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January 26, 2017

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Monday Night Magic at the Murderdome: Deck Building All My Friends.

We set controls for the heart of the sun…”  (LCD Soundsystem)

We play a lot of EDH Commander in the Murderdome, especially in the multiplayer format. We really enjoy the creative aspects of deck building. Lately we have opened up our casual gaming to allow for proxied decks. This gives us opportunity to experiment with deck building ideas that we concoct. We can see how they match up against others. It is also kind of fun to slowly fill in a proxied deck; A small joy to pull a card you want from a booster or find a rarer one hiding in your local gaming store! At the Aether Revolt pre-release, for example, I pulled an Oath of Ajani. I had only just proxied into the deck to test out!

Deck Building: Who are All My Friends?

My dream deck right now is my Super-Planeswalkers, nicknamed “All my Friends”. Originally running big creatures, it capitalized on the cascade mechanic. It ran five colours with Cromat in charge. My original plan was to have my Planeswalkers doing damage, setting up my plays, and making little blockers, and then play big creatures like Bringer of the Blue Dawn and Bringer of the Black Dawn to get damage in. The deck ran itself pretty well without Cromat’s help (“oh yeaaaah, I have a Commander!”). Still, something was lacking…

When the new four colour commander decks came out, Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice seemed awfully atrax-ive (ha!). I was loath to remove the red from the deck, as it meant giving up cascade and some of my flavourful favourites like Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker, Maelstrom Archangel, and Maelstrom Nexus. But the lure of all that proliferation was tough to ignore. My fellow wizards of the Murderdome coddled me into seeing the possibilities.

They gently reminded me of the joys of synergy, performance, and general winning-ness that I often toss out the window in favour of flavour when deck building. “But, they both have the cool art!” and “five colours are so much cooler than four!” were not valid reasons not remove them. So, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon replaced Nicol Bolas. Other changes included bringing in Deepglow Skate, Inexorable Tide, and Tezzeret’s Gambit to support the proliferation project.

All My Friends

Commander: (1)
Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice

Creatures: (4)
Birds of Paradise
Deepglow Skate
Eternal Witness
Oracle of Mul Daya

Instants: (4)
Anguished Unmaking
Cyclonic Rift
Enlightened Tutor
Swords to Plowshares

Sorceries: (11)
Austere Command
Bring to Light
Call the Gatewatch
Creeping Renaissance
Demonic Tutor
Deploy the Gatewatch
Farseek
Supreme Verdict
Tezzeret’s Gambit
Toxic Deluge
Wrath of God

Enchantments: (9)
Doubling Season
Inexorable Tide
Mirari’s Wake
Oath of Ajani
Oath of Gideon
Oath of Jace
Oath of Liliana
Oath of Nissa
Sylvan Library

Artifacts: (10)
Astral Cornucopia
Chromatic Lantern
Coalition Relic
Contagion Engine
Everflowing Chalice
Gilded Lotus
Nevinyrral’s Disk
The Chain Veil
Sensei’s Divining Top
Thought Vessel

Planeswalkers: (25)
Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
Ajani Steadfast
Ajani Unyielding
Dovin Baan
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury
Garruk Wildspeaker
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
Karn Liberated
Kaya, Ghost Assassin
Kiora, the Crashing Wave
Liliana of the Veil
Liliana Vess
Narset Transcendent
Nissa, Vital Force
Ob Nixilis Reignited
Sorin, Grim Nemesis
Sorin Markov
Tamiyo, Field Researcher
Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
Teferi, Temporal Archmage
Tezzeret the Seeker
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
Vraska the Unseen

Lands: (36)
Island
Forest
Plains
Swamp
Maze of Ith
Sandsteppe Citadel
Seaside Citadel
Bayou
Savannah
Scrubland
Tropical Island
Tundra
Underground Sea
Breeding Pool
Godless Shrine
Hallowed Fountain
Overgrown Tomb
Temple Garden
Watery Grave
Arid mesa
Bloodstained Mire
Flooded Strand
Marsh Flats
Misty Rainforest
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Verdant Catacombs
Windswept Heath
Wooded Foothills
Temple of Deceit
Temple of Enlightenment
Temple of Malady
Temple of Mystery
Temple of Plenty
Temple of Silence

Enchantments play a big support role in the deck. Mirari’s Wake and Doubling Season allow for rapid growth. Artifacts and enchantments like The Chain Veil  and the Oath of Ajani allow me to ramp up the pace of my Planeswalkers and use their abilities more efficiently. I have ways to find my friends, such as Call the Gatewatch and Deploy the Gatewatch. There are ways to stack and search my deck including Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Enlightened Tutor, Demonic Tutor, and Oath of Nissa. The other oaths in the deck do useful things like providing blockers and keeping my opponents’ board states under control.

Emblems are almost guaranteed to be accessible. With the glut of proliferation and doubling effects, it is not uncommon to use the ultimate ability of a Planeswalker the first turn they are played. Because there are so many Planeswalkers available, I am less afraid to ultimate someone immediately for their emblem. There are plenty more friends where they came from. The possibility exists to return friends from the graveyard to my hand using Creeping Renaissance or Nissa, Vital Force‘s -3 ability.

Generally, I can use a 9/9 Kraken on every end step more than I want to keep Kiora, the Crashing Wave around to forestall damage or draw cards. On the other hand, I usually do want to keep Teferi, Temporal Archmage around. Combined with The Chain Veil and a Gilded Lotus or a later-game Astral Cornucopia, The Chain Veil can be activated multiple times. With an average of 3-6 Planeswalkers on the battlefield, it is not uncommon for me to have 3 emblems by turn 10.

How do I win?

The variety of combinations and options for assembly mean that All My Friends is very powerful and often difficult to deal with for opponents whose decks are creature-centric. It is especially fun to play multiplayer games. Proliferation as a mechanic is proving useful offensively and defensively. I am able to choose whether to proliferate poison or -1/-1 counters. Alternatively, I can help out another player in a multiplayer game by putting counters on their creatures or Planeswalkers as well as my own.

A weakness the deck faces is against decks that have a lot of flying creatures. Another weakness is that the deck can be a little slow to get going in single player format. This makes it vulnerable to aggressive match-ups. One big drawback I have encountered is that playing the amount of non-basic lands I have makes the deck vulnerable to Wave of Vitriol. In that respect, removing the original dual lands and replacing them with some more basic lands is not a terrible idea, and a money saver!

Sorin- Setting target player’s life total to 10 is a very powerful move, in single or multiplayer matches. Sorin Markov does a lot of damage when he comes to visit, especially in multiplayer.

Emblems.

Kiora, The Crashing Wave can often use her ultimate earlier in a game. This can prove to be a game-winner. 9/9 Krakens are pretty useful (They. Just. Keep. Coming!!!) There have been games where I had 2 Kiora emblems out. They didn’t last very long once that happened…

Ob Nixilis Reignited ultimate ability has done rapid debilitating damage, especially in multiplayer.

Ajani, Mentor of Heroes, Ajani Steadfast, and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon help me to stay alive and stay ahead. They gain me life. They help cycle through my deck to find creatures or Planeswalkers, deal damage and exile permanents. I do miss having Ajani Vengeant around, though.

Dovin Baan, Narset Transcendent, or Kaya, Ghost Assassin help to slow down my opponents. Dovin can -3/-0 and stop an annoying creature from activating its abilities or gain me life. Kaya does damage and makes my opponents discard. Narset’s emblem is a dream, one in which my opponents can’t cast non-creature spells.

Karn Liberated, or Liliana of the Veil ultimates are usually game winning, due to the way they can destroy pretty much everything. Liliana Vess‘s ultimate lets me steal everyone else’s creatures as well as mine back from their graveyards. This usually takes awhile to resolve, as triggers are stacked up to go off optimally!

All My Friends is a little crazy. It is unapologetically pricey in its current incarnation. The most expensive cards in the deck are the original dual lands ($90.00- $350.00 each- yikes!) and Liliana (around $100.00). If I really wanted to do a little more deck building, I could take the deck to a competitive event. But for now we all enjoy the challenge of taking on All My Friends in all its  proliferate splendour! Like in real life, one of the greatest advantages I have are my friends. Friends survive board wipes. They stick around. And friends have your back.