Beating the “best deck” in the format is always tricky because the deck is obviously powerful, but in addition to that, they'll often have either a diverse form of attack like Pod, or is very consistent like Delver. With these decks, its a lot more complicated than just shoving in a few hate cards in the main, and drawing them all the time.
Going into Grand Prix Madrid, it was fairly clear that some form of Treasure Cruise Delver deck was being regarded as the best deck by a margin. So why not play something like this?
4 Kor Firewalker
Good luck losing to Delver with this.
Why wouldn't we play this David to the formats Goliath? The issue is that the second you run into a Siege Rhino, a Deceiver Exarch or basically anything with four toughness, your entire game plan is shot. Playing against these kind of decks is an inevitability because sometimes players just play the decks they're most comfortable with, or they've tuned tier one decks to be better suited for the bogyman of the format. Either way, these decks stand between you and a trophy.
So how do we beat the format's best while still being able to handle all the other Davids running around out there? The answer is to give yourself a good game, and I stress good as opposed to great, while running a strategy that can handle a diverse number of threats. I wanted something like this for my glorious return to Modern, and it brought me back to my old Boros Anti-Burn deck.
I made that deck mostly for giggles but wound up being impressed by how competitive it was, but it needed fixing to be able to 1) beat Delver, and 2) be more consistent. This eventually lead me to this.
Staring in today's episode of 'These should See More Play'
Compared to my old version, I removed the main deck Blood Moons, which allowed me to cut the Boros Signets. I also removed two Spark Troopers which made me sad. Finally, I swapped the Kor Firewalkers in to replace Sun Droplet. The changes allowed me to run stronger late game threats which allowed me to focus on a tougher late game with cards like Gideon Jura. This gave me more game against decks like Jund, or Junk.
Two maindeck Rest in Peace
That does stand out as a little greasy, but I think its actually perfect.
Rest in Peace hits hard against a lot of decks. Delver runs Treasure Cruise and Snapcaster Mage, Scapeshift and Twin play Dig Through Time, the green black decks play Tarmogoyf, and Pod, Living End, and Storm win with their graveyards.
The beauty of running just two in the main is that against a lot of those decks, you don't need it on turn two. Hurting Snapcaster, Tarmogoyf, or delve spells is still an effective use of a card in the later stages of the game which this deck often gets to. Only running two means its unlikely to effect your early game against decks where its a dead card, and the odds of drawing more than one are quite low. We then of course, run another two in the sideboard for when we really need them.
Scapeshift and Storm
These two decks are the two most pure combo decks in the format. Rest in Peace gives us game against Storm. I wouldn't call it a good matchup, but I've never actually lost to it, so its at least decent.
Scapeshift on the other hand is a nightmare, and that's partially because Scapeshift is an amazing deck. Blood Moons in the sideboard are our only real shot, but they always have Cryptic Command because they draw billions of cards. It is our worst matchup without a doubt. We have two options for remedying this
1) Don't get paired against it. Easy, right?
2) Add black for cards like Thoughtseize, and Slaughter Games. This would up our chances against Storm, and Twin as well.
Both of these ideas have flaws. One of them requires luck, and the other may cause the deck to sacrifice some consistency. As awful as it sounds, until further notice, I'm ok with shooting for option 1. The only reason I'm doing it is that, for some reason, Scapeshift just never seems to catch on as a popular deck. Seriously, the deck is insane.
Cruise through Cruise, or as it is called from here on out, The Arc-Slogger Special (seriously considering it for the best $.50 in Modern), is a deck that continues to surprise me with its abilities. My win percentage is incredibly high, nearly across the board. Looking at the list, part of me still doesn't see how that is possible, but playing the deck reminds me.
Until next time, keep it fair; keep it fun.
Forcing an archetype in a draft is very risky business.
During the top 8 of Pro Tour Honolulu 2009, Brian Kibler opened a pack of Shards of Alara that had a Mycoloth and an Oblivion Ring. No one is going to deny that Oblivion Ring is an excellent card, but Mycoloth was a big time bomb in that format. Kibler opted for the Oblivion Ring because he wanted to force the Esper archtype, and Kibler has won multiple pro tour's.
This pro tour wasn't one of them.
Was he right to do this? Its tough to say, but his quarterfinals loss casts a dark shadow on it. As I've stated in the past, results based oriented thinking sucks, but to look at this critically, we need to understand what forcing really entails. Lets say you love forcing Sultai and open a a pack with these:
I chose Sultai as an example because its the unusual khan in this set. Its graveyard plan requires more than just generic good cards, so its pivotal to commit early. Sultai Charm is a great way to start you off on that path.
On the other hand, Wingmate Roc is a hell of a card.
As a fan of thinking outside the box, I fully understand wanting to go down the path less traveled, but ultimately we have to understand that Wingmate Roc is just too good a card to pass up first pick. At a casual draft, if I wanted to force, I'd take the Charm in a heartbeat, but when something serious is on the line, you really have to consider respecting a bomb. Lets complicate matters and say this is your pack.
Seeker of the Way
Abzan Battle Priest
Foil End Hostilities
Now do you not only have that seductive Sultai Charm tempting you, but you've also opened a pack that no matter what you take, you are seriously signaling that you're not playing white. Granted, the player you're passing to is going to know that's what you're doing, or just think you're an idiot, but the why doesn't matter.
I've never been a fan of overestimating the importance of signals, but they are real, and by taking this Sultai Charm, you've opened that khan for you wide open for the second pack. You're now facing an opportunity to not just get the Sultai deck you want, but you will probably get a lot of good cards baring some extreme circumstance.
Does this make the force the right thing to do? I'm still on the side of no, but its a lot closer than the twelve Shatter pack. I wouldn't say forcing here is wrong, but if you're going to do it, you better be damn sure you know how to do it really well.
We'll move on to a far different situation. You, much like me, love a good Jeski deck, but your first few picks just don't take you in that direction at all, and going into the second pack, you have a fourteen card stack that looks like this:
2x Krumar Bond-Kin
Feat of Resistance
2x On-colour lands
You're now set up for a pretty solid Mardu deck. You've got the Charm, and some excellent black cards – unusable in Jeski, but you also have a few solid white cards – very usable in Jeski, then you open this bad boy.
So what do you do now? Splash it in your Mardu deck? Switch over to straight Jeski? Switch over to Jeski and splash for your Mardu Charm and Murderous Cut? They're all viable options, but there are some variables to consider.
1) What lands were you able to pick up? Were any of them Wind-Scarred Crags?
2) What sort of blue cards did you pass in pack one? If you started passing late and awesome blue cards, there's a good chance the player to your left will be taking all the cards coming towards you for the second pack.
If everything lines up well, I see no problem in switching if that is what you really want. As I said before, we should be bomb-focused in the first pack, and there's no reason not to be in the second pack either.
So wrap it up, some tips for forcing:
1) When you're getting to the tail end of the first pack, if there's nothing valuable for you, take cards that would be useful if you want to switch colours. It will help you build a base for your switch, and will discourage others from taking cards you might want in the second pack.
2) If you're passing good cards in the colour you original wanted to force, make sure you take note of what they are, and use that to determine if you think good cards are coming back.
3) Bombs > Personal preference. Sorry, but its true.
The Commander 2014 decks are finally here, and they pack quite a punch. The bang for you buck is pretty great given the cards in the decks, but I'm here to help provide some suggestions for how to make them even better.
For each deck, I'll provide ten cards, two high end cards, four mid range cards, and four budget cards. But first, I'll talk about some cards that could go in all decks.
This carries a heavier price than Sol Ring because it was only printed in limited quantities as a promos. In Commander, Sol Ring is a more powerful card as those coin flips can pile up quickly, but the fact that Mana Crypt is comparable to Commander's most powerful card says a lot about it.
Every colour but white has a tough time dealing with at least one kind of permanent, but Karn Liberated handles everything. On top of that, his +4 makes winning attrition wars easy, and if you ever can get his ultimate off with a good pile of permanents, you're going to have a tough time losing.
Karn deals with any one permanent at a time, but Oblivion Stone deals with all of them at once. The problem with it is that, even if you can get a couple fate counters on some of your cards, you'll lose some of your own cards.
Haste is great; shroud is great; paying zero is great.
Some decks struggle with card advantage, and even the ones that don't would love an extra few cards every turn cycle. Mind's Eye is a bit of a mana investment, but late in the game, the extra cards are insane.
Ok this is in the blue one already, but there are four other colours. Disk is similar to Oblivion Stone but has a few key differences. First off, you can't save any of your permanents; secondly, it comes into play tapped so no matter how much mana you have, you can't blow it up right away. The most interesting aspect of it to me is that it doesn't kill planeswalkers. Maybe that's good or maybe it's bad, but no matter how you spin the Disk, it is intriguing.
Blue gets all the fun, doesn't it? Here's another one that Teferi gets to play with right out of the gate, but there's no reason you can't too. Having lots of mana in a game of Commander is rarely a bad thing, and accelerating this fast can do big time work.
I'm going to keep focusing on mana accelerating because that's what artifacts are great at. Coalition Relic doesn't shine quite as brightly in a deck with only one colour, but its still a great addition.
Relic of Progenitus/Tormod's Crypt
Every Commander deck should have some graveyard removal. How you choose to do that should be based off how much you want your graveyard to stick around. Both of these cards are great, but they've each got their own place.
You'd be surprised how much life gain can get you in the long run. Sun Droplet helps keep your life total high enough that you'll be difficult to pick off in the late stages of the game.
Avacyn, Angel of Hope
Your opponents are only going to run so many cards that can exile creatures. If you've already exahusted a few of theirs, Avacyn could put a game away in no time at all.
The white deck comes with Gifts of Estate, but that doesn't come anywhere close to the power of Land Tax. You're only supposed to draw one card every turn, and Land Tax allows you to get four. 'Nuff said.
My favourite all-time angel may not shine as bright in Commander as she did in Standard, but there's still a lot going on here. The extra five life a turn is big, and having a card with protection from dragons in a format once called Elder Dragon Highlander, is begging to be played.
Be careful with this one. It is very powerful, and the best way to stop it is for everyone to attack you. If you can handle having a giant target on your forehead, then this card should help you win fast.
Board sweepers in a creature based deck are always questionable, but I'd rank Hallowed Burial at the top. A lot of creature recursion can happen in Commander, and this puts a stop to it.
If your opponent has to choose between attacking you and not being able to play spells in the same turn, or attacking someone else AND getting to play spells, its a pretty easy choice for them.
Turn your opponents Wrath of God into your own Plague Wind.
This card is great removal and a psychological experiment rolled into one. People will avoid attack you because you'll exile their creature, and suddenly, you're not getting attacked at all. This card can do so much more than Swords to Plowshares every could.
Sometimes its a dud; sometimes its a stud. It all depends on how much enchantment removal your opponents are packing. It only takes up one spot in your deck, and the potential reward is huge. I think its worth a spot.
On the one hand, it may not kill all your opponents creatures. On the other hand, it might.
Tezzeret, the Seeker
You may need to add a couple extra artifacts to make him worth while, but he can make mana, tutor multiple times, and make an army of creatures.
If you've played Modern with this card, you know how powerful it is, and in a format as slow as Commander, its arguably the best counter you can play.
Don't let the wait time scare you off. Commander games will go on long enough that you'll be able to fire this off, and drawing three extra cards for free on a turn gives you a ton of options.
This card makes players want to avoid putting certain creature in their deck which demonstrates its power. It may not act as a removal spell like other control effects do, but you get a ton more options.
Maybe no blue card puts a bigger target on you than the Sphinx, but its for a good reason. The card advantage the Sphinx provides makes it possible to stand up to multiple players.
Anything that takes a creature is great since it combines playing a thread and a removal spell in one. Treachery allows you to do that on top of not losing any mana.
Dig Through Time/Treasure Cruise
Yeah, they're good in this format too.
Nothing flashy. Just a nice simple tutor for your graveyard removal, mana development, or a board wipe.
Chamber of Manipulation
Here's an obscure one. I only remember it because it beat us all up when I was in the 8th grade, but it is strong in Commander too. You can stop a player from attacking you, or if you are getting attacked, steal someone elses creature to use as a blocker.
Reins of Power
Even though this card was printed in a Commander deck, it still seems to shock everyone. For four mana you get to steal all of someones creatures and use them however you please. Its even an instant so you can use it to prevent damage, or to get some surprise blockers.
You have to play around it, but it can make it impossible for your opponents to win.
Tutoring in a large deck with one-offs is an amazing effect. Being able to do it at instant speed for just one mana is some kind of amazing. You won't even notice the two life.
It may not cost one, and it isn't an instant, but this puts it right into your hand, and in the late stages of the game, you should have plenty of mana to cast what you searched for.
One of Magic's most powerful spells, and its only real drawback is that it costs triple black. Sounds like it isn't much of a downside in a mono black deck, especially if you want to bury your opponents in card advantage.
I'm not going to pretend its better than Necropotence, but nothing legal is, so being the second best is nothing to be ashamed of.
The original Sorin is a Commander Star. Obviously highlighted by his second ability that can actually do 30+ damage in a single blow, but his other skills aren't to be laughed at.
It may only get one player, but it gets them good. Its rare for no players in a game to have any cards, and Mind Twist will get rid of all of them.
Decree of Pain
It kills everything and it draws you enough cards that you may have to worry about drawing your entire deck. The fact that this card is in the low end price range doesn't even make sense.
Myojin of Night's Reach
Here's another one that has a confusingly low price tag. It nukes everyone's hand, and can even do it at instant speed. If everyone else is running on empty, you've got an indestructible creature until you want to use his ability.
I love split second spells, but Sudden Death stands out. It is creature removal that can get past indestructible, and don't ask me why, but no one ever plays around split second cards.
Wheel of Fortune
Your milage may vary with this card as it can be bad to give your opponent a new hand of seven, but no matter how you spin the wheel (yeah, I did it again), there's no doubt this card has power. On top of that, the red Commander precon loves getting stuff into the graveyard.
This will keep anyone from attacking, which normally makes it difficult for you to win, but thankfully you can easily sacrifice the Bridge when you want it gone, and bring it back when you need some protection.
All is Dust
Destroying everyone else's permanents seems like a great investment, even at seven mana.
Purphoros, God of the Forge
He pumps your creatures and gets in easy damage against your opponents. I mostly included him because he's so damn good with Pentavus.
Koth of the Hammer
Koth can provide mana ramp, or some aggression, both of which are great, but his game ending ultimate is what makes him really stand out.
Regarded as the worst Chandra, this chaotic overcosted nightmare can be an exciting Commander card. It picks off annoying creatures, or gets you more cards to play with on top of getting some artifacts into your graveyard. It's also worth noting that you can still discard an artifact to her +1 if you really need to
Bonfire of the Damned
Here's another card like Mind Twist. It only gets one person, but it can utterly destroy that player. It's a great way to level out the playing field.
Its hard for me to justify this card with any reason other than I love it, but just try the card. If I had to pick a Commander MVP in the six years I've been playing the format, I'd give it to Arc-Slogger.
Hammer of Purphoros
Having haste is great for making awesome sneak attacks and on top of that, the Hammer is an artifact. The fact that it makes tokens in the late game is gravy.
I won't pretend this is an exciting inclusion, but some cards have to do the gritty work. I threw it into my red deck a while ago because I had a foil one. I've never looked back.
How they didn't include this in the deck is anyone's guess. Making all your favourite permanents indestructible (other than your general), is a game breaking effect. You won't even notice paying nine mana for it.
There's no land in green better than Cradle. It might be a dud in the first couple turns, but you'll be doing things like activating Ezuri three times with it if the game goes on long enough.
Survival of the Fittest
Survival is the strongest piece of recurring card advantage in Magic history, and we get to have it in green. The versatility and power of this card will leave everyone else in the dust. Combine it with Genesis for absurd value.
Another great form of recurring card advantage in green. How that happened was anyone's guess, but green mages will take it. Few green cards help get you back in the game as efficiently as Sylvan Library.
The finisher of choice in Legacy for the elf ramp deck, so why not make it the finisher of choice in Commander?
Green Sun's Zennith
We've talked about how good tutors are, so I have to mention the tutor that puts what you grab right on to the battlefield. It only gets creatures but if you're going to complain about that, allow me to play the world's smallest violin for you.
Excellent for games that go long by which I mean every game of Commander ever.
The only reason I can think of for why they didn't put this in the green deck is because it is so game breaking when cast for anything ten or more.
Kamahl, Fist of Krosa