Scott takes a look at the Obscura Operation Commander Precon deck, and has some suggestions for how to give it a bit of an upgrade!
Streets of New Capenna is just upon us, and it’s shaping up to be a vibrant and engaging new world that has players excited. The demon-run crime families are the main factions of the set; they’re the same colors as the shards from Alara, but with a distinct primary color which their individual philosophies build from. This gives them a unique identity that players are magnetically drawn to, and they show how complex color pairings can be even more unique than their monocolor foundations.
Today, I’ll be taking a look at the Obscura Operation deck, which wants to sneak behind enemy lines to gather information and sabotage their plans!
New Commander Cards
If you include the face commander, there are 17 new-to-Commander cards in Obscura Operation. This is about the same as the other releases from the past year or so, which suggests it’ll be the norm going forward. A lot of these new cards have some form of association with the graveyard, mostly to make use of the new connive mechanic. Here’s a breakdown of the most important new cards in this deck:
Kamiz, Obscura Oculus is the head of the deck, and they’re adept at ensuring that creatures make their way past defenses for your benefit. Granting perfect evasion to a creature is great, and giving another attacker double strike lets you trigger combat damage effects twice while also doubling your damage. As they’re a rogue, they might also be well suited at the helm of a dedicated rogue tribal deck!
Tivit, Seller of Secrets is the first dedicated council’s dilemma commander, and it’s one that will likely see a lot of play. Voting cards are already popular among Commander players, so a large portion of the player base will love having access to a method of rigging the votes in the command zone. I expect to see them nearly as often as other popular political commanders, like Queen Marchesa.
Oskar, Rubbish Reclaimer has flown under the radar so far, but I think they have the potential to be an incredibly powerful commander. They can circumvent commander tax while you fill your graveyard, and turn self discard into additional value. They could become a fantastic cycling commander, as they’re essentially a more powerful Abandoned Sarcophagus.
Life Insurance is the aristocrats card of the set. It’s another forever staple that will show up in a lot of decks, particularly with the likes of Pawn of Ulamog and Pitiless Plunderer. It’s a little expensive at five mana, but its effect is immensely powerful. The addition of extort also makes this a great way to turn spare mana into decent life swings over the course of a few turns!
If there’s one card you should expect to see more of outside of this precon, it’s definitely Smuggler’s Share. This powerful enchantment can provide you with an enormous amount of card draw and acceleration in white, which is famously hard to come by. It could be the new card that sees the most play going forward, as it fits right at home in any white deck.
In Too Deep is a fantastic new removal spell in blue, and one that may end up becoming a staple over time. While blue isn’t short of creature removal, it can often struggle with planeswalkers, which this deals with nicely. If you put this on somebody’s commander, they will have to pay mana to sacrifice it before they can cast it again, adding an additional commander tax. Split second is nice to have on this as well, to ensure you hit your mark.
Cephalid Facetaker is a strange card. I wrote a piece recently about clones in Commander, and very few of them were able to change more than once. This is the most efficient of that type, but with the downside that you won’t get their enter the battlefield triggers. I think this has the potential to do some silly things: you can copy an attack trigger like Aurelia, the Warleader’s or Etali, Primal Storm’s, or a combat damage effect like Old Gnawbone!
Obscura Operation Deck Review
Obscura Operation is a mostly creature-based deck that looks to sneak through defenses and reap the benefits. It’s somewhat similar to the Sneak Attack preconstructed deck from Zendikar Rising, except it is slightly less rogue oriented, and it utilizes conniving instead of milling. It has a fairly average curve for a preconstructed deck; the average mana value is 3.63, and more than half of the nonland permanents have a mana value of three or less.
The deck has the usual suspects when it comes to reprints: Sol Ring, Arcane Signet, Austere Command, and Swords to Plowshares. Fetid Heath and Strionic Resonator are also great reprints, as players always need more of these cards. There are a few more niche cards that also got reprinted, which is great as they were creeping up in price. Silent-Blade Oni, Fallen Shinobi, and Wrexial, the Risen Deep are examples of cards that started to get close to the $10 mark, and this is Alela, Artful Provocateur’s first ever reprint. Overall, there are a lot of good reprints in this deck, which is great to see.
At the time of writing, the deck is valued at around $190 as singles, which is exceptional value. This will fluctuate as some of this is due to the price of some new cards like Smuggler’s Share and Tivit, Seller of Secrets, but a lot of the deck’s value is spread out across the deck in general. There are many cards in the deck that are valued around $1 to $3, and there are fewer low-value cards than usual.
In terms of performance, Obscura Operation plays very well out of the box. The land count and ramp package are both healthy, and the quality of the contents are quite high. When it comes to power level, I’d be comfortable piloting this against some of the Forgotten Realms or Commander 2021 decks, and I’d be happy with playing this in a casual pod.
Upgrading Obscura Operation
Similarly to the Buckle Up precon deck that I upgraded in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, Obscura Operation is quite a well made deck. There isn’t much that I’d want to change in terms of how the deck operates, but I think it could stand to apply more pressure and give you more card advantage. It’s easy to do this by better utilizing the deck’s built-in creature evasion
The main focal points for this upgrade will be:
- High Impact Combat Damage Effects
- Card Advantage
- Additional Utility
High Impact Combat Damage Effects
Since Kamiz, Obscura Oculus can make a creature unblockable, you’ll want to try and maximize the impact of that guaranteed combat damage. You can do this easily by adding a few powerful yet affordable cards.
Medomai the Ageless is one of the best combat damage effects available. You can get an extra turn when they connect with an opponent, and if you grant them double strike with Kamiz, then you’ll get two turns instead! They won’t be able to attack during those turns, but you’ll still double or triple the number of opportunities to deal more combat damage.
Quietus Spike is a potent piece of equipment that’s already in the deck, but it would be great to add an additional effect like that. Virtus the Veiled is effectively a Quietus Spike that you can make unblockable, and Kamiz’s double strike will cause an opponent to lose 75% of their health in just one combat step!
If you really want to make the game end, you can do so explicitly with Vorpal Sword. It’s an excellent alternate win condition that I wrote about recently; not only can it help you win the game in short order, but it functions as a decent piece of equipment until you have the mana to activate its killing blow.
While there are a lot of ways to filter through cards thanks to the connive mechanic, it can sometimes be difficult to keep your hand fully stocked. Thankfully there are a number of ways to help with this, and they all rely on combat damage!
Cards like Bident of Thassa and Reconnaissance Mission are some of the best possible cards for aggressive decks to keep a healthy number of cards in hand. Even with Kamiz’s ability alone and ignoring all the other evasion in the deck, you’re guaranteed one card per turn when you attack. Bident of Thassa also has a forced combat ability that can set you up for a big counterattack on your following turn, which can be backbreaking for some opponents.
Nightveil Specter is a fantastic addition to the deck for a couple of reasons. It’s a cheap and naturally evasive creature to help you trigger your combat damage effects, and it doesn’t require any other cards to be useful. You can play this early and just keep attacking to steal opponents’ cards, all while setting up the rest of your board. You can then give it double strike with Kamiz to exile twice as many cards!
Grazilaxx, Illithid Scholar is a great combat utility card that doesn’t show up in enough decks yet, but it will be perfect here. Not only will it give you more cards like Bident of Thassa, but it can save your blocked creatures from dying in combat. Additionally, if the likes of Fallen Shinobi or Silent-Blade Oni are blocked, you can put them back to your hand and use ninjutsu to replace an unblocked creature with them, guaranteeing you get those powerful combat damage effects!
There are a few additional quality of life upgrades that you can make to improve the overall performance and feel that don’t fit under any one particular category.
Glasspool Mimic is another copy of any creature you control, and can function as a land drop in a pinch. Since the card quality is so high in this deck already, it’s great to have a clone to double up on any of their effects.
Since your creatures will be punching through for combat damage often, it’s trivial to flip a Dowsing Dagger into Lost Vale. Having a land that taps for three mana is an extremely potent form of ramp, and it will help you to keep up with any green decks at the table.
As you’re often discarding cards with connive, Wonder is an excellent card to add to the deck. You’ll always be happy to discard it, and giving evasion to your entire team is invaluable. There will be times when you don’t have Kamiz on board, and this will do as a powerful substitute in those cases.
The Full Upgrade
The total cost of this upgrade is roughly $50. This is the sweet spot in Commander to me: the power-to-dollar ratio is at its highest around this price point, and can be easily tweaked to increase or decrease in power as you see fit. If you like this deck, you can buy all the upgrade singles at the same time as the preconstructed deck, saving you time as well as money!
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.