This entry is part 5 of 23 in the series (Social) Contract form Below

By Nole Clauosn AKA MtGNole

90x90 noleI have a confession to make, the other night I ruined a game of Commander.

In all fairness it was not all my fault. I was had just moved back into town and did not know the shop I was playing at did not use the general damage rule. My deck of choice for the game was my mono-blue Thada Adel, Acquisitor deck. It’s a voltron deck that is designed to turn a land an opponent’s land into an island, get in with thada, steal the best artifacts in their deck (Thada has a propensity for jewelry and shoes), and eventually win via stealing someone’s sword of x and y and getting to 21. It runs a counterspell package to protect Thada as well as a permanent stealing suite to go with the theme of playing with other peoples’ toys. It’s a fun deck to play as well as fun to play against (one game I saw how many “staples” I could steal out of peoples’ decks. I ended that game with 5 sol rings (one was a metamorph), 4 tops, and 3 coalition relics. I may not have won the game but I won at life.)

However, without general damage, the deck struggles to win. The only avenue to victory becomes playing the deck as a blue permission deck. I stole the biggest thing on the table, countered anything that was an actual threat, and used my formerly innocuous “your land is now an island” enchantments to color hose players. While I won that game in the sense that I was the last player with any life left, it was absolutely miserable for everyone involved. When I finally finished off my last opponent with the two beaters I had stolen from his deck, I looked into the now dull and lifeless eyes of my opponents and, rather than feeling the pride of a hard won victory, felt the need to apologize.

So what can we take away from this (other than I need to leave Thada at home when I play with this group)? To me it was a case study on how not to play blue in Commander. The experience got the wheels in my brain turning on how to (and not to) play what is arguably the most maligned color in commander.

With that experience as my base line, I went about playing several games with my various blue commander decks. (I admit that I am an unapologetic control player when I’m playing 60 card formats so I have an affinity for blue that has bled over into commander.) With a couple dozen games played, I can now share with you the 3 things I have discovered while playing blue.

1. Everything blue does is OK in moderation- When you think of what blue can do, the things that come to my mind first is counter spells, draw cards, and steal things. All of these things are OK to do in commander so long as it’s not a constant thing. No one is going to be mad if you counter the ramp player’s Boundless Realms, hook Brainstorm onto Isochron Scepter, or Control Magic someone’s beater. However, if your players are looking at you and asking “Mother may I?” for every spell, you are drawing 10+ card a turn, or have stolen every permanent on the board with Memnarch, you are firmly into jerk territory. (Also, be doubly careful about what you do to generals. While sometimes it is necessary to tuck a general or steal it for your use, nothing will make you enemies faster than Declaration of Naught naming a general)

2. Spread the “love”- What blue does can easily anger people. I think that the reason for that is that it seems that, rather than using your resources to win the game (by casting things on your turn, advancing your board state etc.), you use your resources to hinder your opponents.  If you focus all that energy into stopping one opponent, then not only will that opponent be fuming by the end of the game, but the others at the table will sympathize with the player you are locking out of the game and oftentimes send some extra hate your way. In the same way that most aggro players will spread out attacks rather than focus on knocking one player out of the game, so should control players spread out the power of their decks. (Note: All this goes out the window if you are playing against Azami, Azusa, or Zur. Counter everything they play and the rest of the table should lift you on their shoulders and carry you through the town square.)

3. Don’t play combo- This one almost goes without saying. If your decks primary focus is to tutor for Omniscience, tutor for Enter the Infinite, cast your whole deck and win, not only are you doing a disservice to your playgroup and breaking the social contract, but you are not helping those of us who are trying to “rehab” blue’s image. There is a place for your Azami & lab maniac combo deck, it is called hell Legacy.

So that about wraps up my blue experiment. As always I’d love to know what you think. Feel free to leave comments below or hit me up at my e-mail or my twitter. I’ll see you in two weeks.


Twitter: @mtgNole

And now for your card you probably shouldn’t be playing: Cairn Wanderer

cwWhy you shouldn’t be playing it- This is, from a design standpoint, a cool, flavorful card. However in multiplayer it is a giant hassle. Whenever I see this card played, every combat step turns into taking 2 minutes to go through every player’s graveyard to see if he has ability X “right now”. When you factor in the fact that graveyards change constantly during a game of Commander, it makes the card a constant headache to keep track of. If a card takes that long to figure out what it does, it doesn’t belong in my games.

Series Navigation<< (Social) Contract from Below #4- A Social Contract Two for One Sale (beacuse calling this article “Going Topless” seemed crass)(Social) Contract from Below 6- Commander Sideboards >>