Take Ten is an article series that looks at the commander preconstructed decks. It breaks them down and then provides ten cards that will improve the deck from it’s preconstructed status. Since we are adjusting a preconstructed deck and not totally rebuilding around the commander, Take Ten looks to keep the cost of the cards to around a $100 budget for the ten card upgrades. .
The first deck we will upgrade is the Faceless Menace precon. Faceless Menace is a deck that focuses around playing your cards face down. Then, the deck gains additional value by activating their abilities by flipping them face up. These abilities are sometimes overcosted but worth the extra mana as you can activate these abilities when you need them and not during your turn as enter the battlefield effects do. Faceless Menace creates a nondescript battlefield where opponents do not know what your cards are and makes it difficult to individually target your permanents. In a game of blind luck they may choose the wrong card to remove and this gives you an advantage. Finally, when more and more face down cards enter the battlefield the players options expand with more play lines available. The additional play lines are an advantage the deck will capitalize on for value.
What Faceless Menace Does
The deck revolves around it’s commander Kadena, Sinking Sorcerer. It provides playing down a free morph card every turn. The text “each turn.” is critical for this deck. In commander the word “each” is very powerful. With multiple opponents the number of times each triggers is multiplied compared to regular two player magic. Cards with each in their text scale well to the multiplayer format.
Kadena is also a strong commander because she has card draw built into her abilities. Whenever a face down card enters the battlefield you get to draw a card. The most expensive face down card to play is a megamorph card at three mana. When you play a megamorph it is twice the cost of what card draw should cost. However you are also getting a 2/2 body for this cost and are setting up your morph effects. A 2/2 creature with no abilities has a base cost of two mana in Magic. When these things are factored into the card draw the cost for the morph cards are a value. Finally, the first morph card is free each turn and this is an incredible value for card draw. All of this value is easily accessible from your command zone.
The strategy for this deck is to ramp out Kadena as quickly as possible. Then start playing more face down cards at a discount and draw a bunch of cards. This allows your board to explode. Then you can manipulate the battlefield with your morph creatures and then finally finish your opponents with some large haymakers to knock them out of the game.
All decks have different packages for what they want to accomplish. The precon starts with the following card packages.
- 9 Card Draw and Quality
- 9 Mana Ramp and Fixing
- 10 Removal (targeted and mass)
- 25 Face Down Cards and SYnergies
- 7 Misc
- 40 Land
The card packages also includes an additional three Ramp/Fixing, three Card Draw/Quality, eight removal and four Face Down synergies cards packed into the different card packages for added versatility. Two of the miscellaneous cards are also considered win conditions in Overwhelming Stampede and Biomass Mutation. Unfortunately, the deck does not include an alternate win condition. You can find the decklist for Faceless Menace here.
The deck includes a Seedborn Muse. This is because it wants to do things on your opponent’s turn. The deck wants to cast cards at flash speed and employ a Draw-Go strategy. There will be times when casting cards is not optimal so adding mana sinks to the deck is also desirable. Value can be built by flipping your morph cards again and again. This deck want to build ways that will repeat these morph triggers.
When upgrading this deck we will change the card packages to be more of a standard card package with an EDH deck. Forty lands is good for a preconstructed deck, but not for a constructed deck. We can tighten it up but cutting two lands and increasing the card draw and quality package as well as the ramp mana and fixing package to ten. We will also want to shift more face down cards into these packages and remove some of the weaker cards in these categories. Making these moves will allow us to add more face down strategy and synergy cards. The target range for these cards will be 30 to 33 cards. With this strategy in mind our deck packages before considering what cards to add are as follows
- 10 Draw
- 10 Ramp
- 10 Removal
- 30-33 Face Down/Synergy
- 7 Misc
- 38 Land
The Take Ten
Removed Great Oak Guardian added Vedalken Orrery
The Great Oak Guardian does not fit thematically with what the deck wants to do. It will buff your 2/2 creatures and untap permanents which can be done at flash speed. If what we want is a buff then Triumph of the Hordes would be a better fit because it not only buffs the creatures it adds infect as an additional win condition while costing less mana to do so. The protection from flying covers a weak spot of the deck as well.Although this weakness can be shored up a little bit in game play. When it is time to use a removal spell fliers should get first consideration.
The deck will be stronger if you can tighten up what the deck wants to do. Vedalken Orrery will give all your permanents flash which enables the Draw-Go strategy so you can hold your mana to flip your morphs at the appropriate time and still not fall behind. It also enables you casting a free morph each turn when your commander is out. These are the explosive plays and value engines that win commander games.
Removed Rayami Fist of the Fallen added Leyline of Anticipation
The deck loses another beater but again this Sultai card does not affect what the deck is trying to do. If your meta has a lot of graveyard decks it is worth keeping as graveyard hate, but it does not affect your opponents self mill strategies. Scavenging Ooze as a mana sink and graveyard hate is a far stronger card. In a blind vacuum Rayami lacks a lot to be desired. It does not have any form of evasion of its own limiting its usefulness.
This deck wants another card to enable flash and it is Sultai in color identity. Leyline of Anticipation is a great inclusion for redundancy of the deck and help it run well. It’s also an enchantment which means it will be a lot harder to remove than its counterpart, Vedalken Orrery. Two cards to enable flash may not be enough but with only ten cards to substitute in and out extra instances of flash will have to be sacrificed.
Removed Explore added Wilderness Reclamation
Redundancy is the name of the game. Seedborn Muse makes this deck so much stronger but there is only one card in 99 to make it happen. While Wilderness Reclamation only uptaps your lands, it also ramps so that you can play creatures on your main phase and then leave mana open to morph as necessary. Costing four mana the card also exceeds other cards that double mana like Zendikar Resurgent. It is better than a tutor that can fetch you the Seedborn Muse as once the Muse is removed you are out of luck. Using a tutor in this card slot may be slightly more efficient but redundancy is lost.. Wilderness Reclamation gives a second opportunity to have untap land shenanigans. Finally, it is n on a hard to remove enchantment.
Explore is removed because while it ramps you the card is reliant on you having a second land in your hand.There is a lot of card draw with your commander on the battlefield. There is no guarantee though that the card draw will put multiple lands in your hand for explore to be effective ramp. Explore is situationally good at the start of the game whereas Wilderness Reclamation will grant extra mana each turn throughout the game.
Removed Pendant of Prosperity moved Secret Plans to Card Draw. Then added Cloudstone Curio to Flip Manifest Synergy
Pendant of Prosperity really wants to be utilized in a group hug deck. Faceless Menace is not a group hug deck. The pendant grants extra value to your opponents. This deck is a value deck and granting extra value to your opponents is counterproductive to what the deck wants to do. While good to add to commander’s pool of cards this card is a horrible include in Faceless Menace.
Secret Plans provides some flip synergy while allowing you to draw extra cards and fits well in the slot Pendant of Prosperity occupied. With an opened up a face down synergy slot Cloudstone Curio will increase the shenanigans this deck can accomplish. Spend the mana to activate a manifest card and then cast another face down creature for free. After than bounce the flipped creature to your hand to cast it face down again. The Curio is a may ability so you do not have to return a card to your hand. It is an ETB effect so it also will work on manifesting cards as well.
Removed Scaretiller added Thrasios Triton Hero
Scaetiller is alright in a precon environment but once you start altering decks it quickly becomes unviable. As a 1/4 if you want multiple uses out of the card you will have to be very selective in when you attack with it. This card really wants to be in a deck where there are tap and untap shenanigans and this is not the deck for those synergies.
Instead we will replace it with another creature Thrasios, Triton Hero. Thrasios is an excellent mana sink as it only costs colorless mana. The Triton Hero’s application is preferred as ramp over card draw as it helps keep the cards in hand secret. Thrasios easily slides into Scaretiller’s card slot.
Removed Bounty of Luxa added Fabricate
Bounty of Luxa is both card draw and ramp but it is primarily a draw card as that is the first ability that is triggered. Bounty of Luxa is slow unless you flash it out because you will have to wait a rotation around the table to activate its ability.
Instead we will add Fabricate. It is an artifact tutor that will put it in your hand immediately. And it costs the same mana as Bounty of Luxa. This tutor is critical as it can either fetch Vedalken Orrery or Cloudstone Curio whichever will benefit you more. This will make your deck a little more consistent and faster.
Move Den Protector to Card Draw/Quality added Brine Elemental Removed Shrine of the Forsaken Gods
Of the land cards despite the ramp it offers Shrine of the Forsaken Gods requires seven lands on the battlefield to use. This is slow and removing this land will actually speed up the deck in the early game and not clog up your hand..
Moving Den Protector to the card quality package opens up another face down synergy slot. Here the best include is the Brine Elemental. Vesuvan Shapeshifter is already in the deck which means this include gives the possibility of the pickles combo. We are not adding tutors to get this combination but if it comes up it can take over the game.
Moved Trail of Mystery to Ramp/Fixing added Primordial Mist Removed Darkwater Catacombs
Trail of Mystery really wants more basic lands in the deck but with changing only 10 cards we need to be judicious with what we switch out. It is still effective as there are 15 basic lands in the deck. After the Take Ten alterations look to add some more basic lands to your deck to capitalize more on this card.
With the mana base Dimir colors are the two of the three colors with the least pips on the cards. Darkwater Catacombs is an easy land to remove since it is mana fixing in those colors only It filters mana but does not ramp the deck even though it generates two mana.
Primordial Mist provides a free creature each turn. And it combos great with Sudden Substitution as you can give a 2/2 creature that they can not flip up. Primordial Mist also acts as card draw as you can also exile a manifested card and then cast it as needed. .
Removed Mire in Misery moved Bane of the Living to it’s spot added Whisperwood Elemental to flip facedown synergies.
While looking at the removal cards Mire in MIsery is sorcery speed targeted removal. This is really bad. Decks want to remove problem cards at instant speed not on your turn. If you have to wait to remove it often it will be too late and the game is over. Mire is Misery also takes control of the removal out of your hands and gives it to your opponent.This means Mire in Misery will have minimal impact on the battlefield.
Bane of the Living on a morph card is removal at instant speed even though it is on a morph card. It also gets around indestructible creatures and fits better in the removal card slot than Mire in Misery. With the open Face down card slot we can add Whisperwood Elemental to add more morph cards onto the battlefield. With Primordial Mist and Cloudstone Curio we have ways to “put the card in our hand” to cast if it is not a morph creature.
Removed Thought Sponge added Drawn from Dreams
Thought Sponge is slow. It has to die and it may only add a couple of cards to your hand. It is great to help recover from a board wipe but any exile effect removing it from the battlefield and you lose the draw cards trigger. Thought Sponge is better served in a sacrifice deck which this is not.
In its place we will add a cost effective card draw spell that is in my top ten blue cards. Drawn from Dreams will give two cards and we can choose them from the top seven of our library giving card advantage and card quality on a single card.
There are many ways to adjust this deck. For a limited number of card adjustments this deck is significantly improved along the value synergy axis of the deck. The deck is capable of a stronger rebuild but it will cost more with focuses along the mana base as well as some other stronger synergy cards and strategies. If you are looking to add a deck to your collection that is roughly six or seven in power then consider this deck build.
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