CUT #15 Finals - I Wanna Be the Very Best Like No One Ever CUT!

Travis Stanley • September 9, 2022

Victory Chimes | Illustrated by Uriah Voth

The championship of championships, two now move on from the first round trying to achieve that final victory. Speaking of winning more, let's talk about "win-more" cards for a minute. If you're unfamiliar with the terminology, a "win-more" card is a distinction given to a card that, when played, only furthers that player's game state when they are already in an advantageous position. After that description, you might think, "Well, that sounds great, I love winning more," and you'd be right: winning more is awesome, but sometimes winning more doesn't necessarily mean winning the game. Let me explain.

There are often times in Commander games where we find ourselves in a very advantageous position, and if we could only get the right combination of cards, we could pull out the victory, but there's the rub: we need the right card(s) to grab that W. "Win-more" cards often don't push us enough in that direction. For example, say you have a board full of creatures with +1/+1 counters on them poised to get in that giant strike, but alas there are blockers galore, and you can't seem to get through. Now in this scenario, you draw Strength of the Pack.

It's nice, but it doesn't further your board, it just makes it more likely that when you do find that right card (say, Tuskguard Captain, in this case), you'll have the win even more so in hand. That's a small example of a "win-more" card

Now, let's see who gets one more win in this edition of CUT!


After the dust has settled and all the votes have been placed, your two finalists are:

Congratulations David B and Jordan! Both of you won out the winners round and now compete to see who is the winningest winner of all who have won! A big thank you to David R and his submission of Wort, the Raidmother; as I said before, I have a soft spot for the spellslinger Goblin, so I am slightly saddened to see it lose. It was a pleasure having you on again David, and I hope to see you on a future CUT!


Now what challenges have I concocted for our expert deck builders? Here they are:

  • You can only use a commander who begins with the same letter as your first name

  • You must use the five mystery cards sent to you

  • You cannot use any of the colors you used in the round prior

  • You must have at least three creatures with the same creature type as your commander (if your commander is a planeswalker, you must have at least 1 other planeswalker)

  • Max five Mythics/Rares

Wow! Five challenges? This is the most challenging challenge I have ever given out, and it's because this is the finals of the winners round! I can't just give them the regular challenges, I have to make them work for this one. You may notice (like I did for CUT! Single Slice) that I gave them a list of cards that they had to put in the 99. I will present the list that each deckbuilder received before showing you their creations. Enough from me, let's see these decks!


First up is Jordan! Jordan's mystery cards were:

Let's see what he brought to the table!


 

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Believe it or not, this was not the first idea I have had for a J-themed deck. Previously, my playgroup was discussing alphabet theme decks as a theorycraft, so I was prepared to take what I had determined would probably be the best commander for it (Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain), the pile of artifacts that made up my mystery cards, and call it a day. And then of course I realised I couldn't use red.

Fortunately for me, that discussion took place before the most recent pile of releases, and among the new hotness was a shiny new "J"-mander, Jon Irenicus, Shattered One. Looking at Jon's decklists, it seems that they largely fall into two categories. Either he is being used to generously donate some really, really bad creatures to our gracious opponents, or we're just giving everyone evasive nonsense and cashing in those cards. Now, I see some major problems with both plans. Plan A requires a density of goofy creatures that tend towards being rare, making it a no-go, and Plan B just seemed like a weaker Edric, Spymaster of Trest or Anowon, the Ruin Thief deck that just leads to drawing a bunch of cards that don't do enough. As I was thinking this through, my eyes alighted upon one of my mystery cards, and an idea struck; I had a plan for the deck.

That mystery card was Darksteel Axe. Let's go through it.

STEP ONE: GET THE BOYS

If you've scrolled through the decklist, you may have noticed a theme with the vast majority of creatures in the list. The criteria I was most looking for were the following: cheap, evasive, artifacts if possible, not giving my opponents value beyond their combat utility, and most importantly, giving me that value. The ur-example of this is Baleful Strix, but not everything can be that good, and so we have a plethora of extras. We have a dozen or so creatures that effectively draw a card, as well as six tutor creatures in the various "T" Mages and friends, as well as a few that mess with opponents in other ways; I'm glad to finally fit Ulamog's Nullifier into a list.

The other creatures I think are worth highlighting here are the two Echo creatures, because I think that their Jon interaction is cute, and Araumi of the Dead Tide, as you can stack the triggers to benefit yourself in the same way. Araumi would be good enough here on her own, so that synergy is just gravy.

STEP TWO: SUIT 'EM UP

A lot of these creatures still don't do enough on their own for my liking, but fortunately we have a litany of gadgets to change that. The mandatory Darksteel Axe is here as well as synergistic options like Sword of Hours and Heirloom Blade. We also have Assault Suit, one of my all-time favourite Commander cards and an absolute house for Jon value. Additionally we have a few protective Equipment, such as Neurok Stealthsuit and the classic Boots/Greaves combo that can help protect our all-important Jon.

STEP THREE: HAND 'EM OVER

That's right, we're giving our creatures away after equipping them. A fun fact I'm sure every Mind Control fan is aware of is that while you can only equip creatures you control with the equip keyword, those Equipment still stay attached if the creature changes hands.

The other thing that you may have noticed is the distinction between cards that say "equipped creature has..." and cards that say "whenever equipped creature...". This is a crucial difference, as the latter wording means that we can get those triggers when the bearers of said Equipment don't belong to us anymore. Even better, we can attack on our turn and then donate the creature attached to get that trigger more than once in a turn cycle.

The royalty of these effects are of course the Swords of X and Y cycle, but due to their protection-granting abilities, all but two leave Jon unable to donate creatures holding them. While the Sword of War and Peace is mediocre enough to leave it aside, Sword of Hearth and Home is simply too good to pass up. The ramp ability as well as the blink effect letting a creature come back to our side and retriggering its ETB effect is perfectly suited to our needs.

There are of course other effects in this vein. A few ramp us, such as Prying Blade, and there's a few that draw cards, such as Mask of Riddles, etc. It's a little disappointing that the nicest of these effects are rare, but we get what we can.

So. We've donated a bunch of buffed up creatures, drawn a pile of cards, and burned through life totals. However, we're now either down to one opponent, or a few of them with low enough life that are wising up to our clear advantage. Now what?

STEP FOUR: CLEAN UP

In theory, the evasive creatures should do a lot to finish up the game. In practice, they may not be enough, and so we have a couple of additional win conditions that... it's just the two versions of the same effect that I like the most, honestly. Namely, Cyberdrive Awakener and Rise and Shine, both of which turn all of our loose Equipment, mana rocks, and artifact lands into beaters that should very quickly finish the game off. If they don't, well, you can't have a creature be attached to another creature, so losing all their cool stuff will be the punishment for our traitorous (?) creatures that dared (?) to survive under the assault.

So that's the deck. I do hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing about it. Challenges like these are always a blast, and I'm honoured to have participated in four of them now. Until next time, remember: just like Jon Irenicus, you too can gain friends by giving them things that are more useful to you than them.


Thanks so much for such a giving deck Jordan! Hopefully Ol'Jonny boy can give you a win because he is indeed so generous!

Last but not least we have David (B)! David's mystery cards were:

What note will David end this winner's battle on?


 

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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace Tyranny

Hello, all! For this article, I thought I would try something new (and a little bit spicy). Hopefully you'll get some fresh ideas. It is my pleasure to introduce you to my pick, Dong Zhou, the Tyrant.

Dong Zhou was a character in The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, based on a historical figure. In The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, he's a powerful general and statesman. He took advantage of chaos surrounding a rebellion to install his half-brother as Emperor. He then manipulated his brother to enact a reign of terror and oppression.

To play this deck you must emulate Dong Zhou.

Live in the shadows, listening and waiting. Exploit the Inner Struggles of your enemies to stoke a Lust for War. Encourage Reckless Charges and Bloody Betrayals, all while playing the Humble Defector. Slowly but surely, sow their Impending Doom.

When the dust settles, and it's just you and your puppet emperor. Unsheathe your Bloodthirsty Blade and show them the true price of your loyalty. With this Act of Treason complete, you can finally Seize the Spoils of war.

Chaos, 'Bezzlement and Treachery (CBT)

As a Canadian, I often find myself with uncomfortable amounts of suppressed rage.

It has been suggested that I use CBT to help me resolve my issues. That's right, it's Chaos, 'Bezzlement and Treachery, the three pillars that hold this deck together.

Chaos

At its core, this deck is a goad deck. Goad is how you help your puppet without getting stabbed in the back. There are 16 total effects in the deck that force attack, either through goad or outright stealing your enemies' creatures. Coronation of Chaos, Besmirch, and Shiny Impetus are some standout examples.

With all this reckless attacking, combat tricks can be used to knock a player out early. Rush of Blood and Unleash Fury can quickly turn an unblocked commander into a death sentence.

All this rampant chaos may not end the game, but it helps keep pressure off your back and life totals nice and low.

When society collapses, self-defense is a must, and this deck is no slouch in that regard.

Abrade, Inner Struggle, and Wild Magic Surge are instant speed ways of dealing with threats. Slower solutions include Flame Slash, Vandalblast, and Plundering Barbarian.

'Bezzlement

What's the point of being a warlord if you can't treat yourself? There is a sizable suite of artifacts in this deck, and this is where the synergies with the secret cards start to emerge. Alloy Myr, Guardian Idol, and Darksteel Ingot all help you ramp. To bolster this, there is a sizable Treasure subtheme. The aptly named Noble's Purse lets you build up your Treasure hoard for when you get to step three in your master plan. Seize the Spoils, Big Score, and Unexpected Windfall are ways for you to get the cards you need while building up your pocket book. For your endgame, you will need some quick mana, and Mana Geyser, Seething Song, and Ashnod's Altar certainly pull their weight.

The second part is all the neat Equipment you get. From Assault Suit to Whispersilk Cloak, there is no shortage of useful weapons to bolster your army. After "borrowing" your "ally"'s creature, you might want to return it with a little something extra. Grafted Wargear and Grafted Exoskeleton are a loving gift that says "Go after me and your creature dies". Assault Suit lets you pass the carnage around, and the Bloodthirsty Blade is an easy way to ensure the scariest thing at the table is not pointed at you.

Treachery

What separates Dong Zhou from other goad- and chaos-themed decks is that he changes how you build your alliances. In a game of Commander, if you do not have the "initiative", then you usually want to ally with the other players around the table to help take down the player with the most power. This leads to long games where power bounces back and forth until someone is able to OTK the table. Dong Zhou flips the script for you. After the first few turns, when the first player starts pulling ahead, you want to accelerate their lead.

One thing to remember: you must always appear weak. You should miss land drops on purpose, complain that your deck isn't panning out, and lie and say that you have no removal. Rely on the sympathy of the other players at the table. Only reveal your power level when you are about to go off or if you are about to die. Feign ignorance when the other half of the table complains that you are enabling the lead player.

When the first two players have been killed off, you must betray your puppet emperor.

At this point, they should have a sizable threat out.

First, buff it as much as possible. Unleash Fury and Rush of Blood are probably the most effective here.

Next, drop Dong Zhou, hurting them as much as possible. All of my rare slots went into this part. Panharmonicon, Splinter Twin, Conjurer's Closet, and Jaxis, the Troublemaker all are different ways of getting multiple triggers from Dong Zhou.

Since the damage comes from the creature itself, if you manage to get a Grafted Exoskeleton onto that creature, you can possibly kill a player with infect this way. Doing this earns you Super Secret Achievement #1.

After that, steal it with Act of Treason or something similar and swing in. Killing a player with their own commander unlocks Secret Achievement #2. Truly Diabolical.

If that is not enough, you can use cards like Spawning Pit, Ashnod's Altar, Grafted Wargear, and Fling to destroy it. It feels good to be petty.

After that, you can celebrate your guile (and maybe apologize to your friends if you have any left).

Dong Zhou is a bespoke commander, who fundamentally changes the game and truly tests your ability to play as a power hungry tyrant. What more could you ask for?


Thanks for giving us a lesson in the truly diabolical, tyrannical vision of Dong Zhou, the Tyrant! Perhaps treachery will be enough to seize the victory and propel yourself to the top!


Thank you guys for your amazing contributions and for presenting your deckbuilding prowess for two challenging rounds in a row! I can see now why both of you won your respective rounds, you guys are great. Of course, it's not up to me who wins, it's up to you, the reader, so please vote for who you think did the best with these challenges, or really, whose deck you enjoyed reading about the most. We'll find out next time who won the winners round and introduce three brand-new deckbuilders to CUT! Who will be building around Dominaria United! Vote now and then check out the article next time to see some new challengers taking on new challenges! See you next time, and remember: if you don't love it, CUT it!

If you or a friend would like to participate in a future CUT article, feel free to email the.only.travis.stanley@gmail.com or @ me on twitter @chipman007!

Poll Closes: Sept 16, 2022