Group Hugs for All
One of the most common archetypes players will gravitate towards remains the famous Group Hug deck. Two prebuilt Commander decks with fitting legendary creatures have been built as a result. However, players so frequently fall into the many pitfalls of building the deck. These are often an inability to win, becoming too much of a threat quickly, and just helping your opponents more than yourself. Let’s go over some solutions to these problems and help you build your next group hug deck.
Inability to Win
One of the biggest problems that group hug players face is trying to spiral the game into chaos. You’ll commonly see players use cards like Helix Pinnacle or other big mana spells that require too much time or setup when the best answer is most often the simplest; jam a combo that you can either protect or recur. An example of this would be when I played Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis, I consistently packed Splinter Twin combo as I would have an abundance of tutors and card draw effects that allowed me to consistently find them for an early game win. Every piece of group hug should paint the deck as an ally to the table until that critical turn. Simple two-card combos are a consistent way to win, just make sure they fall in line with your tutors.The previous example of this would be Enlightened Tutor for Splinter Twin and Worldly Tutor for Pestermite. Ensure that you set a handful of slots to how you will win the game efficiently.
Becoming a Threat
Going off of the ability to win, is the perception of the other players at the table. To give off the aura of being an ally as opposed to the archenemy. This can be a difficult balance to strike. Ensuring your early game is full of table wide enablers is a key component. As well, your choice of Commander is key. For example, most players will immediately begin to target your enablers, your Commander and you in general if you show up to the table with Nekusar, the Mindrazer. Using Commanders that have a much more friendly face like the newly printed Xyris, the Writhing Storm or the classic Angus Mackenzie will go a long way to helping you as you offer your opponents something in return for not killing you.
Putting Yourself First
While the essence of group hug is to help everyone at the table, you’ll have to make sure every piece you can include are cards that benefit you first and foremost. Some great examples of this would be Dictate of Kruphix and Well of Ideas. Well of Ideas stands to draw you more cards than your opponents but will still make them happy while Dictate of Kruphix is a Howling Mine effect that can be flashed in on the turn before yours making sure that you get first dibs at extra cards. Even playing cards like Heartbeat of Spring can be powerful but you need to make sure that you can take advantage of it immediately. Small changes like these will have a large impact on your games.
Protection and Consistency
One of the last things you want to make sure that your deck consistently has is protection for any wincons that you choose to take on, and this can come in the form of counterspells like Dream Fracture as well as high-value recursion such as Seasons Past. Adding counters, recursion pieces, and ways to protect your combo will only serve to help you in the long run. It can also just prevent an opponent from taking too much advantage of everything you’ve given the table. As well, if your deck is running blue you should be auto including Nexus of Fate at this point if you’re a big mana group hug deck. It prevents decking while often just being an Explore with an extravagant upside with the plethora of Howling Mine effects you’ll have onboard.
Group hug decks may seem to many newcomers like an easy deck to build, but they’re a delicate balancing act. There are some cards that should be considered an auto-include (like Nexus of Fate) but they may not match the play pattern you desire. Whether you win with Splinter Twin or Palinchron plus Deadeye Navigator, just make sure you do it efficiently and you can consistently find it. All you have to do is avoid being the target for the first few turns of the game!