I’m not the first person to say that Commander games take a long time. In fact, I might be one of the last. Some of my friends can’t get into Commander largely because of the game length, and I get that. But realistically, what were they doing with that time? Watching the extended edition of Fellowship of the Ring? Doing the fantasy baseball research I’ve been slacking on? Earning Pro Points and prizes?
Okay, so maybe they have a point, to some degree. Commander is fun, but some games go so long that I can’t see fun in the rear view mirror no matter how hard I try (these are usually the games people want to play at 11 p.m. after dinner on Saturday night of a Grand Prix). There are plenty of ways to accelerate games, but not all of them are particularly fun, and many include early elimination of some of the players. That’s not what I’m looking for, and that’s why I’ve brought this Commander to the table:
Why Anya? Well, she’s at her best when everyone is playing up until the very end. She’s also the only card I know of with a Gatherer ruling that makes specific reference to Commander Vanguard. If you can get players low enough—and Anya powerful enough—that you can outright eliminate them with Commander damage, then you’re doing things right.
So you’ll need to spread your attacks around to multiple players. How can you do that? I’ve got a few ideas…
One way is to use the myriad mechanic, introduced in the most recent Commander supplement. There aren’t too many cards with myriad, and frankly, that’s probably okay. I haven’t included the red myriad creature because I’ve chosen to focus on an Angel theme, and I didn’t feel that this was one of the areas in which I should make an exception.
Another way is to grab some extra attack steps. Aurelia can bring one of those on her first turn on the battlefield, which I really appreciate. Scourge of the Throne is one of the few non-Angels, but it feeds into your goal of keeping everyone alive by encouraging you to attack the player with the highest life total.
One of the other ways to keep life totals where you want them is to encourage your tablemates to attack one another. Since Shadows over Innistrad hype is in full swing right now, I thought I’d include some of my favorite combat encouragement tools from the original Innistrad block: Curses!
Most of these Curses encourage players to gang up on a specific player, so I don’t recommend dropping them all on a single opponent. Spread the love! Of course, it’s not as though you’ll have multiple Curses most of the time. Originally, Curse of the Forsaken was on my list, but then I remembered it might pull players out of the Anya zone. I can’t have that!
Of course, you’ve got a few other ways to encourage combat among your opponents. Here are a few:
These will keep players from attacking you too much—at least, as long as they have something else to spend mana on. Later in the game, when hands are empty and players are trying to finish things off, this may not help you much, but hopefully you’ll have the biggest and scariest creatures at that point.
You can force creatures to attack, if you so desire. Basandra is good at getting the ball rolling—once one creature has to attack, a player might be forced to commit multiple creatures to the attack just to make it worthwhile. Alternatively, if they don’t, then that usually means that creature’s not going to be on the battlefield for much longer.
As long as Gisela’s around, opponents are going to take a lot more damage, and you’re going to take a lot less. This may open up opportunities for opponents to eliminate one another, which can be bad for Anya, but ultimately, if they’re dead, that means you’re one player closer to victory, so things could be worse.
The Vows are some of my favorite cards in Commander (and in Conspiracy draft) because they incentivize combat while keeping me safely out of the action. Plus, you’re giving someone else a gift! Everyone loves a gift. If you can get a third party to commit a removal spell because of the Vow you cast—you’re getting a 2-for-1, and that’s the dream, right?
Maybe other players don’t have cool creatures like you do. No problem—you can loan yours out so that everyone can enjoy the fun! Plus, I enjoy the idea of putting my mighty Angels into enormous mech suits. Just be careful what you put in the Suit—giving an opponent Gisela or Aurelia might not be such a good idea.
Finally, I wanted to make sure combat was an attractive proposition for me, so I included a few cards that would make attacking more palatable.
Iroas has all the value of Dolmen Gate and then some, especially once he becomes corporeal. The menace ability allows you to bypass a small defensive force or force awkward double-blocks, and the potential 7/4 indestructible battle machine you can eventually get certainly helps me appreciate this card.
You won’t be needing the flying from Victory’s Herald for too many of your creatures, but the lifelink is certainly appreciated. This is a small thematic concession—Windbrisk Raptor costs just 1 more mana and would likely be better in this slot, but I wanted to keep close to the Angel theme. No such concessions needed to be made on behalf of Angelic Skirmisher, whose ability applies each combat, allowing you to play both offense and defense (especially if you choose vigilance when it’s your turn to attack.)
Avacyn’s newest, most wrathful depiction yet wouldn’t fit well into this deck due to our high Angel concentration, but the original Angel of Hope keeps our creatures safe and sound around the clock. Avacyn remains one of the best white creatures ever printed for Commander decks, and I’m always happy to find a slot for her.
This one awkwardly makes both Victory’s Herald and Angelic Skirmisher a bit redundant, but it’s a good enough card that I’m happy to have it around regardless. As white’s entry into the category of enchantments like Thought Reflection and Zendikar Resurgent, True Conviction has its work cut out for it, but it doesn’t disappoint.
Finally, you need some way of keeping the board under control. Traditional wrath effects slow the game down too much for Anya’s bloodthirsty tastes, so you’ll need an alternative. Luckily, your choice of creature theme has given you an out.
Our Angels aren’t spending much time on the ground, and anything that does is going to be headed into a bottomless pit. Coincidentally, these cards also damage players, which should help power Anya up.
One last thing before the deck list: I mentioned that I had made a couple of exceptions to the Angel tribal theme.
I didn’t want to leave this fellow out of this list. He works too well with Anya—it just wasn’t an interaction I was willing to skip on. I’m not going full Hidetsugu/Overblaze or anything like that, but I can’t help feeling giddy when I think about activating Hidetsugu and then attacking with a 13/13 Anya.
I’ve made you wait long enough. Here’s the list:
Commander: Anya, Merciless Angel
That’s it for this one! If you’ve got an Anya list, what does it look like? What would you add to this deck, and what would you cut to make room? What Commander would you like to see next time? Sound off in the comments or send a Tweet to @RagingLevine. See you soon!