Step Up to the Mic

Posted in Top Decks on April 4, 2013

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 Adam Styborski, and I'm a Commander fanatic.

Through the years at the helm of Serious Fun, I've shared my passion for Commander too many times to list. From my Commander Box of preselected awesome cards to a variety of rules tweaks and alternative formats, I've tried just about everything to get more out of my favorite format. You'd think I hit my limit for what I can do.

You would be right.

Serious Fun is about exploration, experience, and expanding what Magic can mean. Our column here isn't about looking at Magic broadly, but diving into what Commander, the format, really means. Its title, Command Tower, reflects this: We're going to work together to create a shining beacon, calling across the community and players who make Commander their own.

Commander is, above all else, a social experience. It's multiplayer Magic that features deep personalization, with rules and updates driven by the community at large. What I see in the format is a fraction of what Commander really means. To help find it, we'll have to work together:

  • Your decks, cards, and choices of commander, even when they're similar, are chosen for different reasons.
  • The themes, goals, and plays we make speak differently for each of us.
  • Carrying the torch to rally other players is something each of us do; a social format asks for a social response.

What makes Command Tower different is the same that sets Gavin Verhey's ReConstructed column apart: you, your decks and cards, and your methods of Commander madness drive content. Each week, we'll look at not just my perspective on Commander topics, but at what you have to say, too:

  • What are the cards you use, and why?
  • What is your deck's plan? How does your commander fit into it?
  • Who do you play with, and where? Have you played Commander on Magic Online?

It's only through blending personal experiences with shared concepts and cards that we can grow our understanding. Week to week, you'll know what topics are coming and have a chance to send your thoughts for it. Sometimes, there will be consensus between us. But more often there will be disagreement, where we each can learn to see beyond our own views. It's a challenge to look beyond what we can see ourselves. Starting with you, we'll learn what Commander really means, and put that to the test with game play everywhere, from our local game stores to Grand Prix and Magic Online.

A social format asks for a social response. I hope you're ready for the ride.

Democracy at Work

I hope this all sounds nice, having a community-driven column for a community-driven format. The obvious questions that follow should be for details. Since it's going to take some startup time to get the feedback train going, this week and next week won't incorporate a bounty of your words. There's wasn't a practical way to get it before starting the column.

At the foot of every article is a "Respond via email" link that summons a popup window for entering anything you want to share with an author. While you're always free to speak your mind, Command Tower will ask you for more specific responses. To what you're responding, and how it should be formatted, will vary, but the goal is to clearly send me what you think in a way that's easy to incorporate and quote.

What you may not realize is that by the time one week's article is up on, the following week's is already due. There isn't time to ask you for input for next week, but the week thereafter will begin your words in earnest. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Let's start with a review of different article classes you can expect to encounter, and how feedback will work for each.

Community Scope

Community Scope articles will be a compilation of community feedback. Imagine a discussion topic for Commander—any discussion topic:

  • How many colors go into the best Commander decks?
  • How many lands should one play in a Commander deck?
  • Is artifact-based or green-based mana acceleration better?
  • Are basic lands or "dual" lands better for Commander?

You probably have answers to these questions. You might believe the question isn't worth asking. You may have never considered it at all before. Good. That's what we need to know. How you interpret the question (some will be broad or vague) and what you think is entirely up to you, and that would be what I'd need to know.


  • One question presented to you
  • Feedback via email
  • 100-word limit to answer the question
  • Name and email required (non-personal information to be used in column; I need your email if I have any questions!)

Let's say you're having a conversation with a friend who needs to leave. You want to answer his or her question as quickly and clearly as possible. That's how you should provide your feedback.

Meet the Committee

Meet the Committee articles will follow a rigid but familiar theme: a community-driven Q&A session with someone on the Commander Rules Committee. If you weren't aware, the rules for Commander are not controlled completely by the mad rules master Matt Tabak, but a smaller group outside of the halls of Wizards of the Coast. They are all Commander aficionados, and they carefully listen to the community when updating the rules. Who are they?

  • Sheldon Menery
  • Gavin Duggan
  • Alex Kenny
  • Toby Elliot
  • Kevin Desprez
  • Scott Larabee
  • Devon Rule

Well, that's the list of members, but it doesn't really describe who they are and what they think about Commander. That's where you come in. While this won't happen just yet, I will be asking you for the question you want answered the most. The point isn't that these are all the biggest names in Magic, although some certainly are popular, but that you'll have a chance to understand more about who they are and how their views play into Commander.


  • One question from you to ask a rules committee member
  • Feedback via email
  • One sentence limit to the question
  • Name and email required (non-personal information to be used in column)

If you've ever been to a convention panel and had the opportunity to ask one question, you know how to send in one question for the rules committee.

Updates and Upgrades

Updates and Upgrades is a straightforward article that looks at something new—usually a new Magic set but it can be any product—for fresh additions and updates to awesome Commander cards. While talking about new cards is always a topic du jour, this is meant to highlight a specific card with a specific interaction or feature you find appealing.

Think of things like two card combinations (Mind's Eye and Rhystic Study working together), how new cards reflect something older (Parallel Lives fits in similar and different decks from Doubling Season), or which innocuous card can fulfill a great role (Viridian Corruptor destroys something annoying and becomes a powerful threat if equipped well).


  • One card from a specific release you love, and why
  • Feedback via email
  • 100-word limit to present the card
  • Name and email required (non-personal information to be used in column)

The idea is that one new card is powerfully fascinating for you, and you have just a few words to explain why to everyone else.

Special Delivery

The final article trope I want to explain is the most complex: Special Delivery. Almost two years ago I tried a module-based method for sharing a Commander deck. The result was that it made it easier to see what went into the deck, why, and how else the deck could be changed. By sharing smaller groups of cards, the complex machine of a hundred-card deck became comprehensible.

But most machines aren't made by one source.

Our modern world is filled with devices that are built from components sourced from multiple places. Commander decks can be assembled in the same way. Consider anything that can go into a deck:

  • Removal
  • Creatures
  • Equipment
  • Activated abilities

What are the six cards you like most for a specific color identity, and why? That's the question you're answering with a focus prompt like those above. Do you choose to share the six you find the most powerful, or favorites you simply enjoy? Do you go for multicolored options, or easier-to-cast monocolored varieties? What's important to each of us matters in different ways. For example, let's say we're asked to look at removal for Gruul (red-green). You can answer with things like Pit Fight, Ground Assault, Prey Upon, or Lightning Bolt. As long as your choices fit within the color identity given (and isn't colorless—that's a different consideration), it's fair game.


  • Six cards that best fit a theme or prompt within a specific color identity
  • Feedback via email
  • 100-word limit to present the cards
  • Name and email required (non-personal information to be used in column)

If you had six cards that do one thing, which six would they be? Only you can decide.

Looking Ahead

These ideas aren't everything Command Tower will be, of course. But consistently, and clearly, getting feedback and thoughts from you to include is a central theme. While there isn't any feedback to share today or next week, we can get the ball rolling. Let's start with a schedule.

  • Today (April 4): Overview of Command Tower; no community feedback
  • Next Week (April 11):Dragon's Maze preview; no community feedback
  • Two Weeks (April 18):Dragon's Maze preview; first community feedback incorporated

So what are we looking for first? We'll start with a special delivery. What are your favorite token-making cards in Selesnya (green-white)? Remember, you need to choose exactly six cards, share them and your rational in less than one hundred words, and include your name and email through the "Respond via email" link below. You have until next Wednesday, April 10, to share your thoughts.

I look forward to seeing what you come up with for two weeks from today. If you have any ideas or suggestions aside from the prompt above, please send those through as well. I'm pretty excited about all this, and getting you on board is my main goal.

Join us next week when we begin to search and grow together.

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