player from way back, and he’s been playing EDH for a little while now, and is having problems with a couple of decks – namely those being played by his sons. One of them is playing Angry Omnath, and the other is on Brago, King Eternal.
The Omnath deck is everything you’d expect – fast, angry and deadly. The Brago deck is slower and goes the controlling route – in Greg’s words his son is turning into “that guy” in the group. Greg has been using Krenko and although he’s not getting blown out every game, he wants a bit more staying power.
The Brago deck kills with creatures that have enter-the-battlefield effects. There are two cards in particular that kill that dead – Torpor Orb and Hushwing Gryff. Those are reasonably narrow and tend to hurt the regular EDH decks (as a general rule a lot of decks use a lot of EtB effects) but it’s something to keep an eye on while we’re building our deck.
The easier way to prevent Brago shenanigans is just to never let it hit you, although any decent Brago deck will have ways to flicker it’s creatures outside of combat as well. Although there’s a difference in scale, preventing combat damage is also a good strategy against Omnath.
I suggested a couple of possible decks, and Greg settled on the pairing of Regna the Redeemer and Krav the Unredeemed. A black/white “bleeder” or “aristocrats” style deck may be just the thing. There are a few Krav/Regna lists floating around, but the one I’m drawing the most inspiration from is a deck from MagicalHacker; the decklist is available here, and below is a video of the deck in action.
As you can see (if you watched the video) it’s quite the beast and able to pull off very impressive plays. If you didn’t watch the video, it uses a combination of life gain creatures like Soul Warden with “aristocrat” creatures like Blood Artist and Falkenrath Noble, along with Krav, to bleed the opponents dry while building up an impressive life total. There are a ton of ways to recur the creatures out of the graveyard, and in this video in particular, MagicalHacker gains EIGHTY life over two turns (admittedly with some lucky draws). The deck plays more like a combo deck than a traditional magic deck, but because all the combo pieces are relatively cheap, it can interact with the opponents in the early game before it “combos” off in an explosion of life gain and life loss. I was really impressed by this list.
Greg wants to keep the deck fairly budget – in the $50-75 dollar range. That, by EDH standards, is pretty close to nothing so I’ll have to be fairly careful. However, a big part of EDH deck costs tends to be the mana bases, and having a two colour deck negates that cost to quite a degree. Also, in this particular deck, none of the piece are really that expensive. So, let’s get brewing!
We may as well start with the manabase. Obviously in a budget deck, Badlands is out. In fact, I’m going to restrict the deck to lands that cost $2 or less, and will have a big emphasis on basics. All prices are based on cards from CardKingdom.com, who are pretty awesome when it comes to shipping cards off to small corners of the world.
Dual/Multi Colour Lands:
Land Search Lands:
- Scavenger Grounds
- Kabira Crossroads
- Bojuka Bog (the C17 version is $1.99 – all the others are more expensive. Don’t ask me why)
- High Market (This one breaks the $2 budget cap. But it’s necessary for this deck)
- Mystifying Maze
- Ghost Quarter
- Tectonic Edge
Lands that make one colour (quite a lot of it, in some cases):
- Cabal Stronghold (it’s no Cabal Coffers but man has that card got expensive since the last time I looked!)
- Temple of the False God
- 13 Swamp
- 8 Plains
In order to get more value out of Cabal Stronghold we’ve put in more Swamps than we probably need; however the deck is pretty well balanced on black and white spells so it hopefully won’t matter too much whether we get the dreaded “all one colour” opening hand.
There are a couple of main engines that I want to get going; one is a fairly intense lifegain strategy to protect against Angry Omnath, and the other is damage prevention (or more specifically, combat damage) to stop Brago’s flickering trigger.
Lifegain for fun and profit
This is by far the easier of the two to accomplish. White and Black (and especially white and black together) are excellent colours for all of your life-gaining needs. Most of the lifegain in this deck is going to come from creatures entering and exiting the battlefield – the regular old “Aristocrats” strategy.
Gaining life – coming in edition:
Gaining life – going out edition:
Just these 9 cards will be enough to get a steady stream of life going – especially if they keep coming back onto the battlefield. More on that line later! Moreover, nearly all of the cards in the “going out” list drain the opponent for one each time a creature dies (sometimes yours, sometimes any creature) which can be used to deal a surprising amount of damage.
The main way we’re going to kill these creatures is with Krav – his ability is way above the curve – for only one mana you can sacrifice any number of creatures and gain that much life. Oh, and put that many +1/+1 counters on Krav. Oh, and draw that many cards. The value of that one ability is pretty insane. However, we’re going to need a few more sacrifice or mass kill spells as well, as we can’t guarantee Krav will always be in play (or able to use his ability). Because this is a budget list, all the usual suspects (Ashnod’s Altar, Altar of Dementia, Attrition, Phyrexian Tower and so on) are out. What we’re looking for are repeatable sacrifice outlets, preferably free, that do something useful. We don’t want to overload on these – we have our Commander after all, and even if he’s turned off somehow, just drawing one of these outlets means we can kill him off and recast him. What I’ve come up with are these:
Sacrificing the team:
And as super secret tech:
Vampiric Rites is a fair version of Krav’s ability. You draw a card and gain a life for 2 mana and sacrificing a creature. Carrion Feeder can grow quite large, but he may be cut later since we’re going to have a quite a temporary view on most of our creatures. Spawning pit turns every second creature into a 2/2 which will then trigger our life gaining creatures again. Viscera Seer lets us set up our next draw, whether that’s from Krav, Vampiric Rites, or just the beginning of the turn.
Circle of Despair and Martyr’s Cause are part of the “don’t let Brago hit me” plan – in both cases we can sacrifice a creature (for one mana or zero mana) to prevent all damage from a single source. Notably, the source of the damage is never targeted, so even if Brago is hexproof’ed or shroud’ed we can still prevent the damage he would do, which means his ability will not trigger. Of course, it can be used on any other creature as well. It’s also a way to prevent some of the damage from Omnath; for each creature we sacrifice – and remember, we want to be sacrificing our creatures anyway – we can prevent one instance of his “deal 3 damage” trigger when an Elemental dies.
While we’re sacrificing all our creatures, we may as well get some use from them on the way out and that’s where this next category comes in.
Profiting from your Death:
Butcher of Malakir will make your opponents sacrifice a creature every time one of yours dies (and thereby trigger our Blood Artists again too!). There are a few other cards which have the same effect (Grave Pact, Dictate of Erebos, Martyr’s Bond) but they are all definitely not on the budget end of the spectrum so we’re going to have to leave them behind for now. Pitiless Plunderer is an excellent card for this deck; just for doing what we’re doing, we’re going to be getting mana out of the deal. Pawn of Ulamog and Sifter of Skulls do the same thing, and even better they make easily sacrifice-able creatures while they’re doing it!
Once we’ve sacrificed our team, the next stage on the way to world domination is to bring them all back again. There’s a suite of spells which accomplish just that:
Creature Recursion, en masse
- Thrilling Encore
- Second Sunrise
- Faith’s Reward
- Rally the Ancestors
- Immortal Servitude
- Cauldron Haze
- Cauldron of Souls
- Dusk//Dawn (Dawn returns the creatures to your hand)
Note that if a bunch of creatures all come into play at the same time, they all “see” each other entering; so if you are returning 4 creatures, and two of them are Soul Warden and Soul’s Attendant, they’ll both trigger and gain 3 life each (so 6 life for us!). This is particularly relevant for the two Cauldrons – because a lot of our creatures are x/1’s, if they persist back they will die straight away. However, they do enter and then leave the battlefield, so all of those abilities will trigger again.
To really give us some creatures to play around with (and also to provide some additional defence) we’re going to throw in some token makers. One of the token makers we’re going to use is our other Commander – Regna. As long as we’ve gained life in a turn (and we’ll be doing plenty of that), she makes two tokens on every end step. Some of these will really only be useful in the later game, but others will work pretty much at any point.
- Abhorrent Overlord (is also a slow sacrifice enabler)
- Cloudgoat Ranger
- Sengir Autocrat
- Knight-Captain of Eos
- Marsh Flitter
- Requiem Angel
- Hallowed Spiritkeeper
- Alliance of Arms (this also gives creatures to your opponents, but that only means they lose more life when those creatures inevitably die)
- Martial Coup (mostly for the destroy all creatures, but in a pinch X could be 4 or less)
- Moan of the Unhallowed
- Promise of Bunrei
- Rite of Belzenlok
- Skittering Invasion
- Timely Reinforcements
To be honest this is probably too many but we’ll fill out the rest of the deck and then circle back here to see what stays.
It’s time to fill out the big three of EDH decks; Removal, Draw, and Ramp.
Perhaps the least exciting category, all we’re going to do here is add a few mana rocks that let us cast more spells.
Only slightly more interesting, a few card draw spells. Note that a few things we’ve already included count, such as Hedron Archive. We’ll add these:
Every deck needs a way to kill your opponent’s stuff; White and Black are especially good at it. We’re going to add these:
Way back at the top, we briefly discussed adding Torpor Orb and/or Hushwing Gryff to stop the Brago deck in it’s tracks; having now looked at what we’ve got, it will also shut down large portions of our deck, so let’s not shoot ourselves in the foot too much. We have two more slots left and I’m going to devote them both to “Fog” effects. Both Brago and Omnath (and 80% of most of Commander decks) win with combat damage, so if we can Fog the combat phase we’ll get plenty of time to “go off”. The cards I’ve picked are:
Also note that we have Knight-Captain of Eos in the “token makers” category above, and that’s also a repeatable fog effect, along with Circle of Despair and Martyr’s Cause. When you combine those two enchantments with the Knight-Captain with the Kami, with all the spells that can recur those creatures, we should be able to Fog our way to victory!
And we’re done!
Running this decklist through CardKingdom.com’s deck builder gives us a total of $63.44 in American dollars – this is definitely a budget deck, but it also definitely punches way above its weight. I’m hoping Greg will be able to use it to take back a bit of control at his table, and I’m keen to see how he does with it.
The next post on this blog will be an upgrade article; within a reasonable budget (say, $200-300), and cost no object, what upgrades would I make?
Until next time, thanks for reading, and keep pingin’ your opponents for one, until they die!