Very few days that have gone by lately in which I have not been asked about my BUG Commander deck. I have long been a strong advocate for the color combination in the format, especially after Damia, Sage of Stone was introduced in the Commander product expansion almost two years ago. Since her release, I have tried out a wide variety of BUG strategies, many of them built specifically around abusing her abilities. If you are not intimately familiar with Damia, allow me to formally introduce you.
As a blue player at heart, I love drawing cards. Knowing I was getting a full grip from Damia each turn she was in play seemed far too good to pass up. My first foray into building around her involved a heavy landfall theme centered around Manabond. Damia is a seven-CMC Commander after all, and you almost always want her in play. In order to make her viable, a ramp strategy was going to have be present. I used cards like Exploration, Burgeoning, and Azusa, Lost but Seeking alongside Manabond to ensure a steady flow of lands entering the battlefield. This allowed me to cast Damia as early as Turn 3, each time, nearly hellbent ready for a full fresh grip from the Dark Queen’s power. I used cards like Trade Routes to ensure that Zendikar All-Stars like Avenger of Zendikar, Roil Elemental, and Rampaging Baloths would never be without a trigger. The deck was a lot of fun, but eventually I got tired of the same strategy, and decided to make some changes.
My second build around this Commander was designed to utilize cards that more clearly synergized with Damia’s power. I looked back to the Spellshaper creature type and found some real winners that would allow me to turn extra cards in my hand into powerful abilities, only to have my hand refueled from Damia. My All-Stars here were Overtaker, Dawnstrider, and Urborg Syphon-Mage. The two that really showed promise, however, were Greel, Mind Raker and Jolrael, Empress of Beasts. Both had the ability to take one of my opponents out at will. Being able to empty an opponent’s hand or destroy all of their lands in response to a wrath effect was very scary for those across from you. This often provided enough of a rattlesnake effect to allow me to win with an Oona, Queen of the Fae after putting an infinite mana ability online. This was normally in the form of Basalt Monolith and Rings of Brighthearth, which was particularly good with all of the Spellshapers. Some other cards I tinkered with were Abundance, Diviner’s Wand (yes, Damia is a wizard), Insidious Dreams, Sickening Dreams, and Demonic Collusion. Satisfying card effects through discard is a powerful tool for a Damia player. Don’t miss out on those opportunities.
My recent build however, came about after a long development period, initiated by an article written by William, who is now in charge of CommanderCast; in it, he talks about running Omniscience in a Damia build, designed to ramp out a bunch of lands and resolve Omniscience, at which time enormous spells get thrown around until you win the game. I was hooked. I couldn’t tell if it was the way the article was written, or the idea of playing an unfair, over-the-top strategy that would result in huge and insane haymaker plays from resolution until game’s end. At the very least, I knew I had to build it. I since have tuned the deck to a nice balance of fun and powerful, which is definitely sure to be a good fit for many of your environments. There are still some areas which could be tuned if you wanted to make this more competitive, but it also can be dialed back if your group requires it. As it is now, unfortunately most of my table scoops after I resolve Omniscience. They know the end is surely upon them.
Damia Commander by Scott MacCallum
Most of the time in multiplayer, the best way to discourage value attacks from coming your way is having some creatures in front of you. With my landfall deck, it became very clear that if you are aggressively ramping, while hoarding cards in your hand and not playing creatures, it was easily perceived you are ripe for value attacks and that you should probably be dogpiled until you die. Never trust the permanent-light Grixis player at your table who always has seven or more cards in hand. Kill them. Kill them immediately. Most of the ramp effects in this deck are based on enter-the-battlefield triggers so we can prevent value attacks while still achieving our goal of moving out of Stage 1 as quickly as possible. The deck plays like a good stuff ramp deck, but has a bunch of ways to remain sneaky and protect yourself. This makes it difficult to be disrupted without a concerted effort from your opponents, and you also don’t draw too much attention. All along the curve, the creatures and spells are designed to allow you to keep up with the table, and generally not fall too far behind.
The truth behind this deck, however, is that you “aim to misbehave.” The sheer height of the mana curve of your creatures should easily tell you this. I have been very impressed with the new Primordial creatures in these colors, and they do a ton of work for in this deck. After stalling and deflecting attention in your Stage 1, you should be able to resolve Damia and some large threat, placing yourself in the top or second spot at the table. This is exactly where you want to be.
While your opponents are fighting each other, or trying to deal with the six- and seven-drop creatures you are presenting, you should continue looking for a window to resolve Omniscience. It is perfectly reasonable to allow your opponents to waste resources trying to defeat your initial threats; you should actually be using this time to find and resolve the big blue nightmare. Once you do, you should be in a position to use one of the many tutors or powerful draw engines to acquire a pile of cards in your hand. Your kill condition can be whatever you desire. In this case, I have chosen to durdle, and durdle hard for my win condition.
As many of you may know, I have a stream focused on the Modern format that has been hosted by Legit MTG for about seven months. During an episode of The Bridge Podcast, there was an open challenge to defeat me on my stream in Modern with a very specific card combination: Doubling Season, Wheel of Sun and Moon, and Jace, Architect of Thought. These three cards, when used properly, will result in the wielder immediately playing all of the spells in his opponent’s deck for free. Doubling Season ensures Jace can perform his ultimate as soon as he is played, which will send him to the graveyard as part of the resolution. But if you enchant yourself with Wheel of Sun and Moon, Jace will return to the bottom of your library in time to select him as the spell to play from your own deck with said ultimate ability. This means Jace comes back again, with eight loyalty counters, fresh for another ultimate. Repeat until opponent has nothing but lands in their deck. I thought this sounded like a living-the-dream scenario, but in EDH, nobody can complain when you durdle. I obviously couldn’t run white cards in my Damia deck, so I had to improvise. I figured that if I had Omniscience in play and a Tamiyo, Moon Sage emblem, I could pull it off in blue and green. This led to the addition of the last three cards of the list, clearly labeled under Combo Pieces.
Since relying on one card to win a game can inevitably result in heartbreak once you opponents get wise, I decided to build in some redundancy. Enter Dream Halls. Dream Halls was completely damaging when it was legal in Standard, and even now, in Legacy, there are Dream Halls/Conflux decks that pop up occasionally to storm an Open or two. Dream Halls gives you an effect very similar to Omniscience, but it is symmetrical, allowing your opponents the chance to use it also. Discarding cards is obviously no downside when using Damia as your Commander, so it seemed like a good card to try out. After initial testing, I opted to run a higher number of flashback cards, so that even if I discard cards to fuel Dream Halls, I still would have access to some through flashback costs. The extra synergy with Forbid is not to be understated.
If you like flexible decks with plenty of options available, all running toward an over-the-top endgame, I can’t recommend this enough. I encourage you to try the list out, make your own changes, and ultimately, have fun vomiting your hand onto the field each and every turn. I will happily answer all questions in the comments, so please fire away!
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