Last updated on May 23, 2023
Purphoros, God of the Forge | Illustration by Eric Deschamps
Making a mono-color Commander deck sometimes be a bit intimidating. Your choices are a lot more limited, and you lose out on all the great ways multicolored decks combine powerful strategies from each color of mana. You still shouldn’t shy away from the challenge, and there are lots of positive aspects to a mono-color Commander deck to make up for what you lose.
Looking at a mono-red deck like the one I’ve made, there are some obvious benefits that immediately pop out. Your land base can be much simpler, and in turn much cheaper, than a multicolor deck. You can play more cards with three, even four, red pips in their casting cost because most of your lands produce red mana. You also have some cards that specifically shut down multicolor strategies that won’t affect your game very much, if at all.
When looking for a commander to lead my mono-red deck, I knew I wanted one that could help accelerate the game by doing direct damage to my opponents. This allows red to do what it does best: close out games quickly. I chose Purphoros, God of the Forge thanks mainly to its triggered ability, but also because it’s a bit harder to remove than other commanders, making it more likely that you’ll be able to keep it on the field.
Let’s look at this mono-red deck and see how a mono-color build can be just as good, even sometimes better, than multicolored ones!
Solphim, Mayhem Dominus | Illustration by Chris Cold
Solphim, Mayhem Dominus
Torbran, Thane of Red Fell
Krenko, Mob Boss
Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin
Terror of the Peaks
Mogg War Marshal
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Squee, Dubious Monarch
Anax, Hardened in the Forge
Hobgoblin Bandit Lord
Neheb, the Eternal
Magus of the Moon
Muxus, Goblin Grandee
Toralf, God of Fury
Thrill of Possibility
Tempt with Vengeance
Descent of the Dragons
Hammer of Purphoros
Coat of Arms
Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
Den of the Bugbear
There are a few ways you can make a Purphoros deck, but I want to make sure to get as many ETB triggers as possible. This meant including lots of cards that make token creatures.
A lot of red’s token generators make Goblin tokens, so I naturally fell into making a deck that largely focuses on goblins. This deck went from being a one-trick-pony to having a few alternatives of how to finish off your opponents by including some goblin tribal support like Goblin King and Goblin Trashmaster.
I didn’t stick strictly to goblins for the powerful creatures. For example, Terror of the Peaks was the first card I slotted into the 99. I knew it wasn’t going anywhere even when I decided to make this a goblin deck. I also included several ways to increase the output of Purphoros’s damage triggers because that’s a major part of your strategy.
Purphoros, God of the Forge shares a few traits with its fellow gods of Theros. Perhaps the best of these traits is indestructibility, which makes it easier to keep it on the battlefield and keep getting triggers.
You may not build up devotion as quickly as you would in other builds since this is a token-heavy deck, but I actually consider this a positive. Players seem to run more ways to exile creatures than they do ways to exile enchantments, meaning Purphoros is safer not being a creature as often.
This deck is largely built around Purphoros’s triggered ability, which deals damage to each of your opponents. Cards that drop lots of creature tokens like Krenko, Mob Boss also become massive damage spells thanks to Purphoros since there’s no stipulation on whether the creature entering the battlefield is a token or not.
I haven’t found myself using Purphoros’s activated ability all that much in this deck, but it isn’t bad to have a mana sink on hand. Besides, buffing your creatures can help you to punch through the last bits of damage you need to finish off an opponent.
While Purphoros’s ability triggers off any creature entering the battlefield, one of the easiest ways to get multiple triggers at once is by using cards that make creature tokens.
Cards like Hordeling Outburst and Dragon Fodder now serve the dual purpose of giving you creatures and dealing damage to all your opponents.
Tempt with Vengeance is a great way to generate a whole lot of tokens at once. Regardless of what your opponents’ choice, you always come out on top. This is especially true when you have Purphoros on the field; the more tokens this spell makes you, the more direct damage you do to each opponent.
Even better than cards that simply make tokens are creatures that do so, because then you’re getting triggers from both the tokens and the creature itself. Beetleback Chief and Goblin Instigator are good examples. Siege-Gang Commander is especially good because it gives you another way to deal direct damage on top of the four triggers it gets you off Purphoros.
Both Krenko, Mob Boss and Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin can make you an absurd number of Goblins if allowed to get out of hand, which also means dealing a lot of damage to your opponents each time they do.
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker is great, not just because the copies it makes do damage, but also because it’ll get you extra ETB triggers out of the creatures it copies. You also get another creature token and yet another Purphoros trigger if Kiki-Jiki copies a card like Mogg War Marshal.
Creatures with consistent ways to make tokens are also a good addition to this deck because they’ll be able to do damage each turn. Cards like Goblin Rabblemaster and Loyal Apprentice are nice because they make these tokens for free.
Pashalik Mons may make you pay for your Goblin tokens, but it also deals out extra damage when one of your goblins dies. This means just activating its ability does damage, as does creating the tokens if you have your commander out.
Because the bulk of your creatures and creature tokens in this deck are goblins, I thought it only makes sense to include some explicit support for the creature type.
I like Conspicuous Snoop because it gives you access to extra cards on the top of your deck. It can also steal powerful activated abilities off your deck, like Krenko, Mob Boss.
Goblins also have a good number of anthem creatures like Goblin Trashmaster, which I thought would give a nice buff to the token creatures. This way you’re not completely relying on Purphoros to do serious damage.
What’s better is these anthem creatures like Goblin Chieftain and Goblin King also give extra powerful abilities to your goblins.
I also included Coat of Arms to buff your goblins. It can be a double-edged sword, but you have lots of ways to make multiple tokens in this deck. You’ll likely be the one to benefit from it most unless you’re going up against token decks with access to doublers like Anointed Procession.
Goblin Matron is an especially good card in a goblin deck since it’s both a tutor and a goblin itself. I included the Matron to help you search for powerful goblins like Muxus, Goblin Grandee or Dockside Extortionist when you need them.
Brightstone Ritual is likely to generate a good amount of mana since you have so many goblins and ways to make Goblin tokens. This can lead to some splashy turns, even if you’re just pumping a ton of mana into Purphoros to buff your goblin army.
Apart from Purphoros itself, I also included other ways to deal damage when creatures entered the battlefield. Witty Roastmaster has a very similar effect, essentially bringing the amount of damage up from two to three with each ETB trigger. Stack an Impact Tremors and you’re taking 10% of each opponent’s starting life each time you play a creature.
Terror of the Peaks is a very versatile way to deal direct damage. It can target an opponent, but it can also be used as a source of removal for creatures and planeswalkers. It also gets individual triggers for each creature, so you get to divvy up the damage however you see fit if you’re creating lots of tokens at once. Warstorm Surge has basically the same trigger and all the same benefits.
Hobgoblin Bandit Lord is usually good for one or two damage in such a goblin-heavy deck. There are also the rare turns where a card like Muxus, Goblin Grandee might drop lots of goblins on your field, allowing you to do a lot of damage for just one mana with Hobgoblin Bandit Lord’s activated ability.
Goblin Bombardment is a very good tool in a deck like this. You often find yourself in a situation where you’ve gotten your opponents pretty low on life, so having an instant speed way to just take out those last few bits of life is very powerful. You can also use this card’s ability in response to a board wipe, so even if you’re about to lose a big board state, you can at least deal a lot of damage before you do.
This deck has ways to get you more bang for your buck out of each damage trigger on top of having multiple ways to damage your opponents directly.
Cards like Mechanized Warfare and Torbran, Thane of Red Fell give each of your Purphoros triggers a little extra kick.
Maybe some of the best ways to enhance the damage you do are cards like Solphim, Mayhem Dominus and Fiery Emancipation, which drastically increase the amount of damage you’re outputting.
While Toralf, God of Fury won’t increase the amount of damage you do, it’ll ensure that none of the damage you do goes to waste. If you’re removing a creature with a big Terror of the Peaks trigger, for instance, any extra damage can then be done to a player or another creature even.
Cards like Molten Echoes and Mirror March are also good additions if you’re looking for another way to get a bit more out of your Purphoros triggers. These won’t do any damage themselves but they can make you some extra creatures, leading to extra triggers from your commander.
Keeping Up with Mana Curves
One downside of a mono-red deck is that you lose out on some of the better ways to ramp that are available to multicolored decks.
This is where cards like Jeska's Will and Battle Hymn can come in. They only offer you a one-time boost of mana, but they can still help you cast some of your bigger spells if you’re lower on lands than you’d like to be.
Neheb, the Eternal is another great way to generate some extra mana. Even if you aren’t using its afflict ability, you’ll likely get a lot of mana thanks to your Purphoros triggers and other methods of doing direct damage.
Dockside Extortionist can potentially get you a lot of semi-permanent mana, allowing you to stockpile some Treasure for when you need to cast a big spell.
Ruby Medallion can also help make your spells less expensive to cast in the first place.
Another way to keep up with your opponents’ mana curves is by slowing them down instead of speeding yourself up. Blood Moon and Magus of the Moon can put a serious damper on your opponents’ ability to produce the type of mana they need. They’ll still have the same number of mana sources, but they might be unable to cast cards with more restrictive costs if you’re taking away their mana fixing.
The Mana Base
The mana base for this deck is very simple. It’s mostly basic Mountains since you’re in mono-red. I’ve also included Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle to give you an extra way to benefit from your Mountains.
There are a few utility lands in this deck. Kher Keep and Den of the Bugbear seem like obvious choices because they give you more ways to make Goblin tokens. While not goblins, Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance can also be used to make creature tokens and allow Purphoros to do some damage.
Myriad Landscape is a nice way to ramp in a deck that doesn’t have access to better methods, and it can pair well with Valakut if you already have five Mountains on the field.
The only mana rock I included was Sol Ring, and you have Neheb, the Eternal as a creature mana-producer.
You also have a couple ways to make Treasure tokens with Dockside Extortionist and Big Score.
First, focus on getting Purphoros, God of the Forge onto the battlefield. Your strategy is pretty straightforward once that’s done: cast as many creature spells and create as many tokens as possible. Aside from the natural benefits that come with having a large board state, this also does consistent damage to each of your opponents.
Pretty much every card in this deck is here to build around that basic strategy. You aren’t looking to really mix things up, just cast cards that you think enhance this basic setup like damage doublers (Solphim, Mayhem Dominus) or token generators (Krenko, Mob Boss).
If you want a more aggressive strategy, attack with your creatures or use them as a shield against your opponents’ attackers while you continue to chip away at their life totals. I personally prefer to sit on defense for a bit until I see an opportunity to take out one of my opponents with a big attack. For any targeted damage spells, I tend to send them at the player whose deck seems like it’ll best counter mine.
In one playtest one of my opponents was playing The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, which made it difficult to maintain my wide board state. I targeted that opponent with any direct damage triggers like Terror of the Peaks to take them out and make it easier for me to play my game. I strongly recommend not shying away from player removal like this because you’re more likely to beat one opponent at a time as opposed to taking them all out at once with this deck.
Combos and Interactions
While I didn’t build in any infinite combos, you should be on the lookout for some powerful interactions.
Toralf, God of Fury pairs nicely with your splashy damage spells like Chain Reaction and Blasphemous Act. It’s likely these spells do excess damage to your opponents’ creatures, so you’ll also get to deal out quite a bit of damage to your opponents or any tougher creatures that may have survived the board wipe.
It’s also important to note how Purphoros, God of the Forge interacts with cards like Descent of the Dragons and Mog Infestation. You get a lot of Purphoros triggers if you have a big board state when targeting yourself with one of these cards. You should think of these as ways to deal damage to your opponents as opposed to looking at them as removal spells.
Unfortunately a couple of the more expensive cards in this deck are also some of the best cards for your strategy, like Terror of the Peaks and Fiery Emancipation. Luckily there are also a few expensive cards that can probably be replaced without much issue.
Dockside Extortionist is very expensive and is really a one-off card in this deck because there aren’t really ways to get it back from your graveyard. You can easily cut it and put in other ways to generate extra mana, like Chandra, Torch of Defiance or Runaway Steam-Kin.
Ruby Medallion can also be kind of pricey, so a good cheap substitute can be Hazoret's Monument. It isn’t too much of a downgrade since you’re running a lot of creature spells, and it’ll save you about $27.
Another way to go about building a Purphoros deck is to focus on tokens in general, not specifically Goblins. This means including other red token generators like Emrakul's Hatcher or Tilonalli's Summoner.
You’ll lose some of the synergies that you have with your goblin cards, but it’ll ensure that a larger percentage of your cards generate extra creatures for Purphoros’s ability.
Fiery Emancipation | Illustration by Alexander Frossberg
Although it may be intimidating to limit yourself to a single color, doing so also allows you to lean harder into what that color does best. As is the case with this Purphoros, God of the Forge deck, it can also mean a slightly simpler strategy for when you don’t want to think as hard. If nothing else it means being able to work with a simpler land base, which usually saves you a good amount of money.
Do you think Purphoros is a good mono-red commander, or would you prefer to build around a different one? Which single color would you most like to build a deck around? Let me know in the comments below, or over on Draftsim’s Twitter.
Thanks for reading, and I look forward to seeing you in the next one!
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A suggestion from a reader:
“Norin the Wary is about the most busted and bulletproof way to win with Purphoros. What I have found is that anyone who has ever played against a Purphoros deck will sound the alarm and the table will gang up on you and take you out so running high cmc cards is really bad because they’ll probably never impact the game all that much. I took mine apart because I was running a bunch of cards that you mentioned like Terror of the peaks and the triple damage enchantment. If I ever did get to play them it was too late to win with or I could have played something cheaper and won the game instead”