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99 Problems: How Many Decks is Too Many?

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This week, on a very special episode 99 Problems:

I have ADHD.

To those that have interacted with me for a period of time, that might not come as a surprise. I wasn't fully diagnosed until recently, even though I had suspicions. Perhaps this explains why I like Twitter (@mtgcolorpie), and it definitely explains why I love Magic.

There are two common stereotypes associated with people who have ADHD: the intense inability to focus and the ability to hyperfocus. This might seem counterintuitive; but, if there's something that interests a person with ADHD, they can latch onto it and spend hours deep diving into whatever they're doing (like a rabbit hole). Magic, with all of its intricacies, makes for a very deep rabbit hole indeed.

Now let's talk about my 33 Commander decks.

(Cut to: Title Sequence. Theme Music: Pop Culture by Madeon)


To be fair, it's not a full 33 decks since some of them aren't fully put together. Unlike my daughters, I can choose favorite decks. I have some that have been together for years while others still aren't quite finished. Life and time has prevented me from fully building those decks, but that's changing recently.

My 33 decks? That may seem like a large amount, and it kind of is. But once you see what I'm doing it will make a lot more sense.

What I have is a deck for each color combination, along with colorless, five-color, and an UnCommander deck (Baron Von Count).

Other people have run with the same concept and it is so choice; if you have the means I highly suggest doing the same. It's much easier to do on MTGO since cards are much cheaper than paper (of course you don't always get the new Commanders all of the time). If you have one Sol Ring online you can play it in all of your decks, you don't need 33 of them.

What does having 33 decks offer me? Well, it allows me to do several things. The first is the ability to have decks at different power levels. My Karrthus list is a Dragon Tribal deck where the goal is to just play large Dragons. I don't have them ramping out on turn three, but I do have Patriarch's Bidding and Cryptic Gateway. Rafiq of the Many is a Voltron style beatdown deck that can have a fast start if I push it hard enough and it's not really fun for heavy multiplayer. The different power levels mean I can adjust my decks depending on if I'm playing with unknown people or if my friends want to pull out the big guns.

The second thing having this many decks allows me to do is explore my Johnny side. I love building decks. If I find a combo and want to sneak it into a deck, then I find a color combination or Commander I can shove it into. For example, I'm running On Serra's Wings and Traxos, Scourge of Kroog on Arena at the moment, and I want to play it in Commander. Since I can't have On Serra's Wings in a Traxos deck, I have to find a White based deck that might work. Raff Capashen, Ship's Mage seems like the best fit since both cards are Historic and I can flash them into play for a surprise attack/block.

Third, it keeps me limited to 33 decks. Yes, Maro's mantra of "Restrictions breed creativity" does ring true. In Commander, we already have restrictions for deck-building due to commander color identity. For me, if I didn't keep myself limited to 33 decks, I might have a lot more. Again, it's not a bad thing if you have more; but, for me, I have to set a limit. This is where I feel the ADHD thing comes into play, I would go off and continue to build decks without actually ever playing any of them. I need seven Bant decks, right?

Last, it forces me to think about colors and combinations I wouldn't actually play. Currently, I only have one four-color deck built: Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis. The other four color options are there only because they're there; to paraphrase Starship Troopers: "You're it until you're dead or 'till I find somebody better." These decks tend to get shifted to the bottom of the build list only because I'm waiting for something else to catch my fancy (and something always does).

So, how did I choose my Commanders? Simple: They look fun to play and build around.

That's it.

Thank you all for reading and next week we'll talk about…

I'm just kidding.

Shouldn't your Commanders be fun to play and build around? If you're looking for straight power, then my articles might not be the place for you. You should be having fun while playing the formatm and, luckily, fun means different things to different people. Even if it's the most basic and commonly used path with a Commander, if it's fun to you, run it.

The only other real rule I've got about my Commanders is that they have to do different things. It's no fun to have similar paths to victory or styles of play between more than one deck. It doesn't make sense to have a Slimefoot, the Stowaway deck when you have a Ghave, Guru of Spores one. Remember in last week's article I said that I understand putting Phyrexian Processor in a Brion Stoutarm deck but I've got it in my Trostani deck: it's also like that. While I don't go to the extreme of only having one card between all of my decks (I think Sheldon Menery does (and I hope he beats his returned cancer, we're pulling for you)), I don't find it exciting to have the same finishers in different decks.

If I was going to rank my commanders into tiers, from decks I'm most likely keep together to placeholder, I would rank them like this:

S Level

A Level

B Level

C Level

D Level

So, as you can see, I'm not a fan of the four-color options. They're hard to design, and they were "box check" both for fans of Commander and for my collection. They only way Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis works for me is because of Amonkhet. Yes, it's a cycling based deck.

Quick aside, let's talk about that deck quickly. This is a great example of the decks I like to make. Sure, they all don't have a quirky theme like cycling, but they're decks where I like all of the pieces to work together. K&T works by putting more lands into play for me to cycle with and to give everyone extra cards too. It's like "Hey, don't look at me, I'm giving you lands or letting you draw cards. Then bam! Treacherous Terrain.

Surprise Decklist!

Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis | Commander | Robby Rothe


We'll do a break down and update the deck after Guilds of Ravnica comes out, but that leads me into my next point with these decks: how they evolve. I've been fascinated about how Commander decks can evolve with new cards that come out and how strategies change or my style of play interacts with the deck. For years I've unsuccessfully kept a spreadsheet with the relevant information for my decks, from the land ratio to which cards in the deck are foreign/foil (which makes it easier to know if I find something that I need to trade/acquire).

There are easier tools online, such as TappedOut.net, but they don't track the history of the decks you've been tinkering with (even something like CubeTutor.com's "blog"/changelog would be a welcome addition). Maybe I'm the only one who cares and it's a feature that doesn't need to be fully executed. However, I have seen my decks shift in style and focus over the years of playing and want. For example: Rafiq of the Many used to be a deck that cared about creatures hitting an opponent and the effects that would happen. Slowly it morphed into the Voltron Exalted deck that it is today. I've lost all the changes to time like tears in rain.

Rafiq of the Many
We can track how competitive formats change when new sets are brought into the fold, but I think it's just as important to see that for Commander as well. I think I can tell you the instant my Rafiq deck went from a cute little deck to semi-focused to a Voltron style deck: when I saw Mythic Conscription in Standard. Seeing a high level player run Sovereigns of Lost Alara and Eldrazi Conscription in Standard meant that it was good enough for my Commander deck (Two cards I was surprised I didn't see in the Enchantress C18 deck).

Some of these are things that I would love to keep track of. Maybe Google Docs isn't the best place for it (after all, can EDHRec read my Google Drive? I think not). At the moment, I'm making more of a conscious effort, and this article series will allow us to do just that (I've got a bunch of other ideas planned for here but we just haven't gotten to them yet). I would also encourage you to do the same and see where your decks end up.

Could one of the new Commanders in Guilds of Ravnica cause me to change out what I currently have? Of course, but with Selesnya, Boros, and Dimir pretty much locked up, it will take Golgari or Izzet to step up their game. But don't worry, I've switch Commanders with those color combinations plenty of times. Also good news: I always love new toys for my favorite decks.

Let me circle back to my intro for a moment before I wrap this up. Being a fan of Magic does help my ADHD because there is so much I can focus on with this game while exploring the many avenues it has to offer. I'm a huge fan of game design and of Commander and I can be a part of both communities and not feel like I have to choose. There are some awesome benefits that come with having ADHD such as hyper focus and that ability to jump between topics. Of course, it's a double edged sword. (I made a comments about "Tears in Rain" from Blade Runner, so I had to see if the quote was "Tears in the Rain" then decide if I wanted my Editor to link to the scene, then find the scene on YouTube, then don't you know I'm watching Movies with Mikey's Blade Runner 2049 discussion while this article still remains unwritten.

For my deck construction (which I'll get into in a later article), you'll see that how I build my decks and why I chose them work the same way: Everything is connected. I love synergies. It's okay if you don't. Cool Stuff Inc's Jason Alt's 75% philosophy works great for him and what he wants to do with the format. I applaud it and anyone else who wants to follow that philosophy. His recent Arixmethes deck seems fun and different from what I might want to do with the deck. The whole idea of these articles is to get your brain thinking and make it work for you. My brain might just want to ramp it out, play with spells that turn my lands into creatures and cram Blackblade Reforged in there because giving Treetop Village an additional +1/+1 when it attacks is kinda funny.

Back on point, it's school time again; and, if you're struggling, I might suggest you get tested for ADHD. It's not a cure-all, as I'm having to work on strategies to make my life work (and to get a sustainable weekly column), but it could be a step in the right direction. If you're curious about finding more info, the go-to YouTube Channel I recommend is How To ADHD. She has a video about explaining ADHD.

With these first two "introductory" articles out of the way we're going to start ramping into deeper content. I've got a whole list and planned out what I intended to write about until the middle of March, with a few gaps of course. See, this is me trying to be prepared; take that ADHD. If there's something you want to see covered in a Commander article, hit me up on twitter (@mtgcolorpie), Mastodon (@mtgcolorpie@mastodon.social) or make a comment down below. I'll be at PAX Prime on Saturday if you want to play a Commander game or head to the Guilds of Ravnica panel with me. I don't think I'll have an article about it before my time on Tuesday, but who knows.

If you're wondering what I do with other Legendary Creatures that I do like but don't use them in Commander decks, don't wonder for too long: I've got a Commander Cube. We'll, uh, get to that sometime. Right now I've got to build another deck for PAX. Catch you next time.