Too Fun to Wait: The Maelstrom Wanderer’s Suicide Squad

Eagle-eyed adherents of Daily MTG might have spotted this gem back in November, but for the most part it’s fallen under most players’ radar. It’s the Maelstrom Wanderer, a new commander that’s going to be released this summer along with a new edition of Planechase. It reads like an EDH player’s wishlist: 7 power for that coveted 3-turn clock, haste, free spells for card advantage, and access to both green and blue – the two most powerful colors in EDH. Sure, it costs eight mana, but when you’re cascading into 7 mana spells not once but twice, that’s more of a feature than a drawback. Once I saw it, I was hooked. Availability be damned, I knew I had to make a deck.  And here it is.

The overall concept behind the deck is simple: ramp up to eight mana as soon as possible, then cast the Wanderer and start swinging for the fences with whatever you cascade into. It’s by far the Timmy-est deck I’ve ever put together. Sure, you could technically use [card]Scroll Rack[/card] to sculpt the top of your deck into the perfect cascade, or run things like [card]Jokulhaups[/card] that practically hand you the game on a silver platter when you cascade into them, but this isn’t that kind of deck. The randomness is the point. Sometimes the deck cascades into [card]Wood Elves[/card] and [card]Cultivate[/card], and other times it cascades into [card]Primeval Titan[/card] and [card]Avenger of Zendikar[/card]. You never know what you’re going to get, but with a curve that has more 7 drops than 3 or 4 drops, the odds are it’s going to be good.

While the deck can be spectacularly explosive (with the right ramp, you can cast the Wanderer as soon as turn four), it can also feel like the most awkward deck in the world.  If you don’t draw any ramp spells, then you’re left durdling around with a hand full of ridiculously expensive spells until you hit eight mana, at which point the deck finally starts doing something.  I like to compare the Wanderer to [card]Kaalia of the Vast[/card]: both cheat fatties into play, but Kaalia just does it four turns sooner.

When this deck does get going, though, it can be surprisingly resilient and powerful.  The fact is, as long as your general doesn’t get tucked or otherwise neutralized, you almost always have the potential to swing for double-digit damage out of nowhere.  Countering your general doesn’t do much good because of the cascaded spells, and sweeping the board just gets your general back into the command zone, ready for another cascade.  Spot removal isn’t particularly effective, and even effects like Ghostly Prison aren’t that great since it usually swings with between two or four creatures a turn.

It makes for an interesting take on aggro, one that doesn’t fit into the neat little “tokens or voltron” paradigm that governs most EDH aggro decks.  On one hand it’s a voltron strategy since it revolves so much around casting your general, but on the other it really isn’t since it rarely wins via general damage.  Without its general to grease the wheels, the deck isn’t much more than a spectacularly awkward RUG goodstuff list.  The cascade and haste that the Wanderer bring turn it into something else entirely.  The closest analog I can think of aside from Kaalia is a Stonebrow or Jor Kadeen list that use their general to pump their team, but those generals don’t even come close to the Wanderer’s resilience or explosvieness.

Regardless of where it fits into the metatheoretical landscape of EDH, the deck is damn fun to play.

Some quick discussion of some of the card choices:

[card]Cache Raiders[/card]:Yes, a [card]Crystal Shard[/card] or a [card]Erratic Portal[/card] is better, but neither one of those cards can beat down for four damage a turn.  That’s one thing you might notice about this deck: when offered a choice between an awesome card and a slightly less awesome card with a warm body attached, I go with the latter.  Beatdowns is beatdowns.  [card]Stampeding Serow[/card] does the same thing in the deck: letting you return the Wanderer to your hand each turn to cascade into more ridiculousness.

[card]Blasphemous Act[/card]: The only sweeper in the deck, its CMC of 9 conveniently dodges the Wanderer’s cascade ability – nothing sucks more than cascading into a sweeper you don’t want to cast.  This deck doesn’t want to sweep the board often, but when it does, I’m glad it’s in there.

[card]Balefire Dragon[/card]: Haste turns the dragon from merely very good into downright terrifying.  Being able to wrath an opponent’s board out of nowhere is just fantastic.

[card]Sun Quan, Lord of Wu[/card]: Horsemanship isn’t exactly the most common ability to see on the other side of the table,  so he basically makes your entire team unblockable while getting in for four damage, himself.

[card]Urabrask, the Hidden[/card]: He may seem redundant, but his [card]Frozen Aether[/card] ability can really put your opponents on the back foot.  And hey, a redundant source of haste isn’t exactly a bad thing.

[card]Hydra Omnivore[/card]: This is the deck this card was made for.  An 8/8 that nugs everyone is good, but when it has haste as well?  Sheer insanity.  My personal favorite trick is pumping it with [card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card] to nail everyone for 15+ damage at once.

[card]Stalking Vengeance[/card]: Wrath insurance.  In a deck full of 4-8 power creatures, this thing absolutely must be answered before a wrath or your opponents are going to feel it.

[card]Vicious Shadows[/card]: More wrath insurance.  In some decks, this card is downright broken, but here it’s merely very good, helping you get in those last points of damage to finish off your opponents.

[card]Spearbreaker Behemoth[/card]: Wrath insurance deluxe.  In a deck full of 5+ power fatties, this can drive opponents nuts.

[card]Moldgraf Monstrosity[/card]: Wrath insurance premium plus.  Not only does it bash face with the best of ’em, it rebuys two more of your fatties when someone sweeps your board.  It’s like getting a free cascade whenever it dies.

[card]Elvish Piper[/card]: If there’s one problem this deck has, it’s getting a bunch of fatties stuck in its hand.  The piper neatly circumvents this problem by cheating them into play.  And of course, the Wanderer gives the Piper haste, so you can use it right away.  Always leave a green mana open when cascading, if you can!

[card]Warstorm Surge[/card]: If you have this on the board when you cast your general, you can look forward to doing between 10 and 20 damage spread liberally around the table.  You can take out utility guys, fatties, or just point the damage at your opponents’ faces.

[card]Rage Reflection[/card]: Double strike on your general makes it a two-turn clock.  Doubling up on damage from your titans and random 4-power dudes is also incredibly powerful.

[card]Gratuitous Violence[/card]: See above.  Get both this and Rage Reflection on the table at once for what is essentially “quadruple strike.”  One hit with your general is lethal then.

[card]World at War[/card]: Or hey, you could just attack twice, twice.  In a deck that lives in the red zone, this spell ends games very quickly.

[card]Time Warp[/card]: Or instead of futzing around with extra combat steps, you could just take another turn.  Sounds good to me.

[card]Mind’s Desire[/card]: Nothing is more hilarious than cascading into this spell on your second cascade.  It essentially doubles the number of random spells you get to cast that turn. Almost every time I’ve cascaded into this, something ridiculously awesome has happened.  And hey, if it and another cheap card are in your hand, you can set up your own cascade, sans general.

[card]Knowledge Exploitation[/card]: This is not the most flexible deck in the world, but having access to your opponents’ spells definitely helps fill in the gaps when you need to.  Or you could just find someone’s [card]Tooth and Nail[/card] – that works, too.

[card]Blatant Thievery[/card]: When I first started building this deck, I did a search on all red, blue, and green seven drops.  Imagine my glee when I realized this gem was among them.  Irrevocably stealing something from everyone and then having your general give what you stole haste is just amazing.

[card]Treachery[/card]: Mind control is nice, sure, but the untap clause is the real draw here.  Cascading into this basically lets you cast another spell from your hand that turn, which means more creatures, which means more beatdowns.  More is better.

I think I’ll leave things there.  If you have any suggestions for cards to include, I’d love to hear them.

12 responses to “Too Fun to Wait: The Maelstrom Wanderer’s Suicide Squad”

  1. Jesus wept! This guy is going to be so sweet. Also, a great place to use that Mind’s Desire. The creatures that bounce you Wanderer back to your hand are pretty hilarious.

    Though, I also appreciate you’ve gone out of your way to avoid turning the dual cascade from being an routlette of awesomeness into a parade of snore-inducing predictability. I understand a lot of Commander players are allergic to randomness (despite signing on for a format designed to increase variance), but I know I’m going to see many painful decks with the Wanderer that look to Mystical Tutor Time Warps onto the top of the deck.

  2. This deck was fun to play against, and it’s a hammer in a duel. I quickly realized in a 1 v 1 setup, if I didn’t have a path to victory before your first cast of your General, that’s basically game over. I second the approval of the deck’s randomness. It’s like a random Tooth and Nail. When it whiffs, it’s kind of funny and certainly not game over for you because anything you get will be useful, and when it hits big it’s awesome.
    By the way, thanks again for the advice on the Karador deck. I’ve cut it back to land, ramp, and tutors, and now need to decide what my focus is going to be. I like the combos because the interactions appeal to me, but I also don’t want to play the game that way right now. Racing to tutor and protect my wincon, and then making the table groan when I’m successful isn’t a great way for an EDH newbie to go. I think I’ll probably eschew the fancy stuff and start out by using Karador at his most basic, using his ability to recur creatures with good ETB effects. Not original, but considering how rarely I get to play, a better way to get some fun games out of the deck.

    • i’d suggest considering a Rock build. It keeps you in the game and doesn’t soft lock or combo out. A good way to learn is to be in the game as long as possible, without intentionally stalling things out. You’ll care less about what your opponents are doing with Rock. You stick around to clean up the pieces or play a ton of dudes that just – don’t – die. Your combo’s would rotate around sacking and recurring cards like reveillark, karmic guide, etc., controlling problems in the mid-game with removal and then dropping hammer with beaters.

      To sum it up: moderate card draw; tutor; ramp; utility control creatures; access to enchantment, artifact and creature kill; ridiculous creatures and the mana to cast them for the win.

  3. One DKA card that would be a blast to cascade into is Curse of Bloodletting. Double damage will be quite fun to point all your hasty creatures at, plus if you drop it on the guy to your left he either has to have instant speed enchantment removal (unlikely for lots of decks) or he may never get a turn back.

    • Eh, it’s fine, I guess, but it really suffers for only affecting one person at a time. I’ve got a number of other enchantments and sorceries that do more or less the same thing already, too.

  4. so if he goes back into the command zone and costs 2 more to cast i can cascade for 9/11/13/15 etc etc?

      • ohhh damn haha. do you know about cloning generals? im my play group we have you can clone a general but they wont die since its not their general but if someone else clones the clones die.

        • Some playgroups have their own house rules, but I prefer the official line of “clone a legend and they both die.” It makes clones just that much more flexible and helps curb the power level of generals like Uril. Also note that copying Maelstrom Wanderer with a clone does not trigger cascades, since the cascade ability triggers when you cast the spell, not when it enters the battlefield.

  5. good to know thanks 🙂 one last question have you seen that blue card in m13 if you have 200 cards in your deck you win the game. is there a format where you have 200 plus cards?