On October 20th, Wizards of the Coast finally gave us the full decklists for the much-anticipated Commander Starter decks. Officially released on December 2, these five decks provide an inexpensive entry point for new and returning players to get into Magic’s (arguably) most popular format. The commanders themselves have been spoiled for a while, but we finally know what the 99 looks like. At about $24 each, these aren’t decks to make the collectors go wild, but they do represent strong deck cores that can be upgraded around for long-term growth within the Commander format. Even better, these decklists can easily take cards from recent sets or inexpensive older cards for quick powerups.
Wizards chose decent commanders for these precons. Some of them are on the expensive end of the mana value spectrum, but the commanders show very clearly what the deck is built around. In my first article on the Commander Starter decks, I said that I planned to write about each of them over the course of a week or two… which clearly hasn’t happened.
I will preface this post by saying that I have never really built or played a group slug Commander deck. The closest I have come is the Ruinous Powers deck from Warhammer 40k Commander. For my upgrade suggestions, I have had to rely heavily on my friends, the staff at my LGS, and EDHRec. With that said, after looking closer at this deck I just try my hand at putting together a list.
The Commander sets the theme…
Chaos Incarnate is led by Kardur, Doomscourge. He’s a 4/3 for 4 Demon Berserker with an ETB that goads all creatures your opponents control until your next turn. In other words, he comes into play and everyone else’s creatures have to attack someone other than you until your next turn. Either this thins the board out by forcing people to attack and block or it taps down every creature without vigilance so you can swing out unopposed on your next turn. Kardur is cheap enough in mana value that you can get him out early if you need to slow down combat-heavy aggro decks. At four MV though, he’s also expensive enough that if you lose him more than once or twice he can be a pain in the butt to get out again.
…but doesn’t dominate it.
Fortunately, Chaos Incarnate doesn’t depend on its commander the way some decks do. Kardur’s effect is nice, but the cards in the deck function as intended even without him present. This deck is powered by cards with abilities that hit multiple players at the same time, usually all players or all opponents. Guttersnipe showcases that concept pretty well with his effect: every time you cast an instant or sorcery spell, you deal two damage to each opponent. Two damage may not seem like a lot, but considering a typical Commander pod has three other players in it, that’s six damage each time. That adds a lot of extra value to your instants and sorceries, and it’s an effect that can’t be allowed to stay on the board for too long.
Like any good chaos deck, Chaos Incarnate runs a meaty package of removal to disrupt your opponents’ plans. Blasphemous Act comes with the precon, which is a great boardwipe against decks that like to play swarms of creatures. Soul Shatter forces each opponent to sacrifice their highest mana value creature. In a format where big important pieces are often given hexproof or indestructible – or both – Soul Shatter’s wording guarantees you’ll still hit paydirt.
Making it better
So far as upgrades are concerned, Chaos Incarnate comes pre-packaged with a lot of the cheaper options for its archetype. As with most preconstructed decks, it lacks for tutors, and so picking up a Diabolic Intent from The Brothers’ War would be a good idea. The upcoming Dominaria Remastered set also sports a full range of tutors, including the always pricey staple Vampiric Tutor. Dominaria Remastered also has No Mercy, which destroys any creature that does damage to you, and Sneak Attack, which lets you blitz in basically any creature in your hand. It’s definitely a set to buy into if you’re looking to upgrade this deck.
Useful words and phrases:
- Why?!: Usually said when you kill your opponent’s commander.
- Again???: Often heard after a boardwipe.
- Well that needs to go!: A common way players identify threats to the whole table.
- Chaos: Fun
- Group slug: Like group hug, but pointier.
- Rakdos: One of the guilds of Ravnica. Used by players as a shorthand for the Red/Black color pairing.
- Ping: To do a small amount of damage to someone or something, usually a single point.
- Shock: To do a less small amount of damage to someone or something, usually two points. This comes from the card Shock.
- Bolt: To do a moderate amount of damage to someone or something, typically three points. This comes from the card Lightning Bolt.
- Goad: To force a player or creature to attack on its next turn. Goaded creatures cannot attack the person that goaded them.