For this article, I knew I wanted to look at The Locust God. I don't currently have a Commander deck in these colors, and the idea of a swarm of flying token creatures really appeals to the token creature junkie in me. They might officially be blue and red Insects with flying, but who doesn't picture a swarm of Locusts moving in unison, like a black cloud swirling towards your opponents and enveloping them? Locusts filling their mouths, nostrils, and ears, endlessly biting until there is nothing left but meatless bones! Who wouldn't want to control that power!?
(Or maybe it reminded me of a less disgusting image involving a long vacation across the Canadian prairies when I was a child. I recall my father having to put cardboard over the front of the car to prevent the radiator from getting plugged with grasshopper guts because they were so thick that year. The car almost slid off the highway twice that year because the road was slick with crushed grasshopper. Maybe that isn't as "less disgusting" as I thought.)
Breaking down the card usually shows us the cards innate strengths and weaknesses and can point us in particular directions when it comes to building the deck, so I like to start here. The Locust God is a six-mana 4/4 creature with flying. I get immediately concerned about building around any legend that costs this much. It means you can't really play it too early, and recasting it is likely only going to happen once or possibly twice. This tends to mean that the deck will have to be able to function without The Locust God on the battlefield. However, the last clause in the text box changes everything.
Letting The Locust God die means you can recast it on your next turn, since it will be in your hand. The only way this doesn't happen is when it is exiled, or when an opponent kills it then exiles your graveyard. I'm not saying these things won't happen, but it gives a level of resilience to your commander that most others just don't have. It means that I'm willing to bow down to The Locust God and let the deck rely on its abilities!
And what abilities! Draw a card? Get a 1/1 flier! Every time you have a card in your hand, your opponent has to assume you can add at least one token creature to the board, and probably even more than one. Not only do your blocks surprise your opponents, but the tokens have haste! You'll be getting a token on your draw phase every time! Spend four mana and you'll be improving your hand and getting another 1/1 flier. Now just remember that you're in blue and the game just got completely unfair!
This deck is really going to want the ramp. The Locust God is great, but makes significant demands on your mana, so you'll need plenty of it. You will be drawing a ton of cards and wanting to play cards that let you draw more cards, so mana will be paramount. I've started with ten cards to ramp. This may need to be even higher, but I expect it will be enough for now.
I opted to choose mana rocks that cost less over cards that make more mana as I want to cast them as early as possible. Training Grounds is there primarily for The Locust God's looting ability. I'm not sure how much I'm going to use it, so it may get cut, but reducing that cost to just a red and blue mana seemed worth it.
The only real surprise there is Fellwar Stone. I love that card in multiplayer games. It only costs two mana and it usually gets me the colors I'm looking for. With three opponents, the Fellwar Stone generally finds someone running my colors!
Normally, card draw helps you find the cards in your deck that do exactly what you want by drawing deeper into your deck. That will happen with this deck as well, but the act of drawing cards is a big part of what we want in and of itself.
When I was considering cards for this section, I wanted cards that would let me draw a bunch of cards at once, cards that would give me repeated draws over the course of the game, and cards that would let me draw cards on my opponents' turn. These will let me overwhelm my opponents with plenty of Locusts, gain a steady incremental advantage over time, or block their monstrous attempt to take me down with 1/1's that appear out of thin air! Given everything I'm looking to get, it isn't surprising this section has plenty of cards!
Nin, the Pain Artist
Arjun, the Shifting Flame
Commit // Memory
Bident of Thassa
Most of the cards that let me draw multiple cards at once are Windmill/Wheel of Fortune style effects. Arjun, the Shifting Flame and Fateful Showdown are two of my favorites among these cards.
To really make those effective, you often need to have a full hand of cards, so cards like Rhystic Study and Skullclamp can quickly fill your hand. Nin, the Pain Artist works wonders here. Target one Insect with five points of damage and draw five cards!
This set of cards can also be fairly dangerous. Rhystic Study annoys your opponents to no end and Consecrated Sphinx should set off the alarm bells for every opponent, even when you aren't getting an Insect for every card you draw. Many of the Windfall effects will hit your opponents as well, and many opponents don't like seeing the hand of cards they worked so hard to get be tossed aside for another random set. When you understand the danger, you can play appropriately.
The other danger lies with Consecrated Sphinx, Skullclamp and Alhammerret's Archive. Any of these cards, if pushed, can result in you playing a dangerous game with your library. Hopefully you'll have enough Locusts that you'll end the game quickly, but be aware that decking yourself is a real risk.
While technically removal, these are all cards that deal with problematic cards, they are wildly different. Arcane Denial, Vandalblast and Imprisoned in the Moon are about as different as "removal" can get. Many of these cards also offer some amount of card drawing, so they are often doing double duty. I expect after several games I'll be looking to rehash this section so the cards are cheaper to cast, but for now, I like the eclectic variety and trying something different.
Commit // Memory
Curse of the Swine
Imprisoned in the Moon
Commit // Memory is practically built for this deck, providing removal or drawing seven new cards. Between Izzet Charm, Mystic Confluence, Cryptic Command, and Incendiary Command, you can certainly choose to deal with your opponents' cards or push your own agenda just that much harder.
While many cards force you to discard your hand before replacing it, there are plenty that just add to your current hand. I didn't want to see all these cards discarded at the end of the turn when I could hold a hand of 20 cards and threaten to do practically anything. It is certainly an option to go through all the card draw and ensure that you'll never have more than eight cards in hand, opening up these spots to other more useful cards, but for now, the benefits of extra cards and the chance to do some bluffing outweigh that. Besides, if I have 20 cards in hand, I hopefully have at least 20 Locusts on the battlefield too!
Anvil of Bogardan
Library of Leng
So the question I asked with this section was, "bigger, or more?" If a card makes the locusts bigger, you are probably doing it at the cost of more locusts. As someone who has seen 150 Pegasus tokens Disappear to a Pyroclasm, and 50 Zombies destroyed by Black Sun's Zenith, I understand the benefit of slightly larger creatures. Admittedly, they are still at risk but at least the risk isn't so significant.
Coat of Arms
Coat of Arms is the dangerous one in this bunch. Since your opponents' creatures can also benefit, if you happen to run into someone with several Plant Tokens or Zombies or other theme decks, you can do serious harm to yourself. While it is an artifact, treat it like a sorcery and cast it only on the turn you plan to use it. At that point, make it count! Fly over the elves and take them out in a single attack.
Let's go through each of these:
Purphoros, God of the Forge
I hate Purphoros. I am sick of games just ending when one of my opponents drops 13 Zombies or a large Master of Waves to end games. Losing games to brainless two-card combos just makes me shake my head. I give no respect to the "winner" of the game and wish the card was just banned to stop these stupid plays.
Yet here it is. I suspect this deck will need to win games quickly, so Purphoros is here, but I'm already eying up cards to replace it. I really don't like and I hope I can use the group Firebreathing effect to win games rather than being the one who says, "Oops, I won."
Psychosis Crawler. With the number of Windfall effects, I expect the Crawler to do 14 damage in most games when it comes out.
Chasm Skulker. It is an inexpensive creature that can stabilize the board and plays well with all the card drawing. Given the amount of copying going on, I may regret using a card that makes Islandwalking tokens, but we'll see.
Kozilek, Butcher of Truth. I wanted an Eldrazi that could return my whole graveyard to my library in case I drew too many cards. Kozilek happens to draw four cards if you cast it, so it seemed like the best option.
Vedalken Orrery. Playing everything from my hand at instant speed seems like fun. This can effectively double your mana for a turn, letting you cast an expensive Coat of Arms at the end of an opponent's turn, then untapping your mana to cast something else on your turn.
The deck altogether!
My only concern with this deck is that it is too focused. When a deck draws as many cards as this one should, the ability to do the same optimal play goes up, which means there is a risk that the deck will get boring. I hope to see wins with Purphoros, pumped Insects, or Psychosis Crawler. I'm also looking at changing the card draw to allow a version of the deck with Assault Suit and Aether Flash.
The Locust God brings the horde for you to control; it is up to you to decide how you'll use it!