29 Sep 2014

Love of Commander

I’ve mentioned in older posts my love of the Commander (originally known as EDH or Elder Dragon Highlander) play format for Magic the Gathering.
Commander 2014 symbol
by Wizards of the Coast

For those not in the know, EDH are decks of 100 cards from any set with a limited banned list. Each deck has only one of each card unless it’s a Basic – Land (i.e. Islands, Swamp, Plains, Mountain, and Forest) and one of the cards is removed from the deck to act as the ‘Commander’. Games tend to be a bit longer as each player has forty life points to start.

The commander is where the focus of the is centered. The commander must be a Legendary Creature. The commander can be cast from the Commander Zone to enter play. If the Commander is removed from play and sent anywhere but their owners hand, they return to the Commander Zone to be once more cast but with an additional cost of two colourless mana per incident. The commander also limits the type of mana a player can generate. The colour types in the cost of the commander are the only coloured mana generated, any other coloured mana is made into colourless mana. Last but not least if commander does 21 or more damage to a single player that player is killed no matter their life total.

You can play with most of the cards ever printed and the single copy of each card prevents any type of overused spam or broken legacy combos. It promotes lots of rare cards that don’t get used because of the cost to pick them up. Lucky for players of EDH, you’ll only ever see one copy – making it much more easy to swallow pocket book wise for players who are not wanting to dump buckets of cash into Magic the Gathering.

Wizards of the Cost jumped on the format and has since released three products for Commander; 2011 they made up five pre-built three colour decks, 2012 they published Commander’s Arsenal a limited set that came with every card In that set, and in 2013 Wizards released another set of five pre-built three coloured decks.
Commander's Arsenal by Wizards of the Coast
Also sells between 300-500 dollars - US dollars!
Now we wait for November’s release of the five pre-built mono coloured Commander decks.

Commander can be played 1v1 but the best results are playing in packs of 3 or more players. When a player step out of the pack by taking a lead they tend to get picked on by all the other players until someone else takes a lead – repeating until one only player takes the win.
Serra Ascendant
by Wizards of the Coast

A few weeks back I had MTZT, his wife Fae Mama, Wolf, Rocko, Sergeant, and myself playing a game of EDH. When MTZT went first and played Serra Ascendant and sudedly he had the target painted on his back. The first creature on the first players first turn, costing only 1 White mana – is a 6/6 Lifelink (player gains life equal to creatures power whenever creature does damage) was a big move of MTZT. It also made every other player decide he was the largest threat and MTZT got picked on quite a bit in the first half of the game – he suffered from Sergeant’s Memory Erosion early in the game and MTZT lost along the rest of us to Fae Mama.

Each turn had at least one or two big plays minimum. Each player was dropping cards that had huge effects and major impact on the board. Each turn was a roller coaster of ups and downs. No one felt left out or under powered. Rocko’s Hurricane was a game changed, next to my Traumatize play. Fae Moma got a kicking when her token horde was wiped out by my Scourge of Fleets. MTZT was really pounding into folks with his fancy Red/White Angels and Sergeant’s Consuming Aberration was a monster no one wanted to deal with.
Scourge of Fleets
by Wizards of the Coast

Commander is a chaos filled game of exciting plays for everyone – no one gets left out. If you have a bad couple of draws, you’re a non-threat and folks will ignore you as someone else has been doing well and needs to be dropped a peg. The game is a rush of peaks and valleys and everyone walks away with a pocket full of memorable plays. This is fantastically rewarding and a great excuse to sit down and get a long game of magic going.
I’ve seen players show up with a powerful Commander deck – in this case a fast and well-tuned Sliver Deck. The player was facing the other three players right from the start due to the immediate threat that he posed from the start that got worse through the game. He held off the other three players for half the game before he finally couldn’t keep the pace and someone else took the match with the Sliver player being the second place finisher. Even when everyone else was under powered – they each had a good time fighting a superior foe who went one about how he had fun holding everyone off for so long. No one gets left out of the fun and that’s why EDH can be so much fun.

Now because of the ups and downs, sore loosing players have a rough time with Commander – they take each hit with so much drama that when they get their boost the rest of the players already have issues with the player. When you walk into a Commander game you need to understand – it will be up and it will be down and they should even out until the end – don’t bit a shitty looser you’ll get your play.
One on One, Commander is less fun but can still be rewarding. If a player gets a fast advantage there is still the chance to come back but it’s less likely due to the lack of other players helping out.
Commander 2013 Deck - Mind Seize
by Wizards of the Coast
Right now I sport a Mono Blue deck with plenty of odds and sods to balance tricks and creatures. It’s a slow deck better in the mid game, with a low impact in the early game and lacking lots of late game punches. I also have a untouched Mind Seize (2013 Blue/Black/Red pre-built) deck for anyone who wants to join in a game and lacks a Commander deck of their own. I also have on the side a Blue/Black deck with plenty of dirty tricks and some milling options that rewards long term thinking to lock down opponents when picking targets for spells.
I’m building a mono White deck for Lady Bear which is sporting so many passive ‘each creature you control gets +1/+1’ that its can get dangerous through the whole game until someone drops a wipe card. My other Lady Bear project is a Black/White commander deck with lots of synergies – but it’s on the paper nowhere near getting done. I would like to build a Blue/Green Sea Monster deck but like the Black/White it’s only on paper.

I’ll have more on my favorite format but just remember that Commander is best played with lots of folks.