Murders at Karlov Manor comes with four new Commander decks to check out. With strong new cards and reprints of classic staples, each precon is shaping up to be great. Revenant Recon is the blue/black precon, and this heavily surveil focused list has plenty of room for upgrades.
Revenant Recon: New Commanders
Before we get into how to improve the list, let’s get to know the pieces that come with it. As with all recent Commander precons, we have two prospective leaders in the box: Mirko, Obsessive Theorist and Marvo, Deep Operative.
It’s hard to think of a better design for a Commander of a surveil-focused deck than Mirko, Obsessive Theorist — or at least one that other players would think is at all fair. He comes down early for only three mana, and you want him out on the battlefield early to take full advantage of all the surveilling you’re going to be getting up to.
As you fill up your graveyard, he can pull creatures out of it for free (as long as they’re smaller than him). He’s evasive, vigilant and can grow into a real Commander-damage threat pretty quickly. The only downside is folks can see him coming from a mile away, and he’s probably going to draw a fair amount of removal as he grows.
Marvo, on the other hand, is the sort of Commander your opponents may have to pick up and read a few times. A five-mana 1/8 with no evasion isn’t really anything to write home about, and I’ll fully admit I did not peg clash as a returning mechanic in the Dimir deck on my Murders at Karlov Manor Bingo card. However, if you win clashes with Marvo, you get to cast something for free, which is neat.
Out of the box, the deck isn’t really built for Marvo. While there are a number of high-mana value cards in the 99, there aren’t that many more than you’d find in any other precon. There is a very neat deck to be built around Marvo, but as far as a simple upgrade goes, we’re going to stick with Mirko as our Commander.
The 99 for Revenant Recon is a highly synergistic engine of a deck, revolving entirely around the surveil mechanic. Surveil on its own can be a good way to get to the cards you need the most in a crucial moment, and the fact that we’re getting a ton of value on top of that makes this deck look like a fairly streamlined machine.
Like a lot of Blue-Black decks, we might falter a bit against an opposing super-aggressive start, but even then we have a lot of means of fighting back. With that said, let’s take a look at some of the new additions we’re getting with the deck:
So, this card is vaguely bonkers in the deck. Surveilling 1 every upkeep on its own isn’t usually anything to get too excited about (although card filtering is very nice), but the value this deck can generate with that every turn can win wars of attrition. And if you can solve this case (which shouldn’t be too tricky in a deck that wants to dump cards in its graveyard), getting free copies of every non-legendary spell you cast is going to be absolutely backbreaking for your opponents.
On its face, a 2/1 flier is going to get quickly outclassed in any game of Commander. If you have a way to go full Voltron with it, the evasion is nice, but there are still likely way better options.
But what this seemingly unassuming little creature does for this deck is buy time. Dimir isn’t the most aggressive color pair, and odds are good we’re going to need some extra blockers to get our engine rolling. Once we’ve turned that corner, all the extra flyers we’re making are going to give us the reach we need to close out a game.
Not bad for a two-mana 2/1.
I’m not going to lie. As a life-long, tricksy blue player who remembers watching Columbo reruns on television, I love this card.
This is essentially a “Vedalken Orrery-lite” effect. We can’t flash in surprise blockers, but we can really mess with people’s board states, leave up mana on our turn and generally become everything people love to complain about when they play against blue.
I can imagine a scenario where we’d actually be paying six mana for this, but most often the ideal way this card works is just as a “set-it-and-forget-it” creature recursion plan that goes off every three turns.
With the amount we surveil, this card is the kind of slow-churning value engine that will eventually demand an answer.
All I have to say about this is I’m glad the Eye-kindred deck’s ranks have grown by one. Also it’s spendy, but if we can reanimate it early, the ability to play cards we surveil without spending mana should put us way ahead — even if there’s a quick answer for the flying 3/8.
So, here’s the thing. I don’t know if this card is good, but it’s certainly funny. Double Banisher Priesting everyone when this comes into play isn’t going to stop every game plan you’re you’ll face, but it will certainly throw a wrench in the works.
If you got to target what got exiled, this would immediately be bumped up a few notches. But for now, it’s highly situational. And if you can hit someone’s key combo piece or the linchpin of their game plan, odds are good this then immediately becomes a political piece on the board. Some folks will want it blown up immediately and others might just help you try to keep it around for a swing or two to deal with some huge problematic threat.
Like I said, this is going to lead to some funny situations.
A recursive creature that fuels its own recursion and gets you incidental card draw? I don’t think this is necessarily an all-star in anyone’s deck, but it’s the kind of card you’re almost never sad to see show up in your hand.
Counterpoint harkens back to the sillier, battlecruiser days of Commander, and I am here for it. This is the sort of card that pairs very well with the Final-Word Phantom above, as leaving this much mana open in a blue deck is usually a big telegraph to everyone else that you’re up to something.
Even with the Phantom, they’ll still know there are shenanigans afoot — but maybe not this specific one. This card will be responsible for some game-swinging plays and good stories, and really, that’s all a lot of folks are looking for in a game of Commander.
Revenant Recon $50 Budget Upgrade
While the deck is already fairly tuned, there are a few cards we can look to add to this deck in our upgrade, and the ability to answer opposing plans is key. Cards like Blood Operative can randomly hose someone else’s graveyard options, plus the incidental lifegain and recursion are certainly not to be overlooked.
This card isn’t technically going to be out until after Revenant Recon releases, and I have no idea how expensive it will be — but it is just perfect for us here, and I can’t imagine it’ll be that much of a bank-breaker to ruin our budget.
Again, more Surveil triggers for doing things we already want to be doing and some possible card draw as well makes for a fine addition to the stew we’ve got cooking.
Not the flashiest upgrade for sure, but Drag the Canal is one of those cards that just does a little bit of everything we want. The creature that dies for you to get the full potential of the card doesn’t even have to be yours!
Eloise adds a nice amount of card draw and more incidental surveil to the deck. She will serve as a solid contributor that can help you churn through the deck to a needed answer in a pinch.
Hey, it’s our Ransom Note replacement! It does largely the same things, but we want that repeatable surveil to trigger all of the other abilities in our deck — so this is a strict upgrade for us.
Look, sometimes blue is the bad guy, and that means playing counterspells that are a little less clunky than Counterpoint but are still on-theme for the deck. Sinister Sabotage fits the bill perfectly.
In a stunning oversight, there’s no actual Revenant in Revenant Recon. Let’s fix that with this recent horror from Ixalan that plays very nicely with the rest of our deck.
Surveiling, drawing cards, and incidental drain on a decently-sized on-curve body? Sign me up.
Blue/black decks are traditionally pretty weak to certain card types, so having an on-theme, catch-all answer — even if just for a single turn cycle — can salvage seemingly unwinnable situations.
We already have Ephara’s Dispersal to handle creatures, but Unauthorized Exit can bounce a problematic Enchantment, Artifact, or whatever else may be holding you back from winning. Or just, you know, surviving.
Even more simple creature recursion, which is going to be trivial to turn on in this deck, Oversold Cemetery lets you surveil away creatures with somewhat reckless abandon, secure in the knowledge you’ll get them back to your hand in a turn or two.
Even with the uncertainty of the price tag on Dimir Strandcatcher, we’re well under budget with these upgrades, so this would be a good place to snag a blue-black land that you’ve been meaning to get your hands on and upgrade the mana base. Perhaps a Morphic Pool along with an Undercity Sewers?
Here’s what I ended up with:
Along with a handy link!
And here’s what I cut to get there:
- Darkwater Catacombs
- Temple of the False God
- Everflowing Chalice
- Ransom Note
- Phyrexian Arena
- Phyrexian Metamorph
- Deep Analysis
- Marvo, Deep Operative
If $50 doesn’t take you as far as you want this deck to go, we certainly have a few more suggestions for those looking to reach a little higher.
Sword of Once and Future feels like it never quite got the hype of the other Swords of X & Y, and I can certainly understand why it seems underwhelming in comparison to many of them. But here, in a deck that runs off of surveilling? It’s exactly the equipment this deck wants.
A lot of the new creature recursion in Revenant Recon comes with the caveat of the creature coming in with a finality counter, meaning if it would die again, it instead gets exiled. I get it, unending creature recursion can feel unfair, and that’s exactly why we can add Virtue of Persistence here. No one said winning in Magic and Commander happens because you play fair!
Not exactly an expensive addition. In fact, the only reason this doesn’t go in the main upgrade section is we aren’t exactly teeming with legendary creatures. But if you do end up with a more legendary build of this deck, consider the humble Confession Dial as a handy way to get them back up on their feat once they hit the graveyard.
If you feel like you need another piece of removal, or another counterspell in a pinch, you could certainly do worse than the rather versatile Drown in the Loch. Revenant Recon is a grindy enough deck that it shouldn’t be long before Drown in the Loch becomes able to take out or counter anything your opponents have.
Revenant Recon does an excellent job of taking a mechanic that might feel somewhat underpowered on its own and very effectively turns it into an engine of destruction in a highly synergistic package. Whether you plan to upgrade the deck, play it straight out of the box, or figure out a killer Marvo deck, Revenant Recon is a great precon to pick up.
Chris is the Associate Media Producer at Card Kingdom. He would like to apologize to his son for not holding onto more cards from when he first started playing, as that likely would have paid for college. He enjoys pretty much all formats of Magic, but usually ends up playing decks that make other people dislike playing those formats with him.