It’s been a while since I’ve written about Magic, but that doesn’t mean I played any less than I did before. On the contrary – my friends and I’ve been playing our own Commander Lite format in the past months since my last post. Lite is the name of the game, and the source for my ramblings today.
So, Marchesa eh?
A few months a go, where we left off was me mentioning my Marchesa deck. I thought I’d first start by talking about that deck first, since I don’t want to write down the whole list. This is a) sleep-inducing (for me, at least) and b), our decks change pretty much every time we’ve played (more on this later).
So yeah, Marchesa. I remember putting the deck together and thinking, ‘how is anyone ever gonna beat me?’. Well, it turns out Commander is more than just jamming powerful yet generic cards together, add some mana acceleration, and call it a day. On the first night of playing, I had my ass handed to me on a platter on several occasions. I was clearly not yet fully in control of Commander deckbuilding. Luckily, this turned into one of the most fun parts of the format: tuning, tuning again, and then tuning some more. This is probably what a midlife crisis feels like when you have an oldtimer car in the garage.
Marchesa’s second life
Sadly, the deck didn’t come together in the end as I’d hoped. I played a few goodstuff-cards and a few synergistic ones, along with cards to bring the two together. The mix proved to be too weak: the powerful cards weren’t enough to make up for the lack of power of the rest of ’em. My best draws sometimes couldn’t beat mediocre ones from my friends, and fun turned into frustration. I wasn’t about to give up, though. While I kept tuning the deck, and it mattered little or nothing, I decided I had to go for a massive overhaul.
Right now, I’m in the third-or-so iteration of a Modular-build. I figured those guys are more powerful than the stuff I did before, and they are naturally synergistic with one another. I dialed back on the goodstuff-cards and added more cards to get the most value out of the new Modular-artifact-shell. I feel like I’ve put myself back a few steps, but I also feel I can take more steps with this deck than with the previous build.
Since I love theorizing over stuff before I have knowledge on the subject, I am bound to be wrong from time to time. I thought it’d be informative (and also a part of theorizing) to look back at my pre-emptive Commander-conclusions I made the last time.
- Commander Lite is the place for draft leftovers – wrong! While sometimes a card slips into a deck, it usually takes a more dedicated card to make a deck than a random draft leftover. Unless that leftover is something like Path to Exile or Bloodbraid Elf.
- Commander will not be repetitive and/or boring – luckily, I was right with this one! While some of us play less then when we started, a good bunch of us like to play regularly. We still encounter new situations and interactions. My favorite one? Flipping Epochrasite off of a Bloodbraid Elf!
- Commander Lite is cheap – part true, part false. It’s true if you just want to make a deck and play, but it gets more expensive if you start pimping. In other words, Commander Lite is as expensive as you want it to be, and everyone can go wild without buying himself an invincible deck. It’ll just be more shiny.
- Hopefully we will develop a moving metagame – too bad, not really. While there are decks that change, it’s mostly because of a sub-par card. I do love that Dennis never attacks when Rick has white mana open, in fear of Condemn. Buh-bye Grenzo!
This is the rambling part
Playing the format for a while now, I’ve naturally developed some ideas about it. I don’t have experience with regular Commander, so I can’t really compare the two. The biggest difference I see is the absence of reliable sweepers and brutal card advantage generators. If your Commander can’t generate card advantage, you’re usually bound to cumulate small steps of card advantage to grind out your opponent. Being faster than the opponent is still not reliable, since you start at 40 life, although I’ve seen some games where a fast start trampled over an opponent who was held up a bit. By mana, mostly, since building a good mana base can be a chore. Commander Lite really lacks good dual lands that don’t enter the battlefield tapped.
The lack of real mass removal (outside of a few black and red toughness-based spells) encourages creatures and makes hexproof stronger. We’ve banned Archetype of Endurance already, and Rick stopped playing Uril and switched to Marath (partly on his own volition – it was really linear playing it -, partly because the lot of us just scooped real fast if Uril was unanswered).
Also, a mass-removal-light format can lead to creature stalls. This means that evasion is good, and flying in particular is insane. I definitely try to keep this in mind when building new decks.
Speaking of new decks…
After Marchesa, I built a Riku-deck. I don’t like to tout my own horn too much, but I really knocked this one out of the ballpark. Instead of starting with every possible card and cutting cards, I started with zero and began adding cards. I just winged the numbers, but I did pretty good. The deck is a blast too play, and not too reliable on the fragile Riku. Unless Marchesa, this deck packs a lot of goodstuff-cards and a lot of must-answer cards at that. I can usually afford to bait removal before plopping down Riku – either with counter backup, or with a direct follow-up play. Last week, I played a Riku and immediately followed it up with a one-mana Treasure Cruise plus copy: sure, kill my Riku, he’s done a lot already! And when you get to untap with Riku in play… I think that’s what Magical Christmasland feels like. The deck is a blast to play, very powerful, and capable of turning almost every situation around.
I’m currently working on a mono-color deck: Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. I’m curious how this works out – I’ve got a really powerful effect, but I miss the power of multicolored cards (not to mention the options you get from dipping into a second color) and am already limited by the Lite nature of our format. That’s a fancy way of saying ‘Challenge accepted’.
Furthermore, there’s a few gems along the new Commander 2014 cards. I’m curious to play with them – and with Elesh Norn ofcourse – as soon as possible.