March of the Machine, like most sets these days, introduces a large number of new potential commanders. The most striking to me is Hidetsugu and Kairi (full disclosure, I still haven’t read every card in the set, but I doubt any will pass this one).  In general, I’m skeptical of expensive commanders in cEDH–I think cheap commanders are generally stronger, and the Fierce Guardianship cycle really pushes this notion. But if the commander approaches “when this enters the battlefield, you win the game” I could be willing to spend five mana for it.

How We Win

The plan with Hidetsugu and Kairi is simple–play it, resolve the brainstorm trigger, put a game winning sorcery on top of your deck, the sacrifice Hidetsugu and Kairi to cast that spell, and win the game.  So how do we do it? Well, as usual when building a cEDH, we know the end point, so we work backwards to make it happen.

So, the end point: Ideally, we cast Enter the Infinite, then draw our deck and win with a protected Thassa’s Oracle.  This means our combo requires us having Enter the Infinite in hand, or better yet, on top of our deck (then the opponents can’t stop us by killing Hidetsugu and Kairi in response to their trigger).  So our “combo” requires us to find Enter the Infinite, cast our commander, and sacrifice our commander. The rest of the deck is designed to do so as quickly and reliably as possible.  Fortunately, Blue and Black are the perfect colors to accomplish that.

Building the Deck

We’re going to want some tutors, definitely all the best ones:

That’s a lot of tutors.  Given that we have all those tutors and we’re going for a Thassa’s Oracle win, we should probably play the other easy ways to do that:

We might also want Dramatic Reversal and Isochron Scepter as a way to win through some kinds of resistance:

We definitely want Enter the Infinite, but there are a few other cards probably good enough to draw naturally that it’d be acceptable to cast our commander if we had them instead:

That might be more expensive spells than strictly necessary, but I think the range of huge effects is more fun and gives the deck a bit more play.

There are some basic cEDH staples in these colors we’re going to want to play:

This deck is trying to win fast with an expensive commander. It means we’re not going to be able to rely on lands alone for our mana; we’re going to need a lot of rituals and artifacts:

We’re going to want a bit of interaction for opposing permanents which might stop us from doing what we need to do:

We’re obviously going to need a lot of counterspells to protect our combo:

We’re going to want some basic, but strong card selection:

We need to be able to reliably sacrifice our commander.  We already have Culling the Weak and Sacrifice, which can sacrifice the commander without showing a sacrifice outlet for a single extra mana. They give us mana to use later in the turn, but we want more than that. Here are some of the best options:

As for lands, this deck is going to want a relatively high number for cEDH. You want five or six mana to win, and you want it as soon as possible. This means you want to reliably play your first three lands at least, and usually your fourth. We need 35 lands to get over a 75% chance of drawing 3 lands in the first three turns.  With around 20 nonland mana sources, that means over half the deck is mana. But if our win often requires 6 mana and we’re trying to win on turn three or four, that actually makes sense, as we’ll only have drawn 10 or 11 cards naturally. Since most mana sources only give us one mana, we’ll need over half the cards we draw to give mana.  I’m going into detail here because I know this is more mana sources than cEDH decks usually play, so I want to be clear it’s by design here, and I believe it’s correct.

The thing is, there’s not room for all the cards I’ve listed and 35 lands.  I haven’t cut the lists down to fix this into a smooth explanation of what all the cards in the deck do, or why they’re included.  I’m walking through my deckbuilding process here.  Finding too many cards is normal; I’ve pulled all the best options I could think of, and the next step is to trim down to the best we can fit.

Other Considerations

It’s worth noting there are some strong considerations I haven’t gotten to yet. For example, we could play an Entomb/Reanimate package with some great creature like Hullbreaker Horror.  We could also play Ad Nauseum, which is a strong card with so many mana sources, but it’s a bit risky because of our cards which cost around ten mana. But, we could also minimize those high mana value spells if we wanted to play Ad Nauseum.  I suspect we don’t want too many backup combos, and these things aren’t worth it, but they could be.

Given we’re playing Tainted Pact, we need to not play more than one of each basic land name. We might have to play some weird lands to get to 35. The exact lands chosen aren’t very interesting, though I’ll note Tolaria West is good to potentially find Cavern of Souls to force your commander through.

From here, roughly any subset of cards which has enough mana and keeps the essential combo should be pretty solid.  I also think you could reasonably play some discard like Thoughtseize or Duress–it only targets one person, but you’ll often be able to figure out who’s most likely to be able to disrupt what you’re doing.

This deck has a lot of tutors, so strong bullets are appealing.  I don’t think you want to play a lot of cards devoted to stopping opponents from doing their thing, since you have counterspells anyway and you’re a pretty fast combo deck. But if a card like Cursed Totem is great in your expected metagame, you could play it (though in that case it would turn off Viscera Seer and Carrion Feeder). The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale is another reasonable card in this class which you could consider for certain metagames.

In cutting down to 100 cards, I decided to cut most of the expensive spells, which lead to adding Ad Nauseum. I think it works well as a spell to threaten at the end of the turn before yours, and not really fight over it to draw out a counter before you try to go off. Sometimes it’ll accidentally win games.

The exact list I settled on as my starting point is here.

Playing the Deck

I’d expect to move cards in and out pretty quickly after playing the deck, to get the right balance of different effects. I’d be choosing from cards mentioned here which have been removed.

Compared to other fast combo decks, this is relatively color restricted since it doesn’t get red. But, I think there’s a good chance you have the most threatening commander. This is a worthwhile tradeoff, especially since the commander isn’t required to win, you can easily win with normal Thassa’s Oracle combo plays.

It should go without saying there are other things you can do with this commander. For example, if you have a sacrifice outlet and your deck is full of reanimation spells, you could theoretically sacrifice it, hit a reanimation spell, bring it back, sacrifice it again, and repeat until you could no longer find a reanimation spell.  Such a deck would not be a reasonable approach in cEDH, as you’d be filling your deck with bad cards for an effect extremely unlikely to kill the table.  This deck is strong because the commander requires very little support to threaten an immediate win, which is why the most competitive versions probably play very few fun hits, unfortunately.

This raises a question about playing this commander outside of cEDH.  I think this would be pretty fun to play in a deck with a lot of random expensive spells.  I’d note it’s very easy for this deck to be too strong for most casual tables, even if you aren’t trying too hard. It generates so much mana and card advantage on it’s surface.  If you’re going to try to play it as a casual commander, I’d strongly encourage you to build a deck without any way to search your library–this will make your games more fun because you’ll have to play a bunch of random expensive cards, and you’ll do different big things each game. It’ll help make sure your deck isn’t too much stronger than the rest of the table.  With that restriction, I think this could be pretty fun, and I’ll probably try it in my commander cube (which is already built with that restriction).

Sam Black (any) is a former professional Magic player, longtime Magic writer, host of the Drafting Archetypes podcast, and Twitch streamer. Sam is also a Commander Cube enthusiast, and you can find Sam’s cube list here. For anything else, find Sam on Twitter: @SamuelHBlack.

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