Q&A: The Spider Fog Remix

Sheldon Menery has opened up the mailbag again, and the questions are as informative, silly, and hilarious as ever. Sheldon answers the important Commander questions (and a few unimportant ones) here!

Call it a casual format, call it a social format, call it Susan if it makes you happy. Commander is a fan format. Those of us who administer the format are fans, the people who play it are fans. We’re not here to win tournaments and prizes, we’re here because the format resonates with us and we have a great time playing it. We’re here because we like it. We wouldn’t be here without the format’s fans, so when they ask questions, I like to answer. I opened the floor for an Ask Me Anything-style thing: Magic in general, grad school, building a new house, music, and life, the universe, and everything. Here’s what came in:

What’s more important: Strict applications of the format’s rules or using flavor interpretations to allow rules to be bent or broken? (I’m referring specifically to a Kozilek, the Great Distortion Multicolored, Eldrazi-only deck here but it could apply to anything.)

Deck-building restrictions breed creativity, so I’m all for them. We’re not going to change the format-level rules or anything, but if you can convince your local group that it’ll be cool, then we support you going for it.

What’s your take on the state/health of the game right now?

Spectacularly strong. There’s a vibrant professional game, lively competitive formats played at all geographic levels, and, of course, the best fan format ever.

Graduate studies: Did you get to do the hungover 8:30am lecture thing at least once or was it all straight-arrow, straight A’s?

There are a few college things I’ve yet to experience. I haven’t played hacky sack, changed my hair color, or gotten alcohol poisoning. I’m pretty much the straight-arrow student. Because of my situation in life, I’m there to learn and make myself a better human being, not necessarily to get a degree. That said, taking three grad courses and an undergrad at the same time while we’re building a new house is a beating. Since I’ve returned to school in Fall 2013 my GPA is 4.0, but the streak is in some jeopardy because grad courses can be overwhelming. Nonetheless, by the first week of May, I’ll have a BA in English Literature and be halfway to a Master’s Degree. Last semester and this one have been moderately difficult because of the accelerated program I’m in (the short version is my senior year of undergrad and first year of graduate are the same). After this semester, I’ll be able to roll my sleeves up on the grad studies at a more leisurely pace.

Your new neighbors… More Ned Flanders or more Oliver Lang (Tim Robbins character from Arlington Road)?

We live in Florida. The latter seems more likely.

Music: Aging rockers doing acoustic sets or Rodrigo y Gabriela?

Since I don’t know Rodrigo y Gabriela, guess I’ll have to go with aging rockers.

Film: Don’t you ever get tired of cannoli?

As if.

Life, the universe and everything: How about them dolphins, eh?

At least they thanked us for all the fish.

Are there any plans to officially allow the Nephilim to be used as commanders, given the lack of four-color legends?

Never have been, never will be. Can we somehow make this a sticky?

Do you plan on making another person a member of the RC now that obsidiandice has left?

There is not a specific plan. We’re humming along reasonably well with just the five of us. That said, if we run across someone who is undeniably perfect, we’ll add them in a heartbeat.

What Commander goodies do you want to see in foil for the first time in Eternal Masters? What are your hopes/dreams/concerns for the upcoming Eternal Masters set?

Anything that’s not available in foil at the moment. My first pick is Fault Line. And, of course, Phelddagrif. How about the outside-the-box choice of Mana Drain? My hope is that it will get more cards that we don’t frequently see in the format into the hands of players — which I think it will do. I don’t have any concerns, because it’s not like they’re creating cards that don’t exist.

Early, but what do you want out of this year’s Commander product?

I’m not sure what they’re up to for this year, but I’d like to see more cooperative stuff. And more Spider Fogs.

What do we got to do to get allied-color planeswalkers as Commanders in the C2016 decks?

It involves meeting up with three witches on a heath. You should do it. It always turns out well for everyone involved.

When are you going to free Recurring Nightmare?

Maybe I’ll try to talk the Monday Night Gamers into house unbanning it so that I can have a long report on why it shouldn’t be unbanned. Alternately, we might find it’s not that bad. No, j/k, it’s probably still pretty toxic.

If some tragic accident destroyed your entire Magic collection and you had to start anew, what would be the first Commander deck you would build? Would it be identical to one you currently have or would you take the opportunity to try something completely different?

This becomes an identical question to “if you could only play one of your existing decks forever?” I’d have to say Karador, and I’d rebuild it exactly as it is now. Or will be once I get all the BFZ and OGW updates put in (after we move).

What song belongs to Recurring Nightmare?

Alice Cooper, “Welcome to My Nightmare.”

Why are you the “face” of the rules committee? Many members of the committee seem to rarely post here, much less participate in social media or talk to the community in other ways. Did you all decide for you to be the one to represent the rest of them, or is everyone else just shy?

I’m the face of the committee because the other four are orders of magnitude smarter than I am. We make decisions, and then if people don’t like them, I get to take the body blows. When we first formed the committee back in 2006 I was the most well-known, so I naturally took the role. Even as the profiles of other folks rose (the RC is full of reasonably-influential Magic people), we had sort of settled into a good rhythm. There was never a meeting about it or anything, it just developed organically.

With the removal of Rule Four, do you think the likelihood of the removal of off-color fetchlands is less or more?

One has nothing to do with the other. Don’t panic; we aren’t coming for your off-color fetches just yet. Which is exactly what someone coming for your off-color fetches would say.

First question that springs to mind since I’m just getting into doing some recoding myself: What mic do you use for podcasting?

Well, I don’t podcast myself, I just show up as a guest on other folks’s podcasts. When I did a brief stint of my own podcast with fellow USF student Cole Giering, we used the booth at the school’s radio station. I’m not sure about the specific equipment.

Who would win in a fight: Ditka or Modern Eldrazi?

Ditka. Guy was a football player when football players were actually tough.

What impact have you seen so far from the removal of Rule Four, if any?

None, really. I’ve seen one situation where it could have mattered. In our Commander 2015 League, Michael, playing Oblivion Sower, peeled a Forest and Grim Backwoods from Keith. He also had on the battlefield a Vivid Crag (with a counter still on it). He could have activated Grim Backwoods. As the game worked out, he didn’t. One of the reasons we made the change is that we realized that it wouldn’t matter all that often. Seems like we were right.

Should I build Karlov next, or Jori En? Combat Creatures focus on both.

Karlov, because Orzhov is the only true guild. Those who disagree will be cleansed.

What’s the right amount of graveyard hate?

Clearly, that’s dependent on your local environment. For me, I like to have four or five different ways of interacting with other players’ graveyards. It’s easiest in black decks, but you have to be careful because those weapons can get turned against you. Nothing worse than someone reanimating your Withered Wretch or copying Bojuka Bog and stripping your graveyard. Mnemonic Nexus is a nice choice in decks that play blue, since it’s an instant and can really mess with some turns.

Why is there the strict 99-cards-plus-Commander-exactly rule? As far as I know, Commander is the only format that has a perfectly defined amount of cards allowed in a deck, and I think this is actually a stifling restriction on the format. This is after all where Battle of Wits could shine if not for that rule.

We decided a long time ago that the hundred-card deck would be a format-definer. It’s been good. Saying it’s stifling is hyperbolic. Battle of Wits is the one card that no one really wants to see you play because you spend most of the game shuffling your impossibly large deck. The creative possibilities of Commander are alive and well despite the loss of Battle of Wits.

With Rule Four gone, has there been any discussion on letting decks use cards with hybrid mana cost as long as one color is satistified?

None whatsoever. Do not hang your hat on that ever changing.

Why isn’t graveyard hate considered racism?

Because all colors go to the graveyard.

Coffee or tea (or whatever other hot thing you like to drink), and what kind?

Coffee. In fact, I am currently enjoying some Stumptown Coffee Roasters French Roast as I write. I get a shipment from them once a month, three bags of deliciousness. Someone in their shipping department must be a Magic fan, because occasionally WUBRG is written in big letters on the outside of the box.

Assuming we get a legendary Werewolf in Shadows Over Innistrad or Eldritch Moon, what would you like to see in a Werewolf commander?

A Legendary Werewolf that lets your Werewolves fight with other creatures; if they don’t kill the other creature, it becomes a werewolf, too. Then you can control it for short periods of time.

What question would you most like someone to ask you in one of these threads?

Something about my wife Gretchyn, who I cannot stop bragging about. She’s brilliant, accomplished, beautiful, and an outstanding example of a 21st-century woman. She went to engineering school at a time when women were actively discouraged from pursuing the sciences and now her job makes the world a safer place every day. She spends her free time rescuing cats. In five years, the organization she founded and directs took the euthanasia rate in our county from over 35,000 cats a year to less than 10,000. She inspires me to want to be an even better person. Plus, then I can slip in something about her impeccable taste in men.

Following up, what question do you want to see the least out of one of these threads? What questions are you tired of people asking you?

Nephilim and hybrid mana. They’re not changing, and it’s time to move on. Recounting the history of the format gets old, too. Tip to podcasters: strike off “how did the format start?” from your show notes.

Which commander would you have at the helm of a Construct tribal deck?

OG Karn, Silver Golem, because he can do the whole Rise of the Machines thing.

Take any non-legendary not banned viable creature and make it legendary to be available as commander. Which creature would it be?

I dislike the idea of a non-legendary creature as a commander, since it’s not special enough. That said, I have a thing for battling Angels, so Empyrial Archangel.

Do you have pauper commander deck? If so, who is your commander?

I don’t.

Did you ever try to drink Thor’s Hammer? It’s an old Slavic recipe. It’s beer (best is 10 or 12 point) with mead. 0.5L of beer with 0.05L of mead. I strongly recommend it, best drink ever!

Can’t say that I have, but I’d be willing to try it. I can see the mead giving a sweetness to the beer (which couldn’t already be one on the sweet scale, like a Scottish ale, because that’d be too much).

Has there been any serious discussion towards banning Mana Crypt?

No. Hasn’t been any semi-serious or casual discussion, either.

What is your favorite Tribal deck you have built?

Trostani and her Angels. The link is below.

What is a tribe you’d like to see a legendary creature for?

Elephants. I blame the liberal New York educated elite. You think it’s a coincidence that it’s the symbol of the Republican party and there are no legendary Elephants. Who’s being naive now, Kay?

What is your favorite deck you have played against in Commander?

Melvin’s Horobi Deck, which I featured back in 2012.

Favorite bottle of Red wine on a $30 budget?

You can find lots of nice wines at $30 and under. Snap call on this one is Mollydooker Two Left Feet, an Australian blend from one of the country’s great winemakers, wife and husband team Sarah and Sparky Marquis. We go through a case or two of this a year. It’s a great baseline when you want something good but don’t want to pull out an expensive bottle. It’s around $25, so it’s a little too expensive for what I’d call a “cellar defender,” which is a bottle that keeps you from opening something pricey when you just want a glass or two. For those, our go-to wines are d’Arenberg Stump Jump GSM (less than $12) in red and Tormentoso Old Vine Chenin Blanc (around $13) in white.

Why have you not converted your mono red deck to Lovisa Coldeyes (clearly the best mono red commander)?

Because I never play that deck anyway. Mono red in Commander just puts me to sleep.

If you could pick any tribe get support in a new block (spiders, dwarves, or cephalids, for example), which tribe would it be?

Spiders! We need to have more of them so we can have more Spider Fogs!

How does the Committee make the final decision on bannings and rules changes? Is the actual final decision process based on a predetermined minimum % vote or does it have to be a total 100% consensus to proceed? Has there been a case where a member’s differing opinion had affected the process relatively heavily?

I wrote about the process a few years back. We work together extremely well and have a common vision of what’s best for the format (not to say that it’s identical, but we’re definitely all pointed in the same direction), so our disagreements have been few over the years. No single person has held up (or rammed through) a decision that the other folks agreed to.

Are there any cards you feel are underused in EDH/Commander that you wished more people would use? If so, what is your favorite of those cards and why do you feel it should be used more?

Thanks for another excuse to say “Spider Fog!” There are plenty of underused cards/hidden gems. Keep Watch is currently at the top of my list.

What card would you never ban because you love it too much?

I love Recurring Nightmare and it’s been banned forever. My love for the format is greater than my love for any individual card.

Who is your favorite Magic pro and why is it Brian Kibler?

Don’t get me wrong, there’s lots going for Kibler. There’s the playmat. There’s the dog. There’s the dreaminess. But for me, it’s Osyp. You never know what’s going to come out of that mouth, but you know it’s going to be funny.

Most enjoyable format you play other than Commander?

I haven’t played another format in quite some time. I played Standard pretty regularly for a while, but Mythic Bant was the last deck I played, so you know it’s been something approaching forever.

When are you gonna unban pok?

Perhaps we’ll think about it after you learn that proper sentences and texts are two different things.

How do you find “The Astonishing” (and in particular, how do you find the surprisingly bland Act II)?

The idea is as awesomely nerdcore as it gets, but the realization is so far disappointing — although with only one listen through so far, I’ll reserve too much judgment. Mostly, I found the lyrics and character names somewhat (and surprisingly) juvenile. Emperor Nafaryus? Really?

Has there ever been a serious discussion about banning Sol Ring and if so, what is the deciding factor for not banning it?

I’m sure there have been some very serious discussions about banning it, just not by us. The deciding factor is that it doesn’t violate any of our banning principles (you can check out the philosophy document in the link above about process).

What card combination/combo has kept Protean Hulk on the banned list, especially with the amount of GY hate that has been printed in recent years?

Protean Hulk has kept Protean Hulk banned. We did a local test a few years ago by just putting it into existing decks — making no other changes in an effort to leverage its ability — and everyone (the local players who experimented with it) unanimously voted that it should stay on the banned list. It devolved games pretty quickly.

What would be the upside/downside to have Rule Fifteen rewritten entirely and let the Wishes (and Ring of Ma’ruf, Spawnsire of Ulamog, and Research // Development) all work as-written with the following clarifications?

– The card chosen must be in your Commander’s color identity (per Rule Two).

– The card chosen must have a different English name than any card (other than basic land) in your deck (per Rule Six).

– Optional rule: Playgroups may institute a 15-card limit (10-card?) on the number of cards outside the game to be chosen from (commonly referred to as a “wishboard”) to minimize time spent searching for cards.

The downside is additional rules baggage for very little reward. Wishboards promote a competitive mindset, which we’d prefer to avoid. If your local group likes the idea, we support you giving it a go.

You are often quoted for saying “Build casually/Play competitively” and/or “Build competitively/Play casually” … which do you actually subscribe to, and how does that philosophy manifest itself when you build/play?

Well, it’s just “build casually/play competitively.” Once you build your deck to try to make sure that you’re not the only one having fun, the playing field becomes interesting enough that you can stomp each other with impunity. One of the ways it instantiates with me is that if a person is barely clinging to life, I’d prefer to kick them off the ledge than keep them alive. Too many times now, I’ve seen that person come back to take the game. I’m not talking about swarming the person who’s missed a few land drops. If someone is at two life and presents any kind of threat, I’ll need a pretty good reason to not finish them off.

Do you start singing Smoke on the Water when you cast Smokestack?

I like the people I game with. I don’t play Smokestack.

What is the weirdest card you’ve ever banned/unbanned in a dream?

I can’t recall ever having dreamt about banning cards. My Magic dreams all involve Elvish Ranger.

Do you also enjoy beer? If so, which ones?

I love Belgian Abbey beers, such as Hoegaarden Verboten Vrucht and anything by Leffe. Domestically, I’m all about Dogfish Head and Rogue. I’m not much of a fan of lagers and pilsners, but I really have a taste for the big-bodied stuff.

Would you like to see the reserved list abolished?

To the extent that it would get cards into the hands of players, yes. To the extent that it would hurt some of the non-sketchy secondary card dealers who support the hobby, no. If it would hurt the sketchy ones, I’m all for it.

What would you like to see in a potential legendary Spider commander? I’ve been hoping for the Lady of Videns to show up as one since old Innistrad (as mentioned in Spidery Grasp’s flavor text).

I feel like closing on Spiders is the best thing to do here. A Legendary Spider that wraps stuff in a web and slowly devours it (kind of like Giant Oyster) would be awesome. The activated ability immobilizes it (like with Arrest), and then a triggered ability gives it -1/-1 counters. Maybe something else cool happens when the creature finally dies.

This week’s Deck Without Comment is Children of a Greater God.

Commander: Child of Alara
Sheldon Menery
Test deck on 11-30--0001
Magic Card Back

Check out our awesome Deck List Database for the last versions of all my decks:


If you’d like to follow the adventures of my Monday Night RPG group (in a campaign that’s been alive since 1987 and is just now getting started with a new saga called “The Lost Cities of Nevinor”), ask for an invitation to the Facebook group “Sheldon Menery’s Monday Night Gamers.”