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Davie's Commander Mailbag #1!

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Sometimes I spend a lot of time trying to figure out what people would like to see me discuss in this space. Rather than rack my brain for hours without actually writing anything, I just opened up the ol' Commander Mailbag. I'd like to make this a recurring feature, so if there's anything you'd like me to tackle in a future entry, just hit me up on Twitter.

Without further ado...

What do you look for in a new commander? Any specific mechanics or payoffs you lean toward? - Paul

Understand up front that, clearly, each of us will have our own unique answer to these questions. So, while it should go without saying that my answer is reflective purely of my personal opinion, I'm saying it anyway.

Like all Commander players, I pay special attention to the legendary creatures whenever a new set or supplemental product is spoiled. It's exciting to see which of the new ones will pique my interest most. While others may look for the ones with the highest ceilings, the most "breakable" ones if you will, I tend to scour the leftovers.

Good example: Theros Beyond Death wasn't a particularly strong set for potential commanders. To me, much of the hype centered around Thassa, Deep-Dwelling, along with Heliod, Sun-Crowned and Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath to a lesser extent. As we know, my eye drifted in a different direction. Hot Daxos, come on down!

Daxos, Blessed by the Sun

"Hot" jokes aside, when I first saw Daxos, Blessed by the Sun I saw the most enticing thing I can see in a potential new commander: a puzzle to be solved. Hot Daxos wants to do two things many White decks want to do - gain life and play lots of creatures. However, we know that gaining life in Commander can't be an end unto itself. You have to be able to do something with it.

I also decided, as I've written about here in the past, that I didn't want to take the path of least resistance by going for wins with Aetherflux Reservoir or Felidar Sovereign

Aetherflux Reservoir
Felidar Sovereign

Without those wincons, then, what would I do with the life? Well, as a Commander player who's having the most fun when he falls ass backward into a win, I decided that this deck would be about gaining lots of life and hoping for the best.

So, first and foremost I look for a puzzle. I look for a commander others will put to the side because maybe the potential isn't that obvious off the bat. That's how I got both of my signature decks - Hot Daxos and H O R S E Y M A N (Sun Quan, Lord of Wu).

I wouldn't say there are specific mechanics I look for, but there are a handful I tend to avoid. I don't like Mill as a strategy in social Commander games. When I play Commander, I play to have robust and memorable games in which, ideally, everyone gets to have fun playing their decks. I have little to no fun watching my library go to my graveyard a chunk at a time. Similarly, mass land destruction is a no-go for me.

But as for payoffs? I like to win - or lose - in fun, weird, hilarious ways. Back to Hot Daxos, I played a game not long ago in which I had him equipped with Mace of the Valiant, eventually racking up 19 counters on it. Then one of my opponents stole Daxos and killed me with my own commander in one swing. I laughed so hard. Similarly, perhaps my favorite win of all time was when a combination of Brudiclad, Telchior Engineer and Spark Double allowed me to have 24 copies of Niv-Mizzet, Parun at one time with my Riku of Two Reflections deck. I drew one card and killed the table, including one opponent who was at roughly 150 life.

To sum up - I tend to venture down the road not taken and look for commanders that will let me do things way outside the box.

Now, onto the next question! Speaking of Mill...

Do you think Bruvac the Grandiloquent will be as popular as Phenax, God of Deception as a Mill commander? Pros/cons to Mono-Blue and the loss of Black? - Andy

First things first: only time will tell whether Bruvac the Grandiloquent will supplant Phenax, God of Deception as the go-to Mill commander. I tend not to make those kinds of predictions anymore because I'm almost never right.

But we can tackle the rest of the question, starting with the final part. There are absolutely some Black and ub cards that Bruvac will miss. These are just a few:

Mind Grind
Syr Konrad, the Grim
Mind Funeral

Whispering Madness
Glimpse the Unthinkable
Bloodchief Ascension
Consuming Aberration

That having been said, however, I think speed is on Bruvac's side. At just 2u he's significantly cheaper than Phenax, and only being in one color makes mana fixing a non-issue. And while Phenax typically looks to parlay mill effects into other wincons, Bruvac is just gonna be straight up milling you out and doing it fast. With proper ramp and fortunate draws, it's entirely possible to have a bunch of these (or similar cards) out by turn four or five:

Psychic Corrosion
Sphinx's Tutelage
Memory Erosion
Teferi's Tutelage
Hedron Crab
Drowned Secrets

With even two or three cards like these on your field plus Bruvac, casting something like Archive Trap, Brain Freeze, or any multi-card draw spell can do massive damage. And of course, as Magic Twitter quickly realized, casting Traumatize with Bruvac out will nuke an entire library (minus one card if there was an odd number there to start with).

Losing access to Black removes a lot of powerful synergies, but I think Bruvac will be the quintessential pure Mill commander. Now, again, I don't like Mill so I won't be building a Bruvac deck in real life, but if I were to do it, it might look something like this:


Since we're trying to mill early, often and in massive quantities I kept the curve as low to the ground as I could. Ideally we're going to be making lots of mana, drawing lots of cards and being able to play lots of spells, with Bruvac hitting the field as early as possible. He'll be a huge removal target right away so keep some counters or perhaps a single-target Cyclonic Rift handy to protect him.

Ugh. I need a shower.

What's your pet card? The one you put in too many decks just because you think it's neat? -Peter

I have a few!

Wanderer's Twig
Didn't Say Please
Bontu's Monument

Wanderer's Twig: I had this in a budget Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain build (which no longer exists) and played it on stream one time. Chat mercilessly mocked me for reasons I still cannot understand, so henceforth it will be in every single deck I make. Yes, I know it's not great in mono-colored decks. Yes, I know it's functionally identical to Traveler's Amulet. No, I do not care.

You wanna play a Twig? No? Why not!

Didn't Say Please: This is a good counter spell but certainly not the best. I just happen to think it has the best name ever for a counter spell, one that perfectly encapsulates the smarmy hubris of Blue mages like myself whenever we decide you don't get to do that thing you wanted to do.

Oketra's Monument
Hazoret's Monument
Rhonas's Monument
Kefnet's Monument

Amonkhet monument cycle: Look. Amonkhet block is highly underrated, especially for Commander, and I will die on that hill. There are so many solid cards, from the gods to As Foretold, Ramunap Excavator to Vizier of the Menagerie (a CRIMINALLY underrated Commander card) to the cycle of five legendary monuments, one for each of the Mono-colored gods. They get overlooked far more than they should for creature-heavy decks, and I think that's partially because of confusion over what they do. While they only give discounts for casting creature spells of their matching colors, their second effects - like the life gain/loss on Bontu's Monument - work when you cast any creature spell. That's why Bontu's Monument is an absolute unit in Hot Daxos, and it's why I find a spot for one or more of these in any deck that wants to cast a lot of creature spells. Plus, I just think Amonkhet block is hella neat and I'm excited for newer players to experience it when it comes to Magic Arena later this year.

That's all for this inaugural edition of Davie's Commander Mailbag. Send me some good questions and I may just answer them the next time I do one of these!

Dave is a Commander player currently residing in Reno, NV. When he's not badly misplaying his decks, he works as a personal trainer. You can bother him on Twitter and check out his Twitch channel.

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