Hey everyone! Sorry for the hiatus. I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays. I have been debating a lot of the future of this column and I’m writing a mini-article to bring the series up in the new year.
What’s changing, you ask? I will be making the articles more poll-driven, with multiple per article to help shape the deck, as well as including some caveats for the inclusion of some cards in certain playgroups. The goal is to have a deck built mostly by the community and I want to involve everyone as much as possible in the process!
How Competitive is Your Playgroup?
Today, I want to discuss the different ways to approach Commander from a playgroup perspective. A lot of people have different views on how Commander should be played (French rules, don’t be a dick, etc.), but it’s important to match your deck’s competitiveness with those of the people you play with. A lot of people play Commander as a more casual format for gunslinging fatties and generally just having a good, stress-free time. Other people are coming just to win. They are the kinds of guys that will play [card]Azusa, Lost but Seeking[/card] with [card]Crucible of Worlds[/card] and [card]Strip Mine[/card]. Some groups have a bunch of people playing Commander pre-cons straight out of the box. You need to find the sweet spot to maximize the enjoyment of everyone at the table, because in the end, you can’t play Commander with a bunch of people that don’t have fun.
Figuring out how competitive your playgroup is is the key to having fun playing Commander. There are a number of things you should consider when determining how people want to play the game. The most obvious is the choice of Commander. Some Commanders are generally just much more abusive than others and consequently lead to much more competitive decks. [card]Azusa, Lost but Seeking[/card], [card]Sharuum the Hegemon[/card], and [card]Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind[/card] are some of the more competitive Commanders.
Another thing to consider is what kind of spells they are playing. Are the blue decks loaded with counterspells? Is anyone playing Eldrazi? How synergistic are the spells that they are playing with their general? Is the Sharuum player playing a [card]Mindslaver[/card]?
The last thing I look for is how much mana denial and acceleration they are playing. Generally speaking, most players would rather play more acceleration and not much mana denial. Only the highest tier of competitive players will end up playing cards like [card]Armageddon[/card] or recurring [card]Wasteland[/card]s and [card]Strip Mine[/card]s, and then you should be ready to fight to keep your mana.
I generally rate decks on a scale of 1 to 5 to determine how I should approach playing with that group.
1. Precons: They may not be homemade, but the power level of most of the cards is pretty low and the decks are pretty fair. Due to the fact that the decklists are readily available and you may know most of the cards in them, I think they are the lowest power level on the totem pole.
2. Rough Home Brews: These are usually first-iteration decks that probably don’t have a mana curve and have a lot of pretty bad niche cards that haven’t been cut yet. Many cards may be acting as filler while more expensive and powerful cards are purchased.
3. More Refined Brews: These decks are usually third- or fourth-iteration decks that have fewer useless cards and better mana curves. Most of the power cards are included unless they are very niche. These decks are a bit more competitive.
4. Final Version: These decks are the last iteration of building and are when people usually start foiling them out. They’ve committed to the card choices and have the most powerful versions of all spells to win.
5. Ultra Competitive: These decks are piloted in tournaments and personally I think ruin all the fun of Commander. The only difference between Final Versions and Ultra Competitive is that Ultra Competitive decks include large amounts of mana denial. I am a supporter of players being able to cast spells and having an interactive game. Losing a game to a well-timed mana-denial spell is just the worst.
Matching your deck’s amount of “trying” is really important to get the most enjoyment out of playing Commander. Making sure you aren’t causing anyone to not have fun is imperative.