Deckbuilding Cantrips: Give It Some Flavor

Akros is the city of champions on the plane of Theros. Watched over by Iroas, the God of Victory; Akroans are bound by honor, glory, and courage. They’ll be the first to step up and eradicate a horde of Minotaur just to defend their city. They’re the MTG equivalent of Spartans. When Kalemne, Disciple of Iroas was spoiled for the 2015 Commander set earlier this year, I set my sights on returning to Theros and raising hell as I charged into battle with the giant commander who personifies the spirit of victory.

This last week, I had the opportunity to play the “Wade Into Battle” deck from the new Commander set straight out of the box. My opponents? Other fresh-out-of-the-box 2015 Commander decks including everyone but the blue/green deck. My hubris was large as I lost. Every. Single. Time. No matter what I did, I could never ramp, build, or get a permanent on my field. There was no synergy between the cards. The mana curve was too high. Even the coveted Blade of Selves didn’t last more than a round before my opponents destroyed it with glee. Kalemne failed me. Where did I go wrong?




I thought long and hard about this. It wasn’t the deck-building on my part. I leave that blame with the deck’s designer with incredible respect for taking a shot at this strange combination of colors. I can see that it has the potential for tribal effects but again, there is no clear direction to grow the deck. Giants is the obvious choice but it tempts you with angels and dragons. That’s not helping anyone. I wanted to rage at the world. I wanted to rage at myself. We agreed that in one week, we would come back together and try these same decks out with our new commanders and see who will be crowned “King or Queen of the Magic Table”.

With the deadline for my new battle-ready deck approaching quickly, I began to stress as if I were in college again with a looming due date for a term paper. No player should ever feel that way when making a deck. Whenever I am met with a deckbuilding riddle, such as how to effectively use Kalemne, I use my one simple rule: Just use the flavor!

Take Advantage of Janky Cards

Consider this a preliminary word of advice from a seasoned EDH player. EDH is my favorite format for one reason: Jank! I strongly believe that every Magic card ever printed has a place to be. This could be a certain format, an effective combo, or for the casual enjoyment of playing the game. I have loved Jank cards since I was introduced into the game. I love big spells that do big things and make the game more interesting. Unfortunately, this has stunted my growth in formats like Standard and Modern. I tend to want to play what I like, not what’s popular or winning tournaments. That’s great for someone who never wants to win tournaments.

In Commander, Jank is often rewarded with favorable outcomes. The best part is not knowing if a larger-than-life spell is going to go off or even benefit you. The euphoric feeling that comes with getting spells off like Warp World or Lethal Vapors is second to none. No one would play these cards on a professional circuit but in EDH, these could be clutch cards that buy you enough time to sway the game in your favor. I encourage ALL players to re-examine their jank cards and see what they can use to help them out.

Jank is also incredibly cheap. This means that you can find many cards that serve you and you won’t end up paying an arm and a leg for them. They’re there for you and you can thank the pro-players for passing up awesome spells. Their loss is your gain any day of the week! With that in mind, I have peace of mind that I have many resources at my disposal and am not limited to what came with the deck. This is the pre-cursor for adding flavor.

Go Full Throttle on Flavor

Rather than focus on the commander (I mean, of course I am going to rock creatures with a converted mana cost of 5 to trigger Kalemne), I decided to focus on where my commander was actually from; Theros! I personally loved the Theros block. I would go as far to say that Theros is in my top 3 planes of Magic: The Gathering. It was the perfect mix of history, mythology, and Magic. The big pull from Theros was the use of enchantments. I LOVE enchantments. They’re absolutely my favorite aspect of the game. So, instead of trying to sway the deck towards a tribal build or a combat spell heavy powerhouse, I decided to make a welcoming battlefield that would make Kalemne feel at home. I decided that I would rebuild Theros.


Again, I wanted to keep Akros in mind. Proud warriors who battle with a sense of pride and glory. It’s all about victory. If I can’t have victory, then I will have some honor with my cadre. Here is what I have in terms of flavor and fun.

Creatures: If it’s related to Theros and fits the theme, I want it! Iroas, God of Victory doesn’t meet the criteria to set Kalemne off but giving my creatures Menace and protecting them in combat is just too good to pass up. This triggered me to think about my enchantment game.

Enchantments: Soldiers are only as good as their training. Every enchantment in this deck has to boost or pump my creatures to make them the BEST fighters this side of the multi-verse. Brave the SandsRage Reflection, and True Conviction make my creatures a force to be reckoned with. I will have at least 2 backup enchantments that offer my creatures great abilities just in case my opponents get clever and destroy one.

Equipment: Combatants need weapons to forge destiny. Slap that on a greeting card, why don’t ya?! In addition to some that I don’t want to spoil, in case my friends are reading this, Helm of the Gods was TOO GOOD to pass up. Not only is it Theros flavored, it also rewards my enchantment production.

Combat Spells: Red/white is the essence of war. There are an incredible amount of combat spells that will literally shape the battles of the game and I just had to have them. I can punish my opponents for fighting with Fight to the Death. I can clear a flank or battalion of enemy creatures by planning with Master Warcraft. If I have some unwanted commander damage coming my way, I’ll send it right back with Deflecting Palm. I am ready for it.

Just by taking in the flavor of the commander, I now have a nice set-up for a commander deck I can only hope plays out. This will be one of my most aggressive decks EVER. Normally, I like to sit back, ping for damage every now and then, and wait for the right moment to drop bombs. This time, I will be going for bombs early and often. If I pull aggro, so be it. I do it for Kalemne, Iroas, Akros, and VICTORY!

The hype is real between my friends and I. Just look at this text my friend sent me. He’s just so proud of his fellow Theros commander, Daxos the Returned.



If you take one thing away from this week’s article, it’s this: If you’re ever catch a case of “Deck Builder’s Block”, go to the flavor of the commander. Study the plane they’re from, the mechanics introduced in the block/set they’re from, and begin to build a deck around the commander by rebuilding their plane. This strategy has yet to fail me significantly. If anything, it’s worth a shot!

If you’re interested to know what ended up in the Kalemne deck or how it played, stay tuned next week as I will be posting the deck list and how it went. If it’s a bust, you can tear my deck apart in true internet patron fashion. If it works though, I will be the conductor of the gloat train and my next stop is victory town. Or, in this case, AKROS! Good luck out there fellow planeswalkers. If you haven’t checked out the new Commander 2015 decks, I implore you to get to it. So much fun, so little time!

Author: Jace Reed

Jace is just a regular ol' Magic player (Since Onslaught) who enjoys the EDH format very much. Oh, and did I mention. Jace has a podcast with his buddy Steve where they talk anime, games, and anything that crosses their minds. Jace has his sights set on being the first Cowboy Space President of the Moon.

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