Levers and Wedges

Posted in Command Tower on August 28, 2014

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.

I'm a fan of "mechanical" Magic articles. After playing, and writing, as long as I have, it'd be easy for me to forget the basics about what decks need and leave out important details that help the newest players join in faster.

Mindless Automaton | Art by Brian Snoddy

With this weekend's previews coming from PAX, a place I'm excited to visit once again, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't over-the-top excited about the next Magic set. One of the biggest reasons is the focus on the enemy "wedge" colors.

While every color and combination thereof is special, some have received more attention over time than others. Allied color pairs were early hits, with enemy color pairs trailing not far behind. Allied "shard" colors were the prominent feature of Shards of Alara and its block, and the plane of Ravnica has twice put every pair of colors on equal display. Only now, with Khans of Tarkir, do the wedges get their full due.

This is good news for Commander.

The first standalone Commander product featured new commanders for the wedges, providing preconstructed decks with suitable—if unexciting—mana fixing to follow the exciting, new cards. Last year's decks were a romp through allied shards, and this year will highlight mono-colored decks. Clearly, it won't be Commander releases alone fueling wedge mania.

That's why I can't wait for Khans of Tarkir: I want to see more wedge decks in action. Before jumping into your wedge-colored decks, I want to touch on something that's easy to forget in the abstract when thinking about wedge-color Commander decks: Not every card in the deck has to be colorful.

Multicolor cards, particularly the wedge colors, belong to a very limited group. Most Magic cards are one color, and it's part of what makes the game work: You only need one color to get things going. While spells like Guided Passage are one-of-a-kind charms of Magic design, they're also taxing on your ability to play spells. The more colorful the spells you include the more reliant you will be on mana sources that produce more than one color.

When I'm building around a commander that's three or more colors I'm careful to include plenty of nuts and bolts: the basic-yet-powerful cards that fit into many decks yet provide bonus synergy with my commander. Take, for example, Riku of Two Reflections. He likes to make copies of things, and he's great for getting a little more out of almost any spell you cast.

But those spells don't have to be more colorful than they need to be.

Copying something like Prophet of Kruphix is exciting for anyone looking to multiply its value. But I find copying the humble Eternal Witness to be just as useful. Wedge colors are rarer to see, and there's a temptation to go all in on that as the theme. But the wedge colors also have less mana fixing. It's a little bit harder to generate red-white-black than green-white-blue in the abstract, but don't be fooled: Both can be tricky.

The more I play Commander the more I see why this year's monocolored approach is something long overdue: mana consistency can be the deciding factor between keeping up in a game and falling irrevocably behind. While I'd gladly have something like Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage to work with, including Jade Made in my Rhys the Redeemed deck has paid off more times than I can count: Requiring one color of mana really matters.

As you venture into everything Khans of Tarkir offers, I hope you'll keep that in mind.

Wedge Drivers

While there are more colorful options appearing in Khans of Tarkir, coming into the set there were several commanders you already loved to work with. Starting here is a great way to jump into the wedge-colored fray. Ghave, Guru of Spores is one of my personal favorites, and Johan did him justice:

My favorite wedge commander has to be Ghave, Guru of Spores. I've been playing Ghave for quite a while now, tinkering a bit around the edges here and there, and I love this guy. He does not always win me games (although he often does). I started out because Ghave combines two things that I really love—+1/+1 counters and tokens. Gradually, through play, I came to understand that Ghave will win if he does one thing throughout the game: nothing.

Wipe the board clean with Wraths once in a while, but just accumulate mana sources and a range of innocuous enchantments and creatures that accumulate +1/+1 counters, until you can reach critical mass and do such a huge variety of filthy things—uses masses of mana to cycle +1/+1 counters into Saprolings on opponent's end step, boost with any anthem effect, massive attack. Throw all +1/+1 counters on Ghave, make Ghave unblockable. Make a big creature, sacrifice it to Jarad. It allows me to play some of my favorite cards: Cathars' Crusade; Primeval Bounty; Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord; Illusionist's Bracers; and Strionic Resonator. And it allows me to win games in spectacular fashions—Commander style!

—Johan

Johan's Ghave, Guru of Spores

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Ghave, Guru of Spores
99 Cards

Making +1/+1 counters. Making token creatures. Making all of it multiply is exactly how I handle the Guru, and I'm optimistic the option (or options?) in Khans of Tarkir will play along in different ways.

Speaking of copying, Riku isn't the only wedge commander playing that game. The Mimeoplasm blew my expectations away when it came to random shenanigans—the strangest creatures end up in players' graveyards. Andrew knows how to take advantage of that:

Oozes are one of my favorite creature types. I was ecstatic for the original Commander product because of The Mimeoplasm. It's also from Muraganda, the dinosaur world I hope we get to visit in an expert expansion one day. I'm also a big fan of synergy, and cloning and reanimating are two deck strategies that promote a lot of card synergy. The philosophy of green tells me that it was destiny that a product featuring my favorite format would also feature a creature that features my favorite things about Magic.

The Mimeoplasm requires a few things for a deck to work. The first is creatures to eat. There's a balance between creatures to take abilities from (mostly shroud, hexproof, and indestructible) and creatures to turn into +1/+1 counters (many are both). There's a small subset of clones that allow The Mimeoplasm to also become any creature on the battlefield, not just the graveyard.

Next are the support spells. These do a few things. Some ramp my mana so I can actually cast my huge creatures, others wipe the battlefield of life to give me even more fodder for The Mimeoplasm, and others reanimate the dead as a secondary way to utilize these full graveyards.

This deck never plays the same way twice and has so many little combos in it that I can always find an interesting play to make. Hands-down, it's one of my favorite decks in my arsenal.

—Andrew

Andrew's The Mimeoplasm Commander

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: The Mimeoplasm
99 Cards

Andrew covered all the basics you need to know about our copy-from-the-graveyard legendary Ooze, and it's all the same thoughts and tactics I had in mind when I last built a deck around it. If you haven't tried it yet maybe a few new features in Khans of Tarkir will push you over.

Not all wedge commanders are recent gems, as Chris knows. He took a look at using Oros, the Avenger in a way I really enjoy: "Bear" Hug.

Longtime reader, first time sending in an email so I do hope you like my deck. As far as wedge commanders go, I've found a love of Oros, the Avenger at the helm of my "Awkward Hug" deck. What is that you might ask? It's a play on a group hug deck but doesn't stick with the usual Bant or Naya color set. No Phelddagrifs here. The deck runs plenty of staples found in hug decks, but with the addition of black the graveyard gets some hug too. It also makes things come at a price, as is black's way.

Even Oros himself lends to the balancing politics of the deck by having a pseudo Mass Calcify. I know most players don't look at Oros and think, "Oh look we got a hugger here" but once I start doing the hug thing they leave me to my devices. That's when my love of this commander comes out. Playing my three favorite colors of magic, especially black, gives me access to lovely gems like Massacre Wurm. While it may not be so great in Commander unless you're facing a mass token deck, it is devastating after you get people on board an Alliance of Arms or Tempt with Vengeance.

I do hope you enjoy looking over the deck and maybe have the same chuckle everyone who reads the list has of "This deck is stupidly, ridiculously great."

Thanks and keep up the great articles!

—Chris

Chris's Oros, the Hugger Commander

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Oros, the Avenger
Instant (2)
1 Brawl 1 Truce
99 Cards

Looking back at older creatures and designs is exciting for me, even if it's "just" 2007. Planar Chaos is still one of my all-time favorite sets, and getting to see the wedge-colored "bling" Dragons at work always makes my day. Oros is typically in the role of tyrant, threatening to wipe away most of the small fries hanging around in the game. Building a deck that works around that by instead messing with opponents in other ways isn't something I had considered before.

I'm adding it to the list.

One commander that's not on my list to build with is Maelstrom Wanderer. After a few bad experiences messing around with its power I've become gun-shy on cranking out the most powerful Commander deck I can muster. Kris's take shows why:

My favorite wedge commander is, without a doubt, Maelstrom Wanderer. The Wanderer lets me cast cards for free and attack with them the same turn if they are creatures. The best part is the double cascade still triggers even if Wanderer gets countered.

I do most of the work in BG and only splash R for Chaos Warp and beats like Malignus and Scourge of the Throne. BG gives me access to extra turns, card advantage, and most importantly ramp. Recursion pieces include Cloudstone Curio (back to hand), Deadeye Navigator (back to command zone), Food Chain (mana), Palinchron (mana), and even Spelljack (extra cascade). On a typical outing, I can cast Wanderer on turn five, and even a turn four is possible. By turn six, I have double the mana, sometimes double the land of anyone else at the table. As the "archenemy" I work hard to keep the board controlled with Glen Elendra Archmage and Phyrexian Metamorph and keep the pressure on high with Prophet of Kruphix and Oracle of Mul Daya.

If your commander has got you down, come wander the maelstrom!

—Kris

Kris's Wander the Maelstrom

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Maelstrom Wanderer
Planeswalker (1)
1 Garruk Wildspeaker
Other (1)
1 Walk the Æons
99 Cards

This is a powerful, dominating take on Maelstrom Wanderer in Commander, and I have no doubts it would mop the floor with most of the decks I've ever created. If your group focuses on power and over-the-top action, Maelstrom Wanderer is exactly the type of commander you want to try using.

Wedge It in There

This tour de force of previous wedge wonders is meant to prime you for the rainbow of options coming. And if you're just starting your adventure into the realm of wedges, I hope this history review lets you look back in wonder for even more you haven't explored before.

This week's question is broad, since I don't have to use the answers right away: What do you look for in Commander articles, and why?

  • Feedback via email
  • 300-word limit to explain what you want to find in articles
  • 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)

Join us next week when we go for maximum impact. See you then!

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