Conditions Allow - Inferno of the Star Mounts in Commander
(Inferno of the Star Mounts | Art by Jesper Ejsing)
Hello, and welcome back to Conditions Allow. In this series I take a legendary creature with a drawback and try to turn it into a strength. Streets of New Capenna just came out and has been a massive success with powerful and flavorful cards for the art deco fan living in all of us. So naturally, we're already looking forward to spoilers for Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate, which means I'm building a legend from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. It couldn't be D&D without Dragons, so it only makes sense to check out the most explosive commander of the last few years: Inferno of the Star Mounts.
Inferno of the Star Mounts is a straightforward upgrade of Shivan Dragon. The legendary version has haste, one extra power and toughness, and can't be countered. And of course, if you pump Inferno of the Star Mounts' power to twenty with its effect, it'll deal twenty damage to any target. Follow that up with an attack and you'll deal forty damage, enough to take a player from their starting life total to zero with a single attack. The problem is getting enough mana to pull that off. It'll cost fourteen mana to trigger Imvaernarhro's effect the first time. There are a few approaches to reducing that cost, or making it easier to produce that much mana, but ultimately this makes me think of Fireballs and big Storm turns. In order to deal with multiple opponents at once, we'll also need to figure out a way to trigger Inferno of the Star Mounts' damage ability multiple times in a turn.
Clouds on the Horizon
There are a couple of ways to approach twenty power with Inferno of the Star Mounts. The most straightforward is to increase the amount of mana your lands produce. Mana Flare and Gauntlet of Power may double your opponents' mana too, but they probably won't be around long enough to capitalize. Curving Gauntlet of Power into Inferno lets you attack for forty damage on turn seven. Alternately, you can use Equipment, like Blackblade Reforged and Strata Scythe, to give your commander a power boost, reducing the mana you need to spend to get to twenty.
I'm opting for another classic red strategy: rituals. While Mana Geyser can make fourteen mana all on its own, chaining Desperate Ritual and Seething Song together can also get the job done. Normally, this builds to a large Fireball or Crackle with Power. In this case, you're feeding mana into your commander. This means one big Storm turn isn't enough to win the game. Most of the time, Inferno of the Star Mounts won't be capable of dealing more than twenty damage with its effect in a turn, so while all of the smaller rituals are in the decklist, the best ones add a little more mana. You only need to copy Irencrag Feat once to make fourteen mana. Jeska's Will is variable, but can accomplish the same thing.
The fact that you're going to need to essentially storm off multiple turns in a row makes persistent sources of mana extra valuable. Birgi, God of Storytelling and Storm-Kiln Artist are two of the most powerful storm payoffs of the last few years. The mana from Birgi doesn't fade between steps and phases, meaning you can use it at the absolute last minute. Storm-Kiln Artist lets you save extra mana for later in the form of Treasures and also becomes a sizeable threat of its own. The best of the bunch for this deck is probably Soulbright Flamekin. You need Inferno of the Star Mounts to deal combat damage to get as much from it as possible. Giving it trample ensures your attacks will go through.
The second most important part of any Storm deck is card draw. This deck is low on ramp because you want to spend the first five turns of the game sculpting your hand to have an explosive turn after casting your commander. Cathartic Reunion and Seize the Spoils let you trade extra lands for spells or fill your graveyard for a big Mizzix's Mastery later down the road. Seize the Spoils and Unexpected Windfall do the same, but also let you stock up on Treasure. Copying these spells with Pyromancer's Goggles or Double Vision doubles their impact without requiring you to pay their additional costs, enabling longer strings of spells on your later turns.
If you've ever looked into Storm in EDH, then you've undoubtedly come across Underworld Breach. This powerhouse enchantment lets you cast and recast your spells from the graveyard. With Imposing Grandeur and Wheel of Misfortune to feed your graveyard, you can cast spells essentially as many times as you need to. For this reason, Underworld Breach is an important tool for triggering Inferno of the Star Mounts multiple times in a turn. Other Storm staples, like Past in Flames and the new Invoke Calamity, can serve a similar function, although they aren't nearly as powerful.
The Eye of the Storm
Once you have fourteen or fifteen red mana, you have a lot of options. If life totals are low enough, pumping Inferno of the Star Mounts to twenty-one power is enough to take two players out of the game. One with the twenty damage trigger, and the other with commander damage. Or, if you can bring Inferno of the Star Mounts back under twenty power, you can activate their ability again to deal another twenty damage to any target. Bone Flute is one such way to give all creatures minus one power for the turn. Puncture Bolt and Blur of Blades are much more on-theme, however. As instants, they can be recast from the graveyard with Past in Flames and Underworld Breach. They do require more care, however. Firebreathing doesn't buff your commander's toughness, so there's a hard limit on the number of -1/-1 counters you can put on them.
It's for that reason that the real MVP of this category is Sigil of Distinction. This Equipment enters play with however many charge counters you pay for and can be equipped to a creature by removing a charge counter. The equipped creature gets +1/+1 for each charge counter, reducing the amount of mana you need to start dealing damage, but the real power here is in that equip cost. You can equip an Equipment to the creature already holding it. In this case, that doesn't cost mana, but does reduce the power of your commander, exactly what we want to accomplish. As long as you have the mana, you can deal twenty damage with Inferno of the Star Mounts a number of times equal to the number of charge counters on Sigil of Distinction.
The rest of the deck is dedicated to keeping Inferno of the Star Mounts in play and dealing with artifacts or creatures that would slow you down. Along with Bolt Bend and Pyroblast, I've been experimenting with Weight of Spires to punish greedy mana bases. Check out the full deck list below.
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Inferno of the Star Mounts is a big, splashy creature that encourages big, splashy plays. This deck is built to deal a lot of damage at once, but putting all the pieces together to accomplish that takes planning. Choosing the right moment to act is key for this deck. It's also a unique experience to manipulate the power of your commander up to twenty over and over again.
How would you approach this commander? Are there any cards or synergies I've overlooked? Let me know in the comments below, and thanks for reading.