Rebuilding 4-color: The BURG deck (again)


Welcome to another edition of the article series where I go over changes to my different EDH decks in detail (and where I trash them and rebuild them into something better).

There have been a number of my decks over the last few years that have been on the chopping block after disappointing performances and poor games, and many have been culled or changed. Much as I have done before, I rebuilt decks that just aren’t working; this may involve either changing some cards around deck to deck, changing who the general of the deck is, or completely overhauling the entire deck.

Now, with Rivals of Ixalan long since released and Dominaria out as well, I’ve been going over each set of changes and additions to my EDH decks, and man, have there ever a lot of them!

Today, we’ll be looking at what I’ve done with one of the more troublesome color combinations: BURG, which was headed previously by the partners Vial Smasher the Fierce and Thrasios, Triton Hero, and now… well, let’s just say that I’ve gone with a more eclectic deck.

Let’s take a look!


Years ago, I started a series of Random Friday articles dedicated to rebuilding my EDH decks, with the ultimate goal of making them all fun to play, and fun to play against. The plan is always to rebuild any decks that aren’t performing the way I wanted them to.

Thus far, I’ve built, retooled, and rebuilt several of my EDH decks in this series.

In 2012:
• I put together Arcum Dagsson, a dangerous general who could Tinker up win conditions at will here.
• The original incarnation of Karona, False God and her Allies, here and here.
• I looked at my initial attempt to build a Rakdos deck here, here, and here.

In 2013:
• Our Abzan deck was transformed from Ghave, Guru of Spores into Doran, the Siege Tower‘s “toughness matters” deck here.
• I’d changed my Boros list, from Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer into Brion Stoutarm‘s sacrifice-based deck here.
• The lovely Angela had changed our Dimir deck from Vela the Night-Clad to the milling-based Lazav, Dimir Mastermind here and here.
• I changed our Rakdos deck to Rakdos, Lord of Riots after the release of RTR here.
• I rebuilt the powerful Bruna, Light of Alabaster‘s combo-control deck here.
• I rebuilt the Planechase 2012 duo, Thromok the Insatiable and Krond the Dawn-Clad here.
Nekusar, the Mindrazer‘s Painful Wheel was built here.

In 2014:
• The Jeskai deck that finished off The EDH Project, Zedruu the Greathearted, was built here.
• Angela’s tribal Soldier build helmed by Coldsnap’s Darien, King of Kjeldor here.
• I went over my brainstorming and the final list I looked at for Khans newcomer Narset, Enlightened Master (who is just ultra-powerful), here.
• The first rebuild of our Izzet deck, from Nin, the Pain Artist to Melek, Izzet Paragon, was done here.
• I rebuilt our Clone and Shapeshifter “tribal” deck, Sakashima the Impostor, which is chock-full of copy effects, here.
• I went over the changes to our Equipment-friendly mono-white deck, Kemba, Kha Regent here.
• I looked at the changes to the budget-friendly Nath of the Gilt-Leaf here.

In 2015:
• I went over the changes to Commander 2014’s Titania, Protector of Argoth, my favourite of last year’s Commander generals, here.
• I rebuilt our U/R control deck, from Melek, Izzet Paragon into Keranos, God of Storms, here.
• I rebuilt the very first EDH deck that I’d ever put together, our Jund deck helmed by Adun Oakenshield, into one led by Kresh the Bloodbraided from Shards block here.
• I rebuilt our Boros deck again, this time changing it from Brion Stoutarm to Tajic, Blade of the Legion, a R/W control deck, here.
• I looked at a huge culling of my decks, where I disassembled Kemba, Kha Regent, Volrath the Fallen, Zedruu the Greathearted, and more here.
• I retooled two artifact-based decks: Karn, Silver Golem changed into creatureless artifact-based control, and our Esper deck Halfdane turned into Sharuum the Hegemon artifact aggro, here.
• I went over my first new Rakdos build of the year, building around Innistrad’s Olivia Voldaren here.
• After Olivia failed to be any good, I built a ‘new’ Rakdos deck (again), this time using Malfegor the Demon Dragon as general, and a hellbent theme here.

In 2016:
• I had reworked our five-color Ally deck, and changed the deck from Karona, False God to a more token- and combo-based General Tazri here.
• I finally sat down to build around Captain Sisay, a deck where “legends matter”, here.
• Two decks were merged into one as I merged the +1/+1 counter-based Skullbriar, the Walking Grave and our Abzan deck, Doran, the Siege Tower, into new +1/+1 counter deck Anafenza, the Foremost, here.
• I redesigned the five-color manabases for each of my five-color generals here.
• Our Jeskai deck, Zedruu the Greathearted, and our mono-white token swarm deck, Kongming, “Sleeping Dragon”, were merged together to form Narset, Enlightened Master, here.
• I rebuilt our Golgari deck, Skullbriar, the Walking Grave, and took pieces from Titania, Protector of Argoth, to form our new Golgari deck The Gitrog Monster here.
• I went over big changes to our Izzet control deck, Keranos, God of Storms, here.
• I went over some big changes to our Jund deck, Kresh the Bloodbraided, here.
• Our Temur deck was changed, from fun-loving Maelstrom Wanderer, to Khans bear-puncher Surrak Dragonclaw here.
• I looked at what our five-color Superfriends planeswalker deck, Progenitus, would look like after dropping the red cards and switching to four-color general Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice here.
• I went over the changes to our artifact aggro deck, as I added red to Sharuum the Hegemon, changing it into Breya, Etherium Shaper here.
• Our “copycat tribal” deck, Sakashima the Impostor, gained the use of white and black cards, and became our new Esper deck with the same theme, Halfdane, as shown here.
• I looked at the third of our four-color decks, led by partner generals Vial Smasher the Fierce and Kydele, Chosen of Kruphix (who were a surprise entrant in The EDH Battle Royale V), here.
• I went over the hostile takeover of our Mardu deck, instigated by Conspiracy II’s Queen Marchesa and the monarch mechanic, here.

In 2017:
• I looked at my build for my favorite general from Commander 2017, the highly-aggressive Saskia the Unyielding here.
• I went over our build for the difficult-to-brainstorm WURG color combination (which was our final four-color deck) based on partner generals Sidar Kondo of Jamuraa and Ludevic, Necro-Alchemist here.
• I rebuilt our BUWG deck, Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice, from a planeswalker deck, to “+1/+1 counters matter” here.
• I went over major changes to Saskia (over 20 new cards!) here.
• I rebuilt another of our four-color decks, Vial Smasher the Fierce/Kydele, Chosen of Kruphix by changing one of the partners; the new deck is Vial Smasher the Fierce/Thrasios, Triton Hero, as seen here.
• Taking advantage of Ixalan’s new “planeswalkers are legendary” rule, I retooled Captain Sisay with a host of new cards here.
• I rebuilt the Vampire tribal Commander 2017 precon around Edgar Markov here.

In 2018:
• I took my first look at rebuilding our Esper deck, from Halfdane copycat ‘tribal’, to Dakkon Blackblade, here.
• In my followup piece, I went over the new decklist for our new Esper deck, Dakkon Blackblade here.
• I rebuilt our tribal Dragons list from a mono-red deck led by Zirilan of the Claw to five color, led by The Ur-Dragon, here.
• I took my first look at rebuilding our Boros deck into exciting new general, Firesong and Sunspeaker here.


When Commander 2016 was first revealed last year, I was less than thrilled with the partner commanders, as I felt it was a lazy way for Wizards to go about adding more potential four-color commanders to the pool.

Having said that, I did end up giving partner generals a try, and they did end up being quite fun to play, and a challenge to build. I ended up building two sets of partner decks that have survived to the present day — our WRGU deck, Sidar Kondo of Jamuraa/Ludevic, Necro-Alchemist, and the deck we’ll be editing today, our BURG deck, Vial Smasher the Fierce/Thrasios, Triton Hero.

The gameplan for our RUBG deck ended up being quite simple: play Vial Smasher, and Thrasios, and draw a bunch of cards and mana ramp a lot. Use the extra mana generated by Thrasios to play bigger and bigger spells. Let Vial Smasher kill your enemies for you.

It was a simple enough gameplan, but it didn’t always work.

I’d noticed when playing the deck that Thrasios was most definitely the worst card in the deck, tending to get killed on sight or just doing nothing, and the whole card-drawing suite just wasn’t working with what I wanted the deck to do; by contrast, Vial Smasher still overperformed in every game. However, I knew that I wanted to move this color combination away from Vial Smasher, so we’d need to do something new.

What to do? Why, switch partners, of course!

When I realized that I was dissatisfied with our BURG deck, I sat down and took a look at my options for what I could rebuild this color combination as. Notably, my buddy Darby still has Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder built, so that’s a big option that I don’t have access to (I refuse to build a duplicate of someone else’s deck). With Yidris locked out, that meant that I’d have to go with one of the sets of partners.

In BURG, there are seven possible partner combinations, and I’d already tried two of them. I was left with choosing between these options:

Tana, the Bloodsower/Silas Renn, Seeker Adept
Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus/Reyhan, Last of the Abzan
Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus/Ikra Shidiqi, the Usurper
Ikra Shidiqi, the Usurper/Ludevic, Necro-Alchemist
Ludevic, Necro-Alchemist/Reyhan, Last of the Abzan

Of those combinations, I quickly eliminated Tana/Silas Renn (those two have nothing in common), and the two including Ludevic (I already had him as a general). I was quickly down to these two pairs:

Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus/Reyhan, Last of the Abzan
Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus/Ikra Shidiqi, the Usurper

After looking at the EDHRec website, I saw that neither one of these partner combinations was very popular (a mere 35 decks between them), so that definitely satisfied my need to play something that no one else was. Could I make either one of these pairs work as a deck, with cohesive theme(s)? That was the real question.

After a ton of brainstorming, I finally sat down and built the deck, and it is now helmed by Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus and Reyhan, Last of the Abzan.

So how on earth did I end up making these two wildly different generals work together as a cohesive unit? Well, while I’m not so sure that I did yet, here is my thought process.

Kraum cares about punishing opponents for casting spells. This was a minor theme that I could definitely play around with, as Magic is full of cards that punish your opponents for casting spells, with everything from Kaervek the Merciless, to Spellshock, to Taurean Mauler, and a lot of other punisher cards as well.

Reyhan, by contrast, cares about putting +1/+1 counters on creatures, so that you can move those counters when the creature dies. This was also a theme I could work with; while I was punishing my opponents for doing things with one half of my deck, I could add counters to my creatures (namely, Kraum) and attack for big damage.

The themes don’t technically work together, but I’d like to think I’ve made them work as a whole. Here is the final deck:

Reyhan/Kraum - Starting decklist:

Generals (2)
Reyhan, Last of the Abzan
Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus

Creatures (31)
Grenzo, Dungeon Warden
Citanul Druid
Varolz, the Scar-Striped
Vial Smasher the Fierce
Taurean Mauler
Managorger Hydra
Bloodsworn Steward
Marchesa, the Black Rose
Rashmi, Eternities Crafter
Forgotten Ancient
Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder
Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge
Consuming Aberration
Garna, the Bloodflame
Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder
Drakestown Forgotten
Sol’Kanar, the Swamp King
Draining Whelk
Bane of Progress
Etali, Primal Storm
Magus of the Mind
Sire of Stagnation
Dragonlair Spider
Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
Noosegraf Mob
Blood Tyrant
Kaervek the Merciless
Nezahal, Primal Tide
Primeval Protector
Primordial Hydra

Other threats (1)
Hunting Pack

Card drawing spells (7)
Plea for Power
Painful Truths
Damnable Pact
Dig Through Time
Treasure Cruise
Urban Evolution
Sultai Charm

Wrath effects and removal (6)
Gaze of Granite
Pernicious Deed
Blasphemous Act
Decree of Pain
In Garruk’s Wake
Relic Crush

+1/+1 counter spells (5)
Trap Essence
Strength of the Tajuru
Evolutionary Escalation
Death’s Presence
Primeval Bounty

Recursion (2)
Verdant Confluence
Reaping the Graves

Spell-trigger cards (5)
Mind’s Desire
Villainous Wealth
Lurking Predators
Mind’s Dilation
Sunbird’s Invocation

Planeswalkers (1)
Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh

Land (40)
40 land

Looking at the deck, we have a wacky blend of punisher spells and a “casting spells matters” theme, mixed with cards that generate +1/+1 counters, all mixed up in a highly aggressive shell. In theory, Reyhan will come down early, followed by Kraum, all the +1/+1 counters will move to Kraum who can smash in the air to kill people.

I can’t guarantee this idea will work, or even that it’s an effective plan, but it sure does look fun! Wish me luck trying this one out!


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