Maestros Massacre is a Grixis deck focused on sacrifice for value and recursion. We’ll break down the new cards in the deck and analyze them, talk about what this deck does out of the box, then how to rebuild it to be more effective.
BPhillipYork: So right away this guy just screams extra turns to me. His ability will let you copy that extra turn spell by sacrificing a creature with power 2, ramp up, take lots of extra turns and that should be gg. Grixis will allow you to play Pact/Thoracle and extra turns to go off. Aside from that sacrifice recursion themes in Grixis are powerful, you could for example do things like steal creatures using cards like Claim the Firstborn, end the turn, then keep the stolen creatures in order to sacrifice for later stealing. Fun. There’s a lot of fun things you can do with a 3 cost commander, but you’re going to want to focus on small creatures with ETB effects to have a fuel for your sacrificial fires.
FromTheShire: Tons of value to be had, especially when you pair Anhelo with Talrand, Sky Summoner or ways to make Zombie tokens. There’s a myriad of variations you can build, and all of them will be fun as hell.
BPhillipYork: There’s a neat political angle to this card, and Wizards is really pushing that angle. I’m not sure that this reaches the level it needs to, if Parnesse had some kind of built in copy ability, but this card really reminds me of Sevinne, the Chronoclasm. Like neat ability, but it does nothing unless you have a way to cast from your graveyard, and you’re missing the best graveyard color. Granted at least Parnesse has both blue and red, the core copy colors. Even so, as a commander this is lackluster, and 5 mana for ward 4 life isn’t good enough IMO.
FromTheShire: Very interesting to see a political, group hug-ish deck in Grixis. The protection is nice but not insurmountable, and their second ability only triggers off of copying spells which does require some setup….overall neat but not for me most likely, though if you have a group where you can get some of the big mana enchantments like Swarm Intelligence going this will get wild.
BPhillipYork: This is a fun bad card. 6 mana is too much mana for an effect that is going to copy something, next turn. Like fun and all, and for durdle games, okay great, run it in a Simic deck focused on the whole copying thing (Quandrix, essentially from Strixhaven). The green will give you the ramp to quickly get here and creature tutors to get something big.
FromTheShire: I dig it, even if it is a bit slow and only hits your permanents. Notably it’s not legendary so it can make token copies of itself if you happen to have it in a deck that say maybe has ways to double the number of tokens you make.
BPhillipYork: In theory, I like this card, but it basically relies on your opponent having already cast something worth spending 5 mana to copy. Which, in a Commander game, is usually going to mean they cast something really good, and you don’t really want to rely on that. In a mill heavy environment, this has maybe some potential. Weirdly there is no Entomb that targets another player, all the similar cards exile.
FromTheShire: Yeah the closest thing is Life’s Finale but that only hits creatures which doesn’t help us here. I don’t hate it, and there will definitely be times this gets you a much needed board wipe or other bomb, but the variance is high.
BPhillipYork: This is a neat enabler for casualty, as well as other sacrifice effects, and it has a place in decks focused on ETB’s and deaths.
FromTheShire: Neat but slow.
BPhillipYork: I like this card, it has a lot of synergies with sacrificing lots of creatures to various things, it’s also the first instant speed card with spectacle ever printed. Really lets you recover from a board wipe as well, which is really nice.
FromTheShire: Even for 3 mana, in the right deck this will draw you a boat load of cards at instant speed, very nice.
BPhillipYork: This is a fun little loop, and probably the most likely way to see it would to never cast it, but rather just discard it for draw to impulse effects than get it back when your opponents draw.
FromTheShire: Great little card that is kind of a fixed dredger, definitely a bunch of decks that can use it.
BPhillipYork: Forcing mass sacrifice is great, people will often do their internal threat assessment badly and this generates a ton of death and sacrifice triggers.
FromTheShire: Looooove cards like this, even if you don’t have ways to copy it, which this deck will in spades. Making the other players agonize over how to split their board is a blast, and pairs well with the Grave Pact I can also see this deck running to keep their creature count low and trigger when you sacrifice to your Casualty effects.
BPhillipYork: I like the idea of generating a ton of Rogues for sacrificing everything, and Rogues have a lot of synergy with mill, but 3 mana to exile 2 things is a lot, 7 mana to exile all the things is really a lot, and a lot of times what you need to exile isn’t a creature, so you won’t even get the payoff if you use it as a utility card.
FromTheShire: Not the worst graveyard hate in this deck since it can give you sacrifice fodder but it’s a bit pricey, unreliable, and non-repeatable.
BPhillipYork: This is awesome, it’s like an everyone else version of Bolas’s Citadel. Getting to do it twice is really something, and you may well be able to copy it. It does rely on your opponents running good (low CMV) cost spells, so it scales inversely with how good your opponents decks are.
FromTheShire: Thankfully you can pay for the cards you steal with life because otherwise the 6 mana investment would be steep. Black loves using your life as a resource and I’m all about it, cards like this are a blast as well.
BPhillipYork: This card feels so random to me, and I don’t like that. Shuffling away a nonenchantment permanent can be brutal, but they may get some haymaker spell cast for free. Since the resolution involves the shuffling and the reveal you can’t use it on your own permanents and then top manipulate to get something nasty.
FromTheShire: Chaos Warp is a staple in red because it deals with permanents red can’t handle otherwise, one if which is notably enchantments, so right away this feels a lot worse. Add in the extra mana and the fact that they can cast the revealed card so most of their deck is live for the flip and I think I’m passing this over more often than not.
BPhillipYork: This is situationally really strong, but in those situations can be hilarious. There are tons of ways, and increasingly more, to create token copies of things. Ideally, it would be some brutal ETB or something with a powerful attack or death ability. Archon of Cruelty springs to mind.
FromTheShire: Lots of ways to take advantage of this and I really like it. Going to slot right into my Feldon of the Third Path deck for starters, that’s for sure.
BPhillipYork: A fun little card, the encore also has the potentially to be really something, especially if you want to storm off.
FromTheShire: Cost reducers are very powerful, though I think the majority of the time you’re going to use the many ways that don’t involve attacking with a 2/2. The Encore is super powerful though.
BPhillipYork: This card has enormous synergy with Anhelo, the Painter. If you have ways to manipulate the top of your library, it gets really nuts.
FromTheShire: Obviously purpose made for this deck so naturally it’s very good in it. Even in other spellslinger lists I think this is going to make the cut most of the time based on the sheer value.
BPhillipYork: I like this card a lot, to me, the most likely use case is Grixis turns, returning 3 take an extra turn spells would probably be the game. The goads, the -3/-3 are also really solid. A lot of commanders have 3 toughness, to avoid board wipes that deal 2 damage, though there are many solid ones with a 4 toughness as well.
FromTheShire: Pretty much the whole cycle of Confluences this set are very playable, and this is no exception. All of the modes are great for this deck, a definite keep when you’re rebuilding it.
BPhillipYork: I love that there is a Phoenix tribal commander now, and thankfully it’s red and black so the deck can actually do something, and isn’t just a bad red pile. Deck coming soon (TM).
FromTheShire: At long last, after literal years of joking about someone in Wizards R&D losing a bet necessitating a new bad Phoenix be printed in every third set both on this site and elsewhere, the mad lad’s final form has been achieved and they finally have an on tribe legendary creature to helm their deck. In one fell swoop this actually ties the tribe together in a really great way, and adding black to the historically mono red deck is excellent. I’ll probably end up building it in paper if for no other reason than I haven’t shut up about Phoenixes for years.
BPhillipYork: There’s an obvious value loop here, where you cast this thing for 4 mana, then next turn you crew it and swing and get to cast for free, then it returns, you cast it again, lather rinse repeat. It’s super obvious and durdley, but if that’s your thing, I think it’s fun.
FromTheShire: A little slow and not the most mana efficient, but still a nice piece for the Vehicle decks.
So out of the box this deck is going to really struggle. It’s sort of built around Anhelo, the Painter’s ability, but to do something with that a bunch of sorceries that create tokens were inserted into the deck. This isn’t completely terrible, this means you create tokens then you can use the tokens to attack and in future turns you can sacrifice some of the tokens to double your future token generators. Weirdly though a lot of these token generators generate a single token which is the opposite of what you want, rather than singular large tokens the token sorceries you’d want would be those that generate lots of small tokens so you aren’t sacrificing much to get out another wave of duplicated tokens.
The mana base is pretty typical for a precon, the mana rocks aren’t too bad here, a lot of decent 2 mana rocks, and one of the least bad 3 mana rocks, but only around 8 sources of ramp in a deck with 5+ cost cards that it will virtually have to cast to win the game. The lands are the usual mishmash, and a ton of ETB tapped or conditionally ETB tapped lands that Wizards insists on junking up these precons with.
To fuel its intent to cast instants or sorceries with Casualty the deck runs some okay token generators and recurring creatures.
In general, it’s a value kind of deck, so if you’re going to play it straight out you’ll want to go for some kind of attrition strategy to win.
Rebuilding the deck it’s worth really focusing on Anhelo, the Painter’s ability – the first instant or sorcery you cast each turn has Casualty 2, so this means if a spell already has Casualty, you can sacrifice creatures twice to copy it twice, which is pretty good. Also, it’s each turn, so it would be nice to load up on instants so we can use his ability every turn rather than just on our turn. The colors include blue, so we could just try to get flash, with Leyline of Anticipation and Vedalken Orrery but that functionally becomes another combo piece if we are depending on it to get full value out of the deck.
It’s also really an opportunity to deal with some recursions, and then just ramping out crazy spells that make every instant or sorcery you cast really dangerous.
There’s a list of cards that powerfully ramp up from mass casts of instants and sorceries:
- Aetherflux Reservoir
- Aria of Flame
- Arcane Bombardment
- Thousand-Year Storm
- Sorcerer Class
- Sphinx-Bone Wand
Each of these interacts in different ways, so you have to be pretty careful with cards that create copies and then allow you to cast the copies versus casting from your hand or graveyard or exile.
There’s also a variety of creatures that can return themselves to the battlefield, or be returned pretty easily.
- Bloodsoaked Champion
- Persistent Specimen
- Nether Traitor
- Reassembling Skeleton
- Prized Amalgam
- Narfi, Betrayer King
We don’t want all of these, and which ones we chose will dictate our land choices. There are a few others I’m not mentioning here. To run Narfi we need snow mana, to run Bloodghast we want to be running fetch lands. We need fuel to burn through our Casualty instants, and I think Narfi and Prized Amalgam are the best pieces there to really leverage what we want to do, Nether Traitor works well but it’s downside is it’s power is only 1, which isn’t enough to sacrifice for casualty 2. Bloodghast however is 2 power. Nether Traitor also only power 1, same thing for Reassembling Skeleton. Depending on your situation, you’ll want to grave tutor Bloodghast first possibly, or Narfi, and second Prized Amalgam.
The game plan is pretty simple, ramp out Anhelo and hopefully a utility creature or enchantment, then start cycling through your deck as fast as possible. Cast instants to get card draw and mana, and ping things off, so you can fill up a Bone Wand or get a fully stocked Arcane Bombardment. You should be able to rapidly just kill off your opponents with these triggers. Use your recurring creatures as a way to generate mad value off your looting spells, and use the treasures gained to more quickly cast your big 6+ CMV combo cards that are your win conditions.
One thing about this deck is it’s relatively temperamental. You’ll have great games where you draw what you need, the play pattern works great, you can dump your recurring cards to an unexpected windfall, draw, get treasures, dump out something huge and terrifying like Arcane Bombardment and just go away to the races. It will also have games that struggle. To really make Anhelo mean you’d run every good tutor and use his ability to double tutor and tutor up Kess and triple tutor, and use rituals to power all this, and if you want to try that, by all means, I think Anhelo has the possibility to be a cEDH commander, but this is explicitly not an attempt to another Thoracle shell.
The cut list is huge, but that’s because we had to completely rebuild the mana base in order to accommodate our recurring creatures:
1 Crumbling Necropolis
1 Path of Ancestry
1 Thriving Bluff
1 Thriving Isle
1 Thriving Moor
1 Cascade Bluffs
1 Choked Estuary
1 Darkwater Catacombs
1 Foreboding Ruins
1 Shadowblood Ridge
1 Smoldering Marsh
1 Sunken Hollow
1 Temple of Epiphany
1 Drawn from Dreams
1 River’s Rebuke
1 Zndrsplt’s Judgment
1 Army of the Damned
1 Puppeteer Clique
1 Reign of the Pit
1 Sever the Bloodline
1 Chain Reaction
1 Rekindling Phoenix
1 Squee, the Immortal
1 Call the Skybreaker
1 Mimic Vat
1 Deep Analysis
1 Talrand’s Invocation
1 Rite of the Raging Storm
1 Clone Legion
1 Extravagant Replication
1 Audacious Swap
1 Syrix, Carrier of the Flame
1 Smuggler’s Buggy
1 Parnesse, the Subtle Brush
1 Waste Management
1 Maestros Confluence
The add list is here:
1 Aetherflux Reservoir
1 Arcane Bombardment
1 Archmage Emeritus
1 Arid Mesa
1 Big Score
1 Blood Crypt
1 Bloodstained Mire
1 Buried Alive
1 Flooded Strand
1 Galvanic Blast
1 Lightning Bolt
1 Magic Missile
1 Marsh Flats
1 Mayhem Devil
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Polluted Delta
1 Prismari Command
1 Prismatic Vista
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Sedgemoor Witch
1 Seething Song
4 Snow-Covered Island
4 Snow-Covered Mountain
4 Snow-Covered Swamp
1 Sorcerer Class
1 Sphinx-Bone Wand
1 Steam Vents
1 Storm-Kiln Artist
1 Talisman of Creativity
1 Talisman of Dominance
1 Talisman of Indulgence
1 Thousand-Year Storm
1 Unexpected Windfall
1 Unmarked Grave
1 Verdant Catacombs
1 Veyran, Voice of Duality
1 Watery Grave
1 Wooded Foothills
1 Xander’s Lounge
1 Young Pyromancer
Which again, includes all the lands.
Here is the final deck:
Next week will be Obscura Operation but also Baldur’s Gate because it’s always preview season and we fell a bit behind.
Do you have an interesting take on an Anhelo, the Painter deck, or maybe one built around the co-commander Cormela, Glamour Thief? Please let us know, link your deck in the comments.