Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to another installment of Long-Term Plans! Today, we’ll discuss the most important part of any Commander Deck: the mana! But before that, I have a few Commander-related finance calls that I’d like to share with you.
Commander 2013 was a set with only 51 new cards. Among them are True-Name Nemesis and Toxic Deluge, but there are some less obvious picks from this set. There are a number of cards, like Restore, that are in multiple decks despite being new cards, but there are cards that are especially powerful and only in one deck. My pick from black for the long term is Baleful Force. This card is a huge creature that comes stapled to an ability that is like a Phyrexian Arena stapled to Verdant Force. For each of your opponents that does not kill it, it gains you card advantage. I expect this to be a good long-term spec because it is the most powerful of the Commander “forces.” The only possible downside is the fact that Baleful Force is in the Grixis deck that is currently being popped left and right for the chase merfolk. A lot of this card’s supply will not end up on kitchen tables and it shouldn’t be terribly difficult to find compared to my other picks from Commander 2013.
Green has two very powerful cards that I think can see a lot of long-term increases in price. Primal Vigor is a sweet green enchantment that reads a lot like Doubling Season, which is still about $15, even after its reprinting. There is enough difference between the two that Primal Vigor will probably never reach the same value, but it’s currently one-third of the price for a lot of the same effect. The other long-term spec I think will be good is Bane of Progress. It’s a reasonably-costed Commander card that has a unique effect and I think could also be a Legacy player later. It’s a great reanimation target and can act like a giant wrecking ball through a lot of non-green Commander mana bases. I have added this guy to my Prime Speaker Zegana deck and I think he’s probably the best six-drop I have.
My last pick is for sealed product of Commander 2013. I think the decks that will be in most demand are the ones with the worst singles. People that buy sealed Commander decks want the whole deck because they will likely play most of it as is. Decks that seem to be selling poorly because speculators and Legacy players aren’t buying them are prime targets for long-term sealed specs. The Heavenly Inferno deck from the original Commander series has some of the worst singles from the five decks in the series but it is worth the most sealed. My theory is that people that cracked and sold the singles of the more popular decks ended up with a lot more of the important cards as singles and a lot of the decks did not end up with kitchen-table Magic players. Nobody opened Heavenly Inferno and that is partially the reason why Kaalia, of the Vast is so much more expensive than the other Commanders from the series, even though she is a pretty abysmal one. My pick of the Commander 2013 sealed product is the Naya deck because of its lack of good singles and its strong and unique Commanders.
Now on to the mana! Most Commander decks want a pretty substantial portion to be made up of land. Being able to cast your expensive spells often requires upwards of six mana in play. As a general rule of thumb, I try to play at least 45 lands in all of my decks to start because it’s so much worse to have a handful of uncastable spells than it is to draw too many lands. I have found the website http://manabasecrafter.com/ to be a great resource to use to start picking out lands for decks. This website includes a filter for your Commander so you can see which lands are legal to include.
Let’s start with Nekusar, the Mindrazer, because there are some important lessons to learn when you have every card at your disposal. It’s easy to think that if you can play any card you should always play non-basic lands over basic lands in three-color decks because they will almost always be superior. It’s important to note that there is a lot of opportunity cost to tapped lands and we should mitigate that as often as possible. That being said, we want to start first with a mana base that uses the maximum number of reasonable color fixers (no Shimmering Grottos, for example) and we will refine it later once we determine the breakdown of our spells.
For our Nekusar, the Mindrazer deck, we’ll be starting with these lands:
Nekusar, the Mind Razer
I know what you’re thinking! I’m aware we don’t really have any utility lands, but don’t worry about that for now. We will add those to the deck later, when we know what spells are in it. A lot of utility lands, like Academy Ruins, require a certain density of synergistic cards before we can consider putting them into a deck. Nothing is more embarrassing than playing an Academy Ruins in your deck when the only artifact you can put on top of your deck is a mana rock.
Now I know I said I really don’t like lands that come into play tapped, but the Ravnica bounce lands are one of the big exceptions to the rule. They help you reuse some lands like Bojuka Bog and Halimar Depths, which is very useful. Even better, drawing one of them is like drawing two lands, because although you must bounce a land to play them, since they make two mana you need fewer lands in play to cast all of your spells. The fact that they also make more than one color of mana is just icing on the cake.
For Nicol Bolas we need to get a little creative and break some of our rules to achieve a true budget goal. This is my suggestion for him.
We definitely need to add more basics to the deck to keep our chances of an uptapped land on our critical turn high, but also because there are not many non-basic lands that produce multicolored mana at common and uncommon. Although both of these mana bases are extremely rough, they each give us a basis on which to build our decks, and we can always tweak the lands as we move forward.
Commander decks are not something you just build in a night (well, some are but they end up not being very good) and with this first step we can start brainstorming spells to use in our deck. As an aside, if anyone has been paying attention to the price of weird Commander cards, I think a lot of new Nekusar, the Mindrazer players are causing a rise in the price of Forced Fruition.
Join me next time when we continue our pursuit of building two sweet Commander decks! Have thoughts? Let me know in the comments.
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