We’ve gotten some requests and interest in deck-building tutorials, so we’re going to start a new semi-regular feature where we take one deck and build it from the bottom up, following along with our reasoning. So today’s spotlight is Brago, King Eternal.
Brago is a very easy build, so it’s good for beginners. Right away you notice his ability: He flickers your field every time he connects. Therefore, it follows that if you pack the deck with ETB value beef and some mana rocks + the occasional interesting interaction, you’ve got yourself a deck. Brago is devastating in French 1vs1, and has a fighting chance in multiplayer.
Also keep in mind, these are cards currently owned by your humble author. I will strive to keep the decklist budget friendly, because I reckon budgets to be a great friend to I as well, and will also reflect that my choices may not necessarily be the perfect ones for you. The point is to teach you how to think about deck building, using Brago as an example. If you have Sword of Ren and Stimpy around to replace one of the 20-cent equipments, happy for you.
Maxim #1: Make sure your general can do its thing.
In Brago’s case, he has one glaring condition: He must deal combat damage to a player or he doesn’t work. He does have flying, which helps. He’s also in great colors for board control, which helps more. So our first mission is to enable his ability as much as possible…
With this collection of equipment and enchantments, we have a mini-Voltron kit for Brago. Our primary wincon isn’t really to win with Commander damage – although you could build it that way – so our set-up is largely defensive. We have four ways to make Brago hexproof, three ways to make him unblockable, a couple ways to give him haste, and even a little pump and some lifelink to sweeten the deal. Normally I stop at Lightning Greaves, Swiftfoot Boots, and Whispersilk Cloak and call it a day. But Brago gets really, really awesome when he connects.
Maxim #2: Make sure your deck can still function without your general.
Of course, no matter how many precautions you take, somebody will spoil your fun. Brago might get killed off until he’s taxed out of sight, might get hit with various whammies to disable him, or whatever. So it helps to include some other ways to enable blink as well…
There’s no sense being too redundant, but as you’ll see, some of these parts work well with combos in the deck.
Maxim #3: Include at least one combo.
Many players dislike having combos at all. Some playgroups ban them. I consider at least one simple infinite combo to be mandatory in every single deck. Here’s why: It gives you a definitive way to end games. EDH is a format infested with endless control decks that sit there blowing up everything every turn without having a way to finish the game, so it drags on for centuries. For those of us with day jobs, we prefer games to end within a few calendar pages of when they started.
Our combo engine parts:
These are somewhat interchangeable. The best is Drake with Navigator: Tap five lands, spend two mana to have Navigator bounce Drake, Drake untaps five lands, and we’re back where we started but we’ve produced three additional mana. Or Witch can bounce Drake for a one-shot per turn. This can also work with Cloud of Faeries, because we’ll be running a couple karoo lands (Azorius Chancery and Coral Atoll) so Faeries can untap four mana but be bounced with two from Navigator. Finally, we can use Ghostly Flicker to flicker Archaeomancer and Peregrine Drake, Archy returning the Flicker to our hand each time and Drake untapping five mana for every three we spend to repeat the loop.
Maxim #3a: Your combo parts should be good on their own without the combo.
This is so easy to do in Brago. Brago flickering Archaeomancer to get back a Brainstorm is good value all by itself.
So we can make infinite mana and infinite blink. Now what do we do with it?
Wait, we’re not done! We want ways to find these combos!
Maxim #4: About one fourth of the nonland cards in an EDH deck should be utility.
Utility = land fetching, mana fixing, card draw, and tutors. This is necessary, because EDH being a 99-card singleton format, every deck runs them. So if your deck doesn’t, it will fail. Our standard mana rocks kit includes…
Brago can untap any mana rock (besides Worn Powerstone) after he connects, so we get extra value out of these and in the case of Monolith, we’re not shy about having them tapped.
Our recursion package…
Our tutor package…
- * Heliod’s Pilgrim – Fetches auras for Brago and another utility we’ll cover later.
- * Taj-Nar Swordsmith – Fetches equipment. This is our budget answer to Stoneforge Mystic. Costs more mana, but otherwise does the same job.
- * Trinket Mage – Fetches Altar of the Brood, Sol Ring, and a couple of other odd jobs. We’re including two artifact lands, Ancient Den and Seat of the Synod, to make sure he earns his keep.
- * Fabricate – Artifacts are pretty important to our overall strategy.
And finally, our straight card advantage package…
Ponder, Preordain, Brainstorm, and Impulse are the holy quaternity of blue cantrips, the first ones you should reach for in any blue deck. We’re going a little overboard here because UW decks need to fly – we’re already short of things like tutoring and mana ramping in our colors, so we need to at least be sure to maximize our advantages.
Maxim #5: Once your deck’s plan is in place, fill the rest with interaction.
This is where Brago shines, and where lots of players moan how they hate facing Brago. Wait until you see our dirty tricks package…
- * Angel of Serenity – We’ve met already.
- * Fiend Hunter – Zap a creature.
- * Lavinia of the Tenth – A devastating blowout, shuts down most decks. Note that it hits opponent mana rocks and everything. If we can blink her every turn, we’ve won.
- * Luminate Primordial – Zap a creature more permanently.
- * Lyev Skyknight – Note that it detains any nonland permanent, so you can use this to pin down a planeswalker or troublesome enchantment as well.
- * Nevermaker – Nasty! Blinking him two or more times per turn means game over for most opponents. He’s also a deterrent against anybody attacking you with anything bigger than a peanut.
- * Reflector Mage – Just a must-have. Good against troublesome opponent generals.
- * Stonehorn Dignitary – Can’t believe he’s a common! Blinking this guy can mean shutting another player out of combat permanently.
Add a tiny little package of control spells…
We like to keep our control spells as general purpose as possible. We already have so much control coming from Brago’s blinking bastards that opponents will be pulling their hair out with all their stuff exiled, detained, or bounced.
As for Cyclonic Rift, I am ready to call that the most powerful spell in the entire EDH format. Cast it for overload and it’s a full blowout for everybody else, every time. If you can recur it with a bouncing Archy every turn, nobody should be able to wiggle out of the lockdown. There are some who are calling for a ban, and I’d almost agree, but until it is, run it in every blue deck.
Maxim #6: Now include some good stuff.
“Good stuff” can be spare win conditions, extra combo pieces, flashy tricks, and tech. Since our deck already has some formidable threats to present, including some flying bricks, we don’t pay too much attention here.
- * Rite of Replication – Is there ever a time when five copies of the best creature on the table is a bad thing?
- * Palisade Giant and Shielded by Faith – One more tutor target for Heliod’s Pilgrim. Our side quest is to get the Giant Shielded, and then we can’t take any damage at all! Yes, read the cards, it even protects our permanents. Until our opponents figure out how to undo that knot (don’t worry, they will), we get some breathing room to assemble our wincons in peace.
- * Strionic Resonator – Because one good turn deserves another. I should mention that it’s a bundle of combos with the rest of the deck too, but I regard it as mostly good utility even without combos.
- * Spine of Ish Sah – An unusual bit of tech, but Brago can bounce this. Yes, Spine says “permanent,” lands too!
- * Tormod’s Crypt – Some people consider graveyard tech to be unfair. But EDH is played far too much from the graveyard. Look at the Sidisi deck we showcased a couple weeks back; don’t you want graveyard tech against that?
- * Karmic Justice – Just too good not to include in white. Stops those wraths. You’ve noticed we don’t play wraths? That’s because Brago benefits from a loaded field, and we have so much evasion and control parts that we don’t care if our opponent keeps a few goblin tokens out there.
- * Crystal Ball – Our budget answer to Sensei’s Divining Top. The scry is just good selection in UW, and Brago can of course get a second shot out of it.
Maxim #7: Uh, land?
Fine, you knew that. My build runs 37 land, of which some notable tech includes…
You can guess we fill in the rest with duals, fetches, and basics. Voila, we’re done!
Other Brago builds and resources…
There’s many more cards that others play in Brago; these are just a quick example I pulled together. For other resources…
We welcome your comments and suggestions on Brago and UW strategies in general in this thread.