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Commander is a strange format.
Don't get me wrong, EDH is tied with draft for my favorite way to play magic. The crazy board states, social interactions and games it creates are my favorite in magic. However, commander is strange in that for everyone it is different. This both makes the format incredibly diverse and fun, but also difficult. I am referring specifically today to the power levels of decks, and discrepancies between decks and playgroups. Today, as I analyze this issue within the format I will be using two decks of mine to compare and contrast this idea.
My favorite commander deck of mine is Arcanis the Omnipotent, it is a classic mono blue control deck packed with counterspells, card draw and removal. The second, Azami, I was considering building using my Arcanis deck as a base. By changing roughly twenty cards in the deck lists (read: roughly 1/3 of the non-land cards in the deck) I believe i transformed my favorite deck from a fun, powerful deck into an oppressive powerhouse. Let me explain.
Here is my current deck list. The goal of this deck is to one-for-one opponents with countermagic and removal, but I should end up on top because of the amount of card advantage this deck creates. My commander allows me to draw three cards, which is insane and can get out of hand quickly with other synergies in the deck. The win condition is two fold: firstly, the fun way. I run control magic effects & cards that allows me to use my opponents own cards against them. Examples of this are Roil Elemental, Mind's Dilation. The second way is the quick, easy and competitive way. The deck runs one infinite combo in Mind Over Matter combined with Arcanis to draw the entire deck and untap any permanent you want. Then, you can win through many different ways ( Laboratory Maniac, Psychosis Crawler, Blue Sun's Zenith ). My playgroup is fine with infinite combos, the reason I believe this one is okay here is because it isnt my main win condition. I also don't tutor for it, reducing the consistency. For other players in the game, this makes the deck seem fair and balanced even though my win percentage with this deck is ridiculously high I don't get hate for it.
Now, lets talk about this monster. I thought it would be fun to turn my mono blue control deck into a wizard tribal deck, with lots of combo potential. The problem? Its too good. Sure, if I was playing in tournaments I would bring this deck with absolutely no reservations. On paper, this deck looks super fun to me. I was so excited for this deck, wizard tribal fun stuff with crazy whacky combos with Paradox Engine and friends? Sign me up. But, in actual gameplay, I found this deck to be downright oppressive. It is way too consistent, way too fast and honestly too powerful for a non-tournament environment. Could I build the deck down, and remove the combos? Yes, but then I am stifling the deck incredibly and I don't believe in doing that. I believe my Arcanis deck is powerful, while not being hindered by my exclusion of any certain cards. Azami, on the other hand, feels so combo-like that playing without them doesn't feel like the same deck. I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy playing the deck immensely, the problem though? Everyone else.
This is where the balancing act comes in. You have to find the right balance between having a strong, effective strategy while not absolutely pummeling your opponents into the ground every game. If you want to do that, maybe go play some mono red in standard but commander is a fun format. For myself, I have trouble with this. I am super competitive, I love winning and I admit many games my goal is more to win than "have fun". But I think as spikes, in EDH there is a way for us to do that while still having fun & allowing everyone else to have fun.
Many people have advocated for this before, but I am a believer in the 75% deck building concept for commander. For those unfamiliar, it basically means that your deck is tuned to roughly 75% of the power level it could have. By doing this, you have a deck that functions powerfully, consistently and does what it is supposed to do while remaining fun and not oppressive. Not having a fully tuned deck can also be an advantage, because you won't be targeted every game yet still have an extremely powerful deck. My issue with Azami is I passed this threshold, to probably about 90% tuned. For most playgroups, and most people I would be playing against, I believe this to be too powerful to be a fun deck to be played against.
Today, my PSA is to be careful of the power level to which you build your EDH decks. Every playgroup is different, and this won't be the case for everyone, but I think this covers a vast array of players in the format. From one spike to another, make good decks...just not too good ;)
August 12, 2017 10:40 a.m.
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Commander / EDH*
SCORE: 1 | 142 VIEWS
Commander / EDH
SCORE: 1 | 247 VIEWS | IN 2 FOLDERS
Commander / EDH
Commander / EDH
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|Playing since||Avacyn Restored|
|Avg. deck rating||221.50|
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|Favorite formats||Standard, Commander / EDH, Limited|
|Good Card Suggestions||122|
|Venues||Roll the Dice, The Outer Limits Boro, Grand Adventures|
|Last activity||4 months|