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Building a Tiamat Themed Commander Deck

27 Jul , 2021,
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Tiamat is a being that is practically synonymous with Dungeons & Dragons. She is the ancient progenitor of the chromatic flights (making her the bona fide mother of dragons), and a deity who commands vast power in the Forgotten Realms. The Church of Tiamat is one of the established faiths in Faerun, and her followers in the Cult of the Dragon are nefarious plotters ever striving to further her dark agenda.

Since Tiamat is the subject for this week’s deckbuilding column, we decided that we had to do things a little different. Rather than simply picking thematically appropriate cards, we’ll be taking this a step further by trying to stick as closely to the events of the Rise of Tiamat hardcover adventure as possible (though some creative liberties must be taken), without busting our budget. If you’re currently playing this adventure, or intend to play it in the future, be warned! There may be spoilers!

At it’s core, this deck is a dragon tribal. In addition to several cards from the latest D&D Adventures in the Forgotten Realms set and Draconic Rage Commander Deck, we’ll be busting out pieces from the Tarkir sets – which had some of the most flavorful, dragon-themed cards ever printed.

Like our Xanathar and Volo lists, we tried to use a pool of cards that D&D fans thinking to get their feet wet might be able to find. The upgrades section expands on this pool, with more power cards from older sets.

Her Draconic Majesty (1)
1x Tiamat

Tiamat tutors for five Dragon cards with different names whenever you cast her. This also means that every time you summon her from her prison lair in Avernus (i.e. the Command Zone), you get to fill your hand with lots of new threats.

Sure, she doesn’t have all the powers of her CR 30 form, but she’s no slouch in the power and toughness department. Her 7/7 body allows her to overwhelm most creatures native to the Forgotten Realms, and she can definitely swing to win if you need to push damage.

The Flights/Dragon Creatures (25)
1x Adult Gold Dragon
1x Amareth, the Lustrous
1x Atarka, World Render
1x Bladewing the Risen
1x Darigaaz Reincarnated
1x Dromoka, the Eternal
1x Green Dragon
1x Hellkite Charger
1x Hellkite Courser
1x Immersturm Predator
1x Intet, the Dreamer
1x Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund
1x Kolaghan, the Storm’s Fury
1x Lathliss, Dragon Queen
1x Mana-Charged Dragon
1x Prossh, Skyraider of Kher
1x Ryusei, the Falling Star
1x Savage Ventmaw
1x Scion of Draco
1x Scion of the Ur-Dragon
1x Scourge of Valkas
1x Silumgar, the Drifting Death
1x Teneb, the Harvester
1x Thunderbreak Regent
1x White Dragon

In Rise of Tiamat, there are dragons. Lots of them. The characters contend with several throughout the course of the hardcover, and even dragons from the metallic flights (the goodly dragons who are children of big brother Bahamut, with whom Tiamat has some serious sibling rivalry issues) eventually join in the fray.

Since Tiamat is all five colors, we settled on dragons that are impactful, regardless of their color identity. There was only one caveat – they had to be depicted in the art as one of the five colors of Tiamat’s children.

The Adult Gold Dragon, Amareth, the Lustrous and Scion of the Ur-Dragon may aid heroes hoping to thwart Tiamat’s plans, but even they can be cowed by her presence and pressed into service.

Dragon Cultists/Non-Dragon Creatures (5)
1x Dragonlord’s Servant
1x Dragonmaster Outcast
1x Dragonspeaker Shaman
1x Realmwalker
1x Vizier of the Menagerie

The characters are in a race against time to prevent the Cult of the Dragon from summoning Tiamat. Combined with the relics and powerful treasures (read Artifacts) they have amassed, these cultists accelerate the approach of Tiamat or one of her numerous children.

Wearer of the Purple/Planeswalkers (3)
1x Sarkhan Unbroken
1x Sarkhan the Masterless
1x Sarkhan, Fireblood

In Magic: The Gathering lore, the Tarkir planeswalker Sarkhan Vol is a bit of a dragon otaku, which makes him the perfect candidate for leadership in the Cult of the Dragon. All his loyalty abilities either help you ramp into casting a dragon spell, produce dragon tokens, or get you dragons faster, which suits Tiamat’s purpose just fine.

Now, all he needs to do is to change his name to Severin Silrajin, and he’d fit right in!

Tiamat’s Tribute/Artifacts (9)
1x Arcane Signet
1x Commander’s Sphere
1x Dragon’s Hoard
1x Fellwar Stone
1x Gruul Signet
1x Herald’s Horn
1x Icon of Ancestry
1x Orb of Dragonkind
1x Sol Ring

The adventure begins at the sound of the Draakhorn, a gift from Tiamat to her allies during the war between dragons and giants in ages past. In the absence of such a mighty relic, the Herald’s Horn serves in its stead. This set also introduces the Orb of Dragonkind, long a part of D&D lore, which serves to filter mana in the early game, and can be used to find a helpful dragon.

Amassing a veritable Dragon’s Hoard to please the Dragon Queen is all part of the Cult’s plans, and it’s entirely plausible that this stash of treasure includes baubles like the Arcane Signet and Sol Ring.

The Icon of Ancestry can be helpful as a mini anthem that also lets you sink excess mana to dig three deep.

Draconic Magic/Instants & Sorceries (17)
1x Banefire
1x Beast Within
1x Crux of Fate
1x Cultivate
1x Descent of the Dragons
1x Draconic Intervention
1x Dragon’s Fire
1x Earthquake
1x Farseek
1x Klauth’s Will
1x Kodama’s Reach
1x Migration Path
1x Patriarch’s Bidding
1x Red Elemental Blast
1x Return of the Wildspeaker
1x Sarkhan’s Triumph
1x Spit Flame

The ramp spells here reflect how quickly the Cult of the Dragon swept across the Sword Coast, and how, during the events of Rise of Tiamat, they’re still gaining ground. Instants and sorceries like Crux of Fate, Draconic Intervention, and Klauth’s Will can sweep away pesky adventurers, while an Earthquake (which wrecks the location in the final scene) can also lay opponents low.

Banefire is a plausible late game mana sink, Descent of the Dragons can potentially cement Tiamat’s victory under the right conditions, and assuming you have enough dragons in the graveyard, Patriarch’s Bidding (surely the work of Szass Tam of the Red Wizards) can bring them all back at once, potentially resulting in a quick and sudden win.

Setting the Scene/Enchantments (6)
1 Dragon Tempest
1 Frontier Siege
1 Garruk’s Uprising
1 Palace Siege
1 Sarkhan’s Unsealing
1 Temur Ascendancy

Dragon Tempest is a haste enabler that also makes every dragon (including tokens) entering the battlefield ping for damage, as does Sarkhan’s Unsealing. Sarkhan’s Unsealing turns those dragons into a burn that can go face, and every cast of Tiamat into a guaranteed board sweeper.

Frontier Siege and Palace Siege are included for their flexibility (and not just because they’re reminiscent of some parts of the adventure), while Garruk’s Uprising and Temur Ascendancy reward you for going big with card draw.

Cult Territory/Lands (34)
1x Command Tower
1x Evolving Wilds
1x Exotic Orchard
1x Frontier Bivouac
1x Haven of the Spirit Dragon
1x Jungle Shrine
1x Path of Ancestry
1x Savage Lands
6x Snow-Covered Forest
2x Snow-Covered Island
3x Snow-Covered Mountain
2x Snow-Covered Plains
3x Snow-Covered Swamp
1x Temple of the Dragon Queen
1x Temple of the False God
1x Terramorphic Expanse
1x The World Tree
1x Thriving Bluff
1x Thriving Grove
1x Thriving Heath
1x Thriving Isle
1x Thriving Moor
1x Unclaimed Territory

Temple of the Dragon Queen is a flavorful auto-include in this deck, while Path of Ancestry and Unclaimed Territory can help with generating colored mana for your dragon spells. Haven of the Spirit Dragon has some handy utility, and The World Tree can further fix any mana issues. Though the Thriving lands (such as Thriving Isle) come into play tapped, their usefulness cannot be underestimated.

For Cult Sponsors (Deck Upgrades)
1x Cavern of Souls
1x Chromatic Lantern
1x Descendants’ Path
1x Dragonlord Dromoka
1x Dragonlord Kolaghan
1x Dragonlord Ojutai
1x Dragonlord Silumgar
1x Ebondeath, Dracolich
1x Esika, God of the Tree // The Prismatic Bridge
1x Fabled Passage
1x Fist of Suns
1x Goldspan Dragon
1x Haunting Voyage
1x Hellkite Tyrant
1x Heroic Intervention
1x Ignoble Hierarch
1x Indatha Triome
1x Iymrith, Desert Doom
1x Ketria Triome
1x Klauth, Unrivaled Ancient
1x Morophon, the Boundless
1x Old Gnawbone
1x Ramos, Dragon Engine
1x Reflections of Littjara
1x Rhythm of the Wild
1x Scalelord Reckoner
1x Skyline Despot
1x Smothering Tithe
1x Steely Resolve
1x Terror of the Peaks
1x Urza’s Incubator
1x Utvara Hellkite
1x Vanquisher’s Banner
1x Vivien, Champion of the Wilds
1x Zagoth Triome

Unsurprisingly, enhancing the deck means getting your hands on nastier dragons that can synergize with the deck (and some would be cultists that can support them).

Fist of Suns and Morophon are one way to make Tiamat and her brood cost practically nothing, Cavern of Souls can help make your dragons uncounterable, and better real estate like the Triomes (or shocks and fetches) can beef up consistency where mana is concerned.

Descendant’s Path and The Prismatic Bridge can get more dragons on the table quickly, Reflections of Littjara lets you make additional dragons (some of which no doubt possess enter the battlefield effects), and Steely Resolve can keep those dragons protected.

And there you have it! We hope you enjoyed this deck idea as much as we did brewing it for you. If you decide to build this deck, be sure to let us know how you fare at the card table!

The Dungeons & Dragons Adventures in the Forgotten Realms set for Magic: The Gathering is currently available at your favorite local game store! If you’re a D&D fan who’s always wanted to get into spell slinging, you can snag some packs by checking out the link!

Building a Volothamp Geddarm themed Commander Deck

20 Jul , 2021,
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The famous (or in some cases, infamous) Volothamp Geddarm is a self-styled authority on all things Faerun, having traversed the face of Toril, survived edition-changing calamities, and braved all manner of danger (from the comfort of the back line, of course). With his name attached to half a dozen published D&D books and numerous cameos in various adventures and video games, he’s practically this sets other poster boy.

Since Volo’s incarnation in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms is aptly named after his Guide to Monsters, we’ll be drawing inspiration from the table of contents of this book, as well as Volo’s many colorful (and oft dubious) exploits to flavor the deck.

Like our Xanathar’s Guild themed deck, we decided to keep the initial card pool relatively accessible for D&D fans thinking of trying out Commander for the first time. The upgrades section expands on this pool, with more power cards from older sets.

The Man (1)
1x Volo, Guide to Monsters

While Volo’s ability to weave spells isn’t much to write home about, this self-styled gentleman explorer, collector of stories, and scribe’s penchant for telling tall and grandiose tales goes unmatched.

Many of these tales are written in his Guide, which is a bestiary with numerous unique monster stat blocks – likely why his ability emphasizes creature spells of different types – and it’s just as well that we’ve got plenty of creatures to choose from in Blue and Green. Effects when they enter the battlefield (ETB) notwithstanding, they’ll also provide lots of soft cover for Volo to hide behind.

Bestiary Contents/Creatures (40)
1x Acidic Slime
1x Amphin Mutineer
1x Artisan of Kozilek
1x Avenger of Zendikar
1x Beast Whisperer
1x Deadeye Navigator
1x Diluvian Primordial
1x Displacer Beast
1x End-Raze Forerunners
1x Gemrazer
1x Genesis
1x Hornet Queen
1x Ilysian Caryatid
1x Keiga, the Tide Star
1x Kiora’s Follower
1x Kodama of the East Tree
1x Lonis, Cryptozoologist
1x Man-o’-War
1x Maraleaf Pixie
1x Meteor Golem
1x Migratory Greathorn
1x Momir Vig, Simic Visionary
1x Mulldrifter
1x Murkfiend Liege
1x Mystic Snake
1x Peregrine Drake
1x Quandrix Cultivator
1x Rampaging Baloths
1x Reclamation Sage
1x Reef Worm
1x Runic Armasaur
1x Sakura-Tribe Elder
1x Sea-Dasher Octopus
1x Souvenir Snatcher
1x Temur Sabertooth
1x Terastodon
1x The Tarrasque
1x Wandering Archaic // Explore the Vastlands
1x Wood Elves
1x Yuan-Ti Malison

With Volo, you’re looking at good stuff from Blue and Green. Lots of them are Commander staples and combo pieces (think Deadeye Navigator, Mulldrifter, Peregrine Drake, and Temur Sabertooth), or those with enter the battlefield effects that can help your deck snowball on value.

With infinite mana (an easy enough feat in these colors), the D&D iconic Displacer Beast becomes a viable win-con, as you drain the life out of your opponents by dipping in and out of Lost Mine of Phandelver‘s Dark Pool.

Some picks are also included for the flavor (like the Tarrasque), or because they synergize incredibly well with Volo’s ability. Keiga, for example, will almost always help you steal an unprotected creature when it comes into play, since you sacrifice the token produced to the legend rule.

Magic Items/Artifacts (5)
1x Altar of Dementia
1x Arcane Signet
1x Sol Ring
1x Tamiyo’s Journal
1x Twinning Staff

Despite his purported fame and numerous book deals, Volo’s always running from one bar tab to the next or mooching off goodly adventurers. Still, with his knack for finding trouble and treasure in equal measure, we wouldn’t put it past the man to stumble on a couple of ensorcelled trinkets during his travels.

That Altar of Dementia (which works as a sac outlet, and as a win-con if you can make an infinite number of creatures) looks awfully like one of those nasty Yuan-ti ritual sites in Chult, and what better place to pen his copious amount of notes than within the pages of a journal of Kozakuran design? The Twinning Staff is reminiscent of an ancient Netherese relic, and any self-respecting mage would surely possess an Arcane Signet or two.

Volo’s Spells/Instants & Sorceries (12)
1x Beast Within
1x Creeping Renaissance
1x Cultivate
1x Decisive Denial
1x Fact or Fiction
1x Misdirection
1x Nature’s Claim
1x Rampant Growth
1x Saw It Coming
1x Search for Tomorrow
1x Snap
1x Whirlwind Denial

Some ramp spells are included to help speed Volo along on his wanderings, while Beast Within and Snap help get him out of tight spots. Some flavorful counter magic has been included to beef up his repertoire (even if at first glance they appear just as unreliable as he is).

Volo’s Exploits/Enchantments (5)
1x Beastmaster Ascension
1x Garruk’s Uprising
1x Kiora Bests the Sea God
1x Ongoing Investigation
1x Propaganda

Considering everything that Volo’s been embroiled in, it’s little wonder he’s got more than a few stories to tell. Ongoing Investigation can help take care of unwanted cards in your graveyard, and Propaganda can help buy you time while you make an unhurried getaway.

Partners-in-Crime/Planeswalkers (2)
1x Mordenkainen
1x Vivien, Champion of the Wilds

Mordenkainen’s inclusion here is because he’s also a writer. His namesake Tome of Foes is the other 5E bestiary for D&D, and we’re sure that given Volo’s penchant for getting on the bad side of every other NPC ever published, he’s likely to cross paths with this Oeridian archmage at some point. Vivien is included as a low costed flash enabler, and can help you dig in a pinch.

Oh, the places I’ve seen/Lands (35)
1x Blighted Woodland
1x Command Tower
1x Evolving Wilds
1x Exotic Orchard
12x Forest
1x Guildless Commons
13x Island
1x Mosswort Bridge
1x Myriad Landscape
1x Simic Growth Chamber
1x Temple of Mystery
1x Terramorphic Expanse

Guildless Commons or Simic Growth Chamber, paired with Kodama of the East Tree (see above), can pave the way for some serious landfall related shenanigans (one of them being an infinite number of 4/4 beast tokens using Rampaging Baloths). With some cheap fetches included, there are ample ways for you to thin the deck and to fix your mana too.

For Discerning Patrons (Deck Upgrades)
1x Craterhoof Behemoth
1x Doubling Season
1x Elemental Bond
1x Finale of Devastation
1x Guardian Project
1x Heroic Intervention
1x Instrument of the Bards
1x Keeper of Fables
1x Lifecrafter’s Bestiary
1x Lightning Greaves
1x Manglehorn
1x Panharmonicon
1x Phyrexian Metamorph
1x Prowling Serpopard
1x Sakashima of a Thousand Faces
1x Sawtusk Demolisher
1x Scute Swarm
1x Simic Signet
1x Spark Double
1x Tamiyo, Collector of Tales
1x Timeless Witness
1x Tireless Tracker
1x Tooth and Nail
1x Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath

The cards in this section are included as an option for players who want to enhance the deck. Many of these are direct upgrades or provide additional ways for the deck to synergize, such as Sakashima and Spark Double.

Panharmonicon lets you get additional triggers, and Uro deserves special mention here, since he is instant value, and can also help you exile unwanted cards in your graveyard if you recast him using the Escape mechanic.

Heroic Intervention is also on the list, simply because it’s in theme for Volo to get bailed out by DM fiat.

And there you have it! We hope you enjoyed this deck idea as much as we did brewing it for you. If you decide to build this deck, be sure to let us know how you fare at the card table!

We’re also doing a POLL for our next Commander article! Come vote for your choice of Commander on our Twitter (poll closes 23rd July, launch day), and we’ll build that deck for our column on the 27th!

The Dungeons & Dragons Adventures in the Forgotten Realms set for Magic: The Gathering releases this weekend! If you’re a D&D fan who’s always wanted to get into spell slinging, you can snag some packs at your favorite local game store.

Building a Xanathar’s Guild Themed Commander Deck

13 Jul , 2021,
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If you’ve been following our geeky endeavors, then you’ll know that we don’t just do Dungeons & Dragons. We also play lots of Magic: The Gathering.

That’s why we were doubly excited that some of our favorite NPCs from hardcovers such as Waterdeep: Dragon Heist and Tomb of Annihilation were showing up in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, and that quickly got us thinking – what if we built some themed EDH decks to celebrate, using what we’ve got in the office?

Here’s a quick one based off Xanathar, an iconic beholder villain who heads a veritable guild of killers, smugglers and cutpurses, and has an eyestalk in every evil pie.

The Legend (1)
1x Xanathar, Guild Kingpin

Suffice to say, there’s a reason why Xanathar is still guild master. He’s got 5 power and 6 toughness, which means he’s capable of snuffing out most underlings itching for a promotion. His ability to stop an opponent from casting spells is also reminiscent of the antimagic cone projected by a beholder’s central eye, and being able to play their cards is likely a nod to one of their other eye powers – that of the charm ray.

The Guild/Creatures (26)
1x Agent of Treachery
1x Circu, Dimir Lobotomist
1x Consuming Aberration
1x Ghostly Pilferer
1x Glasspool Mimic // Glasspool Shore
1x Gonti, Lord of Luxury
1x Herald of Hadar
1x Hoard Robber
1x Hostage Taker
1x Krydle of Baldur’s Gate
1x Lightfoot Rogue
1x Mind Flayer
1x Nighthawk Scavenger
1x Nightveil Specter
1x Notion Thief
1x Sepulchral Primordial
1x Soaring Thought-Thief
1x Thief of Sanity
1x Thieves’ Guild Enforcer
1x Thieving Skydiver
1x Tribute Mage
1x Varragoth, Bloodsky Sire
1x Wizened Snitches
1x Yuan-Ti Fang-Blade
1x Yuan-Ti Malison
1x Zareth San, the Trickster

Xanathar’s Guild is big on larceny and vice, and that’s why we decided to go big on the roguish element, with a splash of fun shenanigans like gaining control and mill. Players of more recent sets will see a few familiar faces like Gonti, Soaring Thought-Thief (they’re either Thief Acrobats or Arcane Tricksters), Thieves’ Guild Enforcer (yep, Xanathar’s got lots of hired muscle) and Zareth San.

Other fun cards like Herald of Hadar, Krydle and Yuan-ti Malison (all appearing in this new set) add to the flavor and round the deck out with some utility. The Herald is a great sink for infinite mana, while Circu and Consuming Aberration can work with Dramatic Reversal and Isochron Scepter (see below) to mill your opponents out.

Tools of the Trade/Artifacts (18)
1x Arcane Signet
1x Charcoal Diamond
1x Dimir Signet
1x Goldvein Pick
1x Hedron Archive
1x Isochron Scepter
1x Lantern of Insight
1x Mind Stone
1x Prying Blade
1x Replicating Ring
1x Sky Diamond
1x Sol Ring
1x Swiftfoot Boots
1x Thieves’ Tools
1x Thought Vessel
1x Treasure Chest
1x Treasure Map // Treasure Cove
1x Worn Powerstone

Lots of rocks, as befits the treasury of one of the most wealthy criminal organizations in the Forgotten Realms. Their agents are also some of the most well provisioned, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see them armed with Thieves’ Tools (which all rogues are proficient in). The Goldvein Pick and Prying Blade help generate additional treasure tokens (yes, these rogues are gold diggers), and that Isochron Scepter (which you can search for with a Tribute Mage) is both insurance, as well as a combo enabler.

Dirty Deeds/Instants & Sorceries (18)
1x Contract Killing
1x Devour Intellect
1x Dimir Charm
1x Dramatic Reversal
1x Drown in the Loch
1x Extract from Darkness
1x Eyes of the Beholder
1x Fascination
1x Feed the Swarm
1x Heartless Act
1x Malakir Rebirth // Malakir Mire
1x Malicious Affliction
1x Memory Lapse
1x Muddle the Mixture
1x Necromantic Selection
1x Stubborn Denial
1x Turn Aside
1x Windfall

The deck is beefed up with a handful of thematically appropriate instants and sorceries to protect Xanathar, punish interlopers, or make an example of the guild’s enemies by making them sleep with the fishes. Dramatic Reversal on the list stands out as an option for the Isochron Scepter, and can generate infinite casts and infinite mana with enough rocks on the field. After all, any self-respecting villain should have a way to turn the tables on those pesky adventurers traipsing through your lair, right? Fascination is a viable sink for infinite mana that can be tutored for using Muddle the Mixture, rounding out your combo win-cons. 

Done Dirt Cheap/Enchantments (2)
1x Revel in Riches
1x Rogue Class

Class cards are a new enchantment type, and you’d expect everyone in Xanathar’s Guild to have maybe one or two Rogue levels. Also, Revel in Riches is mandatory for a stylish alternate win-con as befits the most glamorous beholder of all.

Valuable Real Estate/Lands (35)
1x Command Tower
1x Duskmantle, House of Shadow
1x Evolving Wilds
1x Exotic Orchard
1x Jwar Isle Refuge
1x Myriad Landscape
1x Nephalia Drownyard
1x Rogue’s Passage
12x (Snow-Covered) Island
12x (Snow-Covered) Swamp
1x Sunken Hollow
1x Temple of Deceit
1x Terramorphic Expanse

Duskmantle and Nephalia Drownyard evoke memories of Skullport, where Xanathar’s Guild holds sway, while Rogue’s Passage is just too flavorful not to include. Depending on whether you prefer Waterdeep in the Springtime (which is the season you’ll face Xanathar in Dragon Heist) or in the winter, pick either Snow-Covered or regular lands.

For the Discerning Kingpin (Deck Upgrades)
1x Acquire
1x Dauthi Voidwalker
1x Deadeye Navigator
1x Demonic Tutor
1x Desertion
1x Expropriate
1x Fellwar Stone
1x Force of Negation
1x Helm of Obedience
1x Leyline of the Void
1x Mind’s Dilation
1x Mind Grind
1x Mystic Remora
1x Predict
1x Rhystic Study
1x Sire of Stagnation
1x Thada Adel, Acquisitor
1x Toxic Deluge

The cards in this section are included as an option for players who prefer a little bit more bite to their deck.

Helm of Obedience, together with the Dauthi Voidwalker or Leyline of the Void, can disintegrate an opponent’s deck, while Mind’s Dilation can nab you another spell each turn. Cards like Desertion too would make a fine addition. After all, if Xanathar makes an offer, who can refuse?

And there you have it! We hope you enjoyed this deck idea as much as we did brewing it for you. If you decide to build this deck, be sure to let us know how you fare at the card table!

Also, if you want to give the tie-in module for Adventures in the Forgotten Realms a shot, you can check it out here! It’s a neat little dungeon crawl, and we’re certain you’ll love it!

The Dungeons & Dragons Adventures in the Forgotten Realms set for Magic: The Gathering releases 23 July 2021. If you’re a D&D fan who’s always wanted to get into spell slinging, you can snag some packs at your favorite local game store.