We All Shall Surely Be Spoiled

Legendary Status #6

Hello all! I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted, but I have been really busy with work and life stuff (I moved over the summer, and I’ve been dealing with a broken computer and am actually compilimg this on my phone). Now, however, I’m back, and what better time to talk EDH than with discussing theories for the impending Commander 2016 set spoilers?
Disclaimer: Many people have already spoken about their theories regarding the commander set, but this article will focus on my own. (Please note, there is nothing confirmed at the time I write this, so this is entirely conjecture).

The Basics

Before I get into my specific theories, let’s first talk about the set itself. As always, the commander set will be comprised of five 100-card decks, with 56 NEW cards for the format! The decks will be released on November 11, 2016, with spoilers starting tomorrow (or today, probably, based on when you’re reading this).

Each year, these decks have a different colour focus for the decks and gimmick to draw in both new and old players of the game and the format. Last year’s enemy-coloured commanders with experience counters have become immensely popular, with Mizzix of the Iz-Magnus re-defining izzet control and Meren of Clan Nel Toth unseating previous commander set golden boy, Oloro, Ageless Ascetic as most popular of all time!

To Meren’s credit, that seat does look comfy.

So, what does this mean for this year? Well, for the first time in Magic’s history, we are getting Four-Coloured Legendary Creatures. This means that players can now splash a colour without having to resort to a pentacolour commander to get their splash. It means that weirdo completionists (like myself) can finally have a Commander deck for every possible colour combination, without having to rely on houserule errata. And it means that we can perhaps see a return of specific colour hate, as MaRo has often said that 4 colour commanders are more about the colour they lack than the abilities of the ones they are. Moreover, this set is doing something thus far unprecendented. Theybare giving us four commanders per deck! (Hehe, four colours, four commanders…I see what you did there, Wizards). This means that they will get a chance to play with a lot of different methods for making the admittedly difficult manabase work, and we will get to see a variety of different deck archetypes develop for each combination.

With that in mind, let me enumerate my theories:

1. The Nephilims in the Room

There is no way to discuss the quad cut of the colour pie without first mentioning the Nephilim. Primordial (sand? wurm?) beings from original Ravnica and missing upon our return, they were designed for players who might not enjoy the dual-coloured guilds of the plane (spoilers: everyone loved the guilds).

Although why no one liked these guys I could never figure out – just look at that cute little baby head!

Each Nephilim had cool, build-around me, splashy abilities, the perfect fodder for a commander deck. But the fact that MaRo wanted the Nephilim to be played in multiples for those who did not want to be constrained by guild meant that they could never be legendary and do what they needed. Of course, hindsight would prove to him that he was wrong. (He has since lamented this decision).

I think illustrious youtuber TheMagicManSam says it best when he calls them “Magic’s awkward giants.” However, that is not to say that they are not powerful in their own right. I myself run a 5 colour commander deck with Child of Alara that exists solely because I wanted to run a deck with every nephilim, and win (mostly) with Maze’s End. Another friend of mine got Mark Rosewater to personally alter the supertype of his cards, and sign them to boot, making it “official” for him to play them. Their abilities have even made it onto other cards – Zada is seen by many as a fixed Ink Treader, and Alesha makes a wonderful impersonation of Yore Tiller, for example.

And the power these ladies bring to their decks is certainly nothing to scoff at!…Seriously, I wouldn’t cross them, if I were you.

The interesting thing that each of these cards provide is design precedence. By the nature of these five cards existing, each colour combination’s design is now, in part, defined by the abilities of the corresponding nephilim. Additionally, as these cards are the only four-colour cards in the game, there is a reasonable expectation to see them reprinted in the decks.

Each commander deck has an overarching archetype, or strategy, defined by its headlining commander. Prossh makes tokens while Mayael gets fatties. Daxos loves enchantments, and Daretti loves artifacts. Yet, each commander deck has a sub-strategy that can be also built around (Karlov, in Daxos’s deck was all about lifegain, while Prossh’s friends, The Shattergang brothers, liked the sacrifice theme). 

The gang’s all here!…oh…maybe not…

This gives the deck room for the player to adapt and customize to their own playstyle without feeling constrained. Thus, I think that it can be reasonably assumed that the core strategy of each of the five decks will correspond to the strategy of the five nephilim – Yore-Tiller will reanimate, while Ink-Treader is a spell-casting control deck. Witch-Maw will be a voltron style and/or “counters matter” deck, and Glint-Eye will be curiosity effects.draw, leaving the Dune-Brood with the traditional token slot. This will ensure cohesion for the deck mainly because these cards are so build-around it’s hard to justify adding them in ‘just because’ (I know, trust me. My Child deck needs help).

1.a. Making Nephilim Legends

This beings me to my next point. As the only truly four-colour cards in the game, and ones that should’ve been legendary to start, I think it’s a high possibility that we will see these guys again as legends. Not the originals, mind you (MaRo has emphatically stated that they can’t functionally errata them that way), but make new nephilim cards that are legendary, with related abilities. In fact, I feel supremely confident in this assumption.

We all know four colours is hard to cast naturally, and I very much doubt that they woukd make an intro product with all four commanders that difficult to cast (more on this in a minute). I personally think that only 1 of the 4 of each deck’s commanders will be “truly four colour” in their mana cost. It would be a perfect lore fit to have the nephilim maintain their rightful place in this regard. And, of course, from a Vorthos perapective, we have no idea what happened to them while we were away from Ravniva. This gives us the perfect chance to check in on our favourite awkward overlords.
2. Rapid Hybridization

We all know that Wizards R&D have numerous tricks up their proverbial sleeves to make casting our spells easier. One of the obvious of these is hybrid. Hybrid is a wonderful mechanic in that allows players to play their spell even when they are missing one of their colour sources. From the t1 Rhys, the Redeemed elfball strat, to the Fate Reforged linchpin legends, hybrid costs and abilities allow EDH players access to their colour identity of choice without really committing to it in their commander.

Your cunning shall be rewarded…with bananas.

As such, it is my opinion that one of the other three commanders will utilize hybrid technology in some way, to make it easier for a player to play this commander on curve.

3. By My Colours, Activate!

As an extension of #2, we have seen use of the text box as a way of denoting colour identity, again without needing to tax a player for it in the hard casting cost.

Shu Yun disapproves of your terrible memory!

Activated and triggered abilities with different colour costs open up a lot of interesting design space for Wizards to explore different ability pairings, while overall making the card feel cohesive. Additionally, they can be combined with hybrid technology (as with Shu Yun here) to add more colours to the palette while not overtaxing the card’s ability space. It is my personal opinion that we will see this be the most likely way for several of the commanders to be made, as it is easier to parse hybrid costs in this way than in the mana cost.

4. Transformers! Magic cards in Disguise!

Another way to ease the colour requirement is with transform and morph creatures. I lump these two categories together for the same reason, they provide an easy-to cast ‘initial’ play that can be upgraded or changed for the full benefit of the card and, of course, it’s colour identity. However, though we saw this method used effectively in Khans of Tarkir, I don’t expect morph to really be a thing in this set; mostly because casting a morph from the command zone takes away the largest benefit of morph – the element of surprise – while leaving one’s commander immensely vulnerable. 

However, transform is a different story. Cards like Garruk Relentless of the more recent Archangel Avacyn demonstrate the power it has for cultivating colour identity. Transforming creatures have the benefit of having one side feel very much in one colour set and the back side in another, while having the whole card still feel cohesive and connected. The one downside to this, of course, are the printing issues involved with printing a single transform card (they have to be printed on separate sheets). I would not expect transform in the commander product unless it took up a broader theme of the decks themselves (something I doubt will happen).

5. Spell it Out

When pictures fail you, when iconography confuses you, sometimes you’ve just gotta say it. This strategy is by far the least likely of the methods to be utilized, by it is worth mentioning. Last year, Wizards introduced the ‘mechabic’ devoid, which served as basically just reminder text that the creature was colourless, despite havjng a coloured casting cost. This technology, derived from ghostflame in future sight, meant that wizards could use colour to keep colourlessness from running rampant.

Conceivably, they could do the reverse, having an all-generic casting cost, but use the text box to define colour. In fact, they’ve already done this (thanks again, Ravnica!) Unfortunately, it woukd be most likely too unwieldy to specify each of the four colours in the text box, but it us an intriguing idea nonetheless

6. Making Mana Bread

Thus far, I have discussed different ways of making the commanders, and making them easy to cast. However, our commanders are but one (well, four I guess, in these decks) of our 100-card decks. We still need to make sure we have to cast the rest of our spells. Many players assume that we will get brand-new, four colour specific lands and mana rocks for these decks. Now, I’m not saying it’s impossible, but an ETB tapped land that taps for one of the 4 colours is not going to happen. Sorry.

Mana rocks are a possibility. I could very easily see something like a 3-mana rock that operates as a double signet, for example:

Example:

Yore-Tiller’s Hilarious Baby Head”   3

Artifact

T: Add C to your mana pool.

1, T: Add WU to your mana pool

1, T: Add RB to your mana pool.

Like, that would be imminently playable. It ramps, and fixes if need be. It would also free up some space in five-colour decks currently running a pile of signets to get their colours right, though honestly I have no idea who does that.

On a more practical note, though, I doubt that our 56 new cards are going to be spent on delicious new mana rocks. We already know that 20 of them are going to be new commanders. They also like having a cycle of cards that does a commander-specific thing with a special new keyword, so that’s another 5. We’ll also probably get a new special utility land, and a cycle of rares and mythics that relate specifically to the core theme of the deck (for another ten). That’s already 36 cards.

Nah, I think that this set is going to be marked by reprints of classic commander manabase staples. Expect reprints of solemn simulacrum, darksteel ingot, commander sphere (hopefully, that thing’s creeping up in price, weirdly), chrimatic lantern (wouldn’t that be awesome?), and fellwar stone.

Sad robot is sad by my brutal honesty.

As for lands, we can all assume that we will have our favourite land in Command Tower. Outside of that, I’m assuming that we will see reprints of things like Reflecting pool, the vivid lands, transguild promenade, rupture spire, and exotic orchard. We may also get the relevant tri-lands for each deck as well, as they have done with guildgates and the gainlands. That said, expect the decks to be clunky out of the box. The mana will NOT (I repeat) NOT be ideal, though hopefully the manabases will be consistent enough to not fold to a more tuned deck.
With that, i bid you all adieu. I wish you all a wonderful night, and an exciting spoiler season! Mark Rosewater’s article comes out fairly early tomorrow, so be sure to keep an eye on the website! Additionally, I know that the commanderin’ podcast has two spoilers they get to reveal tomorrow morning as well, and the Command Zone podcast has three on Tuesday! Look out for all of them and, as always, Welcome…to Legendary Status!
Devon Armstrong

@devonsdigs

Preparing for Pre-Release: A Casual Guide for Shadows Over Innistrad

This weekend, all over the world, people are going to be opening their pre-release boxes, poring over clues, and trying to decipher the mysteries of the new set, Shadows Over Innistrad.  Pre-release events, generally held at LGS’s, take the form of individual and two-headed giant sealed formats.  In the sealed format, you are given six booster packs from which you build one 40-card deck.  In the two-headed giant variant, you and your teammate both open two pools of six packs, and make two playable decks out of your collective pools.

This article is going to give some general advice on what to do to prepare for your pre-release ahead of this weekend.  Enjoy!

1. Get an idea for the cards in the set.

Much has been written (and talked about) regarding the sealed format, and everyone from youtube content creators to podcasters to website writers have written up reviews of the set, giving their opinions of what to look out for.

LR_LOGO_For_iTunes_copy

For those unaware, Marshall Sutcliffe’s Limited Resources podcast is LEGEN…(wait for it)…DARY for its suuuuper in-depth reviews of the new set.  To see his and LSV’s analysis of the SOI Commons and Uncommons, check out his website, or to see the cards, watch it on Youtube here.

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Wedge from The Mana Source Youtube channel also produces videos throughout spoiler season, and then goes through the remaining cards in the final week in his renowned ‘Best of the Rest’ series.  Each video takes about ten minutes, during which he distills down each colour to its best and worst cards, and even giving advice on some strategy for certain cards.  You can find his channel here.

LRR-logo

Known primarily for their online comedy sketches, Victoria-based Loading Ready Run produces a lot of content relating to Magic.  These include short skits (called ‘Crapshots’), weekly streaming of Magic Online on Twitch, and the monthly Friday Nights series (hosted on Wizards’ Youtube channel).  Last weekend, LRR had the opportunity to host a special ‘PRE-Pre-Release’ of Shadows Over Innistrad, streaming it over Twitch with such Magic celebrities as Marshall Sutcliffe, Jimmy Wong (of The Command Zone podcast), and fellow streamers Athena ‘Elantris’ Huey and Kenji ‘NumottheNummy’ Egashira.  Now uploaded to Youtube, you can watch it here and see the cards in action!

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Of course, I would be remissed if I did not mention some of the largest sources for Magic: the Gathering content: Channel Fireball, Gathering Magic, Star City Games, and (of course) the Mothership itself.  Not only can you find articles about the cards themselves, analyzing them for their playability, but you also find in-depth discussions on the new mechanics of the set, and deck building strategies (such as this article by Gavin Vorhey on the Mothership, or Magic TV, a weekly ‘show’ produced by Channel Fireball and broadcast through Twitch and later uploaded onto Youtube).

newlogotopon

Of course, not everyone can spend 5 hours listening to the LR set review, or watching LRR’s Pre-Pre-Release.  For that, there is the card gallery for the set.  Websites such as Mythic Spoiler provide the full index for you to peruse, helpfully divided by colour and rarity.  Even taking a few minutes to read over the cards and understand how they work will give you a spectacular edge in the actual event when you are evaluating cards for your deck.

2. Come Early

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Judges and event organizers prefer that players arrive at least a half-hour early, to be sure that everyone has been properly registered before the event starts.  Be sure that you have or know your DCI Number as well, for quick and easy registration.

3. Bring Protection

tumblr_inline_my4yetRRvY1ricn74

Remember: No glove, no love!

Every sealed pack comes with a special foil promo.  More than that, there are many sweet rares that you will have the opportunity to open for your decks.  You will want to protect them for future value, so be sure to bring sleeves.  I like to bring a pack of 40 sleeves for my deck, and a few spare for any potentially sweet cards that won’t be played in my actual pre-release deck.  Moreover, this set more than any other wants you to play with sleeves, due to the presence of double-faced cards.  Check cards do exist for you to use for any double-faced cards you decide to play, but in general it is easier to simply sleeve them up in (preferably dark) opaque sleeves to prevent being able to accidentally see the double-faced cards while in the library.

On a side note, each sealed pack comes with a special spin-down die for keeping track of life totals, but many players find them unwieldy.  That said, dice are helpful for counters and tokens, so I recommend bringing a few, and a pad of paper to keep track of life totals (if you don’t like using dice).

4. Bring Snacks

246

Prossh isn’t the only one who gets hangry!

Especially for the midnight pre-release, players find it hard to keep their concentration up for the entire 4-5 hour-long event.  You will get hungry, which will effect your ability to focus on your gameplay, which will inevitably result in unfortunate misplays.  I recommend bringing hearty ‘brain food’ to snack on – like nuts, or granola bards.  I try to avoid sugary things like candy bars and cookies, though; the sugar crash is real.  I also like to have a bottle of water over caffeine for the same reason; water, besides actually quenching your thirst, helps to stimulate mental processing and helps keep sleep deprivation headaches at bay.

5. Be Considerate and ENJOY!

pJtfJOK

Player Respect: the Ultimate #VALUE

Pre-releases are fun and exciting events; the energy of a room full of people seeing new cards for the first time is simply infectious.  Yet, remember that pre-releases are casual events.  For many, this is one of the few times they get to participate in an MtG related event, or maybe it’s their first at all.  At the very least, this is the first time that anyone will have played with these cards, so rules interactions are going to be fuzzy for many players.  Being a jerk about the rules makes you just that…a jerk.  If a player accidentally draws before untapping, for example, do not jump on them about messing up the order.

As for new rules interactions, if a legitimate question comes up do not argue.  Rather, kindly ask for a judge call to confirm the interaction.  It will vastly improve the experience for you, your opponent, and the judge; I promise you.

Remember, the point of the night is to simply have fun, and explore the set!  Shadows Over Innistrad is ooozing with flavour, and the horror is real! So investigate the madness and delirium of Innistrad this weekend at your local game store!

GL and HF everyone, and we’ll see you under the Silver Moon!

Devon Armstrong

@devonsdigs

 

Legendary Status #4: Evading the Question

In a recent Commander game at my local Meetup, I was playing my all-white bordered Vaevictus Asmadi deck against Palladia Mors and a pre-con Derevi, Imperial Tactician.  My deck is a lot of fun to play, but between the under-powered nature of older cards and the intense mana cost of Asmadi, the deck doesn’t match up well against modern builds, and even less so against a powerhouse like Derevi.

Devon’s “The Asmadi Old-Fashioned” Commander

vaevictis asmadi

1x	Animate Dead
1x	Ashen Powder
1x	Ashes to Ashes
1x	Ashnod's Altar
1x	Axelrod Gunnarson
1x	Breeding Pit
1x	Charcoal Diamond
1x	City of Brass
1x	Creeping Mold
1x	Demonic Tutor
1x	Desert Twister
1x	Diabolic Tutor
1x	Dragon Engine
1x	Dregs of Sorrow
1x	Feldon's Cane
1x	Fellwar Stone
1x	Fervor
1x	Fire Diamond
1x	Fissure
1x	Fog
9x	Forest
1x	Fork
1x	Furnace of Rath
1x	Gaea's Herald
1x	Grave Pact
1x	Hypnotic Specter
1x	Ice Floe
1x	Icy Manipulator
1x	Inferno
1x	Joven's Tools
1x	Karplusan Forest
1x	Library of Leng
1x	Lightning Greaves
1x	Lord of the Pit
1x	Loxodon Warhammer
1x	Mana Flare
1x	Mana Vault
1x	Mishra's Factory
1x	Moss Diamond
7x	Mountain
1x	Necropotence
1x	Nekrataal
1x	Nevinyrral's Disk
1x	Pestilence
1x	Phyrexian Arena
1x	Plague Wind
1x	Plow Under
1x	Rampant Growth
1x	Reanimate
1x	Relentless Assault
1x	Rhox
1x	Rock Hydra
1x	Safe Haven
1x	Sengir Vampire
1x	Sentinel
1x	Shatterstorm
1x	Shivan Dragon
1x	Shivan Oasis
1x	Sol Ring
1x	Strip Mine
1x	Sulfurous Springs
10x	Swamp
1x	Taiga
1x	Terror
1x	Thorn Elemental
1x	Thundermare
1x	Tormod's Crypt
1x	Untamed Wilds
1x	Urza's Mine
1x	Urza's Power Plant
1x	Urza's Tower
1x	Viridian Shaman
1x	Wheel of Fortune
1x	Wood Elves
1x	Worldly Tutor
1x	Xira Arien

Sentinel is surprisingly annoying for opponents

Usually the deck sits there, biding time while being innocuous, until I have enough mana to get Vaevictis Asmadi in play and protect it.  For this reason, I run as many mana rocks as I can – Sol Ring, Mana Vault, the three ETB tapped diamonds – and even Mana Flare to get him in play quicker (Luckily, V.A. comes with a ready-made mana sink for the extra three I make when paying his upkeep cost).  Unfortunately, I don’t have access to the usual protection most other commander decks rely on; Swiftfoot Boots, Darksteel Plate, Soul of New Phyrexia don’t have a white-bordered version and are therefore off-limits.

swiftfoot bootsdarksteel platesoul of new phyrexia

However, there is one key card that I do have access to – Lightning Greaves – and it gives me haste to boot, all while equipping for free!

lightning greaves

It’s-a me! Lightning Greaves!

Early on in Magic’s history, Wizards would have all reprint cards made with white borders.  However, when they began to expand to the European market they found that they had a problem – certain cards did not exist in European languages that existed in English, so they reprinted these cards in a special series of decks known as Hachette Encyclopedia Inserts.  Printed in Italian, and (I believe) French and Spanish, these decks were all white-bordered and contain cards that do NOT exist in white-border anywhere else.  You can find the decklists here.

206 219 668

If you happen to have the Hachette Darigaaz’s Caldera, Darigaaz’s Charm, and Terramorphic Expanse…I’m looking😉

Anyway, during the course of the game, I managed to find my mana and get out V.A. equipped with the Greaves.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one.  In fact, each other player in the game had their top threats out, all with protection, and we all had flying creatures in play.  None had trample.  We were at an impasse. No one could attack profitably and not die on the crack-back.  If I had only drawn my Loxodon Warhammer I could have been able to go over the top and get the damage in that I needed to kill my opponents through commander damage.

warhammer

In a game of inches, it pays to have the longest shaft.

This is the game that made me really consider the importance of Evasion in EDH/Commander.  Players of limited especially understand the importance of flying, trample, and otherwise-unblockability, but we as commander players often take for granted the importance of Evasion (the “E” in BREAD) when building our decks.  Board states can get horribly cluttered, and stalemates are woefully common.  Even worse is when one player has pulled so far ahead that no one can get through to kill them.

On the flip side, it’s similarly important that, as the person with the impressive board state, you are able to protect your own threats against the answers of your opponents.  As such, things like hexproof, indestructibility, and shroud are incredibly important as well.  Evasion goes both ways, after all.  Thus, the goal is to grant various forms of evasion (usually spell evasion like protection and hexproof) to your big bombs (and usually your Commander) in order to keep the threat around, and/or make them yet more threatening.  As a point of order, single turn combat tricks like White’s propensity to grant protection from the color of your choice for a turn (such as Feat of Resistance) is not generally what we are looking for.  The goal is for more permanent alterations.  As such, auras and equipment are important here.

uril

Where’s my pants???

Indeed, many voltron generals love enchantments, such as the vastly powerful Zur, the Enchanter.  Yet, auras can be a problem.  Most of the time, a removal spell will gain massive card advantage off of killing an enchanted creature, since the player used one spell to remove two cards.  The cycle of ‘Totem Armor’ enchantments from Rise of the Eldrazi help to alleviate this, as they allow the player to sacrifice them and save the creature they were enchanted to, rather than to let it die. Cards like Dragon Fangs also help to assuage this issue, as they bounce themselves back into play when a creature with power 6 or greater enters the battlefield, and Rancor returns to its owner’s hand when the creature it enchants dies.  Then, there are the enchantment creatures from Theros, which become creatures when the creatures upon which they were bestowed dies.

     dragon fangsbear umbrachromanticore

Suit up!

That said, most enchantments are liabilities, of which the player needs to be aware.  Much more preferable to players are equipment. Most of the artifacts you run for evasion have a cmc of 3 or less, meaning that they are easily recurred with things like Sun Titan, and are easy to cast in any case.  At the most basic, players generally recommend running Swiftfoot Boots and Lightning Greaves, as the former gives hexproof and the latter gives shroud – both vastly powerful evasive abilities.  They also grant haste, which is relevant for getting immediate use out of your big bomb you just played.  Most importantly, their equip costs are low (and, in the case of Lightning Greaves, free), so they’re easy to equip after tapping out for the aforementioned bomb.  They also help with putting pressure on your opponents, forcing them to react fast or else watch as your bomb blows up in their faces. 

      Imageswiftfoot boots

Though just as fashionable, the greaves don’t really go with Uril’s pants.  However, he’s rocking the boots.

So where does this leave me with Vaevictis Asmadi?  Well, though I managed to keep him from being killed through conventional means, my opponents’ fliers meant I was unable to get through.  Eventually, a wrath took him away and I wasn’t able to follow up afterwards with other threats, ensuring my death.  It’s one thing to have an impressive creature in play as a win-con, but despite what C.O.D teaches you, warfare is not won on the back of a single hero.  As such, it’s important to keep applying pressure throughout the game.  Aggression and dudes – the “AD” in bread – are what eventually finish off a player, and where we will pick up next time.

For now, I wish you all a wonderful spoiler season and welcome all, to Legendary Status!

Devon Armstrong

Twitter: @devonsdigs

A Moment of Silence

Hello All,

As I’m sure you all know, a couple weeks ago saw the passing of two prominent MtG artists: Wayne England and Christopher Rush.  Some of the most iconic cards in Magic are the result of their hard work.  As such, I would like to take a minute to think on some of the contributions these talented artists have made to the game.

Christopher Rush:

WOTC’s tribute on the mothership: http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/feature/christopher-rush-2016-02-11

Listen to Mark Rosewater’s Drive to Work tribute podcast to Christopher Rush here

Christopher Rush was a true pioneer in art for Magic.  Listeners of Mark Rosewater’s podcast Drive to Work know that Christopher Rush is more than just an artist of such iconic cards as, say…Rukh Egg, Brainstorm, Lightning Bolt…and Black Lotus.

rukh eggbrainstorm

lightning boltblack lotus

Chris, Vintage and Legacy are forever in your debt.

For starters, he also illustrated the parodies of Rukh Egg and Black Lotus (Chicken Egg and Blacker Lotus) in Unglued.  And speaking of Unglued, it is also thanks to Christopher Rush that we have full-art lands, as it was his idea (later adopted by MaRo for the Un-sets’ lands to set them apart).

chicken egg blacker lotus

unglued lands

unhinged lands

Jokesters and deck-pimpers, unite.

However, perhaps the most iconic thing about Christopher Rush isn’t the prestige of his most iconic card, or even his idea for full-art lands, but rather something so ubiquitous that we players barely even think about it – the mana symbols.  These symbols are so much a part of Magic that is impossible to conceive of the game without them.  They are the heart of the game, and yet we take them for granted.

mana symbols

It seems fitting that Chris’s work be so intricately tied to the game in this way.

Wayne England:

WOTC’s tribute on the mothership: http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/feature/wayne-england-2016-02-11

Though Wayne England did not have the long history with Magic that Christopher Rush had, he nonetheless brought to life such iconic cards as the Lorwyn Command cycle, Oblivion Ring, and even Beetleback Chief – all of which saw and still see play today.

austere command cryptic commandincendiary command

primal commandprofane command

The Commands…the gifts that keep on giving, no matter the situation

                                   beetleback chiefoblivion ring

The former, a staple in aggro goblin token lists, the latter the grand-daddy of white enchantment-based removal.

Additionally, he had illustrated Worldgorger Dragon, a known combo-enabler, and Ghostly Prison, a favourite taxing card that makes a great addition to any white modern sideboard.

worldgorger dragonghostly prison

You know what to do.

With that, I just want to say, thank you to both Christopher Rush and Wayne England, for all the work you’ve put into this game we all love.  We are forever in your debt, and you are forever in our hearts, minds, decks, and trade binders.

Here’s thinking of you.

 

Devon Armstrong

A Magical Night

(My apologies on being so late with this.  It was incredibly difficult to get it right, but I wanted to share it anyway, after all the work I put in!

Enjoy!

Best,

Devon)

 

‘Twas the weekly Magic Meetup

And with the current game state

Not a creature was stirring

Thanks to Jeff’s Crux of Fate.

 

Anne’s saprolings had been swarming with care

in hopes that her Craterhoof soon would be there.

And Taylor was tanking sullenly into their hand,

With prayers of topdecking Austere Command.

 

And Cara with her Zur, and I with my Thrax,

Had been abusing some triggers, thanks to Paul’s Smokestack.

when suddenly from a graveyard there arose such a target,

I scrambled to action, to tutor to stop it.

 

Away to my deck I flew, tutoring with flash,

Tore through my cards, and found it at last.

The others in the game breathed a sigh of relief,

Giving me political edge, however so brief.

 

When, what to my wandering eyes should appear,

But a mighty Akroma, and her vengeance was near!

With an expensive glowing saber, both with blue and with green,

I knew in a moment what this could mean.

 

More untimely than signets Allan’s Courser then came,

And he pouted, and shouted, then called cards by name:

My fleshbag! My edict! My judgment or a wrath!

Or tutor! Or shatter! Or my swords and my path!

 

To the top of the deck! To the top of them all!

Now pray away, pray away, pray away all!

As lucksacks that before intense odds mise,

When they meet with an obstacle, do receive their prize;

 

So up to the topdeck the answers they flew,

Through a hand full of lands — and a draw spell too:

And then after a moment, I heard a squeal of delight

The hemming and hawing of a man saved from his plight.

 

As I drew for my turn, and was tapping my land,

Cara tapped two islands, casting counterspell from hand:

Countered my demon, and left without a spell to wield

When Paul reanimated Karrthus and Prossh to the battlefield.

 

The dragons took to the air, attacking with speed,

Along with their leader; the soul of the whole winged breed:

His attack — now he tutors! His target: oh not again!

His commander now with double strike – and trample – how insane!

 

His shapeshifting dragon was suited up with some greaves.

And with death by commander damage as his goal to achieve,

He swung at Cara, to take out the counter threat,

but then died on the crackback by Rafiq with infect.

 

Then in their finest hour, copied with Resonator

Taylor sat back and laugh’d; the early celebrator:

Victory was at hand, clear as it was to see,

…at least, if it weren’t for the Rift – cast by me

 

At last the way was clear, my opponents all but dead

Their mana all tapped meant I had nothing to dread.

My turn began, and as I drew for my turn,

I saw the inklings of a plan beginning to form.

 

Resurrecting their guys, I swung for the game,

And offering a hand, I called each by name.

Complimenting their decks, their strategies, and cards.

Then away we all flew, grabbing our ultimate guards:

But I heard them exclaim, ere we left for the night —

 

Good games to all, and may your topdecks be right!

Legendary Status Post #3: Putting the “R” in BREAD

Last time on Legendary Status we began to look at the role that BREAD can play in deckbuilding for EDH.  Specifically, we considered the ‘shiniest’ part of deckbuilding – the bombs of the format – the fatties, the game-warping spells, and the planeswalkers that combine to strike fear in the hearts of your opponents.

avacyn

Oooooo…shiiiiiiny @@

Everyone loves to play their big spells and affect the game.  Unfortunately, for every Consecrated Sphinx and Blightsteel Colossus in your deck, there is a Doom Blade in another player’s to destroy it, or a Counterspell to counter it.  Additionally, your opponents have their own Craterhoof Behemoths and Kiki-Jiki, Combo Breaker shenanigans that you will need to disrupt.  Thus, it is imperative you have several different sources of removal, and that is the discussion for this week.

Removal takes several forms.  There is hard removal – such as Doom Blade, Naturalize, and Strip Mine – but there are also counterspells, which stop the threat before it hits play, disrupting the ETB plans your opponent has going.  A healthy mix of creature and non-creature removal is generally required in EDH to combat all possible dangers your opponents will pose. Creatures and other permanents can also pose as removal spells, such as Acidic Slime and Spitebellows.

      counterspell doom blade

      strip mine  naturalize

The big 4.

And don’t forget about Planeswalkers!  Planeswalkers are bombs in their own right, and while most players overvalue the threats they pose, they can still be a serious detriment to those that oppose them.  Thus, be sure you have at least one way to deal with them.  As non-creature permanents, green generally deals with them pretty handily, but other methods exist as well, such as Dreadbore, Hero’s Downfall, and Vampire Hexmage.  Even an Unstable Obelisk can fall on a Planeswalker and kill it.  Personally, my rule of thumb is to have at least one way of destroying any particular permanent that I will face, if at all possible.

       fated conflageration  chaos warp

Even Red carries Planeswalker hate!

Other methods of removal exist as well.  There are polymorphic cards like Rapid Hybridization and (technically) Reality Shift, as well as exile effects like Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile.  There are also tuck effects like Chaos Warp and Oblation.  Yes, I did just include tuck effects.  Do not be fooled – though the Commander rules have been changed so that Commanders do not get tucked, all other cards still do, and these effects are still very powerful.  Finally, even hand disruption like Thoughtseize can be considered pseudo-removal, since it keeps the bombs from being a threat to begin with, though hand attack is usually much less powerful in Commander.

beast within condemn roast stp thoughtseize rapid hybridization

You have no excuse.

Of course, perhaps the most important subset of removal that exists is mass-removal.  In general, the idea of mass removal is to serve as a “reset button” when you have fallen behind in the game, especially in the number of creatures.  Wrath of God, Damnation, and Nevinyrral’s Disk are clear examples of this category.  Imagine having only one or two creatures in play when your opponent manages to amass a 400-man army of soldier tokens.  Without a card like Wrath of God, you’re dead next turn.  However, if you draw a wrath and manage to destroy all his/her creatures then you’ve made a trade of 3 cards for their 400, which is card advantage at its finest.  Another example would be running Fractured Gust against an all-artifact deck.  Yes, the Sharuum player probably has ways up their sleeve to get their board state back to the way it was, but they have to spend all their resources for a turn doing so.  Meanwhile, you’ve gained 40 life from their artifacts dying and are a turn up on them.

fracturing gustdamnation  nevs disk the great aurora wrath of godcyclonic rift

Press to restart the board.

However, mass-removal does not just include Wrath of God and Damnation.  Indeed, it also covers things like Decree of Annihilation and Armageddon.  Hold on now, for what I’m about to say is controversial:

Though land destruction is generally frowned upon in Commander games, it is a viable strategy and is definitely worth mentioning here.  Players complain of people arbitrarily destroying everyone’s lands and effectively resetting the game to Turn 1 with no way to capitalize on it.  However, there are other reasons for using mass-removal, and this is where the differences occur.  While things like Wrath of God are primarily reset buttons to stave off death for a turn and give yourself a chance to rebuild, land destruction generally serves a different purpose – to ensure a victory.  A friend of mine mentioned a while ago to me that he runs Armageddon in his Kaalia of the Vast deck (more on this in an upcoming article), which initially seems spiteful, but once you realize that Kaalia strategies dictate having her in play and protected, and using her to bring everything else in, then it make sense.  You don’t need the land to play your spells, and your opponents having access to mana is actually a liability.  As such, Armageddon is really a control card against your opponents.  Similarly, if you have a lot of indestructible permanents, perhaps running Obliterate is fine for you, since your board will basically survive while your opponents will not.  Most people are unaware of the use of land destruction in this way, seeing it as another form of a mass reset, resulting in its present role as a contentious (and often banned in play groups) strategy.

  armageddon obliterate

Haters gonna hate.

In short, removal is absolutely essential for Commander.  As mentioned above, I try to have at least one method of killing a problematic permanent available in my deck, if at all possible.  This could mean a few forms of creature removal and an Unstable Obelisk as a catch-all to deal with everything else, or one form of removal for each kind, but I want to have at least the option available should the need arise.  Additionally, look to mix spells and  effects on permanents.  There are pros and cons to both. Unstable Obelisk is a known threat, which players can play around, but things like Dreadbore and Mortify are not.  However, forcing players to play around spells can be powerful, as it changes their game play – potentially to the point where their deck isn’t a threat, and yet cards in hand with mana open can suggest the same kind of risk while also possibly limiting your own plays. Unconditional instant speed removal is usually preferred to sorcery-speed removal, but I still run Beast Within and Acidic Slime in my green decks for the utility they offer, and the board state that Acidic Slime creates when I play it can be oppressive.  As for how many spells to run, this is in many ways a matter of preference, but I would say a minimum of 6-10 for an aggro and mid-range build, and more for control decks (obviously).  I would also suggest removal that can target multiple types of spells, and especially creatures, since they tend to be the most dangerous threats in need of urgent answers.  There is no hard and fast rule for this, but rather what you are comfortable running.  Just remember that what you put in requires taking out something else, so there’s a balance to maintain.

Of course, with all this removal floating around the format, it is absolutely essential to be able to protect your own permanents from utter destruction.  Join us next time for the third installment of our series: Evasion!

Good night everybody, and as always – Welcome to Legendary Status!

Devon Armstrong

@devonsdigs

http://www.devonsdigs.com

Legendary Status #2: BREAD IN EDH…and Having Your Opponents Eat it Too!

Aggro: Combo: Control. Timmy: Johnny: Spike. Even Vorthos and Melvin! Synergy with the commander, or not? Deck construction for EDH/Commander can certainly be a daunting challenge for newer players. In particular, players used to faster games (as legacy is wont to do) or more controlled card pools (as with Standard) may quickly find the nature of the Commander meta-game daunting. Moreover, Commander decks do not generally have a sideboard, meaning that the entire deck must be able to respond to any issues that may occur in the meta. Adding to this anxiety is both the eternal and singleton nature of the format. With so many cards to choose from, and so much going on in the meta-game, how is a new player to go about creating a deck that will hold its own?

One way, as deceptively simple as it may be, is to pick up a Commander pre-con deck from one’s local game store. Though they are not optimized, they are still solid builds and can generally hold their own in a commander game. Of course, once a player decides to optimize the deck, it does not take much to improve upon it. Additionally, many cards in the Commander pre-cons have become staples in other Commander decks due to their utility in the format, and overall power level. Indeed, it is hard to argue with the need for such cards like Command Tower and Unstable Obelisk, the former a Reflecting Pool with no drawbacks, and the latter a vindicate for all colors.

 

command tower           reflecting pool

unstable obelisk           vindicate

It’s like looking in a mirror!

The other option is to build a deck all one’s own from scratch. This may be really daunting to players, especially more casual players (who are more likely to be drawn to the format to begin with). This article will help these players, by following a set of general guidelines I try to follow in all of my builds. More experienced players will recall the so-called BREAD method of drafting – and for good reason. BREAD – an acronym for Bombs, Removal, Evasion, Aggro, and Duds – is a great methodology and transfers well into other formats, including EDH. As such, let us consider this deckbuilding methodology:

sliced bread

BREAD: Best thing since sickleslicer-ed bread

Bombs
Bombs are what makes the format of EDH so explosive. Many times, bombs are the Commander itself – the backbone of the deck, easily accessed, and sets the tone of the deck overall. It can also be the crazy combo you reach for in the late game – Reveillark and Karmic Guide, Palinchron and Dead-Eye Navigator, Mikaeus and Triskelion, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Zealous Conscripts, or Viridian Joiner and Umbral Mantle (just to name a few).

kiki jiki        zealous conscripts

Whoever said mono-red wasn’t viable in EDH hasn’t faced this from across the table.

The bombs could also be simple win-cons in and of themselves, like Craterhoof Behemoth or Blightsteel Colossus. And if they aren’t win-cons themselves, they may just be game-warping. Consecrated Sphinx, for example, is a card that really tilts the game in the favour of its controller (there’s nothing like drawing two cards for every one your opponent does to speed you to the end game – as well as force a spiteful Doom Blade)! Even Planeswalkers are bombs, due to how players tend to change how they play in order to deal with the perceived threat they pose.

blightsteel colossus   sphinx     sarkhan unbroken

One-shot Robot, Constipated Sphinx, and Sarkhan Bah-ROKEN all say hi!

Indeed, Bombs are the easiest cards to fill when creating a Commander deck – they’re the big, often shiny spells that got you excited to play your deck to begin with, and the ones you’re more often than not agonizing over possibly having to cut later. There’s no need to give a minimum number here, as the majority of your non-land deck will probably serve to facilitate your threats, or be the bombs themselves.  More important, however, is making sure that the deck is not solely bombs, but other utility spells as well.

“But why!?!” you ask, “Why can’t I just take all my flashiest spells and throw them together to make a deck?” Well, young Padowan, you have to make room for everything else you’ll need to survive a game. For every game of Commander, you have anywhere from 1-5 (or more!!!) opponents casting their spells too, and to stay viable you’ll need to be able to interact with them. As such, tune in next time to continue our discussion with…Removal!

tarmogoyf

Ehh…I wouldn’t worry about it.  It dies to removal, after all.

Take care everyone, and as always – welcome to Legendary Status!

– Devon Armstrong

Website: devonsdigs.com

Twitter: @devonsdigs

What would you ban in edh?

EDH, the casual format of choice for so many Magic: the Gathering players, has a banlist governed by a different set of rules compared to the other popular formats. In most formats, the banlist is there for one purpose and one purpose only; to balance said format. Its to prevent warping the format around a single card, like Deathrite Shaman in Modern, and promote diversity. The EDH banlist, in contrast, is there to promote more enjoyable games in addition to balancing the power levels of the format. A good example would be Sol Ring, a card that is now so well known in the format that realistically EDH decks are 98 card decks because you more or less always start with a Sol Ring when you are building your deck. With the next banlist update just days away, I figured that it was a good time to address some of the cards, either new or old, that fans of the format have called out to be banned.

 

For my research (and I am using that term very loosely), I turned to the employees and patrons of various game shops I frequent, as well as some of the online communities, asking them all one question:

 

“If you could ban any 3 cards that are currently legal in EDH/Commander, what 3 would you ban?”

 

Now, as I expected, there was a handful of cards that were commonly named, and a much larger collection of cards were only named once, presumably because that person had a bad experience with that card, even though there is nothing inherently wrong with the card being in the format.

 

The 5 most named cards by people asked were (in alphabetical order, not a ranking):

  • Consecrated Sphinx
  • Cyclonic Rift
  • Deadeye Navigator
  • Iona, Shield of Emeria
  • Prophet of Kruphix

 

Honourary Mentions:

  • Mind Twist
  • Tooth and Nail
  • Serra Ascendant
  • Cataclysm
  • Time Stretch
  • Armageddon

 

Now, I feel as though I should preface each card analysis with a few reminders.

  1. EDH bannings are sometimes to balance the format in terms of power level, but it is also a matter of “fun”. This is a vague term at best, but if a card is considered largely unfun and it is very powerful, the chances are good that it will eat a ban.
  2. EDH is a format played by people of all backgrounds in the game, from little Johnny from down the street to Pro Tour champions, and everyone in between. Because of this, the power level varies greatly, and sometimes causes gameplay issues. However this is, in my opinion, not a problem with the format, but rather an issue with the uninformed expectations of some (but not all) players.

With those points in mind, I would like to briefly address each of the cards that would have been banned if the community was in charge of the banlist.

 

First up on the block…Consecrated Sphinx!

sphinx

This card is a very powerful card advantage engine that doesn’t do something on the turn it comes down, but starts putting in work as soon as your opponents draw a card, which, in normal situations, means the beginning of the next turn. The problem with a card like this is that it so quickly warps the game that I do actually think that it is bad for the format and might be ban worthy. As soon as people realize that there is a Consecrated Sphinx in someones library the game moves away from the regular rhythm of multi-player magic and becomes a game of “who can control the sphinx?”. Bribery, Reanimate, Control Magic, etc. all come into play, everyone vying for control of the blue creature, in an attempt to get some of the card advantage it provides. Oh…and did I mention that it is a 4/6 flier? So while, yes, there are a variety of cards that warp the game like this (the Praetors come to mind), Consecrated Sphinx is, in my humble opinion, the worst offender. All that said, I do not think that it will be banned for two reasons. First reason, it does provide an obscene amount of card advantage, but it doesn’t directly prevent any other players from doing anything, so it cant really be considered “unfun”. Second reason, EDH is the format of broken cards, and in a format in which Necropotence is legal, banning a creature for drawing too many cards would be seriously lacking in logic.

 

Final Verdict: Unlikely Ban, play it politically rather than just jamming it whenever you can to avoid warping the game.

 

 

Following one powerful blue card is…you guessed it…another blue card. Cyclonic Rift.

rift

Cyclonic Rift is one of the most recent cards on this list, and while people complain about it, I have a real hard time agreeing that it is bannable. Blue, as a color, is lacking in ways to permanently deal with things after they resolve, and while there are a few things (Pongify, Curse of the Swine, etc), bounce is typically the colors answer. In terms of power level for the format its not overpowered, its definitely good, but unless you win the game that turn, most decks can rebuild and restabilize really quickly, and often the game shifts from a 1v1v1v1v… to everyone gunning for the player who cast the Cyclonic Rift, which will further restabilize the board state. Within 2 or 3 turns after a Cyclonic Rift, the game is back to its regular pace. In addition to this, it was just printed in the blue CMDR14 precon deck, leading me to believe that a ban is practically impossible.

 

Final Verdict: Wont be banned, not broken, doesn’t directly enable degenerate plays, its just a good answer to permanents and out of control board states.

 

 

Moving on, if you take away only one thing from this article, it would probably be that if people want a card banned, there’s a good chance its blue, and our next card is no exception, the infamous Deadeye Navigator.

deadeye

I’m going to try to be brief on this one, because this card has been discussed to death. My opinion is that it does not deserve a ban. Reasons for this are:

 

  • It costs 6, plus 2 more to activate it. So even assuming you can somehow guarantee that it will both resolve and survive the turn, it costs 8 mana plus the cost of the creature paired to it to do anything. Now, I know that fast mana exists, but the turn and relatively extensive mana investment required makes the effect balanced in the format.
  • ITS BLUE! And while blue is often cited as the best colour in the game, it sucks at finding creatures, has virtually no ramp, and goes against what you want to be doing as a colour. There is no way in the colour to efficiently and assuredly get the creature outside of Long-Term Plans and Ethereal Usher. So its good when you find it, but not format breaking.
  • It does virtually nothing on its own. Without another creature in play it is just an inefficient vanilla creature.

 

All that said, I’m not trying to claim that it isnt powerful once you get it going as an engine to support the rest of your deck, but there are more powerful engines in the format that are rarely named on the list of cards people want banned.

 

Final Verdict: Enjoy playing it, its a good card, but not broken. Expect it to be removed quickly because of the casual hatred of the card.

 

 

Going to shift gears a little bit, and move away from blue cards, to a card that, unlike the previous 3, I wholeheartedly believe needs to be banned. Iona, Shield of Emeria.

iona

 

If you have never played a game of EDH with me you wouldn’t know this, but I am a major fan of mono colored EDH decks, I love the consistency they can offer and the deckbuilding challenges that they prevent, finding interesting ways to cover the weaknesses of your chosen color. In terms of the consistency offered, I can understand the desire to have an answer in the format to punish mono colored decks, but completely locking them out of the game is too much. 95% of the time, if you are playing a mono colored deck and someone lands Iona on your color, they have killed you. Sure, you can stay in the game for as long as you’re alive, but the majority of the time the mono colored player will just scoop because there’s no reason for them to keep playing. However until the ban us mono colored players will just have to stock up on Spine of Ish Sah to deal with her.

 

Final Verdict: Unfun if you enjoy playing mono coloured decks, needs a ban.

 

And finally, the newest card on the list, from Theros, Prophet of Kruphix.

prophet

In every set for the last few years there are always cards that competitive players look at and laugh, and those are the cards that EDH players fall in love with. Prophet of Kruphix is no different. Its a blue green creature with an awesome effect, although on a fragile body. I have heard the same “game warping” argument applied to the Prophet as Consecrated Sphinx, although I have to disagree for one main reason: not every deck wants to be playing creatures, regardless of whether they are at instant speed or not, while every deck ever wants to be drawing lots of cards. The reason that so many people have an issue with this card is that, if left unchecked, will ramp the controller of it very quickly in resources, both creatures and mana. However I don’t think this means it needs to be banned as there are quite a few cards that fall into the same group, in that if they are left unchecked they will generate lots of value, but that rarely makes them banworthy. However as this is the newest addition to the list I think that the format needs more time to explore the uses of Prophet of Kruphix, so maybe it will end up getting banned.

 

Final Verdict: Doesnt need a ban, just a solid source of advantage.

 

So there you have it. The 5 “worst” cards in the format, along with my opinion on each of them and their place in the format. So what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Think that I missed a card that should have been in the top 5? The banlist is an everchanging entity, and who knows, maybe all 5 of these cards will end up on it.

 

Until next time, may you hit all your land drops and take no damage from Mana Crypt.

 

-Niko

 

Legendary Status Post #1

What is it about EDH/Commander as a format that draws in its fan base? Is it the complex interactions of cards that never get played anywhere else?  Perhaps it is the casual aspect – the idea of being able to get together around a kitchen table and play longer, more challenging games in a relaxed environment in a multiplayer match.  Or maybe it is the challenge of building a 100-card singleton deck around a particular mechanic or legendary creature.  Then, of course, there is the ability to personalize one’s deck to the maximum – to pursue strange themes, or pimp out a deck with foils, alternate artwork, and customized boxes and sleeves.

For me, the format is a wonderful amalgamation of all of the above.  I get to experience a fun afternoon with all of my friends, seeing what crazy shenanigans each player can contribute.  However, I must say that my favourite aspect of the format is the ability to express myself creatively through deckbuilding.  I like having decks that are scaled differently, require being piloted in different ways, and which continually challenge me as a returning, non-competitive player.  I also like challenging myself to adapt to certain themes, forcing a new playstyle that I might not have pursued previously.  One such challenge is to create a deck for each of the 27 legal color combinations for the format, a 100% completion goal of sorts.  Choosing random commanders is another.  Obviously, building on a budget comes with its own limitations – something that I, as a graduate student, am quite attuned to.  On the other hand, I still maintain a firm grasp on my Timmy roots, even while expanding out to more Johnny and Spike-ish levels of magic (if you are unaware of Magic’s psychographic player profiles, I urge you to read Mark Rosewater’s articles on the matter).

But what of those who are simply getting introduced?  New players to the format are often confused by the format’s differences, even as I relish in them.  For those uninitiated, here is a look at the basic rules of the EDH/Commander format:

  • EDH, or Elder Dragon Highlander (now officially known as Commander), is a variant of the Highlander (also known as ‘Singleton’) format, meaning that there can be no more than 1 card with the same English name in a deck, save for basic lands (with two exceptions: Relentless Rats and Shadowborn Apostle).

Here’s to cards trumping rules!!!!!

  • Players start at 40 life, as opposed to the traditional 20.
  • Commander is an eternal format. As such, most all vintage-legal cards are legal in Commander.  It does, however, have its own official Commander banned list to consider.
  • Each deck is constructed of exactly 100 cards, including the commander. Ordinarily, decks do not run a side board, though this differs between play groups.
  • The commander (aka general) must be a legendary creature (exceptions: In the new Commander 2014 sets, WotC printed new planeswalkers specifically to be available as commanders.)

No, the other planeswalkers can’t be generals, but that’s probably for the best.  I’ll leave it to your play group to hash out the legality of the Nephilim.

  • The color identity of the commander determines the colors of the set. This includes any colors in its mana cost, as well as in its rules text.  For example, Rhys the Redeemed and Captain Sisay are both Green-White commanders, as they have access to both colors in their mana costs.  Bosh, Iron Golem, on the other hand, is considered Red for commander identity due to his ability, while Thelon of the Havenwood is considered Black-Green.

All are pretty solid generals, with the right build!

  • No card in the deck can have a color identity that is not present in the commander. For example, one cannot run Fracturing Gust or Elves of Deep Shadow in a Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury deck.

The exception to this is with the Extort mechanic from Dragon’s Maze.  Since the hybrid mana symbol appears in the reminder text of the ability as opposed to being actual rules text, and as such is essentially “unnecessary” for the function of the card, the official ruling is that the symbol does not affect color identity.

Mono-black Necropotence decks will certainly be happy to know this.

  • The restriction on color identity includes basic lands and artifacts, by the way. Remember that each basic land effectively has the wording “T: Add (insert color) to your mana pool” (older lands are much more explicit with this).  Though the advent of the basic super-type negates the need to spell it out, the symbol on the bottom half of the card effectively reads as that same function.  Therefore, a Freyalise deck can’t run mountains any more than Bosh can run forests, and neither can run a Crystal Shard, despite technically being able to use it.  This means no using basic lands for Karn, Silver Golem.

    Yeah I know, blue mana hurts.

    As for lands and mana rocks that produce “a mana of any color,” this is technically not true in Commander.  Instead, if a land or an opposing ability would grant mana of a color not indicated by a player’s general, it produces colorless instead.

    • The general starts out in a special “command zone.” It can be played at any point as if it were in the player’s hand, but are not and so do not contribute to actual hand size.  As such, sneak plays that bring a card from the hand onto the battlefield do not work on a commander in the command zone.

    Pro Tip: don’t play her as your general.

    • If at any point a commander dies or is exiled, that commander’s controller may elect to remove it to the command zone rather than letting it resolve in the graveyard or exile zones. Unfortunately, this does not happen if it is bounced to its owner’s hand or tucked into the library. Also, this is a replacement affect, meaning that abilities triggering on creatures entering the graveyard will not trigger with the commander.

    Here’s looking at you, kid.

    • Each time the general is cast from the command zone beyond the first requires an additional 2 colorless mana to cast. This is called the “command tax.” As such, poor Child of Alara would cost 7 mana after being removed once, then 9, then 11, etc.
    • If the commander is bounced to its owner’s hand, then it can be played for its traditional mana cost. The commander tax only applies when it is played from the command zone.
    • The commander also may provide a special alternate win-condition. If at any point in a game a commander does 21 points of damage to a single opponent (even if it is controlled by another player at the time), that opponent automatically loses the game due to “commander damage”, no matter his/her life total.
    • Traditionally, EDH/Commander is a multiplayer format, focusing on casual and interactive play. As such, the format prides itself on adapting itself for a variety of groups.  House rules are common in EDH, such as to raise the number of poison counters from 10 to 15 (or even 20), or even edit the banned list to fit their group’s play style.  Players may even decide to allow the Nephilim cycle from Ravnica as commanders, to allow for 4-color builds.

    Clearly, there is a lot going on in the Commander format which may overwhelm a newer player.  A format where one starts at 40 life, but a commander can kill with only 21, may seem too chaotic. A 99-card library may similarly be seen as too unwieldy.  A deck in which its inspiration comes from a single creature may be considered too focused.  Additionally, the higher-than-average mana curves may shock a player used to curving out at 3 or maaaaaybe 4 mana.  As such, I hope that this column series serves to alleviate these fears, and provide these new players with the tools necessary to start their own builds.

    Through this medium, I hope to provide some basic techniques for EDH deck-building, and give possible ideas of what one can do to break into the format.  This will be semi-regular, meaning that I will post as regularly as my schedule will allow – ideally once a week, but I cannot guarantee consistency.  The main focus will be on choosing a possible commander, weighing its pros and cons, and suggesting a possible build one could pursue.  This is not to be taken as gospel, however! Deckbuilding is a personal process, and there are many lines of thought on the issue.  Rather, take these suggestions as just that – suggestions – and adapt as seems fit.  Of course, I urge anyone to comment with suggestions, ideas, or even constructive criticism – but please, keep it kind and family-friendly.  Aside from that, I hope you all enjoy, and welcome to Legendary Status!

    Devon Armstrong

    devonsdigs.com

    Youtube user: egyptcraze