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As you know I’ve been building a Sharuum deck, and that deck is going to be mostly creature-less. I was listening to Brainstorm Brewery, Episode #19 yesterday when one of the hosts brought up a card called Humility.

 Humility is apparently seeing a lot of play in Legacy right now, which is why them mentioned it. However, in any deck that is mostly  creature-less, even a Commander deck, a card like Humility would be a rock star!

However, this Sharuum deck is not going to be completely creature-less, in fact it relies on creatures to win.

Here’s the question, do I include the card in the deck, along with 1 or 2 pieces of removal for it? Do I include it in the deck without removal for it, assuming that eventually my opponents will remove it for me?Or do I leave it out because it is too much of a liability to my plan?

Drop me a comment here or on Twitter (@cmartinell) with your thoughts!

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I’ve been working on this Sharuum deck for several days now and I have to say it is coming along nicely. I want to take a moment to plug the Decked Builder app for iPad/iPhone. I have both versions
(had to pay separately and that’s my only complaint) and I regularly use them for anything from deck design to looking up card prices for a trade. It has several price databases linked, including one of my favorites, www.coolstuffinc.com. It is incredibly versatile in it’s search functions, even allowing you to search for what colors of mana something produces.

So far in this process I have not looked at a physical card. Part of that is because I can look at every card in existence through the app, so I have no need to go digging through boxes to randomly find cards that might work, only to have to sort them back into those boxes/binders later, and the other part is that I don’t want to limit myself to only cards that I currently own. I have a fair amount of store credit at CoolStuff and I have resolved to spend a chunk of it towards cards I might need for this deck.

Having decided that I want a mostly creature-less deck I have to figure out what cards I want to focus on. To do that I have to ask what I want the deck to do.

What do I want to do with this deck?

I want to win as fast as possible by assembling an infinite Sharuum combo.

Are there any other combos that you can exploit?

Yes. There are. For example, you can use Thopter Foundry, Sword of the Meek, and Time Sieve to take infinite turns. With those infinite turns you can assemble your other combo for the win.

                        

What if your opponents take out your combo pieces?

This is an excellent thing to consider. When you sit down at a table and you snap Sharuum the Hegemon down into your Command Zone, your opponents should all be familiar with the combo, and they all know to look for Sculpting Steel and Disciple of the Vault. However, there are several options for this combo, which makes it incredibly resilient to removal. For example, Sharuum can force the “Legend” rule effect with either Sculpting Steel or Phyrexian Metamorph. But, there’s also another approach, Tainted Aether. This doesn’t use the legend rule, but rather the Tainted Aether ability which forces you to sacrifice a creature whenever a creature comes into play. Bring Sharuum into play, sacrifice her with the Tainted Aether trigger, leaving her own “ETB” trigger on the stack, and then return her to play. Rinse and repeat. On top of that there are multiple ways to win using this combo. The most well known is with Disciple of the Vault, but there are several ways. One example uses Bitter Ordeal to infinitely search up and exile cards directly from an opponent’s library. Another uses Dire Undercurrents to force your opponents to infinitely draw their decks.

By having multiple ways to infinitely loop and multiple ways to win, you give your deck insane levels resilience.

So many choices, how do you find the cards you need?

The first step I take is to find all of my “combo” pieces and add them to my list.

Next I start going through cards using the search functions of the Decked Builder app to find the things that I need or that might work. I have several categories of cards that I want to focus on in this deck; combo pieces, tutors to find my combo pieces, card draw to dig for my combo pieces, counter spells to protect me and my combo pieces, recursion to bring back my combo pieces should they get destroyed or exiled, removal, and so on. I go through my search results and find any card that I think will benefit the deck and add it to my list.

My next step is to appeal to the internet gods. In other words I start looking at deck lists online. It is entirely possible that my search misses great cards that I could use, or interactions that I might want to include, and by checking internet lists I am able to find these things. For example, I knew that there was some category of card that I was forgetting to search for, and checking internet lists led me to remember that I hadn’t included any extra turn effects… let alone the ability to take infinite extra turns. Then I went back to my list and started searching “extra turn” and threw a bunch of those cards into the list.

At these stages I lightly discriminate the cards I see. If it will work for a particular function, then I’ll include it in the list. Sometimes if a card is just too much money to justify spending, then I may not include it. I would love to have an Underground Sea for example, but I can’t justify spending that kind of money right now, so I don’t include it. Damnation on the other hand is on the fence. I don’t really want to spend that much on a card, but I just might, so for now it’s on the list.

Once I have a robust list of cards that I think will benefit the deck, it comes time to start sculpting the deck. It so happens that my current list is at roughly 232 cards (not counting mana base) that I have to whittle down to 60. The first round of this will happen “in app,” but I definitely get a better feel for things with the physical cards in front of me so that I can sort them out by various statistics, and see how they work together and such, and part of that is going to be to acquire those cards that I don’t have already… I better get hopping so that I will get my cards before the next game night!

While listening to Commander Cast I discovered a new interaction for Sharuum the Hegemon.

                                 

For those unfamiliar with the concept of a Sharuum combo, typically you would pair Sharuum up with a Sculpting Steel. With Sharuum in play you cast the Sculpting Steel copying Sharuum. The enter the battlefield trigger goes on the stack and then the two copies of Sharuum see each other, the Legend rule kicks in, and they both go to the graveyard (in the case of Commander, you choose for the original Sharuum to go to the graveyard for the purposes of this combo,) and then the enter the battlefield effect resolves. With it you return Sharuum to play. When she enters play, you then use that trigger to bring back the Sculpting Steel, copying Sharuum. This is repeated as many times as necessary to win. The actual win-con is Disciple of the Vault which causes an opponent to lose one life whenever an artifact is put into a graveyard. Sharuum and Sculpting Steel go to the graveyard infinitely until the table is dead.

Tainted Aether takes the place of the Sculpting Steel. Instead of copying Sharuum and using the Legend rule to get her into the graveyard, with this one you play her, then sacrifice her with the enter the battlefield trigger on the stack. Use the trigger to bring her back and sacrifice her again. Repeat infinitely until you win the game.

There are other win conditions as well. My other favorite is Dire Undercurrents. It lets you have target player draw a card when a blue creature enters the battlefield, and lets you have target player discard a card when a black creature enters the battlefield. Sharuum is both black and blue, therefore as she infinitely recurs, each player is forced to draw then discard their entire deck. There is a slight downside to this approach as the opponents may have Eldrazi Titans in their decks. If that is the case then when they discard the Eldrazi, they get their graveyard shuffled back into their decks.  You could use some fancy words to claim that eventually the Eldrazi (if they only have one) will be the only card left in the deck, in which case you don’t have them discard that last card (the Dire Undercurrents triggers are “may” abilities after all.) You could also have a Relic of Progenitus ready to go for them.

With multiple ways to trigger the infinite combo, and multiple win conditions off of the infinite combo, my new Sharuum deck is going to be incredibly resilient. I’ve also decided that due to the interactions with Tainted Aether, I’m going to make the deck almost entirely creature-less, and focus on the control aspects of black, white, and blue! I can’t wait to get this deck started!

Here’s the “sitch.” I’m playing my Animar/Slivers deck. This deck relies almost completely on it’s creatures, particularly for a win. I have six mana on board. Opponent 1 is playing Sol’kanar the Swamp King. He also has only mana on board. Opponent 2 is playing Maralen of the Mornsong and has her, a Platinum Angel equipped with a Darksteel Plate, a Xathrid Gorgon, and a Sheoldred, Whispering One. Opponent 3 is playing Ezuri, Renegade Leader with guess what? A bunch of elves on the board. But, he’s sacking elves every turn to Sheoldred. I know that Opponent 2 is going after Opponent 3, so I’m not worried about it, and am willing to let things play out for a bit. Plus he and I have an “agreement” in place. He also has an agreement with Opponent 1. I spend a turn to tutor for, and cast a Lurking Predators. I figure maybe if I get a few creatures on board before my turn, then the sac to Sheoldred won’t hurt as much. Opponent 1 decides to bounce my enchantment and then proceeds to cast Wheel of Fortune. With Maralen on the board this equates to “all players discard their hand.” In my opinion Opponent 3 had a much more defined and able to win board presence than me. Why did Opponent 1 go after my fairly inconsequential enchantment when there were more prevalent threats on the board… not only that, but he cast two cards and had to discard a hand of something like 5 cards to get rid of my one enchantment, maybe 3 cards in my hand, and a few cards in each of the other opponents’ hands. Not much “value” there.

Sitch number two. I’m now playing my Cromat/Planeswalker deck. Opponent 1 is playing The “Mother-Fucking” Mimeoplasm with Opponent 2 playing Progenitus and Opponent 3 still playing Ezuri. I cast Demonic Tutor on turn 2 (yes, I know, big red target!) and get a Bloom Tender because I know I have some issues with the mana on-board and in my hand. I cast the Tender on turn 3 and the immediate response is for Opponent 1 to cast a board wipe. This kills my Bloom Tender, it kills nothing for Opponents 1 or 2, and it kills a Viridian Emissary for Opponent 3. So, just to deny me mana, he gives Opponent 3 an extra land. Reminder that Opponent 3 is playing an elf deck that really wants to ramp.

Opponent 2 won both of those games by the way, and that somewhat negates his attacks on me. At least he didn’t go after me at the cost of kinging one of the other players. But this also isn’t the only instance of this happening. This is an ongoing thing between him and I.

Here’s how it all started. Back when I first started playing Commander (EDH then) my second deck was a Sharuum the Hegemon deck. I built the deck and then did some online research only to find that there was an infinite combo win possible. I threw it in to the deck. But the deck was NOT optimized to take advantage of it. I only had something like two tutors in the deck. The first time that I won with the deck I was “on the radar” of Opponent 1. After that I was always target number one to him. He really didn’t like that I could win with a combo out of nowhere. That deck was taken apart after a three hour game at the end of which I had cast my general something like seven times, and finally, finally, pulled off the combo win. I was sad to find out that my opponents that night were still mad that they lost to a combo despite the fact that I NEVER tutored to get it, and I fought against insane odds to finally eek out that win. It was well deserved in my opinion, but I took the deck apart.

After that I have built several decks, and I am always true to my styles and such. I love tokens so I built a Ghave, Guru of Spores deck with Doubling Season. I want to try Esper again, but I go another route and make it a Dakkon Blackblade voltron deck. I love planeswalkers, so I build a five-color Cromat deck with 18 Planeswalkers in it (and Doubling Season of course!) These decks are fun, the let me do things that I enjoy doing, and yes, they are capable of winning fairly consistently. But not when I am target number one to one particular opponent. And no matter if my deck is creature based, combo based, or something all-together different, I am always target number one.

I’m sick of it. After last nights session and the situations described above I’ve made a decision. I’m rebuilding Sharuum. And I’m optimizing the hell out of it. If I am going to be target number one I’m damn-well going to deserve it! Look out Opponent 1, I’m gunning for the table.