Commander Focus: Ye Dragon Approacheth

As we covered in our review of the set, with Strixhaven Wizards have finally decided to print another card with the rider that you lets you play any number of copies in your deck. There’s a decent extant Shadowborn Apostle deck, focused on thrumming stone and Athreos God of Passage, using the inbuilt apostle ability to sacrifice themselves in return for demons, the deck is fun but pretty dependent on Thrumming Stone, if you don’t get it the deck won’t do much.

There’s a total of 6 cards that have this quality now; that is, the “A deck can have any number of cards named” mechanic and seeing another one makes me rather nostalgic for plague rats, the original creature that simply had x/x stats, where x was equal to how many plague rats you had in play. This is intentional: In one way or another they all harken back to the days when a deck of 30 Plague Rats and 30 Swamps was legal. Given all the copying and cloning cards there are now, and cards like Orvar, the-All form, it’s possible a deck built around those rats and other creatures with similar ability could actually be hilariously effective.

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

In the meanwhile, when I saw Dragon’s Approach, I immediately thought “this is definitely a playable card to build a deck around.”

There’s a number of good synergies for spamming red spells, Birgi, God of Storytelling, Storm-Kiln artist, and Runaway Steam-Kin all give you mana for casting red spells, which makes hitting parity on an instant much more reasonable. Thankfully Dragon’s Approach is basically meant for multiplayer formats. Dealing 3 damage to each opponent isn’t particularly terrible in and of itself, in commander you’d need to resolve 14 in order to simply kill all of your opponents.

Obviously, you can’t just expect to cast 14 sorceries; you’d need to draw at least 7 cards and generate 42 mana in order to just drop those one by one, so this deck is focused on building an engine that will allow you to just spam multiple copies of Dragon’s Approach.

For colors, I think it’s fun to go with a fairly aggressive, and greedy, land base to support a 4-color deck. The reasoning behind each color is pretty simple:

White – For Kykar, Wind’s Fury as a mana engine; also Elsha of the Infinite, who allows you effectively play cards off the top, and especially Jeskai Ascendancy and Whirlwind of Thought.

Blue – The Mizzets, effectively our real wincon, Jeskai Ascendancy, Song of Creation, and Whirlwind of thought, our 3 best draw engines. We’ve also got archmage emeritus and Veyran and the color is necessary for Elsha and Kykar

Green – For song of creation and Keen Sense.  There’s a real argument you could remake this deck, sans green, in Jeskai colors and using either Elsha or Kykar as commander because both of them have really nice abilities, but this is sort of a fun deck, and I thought the challenge of building sans-black would be fun.

Red – Our core color, containing the Approaches, our triggers, draw dragons, and the vast majority of our spells as well as the red ritual series, past in flames and wheels.

To get this deck going you need to get into play at least one draw engine card, and two or three cost reducers or on cast triggers. Veyran doubles the output of cards like Birgi, god of Storytelling and Runaway Steam-Kin.

If you can get Thrumming Stone into play, of course, that makes it far easier to trigger off.

Once you start spamming Dragon’s Approach you can then exile them from your graveyard, and grab either Knollspine Dragon or Niv-Mizzet, Parun. Then keep cycling through your deck until you get curiosity or keen sense, put it on Niv-Mizzet, and you’ll just draw your way through your library, dealing 1 damage each time. In theory, you could run into trouble against decks that gain arbitrarily large amounts of life, but in general, having dealt at least 15 damage via repeated Dragon’s Approaches, you probably will be okay just cycling off your Mizzet triggers. However, there is a Kozilek, Butcher of Truth in the deck to force a reshuffle.

I think far more competitive versions of this deck are possible, either pruning down to Jeskai or Izzet colors, and there may even emerge a true cEDH version of the deck as well as something in Conquest or other formats. But I think a deck like this is a fun way to play at a local game store or in a more “fun-haver” pod where people want to develop their decks a little while still having a hard stop for the end of the game, so that it doesn’t slowly morph into a snooze fest. To upgrade it you’d always want to include a Timetwister, shift to true ABUR duals, and probably switch to a more aggressive tutoring strategy, forcing out Thrumming Stone and going to town.

This deck is pretty vulnerable to graveyard hate – cards like Rest in Peace will cause you a lot of grief, though you may be able to just whizz through the deck and kill everyone off with your signature card.

Also, I highly suggest naming your Niv-Mizzet Parun Trogdor and using a sharpie to draw a horrible proxy over it.  For Fun.

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