July 09, 2015

Bloodbraided Ideas

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The first Commander deck I ever built was focused around the brand new place called Jund, on Alara. After seeing a world of goblin-eating dragons and playing my first games of the format on borrowed decks (likewise lead by enigmatic Dragons) I came to the only sensible decision: Make them meet on my own terms.

Kresh the Bloodbraided | Art by Raymond Swanland

The origins of some Commander decks are mundane. You liked a deck so you made your own riff on it, or you modeled the exact list someone else already made. Some decks come from a sense of adventure, piling up whatever you encounter that fancies your interest. (I have a soft spot for "wanderlust" decks myself.)

Kresh the Bloodbraided was something different. It wasn't wholly unoriginal—I had seen black-red-green decks before. It wasn't wholly a meandering, random mess; I had a general plan in mind when I sat down. But as first decks go, it was a fun mess of first steps. Those first steps were both brilliant and terrible.

It's what truly sold me on Commander.

Brothers Without Banners

Making a Commander deck from scratch is a process I've looked at before. That isn't what I'm covering today. A few weeks ago I asked for awesome options for a Jund decklist, ostensibly to help me corral and configure my return to Kresh. The suggestions led me to look at building decks in a broader lens, starting with Mark's simple start:

This isn't a complete deck, just some card types with examples:

Green

Ramp: Elves, Sylvan Caryatid, etc.

Fatties: Craterhoof Behemoth, Hydras, Thragtusk, etc.

Fight cards: Epic Confrontation, Hunt the Weak, etc.

Red

Dragons: Stormbreath, Shivan, etc.

Burn: Lightning Bolt, Roast, etc.

Black

Removal: Hero's Downfall, Murderous Cut, etc.

Deathtouch: Typhoid Rats, Keepsake Gorgon, etc.

Card draw: Bitter Revelation, Sign in Blood, etc.

Disruption: Despise, Duress, Thoughtseize, etc.

Hope these ideas are useful. :o)

- Mark

"Useful" is a relative term for decks. What's helpful or amazing in one deck can be useless—or worse, detrimental—in another. Without a deck, it's hard to argue whether something is useful or not, but that's not what Mark is saying here. With three colors in a deck, Mark wants each color to provide what it's strongest at:

  • Black excels at killing things, taking things away from other players' hands, and providing small threats that add up.
  • Red loves powerful Dragons, and the fiery doom they're so associated with.
  • Green brings ways to produce extra mana, and things that can make great use of that in one way or another.

None of these are startling revelations, particularly given what's in Magic Origins.

Now it's important to look at how the strengths of the colors I'm working with overlap:

  • If green provides plenty of mana, splashy and expensive spells in all three colors become attractive.
  • Dragons, Demons, and large beastly bodies are all attractive options to feed the size of Kresh the Bloodbraided.
  • Killing things, particularly other players' creatures, turns Kresh into a larger threat while simultaneously clearing the path for him.

These colors have other strengths too:

  • Black: Recursion and reanimation from the graveyard
  • Red: Card filtering and options with haste
  • Green: Token-making and ways to make creatures much larger than they should be

Every color has nuance, but the trick for me would be finding the right ones to build up Kresh with. One way to find the right cards is to look at whole decks. Zach shared a Jund deck that uses some of what the colors do best, showing off the potential of Jund as a whole:

I'm really excited about this topic—I started off playing Jund in Commander and slowly my deck—Sek'Kuar, the Legend Never Dies—has become one of my most competitive decks.

For me, Jund epitomizes the strategy of reanimation. Every color brings something beautiful to the table: Red brings haste and a few crucial looting effects to fill the graveyard, green has ramp spells and creatures to cast those fatties, and black boasts the namesake Reanimate. I have trouble coming up with the best card . . . because all of them synergize so well, and also simply because this deck contains some of the most powerful Jund cards available. Flayer of the Hatebound is a pet card, winning me the game after a big Living Death. But the best cards are multifaceted. Life from the Loam fills my graveyard and helps me rebuild after a Mindslicer or Bearer of the Heavens death (playgroup discretion advised). Fauna Shaman puts big guys (and small Bloodghasts) in the graveyard while tutoring out better ones. Stronghold Assassin gives me a sacrifice outlet while keeping my opponent's board under control (providing both source and use for Sek'Kuar, Deathkeeper's Graveborn tokens).

The ultimate in multifaceted cards is Anger. Not only does it turn my fatties into instant damage, it also turns on all of my utility creatures and helps me get value off every card before it can be swept away. Anger is the reason I play red in Jund.

- Zach

Zach's "The Legend Never Dies"

COMMANDER: Sek'Kuar, Deathkeeper
Planeswalker (1)
1 Liliana of the Veil
Enchantment (3)
1 Animate Dead 1 Attrition 1 Greater Good
99 Cards

Zach's deck is a good reminder of what Jund decks can do:

  • They boast mana fixing and fetching thanks to green's creatures. (Wood Elves is one of my favorite land-finding creatures in Magic.)
  • They feature reanimation and other ways to recycle or extend the value of cards, thanks to black. (Twilight's Call is easy to overlook, but it's powerful in the right place.)
  • They can destroy things quickly and en masse with red's splashiest spells. (Bearer of the Heavens is high-stakes chicken, except you know ahead of time you're planning to play with it.)

While Sek'Kuar, Deathkeeper asks different questions than the ones I'm trying to answer with Kresh the Bloodbraided, building a deck in any color is often served well by referencing ones already in the same colors. For commanders that have been around the block before, you might even have the luxury of looking at decks using it—which is what several of you sent in for me.

The first was from Xavier:

Hi Stybs!

My card of choice is Domri Rade. Usually any deck that has its colors runs a ton of creatures, so I think it's an auto-include just for the draw ability—especially when combined with Mirri's Guile, Sylvan Library, and Sensei's Divining Top. But the fun is in the "fighting" ability. Kresh is a Warrior. Kresh fights! Kresh grows! Kresh Smash!

Here is the deck I built for Kresh. It combines the themes of counters and fighting (just for flavor).

- Xavier

Xavier's Kresh the Bloodbraided

COMMANDER: Kresh the Bloodbraided
Planeswalker (1)
1 Domri Rade
99 Cards

Fight wasn't a theme when I had my Kresh the Bloodbraided deck built. But fighting is precisely what Kresh does best. Every foe he slays makes him stronger, and in turn puts him on the hunt for stronger foes.

Taking out one Commander opponent before turning to the next is an awfully familiar process for the strongest player in a game. Xavier's deck is a good example of how revisiting things over time reveals now ways to explore a similar space. Domri Rade and Epic Confrontation may not be the splashiest Commander cards, but they fit right into what Kresh plans to do to anything.


Kevin had a different approach to Kresh that was some self-made flavor and fun:

I thought I'd share my Kresh deck as an example of what I would put in a Jund Commander deck. I have a strong connection to my Kresh deck, as it was one of the earliest Commander decks I built and it is the deck I always bring to new playgroups.

The deck is built on the principle of being a powerful Timmy deck that doesn't really do anything clever or unfair; it just plays big creatures and spells. Kresh is not only the focal point of the deck, he is also the physical embodiment of what Jund is about: fire, blood, and might. The more gruesome the battle, the stronger Kresh becomes as he adorns himself with trinkets and talismans made from the flesh of the fallen. That's pretty brutal (metal?) stuff when you think about it. And I think the card choices of the deck really paint the picture of an unyielding, mighty army anointed in blood and fire.

Cards like Pernicious Deed, Lavalanche, In Garruk's Wake, and Violent Ultimatum turn the battlefield into a bloodbath, and Kresh emerges stronger than ever. Whispersilk Cloak, Swiftfoot Boots, and Lightning Greaves ensure that Kresh keeps getting bigger and survives to lead the army to glory. It isn't beneath Kresh to die a glorious death using Flesh & Blood or Rite of Consumption if it means taking his enemies with him. A horde of Dragons brings the fire to Kresh's army, and even Garruk and Sarkhan lend a mighty hand. The rest of the deck is rounded out with powerful shamans (Eternal Witness and Oracle of Mul Daya), fearsome beasts and monstrosities (Giants, Hydras, Wurms, Elementals, Oozes, and Zombies), and some powerful enchantments (Deathreap Ritual and Lurking Predators) that serve to strengthen the deck's themes.

- Kevin

Kevin's Kresh, the Bloodbraided

COMMANDER: Kresh the Bloodbraided
Planeswalker (2)
1 Sarkhan Vol 1 Garruk Wildspeaker
Instant (4)
1 Terminate 1 Putrefy 1 Harrow 1 Ancient Grudge
99 Cards

The spells and Equipment here remind me of my Commander beginnings with Kresh the Bloodbraided. What's different is that the spells and Equipment have changed. Flesh & Blood is an amazing card for Kresh, just like Sidisi, Undead Vizier. Neither existed when I last had Kresh in my hands. While this deck feels similar to my last, its tools and options make it come across differently.

Revisiting the same themes later means I can repeat some ideas but with an execution that's different than before. Magic gets bigger, not smaller, every year.


The Beginnings of Something New

So where is my take on Kresh the Bloodbraided? I haven't decided it yet, to be honest. The mix of old nostalgia and new cards is far too much to easily fit into a deck, so I'm taking my time trimming and adjusting what I want to do with it.

And since I'm doing this on Magic Online I can afford to take my time.

Besides, there are more urgent matters at hand. This week's question is already on the tip of everyone's tongue: What are you putting into your Commander decks from Magic Origins, and why?

  • Feedback via email, in English
  • 300 word limit to explain the card or cards that make the cut
  • Sample decklist (does not count against word limit)
  • Decklists should be formatted with one card per line with just a leading number, such as "3 Mountain"—just a space (no "x" or "-") between the number and the card name, without subtotals by card type (Submissions that don't follow this rule will be ignored.)
  • Name and email required (non-personal information to be used in column)
  • Your Twitter handle, if you have one

The Prerelease is this weekend. The set is out next Friday. I want to see your lists of the amazing, awesome cards you're planning to add to your decks. I know I have mine, and I'm looking forward to sharing it too.

Join us next week when we get original for real. See you then!



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