This week, we’re upgrading my Alesha, Who Smiles at Death Commander deck from a pile of junk to the beginnings of an actual deck.
Last time we left off, my Alesha deck looked like this. It was a mish-mash of random cards I owned, some of which synergized with Alesha and some of which didn’t. It was a bit of a mess, but it was a start. And, most importantly, it was fun to play.
In part 1, I talked about which pieces of the current deck I liked, which I didn’t, and what I was looking to improve in the future. In this part, I’m going to talk through my first round of updates.
(Full disclosure: It’s been a while since the first part of this series, and I’ve actually updated this deck twice now, once with a budget of about $10, and once with a budget of about $20. The great thing about Alesha is that most of the cards she wants are cheap, because almost no other deck wants them. We’re only going to get about a third of the way to my current decklist today, but we’ll catch up to the present within the next few weeks.)
Round 1 Updates
- Cathars’ Crusade
- Duergar Hedge-Mage
- Fell the Mighty
- Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
- Banisher Priest
- Viscera Seer
- Manic Vandal
- Bloodthrone Vampire
- Flameshadow Conjuring
- Mirror Entity
- Bone Shredder
- Murderous Redcap
- Faceless Butcher
- Karmic Guide
- Buried Alive
Why These Additions?
For this first round of updates, I set myself a budget of about $10. I didn’t want the deck’s power level to change too drastically, but I wanted to make enough improvements that they’d be noticeable when playing the deck.
With my budget in mind, I decided to focus on two upgrade areas:
- Adding in more powerful “enters the battlefield” creatures for Alesha to reanimate.
- Adding in the Anafenza/Murderous Redcap combo to see if it would be too consistent.
To that end, I added a bunch of creatures that kill stuff (Hedge-Mage, Nekrataal, Banisher Priest, Manic Vandal, Sting Scourger, Bone Shredder, Faceless Butcher), and I added the pieces for the combo (Cathars’ Crusade, Anafenza, Viscera Seer, Bloodthrone Vampire, Murderous Redcap, Buried Alive).
I also added a few powerful cards that I just liked and happened to fit into my budget (Fell the Mighty, Flameshadow Conjuring, Mirror Entity, Karmic Guide).
- Corpse Hauler
- Dazzling Ramparts
- Disciple of Phenax
- Drana’s Emissary
- Ghirapur Gearcrafter
- Goblin Shortcutter
- Herald of Anafenza
- Jeskai Barricade
- Mardu Skullhunter
- Vizkopa Confessor
- Angelic Gift
- Banishing Light
- Oblivion Ring
- Ashes to Ashes
- Day of Judgment
- Mardu Charm
- Nantuko Husk
Why These Cuts?
I started by cutting cards that didn’t have enough effect on games. This meant the discard creatures (Disciple of Phenax, Mardu Skullhunter, Vizkopa Confessor), the creatures that didn’t actually synergize well with the deck (Herald of Anafenza, Drana’s Emissary), and stuff that just didn’t do enough for its mana cost (Ghirapur Gearcrafter).
I also cut a lot of removal (Banishing Light, Oblivion Ring, Ashes to Ashes, Day of Judgment). Those cards are, of course, very good, but they’re being replaced one-for-one by some of the new cards listed above (Banisher Priest and co., Fell the Mighty).
Finally, Nantuko Husk ended up hitting the chopping block to be replaced by Bloodthrone Vampire. The vampire is basically the same creature for our purposes, but a mana cheaper. It’s a tough world out there for a husk.
How Did the Updates Pan Out?
Pretty well, actually. The new removal creatures have done their job admirably. It’s been much more fun to play them, and be able to reanimate them, than to just slap down an Oblivion Ring that doesn’t otherwise interact with the deck’s themes.
Of the suite of removal creatures, the most problematic has been Duergar Hedge-Mage. It’s tough to turn his effect on consistently in a three-color deck that can’t reliably find multiple Mountains or Plains. The card is really good when it’s fully on, but it’s also been a dud at times.
I haven’t gotten to assemble the Anafenza/Redcap combo yet, which means the combo definitely isn’t consistent. That’s good, as I wasn’t aiming for it to be.
On a related note, in online testing I did manage to stick Redcap, plus sacrifice outlet, plus Archetype of Finality, and that combo was pretty sick. I was able to railgun my opponents’ creatures off the board, and I was really excited to put that combo into my deck.
Imagine my surprise when I forgot to order an Archetype of Finality for this round of updates. The Archetype was also supposed to replace the couple of “evasion” effects I cut in this round, so its absence was sorely missed.
What’s Still Missing?
One of the areas I said I wanted to focus on in part 1 was acquiring more token makers, since they synergize so well with both Anafenza herself and my sacrifice creatures. I didn’t actually add any of those in this round, so they’ll be a high priority in the next round.
The other big area that needs an upgrade is the manabase. We’re fast becoming a deck that wants to cast multiple different color spells on time, and the current manabase might not be sufficient. Cheap upgrades, such as Ravnica bouncelands, Temples, and Painlands, can probably get us where we need to be. It’s slightly painful to still be playing Spectral Searchlight and Meteorite at this point.
Once those areas are taken care of, we’ll be adding in more sacrifice/discard outlets, more “enters the battlefield” creatures, and just generally tightening the deck around its theme. This round of updates started the deck on its way there, but it’s still awkward to draw something like a Gild or a Silence the Believers when you know it could be a synergstic creature instead. Those are good cards, obviously, but not really what we want here.
The Deck As It Stands
Here’s the decklist as of this first update. Feel free to let me know what you think of the updates, as well as what cards should get in on the next (well, the next next) round!
I’ll be back in a week with the first report on how the recently built Riku deck is performing, and in two weeks with the next installment of this series.