CUT #10 – If You Ain’t First You’re CUT!

Travis Stanley • February 25, 2022

Welcome back to our regularly scheduled programming here on CUT! A super, special, awesome thank you to TappyToeClaws, SolRingMTG, and Ashlen Rose for making the first Single Slice as great as it was! Let’s see who won all the marbles with the results from the poll:

 

Great job Ashlen! You have been crowned the first winner of Single Slice! I feel like there should be some sort of trophy or something or a crown even…but we’ll think about that later! You may not have won, but SolRing and Tappy, you both gave us great decks to read about! Thanks for all of your contributions and I hope to work with each of you again!


Onto this round of CUT!

Taking a little bit of a break from everything Kamigawa, this CUT has a different focus in mind (don’t worry, we will do a “Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty“-themed CUT soon). You know what is almost worse than not making it to the final round? Making it and losing. This round of CUT we brought back folks who made it to the final stage and for whatever reason didn’t quite get that win. It’s another Redemption Round! Here are the challenges that our redemption seekers worked with:

  • Commanders must be a “Partner” (have Partner or Partner with) commanders

  • The deck must only have cards that have been printed in Commander sets (Commander decks or Commander Legends)

  • You can only have 4 rare/mythic lands


First up, we have Mikhail! Last time we saw Mikhail, he brought us a fantastic fungi funhouse featuring Slimefoot, the Stowaway. The round before that he brought us along on a magical journey through the multiverse with Narfi, Betrayer King.

Let’s see what he brought today!

 

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My Partner duo is Gilanra, Caller of Wirewood and Brinelin, the Moon Kraken, both from Commander Legends. They work well together by both caring about spells with mana value of six or more. Gilanra helps you ramp out the big spells, and Brinelin gets you a tempo boost by bouncing your opponents’ nonland permanents or allowing you to recur your own enter-the-battlefield triggers. Here’s my 6-step plan (get it?) to maximise the amount of success and fun you can have with these two at the helm.

The first, and arguably most important, step is ramping. You have Gilanra in the command zone, but just in case an opponent throws down a Drannith Magistrate, it’s a good idea to stuff your deck with 2- and 3-mana ramp spells in order to get to Brinelin before turn 8. There’s a fairly even split between land ramp and artifact ramp to play around your Death Clouds and Vandalblasts, respectively. The list stays off creature ramp, Elves primarily, to avoid getting roasted by early board wipes. The strongest “ramp” spells are ones that can also trigger Brinelin if cast later in the game, like a large Astral Cornucopia or Animist’s Awakening. Ramp spells that get a basic to your hand, like Cultivate, Kodama’s Reach, and Nissa’s Pilgrimage, are great at accelerating your gameplan while retaining card advantage.

Speaking of card advantage, maintaining card advantage throughout the game is the next step of our plan. Card advantage is already a big deal in Commander, but when you’re ramping so hard in the beginning of the game it is easy to be empty-handed and out of gas unless you build to maintain it.

The third step is classically called “yoinking”. What’s better than playing permanents? Taking your opponents’ permanents, of course! This could definitely be taken out if you or your group would prefer not to play them over webcam, but stealing permanents can certainly be an effective way to slow down your opponents or build your own win condition. Dominate is nice as an instant speed Control Magic that can steal a token in a pinch or a bigger creature and trigger your commanders.

Getting away from very blue effects, the next step is very well known in the format: the technical term is smack city, population you. Turns out that if you lower your opponents’ life totals to zero, you win the game. Who knew? Classics of the format Avenger of Zendikar and Pathbreaker Ibex can close out the game quickly, especially when paired together and especially with all the land drops you can get after they hit the board. Ezuri’s Predation is a nice 8-mana sorcery-speed trick that can make a ton of power on the board and remove a large portion of your opponents’ boards. In the end, swinging is the main way this deck is winning so make sure to look out for these haymakers.

One of the strongest effects in the format, and the fifth step of our plan, involves enters-the-battlefield creatures. Brinelin has the ability to return any nonland permanent to its owner’s hand, so you can return your own creatures and recur value. The flagship example is Fierce Empath to the point where it loops itself with Brinelin’s ability: play Empath, get a 6-drop, play the 6 drop, return Empath, repeat. Might want to get out your Zendikar Resurgent first as a down payment on the loop’s mortgage, but trust me it’s pure value.

The last, but not least, step is spell recursion. What’s better than playing your spells? Playing your spells twice, of course. While your spell suite is fairly small, casting a few Blatant Thieverys is a fun way to win a game without being as obnoxious as Expropriate. Also, Ezuri’s Predation is even better when you cast it previously to clear out any new weenies that would block your 4/4’s.

At least in my experience, saying that I’m playing Simic is likely to get a collective groan from my opponents. Bringing Gilanra and Brinelin to the table allows you to have all your Simic-ky goodness without drawing the ire that a Thrasios, Triton Hero or a Edric, Spymaster of Trest would create. I really wanted to pick Commander Legends commanders because I think it was the best MtG set in the last decade as it adds so much to the game’s most popular format and it isn’t stacked with ultra powerful commanders like Commander 2016 was. In my opinion, when done right, Partner commanders, especially uncommon ones, really capture the essence of casual Commander, which is the experience that Commander sets are going for.


Thanks Mikhail! Good to have you back on the series! We’ll see if you have enough strategic Simic synergy to set your place in the finals!


Next up is Hamilton. Last time we saw Hamilton, he was turning infinity on its side with Octavia, Living Thesis. Before that, he showed us the way of ancient Spirits with Hofri Ghostforge.

What do you have for us today, Hamilton?

 

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Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator and Breeches, Brazen Plunderer are a pretty popular Partner pair. Makes sense, they have similar triggers, one feeds you cards, the other feeds you mana. But one of blue’s natural strengths already is feeding us cards, so what if we tried to really ramp up the ramp?

We’re taking advantage of a little loophole in Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator’s rules text. He gives us Treasures whenever one or more of our Pirates (himself included) deal damage to our opponents. We get a Treasure for every opponent we hit, but with the help of Kediss, Emberclaw Familiar, a single attack from Malcolm will *deal damage* to each of our opponents, thus netting us three Treasure tokens instead of one. Don’t worry, Breeches can still tag along in our 99.

Our deck is looking to establish Malcolm and Kediss on our battlefield quickly so we can start hitting in with our Malcolm and generate Treasures to ramp into threats and advantage. So what threats are we ramping into? Wurmcoil Engine is the classic, a huge beater that dies into medium beaters. Captivating Crew is a Pirate that lets us repeatedly recruit our opponents’ creatures for a turn, and Myr Battlesphere represents a lot of damage, particularly when paired with a handful of spare Treasures and Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer.

Meanwhile, we can keep our opponents on their toes by using one of blue’s best aspects, its control roots, to keep our ramp engine going. Classics like Counterspell, Deflecting Swat, and Fierce Guardianship are here, and the woefully underplayed Disdainful Stroke. Minor soapbox moment here: play Disdainful Stroke more often! It counters almost any boardwipe and all but three of the 25 most built commanders at time of writing, and game-winning bombs from Bolas’s Citadel to Craterhoof Behemoth (or the Natural Order your opponent used to find said Craterhoof Behemoth). Rounding out our counterspell suite is an addition provided to us from Commander Legends that’s way above the curve for the card quality our deckbuilding restrictions would usually allow, the powerful Mana Drain.

We have additional methods of keeping ourselves fueled. Inspiring Refrain provides us with repeated card draw every few turns, with its sister card Rousing Refrain providing us even more mana. Then there’s Jeska’s Will, which does both! We also have several X spells that let us really cash in our Treasure to gain some more wind in our sails, like Blue Sun’s Zenith and the recently printed Drown in Dreams. Old standbys, like Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time, and cantrips keep our cards coming, while Dockside Extortionist continues being kinda just insane.

The deck also has a minor theme of cards that let us take further advantage of our Treasures in ways that care more than their ability to make mana. Idol of Oblivion allows us to draw cards for nothing, while Trading Post provides the same benefit and much more besides. The previously mentioned Brudiclad has the potential to get extremely nasty, spitting out Myrs for offence or turning them into even more Treasure. Meanwhile, Daretti, Scrap Savant and Saheeli, the Gifted give us even more ways to utilise our Treasures (A Drown in Dreams is particularly spicy with Saheeli’s second +1 ability).

Now how do we win? There’s always Wurmcoil beats, or Brudiclad flood outs. We have a few Equipment to potentially enable commander damage kills, like Blackblade Reforged and Empyrial Plate. Sheer out-value is the name of the game: iIf you draw more cards and generate more mana and cast more spells than your opponent, you’re simply more likely to win. But eagle-eyed readers may have noticed we have a backup option. Enter Dualcaster Mage.

A somewhat popular spell-copy creature, effects like Dualcaster can be used to enable infinite combos. Here’s how it works:

  1. Have any creature on the battlefield that isn’t Dualcaster.
  2. Cast an instant or sorcery that clones a creature, like Rite of Replication.
  3. Before the spell resolves, flash in Dualcaster.
  4. Use its enter-the-battlefield ability to copy the clone spell.
  5. The copy resolves, creating a token copy of Dualcaster, importantly with the original clone spell on the stack.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 MANY times.
  7. Have your last copy of the clone spell target any creature other than Dualcaster. This allows the original clone spell to finally resolve, allowing the game to progress.

This leaves you with an army of Dualcaster Mages that can swing out the next turn to kill all of your opponents. The best part is our clone spells can assist the bulk of our deck as well. The best combos are ones where the cards involved are already good in your deck outside the combo. Making clones of Battlesphere and Emberwilde Captain or copying a Jeska’s Will make both of these cards very good even outside their combo applications.


Thanks Hamilton hope this Pirate/Lizard combo steals a place in Finals for you!


Last up is Ben, you might know Ben from the very first CUT article, and the following finals. His deck build prowess was also featured on the Holiday special a few months ago.

Bens CUT Deck P3

 

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Hey all, it’s Ben coming back for a redemption round. This week, I present to you a Boros Voltron deck led by Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist and Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh. During the brewing process, I took a trip down memory lane. When I was first getting into Commander, my friend Sinclair and I played countless games just between us. He played an Aurelia, the Warleader deck against my Meren of Clan Nel Toth deck. There was one thing that my green and black cards could not beat: Mirran Crusader. It was the bane of my existence. Any Equipment on that lad and the game was essentially over. I wanted to recreate that feeling of unstoppability with this deck.

The gameplan is pretty simple: suit up one of your commanders with a bevy of Equipment and attack! Though you have two Commanders, Rograkh is going to be your main damage-dealer. However, if something were to happen to our Kobold, we have a handful of creatures in the 99 to clean up the game. An excellent example would be Kemba, Kha Regent. When she’s Equipped, she’s an army in a can! Good on offence by supplying you with an army of Cats, and on defence by not needing to get into the red zone to still be effective. Some of the other backup Voltron creatures include Godo, Bandit Warlord and Akiri, Line-Slinger. If you’re reading this, you probably know the power of Akiri. First strike and vigilance make for a deadly pair of aggressive keywords, and her ability adds on additional power to whatever you have equipped to her. Godo may not have the same early game impact as Akiri, but has the finishing power to make up for it. Being a tutor that puts Equipment onto the battlefield is already enough to rise above the rest, but even just getting extra combat steps can be enough to close out games.

In order for us to build our unstoppable Voltron, we need to give our creatures some punch, and that’s where our Equipment come in! I’ve included a personal favorite of mine that comes all the way from the original Commander set: Champion’s Helm. +2/+2 is not very impressive by today’s standards, but giving hexproof is extremely useful when it comes to single target removal. I have also included an Equipment card that came out a little more recently than the Helm: Bloodforged Battle-Axe. Even if you’re only able to land a few blows with a creature Equipped with this, you’re already at four or even six Axes to distribute as you please.

Here’s an example of the first two turns: Turn one: play a land, cast Rograkh and Bloodforaged Battle-Axe. Turn two: Equip Rograkh and attack. Sounds like a solid start to me! Next is a “Sinclair favorite” and an all-star pairing with Mirran Crusader, Loxodon Warhammer. A +3/+0 boost, lifelink, and trample make getting hit by the Hammer an absolute plumbing. Giving a creature the ability to deal maximum damage puts you ahead on life and makes attacking much safer.

A Voltron deck tends to be a one-man-show, so, if we lose that creature any advantage I had would be gone. Like any good mech suit, you need an “eject” button to get out of danger, and Whitemane Lion is one of those buttons. At a low cost of a white and a colourless, you can save a creature and place it into your hand. Ever since its release, Teferi’s Protection has made its way into any deck it can, and this deck is no different. The ability to nullify spells and creatures coming towards you is incredibly useful and makes it tough not to include.

A common strategy for fighting Voltron is to overwhelm them with a lot of creatures. I was lucky to have access to Crawlspace, a card I don’t see played enough. Since you’ll only be attacking with one or two creatures anyway, the restrictions of Crawlspace are insignificant. Whether you’re still suiting up a creature or struggling to maintain a broad presence, you can always escape into your crawl space.

Being in Boros, it’s a challenge to find decent sources of card draw and ramp spells; luckily, the Commander sets gift us with some spicy tools. Magus of the Wheel may not be the fastest draw seven, but it’s a draw seven nonetheless. Faithless Looting is an all-star in red decks far and wide. Curse of Opulence has been a bit of a sleeper hit since its release, but with some good politics you have a nice reserve of Gold. Sword of the Animist is another one of those really nice early game Equipment that can race with the best green decks. Similarly to Teferi’s Protection, Dockside Extortionist is so good at getting ahead that every red deck wants it. Even if you get three Treasures, that’s a free cast of your commanders or the aforementioned Teferi’s Protection.

Before I to wrap up, I would like to highlight some really good utility cards that were released in the Commander sets. Boros Charm is one of the best, if not the best card in the Boros colour identity. Granting indestructibility to all of your permanents or giving an attacking creature double strike makes the Charm great on both offence and defence. Disrupt Decorum is a crazy card; much like Boros Charm, Disrupt Decorum can be offensive or defensive. It can clear the way for a later attack or push away any players that are looking a little too scary. From a cycle going back to Commander 2014 is the card Volcanic Offering. Not an initially powerful card at first glance, Volcanic Offering can have up to four different targets and stuff you control can’t be targeted. If cast at the right time, this political instant can turn the tide of games.

I loved building this deck! It took me back to a time when Abyssal Persecutor was my favorite card, that time when playing Magic was more about having silly fun with friends in the school library at lunch. I feel like having all the cards be from the Commander set, helped me find an identity for the deck. I never found the rare lands to be a very overwhelming obstacle. There was a great selection of Boros commanders I could have picked from, but I feel that Ardeen and Rograkh are the perfect couple to lead a deck that channels that old Commander spirit. Thank you for coming by and giving my deck a read.


Thanks a lot Ben! I hope this nostalgic blast from the past gets you past this round and into the next!


That does it for this round! Which deck builder do you think deserves redemption from their last time on CUT to try and finally obtain that Finals win? Make sure to vote down below which deck you liked best and come back next time to see who moved on to the Finals of the Redemption Round!

As always, if you don’t love it, CUT it!

If you or a friend would like to participate in a future edition of CUT please send an email to the.only.travis.stanley@gmail.com. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @chipman007 to share any ideas you have for future challenges, or if you would like to be a part of a future article as well!

Poll Closes: March 3rd, 2022