Another Deck On The Wall

Posted in Command Tower on February 26, 2015

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

Part of what makes Commander so amazing is how diverse decks are. Not "can be" or "have the potential for," but truly how wild and varied the cards and combinations we use turn out. Seeing something new in a game is a regular occurrence, particularly for me as I travel and play Commander with as many different players as I can.

Cultural Exchange | Art by Daren Bader

If you haven't tried finding new players at your local store, I suggest making the effort: win or lose, you'll find seeds of inspiration along the way. That's what this week is all about: the times those seeds germinated into something far bigger and opened our eyes to the potential we didn't know before.

We're seeing the trees for the forest today, and that's exactly the point.


Looking at similar decks is a fascinating way to see how players take the same idea into different directions. Teak shared the value of facing the mirror and taking a close look at what you find there:

I enjoy feedback on Magic decks. Some of the best ideas for decks and improvements in my decks have been through outside criticism.

The one particular opponent that has stuck with me is a special one. Whilst in between rounds at a Prerelease, I sat to play a couple rounds with my recently built Erebos, God of the Dead deck. When I was challenged to a mirror match, I couldn't pass up the chance. After a long, grindy game of terribad plays I pulled a victory at 3 life with a Cemetery Reaper and Zombie tokens. It was not until afterwards that he pulled out a stack of cards and went on to list recommendations for changes. After that and some fine tuning, Erebos, the God of Valueland and I have a special relationship and I am inspired to similar generosity whenever I play!

Teak's Erebos, the God of Valueland

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COMMANDER: Erebos, God of the Dead

Listing out cards and ideas for others is a natural part of Magic. We all have something to add personally, since we each experience the game in our own ways. Looking at a similar Commander deck and finding the ideas that work in yours—listening to why others do what they do—is an excellent way to adjust a deck without changing commanders, colors, or something else with broad implications.

One of the best games of Commander I ever played was one that I won. Not for the thrill of victory itself, but for the fact it was a Rhys the Redeemed mirror match where my opponent had an early Defense of the Heart that I played around the rest of the game: my token deck played around a card made to punish having too many creatures. It was then I realized my deck was too far gone from its for-the-fun approach and had been tuned up in power above what I was comfortable with.

Making changes to improve a deck is more than just finding the next best card. Westin found reasons to add multiple angles to his Commander deck:

When Khans came out it was the first new block release for me after I had started playing Commander. When I saw Sidisi, Brood Tyrant I knew I wanted to play her despite not really enjoying playing green quite often, as my friends will tell you. I love to play black and blue, and seeing the potential Sidisi had I made the foray into Forests and big butts.

Although your week for two-card combos has passed, I want to point out a combo I play with that pushed me in the direction of my focus for this week's article: with Living Death into Eternal Witness, which puts Living Death back in your hand for more shenanigans, you get a lot of value out of just two cards.

Value (and by extension versatility) is a concept that I had never really applied to my Commander decks and games until a game I played against an opponent who consistently shut down Sidisi and prevented her from going off, either with tuck effects or things like Torpor Orb, which led me to reevaluate my overreliance on Sidisi. Now, instead of having a single engine to fuel my deck, she was now a cog in a machine of self-mill and graveyard abuse. This has had a major impact on the rest of my deck building as well.

This concept popped hard when I revisited Sidisi most recently and began to really reconstruct her to compete harder. Now I have several deck enablers/engines like Deadbridge Chant or Golgari Grave-Troll, and multiple strategies I can shift to ranging from Zombie overrun to control/grind to reanimator, which gives me versatility and flexibility that I never had before.

Versatility and value are the name of the game in Commander and this was a valuable lesson to learn.

Westin's Sidisi

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COMMANDER: Sidisi, Brood Tyrant
Enchantment (2)
1 Animate Dead 1 Deadbridge Chant
99 Cards

Variety is the spice of Commander life, and Westin's experience with a well-prepared opponent is a good reminder that raw power isn't always best. Value in Magic takes many forms, but the value in different routes of attack all working in harmony is what Westin shared. I find abilities like intimidate or Soulfire Grand Master's spell rebuying helpful in unexpected ways when given the chance.

Options matter, and Thomas shared how he looked to opponents' turns for more choices:

The biggest impact an opponent has made in my game actually occurred at the beginning of my Commander career. After playing a few games with my first deck, which consisted of waiting for my turn a lot, one of the veterans of the place I go took me aside and talked about interaction between your cards and the rest of the playgroup. You can't always have an answer for everything but with stuff to do on your opponents' turns and a stabilized mana base can keep the deck running and fun for the group.

I still remember them some pooling cards together for my mono-white deck. The decklist given is not the starting deck I had but with help from another friend this is what it was focused into. The name of the game here is Soldiers and ways to interact with things even if it's just to annoy someone in a friendly manner. Odric, Master Tactician is the commander.

Thomas's Odric

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COMMANDER: Odric, Master Tactician

While taking the idea of playing on opponents' turns to its logical extreme results in some decks that many would consider obnoxious (I'm looking at you Seedborn Muse/Prophet of Kruphix/Vedalken Orrery triumvirate!), having some way to affect the battlefield and combat will pull your decks and games into two directions:

  • You'll be more excited and attentive during opponents' turns. They matter more and you'll want to be ready for more than just the end step before you untap.
  • You can interact on behalf of other players who need it. Keeping the game moving or preventing someone from running away with things makes multiplayer a little more interesting.

When you're thinking about ways to stymie (or enhance) combat for opponents at the same time as yourself cards will look different. See Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion for an excellent way to shock the table and tip the scales in different directions!

The Crux of the Future

There are many more ways opponents affect our decks and games than just these, but looking for the fun we can find outside of our deck can only give us new ways to make our own awesome. I hope you can discover something new every game.

This week's question is a non sequitur: Which creature tribe is best suited for a Commander deck, and why?

  • Feedback via email, in English
  • 300-word limit to explain the tribe and deck
  • Sample decklist or list of cards is requested (does not count against word limit)
  • Decklists should be formatted with one card per line with just a leading number, such as "3 Mountain"—just a space (no "x" or "-") between the number and the card name, without subtotals by card type (Submissions that don't follow this rule will be ignored.)
  • Name and email required (non-personal information to be used in column)

Next week begins our run of Dragons of Tarkir previews and I couldn't be more excited to share the new future of Tarkir. While Dragons are mighty and amazing, there're other tribes that can stake a claim to the greatest creatures for Commander, and I'm sure many of you have decks to prove it. I'm looking forward to a few obligatory options—there's a Thallid deck out there for sure!

Join us next week when we look forward forever. See you then!

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