I love playing casual EDH (commander) with my friends, primarily because of all the janky, stupidly, amazing things you can do with the nearly unlimited pool of cards available. Being singleton format makes this difficult – no playsets of anything – only one of each card (except basic land). I’ve been running Tymaret, the Murder King recently and had lots of fun, but I was thinking of building a Voltron-esque commander deck last night and, whilst browsing through my Legendary Creatures, came across Heartless Hidetsugu.
This card is particularly hilarious, because it’s capable of insta-killing all opponents and ending the game in one swing.
Imagine this scenario – Heartless Hidestsugu can be tapped to deal half life total damage to all players, rounded down. Combine that with a card like Dictate of the Twin Gods, which doubles damage, and we have a scenario where all players lose 100% life in one shot.
Now let’s have a look at the mechanics that must be thought out in the building of a deck like this. We need to bring out Heartless Hidetsugu as fast as possible, protect him from opponents, protect yourself his damage effect, and double his damage output for insta-kills. Giving him haste (which is abundant in red) will help him attack immediately after casting him.
Mana Ramp is a focus of nearly every commander deck, due to the often large and powerful spells contained in the format. Because of the casual multi-player format, games can take several hours to finish. This allows players to build their engines to frightening levels. In my group there are several archetypes of players – the “pillowfort” who builds his walls and controls the table – the “attention seeker” who fills his decks with cards that demand immediate attention – the “technician” who builds complex and powerful combinations – and the “diplomat” who plays opponents against each other until they are weakened to the point he/she can win the game. All of this requires lots of mana, and in red, unlike blue, we are limited mainly to artifacts for this.
Your opponents will all pay very close attention to you whenever you bring out your commander, so you need ways to protect him. Again, artifacts come to the rescue as red has no hexproof or shroud spells.
Mask of Avacyn, Ring of Evos Isle, Swiftfoot Boots, Lightning Greaves, Whispersilk Cloak and Champion’s Helm will keep your commander safe from any spell effects. Darksteel Plate and Soul of New Phyrexia will make your commander indestructible.
In addition to protecting your commander, you’ll need to protect yourself from his effect. Again, we look primarily to artifacts for the solution.
Loxodon Warhammer, Batterskull (which attendees received at the Sydney Grand Prix 2015 event) and Basilisk Collar will give your commander lifelink, so that you gain as much life as all opponents lose when you tap Heartless Hidetsugu (this does not double with the double damage cards).
There are currently 8 red spells which can double the damage effect to instantly kill an opponent. These are: Bitter Feud, Curse of Bloodletting, Desperate Gambit, Dictate of the Twin Gods, Furnace of Rath, Gratuitous Violence, Overblaze, Quest for Pure Flame.
Additionally, to ensure that opponents have an even amount of life (to take care of the “round down” factor), red has a vast array of odd-numbered damage spells, such as Lightning Bolt which does 3 damage or any of the Chandra planeswalkers which do 1 damage when you up their loyalty counters.
Because I’m still in the process of building this deck, I’ll have to post a deck list later. If you have any ideas, please don’t hesitate to comment. Since my original thought I’ve found several versions of this idea online (all of which are similar). EDHRec is a fantastic resource for researching and developing commander decks.