As is evidenced by an article on this very site, and to anyone who is near me for even the shortest amount of time, my favourite way to play Magic: the Gathering is in the Commander format.
I’ve already talked about it before, but I’ll quickly recap the rules:
- Legendary Creature(s) or Legendary Planeswalker(s) as your “Commander”
- 99 card singleton (one copy of each card) deck (You can have duplicate basic lands)
- 40 life starting life
- Being dealt 21 points of combat damage by a single commander is an automatic loss
- Traditionally played multiplayer but is viable in 1v1
Over the two years I’ve been enjoying Magic both casually and competitively, I was slowly drawn away from the draft and Standard play I’d been participating in and moved into the format I keep brewing decks for today.
And, as with most players who brew multiple decks, cards start to show up where you don’t include them because they’re the top tier of the format, or a must-include in your chosen colours; you include them because you like them.
These are often referred to as “pet cards”, cards which tend to be incredibly personal to a player for various reasons. Pet cards can be powerful, generally and in the right scenario, but sometimes they can be a card you appreciate for the art, a card that holds significant emotional value to you, or pure, unfiltered, long shot jank.
Here are just a few of the cards I consider my pet cards:
From the start, Camaraderie has a steep hill to climb. Requiring 6 mana total to cast and two of it being different colours, the card should have a potent effect that goes a way to affect the board state in an impactful way.
But it doesn’t, well, not massively so.
For a start, without creatures on your side of the field; the card is dead in your hand until you develop a board back up meaning it’s not really a card you can play in response to a board wipe. The buff to your creatures is also fairly inconsequential, as a one turn only minor buff isn’t going to do much, unless you have a serious go-wide strategy going on.
So why do I like it?
It just feels right to me, for one reason or another. Despite its flaws whenever I’m building a deck which includes Green and White and I start to consider what sort of card draw I’m going to need, my mind usually drifts over towards including Camaraderie before anything else.
I currently use it in my +1/+1 counter synergy deck and my token generation deck. In the former it fits right in with the greedy strategy I run with; I aim to get a good selection of big creatures on my board which fuels my card draw spells, allowing me to bring things to an end.
In the latter, it has the potential to be bonkers.
My token generation deck focuses on creating lots of smaller token creatures to achieve a “death by a thousand cuts” style of victory. But life gain, combined with the nuke that is Aetherflux Reservoir, has had some showings.
Given 1 or 2 turns of carefully cultivating the correct quantity of tokens; Camraderie goes from “decent draw spell” to “drawing three times the maximum hand size”, which, yes, I do have to discard most of it because I don’t run cards that make me ignore hand size, but that then gives me something that can be just as important as card advantage: card selection. The ability to choose which cards are going to be best suited going forward.
As explained by Joel right here; you don’t necessarily have to deplete your opponent’s life total to gain victory. 25 of these alternate victory cards currently exist in the game and all of them offer a more elaborate route to victory.
Simic Ascendancy is one of the more straight forward alternate victory cards, simply requiring for 20 +1/+1 counters to be placed on your creatures and to reach your next upkeep step. This counter can be accelerated through the mechanic Proliferate, which not only lets you add extra counters onto creatures; it also lets you add counters directly onto Ascendancy itself.
Ascendancy is one of the few alternate victory cards that are able to fuel its own win condition. Many of them are static effects that will trigger when the condition is met, but the activated ability on the card allows for self-sufficient victory provided you have creatures.
The major downside to Ascendancy (and other such cards)? No in-built protection. Without an ability such as Shroud or Hexproof to prevent removal spells from targeting it; Ascendancy is often left in a vulnerable position where turns worth of hard work can be undone within the constraints of a single phase.
However, this downside has not stopped me from including it in every list which contains Blue and Green. Part of this is due to me owning a full playset (4 copies) of a promotional foil version of the card which adds a bit of flair to my decks, but also because of how easily it can slot into a deck.
Even in decks where the main focus is drawn away from +1/+1 counters or proliferation it can become a silent threat on the table, slowly ticking over as turns go by until finally, when it becomes noticed by the rest of the table; it’s far too late.
For a start, that goddamn art. Seb McKinnon consistently creates gorgeous pieces for Magic and this is no exception.
Green and Black is a colour pair in Magic that is consider an “enemy” pair, in that the philosophies they represent are opposite. Green is the colour of life and its continuance, black is the colour of death and its inevitable nature. Whilst these are opposing views, together they form the belief that life ends in one form but can be reborn in another.
This fact is referenced in the flavour text, attributed to Vraska, a prominent figure within the Golgari Swarm on Ravnica, a guild populated heavily by necromancers and one that subscribes heavily to the idea that both life and death are one large cycle.
Flavour reasons aside, why I love this card? Utility.
Comparing it to an existing card at a slightly lower mana cost, Murder, shows what Deathsprout adds to it. Both are instant-speed, single-target removal spells, but for one extra green mana you can fetch a basic land from your deck. Adding in what it would cost for fetching a basic at instant speed (Natural Connection), we can see that Deathsprout, in one card and for 4 total mana, gives us what otherwise would take two cards and a total of 6 mana. It’s rather efficient and I love it for that.
These are just a few of the cards which I always feel like slipping in whenever I build a Commander deck. Of course, I always have more to share, and perhaps I will one day. Have you got any cards that are must-includes in the decks you build? Are you the type of person who can’t go without a certain counter-spell? Let us know.