Golos, Tireless Pilgrim. Credit: Joseph Meehan, Wizards of the Coast
Every time a new set comes out, I think it’s worth trying to make a deck around the new mechanics in the set. I like sets like Modern Horizons/Modern Horizons 2 that bring back old mechanics because many times there are keywords in the Commander sets that revolve around them, which leads to interesting new build opportunities:
- Anje, Falkenrath – Madness
- Tazri, Beacon of Unity – Party
- Adrix and Nev, Twincasters and Zaffai, Thunder Conductor – Magecraft
- Ragnar, the Ever-Watchful – Foretell
- All of the mutate legendaries, like Nethroi, Apex of Death – Mutate
Going further back the Commander decks are less linked to new expansions, and rather deal with broader themes like graveyard recursion or enchantments (doing Commander decks set in current standard worlds is a relatively recent development).
For me, figuring out if a mechanic can be broken or seeing how it can be abused typically requires trying to build a deck around it, putting the functional cards into a deck, pruning back, and doing some goldfishing. This is somewhat in opposition into my advice about deck construction, which is work backwards from your win state/condition, but in truth once I get the core cards together into a bundle I usually try to figure out at that stage how I’m going to win with that mechanic. Then from there I rebuild the deck.
The big new mechanic of Adventures in the Forgotten Realms is Venture, which pairs with new pseudo-cards called Dungeons. We went over the mechanic at some length in this article, but here’s a quick refresher:
Dungeon cards begin outside the game, and are not part of your sideboard, and are not technically cards, even though they are in fact cards. Just not magical ones. Once you venture into the dungeon, you bring one of the non-card dungeon cards into your Command Zone. Keep track of what room you are in, and each time you venture into the dungeon you advance further (you can’t go sideways or backward). You can only be in one dungeon at a time. Once you complete the dungeon, i.e. venture when you are in the bottommost room, you remove the dungeon from the command zone. Once you venture again choose a dungeon and put it into the command zone.
The rules hint at dungeons with non purely linear tracks, but for now, you choose right, center, or left each time you advance, and sometimes there is no choice to be made. There’s no exclusionary choices to be made with the exception of the Tomb of Annihilation, where if you go into the Oubliette you get to effectively skip a stage, though the cost is so high it’s hard to imagine choosing that path. Also, I think The Atropal is a bit underwhelming:
I mean, you’re gonna sac an artifact, a creature, and a land, for that? Oh and discard? It’s a 4/4. In theory, you could do something cute like cast Teferi’s Protection in response to the effects hitting the stack, and if you had no cards in hand, okay well, neato, but all those moving pieces for a 4/4 with Deathtouch?
In general, I find the whole tomb of Annihilation to be a bit underwhelming, though if you’re just rampaging through dungeons (as we’re going to) at absolutely turbo speed, you can use it to kill your opponents unless they sac their permanents, and thankfully you’ll be generating either treasures or goblins, which you can use to not sac, so it will be a tool in our arsenal, but really only once we are trying to close out the game, generally speaking.
Wizards went ahead and printed a venture deck, but Sefris of the hidden ways, while while having a neat ability, is limited to only one venture each turn off its trigger which is not amazing considering that we’re trying to do this over and over. From that standpoint, ventures aren’t particularly easy to get; the most common way to get a venture is to have a creature enter the battlefield, the second most common is for a creature to deal combat damage to one of your opponents, and the most difficult is to get a trigger off a creature dying, which is what Sefris does. If the trigger was “whenever a creature goes to a graveyard, venture into the dungeon, this ability only triggers once each turn per graveyard” that might be a more reasonable ability. Granted the synergy with Tomb of Annihilation would be huge, but so what?
In any case, the balance lords decided to make Sefris pretty useless for our cause. Best-case scenario you have a sac outlet and are sacrificing a creature each turn to generate a venture on each players turn. Given Esper colors this is not totally unreasonable, and there’s certainly sufficient zombies that something could be done with this. The other alternative is Acerak the Archlich. The path to going infinite with Acerak is pretty clear: Cost reduction accompanied by some kind of mana source. The obvious combination to me is K’rrik, son of Yawgmoth and Acerak, and some cost reduction. If you can get Acerak down 1 black mana you can just cast him over and over, and that should be that. Frankly, you can just plop him into a K’rrik deck – K’rrik often wants to just cast spells over and over, and with a lifegain piece in place such as Aetherflux Reservoir, that should be game. Boring.
So to generate the kind of rapid fire venturing we need to keep things fresh we’re going to use all the creatures that venture into the dungeon when they enter play, and then a bunch of blue and white cards that cause your creatures (and permanents) to temporarily exile. In a theme that often repeats, our commander will be Golos, Tireless Pilgrim. Why Golos? Well, land fetching like he does is just pretty amazing, for one thing. And once you have the lands, you can then use his cast ability to generate value. And his triggered ability happens when Golos enters the battlefield, so he’ll generate a ton of incidental value for us as we generate our venture triggers, and thankfully he costs 5 colorless mana.
To get creatures into and out of play we can use Flickerwhisp and Felidar Guardian, both of which notably exile and return target permanent, instead of target creature, which means if you have both or certain combinations you can use them with Parallax Wave and go infinite. Obviously, you can include Opalescence and Starfield of Nyx and just go infinite, but that’s kind of boring, and there are far better ways to do that. Ultimately this deck isn’t meant to be a world beater but rather a fun way to break exploring dungeons.
The real engines of the deck though are Emiel, the Blessed and Eldrazi Displacer, alongside a land that taps for 4 mana, and any creature that untaps a land when it enters play, such as Cloud of Faeries or Peregrine Drake. Generally speaking, you generate infinite mana, and then if you have either a creature to venture with or a dungeon, you can generate infinite ventures, and that’s game. You can also generate infinite ventures by using Parallax Wave + Felidar Guardian + Flickerwisp + any venture generator which can be a creature or an artifact.
So the game plan for the deck is relatively straightforward: A little early ramp, drop Golos, and use him as a value engine to go through the deck assembling combo pieces. Along the way you should get a venture creature and possibly a value creature with an enters-the-battlefield effect; any of these can be leveraged for more scrying and card drawing, and land fetching. In general, you will want to tutor nearly exclusively for Emiel, since Emiel is the easiest with which to both generate value and then go infinite. Once you have Emiel you can just flicker Golos. If you grab Cabal Coffers and Urborg Tomb of Yawgmoth you can flicker Golos over and over, getting more lands, and in short order you’ll have all the lands in your deck in play, which will let you use Golos ability multiple times a turn.
Once you’re combo-ing off there are a couple of things to keep in mind: The first is if someone has gained a lot of life you could potentially deck yourself if you just run the Dungeon of the Mad Mage or Lost Mine of Phandelver over and over. This is why Kozilek, Butcher of Truth is in the deck – you can discard him to reshuffle your graveyard by going into the Tomb of Annihilation. So that’s the safest route if you can venture infinite times – Lost mine until you draw Kozilek, then reshuffle, going scry, treasure, each opponent loses 1 life and you gain 1 life, and then draw a card. Then do it over again. For the tomb just discard Kozilek and then sacrifice one of your treasure tokens, or even your Atropal. You’ll lose 1 life from the trapped entry but since you’re gaining 1 for each Phandelver you should be up on a lot of life really fast.
Personally, I’m not that fond of the dungeon mechanics, but this does seem like a kind of neat deck to whip out for a mid- to high-level type game.
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