The Themed-Commander Deck Plan
Sparked by a discussion on our most recent Commander's Brew podcast, Sean, myself and our guest Jimmy Wong started listing all the cards we could think of that would populate a “partners” commander deck. While the discussion was sparked from a mention of the new Partner mechanic, we were specifically talking about cards that represent two creatures or ideas. Some great examples we came up with were Pia and Kiran Nalaar, Gisa and Geralf and Mina and Denn, Wildborn. Before long we were listing cards like Riku of Two Reflections, Wild Pair and Splinter Twin. We would eventually build the deck and play it on our monthly Twitch streamed “Brew n Brawl” and actually see the deck come to life.
This whole experience got me thinking about theme decks and their place in the larger Commander environment.
It is without a doubt very fun and even funny to brew and build themed Commander decks, but these decks don't always result in a fun game, especially if you're playing against friends or strangers who only have tuned-up “real” decks who are at least making an attempt at actual synergy containing real win conditions.
So what do we do as a format of fun-loving weirdos do? Allow me to suggest something which I think will actively improve the fun quotient of almost every Commander night you'll embark on for the rest of your days. That suggestion is this: everyone have at least one fun themed deck in your repertoire at all times. That's right, everyone. Every single one of you needs to think up some wacky, silly, interesting, and/or funny theme and make a commander deck based around it. Then, once in a while when the mood strikes people, everyone breaks out their jank-ridden theme decks and goes at it full-on. Added bonus if you really want to mess with this fun idea and add the Planechase cards as they can spice up and add to what might feel like a bunch of cards just smashed together in decks, without a ton of real game-related focus. (Luckily the time is now to grab your Planechase decks)
So if we all agree we'll make one themed commander deck, what types of themes should we consider? There are definitely a few but I'll quickly run through a few of my personal favs.
One of my favourite episodes of Commander's Brew is episode 13, where we made our decks based on the heroes and villains from Lord of the Rings. We had orcs, ents, elves, wizards, you name the characters, we had them. It fits a lot easier when your theme is also fantasy based, but you can definitely use Magic cards to represent any of your favourite movie characters or whatever you like. Magic the Gathering: The Avengers? Friday the 13th? (Tymaret, the Murder King as Jason Voorhees). A deck based around Wizards of the Coast's other notable IP Dungeons and Dragons? You can really get into the abilities of your cards here to represent characters from your favourite stories and it can actually end up being fairly powerful if you choose wisely.
Why look for outside stories to inspire your theme deck? Magic itself has a wealth of great lore and stories that are primed to be turned into commander decks! The crew of the Weatherlight, the Brothers' War right up to the invasion of the Eldrazi into Zendikar and Innistrad. Sometimes key cards may be tougher to find or a bit pricier mostly because Modern and Legacy players want them too, but you can easily make due without some of these in making a real great MTG lore-deck.
Jasmine Boreal, the leader of the “babes” deck. Kresh the Bloodbraided led the “hunks”.
Basing your entire deck on a specific art-based theme can be the most rewarding. Some ideas my co-host Sean and I have either already built or at least talked about include “Babes” vs “Hunks” decks, the sitting in chairs deck (Oloro, Ageless Ascetic and Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts), fun hat deck (Crawling Sensation), the reading books deck (Nicol Bolas) and finally a deck where everyone in it is a screaming (bald) guy (Oblivion Crown, Endless Scream, Disfigure). These are the decks that are most likely to make your friends laugh when you play cards from them, not only because the images will be funnier once their in the context of a silly deck, but also because Extirpate isn't exactly the best EDH card but it's a great screaming bald guy.
You can have a themed-deck around anything, as mentioned above, we made one built around the number 2. You could build one around food (Hot Soup!) holidays (Zedruu the Greathearted = Santa Claus), family members, your favourite metal band, actual MTG artists, even an all vanilla creatures deck for the blandest of the bland!
When it comes to themes, there is no wrong answer. Building a deck like this and playing against your friend's similar decks can be a refreshing and fun alternative, especially if your meta's power level is beginning to or has already grown to a place where it's cutthroat around the Commander table. Did I mention that these decks are incredibly cheap? This is an important part of the “everyone needs to have one” theory. Not only fun, but affordable too? What's not to like!?