March of the Machine Commander preconstructed decklists have been revealed and with it comes another round of my precon upgrades. We’re going to do a thorough analysis of each deck, highlighting its goals and how well it accomplishes them, check out its deckbuilding fundamentals, identify its strongest and weakest cards, then use all that information to make an optimized $30 upgrade path!
*Note that all the new MOM precons come with a bonus 10 planechase cards (5 new and 5 reprints) that can be used if you run the planechase variant of Commander. They are 100% optional and can be completely ignored if you don’t want to use them, and we won’t be covering them in this series.
Divine Convocation is a White/Blue/Red Tokens deck with a twist: it’s the first ever precon to focus on Tap/Untap Shenanigans, specifically the Convoke mechanic: the goal of this deck is to flood the board with creatures and tokens thanks to cards like Kykar, Wind’s Fury, then tap them to ramp out powerful convoke spells like Venerated Loxodon and Wildfire Awakener! Mix in cards that benefit you when they get tapped like Fallowsage along with ways to untap your board like Village Bell-Ringer and we’ve got an exciting new Tokens that that can utilizes weird niche cards for some truly explosive turns!
If you want a unique take on the very popular Tokens archetype, Divine Convocation is the deck for you!
The Precon List
Before we talk upgrades, let’s take a look at the stock list to see what we’re working with:
Divine Convocation is first and foremost a Tokens deck, which makes sense since you need a bunch of creatures on the battlefield to make Convoke cards good and Tokens is the most efficient way of getting lots of creatures. I count 17 cards that create creature tokens. And then for the fun stuff, Convoke, I count 19 cards with Convoke (2 grant Convoke like Wand of the Worldsoul), and an additional 5 cards that want to be used for convoking (Mistmeadow Vanisher).
Keep in mind that Convoke has never been an archetype up until this point and the card pool is incredibly shallow. While the designers did fit enough Convoke cards to fill out a precon, and the new Convoke cards they designed for the product are all very good (Flockchaser Phantom is cracked), they were seriously reaching to fill those remaining slots and put in some real bad stinkers in there too (Chant of Vitu-Ghazi). We’ll fix things up in the upgrades section but there isn’t much more to work with, which is either a good thing because you can “finish” the deck after a round of upgrading or bad because most sets won’t have anything for your theme.
Choosing Our Commander
There’s only two potential precon commanders found in this deck: Kasla, the Broken Halo and Saint Traft and Rem Karolus. While most precons will have the face commander as the obvious choice of the deck and the other one a better option if you take the precon in a different direction, in this case both cards are supporting the exact same Convoke strategy so you actually have to choose between the two.
I’m going with Kasla, the Broken Halo for this precon upgrade. Kasla herself having convoke means we can cast and recast her pretty reliably and her payoff of getting to scry 2 and draw each time we convoke is the gas we need to keep chugging along, plus we essentially get to hit someone for 5 each turn at no cost. I do like Saint Traft and Rem Karolus a ton, they are arguably the best card in the deck to fuel our convoke strategies, but it’s hard to pass up on card draw in the command zone. They’re both fine commanders but I personally like Kasla just a bit more.
Analyzing the Precon & Identifying Weaknesses
Now that we’ve glanced at the stock list and settled on our commander, let’s take a closer look at the deck itself to identify what parts benefit the most from upgrades.
As I often explain in my Budget Commander articles, every time I build a rough draft of a deck, I make sure I have a certain ratio of mana, interaction, card advantage, etc. This gives me a reference point to compare to the deck and see which areas may need improvement. My general ratio is:
- 50 mana; lands and ramp, usually a 37–13 split
- 10 card draw; cards that net you 2+ cards in hand
- 8 targeted removal; split between creature / artifact / enchantment removal and countermagic
- 3 board wipes; creature-light decks might want one more, creature-heavy decks might want one less
- 2 graveyard recursion
- 2 flexible tutors; higher budgets I recommend more tutors
- 1 graveyard hate; since you need to keep Graveyard decks honest
That’s always my starting point, which is then tweaked to suit the individual deck’s strategy and further tweaked with playtesting. I always find it immensely useful to figure out some quick ways to improve the deck in question.
Let’s see what the rough ratios are for Corrupting Influence and how it compares. I count:
- 49 mana; 39 lands and Keeper of the Accord, Kykar, Wind’s Fury, Flockchaser Phantom kinda, Sol Ring, Arcane Signet, Fractured Powerstone, Commander’s Sphere, Cultivator’s Caravan, Wand of the Worldsoul, Ichor Elixir
- 7 card draw; Kasla, the Broken Halo, Mentor of the Meek, Fallowsage, Wrenn’s Resolve, Meeting of Minds, Skullclamp, Whirlwind of Thought
- 12 targeted removal; Banisher Priest, Duergar Hedge-Mage, Goblin Medics, Swords to Plowshares, Cut Short, Devouring Light, Wear // Tear, Stoke the Flames, Temporal Cleansing, Artistic Refusal, Shatter the Source, Conclave Tribunal
- 2 board wipes; Austere Command, Hour of Reckoning
- 1 graveyard recursion; Deluxe Dragster but only oppponents’ GY
- 0 flexible tutors;
- 1 graveyard hate; Angel of Finality
The ratios here look very solid. Recusion is notably absent, and I’d like to add a bit more card draw, but for the most part the ratios are what I like to see. This is a good starting point!
I have some specific goals when upgrading Divine Convocation:
- Upgrade our Token producers
- Add the few missing Convoke cards
- Add more cards that care about being tapped
- Add some mass untappers
- Add more card draw
I have a confession: this was by far the hardest precon upgrade for me to build in years. I went through multiple revisions before getting this current upgrade path that I’m happy with.
Here’s what I struggled with: there’s a lot of sweet creatures that benefit from tapping and untapping, like drawing cards off Ghostly Pilferer and Arbiter of the Ideal, generating mana with Magda, Brazen Outlaw, copying stuff with Felhide Spiritbinder, or (my favorite) bouncing stuff with Surgespanner. And there’s plenty of creatures that untap our creatures efficiently so we can keep convoking, like Plargg, Dean of Chaos, Drumbellower, and White Plume Adventurer!
But here’s the thing: we want to be heavy on noncreature spells! Our best token generator in the precon is Kykar, Wind’s Fury, our second best card draw is Whirlwind of Thought, but most importantly our best two cards that we can add to the deck are Invasion of Segovia and Jeskai Ascendancy, both requiring a lot of noncreature spells to be worth running! Jeskai Ascendancy blows all the other untappers out of the water, while also looting and pumping our board!
So the archetype ends up being split between creature payoffs and noncreature payoffs, two strategies that are at odds with each other, and it was difficult and frustrating to try and find a compromise between the two. I ended up deciding that the noncreature route worked better and was more fun to actually play, but GOSH was it hard to get there! It’s just that Jeskai Ascendancy and Invasion of Segovia are too good to not build around — in the end I even added a tutor for them, Drift of Phantasms which can transmute to find either of them, and Moon-Blessed Cleric specifically to find Ascendancy.
So that’s my direction for the deck: focus on making Jeskai Ascendancy great, because honestly the card is cracked when you build around it. The focus on noncreatures also give us access to many other benefits, like two of the best missing token producers Third Path Iconoclast and Saheeli, Sublime Artificer too. It means I left out some cool Convoke cards like Knight-Errant of Eos and cool untappers like Drumbellower, but I think the sacrifice is worth it. Feel free to go in the other direction though!
Disclaimer: Card prices are volatile and may be different at the time you read this article.
Here’s the proposed adds and cuts.
Here’s how the deck looks with the upgrades added:
My upgrade path would involve going further into a Noncreature Convoke style of play: Monastery Mentor can replace a weaker token producer like Stonybrook Schoolmaster, Grand Crescendo can swap in for Secure the Wastes, Tocasia’s Welcome and Idol of Oblivion can take the spot of Mentor of the Meek and so on. Like I said, you don’t need to focus on Noncreatures for this upgrade path, but once you feel the thrill of a Jeskai Ascendancy popping off you’ll be hooked on it like I am!
Of the remaining good Convoke cards, Clever Concealment, and City on Fire are both fantastic and auto-includes if you’re okay spending a few bucks for them. Bennie Bracks, Zoologist is very good too as you should be able to make at least one token per turn cycle.
For more Untapping shenanigans you can easily slot in Dramatic Reversal + Isochron Scepter combo. Or you can slot in Intruder Alarm and maybe combo with that too.
For the rest I’d recommend more tutors to find Jeskai Ascendancy like Enlightened Tutor and Idyllic Tutor, some good recursion like Underworld Breach, and better mana-fixing like shocks / ABU / fetches.
Three Down, Four To Go!
Check back daily for another precon upgrade!