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Defending the Commander Social Contract

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Things I’d Rather Do Than Play Tribal Decks In EDH

Welcome to Wacky Action Week!  Please excuse the fact that this article is actually from last week, which was Tribal Week!  Please enjoy this masterpiece of EDH knowledge, and we’ll be back tomorrow with more action!


Things I’d Rather Do Than Play Tribal Decks In EDH

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Tribal Regrets

Welcome to Tribal Week!  Now that you’ve had a week to play with your new C17 Tribal toys, maybe you want to hear us complain about them!  Awesome!  See you later this week for more Tribal lamentation!

New decks are here!  Tribal theme!  Four decks!  Who’s excited?!

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The New Jace Goes Infinite with Doubling Season

…and now, we offer you a quick respite from Convention Recap Week for something snarky.  Tune in later this week for more Convention Recap action!

You may have seen that they spoiled a new pirate Jace. Here he is:

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Where Did You Go?

Hey, everyone!  Hope y’all are well.  Here’s the deal-

Pardon the minor hiatus.  Things are a little crazy for all involved this summer, so we’ve been on a break.

Next week is GenCon 50 – a good chunk of the GDC crew will be present, and we’ve got a house rented.  Stay tuned to the Twitters (Cass, Dave, Mr. P, Chris and Sean) and Facebook for updates and antics while we’re there.  And, of course, if *you’re* there, hit us up.  We’ll get in some games.

We’ll be returning to a regular schedule starting August 28th.  Mark your calendars and we’ll see you then.

->Cass

Pressuring The Table

Mono-red legendary creatures may have the most open designs in Commander. While red may appear to be linear, it has a ton of potential. There are classic aggressive decks that most players think about, but red also has control, combo, voltron, token, tribal, gimmicks, and even chaos decks. Honestly, red is definitely lacking in some departments – such as scaling creature removal (see the Lightning Bolt Problem) and drawing extra cards. But with artifact support, red has all the bases covered. Even better, red has a lot of natural synergy with artifacts for control, voltron, and combo potential.

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Dirt Beats Rocks

Mana. We all need it. We all want more of it. Sometimes, we get flooded and that’s annoying, but secretly we like it because when we finally do get some gas we can just FLOOR it.

The worst thing that can happen to your game is to be starved of mana. Not being able to cast your spells is possibly the worst feeling in the world.

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CC with ET – Lonely Sandbar

Welcome to Commander Comments,  where we pay homage to Aaron Forsythe’s Random Card of the Day.  Since I can’t talk about R&D, here’s the deal:  I click “random” on the Gatherer and talk about the potential uses in our beloved format. Time to move away from the staples and get some creative juices flowing. Ready?

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Approaches to Deckbuilding: New Player Edition

Welcome to my newest Approaches to Deck Building article. Today, I’m focusing more on players newer to Commander who are struggling with their deck building, or just want a few more tips to get going. Learning to play Commander is tricky, but when it comes down to it, learning to build a deck is even more difficult.

I’ve discussed the “My First EDH” approach here as a teaching tool, and how to get players into the format here. Today is about actually building a deck.

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Holidaze-Check Back Tomorrow

Do Memorial Day stuff. Reflect on sacrifice. Be with family. Thanks those who gave.

We’all get back with content tomorrow.

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.
NOT BAD MEANING BAD BUT BAD MEANING GOOD
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.”
IT’S NOT EASY BEING GREEN (AND RED AND BLUE)
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.
RAW POWER
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,
-DJ

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