Happy New Year everyone! Welcome to the first of what I hope will be 52 of this year’s weeks of informative, thought-provoking, and entertaining articles about Commander, the best of all formats.
Here’s hoping you didn’t over-celebrate last night. As predicted, we stayed home and watched the entirety of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (extended versions!) on Blu-ray. We enjoyed some great food and wine with it over the course of the (long) day.
I’d like to take a moment to remember something that passed on in 2013: my second-generation PlayStation 3, which suffered a YLOD in the week between Christmas and New Year. It had a good long life, spending most of it helping me enjoy games like Hot Shots Golf, Madden Football, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. We spent many wonderful hours together, my friend. You will be missed.
I’d like to talk about some of the things I’m looking forward to in 2014. I’ll be spending quite a bit of time reading, writing, and talking about the format and of course playing it, as well as giving you occasional updates on what I’m doing and random thoughts on off-topic stuff I think you’ll care about.
There are two writers right here on SCG that I pay attention to religiously: Bennie Smith and Sean McKeown. If you’re just getting into the format, Bennie’s articles will be of great help in sliding up the learning curve. His approach to the format and deckbuilding are clear and concise, and he makes it easy to get into the mind of someone that’s been playing the format since its first popular days. Sean’s stuff is a little more complex (I usually find myself reading things twice just to make sure I understand what’s running around his giant brain), deeply insightful, and strategically spectacular. What I love about both of them is their understanding of attitude of the format that we’re trying to promote. Both of them realize that it’s the most fun when everyone is having a great time.
My reading isn’t limited to just articles though. I spend a fair amount of time on the Official Forums and in the Commander forums on MTGSalvation. The kind of statement and response and immediate discussion and feedback that the forums provide helps me keep a finger on the pulse of a cross-section the format’s player base. The forums are full of ideas, some of them solid and some of them a little outside the box, but you can’t only listen to people who agree with you—you have to listen to dissenting opinions as well. I know that the noise-to-signal ratio is higher in forums, even moderated ones, than it is in articles (since they’ve had an editor), but I do my best to look past the trolls to find the treasure. I constantly mine forums in search of discussion topics and deck ideas.
I was invited as a guest on a few podcasts last year, and I’d like to continue the trend. It’s a cool extension of the immediate feedback loop that we get in the forums. I like the challenge of having to edit a thought or response in my head instead of being able to write it out, look at it, consider it, and edit it. Going back and forth in live discussion also provides a kind of emotion that can’t come across when you’re writing. With being in school full time as well as creating weekly content here on SCG, I doubt I have time to do a podcast of my own, but you never know. Stranger stuff has happened.
Writing will constitute the bulk of my time spent on the format. Over the coming year I’ll cover a great deal of ground, some of it familiar territory and some of it unexplored paths. I’ll continue to bring you along on my nearly finished quest to create a deck of each possible color combination. I’ll delve into the issues impacting the format, giving you my unvarnished opinion of both the good and the bad. You’ll be invited to come along on my review of new sets and how they’ll impact my deck suite.
I’ll also continue the feature of bringing you other people’s decks. If you think that a friend has a deck worth being featured, feel free to ship me the idea. I prefer to hear about decks other than your own because that tells me that it’s interesting enough for someone to make the effort to tell me about something that they don’t have any self-interest in.
One of the different things I want to do is work on looking at specific cards and strategies from a broader perspective. Most of what I offer to you is my thoughts on how I’m going to employ particular cards and strategies. I’d like to move into more discussion of different ways to make use of them, like ideas on how you might build a deck around a particular commander or strategy or outside-the-box uses for certain cards.
I’d also like to bring you more discussion with other people, like I did last year with Community Cup team member Tom Delia. There are lots of interesting people who play the format, and I want to help you get into their minds as well as mine, so expect not just interviews but real back-and-forth discussions with the guests. Like with the Other Peoples’ Decks feature, if there’s someone in the community you’d really love to hear from, let me know.
I realized that very few play-by-plays made it into the mix in 2013, and I’d really love to buck that trend since they’re reasonably popular features. They can be a bit of a chore to get on paper, so I’ll be exploring new methods of recording them. Video isn’t out of the question.
What this all means is that the trending change that you’ll see on these pages in 2014 is more crowdsourcing for ideas and material. You’ll continue to get a pretty good look into my own mind, but there are quite a few other people out there whose voices, ideas, and experiences are worth hearing about.
The fun in this format is obviously playing it. Here’s a brief rundown of all my decks and what I’m hoping for them in the coming year.
Adun Oakenshield: Adun was recently rebuilt, so I’m still feeling my way through it. I may still be dreaming about sneaking in some Voltron elements and getting commander damage kills with a 1/2 that has no relevant abilities.
Animar, Soul of Elements: Animar will continue to embrace the greatest amount of chaos. I want to continue sculpting it so that it can be insane when Animar stays around a while but still be reasonably functional when it doesn’t. I may need to work in a way for it to not simply roll over to Torpor Orb.
Aurelia, the Warleader: I’ll continue to keep Aurelia Modern legal. The good news is that cards in recent sets are stepping up to keep pace with some of the older ones. The deck will never be broken, but it’s the kind that sets the pace of play early in the game. The trick will be building in some legs.
Heliod, God of the Sun: After a few plays with this relatively new deck, I see that I need to work on the mana curve a bit. Too often in games I’ve had more high-cost spells in my hand than I wanted or could reasonably cast plus do other things in the midgame turns. A cheap white Mana Flare would be great, but I don’t really see that coming down the pike.
Intet, the Dreamer: I’m only going to play Intet in gloves-off games from now on, in games where the challenge of playing the deck offers some real emotional payoff. The deck can sometimes be a little oppressive once it gets rolling, and while that can be occasionally interesting to play, it’s not the experience that I want to have or provide to others all that often. Finding space for exciting new cards will be extremely difficult since the deck is super tight right now.
Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord: People playing good graveyard hate will keep this deck in check. It does what I like—play out of the graveyard—and I’ll be looking for new interesting ways of doing that. I may rework it significantly to go full-bore into dredge, but that always feels like I’m just hanging it out there waiting to get daggered.
Karador, Ghost Chieftain: Always one of my favorite decks to play mostly because it does lots of stuff that impacts the game but doesn’t necessarily simply take over and dominate (like Intet can). The deck will continue to demonstrate that Hermit Druid can be used fairly.
Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund: Big Dragons raining fire from the sky. The only thing that the deck is missing is a way in Jund colors to make all of your creatures into Dragons so that I can steal them. It could also maybe use Belbe’s Portal and/or Urza’s Incubator.
Kresh the Bloodbraided: The deck having lost its way a little (not much, but a little), I want to return it to getting Kresh on the table as the first step. I’ve noticed a trend that I’m paying attention to the deck’s other elements more and more, and I want to get back to a big pile of counters on the commander.
Lavinia of the Tenth: I love playing this deck, and it’s become the one that folks who want to borrow a deck are beginning to ask for. It’s simply full of little interactions and shenanigans that make it fun to pilot. The real crazy comes once Portcullis comes down. There are a few cards that have been underperforming, but they’ll hold slots until replacements from upcoming sets come along.
Lazav, Dimir Mastermind: The improvement I want to make here is continuing to sharpen the Isochron Scepter package, which currently includes Dark Betrayal, Darkness, Dimir Charm, Go For the Throat, Interdict, Pongify, Rapid Hybridization, Shadow of Doubt, Trickbind, and Twincast. Maybe I could add Maze of Ith to the deck just to make use of Teferi’s Response.
Melek, Izzet Paragon: I need to play this "Molten Mind Grind" deck a little more. If it needs tuning, it’s in getting Melek on board a touch earlier. Unfortunately, U/R isn’t all that great at ramping into anything.
Merieke Ri Berit: One of my oldest decks, I love it because it’s always in the game. It has just enough board control to keep from losing to anything that ramps and enough countermagic to keep combo decks in check. What I’m hoping for in an upcoming set is a Burnished Hart variant to help out the mana base a bit.
The Mimeoplasm: I like all the cards in this deck so much that I took out Survival of the Fittest in order to make room for some of the new ones. I particularly enjoy the deck’s flexibility in that it can either go into beatdown mode or play the mill game. I suppose I need to find room for Guiltfeeder.
Nath Of The Gilt-Leaf: I’m quite happy with my budget deck that has no CMC higher than five (so it’s budget on two different axes), but there are still a few cards that are a little pricey dollar-wise. The deck is primed for some updates. Here’s hoping Born of the Gods will provide some spice.
Obzedat, Ghost Council: The move in Obzedat will be to make it even more board-sweepy, especially on other players’ turns (when Obzedat isn’t around to get swept up). I’d like to see some version of Rout in an upcoming set.
Oros, the Avenger: This is the deck that I have a hard plan for updating. The first part of that will be changing it to Kaalia of the Vast. Then I’m going to populate it with all the bad Demons and have Kaalia cheat them in. I figure when you’re working with dark forces you should pay as little as you can.
Phelddagrif: While it’s nowhere near its original form, this is really the original EDH deck. There is some temptation to swap out the purple hippo in favor of Derevi, Empyrial Tactician, but the most recent game I played with it made me realize why I want to stay with my old favorite. I had Phelddagrif and Defense of the Heart on the battlefield. My opponents got together to make sure they all had fewer than three creatures, which of course didn’t matter since I could give them creatures with the green ability.
Rakdos, Lord of Riots: Life is short, and your tears sustain me. Rakdos is one of my few decks whose intention is to cause suffering (although not griefing). I’ll have to play it a few more times to make sure that it doesn’t go too far—like comboing Necropotence and Repay in Kind.
Rith, the Awakener: Rith’s Soldiers recently got a makeover so that I could put the Soldiers into the Heliod deck. It needs a little more protection of the nontoken creatures (who cares about the tokens? I’ll just make more), so I’ll probably be adding in Ghostway and/or Faith’s Reward.
Ruhan Of The Fomori: You Did This to Yourself is exactly where I want it to be: making people afraid to attack. The Sunforger package makes the deck resilient enough to keep on giving.
Ruric Thar, the Unbowed: Ruric Thar and His Beastly Werewolf Fight Club will hopefully continue to benefit from more creatures with the fight mechanic. I’d like for there to be one more Equipment that gives deathtouch so that I can replace Quietus Spike, which justifiably scares people.
Thassa, God Of The Sea: I’ve been surprised at how well Thassa has done in the six or seven times I’ve played it. The mana curve is low enough that it generally sets the pace of the game. It now needs a little more resilience since it kind of rolls to board sweepers.
Thraximundar: The deck is mana hungry in colors that don’t put food on the table. When it gets rolling, it’s fine, but it occasionally suffers from the inability to keep up. One or two more things that ensure land drops every turn won’t hurt. Acquiring a Burnished Hart for it is the first order of business.
Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice: I can’t ask for too much more for the deck. It does what I want it to do with reasonable frequency. It doesn’t win every game it plays even when my life total gets insane (this is after all the deck that lost to Zedruu commander damage), but it’s always fun to play. Adding Minion Reflector and Mimic Vat to the previously ignored populate part of Trostani’s ability.
Unfortunately, my class schedule this semester is going to cut into my Thursday playing time. Last semester my last class ended at 1515, so I’d head over to Armada Games for several pickup games before League started at 1900. This semester my last class (Form and Technique of Fiction) ends at 1645, so I’ll probably only have time for one before League. Maybe I can convince the Monday Night Gamers to sling the hundred-card decks once a month or so.
There’s a look at what I’m expecting for the upcoming year. Here’s hoping you’ll come along for the ride.
Embracing the New Year,
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