This entry is part 12 of 23 in the series Savor That Commander Flavor

By William aka BlueRam

“An advisor once asked the Western Paladin how much gold would be enough. “I have no need of fools who can imagine ‘enough,'” he told the advisor’s corpse.”
-Greed

I’ll be the first to admit that I have a problem. Not a problem with the game mind you, but a personal one that the game enables. I have an addiction, and it’s really been digging into the time that I need for other things. School, sleep, even writing the actual Commandercast articles.

Even when I’m actually getting work done, all I can think about is the next time I’m going to do it. I get crazy thoughts, and delusional fantasies start playing over and over. Lord knows how much my wallet’s taken the hit for it. I was able to pay for college this semester, but sometimes I worry that won’t be the case if this keeps up.

Yes, I have an addiction to deck building. I know I’m not the only one either. Andy’s got his fair share of decks, and I’m sure that plenty of you have more decks than you can plan in a single night.

It’s all well and good, and nobody should slight you for it. But are all of those decks doing more harm than good?

How many decks do I have? Well, just to count: I’ve got one for almost every shard and each wedge (and the ones I don’t are in their blueprinting/assembling stage). I’ve got one for each color pair involving white, as well as mono-white itself. I don’t actually have a w/u deck yet, but since I have two g/w decks the count remains the same. There’s also Olivia Voldaren deck I’ve mentioned a few times. This is rounded out by a mono-green “Flash” deck I built after pulling Yeva, Nature’s Herald at the M13 pre-release.

That makes no less than 17 decks in total, and I fully expect more decks to be made in the future as more cards get printed and my collection expands, nor do I have any plans to stop. I just can’t help myself. Every time I get excited for a new legend, I get the itch to build a deck for it. The only thing keeping me from creating more decks than I already have is a lack of interest in other decks types.

There’s also my preference for not letting my decks overlap in their specific color combination, Rhys, the Redeemed and Sigarda, Host of the Herons notwithstanding. I  allow myself to keep both of those decks since Sigarda was pulled at a pre-release, and Rhys is built as a token deck that I’m constantly tinkering with and re-working. In short, the two decks are different enough that I can make an exception for one without axing the other.

Actually, if I look at all of my decks, I can see that they a few themes and strategies. Its not surprising considering I built all but one of them myself (the one exception being a certain Jenara deck that featured just a couple of weeks ago).

Ruhan of the Fomori and Sigarda are voltron decks, but so is Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer. However, Jor’s ability has led me to build around him with cards that also make artifact creature tokens. Tokens are a strategy that both Rhys, Teysa, Orzhov Scion, and Ghave, Guru of Spores use (though I’m hoping that I will have adequately nerfed Ghave in his second time around to avoid taking that deck apart again). Odric, Master Tactician gets used in a couple of them, but he was interesting enough to warrant command of the mono-white deck, relieving Kemba, Kha Regent in the process, though she’s still in the deck  as well.

Sharuum the Hedgemon, Jenara, Asura of War, Damia, Sage of Stone all put an emphasis on value as they compete with my opponents using card advantage, although Damia has a heavier emphasis on playing very large creatures as soon as possible. Although Yeva needs to ramp to hard-cast her fatties, Kaalia of the Vast and Mayael the Anima don’t need such assistance, preferring to cheat their beaters into play directly. Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund don’t care. Karrthus don’t give a shit.

Olivia really breaks the mold for my decks, as she tries to control the field. Given that she was inspired by someone else’s deck, she can proudly stand apart from the other decks jockeying for playing time.

Riku of Two Reflections and Thraximundar are both works in progress at the moment. I have plans to experiment with Riku as a deck that copies anything and everything. Reverberates, Body Doubles, and Vesuva are going to decorate it, with nothing being playable without something to copy first. Thraximundar….I have no idea how that’s going to work, honestly. Right now I’m just throwing a bunch of Grixis tri-colors together because there isn’t a place for them anywhere else. But who knows? It may turn out that Thraximundar was just a pawn for Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker.

I love having all of these options at any given time. The decks’ strategies are similar enough that I can switch the one I’m using and not have to make a huge adjustment mentally to how I want to play the game, but they’re different enough that I still feel like I’m playing a different deck rather than just using “Kaalia 2.0”.

The decks all have varying power levels too, which means that if I need to power-down for a group that likes to play more casually than normal group then I can scale down accordingly. But carrying around all of those decks becomes a huge hassle. Usually, I only get to choose three to play and one to lend whenever I go out for a few games.

Another problem of having so many decks is that there aren’t enough Commander games going on to play each of them as thoroughly as I’d like to. I don’t get a chance to refine them through repeated playing, and have to rely on what’s been working for similar decks. I still upgrade the decks when I get new cards, but I know Mayael’s been getting pretty lonely for a while now.


(Pic by MightlyOats)

Both regulars in my playgroup, Gary and ‘the Zur player’ henceforth dubbed “Richie”, have each  been using a single deck for the past year. Partially due to how much they can let themselves spend on cards, so throughout many, many card games, they’ve been working with their decks, figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Richie went through several generals at one time, trying to figure out which one he liked the best, evolving the deck each time he moved on to the next stage.

Richie started with Reaper King he had lying around before making the switch to Teneb, the Harvester when the Commander products came out. But after playing Teneb for a bit, he moved on to Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter. He played Vish Kal for the longest time and it looked like he’d found his general of choice. He even got the card altered by commission.

But Vish Kal had his own problems (a high mana cost being one of them), and he continued searching. I thought he hit something with Dakkon Blackblade. Esper was one of his favorite color sets, and he was enjoying the voltron aspect that Dakkon brought. But mana and speed were still issues for him. With some advice from Gary, he finally found Zur the Enchanter.

It’s taken him over a year of play testing since the Commander products originally came out, but Richie’s finally completed a deck that he’s happy with, just as Gary has. Now Gary’s working on Merieke Ri Berit, but Richie’s content to stick with Zur for now. The guy’s got an amazing attention span.

Of course, they also know how their decks work too. A few weeks ago, I brought out Olivia for the fated showdown between master and student. It took three and a half hours for me to not win. I say “not win” because I had a clear control for most of the game.

My Rix Maadi, Dungeon Palace/Squee, Goblin Nabob lockdown was in effect, and I had Liliana Vess whittling down my opponent’s hands. I had several cards to play, but was taking forever to pick which ones to use.

In truth, I was worried about answers, counterspells, etc, that might have been held back for a crucial moment. I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to win. The grindy, control game was working, but I wasn’t getting anywhere. The strategy didn’t feel aggressive enough to take advantage of a good board position when it presented itself. If I’d played the deck more, I would’ve had a chance to fix that. Instead, everyone was stuck playing a game that they weren’t enjoying until Rix Maadi got Strip Mine’d away and Liliana got knocked out, freeing everyone from my oppressive game plan.

I just don’t have the attention span to stick with one deck for too long, and I’m constantly getting distracted by shiny, new commanders. I’ve managed to stay pretty regular with Kaalia, but everyone else keeps elbowing each other to get into the 3-4 games I get to play a week, if that.

At the same time though, there’s nothing wrong with this. If nothing else, I have a few decks I’m comfortable lending out if someone needs to borrow one. I also like building the decks themselves. It’s fun to build things out of abstract ideas with limited card pools. I might not get to play them, but that doesn’t mean I’m not having fun tweaking and improving them either.

My friends look at me and marvel at how many decks I have. I look at them and marvel at how they can only let themselves have only one.

As always, if you have any comments/questions/ideas for articles/etc, feel free to leave some comments down below, tweet my account @BlueRam1409, or send an email to my inbox at Wiehernandez(at)gmail(dot)com. I’m also “BlueRam” on the MTG Salvation forums, if you want to send me a message there.

Join me next week when I dip my pen back into fiction as I share my own personal lab process for how I go about cranking out these cardboard wonders.

Until then, be careful how high you stack those decks. It’s always a nightmare when everything falls over and gets mixed together.

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