From Scratch! Building a New Deck – Part 3

Once my original pile has been cut substantially down I can really start to focus the deck. One of the things that I like to do at this stage is to look at the potential deck from different perspectives. As I said, my original sort is by color, type, and cost; but then I will typically sort it by converted mana cost to see how my curve is looking. If one part of my curve is bigger than it should be, it makes it easier to cut some of those cards.  I typically bounce between color, converted mana cost, and card type as I make cuts in an attempt to keep the deck balanced. One other method that I use is to sort by effect. In other words, I’ll have piles for token generators, counter generators, removal, ramp, etc… Sorting those piles by converted mana cost is also a good idea because if I have 3 targeted removal spells at 3 converted mana cost or less, then I may not need that 6 converted mana cost removal spell… unless it generates tokens or counters that is!

Up to this point I have been keeping all of the colors separate. This means that I may have multiple removal cards spread out among all of my colors. While this can be a good thing, particularly for fighting against protections, at this point there are just way too many removal spells in the deck! At this point, I start mixing the colors. I’m still bouncing between sorting by converted mana cost, card type and effect, but by mixing the colors it allows me to find the areas of the deck that are heavy on one type of card and cutting those down.

As I mentioned in Part 2, I want a balanced deck. While I want the primary focus to be on generating tokens and +1/+1 counters, I know that to function against opponents, the deck has to have other things as well, like removal, graveyard hate, and so on. At one time my pile probably had well over 50 cards that I would put into the “token ” category, and while I want all of these cards in the deck, that just isn’t possible. Bear in mind however, that some of these categories can overlap. For example, I could use a spell like Doom Blade for targeted removal, but I can also use something like Beast Within. Not only does this increase the number of viable targets (any permanent instead of a non-black creature), it also provides a token. That way if I have it in hand, and none of my opponents have any good targets, then I can hit one of my 1/1 tokens and replace it with a 3/3 token instead, and if I happen to have Doubling Season or Parallel Lives in play then I get multiple 3/3 tokens!


When I get down to the last few cuts it gets really tricky. There are a lot of good cards on the table, and I just don’t want to cut anything anymore! It seems like I have already cut some really great things and I still need to cut some more. Around the time that I had roughly ten cards to cut to get to my magic number of 60 spells/40 lands, I decided to incorporate my wish list. It was fairly easy to whittle down that list from thirty four cards to twenty five, and then to about five to seven cards that I would be willing to try and obtain for this deck. I went through my list, looked up prices and balanced them against the effect the card had, wrote down the names of the cards that made the cut on some basic lands and incorporated them into my piles. This, of course, bumped up the number of cuts I needed to make in order to hit my number. After all was said and done, the final count of wish list cards that made it into the deck was three; Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, Idyllic Tutor, and Crime//Punishment. Typically I wouldn’t be willing to outright buy a card as expensive as Sorin, but thanks to @Marshall_LR from the Limited Resources Podcast mentioning that Card Kingdom has a very easy to use interface for selling cards, I decided to go through my stagnant trade binder and sell a stack of cards that I’ve barely looked at in months! As a result I have some store credit over at and I’m willing to be a bit more frivolous in what I acquire for the deck… also I collect Planeswalkers and he is the only one that I am currently missing. Another card purchase that I’m weighing is Demonic Tutor instead of Idyllic Tutor. The card is definitely better (cheaper and no restriction on what I get,) the cost is a bit more, and the version I would get would be white border. Actually, I might end up getting both and replacing Diabolic Tutor with the Demonic Tutor and still have the Idyllic Tutor in the deck. That’s even more money so we will see how this all shakes out when I finally click the “Buy” button.


The last cut of the deck came down to a piece of equipment in the two-drop slot, a Mortarpod. I really like the idea of Mortarpod for this deck as I can move it from token to token and get some decent reach, but I felt that the other equipment in the deck and the other spells in the deck just outclassed the pod. As such it didn’t make the cut. It is definitely at the top of the list for cards that might come back in, particularly if another piece of equipment doesn’t pull its weight.

Finally, that last cut had been made. All that was left was to figure out the mana base. Out of my original pile I ended up cutting the non-basic lands down to nineteen. I think the most notable of those cuts was Grim Backwoods. It lets me sacrifice tokens to draw cards, but it costs four mana to activate, and I have other sacrifice outlets in the deck which could interfere with other important things, like having enough creatures on the board for a lethal attack! After counting up my final spells and sorting once again by color, I found that the deck was mostly green, with just slightly less black and white. The various dual lands in the deck were weighted towards green which allowed me to put in seven each of forests, swamps, and plains.

I decided to do a little time lapse video of myself building this deck. It starts from the first sorting of my original stack of cards and finishes with sleeving it up and shuffling. The final deck list follows.

Commander: Ghave, Guru of Spores

1 Bojuka Bog
1 Cabal Coffers
1 Command Tower
1 Dryad Arbor
7 Forest
1 Gavony Township
1 Golgari Rot Farm
1 Graypelt Refuge
1 Khalni Garden
1 Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
1 Orzhov Basilica
7 Plains
1 Razorverge Thicket
1 Selesnya Sanctuary
1 Sunpetal Grove
7 Swamp
1 Vault of the Archangel
1 Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree
1 Vivid Grove
1 Vivid Marsh
1 Vivid Meadow
1 Woodland Cemetery

40 lands

1 Doomed Traveler
1 Mikaeus, the Lunarch
1 Primordial Hydra
1 Skirsdag High Priest
1 Cemetery Reaper
1 Spawnwrithe
1 Hero of Bladehold
1 Geist-Honored Monk
1 Juniper Order Ranger
1 Kessig Cagebreakers
1 Mycoloth
1 Grave Titan
1 Requiem Angel
1 Sun Titan
1 Triskelion
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Avenger of Zendikar

18 creatures

1 Gelatinous Genesis
1 Skullclamp
1 Sol Ring
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Thrive
1 Animate Dead
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Exsanguinate
1 Golgari Signet
1 Intangible Virtue
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Necrogenesis
1 Strength of the Tajuru
1 Sylvan Library
1 Awakening Zone
1 Beast Within
1 Harrow
1 Idyllic Tutor
1 Liliana of the Veil
1 Lingering Souls
1 Loxodon Warhammer
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Primal Growth
1 Sword of Body and Mind
1 Ajani Goldmane
1 Garruk Relentless
1 Garruk Wildspeaker
1 Grave Pact
1 Moan of the Unhallowed
1 Parallel Lives
1 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
1 Syphon Mind
1 Crime // Punishment
1 Doubling Season
1 Elspeth Tirel
1 Increasing Devotion
1 Overwhelming Stampede
1 Parallel Evolution
1 Austere Command
1 Karn Liberated
1 Army of the Damned
1 Death Mutation

42 other spells

I’ve had a great time building this deck, and I hope that you enjoyed the article. It has helped me immensely to write down all of these steps and actively think about this kind of stuff rather than just build the deck without really considering everything. I hope that it helps some others that would like to build Commander decks but feel that it may be too daunting or difficult to actually put together a cohesive list of one hundred cards. Sadly, I will not be able to play this list until late next week, so be patient for the final article in this series in which I discuss how the deck performed and ways that I could improve it!

As always, I greatly appreciate any and all comments, criticisms, critiques, card ideas, and so on. Bear in mind that while I want to hear any and all ideas, I don’t necessarily have the cards you might suggest, and they may or may not meet my budget for this deck, so don’t be offended if it doesn’t make the cut.

Thank you for reading and I hope you look forward to reading Part IV as much as I anticipate writing it!

Edited 3/1/12: Replaced Diabolic Tutor with Demonic Tutor. I also forgot to order Crime//Punishment, but left it in the list and made a proxy for the time being.


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