Commander Deck Design: The Scorpion God

K_Prinz

Not everyone approaches Commander the same way, and it'd be boring if everyone did! Here's a somewhat different take on the format and an example of another deck design philosophy at work. This deck is built around −1/−1 counters, charge counters, and proliferate, with a small poison counter theme thrown in.


the scorpion god
The doctor is ready now to administer your shot

Hello again! I have been a little detached from competitive Magic for the last few months. But getting vaccinated has afforded me more opportunities to play Commander with friends again, and I have been enjoying it tremendously!

My Commander Philosophy

To give you some context for the deck to come, let me explain how I generally approach the format. First of all, to set the scene, here are the parameters that apply to my playgroup: We usually have games with about four people. Deck strength definitely covers a pretty wide range, but the weakest are still a lot stronger than preconstructed decks, while the strongest are not nearly at the level of "competitive EDH" decks. Overall the discrepancy in power level is usually evened out through politics, so it's mostly your everyday Commander round.

I personally dislike two things in Commander. "Staples" that should be in every deck and cards that make me search and shuffle libraries. The first mostly expresses itself in me not playing Sol Ring and Mana Crypt in any of my decks. Though I also apply this rule to color-specific staples like Smothering Tithe. I do play Smothering Tithe alongside Dockside Extortionist in my Treasure-based Commander deck, as it perfectly fits there; just not in every white Commander deck regardless of theme.


sol ring
This is a zero for me

The second rule against search and shuffle means you usually won't find an optimized fetch-land mana base in my decks either, saving everyone a lot of time. Not running staples also leads to more slots to fill with cards you like, which I consider a net positive for all players in your group too. I'd rather build a 99-card deck than a 98-card deck and acquire a Sol Ring just because it's the best card. Additionally, my decks do not contain cards I would not like to play against myself. One example would be extra turn spells.

The Deck

This particular deck does actually contain one extra turn card, because it just fits the theme of the deck too well. It does not contain the two-card combo of Mikaeus, the Unhallowed and Triskelion, although I'm not categorically opposed to including such combos if both cards are natural fits for the deck, especially without tutor effects.

My decks are usually on the low end with regard to interaction, as I strongly prefer to focus on a theme rather than generic answers. In the example of today's Scorpion God deck that means most interaction is based on different types of counters, be it charge, −1/−1, or others. Before we go into too much more detail, let me give you the full list:


The Mana Base

The mana base of this deck isn't anything special. Besides lands and artifacts just in there to enable me casting my spells, there's also some utility and fixing based on counters. The vivid lands as well as Peat Bog and Sandstone Needle give mana while having minor synergies with the deck's overall theme. I sprinkled a bit of interaction into the mana base too, in the form of Bojuka Bog and Blast Zone.

The other mana sources are mostly ones you see in a lot of Commander decks such as Rakdos Signet, albeit with a focus on ones that care about counters, making Astral Cornucopia and Everflowing Chalice natural fits. The most unusual are probably Plague Myr, Pentad Prism, and especially Braid of Fire. The latter only gives you mana in your upkeep, but The Scorpion God makes good use of that. I like the Myr because it's a mana source that occasionally infects people with a poison counter, allowing me to slowly proliferate them throughout the game. Similarly, you'll occasionally recharge Pentad Prism through proliferate as well.

The deck has a whopping 50 mana sources in total. This high number is easily justified by The Scorpion God acting as a mana sink, especially because it is pretty tough to get rid of for an extended period of time.


braid of fire black market

A Broad View of the Game Plan

If they aren't in here for mana, most cards support the theme. They place −1/−1-counters, proliferate, or interact with counters otherwise, such as Power Conduit. You play some cards that accumulate counters, use your commander to refill, and get rid of your opponents' pesky creatures. People relying on low-stat commanders will have a particular bad time casting them into The Scorpion God.

Fairly often you try to assemble a big mana-producing card, but as you basically have no way of protecting them, spreading counters can be of interest. The main mana engines are Braid of Fire, Black Market, Everflowing Chalice, Astral Cornucopia, and Empowered Autogenerator. The enchantments and Autogenerator don't need much help as their mana generation ramps up naturally. But putting additional counters on them is still nice and it is necessary for producing big amounts of mana if you have to rely on one of the two artifacts.

Energy Chamber, Surge Node, and Coretapper are the most efficient at that, though every proliferate card makes your mana engine go a bit bigger too. This allows you to take a lot of game actions.

Winning


yawgmoth, thran physician flayer of the hatebound

If you manage to assemble enough pieces, you can actually kill people through big chunks of damage with Yawgmoth, Thran Physician and Flayer of the Hatebound. Usually, though, if you win, it's because you get to answer all the creatures while accumulating more and more card advantage. You control the board and just keep hitting with the couple creatures you have in play.

Sometimes you'll alternatively distribute some poison counters via the small number of creatures with infect before using Contagion Clasp or Contagion Engine to slowly kill your opponents. This process naturally accelerates via the mana production already discussed. Especially the three mana sources that ramp up by the turn are great for "going off."


contagion engine magistrate's scepter

One last avenue of winning is Magistrate's Scepter, but it requires a lot of support, as you need to be able to put three charge counters on it without using its first ability to take all the turns. Once again, Contagion Engine does most of the heavy lifting here.

Tips and Tricks

The Scorpion God triggers off itself but can't put counters on itself. This means you usually want to give it a −1/−1-counter if there's nothing around you can just take down, because your opponents will kill it and being able to draw a card off that is neat. Its card draw ability also is not optional, so be careful not to deck yourself with Black Sun's Zenith.


black sun's zenith grim poppet

Grim Poppet is obscene, it throws counters around for free and just does everything you want it to do. Try to keep it alive. If your opponents have a lot of noncreature threats, maybe try to communicate your inability to get rid of those to potential allies. You only have All Is Dust and Lux Cannon as efficient ways to answer those.

If you have any questions regarding my card choices or suggestions, please leave a comment.

See you next time,
Kristof


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.



7 Comments

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GAMEBOY(08.09.2021 08:57)(Edited: 08.09.2021 09:11)

Started building the deck just before your article came out and immediately felt en vogue :D
An idea: since we usually have a hard time in dealing with enchantments in Rakdos, FEED THE SWARM seems to be an auto include. On edh rec I stumbled upon LIQUIMETAL TORQUE from the new horizon set, not only does it ramp efficiently enough, it also turns all kinds of permanent threats into artifacts, which we can easily take out with on-theme-removal from Amonkhet like BY FORCE, VIOLENT IMPACT or ABRADE. LIQUIMETAL COATING does the same, even targets lands!
Trust me, the last thing you want with this deck is SOLEMNITY to stick to the board :D

xdanslesboisx(02.09.2021 13:27)

Very cool! I appreciate having a commander in spotlight that's rather rarely played (but am also biased as I play him too).

Also I really love Sudden Spoiling in the deck. Not the easiest to benefit from properly since you need the boardwide counter distributors but since those are kinda necessary either way. It's just nice for it to have synergy at all. Also Demon of Dark Schemes and Massacre Wurm feel right at home here imo.

The broader counter theme is pretty cool as well. Always so difficult to balance a deck out if the idea's touching a couple directions though. Love Furystoke Giant as well, but not that easy to consistently set up when you're also concerning yourself with counter distribution and proliferation.

Vayra86(02.09.2021 13:09)(Edited: 02.09.2021 13:13)

No staples and fetch arguments and yet we find the eternal Solemn Simulacrum in there? Hmmmm. All I see here is a counter based deck thats trying too hard to avoid Atraxa as a commander and does love to proliferate. Themed... But not tight.

I understand the arguments and I know them well: the focus is on fun games of conmander. But the selective avoidance of cards is... I dunno. Seems more like a goal in itself to be able to say you did so.

K_Prinz
Fotsirk(07.09.2021 16:41)

Vayra86 to be fair, the Solemn could maybe be cut because of that reason, am not too in love with playing it anyway.
Playing a commander literally everyone plays does not make me particulary interested in it and having towork around less and other colors brings me personally more joy.
My arguments on philosophy are mostly guidelines rather than set rules, because in the end aslong as I have a deck I and my opponents can have fun with I have succeeded.

Vayra86(07.09.2021 17:17)(Edited: 07.09.2021 17:20)

Fotsirk That is absolutely right and cannot agree more on your last sentence. The funny thing about them is I recognize them being said by others as well, and yet they always do end up including multiple staples we all played at least a few times before in EDH :) Its stupidly difficult to shy away from power and choose something subpar, somehow.

I think we're all trying to brew something unique but we're not quite as unique as we like to think. An interesting paradox IMO. I've come to view it more as a degree of experience, we all start playing and get better, brew some uber decks and then get served by the table (either with moaning or you being the target :)), and then start to introduce more thought on politics around decks.

What does happen as well, though, is that people just don't like someone else 'playing the deck' while they can't get to it because of them, and they bring up the strangest arguments to weaken their opponents so they can. Sometimes I get the feeling catering to all of those arguments is catering to race to the bottom, instead of trying to grow (and inspire growth). That's the moment I went for full grouphug Kwain... :P

N8MARE(02.09.2021 12:07)

Very nice article and Decklist! The three 'forgotten' Gods from Amonkhet are awesome commanders and i was thinkering at a scorpion God/Hapatra 'Partner' Deck with a Jund Commander as the real Commander of the Deck (though i dont know if i will ever build it in real life, i often just build decks :D).

I just have one thing for the decklist: eventhough i really like the vivid lands in 3+Color Decks (like in Atraxa or Triplets they can be pretty decent) in 2 Color like this they are pretty much only worse Rakdos Taplands like Urborg Volcano or Cinder Barrens (or even the scry temple) that you have to build around to be duals and i dont know if thats worth, even though its a cute interaction, but it could be possible that i missed some other interaction ^^
Even in three color they are only worse tap-trilands (in the aformentioned Triplets they are nice to give you green/red in an esper Deck and in Atraxa they are rainbow/quad taplands with the proliferating and even then they could be to slow because they are tapped). Thats just my 2 cents though :D

One last thing: i kinda like you Commander Philosophy. My playgroup is pretty similar to yours. I also try to play little searching, even though its a bit weird when you play green with the landramp cards and i mostly play with the staples that i have, for example one of my first magic products was an Orzhov Guild Kit so i have a smothering tithe even though i would have never bought one.

Keep it up!

K_Prinz
Fotsirk(07.09.2021 16:38)

N8MARE the Vivid lands interact with Power Conduit and Nesting Grounds.
Possible that they're too cute anyway.

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