Invigorating Hot Spring | Illustration by Gabor Szikszai
Back up, back up, tell me what ya gonna do nowRollin’ by Limp Bizkit
I can only assume these lyrics by Fred Durst were intentionally foreshadowing the Call for Backup Commander precon and its focus on March of the Machine’s new backup mechanic. Very forward-thinking, Mr. Durst!
When backup isn’t being the subject of controversial Limp Bizkit lyrics, it’s serving as a new +1/+1 counter mechanic that grants extra abilities to creatures. The precon needs some work, though, and I’ve quite literally been called in for backup to upgrade this deck.
The backup has arrived; let’s get to work on this deck!
Call for Backup is a Naya () deck featured in the MOM Commander precon lineup. It uses MOM’s backup mechanic as a backdrop for a beatdown-oriented +1/+1 counter deck. It’s creature heavy and plays almost entirely at sorcery speed except for a few protection spells and interactive cards.
The face commander is Bright-Palm, Soul Awakener, a counter doubler that grants evasion to another one of your threats the turn it enters play. Shalai and Hallar is the *ahem* backup commander, and it’s significantly better. I’m upgrading this deck to keep Bright-Palm as the commander, but there’s no denying Shalai and Hallar is the better of the two. It’s like an All Will Be One with wings.
- Call for Backup (Red-Green-White deck)—100-card ready-to-play March of the Machine Commander Deck with 2 Traditional Foil Legendary cards and 98 nonfoil cards
- 10 Planechase cards and 1 planar die to trigger unique abilities and jump across the Multiverse
- 2-card Collector Booster Sample Pack—contains 2 special treatment cards from the March of the Machine main set, including 1 Rare or Mythic Rare and at least 1 Traditional Foil card
- Deck introduces 10 never-before-seen MTG cards to Commander
- Accessories—1 Foil-Etched Display Commander, 10 double-sided tokens, Life Tracker, and deck box
Strengths and Weaknesses
Nothing here should be new to you if you’ve played with or against a +1/+1 counter deck before. You’re playing creatures, putting +1/+1 counters on them, and looking to crush your opponents before they Farewell you out of the game. It’s good at building out a board but weak to interaction. It’s nothing revolutionary, but these decks can still get the job done.
Some of Call for Backup‘s card choices are downright weak or embarrassing, so I’m cutting the chaff to make room for better interaction, better creatures, and better +1/+1 counter enablers/payoffs. I’ve got 15 swaps today, each within a reasonable price-range. The Planechase theme is also being chopped entirely.
Suggested Cut: Return to Nature
Heliod's Intervention over Return to Nature is a quality-of-life improvement. This deck didn’t come custom-equipped with a lot of ways to remove problematic permanents, so I’m upgrading this slot.
Return to Nature is versatile but weak, whereas Intervention gives you mass permanent removal and lifegain in a pinch.
Suggested Cut: Falkenrath Exterminator
The Tyranid Swarm precon from 40K is rife with +1/+1 counter cards that transfer to this deck beautifully. Chief among them is Biophagus, a mana dork that effortlessly adds counters to your creatures as you cast them.
I see the idea behind Falkenrath Exterminator, but it’s too cumbersome for normal games. It needs extra work and a chunk of mana to do anything and doesn’t justify its inclusion.
Kodama of the West Tree
Suggested Cut: Pridemalkin
I’m dumbfounded that Pridemalkin made the final cut in a 2023 Commander precon. Get that cat outta here.
Kodama of the West Tree is one of the pricier cards on this list, but the trample and ramp it provides are well worth it. Even Tuskguard Captain feels like an improvement over Pridemalkin. Woof. I mean… meow.
Suggested Cut: High Sentinels of Arashin
High Sentinels of Arashin probably gets there in a precon vs. precon environment, but this bird doesn’t fly against better deck. It has all the right words but the casting cost and activated ability are too expensive.
Thundering Raiju isn’t an all-star card either, but it has a more immediate impact and damages all opponents at once.
Suggested Cut: Flamerush Rider
Look, it’s not my fault the 40K precons are all busted in half. The ravenous mechanic works perfectly here, making Exocrine an awesome addition. It’s an Earthquake on legs, adding another sweeper/finisher hybrid to the list.
Flamerush Rider can get more milage out of backup creatures, but it’s painfully slow and easy to interrupt.
Suggested Cut: Hindervines
I wanted to add another reasonable backup creature, but there weren’t many good ones to choose from. Doomskar Warrior meets the bar, putting a beater on board and maybe grabbing a few extra cards per game.
Hindervines has +1/+1 counter text on it, but that’s not nearly enough for me to get excited about a Fog in my EDH deck, even a one-sided version.
Kami of Whispered Hopes
Suggested Cut: Fractured Powerstone
Kami of Whispered Hopes dies to a light breeze at first but otherwise provides a passive Hardened Scales effect on top of mana acceleration. Stick a few counters on the Kami and you get a pretty massive mana boost.
Each upgrade guide for this set recommends to cut Fractured Powerstone, so I’ll leave it at that.
Invigorating Hot Spring
Suggested Cut: Ichor Elixir
Invigorating Hot Spring is a sweet haste enabler for decks with modified creatures. And it’s relaxing. It also dishes out +1/+1 counters, so it does everything you need.
You can toss Ichor Elixir in whatever bulk box you threw Fractured Powerstone.
Suggested Cut: Path of the Pyromancer
Swiftfoot Boots is an oldie but a goodie. Most backup creatures, your commander included, have attack triggers, and a few haste enablers help maximize those cards. I chose Boots over Lightning Greaves so shroud wouldn’t interfere with backup targets.
Path of the Pyromancer is actually an excellent card, but the Planechase text is irrelevant and the effect isn’t a critical part of this deck’s gameplan.
Suggested Cut: Ion Storm
Ion Storm asks you to remove your hard-earned counters to deal damage, but Damning Verdict lets you keep those counters and deals with most of your opponents’ creatures. It’s a wrath with polarizing results depending on the match-up, but Ion Storm is too cute and counter-productive to stay.
More like counter-unproductive, right?
Suggested Cut: Enduring Scalelord
You could add Wildwood Scourge to create an infinite combo with Enduring Scalelord, or you could cut the junky 6-drop altogether.
Sanctuary Warden is a 6-drop worthy of casual Commander. Removing counters counteracts your main gameplan a bit, but at least this one makes up for it with card draw and token generation.
Akki Battle Squad
Suggested Cut: Slurrk, All-Ingesting
Slurrk, All-Ingesting is… acceptable. It reads like a +1/+1 counter synergy piece, but you’re not forming a gameplan around your creatures dying, and this does nothing against a wrath. Six mana is just too much for what it provides.
Akki Battle Squad, on the other hand? That’s a 6-drop I can get behind. It gives you up to one extra combat per turn, including the turn it comes into play. It’s especially brutal alongside Mirror-Style Master or Uncivil Unrest.
Suggested Cut: Brawn
I promise Tyrant Guard is the last ravenous creature on the list. It’s an on-board Heroic Intervention for your creatures with counters, and it can replace itself on ETB.
I cut Brawn, which might seem strange given how good trample works with your creatures. But most of your relevant attacks already have evasion, be it trample, flying, or Bright-Palm’s restriction on blockers.
Suggested Cut: Semester's End
Silkguard is a staple for most +1/+1 counter decks. It’s not exactly wrath protection, but it blanks any targeted effects and pumps your creatures at the same time.
Semester's End can sidestep a sweeper and have your creatures come back bigger, but it’s awkward that it resets creatures that have already stacked up counters on them.
Dusk Legion Duelist
Suggested Cut: Mindless Automaton
I don’t think this deck is stacking counters so aggressively that Mindless Automaton is drawing more than a card or two a game.
Dusk Legion Duelist should get the job done. It’s the perfect target for backup, and it’s pretty simple to turn it into your own personal Howling Mine.
The Mana Base
Upgrading your mana base should be a simple affair of trading out tap lands for whatever better dual lands your have on hand. 3-color precon mana bases are pretty good these days, but you can always improve the quality of individual lands.
Call for Backup also did a good job of providing synergistic utility lands like Gavony Township and Llanowar Reborn. You can find extra +1/+1 counter lands to spice up your mana base, like Oran-Rief, the Vastwood or Tyrite Sanctum.
Heliod's Intervention | Illustration by Daarken
Hopefully this was the backup you needed to take Call for Backup to the next level. It’s not a revolutionary idea for a deck, but that doesn’t mean it can’t hold up at the casual tables.
Have you had success with this precon, and if so, which commander do you prefer? Do you have any added tech cards you want to share? Let me know in the comments below, or join the discussion over in the Draftsim Discord.
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