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Building Curses with Lynde


If you've played Commander for a while, you know one of the most fun experiences is doing, or even watching, something completely unexpected. The Rakdos player who makes big mana and plays huge spells. The Rafiq player who doesn't one-shot with Berserk. The player who combos off with a nine-card combo they assembled without any tutors. That kind of stuff.

Today's deck... will not be one of those. We are going to be completely expected. Because, in truth, doing this any other way simply makes no sense.

Lynde, Cheerful Tormentor

I think we should probably play with some Curses, don't you?

It turns out there are 30, if you include Accursed Witch. We're going to run almost all of them (there are two which directly mill the opponent they're attached to. Unless we're going all-in on a mill strategy, it's generally a bad idea to mill. It makes people mad, turns an otherwise fun game into a not-fun game, and it's not going to beat that opponent any faster). We want to play them out, we want to make them hurt, and we want to (cheerfully) remind our opponents should they die, we'll just bring the curses right back and play them again.

Lynde Curses | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

Curses are also expensive, so let's talk about mana. And I'm going to use this opportunity to make a point I've been making for years, just in case you're new to my articles.

We are running 40 lands. Why? Because 40 lands should be the starting point for planning every. Single. Commander. Deck. Ever.

Think about it like this: in a normal 60 card deck, the generally accepted land count is 24, because with 24 lands, you have a high chance of hitting your fourth land drop on turn four and a reasonable chance of hitting your fifth on turn five. Then you look at your curve and adjust from there. Running an aggro deck with one 3-drop and everything else is twos and ones? Great, cut some lands, run some more pain. Running a control deck with multiple sevens and several fives? Add a few extra lands to make sure we get to that game-winning mana.

Now let's do some math. 24/60 = 40/100. So, if we run 40 lands, we have a high chance of hitting that fourth land and a decently high chance of hitting the fifth on time. Fewer than that and our chances go down to keep on curve and keep up with the three (or more) other people at the table with us. How many of your cards cost four or more mana? How many hands can you draw where you are completely stuck if you don't hit that fourth mana source? Or fifth? What if you really want to play that Cruel Reality and put the pain on one of your opponents? Can't do it without seven mana. How long will it take to get there?

I'm not saying every deck should have 40. Some should have fewer. But not many. If you're running a one- or two-color deck with a great curve and only a couple of 5-drops (and nothing higher), cut some lands, by all means. You don't desperately need that fourth land on turn four, and you probably want more action. But if you're running a normal Commander deck, one with some high-cost stuff, some big creatures, some X spells, and plenty of card draw, cut some stuff, run 40 lands, and watch how much smoother and better your games play.

("But I run mana ramp!" you cry. And it helps. But not as much as you think. My rule of thumb: figure out how many lands your deck needs based on the mana curve. Are you a high-cost deck with multiple sevens, eights, and nines? Maybe you want 43, 44, or even 45. Are you Warrior tribal with only a couple of sixes and a seven, but mostly twos and threes? 40 is probably right. Are you a Rakdos burn/aggro deck with mostly ones and twos, plus a couple of top-outs at four and one five? Maybe go to 37. Once you've decided on that, you can count your mana rocks or other ramp sources. For every four sources of ramp - every Sol Ring, Commander's Sphere, Cultivate, and Land Tax - you can cut one land.)

In addition to our 40 lands, we're also running some mana rocks. This deck is hungry, and we want to start casting spells as soon as possible, and as the game moves along we'll want to cast a couple of spells each turn.

We have several card draw spells, too, since we're in Blue. Lynde draws when we ship our Curses from ourself to someone else, but they require the Curse to have died, and other than with Claws of Gix, we won't be forcing that to happen, so we can't count on her for card parity. Divination works great, and several of the Curses will draw us cards as the game plays out (Curse of Surveillance, for example). Mind Unbound is fantastic if it sticks around for two turns and off the charts good if it lasts for four, so it's worth the add. Notion Thief probably won't stick around long, but Flash that thing in when someone's about to draw nineteen cards or something and the price of admission is 100% worth it.

On the other hand, we don't really have a way to win the game. I mean, something like Curse of Fool's Wisdom will eventually kill a player if they can't deal with it, but a 20-turn clock is a slow one. Mogis, God of Slaughter is capable of beating other players too, but again, it's a slow clock and mostly there to keep creatures off us. Mostly we're going to count on our Curses encouraging the other players to interact with each other rather than us. If they attack the player with Curse of Bloodletting, they get to double their damage, but if they attack us, they'll have to sacrifice the things they hit us with (No Mercy) or pay extra for it (Propaganda) or maybe they'll just be the next one to get hit with a Curse.

We've got a few point removal spells and a few board wipes. One of the nice thing about running all this mana is we can play Decree of Pain instead of thinking we have to run Damnation, because we'll normally have nine mana without any trouble.

There are a few other things worth mentioning. Bitterheart Witch should be used with care; putting Curses on our friends is mean enough, but searching your library, picking one, and sticking it on someone will hurt. It doesn't always have to be Cruel Reality. Sometimes a well-placed Curse of Inertia is the right choice. Fatespinner is merely a way to slow down other players' development, because we need the time to develop our mana. Paradox Haze, on the other hand, is a way to mess with a player who already has a cursed upkeep; someone with a Curse of Unbinding will have to give us two creatures if they have two upkeeps. Finally, Strionic Resonator and Lithoform Engine both allow us to copy triggered abilities. This is good, because almost all the Curses have triggered abilities (triggered abilities, in case you're not sure, are abilities which include the words "at," "when," or "whenever," and don't include a colon or a cost). Curse of Death's Hold is a weird holdout with a static ability, but check out Curse of Disturbance. "Whenever enchanted player is attacked, create a 2/2 black Zombie creature token." If we activate Strionic Resonator in response, we copy the trigger, which means we get two Zombies. So does the attacking player. Excellent.

Would you play Lynde? If not, why not, and if so, what would you do with her? Did I miss something great? Let us know in the comments.

Thanks for reading.

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