MtG: Oh How It Pains Me To Do This

I’m really liking the Transformers cards as commanders. I know, since I hate the Lord of the Rings so much what am I doing being okay with transformers? Well, I mean, for one, nobody pretends the Transformers aren’t dumb as shit, and also the central narrative of Transformers is bunches of idiots smashing their toy collections together, which makes a great fit for Magic: The Gathering commander games. But wait, you may wonder, what – what’s with this elaborate trap? You weren’t paying attention for a moment and now, I have seized power! It is time for a transgender icon, STARSCREAM to command!

Now, let’s you and them fight.

You could build Starscream as an aggressive black control deck. Most versions of the deck seem to be in that general way, too. I thought about making him a sort of voltron deck too, but mono-black voltron feels like it wants to focus on the same small handful of equipment cards, and I don’t want it to be too predictable. Plus, that doesn’t feel very Starscream to me. Starscream is a coward. Starscream is an immense idiot, but he is also a coward.

What entranced me then was the way that Starscream’s vehicle combat trigger could paint a target on someone else. On turn three, poking one player and then making them the monarch so the next player has a reason to want to serve at them? That’s really Starscreamy. And you know, yes, peeking in and stealing a little bit of Monarch-ness for extra card draw, that’s fun too. Which means that a deck like this wants to have a way to duck and hide from other players, if possible, while encouraging them all to attack one another.

Oh and the deck must have a crown. Gotta find something that fits.

Can I give people things? Things that can’t attack me? Yes, I know I’m almost immediately asking a mono-colour transformer commanded deck to be a worse version of Slicer, probably the best card in that set for its overall impact on the ah, more aggressive Competitive Commander format. There’s some stuff like this, but not a lot – fortunately, oh hey, look at that, it’s a crown.

Time to put together 8 piles of 8 cards!

The piles then are going to follow these eight options:

  • Mana advancement. Mana rocks, permanents. I don’t want to constantly shuffle if I can avoid it. I’ll probably be drawing a lot of cards, so cost reducers like Jet Medallion are good too.
  • Evasive creatures to reclaim monarch. Easy enough, but I don’t want to just have a bunch of creatures that are functionally pointless draws late game. Cycling, kickers, those are options here.
  • Ground holders, big creatures that I don’t mind if they sit back and do nothing for a while. They can either generate tokens, threaten activation, or just make combat on my side of the table look bad.
  • Redirection cards. These are things that don’t just defend me but explicitly encourage you to attack other people. Carrots, rather than sticks. Black doesn’t have a lot of these.
  • Fortifications, things that mean opponents don’t want to send their creatures to me if they can help it. Basically, punishment for attacking me or straight up refusing to let people attack me.
  • Removal. Eh, c’mon, it’s a black deck, having some way to reset the board is valuable. The trick is finding the cheap ones I don’t mind using – obviously you could build Black gorilla-style with Decree of Pain, Damnation, Blood on the Snow, Path of Peril, all those kinds of cards. Thing is, that’s a real board-shaking way to play. Scaling mass removal, things that can leave a small number of very big things around? That’s more likely to be seen as ‘cleaning up.’
  • Encouragement to keep me around. Group hug is a hard thing to do in black! But there are a lot of artifacts that are symmetrical, and if I can build defenses to protect me, they’ll also reassure people that hey, you don’t wanna attack meee I’m just a little birthday booooy.
  • Individual card draw. Starscream can turn card draw into a victory condition in case of some lockdown, but there’s something

Alright, then, that’s the list of wants and ideas, let’s look at what I wound up making. This is a prospective list; this isn’t really a list I’ve actually put together, and if I do put it together it will be as proxies (gasp) or on MTGO, where it’s reasonably cheap and I have a lot of the cards already.

1 Ambition's Cost
1 Anvil of Bogardan
1 Archpriest of Shadows
1 Assault Suit
1 Blood Reckoning
1 Bloodgift Demon
1 Bloodthirsty Blade
1 Boarded Window
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Cabal Coffers
1 Cabal Stronghold
1 Calculating Lich
1 Canoptek Wraith
1 Changeling Outcast
1 Charcoal Diamond
1 Crawlspace
1 Crown of Doom
1 Curse of Disturbance
1 Custodi Lich
1 Damnable Pact
1 Defile
1 Dread
1 Ecologist's Terrarium
1 Epochrasite
1 Feast of Succession
1 Feed the Swarm
1 Fell Stinger
1 Font of Mythos
1 Garrulous Sycophant
1 Geier Reach Sanitarium
1 Ghirapur Orrery
1 Ghoulish Impetus
1 Harvester of Souls
1 Helm of Awakening
1 Hero's Downfall
1 Howling Mine
1 Jet Medallion
1 Lolth, Spider Queen
1 Marchesa's Decree
1 Misery's Shadow
1 Morbid Opportunist
1 Murderous Rider // Swift End
1 Mutilate
1 Nether Traitor
1 Night's Whisper
1 Nullpriest of Oblivion
1 Parasitic Impetus
1 Peer into the Abyss
1 Pilfering Imp
1 Piper of the Swarm
1 Planar Atlas
1 Ravenous Chupacabra
1 Revenge of Ravens
1 Seizan, Perverter of Truth
1 Sign in Blood
1 Slaughter Specialist
1 Sol Ring
1 Star Compass
1 Starscream, Power Hungry // Starscream, Seeker Leader
28 Swamp
1 Tempting Contract
1 Thaumatic Compass // Spires of Orazca
1 Thought Vessel
1 Throne of the High City
1 Tormented Soul
1 Tribute to Horobi // Echo of Death's Wail
1 Unwilling Ingredient
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Vow of Malice
1 Vow of Torment
1 Weathered Sentinels
1 Witch's Cottage

But maybe you want this decklist in a more readable way, here it is as a text file.

What did I wind up with? And what am I not happy about?

The first thing is I wound up with a deck that feels, to me, very creature light. A lot of the kinds of cards that seem intuitively easy to include don’t fit my rules of trying to avoid punishment. I don’t want people to lose life whenever they draw a card — I want them to feel that it’s better to attack someone else, rather than me. If I’m getting people to draw cards, then it needs to be okay for me to draw cards too. If I could jam a dozen goad cards into this deck I would.

I also wanted to avoid cards that implied at some point I was going to do something else, that I was going to be suddenly pivoting. If I was going to do something dramatic that changed the game I wanted it to be a single, big effect and for that to just happen, and then nobody had to spend their time fretting about making a mistake about how they handled a card on the board ‘when they had the chance.’ If it goes on the board it needs to be honest, openly blatant about what it’s doing. Starscream isn’t a complicated character after all!

Another thing about this deck is that I’m running almost every version of its effect in a black-ID Commander deck. Gosh, I wish I could have a bunch more goad cards, but nope, this is everything I could get!