This entry is part 9 of 9 in the series Line in the Sand

 Posted by ‘BRIONNE’ aka ‘FORK OF DOOM’

My apartment is always littered with cards, but this is a special occasion–the release of a new set. Having spent lots of hard earned cash monies on all this new cardboard, I’m reminded how expensive Magic really is. A quick search shows that there are about 100 cards in this game that are worth more than $50 dollars. I’ve built a pretty decent Commander deck for that much. For a lot of players, even $20 cards are too much to acquire. That made me wonder…what sort of decks would people build if they had unlimited funds?

So I went to the internet to find out. I was expecting to hear a lot of people wanting to build traditionally powerful, expensive decks. I think the most powerful thing I saw was someone who wanted to build Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed. Everyone else wanted cards in one of three categories. The majority wanted a better mana base. I think that says a lot about Commander players. There are so many expensive, broken things they could want, but all they want are some good lands for their current decks. Duals, shocks, and fetches are expensive, but they aren’t too powerful. All they really do is allow players to play whatever cards they want.

   

And make them vulnerable to nonbasic land hate.

No Commander player wants to be restricted by a shaky mana base. They want to be able to cast Planar Cleansing, Kiki-Jiki, and Cryptic Command from the same six lands. That may be a little greedy but there is nothing busted about it.

The second biggest category of responses I got were players wanting a specific, expensive card with a unique effect. They didn’t want a new deck full of expensive cards, they just wanted a Diamond Valley or a Mishra’s Workshop for their current decks. My personal response is that I want an Imperial Recruiter for my Adun Oakenshield deck. Often, cards like this draw players to EDH. They are expensive, but not because they are widely played. Many of them, like Bazaar of Baghdad and Imperial Seal, are only legal in Commander and Vintage. Others, like Chains of Mephistopheles and The Abyss are legal in Legacy but simply don’t see much play. These unique and rare cards just might be the true poster children of EDH.

Shahrazad was just a little too unique.

The last category were my fellow foil connoisseurs. These people already have the decks they want to play and just want them to be even more expensive. However, these people aren’t the only ones who devote a lot of resources to building Commander decks. I’ve seen people sell whole trade binders to fund a deck, or even a few cards. When I built Thada Adel a couple years ago, I sold a standard deck (including two Jace, the Mind Sculptors) to fund it. Maybe this is why people didn’t say they wanted to build whole decks—most Commander players will devote all their available resources to building the deck they want. They just need those last few, really expensive cards.

But what does all this mean for Commander? It means that, whatever problems there might be with the format, that Commander players are satisfied with their decks, despite the lack of those last few costly cards, of course. Sure there are a lot of people who have a list of cards they need for decks (I know I do!), but for the most part EDH players have the decks they want to play. The content of the decks and attitude of the pilots might be a problem, but people are playing decks they like.

My playgroup’s position on proxies means that I’ve been able to try a hypothetical “money is no object” deck in the form of Sharuum, and it was lame to the extreme. If someone handed me a couple thousand dollars I’d probably build a deck that is no better than any of my current decks. Besides, I’ve built a lot of decks that I later tore apart. The Thada Adel deck I mentioned earlier, for instance. I spent months looking up cards, hammering out a list. I wanted it to be good, and I wanted to get it right the first time. I bought tons of expensive cards (Tolarian Academy was still legal at the time), and the deck was fairly powerful. It’s not hard to win a game when you’re untapping Tolarian Academy with Minamo, School at Water’s Edge to make 5-10 mana per turn. The deck was so good, in fact, that it got me a lot of hate. For some reason, people see mono blue and assume you’ll counter everything they cast. So I decided to change the deck to a Nicol Bolas list. The most powerful part of the shell was there, but enhanced with tutors, mass removal, and Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker. It was incredibly powerful and I don’t think it ever lost a game.

I hated it.

Oh sure, I liked a lot of the cards, and I had fun playing it. But it just wasn’t something I wanted to keep together. It was then that I realized a good Commander deck doesn’t come from a list of optimal cards or a conglomeration of interactions that are known to be powerful. A good Commander deck is one that you can take to the table week after week and enjoy playing. Sure you might need some variety, but you know you can always come back. Money and power level really isn’t an issue, at least for me. I have just as much fun playing my $50 budget Kemba as I do my pimped-out Tails list. What really matters is the thought and time I’ve put into the deck.

At the risk of sounding incredibly cheesy, your deck is your creation. As any veteran EDH player knows, a deck is never done. There is always a new set, new tech to be discovered, or a card that consistently underperforms. For some, it is a matter of constantly building new decks and testing out new concepts. For others, half the fun is taking all the time and effort to find the cards, to play the deck, and to continue to make it better.

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