Hello everyone. I’m Kyle Carson, or Cowboy Kyle at events, and this is my first EDH piece. By day I’m a lover of metadata and dedicated family man. By night, well I’m exactly the same. I play commander generally once a week at my LGS on the Space Coast of Florida, but think about the game more than I would like to admit. I recently attended Gen Con 2016 and had an absolute blast. After bumping into a lot of the GDC crew at Gen Con, this guest article happened.
Most people who attend Gen Con play a large diversity of games, try demos, cosplay, and compete in events. That’s not me. I come with my cowboy hat on and I play commander. I do this for four days from 9AM-Midnight, only getting up to eat and drink if/when I remember. Some days I even forget to go in the vendor hall. I play with anyone who I can find, or find my cowboy hat as is often the case, and enjoy the diversity of the format. This year I brought eight decks. One, Maelstrom Wanderer dragons, I built for and gave to my brother who plays once or twice a year. The other seven I rotated daily, carrying 3-4 each day. I had a ton of fun, but left the weekend with a problem. Only two of my seven felt commander enough.
What Is “Commander” Enough?
Commander is often called battlecruiser Magic–A format where you can play big, splashy cards, create crazy board states, and have ridiculous amounts of synergy throughout your deck. You can also explore crazy areas of deck building; see KaKa’s Philosophical Commander series or JamesD’s No-Black Dimir. Decks should be able do epic things or feel epically silly. I’m looking at you S tribal.
Only two of my seven felt that way. Lorthos went big and controlling like he is supposed to do. Sedris, with my Lich King alter, got to do his cheat mode shenanigans. These two felt great. I always felt like I was in the game, made big plays, and even occasionally won.
The rest felt some combination of flat, uninteresting, and completely out of the game. My Jori En, Ruin Diver list is supposed to be a blue moon/mill style deck, but almost never had anything relevant on the board and regularly got run over. Glissa, the Traitor recurred less than five artifacts all weekend and felt like it was just missing something. Sek’Kuar, Deathkeeper is filled with synergy like a Jund cockroach deck should be, but took so long to get his feat set that he was always 1-3 turns behind. Dragonlord Ojutai didn’t even make it out of the hotel room. One game on Wednesday night with my roommates and the deck just did nothing. I couldn’t justify carrying it around all day.
The biggest disappointment was my Oros deck. The deck plays efficient threats, a lot of removal, and is often incredibly resilient to whatever my opponents are doing. This year Oros just didn’t feel epic enough. It was still gaining life. It was still attacking. There were even small flashes of brilliance. Thanks Gisela. But the deck just didn’t feel good. My creatures, Gisela aside, weren’t powerful enough to tangle with opponents. My removal and recursion didn’t line up right.
Am I Just Bummed I Lost So Often?
To be honest, that’s entirely possible. My old LGS in the western burbs of Chicago had a solid group, but my decks were something to be reckoned with there. This weekend I won five games that I’ll count, out of about 30 to 40 games. Four with Lorthos and one with Sedris. Erik Tiernan paid me the compliment that my decks were some of the better he saw. Austin, a Gen Con attendee, said they were strong and often forced some form of allied effort to take down. But I’m not used to a win rate below 40%-50%.
Are You Saying My Deck Isn’t Commander Enough?
No. I’m not saying that your deck needs to come apart. I’m not saying you need to stuff your deck full of commander staples like Tooth and Nail, Bribery, Rise of the Dark Realms, Insurrection, and some big white card. What I am saying is that I wasn’t having fun. This site is about defending the Social Contract so that everyone walks away happy with the game, win or not. I regularly ask what kind of games people are here for, but I try to go one step further. I like to ask if my deck was fun to play against. Did I go too far? This is especially true in Lorthos, who can lock up a game if left to his own devices.
This weekend I only had to ask that question three times… Instead I kept asking myself if I went far enough.
So What Next?
First thing is I’m shelving the five for a week or more. Beyond that I’m honestly not sure. I’ve started a running list on my phone of decks I have and those I would like to build. My Magic time is limited and relatively precious to me. I want to feel like I’m a real player in every game, and, If I’m being honest, I want to be at least close to winning. I also don’t like to have more than six decks. I just don’t have time to play them, and tweaking and tuning is a lot of fun for me.
Maybe it’s time for a massive rebuild. I hear that’s a popular choice here on GDC. Maybe I just sit on them and start trying them again at my LGS to tune the problems out or grow the sample size. Right now, I can say I want to build, but it’ll be days or weeks before I can do any real deck building.
So I don’t have a lot more to say about that question – did I go far enough – yet… But I have been thinking about two other questions to help me figure it out:
- Is what I’m trying to do worth talking about later? I play EDH because of the stories.
- Does “this card” make me smile? Would I enjoy seeing it across the table from me? Those are my goals.
I’d love to hear what you think here or you can find me on Twitter @KyleCCarson.
P.S. Wasn’t There An Eighth Deck?
My brother’s Maelstrom Wanderer deck was definitely ”Commander” enough. The deck is devoid of combos and contains simply ramp, dragons, and Warstorm Surge. He ramped, smashed face, and always felt like he was in the game. He did comment that while it was fun, it felt a bit cheesy.