11/20/2012 SF: "The Mind's Eye"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Serious Fun, which goes live Tuesday morning on magicthegathering.com.

It's the ugly that took me by surprise. Here's the set up:


  • Mikaeus, the Unhallowed; Flayer of the Hatebound; Urabrask the Hidden; and Havengul Lich are in play.

  • I cast Sewer Nemesis, naming myself, since I discarded plenty of cards after drawing almost thirty from Keep Watch. Sewer Nemesis is around a 30/30.

  • I cast Evil Twin and choose to copy my own Sewer Nemesis.

  • Welcome to Combotown.



I'm usually against automatic game-winning combos, but if your "ugly" combo requires SIX different cards plus a 30-card graveyard, I can't say it should bother anyone!  Most of the time, games won't go long enough to assemble this particular combo even if you leave all of the pieces in your deck, and if the game does go that long, then it deserves to end this way.


This deck kind of represents a lot that's wrong with Commander. Once you pick the colors of the deck, that's all the uniqueness you get. From there it's just throw all the most degenerative stuff in those colors (that work together or neutrally win on their own) into the deck and call it a success. No matter that after you've chosen color, 80% of it is identical to every other deck in the chosen color identity.

Then there's the topic of overpowered. For any mana cost, there exists overpowered cards for that cost. I'm glad most of us recognize SRing as a part of that list, but Sheoldred and CSphinx fit the bill well. Players are denial, too, which tries to justify these cards because "they'll die immediately anyway". It's the argument we've heard time and time again with cards like Bob, Tarmogoyf, HoBladehold, BSAngel, etc. Because what happens when they untap? They win.

This includes CSphinx because, unanswered, it just wins. And it's just assumed that every single opponent has their mana open for instant speed removal the moment it hits the game. Because past that, it's over. "But it's Free For All, it's different." You're right, it is different. 1) Like I said, it's expected spot removal will be ready. But spot removal isn't even highly valuable in FFA, what are you talking about it's "expected"? 2) If there is spot removal, it's true big targets like CSphinx catch it. But so does everything else in the format. In fact, what if everybody has a CSphinx? Then what? 3 guys have removal, so the question becomes, "who's going to pick the winner?"

The real scenarios are that first CSphinx drops, then Sheoldred drops, then WEngine, then ITitan (can't forget about them Titans! Wizards knows how much we hate cards that you have to untap with to be absurd, so they fixed that for us). So again, we can't all take turns removing everything. Spot removal is finnicky and you have to use it carefully. Good players wait until they are directly threatened, and CSphinx doesn't even actually do that unless it attacks. So catching removal is a very delicate procedure. Whoever does the deed loses their protection for awhile, and makes an enemy. Good luck with that.

So how about instead, just drop the overpowered cards. They only lead to unfair, unfun situations. There are objectively overpowered cards as mentioned, but their are subjective ones as well that lead to degenerative gamestates and infinite combos. They're not fun. Many people get tired of Commander because of these situations that just piss everybody off. Avacyn + Armageddon is not cute or inventive, it's just broken and cheap. Nobody's going to congratulate you on making such a fine move.

Replace these ideas with fair cards, that are great, but not ones that attract immediate attention from every table in the room. That's the problem in the first place. When you run one broken card, it gets answered. So to remedy that you run 30 broken cards, and hope some of them stick. That's pretty much the most popular type of Commander deck. We refuse to not break the game, so instead we all bring our knives to the table and see who can bleed out the slowest. It's boring and painful.


To bring this into perspective, notice how Adam hesitated for a second with that ETwin. He had a similar moment a few months back with WPrimus, and rightfully so. He gives in to these temptations at time, drives the knife deep, because he looks across the table and sees something stupid like Meishin, and does the deed. This is the problem with Commander, and illustrates the point I just explained to a tee. But there's more: he didnt do this with WPrimus, he didn't clear their lands with an infinite combo because they weren't (notably) breaking the game. That's a bad policy. Never hold back with your deck just because it will obviously win the game if you do. Instead, take out broken cards, and let your deck win fairly. Don't give yourself the temptation to break the game, and you won't do it.

And that's the ultimate sum-up of where Commander is at, between the vision of the original EDH and the streamlined, competitive Commander. Our goal can either be to break the game, and see who breaks it the fastest, the hardest. And we can justify doing so because it either prevents somebody else breaking the game or stops somebody's broken stuff. Or, we can just play fair. And if somebody tries to break the game, you reprimand them for it, by setting up a 3v1, as FFA, and politics, has always supposed to work.
Commander Manifesto

I think you would like my EDH decks.

I read articles like this and start thinking I have to spend a bazillion dollars to enjoy Commander. Even the prebuilt ones are getting pricey now, and they need tweaking to compete like decks with this.

How do you build a deck if you don't have a bookcase full of cards, but only, say, a backpack full, with mainly commons and uncommons? Especially if Commander's supposed to be a casual format to get new (or returning) players into the game?
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You find a casual group who build more casual Commander decks.

It's a casual format: there will be lots of people with *lots* of different approaches to it. 
Commander Manifesto



I sort of agree with most of what you said.  However there are plenty of ways to go within your colors for commander.  For example, I have a Gwafa Hazid mill deck, which is not like most blue/white EDH decks.  Sure, some of the cards are always going to be the same, but that's true in almost every format.  What's a vintage deck with out power nine? I run some board wipes, some common spot removal and counter magic, but the core deck is very different from other ones, and even when they are the same, the deck defining cards make it not really matter that every black EDH deck is running an exsanguinate and a phyrexian arena.

As for broken cards, well in my playgroup we don't play with the broken cards so much.  One deck could easily get infinite turns in maybe %50 of the games, but they don't because they don't think that it's fair, and if they did, we'de just start killing them right at the beginning when they rely on group hug to not get killed.  And sure, it sucked when someone almost got a dovescape/guile combo going, but it was really funny when I killed the dovescape the turn before he drew guile, and we love our metagame warping cards, plus that deck can't play much since it owner doesn't like having three or four control decks in one game.

Overall, I'd say that EDH really isn't as broken as you think, you just have to play it with the right people.

EDIT:  The reason I originally came here to post was that I think the Grixis deck could use some more removal.  One boardwipe is not enough, and some artifact/enchantment removal is really important.  Also, living death.
There'll be exceptions, but I'm talking about decks like today's where 80-90% is staples of the colors. Does he really need so much broken? Well, yeah, he does, because he thinks it's his only way to combat everybody elses mass of broken stuff. Eventually, all the uniqueness, the driving force of the original format, will be drained away. And all that will be left is Titans and infinite combos.