The commanders from last year's Commander product release have proven to be popular. Experience counters make the commanders difficult to deal with since they effectively keep the counters they accrued before they were destroyed. This has made the commanders popular and the decks resilient.
Almost as soon as I saw the experience counters, I started thinking about how bizarre it would be to run different commanders in one deck. This requires a three-color deck, meaning none of the legends will serve as commanders. This means the deck needs plenty of graveyard recursion to bring them back when they were killed.
Or you could build a three-color, 60-card casual deck with multiple copies of two legends that get better with experience!
After looking at the five cards in question, I opted to go with Daxos the Returned and Meren of Clan Nel Toth. My thought was that Daxos the Returned was comes out early to quickly get several experience counters and Meren of Clan Nel Toth starts churning value, returning creatures to the battlefield. I also liked the colors; black and green offer plenty of recursion while white lets me cast plenty of cheap enchantments that double as removal.
3 Daxos the Returned
3 Meren of Clan Nel Toth
I opted for three copies of each, mostly because four seemed like too much. I don't really want two or three of them in my opening hand, but I do want one on the battlefield as soon as possible, so six seemed the appropriate compromise.
I already knew I was going to be in three colors. I expected I would have a few expensive cards and probably a few mana-intensive cards, so my mana was going to need to come out on full cylinders every game. I started with a mana ramp package that mostly made sense.
1 Awakening Zone
3 Sakura-Tribe Elder
1 Mirari's Wake
1 Rites of Flourishing
1 Sword of the Animist
The Sakura-Tribe Elders are an obvious choice; they get early experience counters with Meren of Clan Nel Toth, and when they come back, you can ramp again and again. Awakening Zone fits perfectly as an enchantment cast for Daxos the Returned, producing token creatures that die for Meren of Clan Nel Toth. Mirari's Wake and Rites of Flourishing do their enchantment thing while upping my creatures' power and drawing me extra cards.
Sword of the Animist is a card I can't really explain. I just picked up a few of them and wanted to run it in a deck to see how it would go. While it is a great card, it really doesn't belong in this deck. It should probably be replaced by an Awakening Zone or another Sakura-Tribe Elder.
I wasn't sure how necessary extra card draw was going to be. If the deck works like it's supposed to, I'll be replaying creatures out of my graveyard and using up my mana to cast White/Black enchantment creature tokens. Drawing more cards didn't seem all that necessary.
Of course, every time I think I can go light on card draw I get burned, so I put some in. This isn't to suggest I'm learning the importance of card draw — more like I'm blindly following the crowd just like my mom warned against. We're not all heading to jump off a bridge are we?
1 Enchantress's Presence
1 Deathreap Ritual
These two are recurring card draw. I hope that, in addition to the Rites of Flourishing, would be enough. Each of them fits with either the Meren of Clan Nel Toth or Daxos the Returned theme, so I expect to draw plenty of extra cards.
The removal package is a combination of cards that can deal with any permanent and cards that can handle artifacts and enchantments. My meta currently uses a lot of artifacts and enchantments, so I tend to load up with ways to handle them.
2 Banishing Light
1 Grasp of Fate
1 Karmic Justice
1 Pernicious Deed
2 Caustic Caterpillar
1 Reclamation Sage
Grasp of Fate is simply a multiplayer version of Banishing Light, but I'm still reluctant to go all in with the card in this deck. The double white in the mana cost could be difficult, so that was one concern. The other issue is taking something from each player. While that sounds like a great idea, it also means that if anyone has a way to destroy the Grasp of Fate, then the cards exiled come back that much faster. I'm running both to see how it plays out.
Karmic Justice is a great card that encourages opponents to send their removal elsewhere. This seemed like a great idea for the deck, and is an enchantment to boot! However, as you'll see, this deck is mostly creatures, so the number of permanents Karmic Justice actually protects is pretty limited. This could probably come out for another Pernicious Deed.
Pernicious Deed works as mass removal for the deck. In a deck that abuses experience counters that can't be removed, I expect to come back from mass removal faster than other decks.
Finally, the Caustic Caterpillar and Reclamation Sage are the dedicated artifact/enchantment removal package. I haven't played much with Caustic Caterpillar, but I liked how it would work with Meren of Clan Nel Toth, so it is included here.
With Meren of Clan Nel Toth bringing back creatures and Daxos the Returned encouraging me to play enchantments, including these cards was fairly obvious.
2 Master of the Feast
2 Celestial Archon
2 Grim Guardian
1 Underworld Coinsmith
2 Doomwake Giant
1 Dreadbringer Lampads
1 Humbler of Mortals
1 Eidolon of Countless Battles
Master of the Feast and Celestial Archon are there as flying creatures. I'm not really happy with either, but I wanted to run them both a few times before finding an alternative. As a lover of Orzhov, the idea of costing opponents' life and gaining life really appeals to me, so I included Grim Guardian and Underworld Coinsmith. Multiplayer games often get bogged down to the point that attacking someone just isn't an option. In those scenarios, these cards earn their keep. Grim Guardian is also a pretty sizeable body, so when attacking is an option, Grim Guardian is not a wasted card.
I included Doomwake Giant but I wasn't sure of its value. I want mass removal and I was afraid that I wouldn't cast enough enchantments in one turn to make this useful. Once I realized that my ramp package was good, so whenever Daxos the Returned was also in play, I could give all creatures -1/-1 for three mana, and get an enchantment creature in the Bargain! This meant that -3/-3 would regularly be an option!
The final three were there for combat as forms of evasion (intimidate and trample) and a way to pump up a creature.
1 Sigil of the Empty Throne
I've used Sigil of the Empty Throne in several other enchantment heavy decks, and it is always insane. Adding a 4/4 Angel to the result of every enchantment often becomes the cudgel you didn't know you needed. The only downside I've seen for this card is that it does tend to turn the entire board against you. I'm rarely a fan of those cards, but Sigil of the Empty Throne does such good work that I'm reluctant to pull it just for that reason.
I've played a handful of games with the deck and I'm starting to see some problems. I'll likely play a few more games before doing anything too drastic, but the issues I'm seeing go beyond swapping out a single card or two. The point of running two separate legends both pumping experience counters was that one of them would benefit from the other adding experience counters early in the game. So far, it seems Daxos the Returned and Meren of Clan Nel Toth both add counters early, so I'm not sure that it is proving helpful. Not a horrible problem, but it was one of the reason to build the deck.
The second problem I'm finding lies with Daxos the Returned and Meren of Clan Nel Toth themselves. The cards just don't overlap as well as I thought they would. The enchantment creatures are good, but hardly the most optimal creature choice. In too many games I think I would be better off simply reducing the deck to two colors and running four copies of the appropriate legend.
I'm not willing to give up on the two-legend deck just yet. One of the guys in my playgroup, Josh, has suggesting swapping out Daxos for Ezuri, Claw of Progress. Both Meren of Clan Nel Toth and Ezuri, Claw of Progress are looking for creatures and if the creatures are smaller, that tends to make both legends work better. The idea appeals to me more and more, to the point that I've started looking at various options. Here's an early draft of "Mer-zuri!"
While the standard stuff is fairly obvious (Eternal Witness, Mulldrifter, Acidic Slime), what are some of your recommendations? I can go to edhrec.com to find the cards everyone is using, but I want the cards my playgroup will ask, "What does that do?" What are cards that would work in this deck that you rarely see? Hit me up in the comments or on Twitter, and you'll see the results in a future article!