Defending the Commander Social Contract

Category: Cass (Page 1 of 5)

Quick Hits – New Commander Stuff, The Definitive Banned List Solution, and Chaos Orb Does GenCon ’17!

Y’know, I was thinking…

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Desert Island Decklists #4 – Back To The Beach (The Commander 2017 Tribal Challenge)

We’re taking it way back today. Here’s the recommended homework first:

Desert Island Decklists – Shanghai-ed On The Magic Cruise…

Desert Island Decklists Revisited – Legends!

Desert Island Decklists Re-Revisited – Travis Woo, MTGFinance and a Barrel of Monkeys

Welcome back to the Island.  Grab a hammock and a Mai Tai.


When last you met your intrepid author, he was in the process of hiding from the MTGFinance community (over an Emmara Tandris buyout gone bad) and schooling a bunch of primates on the art of the Social Contract.  After trading a copy of Jace, the Mind Sculptor for a tiki hut full of Fallen Empires commons with the monkeys, I used guano from a nearby cave to glue them all together into a boat and set off into the ocean to find civilization.

…with predictable results. If anyone is interested in purchasing 50,000 waterlogged Thallids, give me a holler.

So we find ourselves washing up on a new deserted Pacific island. Since I’m about to run out of batteries on my iPhone, clearly the important thing to do is to check Twitter to see what’s going on.

Hey…a brand new WotC announcement that the Commander 2017 release this August is tribal-themed! Great!

As the screen goes blank and darkness closes in, I gather up a makeshift blanket of palm fronds and fall fast asleep, dreaming of my all-time favorite tribal cards

THE CREATURE– Radiant, Archangel

It’s no secret that I don’t particularly like tribal theme-decks. I’ve always felt that the ones I’ve come up with – and against – are either underpowered in the face of other dedicated strategy-first EDH decks, or else are goodstuff decks in sheep’s clothing. (Go ahead – explain to me again how Craterhoof Behemoth is in any way on theme in an elf deck?)

That said, the one theme deck that I have enjoyed the most and had the best luck with over the years is a mono-white Radiant, Archangel deck. It never broke down the walls of innovation, but it seemed to perform well and maintain a slightly-stronger power curve than most tribal offerings. It also ticked off the “old-school unobtanium” box – pulling down a foil Urza’s Legacy copy is still going to be a $30-$40 endeavor.

…Unfortunately, all those results were strictly realized only in Emperor games. The deck got absolutely hammered in regular FFA games, and was summarily disassembled three times over.

Still, as far as tribal generals go, Radiant is my first stop.  If I have to stop.

THE ENCHANTMENT – Shared Animosity

Oh, Hazezon Tamar. You used to be so awesome. You used to do so much work, confusing new players with your delayed sand warrior creation trigger and dropping a hilarious “Gotcha!” moment on people, exiling their entire team in response to removal with a well-timed Shields of Velis Vel.

Now, people just drop Purphoros, God of the Forge and ping the table to death instead. Yawn.

Anyway, here’s to the good old days, when playing Hazezon on turn seven meant attacking with him for lethal commander damage on turn eight.

THE ARTIFACT – Cryptic Gateway

Yeah, yeah. Coat of Arms is a thing. I get it. All you cheeky Sliver Queen players know the real deal is instant-speed uncounterable summoning.

Wait…that’s pretty low-hanging too.


Azami…Krenko, General Tazri

Oh good lord. Never mind. At least Coat of Arms requires you to actually attack. Forget I said anything here.

THE SORCERY – Wrath Of God

The original. Often imitated, never duplicated.

Why is it tribal? Well, it’s a great way to kill all the slivers, goblins and wizards the people playing Cryptic Gateway are crapping out onto the battlefield.

THE INSTANT – Tsabo’s Decree

Did I mention that I don’t particularly like tribal? This should make it pretty abundantly clear.

THE LAND – Springjack Pasture

The reason this land makes the list is all in the art. Most people are like, “Oh…a field of goats! Make a goat! It’s so friendly! Whee! Gain some life?”

Not many people stop to think about the story here.

And even fewer notice the bloody axe sticking out of the chopping block in the bottom right corner.  Now, that’s what I’m talking about.


Seriously…are there any that really care about tribal? I guess Elspeth and Ajani make tokens that are kinda tribal, but that’s so easy. Sarkhan can make dragons and then hit himself in the face with them…that’s pretty funny.

Who knows. Probably Chandra of some variety? Preferably, one of the ones that blows up (tribal) creatures.


Yeah…there’s a prevailing theme here. But I realize that I’m in the minority. How do you get down with tribal? What are your fave tribal cards of all time? Join Team Cass – what are your favorite anti-tribal cards of all time?

Hit up the comments below. Thanks very much for reading!


Flashback Friday : All Your Saproling Tokens Are Belong To Us

Editor’s Note: Erik’s choice this week. We’re taking it way back. Anyone else remember me referring to myself as “DJ”?

.     .     .     .     .     .

Thursday at GDC: Thraximundar Test Drive

Hello, loyal readers, and welcome to GDC.  Just as a quick FYI, I’m giving thought to moving the regular Wednesday update to Thursday in order to be able to better leverage reporting on my regular mid-week games.  (I *could* save the reports for Friday, but I’m old, and if I don’t type up results as soon as they happen, I’ll end up leaving out about 90% of what happened.  No bueno.)  What say you all?  Let me know in the comments if you absolutely can’t go without a regular Wednesday fix.

Anyway, the coffee has kicked in, so let’s do this!

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Flashback Friday… er SATURDAY: The Danger of Nice Things – Intet and the Problem of Good Stuff, Part 1

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published on May 21, 2012. We’re flashing back to some of our best from the past several years every Friday (Saturday this week…), because what’s old is new again. In honor of Cassidy re-buying into the format yesterday, with his sole deck being the quintessential Cassidy-UR-Judo experience, we thought it would be fun to go back to some of the earliest “anti-goodstuff” thoughts from Team GDC. 
I’m a bad person.
No, really.
I’ve been lying to you all this entire time.  You come here twice a week to hear me tell stories and complain about improper threat assessment.  (Okay, maybe you come in spite of that last one.)  I try to be honest with you and give you interesting, engaging, and funny things to read.  After all, I want you coming back every time I post something.
But I put on a show as well.  I like to talk about the things I don’t like about EDH.  I don’t like infect or mass-land destruction.  I talk about my dislike of Mind Twist effects, and I don’t play with the “general damage” rule.
I rail on “good stuff” builds.
The problem is that sometimes…just sometimes…I head up to my man-loft (dirt-floor basement, people.  The humidity kills my foils down there…), lock the door behind me, dim the lights, and start dreaming up new ways to accelerate into a turn five Tooth and Nail for Primeval Titan and Avenger of Zendikar.
Good people do bad things.  Sometimes they just can’t help it.
I admit that I’m frequently guilty of falling prey to “good stuff.”  Let’s face it…if you run green, it’s really hard not to slot Eternal Witness or Primeval Titan into your deck.  Consecrated Sphinx is too strong to pass up.  Have you seen what happens when you resolve Rite of Replication targeting it?  To be fair, it does suck to have someone immediately resolve Insurrection afterward…
…See?  It’s really easy to slide comfortably into the ‘goodstuff’ trap.  It’s like a nice warm bed on a cold winter morning – once you’re in it, it feels way too good, and it’s really hard to force yourself to get back out of it.
 When I build, I try really hard not to fall into the trap of auto-including cards like this just because they’re solid cards, but I do tend to pepper in a few here and there across my various deck lists.
But with Intet, I run them all.  And then some.  The deck is a powerhouse based on the sheer volume of game-altering card choices contained within it.
Yup.  Huge hypocrite.  Nice to meet you.  Guilty as charged.
Before you show up with pitchforks and torches at my front door, though, let’s look at the “how” and the “why.”
As I’ve said before, I was drawn to Intet not for the colors, but because of the ability.  I’m a sucker for all things free, so I couldn’t resist building around Intet’s “bring a friend” trigger.  As I spent more time in the format, however, I came to realize that this particular enemy color shard is defined just as much by what it can’t do as by what it can.  The single-most important thing that a deck loses if it has no access to both black and white is removal independent of damage.
This is actually huge.
Without the ability to run sweepers like Wrath of God and Decree of Pain, we lose the ability to reasonably answer a mass grouping of creatures.  Red can deal mass damage, but Protection from Red shuts off Disaster Radius; pro-white doesn’t touch Akroma’s Vengeance.  There are conditional targeted options such as Beast Within, but the only true sweepers (Oblivion Stone, Nevinyrral’s Disk) can be shut off due to required activations by various cards like Stifle and Null Rod.
(To be fair, I’m discounting the inclusions of cards like Obliterate and Decree of Annihilation.  Sure, they wipe creatures off the board, but at the expense of all lands as well.  This is a whole different ball of wax, but on a basic level, you’re still paying a minimum of twice what white does to take out an army.  As we’ll see below, eight to ten mana should – and can – just win the game instead.)
Additionally, there are options in red and green that deal with all artifacts (Creeping Corrosion, Pulverize), and ways for green to handle enchantments (Back To Nature), but white corners the market on doing both (Austere Command) in one package.  If you lack white, you’re running two cards to do the dirty work of one.  Good luck making sure you’ve got the correct one at the correct time.
There are some other things that go missing as well (such as raw tutor power from black), but the critical differences are large hurdles.  They force Intet to compensate, and usually the way to do that is by over-compensating in other areas.
As we looked at before, being in green, blue, and red make for availability of some intensely powerful card choices, making it really simple to achieve a deck that can simply out-gun white and black removal.  Let’s look at what we have access to:
-Green offers unbridled mana acceleration that can’t be touched by any other color.  This starts early with Sakura-Tribe Elder and starts to push into stronger options like Kodama’s Reach, before exploding into the top end with Primeval Titan.  R&D has also seen fit to toss us a few over-the-top bones like Tooth and Nail and Genesis Wave over the years.
-With blue, we also have a lock on the best card draw (Consecrated Sphinx, Rhystic Study, Fact or Fiction) as well as some of the better synergistic tutor options in the game.  (Trinket Mage, for example.)  Blue also offers up some equally-absurd high-end effects, such as Rite of Replication, Bribery, and Blatant Thievery.
-Red is a little more refined, but we get the best haste options (Urabrask, Anger), along with some borderline-broken synergistic enablers like Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Insurrection.  Good times.
But it’s the combination of these options that really pushes the deck over the top.  Tap out for Tooth and Nail for Avenger of Zendikar and Prime Time.  If you have In the Web of War, win on the spot.  If not?  You’ll want mana-up so you can Hinder the wrath effect that’s coming.  Fortunately, you can play Seedborn Muse and not have to worry there.  In a pinch, Insurrection probably breaks the game open for you alone.  If not, Kiki Jiki and Pestermite can do the same thing, or you can Crystal Shard your Eternal Witness to recur Time Stretch all day long.
It just keeps going and going, folks.  White and black look absolutely pedestrian in comparison.
When you combine an ability that promotes getting expensive things for free for the low price of three mana and a combat phase, you end up with a deck full of broken cards and broken strategies.  I’ve spoken recently about Generals that are designed with a very narrow “build around me” theme or strategy in mind; I won’t quite put Intet into this category because the ability doesn’t suggest a specific avenue to go down card-wise, but it sure suggests a certain subset of cards at least cost-wise.  (Let’s face it…you’re not trying to get a free Fires of Yavimaya…you’re trying to get a free Ulamog.)
It’s a slippery-slope strategy strapped to the back of a legendary dragon.  I don’t condone (or enjoy) falling this heavily into “good stuff” territory.  It’s not somewhere I ever want to end up when I build a deck, because it leads to very linear, un-fun games.
It’s not what I had in mind when I first set out to build an Intet deck.  I had good intentions.  I swear I did.
But you know what they say about good intentions, right?
.   .   .   .   .
Stay tuned for next-time, folks…there is a light at the end of the Intet tunnel.  We have a special guest coming onboard to look at part two for some solid alternative strategies and mechanics that can take us away from the “good stuff” trap – as well as much good stuff you can get away while still maintaining a fun play environment.
Also – For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, I took the reins for another installment of “Dear Azami” over at StarCityGames again today.  Please take the time to hop over and check out “Numot: Enter the Dragon”  I appreciate the continued support!
Thanks again,

MTGO Fundamentals #1 – ”I’m Not Here To Be Your Buddy”

Welcome to MTGO Fundamentals – a new series that I’ll be updating here and there as I document and navigate my new existence as a primarily-Online Commander player.

Long-time readers of are no-doubt really confused by that last statement. For you people – and to new readers who will not understand at first why this is a big deal – I’ll explain.

I promise.

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Flashback Friday: Market Research – The First (Probably More Than) Annual Questions Edition

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published on January 11, 2013. We’re flashing back to some of our best from the past several years every Friday, because what’s old is new again. Cass hasn’t been posting much, but we’re all getting hyped for GenCon (in approximately infinity months) so why not pose a bunch of questions to you, per Cass’s “Market RESEARCH”?

The response to the Blightsteel">Blightsteel Colossus question from Monday really threw me for a loop.  I was hoping for some feedback, and I certainly got that and then some.  That’s really fantastic.

It also got me thinking. I enjoy speaking my mind when it comes to EDH (and I have to assume that you all enjoy reading it to some degree), but I’m as guilty as the next guy of falling into the “ivory tower’ syndrome.  I have a pattern of beliefs, and I like to complain loudly when someone steps on my poor little toes.

So, then…the Blightsteel thing.  This is important.

The reason that I posted the questions stems from a conversation I was having with my co-conspirator here at GDC, Patrick.  I’ve been starting to dive in again to the “metagame-breaker” deck theory-crafting that drove my GenCon exploits last year.  I’ve got a two-part article in the works for that will get into very specific details about developing such a deck, what it should expect to face, and how it should be built and played to overcome the gauntlet of an ‘EDH-for-prizes” event.

Long story short, I was trying to figure out how to win with a deck designed to shut down the infinite combos that permeate environments like that without succumbing to the dark side and just playing them myself.  After all, that’s the point – break the broken metagame with a deck that stays true to the core of the “social agreement” at the heart of EDH.

The problem I had last year was that my Riku deck was designed to say, ‘No!”, but it didn’t know what to do from there.

That’s about when I stumbled onto the foil copy of Blightsteel Colossus I had in a box.

I managed pretty quickly to justify One-Shot Robot as a legit win-con.  It was a creature, and it still had to attack in order to defeat an opponent.  The specs of the card just meant that it probably only needed to attack once.  But really, how different is this from swinging with Kresh the Bloodbraided?  Or Moldgraf Monstrosity?  Or Mons’s Goblin Raiders one-hundred or so times in a row?

Patrick called me an ass (in so many words) for playing a card that I’ve professed to hate for so long.  He pointed out that this is essentially joining the dark side anyway.

So I posted the question to you, the dedicated readers of GDC.  In my (thick) head, I still thought I was going to get some justification for doing what I was planning on doing.

That clearly didn’t happen.  Most of you hate the damn thing as much as Patrick, and some of you think it’s worse than combo.  I learned something about you all in the process, and that’s that there’s a whole world out there that I need to learn a little bit more about.

That’s what I think I want to do today.


Below are a series of situations and questions.

What I hope each of you will do is to read through them, and find one (or two or all) that resonates with you somehow.  Head down to the ‘comments’ section, and answer the question.

While you’re there, see what others are saying.  If those thoughts resonate, comment there too.

Patrick and I will be doing our best over the next several days to drop in some replies and engage in some good, solid EDH conversation.  We may drop in some answers for ourselves as well…who knows.

Either way, you know who we are, and we want to see the world out there.  Show us who you are.

1.      Blightsteel Revisited

You know have the context that you didn’t have on Monday.  You’ve sleeved up your blue-base control deck and jumped a flight to Indianapolis, ready to lay waste to the field at the Thursday night EDH Constructed Championship Qualifier.  You’re planning on seeing Hermit Druid combo.  There’s going to be some Temple Bell-Mind Over Matter action.  Someone is going to use Palinchron to make a boatload of mana to hit you with a Stroke of Genius big enough to kill you.

You’re not concerned, because you have answers, but you do need one final, solid win-condition for the deck.  You find the Blightsteel Colossus in your binder.

Knowing that your main plan is to ‘take the high road’ against the combo decks you’ll face, do you play Blightsteel Colossus?

2.      When Is The Game Really Over?

This is an example from this past Wednesday that I’m trying to wrap my head around, if for reason other than I still feel conflicted about my feelings, and the other player is a regular reader and good friend.  I’d love to clear the air and see what the feeling is here.

You’re playing in the regular Wednesday shop game.  Buy-in is five dollars; you get a pack for participation automatically, and play for ‘points’ that determine a pick order at the end of the night.

The prize pool to pick from is an additional pack for every two people (so half of the field will get a second pack), as well as a selection of foil promos; the difference between coming in first for two packs or last for a pack and a promo card is pretty negligible.  It’s a really flat payout to promote fun games.

You’ve killed off another player and amassed five points, enough to guarantee that you’ll  get a second prize pack no matter what happens.  Suddenly, the player across the table cranks out a series of cards that will kill you on the spot.  You can’t save yourself.  He’s about to deal you exact damage, which will net him three points; one for eliminating a player, and two more for doing so with exact lethal damage.

You have a Goblin Bombardment and a creature in play.

Knowing that you’re getting a prize pack no matter what, do you sacrifice your creature to Goblin Bombardment to deal yourself one damage, preventing the player who is about to kill you from getting two extra points for the exact damage kill?

3.      Pick Your Poison

Rank the following cards from best to worst using any criteria you want:

4.      Duck, Duck, Duck…

You sit down at a table to play a game of EDH with four other players.  You’ve never met any of them before in your life, and you have no idea what the actual contents of any of the decks are.  The other four generals are Kaalia of the Vast, Zur the Enchanter, Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, and Omnath, Locus of Mana.

You’re the first person to find a creature.  Furthermore, no-one else has a creature in play when you untap on the following turn.  There are no blockers, and you move to your attack step.

Who do you attack? Why?

5.      A Simple Question

When I resolve a kicked Tooth and Nail, I put _____ and _____ into play.

6.      A Loaded Question

The game is winding down.  You have no cards in hand, and one left in your deck.  You untap and draw.  It is Banefire.  You can deal thirty damage with it before you lose the game.  Who do you target?

  1. The slow player who takes fifteen-minute turns every turn.
  2. The player who killed you off first in the last game for no good reason. 
  3. The rules lawyer who openly critiques your plays during the game.
  4. Yourself.

7.      Enough Is Enough

“Goddammit!  If I never see that ever again for as long as I play EDH, it’ll still be too soon!”

What was “that”?

8.   Judge, Jury, And Executioner

As a part of the promotion for the 2013 Commander Pre-Cons, you enter an arm-wrestling competition with Sheldon Menery at one of the release events.  You manage to beat him in a close best-of three match, and the prize is that you get to ‘protect’ any one card ever printed from being on the EDH Banned List.  It can never be banned for the rest of eternity, and if it’s already on the list, it immediately comes off and is legal for play.

Name that card.

Have a great weekend, everyone.


Happy Just Be with Your Family Day (and Give Thanks)

We have a lot to be thankful for at GDC.


To get in that spirit, here’s a list of some of the greatest hits from Pappa Cassidy, the cardfather of General Damage Control.

Thanks for bringing this motley umlaut of misfits together, Cass.

1. Post number 2 in the entire history of GDC is Cassidy plugging himself guest-posting in Sheldon Menery’s old Star City Games column, Embracing the Chaos. OMG This fills me with Lols. Go read some wisdom from “DJ Catchem.”

2. In which three bogies that have persisted for five years all rear their well-loved heads: Poor threat assessment, Cassidy being the victim of said, and “The Mr. P effect.” Serendipity

3. Oh Man these old bits are SO GOOD. Cass tells us which is his favorite card of each type, if he were marooned on a desert island. Weird premise, shockingly revealing selections.

4. The appearance of Mr. P, in the ink.

5. The Sharuum Community project holds a close place in my heart because participating as a reader is how I got to know and eventually join GDC. There are lots of parts. One Two Three Four Five Six Seven Eight

This is really just a dip of the toe in the water, and you can find more here (in reverse chono).

Sometimes, a walk down memory lane and a bit of gratitude is all we need.


@MdaveCS and the rest of team GDC

Magic, FaceTime, Coffee, and a Lonely Air Mattress: Trying To Keep It Together When Life Gets Flipped Upside-Down

Everyone loves a happy ending. Good guys win, bad guys lose, the hero gets the girl and rides off into the sunset, and so on and so forth.

This isn’t one of those stories – not yet, anyway. I’m currently stuck somewhere in the middle of act two – the “facing impossible odds and trying to figure out how to fight my way back” part.

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Reinventing The Commander 2015 “Seize Control” Pre-Con, Part 2: It Seemed So Innocent…

“Kill you, you, and you, do 28 damage to you?”

.    .    .    .    .

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Reinventing The Commander 2015 “Seize Control” Pre-Con, Part 1: Now With 100% More Sarcasm!

Just for the hell of it, I’m not going to complain about things this week.

Okay, that’s not totally true.  I’m absolutely going to still do that.  So…yeah.

Let’s try this again from the top.

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