For today’s installment of The Metaworker, I’ll be dealing with one of the most common pitfalls of Commander deck construction – lack of focus. Quite often a lack of focus results from a lack of planning before starting to compile a rough draft decklist, although it can also come from a stubborn insistence that a card is so powerful that it belongs in any decklist whose colour identity will allow it.

Today’s decklist comes from Reddit user Stupidwill92

/u/Stupidwill92 writes:
The strategy I like to play is to sit back on powerful instants, and only use them when I need to, casting Dralnu
when the coast is clear to basically put my graveyard back into my hand, and finally cast a game-changing spell,

like Rise of the Dark Realms to win. A guy at my LGS plays Rasputin, Dreamweaver blinks, and it is oppressive to say the least. He usually has a lock on the game by turn 6 or so, through the use of recursion engines, blink enablers, and utility creatures. Things like Glen Elendra, Archmage + Archaeomancer + Ghostly Flicker, with Body Double and Parallax Wave as backup. So my question is on how to punch through board stalls and locks.

When I take a look at this list, I instinctively divide it up into the following packages so I can compare what Stupidwill92 says it does to what it can actually do.


Card Draw/Tutors

Mana Acceleration

Win Conditions


Looking at the original list in this light, I can draw a few conclusions about how this deck runs:

– The pilot will spend about 75% of the time on the back foot – either responding to threats or tutoring for responses.

This is due to the fact that 43 out of the 62 non-land cards in the deck pose no real threat to an opponent aside from

keeping the board clear.

– This deck doesn’t do a whole lot until turn 6, which is something that is fairly common in Commander. The only card aside from mana acceleration and disruption with CMC < 4 is Notion Thief, which may not affect the game unless the opponents are running a strategy involving a lot of card draw.

– There is a shocking lack of ways to fill up graveyards. Being that Dralnu functions best with a full graveyard, and one of the two win conditions in the deck relies on all graveyards being full, there are very likely some issues with being able to close out the game even after mana acceleration and tutoring puts the pilot in a position to cast their wincon.

What are the strengths of Dralnu, Lich Lord?

From the sounds of things, /u/Stupidwill92 has made a pretty solid choice in Dralnu as a commander – especially given his preference for draw-go control as a playstyle. Dralnu really excels at hand hate, selective disruption, and a grindy, attrition-based strategy. Dralnu is one of a few commanders that allows you to treat your (and quite often your opponents’) graveyard like an extension of your hand. This allows you to break the symmetry of mass discard and mill cards, abuse sacrifice outlets, and get a few recursion engines of your own going.

 What are the weaknesses of Azorius lockdown?

Quite fortunately for us, lockdown strategies often rely on some combination of permanents that asymmetrically tax or interfere with a player’s ability to cast threats efficiently. A lockdown deck aims to make it to the late game while grinding out incremental card advantage, which is exactly where our Dralnu list is going to thrive. Dimir as a colour identity provides plenty of ways to interact directly with the board to bounce, counter, and remove key lockdown pieces, clearing out the clutter that’s going to prevent our wincons from going off. Do we tweak or start from scratch?

Being that /u/Stupidwill92’s is right around $100 with no more than $30 spent on a single card, it’s most reasonable to start with tweaking this deck. In the next episode we’ll explore the concept a little more fully, taking the list into a colour identity that I feel is a little more prepared to handle the lockdown strategies he is describing in his meta.

Being that this is the case, I feel very comfortable setting some goals that will help direct my card selection.

1) Let’s fill up those graveyards!

2) Captalize on full graveyards by including a reanimator package.

3) Pare down the disruption package to ensure our ability to participate in the early game.


So, without further ado, here are the cuts.


In the interest of increasing consistency, my recommendation is to cut the “I play your things” cards – Acquire, Rite of Replication, Stolen Identity. These cards have their place but unless you can consistently grab what you need, they’re just expensive dead cards most of the time. You never want them in your opening hand, and there aren’t enough creatures in this deck to use them as wincons.

Similarly, Talrand, Sky Summoner simply does not put in enough work in a deck that only runs 4-5 counterspells. We

don’t have quite enough room in the decklist or the budget to include a top tier counterspell package, so it Talrand gets the boot. The rest of the cuts share a common theme – they simply don’t do enough to either advance the board state, fill the graveyard, or permanently answer Rasputin’s threats.

Here are my additions.

It is possible to play the “I play your stuff” game in a much more consistent way that synergizes with Dralnu’s desire to fill the graveyards. A budget reanimator package consisting of Animate Dead and Necromancy allows us to recur any creatures that might end up in people’s graveyards through one method or another. Vedalken Shackles also allows us to steal Archaeomancer or Rasputin fairly reliably to prevent recursion tricks. After last year’s tuck rule change, stealing an opponent’s commander is one of the most permanent and effective ways to deny your opponent access to their commander. As a budget option, you might also consider Dread of Night, Night of Soul’s Betrayal, or Engineered Plague as ways to keep Rasputin off the board.This brings us to perhaps one of the most important additions to this deck – a dredge package. Dakmor SalvageStinkweed Imp, and Darkblast all get cards into our graveyard where they can be reanimated or flashed back with Dralnu.

The denouement in this deck is Rise of the Dark Realms, so it also helps quite a bit if we can fill our opponents’ graveyards as well. Forced Fruition is a bit of Nekusar tech that will often force opponents to discard a ton of cards, and force opponents to make some pretty tough decisions when they’re considering whether or not to counter a spell. It’s fun the first time you get to draw 7, but after the third or fourth spell you’ll often see people start to sweat as they realize they have to close out the game within the next few spells.

Mind Grind, Perplex, and Pestilence Demon also serve similar purposes, clearing the board of mana dorks. Pestilence Demon is a particular favourite of mine because it is a prime reanimator target. Even though Rasputin can mitigate the first 4 activations, having it on the board essentially prevents Rasputin from sticking around. At 6 CMC, it won’t be long before you’ve completely denied access to your opponent’s commander.

I’ve included some strict upgrades to the mana acceleration package. Liliana of the Dark Realms and Crypt Ghast are

some of the most effective pieces to any big mana strategy in black. They’ll get you there a lot faster than Caged Sun, and you might even grind out some life by extorting along the way. Expedition Map is a strict upgrade over Wayfarer’s Bauble because it allows you to grab some of your utility lands, and get your Cabal Coffers / Urborg interaction online more reliably.

I felt we were a little light on wincons, so I’ve included one that I think is incredibly appropriate for our strategy. Consuming Aberration can outright kill people in the late game, is a prime reanimator target, and isn’t quite as reliant on big mana.

Finally, as a replacement for Talrand, I really like Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir. Teferi is going to allow you to cast your wincons uncontested, and I think it fits right into what you’re trying to do here.

The revised decklist fills up graveyards with terrifying efficiency. It utilizes top-tier black mana acceleration to set up our late game bombs, and sheds some of the overcosted disruption in the original list in favour of cards that serve to advance our own strategy.

Stay tuned for the next episode, where we’ll look at an alternate approach to handling this meta – taking a dive into the Sultai colour identity with Damia, Sage of Stone.

If you are struggling with a problem in your local meta, send a message to chefsati on reddit with a detailed description of the dominant threats in your meta. Be sure to include the commander (and archetype if applicable) as well as the pilot’s preferred ways of closing out the game. Also include your decklist, budget, and any deckbuilding restrictions you’ve imposed on yourself (themes, house rules/banlist, and overall spikiness of your playgroup). Your situation may be solved in a future installment of The Metaworker.


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