When competitive Magic: The Gathering players speak of tier 1 decks, they normally aren’t talking about the Commander format. The goal of this article is to introduce you to what I, and many other EDH players, consider to be a tier one deck. This is about as competitive and aggressive as EDH can be.
Kaalia of the Vast has an amazing ability that allows you to cheat any Angel, Demon, or Dragon into play when she attacks. I’m going to go over the top 10 Angels, Demons, and Dragons to include in your list.
Iona does amazing things for us, one of which is auto-winning against any mono-colored EDH deck (bye bye tier 1 Azami). She also allows us to hose a third to half of any multicolored deck. Be careful what you choose! Iona is basically a removal magnet and often will get hated off the table in multiplayer. It is very important to be political about your decisions with Iona in multiplayer (don’t hose the mono red player if you can avoid it). Allies are crucial with this deck in multiplayer, and Iona can instantly grant you allies or make enemies.
In 1v1, the power level of this card is simply unprecedented. She is an auto-include.
This guy is the Demonic Tutor beat stick we have always dreamed of. Cheating him into play early can grant you the exact card you need for the next attack, or maybe grab you some Lightning Greaves or a removal spell if the need arises. It can also grab our good friend Gideon Jura to make our opponents attack steps less relevant. It is also a 6/6 flier that gets better every time we re-buy it with reanimation effects. There is a reason this bad boy is almost 10 dollars. Very good and perhaps under-rated card.
If you manage to cheat Master of Cruelties in play with Kaalia, you can kill any player who can’t block, instantly winning. It is a one time deal though, so you must be cautious about when you go for the instant kill. After the initial attack step this guy gets a lot less relevant (aside from the fact that he is a 1/4 that has first strike and deathtouch). I still play him because of how great he is.
Disclaimer: This combo is extremely “spikey” in nature. If your play group is not competitive, do not play Master of Cruelties. Lifetime friendships are worth more than a couple instant kill scenarios.
This guy is my favorite dragon ever printed. You cannot go wrong with a relevant 5/5 flier with an awesome ability. Thundermaw is just an enormous threat against any token strategies (dead 1/1 spirits and Emeria Angel tokens). This is our token killer. We want him against Rhys, the Redeemed, Trostani, and any other token general. If you played Standard while this guy was in it then you understand how great of a card he is. He is also kind of considered to be “fair” in a sense where all of our other cards aren’t. He is great and you always want him.
This guy ends games very quickly. Rakdos the Defiler comes with a pseudo-annihilator ability that just closes out games. We want to play him when we have additional draw cards like Phyrexian Arena, Dark Confidant, and Underworld Connections in order to keep up with the cost of attacking with him. The only downside to Rakdos is that he is extremely “spikey” in nature. Opponents really hate playing against him (which is good for us!).
Oh man this girl ends games so quick. She gives us additional attack steps, which means even more angels, demons, and dragons! There truly isn’t anything like attacking with an active Aurelia, cheating a Rune-Scarred Demon in play, tutoring for another Kaalia target, and cheating it into play during the next combat step. Aurelia is also vigilant, which means we can block! Our deck doesn’t really do a lot of blocking, so be sure to block well with Aurelia.
All aboard the pain train. Gisela literally ends games by herself. One attack with an active Gisela can net us 20, 30, 40, even 50 damage. Combine her with Aurelia and watch our deck get super dirty. Gisela is basically a win-more card. Your deck is already super powerful, so there is no problem with adding in another card that makes our guys deal double the damage. Gisela is just super nasty.
This guy gets literally no love outside of this deck. I am so excited every time I get to play Kolaghan. He can give all of our dudes a boost, especially if we have multiple dragons in play, which is not uncommon in this deck. Combine Kolaghan, Thundermaw Hellkite, and Gisela and you get to deal a bunch more damage every turn. He also has Dash, which can be relevant against control decks or anything that is sandbagging removal spells. I love this guy.
Oh man. OH MAN. These dragons are the best dragon in our deck if we are facing down any other creature deck. Goblins? Thunder Dragon and Balefire Dragon deal with it. Marath? Thunder Dragon and Balefire Dragon deal with it. Tokens? Thunder Dragon and Balefire Dragon deal with it. White Weenie? Thunder Dragon and Balefire Dragon deal with it. Thunder Dragon and Balefire Dragon are the sluggers of this Commander deck. They are the best beat-sticks we can have in our hands at literally any given point of the game. These are AUTO-INCLUDES.
*I combined them because they basically do the same thing in a different way*
The best card in our deck to cheat out on turn 3 or 4 is good ole Avacyn. She gives all of our permanents indestructible. She can only be dealt with using exile effects, and by that time we are already monstrously ahead. She also closes out games like nobodies business, especially when our opponent has no hand. I have literally nothing else to write about her. She is a must have.
Now that we have gone over the top 10 creatures to include, let’s discuss removal, card draw, ramp, evasion, and lands. There is so much to choose from in this card pool that I am going to leave it up to your imagination to think of cards other than the ones I list.
All of these cards are extremely efficient in our deck. Mardu colors just have so much to offer when it comes to removal that we have our choice of literally thousands of cards. I love the sweepers in my deck because Kaalia can stall if we have a slow hand, and it is nice to Wrath the turn before you play Kaalia. Mizzium Mortars is a great card to have in the case of decks like Elves, Goblins, and anything else that has toughness less than 5. I basically went through my trade binder and grabbed all of the efficient removal spells I could find and jammed them into the deck.
Kaalia needs removal in order to function correctly. We need to be able to pick off problem creatures or efficient blockers in order to kill our opponents. We oftentimes leave our board completely tapped out, so diversifying our removal into sorcery and instant speed isn’t that big of a deal (that’s why we are playing Dreadbore over Terminate).
Alright, let’s talk ramp. We aren’t playing green so that means we need artifacts. I play all of the good mana rocks I could come up with that produce colored mana. We have to have the colored mana in order to cast and connect with Kaalia earlier. One of these mana rocks means a faster Kaalia!
I prioritize card draw the least. I just feel like we are already beating down with so many creatures that we don’t really need it. Nevertheless, I have included four ways to draw extra cards in my list: Dark Confidant, Phyrexian Arena, Dragon Mage, and Underworld Connections. Let’s talk about Dragon Mage for a minute. Dragon Mage is unique because it is a Wheel of Fortune effect on a flier that we can cheat into play. I would caution anyone who is playing this card to be thoughtful about their opponents before rushing into a Dragon Mage. We probably shouldn’t be shoving Dragon Mage into play against Azami, Sen Triplets, or Mono Black. Other than that, he is good to go.
Evasion is super important to this deck. We need to keep our general alive to keep our deck alive. For that reason I play the following: Lightning Greaves, Swiftfoot Boots, Hammer of Purphoros, Anger, Fervor, True Conviction, Reanimate, Animate Dead, Exhume, Whip of Erebos, Ajani Vengeant, and Gideon Jura.
Most of these cards are “win more” cards. Fervor and Hammer of Purphoros let us have haste. True Conviction gives our guys double strike, and Whip gives our guys Lifelink. All of our reanimation is super relevant due to the sheer amount of huge creatures we play. Swiftfoot Boots and Lightning Greaves are must haves because of our general. If Kaalia is hexproof, we basically force our opponents to wrath or just die to our huge fliers. We also don’t really care about our life total. As long as we have more than zero we can win.
I call this category “evasion” because it basically gives our main deck another element. Diversifying threats on the battlefield is a must have with our commander. Our strategy is pretty linear, but we also have ways to “go wide” and win through other means.
The two planeswalkers I have chosen are Gideon Jura and Ajani Vengeant. I chose both of these walkers because they can take over a portion of the game. Ajani can just port our opponent’s blockers, keep them off of Nykthos or Cabal Coffers, then Armageddon them out of the game. Gideon is just a beat stick that does a fantastic job of keeping our opponent’s blockers off us. Both of these planeswalkers are great. We need them.
I hope I have inspired you to build around the great Kaalia of the Vast! She is fantastic. I use her to counteract any super competitive lists that show up at my shop. Of you want to increase the spikey level even more, I would recommend more Armageddon effects and more of a linear strategy, especially if you only ever play 1v1. Remember to pick up all of these cards at your local game store! You can’t play Magic at Walmart, and I don’t think Walmart has singles these days.
Kaalia of the Vast
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