It was incredibly difficult for me to decide what to feature for this article. While I don’t have as many Commander decks as some, it is my native format these days, and I’ve built somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 decks around about 30 commanders.
Currently, I have a stable-ish fleet of 12 decks. (I say that because I’m in the process of building two and just put the wraps on a third.) When I started work judging this contest, I started debating if I should use an existing deck as my personal feature deck, or whether I should instead build from the ground up.
What I decided ultimately was that I had a great example of what I look for in a deck in my possession already. For the record, here are the basic criteria that will guide me to one of my standard builds:
- An old-school commander. I know that there are newer and better legends out there these days; Wizards of the Coast has really refined their design process. Still, there’s something compelling about 20-year-old cardboard at the helm of my creation. Rarified air, and all that. (Read: EDH Snob!)
- ABP – “Always Be Playing.” Let’s face it … Commander games are at their best when they run long. The coolest, flashiest interactions happen when they have the time to develop organically. The downside, of course, is a ton of sitting around, waiting for three or four other people to hurry up and finish their turns. For that reason, I want to optimize my decks to interact at all times. (I get bored easily … what can I say?) Activated effects, plenty of instants, and a decent helping of Vedalken Orrery effects are high on the list.
- No infinite game-ending combos. I get it, people. This format is different for everyone. Some people like the bleeding-edge, combo out on Turn 3 chest-beating, and that’s totally cool. (I don’t mind mixing it up with that crowd. Take a look at my archives to see my ongoing competitive metagame deck.) The thing is, for the same reasons I stated above, I don’t like my games to end in a hurry. Commander is all about the journey for me, not the destination. I’ll use a little Judo tech to throw one back in your face, but you won’t find any built into my deck.
- Synergy. Tons of synergy. I like and appreciate a nice, splashy bomb as much as the next guy, but it’s the sequence of events that pulls together a series of cards to form an advantage engine strong enough to take on the worst things you can throw at it and still come out swinging that I prefer the most.
With all of this said, here’s my Angus Mackenzie build:
Angus Mackenzie by Cassidy McAuliffe
This deck is positioned in a great place. The advantage engine revolves mainly around Aluren and a giant host of three-drop creatures, so decent utility pieces can come online pretty early on and protect things or manage must-address threats. Because it isn’t very flashy at first, people tend to leave it alone to set up as well. Angus himself hits early and can protect my setup time in a pinch, and pairing him with Seedborn Muse means I’m safe from all combat damage until I can get my engines going.
The heart and soul of the deck revolves around Man-o’-War effects. With Leyline of Anticipation, Vedalken Orrery, Aluren, or Alchemist’s Refuge/Winding Canyons online, the deck can respond at instant speed to anything it needs to with the toolbox the build is based around. At that point, there are no safe permanents; anything can be bounced or blown up in response to an action. Stack tricks with Fiend Hunter ensure I can exile creatures for good if needed, and Mentor of the Meek/Soul of the Harvest will keep me drawing into more gas.
The deck is very redundant too. There are a reasonable amount of creatures with flash that can bounce my permanents when they enter the battlefield in case I can’t find a flash enabler, such as Deputy of Acquittals and Whitemane Lion. A host of other bounce utilities exist, such as Temporal Adept, Crystal Shard, and Erratic Portal.
The high end of the deck comes once Aluren is paired with a triggered bounce effect and Equilibrium or Cloudstone Curio. This ensures a two-for-one return on investment, and it has the capability to bounce the non-hexproof board components at instant speed if I so choose. (It’s important to note this is a line of play that I personally discourage, and won’t go for proactively. I’m happy to wreck a Cathars’ Crusade-into-Avenger of Zendikar play all day long, but nobody enjoys having their entire manabase taken down.)
At this point, each creature serves to keep things moving. Man-o’-War hits play, deals with a threat, and is followed by Merchant of Secrets, drawing me a card and triggering Equilibrium, bouncing Man-o-War to repeat the process all over again. Mix and match with any number of the utility creatures in the deck, such as Harmonic Sliver, Eternal Witness, or Gilded Drake.
Protection comes on the back of Mystic Snake and Draining Whelk; Survival of the Fittest comes online to make sure that the tools I need are at hand, and both the aforementioned Eternal Witness and Riftsweeper make sure there’s not a single safe place for opponents to send my stuff. Progenitor Mimic seals the deal, alongside Tidespout Tyrant and Avenger of Zendikar.
And if all else fails, I can drop Kederekt Leviathan to really get back to basics.
Angus isn’t my strongest, most aggressive, or most competitive deck, but it does put up a great showing when it comes to representing my personal Commander style. The pieces are carefully chosen and come together in a perfectly synergistic way that enables me to be in the game from beginning to end. All in all, it’s a great representation of why I love this format, and how I approach it.
I hope you all enjoy the tech.
For a deeper look into my Commander world, please check out GeneralDamageControl.com.
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