When you are lucky enough to have an article fall directly on Halloween, you write a Halloween article! And when it comes to Magic, the options are practically endless. You could go original old school and write about All Hallow's Eve. An interesting recursion card that can be the basis of a great theme deck, but it just didn't interest me. You could try something with Bogbrew Witch and her friends, Festering Newt and Bubbling Cauldron, but I was the lucky one who got to preview them way back in Magic 2014. I want to try something I haven't done before.
Given the focus of Commander 2017 and Ixalan on creature-based theme decks, I thought going that route could be interesting. Witches, wizards, and cats all seem on point, but Commander has already given us two of those. Witches seems cute, but I have something else in mind.
Virtually every house that has made any effort to join the Halloween fun has a spider on it somewhere. Bushes covered in webs are practically a requirement! Add into all of this the foil promo Ishkanah I've had since the Eldritch Moon prerelease and the fact that I have no Golgari Commander deck and this is an easy winner!
So what goes into a Spider-themed Commander deck? Well, Ishkanah, Grafwidow is a no-brainer for my commander. Spiders are a pretty obvious choice as well. Any card that references a spider needs to be given a look as well. With the limited options these offer, I figured we could expand our web to include cards that mention a web or Cocoon. Admittedly, not exactly a stretch, especially when we are looking at just green and black as color options. The web cards that I want to include pretty much fall in the spider category and the Cocoon cards? Well, better left unsaid.
I think the real build for this deck is going to come down to Ishkanah and what she does with Spiders. Let's break this down a little to focus what we are going to want to do.
Costs. Ishkanah, Grafwidow costs five mana, and her ability costs seven. These aren't cheap and if we are hoping to cast this Spider more than once, we are going to need some mana. Mana ramp will be a key to keeping this deck humming. Thankfully we are playing into green's wheelhouse here, so I don't see us having a problem finding cards that will get our mana base huge and do it quickly.
Delirium effect. If we are interested in getting three Spider Tokens onto the battlefield when Ishkanah enters the battlefield, we are going to want to have ways to load up the graveyard. Thankfully we are playing into black's wheelhouse here, so I don't see us having a problem finding cards that will get our graveyard huge and do it quickly.
The real trick with delirium is getting four types of cards into our graveyard. Creatures and lands are rarely an issue for me. Virtually every deck I build is loaded with lands and creatures. The key is to make sure there are enough artifacts, enchantments, sorceries, and instants to ensure that we reach delirium quickly, and can get there again if our graveyard is exiled. As our decklist gets closer to completion, we'll be taking a close look to see about our delirium requirements.
Also, we don't want to have to pay two more every time just to get those three Spider Tokens, so we'll be looking for all sorts of ways to blink Ishkanah in and out of the battlefield to get that enter the battlefield trigger as often as possible.
Spider life loss. While I don't expect to win games with this ability, I do hope to eliminate an opponent with it practically every game. This means I'll want all the mana I can get, and probably more. It also means that I'm going to want plenty of Spiders and every way I can think of to make them.
So, what is filling our Spider-themed decklist?
I'm not going to list every Spider available. You can easily search for every black and/or green Spider in Magic and get a sense of what is available. I want to look at a few of the Spider cards that I think absolutely have to be in this deck.
A sorcery that gives us a 1/2 Spider for every creature in our graveyard? This will give us a bunch of Spiders to take down a player with Ishkanah's ability, and a bunch of Spiders to attack another player, so this just makes sense to include. I'd be excited about it being a sorcery, but I expect I'll use the flashback ability so quickly the only delirium you'll feel is the spinning between casting the card and flashing it out of the graveyard.
This is a curious card. The first few times you play it, your opponents may be surprised by it. This means that the token player may fall right into the web you have woven, leaving them with a lot of tapped creatures that do no damage and giving you a bunch of Spiders that will swing back in a nasty way. As you play more often, your opponents will become wise to your play and be far more careful how they attack you if they think you are holding Arachnogenesis. This will allow for plenty of bluffing, which is a part of Commander that doesn't get enough credit. It also doesn't hurt that this is an instant, so delirium is getting helped out here.
An enchantment creature that adds cards to your graveyard? I'm in! To be fair, you are going to have some tough decisions with Nyx Weaver. Do you return the Arachnogenesis to your hand, limiting your delirium ability, all while exiling a creature that has two card types? Or is Ishkanah's ability good enough to just let the Weaver die and bump up your count? I'm a fan of options, and Nyx Weaver brings that.
This is a card built for token theme decks. Play Ishkanah and get the three Spider Tokens. Even if those are the only Spiders you have on the battlefield, Kindred Summons finds four Spider cards off the top of your library and puts them onto the battlefield. Well worth the seven mana for this instant speed spell!
Beyond Cryptolith Rite and Traverse the Ulvenwald, there isn't much to see here. The usual suspects are included mostly because they are some of the best ways to pump up your mana base. It may not be all that exciting, but you'll regret skimping here.
Ways to fill and/or recur the Graveyard
Deadbridge Chant. I have loved Deadbridge Chant and the unpredictability it brings. This is an amazing card for this deck. Adding the top 10 cards of your library to your graveyard will bring your delirium requirements most of the time, especially with the other cards in your deck. It also acts as card draw, giving you creatures on the battlefield or cards in hand pretty much every upkeep it sits on the battlefield. Smart opponents will counter the card or get rid of it before you start to get to use it. Hopefully they just destroy it and add an enchantment to your cards in the graveyard!
Lifecrafter's Bestiary & Descendants' Path
Every deck needs card drawing and running a green deck that uses a lot of creatures means that this card should be a lock in your deck. You should already own a bunch of these and if you don't, go get some. They won't be cheap for long. Descendants' Path isn't technically card draw, but it gives you more creatures on the battlefield.
After playing the deck a few times, you can decide if Sylvan Library or Phyrexian Arena are going to be additions you'll want to make. I don't feel like there is near enough card drawing in the deck, but keeping the deck on theme was my primary concern. We'll get a chance to make the deck hum soon enough!
With black as one of the colors, there is an embarrassment of riches to choose from!
When you are playing a creature theme deck, you can find yourself with less than optimal creatures. The key is to then take advantage of cards like this. The ability to wipe out basically everything but your creatures is a wonderful thing! Wipe the defenses and swing for lethal with unblocked spiders!
The card fits the theme perfectly. Hitting spiders and possibly getting a Spider Token? This is what we want to do! I'm not thrilled about paying four mana for this instant, but on theme removal is a must include!
So that taste of the deck, here is the deck itself in all its eight-legged glory!
This deck is a nice start. It has the mix of card types that I wanted, while holding tightly to the theme. It seems like whenever anyone builds a Commander deck, they invariably find cards that don't quite fit, but would just be too much fun not to include. I'd like to say that I resisted the Impulse to include these cards, but I'm weak!
Ikra Shidiqi, the Usurper was one of those cards for me. If I'm going to include a creature in the deck that isn't a Spider, it better be good, and Ikra Shidiqi fits that bill. When it is on the battlefield, you will be gaining life. In a deck that requires plenty of Spiders on the battlefield, expect that some games will go long. Having life gain during those games will be valuable and worth the wavering from your theme.
I also couldn't see how I could possibly not include Assault Formation. I have run a Doran, the Siege Tower 60-card casual deck for a long time now, so running Assault Formation in a deck loaded with a creature type known for having a toughness bigger than its power just made sense. There aren't any defenders in this deck, so part that part of the card is irrelevant, but the ability to buff every Spider's toughness can be a real boon to a deck that should have ten mana on the battlefield quickly.
I hope your Halloween theme decks offer up plenty of tricks (for your opponents) and treats (for you)!