Yeah I posted this on Tumblr, but I want this to be searchable.
Ho nelly has this been a project! My desire to make a robust Jund deck for 1v1 commander, and to keep my individual articles about it reasonably sized has resulted in this beefy deck building process, but I hope it’s been interesting and useful to follow along. Now we just need to resolve one of the fundamental problems in my 1v1 Commander deck…
Step 5: That Whole Commander Thing
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the commander is literally not core to the way this deck works. There’s no commander in Jund who enters the battlefield and reanimates anything; there’s no commander who dumps a chunk of your library in your graveyard; there’s no commander who fits our theme. Which means our commander wants to be a card that we always want to draw and have a purpose.
Last week, we went through the process of dissecting an archetype like Jund, and then went to work on the 8×8 theory. We decided what our 8 piles would be, and this week, I’m going to go over those 8 piles, what’s in them, and the commander who will be in charge of them!
Step 4: Building Piles
Now, this series is already 3,000 words (whoof!) so I’m not going to go through every single possible permutation. I’m also going to talk about the choices I make based on budget, and throw in examples that I’d use if I had a lot more money to blow on this.
Pile 1: The Combo Kill
This is the combo kill that excites me; anger plus an outsized creature big enough to trample over and win out of nowhere. All you need to do to make this happen is fill your graveyard enough, which will be enabled by our dredge package.
One thing I like about this is that some of the cards in it don’t really need to be involved in the combo to be good. Kessig Cagebreakers is a perfectly legitimate threat with only one creature in the bin – that’s when it serves as a 5/6 for 5. Jarad is even better, since he can jump out of the bin on his own, and I don’t need the Anger/Brawn in the bin to make him scary. If he does have backup from either of those, though, he is an absolute game ender, and he can also circumvent combat entirely in the late game.
Pile 2: Dredge Package
I tried to limit the dredgers to cards that are worth casting in and of themselves. The creature that’s most on the edge is the Grave-Shell Scarab, because it doesn’t dredge for a lot, and its value as a creature is mostly that it can bounce back to your hand very cheaply – or you can cycle it away for a mana. This also ties into our resilience plan: Golgari Grave Troll is a pretty beefy threat and with the Brawn and Anger in the bin, it’s beefy with trample and haste. Shambling Shell is a nice vicious hitter that can jump into the yard and enable dredge if that’s what you need.
Overall, these cards are just here. You could justify using Life From The Loam with cycling lands later on, but that tends towards pulling the deck towards control, or utility lands, which is slow and spends a lot of time on cycling and dredging – while this deck wants to dredge in big chunks or just use the cards as aggressive threats.
Also, don’t sell short the value of Golgari Thug: If it gets milled into your yard, you can dredge it, let it die, then use that to retrieve a card like Eternal Witness or similar.
Pile 3: Value Creatures
Not all of these are perfect and some of them are kinda pet cards. Particularly, I will always try and find excuses to play with Nezumi Shortfang, who when you really boil it down is at best a combination of The Rack and Hill Giant? Rakdos Guildmage on the other hand is really flexible and explosive in the late game, can fuel discard and removal, and threatens to trade up with lots of things it can fight. Nath is just a big disruptive creature, and much like Bloodbraid Elf or Sprouting Thrinax get you extra cards.
Siege-Gang Commander is just big – and better if you can bring it back. Also, the commander on its own can cast Dread Return from the graveyard.
There are some maybes for this slot; I played with some level-up creatures here, and they weren’t particularly amazing and the Putrid Leech is kind of not as exciting as it could be?
Pile 4: Board Advancement
Mostly these are cards that I play to keep the board advancing. None of them are amazing per se, but I would rather make a threat and get a land in hand or on the board than just go get a land like with Rampant Growth or Sakura-Tribe Elder. The oddball in this pile is Moriok Replica: technically, it doesn’t advance your board. Still, it’s a useful draw spell and can help you last until the mid to late game by blocking something and cashing in for cards.
Pile 5: Creature Removal
This particular vein is so dense! The thing I was trying for with this stack was to get things that ideally were creatures in the bin, and crucially, to use cards I already own. Sarkahn is a great card for my tastes, since he does a passable impersonation of a Flametongue Kavu. If you have those, they probably want in here in place of the Brimstone Mage.
Pile 6: Other Stuff Removal
Another deep vein. I’m not sure how great any of these are; I’d almost want to replace cards like the Stomphowler and Replica but the corners where they’re useful are so useful, like when you’re using the Replica with Oversold Cemetary to repeateldy blow up artifacts; a Creeping Mold might make a good, searchable option, though to replace the Vithian Renegades that can pop Planeswalkers? Or maybe some good 4-mana flexible burn spell?
Pile 7: Recovery Package
The purpose of this package was to be cards that can carry the game on their own making them powerful top-decks, or ways to bounce back from particularly rough board wipes. There are some pet cards here, too – the House Guard’s job is to go and fetch up one of the deck’s four-drops (two in this package, Mold Shambler, Polukranos, Bane of the Living, Dread Return or Jarad – not a perfect every-problem toolkit, but a lot of powerful things for most situations). I’m not sure on this Garruk; Caller of Beasts in this deck looks like ‘draw 2-3 extra cards a turn,’ but Wildspeaker would advance mana plans and could help break board stalls.
I like the Dreadbridge Goliath as a post-wrath monster; it’s big and chubby and if it dies it makes the next threat a lot scarier – even a Merfolk Branchwalker looks pretty scary as a 7/6.
Dark deal is the oddball in here too: It’s there because I wanted to be able to do a big dredge out of a hand that’s otherwise dead. It might be a mistake compared to other options (that I can’t afford) like Wheel of Fortune.
Pile 8: Redundancy Package
Now here’s the effects that are here to replicate other packages’ effects or enable the way they work. Catharic Reunion, Neonate, Reforge and Runehorn are all here to do a big dredge or restock you if you’re behind. Ever After can retrieve a Yavimaya Granger and something else, knowing that the card can be shuffled up from the bottom.
That’s our deck core. Next steps? Picking the commander, building the deck, and playing some games!
Alright, last time we talked about a purpose for a Commander 1v1 deck. Now we’re going to look at a deck like it, to look at a game plan, and then look at a useful theory for generating a first draft of a deck.
MTGO recently – like, around August – decided to decouple themselves from the EDH Council for online play, based on players primarily focusing on 1v1 commander on MTGO. I’ve not been very interested in Standard right now – not sure why, I think it’s the loss of Eldritch Moon and the failure of Ixalan to excite me for constructed – so instead I’ve been playing Commander 1v1.
The two things about Commander 1v1 that appeal to me the most are that it’s a high-variance format, and its card pool is well, kinda-vintage. It’s wide enough that I can play with some old favourites that had already left Standard by the time I saw them, but the investment to get involved isn’t like getting into canlander, legacy or vintage. Continue reading
Back when Planar Chaos came out I mostly said at the time that it was a fine opportunity for Wizards of the Coast to address its failings, and start setting a new hard precedent in what the game should be, citing the examples of Damnation and Prodigal Pyromancer as signs of what the game’s colours should feature. This perspective, broadly speaking is wrong because Planar Chaos wasn’t meant to be that. I was the one in the wrong, with my sensible-seeming but incorrect assumption.
As it turns out, I was not alone
With the arrival of Ixalan comes new flavour, new themes, new mechanical things and with that comes new discussions of how Wizards shouldn’t be doing the things they’re doing, because we’re much better at it than they are. Perhaps.
One topic that’s been brought up is why are the pirates blue? Now, this is one of your classic types of arguments: An argument that doesn’t mean anything, resolves itself, but is still fun to engage with. Far be it from me to complain about fun!
Pirates have been blue in Magic’s history for a while, following an annoying pattern of ‘well we put it in blue and now it’d be just rude to not keep it there’ that defined Magic’s past. They first appeared in Mercadian Masques, a set whose whole theme was ‘uh, sorry,’ and yet despite that still had two cards in it broken enough to get banned in block constructed, because of course.
Now, back in Mercadian Masques I really disliked the pirates as presented – but there’s a lot of stuff in Mercadian Masques that’s a problem (rebels in white? c’mon). I remember reflecting on how Pirates didn’t belong in blue at the time, and, at the time, I was right. The opinion has refined a little though. Pirates don’t belong in just blue.
Still, we’re talking about now, so what are some things about pirates that do fit, wholly and squarely in blue?
One of the defining actions of the pirate in fiction is taking things that aren’t yours. It’s sort of what defines a pirate. Things like navigating into the ocean, focusing on the self, indulging in strong liquor and being willing to fight over needless nonsense, if it lacks for theft isn’t actually being a pirate – you’re just Jimmy Buffett.
Blue steals! Blue is the colour that steals the most! In fact, blue is the colour that gets the most efficient forms of long-term theft! It’s an area it overlaps with black and red, too, so, yes. Pirates steal.
Change Of Identity
There’s this old rhyme used by outlaws in America.
Oh what was your name in the states?
Was it Johnson or Jenkins or Bates?
Did you kill your wife?
Or flee for your life?
Oh what was your name in the states?
Grim, but it showed a part of the American outlaw life that was by no means unique. Without any kind of central government to control identifying information, outlaws in the wild west would change their names and in so doing, shed entire histories, letting them choose who they wanted to be. Usually, they chose poorly.
This is true for sailors and pirates, too. It wasn’t an uncommon thing for pirates to change their name, head to the docks, and head for nowhere. There’s a simplicity to a life on the sea. Once you’re out, you’re out, and there really isn’t anything else you have to worry about but what’s on the ship. It meant that whoever you were or whatever you had to say, it wasn’t like anyone was going to google it.
Now you can make a case for these sorts of things not being a result of personal choices – after all, many criminals commited crimes of desperation then fled because they knew the society they were in wouldn’t handle it fairly or reasonably. The blue mage could then argue that choices in the face of circumstance are still choices and then you’re in the larger argument about the colour pie, period.
For all that pirates have reputations as being combative and taking what they want, it’s worth remembering that most of them had fast ships rather than warships – they wanted to catch up to people and take their stuff, but they also wanted to get the heck out when they were at risk of taking on more than they could handle.
Conventionally we see speed as a red thing, or a green thing – Flash creatures leaping in as predators, or red’s hasted beasts. Blue doesn’t get speed in that way. But blue does get the thing speed is used for: Evasion.
Information As Currency
What’s the conventional thing Pirates are All About? What’s the thing most pirates go out of their way to find? What is usually the object that instigates entire piratical stories?
The nature of the pirate as someone driven by information should stand larger than it does, perhaps because the typical pirate movies we’ve seen have been well, thoughtless silliness and nobody reads books any more, apparently. In none of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies is much made of knowing things, or of discovering things as much as the treasure-map stage of things is replaced with a sort of ricochet-from-point-to-point approach.
None of this is to say that people who dislike blue pirates are wrong (though they are, sorta). It’s more that I thought about it for a little bit and realised how neat it was that many pirate things are Very Blue.
Hey, WOTC employees! As much as I want you to read my stuff, in the hopes you wind up hiring me to write for your sites like the Mothership and whatnot I have to ask you to not read this one because I’m talking about amateur designs and new mechanics. After the fold, we’re going to discuss The Empty Space For A Blue-Black Combat Keyword.