This entry is part 2 of 17 in the series Accumulated Knowledge

It had been dark for hours as I walked up to the counter to refill my coffee.  My girlfriend was thousands of miles away, so I knew that I was not going to be sleeping well, caffeine or no caffeine.  It always seemed like the more miserable I was, the harder it was to sleep.  I’ve learned that life has a cruel sense of humor.  The more you want to run away from your thoughts, the more time it gives you alone with them.  Rest was not an option, so I went with the next best thing; I started playing Magic to force myself to spend time with others.  I figured no one would notice something was wrong with me, no one knew me.  Heck, half the people seemed a little off, who would notice one more crazy in the bunch?  Magic gave my mind something to do other than focus on myself.  The Donut Hole served as one of the more popular places to go after the card shops kicked us out.  The Donut Hole is where I really learned to play Magic.

I slipped into the booth next to my friend David.  He was sitting across from our rather robust, mountain-manish friend Jarrod.  Jarrod loved Jund decks more than anyone I have ever known.  The funny thing was, Jarrod cared less about winning than any Magic player I knew.  He liked Jund because he got to cast crocodiles, elves, and dragons.  He laid out the deck on the table in front of him.  David and Jarrod were going over card choices that could make the deck win the mirror matches.  Jarrod absolutely refused to bring a deck that was copied and pasted from online.  David is the player I knew who was most schooled in Magic theory.  When Jarrod pointed down at a Vampire Nighthawk, David responded, “it is just a 2/3 Flying, Lifelink, Deathtouch creature”, with no hint of sarcasm.

I did not realize till much later exactly what David meant by that statement.  After all, big creatures with good abilities have always been good, right?  Now I realize that David was referring to card advantage.  The old Jund decks were built on card advantage.  Each one of the spells in the deck put the deck a step ahead of the competition.  The principles of card advantage are not apparent to everyone, and are largely ignored by many Commander Players.  For this reason, “Good Stuff” decks are often seen as the worst decks in Commander.  If we start building “Good Stuff” decks to be “Card Advantage” decks, we will see them become exponentially more powerful and popular.  From what I have witnessed, groups who have had the greatest understanding of card advantage have also had the most powerful decks.

Card Advantage is the phrase that has been coined to refer to the advantaged gained by having access to more cards than opponents.  When I say, “access to cards”, I mean permanents in play or cards you have the ability to play (generally meaning cards in hand).  Cards are the one generic resource you have in Magic, so the more you have in comparison to your opponents the more power you wield.   For a card to generate card advantage, it either needs to give you access to more of your cards or deny opponents access to theirs.   A card needs to give you more resources (cards) than you spend to cast the card.  By default most cards will cost a card in hand to cast.

If you are going to build a “Good Stuff” Commander Deck, you need to choose primarily, or exclusively, cards that net you an advantage.  As a basic rule, you want the majority of your nonland cards to either give you 2+ permanents (Artifacts, Creatures, etc.) or cards (Cards in hand or anywhere else you could play them) or take away 2+ permanents or cards from an opponent.  Creatures that have “when you cast” or “enters the battlefield” triggers are your safest bets and you will rarely regret including them.

Card Advantage is especially important in a multi-player environment.  There are more players, so your cards need to do more.  Power and efficiency are great goals if you are trying to take someone down 20 life, but if you are playing against 3 people in Commander, that goal becomes 120 life.  When Baneslayer Angel goes from a 4 turn clock to a 24 turn clock, you may want to think about replacing it.  Winning based off damage is about creating a board state that is heavily in your favor.  You will need to be capable of dealing massive damage while keeping yourself protected.  Playing cards that generate card advantage lets you have a better chance of pulling ahead.

If this is new information to you, it can be a confusing idea.  Most people are used to basing card evaluations on converted mana cost against power level.  It may be helpful to readers to have some examples of how to evaluate cards based on card advantage.  In the next installment of Accumulated Knowledge I will be going over a deck to show examples of how you can evaluate cards in your Commander Deck.  See you then!


Series Navigation<< Accumulated Knowledge 01 – Master Your MetaAccumulated Knowledge 03 – The Good Stuff Part 2 >>