Valduk, Keeper of the Pain
20 Aug 2021 - 8 min read
Welcome back to Pauper Fridays! This week, I thought it would be cool to take one of my favorite decks of Brawl past and introduce it to PDH. Enter, Valduk, Keeper of the Flame , a fiery equipment/aura legendary from Dominaria with a unique twist: he wants to go wide.
Usually when we see cards caring about auras and equipment outside of green those benefits align with cheaper equip costs or pumping per attached permanent. While these are interesting spaces to explore, most revolve around a voltron strategy of swinging with one massive creature. Our Valduk deck will ALSO end up with one chonky boi, but that’s secondary to our main plan of swamping the board with elementals.
We’re going kind of combat crazy here too. Since we lose these feisty 3/1s at the end of the turn their survival is…less important. Swing heavy and often, and then extract even more value from the bodies that survive the onslaught.
There are a ton of options when it comes to equipment inclusions in a deck like this. My build is running 13, coming in over the 8 auras mostly due to their stick-ability. If someone finds a way to kill Valduk, we don’t want to lose the resources we’ve been able to build up. So, this is a category where you have a lot of flexibility depending on your meta or what your own personal flair has to offer - but here are a couple of my favorites:
Explorer’s Scope: The lack of solid ramp options is felt twice as hard at the pauper level. So we have to get a little creative. Explorer’s Scope has put in serious work for me in my pdh Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive build. I’m expecting a similar amount of work here. This will require attacks on the part of Valduk though so we’ll need a couple ways to protect him like…
Cliffhaven Kitesail: …giving him flying. We’re also running Cobbled Wings but I love this new design of cheaper equipment auto-equipping on ETB. While this won’t solve all our problems, it does provide a nice level of reliability since there’s always at least one opponent not prepared for an aerial assault.
Lightning Spear: Once we get Valduk all suited up, chump blockers are going to become our worst nightmare. Trample for an equip cost of 1 will be crucial for those final swings (and don’t forget, in PDH Commander damage is dropped to 16!). The fact that this piece can double as some quick removal is just icing on the cake.
You wouldn’t think of mono red as a home for solid common auras, and normally you’d be right! Well…at least for the last ten years. We had to dig a little deep, but you’ll love what we found.
Betrothed of Fire: Woof…Besides our commander, there are few cards in this deck that can provide the same amount of value as Betrothed of Fire . While I’m sure there’s a time and place for the first mode, that second - of giving each creature you control +2/+0 sounds like EXACTLY what we need to fuel our army. A horde of 5/1 Tramplers does not make for a long game.
Also, don’t forget you could just pop this on a chump creature and activate it after Valduk generates your tokens. No need to kill the big man if the turn doesn’t go the way you want it.
Bravado: The main tension in this deck is always going to be how often we want Valduk actually attacking. To create our elementals, we don’t need him to attack - but a lot of the best benefits from our auras and equipments require combat on behalf of the equipped creature. Bravado makes it so a lot more attacks from Valduk are profitable. Red is the king of top-heavy pumps so having a way to bump toughness will keep Valduk resilient to even a rogue Ulamog’s Crusher .
Claws of Valakut: Another key way to deal with the toughness problem is first strike! Who cares if your toughness is ONE if you’re going to trade with any creature in your path. Scaling with mountains is also an easy way to let this get out of hand. Non-basic lands? Who needs ‘em?!
No Captain is complete without a crew, and while most of our army will be made-to-order on combat, there are a couple great options to back Valduk up on the battlefield.
Champion of the Flame: If there was a concept of “Second in Command” in a Commander deck (Our Lieutenant? Sidekick?), it would be Champion of the Flame . Solving Valduk’s greatest issue for swinging, Champion is already boosting with each equipped piece. You’ll be splitting resources with Valduk but it’s hard to complain too much when that tornado of pain comes with trample too. See also Myr Adapter and Goblin Gaveleer .
Ghitu Chronicler: One of few utility creatures in this build, but wildly useful, no one will expect instant/sorcery recursion in mono red?? Whether you need to find some removal like Mine Collapse or Welding Sparks …or something more specific like an explosive turn courtesy of Mana Geyser (seriously why is this a common?), this will never be a bad draw.
Myr Retriever: Honestly I’m surprised at the amount of recursion we can sneak into a mono red deck. Both this card and Workshop Assistant will make sure we don’t lose our favorite equipments for long.
Okay, So you’ve covered all relevant card types. What the heck am I going to do with all these elementals???
Pics: Ashnod’s Altar, Impact Tremors, Mobile Garrison
Astute question dear listener! Allow me to introduce three of the cards your opponents will hate the most.
Ashnod’s Altar: Just because we’re making an army of 3/1s doesn’t mean they ALL need to attack. These tokens leave the battlefield at end of turn, meaning we have a whole second main phase with them if we’d like! So throw them into a furnace and let us cast an Ulamog’s Crusher pls. (editor’s note: Chev chill with the eldrazi plz, everyone else, this is a great way to cast even more equipments or re-equip for defense)
Impact Tremors: Towards the late game with Valduk kitted out we’re going to be dropping larger and larger swarms of elementals per turn. An impact tremors can add up fast when you’re only starting at 30 life.
Mobile Garrison: Yes you’ve found my sneaky subtheme! Or, well, I showed you my sneaky subtheme, but it doesn’t matter how you got here - your elementals can crew vehicles!! Crewing happens at instant speed, so yes, at the beginning of combat before you declare attackers, these top-heavy tokens can immediately hop in the drivers seat of a tank and be sacrificed later for value on the altar. What more could a guy want?!
So that’s it! I think this covers the most interesting cards and strategies Valduk has to offer to overrun your opponents with fire and brimstone…if you think I’ve missed anything let me know in the comments below!
Here’s the full decklist on Moxfield
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