August 15, 2016

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Keeping Your Commander Brew Fresh!

Do your games feel a little stale? Same stuff happening over and over? Yet another tutor into your combo win? Let's look at a different approach to brewing a Commander deck.

In every 100 card commander deck, about 38-42 of those cards are lands. And if we brew according to typical deck brewing philosophy, we're probably going to throw in six artifacts that generate mana, seven cards that draw us more cards, four wraths, five counterspells, six ways to deal with artifacts and enchantments, three ramp spells, two spot removal cards, two tutors and a partridge in a pear tree! That's a lot of deck real estate already taken up by those staple categories. Plus Burnished Hart. Burnished Hart is in every deck. But I guess he's ramp though...

It's no wonder many decks feel a little stale sometimes. If you've only got a handful of "new" cards in each deck, it's going to lead to games that play out in a similar way most times. That's no fun! I was exaggerating earlier to make a point, but I'm going to use it as an example of why we might do well to think differently about building our Commander decks!

On my podcast, Commander's Brew, we brew two decks each week on a different theme. Here's a sneak preview of one of the decks we'll be talking about this week that I'll use to illustrate what I mean.

Rather than fill up the deck with the usual "staple" categories, I'm starting with different categories, unique to this deck's personality. For this deck, it's focused on lifegain. The first category seems pretty obvious to me.

Gaining life! That is, after all what this deck is all about!


Soul of Theros gains us life by the boatload! Get in there! Sunscorch Regent becomes a must-deal with thread while gaining us life the whole time. I like Spirit Loop because it is functionally lifelink without being called lifelink, so if I put it on a big creature with lifelink, I'll get that bonus twice. Just imagine I've Soul of Theros-ed my 9/8 Sunscorch Regent with a Spirit Loop on it. I'm gaining 18 from it alone! I'm liking this deck already!


Since I'll be gaining all this life, I'll want to put in some cards that take advantage of all this lifegain. Ageless Entity will get ginormous pretty quickly. Vizkopa Guildmage is a great way to punish my enemies while I gain all this life too! I love that his ability is stackable and can be doubled (or tripled) up!


Another category that comes to mind is cards that lest us spend life as a resource. I expect to have lots of it, so I should be able to spend it! Greed is a great way to spend life! I already feel pretty greedy with all this lifegain as it is! I'll also throw in Vesper Ghoul to help us smooth out our mana. 1 life? Not even a cost for us! Phyrexian Reclamation will ensure our creatures never stay dead for too long, again, at little cost to us!


Now we're going to need a few ways to close this game out. How about a Loxodon Warhammer? It does everything we want to do, and with creatures getting huge like Ageless Entity, it should be short work. How big do you think our average Minion of the Wastes will be? (Hint: friggin' huuuuge)

Looking at the decklist, there are only a few cards that aren't in this deck's primary categories of what it wants to do. That is to say, aren't suited to this deck's personality. End Hostilities, Regrowth and Unburial Rites. I could include Palace Siege because I will only ever choose Khans, but the text on the card mentions lifegain!

So, we've built this deck a little differently. Sure, we're going to get wrathed, we're never going to counter a game-winning spell and we might fold to a brutal enchantment we can't deal with. But guess what? That happens to every deck! Since every card is on point, this deck gets rolling very easily!

Instead of being the person worried about all these threats, wouldn't you rather be the one who knocks? (Breaking Bad? Seen it? You should. It's good.)