Kristen takes us on an Odyssey through building a Commander theme deck. Sometimes you just want to have a little fun.

Back in May, I wrote about how I was losing the thread of Magic story. I lamented how we missed a lot of opportunity with Elspeth and her journey to conquer death on Theros, and how Ikoria felt shallow. Thankfully, the story is now back online, with Zendikar Rising giving us weekly story. It remains to be seen how good it is, but early entries seem promising.

One thing that I touched on in that article was that I was playing Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. Whilst it’s been somewhat of a constant for me through the lockdown period, that odyssey is coming to a close. I’m all but done, with just a couple of trophies to mop up. For someone that has never Platinumed any game, that’s quite the achievement. Part of why I’ve stuck with it, though, is that it was a welcome escape. Though I’ve been mostly confined to a limited area through the pandemic, I’ve spent over 200 hours of it, since early April, in Classical Greece. It’s been quite the journey.

I decided I wanted to celebrate that journey and build a Commander theme deck to chronicle my Odyssey.

This is your spoiler warning, by the way. There will be some amount of spoilers in order to discuss deckbuilding.

Commander Theme Decks

Theme decks are one of the most creative and fun ways to build Commander decks. At their base level, a theme deck can be a tribal deck, or a deck set on just one plane, like Innistrad. Delving deeper, you could go for “hat” tribal, or “screaming people” tribal—having a connection through artwork or flavor.

Delving deeper still, many players like to theme a Commander deck around another aspect of pop culture that they enjoy or identify with. I know I’m not the only one to have begun construction of a Kenrith, the Returned King Lord of the Rings deck, and there are countless examples out there of others who have completed similar feats.

In a time where power creep is high, and decks are more and more consistent, sticking to a theme is something that can help bring things to a more janky level. It doesn’t mean the deck doesn’t have a way to win, though—and that’s something I’d like to demonstrate with this deck.

Art by Rukiana09

Kassandra, Captain of the Adrestia

Siona, Captain of the Pyleas was the obvious choice to represent Kassandra, and not just aesthetically. Kassandra has both a ship and a crew, and recruits various mercenaries, sailors and soldiers throughout her adventures in Ancient Greece. This fits mechanically with Siona; so too, does her array of powerful abilities gained through her bloodline. Auras are a great way to represent these abilities, and by throwing in some equipments into the mix too, we can faithfully recreate Kassandra as a Commander.

There was just one question, though; would people let me use Cartographer’s Hawk as a partner? One of the more relaxed aspects of building decks that are a little different is stretching the boundaries. Playing silver bordered cards, or maybe trying a Companion in a deck with only one of the two hybrid colors. It’s all Turn 0 stuff, and I don’t think many people would object to me representing Kassandra’s faithful companion, Ikaros, as a Partner. The card I picked is pretty bad, after all—even if it is a perfect fit, mechanically speaking.

Picking the Theme Cards

The next challenge in building a theme deck is of course picking out the themed cards. How can you represent your theme best? How can you do that while still playing reasonably playable cards? Well, the former is easier than the latter, but where possible, you can and should try to fit at least some playable cards into the deck. So, what did I manage to come up with?

Flavor Wins:

  • The Spear of Leonidas is an ancient Isu artifact that is passed down as an heirloom to Kassandra’s family. Spear of Heliod represents the spear in its former glory, and Shadowspear does a great job of conveying the Broken Spear as handed down to Kassandra.
  • There are two playable characters in Odyssey—Kassandra & Alexios. Both are practically demigods by the end game, and so Renata, Called to the Hunt and Daxos, Blessed by the Sun are both great fits.
  • The Broken Spear isn’t the only Isu artifact in the game. The famed Apples of Eden are also present. Oblivion Stone is a great proxy for these powerful artifacts.
  • Of course, Assassin’s Creed isn’t complete without the sci-fi future aspect. Shanna, Sisay’s Legacy is the perfect Layla Hassan, heir to Kassandra’s bloodline in the 21st century. The flavor text is perfect: “I am heir to many treasures. None is as precious as knowing how my ancestor lived her life.”
  • Classical Greece was home to many famous figures. Charming Prince makes a great Alkibiades, Mangara, the Diplomat makes a great Pericles, and Destiny Spinner is our Oracle of Delphi.

Janky Picks:

  • Kill Shot isn’t particularly good, but it does display Kassandra’s skill with a bow.
  • Cryptolith Rite is a perfect way to represent the Cult of Kosmos, but we’re not really a big mana deck.
  • Altar of the Pantheon is the mana rock we deserve, even if there are better options.
  • Mighty Leap is as Assassin’s Creed as it comes. A combat trick isn’t really where we want to be in EDH, but the flavor is too good to pass up on. You can practically hear the eagle’s call.
  • The First Iroan Games is a cute way to recant Kassandra’s time at the Olympic Games in Elis.
  • Remember the Fallen is a way to pay respects to Phoibe (and a way to get back the Shadowspear from the bin).
  • Of course, we also need a fight spell or two! Ambuscade is a really great one here.

Cute but powerful picks:

  • Of course, Siona is a deck that thrives off of the Shielded by Faith combo. We’re playing it here, because the result can be justified based on the end result of the Atlantis storyline. Now, to enable it, we need some combo pieces. Thankfully, both Altars fit here: Altar of the Brood is the Lair of Kosmos, and Altar of Dementia can easily be one of the many altars set up by the Cult of Ares across Greece. Thematically, milling out opponents is also a fit with the idea that Kassandra’s mastery of Isu artifacts can manifest in mind control and other illusion magic.
  • Of course, the deck is based on a videogame, so having a few fourth wall breaks is kinda fun too. Trailblazer’s Boots represent exploring the huge in-game map; All That Glitters is very obviously the thousands of drachmae and experience Kassandra gains on her journey; Path of Discovery can represent finding a new region; Cleansing Meditation is the “wait” function in open world RPGs; Bag of Holding is our seemingly endless inventory space.
  • Tormod’s Crypt is in for graveyard hate, but is pretty easy to justify as one of the many tombs Kassandra delves through.

Bringing it Together

Of course, having some ideas for great avatars and other symbolism is all well and good, but to bring it together, it needs a little more glue. As the deck is heavily leaning into enchantments, an enchantress package seemed quite reasonable. And, as we can match up our picks to Odyssey themed characters, it felt great to be able to justify that engine. Setessan Champion is one of the many mercenaries rivaling Kassandra; Verduran Enchantress can be a Daughter of Artemis; Mesa Enchantress‘ flavor text fits Aspasia, wife of Pericles, perfectly; Eidolon of Blossoms is our link to Aletheia through the Staff of Hermes Trismegistus, here represented by the Staff of Nin.

That means more enchantment based synergy is viable, too, so Heliod’s Pilgrim stands in as Myrrine; Mantle of the Wolf is a clever play on Kassandra’s father Nikolaus, the Wolf of Sparta; and Open the Vaults is what we do all game anyway!

As we come full circle back to our combo finish, Dosan the Falling Leaf is our patron Barnabas, and Sylvan Safekeeper our Herodotus. Both of our faithful companions through our Odyssey seek to keep Kassandra safe from harm and on the right path. And, for insurance purposes, I even stuck in an alternate route to the combo win: Saffi, Eriksdotter and Loyal Retainers both work with Altar of the Brood. They’re standing in as Odessa, Heir to Odysseus and Kassandra’s Crew respectively.

It might comes across a little cheeky being able to fit some genuinely strong cards into a theme deck, but nobody ever said the definition of a theme deck had to be janky. Sure, there are always going to be some jankier picks, but you shouldn’t feel like you can’t also build a functioning deck. Each pick in the deck has been deliberated over to ensure it hits flavorfully, and if you’re interested in any of my other picks—which I can’t list exhaustively here—let me know.

The final decklist looks a little something like this. The curve finishes at four so I’m a little land light, but it’s meant to be a fun experiment, not an exercise in optimization. The goal with these decks is to tell a story, and do the thing. It’s a great way to express yourself creatively and enjoy some recreational deckbuilding. It’s also a good way to escape from the pressure of trying to optimize endlessly.

Let me know on Twitter what you think of my picks, and if you have a cool theme deck in the works! If you want a rundown on building Siona optimally, check out my primer.

My Odyssey has come to an end, but I’ll remember the adventure well. Chaire!

Kristen is a UK based Commander fanatic, and can these days be found looking out of the window, forlorn, at the lack of Mass Effect remaster news.

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