(| Art by Daarken)
On the Highway From Hell
Hello, and welcome back to Conditions Allow, the series where I take a card with a drawback and turn it into a strength. For this week, I’m being visited by the ghost of Modern staples past and brewing aroundand .
is a unique card, as its abilities only work while it is in the graveyard, so although it has a mana cost and you can cast it, there’s not any reason to. You’d much rather mill this card directly into the graveyard so you can sacrifice creatures and start generating an army of Zombies. This strategy ports fairly well into Commander: loves making Zombie tokens and milling your library, while many popular aristocrats cards make tokens when your creatures die, like and . Plus, because works from your graveyard, it’s insulated against most single target removal.
Unfortunately, it has its own weakness. If a creature one of your opponent’s controls dies, the Bridge will exile itself. The same goes for the more recent. With sacrifice decks being one of the most popular strategies in Commander, neither of these cards are likely to stick around for long.
When Bridge saw play in Modern Dredge decks, the work-around for this problem was to simply not care. You’d mill yours, then sacrifice a few s to create enough Zombies to win on your next turn. Unlike Modern, though, board wipes are extremely common in Commander, and you need significantly more tokens to win the game on the spot. The presence of , , and also makes it so even decks that aren’t built around sacrificing creatures can easily exile your Magus and Bridge. Unless, of course, those creatures never actually die.
When I started looking for decklists withor , one card was repeatedly mentioned as the best way to keep them in the graveyard (or in play, respectively): . If your opponents’ creatures are exiled as they die, then your Bridge effects will never see them hit the graveyard. That being said, rather than rely on a single card in your deck to protect , there are several potential commanders that can fulfill the same purpose.
is a strong contender. Not only will he exile enemy creatures instead of letting them die, he’s also a sacrifice outlet in the command zone. Mono-black gives you access to and , as well as plenty of tools to mill through your library.
I’m slightly more in favor of, however. Having access to green and white opens up powerful tools, like , , and .
One thing to note when building with commanders like these two is that they are both hard answers to a very popular kind of EDH deck. Be mindful of what other players are trying to do. With that in mind, however, neither of these commanders are essential for the deck to function. If you would negate another player’s deck just by casting your commander, you can simply not cast your commander.
Crossing the Bridge
To help ensure the deck functions without needing access toand , and thus without needing to cast your commander, I’ll start by including several other token-makers.
seems right at home in a deck helmed by Anafenza, and it’s one of the few other enchantments that creates tokens when a creature dies. Having access to flying Spirit tokens also gives you an answer to Dragons, Angels, and other flying beasties that could safely ignore your Zombie hordes. Combined with the Bats from , you can assemble a formidable flying force. I also like both these cards because they aren’t creatures. The best answer to a token army is a board wipe, so I try to avoid having my token-makers be attached to creatures as often as possible. Some can protect themselves, so makes the cut. You also have to include a certain number of Zombies to enable , so makes the cut as well.
All of these cards make tokens under slightly different conditions.is the most specific, requiring you to cast cards from your graveyard. While it doesn’t specify creature spells, you want creatures to enable , and few spells are easier to cast from your graveyard than . I’ve also already mentioned , and is an excellent cheap creature to cast from the ‘yard as well. is also relatively cheap to cast from the graveyard, and it even doubles as a sacrifice outlet.
Of course, you’ll want more creatures than just this.and are staples of sacrifice decks for a reason. Because of the focus around creatures that are cast from the graveyard, you can also recycle easily. Finally, is a sacrifice outlet that you can cast, and re-cast, from the graveyard.
With the cards you want to mill picked out, let’s get into how to actually get your deck into the graveyard. Cheap creatures help get the ball rolling, but I also likeand for pure volume and precision. Having a high enough density of mill effects is vital. In addition to one-time effects, I’m including and , which mill two cards every turn they’re in play. also has the ability to return a card you mill to your hand. This is great for when you turn over or and need to get them into play.
One of the strongest mill cards in the deck is. Every time one of your creatures dies, you’ll mill two cards and return a creature with lesser mana value to your hand. This enchantment generates a ton of value over the course of a game, letting you retrieve , , or whatever you need in the moment. It also combos with , letting you fetch back whatever you podded away last turn, ensuring you never run out of fuel. Plus, because it only triggers on nontoken creatures, you don’t have to worry about milling yourself to death.
I knewwould be good, but I wasn’t expecting to be as strong as it is. Path lets every creature you control Explore when they enter play. This does include tokens, letting you shred through the top of your library to find the exact card you need. Exploring also puts lands into your hand, ensuring you never miss a land drop; getting to trigger and as often as possible is extremely valuable. is also sneakily good. It nets you cards from creatures with more than three power ( ), but more importantly it lets you discard cards. is worthless in your hand, so having a few ways to discard it is important for the deck.
Odds and Ends
The main goal of this deck is to overwhelm your opponents with tokens. Cards likeand double as sacrifice outlets to help generate Spirits and Zombies, while also grinding your opponents out of resources. For a more explosive finish, ensures that all your tokens are huge. Buffing , , and is also a great way to break through board stalls. Even if they’re blocked and killed, they can always come back, while your opponents’ creatures cannot. All the while, your tokens armies will wear away at your opponents’ life totals until all opposition has faded away.
Bridge from Below
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This deck ends up looking very much like a traditional Abzan aristocrats deck, but I’ve had a lot of fun putting it together and playing it. Relying on resilient creatures for removal is certainly slow for most games you’ll play nowadays, but when the pieces come together you’ll throw a lot of tokens into play and look very scary. As I mentioned, however, many people will be wary when they seein the command zone. Promising to not cast her helps in some cases, and most folks are at least intrigued enough by to give you a chance.
What do you think though? Have you playedin Commander? What commander did you choose, and how did it go? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!