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General Medicine — Traxos, Scourge of Untaps!
Welcome back, readers, to General Medicine, the column where I take your decks, give it a whirl inside our EDHREC tech-o-matic 5000, add my own flavor, and present an enhanced version of your creations to unleash upon your local playgroup. This time, we’re taking a look at Clayton’s Traxos, Scourge of Kroog list, but before we get into it, I want to expand upon the commander itself and colorless in our format overall.
At the time of writing, there are no more than eight legal colorless commanders in our format, and of these eight, Traxos, Scourge of Kroog is the least popular, with only 31 decks registered at our site. Aside the second least popular, Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre, the rest of the colorless crew has at least a couple of hundred decks registered to their name, with Kozilek, the Great Distoriton topping the charts at 568 decks to its name.
All of this aside, Traxos, Scourge of Kroog is the newest of these available colorless commanders, and he might pick up more popularity in the future. Pound-for-pound, a four mana trampling 7/7 will smash face quickly in our format, even though in a vacuum, commanders such as Kozilek, the Great Distorition will be more powerful as a voltron build.
Looking at the commander in question for this article, we can conclude a few things: he is very big for his mana cost, and comes with built-in Trample which is useful for voltron builds, but he has the drawback of coming in tapped and not untapping unless we cast a historic spell. This is not a huge issue in this deck, however, since every single spell we’re going to run, bar a couple of sorceries, will be historic. In essence, Traxos, Scourge of Kroog reads “Whenever you cast a spell, untap Traxos.” in this deck, and we’ll have more ways to untap him and we’re going to include stuff to make sure he stays untapped.
Colorless in Commander
For quite some time, there was only one possible colorless commander in Karn, Silver Golem and assembling a mana base for him was a chore in itself, seeing as running him would intrinsically mean no basic lands could be included. The Eldrazi titans added more possible options to the mix, and their eventual return in Battle for Zendikar also brought with them Wastes meaning one could now use basic lands in the decks even when the commander had no color identity.
Colorless still struggles a bit in the format. The two most important aspects of any deck, card draw and ramp, are not absent from the colorless part of the pie, but also not really comparable to their colored counterparts. All manners of artifact ramp is available to us, of course, but this also means that we can get blown out by a Vandalblast. Removal options are also quite far and few between, though there are a few and we’ll make good use of these.
In my own experience, playing against Kozilek, the Great Distortion can be a brutal experience as the decks I’ve faced have had a similar but very powerful game plan: play ramp turns 1-4 and cast a Kozilek, the Great Distortion, refill their hand and continue to dominate the board state with a gigantic, menacing creature who in itself two-hit-KO’s everyone around the table even without any equipment investment. Traxos, Scourge of Krood isn’t quite as powerful, but this could also make for a political benefit; it’s reasonable to assume that most players will be more afraid of Kozilek, the Great Distortion than Traxos, Scourge of Krood.
Which of the colorless commanders you choose to build around is up to personal preference, of course, but I worry that most anything Traxos, Scourge of Kroog can do, Kozilek, the Great Distortion could do better. We will, however, work to make this week’s patient as functional as it possibly can be, and we’ll work to make our commander’s Artifact typing and untap clause as relevant as possible to make sure he differentiates himself enough from the Eldrazi titans et al.
Establishing a Diagnosis
Clayton’s decklist, which was sent to me, looks like this:
Traxos, Scourge of Untaps
Link to the deck on deckstats: Click!
A few things to note: the decklist sent in to me mistakingly had a couple of extra copies of a few of the cards in the list, and when these were removed, the number of cards in the deck adds up to 96, including the commander. I couldn’t add that deck to deckstats, which is why the deck in the link contains four Plains, purely a placeholder card from my side.
As the deck stands, there are a few things we need to work on: the deck’s mana curve is a bit all over the place – though this is probably fine in most games, seeing as how much artifact ramp there is in it, we’re missing a few key pieces to make our commander truly deadly, and we need more ways to draw cards. If we’re blown out by a Vandalblast or similar, we need to have cards in hand in order to possibly rebuild.
I will also tinker more than usual with the deck’s mana base, as there are a few lands that are missing in my opinion.
The EDHREC take
Inputting the above list into EDHREC’s Recs function gives us plenty of neat suggestions for the deck, despite the fact that there are only 31 registered decks to Traxos, Scouge of Kroog’s name. The top four suggestions are all lands – Darksteel Forge, Wastes, Reliquary Tower, and Rogue’s Passage, and we’re going to add at least a couple of these. Looking further down in the list, we get suggestions on how to expand upon the artifact theme of the deck with Myr Retriever, Foundry Inspector, and Blinkmoth Urn to name a few. Continuing way further down we end up in the Eldrazi swamp and get suggestions to add Kozilek, the Great Distortion which we obviously won’t do – we’re trying to stay away from those cards!
Among the cards most unique to the deck are unfortunately also a few of the cuts we’re going to make. Volatile Rig is a cool card, but unreliable and we’ve got no way to interact with the coin flip. Barricade Breaker too is a cool card, but it comes with no evasion and even forces us to attack, meaning it will likely just get chumped by tokens, or double-blocked and killed. Demolition Stomper and other crew cards look good on paper, but carries with them a hefty crew cost, and will also get the axe in order to focus on winning via commander damage.
Among the cards which are fairly unique to this deck but worth keeping are cool tech cards like Stitcher’s Graft which works well on the commander since we’re working around the downside anyway, and the pair of Cathar’s Shield and Accorder’s Shield which untaps Traxos, Scourge of Krood for free when cast and adds vigilance to his repertoire, an excellent and frankly underrated ability in EDH (I should know, being a big fan of Dragonlord Ojutai + vigilance) and obviously an elegant work-around to Traxos, Scourge of Krood’s drawback. He does still come into play tapped, however, so we need to work around this by either untapping him once he’s in play, or casting a historic spell.
The Doctor’s Take
I usually stay away from the mana rocks of Hedron Archive and Dreamstone Hedron. The latter is too expensive and I’ve always preferred Worn Powerstone over the former since it crucially comes down a turn earlier. In this deck, however, I think both has a place as mana acceleration and emergency card-draw.
I think the deck would be better off trying to go for the voltron plan and only use other beaters as back-up alternatives to the commander. Thus, we should focus on adding more cards that will buff our commander primarily. Two that immediately spring to mind are Sword of Vengeance and Forebear’s Blade. Both grant the redundant trample to our commander, but both importantly grant vigilance, and a decent buff to Traxos, Scourge of Krood’s power. Avarice Amulet is more expensive to cast, but cheaper to equip, has the nice card-draw tacked onto it, and the drawback isn’t relevant so long as we keep it to the commander. Lastly, Batterskull is a pretty amazing piece of equipment in that it’s in itself a 4/4 vigilance, lifelink creature but with the upside of turning our commander into an 11/11 vigilance, lifelink, trample monster. I usually stay away from Batterskull in EDH unless I’m also running Stoneforge Mystic, but in this deck we’ve got so much mana ramp that the equip cost is reasonable, and it makes the commander a two-hit-KO beast!
In the realms of card draw, there are a few options available to us. Trading Post is a very flexible neat utility card to have at our disposal, as the last two activations are very relevant to us even without using the first two. Staff of Domination is an expensive card, and the activated ability is also very expensive, but it’s a very flexible card that can also be used to untap our commander. Staff of Nin is cheap in money but expensive in mana but in essence a colorless Phyrexian Arena that allows us to kill small things like tokens or various utility creatures. All of these clearly belong in the deck.
The Ins and Outs
After all is said and done, we’ve got these changes to make to the deck, according to our EDHREC analysis and my own take:
I’ve cut some of the utility lands that don’t really do anything or are not enhancing the deck’s strategy. In their place are 4 Wastes which has synergy with a couple other cards, as well as other more effective utility lands. Rogue’s Passage is the most notable inclusion, since it enhances our voltron game plan.
As far as the inclusions go, I’ve added Solemn Simulacrum and Wayfarer’s Bauble as additional ramp. The former is a value engine in itself since there are a fair few ways to recur him in the deck for more ramp and card draw and the latter is an excellent turn 1 play, allowing for a turn 3 Traxos, Scourge of Krood which is very scary so long as we have a follow-up to untap him. The other additions I’ve already discussed, sans Steel Hellkite which is a sweet evasive beater who doubles as removal against pesky permanents we can’t really touch otherwise. More removal in the deck is good, and the pump ability is a mana sink for later parts of the game, albeit a bit ineffective.
The Final Iteration
These changes means we’ve ended up with this brew:
Traxos, Untapping into Potential
Link to the deck on deckstats: Click!
We’re left with a more focused strategy built around the commander’s ability to hit early and hard for commander damage, expanded and refined the untap bits of the strategy. The mana curve is a bit more focused on the early drops, with a big drop off at four. This allows for explosive starts, which can benefit the deck.
What cards did I miss? Leave a comment below, and help out Clayton with his deck!
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