Partner Jumpstart –  Fightin’, Flyin’, and Flippin’ Coins

MD Alvis • October 1, 2021

Chance Encounter by Steven Belledin

Let’s Get it Started in Here!

Welcome back to Ways to Play: Partner Jumpstart, where we will build a Jumpstart-style modular gameplay experience around Commanders with Partner. Throughout this series we will build a mini-deck around a selection of commanders with partner to create a Jumpstart-style battlebox experience so that we can choose any two, shuffle up, and play with friends for a fun game night experience! 

If you are clicking on this series for the first time, you can click below to read the previous articles in the series:

This week we are putting on our brewing caps and looking at lists for the top 3 partner commanders that the community voted on last time, and we have some really interesting deck lists and themes on the docket. 

Fight Club

Let’s jump into our first deck list, Halana, Kessig Ranger!

Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer

What does Halana, Kessig Ranger want us to do?

Halana, Kessig Ranger wants to put her dukes up, and wants her friends to do the same! Giving each of our creatures, effectively, “ETB Bite” is a big game, and something that we can easily build around. Remember, this is different than fighting: the targeted creature doesn’t really get to punch your creatures back…think Rabid Bite

In my best estimation, she wants us to turbo out creatures, which incentivizes us to build a low-to-the-ground, aggressively-slanted list that wants to play a creature or two every turn with mana to spare for Halana, Kessig Ranger’s activated ability.

What cards, effects, or themes would maximize our commander’s impact?

We can max out the impact of her ability by making sure every bite is chock-full of the bad touch. By filling out our list with low-curve creatures that have deathtouch allows us to have a steady source of removal to clear the way for our aggressive game plan. 

I was surprised by the sheer number of varied effects that exist on creatures with deathtouch, and I was pleased that we didn’t have to sacrifice powerful abilities in order to maximize synergy with Halana, Kessig Ranger. Need to rebuy a card from the graveyard? Skullwinder got your back. Need to give a boost to a creature to win a combat? Wasteland Viper can get the job done. With Acidic Slime we can tag problematic permanents while removing a creature to boot. 

We had some room for utility players that leaned into our aggressive game plan too – Toski, Bearer of Secrets gives us a steady stream of cards and Champion of Lambholt helps us break through and end the game which is, you know, important sometimes.

What interactions or win conditions would make games with our commander memorable?

With deathtouch-tribal on the menu and an aggressive bent, it makes sense to me to try to jank ‘em out with Fynn, the Fangbearer. The games this card will win will have been earned by hard work with a bunch of less-than-optimal creatures. I have included a story-maker as well, and something we call the “Bryan B Special” in our neck of the woods: Triumph of the Hordes. I have been killed by this more times than I would like to admit, and this presents a real reward for playing tight and making the most of every combat step. 

One Spooky Boi

The next addition to the Partner Jumpstart Battlebox is Ghost of Ramirez DePietro, one of my personal favorite partner commanders from Commander Legends

Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer

What does Ghost of Ramirez DePietro want us to do?

This ethereal go-getter wants to get in for combat damage (he even has some decent, built-evasion), and the upside is immense: being able to pick up a card from the graveyard makes Ghost of Ramirez DePietro a great card advantage engine if we build appropriately. We want to be able to get him in for damage reliably, and we want to try to bin something every turn if we can. He’s a little mopey and fragile, but if we can protect him and get him through, Ghost of Ramirez DePietro should be worth the trouble. 

What cards, effects, or themes would maximize our commander’s impact?

I wracked my brain for a long time: what themes would benefit our commander? How could we get things into the bin each turn to re-buy them with his ability? The deck wants to attack, but blue is normally not that great at it. The deck also wants us to bin cards. At first I thought along the lines of Search for Azcanta-style effects, but there are, surprisingly, less of those in mono-blue than you might think. Then, it hit me like a ton of bricks. 

Maximizing the number of cards we have with cycling can let us discard cards each and every turn to buy back, allowing us to be up on cards at the end of combat. While the effect isn’t huge, the consistency of it should allow us to grind out our opponents. That led me to another category that seemed great.

Looters give us the same kind of advantage that cycling does, but using saboteur-style creatures like Ghostly Pilferer allows us to also chip away at our opponents’ life totals. One reason I was excited for Ghost of Ramirez DePietro to get the votes was to build with one of my personal favorite cards of all time: Wharf Infiltrator.

Not only does this looter synergize with our commander, but over the course of a game, if unanswered, can build a board that does work in an aggressive-leaning shell like this one. Plus, I love the whole “cosmic-horror-lookout-it’s-a-mad-cultist” vibe from Shadows over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon.

What interactions or win conditions would make games with our commander memorable?

A couple of cards came to mind once cycling was at the forefront of the conversation, namely this draft all-star from Ikoria:

Having played this card a lot and having lost to it a lot, I can confirm that this is almost always underrated at the table. It sits and generates HUGE beaters over the course of a game, and people always think it is much further away than it is. I have loved sneaking up on people with this card, and it can lead to some massive blowouts in combat too. 

I also included a mill package to compliment our cycling package. These cards accelerate the game more than they have any right to, and I have seen these enchantments in particular kill people out of nowhere. 

Just a Gamblin’ Man

The final commander we are discussing today was a bit of a tough nut to crack in this format, but the variance feels like a huge gain for the table. Let’s get into Krark, the Thumbless

Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer

What does Krark, the Thumbless want us to do?

Who’s got two thumbs and is a coin-flipping commander? Well, not Krark, the Thumbless

I wrestled with that reality for a while, especially given the prevalence of coin-flip-matters cards on his EDHREC page. Honestly, I think that is not the direction he wants to go. Krark, the Thumbless strikes me as a great spellslinger commander! He wants to use instant and sorceries to create big turns and huge effects, and the baked in variance helps balance him out in a way that is helpful. 

What cards, effects, or themes would maximize our commander’s impact?

Krark, the Thumbless doubling up spells is a great place to start. The chronically under-valued Double Vision was my first addition to the list as it lets us mitigate the downside of his ability and lets us really go off when we hit. What was the second card I added, you may ask?

Of course I put our boy’s thumb in the deck! Being able to offset the risk of losing a flip makes our commander much more powerful, and it allows us to have some absolutely crazy turns. I have included Gamble as a balanced way to try to find it, along with Goblin Engineer. This doesn’t guarantee we hit it every time, but it gives us a solid chance and Gamble in particular can help up find answers when we need to. 

We included some punisher-style effects that have a lot less downside when you place multiples on the stack at the same time. The conversation goes like this:“Should I take 5 damage or let the Krark, the Thumbless player draw cards? I should take the damage. Wait…they are targeting me again. Can I afford to take another 5? I guess?”

The optimal line will be to take the damage, but you have a lot of reach in your list to help dis-incentivize your opponents from doing something so…heartless. 

Burning our opponent out gels really well with doubling up our spells, especially if we can do so specifically. I am a huge proponent for the inclusion of Lightning Bolt in most decks that can play it, but it really shines brightly here as an interaction/win condition split card. Price of Progress is also criminally underplayed and incredibly powerful, even in an environment that lacks optimized mana-bases. 

What interactions or win conditions would make games with our commander memorable?

Even though our commander doesn’t really want to engage in extra coin flipping, these cards are super fun and combo really well with Krark’s Thumb. Winning off of Chance Encounter will always feel like getting away with something, and it gives people plenty of time to come up with an answer (I’m not a huge fan of “wins the game” rules text, but this seems pretty balanced). 

Leyline Tyrant might seem like an odd inclusion, but with our commander and ritual effects like Pyretic Ritual and Seething Song at our disposal, this dragon becomes a ticking time bomb for our opponents and introduces a fun mini-game of hot potato. Who wants to be the one to kill the Leyline Tyrant

Can they come up with an answer quickly? If not, this guy will undoubtedly burn someone out, and that tension at the table will hopefully produce some great conversation.

Wrapping Up

That’s all for this week. Next time we will build some more sweet lists for our Partner Jumpstart Battlebox.

We tackled three really unique partners to introduce to our box, and I’m pretty happy with where we landed. What cards are we missing? Is there a different direction you would take with any of these lists? 

Don’t forget to vote for who you would like to see built next! 

MD might Force of Will your Cultivate because he's been hurt before. Spike at heart. When he isn't trying to jank out the table with Garruk Relentless and Clever Impersonator, you can find him hanging with his family, playing games with friends, or working as a coach and spiritual director in SW Missouri.