Commander Spotlight: Endbringer

Imagine that you are an intrepid adventurer, seeking renown and riches through your extensive exploits. With each success, your skills and reputation require taking increasingly dicey missions to attain the same level of recognition. After all, you’re probably not going to get famous picking on the same band of hobgoblins over and over again. As such, your latest escapade has taken you to a hidden cave, deep in the countryside.

After several harrowing ordeals delving further into the dungeon that have tested your mettle to the limits, you find that your path splits. One path leads off to the right, the other to the left. Which direction do you choose?

To most in this scenario, it would seem like you’re only being presented with two options – left or right. What many forget, however, is that that you didn’t come from either of those forks. Which means in reality you actually have three options: left, right…and back the way you came.

Such an example illustrates that in any given situation you usually have more choices than what is directly in front of you. Granted, there’s no saying they’re going to be most optimal choices, but the fact remains that events are rarely as deterministic as we perceive them to be. This holds true for dungeon diving, getting a job, or what to have for dinner.

Or, in the case of building Commander decks, deciding on what colors to use.

Unless you’re using a preconstructed deck (or a modified version thereof), every Magic player ultimately wades into building their own decks from scratch. In most casual settings, this can be under whatever framework you desire in terms of colors, deck size, and which cards you want to use. Generally speaking, unless you’re trying to use ante cards or silver-bordered cards, pretty much anything goes for casual players.

Commander gets a bit trickier. With its singleton nature, fixed 100 card deck size, and emphasis on color identity, Commander decks require slightly more effort figuring out what you want to put in them. This includes figuring out what color or colors to build around. For some, the choice of the Commander itself will dictate this for you, but for others it’s more about picking a color scheme and then finding a general that fits what you’re attempting to do.

To this end, as of 2018 most players believe they have 30 different deck color permutations to choose from, being the 5 monocolor decks, the 10 two-color pairings, the 10 tricolor options, the 4 quad-color options, and a full WUBRG deck.

While that’s more than enough to be daunting for most players and certainly offers extensive deck building options, only those who pause and step back from such an overwhelming bevy of choices will realize that it’s not completely accurate. Much like venturing back out of the dungeon, sometimes you can get so focused on what’s in front of you that something gets overlooked. Such as the fact that there are actually 31 different permutations, not 30.

That is, in the immediate rush in figuring out which color or colors to settle on for a deck, most will forget that choosing to not have any color is also a choice.

Colorless Commander decks are not common, nor are they easy to build. They’re highly susceptible to disruption, have to rely almost exclusively on nonbasic lands, and are limited to (technically) just seven viable Commander choices: the five Eldrazi titans, Karn, Silver Golem, or if you’re being really ambitious, Hope of Ghirapur.

Colorless cards and decks in are hardly new to Magic, though; they’ve been around since the game’s beginnings. It’s not uncommon for colorless cards to make their way into normal decks, and in many they’re essential for the deck to function. Yet until the Battle for Zendikar block, ‘colorless’ cards were synonymous with ‘artifacts’. Then they went ahead and made nine cards that explicitly required colorless mana in its casting cost. And while most of those are otherwise unremarkable outside of an Eldrazi deck, a few are worth considering for wider use. This week’s pick looks at one of those.

Today we have: Endbringer

Name: Endbringer

Edition: Oath of the Gatewatch

Rarity: Rare

Focus: Direct Damage / Combat Control / Card Draw

Highlights: Endbringer is one of a small number of cards that explicitly requires colorless mana to be cast. Luckily, this massive utility card is well worth that mild hoop to jump through, for in exchange of dealing with its casting restriction you’re bestowed with a Staff of Nin in hulking Eldrazi form, giving you several tactical options depending on what you may need at that moment.

It should initially be noted that while Endbringer is certainly worth considering in a colorless deck build, its colorless nature can go in any deck where colorless mana can be accessed semi-reliably, which typically means decks with extensive nonbasic land and / or mana rocks, or decks of 1-2 colors that can afford to splice those in without affecting their mana base. Therefore, while Endbringer is colorless in of itself, it’s nearly as flexible for deck consideration as a traditional artifact creature.

In addition to being a sizable and economic 5/5 creature for six mana, lending itself well to attacking and blocking with relative ease, Endbringer also brings with it a handful of abilities that are both handy for normal use and for some good old fashioned table politics.

First, Endbringer allows you to tap to deal one damage, which is useful at slowly dwindling life totals, picking off small creatures without having to engage in combat, or providing the final point of damage to a creature who may have been dealt damage by other means.

Hey, pinging is a tried and true ability for a reason.

Second, for one colorless mana – which should be immaterial since you presumably already have that to cast it in the first place – you can prevent another creature from attacking or blocking. This can be incredibly advantageous in cases where you want to manipulate combat in your favor, such as ensuring a particular creature can’t attack you or that a defending player’s creature can’t block.

Third, for two colorless mana, you have the option to draw a card, making it one of the most cost effective ways to repeatably draw cards outside of Blue. That is, assuming you can pay for it.

And finally, if its imposing visage and trio of abilities wasn’t enough to entice you, there’s also the fun little rider that Endbringer untaps itself during each upkeep, letting you dish out more damage, draw more cards, and manipulate events on other players turn, all while also giving you a reliable blocker to boot.

Yes, one doesn’t need to build an Ulamog deck for Endbringer to be useful in an EDH game. This potent-but-overlooked card is fully capable of being down right annoying in numerous deck slots.

That is, if you make that decision to do so.

Keep an eye out for us to be regularly featuring other more accessible-but-worth-it Commander cards going forward. In the meantime, we’ll keep the light on for you.

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