The recent announcement of silver-boder’s (temporary) legality in commander came with a very specific caveat: “Finally, for all of you who are falling over themselves to play with Spike, please remember that Rule 13 exists, and she only functions under whatever rules the rest of your playgroup set for her.”

For the record, this is rule 13:

Abilities which refer to other cards owned outside the game (Wishes, Spawnsire, Research, Ring of Ma’ruf) do not function in Commander without prior agreement on their scope from the playgroup.

What this means is that Commander has a built-in safety valve against Spike, Tournament Grinder. Her activated ability literally does nothing unless your playgroup agrees ahead of time that it does. Which is a good thing, because if you take that limitation away she’s the single most broken card in Commander. And today, I’m going to show exactly why.

*Quick note before I continue. The following decklist violates everything about the social contract, the purpose of silver-bordered Magic, and the spirit of Commander. It is miserable to play against, unrewarding to play with, and flat-out loses to one of your opponents having Force of Will in their opening hand. It’s also prohibitiavly expensive to put together and will never be allowed for more than a game or two before your friends refuse to play against it (or simply invoke their right to make it stop working, as I covered above). This is intended more as an exhibition of just how broken thinks can get than an actual deck recommendation. You’ve been warned.


Spike, Tornament Grinder

I’ll just link to the Unstable FAQ here. Their list of fetchable cards isn’t quite complete, but it’s close enough for my purposes.


Ancient TombCity of TraitorsCrystal VeinGemstone CavernsUrborg, Tomb to Yawgmoth, 84 Swamps

Cards on the table here: the maindeck barely matters with Spike. The entirety of the 99 is built for the sole purpose of having access to at least two mana on turn one every game. Anchient Tomb, City of Traitors, and Crystal Vein accomplish this single-handedly, while Gemstone Caverns only requires that you not be the first person to play. Urborg, Tomb to Yawgmoth and the Swamps are here for the backup plan. If you somehow mulligan all the way to two cards without finding a single piece of fast mana we simply play basics for the first two turns and go off as normal. It’s less than ideal, but it’ll be a very rare deck that can really punish you for the delay.


Dark Ritual, Sol Ring, Mana Vault, Blacker Lotus, Mana Crypt, Mox Diamond, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Lotus Petal, Cabal Ritual, Grim Monolith

More fast mana here, and not much else to say. Sol Ring, Dark Ritual, Mana Vault, Mana Crypt, Mox Diamond, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Blacker Lotus, and Lotus Petal can either get you two mana all on their own or do the same when combined with a single Swamp. Cabal Ritual and Grim Monolith aren’t quite as powerful, but when you already have access to two mana they’ll give you a third for effectively free, which saves you 2 life and provides just that little bit of edge.


Some quick math. Assuming we can produce two mana on our own, paying life for Spike’s Phyrexian mana cost leaves you at 36 life. If we assume that initial mana came from Ancient Tomb you’re at 34. At eight life per tutor you can afford to tutor for four cards—8×4=32, leaving you at four life, or two with an Ancient Tomb.

I spent a lot of time trying to find a way to maximize those four tutors. Would turn one Crucible of Worlds plus Strip Mine be good enough to seal the game in multiplayer? Was there a way to Channel out an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn without killing yourself? Ultimately, I settled on the following package:

Time VaultVoltaic KeyBlack LotusMox Jet

The moment we have Spike in play the plan is to get these four cards. (Mox Jet is optional if you kept a hand that could make three mana on turn one.) Assuming we’re completely out of resources at this point, you play Black Lotus and Mox Jet, using both for mana immediately. Use two mana to cast Time Vault, one to cast Voltaic Key and the last remaining mana to activate Key targeting the Vault. Tap Time Vault, gain an extra turn, pass to yourself, untap the Vault again and activate it, attack for one with Spike and repeat until, sixty-three turns later, your opponents die to Commander damage.

Sure, you could use all the swamps you’re drawing to tutor for and cast and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, or any other threat that’s been banned at some point. Even Reflector Mage would nearly double your clock after all. But that seemed to both be unnecessary when any sane human being will scoop in the face of infinite turns and against the spirit of heartless cruelty this deck requires in order to play. You might die to your Mana Crypt from time to time, but that just adds to the excitement.

For those who want to build this monstrosity or merely want to look at some gigantic numbers, here’s the decklist (and wishboard) sorted by price:

85 Swamp         0
Crystal Vein         0.75
Dark Ritual        0.99
Voltaic Key        0.99
Cabal Ritual        1.99
Sol Ring            2.49
Lotus Petal        7.99
Blacker Lotus        8.99
Gemstone Caverns    10.99
Mana Vault        19.99
Ancient Tomb        37.99
Grim Monolith        69.99
Mana Crypt        84.99
Lion’s Eye Diamond    139.99
City of Traitors        149.99
Mox Diamond        159.99
Time Vault         499.99
Mox Jet         1399.99
Black Lotus         4999.99
Total            7589.09

This monstrosity of a deck clocks in at more than seven and a half thousand dollars. While it would be wise to bring more than one copy of Blacker Lotus, even getting ten copies of the card only contributes an insignificant margin to the overall price tag.

I hope you all have enjoyed this look at the absurdities that an unlimited Spike enables. To be completely honest I had a hard time connecting with the wackier side of Un-Magic, which wound up pushing me in this direction after a few failed attempts to build around Grusilda and Pheobe. Not that the legends of Unstable aren’t fantastic commanders, it’s just that none of them really spoke to me.

I’ll be taking the next few weeks off to travel for the holidays, but I hope to be back in late December with a look at the beginning of the Rivals of Ixalan story.

Levi Byrne has been with the game since Worldwake and has a rabid love for fantasy writing that goes back decades. Despite some forays into Legacy he plays Commander almost exclusively, and has a love for the crazy plays and huge games that make Magic what it is. He was the go-to advisor of his playgroup on deck construction for more than five years before joining Dear Azami.

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