Welcome to Commander week here at Hipsters of the Coast! In honor of the release of Commander 2015 we decided to run some Commander-focused content through the week. Today I’ll be sharing some 2015 updates to my favorite Commander deck of all time. Tomorrow, Zach will be taking a look at slotting some of the new cards into his Cube and Jess will share part one of her review of the Commander 2015. On Wednesday, Shawn will take a break from the Modern grind to update his long-neglected Commander decks. Finally, on Thursday, Jess will wrap-up her review of the new Commander decks. 

Commander: Phage, the Untouchable

My all-time favorite Commander deck is easily Phage, the Untouchable. When you choose Phage you put yourself in an interesting situation from a political point of view. On the one hand, you’re not a huge threat because you’re as likely to kill yourself as you are your opponents. But, sometimes you just go bananas and stab your opponents in the jugular, seemingly out of nowhere. I first started playing Phage when Bennie Smith wrote about the deck in one of his fantastic articles for Star City Games. However, it’s been a few years since Bennie’s list and I thought it was time for an upgrade. I’ll break-down the different parts of the deck and highlight a few new cards from Commander 2015 that really shine in this deck.

Part 1

Getting Phage onto the Battlefield: (9)
Command Beacon
Nether Void
Phyrexian Reclamation
Platinum Angel
Sundial of the Infinite
Thrull Wizard
Torpor Orb
Volrath’s Stronghold
Withering Boon

There’s two tricks to getting Phage herself into play. The first, and most obvious, is to negate her trigger when she enters the battlefield. We can do this three different ways. Platinum Angel will just prevent us from losing, Torpor Orb will prevent the trigger from ever going off, and Sundial of the Infinite can be activated to end the turn. Any three of these tricks will let us cast Phage from the Command zone without immediately losing the game.

The other trick up our sleeve is getting Phage into our hand. There are a handful of ways we can do this, but the most exciting is a new card from Commander 2015: Command Beacon. This land can be sacrificed to put Phage right into our hand. The rest of these cards are a bit more round-about and require putting Phage into the graveyard and then into our hand. How do we get her into the graveyard? We counter her when we cast her from the Command zone by using Nether Void, Thrull Wizard, or Withering Boon. Then we can use Phyrexian Reclamation or Volrath’s Stronghold to return Phage to our hand.

Part 2

Getting Phage to Connect: (8)
Dauthi Embrace
Profane Command
Rogue’s Passage
Shizo, Death’s Storehouse
Trailblazer’s Boots
Traitor’s Clutch
Whispersilk Cloak

Once you’ve gotten your game-ending Commander into play you’ll want to be able to actually connect with your opponent to end the game. This means coming up with some kind of evasion ability. We’re going to dedicate eight cards in the deck to just that. Rogue’s Passage and Whispersilk Cloak give us unqualified evasion making them premier targets. We can use Trailblazer’s Boots and Filth for a few flavors of landwalking. Dauthi Embrace provides shadow. Profane Command and Shizo, Death’s Storehouse can provide fear and last, but not least, is Power Matrix for flying and trample.

Part 3

Drawing the Combo Pieces: (11)
Barren Moor
Beseech the Queen
Demonic Tutor
Disturbed Burial
Elixir of Immortality
Grim Discovery
Increasing Ambition
Rune-Scarred Demon
Scrying Sheets
Vampiric Tutor

Of course your combo deck is only as good as your ability to draw your combo pieces so we have 11 cards here that either tutor directly or draw cards. The best of the bunch are Demonic Tutor and Vampiric Tutor of course. Because we may be putting cards into the graveyard, such as Phage, we also have Disturbed Burial and Grim Discovery. This recursion, along with the effects discussed above, can give us extra value from Griselbrand and Rune-Scarred Demon. The rest of these cards round out the tutor/draw/scry effects except for Elixir of Immortality which is to put all the other pieces back in your deck if you lose them.

Part 4

Protecting the Queen: (4)
Guardian Beast
Lightning Greaves
Mask of Avacyn
Swiftfoot Boots

Once Phage and the combo pieces are in play we don’t want to lose them. Guardian Beast is an interesting creature who will keep Torpor Orb and Sundial of the Infinite from being destroyed in response to playing Phage. The other three are obvious ways to prevent your opponent from targeting Phage (or Griselbrand, etc.).

Part 5

Sacrificing the Queen: (5)
Claws of Gix
Culling Dais
Despotic Scepter
High Market
Phyrexian Tower

If we can’t defend Phage then we run a big risk that an opponent will be able to flicker her with any variety of effects which would result in us losing the game immediately. So we have included a few ways to sacrifice her (or any other permanent we may not want to give up to an opponent). Claws of Gix and Despotic Scepter actually work on any permanent allowing us to protect other cards that may be victim to Control Magic or similar abilities. Culling Dais, High Market, and Phyrexian Tower can only work on creatures but have some upside.

Part 6

Controlling the Game: (14)
Barter in Blood
Black Sun’s Zenith
Bojuka Bog
Decree of Pain
Hero’s Demise
Hero’s Downfall
Nevinyrral’s Disk
Ring of Immortals
Ruinous Path
Victim of Night
Visara the Dreadful
Wretched Confluence

The bulk of the deck outside of the Phage combo involves controlling the rest of the board. This is done primarily through creature removal spells but also a couple of utility spells in Bojuka Bog and Ring of Immortals. We also added a new card from Commander 2015: Wretched Confluence. This is part of a new cycle of instants with three modes allowing you to choose the same mode more than once, up to three choices. The modes on Wretched Confluence are “Target player draws a card and loses 1 life,” Target creature gets -2/-2 until end of turn,” and “Return target creature card from your graveyard to your hand.” Obviously the last mode helps us get Phage back, but the various combinations of modes can all be very powerful in this deck.

Part 7

Big Mana: (42)
Cabal Coffers
Coalition Relic
Coldsteel Heart
Darksteel Ingot
Grim Monolith
Magus of the Coffers
Mana Vault
Mind Stone
Nirkana Revenant
Pristine Talisman
Thought Vessel
28 Snow-Covered Swamp
Sol Ring
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Worn Powerstone

Obviously a deck with a lot of control effects and high-cost creatures and combos needs a lot of mana. Most of these choices are self-evident but it’s worth noting the new Thought Vessel from Commander 2015 which is a two-mana artifact that lets you tap for one colorless mana. It also has the bonus of getting rid of your maximum hand size, allowing you to collect control effects without having to discard. The other card worth mentioning is Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth which combos with Filth.

Part 8

Other Unfair Plays: (6)
Blade of Selves
Eater of Days
Endless Whispers
Mirror Gallery
Phyrexian Dreadnought

Last but not least is a section full of fun combo-tastic cards. Kicking things off is another new addition from Commander 2015: Blade of Selves. This equipment gives the equipped creature Myriad which is a new mechanic that puts a copy of the creature into play attacking each opponent. So why attack with one Phage when you can attack everyone with Phage. This necessitates the inclusion of Mirror Gallery to avoid the legend rule, and of course you can only pull off this trick with Torpor Orb or Platinum Angel in play. If you have the Mirror Gallery in play you can have a lot of fun with the Blade and Griselbrand. It’s also a blast on Rune-Scarred Demon, Shriekmaw, or three other creatures that can be abused in conjunction with Torpor Orb.

Since we can ignore effects when our creatures enter the battlefield we’ve added three of the most abusive offenders: Eater of Days, Leveler, and Phyrexian Dreadnought. You’ll definitely want Torpor Orb or Sundial of the Infinite when you put these into play. Once they’re in play, along with Phage, you can get really cute with Endless Whispers and one of your sacrifice outlets to really ruin your opponent’s game.

Final Thoughts

This deck is a lot of fun but can quickly make you some enemies in your local group. If you want to adjust for those concerns you can always drop some of the extra bells and whistles to focus on more control cards, or lose some of the control cards and add more tutor effects. There’s a lot of range on the combo-control scale and even though you only have access to black and colorless spells you can still fine-tune the levels pretty well. The best recommendation I can give is to make sure you’re careful about when you play Phage. Resolving Phage is very often a signal of the end of the game, but it could be ending the game for you sooner than you expected!

What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. Each week we will take a look at the past seven days of major events, big news items, and community happenings so that you can keep up-to-date on all the latest and greatest Magic: the Gathering community news.

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