CUT! The First Pick

Travis Stanley • March 1, 2021

When deciding how to draft there are many avenues and strategies one could choose. Do you pick the most optimal and efficient card in Limited? Do you take the route of greed and take what you think the most valuable card is? Or do you think "I love this card so much, I will make this work no matter what!" and travel down the path of pure jank? These questions and more are what our fantastic deckbuilders will face for themselves in this article as they navigate Standard and Commander Legends!

The First Cut is The Deepest

Welcome to CUT, the series where we put deckbuilders to the test. Have you ever sat across the table from your opponents and thought "Oh, not this again!" as you play against the same powerful cards over and over? Then this series is for you! We take you on a journey through the creative processes of deckbuilders like yourselves as they rise up to the challenges to try and craft their greatest and most interesting decks.

For all of you who checked out my first article, welcome back! For those who are visiting for the first time, hello to you too, but I do recommend reading the intro article to see what this series is all about! 

Today I have for you three deckbuilders and their wonderfully crafted creations. I will present to you their decklists with a short explanation of why they went the direction they did and how they tackled the challenges. At the end, you come in and get to hold all of the power! There will be a poll where you choose who moves on to Round 2. The top two vote receivers will face off in a new round with all-new challenges! There, a winner will be crowned and not only will there be (a) prize(s) on the line, but their pride as a deckbuilder as well. So please, read carefully, study those decklists, and most importantly, follow your heart. 

Before we get to the decklists, let me remind you of the challenges given to our deckbuilders for this week:

  • Can only include cards from the Standard format
  • Must have at least 10 artifact cards
  • Commander(s) can only be from Commander Legends

Without further ado, lets see what our brewers have to offer...

First up is Ben, let's see what he has crafted for us today!

Araumi of the Dead Tide's EDH Encore

Standard Blue/Black Encore

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Commander (9)
Creatures (174)
Planeswalker (9)
Sorcery (39)
Instant (74)
Enchantment (9)
Artifact (34)
Land (88)

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BEN: The commander I chose to go with is Araumi of the Dead Tide!

With the limited card pool that the challenges allowed, I knew I had to make the most of each card in my deck. Using my 10 artifact slots mainly for support roles like Solemn Simulacrum and Lithoform Engine, I started to lean into a more value-based strategy. After perusing the legends of Commander Legends, I decided to go back to my roots and made an "enters-the-battlefield" reanimator deck.

First, I'm rocking standard all-star Massacre Wurm, to make my opponents regret they ever put creatures in their decks. Not too far behind, the Wurm is followed by Thassa, Deep-Dwelling, the "blink" Goddess herself. This allowed me to get the most out of my creatures on the battlefield until they're exiled from the graveyard for their final encore. Lastly, we have some spicy tech in Mystic Reflection. If you have Massacre Wurm on the battlefield, you cast Mystic Reflection and target Massacre Wurm in response to Araumi's activated ability, whatever is entering the battlefield through Araumi's ability will become a token (or tokens) of Massacre Wurm.

All of this wonderful value is supported by a solid package of counterspells and card draw. Spells like Deliberate and Rewind aren't overly exciting, but they'll keep the cards flowing, and hopefully, keep your opponents off your back. Tutors are a controversial addition to any Commander deck, and normally I play as few as possible, but having access to game winning cards or combos is paramount. Wishclaw Talisman and Burning-Rune Demon provide a fair way to reach victory without your opponents getting too salty. Coming up with the final version of the deck wasn't too difficult though with all the choices in Commander Legends. The most difficult task was choosing the commander. Let's see if these shenanigans are enough to give me the win, if not, this whole deck may end up in the graveyard itself. 

Short and sweet, hopefully that'll be enough to get him an Encore! Thanks so much Ben!

Next up we have Sinclair, let's see how he fared!

Akiri and Toggo EDH Equipment

Code Name: Equipment

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Commanders (14)
Creatures (124)
Planeswalker (9)
Sorcery (24)
Instant (20)
Enchantment (44)
Artifact (192)

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SINCLAIR: With "Code Name: Equipment" the first thing I tried to do was get the best equipment from Standard. Thinking to myself, I knew that three of the sets had draft archetypes focused in red/white: Throne of Eldraine, Zendikar Rising, and Kaldheim. While I was formulating the deck in my head, I initially did not realize that although those sets did have equipment archetypes, there weren't a whole lot of equipment overall, clocking in at around 20.

That was when I decided the best course of action was to run Toggo, Goblin Weaponsmith as one of the commanders to try and artificially inflate the number of equipment I play. The next step I had was figuring out who would make the most sense as the partner. Rebbec, Architect of Ascension came to mind immediately, until I realized that she would "nombo" with any artifact creatures I would want to run. I decided upon Akiri, Line Slinger as a more synergy oriented partner with her ability stacking very nicely with the Rocks Toggo crafts. For removal, I decided on some Pacifism effects and Elspeth Conquers Death as the largest portion of targeted removal. With the almost zero cost of playing Shatterskull Smashing, I thought I was pretty solid at killing individual creatures. I generally like putting around two Wrath of God effects in any given deck and with the limited options I picked Doomskar. Which is one of (if not the best) Wraths printed in the last few years. Along with Realm-Cloaked Giant, because sometimes you just want a Wrath that demands you eat your vegetables. 

With the creatures, I picked those who naturally have some form of evasion like Gingerbrute and Baneslayer Angel, or who had some friends join them like Alpine Houndmaster and its good pups, or got some benefit by being equipped like "double strike"-ing Kor Blademaster.

Due to the nature of equipment decks and their mana greediness, I tried to pick mana rocks (not Toggo's Rocks, mind you) that would self-replicate overtime like Replicating Ring or Skyclave Relic kicked for three indestructible Manaliths. While Boros has very little card advantage (which in my opinion is the largest issue for Boros players today), I've tried to counter that with some of my inclusions, as well as tutors like the Houndmaster and Forging the Tyrite Sword and card replacement effects like Valakut Awakening and Acclaimed Contender

The secret that I have found with this deck is that when playing in the early game, try and get as much damage in as possible before your opponents build their defenses. Then, swing in with evasion creatures over the course of the mid/late game. If the board gets stalled, start throwing Rocks at whatever you can and if things get really bad, fling Akiri to take out the player whom you feel is the biggest issue. Alternatively, you can even play politics with your Rocks; Toggo makes Rocks for sharing.

Yikes, we better watch out for those incoming rocks! Thanks Sinclair! 

Last up is David, let's jump right in!

Tormod Escapes The Closet

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Commanders (14)
Creatures (144)
Planeswalkers (19)
Sorcery (64)
Instant (34)
Enchantment (39)
Artifact (44)
Land (46)

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DAVID: I chose Tormod, The Desecrator  for a few reasons: He's flavorful, flexible, and he's built around graveyard hate. When I realized that his signature card, Tormod's Crypt was legal in Standard, my choice was made for me. Ravos, Soultender is Tormod's loyal subordinate. He gives access to white, has a nice global buff for all the Zombie tokens, and he can make a Zombie for free every turn. 

The deck follows a simple cycle: put cards in the graveyard, bring them back to hand for card advantage, get a large number of Zombies. Destroy.

Filling the Pits

In order to build your grinding engine, you'll need to fill your crypt with corpses, much like Tormod. The deck suffers from the lack of blue here, but thankfully there are still some good options. Egon, God of Death/Throne of Death is probably the best card of the 98. For one mana, it gets you a card in the graveyard every turn, and later can get you cards and Zombies cheaply. On the flipside, Egon, God of Death is also useful as a threat that can get you a Zombie or draw you a card. 

Mindwrack Harpy is another fine pick, it mills each player for three and is a Zombie to boot. Ironically, Burning-Rune Demon's downside is a huge help to this deck. Fetch up two creatures, and your opponent's choice doesn't matter. Syr Konrad, the Grim is slow, but thankfully he brings so much more value than just a mill engine. 

The Graveyard Hate

What would a Tormod deck be without Tormod's Crypt? Crypt is your nuclear weapon against all other reanimator decks, and the deck is built so that Tormod's Crypt can be a regular feature at your table. Necromancers can be petty and Tormod is no exception. At the very least, you get a free Zombie for your troubles. 

You can recur it with Lurrus of the Dream-Den if you need to. Wishclaw Talisman and Grim Tutor were added solely to get Crypt. Soul-Guide Lantern serves a similar purpose to the Crypt. On entering it gets you a Zombie, and later you can either cycle it or exile your opponent's graveyard.  Tymaret, Chosen from Death is another great addition. For two mana, he can get you a Zombie, some life, and get rid of your enemies best reanimation target. Tormod synergizes well with escape. Every time you escape, you get two free Zombies. The downside is that escape usually requires five or so other cards in the graveyard. Use with caution. 

Going Wide and Bringing it All Back

As with any token deck, keeping your army strong is a must. Ravos helps a bit with his global buff, but there's more. Glorious Anthem seems a bit heretical to use on Zombies but it sure is effective. Rally The Ranks is more thematic and cheaper. Liliana's Devotee buffs your boys a bit and brings them back. Tormod gets you Zombies whether you bring cards back or have them hit the graveyard and return. Thankfully Standard is filled with creatures that let us build reanimation engines. Luminous Broodmoth is great here, giving all out nontoken creatures double duty. Athreos, Shroud-Veiled gives our best tools a second shot as well. The deck doesn't have as many sac outlets as I would like, but Standard is fairly limiting. We have Woe Strider, Erebos Bleak-Hearted, Witch's Cauldron and a few others.


One of the deck's biggest strengths is its resilience and adaptability. Having your board wiped just means that you have more things to bring back later. Rise of the Dread Marn gives you a valuable deterrent to board wipes, or incentive to set off your own. You can adjust your pace based on the state of the board, or you can set up a grinding value engine with Ravos and death triggers. Or, go all-in and escape Woe Strider to give you the last tokens you need to go wide.  

Even exile is not the end. If you get Kaya, the Inexorable out long enough, you can bring back all the things you've exiled to create your Zombie horde. If your hoards aren't doing the trick, then your last hope is to fetch up Gray Merchant of Asphodel and replay him until your opponents beg for mercy. It's not very original, but Gary has won more games than I can count. 

Tormod may not be the strongest deck, but I hope he gives you some interesting ideas and at the very least, makes you the only necromancer at your table. 

Thanks David, what a graveyard bash! There you have it folks, all of our deckbuilders in all of their creative glory. Now dear readers, I want you to really think about which person grabbed your attention the most. Which deck excites you, inspires you or even makes you want to go to your local game store (online or in person if it's safe!) and purchase the entire deck! Vote for your favorite below and join us in the next installment to see who will face off in Round 2 of CUT

If you are interested in participating in a future CUT! article feel free to email Remember, if you don't love it, CUT it!

Thanks for reading and we will see you in the next one!