Two-or-More For One

Posted in Command Tower on January 15, 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.

Are you ready for your Fate Reforged Prerelease? I plan to have a blast catching up with a friend driving in from an hour away just to play some Magic, although to keep it fair it's a 45-minute drive for me.

What can I say? Good Magic gets even better with good friends.

Symbiosis | Art by Jeff Miracola

Buddies are a recurring theme in my articles about Commander. Playing with friends means listening to them, talking about what makes each of you have a great time, and having a team to bounce ideas off of. That sense of camaraderie, even in the tense moments facing off playing games, is delightful.

Don't our Commanders deserve the same opportunity?

Just the Two, Three, or More of Us

A few weeks ago, I asked a simple question: What is your favorite deck that's had multiple commanders? With so many choices for a fearless leader available (unless you're looking at Norin the Wary) I find myself at a crossroads more and more often: Which commander should I use?

That's the idea behind my question for everyone. Having a deck that has multiple choices of commander baked into it means there's a ton of opportunities for replayability and game play. Consider the blue deck from Commander (2014 Edition):

Peer Through Time—Commander 2014 Edition

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Teferi, Temporal Archmage

While Teferi, Temporal Archmage is listed as the commander, there are two more eligible choices here: Stitcher Geralf and Lorthos, the Tidemaker. (Fun Fact: Lorthos, the Tidemaker was the very first card I saw from Zendikar, and among my first Commander decks. Long live the kings of the seas!)

While two of these commanders were brand new and I didn't build the deck myself, this trio of choices illustrates the biggest benefit to pooling together choices of commander in a single decks: scaling. Each of these commanders plays differently, and has a different level of power with the deck.

  • Teferi, Temporal Archmage is powerful. The ability to play Nevinyrral's Disk and immediately untap it to blow up the world is just one of the many ways the minus loyalty ability pulls you ahead. Getting bigger while digging for pieces or answers is a strong move, too. Teferi, just like his other incarnation, helps you take control of the game and keep it firmly in your grasp.
  • Stitcher Geralf is interesting. The ability to mill—put cards from the library into the graveyard—everyone repeatedly won't necessarily kill them outright, but revealing their tricks and diminishing the power of cards that search things to the top of their library gives Geralf unexpected range. The true variance, however, is what size creature—if any—we'll get when we use him.
  • Lorthos, the Tidemaker is just big. Without extra mana when attacking, it's "just" a vanilla 8/8. If you can dump mana into attacks, you're still sinking eight mana instead of casting other spells. The effect can help rebalance games by restricting the player already ahead, but if you're in the lead you're going to be hard-pressed to both pay for the attack trigger and deploy more tools to keep you alive. It's big, bold, and generally fair, making it the least powerful and threatening commander in the deck.

Without changing anything other than the leader at the top, your position and relative power in games of Commander fluctuates. Having the right tool for the right group—power for power, wacky for wacky—gives you the opportunity to take the same deck into very different Commander experiences. It also gives your primary leader some time off if the same plays keep cropping up.

Variety is, as always, the name of the game in Commander. Fortunately, I wasn't alone in that thought, either, thanks to the decks you sent in. James started us off with the most experimental of Ravnican guilds: the Simic.

My favorite deck that I have ever made that has had multiple commanders available would have to be my Simic counters deck. The deck revolves around placing counters on cards through any means necessary, all the while heavily ramping so I can play increasingly large Hydras, take extra turns, gain control of creatures, get massive creatures, and eventually draw my entire deck with cards like Prime Speaker Zegana, Zameck Guildmage, Fathom Mage, Novijen Sages, and Sage of Fables so that I can finish the game with Overwhelming Stampede, Crowned Ceratok, or Tuskguard Captain.

The deck has three possible commanders available, and they are Experiment Kraj, Prime Speaker Zegana, or Vorel of the Hull Clade. Experiment Kraj serves as a great commander to constantly be putting more counters on my creatures while also getting the others players' best activated creature abilities, or allowing me to put counters on their creatures so I can take them with Cytoplast Manipulator.

The next possible commander is Vorel of the Hull Clade, which allows me to easily double counters on my creatures for cheap, which can serve as a massive boon when you want a massive Master Biomancer, or Various Hydras, or really just any creature that you can make massive.

The last and possibly my most favorite possible commander is Prime Speaker Zegana. She allows me not only a massive re-castable body, but she is also another great recurring source of card draw, which sometimes I can even easily draw my entire deck, and then just basically win the game from there. She sure is an awesome commander, but so are the other two, and my Simic Counters deck would absolutely have to be my favorite deck that I could have multiple commanders for.

James's Simic Counters

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Prime Speaker Zegana
99 Cards

When someone says they have "a counter deck" I get a little nervous until I see it in action. James's deck is the version I like to see. Messing around with +1/+1 and other types of counters is something I love to see (and do myself!) in Commander, and the array of Simic options to do so make it a perfect fit for multiple commanders.

But not all decks are about puzzle pieces and variety. Chris shared a deck that just swapped one powerful way to punch for another:

Of all of the many commander decks I've built and dismantled, my green deck is one of my all-time favorites.

When Commander (2014 Edition) came out, I decided to buy the green deck and after customizing it by adding a few commander goodies from my collection, I had a deck that could play well with any one of a plethora of different legendary creatures in the command zone. Freyalise and Yeva play very nicely with the deck's Elfball-like subtheme. Yisan enjoys access to a full mana curve from Llanowar Elves and friends at one to Craterhoof Behemoth and the like at eight. Even cards like Kamahl, Fist of Krosa and Patron of the Orochi are great choices, as they can both take advantage of and facilitate the massive amounts of ramp this deck can accomplish.

It isn't by any means the most competitive deck, but every game I play with it is just as vastly different from the last and just as enormously fun. It even serves as a great deck to share to newer players who are still learning the ropes, and seeing their faces when they manage to activate Hydra Broodmaster for 15+ mana is just the best thing ever for me.

Chris's Green Commander Deck

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Kamahl, Fist of Krosa
Instant (2)
1 Beast Within 1 Harrow
99 Cards

Bringing the boom is always a fun choice for Commander, and Chris's utility box of commanders means he finds different angles of power each game. I've personally had some great times (behind an army of tokens) with Kamahl, Fist of Krosa and I've been tempted by the surprise factor of Patron of the Orochi many times.

Rio, too, had a toolbox of powerful choices:

My name is Rio, and my favorite deck that has multiple commanders (almost all do) is my Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath deck, formerly my Spirit of the Night deck, but when the new decks came out I knew Ob was my man. The multiple commanders allows the deck to easily shift how it runs. If there are more people, I run Ob, if I want speed I run Mirri the Cursed. If I want a mill strategy I can run Geth, Lord of the Vault. If someone is running heavy on the lifegain I can run Erebos, God of the Dead to shut them down. If I want to be just be mean I can run Sheoldred, Whispering One.

The deck uses life loss and recursion to win, constantly wiping the board and gaining life until one of the mana combos like Black Market or Cabal Coffers lets it dominate. Exquisite Blood and Bloodchief Ascension is pretty brutal in particular, causing large spurs of life per card.

Rio's Black Commander Deck

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath

While I'm not a fan of the idea of metagaming—making a bunch of deck changes to specifically counter or prey upon others' strategies—in Commander, having starkly different commanders and accompanying strategies is awesome. Changing up the goals and synergies in my deck just by swapping in or out a commander is part of why I love multiple options so much, and I'm glad I'm not alone.

Crack Your Packs

One of the longstanding "rules" of Commander is that cards are available to use as soon as the Prerelease. There's no downtime waiting for an official release, assuming of course you opened what you wanted to find.

This week's question is going after just that: Which card(s), other than a legendary creature, do you want to open for Commander in Fate Reforged?

  • Feedback via email
  • 300 word limit to explain card(s) and deck it's for
  • 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)

We all have a hot list of cards we're excited to get our hands on and jam into decks, so I'm looking forward to see what else has us so pumped to dive into Fate Reforged.

Join us next week when we find our feet firmly in the past to create our Commander future. See you then!

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