My First* Commander Deck

Denry Kiln, Editor in Chief by Aaron J. Riley

Deep Background

Hello, Commander's Herald readers! I'm excited to tell you about the first Commander deck that I really consider to be mine.

"Cooper," I hear you saying, "Surely you own other Commander decks. Are those not yours?" I'm so glad you asked. Yes, I do own a few other decks. This includes heavily upgraded precons, a few decks I made entirely from scratch, and even one deck with 97 basic Mountains, but this one is different.

About a year ago, with the release of Streets of New Capenna, came the release of Denry Klin, Editor in Chief. For those who don't have Denry's rules text memorized as I do, he takes whatever counters are on him and places those same counters on other creatures that enter the battlefield under your control. For example, if Denry has a +1/+1 counter and a lifelink counter on him, a Hopeful Initiate will have a +1/+1 counter and a lifelink counter placed on it when it enters the battlefield.

When this card was released, I was the Deputy Opinions Editor at The Brandeis Hoot, my university's community newspaper, and had aspirations of one day being Editor in Chief. I made a promise to myself and my friends that if I ever became leader of The Hoot, I'd build a commander deck with Denry at the helm.

A few weeks ago, after pouring my heart, soul, and hundreds of hours into The Hoot, I was elected to the position of Editor in Chief. Being the nerd that I am, my mind immediately turned to one thing: the insatiable urge to build a Magic: the Gathering deck with a card that had my new title on it. This is the story of that deck and why it's so special to me.

First Draft

Once I decided that I was going to build this deck, I knew that I wanted to make it uniquely mine. I was hoping that there would be a cool printing of Denry that I could use in the deck, but all that exists is a full art version without much more flair than the normal card.

Then I realized that if a cool printing of Denry didn't exist, I could create my own. I ordered a full art version of the card and had all of the graduating seniors on the paper sign it. This personalized alter of an already cool card now means so much more to me than any singular Magic card ever should.

This card will act not only as the commander of my deck but also as a reminder of the love I have for my newspaper. The Hoot editors that helped make this card special are members of the community that The Hoot created. The friends I found within The Hoot will stick with me through this special copy of Denry.

A copy of Denry Klin that has been signed by several people
A one-of-one printing of Cooper's favorite card


After getting the first, and most meaningful, card of the deck carefully sleeved, my thoughts turned to the other 99. I came up with a few ideas for cards I thought would fit well with Denry, and eventually showed my friends what I'd come up with. A few months ago, we finished a draft of Streets of New Capenna, and one of my friends had a spare Metropolis Angel that he was willing to give me for my new deck. I accepted; Metropolis Angel absolutely had a slot in the 99, and I asked him to sign that card too.

This is where I realized that this deck was going to be special. I was gathering cards from different parts of my life. I still needed 98 more cards, but the two cards I already had were particularly valuable to me. Both of those cards evoke memories of great friendships, and I decided that I wanted to have as many similarly meaningful cards as possible.

Then, as the semester ended and I arrived back home, I had time to look through my card collection at home and see what cards I already owned that I could slot into the deck. A while back, I'd bought a huge collection containing thousands of cards from Khans of Tarkir, Fate Reforged, and Dragons of Tarkir from my best friend in high school. Luckily for me, this collection included nearly two dozen cards that I was going to put into the deck. I found a copy of Novijen Sages, Pongify, Everflowing Chalice, and more to slot in the 99. Just a few days later, my girlfriend bought me a Kaldheim booster pack as a gift and I pulled a Hengegate Pathway // Mistgate Pathway from it. My plan was coming together; I now had dozens of cards that important people in my life had given to me in the same deck.

At this point, nearly a third of my deck had some sort of sentimental value for me. The deck was becoming a patchwork of my life; it included a connection to a friend from high school, a connection to a friend and frequent Magic opponent from college, a reminder of the amazing memories I have from working at The Hoot, and a connection to my girlfriend. My other Commander decks, as cool as they are, have nothing like that. There are a few cards that I've been gifted by friends in those decks and a few cards from the collection I referenced earlier, but those decks weren't intentionally crafted with meaning in mind. The Denry Klin deck, which I'd been creating in my mind for over a year, was constructed with sentimental value as a cornerstone.

Final Reading

As I'd cobbled together as much of the deck as I could from my current collection and my friends, it was time to build the rest of my deck. I agonized over that for weeks, as I usually do, swapping out cards for new ones and reverting those changes the next day. Eventually, I came up with a deck I was happy with. I tried to balance two main themes in the deck: bulking up Denry with tons of counters and having a critical mass of efficient, evasive creatures for those counters to be shared with.

For the first goal, placing counters on Denry, I used cards like Deepglow Skate, Nils, Discipline Enforcer, and Zephyr Singer. These cards allow me to beef up my commander and make it more evasive, which will in turn allow my commander to make other creatures I control bigger and more evasive.

For the second goal, I wanted creatures that are not only evasive but also help advance my board state when they connect. I chose Skyship Plunderer[el], [el]Grateful Apparition, and Guildpact Informant to help fill out this section of the deck. These creatures all Proliferate or pseudo-Proliferate when they hit a player, making both my commander and the rest of my board slightly scarier each turn.

Notably, I didn't include any Infect creatures, like Blighted Agent or Viral Drake. Not because I don't think they'd be a good fit, but because I don't think that Infect is fun unless you're the one playing it. I want this deck to be fun to pilot and to play against, so I intentionally left out Infect. Eat your heart out, Craig Blanchette.

Because Denry turns small creatures into big threats and big creatures into even bigger threats, I also tried to concentrate my deck's value around creatures. This means that my card draw, ramp, and removal slots were filled up with creatures whenever possible. I tried to find cards that synergize well with Denry's ability to beef up creatures, meaning that I prefer effects in creature-form rather than spell-form.

To that end, instead of artifact-based ramp, I slotted in [/el]Ornithopter of Paradise[/el] and Knight of the White Orchid. Instead of using instants to protect my board in times of need, I used cards like Saiba Cryptomancer and Spellskite. Instead of traditional removal spells and countermagic, I chose Glen Elendra Archmage (who's immortal thanks to persist's interaction with my commander) and Simic Manipulator. Lastly, instead of one-off card draw spells, I placed Sage of Fables[el] and [el]Sanctuary Warden in the deck.

There's more proliferation through cards like Thrummingbird, Karn's Bastion, and Norn's Choirmaster, so that my creatures, but more importantly my commander, can steadily get stronger. There are also cards like Abzan Battle Priest, Herald of Secret Streams, and Towashi Guide-Bot that let us derive value and damage from the wide, counter-loaded board we'll construct.

Sending It to the Printer

This deck is the first one I've made that feels like it's truly mine. It holds physical reminders of people I care about, and it's just a flat-out fun deck. In addition to the sentimental value and the other cards I've already mentioned, the deck holds tons of ways to put counters on creatures, ways to protect those creatures, and fun payoffs for those counters.

This deck has been brewing in my mind for over a year, and I'm thrilled to be able to finally complete it and share its story with you. It was a joy to build and to write about.

Here's the full deck list:

The Brandeis Hoot

View on Archidekt

Commander (1)
Creatures (41)
Instants (6)
Sorceries (3)
Artifacts (8)
Enchantments (5)
Planeswalkers (1)
Battles (1)
Lands (34)

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Cooper is a student at Brandeis University, where he’s Editor in Chief of the community newspaper, The Brandeis Hoot, and consistently loses to his friends in Magic. He’s played Commander for over a year now, starting in earnest when he was gifted a Witherbloom Witchcraft precon over the summer of 2022. His favorite Magic memory is when he drew one land over the course of an entire game at a local tournament. He lost, in case you were wondering.