Innistrad: Midnight Hunt will soon be upon us, and with it come a number of spooky legendary creatures with unusual abilities. As with all Innistrad sets, there’s a definite graveyard theme here — and if there’s one thing that inspires me to build wild decks, it’s new commanders that can use the graveyard!
To keep on theme, I’m covering three commanders that are either graveyard-focused or that can be easily tweaked to take advantage of the yard. As always, I’ll be keeping these builds around $100 to ensure that they’re achievable under most budgets.
Lier, Disciple of the Drowned – Anti-Control Control
Lier, Disciple of the Drowned is one of the more interesting blue commanders I’ve seen in a long time. They essentially give you access to Past in Flames from the command zone, which is extremely powerful by itself. The most interesting thing about Lier, however, is the line “Spells can’t be countered.” This is a symmetrical effect — your spells can’t be countered, but neither can your opponents’. Since most blue decks want to run some number of counterspells, this would usually prove tricky; denying yourself some of blue’s best interaction could hamstring the deck. However, I’ve developed a special list that could lay the groundwork for Lier to become one of the best mono-blue control commanders — or at least the most interesting!
Since spells can’t be countered while Lier is on board, you need to think outside the box when it comes to stack interaction. Cards like Unsubstantiate and Venser, Shaper Savant are some of the few blue cards that can bounce spells while they’re still on the stack. This prevents spells from resolving without actually countering them!
Misdirection or Redirect can often be better than a counter, allowing you to change the target of a removal spell from Lier to an opposing commander. You can even redirect Auras, so you can steal a Bear Umbra to really ruin someone’s turn.
Lazotep Plating and Mizzium Skin are great protection spells, allowing you to fizzle targeted spells without actually countering them. This will help to keep your commander or other important threats alive when it matters most.
While Lier’s ability says “Spells can’t be countered,” it doesn’t say anything about abilities! Cards like Nimble Obstructionist and Tale’s End can stop planeswalker activations, enter the battlefield triggers, or even Aetherflux Reservoir salvos. These effects may be narrower than traditional counterspells, but their impact is often enormous.
Despite Lier’s anti-counterspell stance, there’s plenty of room for real, genuine counterspells in the 99. The trick is to run modal counterspells — spells that have more than one function — so you can still use them if Lier is on board. You Find the Villains’ Lair can be a counterspell when Lier isn’t around, and a loot effect when they’re in play.
Similarly, Mystic Confluence and Sublime Epiphany have a plethora of options outside just countering spells. No matter what situation you find yourself in, you’ll never have a blank piece of cardboard in your hand!
Many control decks will rely on powerful card draw spells to keep flush with cards, but Lier’s flashback ability opens the door for more uncommon card draw options to shine. Thirst for Knowledge isn’t the typical pick for raw card advantage, but as long as you’re discarding instants or sorceries, Lier will let you recast them from the graveyard. This way, you can be sure you’re hitting your land drops while still having access to your full suite of spells.
Cycling cards work beautifully with Lier, too. You can cycle cards like Hieroglyphic Illumination and Boon of the Wish-Giver early on to help smooth out your draws, then flash them back for massive card advantage in the late game.
Lier’s flashback ability lets you cast every spell twice, which is some incredible card advantage by itself. But what kind of Commander deck would it be if it didn’t go just a little overboard? Secrets of the Dead nets you an extra card for every spell you flash back, letting you dig even deeper for the right piece.
A mono-blue control deck wouldn’t be complete without some token dorks. Talrand, Sky Summoner and Metallurgic Summonings are just two of the cards you can “set and forget” while you work on controlling the pace of the game. Eventually, these token factories will take over and finish off your opponents.
While Lier’s flashback ability exiles cards you cast from the graveyard, your bin will almost always have a healthy stock of cards. Adding Runechanter’s Pike will allow you to easily swipe a quick Voltron kill if the moment presents itself.
Finally, if you can’t beat opponents in the more direct ways above, Laboratory Maniac can still steal you that win. You can really burn through this deck if you want to, so Lab Man is a very viable option, especially against opponents that have gained infinite life.
It’s rare to find a commander that stops traditional counterspells for the table, but Lier, Disciple of the Drowned is my pick for one of the best mono-blue control commanders ever printed. It’s a totally fresh approach to the archetype, and absolutely loaded with card advantage. If you ever want to fight other control decks on an axis they’re not prepared for, look no further than this wet wizard.
Slogurk, the Overslime – Lands
Many players will consider Slogurk, the Overslime “the chosen one” to helm their slime-themed Commander decks, but I think their real strengths will show if you give them the reins to a lands deck.
Lands is an extremely popular archetype in Commander; there’s something satisfying about moving cards between zones and getting extra value from the game’s resource system. With Slogurk giving you Life From the Loam in the command zone, you can have more fun with lands than ever before!
To maximize Slogurk’s abilities, you’ll want to be putting lands into your graveyard regularly. Ramp spells like Roiling Regrowth and Springbloom Druid allow you to sacrifice lands and you pump your commander while playing the game as normal.
Realms Uncharted is Gifts Ungiven for lands, and it fits beautifully into this deck. You’ll end up with two lands in the graveyard and two in hand, all while growing Slogurk. You can search for any lands, so you can tutor up some great utility lands for whatever the situation might call for.
Perhaps the spiciest pick for the deck is Ayula’s Influence. It lets you trade a land in hand for a 2/2 token, but since you’re looking to bin the lands anyway, it’s just extra value. You can activate the ability at instant speed, too, so you can ambush attackers or create a surprise assault force on an opponent’s end step.
With all of these lands hitting the bin, you’ll want to be able to get them back to play them eventually! Ramunap Excavator lets you play them straight from the yard, which also works nicely with any fetches.
World Shaper is a repeatable self-mill creature that can also act as a ridiculous ramp spell. Not only will it help get more lands in the bin, but it’ll also reward you for doing so. It’s not a rare sight for World Shaper to ramp you by five or more lands when it dies.
Splendid Reclamation is one of the most powerful land recursion spells available. It’s often a mid-to-late game spell, but you can easily cast it after the first few turns. Even if you’ve only used Evolving Wilds and Harrow by the time you cast it, four mana for two lands is still pretty reasonable!
Landfall creatures are some of the best and most popular payoffs for lands decks in Commander. Their ability to generate value is unmatched, and things can really get out of hand if they’re left unchecked. Tatyova, Benthic Druid is a card advantage juggernaut, and unsurprisingly, she’s one of the most popular commanders in Simic colors. The rate of one card per land drop is unbelievable; she can turn a Terramorphic Expanse into a free Divination! Never build a landfall deck without her!
Avenger of Zendikar has a similar reputation, but as a finisher. After just a few land drops, this Elemental can overwhelm any board with its enormous Plant tokens. It’s usually something that players prioritize killing, so be prepared to protect it!
Roil Elemental is the most expensive landfall payoff, but it’s well worth the money. You can easily steal everyone’s commander in a single turn, shutting down most decks. It’s another “kill on sight” creature, though, so be ready to keep it safe with countermagic or similar.
Slogurk has a tendency to grow out of control if left to its own devices, which can make a Voltron kill quite viable. If you’ve been using Slogurk repeatedly to reclaim lands for value, you can always equip a Blackblade Reforged and go to town!
Titania, Protector of Argoth used to be a premium win condition with a premium price tag, but her reprint in Modern Horizons 2 did wonders for her affordability. You can now play with her and Zuran Orb in your decks for less than $3, giving you another phenomenal win condition that also happens to grow Slogurk!
The final win condition is a bit of a cheeky one. If you have Ramunap Excavator and Azusa, Lost but Seeking on board, you can cast Walk the Aeons with buyback, then replay those three Islands from the bin. You can keep recycling the same three Islands for as long as you like, thanks to Azusa and the Excavator, giving you infinite turns!
While there’s nothing new about a lands deck (or a Simic value deck, for that matter), Slogurk is a unique commander that’s worth a look. They give you easy and consistent access to a powerful land recursion engine, letting you lean harder into the archetype’s inherent graveyard synergies. If you want to durdle about while still playing with powerful effects, Slogurk is the commander for you!
Vadrik, Astral Archmage – X Spell Voltron
There’s nothing more appealing to me in Magic than reducing the costs of instants and sorceries. Goblin Electromancer is the one creature I wish were legendary, so I could play it as my commander. So when I saw Vadrik, Astral Archmage, I knew that this was Wizards’ way of telling me “don’t worry, we got you.”
Many people are already brewing with Vadrik, but they’re mostly looking into Storm builds. This is a fine approach, but I want to go a little spicier: casting several enormous spells in a turn sounds like a greater spectacle!
First of all, Vadrik’s power can be increased to boost the cost reduction he gives you. The Day/Night ability is a little too slow to be reliable, but you can artificially boost Vadrik’s power in a number of ways.
Empyrial Plate can give you a huge reduction with little to no effort at all. The more cards you have, the more spells you can cast! Blackblade Reforged and Runechanter’s Pike can work beautifully, too, and Tribute Mage can tutor for any of them.
Wizard Class comes in handy in many ways with Vadrik. First, having no maximum hand size is great, as you’ll be drawing a lot of cards with this deck. Wizard Class also draws you more cards on level 2, and the final level will grow Vadrik whenever you draw cards, making your spells cost even less!
The Royal Scions can help you filter through cards in the early game, or they can boost Vadrik’s power temporarily, almost acting like a repeatable ritual effect. Their ultimate is not only powerful, but it’s also quite achievable, should you ever need to use it.
Now that Vadrik is nice and buff, it’s time to sling some serious spells. It’s child’s play to reduce mana costs by at least seven or eight mana, and it’s fairly easy to cast an enormous Finale of Revelation for just two blue mana. Once you get that far ahead for such a little mana investment, it’s hard for other players to catch up to you.
Mass Manipulation can be a clunky spell, but with just four blue mana and a beefy Vadrik, you can steal most of the board! Not only is it an incredible mass removal small, but it can easily clear the way for the big man to do his best One Punch Man impression.
Some spells can even end up acting as massive rituals when they’re heavily discounted. Apex of Power can cost as little as three red mana, but it’ll give you back ten mana in addition to drawing you into more enormous spells! Brass’s Bounty is another spell that can cost just one mana and potentially flood your board with treasure.
What’s better than casting several gigantic spells? Copying them! There are several spells in the deck that can copy instants or sorceries, which can not only double up your huge spells, but also help wreak havoc on the stack. Increasing Vengeance is a fantastic copy spell that you can use twice on your own spells, and the flashback cost can even be reduced by Vadrik’s ability!
Narset’s Reversal is slowly becoming a Commander all-star, and it truly shines brightest here. Whether you need it as another copy of your own spell, or if you want to play around with a stack of counterspells, it will perform brilliantly every time.
Expansion//Explosion may only be able to copy smaller spells, but you can use the Explosion side to pull you miles ahead on the spot. These different applications make Expansion//Explosion one of the more flexible cards in the deck.
When the end of the game is in sight, you’ll be spoiled for choice on how to get the job done. Crackle with Power is red’s equivalent of Torment of Hailfire, and it will often end games on the spot if Vadrik is healthy enough. Comet Storm and Jaya’s Immolating Inferno are essentially the same, albeit a bit less efficient.
If you can’t cast large spells for any reason, then you have a couple of secret combos in your back pocket. Ral, Storm Conduit is a fantastic roleplayer in the deck, and with enough spell copying effects, you can easily establish a loop. If you use Expansion to copy Reverberate, for example, that copy can target Reverberate again, creating a loop of copies. Since Ral deals damage on cast or copy (it’s basically proto-magecraft), you’ll deal infinite damage to your opponents.
The final combo that I’m aware of is Heat Shimmer and Dualcaster Mage. If Dualcaster Mage copies Heat Shimmer, you get another Dualcaster Mage with haste, which in turn copies Heat Shimmer. This makes infinite hasty Mages, which can give you the satisfaction of winning through combat, if you wish. There could easily be more incidental combos I missed in the build, by the way; as is the nature of Spellslinger decks, it’s hard not to go infinite with this level of shenanigans!
If you’re looking for a Spellslinger commander — or want a fresh and exciting take on one of the format’s most popular archetypes — Vadrik, Astral Archmage is the right man for the job. Once you cast your first three-mana Blue Sun’s Zenith and draw ten cards, you’ll never look back!
As I’m sure you can tell, Innistrad: Midnight Hunt has reignited my excitement with Commander and inspired me to build a number of fun new decks. I hope I’ve done the same for you with this article!
If you have any sweet new brew ideas, I’d love to check them out! Let me know over on Twitter if there are any commanders you’re excited to build from Innistrad, or if you have any sweet tech for these decks!
Scott is an Irish content creator and the Head of Budget Magic for the Izzet League. He focuses on affordable decks in Pioneer, Modern, and Pauper, particularly ones that stray from the mainstream. When he’s not writing about his favorite decks, he can be found talking incessantly about them on Twitter and on The Budget Magic Cast.