The Commanders of Amonkhet
One of the recurring themes in my articles is to try and make the Commander deckbuilding process a little easier. I find building decks an intimidating task even when I know which commander I want to use, and I've heard that from many readers as well. In light of that, I wanted to provide a few helpful suggestions for cards to use when building with some of the Commander options available with Amonkhet. We'll walk through the connections between the commanders and the cards and help get you started down the deckbuilding path with these interesting legends.
Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun
Temmet is a card clearly playing to the embalm creatures in Amonkhet. However, there are plenty of older cards that Temmet can work to his advantage.
Followed Footsteps lets you make a copy of a particular creature on each upkeep. I have regularly used this to copy an opponent's creature in the hope of getting multiple copies. With Temmet on the battlefield you are going to be looking at different options. Normally you'd look at creatures with enters-the-battlefield abilities since you are hoping to get a copy every upkeep. With Temmet out, you may just want the biggest creature available. Temmet makes the token unblockable, so maximum damage may be your hope. The big problem with Followed Footsteps is that it is a five-mana aura. Your opponents will take great glee in sacrificing their creature to prevent you from getting a token. Other opponents will enjoy bouncing the creature or just killing it outright. The lure of denying you and messing with a second opponent is often more than someone can resist.
Rootborn Defenses is an interesting card for the deck. Giving your creatures indestructible is usually a good thing, and populating should happen regularly given what you are trying to do with Temmet. The key with populating a token is to find the token that has haste or is going to be gone at the end of the turn. Since you aren't particularly looking to get an army of one particular token, why not find one that will stick around indefinitely!
Mimic Vat is a wonderful option with Temmet. Not only is the Vat a great way to deny your graveyard recursion opponents their favorite creatures, but you can pick and choose which creature you can copy so that it works well with Temmet! I particularly like Mimic Vat because it really doesn't require any setup or other cards to maximize it. The best creatures in your game are the ones most likely to die, so you don't even need to target them; your opponents will do that for you!
Phyrexian Rebirth is a joy with a Temmet deck. Temmet and every other creature dies, creating a massive Horror artifact token. Use the embalm effect and Temmet is back, making the Horror that much more fearsome when it swings in.
Finally, the most obvious inclusion should be Rite of Replication. The Rite gives you a copy of any creature and Temmet makes it just a bit bigger than the original. The Rite also lets you live the dream and create five copies, although Temmet will only give one of them his bonuses.
Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons (or as spellchecker says, "Ha, Party!")
Last week I discussed Nest of Scarabs and several cards that are going to be fun to play with it. The Party Girl is going to fit right in with that bunch, and I recommend you check out the article to see a few of the cards that follow the -1/-1 scheme.
This time around I want your opponents to believe you are trying to help everyone out. When your combat comes up, just explain to an opponent that you are trying to get rid of someone else's big creature. If they would just let you swing in for two lousy points of damage, you can make the Grave Titan or Eldrazi creature a little less of a problem. Not only do you curry favor, but you create a 1/1 deathtouch snake that can act as your deterrent for later attacks. Everyone hates losing their best creature to a 1/1 deathtouch token, particularly when you can just make another one so easily, so they'll likely avoid you.
So what works best with Hapatra? I dug into the way-back file to find Phyrexian Splicer. The Splicer lets you give Hapatra flying to make it a little easier to hit your opponents and get your Snakes. If you really want to be dedicated to the theme, run a few shadow creatures, then swap their shadow ability to Hapatra, essentially making her unblockable. The Splicer also works wonders with the deathtouching Snakes too. If an opponent has a flying creature, your Snakes now block practically anything. If an opponent has a creature with first strike, you now have first striking deathtouching snakes. Those are very hard to eliminate in combat!
An underrated card that works especially well for any green deck looking to win with commander damage is Might of Oaks. I know it is a pretty plain card that does what green does, but it tends to do it in a much bigger way than most expect. Hapatra hitting for nine doesn't give you more snakes or more -1/-1 counters, but nine points of commander damage is something players are not expecting from a 2/2 commander. Expect Might of Oaks to just win games.
Bontu the Glorified (aka Bounty (the Quicker Picker Upper))
Before we get started, let's just talk about the gods. They all cost three or four mana for a creature bigger than a standard three or four-mana creature. They all have an ability appropriate for their color and are indestructible. None of them can attack or block unless some condition is met. Also, they all have an activated ability that requires mana.
"Bounty" is a god I understand. Bontu will help you, but you need to sacrifice a creature for that to happen. Yup, strap a living being to an altar, get out your wicked dagger, and end a life, just like every good action movie with a crazed cult leader shows you. The creature's life force gives the god indescribable powers, which are now at your disposal.
The problem? Losing a creature every turn is pretty harsh. As anyone who has had to deal with a Sheoldred, Whispering One on the battlefield knows, sacrificing a creature every turn can be painful. For you to be willing to do this, there better be a pretty amazing set of powers. On their own, the powers offered by Bontu just aren't all that impressive. Killing a creature so a 4/6 creature with menace can attack just isn't all that impressive. Spending two mana and sacrificing a creature to scry 1, gain one life, and cost each opponent one life is fine if it looks like your creature was going to die in combat or get stolen away or bounced, but most times, I want to keep the creature.
That is, unless we are talking about token creatures. Bitterblossom, Dread Summons, Sengir Autocrat, and Army of the Damned are a few ways to get token creatures that you can sacrifice. Losing these tokens amounts to hardly losing anything at all! Now you can bring a 4/6 Bontu into combat to attack or block whenever needed!
My personal favorite way to produce tokens for Bontu is my pet card, Tombstone Stairwell. The Stairwell brings Zombie Tokens onto the battlefield on each upkeep and removes them on each end step. This means that you can drain as much as you have mana available each round! Bontu the Glorified will be finding his way into my Tombstone Stairwell deck as soon as I can get a copy!
Kefnet the Mindful (or according to spellcheck, "Kenneth")
Kenneth is pretty straightforward. Do you want a 5/5 indestructible flyer for three mana? Then you'll need seven cards in hand. You don't have seven cards in hand? Check out the ability! For only four mana, you can draw a card and add a land to your hand as well. You just added two cards to your hand size! Given that you are running blue, I'm sure you have plenty of other ways to get your hand size to at least seven.
Kefnet's big drawback is returning a land to your hand. Slowing your mana development by returning lands to your hand is rarely a good thing. Sure, Kefnet only costs three mana, but you'll likely be running other cards that demand six or more mana, and that gets tough to do if you find yourself returning a land to your hand. Assuming you are using Kefnet as your commander, you don't have ready access to Exploration or other green ways to recover this disadvantage. That leaves you with Ghirapur Orrery. This is a decent option, as long as your meta doesn't have a lot of aggro decks that would love the hand refilling that you'll never enjoy. Storm Cauldron is a more old-school option, but returning lands to your hand that get tapped for mana is a miserable proposition. Patron of the Moon is the best option of the three, but its seven-mana cost is nothing to scoff at in a deck that is trying to keep a full hand from turn three onwards.
Perhaps a better option is to try and turn the disadvantage to your benefit. Landfall cards love to have a way to guarantee a land drop every turn. Seer's Sundial offers some regular card draw to help Kefnet stay active. Adventuring Gear means that Kefnet only needs to hit three times to end an opponent's game. Guardian of Tazeem keeps your opponent's nastiest creature under control. My personal favorite option is Roil Elemental. Play a land and take away your opponent's flying creature to clear the path for Kefnet to win the game with commander damage, while using your new creatures for suicide missions against other opponents!
Another option involves cards from the Kamigawa block. There were several cards in the set that gave creatures abilities for returning a land to your hand. You could make small creatures unblockable (Soratama Mirror-Guard), make creatures unblockable ( Soratami Rainshaper) or loot ( Soratami Cloudskater). Meloku the Clouded Mirror was one of my favorite options. For one mana and returning a card to your hand, you would get a 1/1 blue Illusion with flying. The Illusion Tokens make it difficult for your opponents to determine how open you are to attack, since you can create the tokens after they have declared their attackers. It also means that you are adding cards to your hand for only one mana per card, so Kefnet is likely able to block if needed.
Finally, if you are going to run Kefnet, you might as well run Soramaro, First to Dream. Similar cards with identical drawbacks!
I'd love to hear some of your favorite, off-the-beaten-path cards for these legends. Hit me up in the comments or on Twitter!