Pattern Recognition #162 - Commanding Beast

Features Opinion Pattern Recognition


30 July 2020


Hello everyone! Welcome back to Pattern Recognition! This is's longest running article series. In it, I aim to bring to you each week a new article about some piece of Magic, be it a card, a mechanic, a deck, or something more fundamental or abstract. I am something of an Old Fogey and part-time Smart Ass, so I sometimes talk out my ass. Feel free to dissent or just plain old correct me! I also have a Patreon if you feel like helping out.

So, last week, I built for your pleasure a Brawl Deck based around Questing Beast as the Commander. I've been playing it on Arena when I can, and so far it's been doing be good with a positive win ratio.

Now, to be fair, I'm not always winning. I've seen losses against Agent of Treachery, and against mono control decks that push out Drain Life effects in the current standard. I will not hold a grudge against Gray Merchant of Asphodel as it's a legitimate card, and I've won with him as well. I've also lost against Mill decks that out-race me, and against Selesnya decks that go wide and lifegain out of danger.

So why am I telling you all of this? Well, this is the secret second half of last week's article, one that was planned in advance. Last week, I designed a Brawl deck. 60 cards, Rotation Proof. And it works like a charm! This week though, I'm going to take those 60 cards, and add 40 more. I'm going to turn a Brawl Deck into a Commander deck, or at least do the best I can with it.

As a refresher, here is the Brawl Deck I am going to be buffing up:

Questing Brawler

Brawl berryjon


Now, in order to facilitate this upgrade path, I will be referring to some of the works of my fellow sometimes-author, Suns_Champion. This person wrote a short article series a couple of months back about how to build a Commander Deck. Specifically, I will be starting with his third part, Getting Started.

The core of the idea is that in a deck of 100 cards, you have your Commander and 35 lands, leaving you with 64 non land cards. These 64 are then divided into 8 categories of 8 cards each, with categories such as "Ramp" or "Removal" or "Card Draw". Now, some cards can go into multiple categories, and that's alright. What I'm looking at is the primary use of each of those multiple choice cards. For example, Elder Gargaroth does multiple things, but in my games, I've found that I was using it more for the Card Draw effect than anything else. So when I categorize my deck, it'll probably go into the Card Draw pile.

Given that I'm going from a 60 card deck to 100 cards, my lands will also be going from 24 to 35, leaving 29 more cards to go into the deck, and so when I go through the 8 categories, there should be 29 empty spots for me to work with.

So, to start with, let's make eight categories and divide my deck appropriately. From there, I can fill in the gaps, and see where this takes me.

Let's start with 's biggest Strength. RAMP.

Now, that's 11 cards that help accelerate my mana curve, In a 60 cards Brawl deck, this is pretty good, and is also fairly reasonable for a 100 card Commander Deck. Now, some of these cards can also go into their categories, such as Card Draw, so I will retroactively put a strike through those cards that I will re-categorize later.

The second category will be CARD DRAW. This is something of a traditional weakness in and I'm not sure I can ... can... BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA! Sorry, but that's no longer the case. Not in Commander. Because Wizards has done things like print Return of the Wildspeaker into a colour that is all about big creatures, it's not a matter of being able to draw cards, but in choosing what to keep at the end of the turn when you have to discard down. So, let's list cards, shall we?

Now, yes, there are a few other cards that include the phrase "Draw a Card" on them, but they are cards that I think fit better into other categories. Here, I put the cards that I found were mostly used to draw another card most of all. Heck, even Llanowar Visionary, despite being a mana dork, saw more use for the card draw when I saw him in my hand.

But, more importantly, I still see 3 open slots for more cards here, which is good as that leaves me with 26 more to go across 6 categories.

The third category I will include is REMOVAL. Now, I've mentioned before that lacks mass removal options of every other colour in everything except enchantments or sometimes creatures through mass fighting, so I expect this to be quite thin on the ground.

Another two empty spots here (24 left), and I can tell you that filling this section out will be important to me and to the deck. I'm going to be depending a lot on Fight and Bite effects here, that's for sure.

Of note though, Nylea's Intervetion is here and not in Ramp because this card doesn't put lands onto the battlefield, but it can clear the skies of flying creatures that I can't otherwise interact with.

Fourth is the category that I like to call "Actually Winning the Game". In this deck, that's simple. Smash face. But here is where the scale difference between the two formats starts to make itself known. Brawl is a 1v1 format with only 25 life to whittle through, while Commander is a 4 player game with 40 life for each player, and more importantly, the Commander Damage rule.

But before I can decide how I want to take my deck, I want to figure out how much of my few remaining cards actually fit into this. And to that end, these cards will be the ones that are meant to drive damage through to the enemy's face.

All of these cards have or grant Trample in their own way, and if I choose to go the Commander Damage route with this deck (which is looking more and more likely), then being able to throw damage past any blockers becomes paramount, and with the integral Deathtouch, I only need to divert 1 point of damage to each defending creature before trampling over the rest. I also have plans for that last open spot, but for now it's only 23 cards left to look into things.

The fifth category is protection, and I assure you, this one is empty.

In this category, I put all the cards I want to have to prevent my Commander or other vital cards from being destroyed. It's empty, and that's because this is still Standard. Once I open up my card selection pool to the full Commander availability, I expect this to quickly fill up.

The Sixth Category is an extension of the fourth. I can send damage through, but now I need to make sure that the damage sticks. Or gets bigger. And so, here I put the cards that are intended to add power and toughness to my creatures either directly or indirectly.

I call this category "MAKE MY MONSTER GROW!" complete with the requisite voiceover. Let's see here...

Now, remember, there are other cards that make my creatures bigger, like Garruk, Unleashed, but in the end, those cards have additional value to them. Here, I want bigger and BIGGER. And I have a few spaces left for that.

The Seventh category is Utility. Here is where I put the cards that have use to them, but they don't really fit easy into one of the other categories. These can be cards that grant recursion, or cover a weakness in the deck, or just exist because when I was building it in the first place, I like the card and put it in.

As you can see, a lot of space for dedicated utility cards here. And in Commander, a good selection of Utility can make or break a deck.

The last section is completely empty, so I won't bother you with a list of question marks. Rather, I shall tell you that the last category of 8 cards is called "Because I can". Here is where I'm going to put cards in excess of their normal categories, and then cards that I want to put in, well, because I can.

Now, I need to decide how I want to take my deck. Remember, I can't take any cards away, I can only add it things to it. So, that limits my options to what I can include, and more importantly, I am stuck with cards that work well in Brawl, but don't work so well in Commander.

Let's just start filling out categories, and see where we go from there. I choose to start with Card Draw, as I have three open spots there, and this should be easy to wrap up. Let's start with not including Keeper of Fables or Keen Sense. No offense to either of them, but the former works better in a deck that goes wide, and the latter is just going to put a target on the creature involved. And I want to draw a lot of cards at once, rather than one at a time.

Now, having said that, I think Lifecrafter's Bestiary is a must include. The automatic Scry effect allows you to sift (but not Sift) your deck, and you can cantrip on your creatures for . Of course, we're still hanging out at a mere dozen creatures, but that will change.

Rites of Flourishing is a card I find to be hit-or-miss in terms of extra card draw. On one hand, you're providing a Howling Mine for everyone on top of an Exploration for the same. People will either try to remove it, or fight to keep it in play to hold the advantage. While I could put this into the "Because I can" pile, I want to put this one here instead. Beacuse I can. ;)

Lastly is the question of Soul's Majesty or Rishkar's Expertise. Both have the same card draw based on power, but the Majesty costs less, but also loses out on the free card casting.

Yeah, as I've said before, free stuff is broken. I'll go for Rishkar's Expertise to found out my Card Draw segment for now.

The two spots in my Removal category are actually pretty easy to fill in. Rabid Bite with Deathtouch on the Questing Beast is hilarious in any format, and Creeping Mold can hit Lands on top of Artifacts and Enchantments. I feel these are staples in my decks, so falling back on them is a no-brainer.

Moving on is another choice as obvious as Shadowspear. In fact, Shadowspear somehow managed to replace this card as my Equipment of choice in any deck. And so when I want to remind people to respect combat damage, it is time to drop the hammer. The Loxodon Warhammer. This beautiful piece of kit grants a relatively huge +3/+0 and is yet another redundant source of Trample. Add in the lifegain on damage, and you can see why I might like it just shy of Shadowspear.

Our next category is Protection, and here I have five card slots to fill in. Now, this category ca be divided into two categories - protection for ME and protection for my Creatures. Blinding Fog does both, while Fog is redundancy for my creatures. Orbs of Warding help protect me personally from the enemy, and Swiftwood Boots for my creatures. And let's round out the category with a Mask of Avacyn as it's cheaper than Champion's Helm.

As I'm just moving down the list here, it's time to put on my best Rita Repulsa (hey, she wore in the most recent movie too!) act and figure out six more ways to make my creature bigger.

Argentum Armor is an expensive piece of kit in this deck, but it grants a commiserate advantage in power and toughness, as well as the Destruction on combat effect. In the same scale, Blanchwood Armor can get very huge, very fast in a deck that runs all Forests. I will also just go all-in on the Voltron aspect with Blackblade Reforged, Hero's Blade and Ring of Kalonia.

Lastly, this is a mono- deck, so I am contractually required to put Giant Growth in. This is not negotiable.

Moving on to Utility effects, this is much more of a Grab-Bag. Rhonas's Monument provides a minor cost reduction which can help out if I'm stuck on three mana and I want to drop Questing Beast on turn 4. Emerald Medallion is another cost reducer that you can't go wrong with.

I want Naturalize to backup Return to Nature.

Reclaim and Creeping Renaissance for more graveyard recursion, should I need it. And the latter has Flashback, so I can use it twice!

That's five. Time to hit my personal choice cards, just because I can.

Llanowar Elves, Gilded Goose - no wait, I already have that, Blossoming Defense are all additional redundancy cards that I skipped over earlier. Let's add in a Sword of the Animist instead.

God-Eternal Rhonas is a good card to help push damage through, as is Ghalta, Primal Hunger (who is on Primal Might, so Vorthos!) They are also extra creatures, and that's good. Chord of Calling is something you can't go wrong with. As I'm running a mono-colored deck Aspect of Hydra is good for at least +2/+2 and can quickly exceed Giant Growth, leaving the latter as redundancy for the former.

And last... Regrowth. Just because.

As for the subject of lands ... I'm happy with there they are. And I've been starting at this deck list for hours now, so I'm getting burned out and my eyes are glazing over. I'll be taking suggestions from the crowd as to what to adjust the lands to in terms of utility.

And that's a solid 100! Allow me to introduce you all to my newest deck:

Commanding Beast

Commander / EDH berryjon


I haven't had an actual chance to test this guy out yet, as Commander is a little harder to test out where I live than Arena, so I'm looking forward to hearing all your comments below about what you think of this deck, and how it can or should work!

Join me next week, when I talk about something. I don't know what yet.

Until then, please consider donating to my Pattern Recognition Patreon. Yeah, I have a job, but more income is always better. I still have plans to do a audio Pattern Recognition at some point, or perhaps a Twitch stream. And you can bribe your way to the front of the line to have your questions, comments and observations answered!

This article is a follow-up to Pattern Recognition #161 - Questing Brawl

plakjekaas says... #1

Lands suggested from the crowd: Mosswort Bridge is a land in green stompy thats usually worth entering the battlefield tapped

Blighted Woodland is acceleration when you're leaving up protection. Myriad Landscape works the same, but the ability is cheaper. It does enter tapped though...

Bonders' Enclave works fine when your commander is 4 power

Ghost Quarter, Tectonic Edge (and less budget, Strip Mine or Wasteland) are things you need in commander, there's too many of Cabal Coffers and Itlimoc, Cradle of the Sun (also not bad in your deck btw) in the format to skip on land destruction, and lands that destroy lands are the most efficient at that.

Scavenger Grounds thwarts your Regrowth a little, but it thwarts most black and green commanders a lot more: take Meren of Clan Nel Toth, or Muldrotha, the Gravetide, they're pretty devastated when you uncounterably remove most of their resources from the game. There's enough caring about the graveyard to at least consider this, if you're not heavily using it yourself.

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is amazing in most monocolored decks, but a little on the $$ side.

Rogue's Passage is a scary prescence when Voltron is your plan, even when you have the deathtouch as a deterrent.

July 31, 2020 6:55 a.m.

berryjon says... #2

No update today. On stay-cation and mentally tapped out.

August 6, 2020 9:46 a.m.

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