The Kitchen Table #357 – Commander Decks You Shouldn’t Play

Abe Sargent encountered two annoying decks on Magic Online in the casual rooms. If you’re going to play this kind of deck (even though you shouldn’t), Abe lays out how they work and what kind of cards go in them.

Hello folks! I hope your day has been filled with light-infused happiness. I’ve recently been rocking some online Commander, and I have
encountered a deck being played by two separate people that I think is horrible. As I played it the first time, I was thinking, “You should not
be playing that!” (I often don’t think in contractions—weird, I know. I like to emphasize the “not” in my head and pause around it.)
Then I played someone else with a similar deck, and I rolled my eyes. That has got to be a column!

A few days later, I ran into another version of a deck that I played long ago that I also disdained. Encountering two Commander decks in a week that I
just don’t think one should build meant that I had a full column. Want to see those two decks? Want to feel the pain I felt? Okay, here we go!

Since this is the Age of Commander right now, I thought it would be fun to talk about it. Note that I don’t have actual decklists. These
decklists reflect what was played against me and my guess as to how they were built. 

This is a deck built around Zo-Zu the Punisher. It is very annoying to play against and probably boring to play as well. As I said earlier, I ran into
two separate individuals running Zo-Zu decks online. Ouch.

The deck tries to destroy a ton of your lands, thereby forcing you to play more and run right into Zo-Zu. Remember that non-combat damage from a
Commander does not count in the 21-damage rule to win the game, but it is quite annoying. You may play a few lands at first because what’s two
damage when you have 40 life? Then you slowly lose more and more life, and all of the sudden you are getting bitten by Avalanche Riders and Stingmoggie
for four a turn when your life is already down to 26 from Zo-Zu damage before you took it out. You have no lands out, and you are screwed.

I like land destruction. I feel that Wizards has done us all a severe disservice by removing many LD effects from red and nuking those few that do get
made. (Come on, just print a 1RR sorcery Stone Rain, and move on). There is absolutely a role for LD in casual land, where people try to play broken
lands like Academy Ruins, Volrath’s Stronghold, Karakas (not in Commander obviously, but in many other formats), and Cabal Coffers. Taking out a
land to stop abuse is fine by me.

I also think there should be a role for LD in tournaments, and I miss the lack of LD tempo decks. I remember trying a Ponza deck here and there. If
there is a Commander tournament, and you take the above deck to it, then that is fine by me. You are simply trying to win the whole thing, and playing
something that does so makes sense.

However, this is not a tournament setting. This is a virtual kitchen table. Playing this at my kitchen table is not appropriate. I remember once
building a Vintage-legal deck that decked everyone at the table on their second turn (and that included several decks with 250 cards) by building a
storm count of more 100 and using Brain Freeze over and over again. Cute, eh? Absolutely! It was fun as an experiment, and I never played it again.
This was casual land, and a 60-card Vintage-legal deck shouldn’t be played that is unfun.

Folks, the online multiplayer and casual rooms are still casual land. This has no place in them.

In case you are interested, let’s talk about my version of the deck above. I tried to make it as good as I could. I included most of the spells
that can destroy lands. Luckily, a lot of them have built in redundancy by being able to target other things too. Lava Flow, Aftershock, and Fissure
can all kill a creature if you need too. A ton of the LD spells can also take out an artifact when you wish.

We have a plethora of creatures that help with the offing of land. Some of these are quite bad, but here they add that needed level of redundancy for a
deck like this. A good example is the expensive Faultgrinder or perhaps the Shaleskin Plower. These are not normally good, but you need a certain
amount of LD for your deck to work.

A few things work with the LD theme. I have Misguided Rage and Crack the Earth and other cards that force your opponent to sacrifice a permanent. This
will likely be a land, but if it’s not, that’s probably a good thing. Using these effects to take out an artifact or enchantment is great!
There are a few Eldrazi for late-game hijinks that work well in this deck.

Magnivore is great in this deck since you have so many sorceries. Similarly, Anarchist gives you one of your spells back. I wonder what you’ll
choose? Detritivore is both a beater and an LD creature, whichever you need.

Despite your massive amount of LD, you expect that some creatures will sneak through. Perhaps they have lower costs or perhaps you didn’t get a
critical mass of LD in your opening hand. Whatever the reason, expect some creatures. I included several ways to off them. We have burn spells, X
spells, and creatures that will burn out the creature. From Flametongue Kavu to Kumano, Master Yamabushi, this deck sports a number of ways of both
serving for serious damage and keeping it clean of pests.

With a few X spells, this deck can draw out of a stall. With a smaller creature base than many Commander decks, I wouldn’t be surprised if the
creatures got offed quickly by cheap removal. Drawing a spell that can dole out fourteen damage to an opponent’s dome is a nice way to win a
topdeck war. Also helping you in the long game are a few finishing creatures. In addition to the ones already named, I put in a few creatures here and
there, like Kargan Dragonlord and Akroma, Angel of Fury.

Ring of Gix and Icy Manipulator can be used to lock down lands or artifact mana until you can destroy them or to keep down a creature for the same
purpose. I wanted some card drawing, and in went Well of Knowledge. With your having so many more lands than your opponent, you should easily outdraw
them. Bosium Strip can reuse your instants and sorceries. There is massive card potential here too.

Expedition Map can serve as mana smoothing, or you can get a Strip Mine to take out a land. Ark of Blight is clumsy, but it can take out a land on your
opponent’s turn. Again, it adds to the density of LD in the deck.

In addition to Zo-Zu, we have Ankh of Mishra and Dingus Egg to deal damage to people when they play or lose lands. It’s just more synergy for
your janky little LD deck.

Watch out for the massive usefulness of Chandra Ablaze. One bad thing you often deal with in a LD deck is having too many LD spells in your hand and
not enough useful cards. Chandra Ablaze turns your extra LD spells into Lightning Blast while giving her loyalty. Then you can go off in a true red
fashion if you build her up enough. The other Chandra also works well here too, as reliable damage dealing and creature killing. It’s easy to get
her ultimate to go off in this deck.

I hope you can see why this deck sucks for casual play, and you shouldn’t build it for the kitchen table or the causal room. Now let’s look
at the other one.

This is an annoying deck. I’m not sure which is more so! Teferi is not a fun Commander to play against. I hope you’ve got something that
can handle it long time (Hinder or Oblation or some such).

A large portion of the cards in this deck are counters of various types. Many are quite good, adding useful abilities such as card drawing, discard,
creature making, and exiling to the counter. Draining Whelk is a counter and a beater. Desertion, Commandeer, and Spelljack combine a counter with
taking the card. Overwhelming Intellect is a counter and a card drawer extraordinaire. You get the idea.

How many spells are actually countermagic? 25-ish depending on your definition of countermagic. Is Time Stop a counter or no? Is Cryptic Command a raw
counter? Does Deflection count? What about Trickbind? What about Commandeer? It’s not as obvious an answer as we might prefer.

Despite the obviousness of the deck, I tried to include some synergies. I tossed in Ninja of the Deep Hours. Why? Well, card drawing is certainly good,
but we have five morph creatures that remain so post-morph (Willbender, Voidmage Apprentice, Voidmage Prodigy, Fathom Seer, and Riptide Survivor). You
can attack with one and then bounce it for the Ninja and replay it with morph. That matters since four of them have morph flip triggers. The Zoetic
Cavern is there to mess with morph math.

You could also Ninja back an Aeon Chronicler to suspend it again and draw more cards. Mulldrifter and Cephalid Sage want to get replayed. Glen Elendra
Archmage wants to lose a -1/-1 counter post-persist. Ghost-Lit Warder wants to be channeled. That’s a lot of use from a bounce. Similarly, I have
Riptide Laboratory for the various Wizards in this deck. It can save them or abuse them, as you have need.

I have a transmute card as well in Tolaria West. You can get any of the cool lands in your deck, as you need. Want land destruction? Get Dust Bowl!
Want to get a creature? Want a Maze of Ith or Mystifying Maze? Need to get Tower of the Magistrate, Reliquary Tower, or that Riptide Laboratory I
mentioned? They all have value. (You can also get Everflowing Chalice.)

Clearly, I continued to rock the Counterspell theme in the creatures. Ertai, the two Spiketail creatures, one Hydromorph Gull, the morph-flip
creatures, and even Daring Apprentice put in appearances. I even thought about Hydromorph Guardian. A bunch of cards from Masques block would make the
cut if they were in print online—Foil, Rhystic Study, both Stronghold Biologist and Stronghold Machinist, plus Spiketail Drake, and lots more.
These all have serious value in the deck.

With such a powerful countering theme, cards like Guile and Lullmage Mentor make perfect sense. After that, I included some beaters and some utility
creatures. I wanted to give creatures like Deep-Sea Kraken and Morphling a chance of showing, so I included a lot of card drawing and sifting. I have
cycling lands, creatures that draw cards when they enter the battlefield, card drawing spells, Aeon Chronicler, and more. Where I could, I tried to
combine the value of both a beater and a utility creature (Consecrated Sphinx is a prime example).

In addition to counters, card drawing, and creatures, we also have a few Control Magic cards. I wanted to run Vedalken Shackles, but there were not
enough Islands for my taste, so I skipped it. I did toss in Take Possession and Treachery in addition to good ol’ Control Magic.

In order to make this deck feasible, I chose not to include very valuable cards that just cost too much money for this deck (Force of Will, Mana Drain,
and Library of Alexandria). Instead, I focused on the goods we had available and tried to make them useful.

Obviously, this article has a bit of good humor when I say, “You Shouldn’t Play These.” After all, if I truly thought these decks
were the nuclear bomb of casual Magic, then I’d hardly give you decklists. They aren’t the most fun to play against, but I don’t
insta-drop when I see Zo-Zu the Punisher or Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir pulled out as a Commander. I’m not banning you from future games. I’m
likely to ban list you for rudeness but not playing one of the above decks. Take it as tongue-in-cheek, a bit. (The Ferrett taught me to use titles to
bring them in, and saying “Decks That Are Annoying” is not as powerful as “Decks You Shouldn’t Play.”)

In multiplayer, they aren’t exactly the most efficient decks in the Commander-verse. Both Stone Rain and Counterspell are just one-for-one trades
in a world where you are outdrawn three for one. Annoying does not always equate to winning.

With these things in mind, I thought showing you some decks I find annoying would be an interesting diversion from the normal article. I hope you found
some interesting card choices in here and perhaps found an idea or two for your own decks!

Until later,
Abe Sargent