I promised a deck-tuning article this week, but I’m pushing it back to next week. The deck in question is a Bosh, Iron Golem deck submitted by @Panahinuva. With the Community Cup Challenge, the release of the Commander precon decks, and various other Magic related stuff (the Toddler Magic decks, the Draft practice for Nationals, and actually playing Commander games, I haven’t been able to give the deck the justice it deserves. I’d rather do it right than do it halfwat. Right now all I’m certain of is that it will contain Moltensteel Dragon.
Next, About Those Commander Decks
As a purveyor of fine Commander decklists, I guess I should say something about these new precons. I’ve had the pleasure of testing these on the Magic Online Beta. I can’t say anything about the Beta process itself (on pain of not being able to Beta in the future), but I think I can talk a little about my impression of the decklists, now they have been released into the wild.
First, I think Wizards got a number of things right. They targeted social multiplayer play, they tempered the power level, and they created some interesting and unique cards.
The Vows are very nicely designed. Usually, outside of a [card Zur the Enchanter]Zur[/card] deck, I’d scoff at playing just about any aura, but the cycle of Vows work on multiple levels. The obvious two – I can’t stand talking about the obvious – is playing on your creature to buff it, or playing on an opponent’s creature to encourage it to attack your opponents. There are more subtle interactions; for instance, the Vows are a fine play on your own creatures to prevent them being usefully stolen by Control Magic effects. They can easily do double-duty in a hexproof-themed Uril, the Miststalker deck (with all the extra goodies Magic 2012 will bring). And they can help an opponent protect themselves without the risk of retribution later.
At the same time the vows don’t feel broken or even particularly powerful. As someone who likes to play a political game, the ability to shift alliances and attention is incredibly useful. No-one wants their dude just sitting around doing nothing, so they’ll find someone more interesting to attack. Anything that draws attention away from yourself is multiplayer is a good thing, especially if you’re on a “combo out” plan.
The use of wedge colours was inspired. I’m not going to generalize by saying “all the best interactions in Magic happen when opposing colors clash,” but perhaps there’s a kernel of truth in the line. Certainly it freed up a lot of design space and Shard colors would have felt rather tired, especially having followed the recent Planechase and Archenemy products.
Zedruu the Greathearted is the philosophical heir to the Pheldagriff Group Hug deck. Flavor-wise, red-blue-white is a nice color combination for the idea of “benefiting through the chaotic donation to others”. The support cards sometimes play fair; for instance, you can’t cheat the creature you want out with Chaos Warp. Sometimes they’re not so fair; I remember one instance where I bashed with a Rapacious One then played out a Martyr's Bond, giving me total board control (for the single turn the white enchantment stayed in play).
There announcement of the unbanning of Worldgorger Dragon should not go unnoticed with the release of the new Commanders. There are two Commanders of particular note; the first is Riku of Two Reflections, who can create an infinite loop with Worldgorger Dragon, and Kaalia of the Vast, who can power out Worldgorger Dragon, and who is the right colours for Animate Dead, which also enables an infinite combo. Considering the close relationship between the development team and Sheldon Menery and the Rules Committee, this should be seen as entirely intentional.
The best deck, in my opinion, is Devour for Power (closely followed by Counterpunch). Devour has some of the higher value cards – including Buried Alive, Stitch Together, Temple of the False God (in every deck), Spell Crumple, Eternal Witness (this being a financial-focused website I’m sure someone will post to tell me I’m wrong about that) – and combines with the most interesting of the Generals, The Mimeoplasm, Skullbriar, the Walking Grave and Damia, Sage of Stone. To be frank I see Damia as more a reanimation target than a good General, but The Mimeoplasm is breakable in so many wonderful was (much like its spiritual predecessor, Necrotic Ooze). Skullbriar is also no slouch, able to quickly mount a lot of General damage fast.
The inclusion of Lightning Greaves in every deck is a nice touch. Long acknowledged as the best equipment in Commander, it gives reliable protection on that critical turn your General hits play. However, for multiplayer play, I actually disagree with the inclusion of Sol Ring. Sol Ring dramatically improves the chances of every deck that has it in its starting hand while dramatically hindering those decks left behind. Most of the decks are able to go turn 1 Land, Sol Ring, then Signet, putting that deck terribly far ahead for a casual format. Yes, I love Sol Ring in competitive play, but in multiplayer casual, not so much.
Wizards has done a nice job of trying to nerf Blue a little, providing solid hate in Stranglehold (Yes, every good deck tutors, but blue decks love to tutor. And black I guess. And green. OK pedants, you win) and Homeward Path, a fantastic little card that deserves to see Legacy play (Note: I know nothing about Legacy play). But blue also picks up nice tricks with Spell Crumple, a Hindering Touch variation you can tutor up each turn with Planar Portal to lock opponents out of the game, and Flusterstorm, the new (and likely better) Hindering Touch.
The decks encourage getting into the Red Zone with no obvious infinite combos or way to combo out the game in a single turn without heavily modifying the decks, which is probably the best way to go for multiplayer casual games. As someone who plays to win, the Red Zone is not my preferred habitat but I can understand and appreciate those who enjoy it. (Seriously, I’m not actually being condescending or patronizing or sarcastic when I say that.) As such, the decks don’t offer much in the way of raw Commander power (no Kawigama commanders to be found here) and may not be that appealing to those who want to kill, crush, and destroy, but there are gems, staples, and good ideas in the decks that I’m sure can be easily utilized elsewhere.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with the decks, and as an unmitigated fanboy will likely end up getting them online as well as on paper. After all, a man needs as many Sol Rings as he can get.
On Future Content
Although it’s been a huge rush lately, I’ve been doing a fair amount of trialing a new way of exploring Commander. Namely, I intend on setting up some live-streaming games of multiplayer via Magic Online and livestream.com. I’ve tested the setup and it seems to work; right now I’m looking for volunteers to participate. If you’re interested, shoot me a line at wrongwaygoback at yahoo and I’ll explain timeframes and requirements (the main two being Magic Online and Skype). I think it might be fun, especially if I can get multiple people chatting together while playing.
I also have several questions for my readers regarding the deck-tuning series. I’d like to know
- What are you looking for in the deck-tuning series?
- How many decks and how often?
- How far tuned is too far?
- Is changing the General fair play (perhaps I should of asked this before tuning Korlash)?
- Should the owner’s deck themes remain intact?
- Would you be interested in participating in deck-tuning recorded via Skype?
Ultimately, I’m trying to make the content here more interesting and more tailored to my readership, and I think, having written for about 2 months here, now’s a good time for some honest feedback.
I’ll have the Bosh deck-tuning ready for next week, and hopefully shortly after that some live Magic Online games on the web (they’ll be recorded for later viewing as well). Also, if you have any content requests or suggestions, I’d be more than happy to hear them, or just general feedback (what’s worked, what hasn’t, etc).
See you in the comments.
PS: Now is the perfect time to buy those cheap Jace, the Mind Sculptors and stick them in your Commander decks. Just saying.