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Dave's Commander Mailbag #2

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Hello friends. This week I've decided to put up the mail flag - or is it down, I can never remember - and answer some more questions about Commander. If you've got questions for me just stop by my Twitter and I'll be happy to answer them!

Let's not waste any more time, shall we?

What mechanic that doesn't have a dedicated commander do you want to see support for next? - Paul

I mentioned this briefly a few weeks back but the easy answer here is Energy. I was still pretty new to Magic when Kaladesh and Aether Revolt released so I bought a LOT of product for those sets. And I remember very vividly being bemused and a bit sad that for all the focus Energy got in that block, there was no legendary creature that cared about Energy.

Baral, Chief of Compliance
Rishkar, Peema Renegade
Sram, Senior Edificer

Maybe that's because there were just so few legendary creatures in the Kaladesh block -just 13, counting Hope of Ghirapur, and, sadly, not counting Ragavan. Considering that these were still the days of large set-small set blocks I don't really know why there were so few legendaries; yes, a lot of design space went to vehicles and other artifacts, but it seems like such a whiff to have such a prominent new mechanic and no legendary to embody it. I'll also concede the possibility that at this point, Wizards wasn't designing Standard sets quite so much with Commander in mind as it does now. But none of these explanations give me solace.

Energy is a fascinating mechanic. It is (so far) unique to the Kaladesh plane and connects perfectly in a thematic sense. It represented a brand new resource for players to use beyond our regular mana, life and cards/permanents and, as new mechanics have a nasty habit of doing, warped the living hell out of Standard and other 60-card formats. But this is Commander, where we live to stretch and pull and rip and tear things to the extremes, and some Energy cards are brimming with potential.

Lightning Runner
Gonti's Aether Heart
Demon of Dark Schemes
Territorial Gorger

70 cards use Energy in various, really fascinating ways - pumping creatures, creating tokens, taking extra turns, casting things for free, stealing permanents and everyone's favorite thing to do in Magic, drawing cards. I've had a smattering of Energy cards in my decks over the years but many of them just don't work that well on their own. They need help.

I don't know if a return to Kaladesh is in the cards for us anytime soon, but perhaps in something like Commander Legends or the newly revealed Modern Horizons 2 we'll see a little love for Energy.

What commander or commanders would ruin a game for you even if played fairly? -Patrick

This is a tough question. I struggle with the notion that a player choosing to play a particular commander makes them the automatic target. But at the same time, we all know there are those infamous commanders that immediately put us on red alert.

Edgar Markov
Grand Arbiter Augustin IV
Brago, King Eternal
Bruvac the Grandiloquent

I've discussed either these specific commanders or the things they do several times before. Edgar Markov is the embodiment of Wizards's abject failure on the Eminence mechanic, far and away the most powerful of the legendaries to get Eminence. I've played enough games against Edgar decks where turn three comes around and that player has six or eight or ten vampires on the board and the rest of us are still just trying to ramp. It's not fun to know that you *will* be behind from the opening draw just because this card exists.

Bruvac the Grandiloquent immediately became the best Mill commander the moment he was printed. I'm on record as hating Mill. I just don't like playing against it, and nothing has ever made me feel even remotely compelled to play it myself. It's not fun for me.

Grand Arbiter Augustin IV and Brago, King Eternal represent the kinds of commanders that, for me, are extremely difficult to "play fairly". Augustin is the poster boy for Stax, an archetype that I want absolutely no part of if I'm not playing Commander in a competitive setting. If you're not building him to do Stax nonsense, then you're building around the wrong commander.

As for good ol' Bargo, there are ways to make him work in a way that isn't as Stax-y as his decks typically are. We can do tokens, angels, fliers - even Energy! Alas, Brago decks tend to stray at least somewhat into Stax territory with cards like Stonehorn Dignitary and Lavinia of the Tenth to name just two. But then again, we can't always judge a book by its cover, which leads perfectly into the next question.

How do you have the pregame talk with a stranger? - Anton

This is a big thing for me and one I'm always, always, always happy to revisit. I'm very clear on my belief that Commander is about everyone having fun and even clearer on my belief that numbered systems for determining power levels do not work.

They don't work. Not one of them. They never have and they never will.

There is too much subjectivity in this format for there to ever be a truly objective, truly foolproof way of pointing at a number and saying, "Yes, this is absolutely where my deck is." That's thanks in large part to the reality being that it's not all about the deck itself; it's as much about the player as it is the deck. Hand the same deck to ten different Commander players and you're going to see that deck played many different ways.

We'll revisit the topic of why numbered power level scales don't work another time, but suffice it to say that if those don't work, something else has to happen before a game. A conversation.

Yes, we have to actually communicate with other human beings.

This pregame conversation can look a little different from pod to pod, but the aim should be the same. Everyone needs to agree on a few things:

-What kind of game is this going to be - competitive, social, or a mix of both?

-What is everyone's deck trying to do?

-How quickly is each player and their deck expecting to win? (Because a deck that wants to win on turn three doesn't belong at the same table with decks that can't win until turn nine or ten.)

-Do any of these players and decks want to stop the rest of the table from playing Magic?

The answers to all of those questions will lead to the final question, and the only one that really matters: Can all four players have fun?

As always, let's clarify something. Having a powerful deck and/or playing hard to win do not make you a bad person or an unfun player. It can, however, mean that you're not compatible with the rest of the table and you may need to adjust your playstyle, choose a different deck or, ultimately, find a new group. The only thing that makes you a problematic player is misrepresenting your deck in order to steamroll the rest of the table.

If you ever try to pubstomp me or my friends, I'll never play with you again, and I'll do everything I can to make sure no one plays with you again until you learn how to do better. I'm a real nice, real laid back guy. I have zero tolerance for this kind of crappy behavior.

So, the answer to Anton's question is this: I have the pregame talk with strangers the same way I have it with friends. It takes a few minutes at most and makes sure everyone knows what they're getting into before the game starts. It's the most important part of Commander. Please treat it as such.

How can Mono-Green close out a game by taking out a table in explosive style, besides Triumph of the Hordes, Craterhoof Behemoth or Overrun? - Mike

I'm so glad you asked, my friend! I took my old Titania, Protector of Argoth deck out of the vault and updated it just for you. See if you can figure out how we win! (Hint: There's more than one way!)

Titania, Protector of Argoth | Commander | Dave Kosin


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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