Having played Commander regularly for the last five years, I have seen a lot the popular or trendy generals rise to prominence and often burn out. As such I thought I had a finger on the steady pulse of the format, after years of cultivating members of the community to follow via podcasts, Twitter, and even Tumblr. Due to my own hubris, I thought my perceptions of certain generals would be in the ballpark. In the case of this week’s general, Horde of Notions—which I thought had a huge following and would be too “mainstream” to profile in my column—I was horribly off the mark.

In the past, Elementals have been the winning tribe of choice in several Tribal Commander events at a local store near me in the last few years. Combine that with having heard the card mentioned on several podcasts I listened to over the years and I assumed Horde of Notions had a large fanbase. But, at the time of writing, EDHrec only has 754 decks logged in their database featuring Horde of Notions. For comparison, Scion of the Ur-Dragon has 1458 decks as the top Five-Color general and Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice has 4194 decks, making it the most popular general on the site. As such, I regret not writing about this general sooner. Today I will be correcting this mistake.

Horde of Notions

I remember when Lorwyn was being previewed in Fall of 2007; I saw silly things like Kithkin and Faeries, and quickly deciding that if I wanted to bounce back from a recent break-up and find a girlfriend, I was going to need to quit Magic to upgrade my overall package as a viable boyfriend. Those were admittedly dark times, not only because of how I evaluated my self-worth, but also because of what I missed out on as a player. While I see no need to return to the plane, I appreciate Lorwyn/Shadowmoor for the tribal and hybrid mana themes the blocks brought us, among many other things. Especially for Commander. Upon returning to the game with Magic 2010, I made my way through the back catalog of cards I had missed out on and eventually found Horde of Notions, a cool looking card that I unfortunately never found much to do with it in casual 60-card decks.

Nine years later and I still stop whenever I see my playset. For years I’ve thought about what I would build with the Horde at the helm of my Commander deck, but never thinking of something spicy enough to brew. That is until a stumbled upon an episode of Commanderin’ from November on Lorwyn and an idea sprung forth, which connected to another idea, and voilà!

My original idea had come during Amonkhet preview season as I looked over the full spoiler and felt inspired to port over a deck from Modern. At the time I didn’t have a general in mind, but during the episode Horde spoke to me. This week I am looking to use Horde of Notions not to build tribal, but as a Living End deck. With a high saturation cycling cards across all colors, we will be looking to cycle through our deck, filling the graveyard up with creatures and reanimating them. While others might just want to win with Laboratory Maniac in this shell, I want my main way to win be through creature combat. Ultimately, I’m excited because it’s not a deck archetype I have personally built yet.

Blackest Night

The gameplay of the Living End deck I am looking to emulate is best summarized as using cycling creatures like Street Wraith, Architects of Will and Deadshot Minotaur to fill your graveyard and quickly find and cast Violent Outburst or Demonic Dread, cascading into Living End. In a 60-card deck, the plan is straightforward and has been optimized to perfection. But for Commander, I’m afraid I have to break one of my major tenants of deck building: few (if any) tutors.

You see, I understand myself well enough to know that if I were to include the powerful, unconditional Black tutors like Demonic Tutor or Vampiric Tutor in my Doran, the Siege Tower deck, I would want to include them in Shattergang Brothers, The Scarab God, and The Mimeoplasm. The uniqueness of those decks would diminish and I would be tutoring for the same cards constantly. For this reason, I really don’t like recommending tutors in my column, but I chose to include them here because I don’t see the small pool of Cascade spells reaching my desired combo effectively without contorting the deck too much. Honestly, if you share my philosophy about higher-powered tutors, Transmute cards are an untested direction, but do double duty in this deck.

As far as I can tell, the available options for spells that reanimate entire graveyards are the aforementioned Living End, Living Death, Twilight’s Call, and Rise of the Dark Realms. I understand why such a powerful effect is very rarely seen, but I could stand to see more cards on par with Rise of the Dark Realms seeing print on occasion. Additionally, limit-breaking Liliana Vess—possibly from Doubling Season—would do the trick, but with that much mana I would consider casting Radiate on Endless Obedience.

Elemental Bond

When first drawing up the plans for this deck, I wanted to play a bit into the Elemental reanimation ability on Horde of Notions. My research uncovered that I would only be cycling Granitic Titan and Igneous Pouncer, as that’s where the suite of Elementals with Cycling ends. Luckily, we’re not restricted only to cycling, with Evoke creatures also being on-theme targets. Mulldrifter and Shriekmaw are probably the two most popular Evokers, but Slithermuse, Nevermaker, Aethersnipe and Cloudthresher all translate well to Commander with decent stats for our deck.

The remaining base of 73 other cycling creatures available for this deck makes for a choose-your-own-adventure in terms of sorts for which creatures you’ll want to pick. A few of my first picks would the Scourge Landcyclers (Eternal Dragon, Chartooth Cougar and Noble Templar), Macetail Hystrodon, Grixis Sojourners, Pale Recluse, and Primoc Escapee for their Cycling enabling abilities and/or bodies after reanimation. It’s also smart to use Arcane Adaption/Conspiracy to change the creatures types in your graveyard to Elemental and bring these back with our general as an expensive back-up plan.

Cycling to Victory

The first path to victory is getting creatures into our graveyard and then cast a mass reanimation spell to bring them all back. Where in most reanimation decks we would use Buried Alive and Entomb to set up our graveyard, we can have more fun by using Wheel of Fortune effects to move creatures to our graveyard even quicker. Most of our creatures will be french vanilla, but we might be the only player with creatures.

The Amonkhet block was the biggest inspiration for this deck and I think it gives us tools for a second route to victory. While providing creatures like Curator of Mysteries, Greater Sandwurm, and Striped Riverwinder, it also gave us some new non-creature spells that are on theme for our deck: Drake Haven and the hugely powerful New Perspectives. The Haven joins a class of enchantments that all have place in a Cycling deck: Invigorating Boon, Lightning Rift, and Astral Slide. New Perspectives in combination with any of these in play can easily be our secondary win condition.

My final bit of Magical Christmasland shenanigans is setting up a turn where, after cycling to Shadow of the Grave, we place it back on a top of deck with Scroll Rack or Brainstorm. Then cast a Wheel effect like Reforge the Soul or Molten Psyche, supercharging one of the above enchantments or removing all the creatures with Ruthless Sniper, or making our Shadowstorm Vizier gigantic, or really anything, to win the game in the funniest way possible.

Overall, I think there is a good idea brewing here with a lot of potential. Our general is two +1/+1 counters away from being a three-turn clock by itself, and with the right mana base and ritual spells, this deck should move super fast. I never discussed how Dredge or Unearth could interact with this deck, so there is still plenty to explore and a lot of room for improvement. Decks like this are an open-source project in many ways, designed with enough of a skeleton for direction, but empty enough for customization.

I look at what I have sketched out and I wonder if it all just the ramblings of a mad man. I might have put too much faith in Five-Color or overlooked how strong graveyard hate has become, but hopefully I’ve interested you enough to come up with an even better approach. Commander is a great format when people can build things that aren’t possible in other formats, but it can be even better when you recreate an experience from another format you love. Until I see you all again, have a good week!

Ryan Sainio is a Graphic Designer who writes about EDH, the story of Magic and the EDH community in his down time. He has been playing Magic: The Gathering since 7th Edition in 2002 and values flavorful and fun gameplay over competitively optimized decks.
Pet Deck – Shattergang Eldrazi

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