Ways to Play - Commander Jumpstart Part 2

MD Alvis • August 27, 2021

Evolving Wilds by Sam Burley

Of Mice and Men (and Mana)

Welcome back to Ways to Play: Partner Jumpstart, where we will build a Jumpstart-style modular gameplay experience around Commanders with the partner ability. 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 find the first article here, that explains clearly what we're up to!

This week we have a two objectives:

  1. We want to describe the ideas behind the shared mana for the box and give you a place to start.
  2. We want to look at the two partner commanders you all voted for and add them to the box: Akroma, Vision of Ixidor and Ravos, Soultender!

With that in mind...

Dwight Office Tv GIF by The Office

My Land and Your Land: The Mana Problem

In any given self-contained format (like a Cube, for instance) the goal of the land base is to provide enough dual/tri/rainbow lands to let each person at the table play the deck they built and, hopefully, allow for less mana screw overall. Since we are building a self-contained format, our goal is no different.

Making Mana Work

I want to lean on budget-friendly lands. Trilands like Sandsteppe Citadel, Crumbling Necropolis, and Nomad Outpost are a great example: while each of lands in this cycle forces you to play a turn off, they fix your mana really well. In addition to these, the "gain lands" like Blossoming Sands and Jungle Hollow are part of a great cycle that gives you a small trade-off to make up for the tempo loss. There's multiple cycles of gain lands, so those will help fill out the box with dual lands to make mana better. If you have them, the Ikoria triomes would be an excellent inclusion but they are a bit pricier.

Fabled Passage is definitely a bit on the pricey side for my liking, despite the numerous reprints, but the combination of these three fetch lands, along with the "slow fetches" like Rocky Tar Pit can really smooth out mana for a format where decks will likely be more than two colors often. By matching up these slow fetch lands with the snow duals from Kaldheim, we can create a pretty robust mana base in most every color combination. Command Tower and Exotic Orchard are a given.

Here would be my recommendation: have at least 3 of each uncommon tri-land, 4 of each tapped life-gain dual land and the snow duals from Kaldheim, 4 of each budget fetch land mentioned above (including the slow fetches), 4 Command Towers, and 4 Exotic Orchards. These plus a bunch of basic lands should make for an excellent start.

Rallying the Ranks

Here's where we get to the sweet stuff! Based on your votes, Akroma, Vision of Ixidor and Ravos, Soultender are the next two commanders to be added to the box, and we have two creature-reliant strategies with some really unique play. Let's start off with the first deck list!

Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer

When I was researching her EDHREC page, I expected to see a ton of keyword-soup cards in the "High Synergy" section. Low and behold, it is chock full of...angels.

doctor conan obrien GIF by Team Coco

Don't get me wrong - I have nothing against angels. But, I do think this may be a sign of the vacuum left for an excellent angel-tribal commander. It is worth noting that angels tend to have multiple keywords, but we can do better I think. So, let's run through our core questions.

What does Akroma, Vision of Ixidor want us to do?

Our commander's text box cares about each creature having as many instances as possible of different keywords. She wants the team ready to brawl in an alpha strike, and so we are going to want the ability to have enough evasive creatures with multiple instances of keywords to be able to swing the tides of a game the first combat she's in play or just close the door on an opponent.

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

About halfway through the creature section on her EDHREC page we find what might be the single best card to maximize her text box:

Mr. George Clooney gives each of our creatures each instance of a given keyword as long as it appears somewhere on our board at the beginning of each combat. Meaning, with Akroma, Vision of Ixidor out, it isn't hard to imagine setting up your board to, basically, give you a mono-white Plague Wind or Overrun. Sword of Vengeance can act as a huge pump spell for your team with Odric, Lunarch Marshal out on the board, and Akroma's Memorial will do it all with one card. Thalia's Lancers really ties the room together as a decent threat, a second Clooney, and a strong utility tutor in a pinch.

The vast majority of the creatures in this list have multiple instances of different keywords to help add consistency. With just a handful of creatures we can really take control of the battlefield. Crystalline Giant is an all-star in this regard, and we also get to play some white cards that, although narrow, seem to do a lot of work here such as Lone Rider.

Finally, our commander costs basically infinite mana if she is removed, so we have included a package of simple ramp spells like Gold Myr, Pearl Medallion, and Marble Diamond with some protection in Giver of Runes, Guardian of Faith, and Shelter.

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

There was one card that stood out more than any other as I pondered this question:

Other than overwhelming board-states and massive, swingy combats (which, if we're really honest, feel pretty memorable), a "target player loses the game" creature that plays fair seems really cool and on theme at the same time, granting a bonus for both double strike and flying.

Next up, we have Ravos, Soultender helming another creature-heavy deck, this time based a bit more on synergy than combat. Here's the list!

Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer

What does Ravos, Soultender want us to do?

Ravos, Soultender has been one of my favorite partner commanders since the 2016 release. While he isn't overwhelmingly splashy like some other choices, the grindy card advantage points toward a high-synergy, recursion heavy strategy. He wants us consistently dumping creatures into the graveyard to buy them back.

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

While I was a little hesitant at first, it seems like a cleric-tribal theme would be super sweet and open up some options for cool recursion loops.

Clerics are a unique tribe in that they, ultimately, haven't had a tremendous amount of direct support outside of Onslaught-block and Zendikar Rising but have been consistentlt present throughout Magic's history. This class of creatures tend to care about the graveyard a lot, and sacrificing creatures for fun and profit is a mechanical through-line. Standard all-star Priest of Forgotten Gods and cards like Skirsdag High Priest give us tremendous upside for sacrificing the team. Having a tribal theme also allows us to play  Edgewalker to generate significant mana advantage and High Priest of Penance as a recurring removal spell that can buy you a lot of time.

Being able to recur creatures from the graveyard seems really powerful and on-flavor for our commander. Cards like Priest of Fell Rites (who isn't a cleric - you got me) and Doomed Necromancer let us maximize Ravos, Soultender's second ability to grind out opponents. We also tried to keep the curve low to maximize cards like Revival // Revenge, Bishop of Rebirth, and Bygone Bishop for even more recursive card advantage.

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

This is a tricky one, because I think our commander really wants to grind and not really have giant, swingy turns. However, Haunting Voyage is one heck of a card to create stories. As you sacrifice your creatures and use them to cause your opponents problems, your team will get whittled down. A well-timed mass recursion spell like this one could lead to some incredible wins or amazing comebacks. You could even potentially set up some sweet turns with Elenda, the Dusk Rose to create a massive board out of nowhere to take advantage of Ravos, Soultender's stat bonus.

Wrapping Up

That's it for this week. Would you make any changes to either of our commanders' lists? What synergies seem sweet? Did we miss any cards you think should have made the cut?

Next time we will tackle another 3 lists as we continue our journey towards the Partner Jumpstart Battle Box. Vote for the commanders you want to see included, and we will build the top 3 next time!

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.