The Commander Conjecture is an article series dedicated to talking about the Commander format (also known as EDH or Elder Dragon Highlander). Like many great facets of modern game design, Commander is a mod, a parody of the game magic. It enables us to play large games, simulate epic battles, and play ultra-powerful cards that would otherwise be unreachable in normal magic. For a lot of us who have played magic for a long time, it gives us an outlet to get into a creative deckbuilding and deck- brewing environment.
Commander is a multiplayer game, and as such is subject to a notable amount of politics. Friendships have been forged, broken, and upended as a result of the hijinks and castings of Rite of Replication (KICKED!). I promise you this article series will go deeper than just these silly stories of epic card interactions.
Commander is actually a great place to learn the game of magic, and that is why we are here. With a hundred unique cards in your Commander deck no game should ever be the same, or remotely close in similarity.
Competitive magic, whether it be limited or constructed, can be faulted for it’s monotony at times. But in a game of Commander I constantly search for that unique opportunity to try something new, test my mettle against new cards, unknown threats, and have fun in the process. There are some principles that will give context to the Commander Conjecture article series:
- Commander is fun
Commander is fun. Commander is a casual multiplayer game where people play really powerful spells. It’s the interactions between those spells and the general merriment of players waiting in anticipation for their next epic turn that makes the game so much fun. If you have to wait a 10-minute turn cycle knowing that your next turn, the turn after, and even the turn after that are pointless then you probably aren’t having much fun. Most of the time as a result I will not play land destruction in my deck. I will clarify, most of my decks have some way to interact with any permanent my opponent plays, but you will never see me cast Boil in casual commander (Destroy all islands).
Limiting an opponent’s resources without cause is a pretty obnoxious thing to do. Especially when it is to the extreme. Sure, you could play that Rakdos Return on the guy to your right but now he’s top-decking and wants your blood. Why not cast Syphon Mind instead?
- Whoever has the most resources at the apex of the game will probably win
Resources are the combined total of mana available, cards in hand, battlefield permanents, and sometimes the graveyard too. Primeval Titan and Sylvan Primordial were banned in Commander because they gave players who played them, access to too many resources. Whoever cast or copied these creatures the most won the game more often than not. Part of playing Commander smartly, and giving yourself a chance to win, is understanding the balance of resources on the board and then focus your attention on the players who are the most ahead.
- Don’t take it personally
If you are ahead on resources or play big threats, you are going to be targeted. Cards that have the Type – Planeswalker, or equipment that begins with “Sword of…” are things that people fear. If you play them, play them at the right time and for the right reasons. Sometimes you will get targeted because you are a jerk. Sometimes you will get targeted based on reputation alone. Roll with the punches. If you are being targeted based on your reputation that’s kind of a compliment. My friends kill me all of the time, they know that I know what I’m doing and I bring powerful cards to the table. That brings us to the next one.
- Know your cards
Know what your cards do. Know the interactions. Know all of your non-basic lands. By knowing the in’s and out’s of your deck the game will go a lot faster. The longer your turn takes the less fun your opponents are having, and the more likely they are to think that you have something important going on in your hand that they need to deal with. Explain your cards to people who are unfamiliar AND make them read the cards. If you run into a rules argument during a game over some card interactions, look it up using Gatherer or the Rules Document to get clarification. Chances are you will see that issue again if you keep playing the deck. By knowing every card in your deck so well, you can spend your real time paying attention to what your opponents are doing. Their battlefields, graveyards, hand size, and body language give so much information that gets overlooked in the game.
These are just some principles by which I try to play the game Commander with my friends (and hated foes). I don’t follow them all the time, but it makes the game more enjoyable when I try to stick to them. So go out there, know your cards, don’t take it personal, collect some resources, and have some fun.
About the Author
Calexir AKA Nick Parenteau has been a board and card game enthusiast his entire life. He is an amateur game designer and frequent modder of existing games. Nick is your friendly neighborhood Dungeon Master, Brew-master, and Jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none. A walking cacophony of song, puns, and nerd knowledge; he’s here to answer your questions, meet your challenges, and leave you wanting more: Doink1212@yahoo.com