Defending the Commander Social Contract

Category: StarCityGames

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,

Memorial Day At GDC – A Short Post On Things Past And Things To Come

Hello, fellow readers-

I hope the day finds you all well.  For those of us in the US, this long weekend brings us Memorial Day today; as a result, I’ll be heading out shortly to spend the day with family, so the update for today will be a light one.

That isn’t to say that we don’t have some details to look at, though.  I try never to show up empty-handed, after all. 


Most of you know that I’ve been helping fill in for ‘Dear Azami’ for Sean McKeown over on while he gets out to handle some of his many other responsibilities.  As you may have seen on his article today, I’ve been offered a permanent home as co-author of “Dear Azami’ moving forward.  As a result, Sean and I will split the schedule on an alternating week schedule.  Pretty exciting stuff!  

I don’t plan on changing the schedule over here one bit, however; GDC is my baby, and we’re speeding up, not slowing down.  As a result, I plan on sleeping less in order cover the increased load.  Seems like a great plan, right?  I know half the joy of my articles is trying to decipher what the hell is actually being said through the early-morning caffiene-deprived haze anyway, so…get ready for more of that.

Alternately, feel free to send donations in the form of Dunkin Donuts French Vanilla coffee.  If I could figure out how to breathe that stuff, I totally would. 


I’m also moving ahead with the ‘guest writer’ plan too, which was kicked off last week with Imshan from fame chipping in for the Intet piece.  So far, the response has been really strong from his article, which should come as no surprise to anyone who has read his article series “Generally Speaking” over on the ‘Cast.  I want to thank him again for dropping in, and hopefuly he’ll be stopping back over for a visit now and then.

I’m finishing up securing a few other writers at the moment, and we’ll be premiering another article later on this week from one of them, so please stay tuned.  I’m pretty stoked on the added content -It’s all quality, it’s all pretty different in a “world view” sense from where I come from, and I can catch a nap every now and then as well.  Kind of a win/win/win…


You’ve probably also noticed that I’ve got both a Twitter and Facebook account up for GDC now.  Anyone who knows me knows that I’m pretty much anti-social media because I don’t want anyone from my past to find me to get sucked in to all of that crazy business.  Well, my brother (who is part of the team working on the site redesign and also did my curret header art) talked me into it, so here they are:

Check out my Twitter feed here

Check out my Facebook page here

And yeah…I’m still figuring out what to do with both, so hang in there as content develops.  (Shoot me an e-mail with any ideas on how to make these new-fangled contraptions better as well…I’m all ears.)


Okay, okay.  I’m already rebuilding the stable a bit already, so soon on the heels of the reset I detailed a few weeks back.  I stopped and looked at my current four decks, and came to the realization that for someone who preaches the joys of old obscure generals, I was woefully under-representing.  

Enter one of my old flings from back in the day:

I also realized in re-examining things that I managed to completely wipe out my dedicated aggro offerings when I took apart my other decks, and since I’m really into the idea of attacking in this format, I wanted to get back in the game with a decent R/G aggro deck.

With that, the Livonya Aggro Project begins. 

Right now, I need some help on an initial direction, so I need e-mails from you.  Hit me up here, and tell me which one of the following directions is the correct way to go:

1. Equipment
2. Voltron-Style
3. Giant Beaters
4. Tokens
5. That Other Angle I Missed

Feel free to mix and match or dive into details on your suggestions, but I need to know where to start with this thing first and foremost, and so far I’ve only got the generalherself sitting in a light-grey sleeve.  Help a brother out.

With that, I’m off.  We’ll see you all very soon.



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