Rant of Valakut: Valor of Peasants (part 2) Ben Iverach-Brereton July 22, 2021 Rants of Valakut In case you missed it, you can find part 1 here. Firja, Judge of Valor is a synergistic commander, but one that isn’t tied to a particular archetype. She gives you a free copy of Ransack the Lab whenever you cast two spells in a turn, which lends itself to a deck full of cheap spells and ways to exploit your graveyard, but doesn’t restrict you to that. Here’s what I came up with: Valor of Peasants Commander Commander1 x Firja, Judge of Valor Creature1 x Angel of Despair1 x Ballynock Trapper1 x Biblioplex Assistant1 x Bloodsky Berserker1 x Bone Shredder1 x Burnished Hart1 x Cadaver Imp1 x Clarion Spirit1 x Corpse Knight1 x Diamond Knight1 x Emancipation Angel1 x Foulmire Knight // Profane Insight1 x Kingpin’s Pet1 x Kor Skyfisher1 x Order of Midnight // Alter Fate1 x Oreskos Explorer1 x Phyrexian Rager1 x Pilgrim of the Ages1 x Pilgrim’s Eye1 x Ravenous Chupacabra1 x Restoration Gearsmith1 x Sandstone Oracle1 x Shepherd of the Flock // Usher to Safety1 x Sin Collector1 x Skinrender1 x Skull Collector1 x Stonecloaker1 x Stormfront Riders1 x Thraben Inspector1 x Tidehollow Sculler1 x Tithe Drinker1 x Vile Entomber1 x Vizkopa Confessor1 x Whitemane Lion1 x Young Necromancer Instant1 x Cling to Dust1 x Despark1 x Ephemerate1 x Fracture – Dark Frame Promo1 x Mortify1 x Recruit the Worthy1 x Unmake Sorcery1 x Battle Screech1 x Beseech the Queen1 x Diabolic Tutor1 x Dread Return1 x Lingering Souls1 x Read the Bones1 x Settle Beyond Reality1 x Sign in Blood1 x Unburial Rites Artifact1 x Bontu’s Monument1 x Decoction Module1 x Everflowing Chalice1 x Mind Stone1 x Oketra’s Monument1 x Paradise Mantle1 x Prismatic Lens1 x Prophetic Prism1 x Sphere of the Suns1 x Talisman of Hierarchy Land1 x Aether Hub1 x Buried Ruin1 x Emergence Zone1 x Evolving Wilds1 x Forsaken Sanctuary1 x Goldmire Bridge1 x Great Hall of Starnheim1 x Idyllic Grange1 x Memorial to Folly1 x Mortuary Mire1 x Orzhov Guildgate13 x Plains (331)1 x Scoured Barrens1 x Sequestered Stash1 x Silverquill Campus1 x Snowfield Sinkhole8 x Swamp (339)1 x Terramorphic Expanse1 x Witch’s Cottage Buy This List Deck by Ben Iverach-Brereton Going Infinte Last time, I hinted that my deck of commons and uncommons had an infinite combo in it. As you might have guessed, it’s not as straightforward as putting two cards together, like you might see with Splinter Twin or Spike Feeder; I prefer my combos to be a bit harder to put together than that. Just like when I played my entire Shattergang Brothers deck with Primal Surge, I find abrupt two-card combos to be an unsatisfying and anticlimactic way to win. They often feel like something a player accidentally stumbles into, rather than something they had to work to assemble. One lucky draw can invalidate everything that happened up to that point, and cuts short an otherwise enjoyable game. On the other hand, if a player is trying to construct a complicated Rube Goldberg Machine out of Magic cards, their efforts become an integral part of the game, rather than something that happens despite it. Do they try to gather all the pieces in secret before deploying them, or do they play out a few pieces at a time in the hopes that no one can figure out what they’re trying to do? The extra time it takes to get all those cards in play at once gives the rest of the table a chance to set their own plans in motion, or to find a way to stop the looming doomsday clock. If a player can still put everything together after a few turns of planning and scheming, I don’t mind if they win; the table had a chance to stop it, but couldn’t. That victory is well-earned. If they happen to top deck their Splinter Twin and combo off out of nowhere? Well, that’s just no fun. How My Combo Works The combo in my Firja deck requires a few pieces, but all in all it’s pretty straightforward: if I can equip Ballynock Trapper with Paradise Mantle while I have Oketra’s Monument in play, I can recast Kor Skyfisher as many times as I want, then attack with infinite 1/1 tokens. . . . Ok, when I put it like that it sounds more complicated than it is. Let’s break it down a bit: Using Paradise Mantle, Ballynock Trapper can tap to add white mana. The Trapper untaps each time I cast a white spell; this is very important. Meanwhile, Oketra’s Monument reduces the cost of white creature spells by one generic mana. Kor Skyfisher normally costs two mana, but with cost reduction from the Monument, that’s reduced to a single white mana. I added that to my mana pool earlier with Ballynock Trapper. Also, since the Skyfisher is a white spell, it will untap the Trapper. When Kor Skyfisher enters the battlefield, I have to return a permanent to my hand. If I use this ability to bounce the Kor back to my hand, I can tap Ballynock Trapper for white mana again and recast the Skyfisher. Each time I recast Kor Skyfisher, I create a 1/1 Warrior token with Oketra’s Monument. Because I can repeat this loop as many times as I want, I can generate an arbitrarily large army of tokens. On my next turn, I can swing for the win. If I also have Bontu’s Monument or Corpse Knight in play, I don’t even need to wait to attack; the Skyfisher bouncing back and forth between my hand and battlefield will be enough to trigger these permanents, and I can drain my opponents out instead. It’s worth noting that this combo works just as well with Whitemane Lion instead of Kor Skyfisher. This gives the combo a little bit of redundancy, and because the Lion has flash, it also gives me a way to resolve the combo during an opponent’s end step. This way I don’t have to wait a full turn cycle before I attack with my creatures; I can untap and swing right away. Contingencies If it’s not obvious already, this combo needs a lot of things to go right in order to work. There are plenty of ways it can be disrupted, and actually finding all of cards can take several turns. This means I can’t realistically rely on putting it together each game; it’s nice when it happens, but it can’t be my only plan. With that in mind, I want to make sure that each piece of the combo is worth playing on its own; I’d like to avoid a situation where I draw a bunch of dead cards because part of my combo was exiled earlier in the game. Thankfully, I already know that half the cards in the combo are good by themselves. Oketra’s Monument and Kor Skyfisher have proven their worth countless times in my Thalia deck, so I had no doubt that they’d hold up in my Firja list, too. They don’t go infinite by themselves, but the two cards together I can still allow me to pay one white mana to create a 1/1 as often as I like; that’s pretty efficient. They also both synergizes really well with the rest of this deck, so drawing them when I can’t combo off will never be an issue. I’m less certain about the other half of my combo. I’ve used Ballynock Trapper and Paradise Mantle in other Commander decks before, but that was years ago, and they ended up getting cut for other things. Can they hold up here? Ballynock Trapper always reminds me of Court Street Denizen. They both tap creatures, and benefit from playing other white spells. I found a home for the Denizen in my aforementioned Thalia deck, especially in conjunction with Sunblast Angel, so it was possible the Kithkin would be decent. At four mana it takes a lot longer before I can start tapping things with it, though it isn’t without its advantages. In a vacuum, Ballynock Trapper is the stronger creature, mostly because it can tap things without relying on another card. It’s also more reliable at stopping opposing threats from attacking, which can be significant. Court Street Denizen is better in aggressive decks and in lists that generate a lot of tokens, but unless you have a way to flash in a creature, the Denizen won’t do anything to protect you. Looking at the other spells in my Firja deck, the Trapper actually looks like a reasonable inclusion; I have a number of noncreature spells that will trigger it, and it can clear a path for my small creatures while keeping opposing monsters at bay. If it wasn’t a key part of my combo I might have skipped it, but it’s an alright draw in several other situations. I can see this plucky Kithkin keeping me alive as I stare down an Eldrazi or something equally scary. What about Paradise Mantle? It used to be a part of my Jor Kadeen equipment deck, and I’ll admit that things got silly when I could reduce its equip cost with Puresteel Paladin or Auriok Steelshaper. Tapping your tokens for mana lets you play some really big spells. Ultimately, though, the Mantle wasn’t a great fit for that deck; I wanted to keep my creatures free to attack and block, not to use them for mana, so I replaced it with something else. Equipping Paradise Mantle for free is certainly powerful, but is the equipment even playable without the likes of a Puresteel Paladin to support it? As it turns out, yes it is; if you’re trying to cast two spells each turn, zero mana artifacts are really useful to have in your hand! Waiting to cast Paradise Mantle until you can play it as your second spell while Firja is in play is a sweet way to get a free card, and you can still equip it afterwards. And unlike Jor Kadeen‘s resistance fighters, this deck has a lot of utility creatures that I’d rather not get into combat. Creatures like Corpse Knight and Tidehollow Sculler are good to have in play, but attacking with them will just get them killed; being able to turn them into mana elves is surprisingly handy, and the colour fixing they’ll provide as a result shouldn’t be ignored. Of course, putting the Mantle on Ballynock Trapper will still be the go-to plan when I can make it happen, but Paradise Mantle is a solid little card even without the combo. Because I can basically cycle it for free, it’s always going to be a useful draw. Finding What I Need If I’m ever going to have a chance to assemble my combo, I need a way to search up the pieces. Diabolic Tutor and Beseech the Queen aren’t the most efficient tutours in the game, but I’ll admit that there aren’t many options at lower rarities. (If I had an extra copy of Final Parting I would probably run it, especially with this deck’s reanimation sub-theme, but I’ve already got all of mine tied up in other decks!) Despite their higher mana costs, I can still grind out some extra utility from these spells by bringing them back with Biblioplex Assistant; Firja can even put the tutour back into my hand on the same turn I play the Gargoyle if I sequence my spells carefully. Taking this plan a step further, I can start flickering Biblioplex Assistant with Ephemerate to continually get the same tutour back. This is a lot slower than it would be in a blue deck, but I can’t help it; I really like this kind of value loop, and being able to generate one in these colours entertains me to no end. Vile Entomber is a nice addition to supplement the other tutours in this deck. It’s a lot cheaper to cast than its cousin, the Rune-Scarred Demon, and is more versatile than the very similar Corpse Connoisseur. What’s nice is that, so long as I’m happy with my card ending up in the graveyard, Vile Entomber can get whatever I need. Dumping Dread Return or Unburial Rites into the bin is certainly a good option if I’m not sure what I need, though if I also have a Restoration Gearsmith on hand, I can just as easily search up an artifact to get back instead. Staying Alive The first version of this deck had a lot more creatures with extort in it. I was planning on this being my primary win condition, so it made sense to include as many cards with this ability as I could. It only took one game to realize that I had enough of other ways of chipping away at my opponents’ life totals; what I really needed were more ways to deal with the creatures on the battlefield. Unlike a lot of Orzhov decks, this deck doesn’t have a way to reset the battlefield, and it can struggle to claw its way back when it’s behind. Its creatures are generally pretty small, too. It’s good at grinding out little bits of value over the course of the game, though, and it’s great at recycling its cards. If it’s going to keep pace against most decks, it needs a way to leverage that card advantage. The best way to do that is by making use of its efficient removal spells and powerful two-for-one creatures. Ravenous Chupacabra and Angel of Despair were early inclusions in the deck, but after that first game I could see they wouldn’t be enough. I cut some of the extort creatures to help improve my top decks, most notably by adding Bone Shredder and Skinrender. With two more Chupacabra-like bodies at my disposal, it would make my blinking and bouncing that much stronger, and would give me a better chance of surviving into the late game. Extorting my opponents for an extra point of damage won’t do me any good if I’m dead, after all! Always Room for Improvement I’m pretty happy with this deck, but I do consider it to be a starting point. Once I get a few more games with it under my belt I’ll have a better sense of what’s working and what isn’t. At that point I can start looking at making changes, but I want to wait until then before ripping anything apart. Right now I feel like the deck has a clear game plan and a lot of ways to generate value. That sure sounds promising to me. 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