Commander: Sharuum Control (Competitive 1vs1)
Few months ago, I went to my local store in Barcelona and some of my friends started talking about this new format called Commander, and that they wanted to try it out. I knew about the existance of EDH (Elder Dragon Highlander) but, honestly, it never caught my attention. Everybody was talking marvellous things about Commander, the format where you could play with those old-school staples that were hidden in you dusty shoe boxes.
The dusty commons, uncommons and rares turned out to be a fun but losing machine. My friends and I tend to play for ante in every single format, so it took me few games (and bucks) to go from casual playing to designing a unbeatable deck for 1vs1. So, what does it take to build a tier deck in commander?
The following article (which is free by the way) will try to cover my personal approach to competitive 1vs1 Commander based on the general Sharuum the Hegemon. This 99+1 card deck is designed to win games, and for that you need acceleration, protection, creatures, broken spells, removals, etc… but also, you need a well designed mana base.
The main reason why I chose Sharuum as my general was basically because its natural sex-appeal (is it a he or a she?), and then because it allowed me to play the colors that I own most cards: UBW. Regardless of the two previous reasons, Sharuum the Hegemon is a great general as it provides card advantage at any given state of the game (unless you are dumb or in need of a 5/5 chump blocker).
I also liked the idea that you could do some sick infinite combos with Sharuum when combined with cards like Phyrexian Metamorph or Sculpting Steel. The recent new Super Legend rule released by WotC makes Sharuum unable to go infinite but, I don’t care much about it as in my local store we have our own rules, banning list, etc… so we play what we feel is most fair. I tried to use the infinite Sharuum loop to kill via Disciple of the Vault, Bitter Ordeal, Arcbound Crusher or Glassdust Hulk (to name some). Being Bitter Ordeal the one I liked the most (because it’s easier to tutor). I will cover this part of the deck later on.
First of all, let me show you the banning list we use, this way you’ll understand some card choices or missing ones:
(Keep in mind that we play to 30 lives)
[cardlist]Amulet of Quoz
Contract from Below
Crucible of Worlds
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
Library of Alexandria
Lion’s Eye Diamond
Sensei’s Divining Top
Staff of Domination
Survival of the Fittest
Sway of the Stars
[cardlist]Braids, Cabal Minion
Erayo, Soratami Ascendant
Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
My first approaches to the Sharuum deck were all based on the decklists that I found at MTG Commander. I tested most of the versions but I fastly understood that none of those were actually designed to consistently win games.
- Artos: “Mystery of the Sphinx” – Artifact control
- B1ind Fremen: Artifact Control, compilation thread
- BVictor: Artifact Shenanigans
- Cervid: Artifact Recursion/Control
- Courtland: Artifact Control
- Doraemon: Artifact Beatdown
- Dragon136913: Artifact Control
- Khymera: 1v1 Combo
- madmanquail: Artifact Shenanigans
- Misago: Non-Combo Control
- rockbard: “Metal Gods” – Archenemy deck
- superhiro: Sharuum’s Thopter Foundry
- trevor: Basic Sharuum
- trigunner: Artifact Control
- yawg07: Most Raw Power in EDH
Most of these decks based their strategies on putting big artifact fatties into play. Master Transmuter + Lightning Greaves proved to be an essential combo in this type of deck. Cheating creatures (like Ethersworn Adjudicator, Filigree Angel, Memnarch, Magister Sphinx, etc…) into play with Master Transmuter or recurring a Sphinx Summoner to tutor up any creature in the deck was a fun line of play but, honestly, it was weak.
Another line of play you could go for with all these decks was to fill in your graveyard with artifacts via spells like Thirst for Knowledge, Careful Study, Fact or Fiction, Careful Consideration, etc… and then recur them back into play with Sharuum the Hegemon. This strategy is a lot more consistant but is a lot more mana intense. You need to be able to cast Sharuum several times to created some heavy advantage. My most common play when playing this type of deck would be to Entomb Magister Sphinx, bring it back with Sharuum, attack next turn and win.
So I soon dropped that line of play and focused more on the combo part of the deck, aka “I WIN NOW BUTTON”. There’s multiple combos around Sharuum to win the game. I tested some (not all), but basically what you need is:
The combo works the following way: You copy your own Sharuum with either the Metamorph or the Sculpting. The comes into play trigger goes on the stack and then both Sharuum and the copycut die because of the Legend Rule. With the trigger of the copied Sharuum get Sharuum back into play, a new trigger goes to the stack. The Sharuum trigger brings back Metemorph or Sculpting into play, with a new trigger to the stack, a new legend rule applies and repeat ad infinitum.
If you had Disciple of the Vault or Glassdust Hulk into play you gonna either make infinite damage or create an ∞/∞ creature. If you had Bitter Ordeal in hand, cast it and remove all his deck thanks to the Gravestorm hability.
BONUS FOR ARTISTIC IMPRESSION:
Add a Bridge from Below to your graveyard to create ∞ zombies! That way you can always bring up to life that collection of zombie tokens you have.
THE NEW SUPER LEGEND RULE:
Fuck it. Don’t use it!
THE CURRENT VERSION
Both aggro versions and combo versions of the deck were quite fun to play, but as stated before, they weren’t winning enough games in my local metagame. I had to focus a little bit more on the control part of the deck in order to combat the most played generals around: Godo, Bandid War Lord, Isamaru, Hound of Konda, Gran Arbiter Augustin or Oona, Queen of the Fae, Glissa, the traitor.
I added more counterspells, more mass-removal, spot-removal, less creatures, and more tutors to finally come up with the ultimate Sharuum list:
Sharuum Control for Competitive Commander 1vs1
[cardlist]1 Sharuum the Hegemon[/cardlist]
1 Seat of the Synod
1 Ancient Den
1 Vault of Whispers
1 Underground Sea
1 Watery Grave
1 Godless Shrine
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Underground River
1 Caves of Koilos
1 Adarkar Wastes
1 Sunken Ruins
1 Fetid Heath
1 Mystic Gate
1 Drowned Catacomb
1 Glacial Fortress
1 Darkslick Shores
1 Seachrome Coast
1 Arcane Sanctum
1 Command Tower
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Polluted Delta
1 Flooded Strand
1 Bloodstained Mire
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Ancient Tomb
1 Mishra’s Workshop
1 Tolaria West
1 Maze of Ith[/cardlist]
Mana Accelerants: (13)
[cardlist]1 Everflowing Chalice
1 Talisman of Progress
1 Talisman of Dominance
1 Azorius Signet
1 Dimir Signet
1 Mind Stone
1 Grim Monolith
1 Coalition Relic
1 Darksteel Ingot
1 Obelisk of Esper
1 Basalt Monolith
1 Thran Dynamo
1 Gilded Lotus[/cardlist]
[cardlist]1 Stoneforge Mystic
1 Trinket Mage
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
1 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Consacrated Sphinx
1 Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur[/cardlist]
[cardlist]1 Tezzeret the Seeker
1 Gideon Jura
1 Karn Liberated[/cardlist]
Artifact Toolbox: (7)
[cardlist]1 Expedition Map
1 Pithing Needle
1 Sword of the Meek
1 Thopter Foundry
1 Sculpting Steel
Enchantment Toolbox: (5)
[cardlist]1 Power Artifact
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Aura of Silence
[cardlist]1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Imperial Seal
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Enlightened Tutor
1 Demonic Tutor[/cardlist]
Mass Creature Removal: (4)
[cardlist]1 Wrath of God
1 Day of Judgment
1 Austere Command[/cardlist]
Spot Removal: (4)
[cardlist]1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Path to Exile
[cardlist]1 Fact or Fiction
1 Stroke of Genius
1 Blue Sun’s Zenith[/cardlist]
Counter Magic: (9)
[cardlist]1 Mana Drain
1 Spell Crumple
1 Faery Trickery
[cardlist]1 Bitter Ordeal[/cardlist]
I’ve created a little video showing how the deck looks like (and because I wanted to put Holy Ghost in the soundtrack!). Soon to come videos of the deck in action, so stay tuned for more!
THE GAME PLAN
Unless you are playing against extremely aggressive decks such as Isamaru, hound of Konda or Ezuri, Renegade Leader, in which case you should always mulligan to have at least 1 spot or mass removal in your opening hand, the main plan for the early game should be to develop our mana base the best you can to reach the mid game with guarantees that you can cast your own bombs and protect them.
I always recommend not keeping oppening hands that can’t produce less than 4 mana in the early game unless you can produce 3 mana but have some counterspells to hold the enemy horses.
Competitive Commander is all about speed and broken spells. Most decks will always try to do the same: Accelerate and then cast a broken spell, such the commander. For example: A turn 3 or 4 Godo, Bandid War Lord that fetches for Sword of Fire and ice could easily be good game if you don’t have a spot removal or a counterspell in your opening.
Key cards in the early game (besides of regular lands):
- Mishra’s Workshop / Ancient Tomb
- Maze of Ith
- Mindstone / Grim Monolith / Talisman of Progress / Talisman of Dominance / Everflowing Chalice
- Swords to Plowshares / Condemn (You don’t want to Path to exile early in the game)
- Counterspell / Mana Drain
In the Mid game you need to start building up your way to victory. Tutor for the key cards that will balance the game to your side. A Demonic Tutor for Moat, that you’ll be able to protect turns later from the enemy anti enchantment, is an excellent move against aggro decks. Against control, you should probably try getting some mini advantages with the drawing spells or by playing Sharuum to bring back a dead Solemn Simulacrum or Expedition Capsule.
At this point of the game you should be able to produce 6 to 8 mana and you should have a clean board on the enemy side.
Key cards in the mid game:
- Demonic Tutor / Vampiric Tutor / Imperial Seal / Enlightened Tutor / Mystical Tutor
- Wrath of God / Damnation / Day of Judgement
- Solemn Simulacrum / Trinket Mage / Stoneforge Mystic
- Gideon Jura
- Sharuum the Hegemon
- Fact or Fiction
Let the show begin! If you’ve reached the late game in a good position and with a healthy amount of lives, now is the time you start being broken. How about an EOT Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur? Don’t be afraid to tutor Jin up! If you resolve and manage to defend it’s gonna be insta win.
At this point of the game, most of the times your opponents will concede due to the huge advantage the deck can generate.
Key cards in the late game:
- Consacrated Sphinx / Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur
- Phyrexian Metamorph / Sculpting Steel / Bitter Ordeal
- Braingeyser / Stroke of Genius / Blue Sun’s Zenith
- Power Artifact
- Karn liberated / Tezzeret the Seeker
While the final version lost a little bit of the raw power that Sharuum can provide while combined with artifacts, it gained a lot of consistency in the 1vs1 matches against any given Commander deck. In the history of Magic, control decks were designed to defeat the rest of the decks by killing the enemy creatures and cutting the rest of the spells with your counter magic. Commander is a creature based format, meaning that control decks such as Sharum Control or Augustin will keep winning as long as they are well designed.
I really hope you liked the article! Feel free to leave comments regarding the decklist, possible additions (but keep in mind that I’ve test shitload of cards already, so you better bring solid arguments :P) and suggestions about future commander articles.