CUT #16 - CUT to; Dominaria United

Travis Stanley • September 25, 2022

Join Forces - Aurore Folny

I am so glad to be going back to Dominaria, the last time we went there I absolutely loved the set and the story around it. Being someone who started playing during Magic Origins, I never got to experience any of the lore, stories, or characters from the sets that took place on Dominaria. This time around, the Phyrexians are abound and causing all sorts of chaos and destruction.

All of the legendaries are fantastic, some obviously better than others, but I believe that each has its use. If you haven't already seen it, I've been creating a deck using each of the new creature commanders from the Dominaria United Commander set, each under $100! My favorites to build have been Greensleeves, Maro-Sorcerer and Cadric, Soul Kindler. As for the main set, Balmor, Battlemage Captain, Meria, Scholar of Antiquity, and Jodah, the Unifier all stand out for all different reasons.

Balmor is a fun and easy commander to build around; you can do tokens, Wizards, spellslinger, and all of the above! Meria is full of combo potential, but I'll have to look to better builders than I on how to take full advantage of her abilities. Jodah is interesting; I already have a five-color Legendaries Matter deck, and he basically just replaces its current commander, Esika, God of the Tree. This release (regular set and Commander set) is loaded with legends, so there should be a little something for everyone.

Before we jump into today's challenges, lets see who won the last round;

Congratulations Jordan you are the winner of all winners! With the help of Wulfgar of Icewind Dale and Jon Irenicus, Shattered One you have claimed the top spot among your victorious peers. A huge thank you to David for participating again, and though he didn't win this round, I am sure we will see him in another Finals in the future!

Moving right along to the challenges for this round of CUT!

  • Commander must be from Dominaria United

  • 99 Must be Pioneer-legal

  • Must use at least 8 legendary permanents in the 99

Our first deckbuilder is Coach J Ro! You may recognize that name from his articles over on EDHREC, or on twitter as @Coach_J_Ro! Let's see what he brought for us today!


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Hi! I'm Coach J Ro, the Unsummoned Skull, one of the writers for EDHREC! I have been diagnosed with OCD and I'm a college Statistics Professor, so I design decks based on numbers. My first article series for EDHREC was based on the jobs decks do and how to build synergy into the individual card choices, which is how I approach deckbuilding and this challenge in particular. The deck I made for this challenge is a Blue/Red tokens list, which is slightly different from what I have seen out of the colors in the past. This deck is aggressive, interactive, and flexible; everything a fun and powerful tempo deck should be!

I watched as the cards were spoiled, waiting for something to speak to me. I'm not intimately familiar with Pioneer as a format, or even the sets available, so I decided I would look for a commander that would work with the majority of cards in a given deck, so the synergy would give the deck power and consistency. If I'm going to be restricted in card choice, I'm going to value functional reprints over individual card strength. In terms of the Legendary permanents, I decided to add in another challenge: there would be no creatures other than the commander. Why? Because I want the permanents I play to be difficult to interact with. I want my permanents to grind, to recover, to support the decks' engines, and to resist most board wipes and removal.


The commander that spoke to me clearest was Balmor. Balmor is a cheap, evasive threat with decent toughness, enabling the deck to easily alternate between offense and defense. Its triggered ability grants a power to all creatures I control, including itself, as well as trample, each time I cast an instant or sorcery. The pumps stack, so, if the deck has a high density of instants and sorceries, the creatures can get very large very quickly. While multiple instances of trample don't do anything, the fact that the ability grants it turns even a lowly 1/1 into a huge threat in short order. Just about every spell triggers it, and the deck is chock full of cards that put multiple bodies onto the field, building them into everything the deck does, churning through cards and creating a board state out of nothing.

Spot Removal

Most of the deck's spot removal centers around tokens. The removal and denial directly affects the board and serves a variety of political purposes. Stolen by the Fae might just be the most important of these, as it removes a blocker and creates a host of small, evasive creatures. That tempo shift can easily be the difference between winning and losing. When your removal can lay a beatdown, there's no greater feeling.

Mass Removal

The deck's mass/multi removal is designed to put bodies on the board while either removing specific threats, upgrading my own creatures, or adding to the board after clearing it. The selective removal again serves political purposes, replacing the removed creatures or setting up the tempo package and developed board to take over the game or close it out, depending on the situation. For example, Hour of Need can shrink opponents' creatures into 4/4s or grow our creatures, and the pump and trample of our commander breaks parity!

Card Draw

The card draw is designed to scale, as aggro/tempo decks tend to run themselves out of cards relatively quickly. Bident of Thassa, in particular, is a repeatable card draw effect that doesn't cost mana after the initial investment and has an activated ability that compels available creatures an opponent controls to attack. The forced attack aspect creates even more complicated political play situations, as the player is not compelled to attack me, and, whether the player attacks or makes their creatures unable to attack, I can take advantage and make a safe attack on my turn, drawing more cards!


The ramp is an interesting issue, as many of the classic ramp pieces aren't legal in the format, and the rituals I like to use are kind of hit-and-miss without a critical mass. As a result, I decided to use cards that generate Treasure as ramp, as they contribute to the deck's ability to cast multiple spells in a turn, as well as permanent-based ramp, as those cards can do multiple jobs. In particular, Open the Omenpaths is a neat way to fix the mana to cast the commander, with the secondary mode of pumping my board. Since the commander pumps on cast, the card either enables the commander or synergizes nicely with it, so it's always a live card!

Win Con/General Synergies

The win conditions, for the most part, add multiple tokens to the board. While other cards incidentally put tokens out, these cards do that as their primary function. We want our board as wide as possible, so each card increases our damage-dealing potential exponentially. In particular, Dragonshift is a card that, while it doesn't add bodies, changes the base power and adds flying. It is one of the few Overload cards that is an instant, and it is capable of turning my entire board into Dragons, which carry the bonuses the creatures received from the commander because they never left the battlefield. The instant-speed nature of the spell allows me to wait until blockers are declared to spring it, which may subvert the evasion but increases the damage opponents are expecting to take!


For the most part, the nonbasic lands are designed to keep lands untapped for tempo advantage, so the deck can cast spells on time. The legendary lands are where the deck shines, however. The Sanitarium is a sneaky way of putting card draw into the deck. The two channel lands each have their purposes, with Otawara, Soaring City being a removal card that lurks in hand until I need to make a choice between mana and tempo, while Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance is another source of multiple bodies, which can help me sneak a winning boardstate.

I tend to run a lot of basics in my decks (total of 30 in this deck) because I want lands to enter untapped and I trust the deck to sort out the colors if it's randomized sufficiently. I want to cast my spells on time, and the greedier I get, the more likely it is that I'm made to pay. The simplicity of this deck and its defensive, tempo-based plan makes it important for me to watch the situation, read, and react. Tempo decks shift between offense and defense, so I need to be attentive to the table, which is easier to do when I can trust my deck and its ratios to do what I want them to do. There's power in being linear!

Thanks so much Coach! I hope that this Wizard helps you trample your way to the next round.

Next up we have Alex! Thanks for joining us for this round, what has Dominaria United and these challenges inspired you to build?

Commander (1)
Enchantments (12)
Instants (9)
Artifacts (6)
Creatures (28)
Sorceries (8)
Lands (36)


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Heyas, my name is Alex and I enjoy building decks. A lot. If you are here to read CUT, I feel we might be kindred spirits and in good company.

So what are we doing here? After looking over the restrictions I wasn't sure where to go with this one. I even had to look up what Pioneer was! At the time none of the legends in the main set had caught my eye, and analysis paralysis was setting in.

Then I saw a legend that spoke to me: Shanna, Purifying Blade. At three CMC (you will tear CMC from my cold dead fingers, WotC), this 3/3 with lifelink has two of my favorite words in Magic, "draw" and "cards". At the end of my turn, if there is mana available and I gained life, draw some cards.

While Shanna herself can net us a few points of life when we attack, there are a lot of alternative ways to increase that number as well. Because of the restrictions, I included a less-than-traditional soul sisters package, but Lunarch Veteran, Gala Greeters, and Daxos, Blessed by the Sun amongst a few others fill in nicely. Drop a land? Jaddi Offshoot, Druid Class and Courser of Kruphix are there to give a small bump to your life. Whenever you draw a card Horizon Chimera is there to add a point as well. Even casting a spell could send your life total northwards thanks to the extort on Blind Obedience.

Once a few pieces of cardboard are in play and life is being gained, it is time to look at some of the payoffs in the deck.

First up is a small sub-theme involving tokens which includes cards like Resplendent Angel, Valkyrie Harbinger, The Book of Exalted Deeds, and Angelic Accord that will put a 3/3 or 4/4 angelic flyer onto the battlefield if you've gained more than some amount of life. If you gained ANY life, Crested Sunmare invites an indestructible Horse to the party. Not to be outdone, Griffin Aerie can add a winged body as well.

With the extra cards that Shanna provides, Chasm Skulker and Ominous Seas are a perfect fit. Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse also benefits by adding some cats to the playing field, and if there is one thing the internet loves, it's cats.

We don't want to lose all these cards due to something silly like discarding so Wizard Class makes the CUT, as well as Triskaidekaphile which gives us a sneaky alternate win condition!

Rounding out the deck is a mixed bag of utility amongst the expected draw, ramp, and removal. There are a few ways to close out the game with legends, like Odric, Lunarch Marshal and God-Eternal Rhonas to help our creatures hit for lethal. Additional cards, like Scute Swarm, Felidar Retreat and Oketra's Monument, help the soul sisters package and add more bodies to the board so we survive to the end. Also, Trelasarra, Moon Dancer can do some serious work here growing as we gain life and allowing us to filter our deck a bit.

This exercise was a lot of fun, but now I've got to put another deck in sleeves - thanks Travis!

You are more than welcome Alex! It was great having you on this first part of this round, here's hoping that your Purifying Blade can gain you enough life/value to live til the finals!

Finally, let me introduce you to, that is if you haven't already met, Andy Floury! You may recognize Andy from his articles here on Commander's Herald! I'm super stoked to have Andy on this round, so let's see what he brought.

Elas il-Kor, Sadistic Pilgrim

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Commander (1)
Lands (33)
Creatures (29)
Sorceries (9)
Artifacts (9)
Enchantments (8)
Instants (11)


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Hi everyone, I'm Andy Floury and I'm excited to make my debut on the CUT article series. I don't often build decks around restrictions, but I've had a good time playing with art themes in the past like "bent knees tribal" or "birds flying south" so I jumped at the chance to throw my hat in the ring focusing on a new uncommon commander. Let's see if Elas il-Kor, Sadistic Pilgrim makes the cut.

Commander from Dominaria United

I chose Elas, Il-Kor, Sadistic Pilgrim because I'm still on a journey to find a Orzhov deck that fits my playstyle. It makes me think of some previously printed Orzhov commanders that do a lot of work without a great deal of intricate plays like Kambal, Consul of Allocation or Liesa, Forgotten Archangel, but also benefits from creatures entering the battlefield so I can go back to my token roots. Elas doesn't require a lot from you, they just want you to play creatures and for your creatures to die. Let's take a look at the deck.

Must be Pioneer-Legal

A lot of the more popular life gain, aristocrat, and life drain are Pioneer-legal. It does help that this is a popular archetype so we will continue to see cards added to Pioneer that could be utilized in this deck in the future.

Legendary Permanents in the 99

Daxos, Blessed by the Sun is here for the life gain.

Liesa, Forgotten Archangel is a great way to keep our hand full. Elas would like our creatures to die and Liesa will get them back at the end of the turn, and having lifelink is just gravy.

Kambal, Consul of Allocation doesn't have to do a lot to provide benefit. Pay him no mind, he just wants to make sure you pay taxes with your life.

Syr Konrad, the Grim continues to be one of the strongest cards for the life gain and life drain strategy. Your opponents aren't going to want to see him stick around for long. We're planning to lose creatures and then reanimate them which will start to pressure our opponents.

Erebos, Bleak-Hearted will help with card draw. I'm looking to pay 2 life multiple times to gain an advantage. This is a sacrifice outlet so if we aren't losing creatures during combat to trigger Elas, we can rely on Erebos. Once it becomes a creature, you'll have a great blocker.

Heliod, God of the Sun is such an underrated card. In this deck I'm looking to create the 2/1 Cleric creature tokens for chump blocking. Giving our creatures vigilance is great to swing and retain blockers.

Junji, the Midnight Sky is a solid flying attacker. It also gives us two different death trigger options that both work with our gameplan. Either we get cards if we're getting low or we can reanimate the best non-dragon creature form any graveyard.

Adeline, Resplendent Cathar is a good way to create multiple tokens that will likely die immediately triggering Elas for the tokens entering and again when they die.

Elenda, the Dusk Rose will grow when our creatures die. She can swing and when she is removed she'll give us a bunch of Vampires to trigger Elas.

Heliod, Sun-Crowned is a good way to grant lifelink to creatures, but will really speed up the game when our life gain triggers start to take off. We're going to put so many counters onto our creatures.

The Celestus might be my favorite three-mana rock. Orzhov decks usually need to pay life to draw cards, but this can help loot for better cards as the game progresses. This is also a slam dunk with some incremental lifegain tacked onto the day/night tracking.

Bolas's Citadel will be a problem for our opponents. We should have plenty of life that we can pay to play as many cards off the top of our library as we want.

Shadowspear works well with Heliod, Sun-Crowned and Archangel of Thune. We can give our large creatures trample and lifelink leading to big combat phases.

Bontu's Monument should do some work as we have 30 creatures in this deck including Elas and 23 of them have a black pip in their mana value. This card should provide value over the course of the game.

Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire and Takenuma, Abandoned Mire are legendary lands but are likely going to be used for their channel ability to take out a creature during combat and to return a creature from the graveyard to hand. We have a good number of legendary creatures that the channel costs will be reduced.


The goal of this deck is to land Elas on turn two and then gain life throughout the game to keep you alive until you're able to drain your opponents out with cards like Vizkopa Guildmage, Cliffhaven Vampire, and Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Almost every card in this deck cares about gaining life, making creature tokens, or reanimating creatures to synergize with Elas Il-Kor, Sadistic Pilgrim.

Once we're in the late game we're looking to drop Archangel of Thune or Heliod, Sun-Crowned and put enough counters on our creatures to close the game out.

Thanks for reading. Happy gaming!

Thanks Andy, that was super, well, legendary! Hopefully we get to see more of your skills in the next round. You can find Andy on social media @AndyFloury and @GuardianPod. Andy is also the host of the Guardian Project podcast and, as I said before, writes articles here on Commander's Herald. Go and check him out!

Presented before you are the three deck builders for this round of CUT, and it's up to you to choose who gets to move on to the finals! A huge thank you to all three of them for being apart of the 16th CUT article, I really couldn't do it without you, or anyone else who has been on this series! A thank you to the readers as well, without you voting and reading, these fantastic builds would probably never see the light of day, so thank you! Make sure to visit all of guests on social media, and check out their content, they are great! Remember to vote for your favorite and as always, if you dont love it, CUT it!

If you or a friend would like to participate in a future CUT article, feel free to email, or reach out to me on twitter @chipman007!

Poll Closes: September 30th, 2022!