Trash for Treasure: Updating the new “Built From Scratch” Pre-Con for Competitive Commander Play.
My last article was about budget red decks and how you can be competitive without spending a lot by playing red. This article is going to basically do the exact opposite of that. We are going to spend a bunch of money to remove the bad cards from “Built From Scratch” and replace them with more expensive, better cards. Our aim is to make the deck more competitive and hopefully more fun.
When I heard that Wizards of the Coast would be releasing five mono-coloured Commander decks, I was excited, and cautiously optimistic. In constructed, I generally only play red, white and black. Kaalia of the Vast is my main squeeze, but recently I've wanted to branch out and build more decks. I already had my first deck, a mono-black Iname, Death Aspect Mass-Reanimator and I recently built a Mogis, God of Slaughter devotion style deck. I plan to build a Boros and an Orzhov deck at some point, but the opportunity to get a mono-white and a mono-red deck that I could use as a starting point was very appealing to me. I can write a future article about tuning “Forged in Stone” if this article is well received.
Why was I cautiously optimistic? Because red is by far the worst colour in Commander and I wasn't sure how WotC would address this. Why is red the worst colour in Commander? Let's examine the reasons.
1) Poor card draw: Red doesn't have access to cards like Phyrexian Arena, Fact or Fiction or Harmonize. You instead get cards like Browbeat (which players are likely to pay the life for in commander), Chandra, Pyromaster (Use it or lose it) and Wheel of Fortune (which is reciprocal).
2) Poor Removal: Red's removal is typically damage based. In a slow multi-player format ruled by huge, bomb-creatures, damage spells are outclassed quickly.
3) Poor Sweepers: Red does not have access to spells like Wrath of God or Damnation. It has Chain Reaction (which does a pretty decent impression) but it is strictly worse. It won't always do enough damage to sweep and it leaves behind creatures with Protection from Red like Akroma, Angel of Wrath. Other cards like Earthquake scale, but have restrictions that make them less effective.
4) Poor Creatures: I might catch some flack for this (I love dragons too!) but Red's creatures are just outclassed by every other non-blue colour.
5) Attrition: Red's strengths line up poorly in the Commander format. Cheap, efficient creatures are a liability in a slow format with multiple opponents. Instead of trying to deal 20 damage as quickly as possible, you have to deal 40+ damage with the same amount and quality of cards. And you have to do it more than once! Speed is not your friend when you're sure to run out of gas before everyone is dead.
So how did WotC overcome these limitations? With Artifacts and with synergy.
“I used to joke that he had been exiled for being too smart. Now I know why he never laughed.”- Glissa Sunseeker
When I first saw the decklist and commander for this list, I was somewhat disappointed. Firstly because the commander wasn't Jaya Ballard and secondly because it was an artifact deck. Eggs, Second Breakfast and Affinity have made me hate dedicated artifact decks from the beginning of my competitive Magic career (Mirrodin Block, circa 2003). However, I decided I would give it a go anyway, and I was pleasantly surprised. The deck is a lot of fun to play, and is surprisingly skill intensive. While there is nothing wrong with playing the deck “as is”, it became obvious to me that there was room for improvement. Here is the original decklist for reference:
Commander: Daretti, Scrap Savant
I began to dissect this deck by dividing it into 7 categories:
Artifacts for Welding (14)
1 Myr Retriever
1 Myr Sire
1 Junk Diver
1 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Myr Battlesphere
1 Myr Battlesphere
1 Pilgrim’s Eye
1 Ichor Wellspring
1 Mycosynth Wellspring
1 Spine of Ish Sah
1 Wayfarer’s Bauble
Welding Effects (5)
1 Daretti, Scrap Savant
1 Goblin Welder
1 Feldon of the Third Path
1 Scrap Mastery
Welding Enablers (2)
1 Faithless Looting
1 Trading Post
Mana Sources (49)
1 Palladium Myr
1 Everflowing Chalice
1 Sol Ring
1 Fire Diamond
1 Mind Stone
1 Pristine Talisman
1 Unstable Obelisk
1 Darksteel Citadel
1 Great Furnace
1 Commander’s Sphere
1 Arcane Lighthouse
1 Buried Ruin
1 Dormant Volcano
1 Flamekin Village
1 Forgotten Cave
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Reliquary Tower
1 Smoldering Crater
1 Temple of the False God
1 Phyrexia’s Core
Value Cards (13)
1 Flametongue Kavu
1 Ingot Chewer
1 Steel Hellkite
1 Hoard-Smelter Dragon
1 Bosh, Iron Golem
1 Bogardan Hellkite
1 Tyrant’s Familiar
1 Blasphemous Act
1 Chaos Warp
1 Volcanic Offering
1 Word of Seizing
Filler / Cute But Not Good Enough (12)
1 Bottle Gnomes
1 Tuktuk the Explorer
1 Beetleback Chief
1 Panic Spellbomb
1 Liquimetal Coating
1 Swiftfoot Boots
1 Jalum Tome
1 Loreseeker’s Stone
Cards WotC wanted to add to the Legacy / Commander card pool (that feel like they don't fit the deck) (8)
1 Dualcaster Mage
1 Warmonger Hellkite
1 Incite Rebellion
1 Impact Resonance
1 Ruby Medallion
1 Caged Sun
1 Dreamstone Hedron
1 Bitter Feud
*As an aside, Caged Sun and Ruby Medallion are staples, but the high number of Artifacts in the deck limits their value. Dualcaster Mage has a lot of potential, but not in a deck with so few targets.
Cards from the last two categories are automatically cut as are some of the excessive mana-sources. They were replaced with cards I felt had better synergy and more impact. The result?
“A masterwork of spite, inspired by madness."
One Man's Trash - Keith Ambrose
Hellkite Igniter: Big dumb dragon that can become really big and dumb in this deck. Won't take many swings if left unchecked.
Hellkite Tyrant: I love things that say, “You win the game.” This card also gives you the ability to steal all your opponent's mana rocks etc.
Hoarding Dragon: An artifact Tutor that will act as a strong reason not to attack into you.
Kuldotha Phoenix: The deck almost always has metalcraft, so it's a recurring, evasive, hasty threat.
Iron Myr: Another Myr; another mana source.
Kuldotha Forgemaster: An artifact tutor / way to cheat an artifact out. You either sacrifice tokens or eventually get the sacrificed artifacts back, if you care about them.
Platinum Angel: “In its heart lies the secret of immortality.”
Platinum Emperion: Obviously not as good as Angel, but a similar effect.
Scuttling Doom Engine: This guy is just begging to be recycled. This + Shrapnel Blast or Hoard-Smelter Dragon is pretty funny too.
Thopter Assembly: Reanimation target that produces tokens that can be welded. Plays similarly to Myr Battlesphere, but more fragile.
Brittle Effigy: The deck suffers from a lack of spot removal. This functions similarly to Spine of Ish Sah
Hammer of Purphoros: Gives your team haste, provides late game threats once you have more land than you know what to do with. I could see Anger making the deck as well, since it's easy enough to dump him into the bin.
Mindslaver: This card is one of, if not the best card in the deck. Slaver-locking your opponent when you have Daretti or Welder in play really happens. I recently stole a couple turns in a row and make my opponent cycle Decree of Justice for zero, cast Strata Scythe and search for Emeria, the Sky Ruin, wasted a Brave the Elements, and attacked the other player at the table for about 30 over two turns, while leaving himself wide open. It was beautiful.
Myr Turbine: Token generator + Myr tutor. You can go get your Myr Battlesphere.
Nuisance Engine: One of the weaker cards in the deck, but it makes Pest tokens that can chump or be sacrificed. This card might get the axe.
Sculpting Steel: Copy Your best artifact. Platinum Angel is a good choice.
Sensei's Diving Top: I shouldn't need to explain.
Shrapnel Blast: Lava Axe for 2 in this deck. Combos with Scuttling Doom Engine for 11.
Chain Reaction: Closest red gets to Wrath of God.
Disaster Radius: Closest red gets to a Plague Wind.
Insurrection: Commander staple. Basically wins the game.
Mizzium Mortars: A conditional Plague Wind that can be an early Flame Slash.
Molten Psyche: We almost always have Metalcraft, so this is a Wheel of Fortune like effect that deals large chunks of damage.
Past in Flames: This + Recoup are there mainly for Scrap Mastery, which is very, very powerful, but can also get value in other situations (like flashing back Chaos Warp or Chain Reaction).
Recoup: See above.
Trash for Treasure: Another weld effect. It also plays well with Recoup.
Blood Moon: Because we only need red mana.
Shivan Gorge: Late game mana-dump.
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle: Turns late game Mountains into Lightning Bolts. The drawback of coming into play tapped is very minor for a potentially huge reward.
I hope that those explanations will suffice, but if you have and questions, comments or ideas, hit me up in the comments. This deck has been incredibly fun to play and I'm looking forward to taking it out to more commander nights in the future. If you're looking for a red deck that doesn't suck, or have bought “Built fro Scratch” and are wondering how to proceed, I hope you'll give this list a shot.
Until next time,
“I wrecked your metal guy, boss. But look! I made you an ashtray.”