Pre-constructed decks for Commander are a god-send for new players and anybody who wants a brand new deck without building something from scratch. For those of us who want to push beyond the limits of what comes in the box, it’s important to have some idea of the cards you’ll want to find room for.
One thing true of all precons is that their manabases often leave a lot to be desired. Lands that enter the battlefield tapped, for any utility they might have, will slow your deck down and keep you from developing on curve. The easiest way to improve any precon is to put a bit of time and money into the manabase, cutting slow lands and replacing them with faster counterparts.
Helmed by the Osgir, the Reconstructer, Lorehold Legacies is an artifact synergy deck in Red and White: a brand new design space to be working in. While most Legendaries in these colours reward you for building around the combat step, Osgir encourages us to include as many useful artifacts as we can fit. We want artifacts that provide value when they either leave or enter the battlefield to make best use of Osgir’s activated abilities.
While the precon already contains Ichor Wellspring, we can add both Mishra’s Bauble and Urza’s Bauble to increase the redundancy of card drawing artifacts. The baubles even sacrifice themselves, allowing us to recur them from the graveyard for no mana investment beyond Osgir himself. In the event you have something better to recur, the baubles will have already paid for themselves by drawing you a new card for zero mana. Likewise, Wayfarer’s Bauble is a fantastic source of ramp we can recur.
As for getting our useful artifacts into the graveyard in the first place, the precon contains Faithless Looting and we can compound on this effect by including Cathartic Reunion and Reconstruct History. Normally the discard clause on these cards would be a negative effect to balance out the draw, but Osgir actually sees it as a benefit because anything we lose can be recurred.
However, Osgir has to tap himself when he recurs meaning we’re relegated to only one activation per turn cycle barring any untap effects. To increase our ability to bring back crucial artifacts when we don’t have access to Osgir himself, I suggest including Goblin Engineer and Goblin Welder, both of which can turn small artifacts into much bigger ones.
Speaking of gigantic permanents, the Osgir precon will benefit from including additional massive creatures like Metalwork Colossus. Aside from the fact we can run out the Colossus ahead of schedule courtesy of his cost reduction effect, he also provides us with a free sacrifice outlet for wayward artifacts once he’s in the graveyard. Likewise, Phyrexian Triniform from Commander Legends can be reanimated with Osgir, leaving us with two 9/9 creatures that will splinter off into 3/3s if anyone is able to destroy them.
The further down the path of artifact synergy you take Osgir, the greater the incentive there is to run “artifacts matter” cards. One of the best is the humble Foundry Inspector, which can lead to a massive mana discount over multiple turns, or Mystic Forge which gives us a pseudo card advantage effect as well as filtering.
Of all the precon Commanders, there’s no denying Adrix and Nev, Twincasters are the strongest. Aside from their natural protection with new evergreen keyword “Ward”, their static ability is reminiscent of Doubling Season and Parallel Lives. It only takes a gentle push to break Quantum Quandrix and build a deck that spews out more tokens than can fit on a playmat. It’s fitting that the college themed around mathematics will require some surprisingly complicated calculations if you include enough clone effects and token producers.
It’s important to max out on token-generating creatures and one of the best is Kaldheim’s Koma, Cosmos Serpent. “Each upkeep” is distinct from “your upkeep” because in most Commander games it will trigger four times per turn cycle. With Koma and the Twincasters in play, you’ll be producing two 3/3’s on every player’s turn, a quick path to a winning boardstate. Tendershoot Dryad and Wolverine Riders are perfect for the same reason.
While these cards are great for grinding, sometimes what the Twincasters need are on-demand token explosions. The deck already includes Hornet Queen, and there’s no reason to leave out classic staples like Avenger of Zendikar. Both cards produce a ridiculous amount of bodies on their own, to say nothing of having a doubling effect in your command zone. But token production is also available on smaller, unassuming creatures. Take Scute Swarm, a miniature Avenger that will give you new tokens for every land you play. From six lands on, it actually creates a copy of itself, which quickly gets out of hand with your Commander in play. With the exponential growth Scute Swarm provides, I’d recommend bringing a calculator with you to your next session. Trust me, “swarm” doesn’t do it justice.
By the same token—pun very much intended—cards like Clone Legion and Rite of Replication are everything we could want in this deck. While Clone Legion doubles the power of any board, the addition of Adrix and Nev will actually triple the same board, a surefire path victory. If you can kick it, Rite of Replication is much the same in that it rewards you with five copies of any creature, or ten with Adrix and Nev. Just remember that it won’t work on your Legendaries, as they will die to the legend rule. Unless…?
Sakashima of a Thousand Faces is already a powerful clone creature, but the best part is the waiving of the legend rule. If you target Adrix and Nev, you’re now doubling your double effect. Include any sort of token creator that can target your Commander, and you’ll need more spare tokens than most people have in their collections.
Similar to Izzet Commanders of the past, Zaffai, Thunder Conductor is a spellslinging legendary that encourages us to run as many instants and sorceries as we possibly can. The gimmick that makes Zaffai unique is that he cares not just about spells, but how much they cost. Reaching a mana value of 5 or 10 gives us additional value, which means we want to run more high-cost spells than most decks would be interested in. Best of all are cards which have variable costs, namely X spells.
Unfortunately the only X spell included in the precon is Epic Experiment. We need to add cards like Electrodominance and Expansion // Explosion for their flexibility. On early turns when we’re low on mana, they’re still useful by themselves or for triggering the Scry effect, in the mid-game when we have some resources lying around they’ll trigger both the Scry and the token production, and in the lategame when we need to win, they’ll trigger all three modes.
The best of the X spells are Blue Sun’s Zenith and Red Sun’s Zenith, due to their flexibility and because they shuffle back into our deck. In a long game, you’ll be able to reuse them and squeeze them for all the value Zaffai could hope for. However, X spells are designed with their modality in mind and are rarely as powerful as paying a fixed rate for a similar spell, so we can’t go too deep.
The precon is already a step ahead of us with Ponder and Serum Visions, but I would recommend adding Preordain just for the increased redundancy. And while these Blue cantrips are already great for consistency, Zaffai will always give them an additional scry which shouldn’t be underestimated.
In order to bind it all together and have additional synergy with our spellslinger theme we’re going to want some cost-reducing effects. Goblin Electromancer, Jace’s Sanctum, and Primal Amulet and their like are a fantastic solution to Zaffai’s unusually high average mana value.
Remember, while these costs reduce the amount you have to pay, they don’t actually change the mana value of the card in question, meaning that even if you only pay four mana total for a card like Mana Geyser, you’ll still trigger Zaffai as though it was a five mana spell!
Breena, The Demagogue is an unusual Commander with a clear political theme. Normally cards that assist your opponents are relegated to casual king-making decks, but Breena revolves around creating situations where your opponents are forced to give you a boon if they want one of their own. Given that we already encourage our opponents to swing at each other, we want to double down and ensure they never swing at us.
This makes the Monarch mechanic stronger than it usually would be. Court of Grace and Court of Ambition are great here, as retaining the crown will give you insurmountable value and help keep you on top. Luminarch Ascension works on a similar axis, forcing your opponents to make tough decisions if they want to keep you off its activated ability.
The precon already contains classic pillow-fort cards like Ghostly Prison, but I’d recommend including Sphere of Safety as the deck naturally runs a healthy Enchantment suite, and it isn’t difficult to make it impossible for opponents to attack you. Including Mangara the Diplomat will guarantee that even if someone does manage to attack you with two or more creatures, you’ll at least get card advantage out of it. It also pairs nicely with the brand new Monologue Tax as both cards mitigate the disadvantage of opponents having more cards courtesy of Breena. If they want to play all those cards they’re drawing, you’ll at least be benefiting from it!
Which brings us to one of the finest cards in the format; Smothering Tithe. Getting a treasure whenever someone triggers Breena needs no explanation, the power and reputation of the card speaks for itself. I can’t recommend Tithe in this deck enough, it is likely the single strongest upgrade you can buy, although it costs almost as much as a whole precon deck.
Moving beyond the draw effect, the placement of +1/+1 counters is worth building around. Bloodtracker from the Witherbloom deck is an incredible inclusion, as you can leverage all those counters into card draw. The same goes for Abzan Battle Priest and Abzan Falconer, as it won’t take long before your entire board has lifelink and flying. And if you’re worried about losing all hard earned counters, try out The Ozolith, a flexible insurance piece which will help you get back on your feet after a boardwipe.
The hardest to improve upon is Willowdusk, Essence Seer. With an interesting effect that rewards you for a fluctuating life total, the payoff for doing so leaves a little to be desired. Triggering only once per turn and requiring both mana and tapping, dumping +1/+1 counters on a single creature can be disappointing for all the hoops it asks you to jump through. Having said that, there’s no harm in trying! This is Commander after all, and anything can work.
Thankfully Willowdusk has some of the best support cards in the 99, with absolute haymakers like Tivash, Gloom Summoner and Sproutback Trudge, and our goal for an upgrade path should be finding ways to guarantee more lifegain and where appropriate, life loss.
Weather the Storm is a fantastic source of mass lifegain which scales with the speed of your opponents decks. If you’re up against a spellslinging storm deck—like Zaffai—Weather can easily give you life in double digits, just make sure you still have mana open so you can activate Willowdusk. I’d recommend Aetherflux Reservoir for the same reason, as even though you’re unlikely to combo with it and reach a life total where you can pay 50 life in a single go, it’s a reliable and consistent source of life, much like Essence Warden. It’s important to remember that while these cards might not gain enough life to trigger a huge amount of counters for Willowdusk, they buffer our total so we can safely play the more interesting cards, the ones that cost life.
Most decks are loathe to lose life, but Willowdusk revels in it. Take a card like K’rrik, Son of Yawgmoth. From the moment you draw him you can play him for only 4 mana, making up the rest of the cost with Phyrexian mana. Presuming you have Willowdusk out, that’s a loss of 6 life which you can immediately turn into 6 counters. If you place them on K’rrik, you suddenly have an 8/8 lifelinker that will quickly make up for the initial life investment. Thereafter, the option to keep paying with Phyrexian mana means we can lose (and gain) as much life per turn as we might like.
Speaking of which, one of the most powerful cards in the history of magic (so powerful it’s banned in Legacy and restricted in Vintage) is the almighty Necropotence. Health is naught but a resource, and Necropotence lets you trade life for cards at a 1:1 ratio. For anyone familiar with cards like Ad Nauseam or Vilis, Broker of Blood—both worth testing in their own right—you’ll know just how incredible Necropotence can be. Don’t be shy with it either, spend as much life as you can, activate Willowdusk and dump dozens of counters on your best creature. If you have a lifelinker and can swing that turn, you’ve lost nothing for a fresh grip of cards come the end of turn.
Jake FitzSimons is a certified Magic tragic. He keeps one land hands, forgets at least half of his Rhystic Study triggers, and names “Pot of Greed” with Demonic Consultation. He is at his happiest flipping for lethal with Yuriko. You can follow him @Jake_FitzSimons.