Welcome to the Decks of Many Things, the article series where I make Magic: The Gathering deck lists with Dungeons and Dragons themes! For the inaugural feature, I wanted to look at the Commander who is most a Dungeon Master at heart: Chulane, Teller of Tales. If you just look at Chulane’s art, he looks like a Dungeon Master with their manual open to the right page. All he needs is a Dungeon Master screen, a table of enthralled adventurers, and some dice to complete the aesthetic!
Of course, being the Dungeon Master is no simple task, as our DM, Kenny, broke down in his introduction on the subject. We also can’t rely on the art alone to make a deck theme. Fortunately, Chulane’s home set of Eldraine introduced a perfect mechanic to get us started: Adventures. After all, what Dungeon Master doesn’t enjoy sending their players out on epic adventures? Whether your heroes are slaying a dragon, rescuing civilians from a fire, or even filing an insurance claim with the innkeeper’s guild, the Dungeon Master is always providing adventures! Chulane even has the added benefit of being able to return the creature half of an adventure to your hand so you can play the adventure half again! Cards like Hypnotic Sprite // Mesmeric Glare and Ardenvale Tactician // Dizzying Swoop give us some interaction, while Beanstalk Giant // Fertile Footsteps provide some ramp outside of what Chulane offers once he hits the table and Giant Killer // Chop Down is a serviceable removal spell.
The adventure I actually want to highlight here, however, is Shepherd of the Flock // Usher to Safety. Chulane does an okay job of letting us redeploy adventures by getting the creatures back, but it is always good to have backup plans to your commander. Creatures with similar effects like Jeskai Barricade, Emancipation Angel, Shrieking Drake, and Whitemane Lion serve the dual purpose of letting us go on more adventures while also fueling Chulane. Ideally, you will send creatures out on adventures in early turns, then have them return on later turns to trigger Chulane, and then use Chulane and these other effects to return them to your hand for more value. If you’re feeling particularly cunning, attack or block with your creatures and save them as a combat trick!
There are actually some fantastic adventure payoffs for Commander, but the mechanic hasn’t gotten enough love for us to really consider them. What proper adventure doesn’t offer rewards at the end, after all? Edgewall Innkeeper costs just one mana and will draw plenty of cards, especially since it can hit turn one sometimes, while Lucky Clover will double our adventures! Both of these cards have amazing payoffs for Commander, which our deck just so happens to be built around.
Of course, players in Dungeons and Dragons seldom go on adventures for no reasons. Heroes don’t just decide to go hunting rats in the sewer, they get hired to solve a rat problem for a local shop! They need to be given quests first, and that is yet another area where the Dungeon Master is happy to help them. Safewright Quest may seem like an innocuous card, but Chulane is always hungry for lands to play. In fact, it may be possible to play three or more lands in the same turn as Ior Ruin Expedition to use it in the same turn! All of the card draw the deck naturally generates also makes completing the quest for Archmage Ascension even easier. It might be a niche effect, but there probably the quest with the best flavor is Quest for Ancient Secrets.
The problem with quests and the adventures they send you on is they are full of danger. That burning building your characters are in might collapse on them, or that meal from the allgedly friendly NPC may have been poisoned! Fortunately, this is represented wonderfully by traps! They don’t support Chulane’s intended line of play, but there is no denying the flavorful impact of using these situational cards for their trap costs to catch opponents off guard. Mindbreak Trap is a counterspell at its worst, but the perfect answer to a storm strategy at its best. Whiplash Trap always removes two targets, and you’ll get to cast it for just one mana sometimes! Summoning Trap may see more play than some of the others because someone tries countering a creature to disrupt your Chulane loop, and then you get a free creature! After playing one or two of these cards, you’ll have opponents thinking twice about what they try against you as you utter, “You activate my trap card!”
Once the heroes have gone out on the quest, braved the traps, and returned from their adventure, you have a saga. A saga encapsulates the entire story, from the acceptance of the quest to the heroes returning from their successful adventure. This is represented not just in actual sagas like Elspeth Conquers Death and Time of Ice, but in cards that capture the feeling of the story itself. Jayemdae Tome, Mazemind Tome, and Into the Story all truly capture the feeling of the Dungeon Master carefully laying out the story of the party’s grand adventure and tying the loose pieces together.
Last, but certainly not least, I wanted the theme of the deck to tie into at least one specific DND book. As you may have guessed from the article title, I chose The Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. With all of the adventures covered, that left coasts! Out mana base includes gems like Coastal Tower, Yavimaya Coast, Seaside Citadel, and Seachrome Coast.
Chulane might be one of the most powerful Bant commanders, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a deck focused on flavor and fun first. By carefully crafting a theme focused on flavor over function, you can make fun decks for commanders others aren’t normally excited to play against. So grab your party, go out on a quest, and don’t forget to check for traps as you embark on some of Chulane’s Bizarre Adventures!