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99 Problems – Going Old-School With Adun Oakenshield

Sean McKeown is very familiar with this deck he’s about to doctor–because it’s from a New York player whom he has played on many occasions! Sean makes his improvements and addresses a community issue regarding his column.


Hey Sean,

I’ve been playing Adun Oakenshield for almost 2 years. I’ve continually worked on updating and strengthening the deck while keeping it flexible and varied. While the deck has a few combos, it’s nothing particularly hateful or degenerate like infinite turns, mana, etc. At its heart, it wins in the attack step, and I want that to continue.

Here is the current decklist:

Adun Oakenshield
Omar Hernandez
Test deck on 07-31-2011
Commander



My top five cards are as follows:
Primeval Titan
Greater Good
Survival of the Fittest
Sneak Attack
Woodfall Primus

Picking a “questionable” five is tough, as all the cards have obvious strong uses:
Wurmcoil Engine
Sudden Spoiling
Mimic Vat
Fork
Boseiju, Who Shelters All

Just to add additional info, here are cards I have cut from the deck at different times:
All Is Dust
Animate Dead
Artisan of Kozilek
Crop Rotation
Expedition Map
Inferno Titan
It That Betrays
Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund
Mox Diamond
Putrefy
Shallow Grave
Spike Weaver
Sorin Markov
Liliana Vess
Gamble
Yavimaya Elder
Beacon of Unrest
Thunder Dragon
Skinrender
Stalking Vengeance
Wood Elves
Rakdos Carnarium
Maga, Traitor to Mortals
Raging Ravine
Pelakka Wurm
Strip Mine
Lurking Predators
Acidic Slime
Night of Souls’ Betrayal
Overwhelming Forces
Charnelhoard Wurm
Genesis
Lavalanche
Conquering Manticore
Graveborn Muse
Seedborn Muse
Miren, the Moaning Well
Mouth of Ronom
Mutilate
Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger
Sheoldred, Whispering One
Damnation

I look forward to seeing your suggestions! If you have any question, I will reply ASAP. Thanks for your help!

– Omar

This is going to be a particularly interesting one for me to make commentary on, given the fact that this Adun Oakenshield deck is one I have seen fairly often in action—Omar is a fellow Jim Hanley’s Universe regular in New York City, and we play in the same group, so I have both in-depth knowledge of his opposition and some hands-on experience with how his deck works. It’s even been featured (somewhat) here on 99 Problems before, in my article ’15 Solutions,’ where Omar’s Adun deck was the first I had to eliminate on my way to winning the table one last time with a best-beloved deck about to be become obsolete. I had a lot of decks I could have picked from this week, and picking Omar’s gave me a chance to talk about something I’ve wanted to talk about for a while now, following through on my experiences playing Animar, Soul of Elements on Magic Online.

Omar’s deck is, fundamentally, a combo deck. It’s not an instant-kill combo deck, though that potentially exists… Hellkite Charger with a Bear Umbra on it generates infinite attack phases after all, so it can in fact just win out of nowhere. But it is ultimately at its happiest when it has Survival of the Fittest and Sneak Attack online, and using those two cards to just handle opposing permanents and juggle damage in a very powerful way, and a lot of his deck is designed to point in that direction and capitalize on things once it has managed to get there. The question, then, is: is it okay to combo?

I’ve put a lot of assertions out there in my first few articles, essentially coming down on the side of ‘no, it’s not okay to combo.’ As a purist, that’s not what I come to Commander to do; Commander lets me explore my love of deck design and tinkering with obscure half-forgotten cards from all of Magic’s long past and lets me win games in the way I want to win them. I don’t want to set up a mechanism that autokills everyone, though technically my decks are occasionally capable of that—in exploring Animar online, it became apparent one game that with Greater Good, Genesis, Eternal Witness, and Time Warp, I could take all of the turns if I wanted to, even though none of these cards were put in with that in mind.

I have a Godo, Bandit Warlord deck that is capable of searching up Sword of Feast and Famine and swinging with Aggravated Assault in play, achieving infinite attack steps just like Omar’s Hellkite Charger combo. None of these were ever ‘the main plan,’ but that’s due to my desire to stay innocent of such things more than any inherent fault lying within such a strategy.

I like to win games in the deck design process, either by building a better beatdown deck or tightening up a nice, grinding control deck, as I like building a better mousetrap and then winding it up to see if it works. I also like being able to pick out a complicated strategy and navigate the ins and outs of a game and win with this skill than with a combo, though there have been times (notoriously, before Emrakul was banned) where you could not attain that position of strategic trump without joining the forces of evil yourself.

I recently posted a follow-up to Exploring Animar Online, made available here on my new Public Figure Facebook page where I hope to occasionally post some ‘bonus’ content. In that post, I discussed how after playing about a dozen games with my new Animar deck, it became apparent to me that Animar was not a beatdown deck but a combo deck. It looked a lot like a beatdown deck, and people definitely got attacked to death on the straight and narrow with creatures and maybe a Time Warp to help out and a counterspell to protect them, but in most of the games I was playing, Animar was just a broken mana engine in and of himself. When sprinkled properly with the right mix of card drawing and extra tools like Sword of Feast and Famine plus the ability to search it into play by several mechanisms, it just juggled. Cards almost for free putting hefty creatures into play, plus cards drawn en masse with very little mana investment, plus occasionally the ability to use my mana twice a turn. Free spells, piles of card drawing, and bonus mana mechanisms? Yeah, it played out like a combo deck.

Then I had to ask myself the serious question: was I okay with this?

Ultimately, the answer was yes. Never once did I generate infinite mana and counters on Animar with Palinchron. Never once did I lock the table with Brine Elemental + Vesuvan Shapeshifter, the ‘Pickles’ lock that is Brian David-Marshall very favorite thing ever to do. I was taking a couple of extra turns, sometimes more than one in a row, but I wasn’t recurring Time Stretch, and I never needed more than what a single Stretch would have provided to kill the entire table dead.

That I had to recur at all was due to the fact that I chose the ‘fairer’ Time Warp and Capture of Jingzhou to take bonus turns, and nobody has ever called any one Commander deck ‘a combo deck’ based solely on the fact that one of its 99 cards was Time Stretch. I was after all still ‘just’ attacking people. I was also happening to ‘just’ cast Kozilek for two mana on turn six with shocking regularity. That it was working was not the deck’s fault; that Animar, Soul of Elements is legal as a Commander is not my fault, and as hard as that deck games at the table, I’m not going to ease up with Animar unless they pry him from my cold, dead fingers.

Proper design meant it worked well, and often. And I wasn’t the only person who came to the table to play hard, even if not everyone was pressing as hard for the win as I was… about half the people I played with were just as serious in their choices and designs, as was made readily apparent the first time an opponent started recurring his Capture of Jingzhou for unlimited turns.

Omar’s deck plays in a very rough room. You know what we call Tooth and Nail for Kiki-Jiki/Pestermite? Thursday. People game hard, and a deck that is capable of doing potentially broken things (even a few of them unbounded to the point of ‘unlimited’ damage) is going to be one of the better decks in the room, but it’s not going to cakewalk over its opponents. Even the fair-by-choice decks game hard, which is why my favorite deck to play in that room is a well-honed mono-black control deck (previously Ob Nixilis, the Fallen, now Sheoldred, Whispering One) because that deck plays hard at the grind-it-out control game. That Omar’s deck is, fundamentally, a ‘combo’ deck is not a poor choice, nor a moral failing. It’s a valid option, and at least for the playgroup he’s talking about, it’s at an appropriate power level.

Shall we dig in? Let’s!

First up we’ll peek at his Commander. Adun Oakenshield seems a tad weak; it’s not a big creature after all. There are eight total options for a Jund-shard deck, as follows:

Jund Generals

Each would serve its own purpose. (For Bartel, alas, that purpose would be ‘to suck.’) You have three choices for big angry Dragons, in Darigaaz, Vaevictis Asmadi, and Karrthus. Vaevictis can pile on 21 Commander damage faster than anyone of the bunch, requiring just mana for his {G/R/B} hybrid-mana Firebreathing ability… add Cabal Coffers, as many a black deck tries to get going anyway, and you’re off to the races. Kresh works great in a beatdown deck—Sheldon Menery has been talking about his Kresh deck for a long time now, and his Kresh deck is the meter-stick against which I hold all beatdown decks, somewhere in my mind—while Xira Arien can help with some bonus card draw and Sek’Kuar has a whole host of options you can build around with a deck themed around sacrifice-for-profit.

Adun Oakenshield will never attack anyone for lethal Commander damage, but he will provide some recursion, and it is that role which Omar’s deck uses here: not Plan A, since Plan A is just to smash mightily with animals, but as the front line of Plan B, for when you’ve run out of steam and need a little bit extra something to get up and running again. He could pick another Commander—his deck is capable of putting extra lands into play quite well, so Vaevictis Asmadi would be a credible choice just to Hulk Smash opponents for 21 if the main plan hasn’t worked—but a Plan B that works to make Plan A better is an excellent choice.

Now we look at the other 99 cards, and we have to figure out how the deck works. The core of the deck is based on Survival of the Fittest and Sneak Attack operating at the same time, taking advantage of the abilities of all of its creatures to advance board position, while dealing damage and reducing the opponents’ ability to fight back either with removal effects or just plain Annihilator triggers to erode the board. Recursion is covered by discarding Eldrazi to restock options in the library and keep the Survival train rolling, as well as Persist and leaves-play triggers like that of Deadwood Treefolk, but the point is to profit both coming and going and always be able to field a powerful attack. The rest of the deck is tutoring, creatures on a decent curve, and spells to help interact with the board so that it can play without Survival and Sneak Attack in play. Plan A is unbridled aggression on a cheap curve, Plan B is defense and recursion, but as they say… the best defense is a good offense.

Looking at the deck for its weak points, I saw a few cards I didn’t think were working quite as hard as they could be, and one which I felt went against the overarching rule of “fair play” that is best maintained if one is to play with the same group of people over and over again. The best way to alter the deck, first and foremost, would be to remove Blightsteel Colossus from it — from a strategic viewpoint it’s just focused a lot less directly than an Eldrazi would be, and the only thing that is likely to happen when it does its job is that your opponents become very, very unhappy with you… and worse yet, in a way that will last, as they will make a point of remembering. Blightsteel Colossus doesn’t even do its job of one-shot-killing the opponent against a two-toughness blocker, and isn’t strategically necessary against an opponent with infinite life given your ability to recur Eldrazi attacks. The end-game against an opponent who has gained infinite life involves 21 attacks from Adun Oakenshield while your Eldrazi provide permanent suppression, so you don’t need it conceptually as part of your arsenal, and the question is: how many people will you make sore by swinging with Blightteel, when you could be swinging with something else instead?

Being in the same play environment, I can note significantly that the number of players who will get mad over this is not especially small, and the people who would become displeased over a game going from hard-fought to cheap-shot because the Blightteel shows up again and again is even larger. You can skirt the edge very narrowly already with the hasted Eldrazi attacks crippling players, but Blightteel is on the other side of that edge both to myself and a fair number of people I know of within the group, so I think you are burning more goodwill than is really necessary with the inclusion.

Next up, I identified what looked to me to be cards that were not working in as focused a manner as might be desired, and again this is a place in the analysis where having seen your deck in action multiple times can only help. Melira, Sylvok Outcast is sorely underperforming, combining only with Puppeteer Clique and Woodfall Primus, and even then not combining in a terribly useful way… she allows you to bypass the limitations of Persist to a degree, but without a recurring sacrifice outlet besides Diamond Valley you aren’t even working this combo very hard when you have it. This slot would be better served just by letting Persist function at its own limited level and spending the slot more fruitfully, since you can’t even really protect the 2/2 that is half of the combo from the stiff breeze that is prone to kill such a small and fragile creature. Melira might serve some other function if she were preventing your own demise at the hand of poison counters, but such are not terribly common in the play-group and thus it is only her own merits as part of your plan that need to be concerned.

Seeing Kodama’s Reach but not Cultivate made me ask whether you really wanted Kodama’s Reach in the first place anyway, since you didn’t want it so badly to include the identical card with a different name, and the more I reflected upon it the more strongly I felt that this choice would be better served as Yavimaya Elder instead of Kodama’s Reach, allowing it to be accessed through Worldly Tutor and Survival as well as just getting you an extra card’s worth of value out of it when you use it. The acceleration effect isn’t quite strong enough that it is going to catapult you far ahead like a Sol Ring or Mana Crypt will, and past the very first turns of the game the Elder is strictly better, trading the bit of mana-ramp it provides for an extra card to replace the one you have invested, and even counts as a creature card if the late-game draw you wanted was not just a chance to replace it with a fresh draw but food for Survival to get your engine back up and running. The final straw for me is also just how good Yavimaya Elder is with your Commander, giving you a powerful mechanism to turn around a train wreck by getting you plentiful lands and some extra cards to work with besides.

Stitch Together seems to be the worst of your recursion spells, requiring Threshold to operate, when with some regularity you are emptying your graveyard yourself and no small portion of the time can you expect to be targeted by a Bojuka Bog or find this card shut down by Relic of Progenitus or Nihil Spellbomb within the playgroup’s normal functioning. Fork doesn’t really have a lot of interesting targets for you here, and so would likewise be suggested as a card to cut, since so many of your own noncreature spells are artifacts and enchantments. Fork doesn’t even negate a Time Stretch, since the last person to get an extra turn is the first person to take them, so its utility in the deck has to be questioned and its purpose scrutinized more carefully. Half the time I’ve seen a Fork in your hand as I watch a game of Commander that you’re playing, it’s sitting there dead and useless, while the other half of the time it’s either countering a counterspell or hijacking a Fact or Fiction to share the joy yourself, and I would put the question of whether you were using it to protect your own spells or hoping to just get value out of it because it’s a good card. With Boseiju, Who Shelters All already capable of protecting against countermagic and is easier to find anyway than Fork would be, since Worldly Tutor and Survival can both get Primeval Titan to search it up, in addition to the more flexible tutors that can find either.

Yavimaya Hollow is a land whose special ability I don’t think I have ever seen you use, though it has frequently shown up early on with Primeval Titan a fair amount of the time, and alongside your self-sacrificing plan of attack and already plentiful recursion effects I think it needs to be asked whether you are getting your worth out of the land when it could be another utility land. Likewise, Barbarian Ring isn’t actually dealing enough damage to matter, and I would be reconsidering its inclusion as well.

Further analyzing your mana-base, I don’t see very much actually for Twilight Mire and Graven Cairns to do; you want to filter through for red and green mana, ideally, and other land additions might be better off here than these are. Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth suits your colored mana needs better for black mana, and you can do better than either of these for getting green or red mana, so I would consider swapping these out for other inclusions while keeping the Fire-Lit Thicket that is your ideal mana needs.

The last card I would consider cutting is a strong card on your ‘questionable’ list, and the reason I am going to suggest cutting it are not because it lacks power but because you can play a near cousin from the same set with a little extra benefit, and which can actually be included in your Survival of the Fittest chain if you just tried hard enough. With these cuts identified, it is time now to start filling things back in, and we’ve pulled out four lands, two creatures, and four spells. I want to keep the number of lands the same, and have three creatures to add and three spells to suggest to replace the things we’ve taken from the deck.

Mouth of Ronom

Barbarian Ring could theoretically deal the last two damage, but that is not a very likely thing to have matter in a game where everyone starts at 40 life. Most of the times you’re going to be able to do 38, you could deal 40 or 50 just as readily, or will have the time left to untap and get another attack in to finish the work. Barbarian Ring did tap for red mana but your colored mana is good enough already as it is, thanks to the real dual lands and plentiful nonbasics being put to work here, so a colorless addition in its place won’t hurt much.

And so long as you’re running Snow basics anyway, Mouth of Ronom is already enabled by your mana base, so swapping out Barbarian Ring for a land that can kill Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir is an important change to make. Teferi is a fundamental choke-point of the format, one that you can only answer with open mana, Survival and Sneak Attack in play, and a creature card in your hand to put to work… or, as Charlie Sheen would call it, “winning.” You could have prevented that Teferi from coming down just as easily by attacking the blue mage with an Eldrazi, and so again your ideal defensive plans are pure offense. Mouth of Ronom, however, is an ideal way to be able to prevent the frequent problem of Teferi coming down and protecting a game-ending spell when you do not live in the absolute best of worlds already, and serves very well at killing other problem cards as well while you’re at it alongside your plethora of removal spells.

Winding Canyons

As noted, under your ideal conditions you’re already able to interact at instant speed with remarkable ease and leisure, but it’s best to plan for when these key permanents are identified as the way you intend to win the game and subsequently taken out of commission. The gear-shift down from maximum power to regular speed is already dramatic, but without the nuts in play you’re very limited in your ability to interact on other players’ turns, and a little something extra to help rectify that would be worth having. Vedalken Orrery is ideal because it allows you to do essentially whatever you want whenever best suits you, but that is not a card you can find very easily and also something that frequently disappears mid-game due to a board wipe effect like Oblivion Stone. Winding Canyons, however, survives such effects and can also be found remarkably easily through the Survival engine that is already Plan A, thanks to Primeval Titan’s ability to dig up whatever you need. A little bit of extra interactive ability will help in the games where you’re not ahead by miles to begin with, and this gives you that very handily and at a low opportunity cost.

Reflecting Pool

You don’t have a problem getting the first colored mana of any color, between your plentiful fetches and dual lands. Your Graven Cairns and Twilight Mire thus were attempts to get double-colored mana of the right colors on command, but you have omitted a card that is able to do so quite well already by itself, and that card is Reflecting Pool. Reflecting Pool was born to do this job, and unlike the Savage Lands you could likewise be playing but are not, comes into play untapped and does not slow your mana down in the meantime. Admittedly, it could be awkward if you draw all colorless lands and Reflecting Pool, but last I checked that was equally awkward of the filter lands and when this is working it is the perfect land for your needs. Unlike the filter lands this works by itself, so you don’t have to figure your colored mana needs out two lands at a time, which is why I felt the less-than-ideal filter lands could warrant replacement.

Mosswort Bridge

Your favorite card is Primeval Titan, and Mosswort Bridge is the wonderful world of pure value when Primeval Titan is operational. With just four other power in play alongside your very favorite Titan, this is a free spell each turn that can be recurred, since subsequent Titan attacks can get you Gruul Turf and Golgari Rot Farm to return it to your hand to play as your land for the turn after your attack. Such a high-powered addition as this overall plan comes at a shockingly small opportunity cost, just a land slot in your deck for a land that taps for colored mana as it is anyway, and can sidestep the need to assemble your combo by turning Primeval Titan by itself alone into a combo. With a Mosswort Bridge in your deck your Worldly and Vampiric Tutors become a lot better, since there is a one-card plan that encapsulates a whole lot of value in free cards and bonus mana, to make up for the card disadvantage that otherwise comes with them.

Yavimaya Elder

Yavimaya Elder is a massive amount of card power attached to a low price tag. One card turning into two lands plus a replacement card is just a lot of power, and while it is not quite as fast-working as the Kodama’s Reach you had serving in its place it has several advantages in its favor that go to its benefit. The extra card you get from it is vital both for establishing yourself in the high reaches of your mana-base that are the sweet spot you want to be working at, the 8-12 mana mark, and unlike Kodama’s Reach you have a chance of turning this into a spell later on in the game so as to avoid a dead draw. And it interacts as part of your Survival of the Fittest chain — an early Survival will often go get this to help get you where you want to be, and a late Survival will be glad this is a creature card instead of a Kodama’s Reach so you can discard it and get your engine back online again. For what you’re trying to accomplish, and the speed you’re seeking to operate at, Yavimaya Elder is the card to do the job, you won’t miss the lack of true ‘ramp’ and will benefit from the extra card you get out of it frequently, since you’ll be able to both search for this and re-use it as necessary.

Grave Titan

“Stuff that does stuff right away that matters” is a key component of your deck, and Grave Titan is a one-card army that can bolster your board position when things aren’t operating at peak efficiency… and generate a massive swing when things are. Survival + Sneak Attack with this guy gets across a six-point attack… and makes eight power split amongst four bodies. On its own merits it’s a powerful piece of cardboard that does a lot of heavy lifting when you might need it to because things aren’t pushed all the way to the max, and with your main focus operational it can serve to generate a massive attack force or a whole bevy of blockers, since ‘blocking’ is not something that presently appears to be your strong suit. He aids your defense while also acting as a strong backup plan, and that seems to be well worth the slot to me.

Godo, Bandit Warlord

You could say that Godo is a pet card of mine, and the Godo / Sword of Feast and Famine combo one that I like to include as often as I am able. Here, however, Godo does something important for you: he allows you to have both halves of your Hellkite Charger / Way-to-Untap combo as part of your Survival of the Fittest chain. If that were all he were doing it would be a little questionable, since unlike Bear Umbra you can’t stack the triggers right away and go off with just seven mana available, you have to have those seven lands untapped at the start of your attack in order to achieve unlimited damage, and that is a much harder task to accomplish. However, Godo as part of your optimal plan is actually amazing, and let me explain how.

Survival for Godo, put Godo into play with Sneak Attack. Sword of Feast and Famine appears directly in play, and two mana to attach it puts it onto Godo directly to begin the beatdown. Godo’s attack untaps him and grants an extra attack phase, then untaps all of your lands. Since you now have all of your mana untapped and an extra attack phase to boot, you can further use Sneak Attack and Survival to tutor up and deploy additional threats while still getting the benefit of an attack phase in, and from here on out can even use your mana and still get an untap in, since Godo gets to hit twice. With just a very few lands to operate off of, you are now firing on all cylinders. Four mana is what it takes to cast Sneak Attack, and is all you need at the start of the turn to get the Sword functioning, and counts as two uses of Survival plus Sneak Attack to deploy the right threats directly into the red zone… and also leaves you with mana afterwards to use Survival to shuffle in your graveyard with an Eldrazi, get Squee, and begin the next round of attacks. As good as it is to have inclusions that work with a lot of mana, Godo turbocharges you immediately by achieving ‘lots of mana’ far, far too quickly, and lets your deck take off very quickly indeed when it is doing its thing. A worthy replacement for Blightsteel Colossus, in my mind, because you give up the hated one-shot kill for a mechanism of attack that fires you off into the stratosphere while still not feeling so slimy and despicable as Blightteel does.

I’m not against gaming as hard and fast as you can. I just don’t think Blightteel is a worthwhile inclusion for your deck strategically, and replacing it will prevent you from burning out your group to the point of resentment. The replacement, as you’ll see, focuses your game-plan even more strongly and is no less powerful while we’re at it, just works on a different axis, since I feel your Blightteel is already overlapped by the Eldrazi and their annihilator triggers in power and purpose.

Sword of Feast and Famine

As noted above, the other half of your somewhat tutorable mana acceleration engine, the powerful enabler that works as part of your various and sundry combos and just wears down the opposition with discard and extra damage. Even just drawn naturally and without the combos you already have as part of your deck, this doubles your mana production and unlike Seedborn Muse it does so on your own turn, letting you drop multiple massive threats at the same time. With a little bit of extra help it’s just disgusting, since you can attack with a Primeval Titan that finds two lands (tapped) and then connect with your sworded critter, untapping said lands and bringing us past mere mana multiplication into ramp as well. One of those lands can be Mosswort Bridge which you can now even use the same turn Primeval hunts it up, thanks to the Sword. When things are working to the tippy topmost level in your deck, Sword of Feast and Famine is part of a whole new branch of awesome combos, interacting with multiple cards to generate absurd value and free spells too while you’re at it. And even when you’re not at that very top of your operational capabilities, Sword of Feast and Famine is still essentially awesome.

Nim Deathmantle

This was the candidate I had in mind when I noted you could find something a bit more synergistic than Mimic Vat to work into your deck. Mimic Vat, while awesome, has limitations. The benefit you gain is short-lived, and can at its very best operate only on a somewhat limited level, stuck to just once per turn. As an artifact, it’s the hardest kind of card for you to find, not fitting into your creature-searching engine or the land-searching engine that is attached to that thanks to Primeval Titan. Godo, however, can take advantage of the fact that Nim Deathmantle is an equipment, adding it to your Survival chain… and Nim Deathmantle can take advantage of the fact that Sneak Attack kills the creature at end of turn, letting you re-buy dead creatures for four mana each and thanks to the way everything triggers can even save multiple Eldrazi from doom and their natural shuffle effects. On just your own stuff, it works as part of your engine and lets you keep the things you’ve thrown away for temporary gain, and like Melira can even let you keep a Persist creature without a -1/-1 counter on it, helping my argument for cutting her. On the opponent’s stuff as well, you get a whole host of new options as well, and when it comes to weathering a mass removal effect you can keep as many creatures as you can afford to at the time for four mana each, be they yours or your opponent’s. Mimic Vat locks in to one specific thing and can occasionally swap that out, and Nim Deathmantle has no such limited memory. For the way your deck works and what it tries to accomplish, I see Nim Deathmantle as the more powerful card, and happens to work itself nicely into your main focus through Survival for Godo quite handily.

Beseech the Queen

Another tutor that operates at a very high level, this can get either of your main engine cards with just a few lands in play, and the restriction on casting cost is of somewhat lower relevance when you can access them for a bit more mana by chaining tutors, Beseeching for Demonic. The extra tutor helps increase the number of games you’ll play ‘the way you want to’ while also increasing the power level of everything else you were trying to do, and handily surpasses everything you were trying to accomplish with Stitch Together by increasing your ability not just to resurrect dead creatures but also to find anything else you need. Since your deck relies on a few cards very heavily, another tutor would be very beneficial to have, adding to the consistency with which you achieve your objective of playing the way you designed the deck to play instead of making do with backup plans like the reanimation sub-theme or the creature recursion built into the deck.

With these changes made, your final decklist is as follows:

Adun Oakenshield
Sean McKeown
Test deck on 07-31-2011
Commander


As always, for your participation in this week’s 99 Problems, you will find in your email box a $20 coupon to the Star City Games online store, to potentially help pay for any replacements and substitutions you might want to make. Since you had bragged that almost everything in your deck that could be foil was foil, here is to hoping that you can find foil Reflecting Pools or Mosswort Bridges or anything else you happen to be lacking. The foil Nim Deathmantle was a shockingly affordable $2, but unfortunately a few things like Mosswort Bridge were out of stock and try as you might there still isn’t a foil Winding Canyons to add to your deck. The ten cards suggested for addition to the deck have the following prices, for your consideration:

And now, it seems, there is another matter I must address, one which (somewhat ironically) Omar himself made me aware of while I was composing this article critiquing and analyzing his Adun Oakenshield deck.

Last week, Robby Roethe posted a column entitled ‘Magically Hacked’ here, on his blog ‘MTG Color Pie’, calling attention on the fact that my column name (‘99 Problems‘) and his blog (‘I’ve Got 99 Problems But A Commander Ain’t One’) are similar to the point where he feels his identity has been infringed.

A name is a powerful thing, and when I decided that maybe I had something interesting and useful to say on the subject of Commander, the first thing that came to me for a concept was a name. I like clever plays on words and amusing jokes, but couldn’t just fall back to my old ‘Magical Hack,’ as the column I envisioned would look nothing like Magical Hack did, and would have nothing in common with it save for the fact that I was writing it (and it’s about Magic). With a new purpose I needed a new name, and before I wrote a single word I tried to figure out what would be worth doing, and I struck upon a twofold plan: the end result of a Commander-centric column, styled as a deck advice clinic in the same vein as ‘Dear Abby’ or ‘Savage Love.’ I had a lot of things I wanted to discuss already boiling in my brain and had been considering writing something for a while, but at the start of February enough percolated to get me started, with the idea that I could write those first few columns I had in mind to gain credibility for that potential end-point if StarCityGames.com might be interested in it. Before I had written a single word I knew I wanted to end up writing deck clinic articles such as this one you have just read, and the title 99 Problems was the concept expressed in one short little kernel, easy to grasp.

I’ve never actually heard the Jay-Z song on which this article series title is a riff, but I am a nerd with access to the Internet, and sooner or later one of my friends posted links to a website that changed popular culture references over to different sorts of graphs and pie charts or organizational structure charts, a whole heaping of nerdy that amused me greatly. One of my favorite was this one here, through which I first became aware of the existence of the song several years after everyone else had. When it comes to pop culture, ‘late’ is usually ‘how I roll.’ But I remembered it fondly enough and realized that a Commander deck has ninety-nine cards plus a Commander, so the phrase seemed to fit.

Robby contacted me several weeks after the first column went up, requesting that I change the title of my article series based on the fact that his blog predates my column and discusses the same subject while using the same musical reference in its name. His reasons for this request he has made plain in ‘Magically Hacked,’ but from my reading of the situation we had several different and distinct problems to face going forward from here, and both of us had problems based on this. In reading his requests, however, it seemed perfectly possible to me that we might both get what we wanted out of this: he stated not just that he wished to see my column name change away from the present similarity, but that he wished to extract his identity from mine, make it clear to any potential readers (his and mine) that I was myself and he was himself and avoid any potential overlap. It seemed to me that he was just as unhappy that someone on Twitter asked if he was me as he was that my article had a title he felt strongly to be a part of his persona and identity, and my hope was that we could reach an amicable middle ground by seeking to make it clear that we were separate entities and still keep my column name.

To me, changing the name of my column came with a clear cost, and a price I considered to be non-trivial. Changing column names would break continuity, and with the primary way to find old articles being the “Articles” tab on the Star City homepage, either way you do it things will seem strange. A reader new to my articles would look it up there either by the author or by the name of the column: currently 99 Problems, but potentially something else, for the sake of argument let’s call it Fluffy Bunnies… and let’s not claim I’m being demeaning with that choice; it’s the name of the MTGO Clan I belong to and came to mind for a reason. Either you’ll miss columns that I consider very crucial because those first few articles were intended to build credibility on the subject matter that is then later relied upon, or perhaps you’ll see them all but like my previous columns Magical Hack and a couple of once-off submissions like the strangely-named Things I’ve Learned From Magic Cards Who’ve Dumped Me. With a lot of history on the site, changing the name of the column would create a gap that new readers would be very unlikely to cross, and if that could be avoided it was my desire to do so.

My hope, then, was to find some way to make the both of us happy, and my first plan was to invite him on to the column for a collaborative effort that would introduce him to my readership and hopefully make it clear that his blog was a separate entity from my column and his Twitter account (@MTGColorPie) was him, not me, as I don’t have one. Perhaps it might sound strange to invite another writer on for a collaborative column, but I was already planning something along those lines, and you have since seen that published as A Letter From Lyzolda, my first ‘reader-response’ column. I’d thought perhaps I could invite him on to take the other half (later handed to an enthusiastic reader) to have the split-writer column I ended up with, and also a platform to discuss this publicly, extricating us from the situation by making his identity clearly known and in a memorable fashion, achieving his victory condition of releasing any pressure he was sensing upon his individual identity distinct from mine and that of my column… and allowing me to achieve mine, of resolving the issue without changing my column’s name.

However, this offer was refused, and until he posted ‘Magically Hacked’ we had been at an impasse; I didn’t want to address the issue without him, and for several months there was no further progress, as we seemed to see things very differently and were not reaching anything close to a resolution or a plan of action. While I considered some of his concerns to be valid, I saw them as completely workable without requiring changing the name of my column, as I did not consider them to be too very similar, and my opinion remains that it is reasonably difficult to confuse the two.

My moral obligation if I had accidentally infringed upon the name of another column on another website, big or small, would be clear: renaming my column and issuing a clarification and apology would be automatic. However, the question of whether I should consider the same level of precedence not to a column on a website but a blog… by my consideration the answer to that question was no, and that it would be appropriate for me to make what amends and reparations I might, but that I was not under any such obligation. My girlfriend is an intellectual-property lawyer who assured me that if anyone had a valid grievance for anything I was doing, it was Dan Savage or Jay-Z, and that as we had both infringed upon the same individual’s intellectual-property rights, neither of us had a leg to stand on in an argument on the subject.

I do apologize to Robby for failing to follow through on this, but feel his response far outstrips his grievance against me. But I do not intend to lecture from a pulpit; I’m just trying to be a reasonable individual in all things here, so I am hoping that a resolution to his issues with me can still be achieved. This response here hopefully will be read and remembered, and that I am me and he is he and never the twain shall meet in confusion once again.

I’ve said what was going through my head when I came up with my column, what my intentions were as I spoke with him, and why I feel it is important to me that I not change the name of my column unless I were behaving in the wrong and infringing upon a similar column on any website, big or small. So if you haven’t read it yet, please go here and read it, and here is to hoping that as more light is shed on the discussion it becomes more reasonable and more likely to reach an amicable conclusion. I’ve been invited onto CommanderCast for an upcoming show and may be able to discuss it more there. And if I am owed any lumps over the matter I am well prepared to take them and respond accordingly… which, given my outlook on life, I take to mean ‘rationally.’ I try not to be too hard to deal with, and if Robby has been given the short end of the stick to work with in dealing with me, I do hope that there is still time to correct that.

Sean McKeown

Want to submit a deck for consideration to 99 Problems? We’re always accepting deck submission to consider for use in a future article, like Chris’s Ghave, Guru of Spores deck or Stefan’s Thraximundar deck. Only one deck submission will be chosen per article, but being selected for the next edition of 99 Problems includes not just deck advice but also a $20 coupon to the StarCityGames.com Store!

Email Sean a deck submission using this link here!