What’s Coming With Me To SCG CON Summer

What does the Godfather of Commander take with him to the Command Zone? Sheldon Menery lays out his decks of choice for SCG CON Summer!

SCG CON Summer ’19 will be here next weekend, and I’ll be descending upon Roanoke to join Commander luminaries such as Gavin Verhey, Brian David-Marshall, and our own Bennie Smith, plus the entire Commander VS team in spell-slinging, panels, and simply good times. Fellow Commander Rules Committee (RC) member Scott Larabee will also be joining me, and the two of us will be doing a panel on Friday afternoon, hosted by SCG’s Jeremy Noell. You can already submit your questions now and no questions are off limits (but Jeremy will probably not let any rude ones slip through). Immediately following, I’ll be doing a deck-building panel with Gavin, Brian, and Justin Parnell. The rest of the weekend will be spent playing the 100-card decks with as many people as possible.

During the last Commander update, we formalized Rule 0:

These are the official rules of Commander. Local groups are welcome to modify them as they see fit. If you’d like an exception to these rules, especially in an unfamiliar environment, please get the approval of the other players before the game begins.

Rule 0 is all about communication, and I’d like to start communicating with you ahead of time. I’ll do that two ways: First is laying out a very rough tiering system for decks, which I’ll bring with me to SCG CON. As we sit down to play, you can tell us where you believe your deck to stand on that continuum. If yours is significantly overpowered compared to the others, we might ask you to swap it out (or you’re always free to borrow one of mine for the game). If you’re underpowered, then we’ll do what we can to power down with you. Hopefully we’ll most of the time be in the same neighborhood, which is where I find most of the format’s fans anyway. As I talk about my decks, I’ll mention in which category I think they belong. This isn’t the kind of thing we on the RC would really attempt to formalize, but if we can all have a kind of shared language that helps manage expectations, we’re more likely to communicate more efficiently.

Category 5: cEDH. Fast mana, infinite combos that can kill reliably before Turn 5, and earlier with good hands.

Category 4: The 100% solution. Tuned, but not competitive. Able to kill before Turn 10 without disruption, maybe an infinite combo or two. This deck can easily dominate a table full of the lower category of decks.

Category 3: The 75% solution. These are decks that intentionally limit themselves in order to have fun games; they can also be limited due to budgetary restrictions (like not being willing to shell out for OG dual lands or other expensive cards). They can still be kind of savage and kill with some ease, but they’re not likely to do it particularly early without unusual circumstances. This category is broadest and comprises a large portion of the Commander decks that are running around and has the broadest swing of power levels. We could probably do a whole range of tiers within the category if we wanted.

Category 2: Theme decks that sacrifice strategy and tactics to theme. Where they could make choices to put them in Category 3, they take the thematic route instead. This category also includes decks still do stuff, but not all that often—the difficult-to-assemble contraption that may or may not work. These decks generally have little comeback capability.

Category 1: The most basic and friendly of decks. Preconstructed decks or precons that have been slightly modified. While they can occasionally hold their own, they’re not going to do it with any regularity.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it puts us in a space that will help us operate on the same page when we sit down to play.

I have space for eight-ten decks in my carrying case. My experience last time—even when we got snowed out the last day—is that getting in six games a day is ambitious, so eight decks over three days will get play around twice each. Last time I brought You Did This to Yourself; Kresh Into the Red Zone; Purple Hippos and Maro Sorcerers; Saskia Unyielding; and The Mill-Meoplasm. Here’s what intend to bring:

Aminatou’s Demonic Fate

I’ve just finished putting together all the cards and sleeving up this deck, so SCG CON will be the first place it sees action. The deck is quite janky and works on doing clever things with Aminatou’s -6 ability to pass around permanents (Abyssal Persecutor being an important one; I resisted the urge to also put Immortal Coil into the deck). It can try to kill with a few of its big, fat Demons, but in general it’s going to do its best to evaluate the board state and find a path to victory there. It has some blink shenanigans and a few drains with Grey Merchant of Asphodel can be quite lethal. The deck can keep creatures in control to some extent (although not like an actual control deck), so it loses to overwhelming creature strategies and noncreature-based combos. Its disruptive power is pretty low. I’d call it the low end of Category 3 power-wise. It’s going to do some stuff but not just dominate the game because it wants to.

Muldrotha, Speaking Primely

Another newer deck, this is one I’ve played and had a great time with. It’s pretty durdly most of the time. It doesn’t have that much of a super early-game, but gets rolling right along in the mid-turns. It can protect itself a little, although the only counterspell is stapled onto Glen Elendra Archmage. It has Birthing Pod and Prime Speaker Vannifar (altered to look like Yennefer of Vengerberg from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, done for me by Mara Faris of Black Wing Studio, who also the version of Karador, Ghost Chieftain that I run), so there’s a chain. It’ll gain some life, draw some cards, and then pick its spots to do funky things. By the time I saw up in Roanoke, it’ll have a Massacre Girl in the 99, so watch out! I’d place this one firmly in the middle of Category 3. To be a 100% deck, it would need a much more efficient Pod chain.

Dreaming of Intet

Arguably my only Category 4 deck, I run it sometimes with Intet, the Dreamer as the commander and sometimes Riku of Two Reflections, depending on my mood. The deck can play differently based on who is leading the charge. It contains ramp elements to get running early and then enough control, to include seven counterspells, to stay in it until it gets to one of its win conditions, like a giant Comet Storm (copied for good measure with Pyromancer’s Goggles or Dualcaster Mage) or a swarm of Avenger of Zendikar Plant tokens. It does what all strong decks do: generates large amounts of mana and draws cards so that it can get to its business spells. It enjoys enticing people with Tempting Discovery—likely for Gaea’s Cradle, but the deck also runs Wasteland, so that might be the land it gets if anyone else gives in. The deck can have occasional trouble with creature swarms, especially if they fly; Fault Line doesn’t do much against them. Otherwise, unless it draws a weak opener, the deck is definitely a factor in any game in which it takes part. It does have Rhystic Study, so I’ll be reminding you to pay the extra {1}.

You Did This to Yourself

It really wouldn’t be going to an event without the deck that’s created the highest density of epic plays. It’s super-difficult to categorize the deck, since it really can’t do much unless other people try to do too much. If you play a giant Genesis Wave, Parallectric Feedback can hurt. If you attack with Blightsteel Colossus, Mirror Strike will ruin you. Ruhan of the Fomori will come out and start attacking, but it’s been my experience that he gets killed pretty quickly and there’s not much motivation to recast him all that often. At a certain point, you’ve got to hold back mana to do all the tricks you have, and generally there’s always another creature to attach Sunforger to. In a pinch, an 11/7 commander can do some work, but that’s generally on an open battlefield (since he doesn’t have evasion), which isn’t a state that the deck creates that often.

The deck prefers that players have lots of stuff to do—and then punishes them for doing too much. In the end, I’m going to call it a Category 2 deck, since it doesn’t do much of anything on its own—but it can play with Category 3 and Category 4 decks because it uses their powers against them. I suppose this shows that even with a well-defined ranking system, we can still have those decks which resist definition.

Saskia Unyielding

This Saskia deck gets into the Red Zone, which as everyone knows is my favorite thing to do. It has some individual cards I just want to play as well, such as Ravos, Soultender and Campaign of Vengeance. It’s pretty straightforward and it might be the deck I pull out to play later in the day if I’m getting tired and my brain is starting to slow down. It’s also getting some new cards, the most anticipated of which is Ilharg, the Raze-Boar. The deck fits firmly into Category 3. I might even call it a good example of a baseline fair Commander deck. Even thought I brought this deck last time, enough cards have changed over the last few sets that it’s different enough to not be just bringing the run-backs.

The Threat of Yasova

Yasova Dragonclaw borrows stuff and is usually okay about giving it back. It was my favorite deck for a while, even though it’s comparatively low-powered and commander-dependent. It can do a thing or two without Yasova, but for the most part wants its boss around to make sure things operate. One of its paths to victory is creating additional combat steps (so that Yasova can bring along more friends), which can be dangerous in their own right. The deck doesn’t have much in the way of defensive capability besides Threatening creatures and then feeding them into one of the many sacrifice outlets, so it can get outclassed relatively easily by many different kinds of decks. It has a few cute tricks, like Yasova plus Willbreaker (you get the creature that you target even if you don’t pay for Yasova’s trigger) or giving a creature belonging to someone playing green forestwalk with Ernham Djinn during upkeep, and then taking that creature with Yasova in combat and having it be unblockable, but it’s not going to dominate too many tables. Definitely Category 2.

Halloween with Karador

My longtime favorite deck to play, it just hits the notes that I love, most especially using my graveyard as an additional resource. It has a strong Birthing Pod chain and all kinds of utility creatures. It’s usually pretty good at establishing some battlefield control and gaining a good deal of life before chipping away the road to victory. It won’t scare anyone with its offensive capabilities, but it has a certain level of inevitability to it—assuming that the graveyard stays intact. I’d designed the deck so that it can function even if the graveyard gets exiled a time or two, but that’s definitely not the desired state of affairs. There are occasions that the deck gets completely blown out by high-quality graveyard removal, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s part of the price I pay in order to get to do what I want most of the time. It’s either a strong Category 3 or weak Category 4.

I’ll leave the last deck to an eleventh-hour decision, based on my mood. I might feel the call of Zombies, with Zombies of Tresserhorn or Gisa and Geralf Together Forever. Perhaps I’ll go way outside the box into colorless with Karn Evil No. 9. I have 40 or so other choices and another week to figure it out. Whichever one I decide on, I know that it’s going to be a great weekend, because I’ll be spending it playing the best Magic format of all time with some of its finest people.

Sheldon Menery’s Deck Database

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