A brief aside before I get into this week’s piece. When I joined the site, Hipsters asked me to submit two articles up front. Without any submissions to work with I’d been planning to do a second piece similar to the one that aired two weeks ago, talking about the format as a whole and more general theory. But while I was brainstorming, my friend and fellow author Aaron reached out to me asking for help making his first Commander deck. He had a first draft of a list but with only a few Commander games under his belt he wanted some help overhauling the deck to get it up to par.

Since I’d tried to get him into the format on multiple occasions only to be turned down, this opportunity was too good to pass up. I decided to work with Aaron to turn his request into my first deck editing column for Hipsters of the Coast. As for the deck, well . . . I’ll let Aaron speak for himself:

Dear Azami,

I rarely play commander. The reason that I rarely play commander is because as a singleton format I feel as though many decks become broken quite easily. When I think of commander I think of a casual format where you can sit around and have a few drinks with some fair play. How my experiences generally end up are being killed turn 4 with an infinite combo which is in response to another active players infinite combo to kill the table. I recently played against Narset and Azusa and thought to myself, “That looks fun, but not quite my style.” After being man handled by a very large alpha strike with Craterhoof, then another game by a Narset going nuts with Planeswalkers and tokens I decided it is time to turn the table. I wanted to do my own thing while not allowing others to do theirs. For this reason I am sending you my mono blue Memnarch decklist to edit and help with. I am a miserable person and watching the broken enjoyment of others makes me want to crush their spirits. I want this deck to be an Evil Witch from Snow White level of evil. I want to grind my opponents into the dirt, then add water and form them into a mudpie for further grinding. Please help!

Thank you,

Aaron Gazzaniga (Yes, the brew corner guy)

Memnarch

Commander (1)
Memnarch
Lands (43)
Academy Ruins
Buried Ruin
Ghost Quarter
Glimmervoid
Inventors’ Fair
34 Island
Spire of Industry
Strip Mine
Tolaria West
Wasteland

Creatures (18)
Archaeomancer
Arcum Dagsson
Blightsteel Colossus
Darksteel Colossus
Duplicant
Etherium Sculptor
Foundry Inspector
Grand Architect
Inkwell Leviathan
Metalwork Colossus
Metalworker
Mycosynth Golem
Myr Battlesphere
Pili-Pala
Platinum Angel
Platinum Emperion
Soul of New Phyrexia
Wurmcoil Engine

Spells (38)
Blue Sun’s Zenith
Bribery
Caged Sun
Candelabra of Tawnos
Cloud Key
Contagion Engine
Crucible of Worlds
Cyclonic Rift
Darksteel Forge
Fabricate
Ghirapur Orrery
Gilded Lotus
Grim Monolith
Jace Beleren
Jace, Architect of Thought
Jace, Unraveler of Secrets
Karn Liberated
Lightning Greaves
Liquimetal Coating
March of the Machines
Mindslaver
Nevinyrral’s Disk
Paradox Engine
Paradoxical Outcome
Planar Bridge
Planar Portal
Sol Ring
Spine of Ish Sah
Staff of Nin
Swiftfoot Boots
Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
Tezzeret the Seeker
Thirst for Knowledge
Thoughtcast
Thran Dynamo
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
Voltaic Key
Whir of Invention

Yes, this is what he actually sent to me. Some people want to watch the world burn.

I spoke about this in my last article, but one of the hardest parts of helping other people with their decks is being able to step outside of the areas that I’m comfortable and familiar with in order to improve decks that, for one reason or another, fall outside of what I’d consider making myself. This deck is the poster child for that.

When you try to break down the social contract of Commander, it comes down to one simple principle: don’t be a dick.  Obviously every playgroup has different expectations for what exactly that means, but deliberately going out of your way to make other people hate the game goes directly against both the spirit of the format (overused as that term is) and all of my experiences playing and writing about Commander.

That being said, I’m here to help. Let’s crush some dreams.

The Changes

This is going to be a much more extensive overhaul that I normally do, so to avoid this article turning into a small book I’ll be breaking down the cuts and additions by category instead of going into detail on each and every card.

Mana

Cuts:
8 [casthaven]Island[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Candalabra of Tawnos[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Cloud Key[/casthaven]

The original list that Aaron sent me had 43 lands, which is a lot. Even for mana-intensive decks I never recommend going above 40. (Obvious exceptions like [casthaven]Borborygmos Enraged[/casthaven] aside.) And since I’m about to add a lot of mana rocks I wanted to trim the land count down to 37. [casthaven]Candelabra of Tawnos[/casthaven] seems like a holdover from a previous iteration of the deck, as currently it only does anything in conjunction with [casthaven]Caged Sun[/casthaven]. [casthaven]Cloud Key[/casthaven] is getting cut because I wanted less cost reduction and more artifacts that tap for mana. We’ll get into the reasons why later on.

Additions:
[casthaven]Temple of the False God[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Shrine of the Forsaken Gods[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Everflowing Chalice[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Mana Crypt[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Mox Opal[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Mana Vault[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Silver Myr[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Mind Stone[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Extraplanar Lens[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Worn Powerstone[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Hedron Archive[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Blinkmoth Urn[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Dreamstone Hedron[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Doubling Cube[/casthaven]

[casthaven]Temple of the False God[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Shrine of the Forsaken Gods[/casthaven] round out the land count to 37 while building a little ramp into the manabase. Since you’re so heavily colorless, the restriction on [casthaven]Shrine of the Forsaken Gods[/casthaven] will almost never matter.

And now we get to the actual mana rocks. [casthaven]Memnarch[/casthaven] is a big-mana deck that needs a metric ton of resources to function. Since we’re planning to make the entire table as mad at us as possible, we need to hit a critical mass of mana as on the quick. Since Aaron owns a massive collection and functionally doesn’t have a limit to his budget, we get to add all of the most broken mana rocks out there.  Most of these don’t need explanation: [casthaven]Mana Vault[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Mana Crypt[/casthaven] are borderline broken cards after all, and you’re more than happy to take damage from them for the mana boost. It might be worth switching to [casthaven]Snow-Covered Islands[/casthaven] to keep other players from benefitting from Extrplanar Lens. And while [casthaven]Doubling Cube[/casthaven] might seem out of place—it doesn’t do anything until you have seven mana in play—I’ll get into that one in more detail later.

Other than that, it’s important to notice that all of these additions are here for ramp, not mana fixing. One of the concerns that Aaron raised when we spoke was that he didn’t have enough mana filtering in the deck. However, this is a mono-blue deck with an extraordinarily low number of blue mana symbols. A little filtering to be able to use the activated abilities of permanents you steal is helpful, but as a general rule as long as you can maintain a ration of three out of every seven mana being blue for Memnarch’s activations the only thing that matters is your quantity of mana, not what colors you have.

Creatures

Cuts:
[casthaven]Achaeomancer[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Darksteel Collossus[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Inkwell Leviathan[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Soul of New Phyrexian[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Wurmcoil Engine[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Metalwork Collossus[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Myr Battlesphere[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Mycosynth Golem[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Platinum Emperion[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Duplicant[/casthaven]

This is where we get into the biggest changes I’m making to the deck, in that I’m changing how the deck wins games. The list that Aaron submitted basically has three routes to victory: steal your opponent’s win conditions and use them against them, lock the board down until they concede out of boredom, or beat them to death with huge artifact creatures. The deck didn’t have a lot of beaters, but [casthaven]Darksteel Colossus[/casthaven] and a few others are big enough to end the game on their own, given a little time.

That is a valid way to build the deck. But I know Aaron well enough that I know he really wants to make this deck as slow and as miserable as possible. As such, I’m cutting the majority of the deck’s beef—with the exception of [casthaven]Blightsteel Colossus[/casthaven], which is mean enough to belong in the finished deck—to add more lock pieces. Your win is going to come using your opponent’s cards, so the best use of your own cards is making sure you can slow the game down enough to get to that point.

I’m also cutting some utility creatures, such as [casthaven]Archaeomancer[/casthaven], as I’m trimming down on the number of spells, and [casthaven]Soul of New Phyrexia[/casthaven]. Soul would be a great card, except once you hit the late game you’ll want to be sinking all of your mana into activating [casthaven]Memnarch[/casthaven] instead of being able to hold up five mana at all times. [casthaven]Platinum Emperion[/casthaven] is a fine card, but considering that you can be killed right through it with commander damage you can do better.

Spells

Cuts:
[casthaven]Thirst For Knowledge[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Thoughtcast[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Fabricate[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Paradoxical Outcome[/casthaven]
[casthaven]March of the Machines[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Jace Beleren[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Jace, Architect of Thought[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Jace, Unraveler of Secrets[/casthaven]
Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
[casthaven]Karn Liberated[/casthaven]

This section of cuts gets broken down into two parts. The planeswalkers and the cards getting cut for poor interactions with other effects. [casthaven]Thoughtcast[/casthaven], [casthaven]Thirst for Knowledge[/casthaven], [casthaven]Fabricate[/casthaven], [casthaven]Paradoxical Outcome[/casthaven], and [casthaven]March of the Machines[/casthaven] all have two strikes against them in that they aren’t artifacts, and they all have a few subpar interactions with cards that I’m about to add. For now I’ll just say that this style of artifact heavy deck wants to focus on developing a large board presence rather than sculpting the perfect hand.

As for the planeswalkers, anyone who’s read my work before knows that I’m not a fan of planeswalkers in Commander. The reasons for that will fill an article on their own one day, but even without that this deck doesn’t have the density of creatures to sufficiently protect a large cast of planewalkers. [casthaven]Tezzeret the Seeker[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Ugin, the Spirit Dragon[/casthaven] get to stay because they’re absurdly powerful in this deck even if they’re only around for a single turn, but the rest of these don’t have the same devastating impact.

The Tap Engines

Additions:
[casthaven]Winter Orb[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Static Orb[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Unwinding Clock[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Clock of Omens[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Whirler Rogue[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Opposition[/casthaven]

And now we get to some of the real hate. I said that you wanted to slow the game down as much as possible, and [casthaven]Static Orb[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Winter Orb[/casthaven] are the absolute best tools for that job. But powerful as they are, these effects won’t be applied equally. As very old artifacts, both cards have the clause that they only function if untapped at the start of each turn.

This being an artifact deck, we have plenty of ways to control whether or not our stuff is untapped or not. You can use [casthaven]Unwinding Clock[/casthaven], [casthaven]Opposition[/casthaven], or [casthaven]Whirler Rogue[/casthaven] to tap down the Orbs at the end of the turn before yours to get a normal untap step, or simply use [casthaven]Unwinding Clock[/casthaven] to force through mass untapping on your opponent’s turns. Given how much of your mana comes from artifact sources that should usually let you cast your spells unimpeded, especially since your opponents will be crippled by their lack of resources. [casthaven]Whirler Rogue[/casthaven] also lets you sneak [casthaven]Blightsteel Collossus[/casthaven] through the largest army of blockers for an extremely cheesy kill.

All of this is putting aside the shenanigans that these cards can do outside the context of [casthaven]Winter Orb[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Static Orb[/casthaven]. The possibilities are almost endless, but one I want to highlight is what you can do with [casthaven]Clock of Omens[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Doubling Cube[/casthaven]. Untapping [casthaven]Doubling Cube[/casthaven] repeatedly can easily generate several hundred mana. But, if you can get to at least 34 mana with at least 24 of it being blue you can use 14 mana to steal two permanents, tap them to untap [casthaven]Doubling Cube[/casthaven], use three mana to activate the Cube, and double the remaining 17 mana back to the point where you started, endlessly stealing cards until your opponents run out of untapped permanents. Odds are, you’ll have enough mana left over at the end to take whatever’s left that was already tapped.

That’s how this deck really wants to win.

Silver Bullets

Additions:
[casthaven]Mindlock Orb[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Arcane Laboratory[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Glaring Spotlight[/casthaven]

[casthaven]Mindlock Orb[/casthaven] will interfere with some of your own cards, but I can say from experience that it’ll hurt other players more. It basically neuters green-based ramp decks, puts a heavy damper on most combo decks, and shuts down a lot of the most dangerous draws from black decks, due to the volume of tutoring they can do. The sheer variety of things it can shut down is worth a little inconsistency with your own cards, although I did trim down on the amount of tutors the deck runs.

[casthaven]Arcane Laboratory[/casthaven] is another hate card for combo decks, but also serves the purpose of slowing down the game while you sink mana into stealing things with [casthaven]Memnarch[/casthaven]. If your opponents can only play one spell a turn, there’s going to be far fewer permanents that you need to steal. This is also why I wanted to cut down on the amount of card draw spells.

[casthaven]Glaring Spotlight[/casthaven] might be an odd inclusion here, but this deck has an answer to every threat except hexproof permanents, so I wanted to include an option in case you wind up facing down [casthaven]Uril, the Miststalker[/casthaven] or someone with an [casthaven]Archetype of Endurance[/casthaven].

Artifact Matters

Additions:
[casthaven]Mycosynth Lattice[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Shimmer Myr[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Vedalken Orrery[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Kuldotha Forgemaster[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Master Transmuter[/casthaven]

You’re already running [casthaven]Liquidmetal Coating[/casthaven] because of its interaction with [casthaven]Memnarch[/casthaven]. [casthaven]Mycosynth Lattice[/casthaven] is the logical extension of that, allowing you to steal any permanent for four mana. [casthaven]Shimmer Myr[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Vedalken Orrery[/casthaven] basically let you play your whole deck at instant speed, which lets you reserve making decisions until you know exactly what you want to respond to, whether by casting spells or stealing permanents. [casthaven]Master Transmuter[/casthaven] lets you massively cheat on mana buy putting your most expensive permanents directly into play. [casthaven]Kuldotha Forgemaster[/casthaven] can do the same, but gives you access to whichever card you need most out of your deck. The cost to using it is a higher, but I can say from experience that losing three permanents to flash in [casthaven]Darksteel Forge[/casthaven] in response to a [casthaven]Shatterstorm[/casthaven] is a price worth paying. That’s an extreme example, but the sheer power of this card can’t be denied.

Others

Cuts:
[casthaven]Contagion Engine[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Planar Portal[/casthaven]

[casthaven]Contagion Engine[/casthaven] is a very weird card for the deck, as you don’t have any other cards with counters in the deck. Arguably it might’ve been worth it to try to race your planeswalkers up to their ultimates, but with most of the planeswalkers gone this is just a one-sided wrath that takes a few turns to kick in. [casthaven]Planar Portal[/casthaven] is almost strictly an inferior version of [casthaven]Planar Bridge[/casthaven], given the decks heavy bias towards permanents. Since [casthaven]Mindlock Orb[/casthaven] pushes us to cut down on tutors, I’m happy to cut the weaker version of this card.

Additions:
[casthaven]Rings of Brighthearth[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Illusionist’s Bracers[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Mind’s Eye[/casthaven]
[casthaven]Staff of Domination[/casthaven]

And I’ll finish up with four cards that didn’t really fit into any other category. [casthaven]Rings of Brighthearth[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Illusionist’s Bracers[/casthaven] exist to supercharge [casthaven]Memnarch[/casthaven]’s abilities—particularly the Bracers, Rings is a little less potent in that role but has wider applications. Essentially doubling the rate at which you can take permanents, it’s a rare Commander player that doesn’t have at least one horror story about what these cards can do.

[casthaven]Mind’s Eye[/casthaven] is the go-to card draw engine for artifact decks for a reason, and can basically let you outdraw an entire multiplayer table, assuming you have the mana to keep up. Since you have a ton of mana and want to be the archenemy, that just about perfect for this deck. [casthaven]Staff of Domination[/casthaven] is a ridiculous engine that’s almost impossible to sum up, but on the simpler end it’s a card draw engine that will sometimes generate infinite mana because you’re running [casthaven]Metalworker[/casthaven].

With all of the changes, here’s the finished list:

Memnarch Rebuilt

Commander (1)
Memnarch
Lands (39)
Academy Ruins
Buried Ruin
Ghost Quarter
Glimmervoid
Inventors’ Fair
Shrine of the Forsaken Gods
Spire of Industry
Strip Mine
Temple of the False God
Tolaria West
Wasteland
28 Island

Creatures (13)
Silver Myr
Arcum Dagsson
Blightsteel Colossus
Etherium Sculptor
Foundry Inspector
Grand Architect
Kuldotha Forgemaster
Master Transmuter
Metalworker
Pili-Pala
Platinum Angel
Shimmer Myr
Whirler Rogue

Spells (49)
Arcane Laboratory
Blinkmoth Urn
Blue Sun’s Zenith
Bribery
Caged Sun
Clock of Omens
Crucible of Worlds
Cyclonic Rift
Darksteel Forge
Doubling Cube
Dreamstone Hedron
Everflowing Chalice
Extraplanar Lens
Ghirapur Orrery
Gilded Lotus
Glaring Spotlight
Grim Monolith
Hedron Archive
Illusionist’s Bracer’s
Lightning Greaves
Liquimetal Coating
Mana Crypt
Mana Vault
Mind Stone
Mindlock Orb
Mind’s Eye
Mindslaver
Mox Opal
Mycosynth Lattice
Nevinyrral’s Disk
Opposition
Paradox Engine
Planar Bridge
Rings of Brighthearth
Sol Ring
Spine of Ish Sah
Staff of Domination
Staff of Nin
Static Orb
Swiftfoot Boots
Tezzeret the Seeker
Thran Dynamo
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
Unwinding Clock
Vedalken Orrery
Voltaic Key
Whir of Invention
Winter Orb
Worn Powerstone

And the additions, sorted by price:

Clock of Omens 0.25
Silver Myr 0.29
Whirler Rogue 0.29
Dreamstone Hedron 0.35
Temple of the False god 0.49
Mind Stone 0.49
Mindlock Orb 0.49
Shimmer Myr 0.4
Glaring Spotlight 0.49
Shrine of the Forsaken Gods 0.59
Blinkmoth Urn 0.69
Arcane Laboratory 0.69
Everflowing Chalice 0.99
Worn Powerstone 0.99
Hedron Archive 1.28
Illusionist’s Bracer’s 2.49
Kuldotha Forgemaster 2.99
Winter Orb 3.99
Opposition 3.99
Vedalken Orrery 4.99
Static Orb 6.99
Unwinding Clock 6.99
Doubling Cube 9.99
Mind’s Eye 10.99
Extraplanar lens 13.99
Mana Vault 14.99
Master Transmuter 19.99
Staff of Domination 19.99
Rings of Brighthearth 24.99
Mycosynth Lattice 29.99
Mox Opal 54.99
Mana Crypt 64.99

Total 306.19

Deliciously hateful.

$306.19 is higher than I usually go with these overhauls since I know people need to function within a reasonable budget, but I broke a lot of my normal rules today. This one wound up running a bit long so I won’t spend a lot of time wrapping this up, but I’ll be back in two weeks with my first piece on the art of storycrafting in Magic, and my next article after that will be another deck editing article, although I hope I’ll be showcasing a much friendlier deck then.

If you want that featured deck to be yours, send the list to [email protected], along with a brief description of what problems your list is having, along with what budget you have to work with and any other factors you would want me to consider.

Levi Byrne sometimes goes by the nickname Mr. Burns.

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