Hey Commander Enthusiasts! Welcome to part 3 of my mini-series on devotion and enchantments! Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here. This time I’ll be looking at the 5 uncommon demigods, and how they might function as Commanders. I’ll be capping it off with a short look at 5 colour devotion, and an idea for a deck, commanded by Progenitus.
But first, the new demigods! The demigods fall into 2 main types, those with power equal to devotion, and those with toughness. I’m not going to get too far into how to do a voltron strategy in Commander, but the power devotion creatures suit that strategy perfectly. In short, you buff up your Commander and try to win primarily with Commander damage. This cuts the damage per kill down significantly, and ignores decks that gain copious amounts of life. There are 3 pretty critical types of cards to include, cards that boost attack, cards that provide protection, and cards that negate defense.
Boosting attack is more than just boosting power. Number of strikes and number of attack phases matter.
Providing protection can mean Indestructible, but it can also mean something like Hexproof, or even Regeneration. Or Protection from, which is powerful but can be narrow.
Negating defense usually means unblockable. Whispersilk Cloak here is actually a lousy voltron card because Shroud makes most further voltroning impossible as the creature can’t be targeted at all. Rogue’s Passage, a land that can go in any deck, is better.
The Swords are among the ultimate voltron cards, because they do all of the above, plus. Naturally it’s important to back up your strategy with things like removal, boardwipes, anti-artifact/enchantment/planeswalker cards, etc. I think that’s pretty basic, so I’m not going to bother much with that, or the various pieces of equipment that with turn your Commander into a killshot. I want to talk about how each Commander can use devotion, and their colour, to make a unique build. In the case of the voltron devotion Commanders, I also want to talk about back-up plans, for when the voltron is stopped cold.
It’s funny, I think Anax (and Callaphe and Renata) could be a decent Commander just based on devotion-equals-power alone. With a low casting cost, in a colour that does haste well, Anax should be ready to hit hard, early and often. The first consideration should be a good number of haste outlets. Swiftfoot Boots, Escape Velocity, Flamekin Village, Hanweir Battlements, Hammer of Purphoros, and even Fleetfeather Sandals can do a lot of work, and some provide decent devotion or other bonuses. Static haste bonuses like Fervor are great too, but provide less secondary value.
Boosting Anax’s power is pretty easy. I mentioned cards like Aggravated Assault and Dictate of the Twin Gods in the previous parts of this series. A powerful Anax and creatures to trigger his secondary ability naturally suggest Ferocious.
New card Furious Rise should play well here, as it will ‘draw you cards’ if you’re ‘Ferocious.’ Cards like Outpost Siege and Vance’s Blasting Cannons are similar ‘card draw’ engines that provide a point of devotion each.
Anax’s secondary ability is cool, but if he’s going to the Command Zone, he won’t trigger it himself. Having 4+ power creatures that have a lot of red pips is pretty great idea.
Torbran, Thane of Red Fell is terrific, despite the lack of ferocity, adding 5 power to Anax.
The Satyr tokens present an interesting back-up plan. While they aren’t going to do ground-based combat any better than your Commander, they can go wide. So stuff that increases all of your creatures’ power is a good idea, like new mana rock Heraldic Banner. It helps Anax too, with a pseudo-devotion of 1.
Put it all together and you have a deck that builds two main strategies, and turns them into a third. A massive aggressive Anax can target one opponent, when a bevy of Ferocious red threats can target another. As the battle goes long, Anax can either clean up, or have the go-wide Satyr support corps take out the last player. In Christmasland of course. Red decks have an uphill battle, but a multi-pronged attack with a decent backup plan is a good start.
Callaphe has some limited protection built-in. And while it extends to other creatures, it might not be worth playing too many. In the previous parts of this series, there were a couple of enchantments that provided tap/untap effects, and that’s where I’d focus.
Tapdown is a great way to nullify both opposing attackers and blockers. While it struggles against go-wide strategies, blue has some interesting boardwipes that bounce by CMC, like Displacement Wave, that can clean up tokens and low CMC dorks.
A strategy of loading Callaphe up and making her the major killshot for all of your opponents suits blue much better than red, as the protection via countermagic is much better. I would still have a fair amount of protection handy for Callaphe, even with her ability, because single-target removal is only one of a few ways opponents plan to kill your stuff.
Archetype of Imagination is the poster card for Callaphe. She makes it harder to target, and it makes her tough to block. Plus some devotion. Thassa, God of the Sea works pretty well, too, providing unblockable, scry, and a big indestructible body that plays well into the devotion plan as a blocker or secondary voltron threat.
I would probably try and do a lot of enchantment-based removal, for the pips. Imprisoned in the Moon and newcomer One with the Stars offer an interesting and effective way to deal with opposing bruisers. Tapdown auras are a budget alternative, and can be surprisingly effective. Watch out for sac outlets.
With an enchantment-heavy build already, cards that copy them or recur them will probably round out the deck. I would take a good look at the Sagas, and any of the army-in-a-can creatures, like Chasm Skulker, as back-up plans in case Callaphe is stolen or something. And of course, since blue draws cards so well, some ways to keep your hand full at all times is great. Rhystic Study seems good, despite only providing a single pip. Haha. I initially thought Callaphe would be quick killer, but I think it could be much grindier and controlling, where the devotion count builds up passively. Seems strong.
Speaking of strong, Renata, Called to the Hunt also seems like she could passively pile up devotion. The strengths of green can really shine here, with massive power/toughness boosts, trample, and mana ramp all playing a part.
I don’t really need to tell you that Llanowar Elves will provide a point of devotion as well as mana on a dork body. The trick here, I think, is getting around the issues green has. Making sure you have haste is pretty important, and Crashing Drawbridge is yet another outlet that works really well with mana dorks as well as Commanders. Both in the same turn sometimes.
Concordant Crossroads is a big gamble, but can win games. You do get a point of devotion. Instill Energy might end up doing the same thing, for Renata-centric builds.
If you want to go full pips, and make that your main source of power, you can play stuff like Lightning Greaves and Whispersilk Cloak. Both give shroud, but if you’re swimming in green pips, it hardly matters.
Cards like Abundance provide a lot of velocity, and if you want to shell out, can lead to Sylvan Library. Greater Good is always a great, good option. Into the Wilds works surprisingly well.
Green is vulnerable to things like boardwipes, and specific angles of attack, like flying creatures. But investing in a lot of enchantments that draw cards, and playing a lot of lands, makes you pretty resilient. New cards like Nylea’s Intervention can address a weakness without being a dead card otherwise.
I haven’t mentioned the +1/+1 counter ability, but I think it could play well with a voltron plan. Cards like Forgotten Ancient will pile counters on Renata.
Beyond that, the options are pretty wide, including hydras, spikes, persist creatures, etc. All have their benefits, and can be part of a suitable back-up plan.
All in all, Renata is likely to look like a green goodstuff deck, because she does very green things, and doing very green things benefits her. Even the durdliest green decks can pile up the pips, and Renata can kill out of nowhere. Don’t sleep on this new, powerful threat.
Daxos, Blessed by the Sun gains a lot of life. But… that’s unrelated to his devotion. It’s easy to gain life, especially in white, and the only trick is finding payoffs.
Dawn of Hope is one of the best lifegain payoffs in recent times, and Well of Lost Dreams works pretty well at drawing cards, too.
Aetherflux Reservoir simply kills people as a lifegain payoff. There are even a few ‘you win the game’ cards that care about high life totals, like Felidar Sovereign and Test of Endurance. But all of these ignore poor Daxos’ toughness. What can we do?
Animal Boneyard is included here because it’s pretty silly. The effect is real if you’ve got a big-butt Daxos and a life-based wincon on board, but it’s tough to imagine this being worth a card in your stack unless it’s a land. Miren, the Moaning Well, is that land.
A sacrifice outlet that supports your strategy, just to keep your Commander from being stolen, and your other stuff from theft and exile alike, is always a worthwhile include.
Gate Smasher isn’t necessary at all. There aren’t that many ways to give your Commander trample, but there are plenty that are better than this. I’m just reaching deep for toughness payoffs.
Oh here we go! Go figure it would be a card printed in 2019. This can turn Daxos into a killer. Gauntlets of Light is even a cool name. Too bad it’s an aura, but I doubt you’ll forget being killed by this.
Peregrine Mask is here to demonstrate possibly the only really practical use of Daxos’ devotion toughness, and that’s as a wall. A big enough Daxos will block just about anything blockable, helping protect the inevitable lifegain strategy that will probably be driving the deck.
Tymaret, Chosen from Death is a tough sell as a build-around. If I were going mono-black devotion, I’d probably look at either Erebos first. Unlike Daxos above, Tymaret depends on graveyards being stocked to make any use of his other ability, and it really doesn’t lend much to any payoffs.
Gravestorm is a great source of devotion, and plays extremely well with Tymaret’s ability. Gravestorm wants empty yards, so you can draw cards. There are plenty of decent black cards that provide tons of devotion while also drawing tons of cards.
But like Daxos, devotion doesn’t amount to much.
We can gain more life, mostly through sacrifice, but that’s a shrug from me. Sure most of the black card draw enchantments require a life payment, but a starting 40 is often enough to make sure you can draw a few.
One thought is keeping everyone else from gaining life, or using Tainted Remedy to reverse the flow. And grinding them down.
Decimator Web is an option for that, attacking from multiple angles at once.
Mindcrank helps keep the graveyards full for Tymaret to exile, though it doesn’t contribute anything else, and may enable an opponent who would love to fill their graveyard.
Just about the jankiest thing you can do to kill three opponents is to take the old Isochron Scepter and load it up with Transmutation.
Like Daxos and Gauntlets of Light, this will make for one heck of a story if you can pull it off. In black this can probably be put together with tutors. Overall, I think Tymaret might be a bit of stretch, and at best, a one time meme Commander. There are simply better options, and too few payoffs.
Altar of the Pantheon is a great option for all of the above decks, regardless of their need for multiple colours of mana. A point of devotion from a mana rock, plus incidental lifegain is rockin’. And if you ever steal anything for any reason, or cast from an opponent’s deck, any colour of mana is a good thing to have one of.
Nyx Lotus is probably also a good idea. Stacking up devotion? This seems good. Except…. There is one devotion concept that might not want Nyx Lotus. Or even Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx.
That concept is five-colour devotion! First off, this is one of two things, either a fun janky pile, or an actual serious attempt at a playable deck. If you want a fun janky pile, grab all the gods and demigods and all the fun multicolour cards you have. Well, actually don’t do that. I’ve done it, and seen it done. It’s kind of like Superfriends using a pile of Planeswalkers. One or two dominate, and the rest sit around providing a lack of synergy. If the dominators don’t appear, or get smashed by the table, the deck can only sputter.
If there’s a trick to building 5C devotion, it’s taking the commonality of the gods, and finding their synergies and breakdowns. The first thing we can look to build around is indestructible. Boardwipes are not only ideal with indestructible gods, they’re also usually right on theme. Wrath of God is a great mix of power and theme. Supreme Verdict is uncounterable, but is currently very expensive.
It’s also possible to play enchantment-wipes like Tranquility, Paraselene or Back to Nature, knowing it will leave your gods alone.
Enchantments are very powerful in Commander, and having a way to kill all of them at once is super handy. Austere Command and Cleansing Nova go one step farther, and offer a modular boardwipe that can take out enchantments and artifacts, too.
The second way to look at 5C devotion is by what the big payoffs are. We can play them all. Gray Merchant of Asphodel is so strong that even the possibility of a few black pips makes him worth it, and the ETB ability is worth noting.
We have a payoff here with an obvious point of synergy in another devotion colour, new Thassa.
Thassa blinks creatures, and could easily be blinking Gary every turn. Add Purphoros, God of the Forge for another ETB payoff, and we’ve got some strategy cooking.
Leveraging ETB effects is common strategy in Commander. The token-making ability of Heliod, God of the Sun, and card draw ability of Ephara, God of the Polis suit this, too.
You don’t have to just play all the gods. We can stop at ones that don’t jive much, like Pharika, God of Affliction.
Any creatures beyond the gods can be ETB allstars. The titan and cavalier cycles spring to mind. And we can do some reanimation and recursion with Athreos and the other Athreos. Having sacrifice outlets on hand is a necessity.
I didn’t mention Maelstrom Nexus in the previous devotion posts, but I can here. I’m always looking for places to play this card.
Starfield of Nyx and Opalescence are massive recursion engines, and cards like Open the Vaults will help too if lots of your creatures are enchantments, too.
Like I said above, sac outlets are a must, in part because of things like theft and exile. Hedging against stuff like this is important when playing strong sticky threats. If they’re hard for your opponents to remove, they’ll probably be hard for you too. Bring some exile of your own. The other weakness of the gods is getting stuck a few pips shy of devotion and watching a ragtag band of random creatures poke you to death.
Pillowfort enchantments like Propaganda, Ghostly Prison etc, provide devotion in addition to keeping the heat off.
Of course we can just put anything in a deck, and throw some lands in there, and we can lose to ourselves as often as opponents beat us. The way this becomes a real deck is by making the mana good. Five colours is inherently tough, and without knowing what exactly we’re playing, all I can say is that 5C lands and rocks can only go so far. One option is to go heavy green and run ramp spells that can grab other land types, or forest-based dual lands.
I would avoid mana dorks in a build like this because of the boardwipes. I would expect a build like this to be slow, but the individual power of the cards is so strong, you can turn the corner successfully.
At the top of this post, I have a picture of Progenitus, who makes for a great 5C devotion commander based on his fabulous number of pips. But maybe a better Commander would be Morophon, who can choose gods as its tribe and help with those casting costs. It would also get the most out of Path of Ancestry, and could further justify tribal lands like Cavern of Souls and Unclaimed Territory.
Morophon isn’t indestructible, so we can’t have everything, but we could ramp quickly to it, and drop a few gods for some colourless mana. I like that plan a lot. Fist of Suns seems like it would work well, too.
So that’s a wrap on devotion! Was there anything I left out? Let me know in the comments, feel free to like this post, and as always, thanks for reading!