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Commanding Resource Management With Adeline


In the last several months, I have become part of a group which plays Magic every Monday night at a local watering hole (if you're in Austin, we're at The Little Darlin' almost every Monday, starting around 7! Feel free to come by and join us for a game). This is exciting, because for several years I played with a different group. It was fun, and we had a good time, but it got stagnant because our LGS closed so we stopped playing out in the world. We didn't build decks very often and games often played out as repeats of the previous week.

This new group is larger and more dynamic. We have a bunch of players, and the group often changes from week to week. People have lots of different decks and we have a variety of experience levels, but everyone is kind and we have a lot of fun.

One of the guys in the group has been playing Magic for a very long time. He has played competitively in a variety of formats, loves to draft and play Constructed, and is a very good player (he's the one we always confirm rules questions with). He hasn't always played a lot of Commander, though, so when he started playing with us, he only had a couple of decks, both modified precons.

He mentioned a few months back he was thinking of building a new deck, Mono-White, and the next week showed up with it sleeved and ready to go. It's a great deck, plays really well, and when I decided to do a series on Mono-White I knew I wanted to highlight it. Let's take a look at his list, then we'll talk through some of the cards.

Adeline, Resplendent Cathar | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

Adeline, Resplendent Cathar
I think the first place to start is when this deck squared off at a table with Etali, Primal Storm. The comment my friend made was "the problem for Etali is the individual card quality of my deck is pretty low, so he doesn't actually get much from me." It's an interesting point, and worth exploring.

This deck is, in my experience, scrappy. It doesn't really play haymakers. There are few battlecruisers, no clear win conditions, and only an occasional card which makes the table really sit up and take notice. But! But.

Each card cascades into the next and subtly nudges the board in the direction he wants it to go. It draws a lot of cards, and despite the (nearly criminally!) low mana count, rarely misses its land drops, because there's so much card selection and land fetch like Land Tax and Weathered Wayfarer. Seeing that many cards means answers are always available; this is one of those decks where you feel like it must have six copies of Swords to Plowshares, because he always has it.

I need to take a minute to talk about this land count. This is way below my standard land count; in fact, it's below even the normal 36-37 I see in most other Commander writer's decks. 33 lands is the equivalent of running 20 lands in a 60 card deck! However, despite all my hammering on "run 40 lands!" this deck never struggles with mana. He runs mana rocks, the powerful land fetch cards I mentioned, and so much card selection he always manages to get the lands he needs. In addition, the curve of the deck is quite low; it does a decent job of running on only two or three mana, which makes missing a drop or two less bad. The final thing is more esoteric: he doesn't want to play any particular card. He wants to attempt to win the game. He'll happily loot away his Entreat the Angels to draw that Palace Jailor or basic Plains. If you're willing to ditch your big cards early to card selection, you can make better decisions about your mana. (On the other hand, I want to play my big stuff right now, so I run a ton of mana and ramp so I can do that!)

Austere Command
This is also not a deck which lets you sit back and coast. You have to play this deck. I recently took my Volo, Guide to Monsters deck out for its inaugural spin. Adeline should have been hopelessly outmatched by my explosive board state, but every time I managed to make a new pair of bruisers, my board got wrathed or I was otherwise managed. The rest of the table was prepared to roll over to my onslaught, but careful, tight play and lots of card draw kept Adeline alive until the bitter end - and I was only ultimately able to win by using Diluvian Primordial to steal his Austere Command!

This deck is a big part of my pivot to more card draw and selection in my decks. He always runs a ton of draw, looting, rummaging, you name it; if it lets him look at some extra cards, he runs it. He uses it, too; recently he borrowed my Alesha, Who Smiles at Death deck, which I recently retuned. I have Key to the City in there to discard Creatures for Alesha to reanimate and to make her unblockable so she doesn't die. He, on the other hand, played it out immediately and started activating it at the end of turn so he could untap it, pay 2, and draw an extra card. Looking at it now, it's a clear good use of the Artifact, but in the moment it was like watching a master class in resource management. The more cards you see, the more likely you are to have the card you need to win the game.

I lost to this deck last week. It was a cool, clean victory; it had been a messy game, with people hanging on for dear life, lots of complicated board states and missed triggers and all sorts of nonsense. With three of us left, the Adeline player looked at us and said "unless one of you has an answer, I think I have this." He untapped, played Sun Titan to return Selfless Spirit to the Battlefield, sacrificed it to make his Creatures indestructible, then played Austere Command to destroy all of our blockers. We died to a few tokens and random tax Creatures like Leonin Arbiter.

But that's the thing. There's no tricky combo, no infinite win-con, no huge beaters. Just needling damage played over the course of a game where he never really does anything to bother you enough to worry, just enough to not quite play the game you want to play. Playing Harmonize? Pay the extra 1 for Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. Or make sure that Urabrask, the Hidden comes into play tapped because Thalia, Heretic Cathar is in play. Ooh, sorry, that Nekrataal doesn't work; Hushbringer. Hope you've got a good card in the top four for that Demonic Tutor, because here's Aven Mindcensor!

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Aven Mindcensor

My friend likes to point out he doesn't actually win all that much with the deck, and looking back, it's kind of true. But it feels like he does. In the moment, the problem is always somewhere else. The Etali player is about to steal our stuff. The Artifacts player is fixing to combo off. The Vampire player looks like he's about to kill us all. But when you stop and look back at the game, it was Adeline who had the most influence. Etali got plowed. Artifacts were brought to their knees with Strict Proctor. The Vamps got Terminus'd back to their Library. Meanwhile Adeline was hitting us for one or two or three each turn, moving the game along, keeping us honest.

My final points are two-fold, I think. The first is check this deck out. It's cool. It might even be one you want to build, and that's great, but if you can, at least give it a spin with your favorite way to goldfish a game. It's a lot of fun. But the second, larger point is this: always be on the lookout for the next things to learn. There are people out there who have lots of things to show you about this game. People with different perspectives, playstyles, ideas, strategies. Don't ignore them and assume you're right. Learn from them. Watch them. Ask them questions. Incorporate their ideas into your builds. Borrow their decks, if they'll let you. It could be someone with more or less experience than you, someone who's played Commander for years or someone who's never built a 99, but keep your ears and mind open for the things you can learn from everyone you play with. You never know what might lead you to the next victory.

Thanks for reading.

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