Commander Deck Tech: Sakashima and Vial Smasher
- Ryan Scicluna
Have you ever won a game of Commander without dealing combat damage? Check out this Grixis Commander deck helmed by Sakashima and Vial Smasher to find out how. Make clones and copies of the best things on the board and try to win by doubling or even tripling the damage from Vial Smasher's effect.
Commander Legends not only gave us new cards to play with and new commanders to brew with, but we also got some reprints for the Commander format. Among these reprints we find a number of iconic legendary creatures from previous Commander decks, including the original partner commanders. Together with the brand-new partners, this opened up a whole new world of possibilities. One partner pair that I immediately gravitated toward was Vial Smasher the Fierce with Sakashima of a Thousand Faces.
Vial Smasher can deal damage randomly to our opponents just for casting a spell. Sakashima allows us to have more copies of Vial Smasher by ignoring the legendary rule.
Dealing Damage Without Combat
The goal of the deck is to deal as much damage as possible to our opponents via Vial Smasher's effect. This will trigger each time we cast our first spell each turn, including each of our opponents' turns, and the fact that it's random means that we can technically talk our way out of taking blame for the damage. (Though this might depend on how political your playgroup gets.) Similarly Kaervek the Merciless will trigger each time an opponent casts a spell, but this time we can select where to send that damage. Furthermore, Terror of the Peaks will deal damage each time we play a creature and Rampaging Ferocidon will burn players each time they play a creature.
Meanwhile, Burning Earth will deal 1 damage each time a player taps a nonbasic land for mana, and Immolation Shaman does the same each time an opponent activates an ability of an artifact, creature, or land (except mana abilities). Brash Taunter deals damage equal to the total damage dealt to it and paired up with Blasphemous Act or a big Chandra's Ignition can be quite explosive. To finish off games we can use a large Torment of Hailfire.
It goes without saying that all these damage dealing cards can be copied for double triggers. Sakashima becomes very useful in particular due to its second ability that lets us ignore the legendary rule. With Sakashima in play we can have multiple copies of Vial Smasher or Kaervek. Other clones we can use are Clever Impersonator, Dack's Duplicate, Phyrexian Metamorph, Sakashima the Impostor, Spark Double, Stunt Double, and Vizier of Many Faces. Some of these even let us copy noncreature permanents, which give us the flexibility to adapt to whatever situations we encounter.
We can even use a kicked Rite of Replication on one of our damage dealing creatures—like a Terror of the Peaks or Brash Taunter or, with Sakashima in play, Kaervek the Merciless—to make sure we finish everyone quickly. Lithoform Engine is an all-star when it comes to copying. It can even copy triggered or activated abilities and spells in addition to making copies of creatures.
The easiest way to help our strategy is to include cards that increase the amount of damage we deal or our opponents are dealt. Fiendish Duo doubles damage dealt to our opponents including from other players. This incentivizes other players to attack each other and get more damage in. Similarly Angrath's Marauders, Obosh, the Preypiercer, Fiery Emancipation, and Gratuitous Violence increase the amount of damage we deal to our opponents. These again can be juicy targets for our clones as each of our triggers resolves separately, making sure that even a small ping ends up in a huge pong.
Other Clone Targets
Obviously we can clone our opponents' permanents as well; however, if they haven't played anything of value, we might want to play something good ourselves and copy that. If you like to draw a lot of cards, why not copy a Consecrated Sphinx or a Sire of Stagnation. If the game is going slow we can even try to reanimate creatures with The Scarab God then have Sakashima copy it to have multiple triggers during the upkeep and start draining our opponents with our Zombie tokens. On another note, who ever complained of multiple Etali, Primal Storm triggers? This will give us so many cards for free that it will make it very hard for our opponents to catch up.
One Big Weakness
One might be tempted to just focus on Sakashima's legend rule ability. However, while playing the deck, both you and your opponents will realize how fragile making multiple copies of legendary creatures is. Just by removing Sakashima, a player might be able to get rid of an army of copies of a legendary creature. For this reason I did not want to rely so heavily on that aspect. As a way to protect Sakashima or even reset our clones, I included Essence Flux and Teferi's Time Twist. By blinking the clones we get to reset them and choose new permanents to copy.
Another tricky aspect of the deck is the need to strike a balance between efficiency and big spells to cast in order to deal a lot of damage at once. In this case I tried to keep big splashy spells on the low side with the exception of Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh and Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker. Since we are in Grixis colors these are powerful cards that would deal a lot of damage when cast and they fit the flavor and theme.
This is not a super powerful deck, but I always enjoy playing it in my playgroup. It has the potential to win from out of nowhere just by casting spells and it doesn't worry too much about having the biggest, baddest creature in play. The random element of Vial Smasher is always fun and unpredictable. The deck is also very flexible. I had a game where I ended up with three copies of Xenagos, God of Revels on my side of the field, which forced me to win with combat. So, in the end, I cannot say that the deck always wins without combat.
What do you think? Do you like copying stuff? Do you have any fun stories you want to share of crazy things you copied? Let us know in the comments.
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