March 1, 2016

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Commander Philosophies

Today, I’m here to talk to you about something very near and dear to my heart. Magic, but more specifically, Commander. I’ve been playing Highlander variants for years now, and I love the format. However, I have noticed a recurring issue among some decks: they don’t seem to want to have fun.What do I mean? For example, Edric, Spymaster of Trest decks that are nothing but cheap evasion dudes, countermagic, and time walks. Effective? Oh, don’t get me wrong, you win most of your games. Is it fun? I don’t know about you, but for me, the fun in Commander lies in the interaction, in playing big, splashy spells, and going over the top. Two-card “I win” combos don’t encourage that style of gameplay.

I’m not frowning entirely on “I win” comboes. I think that having one or two is all right, but with the abundance of searching available, having combos tend to warp decks around them. Deadeye Navigator/Palinchron your choice? Well, now Tooth and Nail wins the game. So does any card that tutors for Tooth and Nail.

Also, in terms of archetypes, Commander is a strange beast. You don’t find a lot of aggressive decks, especially in multi-player, as they tend to run out of steam. Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule, but the Generals that allow you to generate steam usually cause crosshairs to magically appear on your forehead. For example, Krenko, Mob Boss or Purphoros, God of the Forge are extremely strong generals for aggressive decks looking to kill a multi-player table, but prepare to get hated on until the end of time.

Most multi-player decks tend to veer towards control and midrange decks. Dedicated combo decks, such as five colour Hermit Druid, are also likely to get picked on heavily. Also, Commander players generally like playing their favourite fun cards. Personally, any time I get to play Avenger of Zendikar and clone it a bunch, I’m pleased as can be. However, everyone has a different definition of fun.

Most decks tend to fall under the midrange category. In multi-player, combos tend to get shut down by countermagic, especially if there are multiple blue players. So games tend to go quite long, and things like Planeswalkers get extremely powerful. Even if it gets blown up right away, there tends to be something leftover to deal with. If you can protect them though, they can quickly get out of hand.

“That’s fine,” you say, “but what can we do about it?” We can complain about it, but there will still be people who think that putting a Splinter Twin on a Deceiver Exarch is a fun way to win a game of Commander. For me, it’s slightly anti-climactic. I used to be in that camp. I used to play nothing but degenerate decks with multiple infinite combos, and tons of countermagic, but that wasn’t fun. It wasn’t interactive. Where am I now?

Prime Speaker Zegana

Commander (1)
Prime Speaker Zegana

Creatures (32)
Avenger of Zendikar
Bane of Progress
Body Double
Chancellor of the Spires
Clever Impersonator
Conclave Naturalists
Consecrated Sphinx
Diluvian Primordial
Eternal Witness
Farhaven Elf
Frost Titan
Genesis Hydra
Greenwarden of Murasa
Joraga Treespeaker
Nissa, Vastwood Seer
Oracle of Mul Daya
Phantasmal Image
Phyrexian Metamorph
Progenitor Mimic
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Seedborn Muse
Solemn Simulacrum
Sphinx of Uthuun
Sylvan Caryatid
Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
Temur Sabertooth
Trinket Mage
Venser, Shaper Savant
Wood Elves
Woodfall Primus

Artifacts (7)
Birthing Pod
Coalition Relic
Gilded Lotus
Mana Crypt
Sensei’s Divining Top
Sol Ring

Sorceries (16)
Crush of Tentacles
Explosive Vegetation
Green Sun’s Zenith
Kodama’s reach
Nature’s Lore
Praetor’s Counsel
Rampant Growth
Rite of Replication
See the Unwritten
Skyshroud Claim
Supplant Form
Tooth and Nail

Instants (6)
Cyclonic Rift
Mana Drain
Mystical Tutor
Worldly Tutor

Planeswalkers (1)
Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Enchantments (1)
Sylvan Library

Lands (36)
Academy Ruins
Alchemist’s Refuge
Breeding Pool
Command Tower
Dryad Arbor
12 Forest
Hinterland Harbor
11 Island
Lumbering Falls
Reliquary Tower
Riptide Laboratory
Temple of the False God
Temple of Mystery
Tropical Island
Yavimaya Coast

That is my current Commander deck. If you notice, there’s not a single way of going infinite, unless my opponents’ boards facilitate it, which is fine. I’d much rather put a ton of lands into play, play giant creatures, and refill afterwards.

Untill next time, I encourage you to try and win in a more fun and interactive way.

Disagree? Like the article? Think I’m an idiot? Let me know in the comments!