Some people have an easy choice when it comes to what deck to play. They have one deck. So they play that one. Some people have a pet deck they’ve played for years, maybe decades, in a format like Vintage or Legacy. Some have the ‘best deck,’ or a highly competitive deck for a format like Standard or Modern, and will cash it in for the next hawtness if it becomes obsolete. Some want to make a minimal investment and only maintain a single entry in their favourite format, like Pauper or Commander.
But I find a lot of Commander players tend to be like me. They don’t have a specific deck, they have more of a collection, either of decks and/or boxes of cards. They don’t want to play one style all the time, and they want to be able to try the new release when it’s still sizzling. Oh, and they want to do all this and not spend the whole discretionary budget. Being an eternal, singleton format really helps this kind of player, as we can keep staples and such on hand, and build what’s new and cool, without having to buy entire decks every time.
I try to bring something different to each Commander Challenge I play, or at least something I haven’t played in a long time. I do have several long-standing pet decks I play at specific times of year, but I try not to repeat myself much. You’ll probably see my Hapatra deck around the Ides of March, and my Marchesa deck in March, too, if I can squeak it in (this year I did). I have Karametra for some point in the Spring, and a couple of varieties of Zombie decks for late October. Building for the season, or to acknowledge a specific date, has been a great motivator for deckbuilding.
This upcoming challenge is mid-September, which is a bit of a lull time. I could make my deck about ‘Back to School’, or ‘Changing Leaves’ (please steal these ideas) but I’m not really feeling those. I’d rather use a deck I already have, and maybe give it some updates from the most recent sets. Throne of Eldraine is coming up fast, and sometimes when a new set is due, I’ll play a deck that isn’t going to get much from that set, so after release I can focus on decks and concepts that get the most of the new splash.
Commander 19 is still fresh, and I’m down to kick one of the concepts around. I think Madness isn’t enough of its own thing apart from discard, and Morph is gummy. I like Flashback, but more as cameos in other decks. That leaves Populate. I actually have a deck that might use a bit of populate. It also copies stuff. I haven’t seen a lot of copy shenanigans in Throne, or a lot of technomancer/steampunk. The Dwarves don’t seem to be the jetpack Dwarves of recent sets. Add this all up and I’ve got a deck I want to play: Thopulator. That deck can be found here.
I’m going to highlight some of my choices, including the Commanders, and some of the cards I’m not playing. Feel free to make changes if you want to try this concept.
That goes for adding expensive mana upgrades and tutors, too. I don’t think it’s really valuable for me to point out that stuff though. If you have a Volcanic Island and you think it should be in your version of this deck, I wholeheartedly agree. But if you want to build this deck from scratch, that same card isn’t recommended until you know you love this deck or want to build many Izzet (red/blue) decks. Or you have a lot of spare cash to spend. Same goes for tutors. Pointing out that a tutor would look good in your deck is like saying that adding a second copy of all your good cards would be good. No kidding. I don’t play tutors, and don’t have many expensive lands. I hope that means that you might find more interesting niche cards in my lists.
Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker and Tana, the Bloodsower are in charge. The Commanders I use for this deck are mostly for colour, and don’t really suggest a strategy, but if you kinda squint a little, you can see Ishai as the best among Flyers, and Tana as a great producer of Tokens. Flyers + Tokens = Token Flyers = Thopters!
This could easily be a Brudiclad deck, as it’s mostly Izzet, but I really wanted to play green for a few key spells, and one key land. Spitting Image, Progenitor Mimic, Cryptolith Rite, and Alchemist’s Refuge were too good to pass up.
I played this at the Challenge once before, but with Kraum and Tana as Commanders. I love Kraum. I once drew 11 cards off a single casting of Kraum. I could build Kraum decks all day, and have. Kraum is actually in charge of 2 other decks of mine. Kraum gave me the big Flyer for this deck, but when I shipped him to the other decks, Ishai slipped right in and added a fourth colour.
White gives me Glare of Subdual, and could also give me Aura Shards. Aura Shards is a gamble. It’s sooooooo good, but man does it get crosshairs on it right away. Those crosshairs get transferred to you if you use it more than a couple of times and opponents see that it’s worse than they thought. I have an Aura Shards in another deck that doesn’t poop creatures into play all day like this deck. I feel like here it would get me too much hate.
My main plan with this deck is to make Thopters. Thopters on their own are no real threat, so I have to try and make them into something like that. I dropped Thopter Assembly and Thopter Squadron, as they require a lot of work, and I’m trying to do that work towards the ETB angle of most thopter-producers. More on that below.
Kyren Negotiations is a spicy piece of tech. Lots of go-wide strategies could use this card. I’m a little concerned about this with Unwinding Clock. It might be a game winner, or the reason the table decided to gang up on me. Having non-combat ways to deal damage is important, though. Ghirapur Aether Grid fulfills a similar function.
Since I make a pile of artifact creatures, Reckless Fireweaver seemed like a great idea. I love obscure commons that do work. Impact Tremors is dangerous, and though I could play Purphoros, God of the Forge, and it would be on theme, it’s too oppressive. I don’t think Purphoros gets votes.
I mentioned Cryptolith Rite above, but I also want to mention Inspiring Statuary. I play this in a number of concepts, including this one. I find it’s awesome for casting Eldrazi, if you do that sort of thing, and really sneaky amazing for turning things like Equipment into Commander tax. Inspiring.
This deck runs plenty of ETB effects, so Panharmonicon is a must. Proteus Staff is great for Commander removal, but also turns a spare thopter or token copy of something into another creature that comes with an ETB effect of its own.
Fusing the ETB effects with copy effects is stuff like Flameshadow Conjuring. Copying my thopter-makers makes thopters that don’t expire at the end of the turn. Minion Reflector and Mirror March help out a lot, too.
Brudiclad is an epic payoff for making interesting token copies of things. Mimic Vat, Rite of Replication and Helm of the Host should be no surprise by now, but Hate Mirage has insane potential here.
Faerie Artisans seems criminally underplayed to me. You get all the nontoken ETBs your opponents get with this. Plus you should have a body to use on your turn, not to mention tons of ETBs for Impact Tremors, etc.
A few of my cards fill a number of roles, while adding some reactive options. Cards like Feldon of the Third Path, Goblin Welder, Phyrexian Metamorph, and the incredible Clever Impersonator do a lot of work, and can be used for all sorts of tricks.
I’m not playing things like anthems, or type-buffers. No Favorable Winds, or Master Trinketeer. The upside of making a couple of 1/1s into 2/2s isn’t where I want to be. I’d rather make double my 1/1s. Type-buffers like Vanquisher’s Banner really suffer in a deck like this, because the creatures I cast and the ones I want to buff aren’t the same type. I cast a bunch of humans and vedalkens and most are artificers, but not enough of one single type to make the card draw worthwhile, and naming those types would mean no buff for my thopters.
I’m also not running many answers. I have Cyclonic Rift, which a lot of people think should be banned. I try to use it to save games, not roll eyes, but it may cost me to play it.
While I took a good hard look at populate, I didn’t end up playing any of it. It mostly has to do with timing. I need populate most around my combat step, and really only considered Ghired, Conclave Exile. I still am considering him, actually. The big stumbling block is the Rhino token. I love Rhinos, but they’re not really super compatible with thopters. The rest of populate was fine, but stapled to things I didn’t need or want to do, or that seemed narrow.
Full Flowering was a tough cut, but I see it stranded in my hand with nothing but thopters to copy. I might get that legendary turn where I make 30 copies of Whirler Rogue, but it seems like a win-more. I feel like this wants to copy Hydras.
Sundering Growth and Rootborn Defenses were also tough cuts. Timing was the issue, not utility. Growing Ranks and Ghired’s Belligerence also suffered from poor timing, as well as being underwhelming. Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice was another late cut, with a daunting mana cost. Like the Rhinos, she also seems a little off-theme.
The cards that did make the cut from C19 are almost all from the Flashback deck. Dockside Extortionist is probably going to be a card that jumps from deck to deck.
I have really high hopes for Ignite the Future. If it plays as well as I think, I might have to pick up a few more copies.
I’m giving Leadership Vacuum a spin. It seems good, but I want to see it in action.
Wall of Stolen Identity is a cool piece of tech. There are a few really amazing things to copy with this, like Chasm Skulker and Rubinia Soulsinger. I think Arcades the Strategist just about flipped over when this was spoiled. Does anybody still play that deck? Remember when Shield Sphere spiked in price? Phenax, God of Deception probably likes this, too.
Finally, the populate deck gets one card into my build with this humdinger. I think Idol of Oblivion is going to be a beast for me, especially with the old Unwinding Clock. Speaking of which, it’s time to wrap this up.
So that’s what I’m playing this weekend. I hope to see you out at the Commander Challenge at The Connection Games & Hobbies in Vancouver, BC. I will be covering my games and other stuff from the Challenge, so watch out for that this weekend. Thanks for reading!