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Exploring Personal Nostalgia in Commander


Recently, I've been finding myself absolutely knee-deep in Magic nostalgia. Topics keep coming up that bring me back to my earliest days with the game all around the internet. Listening to both episodes of The Resleevables and the Shivam and Wheeler Love Magic podcast has me wanting to write my own retrospectives on classic sets. Then I see Brian David-Marshall talking about Keldon Firebombers and I remember how I used to run it in my first year of the game after opening a copy in a Prophecy booster pack.

Keldon Firebombers
Multani, Maro-Sorcerer
Elvish Piper

Even further on there's the discussion of favorite artworks. I immediately brought up several cards from Urza's Legacy, citing how rich the art was - and is - and made me want to see what the world of this game was all about. Soon after that was the discussion of your all-time favorite cards from when you first started. I mentioned Sliver Queen, Shivan Phoenix, Quicksilver Amulet, and Multani, Maro-Sorcerer as my picks. Quicksilver Amulet came up again just days later where I also discussed my love of Elvish Piper and Timmy, Power Gamer from the same era.

Oh, and there was that whole Decree of Justice being reprinted at uncommon thing that fried my MTG boomer brain.

All of this coverage of my formative years with the game made me want to reflect on them in a way I haven't really before. I talk a lot about those early years and what they meant to me in these articles, but I don't think I've ever shown what that experience actually looked like. So today, I'm going to show a Commander deck that's relatively close to what you'd have seen me playing back in 1999-2000 and then come up with something a bit more cohesive themed around nostalgia.

So to start, I've got the aforementioned Commander deck that reflects what I would've been playing way back when. To be clear, this deck wasn't actually a Commander deck, but it was close enough that I might as well treat it as such. It was basically a 100+ five color deck that did actually have a five-color legend, so it's pretty easy to convert over into what a Commander deck might look like.

This is the kind of deck I would've been playing in the era of decks like Jar, Tinker, and Wildfire. It was absolute jank in all the best ways possible. It was largely compromised of just cards I managed to get from opening a small handful of boosters or else rifling through a binder or a bulk bin at the local card shop (most of which were actually sports cards focused). You'd see a cool card and just go "heck yeah, let's shove it into the deck!" Then you'd just bash them together and hope for the best.

As it happens, there's actually a lot of really cool things happening here. A lot of cards in this mix are pretty powerful individually. Cards like Sliver Queen, Mox Diamond, and Survival of the Fittest are here because I actually owned them. The Survival I opened in a booster and the others I bought from a local sports card shop's $0.25 binder (that's a true story). There were some pretty powerful top end cards, all of which could be cheated in with the likes of Quicksilver Amulet, Elvish Piper, and Timmy, Power Gamer. Remember how I brought them up earlier? This is why.

Sliver Queen
Quicksilver Amulet
Shivan Phoenix

The mana base is awful but that's just how rough things were back in the day. You couldn't just hop on the internet and order cards like you can today. It was basically whatever you got in packs and whatever the local shop had. Most of the sets also just didn't have duals in them either, which didn't help things. At the time you had (unless I'm mistaken) three dual land cycles in the allied pain lands and the two cycles of extremely forgetful and mediocre duals in Tempest. It wasn't remotely like it is now, and so you were left with awful mana bases like this as a result.

I couldn't even fit all the cards I played with in this era! Here's a list of some other heaters I used back then, still not complete:

I could go on and on about how awesome every one of these was to me as a kid. I loved it so much that when I came back to Magic after a two year hiatus in college, I went out of my way to build a list extremely similar to the one above. Guess what? It was awful! So, while I wanted to share this little trip down memory lane, I wanted to do something a little better that's still rooted in my own personal nostalgia for the game. Here's the list I ended up putting together:

Paige's Nostalgia Overload | Commander

Card Display

The real challenge with this deck was how exactly I wanted to approach the nostalgia factor. Many of the most important decks I've played throughout my life are difficult to translate into singleton slots of a Commander deck. The reason for this is how context sensitive they tend to be, which is impossible to work with in a broad five color deck.

Some of the decks I'm most known for are Elves, Affinity, and High Tide. Each of those is tremendously high synergy that makes it hard to find individual additions for other decks. For example, Wellwisher is an all-time favorite because of the high elf count, but without that, it becomes exceedingly mediocre. This is true of Affinity as well, where it ends up being hard to utilize cards like Myr Enforcer, Thoughtcast, Cranial Plating, and Arcbound Ravager in a meaningful way. As for High Tide, the whole deck outside of the namesake is cantrips and one-shot untap effects to build up your mana. Not a lot to work with there.

Arcbound Ravager
High Tide
Teferi's Puzzle Box

A lot of this is true for the decks people don't know me for as well. Underworld Dreams decks are cool and fun, but it revolves on utilizing synergistic plays. Some of the cards (see Teferi's Puzzle Box) are just downright unfun to most players, even if I personally love them. Then you look at decks like Gruul Dragons (Tarkir era), various Mono-Red Aggro builds, and Mono-Black Devotion and you see the same sort of pattern. Decks full of great cards but each utilizing cards that don't work well on their own.

So, I looked to nostalgia here in a broader sense. What cards could I look at that meant something to me in a certain era? Perhaps I could look at other decks I enjoyed, find the cream of the crop from the early years of "cards I own," or utilize particular Limited favorites. Starting with the Commander choice was easy enough. Sliver Queen now is too pricey and difficult to acquire, but Karona, False God is very accessible and reminds me of my deep affection for the Onslaught era of the game.

From there I looked for a couple cards I might've used in older decks. I can't run most of the critical cards out of decks like Elves, Slivers, Dragons, or Underworld Dreams. For each, though, I can pull an odd homage or two, such as mana dorks (Llanowar Elves, Manaweft Sliver, Sylvan Caryatid) or else a generic value card such as Howling Mine. Heartless Summoning doesn't make sense here, but something like Grave Titan that I certainly used in that deck works plenty fine here. Even with Mono-Black Devotion, Pack Rat doesn't work well without lots of reanimation synergy, but something like Nightveil Specter works just fine.

Manaweft Sliver
Nightveil Specter

Beyond that, I wanted to lean in a bit more to one of the better elements of the original childhood deck: slamming down huge creatures. With the old list, I was able to do this off the backs of cards like Quicksilver Amulet and Elvish Piper. Those are both still here, but with them also comes an absolute plethora of ramp effects to super charge your ability to dump the big creatures onto the battlefield. Akroma was a jaw-dropper in the olden days, Spiritmonger was the coolest thing ever based on a "you create the creature concept" contest that happened in the past, and Dakkon Blackblade just screams old-school cool.

Almost every card here has a story behind it in what makes it special to me. I don't exactly have the time to cover every one of them here in a single article, but suffice it to say they're the kinds of cards that have managed to influence me continuously after 25 years of playing Magic: the Gathering. If they didn't, I wouldn't still be thinking about all of them on a regular basis today so many years later!

So now the question is: how will you build your ultimate nostalgia deck?

Paige Smith

Twitter: @TheMaverickGal

Twitch: twitch.tv/themaverickgirl

YouTube: TheMaverickGal

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