Commander: Chulane’s Spooky Stories

Kristen GregoryCommander

It’s almost Halloween, and so there’s no excuse to not spook things up a little. Ahead of the inaugural Commander Kingdom stream on the 28th, let’s sit down, light a fire, and bust out some ghost stories. Gather ‘round, ye Vorthos!

Once Upon a Time

There’s a certain feeling of unease that comes from telling spooky stories. Even the most rational of us experience that sense of being watched, the hairs pricking up on the back of the neck… 

Our story today is brought to you by master wordsmith Chulane. In setting out to put together a spirits-themed spooky deck, I was a little stuck initially on who to choose. Brago, King Eternal and Geist of Saint Traft were a little too human to lead the deck, and taking Karador, Ghost Chieftain meant sacrificing a lot of the great blue cards. 

In the end, I went for Chulane, as he offered the colors to play spirits, clues, and things that go bump in the night. It’s also a pretty flavorful choice.

Of course, you can’t tell a spooky story without an audience, and in that audience is Tamiyo. A Planeswalker with a fondness for recording and documenting the strangeness of the multiverse, Tamiyo couldn’t miss the opportunity to sit down and hear Chulane’s tale. She’s also our best chance at solving the mystery, by joining us in our search for a Kindred Discovery.

It wouldn’t be a spooky story without something terrifying to set the scene, and nothing’s scarier than a banned card from Standard. Our tale begins with Once Upon a Time. I’ve spent time hitting the delicate flavor notes here, and Once Upon a Time isn’t alone. Solving the Ulvenwald Mysteries will take Staggering Insight, after all. 

Consulting a Mazemind Tome might be helpful, but don’t ascribe too much truth to these tales. There is power in belief, and the Overbeing of Myth may yet trap us in Living Lore. Do your best to Confirm Suspicions before Tale’s End.

An Unexpected Geist

Our tale today is one of the unexplained: a tale of ghosts and doppelgangers; a tale beyond belief. More than just making up the bulk of our creatures, though, the spirits we’re running are the backbone of the deck.

When it comes to ramp, Elder Pine of Jukai is an excellent card. It can help us dig for those lands we need for when Chulane‘s ability triggers, and it’s also triggered by Kodama’s Reach. Kodama’s Reach‘s arcane supertype allows it to trigger a number of spirits in our build, and it’s a really nice bonus.

Our spirits also offer us removal for most permanent types. Whether it’s reusing Nikko-Onna to remove enchantments, using Remorseful Cleric to hit graveyards, flashing in Spell Queller to counter spells, or just straight up exiling things with the best white card we’ve seen in a while, Skyclave Apparition, we’ve got things covered.

The Man in the Mirror

While we as Magic players could often do with taking a good hard look at ourselves, that’s not what I mean when it comes to today’s article. Instead, I’m talking about doppelgangers. There are few things scarier than meeting your doppelganger, and that’s where this tale takes a thrilling turn. 

If you’re starting to experience a feeling of deja vu, then it might just be that you’ve read this paragraph twice before. As time begins to Unwind, the reflections start to stare back at you. Is it just a Mirage Mirror? Or is something amiss?

I can think of few things as nerve-wracking as being trapped in a hall of mirrors, and our deck is entirely capable of setting that up. Permeating Mass can start to make things look the same, while Phantasmal Image is one of the cheapest Clones. Our opponents will be thankful it’s only an Illusion. 

Sanity is a rare currency at times like these, and you might find your grasp on reality loosens. Our Clone effects continue with Altered Ego and Fractured Identity, and we’re also running Corrupted Conscience for an alternate win condition. Sometimes what they least suspect is to be poisoned by their own hand!

When sanity finally slips, you might just realize that the monster was you all along. Our removal in this deck is hand picked for flavorful goodness, and you can’t get more flavorful than gruesome transformations. Beast Within, Rapid Hybridization and Darksteel Mutation make up the efficient parts of our arsenal. 

Surviving the Night

Don’t worry. I know your Vorthos taste buds are clamoring for dessert, and I’m not going to let you walk away still hungry. The rest of our deck is full of flavorful picks, and one of my goals in constructing it was to take the pressure off Chulane in the first place. Instead of staples like Guardian Project and Oracle of Mul Daya, we’re going full Vorthos. 

If anyone’s seen Supernatural, you’ll know to look out for possessed artifacts when you’re trying to put down a haunting. Bloodthirsty Blade will help keep the heat off of us, while we can still Disenchant anything that’s proving to be too resilient to our investigation. 

Our other ramp and utility spells are on theme, with some protection that’s very fitting, too. From the classic Fog to Ephemerate, Eerie Interlude and Ghostly Prison, we should be able to make it to dawn. 

Sometimes it’s hard to tell friend from foe in the dark of the night, though — what terrors lurk beyond our board? Well, whether it’s vampires, werewolves or something graver still, we can rely on the haunting chill of the Nebelgast to freeze our opponents down while we have time to draw into our Fog effects.

This isn’t the most aggressive of decks, so we’re taking full advantage of Hollowhenge Spirit’s Maze of Ith-style effect. Hopefully, we’ll be able to bounce it or flicker it for value, and we have Maze of Ith in the land base for redundancy. Likewise, we have Rattlechains and Alchemist’s Refuge to help us play at instant speed.

Rounding out the deck, I’d like to talk about two more cards that can do a lot for us. The first is Tallowisp. This haunted candle is more than just a way to read grisly tales by moonlight — it’s a way to pull out some of our strongest effects just by casting the spirits. Being able to grab Darksteel Mutation, Imprisoned in the Moon, and even Corrupted Conscience is pretty excellent. 

Drift of Phantasms, meanwhile, has transmute. Transmute is a great mechanic I’d love to see again someday, and if you want to know a little more about it, check out this great video we did over on the Tolarian Community College channel

By discarding this card and paying one and two blue, we have access to basically any effect we want in the deck. Whether you need ramp like Kodama’s Reach, removal like Beast Within, or protection like Drogskol Captain, you can grab whatever you want at 3cmc. In a pinch, you can put Drift of Phantasms into play as a blocker, and later bounce it with Spectral Shepherd or Chulane to transmute later on. It’s a versatile piece, and one I’m never sad to see. 

Tale’s End

Whether or not you’ll be able to survive the night and solve the mystery is contingent on your steely resolve, your deft gameplay, and your willingness to Confront the Unknown. I can help you get so far by giving you this primer and decklist, but it’s a choose-your-own-adventure from here on out. Where will you end up?

“Chulane’s Spooky Stories” Commander decklist
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The hardest part of finishing this deck was cutting some really juicy flavor pieces. From Murder of Crows to Spitting Image, Ongoing Investigation to Pongify, there were some really great cards I just couldn’t quite fit. I mean, I was pretty cut up about cutting Flickerwisp, if I’m honest. Card’s just creepy. Maybe a spooky cube is next on the cards…

Will this tale end in despair, or victory? Well, that remains to be seen. Tune in on Wednesday, October 28th at 10:00 am PDT for some extra-spooky fun when I get to play this deck live over on the Commander Kingdom stream.  

As ever, let me know on Twitter what you thought of my deck. I’m a sucker for flavor, and this deck is just dripping in it. Happy Halloween!