September 18, 2019

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Lord Windgrace, or How I Learned to Stop Winning and Balance the Game

Power creep is something that most casual EDH players are more than familiar with. Once a player starts increasing the power level of their deck, each other player has to respond in kind or suffer through that player winning repeatedly. The main other solution is to just hate the player out and leave them having a less enjoyable time. I offer you the path of least resistance; make the whole table play fair.

Resource denial is an excellent way to accomplish this task but we just need to know not to go too overboard or we land in the area of hard stax decks. Destroy some lands, but not too many to avoid some non games. Be able to interact with combo pieces but not infinitely. The goal of fair jund decks is to create fun and interactive games of magic. Now, let’s start with the commander of choice for this article. 

Now there are many solid options in the BRG options that would offer us equally fun gameplay, and you can feel free to pick any of them. For this article, Lord Windgrace will be the pick due to his unique effect of being a planeswalker in the command zone, the ability to draw cards and finally his ability to recur lands. That last ability will help us keep our board state progressing as the game goes on. 

General Staples for the commander:

Ramunap Excavator, Crucible of Worlds, Life from the Loam, Strip Mine, Wasteland, Ghost Quarter

All of these are always going to be strong additions to a jund commander deck but be sure to always play these to your group. There’s only so many times you can cut a player off one of their colours before they won’t play against this deck again. The power level of these lands also goes up with the commander bringing back up to two of these lands a turn untapped. But before you resort to that, let’s explore other ways we can deny our opponents.


Mana Denial:

Smokestack, Desolation, Winter Orb, Decree of Annihilation, Lodestone Golem, Wildfire, Burning of Xinye, Impending Disaster, Manabarbs, Ankh of Mishra, Zo-zu the Punisher, Volcanic Offering, Smallpox, From the Ashes, God-Pharaoh's Statue

I know, that’s a lot of options. They all range in price and interactivity for you to decide based on your playgroup. Let’s talk about some of the more unique options here. I’m sure you all already know how to play with items like Smokestack, Winter Orb and Lodestone Golem.

Volcanic Offering is a personal favourite of mine due to how it allows for table politics and doesn’t touch basic lands. It is a reasonably fair card that allows for interaction and interesting board developments. 7 damage will often kill a commander or a key card in an opponent's deck. The play patterns this card evokes is generally on point for those who want a more interactive and fair game of commander.

Wildfire / Burning of Xinye are two surprisingly different cards despite the fact that most players think of them as functionally identical. Wildfire is a reasonably fair table wide effect that clears the smaller mana dorks and forcing players to sacrifice four lands. On the other hand, Burning of Xinye targets an opponent to have them destroy four of their lands (you do this as well), and then it deals 4 damage to each creature on the board. This is a much more targeted effect that could result in more hate coming towards you from a particular player. Creating more global effects will often leave players feeling less cheated out of a game. If everyone is sent back to the stone age, no one player is really going to be ahead. Keep in mind, both of these do not affect our commander. Another bonus of running a planeswalker in the command zone for this archetype.

Ankh of Mishra / Zo-Zu the Punisher is for all the play groups that has that one person going off with Tatyova, Benthic Druid constantly. To punish all those greedy green players for wanting every land in their deck to be on the field. Now keep in mind, these can punish us as well. Try to keep this type of effect to a minimum. You’re going to be going through a fair bit of graveyard recursion and this could really ruin your day. Dying to a Splendid Reclamation isn’t going to feel very good. 

Decree of Annihilation has the potential to say “I win the game” on it. You’ll notice it exiles everything but planeswalker allowing for a full reset of the game for everyone but your walker (and any enchantments). An interesting interaction to keep in mind with Lord Windgrace is how the first ability on the card is worded: “+2: Discard a card, then draw a card. If a land card is discarded this way, draw an additional card.” If you activate this ability with no cards in hand, you will just simply draw a card. The “Discard a card,” isn’t part of the cost of the ability, so once that action is completed, the rest of the ability will resolve. You will draw one card because you did not discard a land. Already you’re ahead of the rest of the table. Except for that one person with the Helix Pinnacle out at 97, but we don’t talk about them. This card also has cycle and destroy all lands on it so that’s cool too.

From the Ashes is a generally more interactive card that something like Ruination and is generally a worse card, but fun is the name of the game. Destroying each non basic and replacing them with basics is generally going to get a couple of groans from the table but it’s better than just destroying each non basic. This is going to help deal with issues such as Field of the Dead, Gaea’s Cradle or Maze of Iths. On the other hand, this card isn’t for every build of Lord Windgrace. The deck will often run a high number of non basics and often rely on them to function. A couple strong examples of this would be Dark Depths or Volrath’s Stronghold. Include at your own discretion.


Combo Disruption:

Stranglehold, Damping Sphere, Cindervines, Abrupt Decay, Assassin’s Trophy, Krosan Grip, Ruric Thar, the Unbowed

Most of these relate to decks that want to cast a lot of spells in one turn, which is often how one would go off in commander. Whether it be through the storm mechanic or to try and find all of their combo pieces to kill the table, most of this will hinder them in their ability. Most of these are pretty easy includes but I’ll go through the list.

Stranglehold is one of the most underrated cards in the format. The ability to prevent tutoring while also preventing additional turns for your opponents is an absurd effect that will almost always draw some piece of removal. Being able to still use your tutors and ramp spells will pull you ahead very quickly. This card is one of the best pieces this colour combo has to fight combo decks.

Damping Sphere, the modern sideboard all star is still solid in commander. Dealing with bounce lands as well as specific enchantments that will cause them to tap for more mana instead. But be careful with how this card works. Effects like Mana Flare are not hit by Damping Sphere, but Mana Reflection is. It is also a big hit to the Karoo/Bounce lands like Golgari Rot Farm and friends. Being able to keep cascade and storm decks honest is a very powerful effect to be considered.

Cindervines holds a similar space to Damping Sphere as it keeps storm decks honest (to some degree). The lesser power aspect of the card is a trade off for allowing the card to have more options. It can just be cashed in to remove an artifact or enchantment while dealing some damage to that player. Having a hate card double as some sort of removal is solid and the effect is undeniable for going against general spell slinger decks. 

Abrupt Decay / Assassin’s Trophy are both just strong pieces of interaction that happen to hit most great combo pieces. Abrupt Decay’s ability to deal with pieces such as Animate Dead, Necropotence, Necromancy and Sylvan Library with the uncounterable clause is solid. Assassin’s Trophy being able to hit the bigger problems or even lands is just fantastic and an effect archetypes like these could use more of. These cards have text against nearly any deck in the format and I can’t think of a time where I’ve been unhappy to see one in my opening hand.

Krosan Grip falls into a similar category as Abrupt Decay and Assassin’s Trophy. It’s generally just a really solid removal spell that will rarely not have relevant text. Having split second on it is undeniably powerful against blue decks. 

Ruric Thar, the Unbowed hold a special place in my heart. This card just smashes control and spellslinger decks like there’s no tomorrow. It’s a threat that always has to be answered and is powerful enough that you don’t generally need to cast more cards into it and hurt yourself. Dealing six on each noncreature spell cast will be quickly ending the game. For an opponent to even remove it will generally cost them that crucial six life. This card is not only disruption but can often set you up for a win on its own. 


Combat Fog/Disruption:

Crawlspace, Ensnaring Bridge, Silent Arbiter, Constant Mists, No Mercy, Glacial Chasm, Maze of Ith, Thaumatic Compass

Crawlspace / Ensnaring Bridge / Silent Arbiter are often going to hurt your opponents more than they’re going to hurt you when you’re building around playing Magic as Richard Garfield intended (to blow up all the lands of course, why else would he print Sinkhole in Alpha?). I offer these three options because they are all quality inclusions and Ensnaring Bridge’s price is restricting for a large number of players. They each also have their unique effects. Crawlspace / Silent Arbiter is better for people trying to win through infinite creatures/incredibly wide boards (Splinter Twin combo) while Ensnaring Bridge is better for those trying to win through singular large creatures (see voltron decks and Craterhoof Behemoth). Both Ensnaring Bridge and Crawlspace share a competitive mana cost that will help you survive to the late game, while Silent Arbiter will serve as a solid backup.

Constant Mists is one of the only Fog effects that are remotely playable in commander. The ability to recur this card so easily in an archetype that allows for as much recursion as it does, this can keep opponents on a near lock after you’ve restricted their mana. This is a near auto include with most Life From the Loam decks. Keep in mind, this can be used as a political tool to gain favour from your opponents. It prevents all combat damage, not just that which is dealt to you.

No Mercy give our opponents a strong reason not to attack us, but to instead attack each other. It’s much easier to kill one opponent than it is to kill three. Let them battle it out or lose their creatures in the process while we build our board. Also is a solid backup if anything happens to our Ensnaring Bridge or Crawlspace to keep us alive. Remember, this is a triggered ability so if you die in combat, the trigger will never occur and the creatures will (probably) live to fight another combat step. 

Glacial Chasm / Maze of Ith / Thaumatic Compass all exist to prevent us from taking damage and add to our land count. Glacial Chasm and Maze of Ith won’t tap for mana unless we have an Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth or Chromatic Lantern on the field, but they will help trigger cards such as Avenger of Zendikar or Field of the Dead. They have the ability to be recurred by Lord Windgrace and Life from the Loam and can be copied by Thespian Stage. Thaumatic Compass on the other hand, can fix our mana until it flips but can’t be recurred by the above options and won’t trigger Avenger or Field. It’s still a worthwhile inclusion due to the power of having more copies of Maze of Ith and being able to tutor for basics when we have nothing else to do with our mana has power in it. All three are strong inclusions that I strongly recommend going in any Lord Windgrace deck. 


How you win the game:

Dark Depths, Field of the Dead, your choice.

Dark Depths is a tried and true combo with Thespian Stage played throughout commander and legacy. Being able to tutor up this combo in commander with cards like Hour of Promise, Scapeshift, Crop Rotation and then recurring it with Lord Windgrace is game winning. If you don’t know how this combo works, here are the basics: Dark Depths enters with ten ice counters on it. Thespian Stage can then activate its ability making it a copy of Dark Depths. Legendary rules take effect because they share the same name now and you sacrifice the original Dark Depths with ten counters on it. State based effects are checked and it sees that this new Dark Depths has zero ice counters on it and the trigger goes on the stack to sacrifice it to make a 20/20 Marit Lage legendary token. Thespian Stage is now in the graveyard and you have a 20/20 flying, indestructible Marit Lage. Since this is a two land combo, you can then activate the -3 ability on Lord Windgrace to return those two pieces to the field to do this all again next turn if someone removes your creature. 

Field of the Dead is at its most powerful when your casting a Scapeshift but regardless of that, this card can help gunk up the board and eventually swing for a lethal attack. With the number of lands that will be entering and leaving the battlefield under your control, this is likely to make a sizable board of zombies. As well, this is not a legendary land, so copying it with a Thespian Stage is going to be a common play. A deck building nuance to be aware of when including this card, is to make sure that you split your basics among regular and snow covered basics. A Snow-Covered Forest holds a different name than a regular Forest and as a result, can speed up meeting the requirements for Field of the Dead to trigger.

The last way to win with this deck is really up to you. Jund has an incredibly wide array of options for you to fill the remainder of your deck with. Avenger of Zendikar has some high synergy with a large chunk of your deck. Tireless Tracker is incredible with Smokestack on the field or to just speed past your opponent with card advantage. Exsanguinate can drain your opponents for the last few points left after Ruric Thar is done with them. Want to kill your opponent with Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded? Sure! Go nuts! Jund is a colour combination that allows for players to have a pretty great array of game winning threats that offers some sort of value to them. 

Lord Windgrace decks have a lot of room to be built in that allow you to play at nearly any table, from the casual all basics 5 colour Progenitus voltron, all the way to the more competitive tables that want to combo out in the early turns of the game. You can power down an entire group to an equal footing with it, or you can pull off some crazy combos yourself. Jund gives you the options to play the game how you want to, and perhaps even force your opponents to as well.