Magic: The Gathering continues into its 26th year of play with well over 19,000 cards and is nearly at the point where their Research and Development team has come out with a smattering 82 expansion sets. The game gets more and more complex not just with the number of cards and sets that come out, but also with the budding-but-relevant amount of formats that people are playing in. It stands to reason, despite all of Wizards of the Coast's pushing, that Commander, a fan-regulated format, is one of the most-played formats in all of Magic, if not the most played.
Every year from 2011 onwards, Wizards has come out with a product catering primarily to Commander fans. This year marks the seventh release of Commandeer preconstructed decks (the eighth release being the Commander's Arsenal, a very limited run of sought-after cards within the format, in 2012). The decks released were based on the mechanics of Morph, Flashback, Populate, and Madness, and we at Bleeding Cool have been not only analyzing the decks out of the box but offering deck techs on how to improve them. These articles range from simple (wherein we made 20 changes to the deck overall) to complex (wherein a budget was only considered lightly). Last Tuesday, August 27th, we went over Volrath, the Shapestealer, and then on Thursday, August 29th, we went over Pramikon, Sky Rampart. This past Tuesday, September 3rd, we went over Marisi, Breaker of the Coil, and today, at long last, we go over Chainer, Nightmare Adept, of the "Merciless Rage" deck.
Before I actually go on to the decklist and tech, I just want to make a few points on this card.
Chainer, Nightmare Adept is, in my personal opinion, the best mythic commander out of the entire set (the title of best commander of the set overall, however, goes to K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth). The card exudes the flavor of the character at a younger age than the card's spiritual predecessor, Chainer, Dementia Master. Wizards justified the addition of red to Chainer's color identity by explaining that he was younger and more impressionable as he is depicted, and that his storyline friend, the barbarian Kamahl, had a deep impression on the young caster. Personally, my favorite commander to use has historically been the older, mono-black Chainer, but this younger version suits me just as well.
Okay, back to the deck tech. Chainer is a reanimator commander, meaning he will more likely than not be pulling creatures out of your graveyard in order to win through aggression and attrition in something of a dance between the battlefield and graveyard. In order for your creatures to be cast from the grave, something must be discarded. Thankfully, this can include any creatures you happen to discard (relevant, especially because Chainer gives your cast creatures – and himself, if cast from the command zone – haste). If you don't have a pressing need for a creature in your hand right away, discard it and play something more necessary to resurrect. You can get it back later. And if you want to give something haste when it comes in, discard it! Do you have an ability that triggers off of discarding something? What's stopping you? Discard something to it!
That said, the ease in which red and black manage to tutor cards directly from your library into either your hand or graveyard makes this commander quite strong as a combo commander. This is the angle which I chose to take this deck, which is reminiscent of my old mono-black Chainer build and is also a deck that I have, unlike the other lists so far, chosen to playtest and keep. That I chose to make this deck in real life lends credence to its might on the table.
This Magic deck revolves around a few rather pertinent combos, infinite and otherwise, and as such, those combos and the cards that enable them will be discussed a bit here.
Mikaeus, the Unhallowed, Murderous Redcap, and a sacrifice outlet – This combo results in infinite damage on the part of the Redcap, which you continue to sacrifice and resurrect to the effect of any number of sacrifice outlets. This could be Phyrexian Altar or Ashnod's Altar for infinite mana, Viscera Seer for infinite scry capability, Altar of Dementia to "mill" players infinitely (or put the cards in their libraries into their graveyards), or Goblin Bombardment for additional damage to any amount of targets.
Gravecrawler, Carrion Feeder, Phyrexian Altar (or K'rrik), and AEtherflux Reservoir – This combo is played as such: With the other three cards out, You can cast Gravecrawler infinitely. Sacrificing the Gravecrawler to the sacrifice outlet of your choice between Carrion Feeder or Phyrexian Altar will put Gravecrawler into the graveyard, allowing you to recast it. All the while, Aetherflux Reservoir will gain you more life – depending on your choice of the Altar or K'rrik, the Reservoir might take a couple of casts in order to net you life with each cast (since K'rrik will make you need to spend two life each cast of Gravecrawler). When you have enough life, you take down the board with the Reservoir.
Worldgorger Dragon and either Animate Dead or Necromancy with an additional creature in a graveyard – This combo grants you an infinite number of enter-the-battlefield triggers, and infinite mana on top of this. With a Worldgorger Dragon in your grave, cast either Animate Dead or Necromancy on it. It returns to play; everything goes away, including the enchantment. This will kill the Dragon and bring everything back – at this time, you get the Dragon with the enchantment and tap lands, and trigger any of your enter-the-battlefield abilities. The Dragon returns. Everything goes away. Repeat ad infinitum and profit. Keep in mind: if you don't have another valid target for the enchantment and there is no other answer for the loop, you will draw the game.
Demonic Tutor, Vampiric Tutor, Scheming Symmetry, Gamble, and Rune-Scarred Demon – These cards act as easy ways to skip the need to draw cards to get to what you need in the deck. This is black's bread and butter when it comes to card value, but red is somewhat adept at it as well. Magic: the Gathering is behooved by them!
Entomb, Buried Alive, and Corpse Connoisseur – These cards are great Magic tutors like the ones listed above, but they allow you to put cards into your graveyard. These will mostly be used to put creatures therein, and are useful especially considering their mana costs. Corpse Connoisseur is even great because Chainer can resurrect it and dump another creature into your graveyard as a result, if you've got no better targets for Chainer to resurrect.
Kulrath Knight, Archfiend of Ifnir, The Scorpion God, and Yawgmoth, Thran Physician – Not so much an infinite combo as simple synergy, cards like Archfiend of Ifnir make discarding cards a valuable action, and the other cards will either facilitate this, or support it. Kulrath Knight stops all opposing creatures in their tracks. The Scorpion God draws you cards. Yawgmoth will do a ton as well.
Vilis, Broker of Blood and Psychosis Crawler – This combo will cause your opponents to lose life as you draw cards, which will also happen as you lose life yourself. Not so much game-ending as frustrating, but good nonetheless.
I have tested this Magic deck and it is very strong. I have lost only a handful of games with it but I certainly endorse this build. Some cards, I admit, are sort of pricey (like Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed, or even Cabal Coffers), but substitutions are available for these. If you have any suggestions, comment below! If you've ever used Chainer as your Magic: the Gathering commander before, either the original Dementia Master or the new Nightmare Adept, feel free to shout that out to the heavens as well. My own personal Chainer lists are linked above. Which one is stronger? Let us know!