About the Author
A Canadian turned Floridian, Bryan is a on-and-off tournament grinder who has now turned to Commander as an outlet for his Magic addiction.

Ruric Thar Brings It Back To Reality

Sometimes, when things get a bit too ridiculous, a bit too unfair, one needs a return to the basics.

A simpler time. A time when we just played sweet creatures and theme decks, with no wrath effects or busted artifacts. [card]Shivan Dragon[/card]s and [card]Craw Wurm[/card]s everywhere.

Well, not for me, I played [card]Hamletback Goliath[/card] and [card]Boldwyr Intimidator[/card].

Giants are sweet.

Anyway, in response to my local group’s move towards a more hostile environment towards creatures, and the recent acquisition of a [card]Yawgmoth’s Will[/card] by our local mono-black player, I felt a need to push my own agenda a bit: The agenda of fair creatures.

Enter Ruric Thar. The fairest of the fair.

[deck title=Ruric Thar: The Fairmaker]


*1 Elvish Mystic

*1 Fyndhorn Elves

*1 Llanowar Elves

*1 Ulvenwald Tracker

*1 Genesis Hydra

*1 Sakura-Tribe Elder

*1 Skarrg Guildmage

*1 Zhur-Taa Druid

*1 Borderland Ranger

*1 Burnished Hart

*1 Caller of the Claw

*1 Civic Wayfinder

*1 Courser of Kruphix

*1 Dosan the Falling Leaf

*1 Eternal Witness

*1 Farhaven Elf

*1 Fertilid

*1 Fierce Empath

*1 Heartwood Storyteller

*1 Reclamation Sage

*1 Vile Redeemer

*1 Wood Elves

*1 Yavimaya Elder

*1 Yavimaya Granger

*1 Boartusk Liege

*1 Ghor-Clan Rampager

*1 Masked Admirers

*1 Nylea, God of the Hunt

*1 Ogre Battledriver

*1 Oracle of Mul Daya

*1 Solemn Simulacrum

*1 Surrak, the Hunt Caller

*1 Temur Sabertooth

*1 Acidic Slime

*1 Conclave Naturalists

*1 Garruk’s Packleader

*1 Genesis

*1 Kessig Cagebreakers

*1 Whisperwood Elemental

*1 Xenagos, God of Revels

*1 Bane of Progress

*1 Dragonlair Spider

*1 Endbringer

*1 Greenwarden of Murasa

*1 Hellkite Charger

*1 Primordial Sage

*1 Rampaging Baloths

*1 Savage Ventmaw

*1 Soul of the Harvest

*1 Woodland Bellower

*1 Avenger of Zendikar

*1 Dragonlord Atarka

*1 Garruk’s Horde

*1 Gruul Ragebeast

*1 Hamletback Goliath

*1 Krosan Tusker

*1 Molten Primordial

*1 Omnath, Locus of Rage

*1 Pelakka Wurm

*1 Stalking Vengeance

*1 Craterhoof Behemoth

*1 Terastodon



*1 Blighted Woodland

*1 Cinder Glade

*1 Flamekin Village

*13 Forest

*1 Fungal Reaches

*1 Ghost Quarter

*1 Gruul Guildgate

*1 Kazandu Refuge

*1 Kessig Wolf Run

*7 Mountain

*1 Rootbound Crag

*1 Rugged Highlands

*1 Skarrg, the Rage Pits

*1 Strip Mine

*1 Tectonic Edge

*1 Temple of Abandon

*1 Timber Gorge

*2 Wastes



*1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed




Game Plan

Ruric Thar is a midrangey-aggressive deck with a gimmick: creatures and lands only. Normally, I’m not the gimmicky type, being a particularly Spike-y kind of Timmy (See Timmy, Johnny and Spike by Mark Rosewater). However, I believe a gimmicky deck every now and again can help keep things diverse within one’s playgroup. The last time I tried a gimmick deck, the idea was a [card]Treva, the Renewer[/card]-led pillowfort enchantment deck. That wasn’t fun for anyone, but THIS. THIS is fun for the whole table!

Most games, another player will be the dominant force for the majority of the game. That’s okay. Ruric Thar cares not for beating the busted decks at their own game. Just ramp it up, play value creatures, and try to have Ruric Thar on the table at all times to keep the game as fair as possible.

Once the game has progressed to  an induced parity, that’s when the big guns can come to the party. Unleash the wombo-combos to help end the game quickly. [card]Savage Ventmaw[/card] along with [card]Hellkite Charger[/card] can keep the pain train rolling for as long as you can pay red mana, which shouldn’t be hard for the “LITERALLY ALL DUDES AND LANDS” deck. Beyond that, the sweet combo of Force of Nature plus Savage Roar [card]Ogre Battledriver[/card] plus [card]Kessig Cagebreakers[/card] or [card]Avenger of Zendikar[/card] can end games very quickly doing huge amounts of damage that scale with the length of the game. Of course, should that fail, our good friend, the one-card combo, Mr. [card]Craterhoof Behemoth[/card] can sweep things up nicely.


Ruric Thar is able to play second-best very easily. In a game of politics, like most Commander games are, appearing weaker than you are can be an extremely valuable asset towards winning the game. Playing a ton of kinda durdly value creatures is a great way to appear inconspicuous, which is the main game plan of the deck. The deck is very resilient to wraths. Not only does it punish wraths naturally with Ruric Thar, the deck plays both [card]Vile Redeemer[/card] and [card]Caller of the Claw[/card] to help recuperate the damages and bring righteous fury upon whoever was bold enough to try and wipe the board. The deck also naturally generates a ton of card advantage, enough to keep up with most decks. Ruric Thar is also strong at forcing others to play our game, with [card]Dosan the Falling Leaf[/card], and [card]Heartwood Storyteller[/card] to keep the game to a creature-fest, where we can truly shine.


Being such a linear strategy can lead to some notable downsides. Decks with large amounts of targeted removal will give us headaches, and any deck with an abundance of [card]Grave Pact[/card]-style effects will be difficult to deal with. This is, in fact, just lands and dudes, and any deck that can repeatedly wrath the board will give this deck fits. [card]Genesis[/card] and other similar effects can only go so far to mitigate the damage that will do to our game plan.


Graveyard Decks

Likely our worst matchup, these are the decks where [card]Grave Pact[/card]s live. They do, however, like the card [card]Living Death[/card], which is great for us, as many of our creatures naturally end up in the yard as a result of normal gameplay. A card worth considering to help combat this style of deck is [card]Loaming Shaman[/card].

Voltron Decks

This is an average matchup. We have many ways to punish them for enacting their normal game plan, with cards like [card]Reclamation Sage[/card], [card]Acidic Slime[/card], and [card]Conclave Naturalists[/card] to help keep the augmentation under control, and Ruric Thar himself doing great work in giving them pause on whether or not that [card]Spectral Flight[/card] is really worth it.

Big Mana Decks

This is an average matchup for us. We accelerate slightly slower than they do, but we tend to maintain resources longer than they do and we recover much better from a wrath than the average big mana deck. Should the game go long, and we establish a form of a card advantage engine, we should be able to win.

Mana Cheat Deck

This is a fine matchup. Being an apparently weaker deck is our biggest advantage here, as the Kaalia or Jhoira deck is likely to target the obvious threat rather than the person playing random durdly creatures. Should the game go long, though, we will likely be able to push back and take over.

Good Stuff Decks

This is a 50/50 kind of matchup. They tend to be on a similar gameplan to you, but likely have individually stronger cards. Where Ruric Thar can fight back is the card advantage fight, as we will be able to generate way more cards than an average good stuff deck.

Power Level

Ruric Thar is an archetypal 75% deck: Good enough to beat the strong decks given done good luck and tight plays, but not so strong as to win 100% of games against someone who wants to play a Commander deck right out of the box. It will likely fold to a table full of powered commanders such as Zur, Animar or Derevi. However, in a friendly game with friends or at a local commander league, it should be just the right strength.

Feel free to make suggestions or comments on how to improve. I love the dialogue.

All the best,


The Hero, The Saint, The Chieftain & The Interview

(Spoilers: There’s no heroes or saints here. It’s just based off a great song.)

Welcome, dear readers, to the first of my interview articles. I promised in my first article that as this column goes on, you will begin to meet more and more of the diverse cast of characters that makes up my weekly Commander group. In this piece, I’m interviewing Drew, a player I’ve known for quite a while and is often one of my go-to people when I need to bounce an idea off someone. Today, we’re going to take a look at his signature creation: [card]Karador, Ghost Chieftain[/card], a powerful and near omnipresent threat in many of our Commander games.

Bryan S. Scholl: So, Drew, please introduce yourself and share your history with Magic.

Drew Knapp: Hello readers, I’m Drew Knapp, Language Arts Instructor by day, massive nerd by night, and literary obsessive individual at all times. I live to think and love to game, thankfully Magic lets me combine the two together. Where gaming is concerned, I bleed Vorthos but build decks like Timmy. (Note: Drew is referencing the Magic player psychographics created by Mark Rosewater. Information about these can be found here and here)

I really first started during Odyssey Block, cementing a long standing love for black and all things graveyard based, but played semi-competitively (winning the occasional Friday Night Magics, nothing spectacular) from Shadowmoor through Scars of Mirrodin. Then I discovered Commander, loved the combination of battlecruiser Magic and “build around” commanders, and never looked back.

BSS: If you could describe what Karador’s gameplan is in a few sentences, what they be?

DK: Karador’s gameplan is relatively simple: Play the early game with efficient creatures and ramp, accelerate into battlecruiser magic as quickly as luck will allow, then start hurling haymakers around the table (all while slowly fueling my graveyard plan). Karador is auxiliary to this plan, being almost the only reanimation effect in the deck, but he allows the game to go long if the haymakers don’t get the job done the first go around.

The deck can actually win in one of five ways: ridiculous X spells such as [card]Genesis Wave[/card] or [card]Debt to the Deathless[/card], mass reanimation such as [card]Living Death[/card] or [card]Rise of the Dark Realms[/card], recurring powerful life drain with cards like [card]Siege Rhino[/card], [card]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/card](Affectionately, Gary), and [card]Kokusho, the Evening Star[/card] (AKA: Koko Puffs).

It can also use overwhelming board states with [card]Avenger of Zendikar[/card] and [card]Craterhoof Behemoth[/card] or flat out attrition opponents with cards like [card]Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim[/card] and [card]Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter[/card].

BSS: So, would you classify Karador as a non-linear Graveyard deck?

DK: That sounds like the perfect definition, yes. Assemble whatever win condition appears best for a given scenario, and be ready to change plans on the fly.

BSS: Walk me through an average game with Karador. What seems to help things go your

way, and what can seriously hose the deck?

DK: The game ideally starts at turn two with a mana dork ([card]Sakura-Tribe Elder[/card] being the best) and snowballs from there, playing creatures with some combination of powerful Enters-The-Battlefield and Leaves-The-Battlefield effects, even better if they sacrifice themselves to fill up the graveyard and make the late-game Karador a painless cast. This is amplified by a smattering of powerful hand and graveyard tutors so I can find whatever fits the current plan best.

Early game I want my Elder, mid-game I ideally want to be chaining Birthing Pod targets or dropping powerful creatures and enchantments ahead of curve, and late game I’m aiming to straight out-value whatever the rest of the table has going on. The deck is somewhat light on card draw so luck (and the aforementioned handful of tutors) tend to be what swings things in my favor, though the deck does a pretty good political job of appearing non-threatening until the haymakers start to drop.

Hosers are actually not a huge issue for the deck (a large part of why I like it). I don’t like seeing Torpor Orb or Rest in Peace, but unless someone is suddenly going hard against my mana base the deck has enough “good stuff” to just play on curve regardless of one or two of its strategies getting hosed.

Oh, that said, my curve is monstrously top heavy; if my curve doesn’t happen the deck can just flop there doing nothing.

BSS: In my previous article, I broke down the majority of casual commander decks into a small handful of archetypes. These include graveyard decks, big mana decks, mana cheat decks, voltron decks, and good stuff decks. How do you think Karador would fare against each of these styles of play?


DK: Alright, one at a time-

Graveyard: Depends on the strategy, my Karador is slower than traditional reanimation strategies but can potentially grind them down and has [card]Rise of the Dark Realms[/card] to potentially turn their strength into a weakness. I’ll call it close to even. However, if their deck is about using everyone’s graveyard, I’m in some serious trouble. Looking at you, Geth. (Note: One of the members of our group plays his Geth deck exclusively.)

Big mana decks are often faster than Karador is (unless an early [card]Zendikar Resurgent[/card] sticks), and while the deck packs a handful of hate for the most problematic artifacts and lands in this strategy, it still is probably the worst matchup.

Mana cheat decks are also not a great matchup, [card]Kaalia of the Vast[/card] and [card]Narset, Enlightened Master[/card] both in particular could easily wreck Karador’s day, though I haven’t played against one in awhile. I’d still guess that this would be a hard grind, though if they don’t kill me with the initial explosion I’ve got the long game in my favor.

Voltron decks rely pretty heavily on certain pieces, I’m comfortable with my ability to deal with individual problem artifacts and enchantments, especially with a table of other interested parties, but I would still put this in a 50/50 range.

I’m confident that the deck can out-goodstuff a goodstuff deck, its top curve does a very good job of going way over the head of the comparatively “efficient” foodstuff.

BSS: Awesome. Thank you so much for your time.

DK: No problem, I look forward to doing it again and getting to know the readers.

[deck title=Drew’s Karador, Ghost Chieftain]


*1 Viscera Seer

*1 Fauna Shaman

*1 Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim

*1 Dawntreader Elk

*1 Sakura-Tribe Elder

*1 Qasali Pridemage

*1 Anafenza, the Foremost

*1 Stinkweed Imp

*1 Yavimaya Elder

*1 Reclamation Sage

*1 Fierce Empath

*1 Mogis’s Marauder

*1 Eternal Witness

*1 Merciless Executioner

*1 Farhaven Elf

*1 Siege Rhino

*1 Solemn Simulacrum

*1 Dimir House Guard

*1 Loxodon Hierarch

*1 Disciple of Bolas

*1 Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord

*1 Archon of Justice

*1 Sadistic Hypnotist

*1 Gray Merchant of Asphodel

*1 Golgari Grave-Troll

*1 Sidisi, Undead Vizier

*1 Hythonia the Cruel

*1 Dragonlord Dromoka

*1 Soul of the Harvest

*1 Greenwarden of Murasa

*1 Kokusho, the Evening Star

*1 Sun Titan

*1 Magister of Worth

*1 World Breaker

*1 Rune-Scarred Demon

*1 Avenger of Zendikar

*1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite

*1 Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter

*1 Sheoldred, Whispering One

*1 Novablast Wurm

*1 Craterhoof Behemoth

*1 Ashen Rider

*1 Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger



*1 Phyrexian Arena

*1 Greater Good

*1 Cathar’s Crusade

*1 Dictate of Erebos

*1 Asceticism

*1 Deadbridge Chant

*1 Zendikar Resurgent

*1 Debtor’s Knell

*1 Sol Ring

*1 Skullclamp

*1 Lightning Greaves

*1 Birthing Pod

*1 Entomb

*1 Demonic Tutor

*1 Life from the Loam

*1 Buried Alive

*1 Genesis Wave

*1 Debt to the Deathless

*1 Living Death

*1 Rise of the Dark Realms



*1 Command Tower

*1 Sandsteppe Citadel

*1 Exotic Orchard

*1 Holdout Settlement

*1 Opal Palace

*1 Temple of the False God

*1 Homeward Path

*1 Overgrown Tomb

*1 Jungle Hollow

*1 Golgari Rot Farm

*1 Llanowar Wastes

*1 Blossoming Sands

*1 Temple of Plenty

*1 Krosan Verge

*1 Selesnya Sanctuary

*1 Stirring Wildwood

*1 Windswept Heath

*1 Caves of Koilos

*1 Scoured Barrens

*1 Godless Shrine

*1 Mortuary Mire

*1 Bojuka Bog

*5 Swamp

*5 Forest

*4 Plains



1* Karador, Ghost Chieftain



So, there you have it. An interview, a spicy brew, and the week is through. Join me next week as we look into another sweet Commander list, one that is very near and dear to my heart. My very first Commander deck, and it still proves to be my favorite up until today: [card]Mayael the Anima[/card].

Be sure to leave a comment if you enjoyed this week’s piece. Or if you didn’t. Or if you have any questions for Drew or myself.

All the best,


The Grandest Truths: An Origin Story

In the beginning, there was Jesus. Adrian De Jesus. Adrian is a friend of mine, who I first met towards the end of my freshman year of university. He’s been a pretty influential figure in my Magic life, having been the one who first introduced me to the Commander format.

When we first met, I was just a budding FNM grinder, battling my heart out each Friday with whatever pile of garbage I was playing at the time (Likely this pile). He showed me a brand-new casual format that he and his roommate were playing: EDH. I didn’t actually have any Legendary Creatures at the time, so being the generous guy he is, he traded me the one that truly spoke to my inner Timmy: [card]Mayael the Anima[/card].

From that point on, I was hooked. I built as many as I could afford, and then more. I went from just one Mayael deck, to a [card]Riku of Two Reflections[/card] deck, a [card]Volrath the Fallen[/card] deck, a “Bant-chantments” deck with [card]Treva, the Renewer[/card] at the helm, a pile of forests led by [card]Azusa, Lost but Seeking[/card] and an almost-completed [card]Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord[/card] dredge strategy.

But then Modern happened.

I sold the majority of those cards. Bought the [card]Mox Opal[/card]s and [card]Arcbound Ravager[/card]s that have brought me so much joy (and moderate competitive success).

But enough of that nonsense. Let’s talk Mayael.


Mayael is a cross between a mana cheat deck and a good-stuff deck. It boasts a pile of ways to generate extra value and “draw cards”. The goal of the deck is to simply try and hit every land drop every turn and eventually grind its way into a winning position with its bevy of extremely powerful creatures.

[deck title=Bryan’s Mayael the Anima]


*1 Dryad Arbor

*1 Sakura-Tribe Elder

*1 Eternal Witness

*1 Yavimaya Elder

*1 Solemn Simulacrum

*1 Spellbreaker Behemoth

*1 Surrak, the Hunt Caller

*1 Baneslayer Angel

*1 Xenagos, God of Revels

*1 Endbringer

*1 Greenwarden of Murasa

*1 Steel Hellkite

*1 Sun Titan

*1 Wurmcoil Engine

*1 Angel of Serenity

*1 Balefire Dragon

*1 Dragonlord Atarka

*1 Eternal Dragon

*1 Gisela, Blade of Goldnight

*1 Gruul Ragebeast

*1 Krosan Tusker

*1 Spearbreaker Behemoth

*1 Windbrisk Raptor

*1 Archetype of Endurance

*1 Bogardan Hellkite

*1 Magmatic Force

*1 Terastodon

*1 Woodfall Primus

*1 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre

*1 Worldspine Wurm



*1 Green Sun’s Zenith

*1 Sensei’s Divining Top

*1 Sol Ring

*1 Swords to Plowshares

*1 Worldly Tutor

*1 Cream of the Crop

*1 Rampant Growth

*1 Cultivate

*1 Deep Reconnaissance

*1 Domri Rade

*1 Elemental Bond

*1 Fires of Yavimaya

*1 Kodama’s Reach

*1 Nissa’s Pilgrimage

*1 Oblivion Ring

*1 Birthing Pod

*1 Day of Judgment

*1 Explosive Vegetation

*1 Greater Good

*1 Nevinyrral’s Disk

*1 Return to Dust

*1 Wrath of God

*1 Asceticism

*1 End Hostilities

*1 Hallowed Burial

*1 Austere Command

*1 Garruk, Caller of Beasts

*1 Guild Feud

*1 Lurking Predators

*1 See the Unwritten

*1 Warstorm Surge

*1 Insurrection



*1 Blighted Woodland

*1 Canopy Vista

*1 Cinder Glade

*1 Command Tower

*7 Forest

*1 Homeward Path

*1 Jungle Shrine

*1 Kessig Wolf Run

*1 Krosan Verge

*1 Mosswort Bridge

*4 Mountain

*4 Plains

*1 Reliquary Tower

*1 Rootbound Crag

*1 Sacred Foundry

*1 Spinerock Knoll

*1 Stomping Ground

*1 Sunpetal Grove

*1 Temple Garden

*1 Temple of Abandon

*1 Temple of Plenty

*1 Temple of Triumph

*1 Temple of the False God

*2 Wastes



*1 Mayael the Anima



The Commander

Mayael is a commander that places a fairly strict restriction on deckbuilding. She absolutely requires a pile of five power or greater creatures in order to take advantage of her powerful ability. My version runs 27 creatures that fit the bill, giving me approximately an 80% chance to hit on average (Aside: Hypergeometric calculators are super useful in Magic. In my case, you’d want to input a population of 99 cards, 27 successes, a sample size of 5, and a number of successes in sample of 1. This should result in a probability of about .8044).

Beyond that, I’ve decided to include a bit of “top control” to the deck, allowing me to keep the top card of the deck what I want it to be. This is done most often with [card]Cream of the Crop[/card] and [card]Worldly Tutor[/card], but beyond that, [card]Sensei’s Divining Top[/card] combined with the large amount of shuffle effects in the deck can create a similar effect.

Getting to the end game

    With nine ways to generate extra mana, Mayael has no trouble getting up to the six-plus range she needs to start really moving the game plan forward. Beyond that, with the five board sweepers, she has little trouble slowing down opponents who get too far ahead. A few cards allow Mayael to take huge leaps forward in cards and mana, notably [card]Birthing Pod[/card] and the two planeswalkers, [card]Domri Rade[/card] and [card]Garruk, Caller of Beasts[/card]. These cards are highly effective at bridging the gap from early to late game.

How to end a game of Commander

    By smashing in faces with an army of dragons, beasts, elementals and spaghetti monsters! Mayael has all the tools needed to turn the corner from just playing some random dork every turn into a huge advantage that can dominate a game. The best way she has to do this is the combination of two durdly six-mana enchantments that are very close to my heart: [card]Lurking Predators[/card] and [card]Warstorm Surge[/card]. Lurking Predators allows Mayael to churn out threat after threat, and the Surge makes sure that even if there is something preventing combat, the creatures will still get to do something.


Graveyard decks

    This is easily the worst matchup for Mayael. Notably, the card [card]Grave Pact[/card] and its kin can easily hose Mayael due to her reliance on creature combat to end games. Beyond that, their ability to repeatedly wipe the board via cards like [card]Living Death[/card] and [card]Living End[/card] combined with [card]Eternal Witness[/card] or [card]Skullwinder[/card] can be devastating to this strategy.

Voltron decks

    This matchup, admittedly, doesn’t come up too much around my own group, but at the events I’ve brought Mayael to, I’ve played against this strategy a few times. It’s a fair, but not great matchup. The board sweepers do a good job of helping shore up the matchup, and the deck presents enough threats that the Voltron player can have a hard time breaking through.

Big Mana decks

    This is a matchup I would call positive. Wraths and answers are everywhere in this list, and the threats do a good job pressuring the big mana decks to be reactive instead of developing their own position, which is not what the strategy is designed to do. It is possible for Mayael to flounder in the early game, and this style of deck is the archetype that is most punishing of missteps.

Mana Cheat decks

    In the mirror match, the sheer card advantage built into the deck can usually be used to leverage a win. Most mana cheat decks tend to be a “one-and-done” kind of strategy: playing out their first 10 to 15 cards and then scrambling to regain the lost card advantage they spewed putting their threats down early. Mayael may cheat on mana slightly, but the steady stream of value from cards like [card]Domri Rade[/card], [card]Elemental Bond[/card], and [card]Sun Titan[/card] can help overwhelm them going long.

Good Stuff decks

    Mayael can sometimes struggle with having enough answers for all of their threats, but overall, the matchup feels good, as we’re making so much extra mana and card advantage compared to them on average. Still, enough [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card]s can undo any strategy, so there’s always a chance for them to out-card us.

Possible Improvements

    This deck can go in many directions given the multitudes of giant creatures available in Naya colors. Some ideas include going a bit bigger and more aggressive with cards like [card]Craterhoof Behemoth[/card], [card]Avatar of Slaughter[/card], or [card]Kozilek, the Great Distortion[/card]. Alternatively, the deck can play a bit more defensive with choices like [card]Avacyn, Angel of Hope[/card], [card]Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger[/card], and [card]Blazing Archon[/card]. There are tons of options available and if anyone has any they’re particularly fond of, I highly encourage them to post it in a comment below.

    And there it is. My first Commander deck. A never-ending work of love. The deck has undergone as many changes are there are changes to make, and then some. In my eyes, a Commander deck is never truly done. Each list I post is simply a snapshot in time. A look into what decisions and ideas went into the deck at that time, ready to change as soon as a new spoiler or a sick reprint is announced (Are you hyped for Eternal Masters? Because I’m hyped for Eternal Masters.) I truly hope each and every reader gets a small something out of each one of these articles, whether it be a new card for their favorite deck, or inspiration for their latest and greatest project.

All the best,


Kozilek and the Four Es of Running a Commander Night

Life is hectic. Our schedules are conflicting. We can never seem to find the time to get a group together for a game. Many people have trouble trying to get games together, or are forced into Commander nights at local game stores (LGSs) that can often involve griefing or gaming whatever prize support system is in use. I’ve been very proud of my accomplishment of having a recurring, weekly Commander game night with my friends, and I want to share with the world how we got to where we are.

Being the huge nerd/communications major that I am, I developed a series of steps to help start up your very own Commander night. I call them the 4 Es.


  1. Expand your methods of communication
  2. Examine your schedules to find a good time
  3. Enjoy your time playing the games
  4. Evaluate what was successful, and what needs to be changed.


Right out of a 90s corporate training video! Let’s dive in a bit further to see what each one means.


Many people communicate with their friends via text or in person. That’s fine, but it’s difficult to arrange larger meetings with those tools. My group uses Facebook Messenger, a perfectly reasonable organizational tool, to arrange our game nights. Most important about these tools is that they are instantaneous. It’s crucial to ensure that all group members have up-to-the-minute information about the goings-on of the group as a whole.

One good tool is Whatsapp: an app designed to act as an SMS replacement. It has a very solid group chat option and is used by a small community in my town to discuss all sorts of magical nonsense.

Another good tool I’ve recently discovered is Slack. It’s similar to the other messenger apps, but also similar to IRC (A web based chat client) because it allows for multiple chat channels to separate various discussion topics.



Take some time out of your day (A bit longer for the first discussion) to discuss exactly when and where your group will meet. Ideally, one member can host, but if the situation doesn’t allow for it, then a communal meeting place like an LGS or even a bar! (Make sure the establishment is okay with you taking up a table for a few hours)

Make sure to discuss specifics and not just generalities, and ideally, this should be a time and place that your group could meet at week in and week out. Be careful not to interfere with work and personal matters. I frequently have to wake up very early in the morning for my job, and the days where I play Commander before having to open the store in the morning can be hell on me. This all might seem obvious, but having made these mistakes, I want to help all my wonderful readers avoid them.



This is the fun part! Part of being a good organizer and/or host is providing for your guests/group. I’m a big fan of the potluck as a way to break the ice at a new location or with a new group. After moving into my new apartment, the first night of Commander I hosted was accompanied by chips, dip, drinks, and a delicious cardamom chicken dish from the wonderful Jerusalem: A Cookbook. (Recipe can be found at It went over extremely well, and all my players were excited to return for more the following week. (Spoilers: Week 2 didn’t involve chicken. Just a lot of great games.)

Providing for one’s group doesn’t always have to take the form of home-cooked meals or alcoholic libations. The most important thing a group organizer can provide is a welcome and open environment to have fun and play Magic. To ensure that the guy playing 5-Color Slivers under [card]Sliver Legion[/card] can sit at the game table as the lady playing mono-wraths [card]Oros, the Avenger[/card] and still both have a blast in the game.


This is the most important part of maintaining a group environment and ensuring all your players are interested in returning week after week. In a single word, feedback. Feedback is of the utmost importance. If something dominated every game you played, and you think it might be too oppressive, then bring it up with the group. If your group works together, you can craft a style of game that perfectly matches the group.

This can also include positive feedback on a play or a card you felt was particularly fun or engaging. If your terrifying [card]Kozilek, Butcher of Truth[/card] player is about to go ham on the table, but is timely dealt with by an [card]Insurrection[/card] into a pump with [card]Xenagos, God of Revels[/card] to one-shot the Kozilek player with their own Commander, feel free to compliment them on their sweet play! If your [card]Geth, Lord of the Vault[/card] player uses his brand-spanking-new [card]Yawgmoth’s Will[/card] to cast a flurry of mana doublers out of their graveyard before casting [card]Rise of the Dark Realms[/card] to end it in one fell swoop, that deserves some recognition! Compliment each other’s awesome decisions and plays and critique those that are oppressive to help form an environment that people will want to play games in over and over again.

Deck of the Week

[deck title= Jim Casale’s Kozilek, the Great Distortion]


*1 Artisan of Kozilek

*1 Blight Herder

*1 Breaker of Armies

*1 Burnished Hart

*1 Colossus of Akros

*1 Conduit of Ruin

*1 Desolation Twin

*1 Duplicant

*1 Endbringer

*1 Endless One

*1 Kozilek’s Channeler

*1 Kozilek, Butcher of Truth

*1 Matter Reshaper

*1 Oblivion Sower

*1 Reality Smasher

*1 Platinum Angel

*1 Solemn Simulacrum

*1 Thought-Knot Seer

*1 Ulamog’s Crusher

*1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

*1 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre

*1 Void Winnower

*1 Walker of the Wastes

*1 Wurmcoil Engine



*1 Alhammarret’s Archive

*1 All Is Dust

*1 Basalt Monolith

*1 Chromatic Lantern

*1 Crucible of Worlds

*1 Darksteel Forge

*1 Dreamstone Hedron

*1 Everflowing Chalice

*1 Expedition Map

*1 Gilded Lotus

*1 Grim Monolith

*1 Hedron Archive

*1 Karn Liberated

*1 Lightning Greaves

*1 Mana Vault

*1 Mind Stone

*1 Mind’s Eye

*1 Mox Opal

*1 Nevinyrral’s Disk

*1 Orbs of Warding

*1 Perilous Vault

*1 Relic of Progenitus

*1 Scour from Existence

*1 Seer’s Lantern

*1 Sol Ring

*1 Staff of Nin

*1 Swiftfoot Boots

*1 Thought Vessel

*1 Thran Dynamo

*1 Titan’s Presence

*1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

*1 Unstable Obelisk

*1 Unwinding Clock

*1 Ur-Golem’s Eye

*1 Urza’s Incubator

*1 Vedalken Orrery

*1 Voltaic Key

*1 Worn Powerstone



*1 Ancient Tomb

*1 Arcane Lighthouse

*1 Blasted Landscape

*1 Blinkmoth Nexus

*1 Darksteel Citadel

*1 Dust Bowl

*1 Eldrazi Temple

*1 Eye of Ugin

*1 Ghost Quarter

*1 Haven of the Spirit Dragon

*1 Homeward Path

*1 Maze of Ith

*1 Mirrorpool

*1 Radiant Fountain

*1 Reliquary Tower

*1 Ruins of Oran-Rief

*1 Sanctum of Ugin

*1 Shrine of the Forsaken Gods

*1 Strip Mine

*1 Tectonic Edge

*1 Temple of the False God

*1 Thespian’s Stage

*1 Urza’s Mine

*1 Urza’s Power Plant

*1 Urza’s Tower

*12 Wastes



1* Kozilek, the Great Distortion




Alrighty, so this deck is a new creation by Jim Casale, a writer over at our sister site, and an overall pretty awesome human being. When I mentioned I wanted to write articles, Jim was the guy who helped me get my foot in the door, so I’m glad I could have one of his decks to be one of the first I evaluate.

Overall Impressions

If I had to classify this deck into one of the archetypes I listed in my previous article, I would describe this one as a linear Big Mana deck. It uses a plethora of mana rocks like [card]Worn Powerstone[/card], [card]Ur-Golem’s Eye[/card], and [card]Dreamstone Hedron[/card] to power out Eldrazi and other game-ending threats.

The End Game

The Legendary Eldrazi quartet tends to make short work of games, along with various other powerful and expensive colorless cards, such as [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card], [card]Ugin, the Spirit Dragon[/card], [card]Karn Liberated[/card], and [card]Colossus of Akros[/card] (Super spicy). This deck is very linear in its win condition, relying almost exclusively on creature and commander damage to finish games.

How It Gets There

This deck is jam-packed with mana! I don’t have to list out all the 23 non-land ways this deck makes extra mana to drive that one home. This deck can easily make upwards of 8 mana on turn 4 in Magical-Christmas-Land and can cast its commander with no problems early in the game to refill after having dumped its hand of most mana onto the field in the early stages of the game.


Graveyard Decks

Jim’s matchup against fair graveyard decks looks average. His gameplan is fast, proactive, and uses exile as his main removal type. Beyond that, he has a [card]Relic of Progenitus[/card] to help stave off the undead menaces. However, these decks are used to a small bit of hate and will be able to power through it despite being slowed down.

Voltron Decks

With only four wrath effects and Arcane Lighthouse, Jim’s chances against Voltron may seem bad, but his Commander and plethora of Eldrazi with Annihilator help to keep their permanent count, and therefore, their buff count low. Jim shouldn’t have too much trouble with these decks

Big Mana Decks

In a mirror match, Jim should be able to power out his large threats as fast as any [card]Korlash, Heir to Blackblade[/card] or [card]Omnath, Locus of Mana[/card] player, but Eldrazi tend to be a bit bigger than the others. In Magic, generally, when it comes to a mirror match, the deck that goes a bit bigger is usually the winner. Drawing up to seven on a regular basis gives Jim the gas he needs to power through the usually grindy mirror matches.

Mana Cheat Decks

This match-up is where Jim might struggle a bit. With only a few wraths and minimal spot removal, he will have a decent amount of trouble playing from behind when [card]Mayael the Anima[/card] cheats a [card]Godsire[/card] into play or [card]Kaalia of the Vast[/card] drops in [card]Rakdos, the Defiler[/card]. Unfortunately, this is a factor of the deck being a Big Mana deck, which means it’ll struggle when faced with something faster.

Good Stuff Decks

Jim should have little to no trouble going way, WAY over the top of these decks. Even with raw card power, they should be no match for a pile of flying spaghetti monsters coming their way.

Possible Improvements

One thing I noticed was a decided lack of recursion in the deck, outside of an [card]Artisan of Kozilek[/card] and [card]Haven of the Spirit Dragon[/card]. Perhaps adding [card]Haunted Fengraf[/card] or [card]Scarecrone[/card] to help continue the assault. Beyond that, [card]Scorched Ruins[/card] might be a bit better than [card]Blinkmoth Nexus[/card] in this deck, especially as there doesn’t seem to be a way to pump up the Nexus.


This week’s article was a bit different, and I’m excited to hear feedback on it. In my time online, I’ve seen a lot of reference to a Commander group, but little about the nitty-gritty of organizing one, so I hope the mini-guide helps at least one person create their own regular group. Feel free to share any feedback you might have about the it, whether it be positive or negative.


All the best,



Nothing but Value: An Introduction to Ephara, God of the Polis

I’ve been struggling to put words on the page. For years now, I’ve been wanting, nay, dreaming of being a Magic writer. Until now, I’d not found a topic I’ve really wanted to write about. Due to ever-tightening life constraints, I’ve been forced from grinding 4 local tournaments and a PPTQ or an SCG Open a week, down to just a weekly Commander game and the occasional FNM (if I’m lucky).

And you know what? I’m really happy about it. Commander has been a very liberating experience for me as a Magic player. I’m no longer invested in winning. I don’t have to spend upwards of $50 a weekend, driving upwards of two hours on most trips (Northern Florida isn’t exactly buzzing with events), and just losing in yet another PPTQ top 8. I can be free to do anything I want, in any style I want, and can feel great knowing that as long as the games were interesting, I succeeded.

My name is Bryan Scholl. I’ve been playing casually for over 10 years, playing competitively for over six and judging somewhat actively for two, and in that time I’ve top 8’d seven PPTQs, an old-style PTQ and a Star City Games Open. I would like to think I’m pretty alright at Magic, but nothing too far from an average grinder. What I believe I do more than the average grinder, however, is consume Magic content. I read, listen to, evaluate, and digest more Magic content than I can handle, most likely. On every drive to school or work, I’m devouring a podcast. On every break, catching up on the latest articles and news. My life has been dedicated to our wonderful game since the first time I opened a booster pack.

For the past six months, I’ve been running a weekly Commander game with a small group of friends. We’re a fairly diverse crew: a pair of kitchen-table exclusive casual players, a pair local tournament grinders, and myself. Each of us has a relatively unique play style and approach to the format, and I plan to examine each one thoroughly over the coming weeks. This first deck is my own. It’s the first Commander deck I built after coming back to the format, and its proven itself to be one of the more successful decks in our metagame

This deck’s commander is [Card]Ephara, God of the Polis[/Card]. It’s a hybrid deck, based around tokens, blink effects, and value creatures. The idea behind it was “How can I best use my commander in order to leverage her powerful set of abilities?”. Typically, it tries to control the early game by using its counterspells and spot removal before deploying Ephara and beginning to draw cards. Most commonly, I’ll find myself trying to reuse my early value creatures as much as possible (via [Card]Crystal Shard[/card], [card]Whitemane Lion[/card] or other similar effects) to ensure I hit my land drops during the early and mid games. The list is slightly tailored to my own metagame, so don’t take it as an example of a completely optimized list, but more a groundwork with which one can create their own take on the commander.

Deck Evaluation and Critique

[deck title=Ephara, God of the Polis]


*1 Aetherling

*1 Aethersnipe

*1 Angel of Finality

*1 Archaeomancer

*1 Chasm Skulker

*1 Clever Impersonator

*1 Flickerwisp

*1 Heliod, God of the Sun

*1 Karmic Guide

*1 Meloku the Clouded Mirror

*1 Mirror Entity

*1 Mistmeadow Witch

*1 Mizzium Meddler

*1 Mulldrifter

*1 Phyrexian Metamorph

*1 Riftwing Cloudskate

*1 Solemn Simulacrum

*1 Stonecloaker

*1 Sun Titan

*1 Thraben Doomsayer

*1 Trinket Mage

*1 Whitemane Lion

*1 Wall of Omens

*1 Wonder



*1 Cathars’ Crusade

*1 Control Magic

*1 Detention Sphere

*1 Faith’s Fetters

*1 Luminarch Ascension

*1 Mastery of the Unseen

*1 Mobilization

*1 Oblivion Ring

*1 Opposition

*1 Propaganda

*1 Sacred Mesa

*1 Capsize

*1 Counterspell

*1 Cyclonic Rift

*1 Day of Judgement

*1 Dig Through Time

*1 Dismiss

*1 Exclude

*1 Force of Will

*1 Martial Coup

*1 Momentary Blink

*1 Path to Exile

*1 Pongify

*1 Spell Crumple

*1 Supreme Verdict

*1 Swords to Plowshares

*1 Bident of Thassa

*1 Crystal Shard

*1 Everflowing Chalice

*1 Mimic Vat

*1 Skullclamp

*1 Sol Ring

*1 Trading Post

*1 Vedalken Orrery

*1 Wayfarer’s Bauble

*1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

*1 Jace, Architect of Thought

*1 Venser, the Sojourner



*1 Azorius Chancery

*1 Azorius Guildgate

*1 Coastal Tower

*1 Emeria, the Sky Ruin

*1 Faerie Conclave

*1 Flooded Strand

*1 Glacial Fortress

*1 Hallowed Fountain

*7 Island

*1 Kjeldoran Outpost

*1 Moorland Haunt

*1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

*11 Plains

*1 Prahv, Spires of Order

*1 Prairie Stream

*1 Reliquary Tower

*1 Sejiri Refuge

*1 Springjack Pasture

*1 Strip Mine

*1 Temple of Enlightenment

*1 Tranquil Cove



*1 Ephara, God of the Polis



    Well, that’s a lot to take in at once, so let’s break down exactly what went into crafting this deck.

The Commander

Ephara is a commander that asks a decent amount of the deck to make her good. Her triggered ability wants a way to repeatedly generate creatures entering the battlefield, such as with token makers. However, her devotion ability asks for a way to have permanents with mana costs on the battlefield. Most token creatures don’t provide devotion, so I went with a mix of token producers, value creatures and flicker effects to generate the necessary enter-the-battlefield triggers that let this deck snowball enough to take over a game.

Token Makers

[card]Luminarch Ascension[/Card]; [card]Sacred Mesa[/Card]; [card]Mobilization[/Card]; [card]Thraben Doomsayer[/Card]; [card]Heliod, God of the Sun[/Card]; [card]Mastery of the Unseen[/Card]; [card]Meloku the Clouded Mirror[/Card]; [card]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/Card]; and [card]Kjeldoran Outpost[/Card] do the heavy lifting here providing fuel for the engine, as well as a win condition when combined with [card]Opposition[/Card], [card]Mirror Entity[/Card] or [card]Cathars’ Crusade[/Card]. The deck is looking to generate at least one token during each players’ turn, so having cheap, repeatable ways to generate tokens is key.

Value Creatures

[card]Æthersnipe[/Card], [card]Angel of Finality[/Card], [card]Archaeomancer[/Card], [card]Flickerwisp[/Card], [card]Karmic Guide[/Card], [card]Mizzium Meddler[/Card], [card]Mulldrifter[/Card], [card]Riftwing Cloudskate[/Card], [card]Solemn Simulacrum[/Card], [card]Stonecloaker[/Card], [card]Sun Titan[/Card], and especially [card]Trinket Mage[/Card] are my value suite. Each one is exceptional in their own right, and when combined with [card]Venser, the Sojourner[/Card] or [card]Mistmeadow Witch[/Card], they represent a ton of value over the course of the game.[card]Archaeomancer[/Card] being blinked repeatedly to recur overloaded [card]Cyclonic Rift[/Card] is a fairly common way to end the game quickly.

Controlling the game

Blue and White excel at controlling the pace of games, and this Ephara deck is no exception. With five counterspells, four wrath effects, and a generous amount of targeted removal, Ephara is set up to dictate exactly how and when spells are played. In a typical four-player Commander game, counterspells are at a premium, and they mesh very well with the game plan of leaving up mana to produce tokens or flash in a creature.

Victory Conditions

The deck has many avenues to victory. [card]Mirror Entity[/Card], [card]Opposition[/Card] and [card]Capsize[/Card] can often win games all on their own. The main win condition, however, is raw card advantage. By continuing to generate resources at a very quick pace over the course of the game, Ephara has the ability to grind out her opponents with ease. Her ability to essentially have 5 draw steps instead of 1 can put the pilot way ahead of their opponents and allow them to take control of the game, ending it however they please.


There are infinitely many different commander archetypes, however, a few key archetypes stand out to me as being common across multiple play groups:

  1. Graveyard decks (Ghave, Karador, Meren, Jarad)
  2. Voltron Decks (Geist of Saint Traft, Uril, Zur)
  3. Big Mana Decks (Mono-Black, Mono-Green)
  4. Mana Cheat decks (Mayael, Kaalia, Reanimator)
  5. Good Stuff decks

Graveyard Decks

These are typically fair, grindy decks that rely on the graveyard as an additional resource. These are typically black and green, using commanders such as [card]Ghave, Guru of Spores[/Card] or [card]Karador, Ghost Chieftain[/Card]. Ephara has a good amount of game against these decks by having her primary removal spells exile, and has [card]Angel of Finality[/Card] along with [card]Stonecloaker[/Card] for additional ways to keep the graveyard under control.

Voltron Decks

These decks use their difficult-to-interact-with commanders in order to take advantage of the commander damage rule. Some of the more common Voltron commanders incluse [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/Card], [card]Uril the Miststalker[/Card], and [card]Rafiq of the Many[/Card]. Ephara has a few ways to combat this powerful strategy. Her suite of counterspells will help contain the most powerful buffs to the commander, and the wraths available should help to have interaction with even the hexproof commanders. Most valuable, however, is the token generation and instant speed flicker effects, which allow for a large amount of chump blockers. If the commander keeps running into 1/1 soldier tokens, then it won’t deal any commander damage to the face, which is really all that matters against those strategies.

Big Mana Decks

Most decks in Commander have the ability to generate a large supply of mana, however, some decks are dedicated to the task, then leveraging their vast amount of resources into a win. The most common commanders in this archetype would be [card]Azusa, Lost but Seeking[/Card]; [card]Omnath, Locus of Mana[/Card]; and many mono-black commanders. I know I’ve mentioned the counterspells a lot, but they really are the key to slowing down the unfair decks in the format. If one of the opponents spends their whole turn on a huge [card]Exsanguinate[/Card] or an Eldrazi, one counterspell might as well be a [card]Time Walk[/Card]. Beyond the counterspells, several of the targeted removal spells are useful against any non-land permanent, slowing their mana development. Lastly, there is [card]Strip Mine[/card] (and any other land-death land one might care to include) to help stop that pesky [card]Cabal Coffers[/Card] or [card]Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx[/Card].

Mana Cheat Decks

An archetype near and dear to my heart, Mana Cheat decks look to subvert traditional ways to cast spells and instead simply put them into play. Commanders such as [card]Kaalia of the Vast[/Card]; [card]Sedris, the Traitor King[/Card]; and my first Commander, [card]Mayael the Anima[/Card] all look to circumvent the idea of a mana cost. These decks have a tendency to run out of steam a bit quickly, so Ephara’s controlling nature already makes her a bit of a favorite against this strategy. The wraths and spot removal do a good job of delaying the big mana spells until you no longer care about them

Good Stuff Decks

A very common archetype amongst grinders who want to just jam games in between rounds at larger events, these decks tend to be made up of all-stars from Standards past and a smattering of Modern and Legacy staples. What they lack in synergy, they tend to make up in raw card power. There are no particularly common commanders for this strategy, but I’ve noticed they tend to be either 5-color or some combination with blue in it. Luckily for us, Ephara is a synergy deck, and has a significantly larger ability to snowball than most of the decks using this strategy. The normal gameplan of drawing a ton of cards, then taking control should be more than enough to take down decks like this.

Potential Upgrades from Oath of the Gatewatch and other changes

A few cards from the upcoming set stand out as exceptional in a strategy that plays heavily to the board, and seem like they’ll fit very well into the blink-value-token strategy that this deck plays.

[card]Reflector Mage[/Card] is an insane value creature that will easily upgrade [card]Riftwing Cloudskate[/Card]. The ability that prevents casting is part of the enter-the-battlefield trigger, so even when the Mage is flickered, the restriction is still in place!

[card]Eldrazi Displacer[/Card] looks amazing not only for Standard and Limited, but also for Commander. The blink-on-command ability has a ton of uses and with the deck’s eight dedicated colorless sources, it isn’t too hard to find the mana to use the ability.

[card]Meandering River[/Card] is nothing too exciting, but it is +1 dual land, and those are always welcome in any Commander Deck

Out of older sets, a few cards that deserve looking at include: [card]Duplicant[/Card]; [card]Ghost Quarter[/Card]/[card]Tectonic Edge[/Card]/[card]Dust Bowl[/Card]; [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/Card]; [card]Elspeth, Knight-Errant[/Card]; [card]Monastery Mentor[/Card]; and any of the new Myriad creatures from Commander 2015.

Moving Forward

In the coming weeks, I plan on breaking down not only my decks, but also those of the group. There are some very interesting ideas and decklists floating around, especially with the new release of Oath of the Gatewatch. This column is still in its infancy, and has many directions it could take. Leave a comment if there was anything you especially enjoyed, or if there’s a question I can answer.

All the best,