Darien and the EMO-tional Commanders of EDH

If any of you are like me, you love EDH. If you are even more like me, you don’t have a whole lot of money and you love EDH. If you’re disturbingly similar to me you love EDH, like to play on a budget and your downstairs neighbor only listens to early 2000’s Emo music.

Normally I’d say those first two are an ideal combination of things to write about when thinking of Magic, but just this once I’m going to go out on a limb and include that questionable – and much harder to relate to for the average person – third category. So let’s drape ourselves in darkness, comb our dyed-black hair well into our eyes and turn up the Getup Kids – here comes your 5 most EMO-tional Commanders in Magic.

[card]King Macar, the Gold-Cursed[/card]
King Macar is entirely too sad for what’s actually happening here. He has the ability to not only vanquish his enemies but once he does, his enemies TURN INTO MONEY. I mean, it’s a may ability, why is this guy so depressed? It’s like finding out you can barf quarters and then not inviting your friends to the casino with you when you get food poisoning.
[card]Ghoulcaller Gisa[/card]
For my money it doesn’t get more emo than hanging out in a graveyard while wearing a black wedding dress. I’m sorry, maybe I’ve just seen that one episode of X-Files too much where the teachers are worshipping the devil (remember?) but Gisa really stands out to me as someone who clearly has some emotional issues and is expressing them through regrettable music choices.

[card]Heartless Hidetsugu[/card]
What a terrible life Heartless Hidetsugu must have had before this. I can just picture his mother looking through The Big Book of Baby Names and then just throwing it in the garbage and saying “you know what, I’m going with ‘Heartless.’” That’s the harshest naming convention since they decided “Aiden” was something ok to call a kid. Heartless Hidetsugu may be an ogre but we all know who the true monster is here.

[card]Feldon of the Third Path[/card]
Yikes, poor Feldon. This has to be the saddest Magic card in the world, right? The guy is holding the skull of a robot replica of his dead wife. It’s like someone saw I, Robot and was like, “This needs to be more like Liam Neeson’s real life.”


[card]Darien, King of Kjeldor[/card]
Can we get a better name for the lead singer of an emo band than Darien? “Yeah I’m Darien, and we’re This Beautiful Heartbreak.” Or maybe “Ice Age of the Soul”? Darien is so emo, his actual card mechanics want you to hurt yourself. Darien may be the King of Kjeldor, but he’s the Emperor of Emo in my books.
Of all these EMO-tional commanders, Darien really stands out to me as the one that screams “I hate you DAD!” Luckily, Darien also screams “build around me!” so let’s figure out howto use his wild mood swings and the need for us to hurt ourselves to make a killer deck.

Sure he looks ok here, but this guy is an emotional mess.

Sure he looks ok here, but this guy is an emotional mess.

[Deck title= Darien, King of Kjeldor]
1x Archetype of Courage
1x Ballyrush Banneret
1x Benalish Commander
1x Captain of the Watch
1x Catapult Master
1x Court Street Denizen
1x Crovax, Ascendant Hero
1x Daru Warchief
1x Devout Chaplain
1x Enlistment Officer
1x Evangel of Heliod
1x Gempalm Avenger
1x Goldnight Commander
1x Intrepid Hero
1x Knight-Captain of Eos
1x Kytheon’s Irregulars
1x Loxodon Gatekeeper
1x Mentor of the Meek
1x Mirror Entity
1x Odric, Master Tactician
1x Precinct Captain
1x Relic Seeker
1x Rhox Pikemaster
1x Soul Warden
1x Soul’s Attendant
1x Suture Priest
1x Veteran Swordsmith
1x Ajani’s Presence
1x Angel’s Trumpet
1x Angelheart Vial
1x Caged Sun
1x Cathars’ Crusade
1x Conqueror’s Pledge1x Decree of Justice
1x Deploy to the Front
1x Dictate of Heliod
1x Everflowing Chalice
1x General’s Kabuto
1x Gift of Estates
1x Gods Willing
1x Illuminated Folio
1x Inheritance
1x Jade Monolith
1x Kirtar’s Wrath
1x Marble Diamond
1x Marshal’s Anthem
1x Martial Coup
1x Mask of Avacyn
1x Mind Stone
1x Mobilization
1x Nomads’ Assembly
1x Pearl Medallion
1x Return to Dust
1x Rootborn Defenses
1x Skullclamp
1x Sol Ring
1x Staff of Nin
1x Swiftfoot Boots
1x Torture Chamber
1x Valor in Akros
1x Whispersilk Cloak
1x Worn Powerstone
1x Drifting Meadow
1x Emeria, The Sky Ruin
1x Grand Coliseum
1x Karoo
1x Mage-Ring Network
1x Myriad Landscape
1x New Benalia
1x Nomad Stadium
27x Plains
1x Secluded Steppe
1x Tarnished Citadel

In a lot of ways Darien is a classic token deck with the obvious limitations of being mono white in a format where that may be the worst mono-color to be in. As a result, the first category we need to talk about is overcoming the shortcomings of our colour choice, namely card draw and ramp.

Ramp in mono white looks suspiciously more of a light grey colour (or brown if you’re a bit older) and you may recognize a lot of these cards from some of your existing EDH decks. If so, it’s the same drill here, we need artifact ramp – except this time we need all of it. [card]Sol Ring[/card], [card]Everflowing Chalice[/card], [card]Worn Powerstone[/card], you know, the cheap ones.

There are of course some other actual white “ramp” spells but I decided to only run the deceptively good [card]Gift of Estates[/card] that was recently reprinted in the 2014 Commander product mostly because it’s very cheap and putting plains in your hand on a budget can be difficult. Along with your artifact sources, those 3 plains go a long way to casting Darien a few times and ramping into a huge X-soldier spell. Disclaimer: Gift of Estates is not actual ramp, but you know what I mean.

If ramp in mono-W is difficult to get, card draw is damn near impossible. After absolutely scouring Gatherer for budget sources of card draw I came to the conclusion that I need to reevaluate my time management skills. I also came to the conclusion that there are not very many spells we can use. Obviously we’ll employ things like [card]Mentor of the Meek[/card] and [card]Skullclamp[/card] and while it’ll come much later in the game, [card]Staff of Nin[/card] does double duty when you have Darien on the battlefield.

Here’s where I had to start stretching a bit – [card]Angelheart Vial[/card] is another artifact source of draw we’ll see a little later in the game and will synergize nicely with our strategy of taking damage (to our hearts) and gaining life (to our… souls?). Otherwise I chose to rely on the somewhat situational [card]Inheritance[/card] and an [card]Illuminated Folio[/card]. I’ll admit I’ve never used either of these cards before but they both look like half-decent sources of card draw and at this point, beggars can’t be choosers.

We have some token makers in the deck, but when you have Darien on your side there’s a more interesting and fun way to get those soldiers. Since Darien says for every point of damage we take we get a 1/1 soldier, we will focus on doing the unthinkable and damaging ourselves.

Before we get to the various weird ways we’ll be hurting (and helping) ourselves, I have to stress one thing: you will get hated on very hard when Darien hits the battlefield. The reason behind this is people don’t like it when your commander basically has the text “You can’t attack me or I’ll win for sure, sucker!” Since our general is absolutely central to our gameplan, we have to treat it like Kevin Mcallister treats his suburban Chicago home – we HAVE to protect it. The usual budget sources of protection like [card]Swiftfoot Boots[/card] and [card]Whispersilk Cloak[/card] do the trick but I’ve also added in a [card]General’s Kabuto[/card], a [card]Gods Willing[/card] and one of my favourite white cards in EDH, [card]Rootborn Defenses[/card]. We have some great utility soldiers like [card]Catapult Master[/card] and [card]Intrepid Hero[/card] in the deck, so all this protection stays relevant for the times you don’t have Darien or happen to draw a boots and a cloak at the same time.

The field has been prepared and now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and start building some hurtin’ (ourselves) bombs – and speaking of bombs, our first is [card]Jade Monolith[/card]. That’s right, the dusty old crappy looking statue in every Goodwill I’ve ever seen is an absolute bomb in this deck. Not only can your opponents not attack you, but now they can’t block your creatures either. This all comes at the low-cost of 1 colorless mana per source which is kind of insane.

[card]Torture Chamber[/card] is a card I discovered putting this deck together and in a Darien EDH list, it does amazing work by hitting you and giving you soldiers on every end step and serving as occasional spot removal for creatures. Plus if you’re really into MTG-based S&M it has a picture of Karn and a Minotaur chained to a wall. Fetish bonus round?

I don’t blame anyone for getting frustrated when I play out an [card]Angel’s Trumpet[/card]. There is so much text on this card and even I get annoyed by it. Basically it says, everyone has vigilance – then if any creatures don’t attack, they tap at your end step and each deal one damage to you. Wow that was easy! Look at me I could totally work at Wizards in the rarely lauded “errata and oracle text” department. Look out whoever actually does that job, I’m coming for you.

Once you understand what the trumpet does, you see why it’s essential in Darien, not only does it allow you to leave your soldiers up to make more, but it forces your enemies to either attack each other or you, and either way, you’re so happy you’re thinking about starting up your own ska band just so you can use the Angel’s Trumpet in that, too.

Finally there are some sweet lands that tap and deal damage while producing white mana for us and are all excellent in this deck: [card]Grand Coliseum[/card], [card]Nomad Stadium[/card] & [card]Tarnished Citadel[/card]. All budget, and if you’re a sports fan, almost all are arena-based.


You may be thinking at this point, “Well sure, if I survive my enemies attacking me, who’s to say I’ll then survive myself?” and this is where I tell you about our beloved sisters, the clerics. Any good D&D player knows the fighters need healers so we went out and got ourselves 3 of the best: [card]Soul’s Attendant[/card], [card]Soul Warden[/card] and what I’m assuming is the sister they adopted from a family of terrifying monsters, [card]Suture Priest[/card]. Any of these lovely ladies will allow you to deal any and all damage to your own face with impunity. When you gain a life for every creature (not only your own for the human sisters) that enters the battlefield, Darien basically goes from being an emotional mess into Lando Calrissian – aka, surrounded by beautiful ladies and expendable soldier dudes dressed like plumbers.

Once you have your soldiers out you need to pump your team and swing for a crazy win but that’s token strategy 101. You don’t need me to tell you [card]Dictate of Heliod[/card], [card]Cathars’ Crusade[/card] and [card]Marshal’s Anthem[/card] are good cards in a token swarm strategy, but in this deck with the ability to produce soldiers at instant speed, I really like [card]Goldnight Commander[/card] and the new [card]Valor in Akros[/card] from Origins. Any one of these can result in the pump up we need for our group of well-trained military men to run roughshod over our opponents.

So there you have it, a journey through the more emotionally unstable side of Commander, along with a sweet budget build you can bring to your next game and make all your opponents (and doves) cry.

About the Author
Andy Hull is a Comedian, Writer and EDH addict from Toronto. He's written and is featured on the Geek & Sundry webseries Space Janitors and co-hosts The Commander's Brew podcast.

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