The Great EDH Challenge: Abzan – Kethis Black People

Decklist: https://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/kethis-black-people


Power Level: 6.5

Yes, I know that there aren’t actual “Black” people in MtG, but I did it. This is a deck featuring dark-skinned characters, many of which are legendary. And hey, there is one actual Black person in the deck; Michonne, Ruthless Survivor!

The rule is if the creature or creatures are humanoid, there has to be a dark-skinned person featured prominently within the card art. In regards to that rule, there are two cards that some may be a bit torn about. Ob Nixilis Reignited in his Secret Lair art looks pretty black, especially when you look at his facial features, though I know that he was portrayed as a white character when he was human. Captain Sisay is quite the redbone, and many I have played with don’t see her as dark-skinned persay, but she is too good to pass up in this deck. Heck, she is Jamuraan, which is basically Dominaria’s Africa, so yeah.

This deck plays much like a precon; we simply play our cards and hope that we can win somehow. There aren’t any obvious combos or anything that high-powered, just a bunch of random cards that are a mix of interaction, value, and threats. Humorously enough, the most powerful card in the deck is probably Peacekeeper. There have been numerous games in which she has effectively stopped all combat for 10+ turns, simply because my opponents couldn’t find a way to get rid of her simple 1/1 body. She can really help us build up our board state without fear of being overwhelmed by our opponents. And hey, we can always sac her on our upkeep so that _we _can then attack.

There are many planeswalkers in this deck, and they tend to put in a great deal of work. Kaya the Inexorable both protects our creatures (such as Peacekeeper) and removes problem nonland permanents. Her ult is stellar in our legends-matter deck, and can be gotten too relatively quickly. Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate is a house who just does it all. She can tutor up creatures (such as Peacekeeper) onto the battlefield, and also make versatile 3/3’s that can be defensive and offensive threats. Kaya, Ghost Assassin can practically o-ring a commander each turn, essentially eliminating commander-dependent decks.

This deck mainly wins by assembling a board of sheer value, then overrunning our opponents. Our planeswalkers definitely help with that, but there are other ways to do so in our deck. Mangara, the Diplomat is phenomenal card draw, especially in the mid-to-late game. Sarulf, Realm Eater is removal-on-a-stick, especially against tokens. Crovax, Ascendant HeroAscendant Evincar, and Kaervek, the Spiteful are all mini Elesh Norns that can hose many go-wide decks.

All in all, this is an original deck that offers a more casual form of play. I always get humorous comments and compliments on this one, mainly because of its silly gimmick. It also harkens back to a day when people made EDH decks to show off their style, not so much their winning ability. Though I must admit, this deck is deceptively powerful, despite being a themed deck. I know many won’t put this together and play it, as it is admittedly jank-city, but I appreciate anyone who can look it over and appreciate what I tried to do. 😀

The Great EDH Challenge: RUG – Rampy Stompy Maelstrom Wanderer

Decklist: https://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/rampy-stompy-maelstrom-wanderer/


Power Level: 5

One of the first commander decks that I went up against was a Maelstrom Wanderer deck. All it did was ramp into Maelstrom Wanderer, who then cascaded into big, powerful creatures. That deck was deceptively powerful, and won almost every game it was a part of. I hated it with a passion for years, since I mainly played mono-blue decks with little to no creatures. Well, that was long ago and far away. Now I know who freakin’ fun it is to play the big ole cascading crab!

This deck is very easy to play. You simply play lands, ramp spells if you have them, and then play Maelstrom Wanderer. If you have good creatures to play before you can cast him, then play them! All of our creatures are good, and most of them make great offensive threats. Why do we prioritize casting Maelstrom Wanderer whenever we have the mana to, you ask? Well, not only does he usually get us two stompy threats onto the battlefield for free, but he also gives all of our creatures haste, including himself! I can’t tell you how many games that I have played when I cast Maelstrom, get creatures like Pathbreaker Ibex and Siege Behemoth, and proceed to kill a player who asks “Wait, how do they have haste!?”.

And if Maelstrom Wanderer dies, no problem. You want to recast him, so he can quickly build your board up with more threats! You will most definitely have the mana to recast him 90% of the time.

So our deck is primarily split between ramp spells and big creature spells. Casting mana-efficient ramp cards like Farseek and Three Wishes pushes us towards Maelstrom Wanderer quickly and stealthily. Cards like Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma and Ashaya, Soul of the Wild serve as both rampy and stompy cards. We have a few such dual-purpose creatures. Our most powerful rampy/stompy creatures in the deck are probably Klauth, Unrivaled Ancient and Nyxbloom Ancient. Klauth is just…busted. I couldn’t believe when I saw his textbox. He can easily make 40+ mana in any combination of colors from a single combat. And well, everyone knows that the triple-mana Nyxbloom is uber-strong.

Despite this deck being focused on ramping and stomping, there is a large amount of disruption in it. Some of our creatures, such as Phyrexian Ingester and Kogla, the Titan Ape let us get rid of problematic creatures when they ETB. Other creatures like World Breaker and Bane of Bala Ged give us repeatable ways to remove our opponents’ threats. We have a few more traditional spells to interact with our opponents, like Force of Vigor and the classic Aether Gale. But for the most part, our badass creatures are more than enough to mess with our opponents’ game-plans.

Koma, Cosmos Serpent can literally lock certain opponents out of the game by tapping down their lands and even shutting down their planeswalkers on their upkeep. And yeah, I put one of the most toxic creatures in EDH in my deck…Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger. He doubles our mana and ices over our opponents’ lands when they use them. I can’t even cascade into him, since he is eight mana. He is, at worst, a spiteful pet card. And hey, let’s not forget about the most destructive green creature in EDH, Bane of Progress. He usually comes down and destroys 6+ permanents, significantly altering the course of the game. I call him the most powerful green creature of EDH, since the format is so artifact-heavy.

This deck is STRONG. It may not look like it on paper, but when you play it, you will be blown away by how easy it is to win. There is no need for grand strategizing or politics. You simply play your cards, play your commander, and run over your opponents. It really is that simple. If ramping into beaters appeals to you, then this is definitely the deck for you.

The Great EDH Challenge: Jund – Lord Windgrace’s Ruination

Decklist: https://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/lord-windgraces-ruination/


Power Level: 6.25

There is no sugar-coating it; this is a MLD deck. For those who don’t know, MLD stands for Mass Land Destruction. The purpose of this deck is to continuously destroy all lands throughout the game, while recovering our own lands with our commander Lord Windgrace. His ability to get two lands back from our graveyard to the battlefield UNTAPPED is just begging to abused. Not only that, but he synergizes wonderfully with the best MLD cards such as Obliterate and Jokulhaups, because he is unaffected by them. Being a Planeswalker commander makes him especially powerful, and there is a minor super-friends theme to the deck.

So, blowing up lands is not going to make you any friends. I love doing it, but there are real ramifications to doing so. You can lose friends playing this archetypes. Heck, be prepared to close the door on potential friends if you sit down with strangers and use a MLD deck. If you are playing with old-school MTG players who used to jam Armageddon in Type-2, then you won’t get many complaints. Newer MTG players haven’t had to deal with MLD archetypes very much, so they are especially pissed off when they get their lands destroyed. In my opinion, discovering players who will not scoop after a Decree of Annihilation while you have a Planeswalker out makes it all worth it. Those sorts of players are the sort of people you want as friends, because they’ll stick around during hard times. ♥

If you are still okay with playing MLD after reading that, then let’s get into the finer details of the deck. This deck tends to spend the first four turns ramping, ironically enough. Birds of Paradise into Sakura-Tribe Elder into Harrow is always fun in a green deck. We tend to play our commander on turn five, mainly because our MLD cards become symmetrical without him. We run several creatures to help defend him, such as Geode Rager and Multani, Yavimaya’s AvatarSandwurm Convergence is a great way to protect our green deck from flyers, while also creating tokens to further protect Lord Windgrace from ground threats. It is also an enchantment, which evades our board wipes. Constant Mists works as a great repeatable way to protect ourselves and our walkers from pesky combat damage, especially since we can recur the lands we sac.

I recommend having at least two value-generating permanents out when we decide to blow up everything. Planeswalkers and Enchantments dodge our boardwipes, so these are the two to focus on. Abundance seems harmless to most opponents, but is a great way to refill our hands with lands after a Boom / BustThe Mending of Dominaria gets our lands out of the graveyard eventually, and is a surefire way to especially piss people off if you blow up all the lands with this saga out. Tibalt, Cosmic Imposter can steal lands he exiles from opponents, while Wrenn and Seven digs for lands we may not have in our hands.

There is a Lands subtheme to the deck, though this deck does lean pretty fully into the MLD theme. Repeatable Dark Depths tokens with Thespian Stage can be made slowly with recursive cards like Crucible of Worlds and our commander. Evolution Sage let’s us turbo-charge our Planeswalkers with its bonkers landfall-proliferate ability. I have won this way a few times. Field of the Dead can make many zombies when we aren’t blowing up lands (duh), and The Gitrog Monster can draw us a lot of cards when we are destroying or sacrificing lands (also duh).

This deck tends to win mainly by making opponents tap out of the game of endurance it forces. Destroying all lands multiple times during a game wears on people pretty quickly, especially when we don’t seem that badly affected by it. Despite that, we can still win through more conventional means, such as through attack with big dumb creatures and directly dealing damage with Seismic Assault.

This may not seem like a powerful deck, but I win with it pretty consistently. It is deceptively powerful, mainly because EDH is a very lands-reliant format when you aren’t playing with money-decks full of low-cost mana rocks. Just remember to let people know that you are playing Land Destruction before starting a game with them, if you want to keep or make friends while using this deck. Some men just want to watch the world burn, though. If that’s you, take this deck into a random shop and watch people curse at you for playing such a meanspirited archetype. ☻

The Great EDH Challenge: Jeskai – Gavi’s Cycling Nest of Tokens

Decklist: https://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/gavis-cycling-nest-of-tokens/


Power Level: 4.7

So when I saw a commander with a name so similar to my own, I had to make her. (My name is Gavin)

Gavi revolves around cycling, drawing at least 2 cards each turn, and making tokens. Hence, this is a cycling deck with a token subtheme. You’ll feel awesome when you have a hand full of cycling cards with Gavi out. You’ll feel hopeless when you have no cards with cycling in your hand when she’s out. It can be…a very bipolar experience.

This deck is fairly close to the original precon, so I will be careful not to call it completely original. Don’t worry, this is the only deck in my challenge that is close to an existing precon. What can I say; they jam-packed the original precon with a lot of great cycling synergies. The modifications I made are a mixture of toxic and value. Cards like Containment Construct and Nezahal, Primal Tide are amazing value adds, while cards like Decree of Silence and Decree of Annihilation are just…the epitome of toxic. As I said, this deck provides quintessential bipolar gameplay.

We spend the first 5 turns setting up value engines, and ramping to Gavi if we are fortunate to draw mana rocks in our opening hand. An early Fluctuator or Teferi’s Ageless Insight makes our cycling easy and extra effective. Once Gavi is out, we start cycling to success. For long-term survivability, we only cycle to ensure that we are drawing two cards on EACH turn, if possible. We want as many Cat Dinosaurs as we can get, since they block well and attack well. Speaking of tokens, we can make a variety of them.

Ominous Seas and Hoofprints of the Stag provide passive ways for us to turn draws into powerful tokens. 8/8s and flying 4/4s excel at killing opponents, and we make them pretty easily in this deck with our constant cycling and wheeling. Valiant Rescuer and Akim, the Soaring Wind give us additional 1/1s each turn, though Akim’s six-mana ability is often just too costly to be utilized. Anointed Procession doubles our tokens, which is especially powerful when paired with one of our best token generators, the almighty Shark Typhoon.

If you don’t want to win via the slow grind of making tokens to attack with, we have two alternative win conditions that our oftentimes my main ways to victory. Psychosis Crawler and Brallin, Skyshark Rider   work as a lethal pair to allow us to kill our opponents simply by cycling and wheeling through our deck. New Perspectives makes that game-plan trivially easy. Approach of the Second Sun wins us the game when we cast it twice. It is especially great in our deck, as we can often dig to it by our next turn.

If you have cleared the board of major threats and have a value engine setup, you can lock your opponents out of the game using the Decree of Silence/Solemnity combo. It counters all of your opponents’ spells, which is oftentimes enough to make players scoop on the spot. Well, that and blowing up all lands with a Decree of Annihilation cycled for free. This is especially funny when you have a Herald of the Forgotten on the stack when you cycle it, since it will get back some of your lands. I love that big cat; it oftentimes turns the game around for us.

There is a lot of interaction in this deck. Interestingly, a bit of it can be played for free with Gavi out. Dismantling Wave clears the board of artifacts and enchantments when it is cycled, and Nimble Obstructionist can stop a game-winning ability from resolving when it is cycled. Winds of Abandon is my favorite board wipe for aggressive decks, as it clears the way for you to swing for lethal against your opponents’ big board states. Flame Blitz is funny, as it just says no to keeping planeswalkers on the field. We don’t mind, since we only run Chandra, Flamecaller, who can act as a board wipe herself.

This deck may have a few powerful cards in it, but it still isn’t much more powerful than the precon. Blowing up lands and countering all your opponents spells sounds funny, but it isn’t usually a surefire way to win. That is especially true when you can’t reliably tutor for those effects. This is a fun deck to play if you enjoy building up value engines that synergize with drawing cards. Think of it as being a loving mother who watches her kids multiply as she feeds them yummy draws, in the form of cycling and wheels. Just remember to protect your nest.

The Great EDH Challenge: BUG – Volrath’s Infect

Decklist: https://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/volraths-infection-1/


Power Level: 3.25

Ah, Infect. EDH players love to hate Infect. You should see the amount of panic that ensues once people realize that I have brought an infect deck to the table…

I’ve always had a soft spot for Volrath since first reading about him. He is the sort of colorful villain that makes stories worth reading. A rather despicable sort, he makes the perfect representative of the Phyrexians’ powerful keyword, Infect. It also helps that he is a 7/5 that can become a copy of an infect creature while still remaining a 7/5, hehe. The deck is mainly built around having him do just that.

There are only a handful of powerful Infect creatures worth running in Commander, as many are otherwise vanilla creatures with a slight upside. Creatures like Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon and Phyrexian Crusader are better than most, and play invaluable roles in making sure our opponents get to 10 poison counters, since they are reasonably evasive. We usually want counters to be placed on non-legendary creatures though so that Volrath gets the most value. Blighted Agent is a great low mana creature to put a +1/+1 counter on, while Spinebiter is an absolute house to utilize as a copy target in the late game. We usually use Volrath’s -1/-1 counter ability to kill one toughness creatures out opponents control, not to put on our own creatures. We use effect such as a Master Biomancer and Experiment Kraj to put more beneficial counters on our own valuable infect creatures. There aren’t many of these effects in the deck, so you may have to use Volrath’s -1/-1 counter on your own creatures to utilize his copy ability. And don’t forget; you can have Volrath become a copy of your opponents’ creatures if they have any kind of counter on them as well. This is helpful when you are playing against an especially powerful commander with abilities you could benefit from.

There is a clone subtheme to the deck that keeps it quite interesting. Cloning your opponents threats is always fun, especially if you neutralize that effect at the same time with cards like Wall of Stolen Identity. Both our Sakashima creatures allow us to make more Volraths, increasing both his ability to whittle away at our opponents weak creatures AND put pressure on our opponents. Remember, a 7/5 commander only has to hit 3 times for it to kill an opponent with commander damage. There are also effects that aid us in killing with even minimal infect on our opponents, such as Proliferate. Contagion Engine is a powerful threat when our opponents have any poison counters on them, even allowing us to degen their creatures at the same time. Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider is a bit of a win-more card that doubles the amount of poison counters we give to our opponents. Giving him Infect with Grafted Exoskeleton can definitely kill an opponent, and is quite flavorful!

Being BUG, we have to run plenty of removal. And hey, there is plenty of fun removal in Golgari colors. Culling Ritual has been a blast to play with since its release. This card really punishes efficient decks, destroying their mana rocks and dorks while ramping us into Volrath most of the time. Soul Shatter is a great threat hoser, since it deals with each opponent’s biggest creature or planeswalker at once. Languish is a great mid-game boardwipe that doesn’t kill Volrath, and Maelstrom Pulse is incredibly versatile, albeit at sorcery speed. Corrupted Conscience just takes an opponent’s creature, usually their commander, and gives it infect! Some of my favorite games with this deck were when I killed an opponent with infect using their own commander.

As you can probably tell, this deck is a bit all over the place. Mixing Infect with Clone effects may seem strange, but it provides us to nearly double the amount of good infect creatures in our deck. And if the infect plan doesn’t work out, we can always use our opponents’ creatures as a way to beat them. And lastly, be mindful that despite this being an oft-feared Infect deck, it really is only about as powerful as an average Commander precon. With a few tutors and more draw power, it could be a lot more powerful. But I’m happy with my sole Infect deck being a bit underpowered. It makes most of the people I play with rethink their fear of the archetype!

The Great EDH Challenge: Esper – Sen Triplets: Masters of Your Mind

Decklist: https://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/21-01-22-masters-of-your-mind/


Power Level: 6.56

Esper is my favorite color combination. The lore of the shard, the art direction they took with it…it all really wowed me. What especially wowed me was the etherium-laced humans that inhabited Esper. Whatever the opposite of “body horror” is, that’s what I felt when I saw them. I was captivated by the idea of such filigree beings. Cards like Master Transmuter and Filigree Sages enthralled me with their unique beauty. But the card that I fell in love with the most was Sen Triplets. I love everything about their card, down to the flavor text. After all, They are the masters of your mind.

This is a theft deck, themed after the Sen Triplets’ signature ability. We take pretty much every card type from our opponents, whether they be lands, sorceries, or whatever. I tried to keep a cliché Esper control theme going as well, so we have plenty of interaction. In the early game, we want to ramp using our talismans and other assorted rocks so we can play our mana-heavy theft effects early. Cards like Praetor’s Grasp and Mnemonic Betrayal are efficient theft cards, and are normally used to steal things like Sol Ring and other value pieces from our opponents. But the haymakers in the deck are costly, such as Blatant Thievery and Expropriate. These cards can usually win you the game, or put you so far ahead that your opponents scoop. Agent of Treachery is probably the best creature in the deck, since it is usually drawing us three cards each end step by the time it is played.

Never play Sen Triplets unless you can protect them. They are a kill-on-sight commander if you are playing with competent opponents, so you will need cards like Lightning Greaves and Fierce Guardianship to make sure they stick around for your next upkeep. Once they stick, the Sen Triplets warp the game around them. Our opponents will crap out their hands just to avoid having their cards stolen by us. Just be mindful that the Sen Triplets is an older card, so it doesn’t have that ubiquitous text of modern-day theft effects; “You may spend mana as though it were any color to cast that spell”. You will need the colors of mana of the card you want to cast from your opponent’s hand, so prioritize choosing opponents who are in your color first.

This is a pretty mean deck, and most people will not want to play against it if they are aware of what the Sen Triplets do. That doesn’t change the fact that this is a fun deck to play, though. Maybe it is the sadist in me, but I take such delight in playing theft effects. If you do as well, then this is definitely the deck for you. You can win with your opponents’ threats, which is always interesting!

The Great EDH Challenge: Naya – Samut’s Anthem

Decklist: https://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/samuts-anthem/


Power Level: 3

I love commanders with haste. You know what’s better than a commander with haste? A commander with haste, double strike, and vigilance, that gives all your creatures haste!

I was amazed by Samut when she was first spoiled. This was a legendary black woman with a heck of a lot of power and utility. Plus, as an anarchist myself, “Voice of Dissent” sounds pretty badass. She wasn’t played much in Standard, but I knew that I wanted to make a commander deck with her at the helm someday. Well, that day came a little over a year ago. This deck has a special theme; it revolves around anthem effects, or effects that buff the power and/or toughness of all of your creatures. I originally wanted to make a voltron deck, but I figured that that would be a waste of Samut’s ability to give your other creatures haste.

This deck usually spends the first few turns ramping with cards like Three Visits and Into the North so that we can play our mana-hungry cards during the mid-game. This deck has a pretty high mana curve, so we usually need to spend longer setting up than our opponents. One spell a turn is what you should expect for the first seven turns. Because of this, this deck is really only suited to play with other casual decks, and makes a great companion to precons. If you don’t mind the slower pace of the deck, you will enjoy doing the math when you’re swinging a board with 4 or more anthem effects in play. Swinging a board with Iroas, God of Victory made a creature with devotion heavy lords like Balefire Liege and Angel of Jubilation is quite fun, but does take a bit of set-up.

All in all, this tends to be a battle-cruiser deck that sets-up to play a board of big creatures that empower each other for big swings. Samut can be a quick clock on her own, but is especially dangerous when you have a creature like Boartusk Liege out. And hey, our buddy Odric, Lunarch Marshal loves sharing her Double strike and Vigilance with the rest of the team. If you don’t want to get blown out shortly after playing a few creatures with this deck, hold back until you can make a decisively big swing against a problem opponent. This is generally a very weak deck, so choose your opponents wisely.

The Great EDH Challenge: Bant – Derevi’s Evasive Stax

Decklist: https://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/derevis-evasive-stax/


Power Level: 6.2

I used to hate Derevi. I used to think that she deserved to be banned. Having the ability to always pay only 4 mana to put her onto the battlefield from the command zone at instant speed infuriated me. I thought that she violated the spirit of EDH, and that her insane value eclipsed all other commanders. She was the advent of the end of “EDH”, and the dawn of this corporatized version then officially dubbed “Commander”.

Then I built a Derevi deck.

So this deck is not as powerful as many of the Derevi decks I’ve seen over the years. It is a stax deck, so it is definitely still annoying to play. However, it always feels a tad bit slow and janky, so I think I have reached a casual-compromise, if that is possible with such a powerful commander. This deck plays a mix of evasive and value-generating creatures to put pressure on opponents. We hopefully lock our opponents out of playing a normal game by assembling a lock with combos like Heliod, God of the SunStasis, and plenty of evasive creatures while Derevi is out. It is a simple mission, and one that I have rarely actually achieved with this deck.

This deck tends to durdle a bit, not having the tutors and sheer draw necessary to get the pieces we need consistently. This is intentional, as a consistent Derevi Stax deck is hell on earth. This deck takes it easy for the first several turns, as you play your unblockable, otherwise vanilla one-drops like Triton Shorestalker. We essentially slowly begin locking down the game and changing its rules by the middle of the game, playing cards like Hokori, Dust Drinker and the always-hated Static Orb. With Derevi out, we break stax parity with our opponents by using our attacking creatures to untap our own mana sources while sometimes tapping down our opponents’. This strategy is only good with cards like Brave the Sands out, which gives all of our creatures vigilance.

I leaned much more heavily into the blue/green side of things with this deck, enjoying the value Simic tends to generate. Cards like Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath and Oko, Thief of Crowns generate a ton of value all on their own. Speaking of Oko, we have a planeswalker subtheme, running powerful walkers like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Tamiyo, Field Researcher to further outvalue our opponents. Since our deck is full of creatures, we oftentimes have little trouble protecting our planeswalkers. And hey, planeswalkers are pretty much unaffected by stax cards, making them even more powerful in breaking stax symmetry with our opponents. And speaking of cards that break symmetry, Narset, Parter of Veils is the definition of that concept.

I made this deck because I wanted to challenge my assumptions about the power level of certain cards. If anything, this deck has helped show me that it’s more about how you play certain cards that decide whether they are toxic or not.

This deck is what I’d like to call a “casual stax” deck, lacking many of the pieces that could make it far more powerful. I guess Derevi’s reputation has waned over the years, as I am rarely if ever complained to about running her. She tends to be a small bird that helps my creatures untap lands when they hit my opponents. Not very threatening sounding, is it? Well, looks can be deceiving.

The Great EDH Challenge: Mardu – Kelsien Human Equipment Deathtouch Pingers

Decklist: https://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/kelsien-human-equipment-deathtouch-pingers/


Power Level: 6.5

Hey there, it’s been a while! I am finally playing EDH again, thank goodness! I will be back to writing a new deck article at least once a month again, hopefully!

The title is a mouthful, but it best describes the smorgasbord of stuff in this deck. You wouldn’t think such an “eclectic” mix of themes would mesh well together, but they actually do! This is a dynamic, powerful deck that assembles all sorts of pieces to gain a firm grip over the battlefield at all stages of the game.

Typically, this deck plays Kelsien as soon as possible, gives him deathtouch in a myriad of different ways, and starts attacking. It is usually best to ruthlessly go after problematic commanders shortly after they are played, so you can get the most out of Kelsien’s pinpoint removal ability. He permanently gets bigger when you do, after all. The fact that he has fast makes it hilariously easy for him to come out swinging if he gets killed. I have always had a love of hasty commanders, and Kelsien is one of the most versatile hasty boys! And hey, he was already masked up before mask mandates were being put in place!

So, let’s break down the 4 themes of the deck, and how they synergize.

Humans 

The bulk of our creatures are humans. A versatile and diverse lot, this tribe is known for being able to do pretty much anything. In the case of our deck, humans serve two purposes; pingers and support. Our best pingers are humans, including Kelsien. Jeska, Warrior Adept and her brother Kamahl, Pit Fighter are hasty pingers that come out swinging or pinging. General’s Enforcer gives those three indestructible, and Riders of Gavony protects them from a specific tribal deck that we may be going against. Species Specialist rewards us for going after tribal decks (or having our own humans die), and Magus of the Wheel refills our hand. Keeper of the Accord keeps us from falling behind everyone else, as does an early game Weathered WayfarerPuresteel Paladin massively synergizes with our equipment theme, while Onyx Mage turns on our deathtouch theme. Another fun fact is that Sun Titan gets back almost all of our humans from the graveyard, including Kelsien!

Equipment 

This deck boasts over 12 equipment cards, and 4 of the premium swords of protection. These equipment are normally used to voltron up Kelsien, but they can be slapped onto many of our creatures if we need to go wide. Otherwise bad equipment like Gorgon’s Head and Gorgon Flail turn on our deathtouch theme when we attach them to pingers, so they play an important role. When you combine them with Thornbite Staff, you have mass creature removal on a stick. Illusionist’s Bracers sometimes allows Kelsien to get double experience counters from killing a two-toughness creature. And hey, cards like Sword of Feast and Famine are just good. Stoneforge Mystic and Stonehewer Giant are great tutors for our equipment, and Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist saves us from spending lots of mana to equip multiple things.

Deathtouch 

Lest we forget, our pingers are pretty mediocre as removal unless we give them deathtouch. Weak cards like Aspect of Gorgon and Retreat to Hagra are only useful in decks such as this. Archetype of Finality and Zagras, Thief of Heartbeats give our whole team deathtouch, which is awesome when he have 3+ pingers out. Gift of Doom is one of my favorite deathtouch-enabling cards, as it also gives indestructible, and can be one heck of a combat trick! Vorpal Sword can straight up kill someone, and Quietus Spike is pretty vicious too.

Pingers 

This is lowkey the most important theme of the deck to me. For me, Kelsien is pinger first, and a human second. Spreading death with toxic arrows seems to be what he is all about. He is the Plague, after all. He is what these four themes are built around, and why giving my pingers deathtouch is so important. You usually aren’t killing creatures with one damage alone, after all. Deathbringer Thoctar and Goblin Sharpshooter are board-wipes on a stick when given deathtouch, making them the ultimate plague pingers. Blood Cultist gets bigger with each creature she kills, just like Kelsien. She also lookts like a vampire, though she is a human for some reason. And hey, Death Pits of Rath turns all our pingers into instant-speed murderers, so no need to jump through extra hoops to give them deathtouch.

This deck is a lot of fun, and is also very powerful. When you combine the machinery of assembling instant-speed pinpoint removal engines with efficient tutors, you are constantly dominating the board in each game you play. This deck has little problem winning against creature decks, and can even go low to the ground to put pressure on midrange decks. This deck struggles against removal and board-wipe heavy control decks, as it is a creature deck itself. In those instances, focus on going after the control player first, so they don’t dominate you later on when you’ve already killed the non-control decks. Kelsien has haste, and stays big thanks to his experience counters, so don’t be afraid to have him kill creatures and beat faces!

Brandon

I haven’t been able to play Magic for quite a few weeks now, but I wanted to write something for this blog. This is unrelated to MtG, and a bit depressing. I recommend not reading further if you aren’t into sad, personal stuff.


When I was 17, I met a guy 2 years older than me when I was a senior. He was a high school dropout who hung around a few of my friends, as it was a small town and people kept in contact for years. He ended up cornering me one day on my way home, gave me a ride home, and we ended up being together for a year.

Thing was, he was seriously damaged. He’d been abused constantly as a kid by his father, who ended up getting arrested 5 years prior to me meeting him. He (my ex) had been addicted to hard drugs since he was a kid, though he’d been relatively sober while I was with him. He just couldn’t cope on his own with all he’d suffered, and I became his therapist/mother/father/everything while we were together.

He also liked to play around with guns. He had a hefty collection; being born and raised out in the country like myself. He would grip his pistol when he was feeling anxious, which he kept in his car and his room. He had a habit of waving it around when he went on one of his rants, something I ended up getting used to after a few weeks. Telling him to put it away would just make him threaten you with it, but he’d just as quickly start laughing and tell you he wouldn’t hurt a fly. I believed him…he was so capable of kindness and affection, when he wasn’t raging about some great injustice he’d seen or experienced. But then again, that may have been another manifestation of his good nature.

He lived with his mother, who was all but despondent the few times I saw her. She took care of elderly people in their homes, so she was rarely home. He basically did whatever he wanted, had the run of the house like it was his. I felt for him, not having a parent around that gave a damn. He’d told me it’d been like that for as long as he remembered, which was another reason his father got away with all he did to him for so long. We bonded over the lack of parental bonds; I too am an orphan.

The real trouble began when I started college full-time, in the next town over. Once summer break was over, I got busy with my courses, and he hated it. I’d tell him that I needed to study, but all he wanted was for me to be with him. He had this need for me to not just be physically near him, but touching him. I’d loved his love of physical affection, having been deprived of that my whole life, but I just couldn’t do it 24/7 anymore. He needed me; like I was his drug. But I was starting to get absorbed in my schoolwork. When I wasn’t with him, and when I told him the reasons, he got angrier and angrier.

It culminated in me wanting to spend Thanksgiving out of town with my adoptive family. He got so mad at me, that I was leaving him for a week. He pulled his pistol on me, in the heat of the argument in his room. He screamed at me the words I’d gotten used to hearing when he didn’t get what he wanted from me…”I’m your fucking boyfriend!!!” I’d had enough at that point, especially seeing him pointing a gun at me from across the room. I burst out laughing at him, so annoyed with the constant drama. He would normally start laughing at that point, and put the gun away, but he started crying. I’ll never forget how he sounded, bawling with the pistol in his hand, as he started scratching his head with it. I walked out of his room, and walked home in the middle of the night. I was done…I’d given up on him.

I saw him a handful of times after I got back from my trip. I found myself increasingly apathetic to him, even when he’d be extra sweet to me as an apology for his last meltdown. I ultimately broke up with him over the phone, worried what he’d do if I’d told him to his face. I expected him to call me nonstop for days, to come to my place and honk his horn nonstop until a neighbor called the police (which he’d done on occasion). To my surprise, he just accepted that I didn’t want to see him again. I didn’t see him after that phone call, and I didn’t hear anything from him directly. A few mutual friends told me that he was heartbroken; that he’d been crying for days. But I couldn’t be bothered to care anymore. I was so drained by him at that point that I’d forgotten how much I’d loved him. I’d forgotten about the nonstop kisses he’d give me, all the late night conversations about anything and everything, and the way our heads would spin with overwhelming pleasure when we had sex. I…was emotionally vacant for weeks after the breakup.

A little over 6 months later, I ended up getting a call from his mother, which had happened only 3 or 4 times. She sounded terrible, like she’d been chain-smoking for a week straight. She told me that her son had killed himself, that “he shot his brains out all over his headboard”. When she said that, the image of his rusty metal power rangers headboard flashed into my head, Just as the shock and disbelief hit me, she told me that he’d blamed me for his suicide in his suicide note. She said it in a suddenly spiteful way, like a one-two punch to my soul. I couldn’t say anything…I just held the phone while she spoke, unloading all of these random facts about the suicide to me after she blamed me for it. How the police told her he’d probably been dead for hours, since she’d gotten home around 2am when she found him. I just froze…I didn’t even move while she spoke. She ended the call by telling me that the funeral was in a few days, and that I could come; that she’d been mulling it over to even let me. I managed to thank her. I immediately felt like I’d said the absolute wrong thing, then she hung up on me. I started shaking, tears coming to my eyes, but I didn’t cry. I just….I still to this day don’t know why I couldn’t cry, but I didn’t. I just laid down, shook some more, and fell asleep.

I can barely remember the funeral. I recall being the only black guy there (my ex was Italian), and the service being very somber, but I can’t remember what was said. I had my head down the whole time, ashamed that I was there. His mother was crying the whole time…and I remember being mad at her. She was barely ever there for him, and yet she was crying. It pissed me off, because I couldn’t even empathize with her. As the service ended, and I was heading back to my adoptive mother’s car, his mother stopped me. She managed to yell her son’s words at me.

“You were his fucking boyfriend!”

She yelled at me, making a scene at the funeral. I started to say sorry, started to cry, but the friend I went with grabbed me and got me into the car. My friend kept saying “You should be ashamed of yourself. He loved that boy.” to my ex’s mother. I continued to hold my head down in shame as she gave me a compassionate talk on our way home. I wasn’t even listening…I was just going over the reality in my head…that I would never be able to make things right with my ex ever again, because he’d just been buried in the ground.

A year later, my dead ex’s mother sent me a long Facebook message apologizing for the way she’d talked to me at the funeral. She admitted to some of the negligence everyone knew she had shown him. It made me tear up a bit, while I read through her humble words. She’d attached pictures of my ex’s 4 page suicide note, which I couldn’t believe. Reading through it dredged up a lot of feelings that I’d left behind months ago, and it tore through me. The letter was filled with vitriol for his family, especially his parents. He truly hated them…more than he’d even told me while we were together. He’d always made it sound like he’d forgiven them for the bad they’d done to him, but the note made it clear that he hadn’t.
On the last page, in the last paragraph…he spoke about me. He called me his rock, his sunshine in the rain. It was more like a poem than the rage-filled hate letter he’d written to his family. It made me smile, reading the first few sentences, until I got to the last one.

“If only he’d stuck around, I wouldn’t have had to do this.”

When I read that, I finally cried. I started bawling like he’d bawled when I laughed at him. I hated myself, I truly and completely hated myself for leaving him. I yelled, and started beating my chest. I curled up in a ball on my bed, and wanted to die. I wanted to die and go to hell for what I’d done. I cried myself to sleep…exhausted in a way I hadn’t felt since I was a kid after a brutal beating.

It took me years to stop blaming myself for his death. Years of studying psychology, years of traveling and meeting people who’d been through similar relationships.
But I suppose…I never completely stopped believing that. It’s more like I stopped thinking about my dead ex; spreading out my remembrances of him to a twice a year affair. Twice a year, I spend a day or two crying and useless, unable to do anything but despair about the loss of my dear handsome love…my Italian stallion….my big man…and all the other things I called him affectionately. Sometimes it’s the way a random guy laughs that sends me into reverie about him…a reverie that becomes a nightmare. I still hear him yelling at me in my head…

“I’m your fucking boyfriend!”

Sometimes I’ll wake up hearing it; like a curse. But sometimes I wake up feeling his big hands rubbing my back, or his thick brown hair rolling through my fingers. I wish I had more memories like that. I wish….urgh, it doesn’t matter. It’s too late, either way.