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Jim Casale – Long-Term Plans

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In this corner, the greenest merfolk to ever walk into an arena, weighing in at 2UUGG, standing a measly 1/1 before coming in to play, Prime Speaker Zegana! And in the challenger’s corner, the weirdest wizard you’ve ever met, weighing in at a whopping 4UR, and standing an impressive 2/4, Melek, Izzet Paragon! Ready? Fight!

If EDH battles were like boxing matches, that’s how I figure my decks would be introduced. But now I’m on a mission to broaden my horizons as well as yours. To meet this goal I’d like to introduce you to a new article series, Long-Term Plans. In this series, I’ll detail the never-ending project that is creating an EDH deck and eventually come to two different decks for different levels of financial investment: budget and big spender. Budget players’ decks will include – you guessed it – budget versions of other cards that can be purchased at your game store to get playing. The goal of the big spender is to create the most extravagant yet effective deck possible. There are no monetary considerations when building this kinds of deck and it will be assumed everyone that wants to play it can afford to buy whatever it needs.

To start off the project, I will first run a poll to determine which and how many colors the Commanders will be. I have to advise everyone that the website http://magiccards.info/ is pretty crucial to everything I’m doing here and recommend everyone to get familiar with the advanced search functions because they are far more intuitive and accurate than even those on Gatherer.

Making a Commander deck is an art, some might say. Playing it is like enjoying a fine wine and some smelly cheese but it also requires a lot of thought and preparation to truly enjoy. I have a few steps that I take when building a deck to make sure I come out with a good prototype to iterate upon. The best (or possibly worst) thing about decks in eternal formats like Commander is that they are never truly complete. But starting from scratch, there are a few key steps of which we need to be mindful:

  1. Choose the Commander’s color(s): This should be pretty self explanatory. As a Commander’s color identity is the most important thing to consider when building a deck, we need to strongly consider its color(s).
  2. Choose a Commander: Yep, choosing the Commander is less important than the color(s). There are a lot of Commanders and narrowing down the color identity before choosing the creature makes the process less overwhelming.
  3. Create a manabase: This includes non-land cards such as Signets that you will use to generate mana. Nothing is worse than playing a game of Magic and getting mana screwed. We also want to play all these sweet 7+CMC spells so making the manabase first gives us a good idea of what we can and can’t cast.
  4. Choose core cards: These usually work with the Commander toward a common goal. The set of support cards you use changes the most out of any cards in the deck but also have the largest impact on gameplay.
  5. Choose your staple “good cards”: These cards are catch-alls that are included because of their color, utility, or just general power level. Sometimes there are good reasons to exclude them but most people want to play with as many of them in their colors as possible.
  6. Play a game and revise: Commander does not have a clear-cut deck-building process. There are lots of tweaks and changes that are made throughout a deck’s life that require you to constantly iterate to get the best results.
  7. Make another deck!: Most people, once they start Commander, don’t just stop at one deck. As much fun as a deck can be, it can get boring or monotonous when your deck is so finely tuned that it always does the same thing every game. Having another deck or two to work on keeps the creative juices flowing and keeps the game enjoyable for you and your opponents.

I am going to try to address one of these bullets in each article, which will hopefully be once per week. This means that our Journey to Nyx, or wherever our Commander is from, will take about six weeks and while doing this we will create two Commander decks! With that being said, let’s get started on the point of order on our agenda.

What color or colors should my Commander be? There are a lot of things to consider but there are some important things to keep in mind that are always true:

  1. As you increase the number of colors in your deck, your mana gets worse and the number of cards you want but can’t fit increases.
  2. There are no four-color Commanders at all (some house rules allow you to play nephilim but they’re pretty abysmal as Commanders so I wouldn’t bother).
  3. Colorless Commander decks have the opposite problem of many-color Commander decks: there are not very many cards that you can play.
  4. Some Commanders may be fun for you but are not very fun to play against.

Some very broad advantages to some color combinations exist but as a general rule, the most cost effective, fun to play with and against, and powerful EDH decks are one or two colors. The fact that Return to Ravnica is a Standard set that introduced a ton of juicy gold cards, as well as a few in neighboring Theros, means for a budget player, one- or two-color decks are an easy goal to hit.

Three-color decks come in two varieties, wedges and shards. If you’re unfamiliar with the terms, shards are a color and its two allies (i.e. the Esper shard is blue with its allied colors white and black), wedges are a color and its two enemies (i.e. the fan-named “Ceta” wedge is blue with its enemy colors red and green). If your goal is to play powerful gold cards then typically wedges are a bad choice. There are not as many cards of those colors and even fewer possible Commanders (remember we need a legendary creature that is all three colors). With the new Commander decks right around the corner, it’s also a lot easier to get access to shard-colored cards.

The final behemoths of Commander decks are the colorless and five-color decks. These both have huge problems with mana. The lands required to play the decks with any success are expensive, hard to find, and fold to non-basic-land hoser cards fairly frequently. That being said, I don’t recommend people suiting up Ruination or Back to Basics in their EDH decks because nothing is worse than not being able to cast spells. It’s arguably worse than having all of your spells countered (which everyone also loves, right?). These decks, however, wield massive amounts of power because they can freely play some of the most powerful cards in the game.

But enough of my babbling, what kind of deck should we make? Join me next week when I discuss our Commander card options.

How many colors should the Commander deck be?

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Jim Casale

Jim Casale

@Phrost_     -     Email     -     Articles
Jim is a software developer and an avid blue planeswalker. He spellslings in Jacksonville, Florida, and you can feel free to contact him on Twitter at @phrost_.
Jim Casale

About the author

Jim Casale

@Phrost_     -     Email     -     Articles
Jim is a software developer and an avid blue planeswalker. He spellslings in Jacksonville, Florida, and you can feel free to contact him on Twitter at @phrost_.

5 comments

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  1. Jason Alt

    Would not have guessed 3 colors would be doing so well. Every one of my EDH decks is 3 colors so I voted for 2, but clearly we are off to the races with a ton of feedback. Excellent!

    1. Jim Casale

      I’m blown away by the number of votes! I’m guessing people like their 3 color decks since the new EDH decks just got released are shards.

      1. Mark Carlson

        I like 3 color decks because they are far more versatile and able to handle situations in games more effectively than a 1 or 2 color deck. It opens up more lines of play and more options for the direction in which to build the deck.

  2. Jim Casale

    If anyone has specific commanders they’d like us to explore please leave them in the comments!

    1. Corbin

      Karador, because that’s mine and I’d like to see what you come up with!

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