This entry is part 9 of 10 in the series Technology

By Mark Mahler

mahler, mark - headshot





There’s an art to denying resources to your opponents in a social game that simply doesn’t need to exist in other formats. No one in a Legacy tournament would so much as bat an eyelash before casually Strip Mine-ing your mana base like some two-bit Captain Planet villain on a weekend bender in the rainforest, but not so in EDH.

We care too much to do that to our fellow Commander players (and we don’t want to incur the wrath of Captain Planet, either).

More precisely, we care too much about being invited back to play another game with our fellow Commander players, so we take care not to flip the idiom and bring the proverbial gun to a friendly knife fight.  Some say that this takes too many of the big bombs out of mono-red’s arsenal, leaving it with barely enough tools to defend itself from even the casual roughhousing of your average EDH playgroup, let alone a viable way to win, but I prefer to say that it merely forces the enterprising red mages amongst us to be a bit more creative.

I’ll agree that sometimes being the mono-red player who can’t blow up lands feels like what I’d imagine being a carpenter would be like if they passed a bill outlawing the use of hammers, but there are still some ways to take advantage of red’s resource denial toolbox without being tossed out of your playgroup entirely.

Because I apparently have way too much to say about this topic, I’ve decided to break this article in two. Next time, I’ll come back with some fine choices for controlling your opponents’ mana bases that are far more socially acceptable than running out Ruination and crossing your fingers that no one has anything near at hand to throw at you, but this week I’m going to get the big no-no’s out of the way first.

Now, I’m not even going to talk about Decree of Annihilation or Apocalypse or other such cards here; if you’ve played more than one game of Commander in your life, you ought to know better than to run those cards–or, at least, not be surprised when you’re treated like a leper the next time you shop up at your LGS for running said cards.

The following, however, are a small subset of manabase hate cards that look totally awesome at first glance because they’re not straight-up Armageddon effects, but they will still totally get you stabbed in the parking lot.

Don’t play these cards:


So tempting…must resist….


I know what you’re thinking: “Screw you, Islands! Screw you, Grave Pact guy! I’ve had enough of your shenanigans!”

Speaking as the guy who’s played all of these cards before, they’re fun exactly once and then you feel like a prick for the rest of the game.  Yes, the annoying blue player and the guy who sacrifices freakin’ everything on his side of the board really suck, but to borrow an already heavily referenced bit of pop culture: these aren’t the cards you’re looking for.

(Side note: I have actually played Burning Sands and Grave Pact together in a Malfegor deck before and I wanted to shoot myself. How much fun is it to sit around a table where no one has any creatures OR any lands, you ask? Exactly as much fun as Christopher Walken and Robert DeNiro were having in The Deer Hunter.)


This might as well be the artwork on Burning Sands.


No likes Dwarves in Magic and I’m pretty sure these two guys are the reason why.  By all means, run these if you enjoy the dirty looks cast your way across the table by your one-time friends (although, if that’s really your thing you really just ought to be playing a Narset take-all-the-turns solitaire deck).



You’re not helping matters, R&D, you’re just making my options in mono-red suck more.


You would think that this, of all mass LD cards, would be a nice way to soften the blow from Ruination, right? Wrong. You’ll have reshuffled their manabase and they will just sit there plotting ways to murder you for the rest of the game.


This card is annoying in 1v1; in regular four player game, it’s the social equivalent of tying a dead skunk around your neck. I’m not saying there aren’t ways to play this to your advantage, I’m just saying that it’s not worth it to pull that move once and then watch everyone else start a new game without you.



This art is exactly what you feel like the moment this spell resolves.


Look, buddy, I know you’ve been hurt by Grand Arbiter Augustin IV before, but trust me, you don’t want to do this.  Just put down the card and we’ll get you some help, I promise.

I know, I know… I think he’s a dick for playing that prison lock UW bullsh*t deck, too, but you gotta remember that you’re better than him, OK? You don’t need to sink to his level.

Let’s just leave the cards here, go grab a beer, and make some off-color jokes about his mom instead.


Not too offending at first glance, right? Wrong. I’ve never seen this card used to do anything except ruin one player’s night by blowing up all their basic lands.

Playing this card against any of the new precon decks might be the surest way to totally sour a new player on this format.  Don’t be that guy. (In the interest of fairness, I would add in “Don’t be that girl,” too, but let’s be honest: it’s always “that guy”).


*Honorable Mention for the most niche hate card I’ve ever seen:


F*** you, Lin Sivvi player. No, seriously, go f*** yourself. And sacrifice a land while you’re at it.


Hey R&D – who pissed in your Wheaties that morning? I get the fact the Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero was pretty crazy in Standard at the time (apparently Pro Tour New York in 2000 was quite the Rebel convention), but in hindsight this one-drop out of Prophecy is about as narrowly spiteful as they come.  Fourteen years later, it just makes me chuckle.

And on that note, I’m outta here this week, folks.  Next time I’ll spew some hot picks for ways in which you can more politely trim down your opponents’ mana bases without incurring their everlasting wrath.  Until then, remember: Jokulhaups might sound like a Norwegian kegger, but you don’t want to be invited to that party.



Series Navigation<< Technology: Resource Denial in Mono-Red, part 2Technology Holiday Edition: Cards My Commanders Are Thankful For >>