The Many-Deck Dilema

Commander (EDH) forum

Posted on Nov. 28, 2018, 10:06 p.m. by Crayfish

I'll preface this post by saying I love commander. I love the complexity and interactions of the decks, I love the long social and political games, I love it all. That being said, my problem comes from obsessive deck-dreaming, and I'm wondering what everyone's opinion on the matter is.

What I mean by obsessive deck-dreaming is I never feel satisfied with the decks I have. Currently I have 11 commander decks, 4 of which are somewhat modified precons, 1 of which is playgroup jank meme, and the other 6 are of my design.

The decks I have are, from at least what I can tell, not terrible decks. They all have their interactions, complexities, and enjoyment factors to them. Yet, everytime I'm bored I end up on EDHREC or TappedOut, looking at commanders and thinking "Man, wouldnt they be fun to play?". I have a mental list of at least 6 different commanders I would like to attempt to build, and a couple I've already designed that I havent the will or wallet to purchase yet. (Neheb, the Worthy I'll buy you one day, pal!)

Not to mention I'm still a lowly high-school peasant, with a near-minimum wage job and college fees to start paying. This means the money I have to spend on MtG is severely limited.

Another issue is I always feel like my decks are lesser than everyone around me. I don't know for certain if this is grounded in fact or if it's just a mindset of anxiety, but that also leaves me split between deciding if I want to upgrade my decks or just try to build brand new ones that may be better, in an effort to impress others and, ya know, claim a few wins.

So therein lies my question. Do I work on these sudden whims of commander brainstorming and continue to create and acquire new decks, or should I try and focus on what I have and improving those so they can be the best they possibly can? Do you prefer to have one or two decks that are your poster children, your heart and soul and major investment, or do you like to spread your money out and invest in a myriad of ideas? I'd love to know your thoughts!

Drakorya says... #2

I feel your pain, hahaha. I have 20 commander decks at the moment, and at any given time I have 2-3 possible new deck ideas going through my head.

I think what you should do depends alot on how, where, and with who you play against most often. If you play mostly with a group of friends and have your own meta, you could check with them to see if they mind you using proxies. That way you can test out new decks without having to buy a whole bunch of new cards. But if you play at your LGS they may frown upon using proxies like this.

It also depends on whether you want your decks to be more competitive, or if you're happy with how they play. Commander as a format is alot more about fun over winning than other formats. I personally enjoy performing the more weird and unique synergies and convoluted 4-5 card combos in commander, rather than using the best and most competitive cards available, or using the typical 2 card combos you see everywhere (like Deadeye Navigator + Palinchron).

One thing you can try is to look into the alternate (and slightly less competitive) versions of the expensive cards. Like using Bad River instead of Polluted Delta, or Cinder Glade instead of Taiga/Stomping Ground.

November 28, 2018 10:30 p.m.

enpc says... #3

I will always advocate for quality over quantity. I would rather have a few fun decks that I really enjoy playing rather than a whole bunch of decks which at the end of the day can start to feel a bit samey.

We used to play with somebody who had an esper artifact deck, another esper artifact deck, an azorius artifact deck, a colourless artifact deck and posibly a dimir one as well. And that was on top of all ther other decks he owned. Hell, I own an Aurelia, the Warleader soldier deck and when I was thinking of swapping my lands deck commander from O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami to Najeela, the Blade-Blossom I was concerned about owning two token decks.

For me, I have found that ~5 decks is a good number. I have two competitive decks and 3 more casual decks. I find this gives me enough variance in games. And when I get the hankering to build a new deck I will generally pull apart an old one (the casual ones that is), so I don't a) have a pile of decks that aren't getting played and b) so I don't tie up resources in said decks.

It's for the same reason that I only have one Canadian Highlander deck, as much as I'm interested in building a second one, I would rather focus on the one I have.

But that's the great thing about T/O - you can design as many decks as you want and store old decks without having to keep them assembled. And you can brew new ones and see if you like them prior to actually building them in papaer.

November 28, 2018 10:30 p.m.

ZendikariWol says... #4

So I happen to be a fellow high school student, with the same problem no less (look at my page I have a LOT of decks and most are commander). The key for me is limiting myself fairly strictly commander decks. I accomplish this by limiting myself to one deck per archetype- specifically, for me, one political deck, one +1 counter deck, one aristocrat deck, one voltron deck, one tribal deck, and one wild card. That's mainly because those are my favorite types of deck, so absolutely adjust that to your whims.

Not only does this ensure that your decks have a lot of variety and you have enough different decks to switch things up depending on how you're feelin, you can also maybe scrap those decks and reforge them with a new commander? Like getting some staples for certain archetypes can make it so that you can have 3 different commanders and make them slight variations of the same skeleton. For example I have 5(?) different +1 counter decks.

November 28, 2018 10:38 p.m.

Rzepkanut says... #5

Im a deck building-aholic also. I have 21 paper commander decks built and 2 cubes built too (they're all on my profile page).

I recommend playing edh on magic online for you. Brewing edh online is mega cheap compared to paper. For some reason lots of edh cards that are super expensive in paper are dirt cheap online. I focused on playing only 2 colors at first (to save money on overlapping cards I chose to play only blue and green, eventually added black) myself and built dozens of decks for only a couple bucks each. Most of them are on my profile page if you are interested.

MTGO is where I try new commander decks out now. Its so much faster and easier to brew digital decks too. There's no sleeving cards and no need to get duplicates or proxies of any cards that you want in multiple decks. It's even free to play edh games once you setup an account and acquire cards. Plus cards online have an actual value that you can cash in later when you want to stop playing the game just like with paper cards. Unless Arena totally tanks the magic online economy which is a separate issue. Although I don't think it's going to be a problem for people like us because Eternal formats won't be on Arena for a long time if ever.

Good luck :)

November 29, 2018 7:10 a.m.

SynergyBuild says... #6

First off... you are wanting to build the wrong Neheb list...

Secondly, it depends. If you have fun playing each deck you have, build more! Otherwise, make sure you upgrade the decks that you don't enjoy playing as much, or sell them (or parts of them, and save others to put in other, more fun decks), so you can make more fun decks.

Really, if you want a deck that can be 'meta-controlling', you should figure out the main gameplans of your playgroup, and attack it from another angle. This will consistently make you win more, and even if you get targetted, will commonly lead to a 50%+ Winrate.

My Local Game Store has an issue of not running sweepers, opting for a lot of single-target, cheap removal spells. I decided to build an enchantress-combo list (Earthcraft/Squirrel Nest) prison deck, which I used because I can run Greater Auramancy, Privileged Position, Sterling Grove, and being in WG, Teferi's Protection and Heroic Intervention for the occasional 1 or 2 sweepers the control deck finds.

I also made a Karametra, God of Harvests deck with Archetype of Endurance, Sigarda, Host of Herons, Temur Sabertooth, Avacyn, Angel of Hope, Selfless Spirit, Privileged Position, and Asceticism to combat all of their removal entirely, these decks have only ever been interacted with Cyclonic Rift before, and as both are majorly ramp lists at heart, I can just empty my hand after.

Other times I have heard stories of times where every player is running infinite token decks and so run Rakdos Charm to combat them, and Tainted AEther, or Authority of the Consuls. There even was a story about a playgroup in which everyone played artifact decks, so the girl showed up with a Kataki, War's Wage stax list, running cards like Hokori, Dust Drinker, Linvala, the Preserver, and a bunch of walkers like Elspeth, Gideon, Ugin, and even a Karn as wincons.

November 29, 2018 8:44 a.m.

Gleeock says... #7

Get a favorite carrying case with a specific deck total size-limit. The visual reminder of your building limitations can be helpful. I often would build near addict-level as well, I still deck dream quite a bit. I have found that commanders with less obvious synergy are the way to go for enjoyable casual decks with some staying power. It leaves me with a fun gameplay experience & the constant questions of: What has worked well? What hasn't? -- These are questions that you are not able to ask if you use a more "connect the dots" commander that builds itself. For example: I am currently working on a Thantis, the Warweaver deck, it is my baby that I have been refining since the card came out - she doesn't HAVE to have any particular playstyle... Just chaos and poor decision forcing, this makes playing and rebuilding a treat every time. Compare this to Arcades, the Strategist walls - you know exactly what you put in that deck, you aren't left with any questions, intrigue, or need for mass-improvements after you test it and it can feel a bit lackluster when you finally test this sort of deck. Commanders without apparent game plans are the best if you are looking to build a couple of decks that you keep coming back to. You cited Neheb for an example of a curiosity project for example, I would caution you that example runs the same risk you cited of building something, then finding that it feels a bit lackluster in gameplay, then moving on because (although I love me some discard/madness/non-draw) the strategy of that deck will be a bit pigeon-holed & you end up shrugging and having no where to go from there.

Also, players that want budget-friendly EDH decks that often seem fresh should get more into gambling... In this I mean, embrace a few of the non-guaranteed and conditional "swing for the fences" things in your deckbuilding.

Decks that are always fun for me: Etali, Primal Storm - gambling and conditional Lazav, Dimir Mastermind - gambling on others' graveyards Thantis, the Warweaver - I've seen people really try to turn this sub-par pillowfort, but very fun if you do it your own way instead.

November 29, 2018 1:48 p.m.

I don't really have the deck quantity problem. I've had one modern deck forever that I will make big changes to depending on the meta, but it's always interactive Grixis. I have one legacy deck - I had to change decks when Deathrite got banned, but I had one deck before the banning and now I have one (different) deck after and no others. I have one EDH deck (Silas Renn + Sidar partners). I used to play Tasigur combo but didn't like combo in a casual format so I changed commanders and removed all the combo cards and made it into 'small things matter'.

I've always preferred having one deck (per format) and making it something I really enjoy and get tons of mileage out of it. But this is due to how I entered magic. I entered straight into modern without playing standard or edh ever. And modern was expensive, so there were endless upgrades and I never felt the need to branch out into another cheap losing deck. And with legacy I built the one deck that I could both afford and enjoy. Tons of other legacy decks look fun to me, but I don't even consider them because of the price tag.

Commander was the 3rd format I played so my mindset was pretty locked going in. I wanted one good deck so that I had something to play. If felt like I had the ability to build more decks I would probably have the many deck problem. The people that enjoy magic the most do typically have addictive tendencies, and I'm no different in that regard.

All of this is starting to change a bit for me. I'm actually building a second modern and EDH deck now. For modern I need something to beat up Tron players because I've lost to them so many times. EDH I've been having the problem that my deck is too time-consuming for the level of competition I'm supposed to be playing at. So now I'm building a more competitive deck and then shifting my current deck to be more casual, which should help me fit in with more play groups.

I also think that making a 4 color EDH deck helped me stay in control. I can put all my favorite cards in the deck and I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything I'd enjoy.

November 29, 2018 2:26 p.m.

DuTogira says... #9

I too have been a brew-aholic to some degree or another, I think I have 7-8 commander decks on my page/on cockatrice? However, I only own two decks in paper (which i have obsessively refined), and these decks are usually good enough for me. The big thing that stood out to me was you saying you feel like your decks aren't good enough. I've felt that about my own decks plenty of times as well. Sometimes it's just draw rng, but with that many commander decks I am also guessing that you don't put that much effort into refining your lists so that they really feel good to play.
My two paper decks are my Sharuum deck and my Vona deck, Sharuum is kind of an artifact control deck, Vona is more a B/W midrange deck, but both decks revolve around my favorite thing in magic: removal. When I first built both of these decks, they felt horrid to play. They had no clear wincon and some cards just felt bulky or unwieldy... basically just wrong in the deck. One of the tricks I have found to commander is that if a card feels like this -basically if it sits in your hand for 3-4 turns not being played because you just always have better options- cut that card for something else. Eventually each deck will reach a level of refinement where you start to feel like you always have an out. Then you'll run into a wall where people team up on you to kill you, but that's fairly normal.
If you want my advice: rather than continuing to brew new strategies, see if you can refine each deck which you currently own to the point where they just feel good to play, like the deck is always doing exactly what you want it to do. Playing them becomes much more enjoyable that way, and once you reach this point, then I'd look into buying more decks again.

November 29, 2018 5:03 p.m. Edited.

_Delta_ says... #10

I believe that I have too many decks as well, I’m a student at university and I have a part time job, yet that hasn’t stopped me from building a total of 12 commander decks all at various levels of competitiveness. They include the following that I rank from likely strongest to weakest: Atraxa, Praetors' Voice, Sliver Overlord, Meren of Clan Nel Toth, Kruphix, God of Horizons, Oloro, Ageless Ascetic, Nekusar, the Mindrazer, Talrand, Sky Summoner, Edgar Markov, Brago, King Eternal, The Ur-Dragon, Lord Windgrace, and Tuvasa the Sunlit.

On top of that there’s been a number that I have had interest in possibly building including Animar, Gonti, and Muldrotha, but I feel they are all too similar to decks that I already have.

November 29, 2018 5:29 p.m.

landofMordor says... #11

Here's my two cents. Kudos to you for thinking through this question so much as a high schooler -- I'm pretty sure I didn't have my brain turned on when I was that age, especially when it came to MtG (;

There's a common fallacy that I've often fallen prey to -- that buying 50 $1 cards is "better" than buying 2 $20 cards. Even thought the second option is cheaper, the first option feels like a bargain. So, I totally understand your budget concerns (there are a lot of student players), but "budget" isn't really related at all to deck-building mania. If you've only got $100 to spend all year on MtG, that won't change if you build 5 decks or 1 from that pool.

Now that that's clear, here are my thoughts on obsessions:

  1. If you really do feel like your current decks are underperforming, upgrade or dismantle them instead of building new decks. When I was in high school, my bro and I built ~10 cheap Commander decks over time, which were great because they became a little meta that never got old. But if one was just terrible all the time, we didn't build a new one -- we changed the old one or traded it away!

  2. More money doesn't always mean a better deck. Sometimes, "sideways" upgrades are the best choice. For example, I recently removed a Heroic/Zada, Hedron Grinder package from an old deck in favor of more ramp and removal. That made the deck much better without adding to the price tag.

  3. Similarly, building synergistically is almost always a better option than just buying "staples", especially on a budget. For example, finding a cheap, yet effective coin-flip cards instead of just jamming Inferno Titan in Okaun.

  4. Every Magic player should learn contentment and restraint. It's okay to spend money on a hobby, but every player needs to know their limits.

So, in light of that, I'd recommend that you focus in on your extant decks until you have side-graded/upgraded the decks you love, and trimmed the decks you don't. Also, post your decklists and ask for advice! The community here can give a lot of suggestions if we know what we're looking at, what your budget is, etc!

November 29, 2018 7:58 p.m.

DrukenReaps says... #12

There is a lot of text to read here and I'm lazy so I wanted to just put in my 2 cents in case it wasn't mentioned.

I build a lot of decks here on tapped out some of them go to paper but a lot of them just get deleted after I'm happy with how it looks. The only thing I invested in them was time. This is enough for me most of the time to resist buying new cards and getting the physical deck.

The other thing you can do is play Magic The Gathering Online. MTGO is incredibly cheap compared to getting the physical cards. My most expensive deck, Divine Decree, sits at $687 in physical but only 111 tix. A quick Google shows 1 tix is about $1 but I don't play online so this may not be entirely correct. I do know that you can make a deck online much cheaper than in physical.

So I'd recommend you build as many decks as you want just only make the ones that you can afford into paper.

November 29, 2018 8:03 p.m.

maiden77 says... #13

Used to have one of every colour deck as the 4c commander precons were released. At this point i got into legacy and sold around 15 of them. Bought a Tabernacle and most of Legacy Lands, not looked back since. I have since gotten back up to 10 though haha. You gotta scratch the itch that suits. The MTGO prices have been gradually dropping due to arena so its both a good time to buy and bad. Good because most stuff is cheaper than ever but bad as it may drop. Personally EDH is a social game so I wouldn't play it online anyway. Try to make quality decks rather than too many or even decks that share cards so you can change around etc

November 29, 2018 8:11 p.m.

Panas says... #14

I've been in your shoes before friend, as have so many others. What I've found to work best for me, is to consider the frequency you play in a week/month, and upkeep just enough decks to complete a full cycle.

For example, I play commander once a week and during that gathering I play two games on average. So in a month, I am able to play with 8 decks more or less. That is the magic number of decks for me. I currently have 7 and I am working on my 8th one as of this month.

I still indulge my deckbuilding urges here, on tappedout, and save them for future reference :)

November 30, 2018 7:44 a.m.

jaymc1130 says... #15

I feel like it kind of depends on what you want to get out of playing the Commander Format in the first place.

If you're a competitive player and want to win your local tournaments or even larger events then focusing on optimizing the best and most competitive deck you enjoy playing is probably the way to go. You'll be able to win more tournaments and thus be more fulfilled while also limiting the amount of money you need to spend to reach that fulfilled state.

If you're a player mostly playing to one up your local playgroup then sticking to more budget options and constantly bring in new concepts and ideas the play group hasn't seen before will lead to a multitude of unique and richly rewarding experiences.

I think most MTG players are "deck dreamers", it's a kind of a thing about the MTG community to have wild flights of fancy about ways to play the game and I believe this is largely the attraction of the game in the first place. I've built millions of decks in the 25 years I've been playing and find the process so enjoyable that my favorite format is Limited play. I get to build and play new deck EVERY WEEK!!! YAAAASSSSSS!!!! Or even multiple times a day when I'm spamming MTGO for tourney practice. For me it all comes down to who, what, and when I'll be playing as to how to focus that deck dreaming energy and effort.

November 30, 2018 2:26 p.m.

ZendikariWol says... #16

jaymc1130, your argument has a lot of merit. I was actually talking to another new player about this. I prefer to have one competitive deck, two fairly competitive decks, and one deck that's pretty bad (usually the result of a fun idea with not enough support).

I prefer this because of the many groups I come across. For example, when I'm playing with my friends from out of town (they have much more $$ than I do), I prefer to play Meren of Clan Nel Toth or UR Spellslinger. When I'm playing against my friend Joe, who's only been playing a couple years, I prefer to play my less optimized decks, the ones I've spent less $ on; Feldon of the Third Path and Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith or RW Ally Equipment and B Zombie Control. But against the people I'm teching to play, I give each of them a two-headed giant deck.

I guess what I'm saying is any amount of decks is fine as long as you have a situation where you'd play them, and try to limit it to two to four decks per situation (try to keep it down to 2 though).

November 30, 2018 2:51 p.m.

KillaWatt says... #17

It depends. The only two questions to ask yourself would be is it financially burdensome and you find yourself spending money on cards you shouldn't and does the game conflict with your social life, meaning do you spend more time going through decks, brewing, etc, than doing other things?

If not, I'd say brew away good sir. I have 28 decks myself (a bunch are posted on my page) and I had come asking myself the same question. Do I have too many decks? My goal was to try and build a deck of every archetype. I've since slowed down building since there isn't much more to do without building repeat themes with different approaches. I ran into that problem at 18 decks. Most decks have been shaped and molded over time so much so there isn't much wiggle room for change. I'm sure you'll get there too at some point and you'll slow down. Otherwise my friend if it isn't in your way socially and financially I'd say have fun and share some decks.

Merry Christmas.

December 22, 2018 11:19 p.m.

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