CUT #9 - True CUT

Travis Stanley • January 3, 2022

Cemetery Prowler by Daarken

I hope everyone had a good and safe holiday and I hope this season has treated you kindly! Thanks to all who voted on who would win the game in the last article, and who you picked was…

 

 

Now what really happened was a surprise to even us playing the game. The game began with your typical land-go dance, with a little bit of ramp here and a little bit of ramp there. I was able to drop a Body of Research on turn 5! Having a 72/72 is fairly powerful at that point in the game; unfortunately when Sinclair played a Mass Mutiny off of his Velomachus Lorehold and sacrificed my Fractal with a Deadly Dispute, I was left with an empty board. The game progressed with each of us answering threats and slowing each other down.

It all came down to one turn, Ben was down to 3 life, it was Sinclair’s turn, and he played Hungry for More, which would’ve gotten Ben out of the game. I made a deal with Ben that if I saved him, he had to help me kill Sinclair because I didn’t think that my deck could beat Sinclair’s in a 1v1 scenario. He agreed, so I cast Constant Mists and saved Ben. Here is where I screwed up: even though we'd gotten him down to 1 life because of a Syr Konrad the Grim on Sinclair’s board, with a combination of Galazeth Prismari, Trail of Evidence, Storm-Kiln Artist, and a bunch of draw spells, he was able to storm off and win. Two cards that really aided his victory were Mind’s Desire and Brain Freeze.

There you have it. Ben’s Galazeth Prismari took home the win in a very winter storm-y fashion. Now we'll upgrade the decks (10 cards with a $60 budget) and play them again. I will update you all when we reconvene!

Onto this round of CUT!


Edgar Markov, the king daddy of all Vampire commanders. He was released in Commander 2017 alongside other strong tribal commanders: The Ur-Dragon, Arahbo, Roar of the World, and Inalla, Archmage Ritualist, though he has consistently been the most popular of all of them. He got so big and so bad that he was even banned in 1-vs-1 Commander!

Now, 4 years later, we see the return of Edgar in Edgar, Charmed Groom. Not quite as powerful as his predecessor, but he's strong in his own right, able to return three turns after dying at zero cost! In addition to his sticky board presence, he is a Vampire lord, making all of your little Vampires you created with his artifact side a little bit scarier. The great thing about this Edgar is that he slides right into the old Edgar and makes that deck even better, which is yet another reason to target the Edgar Markov player first. I am building an Edgar Markov deck myself, as a few friends and I have a Vampires vs Werewolves vs Zombies showdown on the horizon.

As much as I wanted to build my favorite Vampire commander, Olivia Voldaren, I just couldn’t bring myself to leave so many good Vampire cards on the cutting room floor, like Legion Lieutenant, Bishop of Rebirth, Elenda the Dusk Rose, and Welcoming Vampire, among others! Hopefully our deckbuilders this round didn’t have to leave too much on the cutting room floor in this Crimson-Vow-themed round of CUT!

In this round, three new deckbuilders have challenges themed around Crimson Vow, which came out a little bit ago, but now we've had time to see and play with all of these new cards.

Here are the challenges our deck builders faced this round:

- Commander must be from Crimson Vow or the VOW Commander Decks

- Deck must be Pioneer-legal

- You must use an "Olivia Voldaren" or an "Edgar Markov" card in the deck


First up is Simon! Let's see what they brought to the table!


Toren(tial) Rain of Fists EDH

Commander (1)
Artifacts (7)
Enchantments (11)
Creatures (37)
Lands (30)
Planeswalkers (1)
Sorceries (6)
Instants (7)

 

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If there's one thing I love playing in Magic, it's a white midrange list. Whether that be my Sythis, Harvest’s Hand CEDH deck that uses stax elements to control the board until it can pull out some layered combo, or whether that is with a lot of combat damage, like my deck submission for this week: Torens, Fist of the Angels.

 

This list is fairly straightforward. You play a creature, you make a 1/1 Soldier, and you attack. What's not so straightforward is how to effectively play using the stax elements.

First off, why play stax at all? Well, the colors we’re in don't offer very many opportunities to interact with our opponents' spells until after they've resolved. By playing stax, by changing the rules of the game, to limit our opponents' ability to cast what they want, we grind away their resources and we can more effectively hit with all our creatures from Torens.

Beyond that, I find games where you don't interact with your opponents incredibly boring. This leads us to the first rule of playing stax: you don't have three enemies. Instead, you have two friends and one enemy at any given point. To me, a stax deck is inherently a political deck where you’re leveraging your stax pieces to stop one opponent from winning (usually the opponent on the throne or the opponent about to combo off). For those who play against stax decks, this is why you don't just try to kill them as quickly as possible - because when you do, you stop the only player at the table actually stopping your Storm opponent from winning.

The second rule of playing stax is understanding that stax as an archetype is incredibly complex. It requires a distinct knowledge of what your opponents are going to be playing, and then correct sequencing to deploy perfect answers at the right moment. This is why tutors are so good in our deck specifically; they basically read “find target silver bullet.” For example, if you're playing against someone with a lot of fetch lands or an Ad Nauseam deck, perhaps use one of the tutors you use to go find Yasharn, Implacable Earth instead of a card draw engine. This is a toolbox deck; we have perfect answers for nearly every scenario.

We also run a suite of redundant effects that we always want to have on the field because they're incredibly good. The first of these effects is called a “ROL effect,” a term that originates from the card Rule of Law. The function of these cards is to turn off a lot of the actions that people can take to stop you as they have to choose to waste their turn removing your board state instead of developing their own. In short, we stall the game until our slower gameplan can win. The second redundant stax piece we’re running is called a “RIP stax piece,” which comes from the card Rest in Peace. We're running a ton of these because even decks that aren't graveyard decks will still be running cards like Noxious Revival, Underworld Breach, or Snapcaster Mage to get back powerful spells or even just win the game.

I really love this concept. I think the deckbuilding restrictions forced me to be incredibly creative in a lot of ways. Having to have either an Olivia or Edgar card in my deck forced me to spend hours looking through Scryfall for any mention of them. Resistance Squad is a 3/2 Human Soldier for 3 which on ETB draws us a card if we control a Human, and which, more importantly, gives a quote from Olivia Voldaren in the flavor text. Is it a cop-out? Kind of, but we’re in a nonblack deck, so I don’t care.

As I pointed out in my introduction, I particularly love white. What I failed to mention was that I absolutely loathe playing black. It's just not my cup of tea. Naturally, then, I gravitated towards the nonblack commanders, of which there were only a few, and of which I thought the most interesting was Torens.

Finally, the restriction of Pioneer legality was a big one. A lot of the best tutors, card draw, ramp, removal, and stax were printed in either older or supplementary sets that are not Pioneer-legal, so I had to get creative. For example, there simply weren’t enough stax pieces for me to completely fill it out, so we're playing cards like Kefnet’s Monument and Heliod, Sun-Crowned as ways to get in with our creatures. We're also on things like Nissa, Vastwood Seer and Bonder’s Enclave as ways to ramp and draw cards respectively.


Awesome, thanks, Simon!


Next up we have Alex!


Halana and Alena EDH CUT

Commander (1)
Enchantments (6)
Instants (7)
Creatures (42)
Sorceries (6)
Lands (31)
Artifacts (6)
Planeswalkers (1)

 

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For this challenge I went with my bread and butter: a creature-centric Commander deck. I chose Halana and Alena, Partners to helm this mighty menagerie of Elves, Dragons, and Dinosaurs. It’s surprising how strong a deck can be when you have consistent access to haste and build around it; the counters from Halana and Alena are icing on the cake.

When building this deck I focused on answering two questions: what are the best things I can do when operating at full steam, and how do I enable this? For me “full steam” means I have my commander in play with between 4-6 mana. This may seem like a low bar, but it’s important that your deck functions when things aren’t going according to plan. The haste effect makes cards like Etali, Primal Storm, Hellkite Tyrant, and Kogla, the Titan Ape significantly stronger than usual.

Halana and Alena’s counters aren’t the focus of the deck, but I’ve included a few cards that have incredible synergy. Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin makes four Goblins the first turn it’s played and a further seven the next turn, flooding the board with a swarm of Goblins, and by this point Krenko is a whopping 7/8!

Standard all-star Garruk’s Harbinger comes down as a 4/3, but by the time combat arrives it’s a 6/5 with haste which lets us churn through our deck. Marwyn, the Nurturer can tap for mana the turn we play her and it will be at minimum three, completely covering her mana cost. Remember, these are counters, not a temporary buff, so we’ve got a super dork for following turns.

But how do we win the game? There’s two main ways to close out the game: creature beats and combo. For creature beats one of my favourite bombs is Moraug, Fury of Akoum. Halana and Alena trigger on each combat, which includes extra ones from Moraug. Ghalta, Primal Hunger is a monstrous beater that we can play with haste as a 14/14 trampler. By the late game we’re going to have a massive pumped up board courtesy of Halana and Alena triggers so Toralf, God of Fury helps us crunch through our opponents' life totals. There’s also the potential for casting a cheeky Shaman of Forgotten Ways, giving it haste to activate that turn and then swinging to take the win.

If combat damage isn’t an option, I’ve made room for a combo. The main package I’ve included is

Big mana dork + Hyrax Tower Scout + Return to hand effect

=

infinite mana, untapped and “enters the battlefield” triggers.

For “big mana dorks'' we need to generate six or more mana per activate to be mana-positive. Cards like Gyre Sage, Marwyn, the Nurturer, Circle of Dreams Druid, and Karametra’s Acolyte help us out here. Our “return to hand” cards are Temur Sabertooth and Kogla, the Titan Ape. With infinite mana we can also infinitely bounce and replay Hyrax Tower Scout to generate infinite untaps.

From here we can cobble together a win from a variety of cards. Oran-Rief Ooze can be continuously replayed to buff our board up to 500/500s. The flip side of Toralf, God of Fury  can be indefinitely activated to bolt opponents to death. With Ashaya, Soul of the Wild and Moraug, Fury of Akoum, we can bounce and replay creatures to create infinite combat steps, and our infinite mana can be sunk into Duskwatch Recruiter to put every creature in our deck into our hand.

Now, I know this is a four-card combo, but here’s the rub: this deck has a secret commander. This secret commander helps find all of these pieces. Enter Yisan the Wanderer Bard with haste, because Halana and Alena decree so. With Yisan we can verse into Gyre Sage, then Hyrax Tower Scout, then Temur Sabertooth. From here we can activate Yisan up to six, find Woodland Bellower, and use its trigger to find Duskwatch Recruiter. There are some other Yisan chains that I’ll leave the readers to find!

What I like best about this deck is how our commander raises the floor of any creature. Early game, our dorks accelerate us, and late game, they can turn into beaters. I love swinging with splashy cards like Drakuseth, Maw of Flames the turn I cast them, catching opponents off guard.


Thanks so much, Alex! You can find Alex on various social media platforms like Youtube, Instagram, or you can follow him on Twitter!


Finally, we present Mark and his Edgar deck!


Mookdoesgames Edgar Markov EDH

Commander (1)
Lands (35)
Creatures (31)
Enchantments (6)
Artifacts (11)
Sorceries (10)
Instants (5)
Planeswalkers (1)

 

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Greetings, creatures of the night! With the challenge presented I wanted to build a straightforward deck that comes off unassuming, and when your opponents let their guard down, that’s when we shoot for my favorite kind of win: degenerate infinite combo. So, to get the obvious out of the way first, who’s at the head of this deck?

With this challenge, the first part was pretty easy. When it came down to having an Olivia or Edgar card in the deck, I just went with the easiest to build around, so, we’re going Vampire tribal with the new Edgar, Charmed Groom. Before you insta-downvote because this card was “underwhelming,” to some hear me out. Yes, it's a mediocre Anthem effect sometimes, but we have a lot of control over transforming him to start making tokens.

But the cards we have access to with the second part of this challenge is the real reason I chose this commander.

PIONEER!?!? ALL MY BEST TUTORS AND COMBOS ARE GONE!!!! Well, we have access to some of the more budget and still effective alternatives in Orzhov, even with the Pioneer restriction. This is the real reason I went with this commander. We can run tutors like Grim Tutor, Diabolic Tutor, Idyllic Tutor, and Scheming Symmetry to get us the pieces we need. We have access to fantastic removal with Fracture, Mortify, and an all-star, Anguished Unmaking. If we need a board reset, we have great board wipes in Merciless Eviction, and Kaya’s Wrath or The Meathook Massacre, which, if played right, can win us the game. More on that later. For now let’s get into the avenues to victory with this deck.

The most obvious is building an army of Vampires and pumping them up with anthem effects. We can add incremental power with cards like Vanquisher’s Banner, but the main way this deck wants to play is doing what Orzhov does best: life gain for us and dealing damage to all opponents. If we look at our roster of Vampires, many of them have abilities like Sanguine Bond. Drana’s Emissary, Marauding Blight-Priest, and Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose, to name a few, will convert our life gain into life loss for others. With us gaining life we can threaten to or close the game out with Aetherflux Reservoir. If we wait for the right moment, a Kaya’s Wrath or The Meathook Massacre can take out all creatures on the board and leave us at the number we need to point Aetherflux at anyone.

Before moving on to the fun stuff, we have card draw and other utility that needs us to sacrifice creatures. So, if we need, we can just sacrifice our commander to flip him. We also have some other ways to get tokens that will keep us rolling.

Now if you’re anything like me, and I know I am, you like having the ability to say, “I present an infinite loop”. But being restricted to Pioneer-legal cards takes out the obvious combo with Exquisite Blood. So, what do we do? We have a pretty unassuming creature in the deck named Famished Paladin who doesn’t untap during the untap step, but he does untap when we gain life. So, what if we just broke that? Step one is to give him lifelink. We can stay on-theme with Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord or Whip of Erebos, which can also get Famished Paladin back from the graveyard should we be interrupted in a pinch. Part two is a cheap artifact: Sorcerer’s Wand. All we do is Equip, tap to deal 1 damage, gain 1 life, untap, and repeat. Or if we have more life than our opponents, we can have Sanguine Bond, Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose, or Defiant Bloodlord out, we can just double our life total with the “Revenge” half of Revival/Revenge and take out a player. Obviously if we somehow get all 3 out and keep them, that spell wins us the game.

Well, I hope this made sense and didn’t sound like the ramblings of a crazy person. But I had fun building this deck within the restrictions of the challenge. If you want to see more of me and the skits I make I’m on TikTok @mookdubsmtg and Twitter @mookdoesgames !


Thanks Mark!


A big "thank you" to all of our deck builders this round for presenting their Crimson Vow creations. I invite you to vote for your favourite down below and who you want to see in the next round! I usually keep the challenges for the “Final” round a secret, but I have been wondering, would you like to see what they are? Let me know in the comments below or @ me on twitter @chipman007 ! Also let me know what you would’ve done with these challenges, and remember if you don’t love it, CUT it!

If you or someone you know would like to participate in a future CUT article feel free to send an email to the.only.travis.stanley@gmail.com

Poll closes: January, 10th 2022