Today, I want to do something a little different. Sometimes, little nuggets of an article bounce around in head. I try to back-burner them and hope they boil into a full length article. At StarCityGames.com, my articles were usually around 2,200 words. GDC aims for articles closer to 1,000-1,500 words; however, some some ideas are too direct or short to turn into a 1,000 word piece.
Enter Quick Hits!
This is where I can put together several small bits and bobs that don’t need as many words. Today, I want to talk briefly about dice, taking back moves, rebuilding decks, and focusing on the lower end of the mana curve.
Don’t use dice during Commander games.
Seriously, use something else. Anything else. We have pens and paper, tablets, phones, and other counters (like the Flying Tricycle counters) to track life totals. The argument against dice is simple – dice get jostled. Whenever a table is bumped or thumped, there is a good chance of dice changing their face. (This is also why drinks shouldn’t be on the table during games.)
Pen and paper is the best method of tracking life. I can admit there are some apps that work very well, but using paper leaves a…uh…paper trail. (I’m sorry for the pun.) If you have at least two players tracking life on paper, you have two sources for dispute of small discrepancies. (Which is why tournaments use pen and paper.) This also makes tracking commander damage easy. Use the top, bottom, or side of the pad. Or between columns. Wherever – you have a piece of paper.
Two players focused on tracking everyone’s life total give you at least two players constantly focused on the game…and one of my biggest pet peeves in Commander is when players stop paying attention. I know it happens for a bunch of different reasons, but come on! Pay attention!
…I’m good. I’m calm. Missed triggers are the bane of patience. Having two players tracking everything allows the perfect response to someone missing their trigger:
Easy peasy. There were two players waiting for you to announce your Blood Artist targets. Get over it.
No Take Backs
I know…I know. I can hear it now:
“Commander is a casual format.”
“It isn’t a tournament.”
Believe me, I know all the arguments. I have made these arguments – and many, many more. Honestly, allowing players to take back mistakes is accepting poor play. It makes you a sloppy player and makes you worse at the game. Even if you don’t care if your group takes back small mistakes, you should hold yourself accountable for those mistakes.
Stopping yourself (and your pods) from taking back moves will suck. For about a month, it will be terrible. But then, everyone will start getting slightly better. Your group will start to get faster with sequencing plays, people who want to respond to effects will remain vigilant so they can interrupt another turn, and players will tap mana purposefully and not pull the “let me tap correctly” thing. Eventually, everyone is paying more attention to the game and less attention to their phones.
More focus means more Magic. More Magic is always a good thing.
Rebuild Your Deck
Last week, I talked about why you should play someone else’s deck. This tidbit is an offshoot of that – rebuild your deck.
We often get stale with our decks and let them sit for too long without adjustment. The other common issue here is that decks lose focus as each new set comes out – it’s the natural distraction that each new set provides. You want to play with new toys, so they make their way into the deck. A strategy of going wide and using global pump effects like Collective Blessing merges with a Voltron strategy as Plan B. Eventually, the deck becomes a hodge podge without focus.
When computers are too clunky and filled with chaff, you can wipe the system and reinstall what you need. EDH decks work basically the same; you can gut the deck and rebuild it with new focus. (Pro tip: write down the old list. You may want it for later use or if things go awry on the rebuild. )
Once you get torn down, you just build a sweet deck. Focus on something new, or old, or weird, or art based – who cares, it’s EDH (and you have the old list if you don’t like the change.) Easy Peasy. For something nifty, I recommend checking out Abe Sargent’s Next 100 series. Rather than starting with the “ideal” deck, take your build and use entirely new cards. (We can forgive lands.) You can turn Sydri, Galvanic Genius from an eggs-style combo deck into an ‘attack of the sacrificial artifacts’ deck.
Drop Your Curve
I love mana rocks. Love. My friends make jokes about how I need at least ten mana rocks, and prefer a minimum of twelve. Running lots of mana rocks consistently allows you to get ahead of your opponents. However, there is another path beyond increasing ramp potential – drop your curve like it’s the bass.
Sometimes you need to drop the curve, even with so many mana rocks. Getting some bigger plays out on turns three through five while others are casting Kodama’s Reach into Explosive Vegetation does more work against someone’s life total than you might expect. If you insist on the ramp spells and rocks, stick to one-and-two-mana cards. However, you will get better results when you trim some rocks and prune your curve. Seven-mana-and-higher spells are spectacular – they do some of the most amazing things in the game. However, the five-mana slot is filled with cards that hit far harder than people expect.
Here are a few:
A ‘mana curve’ is called that because we expect it to look like a bell curve. But what if the mana curve wasn’t nearly as bell shaped? If you drop your curve, you can up the density of your spells. A U/R deck can run pretty much every cantrip (like Ponder) and work well because the high-end spells can be cast and followed up with smaller spells to keep cards flowing. An ‘engine’ commander (one that feeds the strategy) works best in this style of deck, such as Jori En, Ruin Diver or Dromoka, the Eternal.
When you drop a mana curve, you are not just dropping a deck’s power level; you must run high impact cards if the other players are going to cast spells like Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite or Selvala’s Stampede. It’s EDH – you need to run powerful and efficient cards, and you can find them on the cheap mana-wise. If it is considered for tournament play, give the card a second look.
What do you think about these quick hits? Do you think dice or another non-paper method of tracking life is the best method? Do you rebuild decks when they lose focus? Where do you aim your mana curve? What do you think about taking back moves, mistakes, or mana tapping?
Hit me up in the comments and the Twitterverse.