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Unmander Month: Ol' Buzzbark

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Welcome to December! December is my favorite month of the Magic calendar! This is the month when all the truly exciting Commander decklists come out! Players everywhere take stock of the silver-bordered cards they have and produce all kinds of fun decks loaded with Un-cards that are legal for the next month! I've been thrilled that the Rules Committee ran with this a couple of years ago and that they've stuck with December as Unmander legal month ever since!

(Actually, they only did that one time.)

What do you mean? I am sure I remembered the Rules Advisory Committee all coming up with wild Unmander decks last December! Certainly they are doing it again this year!?

(Uhhh, no. That never happened.)

Well, why the hell not!? Silver-bordered cards are awesome and bring some wild crazy fun to Commander games! Running Baron von Count for a month just brings a whole new crazy to games!

(Too many broken silver-bordered cards. Just too confusing.)

That's just crazy talk! We already police ourselves in this format, choosing not to use some cards that are legal because they'll make for broken games. Maybe some people can't control themselves, but I can! I'm doing it! December is Unmander month and I encourage you to put a deck together that features some silver-bordered beauties! Whether you are using a silver-bordered legend with a deck loaded with Un-cards, or you are opting for a black-bordered commander and spicing it up with some Sterling Silver adornments, give it a shot!

To get you into the Yuletide spirit, along with the Unmander theme, I've chosen to share what could be my favorite deck right now. He brings the Green and the Red. He rains presents down from the sky in the form of a pile of dice! He is the awesome Ol' Buzzbark!


Ol' Buzzbark

The Goblin that can't be blocked by Cowards. The logging machine. The master of splinters. Other decks use their commander as a way to accelerate the deck. Some decks mostly ignore the commander, instead choosing to the commander to allow for a particular set of colors. This deck is completely reliant on Buzzbark. Given that, you need to understand exactly how Buzzbark works, inside and out.

Ol' Buzzbark is a 3/3 Goblin in the deck, but for the most part, it isn't important. This is all about that wall of text. Simply put, when you have a ton of mana, and a bunch of creatures on the battlefield, you cast Buzzbark, with X being every mana you can spare. You then take X dice and roll them on the battlefield from at least X inches above the table. If your dice land on your creatures, those creatures get +1/+1 counters equal to the face value of all the dice touching them.

So if you roll two dice (lame!) from two inches above the table and one of the dice ends as a 5 and is touching Buzzbark, Buzzbark gets five +1/+1 counters! If the second die also lands on Buzzbark and is a two, add two more +1/+1 counters to Buzzbark. Easy right?

There is another part that talks about damaging opponents creatures, but I'll get to that in just a minute.

When you read that, you are thinking the same thing I am right? This deck has Green in it, so I should be able to get X up over ten easily! Launching ten dice from only ten inches above the battlefield should be awesome and lead to crazy huge creatures! What is not to love right!?

The more devious among you may be thinking that using massive dice could make this whole thing broken. Image rolling the fuzzy dice from the rear-view window of the rusty T-Bird that the sketchy guy down the street owns! They would touch everything! There are a few problems with that, not the least one being I don't want those things touching my hands or my cards! The other problem is the official Un- rules say that the dice can't be bigger than one inch squared. Even still, one inch dice are pretty big, and this idea is hotter than an episode of Hot Ones!

Buzzbark 1.0

Remember when I mentioned earlier that we were going to talk about that second part of the text wall? Well, we're here. Not only can you drop the dice on your own creatures to get counters, if you drop them on creatures your opponents control, you do damage equal to the amount that you roll. I saw this and I saw it as a source of damage! I could use it as a way to open the path for my creatures to kill my opponent! Take out their blocker and swing in for tons of damage.

This didn't work out for a few reasons. The first reason is just math. The average die roll for a single die is 3.5. Most of the creatures that I wanted to kill had a toughness of four or more, so the odds of actually killing the creature, assuming I could hit it with a die were only 50%. We would all like our removal to be a little more reliable than that.

In an effort to improve this I included several cards that doubled damage. This meant that my creatures hit for more and the damage Buzzbark could do was doubled as well! While this sounds like it would solve problems, it just meant that another card was needed to kill a creature. This was getting more and more complicated, all to do something that a decent removal spell could just do on its own.

A second issue that I already touched on was the likelihood of hitting an opponent's creature at all. While rolling one die on top of their creature usually hits, you often want at least two dice to hit, which meant rolling more than two dice to help that along. More dice means a bigger blast radius, but the creature in the middle isn't more likely to take more damage, as the dice just spread out. This is great when you have nine creatures all spread out nicely, but not so much when you are trying to hit just one.

A third issue was opponents moving creatures. Every time Buzzbark was cast, my opponents immediately spread their creatures out all over the place to minimize the likelihood of losing two creatures to one die roll. This was funny for a while, but soon enough it just got annoying. At this point I stopped targeting my opponents' creatures and built the deck to maximize the die rolls on my creatures.

Foam Dice

Several people online also thought that rolling dice on their creatures would leave dents in their cards. People don't double-sleeve their cards so you are intentionally rain dice down all over them! I had the solution to this before people even mentioned it: foam dice. I had already found 1" by 1" foam dice and ordered enough of them to handle most Buzzbark castings. Foam dice don't leave dents, and you can safely throw them at your friends too!

You may notice that I have two dice of each color. This is specifically because of Krark's Other Thumb. If I was using Buzzbark where X was five, I couldn't just use ten dice and choose the five best results. I would have to roll two dice at a time and choose the best roll each time. This didn't seem fair either, since part of the difficulty of throwing more dice from a higher height was that they would bounce off each other. The elegant solution was colored dice! This way I could simply choose the better of the two black dice, and the better of the two red dice, instead of the five best rolls. It is also important for other cards and it works out pretty well there too!

Refining Buzzbark's Blade

The first change was to remove all the damage doubling. While it adds to the chaos that a deck like this thrives on, it lost a lot of luster for me once I stopped using Buzzbark as removal. There were plenty of spots where the deck needed improvement and opening up these slots just made sense.

Adding more ways to give my creatures haste was essential. Far too many games involved getting several token creatures on my side of the battlefield, then having them sit there, waiting to attack. This left them vulnerable to mass removal spells, so the deck just wasn't "going off" the way I wanted it to. Better to get everything to attack as soon as it could.

Adding more options to get several token creatures has been good too. Even with haste, mass removal can take the deck down quickly, so having ways to get tokens back on the battlefield, was key. Hornet Queen has become a favorite for me as I am running several cards that let me bounce a creature back to my hand. These are there mostly to get Buzzbark back to do it again, but when I can bounce the Hornet Queen and get four more 1/1 flying tokens, things can look pretty tough for my opponents.

Refining My Blade

The deck has gotten better because I've learned some things too. I always wanted to cast Buzzbark for as big as possible. I've thrown almost twenty dice at once and it was awesome! It was also mostly ineffective, with only two dice landing on my creatures. That many dice from that height just means they go everywhere you don't want them. I now tend to try to keep X around five. Five dice from five inches up tends to be the best range for big creatures!

I've also learned that six creatures is probably enough. Fewer creatures means that you miss often, but more creatures means that you have likely used too much mana and someone will try to mess it up.

Finally, I've learned that putting Buzzbark back into my hand to cast again is far better than seeing him go to the Command Zone where I have to pay even more every time just to get fewer dice. Erratic Portal and Temur Sabertooth have gone from role players who were cute to essential cogs in the Buzzbark machine.

All-Stars

So which cards does the deck really love? I'll give you a few.

Doubling Season is pretty obvious in a deck that makes token creatures and +1/+1 counters but it really works. I recently rolled three dice on four creatures with Doubling Season out. Buzzbark ended up with fourteen counters while a token creature became an 11/11! Things just really get out of hand.

Kessig Wolf Run is just spectacular since you don't have to pick which creature gets trample and the big bonus until you see how your opponent is blocking.

Triskelion is a pretty old-school card that looks mostly harmless, but getting a handful of extra +1/+1 counters on it is wonderful! Add in a card that doubles your counters and it becomes the killing machine I was hoping Buzzbark would be, but with far more reliability.

Finally, I've recently added The Great Henge to the deck. Buzzbark can bring the cost down to just two Green mana. Getting two more mana is a big benefit to the deck, as it is a huge mana hog. Then getting to add +1/+1 counters to creatures, along with card draw is just all upside!

So what are you waiting for? Bring some Unmander fun to your group during the unofficial Unmander Month!

Bruce Richard

@manaburned