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Black and White... Bald and Harry

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Jesse Dana
Jesse Dana

About Jesse Dana

I live in Massachusetts just outside of Boston. I am obsessed with food and will travel anywhere in the country to find the best meal, often making restaurant reservations before booking the travel plans. I am also a huge sports fan and quite devoted to my hometown teams. I started playing Magic during the Unlimited/Revised era and played regularly until Tempest. I then played off and on until Alara block and now play regularly. Since my return to the game, I have become fascinated about every aspect of it, from the strategy, to the Pro Tour, to even the lore of the game, but most of all the camaraderie and betterment it has brought about for those that have the privilege to play.  Although I am extremely competitive by nature, most of my spell slinging now is done in the form of casual Commander and I have never enjoyed the game more. I try to play as much as possible, or as much as I can without having my wife kick me out of the house. (She is, however, supportive of the hobby).  My goal is to one day work for WotC not only in a creative capacity but to be an ambassador for the game that has brought so much enrichment to my life.  

Black and White... Bald and Harry

Last year I wrote an article "Commander 2013: Christmas Came Early", in where I gushed over the the release of the 2013 Commander pre cons.  Well, as luck would have it, it seems that this is going to be an on going tradition and I think it’s time that we came up with a name for this Holiday.  Right now rolling off the tongue is Stacksmas, Commandikha and Hundrasy, but I am sure with more time and your input we can come up with some far more creative name for this joyous occasion.   WotC outdid themselves yet again with the 2014 version of these decks and, as cliche as it’s beginning to sound, I couldn’t have been happier.  No, I did not get to finally gaze upon the epicness that would be a Yawgmoth card, but what was behind the wrappings of the five little packages quickly made me forget that I was anticipating anything at all.  Not only have R&D printed a deck for everybody, but they managed to do this while creating remarkably interesting new cards and pouring in more flavor than even some of the recent blocks have had.  This is yet another fantastic opportunity for long time enthusiasts to expand their horizons as well as the perfect segway for any player looking to get their feet wet with the format.        

In the months prior to the release of Commander 2014, I began stripping apart my decks that were not being played as much, as well as ones that I knew were holding a plethora of staples that would be needed for the decks I was eventually going to build.  As the previews began pouring out across the interwebs, it did not take long for me to know who I was going to be putting in the Command Zone.  As I often do, I gave myself guidelines for how I would approach building new decks. Simply put, as excited as I was to build with five new Walkanders… I told myself that I should try putting together a list empowering one of the newly released creatures as well.  The choice here was easy and I didn’t even have to wait till all the creatures were revealed to choose, once I saw Jazal I knew he was the one.

I love this card, a 4/4 First Striker for four would have been good enough for me, but the ability for him to inspire those under his lead and swing for massive amounts of damage is just so sweet!  Additionally, for a Vorthos player such as myself, it is so exciting to see a character such as he printed on a card.  For those who don’t know Jazal is Ajani’s older brother and was the leader or “Kha” of their pride back on Naya, before he was assassinated by one of Bolas’ minions.  It was actually Jazal’s death which caused the trauma to ignite Ajani’s spark and if you have ever noticed that Ajani has a double sided axe, that is because he fused Jazal’s weapon with his own in order to have the right tool to exact Ajani style vengeance.  All this makes makes playing Jazal an epic experience for me.

Jazal Goldmane

The deck is designed to constantly have a handful of attackers to join Jazal in battle.  There is an abundance of token generators as well as some spicy spells to aid Jazal’s friend as well as remove any foes that dare stand in the way.   

Jazal Goldmane:  Not that it will happen on a consistent basis,  but I am a huge fan of any Commander that I can get out on turn two. The fact that he has First Strike also allows fo him to get past any pesky early game blockers.            

Planeswalkers:  You undoubtedly knew that there would be Ajani in this deck and I am actually quite surprised that Ajani 1.0 was not included in the pre con.  Both Goldmane and Steadfast play wonderfully with tokens and whichever version is on the field, Jazal will will be happy to have his brother by his side.  Elspeth is one of Ajani’s best friends, so of course she was going to aid the leonin in battle.  It’s nice to have Tirel back in a deck and here she may very well be the most important Walker as she allows you to gain so much life that you can feel free to swing with the entire team each turn and not have to worry about retaliation damage.   

Creatures:  I love that the majority of them are Legendary.  It makes me envision Jazal and company in heated conversation on a battlefield each with their own rallying cry used to inspire all those charging into the fray.

Rune Tail Katsune Ascendant:  It is quite fun to put him onto the field and flip him immediately.  There still seems to be a lack of enchantment hate, so chances are his essence will be aiding your minions for a long time.

Avacyn, Angel of Hope:  This is my first time playing with this card and now I see what all the hype is about.  Who doesn’t like clearing the field of all defenders and then taking out multiple opponents at once with your army.

Darien, King of Kjeldor:  Remember what I said about Elspeth Tirel, why not have that open damage turn into more creatures for you to attack with and gain life from.  This duo is not an instant win combo but can put your opponents quite far behind.  

Mentor of the Meek:  An easy target for opponents, so make sure you have more desirable cards for them to take out.  Having him on the field for a few turns mid game can be more than enough to get you back to a full hand.  

Mass Removal:  A must have in any token deck as it allows you to restart the game in a sense and can put you ahead by far if you have an abundance of ways to generate weenies and your opponents are left casting one creature a turn.  Guan Yu’s 1,000-Li March is a card I have had in my binder for a while.  It’s a great way to say to your friends, “you don’t mind me swinging in unblocked for a few turns do you?”  Hour of Reckoning is an old favorite that really works well if your opponents have taken out your legendary creatures and if you have anthems on the board.

Other Spells

Soul's Grace: Yes this was put in for flavor purposes.  The art has both Ajani and Jazal on it and I happen to have one in foil that looks super sweet. With that said, there are a lot of Voltron decks out there and negating a swing of 20 points is definitely playable.           

Lapse of Certainty:  Sometimes all it takes to win a game is a timely counterspell, especially when one is not expected.  Sure its not as efficient as a blue one, but for three mana and in a white deck I’ll take it.  

Mark of Asylum:  Anger of the Gods ok,  Blasphemous Act sure why not.  With other cards in the deck such as Dolmen Gate we have built up some nice ways to keep our minions from dying so easily.

It has been rather enjoyable to play an old school White weenie deck again, it reminds me of the early days of my Magic life.  The deck also fulfils my Vorthos desire creating a doubly fun experience.

Now you didn’t think I’d leave you today without talking about my other latest brew, now did you?  I mean I have been clamoring about a new Mono Black build for months, it wouldn’t be right for me to not introduce you to Ob.  

They made me into a Magic Card?

Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath

Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath:  This card is nothing short of perfect.  First off, it’s a Planeswalker, second, its a black spell that lets you GAIN life, third, it puts some of the strongest tokens on the battlefield, fourth, its emblem lets you draw cards… Even better than that, he is bald.  Yes, you read that right, I am excited that Ob is bald.  For years I have been shouting about the injustice that my tribe did not have a Walker to represent us.  Now, with Teferi, we actually have two, this is the most excited I have been about a Planeswalker in a long time.  On a side note, I purchased the matching sleeves and playmat of Ob that were just released and I can’t tell you how many people said that we look alike.  Yes, we are bald, but I have the same busted nose, as well as always have a scowl on my face.  If you happen to be a costume designer please let me know as I would love to Cosplay as Ob a future Con or even play Ob in the upcoming movie…(Hear that WotC Folks?)  

As far as the deck is concerned, it is designed with the Walkender in mind.  There is an abundance of efficient creatures that are not only powerful, but good sacrifice material.  I’ve thrown in a couple of my favorite Black spells and even a few combos to spice things up.

Liliana of the Dark Realms:  The only other Walker in the deck and as hard as it was to not have more, I wanted Ob to be the star character.  This Lilly however is quite the side kick as, yes, she thins your deck of Swamps… but combos great with Ob by pumping your creatures for maximum life gain and card draw.

Creatures      

Ghoulcaller Gisa:  She has been far more effective than I could have imagined and would make a great Commander in her own right.  Being able to incrementally increase your creature count is bonkers and, unlike other Black spells of this nature, the zombies don’t enter tapped.  

Hell's Caretaker:  Sure she is a 1/1, but having the ability to choose what creatures you have on the field and in the yard is a nice option.  I also like being able to continually sacrifice while Dictate of Erebos is on the field, its a great advantage.

Xiahou Dun:  I had to give him a shout out as he was the leader of my Mono Black Brigade before Ob.  He also is a must have in any Mono Black build as he is the Tutor of Tutors.

Coffin Queen:  What’s better than sacrificing your creatures to gain the advantage, why sacking other people's creatures of course.  The best thing is that those targets exile after she is done with them, eliminating any chance for your opponent to re utilize them.

Ghoulcaller Gisa

Spike Cannibal:  I love cards that have unexpected mechanics and can be blowouts when cast in certain situations.  One of the best decks in our playgroup is Marath, and the Spike sucks all the life out of that game plan.  I’ll try and record my opponents face on my phone for you the next time this happens, you will chuckle, I promise!

Other Spells

Sanguine Bond/ Exquisite Blood:  I am not typically a combo player, but there was no way that I was not going to play this.  The fact that I can trigger it by just ticking up Ob is nothing shy of tear jerking… for me that is.

Worst Fears:  I really hope they print more cards like this.  I can’t stand when you play against an uninteresting deck that recurs the same power spell over and over, it's so boring.  Having the card exile EoT is so interesting as it really makes you strategize as to when is going to be the best time to play it.     

No Rest for the Wicked:  Getting this out early can create quite the dilemma for opponents.  If they have a spell to remove a permanent, do they really want to use it on this?  Also as this deck has a lot of creatures, it is a good way to repel Wrath effects.

Phyrexian Reclamation:  With all the sacrificing going on, you need spells to bring the minions back.  This along with Volrath's Stronghold give you the ability to replay some of your best fatties!

I have been waiting for a Commander in MBC that could rival Xiahou for quite some time.  Ob has all the abilities I could have wanted and he is quite handsome to boot.  This deck has been quite powerful and has lots of outs against a variety of decks.  I look forward to working with Ob for years to come.

Before I go, I have to say that one real difference between these five precons  and the previous two iterations was that this go round I found myself keeping quite a bit of the Original list in tact.  Ethan Fleischer and team came up with a near flawless product which, I can’t reiterate enough, is perfect for everyone.

Till next time, Sling Well.

Email: Secondmainmtg@gmail.com

Twitter: @JesseMDana

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