"Volrath, the Shapestealer" Deck Tech – "Magic: The Gathering"

Magic: The Gathering has outdone themselves yet again with their yearly Commander product. The four Magic preconstructed decks in this release each have coherent mechanical themes and do not pull too many punches when it comes to power level. As it stands, the decks as constructed revolve around four mechanics: Morph, Flashback, Populate, and Madness. Bleeding Cool covered all of these decks and even provided a list of ways to improve them.

Commander 2019 packaging
Source: Reddit.com

But while the Commander 2019 decks focus on major mechanics, not all of the commanders therein reflect these themes. As such, today I will be starting another short series, this time a smattering of Magic deck techs based on the Commander 2019 commanders that aren't the "faces" of the release. I will be covering one from each preconstructed deck in this series. Today's commander focus is Volrath, the Shapestealer, a commander from the "Faceless Menace" deck.

Volrath, the Shapestealer
Source: Scryfall.com

The full list I'm discussing can be found here.

Volrath as a Commander works best as an enabler of any number of combos. As it were, he can pilot a strong Infect deck, a Hermit Druid combo deck, Sultai "good stuff"… the list goes on. However, the plan today is to make a Necrotic Ooze combo deck, specifically without using Hermit Druid so we can still keep the land base to a relative budget.

Necrotic Ooze art
Source: ArtOfMtG.com

Gruesome as it is, the Necrotic Ooze combo deck seeks to put as many creatures with activated abilities as possible into your graveyard and then capitalize on their activated abilities. A key point about Necrotic Ooze as a deck type is that oftentimes the goal is to win through damage. As an experiment, if you pardon the expression, I'll be trying to win with Laboratory Maniac in this build as well, in case the Ooze plan goes south.

Laboratory Maniac
Source: Scryfall.com

Notable Cards

This deck needs to see creatures have counters put upon them for Volrath to best function. Volrath can do this himself, but beyond his potential, other cards are simply needed for speed. Additionally, various classic Magic combos are inevitably going to go off in this deck. With this in mind, some very important cards to note for this build are the following:

Master Biomancer – This card allows us to put counters on our creatures coming in, which gives Volrath free reign to copy them. This is most important for Necrotic Ooze and Laboratory Maniac because in a pinch this means we have additional copies of these. The same can be said of Tetzimoc, Primal Death, as Volrath does not care what kind of counter goes on a creature. However, Tetzimoc doesn't care if it is even cast.

Dread Return – This spell gets us a creature back from the graveyard, and it can be cast from there itself so it serves as important insurance in case things go awry. Be advised that in this instance you need to sacrifice three of your creatures first, so Narcomoeba, Bloodghast, Gravecrawler, any recurrable creatures need to be present for this to work out.

"-Ling" creatures – This refers to Morphling, AEtherling, Thornling, and Endling. All of these creatures provide immense value in that they all have a ton of activated abilities to use with Necrotic Ooze. From haste to indestructible, to even undying and an exile effect, these Shapeshifter creatures give Necrotic Ooze and Volrath a lot to work with.

Morphling
Source: Scryfall.com

Protean Hulk – The Hulk is a fantastic and infamous card in many competitive Commander builds for its use in "Flash-Hulk", a straightforward combo between itself and Flash. We are not playing Flash in this build but it wouldn't hurt if you wanted to take liberties with this build and add this in. What Hulk does for the deck is effectively search for a large number of small creatures with good abilities from the deck and get them all into play. This can mean you get the Ooze, or Laboratory Maniac, or pretty much any creatures within the bounds of six mana total.

Mirror-Mad Phantasm – this card if copied by another creature, or even use by the Ooze will allow you to pitch your entire deck into your graveyard. What this implies right away is a win through Lab Maniac, but if you have the mana you can afford a win through other means, such as reviving your Ooze.

Devoted Druid + Quillspike – Both of these Magic cards together form a combo with each other. Traditionally this equates to an infinitely-large Quillspike, but Necrotic Ooze and Volrath can both, in roundabout ways, capitalize on the size gains, sometimes by copying both cards' capabilities at once.

In Conclusion

I built this deck with a no-holds-barred mindset, but with the intention of making a deck that is fairly easy to build for the average Magic: the Gathering player. I have omitted cards of incredible expense (going by secondary market prices) and will continue to do this for any deck I feature in an article. There are many cards that can improve my list, but a lot of them are out of budgetary limits. Obviously, cards like Gaea's Cradle or Vampiric Tutor are going to be out of range for the average player, but nowadays cards like Demonic Tutor and its ilk are more easy to obtain thanks to relatively-newer printings. Granted, as of writing this Demonic Tutor is around $26.00 USD, but if that is too much for you to afford, there are other avenues available to you.

All in all, the deck promises to perform very well. I personally have not tested it just yet, but if you do and find anything great about it that I have missed, or even something I'm doing wrong, let me know in comments below!

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.

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