Improving "Faceless Menace" – "Magic: The Gathering"

Magic: the Gathering is an immensely multifaceted game, and according to studies is the most complex game currently known to man. There is no necessary algorithm that can predict a winner out of a two-player game of Magic, largely due to the sheer amount of different individual cards in the game. So, it suffices to say that any deck in any format can be improved by introducing better cards to the deck.

Magic: the Gathering Commander 2019 banner

This is especially true for Eternal formats, where cards only amass and never exit the rotation of legality. This is also true for Singleton formats, where only one of most any given card is allowed in the deck. Commander encompasses both of these format types, and to drive this point home, the deck size for a Commander deck is 100 cards as opposed to a minimum of 60. With this in mind, we at Bleeding Cool have compiled a list of the twenty most pertinent additions to the Faceless Menace deck from Commander 2019, a deck which revolves around Morph as a mechanic.

Choice of Commander for Faceless Menace

For this series of articles (because yes, we will be covering all four decks in Commander 2019), we will be focusing on using the "face commander" of these preconstructed Magic: the Gathering decks, meaning the legendary creature featured in the packaging of the deck. If you'd like, you may use another commander, but as these commanders are often the most synergistic options in the precons, these ones are recommended. As such, we will be focusing on improving this deck with Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer as the commander in mind.

Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer

Best Choices for Cuts

The following twenty cards were selected to get the axe from Faceless Menace for a variety of reasons, ranging from a lack of utility, lack of synergy, or an overall superfluous nature.

Creature (10)
  • 1x Chromeshell Crab – situationally relevant at best
  • 1x Great Oak Guardian – strictly worse than two additions
  • 1x Grismold, the Dreadsower – synergistically irrelevant
  • 1x Hooded Hydra – synergistically irrelevant (to a degree)
  • 1x Rayami. First of the Fallen – synergistically irrelevant (can be another commander)
  • 1x Scaretiller – situational in utility, and not synergistic
  • 1x Thelonite Hermit – synergistically irrelevant (to a degree)
  • 1x Thought Sponge – situational in utility, and not synergistic
  • 1x Voice of Many – situational and synergistically irrelevant
  • 1x Volrath, the Shapestealer – synergistically irrelevant (can be another commander)
Sorcery (3)
  • 1x Explore – strictly less useful than three additions
  • 1x Hex – not a particularly good card at what it does
  • 1x Tezzeret's Gambit – function is superfluous
Instant (2)
  • 1x Biomass Mutation – slow and functionally clunky
  • 1x Echoing Truth – situational
Land (3)
  • 1x Foul Orchard – easy to replace; there are too many lands in these decks as a whole
  • 1x Golgari Guildgate – see above
  • 1x Woodland Stream – see above
Artifact (1)
  • 1x Pendant of Prosperity – functionally detrimental (they should have printed this in Primal Genesis)
Planeswalker (1)
  • 1x Vraska the Unseen – slow removal, and not synergistic enough overall

Choices for Additions, and Where to Obtain Them

I have added twenty cards to replace the cards cut above, in order to further the Morph/Manifest themes imbued naturally in the deck. Note that many of these additional Magic: the Gatheringcards are out of print as of this article, but can be obtained as single cards at local hobby stores or online. Some are still in print, such as any cards from War of the Spark. Detailed explanations for both the cuts and additions can be found in my TappedOut link here (Note: the Maybeboard in the link lists the cut cards).

Creatures (12)
  • Birds of Paradise (Gruul Guild Kit) – This deck naturally lacked mana producing permanents outside of lands.
  • Brine Elemental (Time Spiral) – This card in combination with Vesuvan Shapeshifter locks opponents out, ending the game through the most attritive of effects: untap denial.
  • Ebonblade Reaper (Onslaught) – The deck needs offensive might to close out slow games; otherwise, the game gets too attritive and causes some players to target you, just to stop having to grind as much for the win. Therefore, cards like this and those below help keep the deck acting as a consistent threat.
  • Primal Whisperer (Legions) – See Ebonblade Reaper
  • Salt Road Ambushers (Dragons of Tarkir) – See Ebonblade Reaper
  • Serpentine Basilisk (Onslaught) – The deck could use more combat tricks than just Ebonblade Reaper.
  • Temur Sabertooth (Commander 2017) – This card allows reuse of your morphed creatures.
  • Unblinking Bleb (Future Sight) – If we can get additional value from our flipping creatures, so be it.
  • Urborg Elf (Apocalypse) – See Birds of Paradise.
  • Voidmage Apprentice (Duel Decks: Jace Vs Chandra) – Hard counterspells are always useful and a morphing one is even better.
  • Weaver of Lies (Legions) – This creature's ability to reuse spent morphs is almost as strong as the Sabertooth's ability, which is saying a lot.
  • Whisperwood Elemental (Fate Reforged) – Being able to manifest en masse is a very powerful ability, and it allows you to recover quickly from board wipes.
Sorceries (1)
  • All is Dust (Ultimate Masters) – A much more global board wipe than Hex, this card doesn't affect your face-down creatures, and thus breaks much of the synergy of more conventional board wipes.
Enchantments (3)
  • Leyline of Anticipation (Magic 2020) – Allowing you to play face-down creatures at instant speed, and freely with your commander out, this card provides amazing value to you.
  • Muraganda Petroglyphs (Future Sight) – Face-down creatures inherently lack printed abilities, so this card boosts them considerably.
  • Primordial Mist (Commander 2018) – This card expedites the manifestation of face-down creatures, and fixes any issue you might have with manifesting noncreature cards.
Artifacts (3)
  • Talisman of Curiosity (Modern Horizons) – The Talisman cycle in relevant colors are better than the two-color Signet cycle in that they tap for mana right away. Two-mana rocks are inherently better than other rocks with higher costs, so we are adding the best of the bunch here. The land base is also a bit hefty, so this allows us to lighten that load considerably.
  • Talisman of Dominance (Archenemy: Nicol Bolas) – see above
  • Talisman of Resilience (Modern Horizons) – see above
Planeswalkers (1)
  • Vivien, Champion of the Wilds (War of the Spark) – See Leyline of Anticipation

Wrapping Up Improvements

In the end, I made a Magic deck for Kadena which differed from the Commander 2019 precon by 55 cards! I may write up a more advanced list with those cuts in mind, but that'll be another article entirely. I hope that these 20 changes will allow you to step up your Magic: the Gathering game in a satisfactory fashion.

Magic: the Gathering – Commander 2019 releases to local game stores on August 23rd in English, Japanese, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian.

Commander 2019 precon packaging

About Joshua Nelson

Josh Nelson is a Magic: The Gathering deckbuilding savant, a self-proclaimed scholar of all things Sweeney Todd, and, of course, a writer for Bleeding Cool. In their downtime, Josh can be found painting models, playing Magic, or possibly preaching about the horrors and merits of anthropophagy. You can find them on Twitter at @Burning_Inquiry for all your burning inquiries.