Last week we talked about the hard-to-beat Alesha, Who Smiles at Death as one of the best starter commander decks. Their ability to resurrect creatures, constantly attack, and just generally make use of some fantastic graveyard strategies is a great starting point, but that level of strategy isn’t something everyone enjoys.
Sometimes, all you want to do is turn stuff sideways and win. There are some excellent aggro commanders available, but the one we want to talk about today is one that literally just makes damage you deal deal more damage. That’s the kind of thing that’s hard to beat. So, let’s dig into Torbran, Thane of Red Fell.
Meet your commander
So, Torbran, Thane of Red Fell is a four mana red Dwarf Noble 2/4. Their ability is incredibly simple, “If a red source you control would deal damage to an opponent or a permanent an opponent controls, it deals that much damage plus 2 instead.” Basically, any damage you dealt is increased by two, which means you generally want to hit with lots of sources, instead of just one.
Their toughness and casting cost puts them outside of a fair few forms of removal, but it’s usually still a good idea to have a Lightning Greaves in your deck to try and keep them safe, because they’re going to draw a lot of hate at the table if you manage to keep them around for a turn or two, especially if you’re going a good job of making the most of their ability.
Despite the seemingly obvious aggro approach, there are actually three fairly effective ways to build Torbran, so we’re going to do a little bit of a dive into each of them. Let’s get stuck in and deal some damage, shall we?
Aggro in Torbran is about getting a lot of bodies out and making the most of that fact as best as you can. That means you want cards like Impact Tremors, Purhporos, God of the Forge, and Outpost Siege all making sure you’ve got chip damage coming in whenever you play something or something dies.
One of the best things to do though, is to make sure you’re focussing on getting lots of small bodies out. Not only will this make sure you get a lot of triggers off of the above cards, but it also means you can put Cavalcade of Calamity in your deck, which deals one damage to the player or planeswalker that’s being attacked each time a creature you control with power one or less attacks.
Your aim in this deck then, is to stick a few of the cards we’ve talked about, and then use cards like Tilonalli’s Summoner and as many Goblin token making cards as you can find, and then just swing in aggressively until you’ve pinged your enemies into non-existence.
Next-up is a spellslinger approach. This is based on using as many instants and sorceries as you can to just pummel your opponent. You can either build this to use mana generating spells and then finish off opponents with something like Grapeshot, or you can just have fun by pew pewing everyone down.
The key thing with this style of deck is making sure you have ways to benefit from all of your noncreature spells. So, Cinder Pyromancer, Electrostatic Field, Guttersnipe, Firebrand Archer, and Thermo-Alchemist all allow you to ping people as you cast your spells, which is great stuff when you’ve got Torbran out and can deal extra damage because of them.
There are some excellent pay-off cards too, like Chandra’s Incinerator, which makes noncombat damage you deal to an opponent also deal damage to creatures or Planeswalkers they control. You’ve also got Fire Servant, who simply doubles any damage that red instant and sorcery spells deal to your whatever you’re targeting.
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Finally, we have stax. You’re not going to make any friends with this build, but if you really want to punish your friends for trying to play Magic then we recommend using Zo-Zu the Punisher, Manabarbs, Sulfuric Vortex, Harsh Mentor, Rolling Vortex, Burning Earth, Rampaging Ferocidon, and Spellshock to kill off your foes as they try to play the game.
Everyone will try and kill you though, you have been warned.
All of these strategies benefit from having Runaway Steam-Kin in them to help you generate a frankly sickening amount of mana, and also Angrath’s Marauders, which just makes you deal double damage. If you’re feeling really frisky you can even mix and match these strategies, but we recommend committing to one at a time, generally speaking.