Category Archives: New Voices

New Voices: $100 a Deck

by Verdell Shannon

In $100 a Deck, we tackle the the simple concept of a budget brew for Commander. The concept of budget decks is always a slippery slope, with some wanting to aim for the absolute lowest possible price to play, and others thinking budget is whatever a card costs. Generally, I aim for the lowest price point where I can design with flexibility and consistency. Now, let’s dive in.

Part 1: What does the commander do?
Well, we lucked up and got ourselves the most desirable of the new Commander 2020 precons, with a creature that both reduces the cost to cycle cards AND rewards us for doing it. So, any deck we build will be doing a lot of cycling. This is a commander that has a great pedigree with it’s mechanical tie in.

Cycling is a mechanic that has been around in Magic since my favorite block (back when Magic had those) Urza block. It has taken many laps over the years, and appears in all five colors.

Part 2: How do we break this thing?
Thankfully, there is a lot of inspiration to draw from here. We can break him by loading up our deck with cards that are playable and beating our opponents with an interactive game plan… OR we can do a couple of cheap parlou tricks and ruin some fools!

Part 3: What is our inspiration?
I had to dig in a bit to research on cycling in competitive play for this guy. Cycling has come around in tournament decks at least four times, with long time players having seen it do a lot of tricks over the years. So, here are the cliff notes:

Modern: Living End
Game plan is simple, load the graveyard with big, dumb animals, and cast a Living End to reanimate them all. This deck won off the back of cascade spells to control when you could cast the backbreaking spell in a deck that featured no other cards under three CMC. That deck is Jund (black, red, green), so we can’t really rely on it for a direct port. The deck evolved to include an amazing mana denial plan with cards like Avalance Riders, Fulminator Mage, and Beast Within. This is something to note.

Standard: Astral Slide // Lightning Rift (Onslaught standard)
This is a RWX value deck that won the long game through card advantage provided by sticking a powerful enchantment that could match our opponent threat for threat and finally win card advantage. Due to the archetype dating back to 2003/2004 standard, sadly digging into this deck is a bit tougher. You don’t have the same wealth of coverage available to mine, as websites port over content, and the web ages.

Standard UW Control with Drake Haven (Amonkhet standard)
This deck features a suite of UW control options, and wins off the steady stream of creatures a resolved Drake Haven provides, while also controlling the game. This is going to be very important to our build.

Standard Fluctuator (Tempest/Urza standard)
Similar to Living End, but the original. This deck took advantage of the card Living Death out of Tempest block to load up on cards with cycling (that all had the then standard cycling cost of 2 mana), to fill it’s graveyard quickly.

Part 4: What’s the brew? 
Really, the best cycling decks are either blazingly-fast combo reanimator decks with some interaction, or they are slow, grindy incremental advantage decks that win off the value enchantments. Well, in our colors we are doing ourseves a service to go for the long game here. There are two different decks that are long-game driven to draw on in color. Also, I am a strong believer that Commander needs control decks. You don’t need to take every game to one hour length, but sometimes it’s okay to not combo out on turn five.

Here’s the link to the deck list.

Part 5: How does it work?
Cycling is a skill testing mechanic. The deck will reward you for long term play, and getting a feel for what you need in any scenario. You have a lot of grind them out potential. The interaction between blinking your own creature and re-buying one of your board wipes is huge. Also, you will be able to remove threats and stall your opponents by cycling cards.

Essentially, your plan is to slow the game down using a lot of tap out control. Once you have exhausted your opponent’s resources, you can take charge and start to bully the table with your near limitless card advantage available.

Part 6: Upgrades
So, upgrading this deck further is all about retuning your interaction and adding more cards to slow your opponens’ development. Decree of Silence is a free counter anything and Nimble Obstructionist is your Trickbind option. You of course can upgrade the mana base, to minimize the tapped land impact more and make sure you hit your colors.

Part 7: Closing Comments
Gavi, Nest Warden is a fantastic control or combo/tempo commander. You can dictate the pace of the game very well, and are mostly immune to counterspells. Call me nuts, but I think after you cast the same wrath effect for the 5th time, people may scoop in frustration, since they can’t kill you. The best thing about the 2020 Commander decks is a lot of the cards are already packaged in there, so your upgrade money can go much farther.

Verdell has been into magic since Phyrexians roamed the earth during Urza block. He is a tournament scrub turned commander player and loves all manner of broken and classic deck. You can find him hanging around EDH forums and talking about why he draws the line at Boil and Acid Rain, but is perfectly fine with Ruination, Armageddon and Wave of Vitriol in commander. He can be reached on twitter (@VerdellShannon) or Instagram (@res5music).  

Deal or No Deal?

by Magical Hacker

I have a method for upping your political game that no one is talking about. Once you start using it, you’ll rarely ever make deals again. What comes to mind when you think of “politics” in Commander? Chances are, you’re probably thinking about making a sales pitch to another player for your “mutual benefit” and the destruction of everybody else. Sounds great, right? But there’s a problem.

The Problem with Deals

The problem with deals is that they lock you in to what could be a bad play in order to convince an opponent to do something that is probably beneficial for them anyways. Say I’m playing a game with my friends, Taylor, Spencer, and Jordan, and at 10 life, with no creatures on the board, and just a Path to Exile in hand, I’m tempted to make a deal, especially because Taylor has an Ulamog the Infinite Gyre on the board, while Jordan has four 3/3 Beast tokens. 

If I get attacked by both players, I lose the game even after using my Path to Exile on the Ulamog, so I decide to make a deal with Taylor. “Hey Taylor, if I get rid of the Ulamog, will you attack Jordan with all your creatures for the next two turns?” It might seem like a fair trade: I don’t take damage from the Ulamog or the tokens, I don’t have to annihilate anything, I stay alive, and Taylor gets to attack Jordan without fear of Annihilator retaliation! But by making a deal I lock myself into a course of action.  

What if Spencer plays out a combo like Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Zealous Conscripts, making enough creatures to kill me and all other players at the table? I won’t have my Path to protect me. Also, what if Taylor overestimates how much influence the deal had in stopping them from attacking me, and Taylor attacks me even more than before? This is why instead of making a deal, I like to use the Art of Inception. 

The Art of Inception

The art of inception is to convince your opponents that it’s in their best interest to help you. Sometimes, our goals will align with the goals of our opponents. In fact, sometimes our opponents will also perceive that their goals align with ours.

Instead of making a deal, say I ask, “Hey Taylor, I don’t think I can deal with Jordan on my own, so I guess that means we are allied against them, right?” That simple question launches the entire political move! At this point, I am forcing Taylor to evaluate the board state. Mentally, they have to decide which opponent is the greatest obstacle standing in the way of them winning the game, and to keep the example fundamental, the simple details tell us that they are going to see Jordan as the primary hurdle to overcome. In that way, Taylor will definitely attack Jordan (unless my commander is scary enough that I’m still a threat without a board state, like Golos, Edgar, or Kykar).

As a result, now Jordan will have to make the same decision for themselves, and with someone attacking them for 12 each turn, they certainly have to start annihilating their board before things get uncontrollable. So, how did I manage to do all this with just a simple question?

The concept behind inception is using the board state to my advantage, and leveraging my unthreatening appearance and the threatening appearances of my opponents to lead them to their own conclusions that they should use their resources to fight back against the biggest threat. In this way, I get what I wanted to make a deal for, but at the same time without having to use any resources of my own! It’s free real estate.

Now that I have performed the political move of inception, I can continue to prepare for whatever happens by waiting to use my Path to Exile, both Taylor and Jordan will use their resources to diminish each other’s life total, and once the dust settles, I’ll know exactly who to use my resources on! But of course, there’s an exception to every rule.

An Exception to Every Rule

There are still times where you know that inception won’t work, and that a deal is your best shot at winning. Sometimes, it’s a hail mary. Sometimes, it’s just the least risky path to victory. Let’s add a few more details to the example and we can see where it might be better to go for the deal instead. Let’s say I also have Heartless Hidetsugu and Loxodon Warhammer in hand, but I have to cast Heartless Hidetsugu this turn in order to cast and equip the Warhammer, tap Hidetsugu, and gain a bunch of life on my next turn. At the same time, I know that playing it down would immediately make my opponents attack me. 

In this situation, I can lock in a deal before the game state changes, allowing me to have a better chance at victory. In fact, this is the most common example of when I’ve seen deals being necessary: when you know you need to become threatening in order to secure a good position, but becoming threatening would kill you.

At the end of the day, politics are key to winning games when all hope seems lost, and I know that using this strategy of inception will be one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal to get there.

So what do you say, deal or no deal?

MagicalHacker is a thinker, a philosopher, and a scientist, constantly searching for the needles of truth in the haystack of what we assume to be true. You might know him from his plethora of YouTube videos (including multiplayer game play, deck techs for commanders previewed within the past week, top 10s featuring only cards he plays in multiple decks, live deckbuilding of underplayed commanders, or even his monthly deck doctor or game play videos for each of his patrons.