Last time I looked at my options for a new no-rares Commander deck using uncommon Legendary Creatures I opened at the Dominaria pre-release. I decided on Shanna, Sisay’s Legacy as my commander, but hadn’t yet built the deck. This week I have a list ready, and I’ll go over some of my decisions behind it.
Without further ado, here is what I made:
The first version of this deck had a few different cards in it. I’ll get into that shortly.
Working Within Limitations
One of the big rules I set for myself when I made my Peasant decks was to only include cards I already owned. I couldn’t go out and buy cards specifically for these decks, which both helped to keep the cost down and also forced me to use cards out of my collection that would otherwise be sitting in a box collecting dust.
Going through my collection, I found a number of Rare cards that looked like they would fit into the deck perfectly, but I had already decided against using them. Veteran Warleader and Eidolon of Countless Battles were among some of the better cards I had that took a fair bit of willpower to dismiss. They would have been good inclusions, but I had a theme and was gong to stick to it!
I also decided not to include cards from preconstructed decks, like the Commander or Archenemy decks. That said, once upon a time I did buy the Selesnya Event Deck, but those cards got mixed into my collection years ago. Without a unique set symbol it’s basically impossible to tell which cards were from the Event Deck and which were from booster packs. It’s been so long that I feel those cards are fair game now, along with any cards I bought as singles years ago but didn’t end up in a deck.
One concession I did make, which differed from my Sivitri Scarzam Peasant deck, was that if a card was ever printed at Rare I wouldn’t veto it immediately. A card like Scion of the Wild, which used to be a Rare but was downshifted to a Common in Modern Masters 2015, would be acceptable provided I was not using the Rare printing. Because of this I still had to leave out Wayfaring Temple, since I only have the Rare version from Return to Ravnica, but it did allow me to include my Uncommon Restock from M15. Truth be told, when I was putting the deck together initially I didn’t even realize Restock was a Rare from Invasion, so it actually worked out quite well for me.
The Basic Plan
I knew I wanted this deck to flood the board with creature tokens as quickly as possible to make Shanna a big threat. I also knew I wanted a few other payoffs for having a big board, like Crusader of Odric and Seraph of the Masses, and some ways to buff the team, like Intangible Virtue and Phantom General. Without rares I was missing out on cards like Anointed Procession and True Conviction, but I felt I could make do without them.
To get started I took a look through my collection of two-colour cards for anything I might want to use. I found quite a lot of gems, including the Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage, Selesnya Charm, Trostani’s Summoner, and Sigil of the Nayan Gods. These gold cards formed a solid foundation for my deck, and building up around them was actually very straightforward. The deck came together rather quickly as I found more token makers and some interaction to round things out.
The Test Run
I got to play part of a game with my new deck before a recent FNM, and it went pretty well. Shanna eventually got up to 7 power and was flying in repeatedly thanks to an early Gryff’s Boon. Things were still looking pretty good for me when we had to wrap things up for the tournament, but I did have some concerns.
It may just have been that draw, but I was struggling to find cards that could make tokens. I kept finding payoff cards, like Scion of the Wild and Phantom General, but I had very few ways to benefit from them. Shanna got to a reasonable size anyway, but it wasn’t as explosive a start as I felt the deck needed to really drive things home.
The First Revisions
The trouble with Shanna and the other payoff cards is that with only a creature or two in play they don’t do much. The token generators, on the other hand, are actually pretty solid cards by themselves; having a string of chump blockers in Commander can be life saving, and hiding behind a wide wall of creatures is quite the deterrent.
The best-case scenario for Shanna and cards like her is very powerful, growing to be massive Eldrazi-like threats, but their worst-case scenario is quite terrible. Ultimately, the deck only needs one or two of these big payoff cards in play at a time to be threatening, and with one of them as the commander I really didn’t need as many of them as I initially thought I did. What I did need, however, were more ways of putting tokens into play; these cards are the real bread and butter of the deck.
Thankfully, tweaking a deck is a lot easier than building one from the ground up, so adjusting things wasn’t a big hassle. The initial version of the deck had nine cards that I swapped out pretty much right away:
I cut Scion of the Wild and Bronzebeak Moa to make room for more token makers, like Raise the Alarm and Eyeless Watcher. The Scion and Moa are excellent when I have a lot of creatures coming into play, but but when I don’t they are very underwhelming. On the other hand, Raise the Alarm and Eyeless Watcher are both decent draws regardless of what else I have in play. On their own they are fine, but when combined with Shanna or a Goldnight Commander they can be very impressive. I swapped out Ivy Lane Denizen with Allied Reinforcements for similar reasons.
Bigger Isn’t Always Better
The first version of my deck included the Limited all-star Thundering Spineback; it seemed like a decent choice, since the dinosaur buffed its tokens and could keep churning them out every turn. Unfortunately the Spineback is extremely slow; it doesn’t have a big impact on the battlefield immediately, and both it and its activated ability cost far more mana than I would like. I decided to include a Brood Monitor instead; while the tokens that it makes are far worse, it costs slightly less to cast and immediately fills the battlefield with creatures. Depending on how the deck plays in the future I might look at including a Crested Herdcaller or something similar so I can have some slightly larger creatures, but for now I am going to focus on getting a large quantity of tokens, not necessarily a high quality.
An easy swap was to cut a Plains in favour of a Memorial to Glory. Most of the time I will just need a white mana source, but being able to trade in a land for two more creatures is not insignificant, especially in this deck.
I also replaced two Forests with a Vivid Grove and a Transguild Promenade for colour fixing. Neither one is particularly good, especially the Promenade, but I had run out of two-colour lands in green and white and these were available. I’m not opposed to the inclusion of these lands, but they do slow the deck down a bit; it’s not detrimental, but a little unfortunate.
I also ended up reducing the total number of lands in the deck by two, going down to 36. Normally my Commander decks include 38-40 lands, but between Llanowar Elves, Avacyn’s Pilgrim, Rampant Growth, Kodama’s Reach and Grow from the Ashes, I felt I had enough extra ways of getting lands that I could swap out two lands for some other spells. Additionally, a lot of my really expensive spells have Convoke, meaning I can cast them for a lot less if I have extra creatures in play. As a result, my mana curve is actually fairly low.
One thing I wanted to expand on in the deck was card draw. Harmonize is an amazing card, but other than that I had very few ways of refilling my hand. Unfortunately cards like Collective Unconscious and Soul’s Majesty have only ever been printed at Rare, othrrwise they would be perfect inclusions. I would have to look at other options.
Hunter’s Insight caught my eye when I was building the deck, but I had initially dismissed it as being too difficult to resolve. I envisioned trying to cast it and having my target removed in response every time, so I left it out. After playing that first half game I decided that it would be worth the risk. While it can be a bit fragile, it has the potential to really go over the top.
The other draw spell I decided to try was Warriors’ Lesson. It may need two unblocked attackers, but for only one mana it can draw up to two cards. Given how many extra tokens the deck produces, having two creatures go unblocked is not that hard. Since Warriors’ Lesson can be cast after blockers are declared it was looking more and more like a one-mana Divination.
There are probably a lot more tweaks I will end up making to this deck, but as it stands it feels surprisingly powerful despite its no-Rares handicap. Future considerations include other cards like Sandstone Oracle or Elvish Visionary that can draw more cards, or other ways of disrupting my opponents. Without Rares and access to cards like Day of Judgment I am at a bit of a handicap, but I will keep my eyes peeled for anything that might fit that bill.
I’m looking forward to playing with this deck a bit more; I think it has some potential. If you have any suggestions on changes I should make I would be happy to hear them! And until next time, keep your eyes peeled for powerful uncommons; you never know when they’ll come in handy.