Last updated on February 18, 2024
Expose the Culprit | Illustration by Ryan Valle
“I have a face-down 2/2 and mana open, your move.”
That might be the best way to describe the Deadly Disguise Commander precon from Murders at Karlov Manor Commander (MKC). There’s something enticing about hiding your secrets in plain sight, watching opponents squirm as they try to navigate your pile of seemingly harmless 2/2 creatures. They could be anything, after all.
Here I’ll present a quick level-up meant to take this deck from the precon level to something more viable at slightly more competitive tables. I’m not aiming for cEDH or high-power Commander; I just want the cool disguise precon to hold its own in a casual setting.
Krosan Cloudscraper | Illustration by Ron Spears
Deadly Disguise is a Commander precon built around the disguise mechanic from Murders at Karlov Manor. Disguise is essentially morph with Ward for an extra layer of protection. I’ll be using the terms disguise and morph interchangeably. Regardless of how you classify it, you’ll play tons of face-down 2/2s and spring traps with your morph abilities.
Both precon commanders can helm the deck to good effect, so choose whichever you prefer. Kaust, Eyes of the Glade offers steady card draw and can cheat on your morph costs, whereas Duskana, the Rage Mother strengthens your 2/2 “bears,” providing card draw on ETB and an Overrun effect whenever your morphs attack.
Your gameplan involves developing your mana, casting way more Gray Ogres than a Commander deck has any business playing, and springing morph abilities at opportune times. This is a more assertive, beatdown-oriented strategy compared to the Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer morph precon from Commander 2019.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Morph decks are great at playing to the board and leaving up mana for different types of interaction. Having a field of face-down creatures is almost like holding a hand full of instants, and opponents will often be wary of what your morphs can flip into.
However, you don’t have access to some of the most potent morphs, like Kheru Spellsnatcher and Bane of the Living, so opponents might not hold back as much as they would against a blue-based morph deck.
You’re also playing a pile of pretty bad creatures until the late game. Morph’s cool and all, but you’ll spend most of the early turns playing 3-mana 2/2s. Kaust, Eyes of the Glade speeds things along, but only by so much. Your game can also be ruined by a stray Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite or Massacre Wurm (which is in one of the other precons).
I’m cutting some of the more cutesy precon cards to up the power-level and consistency a little bit. I’m not trying to build the deck from the ground up, so I’m limiting myself to 10 swaps. And let’s keep it somewhat budget-friendly, shall we? You really, really don’t need Mana Crypt in your murder mystery disguise deck.
Suggested Cut: Tesak, Judith's Hellhound
Let’s start with the “auto-includes” from the main set. Pyrotechnic Performer seems like the perfect way to get extra mileage out of flipping creatures face-up, even outside of combat. It’s one of the only reasons I’m leaving Krosan Cloudscraper in the deck.
Tesak, Judith's Hellhound advertises a whole different strategy, and the mana it generates needs to be used immediately (it doesn’t carry over to the next phase). It’s not worth playing such an unsynergetic card.
Suggested Cut: Saryth, the Viper's Fang
Unyielding Gatekeeper’s the second shoe-in disguise creature. It either blinks one of your permanents or replaces an opposing threat with an insignificant 2/2. The flexibility makes it one of your better morph options.
Saryth, the Viper's Fang is supposed to deter blocks via deathtouch so you can flip up morphs before damage. The hexproof ability’s fine too, but I’d rather not pay 4 mana for a card like this when leveraging my morph abilities already influences combat.
Expose the Culprit
Suggested Cut: Ransom Note
The third main-set inclusion is Expose the Culprit, which flips a face down creature and resets any face up disguise creatures (but not morphs) you want to use again. It has a Cloudshift quality too, saving a creature from single-target removal and cloaking it.
I appreciate that Ransom Note has functionality across all four Commander precons, but this isn’t very good no matter what you do with it. Just because I appreciate it doesn’t mean I have to play it.
Yarus, Roar of the Old Gods
Suggested Cut: Broodhatch Nantuko
Yarus, Roar of the Old Gods provides a layer of wrath protection for your face down creatures and returns them to play in a way that triggers their morph abilities. It’s also interesting that it incentivizes you not to turn your creatures face up post-blocks, though the threat of activation should ward off blockers anyway.
In my experience, Broodhatch Nantuko never “does the thing” where it blocks a large creature and makes a huge board of 1/1s. Even if you get the ideal scenario, this deck doesn't leverage a bunch of 1/1s effectively.
Suggested Cut: Neheb, the Eternal
This deck needs another wincon. You can’t convince me flipping Akroma, Angel of Fury face-up is enough to win. There are some mass pumps with Master of Pearls, Mirror Entity, and Return of the Wildspeaker, but I wanted one more definitive wincon to close the door on games. Overwhelming Stampede costs a few bucks, but with a single large creature on board it usually pushes enough damage to win the game.
Perhaps a controversial cut, Neheb, the Eternal seems out of place, despite being a very good Commander card. The idea is to play Neheb, deal damage, then use that red mana to play morphs and flip them face-up, but that’s basically the extent of what Neheb can do here. It’s not maximized in this deck, while being scary enough to draw attention to an otherwise underpowered strategy.
Ugin, the Ineffable
Suggested Cut: Showstopping Surprise
Decks focused on colorless spells should always consider Ugin, the Ineffable. Your morphs effectively cost with this planeswalker out, and the +1 ability makes functional “morph” creatures. It’s cost reduction, card advantage, and removal in a pinch, even if it’s a bit clunky at 6 mana.
I hate to cut the new thematic red board wipe but you really don’t need four expensive sweepers in a deck like this. Wraths like Dusk / Dawn and Fell the Mighty leave your morphs unscathed, but I’d bet Showstopping Surprise decimates your board as much as everyone else’s.
Leave / Chance
Suggested Cut: Root Elemental
Leave / Chance is a pet card that plays well with morph strategies. Bouncing your creatures is obviously worse wrath protection than phasing them out or giving them indestructible, but this gives you the opportunity to replay your morphs face-down. Chance isn’t exciting, but I’ll take the bonus aftermath effect.
Root Elemental is simply too narrow. It’s not efficient without an effect like Kaust’s flipping it face-up. While the prospect of jamming a top-end threat into play is tantalizing, this deck has very few haymakers and most morph creatures don’t want to be put into play face-up.
Suggested Cut: Krosan Colossus
Temur Sabertooth was originally printed in Fate Reforged, the set that introduced manifest. Same as there, Sabertooth can pick up non-creatures that get manifested or cloaked and can’t be turned face up. Or you can use it to reset morphs you want to flip again.
I like the addition of the 13/13 Krosan Cloudscraper, though it’s not that good, and the functionally similar Krosan Colossus is even worse. Yeah, you might “get someone” once by flipping this up with your commander, but that first hit’s about all it’s ever going to do.
Suggested Cut: Salt Road Ambushers
Somberwald Sage basically says: tap, cast a morph. Unfortunately, the mana can’t be used to turn a creature face-up but cheating on the upfront cost of a morph each turn sounds a lot like Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer.
Salt Road Ambushers is synergistic, but clunky. I’d rather all my morphs be good enough on their own merit instead of needing something like this in play.
Suggested Cut: Lifecrafter's Bestiary
Guardian Project is my one splurge card, costing $10-$15 depending on the version. To be fair, it’s an investment for your Commander collection, not just this deck. The joke here is that face down creatures don’t have a name, so Guardian Project triggers on them the same way it would any other creature.
It’s nice to have a draw engine aside from the commander, but Lifecrafter's Bestiary ain’t it. Playing and flipping morphs is mana-intensive enough without needing to pay extra for a little card advantage.
Yarus, Roar of the Old Gods | Illustration by Dmitry Burmak
There you go, 10 quick and (mostly) affordable changes to take Deadly Disguise to the next level. Again, deck optimization is not the goal here; I just want someone to be able to pick up the precon, invest $10-$20 in some upgrades, and fare better in the average casual Commander game.
I actually had more difficulty with this upgrade guide than I usually do. Most of the cards you’d expect to be in the deck are already present, and there are few synergistic cards out there that complement the strategy well. In other words, you’re probably going to need to play generically strong staples to push this deck’s power any further. If you have suggestions for card swaps o
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