This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Tragic Slipping Tier One
By: Hayes Pierson

Hayes

Hey! My name’s Hayes and I am new this season to Commandercast to bring you all new content concerning tier one Commander gameplay. In competitive magic players respect certain plays that their opponent can make. I argue that the same should happen in Commander. Respect the plays that your opponents can make, they are trying to kill you! By being able to understand play patterns and read what card text says in between the lines I argue that most players can make their decks and play styles much more competitive. “Tragic Slipping Tier One” is going to give you an analysis of the tier one format and how to translate that understanding into metagame change.

Background: I am from the Raleigh/Durham area and am a Level One judge. I like to play any archetype of EDH that isn’t based around easy to use infinite combos. Specialties include control and other forms of heavy durdling. My pet deck right now is an Oloro build that wins through heavy grinding.

The first article in this series is meant to create a baseline for the following articles. It has a few strategies that most veteran players should already be familiar with and is intended for beginner or intermediate players of the format. If you want to improve your gameplay within your metagame you are in the right place. If you got into commander with the launch of the most recent commander deck product, this article is for you. If you have top 8-ed a PTQ, this article is not for you.

This article will talk about how Wrath of God and its various cousins define the EDH format, no matter what archetype you are attempting to play. When thinking about what sort of plays to respect, Wrath of God should be on top of your list.

Why? Let’s read Wrath of God.

Wog

To an aggro deck that has many turn 1, 2, 3 and 4 plays this card tells you that your board position is gone. Only indestructible creatures survive. In EDH most playable indestructible creatures don’t hit the board earlier than turn five (And only if you’re ramping quickly).

Now lets read Wrath of God from the perspective of a combo/control deck.

Destroy all threats.

This is the problem of Wrath of god. It eliminates all pressure traditional decks try to put onto the board and immediately allows other decks to turn the corner and start doing whatever they need to do to make it impossible for anyone else to win. In traditional constructed environments where wrath cards have existed they have served this same purpose for control decks. On turn 4 or 5 it isn’t uncommon for a control deck to tapout in order to blow up an opponent’s board. Besides the obvious victory of eliminating threats the control deck is also accomplishing something else: card advantage. In a game of EDH this easily means using one card to take out a dozen or more of your opponent’s cards. In the case of Decree of Pain, its can only get better.

While constructed control decks and edh control/combo decks both share the same goal of eliminating all threats EDH decks actually have a higher percentage chance of hitting their wraths effects. This is because there are so many wrath effects and there are plenty of spell tutors they can pack into their decks. Day of Judgement, Decree of Pain, Rout, Damnation, and Austere Command are only a few. In traditional constructed control decks there are only a playset of wrath effects. This comprises 4/60, or 6.7% of their deck. In games of commander decks can easily run 6-7 copies of wrath effects in their deck while at the same time adding tutor cards. These tutors can act as stand in copies to either go get the wraths or other cards, essentially increasing the percentage. Once the tutors and wrath effects total around 14 it gets to the point where they will statistically see one in each game they play. This means on demand mass destruction.

In addition to tutors the casting of a wrath effect is made more likely if there are more players at a table. More players mean more cards that could possibly be wraths.

Not only can EDH decks design themselves to have a higher probability of drawing wraths, but the wraths can be more effective. Cards such as hallowed burial and terminus not only rob you of your creatures, they rob you of dying triggers and your commander if it is on the battlefield. Activating sensei’s divining top to draw a card and miracle terminus at instant speed is easy and blows out many strategies that rely on commanders.

What ways can you respect Wrath of God? Why is it important?

1. Play enter the battlefield creatures.

Torpor Orb is a thing, but you can easily hate on Wrath abusers by playing creatures with enter the battlefield abilities. This way it ensures you some sort of momentary value followed by there being a creature on your team to chumpblock or attack. Creature recursion is a common element in EDH. Being able to set up a system that lets you get acidic slime, sylvan primordial, or karmic guide onto the battlefield from your graveyard over and over again will disrupt opponents to the point where they can’t really do much of anything.

2. Play noncreature permanents

They can’t kill enchantments with wraths. Or noncreature artifacts. There are plenty of noncreature permanent in EDH that can continually generate value for you like mobilization and other effects that add creatures to your board or spite your opponents continually with effects like sulfuric vortex. The god cycle from theros block is a good example of permanents that are hard to deal with but offer value to your board.

In addition, players are less likely to cast cards like planar cleansing because if they are a strategy that uses wraths then it usually means they are using other permanents to win the game. Blowing up your own stuff always hurts. I don’t know why they included a copy of wrath of god in the Marath, Will of the Wild commander product.

3. More spells, less permanents

Decks that revolve around only casting noncreature/nonpermanent spells are hard to play because they try to balance casting wraths and progressing their board state via card draw or mana acceleration. But the advantage to playing spell only decks is that some of the most powerful spells in the format are instant or sorceries. Rise of the dark realms is only one form of taking one card and creating a situation that is near impossible for your opponents to come back from.

4. Play 1 threat and let it harass your opponent

Instead of giving your opponent the opportunity to crunch your board play a single threat and let it poke your opponent to death. Ruric Thar is the king of this category. Threats like him are usually a single huge monster that can cause additional damage through either a powerful passive or activated ability. Sphinx of the steel wind, darksteel colossus, and blightsteel colossus form this group.

So, tell me, why is it important?

All these strategies are important because it revolves around reducing the value of wrath of god. It is sort of like playing rock paper scissors. If everyone in your metagame is playing rock then paper is the obvious choice to bring to the fight. Bring scissors. By reducing or eliminating the amount of traditional creatures that are meant to only attack you devalue wrath spells and thus devalue opponents who rely on that card. If you play absolutely no creatures in your deck then wrath of god effects help you because they don’t get rid of anything except opposing players creatures.

Bottom Line: Wrath of God can blow you out if you commit to the board with creatures. At least have an alternative means to defeat your opponents. Wrath of God and its variants saturate the format and have to be respected.

The next article will discuss single target removal with “Snipping SWAT Style in Commander”!

Feel free to comment or ask questions below. Any criticism is greatly appreciated.

@hayesthehayes
hayesthehayes@gmail.com

Series NavigationTragic Slipping Tier One – Episode 2: Sniping SWAT Style In Commander >>