The Commander’s Chair #5 Tool Time

“Man is a tool-using animal. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.” – Thomas Carlyle

I am in the middle of reading the Desden Files from start to finish.  I had read a few of these in the past, but this is the first time I will read them in sequence.  Harry Dresden, the main character, has some strong opinions of the power of mages.  He believes that, while not the most powerful being around, they can take on anything if they have time to prepare.  Magic the Gathering is the same way.  There is an answer to any play.  You just have to be prepared.  Building a toolbox into your Commander deck will help you deal with most of the problems that you can expect to come across in a game.

Choosing the Toolbox

Your toolbox will depend on your choice of general.  You should choose a toolbox that goes well both with your colors and with the style of your deck.  Don’t try to force a toolbox into a deck.   You also want to be able to search up the card you will be using as the focus of your toolbox strategy.  Either that or the card should be your general.  Here are some popular options;

Stonehewer GiantStonehewer Giant will go best in a white deck that already focuses on equipment.  This normally means that you will be playing a deck that focuses heavily on putting in 21 points of general damage.  Alternatively, it could be a token deck that uses equipment and enchantments to boosts the normally week tokens.  You will be able to search for him easily if he is in a G/W or B/W deck.  If you are outside of Green and Black you can use Citanul Flute and Planar Portal to tutor him up.  Alternatively you can bring in Steelshaper Apprentice, Stoneforge Mystic, and Taj-Nar Swordsmith as additional ways to look for equipment.

Survival of the FittestSurvival of the Fittest goes well in any green deck that focuses on creatures.  This makes up most green decks.  If you are not playing the W/G or B/G for access to enchantment tutors, you will have to compensate with filling your deck with other creature tutors.  Fauna Shaman is the most common “Survival #2”, but you can also run Tooth and Nail, Chord of Calling and Worldly Tutor as one time uses.  Survival is the preferred option, as you can use it to both tutor and to abuse the graveyard.  You will want to abuse the graveyard and want an easy way to tutor for Survival. I would suggest putting this into a BGx deck, like Doran the Seige Tower.

Artificer’s IntuitionArtificer’s Intuition is best placed in an artifact heavy, blue deck that has ways of recurring artifacts, like Sharuum the Hegemon.  I would not play with without including cards like Academy Ruins and Scarecrone into your deck.  You want to use this like you would Survival of the Fittest, both to tutor and to abuse the graveyard.  Blue has some tutors such as Long-Term Plans that will let you directly search for this card.  I prefer to use redundancy with Trinket Mage, Fabricate, Transmute Artifact, Reshape and Kuldotha Forgemaster to get you the artifacts you need.

SunforgerSunforger is a huge favorite among many Commander players.  It adds a huge amount of strength to WR.  WR is usually seen as a weaker pairing of colors in Commander.  It gives the ability to search up and play instants.  This ability is out of the color pie for both of these colors.  By making it equipment, it can be combined with a Stonehewer Giant toolbox to be found very easily.  There is no other card that does what this card does, so you have to have multiple ways to search this up.  In addition to the cards listed under Stonehewer Giant, I would also include Enlightened Tutor and Steelshaper’s GiftArgivian Find may be another good idea, in case your opponent counters or destroys your Sunforger.

Arcum Dagsson, Zur the Enchanter, Momir Vig, Simic Visionary, Sliver Overlord, and Captain Sisay– There is something strange that happens when you get Generals that can be used to search up pieces of a toolbox.  You never end up having a toolbox deck.  You create a prison lock deck or a combo deck.  It is so easy for you to find what you need that your opponents will feel like they are always fighting an uphill battle.  You will want to include cards that protect the general and continue building out from there. Since you don’t have to have tutors to find these cards, you can build combos and pieces of toolboxes into your deck with almost no effort.

Picking out your tools

Once you have a toolbox picked out, you need to figure out what tools you will need.  To determine what tools you need, you need to know what issues you expect to face.   You want to win.  So, you need to solve the problem of other people winning.  You want to throw silver bullets into your deck to handle common avenues players take to win.

Common avenues people take to victory in Commander;

  • Creatures Damage
  • General Damage
  • Graveyard Abuse
  • Combos

The most common way for a Commander game to end, is by being taken to zero life through creature damage.  Your toolbox should be able to bring you ways of gaining life, destroying mass numbers of creatures, or negating damage.

Another common way for a game to end, is to be taken out by a especially aggressive general.  Many players go with this route, since it means they have to do less damage overall.  You will need to at least a few pieces of spot removal to get rid of these pesky generals.  It’s preferable to get spot removal that can be used repeatedly or takes care of a general permanently.

Reanimator decks always seem to gain a large amount of popularity, when no one is prepared for them.  This is as true in Commander as it is in Legacy.  When you are selecting targets for your toolbox, make sure to include something to deal with decks that abuse the graveyard.

Almost every Commander group has at least one combo player.  If you are used to playing against these players, you know how frustrating it can be.  Combo decks operate on a different axis of attack compared to traditional aggro decks.  Your toolbox needs to have some answers to combo decks, or you will find yourself losing in quick order.  Most combos are based off of enchantments and artifacts.  You want to be able to remove of shut down these permanents.

You can always include more items in your toolbox, but I would make sure you have as many of these bases covered as you can.  The best thing about a toolbox is that you can put less answers into your deck, while still remaining reasonably sure you will have an answer to whatever problem turns up.  This will leave you more room to put in all the fun cards you want.

There are four days left to submit Reaper King Commander decklists for the contest.  The prizes include a Judge Foil Wheel of Fortune and Foil Reaper King.  Email submissions to



About SwordsToPlow

I like building and tuning decks to make them more fun and more effective.

Posted on April 26, 2011, in The Commander's Chair and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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