Modern Horizons is an amazing set with tons of exciting Commander cards, but my mind keeps going back to one War of the Spark card in particular, and the only way to cure that is to write this article. Last week I went against my nature and wrote about a mono-black commander, so it’s time to offset that with this Simic gem:
Building Around Roalesk in Commander
Roalesk, or as LSV likes to call him, ROASlesk, is the ideal executive for the Simic biotech corporation I’d like to build. When you bring him on, you get a sweet signing bonus of two +1/+1 counters, and when he leaves the company, his golden parachute kicks in–but unlike a real one, Roalesk’s termination package spreads the wealth to everyone who’s still on the battlefield.
So, what’s our business plan for Roalesk? Well, here’s what I’ve drafted up:
- We’ll need creatures that love +1/+1 counters – they’ll benefit the most from Roalesk’s unique management style.
- We’ll need other permanents that want to be proliferated, as that’s the kind of asset Roalesk is best at managing, as well as other ways to proliferate so Roalesk doesn’t have to do all the work himself.
- Roalesk demands a lot of mana. Five isn’t an insignificant amount, and if he ends up going to the command zone his salary gets even higher.
- Some of our best workers are irreplaceable, and it would be amazing just to be able to employ some clones or get them back in the organization. (Plus, cloning a Roalesk results in some fun shenanigans, and if we want Roalesk’s death trigger, we’ll need to let him see the graveyard sometimes.)
- We’ll need ways to protect the board we use Roalesk to build. Protect our investment, that is!
Step 1: Hire Roalesk’s Direct Reports
When I was in business school, I learned that the first thing to do in a situation like this is to get the right people on the bus. Once you have that, it’s easier to figure out where the bus is going.
These three are some of the Simic Combine’s best carriers of counters. Fathom Mage and Sharktocrab both do their jobs immediately when counters are placed on them, whereas Gyre Sage gets to do its thing once per untap instead. Regardless, we need mana to go along with all those cards and all the control Sharktocrab exerts. Speaking of mana, Fertilid is one of the best ways for us to get it in the early-to-midgame, and we’ll have to structure our manabase properly to make optimal use of it.
These are more oriented toward strengthening your team using the counters they receive. Master Biomancer turns your creatures into powerful mutants as they enter, and Kalonian Hydra works amazingly well with the Biomancer by turning the counters it dispenses into even more. Champion of Lambholt builds up counters quickly and then uses them to make your team very hard to block.
Both will grow as we draw cards (and we’ll make sure to do so), but where Toothy’s death gets us more draws, Chasm Skulker does more to leave an army behind. Either way, both cards consistently grow turn after turn, and that’s an important factor in this deck. We need big creatures, which is why…
…we’ll be hiring these four standouts. Look how long their resumes are! Sure, they’re specialist. They only know how to do one thing: get swole. What Managorger Hydra and Mowu have in trample, Experiment One makes up for in being able to regenerate. Experiment One grows without us even paying much attention to it, which is what makes it worthy of a slot. And, of course, everyone loves a big Krasis. No one could possibly be tired of that at this point.
These folks belong on our team not because of their raw talent (though some, like Zegana, are plenty able to rumble)–instead, they’re here to support the rest of the organization. Does your HR department provide abilities like trample and flying or make creatures unblockable? Roalesk’s does.
Step 2: Hire The Support Staff
These five are a great foundation for Roalesk’s department. Tamiyo may seem odd in a singleton deck, but her real job is to get Roalesk back from the graveyard. Nissa, Vital Force provides a similar effect, while Jiang Yanggu adds counters, keys off counters, and loves to get proliferated as he’s lacking a positive loyalty ability. Nissa, Voice of Zendikar is a huge win with proliferate, as it spews out +1/+1 counters across your team, and Nissa, Who Shakes the World provides tons of mana and turns excess lands into creatures – creatures that can grow via proliferation.
These four accountants really know how to cook the books. If you want to proliferate again and again, turn after turn, these are the creatures you want. Flux Channeler might actually not be at its best in such a creature-heavy list, but Evolution Sage is easy to justify, and the two that proliferate on command for mana are a great place to put your resources in the late game.
These three are more interested in distributing counters than collecting them, although Forgotten Ancient does know how to bank them for a while. Forgotten Ancient is one of my favorite cards of all time, which is weird because I rarely find myself sleeving it up. Its strength comes from the fact that all it takes to grow the Ancient is the normal progress of the game.
Simic Ascendancy spews out counters at a solid pace and can act as a win condition, though I find that when I’m getting it set up, someone always has Krosan Grip. Every time! Hadana’s Climb takes things a little slower, but once you flip it, it turns into a high-priority threat that your opponents have to find a way to deal with–and given that we’ve got other high-priority threat lands in this list, don’t be surprised when your opponents run out of ways to handle them.
What’s your ideal return on investment? Is it double? If it is, these are the funds you’ll want to put your counters in. Deepglow Skate is obviously splashier than the other two, which work more slowly and steadily, but sometimes what you need is the ability to grow threat after threat, turn after turn.
Sneak on in and get your proliferate going. A lot of decks have a weird weakness to little annoying flyers, so use these two to do some corporate espionage and get some more counters.
Inexorable Tide is a Flux Channeler that doesn’t care what kind of spell you cast. It also doesn’t get Wrathed away most of the time, which is a big deal. We saw Contagion Clasp and Contagion Engine last week as repeatable proliferate engines, and they do just as well in this deck. This time they’re more interested in boosting our team than they are in shrinking the opposing teams, but a little extra removal from these is a good get as well.
Sometimes you just need a one-shot effect to make something happen, and that’s where these come in. The first three replace themselves and are fairly easy to cast, while Planewide Celebration is a bigger payoff that you could conceivably use to proliferate four times. You can also get Roalesk back with it, which is a pretty big deal as well.
These three all increase the interest rates on our investments. When you’re proliferating multiple times a turn and adding tons of counters to things, cards like these three go an incredibly long way to improving our bottom line and zeroing out our opponents’ balance sheets. (Their life totals. This metaphor is a lot of work.)
These cards all support our creatures with counters in various ways. Give // Take can be fused to draw you a ton of cards right away, or you can just pick one half. Solidarity of Heroes is a hard-hitting, doubling card that can go as wide as we need it to. Biogenic Upgrade also does some good work in terms of doubling, and Inspiring Call and Bred for the Hunt provide a huge payoff with card draw.
These are some of the lands I was talking about earlier that turn into must-kills. All three of these add some counters to our creatures in various ways.
The company has a few secret projects. Don’t worry about it.
Step 3: Secure Venture Capital
We’re going to need some extra mana. Not a ton needs to be said about this, but here’s what I’m thinking in terms of cards that do the job:
Spells! At least we have something to trigger Flux Channeler with.
More ways to get land onto the battlefield. Great! These go well with our clones (coming up in our next section) which makes them rather more valuable than the sorceries.
Sometimes you just need some Elves. Luckily, there are plenty around, and Incubation Druid even wants us to put counters on it.
Artifacts that generate mana are sort of the property, plan, and equipment of Commander decks. They’re not exciting, but you have to have them if you’re going to manufacture anything.
These are a little more exciting given that proliferating pumps them up.
Step 4: Bolster Our Workforce
Some of our best workers are hard to replace. Roalesk needs to die, which is pretty inconvenient for a Commander, and the rest of our team isn’t necessarily full of redundancy. What do we really want to do with our best employees? Well, we want to clone them, and it turns out that we can actually do that here.
Same as Blade of Selves, but you just get one per turn.
Lots of nonlegendary Roalesks? Sure, but maybe we can do better. Multiple Forgotten Ancients? Verdurous Gearhulks entering the battlefield every turn? A few more copies of Pir to augment our counter-adding abilities? The possibilities are endless.
Quasiduplicate and Cackling Counterpart both get two shots. A kicked Rite of Replication on Roalesk can generate a lot of proliferate triggers. Spitting Image can be recast any amount of times as long as you’re ready to throw some lands away. The rest are honestly a tier below those four, but if you like this type of effect, I wanted you to have a few options!
Clones with counters. Is this exactly what we’re looking for in this deck? Yes. Yes, it is. Some of our cards don’t work super well when they don’t come in with counters, so these two are incredible.
Your run-of-the-mill Clones, some of them featuring twists. Obviously some are better than others, with Clone basically being the bottom of the barrel, but again, if you want tons of clones, you can have them.
The opposite of most clones, Bramble Sovereign should be played before the creatures you want to copy. If you keep it in play, it’s fairly trivial to generate a lot of value, copying anything from Farhaven Elf all the way up to Roalesk itself.
We also need some ways to get things back from the graveyard–in particular, Roalesk. I already wrote about a few cards that do that, so that leaves me writing about Eternal Witness all by itself, and honestly, you’ve seen this card before.
Step 5: Protect Our Investment
Sometimes, opponents will want to destroy our corporate structure. Sometimes, they’ll try to build their own company to rival ours. We must stop them from doing both of those things, and this manifests in a few ways:
We’ll have creatures we want to protect, and many of them are vulnerable in terms of their power and toughness, so giving them hexproof and/or indestructible can really save us some headaches.
A series of counterspells can really help us keep our board from getting Wrathed away, stolen, exiled, or whatever it is. Think of this as us filing a legal injunction over a trademark or something, only way less boring and not really related to capitalism at all.
Sometimes we just have to blow something up. Blue and Green aren’t honestly the best at that, so we have to use some weird cards to do so. Krosan Grip and Return to Nature can take care of artifacts and enchantments, but if we want to destroy other types of permanents, we’ll be giving our opponents something in return.
Some people want to use their graveyards to do fun things. Here at RoaleskCorp, we’re against that.
Obviously, you can’t fit all of these cards into your deck, but don’t worry–if you’ve got an itch to build a deck now, I’ve got a version here for you.
Roalesk, Apex Hybrid in Commander
11 Island (335) 11 Forest (347) 1 Blast Zone 1 Botanical Sanctum 1 Breeding Pool 1 Command Tower 1 Hinterland Harbor 1 Karn's Bastion 1 Llanowar Reborn 1 Mage-Ring Network 1 Novijen, Heart of Progress 1 Oran-Rief, the Vastwood 1 Reliquary Tower 1 Simic Growth Chamber 1 Temple of Mystery 1 Yavimaya Coast 1 Altered Ego 1 Bramble Sovereign 1 Deepglow Skate 1 Eternal Witness 1 Evolution Sage 1 Fathom Mage 1 Fertilid 1 Flux Channeler 1 Forgotten Ancient 1 Gyre Sage 1 Herald of Secret Streams 1 Hydroid Krasis 1 Kalonian Hydra 1 Managorger Hydra 1 Master Biomancer 1 Merfolk Skydiver 1 Mirror Image 1 Mowu, Loyal Companion 1 Phantasmal Image 1 Pir, Imaginative Rascal 1 Rishkar, Peema Renegade 1 Sharktocrab 1 Spark Double 1 Thrummingbird 1 Toothy, Imaginary Friend 1 Verdurous Gearhulk 1 Viral Drake 1 Vorel of the Hull Clade 1 Zegana, Utopian Speaker 1 Astral Cornucopia 1 Blade of Selves 1 Contagion Engine 1 Everflowing Chalice 1 Helm of the Host 1 Lux Cannon 1 Tormod's Crypt 1 Bred for the Hunt 1 Doubling Season 1 Hadana's Climb/Winged Temple of Orazca 1 Hardened Scales 1 Inexorable Tide 1 Simic Ascendancy 1 Jiang Yanggu, Wildcrafter 1 Nissa, Vital Force 1 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar 1 Tamiyo, Collector of Tales 1 Beast Within 1 Cackling Counterpart 1 Disallow 1 Heroic Intervention 1 Inspiring Call 1 Krosan Grip 1 Pongify 1 Reality Shift 1 Solidarity of Heroes 1 Swan Song 1 Biogenic Upgrade 1 Contentious Plan 1 Cultivate 1 Kodama's Reach 1 Quasiduplicate 1 Rite of Replication 1 Tezzeret's Gambit
If you’re looking to make things a little more competitive, feel free to include some Infect creatures as well as cards like Sage of Hours and Magistrate’s Scepter which you can use to take tons of turns. Triumph of the Hordes is a great way to end a game in your favor, and tutors like Green Sun’s Zenith can help you get exactly the cards you need to dominate a game. Finally, Darksteel Reactor is a powerful way to generate inevitability. You can also just use the proliferates to ultimate a bunch of planeswalkers and smash people with Bioessence Hydra if that’s your jam.
Let me know what you think!