A few weeks ago I went to Grand Prix Oklahoma City. If you’ve never been to a Grand Prix event I can’t recommend it enough; the experience of just going and hanging out with a few thousand other nerds is pretty great. If you find such an event within driving distance just throw a few buddies in your car, grab a room, preferably near the convention center, and try out some new restaurants while you’re at it.
Anyways, you probably want to hear something about Magic don’t you? Besides the whole awesome experience of a weekend with your buddies and not sleeping at all I mean. Well then, where to start? Every time there is a large event there are some fun decks to emerge and do well, this time it wasn’t anything too crazy besides the Savage Knuckleblade deck but I’ve been telling people that card is awesome for forever.
The winning deck, and second place deck for that matter, do things that aren’t foreign to your typical Commander player.
The deck’s goal is actually pretty close to a Commander deck; accumulate as many resources as fast as you can before you can cast a haymaker and finish the game from there. It only makes sense that we get to cover this type of deck since it’s halfway to being an EDH deck anyways! Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle is already a powerful card, so when we add a few extra powerful effects next to Scapeshift to flood the board with lands then imagine the damage we can do! Like, probably as much as there are mountains in the deck at LEAST!
So let’s repeat what’s worth repeating: it takes a certain amount of panache to take a predominantly red deck into battle in Commander. Direct damage spells don’t carry the same weight in 40-life formats. So you can imagine that we need to spruce up the deck a bit and find a way to make the one copy of Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle worth running.
We could go the straightforward route and run the Gruul color setup. Only two colors means that we get to play more basics which means more Mountains to trigger Valakut. Old school Scapeshift decks actually used to be Temur colors, adding blue to play card draw spells like Cryptic Command and Serum Visions to find the important cards. If we didn’t need red in the deck, The Gitrog Monster would be a perfect fit for this style of a deck, but alas, we need red and not black. A little less value, a little more explosions if you will.
A Temur commander that I’ve always had a soft spot for is Surrak Dragonclaw. Ramping into big uncounterable fatties is never a bad strategy. On the other spectrum, Riku of Two Reflections doubling our ramp means we can get hit that critical mass of lands even faster by doubling our ramp spells as we go.
In a deck built around Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle I do think keeping things simple is the best way to go. More basics to get fetched out means more triggers, and I love me some triggers. In straight red/green there are some great options we can run, whether Mina and Denn, Wildborn to recur our land drops and push through damage or Ruric Thar, the Unbowed to punish people who want to cast these “spell” things instead of creatures. You can even talk like a Khan for extra flavor while playing Ruric Thar, which definitely can’t be overlooked.
I’m going to revisit an old favorite for this adventure. You may recall my first project for EDHREC talking about my Singleton Guild Wheel of decks, where I built a deck for each Ravnican guild and only allowed myself one copy of every card among all ten decks. My choice for the Gruul goons was a Landfall favorite: Omnath, Locus of Rage. He loves lands entering the battlefield and gives us a nice backup plan in case the combo kill falls through. Check out my previous entry about Omnath for where the deck was before if you feel so compelled. Or don’t, but that’s your loss.
One thing you’ll notice if you compare the two decklists is the new toys added to our arsenal. Tireless Tracker got his best friend in Ramunap Excavator, acting as a Crucible of Worlds on a stick for all of us peasants who can’t afford the real thing. There have been many games since the snake person came out where even being able to play a fetchland from the graveyard every turn is instant value. Don’t even get me started with Wasteland next to Ramunap Excavator either. It’s saucy though, but that’s all I can say without getting my heart rate up.
The recent ramp spells to make the scene are absolutely insane. For decks that like to turn creatures sideways (and Omnath definitely loves that) Harvest Season is wildly underrated. I talked about Harvest Season originally in Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist decks, but again if you like attacking this card has more upside that any boring old Cultivate ever could have. Hour of Promise was a card that I was very so-so on when I first saw it spoiled, but after being reminded and not so kindly shown several times that you can grab ANY lands with it, you can now call me a believer. For a couple extra mana you can turn your Sylvan Scrying into a powerhouse.
Traverse the Outlands is a card that gets its own paragraph. This card in an Omnath deck basically reads “get 5 basic lands and make 5 5/5 tokens.” That’s so much value for only five mana! If you’re able to lead into Traverse the Outlands from Rishkar’s Expertise you might have some of the bug-nuttiest plays ever. Like, ermagherd!
Side note: I said back in February that Rishkar’s Expertise was going to get lots of play and EDHREC comes in showing almost 8,000 decks playing it now. Don’t question my value plays man.
Since Primeval Titan sadly* isn’t legal in our format, we have to find some other way to close out games. Ulvenwald Hydra is close, but doesn’t close the game NEAR as well. Avenger of Zendikar fills a very close roll letting us go wide, though. Since our deck has quite a bit of redundancy it’s nice having a backup plan for our backup plan in case our commander gets shut down. Going wide and further rewarding extra land drops never hurts.
*Not really that broken up about it. –The Editor
One fun little synergy you won’t find on EDHREC pages I found by accident but has stayed one of my favorites for this style of deck. Devastating Summons is only played in 151 decks according to EDHREC stats, and I think that number is too low. When combined with Splendid Reclamation this card gives you some potentially enormous beaters. Cast Devastating Summons, float a bunch of mana and sacrifice your lands, then use that mana to cast Splendid Reclamation and get the lands back. Boom. You may even get another small army of 5/5 tokens for your efforts too!
And now, our souped-up Scapeshift port!
And there we have it! A Grand Prix inspired deck fit for any table. Let me know what you think of the deck or anything I might have missed. Any suggestions you might have for the next deck we cover? If I don’t get any good suggestions you’ll have to deal with me doing nothing and talking about Standstill decks…so let’s hear it! Thanks everyone!