I might be showing my age but I don’t care. I was small in the 70’s. During that time I remember watching a TV show with an Actor Lee Majors who played Steve Austin . That show was The Six Million Dollar Man. It was cool. He was this bionic guy who could run inhumanly fast and was incredibly strong due to those bionics. The sound effects are iconic if not cheesy. As a kid I wanted to tune in and see what Steve Austin could do. It fascinated me. For the purposes of EDH I want to focus on the opening of that television show. It said…
Steve Austin, astronaut. A man barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capacity to build the world’s first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster.Six Million Dollar Man
When I think of the Golos banning I think of this show. There are many players with displaced decks and lots of money spent on cards in order to build this commander in unique and interesting ways. His ability was strong and it was open ended that it could begin to provide a framework for whatever Johnny Deckbrewer could dream up. I see these commanderless decks as Steve Austin. They do not have to die. They can be revamped. In essence We have the capacity to rebuild a deck. This defunct Golos deck is that deck. Better than it was before. Better, stronger, faster.
I know the claim seems a little outrageous. In some ways maybe it is. Golos was so strong of a shell sometimes I think our brewing muscles could get a little lazy and atrophy building around him. There is certainly less room for error with what we brew now than with him in the format. We will need to be more selective and we will have to surgically cut cards and insert different ideas and themes to reduce the weaknesses the lack of Golos brings. The deck may not always be faster but it absolutely can be better and stronger. With not relying on Golos second ability our gameplay and decision making may improve as well.
Two weeks before the ban, Commander Clinic posted a deck tech on Golos Superfriends. You may read it here. Make sure you have read it as the strategies involved in Golos superfriends is not covered here. You will want an idea of what the original deck does so that you can understand what needs to be changed in order to make it work. This is true of any deck you are overhauling, especially if there is a commander change. Know what your deck is so that when you know what it wants to become you can make the correct changes at the macro and micro level.
If you had a rule zero talk with your playgroup and they still allow Golos then feel free to play it and reap the rewards. It is very fun to play and I love the decision tree in a randomized Golos ability strategy. It is enjoyable puzzling out the best route to victory once the cards come off the top. If you are the one of many playgroups who will not allow Golos, then we want to rebuild this deck into something legal that provides a five color superfriends option. It is not as simple as subbing in another commander. We can rebuild it… better, faster, stronger.
Depending what your now defunct Golos Deck wants to do there are several different commanders you can choose. Some like Kenrith, The Returned King. He is generic and easy to cast. Kenrith provides plenty of options depending how much extra mana you have. He provides generic value which is similar to Golos. Others may want Jodah, Archmage Eternal. He provides a mana discount to big mana decks and as long as you can think in terms of WUBRG you can always play your cards despite whether or not you can play the mana cost in the upper right of the card. Jegantha, the Wellspring can help with this and if you have some untap mischievousness in your deck you can do it multiple times. But Superfriends wants a different commander than these.
What was attractive about Golos was that he fixed your mana. With a solid build around he provided excellent value. You didn’t care what you played as long as you played enough cards that you exceeded the mana value you spent to activate the ability. The randomness made each game different and there was a challenge as to how to make the cards you exiled work for you.
No five color commander will fix your mana like Golos although Jodah can come close. Instead we will focus on a shell that will provide a value engine. That shell contains enough randomness to make each game different. This should keep the excitement and mystery alive so that we can puzzle out the correct combination of cards to try and win the game. The commander we can use to achieve this is Esika, God of the Tree. Or more correctly it’s backside, The Prismatic Bridge.
The Difference Between Golos and Prismatic Bridge
The biggest difference between these two cards is the ability to whiff. With Golos many decks could manipulate the top of the deck to assure there was winning value coming off of the top of the deck. When Commander Clinic built Golos we purposefully did not build this strategy into the deck. Instead we opted adding additional planeswalkers and creatures to make the deck run. We did include strong cards in the infrastructure of the deck like Sylvan Library that could help us manipulate the top, but we did not dedicate cards to it. This meant we could effectively exile several lands or cards that did not further our strategy.
In the Prismatic Bridge this is not an option. Its ability will continue revealing cards until you reveal a creature or planeswalker. You will always get something off of the trigger. If we are careful about our build we can avoid some situational cards that don’t do much and avoid the “feel bad” scenario of pulling a lesser card off the top. This means the Prismatic Bridge has a higher floor than Golos.
The Prismatic Bridge also has a lower ceiling. With Golos you could sometimes hit the lottery with exiling three awesome cards. You could then cast them in whatever order you would like. In fact, if you could activate Golos multiple times then you could have six or nine cards to choose from and then cast them. The limit was the mana you could generate.
The Prismatic Bridge has a much lower ceiling. Because it is a triggered ability and not an activated ability. It will normally trigger only once a turn (more about breaking this later). It will only ever put one card from your deck onto the battlefield. At best you will put the exact card needed onto the battlefield and always a creature or planeswalker. If you need an artifact you’re sunk. There will be times you may really need that instant or sorcery. Sorry, Prismatic Bridge will not be able to provide it for you either.
Play versus Put
The final difference you need to recognize is that with Golos you played the card. You could put lands onto the battlefield for it but more importantly Golos gave you cast triggers at a discount. This allowed your Zacama untap ability or a Kozilek draw four cards to resolve. In deckbuilding you did not have to be mindful of the cast trigger. The deck builder was more concerned about the power of the card because all enter the battlefield (ETB) AND cast triggers occur.
Prismatic Bridge will not do that. Prismatic Bridge lets you put that card onto the battlefield. Any card like Beast Whisperer is limited in this deck. They are a nonbo to the value your commander provides. Only the most extreme ability is worth the risk of pulling them off the top of your deck.
The major advantage to a put ability is that this card is immune to counterspells. They can only Stifle the ability. Your opponents can’t wait to see what it revealed in order to respond to it either. They must act right away. There are few Stifle effects and you commander triggers multiple times throughout the game. Odds are your opponents will not be able to stop them all. While different from cast, it does protect what is coming out onto the battlefield.
The Surgical Cuts
Now that we understand the difference between the two commanders we can begin to surgically cut and replace cards that were beneficial to Golos and add in the Bionics that will make The Prismatic Bridge run faster than it would if we only replaced commanders. The Golos deck was short on ETB triggers while running blink cards. The deck was more than satisfied with blinking Golos primarily and ramping into Cabal Coffers and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. We will want to remove the entire blink package. There is more than just Blink we want to remove.
Most of the other cards we need to look at a case by case basis if it should remain. Nyxbloom Ancient, while it generates a lot of mana, is more of a feel bad support if we hit it off of our Prismatic Bridge trigger. It will help us generate mana but not fix it. In this deck it is a win more card. It could pull us out of parity or from behind although it costs precious time. For this deck, it should be cut.
Our mana will be used to cast spells instead of activating Golos. This means mana costs of what we play are critically important. We are not as concerned about what pips are on the cards as we are how many pips are on the cards. Our focus will be on instants, sorceries and artifacts as these are the cards we can not play from the Planar Bridge. If these cards are cheaper, then it will allow us to play more of them from our hand and chain into more explosive turns. For this reason we will replace Austere Command with another versatile removal card that costs less mana. We will surgically cut away more fat to make the deck better, stronger, faster.
Even More Cuts!
Narset, Parter of Veils and Ashiok Dream Render are low mana cost and provide some protection and are solid plays in a Golos build. In Prismatic Bridge they have the same value although limiting our opponents and slowing them down is less effective than the ability to jackrabbit run this deck to an insane board state. We devote more resources to jackrabbiting to ensure it will happen. That means cards like these need to be sacrificed for the explosiveness of our deck. We want cards to get us to an explosive board state rather than hinder our opponents. Before, Golos was our explosion. Now we have to generate it in other ways.
Our additional creature suite should change too. Zacama, as mentioned above, provides less bang as we do not cast it if it comes off of the Prismatic Bridge. This is too risky so we will cut it. Dockside Extortionist is a one time ramp spell without the blink package so while good in many decks it is not optimal in this version of superfriends. Temur Sabertooth synergized well with both of these cards. Despite some board protection we can find a better card for this card slot. Finally Avenger of Zendikar stalls the board. If you can not blink it, then often the plants are used as defenders. There are more explosive cards and we should cut Avenger too. Now it is time to add the cards that will make this deck better, stronger, faster.
Adding the Bionics, Better Stronger, Faster
The biggest deficiency in switching from Golos to Esika is fixing your mana. The Prismatic Bridge will give us a free card, but we will still need WUBRG to cast it and we will want to play it as fast as possible. For this reason we will want to increase our mana ramp and fixing package to about 15 cards instead of 10. The World Tree was critical in our last deck. It’ll be so again in this deck. We will include cards to round out the ramp package that will search our library for any land. Also we will make sure we keep Dryad of the Ilysian Grove in the deck as a backup to the World Tree. It still feels a little bad to pull the Dryad off of the prismatic trigger, but it’s redundancy that is absolutely critical.
Next the deck wants to create explosive value off of The Prismatic Bridge. Unlike Golos, we will be casting cards from our hand. We will be paying market price for these cards. That price will allow us to stay even with the rest of the table. It will be the Prismatic Bridge that will allow us to pull away in value for us to win the game.
For this reason we will find ways to create multiple Prismatic Bridge triggers in a turn. Multiple triggers means additional value and an exploding board state. If left by itself The Prismatic Bridge can plod along at a card per turn. That is no good! We will help speed it up a bit. There are two ways to do this. The first way to quicken it is to add additional upkeeps with Paradox Haze and Sphinx of the Second Sun. The second is to copy triggered abilities with Strionic Resonator and Lithoform Engine.
Even More Speed
Just four cards is limiting, but there are things we can do to make our triggers better, stronger, faster, but we still maintain the randomness off the top. Tezzeret the Seeker will let us go get our engines and resonators. Defense of the Heart will let us pull Sphinx of the Second Sun from our deck and Avacyn, Angel of Hope to protect it. This Defense of the Heart trigger is also sixteen mana for a four mana investment and is explosive in and of itself.
We can add additional value by copying creatures and artifacts. Clever Impersonator can copy anything that is not legendary. This makes Sphinx of the Second Sun, Strionic Resonator and Paradox Haze all legitimate targets. Helm of the Host while in the deck already can copy Sphinx of the Second Sun. Lithoform Engine can copy the Strionic Resonator while it is on the stack. While it costs mana to do it, six mana to add three additional Prismatic Bridge triggers is a great value. Finally, whether it’s kicked or not, Rite of Replication can create multiple copies of Sphinx of the Second Sun.
When building this deck we did not lose sight that we want this deck to be explosive. We don’t want incremental value. An extra card a turn is good but it’s not enough. We want a critical mass of material that will make it difficult for our opponents to come back from. For this reason, our final selections will help create those explosive plays.
Yidris, Maelstrom Wanderer is most certainly a pet card in this deck. The deck needs creatures and he adds to that total. He ramps up the deck because when he connects with an opponent all your spells gain cascade until the end of the turn. Just like with Prismatic Bridge, cascade will be an automatic spell played. Unlike the Bridge it can be any type of card. It’s not our main strategy so any additional value is welcomed.
The danger with Yidris is that you will hold him back because he is a value engine in and of himself. With no good attacks he can sit on the field providing you no value at all. Yidris does have trample so as long as you can connect for one damage his ability will trigger. Even if you lose him in the attack the cascade triggers are often worth sending him to his death. If you can keep him on the table, then even better.
The other new card is Tamiyo, FIeld Researcher. Normally it would take four turns to ultimate a planeswalker like Tamiyo. The good news is that superfriends decks often have ways to manipulate planeswalkers’ loyalty. The clock is a lot faster than the four turns it suggests. Some proliferate abilities might cause Tamiyo to use its ultimate ability a turn or two sooner. However, the math shows if you can double her loyalty counters when she comes out, then you can ultimate her right away. That ultimate ability is draw three cards and play free spells for the rest of the game.
Sewing up the Odds and Ends
There are a few cards that are odds and ends switches to round out this deck. Assassin’s Trophy replaces Austere command. It does not board wipe but a two mana instant speed removal is a welcome addition. It will allow us to cast spells and leave a little mana up to handle unforeseen problems.
Avacyn, Angel of Hope was touched upon earlier. Our creatures need protection too because they are chosen for their utility. Often we won’t be attacking with them as we are not an aggro deck. Making our creatures immune to destruction via board wipe is welcome in this deck. Being able to block attackers and not having to worry about losing a critical piece is a bonus.
Finally, Sorin, Grim Nemesis was added for offensive and defensive reasons. The ability to draw cards and deal direct damage is a solid inclusion helping to keep the pressure on the board. If you can double his loyalty counters, then you can flood your board with vampires. When able, you will want to immediately swing with them. Any damage to your opponents is purely incidental. The value is in the lifelink the vampires have. Planeswalker decks often are short on life as they tend ot be the archenemy. A well needed life-burst will help keep you alive when you shouldn’t be. Just like in poker all you need is a chip and a card to have a chance to win. Sorin provides just that.
Those of us who had Golos decks lament losing him to the ban hammer. However, there are plenty of other five color commander options that we can adapt our decks into, not just superfriends decks. You can use this article as a template on how to adjust your decks to life without Golos and make them better, stronger, faster.
Feel free to use and adapt this build. I broke it out live for the first time last night in a three player pod. I was concerned about the tempo of the deck as three player pods have a different ebb and flow than the standard four player ones. The deck held its own and was a turn away from winning when the table was eliminated. Post game both of my opponents admitted that they were scared of the deck and its capabilities as it played out. That is a great sign for an early assessment on a rebuild. You can find the new Esika superfriends decklist here and the cards swapped here. Both are on Archidekt. Leave a comment about any cards that you would have added instead. As always you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.