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Pentagram—Really Old School

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For those of you not in the know, Pentagram is an old variation of multiplayer where each person uses a deck of a single color. Players sit in a circle with their colored decks in the same configuration as the color wheel on the back of a Magic card. The players to your immediate left and right are your "allies." The two players across from you are your enemies. Quite simply, you win when your enemies have all lost. It can be a tricky balancing act; the person to my right wants to help me, but only so much, because one of my enemies is his ally, and so on. There can be a lot of politics involved, and the game is really a blast.

One quick note on this allies/enemies aspect: Anything that impacts an "opponent" can only affect your enemies. If something affects all players, even your allies are affected. This means that Wrath of God will destroy all creatures, whereas something like Syphon Mind only causes your enemies to discard cards. This is a little different from the whole "range-of-influence" method of playing. As to which one is better—well, that's not for me to decide!

My original intent today was to construct a mono-Red Commander deck, which we will still do, but then I thought of something a little bit bigger. Why not have a deck of each color and be able to play Commander Pentagram? Since I've previously written about two separate monocolored decks, this being the third, I think finishing the set is a natural extension. Now that we have our goal in mind, a few quick words about the "social contract" aspect of Commander.

Just as it is very easy to build a broken combo, it's very easy to hose a color completely. So, I will avoid cards that specifically destroy one player's ability to participate in the game. White Knight is a fair card for mono-Black to have to deal with. Karma is significantly less fair, in my opinion. Acid Rain–type effects completely hose one person and destroy his ability to play the game, something we want to avoid. For me, it's important that people get to have some fun and play in an epic game. I might be a little skewed in my viewpoints, so feel free to season these decks to your particular tastes.

Now that we know the color is Red, we get to go through the fun task of selecting a Commander. Your Commander needs to reflect the theme of the deck, or at least be functional. I like for my Commander to actually be someone I'm going to cast in a game; I want my Commander to do work. Fortunately, we have quite a few options at our disposal.

The first Commanders I would like to eliminate are Heartless Hidetsugu, as he is quite overplayed as it is, and Kamahl, Pit Fighter, as he is a little fragile, despite his ability to repeatedly Lightning Bolt. Chandler and Joven both offer some fine utility; reusable removal is always nice, especially with the amount of equipment floating around. Kumano, Master Yamabushi is quite saucy, but unfortunately Red lacks a Cabal Coffers–type effect to really use him to the utmost. Ryusei, the Falling Star is a tempting option for a Commander, but let's not forget that if you choose to put Ryusei in the command zone, his ability will not trigger, which really defeats the purpose of having him as a Commander.

Starke of Rath and Tahngarth, Talruum Hero both have useful creature-destruction abilities, but essentially send themselves on a suicide mission to do so. Tuktuk the Explorer unfortunately falls into the same category as Ryusei above—tempting, but unfortunately can't be used in an effective way. Zo-Zu the Punisher is another very tempting option that just puts a target on your head. Again, it's a tempting Commander, but not one that you want to play in a group game. Last we have Jaya Ballard, Task Mage. Jaya is everything absurd all at once, with three very useful abilities. The only drawback to Jaya is her first ability, which completely hoses one of the "enemies." While Jaya is very effective, I don't think it's fair to single out one player over the others. The other decks that have already been built are playing "fair," and I think it's only right for this deck to follow suit.

I've narrowed the list down to really only four possible Commanders. First is Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs. Kazuul has a nice advantage against token decks, creating a ton of blockers unless they can produce abundant mana to prevent him. While this keeps some aggro decks at bay, spot removal is still going to be an issue. Next we have Urabrask the Hidden. Urabrask is the new kid on the block, forcing your opponent to come up with some creative ways to produce blockers and also pushing extra damage through with your Hasty beaters. The third option is Diaochan, Artful Beauty. First, Diaochan has the whole classy appeal. Second, Diaochan is Vindicate for creatures, an extremely powerful ability! Last—and as our winner—we have Godo, Bandit Warlord. While his second ability is not nearly as relevant as some of the other abilities we've seen, I am a big fan of his tutoring for equipment, especially with all the Swords having been released.

With Godo's tutoring ability, we certainly want to have a nice package of cards we can fetch to answer any situation that can happen. We also want a minor amount of disruption, and of course some nasty big spells to finish off opponents. If we're going to have giant spells, we probably want some big mana to go with them. Things are really starting to come together! Without further delay, I present the list:

As you can see, we have a few great utility cards and overall just a highlight of every good Red card we can find. I've found this to be one of the more fun decks I've played. It doesn't have some of the raw power of Blue/Black, but I think it still manages to hold its own, particularly on mana acceleration and just generally "big stuff." Join me next week when we tackle a fair Green deck and discuss some of the things that happen this weekend at the Star City Games Open in Orlando! Until next week, thanks for reading.

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