This entry is part 2 of 23 in the series Savor That Commander Flavor

By William
Hello my fellow vorthoses (vorthosii?), and welcome to part two of my opening column. If you’re here then you’re probably familiar with last week’s article Found Here. But more importantly, if you’re here then that means that you actually enjoyed reading my rant about the flavor of commander, the tale of a dragon loved but abandoned, and the sentimentality we share with the first card we chose as our general.

We continue our tri-facto pilot with an article where I take haphazard attempts to explain what your general might say about you, and make suggestions for other commanders you might want to try. While this topic may be a little flavor-lite, it’s something I’ve been wanting to take a stab at for a while now.

When we talk about choosing our partner commander, we’re going to pick someone who has the capability to play the game we want to play. After all, this is the face of your franchise and the figurehead of your army. You need to pick someone who can get the job done while appealing to your own tastes.

Each planeswalker has their own style, even amongst a single color. The same player who plays an aggresive Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer deck is just as different to his Brion Stoutarm control build as fried chicken is to the turkey leg. They’re both food items, and they’re both a type of aviary leg, but its entirely a matter of taste. Different tastes then lead, of course, to different flavors of games and match-ups.

This is where evaluating the other generals at the table becomes relevant. If you’re trying to branch out, make some new friends, and have a good time, it might be a good idea to see who’s playing what and how. This, in theory, will give you better insight into who you can try and play politics with, as well as who you might have more fun playing with again later.

(Note: This is only my attempt to categorize broad personality types, and shouldn’t be taken as an absolute truth. If you disagree with any of my theories, feel free to comment after the article or send me an email with your own theories or why you disagree.)

Last week I talked about how Rith, the Awakener seemed like the perfect general for me. Her colors allowed me to play large creatures, and she also had strong token making abilities. Off those two criteria alone, you could easily peg me as a Timmy player who enjoys playing aggressively since attacking is the only way to trigger Rith’s ability.
With those two things noted, it should come as no surprise that my favorite general is Kaalia of the Vast. Similar to Rith, she’s an aggressive creature with an ability that requires an attack to trigger and allows me to play large creatures that would otherwise be rather hard to play.

The differences involve Kaalia being a much faster card to play (possibly attacking by turn four with a lucky hand), but being much easier to cripple if left unprotected from, say, an  untimely Condemn. There also tends to be a lot of hate geared towards Kaalia in general, particularly if your meta contains a lot of mid-ranged decks.
Watch out for combo or control players. Attacking either one of these player types may result in whining and attempted politics. In my experience at least, the control player complains that they’re being targeted because they play blue and the combo player complains that there are other targets that need to be attacked first. Newer players at the table usually pick up on these complaints and start panicking. This can lead to them ripping off a Wrath of God before you get a chance to knock out one of your opponents, for fear that you’re going to start beating them over the head in lieu of the complaints.

Yet despite the uphill battle and the hate that develops, I still play Kaalia for the same reason other players keep using fast hitting and often hated generals like Uril, the Miststalker, or Skullbriar, the Walking Grave.
So what does this say about players like me who use generals like Kaalia? It says that we love having a big aggressive creature on the board, and we love being the guy who gets the game moving. We can’t handle all of the sitting around and waiting for board position to develop. We MAKE the board position and force others to interact with us. We’re probably impatient, and might even take it personally when our general gets tucked…for no adequately explained reason other than “Well I didn’t want you swinging at me!”

(Honestly, there’s nothing that annoys me more than a premature board wipe. At least let me take a guy out for you before you get rid of stuff. But I digress.)

It also says that we love having a champion who fights for us, someone we can trust to carry the burden of being our sole win condition. In truth, most voltron generals are like this since they require most of your deck to be dedicated to buffing them out.

But most importantly, it says that what we love most about commander is the primary principle that the variant was built on: choosing a single legendary creature to lead your entire army of 99 and using them as much as possible.

If that’s the case, you may want to look into cards like Geist of Saint Traft, or the new Sigarda, Host of Herons. Generals with built in protection from spot removal are extremely resilient and pack a punch. As of right now, only five are in existence and only three of those are multicolor (Geist, Sigarda, and Uril).
For other players, their general is used as a stepping stone to their ultimate goal. Take Ghave, Guru of Spores for example.

While Ghave can be built in different ways, the most common I’ve seen has been the degenerative combo enabler version. It’s no secret that Ghave’s token/counter producing ability, combined with his color pool, is one of the easiest things to exploit in the game of EDH. *coughMikaeus, the Unhallowedcough*

As I’ve said before, I tried my hand at a Ghave deck when Rith didn’t work out. But the combos came so easily, and so frequently, that my head was constantly spinning whenever I tried to keep track of how my combo worked to begin with. Infinite mana, infinite tokens, infinite Ghave general damage, I could do it all. But I always lost track of where I was in the combo and would have to waste time checking to make sure that I could actually do what I said I was doing. This slowed down the game considerably, and left me feeling hollow as far as having achieved an actual victory.

While non-interactive combo isn’t for me, I don’t begrudge anyone who actually DOES enjoy it. There are plenty of cards that combo off like crazy (Oona, Queen of the Fae and Sharuum the Hegemon come to mind), and if you play one of them then it tells me that you love having the ability to pull off crazy shenanigans and quickly end if game if you need to. It also says that you love figuring out how different mechanics come together to create a machine that’s as slick as oil.

But it also says that you may not be particularly interested in the social aspect of commander. Combo decks tend to be played by spikes who want to win big, or by johnnies who want to show off the clever interactions they’ve concocted.
That’s not to say that all spikes and johnnies play combo decks, but someone who’s playing the game for fun is less likely to play a game that ends with his friends grumbling about an infinite Exsanguinate, an infinite/infinte Ghave swing, or having all of their lands blown up from an infinite Woodfall Primus (do you see a theme here?). You probably enjoy the commander tournament scene though, playing in leagues to farm packs, win bragging rights, or show off. Which, again, isn’t necessarily a bad thing in of itself.

From what I understand, Animar, Soul of Elements has the potential to do some crazy, broken combos. Experiment Kraj seems like a kinder version, and The Mimeoplasm is the god damn Mimeoplasm. But as I haven’t had any face time with Kraj, I’m going to have to rely on my audience to prove me wrong on that one.

As I said before, Ghave and other generals who hold the potential to be broken can just as easily be built in other ways. You might go for a straight token built, for example. Going to a more interactive build is good proof that do you care about having fun outside of winning, and just want to enjoy the time you spend with your friends while playing the cards you like. It’s something worth remembering the next time you sit down and watch Timmy timidly put out his Oros, the Avenger deck into play.

That’s it for this week. Next week I’ll wrap up this tri-facto article by continuing my thoughts on what your commander says about you by looking at other player archetypes I’ve observed thus far. I’ll also start featuring a small section where I respond to reader emails, assuming I get any. *hint hint*

As always, if you want to send me an email discussing this (or next) week’s topic, or even just ideas you have for articles you’d like to see me write, leave a comment below or send me an email at wiehernandez(at)gmail(dot)com.
Until then, may you reflect on the face of your army.

Series Navigation<< Savor That Commander Flavor 01 – PilotSavor That Commander Flavor 03 – What’s in a General? Part 3 >>