When I was a wee lad I decided I wanted to build what was, back then, considered one of the most powerful combo decks in Commander. My Azusa, Lost but Seeking deck was a powerhouse of the format, looping Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and High Market to take infinite turns and kill the table after drawing your entire library. This was, of course, the halcyon days of EDH when what I was doing was considered very Spike, Tournament Grinder-ish, but I wanted to take that to the next level. I wanted to really manhandle people, so I put together Sharuum the Hegemon.
For those of you not familiar, the game plan with Sharuum the Hegemon was to get a Phyrexian Metamorph or Sculpting Steel in your graveyard and play your commander. You would reanimate the Phyrexian Metamorph or Sculpting Steel, and because of the legend rule it would kill Sharuum the Hegemon, who would then be reanimated by the new copy. This loop would continue an infinite amount of times until you cast Bitter Ordeal to remove everyone's library from the game. You could protect your combo with tons of free countermagic and search it up by playing every tutor from Demonic Tutor and Vampiric Tutor to Insidious Dreams. The deck drew a ton of cards and it was not very tough to go off on turns five or six, which was a quick kill in those times.
As the years went by, Sharuum the Hegemon began to severely decline in power level. When new Commander products were released it fell further and further out of favor before inevitably ending up as an obscure deck choice that could not keep up with the new crop of feisty contenders.
But with death inevitably springs new life.
No longer relegated to the top-tier tables, Sharuum the Hegemon is free to roam the casual and optimized tables again to play the role of reanimator and control deck. It won't win through Bitter Ordeal anymore, but it can put together a solid board state before taking over the game with sheer power and consistency.
What drew me to Sharuum the Hegemon is that the Esper shard always allows for a bevy of cool cards to be played. You get tutors and sweepers and counters and huge card draw—all the things our fellow control mages want. In the past we have talked about big artifact decks and even aggressive wizard tribal decks, but some of you have thirsted for the ole' draw-go. I've heard you. Today I will oblige!
Looking at Sharuum, the first thing you see is the creature type.
Sphinxes in Magic have always had big bodies and flashy effects. When you cast a Sphinx you're going to get a lot of value, and that's one thing control decks love: a big threat that can win you the game while generating massive card advantage. This will put a target on your back at a certain point, but you will have so many cards in hand there won't be a threat you can't answer.
Let's talk about a build first and then delve deeper into it! We need to keep it budget conscious, but still try to preserve its power.
We are here to control games and chew bubblegum, and we're all outta bubblegum.
The first thing we will go over are the creatures, because that is how we are going to win most of our games. You will notice that our biggest, most powerful threats fall in the Esper shard and are Sphinxes. Sprinkled in there are some utility creatures that offer a lot of value and board control.
But let us get the elephant out of the room.
Yes, we play Phyrexian Metamorph.
Yes, we play Sculpting Steel.
But this isn't a combo deck. You can go off, but there is no Bitter Ordeal or Disciple of the Vault, and nothing happens if you do. We will not be winning through combos or infinite life loss. Instead we are going to stick to the creatures like Magister Sphinx to win games. This is mostly why we play Sculpting Steel and Phyrexian Metamorph: so we can double-dip (sometimes triple-dip) into our best win condition to take down a game.
Rounding out our big creatures like Sphinx of the Steel Wind and Dream Trawler are our utility creatures. I've tested a ton of things and where we're at feels the most balanced and stable. There is merit to cards like Kuldotha Forgemaster or Sharding Sphinx, but this deck doesn't attack with a ton of creatures and we don't want to sacrifice most of our artifacts for a payoff card when losing that much could be a detriment. Instead we play cards like Padeem, Consul of Innovation and Leonin Abunas. These keep our noncreature and creature artifacts safe with the added benefit that Padeem will draw you extra cards. Shimmer Dragon proved to be immensely strong once you untapped with it. Most of the time it is hexproof, and tapping two artifacts is a trivial cost to draw a card. Enigma Sphinx is a personal favorite because of the high density of big hits in this deck.
Aside from our creatures we want to play as many high-impact cards as possible. That is why you'll see cards like Bolas's Citadel to churn through the top of our deck and put game-changing spells and creatures in play. Counters are also very important to this deck. Dispel will win a lot of counter wars for very cheap, and of course there is Old Reliable in Counterspell. Arcane Denial of likely the fairest countermagic in all of Commander. Sometimes I'll counter anything and use them drawing two cards as a bargaining chip to gain favor and create an ally at the table. Little do they know I'm only doing it to draw a card.
Our mana base is meant to be as simplistic and forgiving as possible. I love playing a ton of basic lands in my deck, but holding off on too many that come into play tapped, like the Guildgates or things like Dismal Backwater. Instead we're opting for almost every land entering untapped and a lot of ways to draw cards and smooth out our mana using mana rocks.
My version is far more controlling, but the creature base is actually extremely similar.
If you want to make this deck more powerful, adding tutors like Demonic Tutor and Vampiric Tutor greatly improve your consistency. Enlightened Tutor is one of the best cards in the deck if you can get it. Access to better sweepers such as Damnation and Cyclonic Rift keep the path cleared with a lot more ease. I also play Force of Will and Mana Drain. These aren't easily accessible cards, but if you have the resources it can make Sharuum, the Hegemon hum with a ton more strength.
So go forth and kill tables with non-combo-oriented artifact control. This isn't Sai, Master Thopterist, or Urza, Lord High Artificer, or Arcum Dagsson. We don't want to be mono-blue and bore our friends to death. Make them interested AND dead at the same time.