With Ikoria and Commander 2020 all out and in our hands it's time for an honest conversation. The set absolutely created a power spike and deck building fatigue. Let me explain
For the last three weeks I have been in a slump. It isn't that life is more stressful or things are crazy. Ikoria revealed a glaring issue I have never faced in my time of playing magic. This issue is that the commander options presented are better than the decks I have built. For many of you who follow my page and listen to the podcast you're well aware that I have a problem with building magic decks. That problem has resulted in 186 commander decks. I have never scrapped one of them. My way of building is that something about the commander spoke to me and I built it based on a theme or a feeling at the time. But this power spike is undeniable.
Cazur and Ukkima are the ones I am talking about at this moment.
These two commander options have bothered me since release. They are such a clear upgrade to Prossh, Skyraider Of Kher for compettive play that it is no longer a competition. Sultai as a color combination is significantly safer than Jund with its access to blue and its' counter spells. The combo piece is in the commander zone and doesn't make me wait a turn to win with a food chain style combination. I lose access to Squee with it but it is just undeniably stronger. This has made me face the stark reality that the commander deck I built and love so much is just no longer the optimal build. I am for the first time in my history of playing Magic faced with the prospect of needing to take my deck apart to play what the better meta is. It is not forced but it is a needed change as the game evolves. Prossh is my first competitive deck I have ever made. It was my CEDH deck when the first evolution of competitive commander was taking place.
Zaxara The Exemplary is another example of a strict upgrade commander. It is one of the most interesting Hydra commanders I have ever seen. It expanded the color pool of the available commanders for hydras. It brought a really cool mechanic of allowing other X cost spells to also generate hydras for you. It is a deck that I have stalled on building. Cards have sat on my deck building table since the release date for this commander. I just haven't found the motivation to put him together to do so would mean tearing apart my mono green hydra deck.
All of this back story sounds like a rant but it's extremely relevant to this topic. There is a better way. Sometimes it is hard to admit. Although it might be painful with Magic and it's sets evolving so quickly, we have to from time to time analyze our decks. We need to do this not only for the powerful new cards that seamlessly slide into the 99 but also for our commander. Too often players overlook the extremely important part of the game because it's a painful process. We build based on the commander. The color combination they offer, the flavor, the lore and love of this game. At a certain point though it is time to reflect on who sits in that zone. Who we elevate above all other cards in our deck and let lead it. Who gets to be the face card of the deck. I first faced this challenge in a different way when I decided to build an angel tribal deck. I decided that the mono white route would not be sustainable and that I needed a way to get these monster cost flying beaters out faster. This led me initially to a very expensive boros angels deck that invested heavily in mana rocks, fast mana like the vaults and crpyt options. This wasnt enough. I went out and repurchased my core angels that formed this beat down and approached it again. I decided I would build Selesnya angels and have Karametra, God of Harvests helm the deck. I supplemented the high cost angels with low cost angels and all of the things needed to drag the lands out of my deck to feed this mana hungry monstrosity. My issue quickly became having too much mana and nothing to do with it. Shalai, Voice of plenty was promoted to my decks general and times were good. I now had a big mana sink and an angel with an extremely large target on it's back. It provided much needed protection and I loved the deck. I spent time searching for the foil version of the card and loved beating people down with 50/50 flying angels and 40/41 birds of paradise. I played that deck for awhile and it was great. It became the pet deck that I decided to foil out. Painfully slow was the process of collecting the foils and promo versions of these cards as they were popular. There was a card that always stood out in that deck. Selvala, Explorer Returned. Every time I drew that card and played it I enjoyed the game more. At a certain point I couldn't ignore it anymore. Selvala became my commander. She just offered so much more than the other commanders. A draw ability that cant be interacted with due to it being a mana ability. The chance to see what every opponent was drawing was giving me card advantage and people often underestimate her ability to ramp. I have in more than one game cast a turn three primal surge with her. The deck plays much better and is still the absolute love of my collection. It is in my top four favourite decks of all time
The point of that story was that there really was a better way. The deck evolved as I played it more and it's now in what I believe is the best place it could be. Players should take more time to find those cards. To see what general option is working the best for them. To switch it up and test games. For my Selvala angels it was as easy as switching what card sat in the command zone. For some decks this choice won't be easy. The process of focusing and fine tuning a deck is slow. It takes a lot of games where you lose. Where you want to give up hope because the deck just isn't performing. But when you put in the reps with those decks you not only build its power you develop a love for it. You learn what works in what meta, what it's threats are. That is the key to building good decks. It is that honesty of telling yourself this card isn't working. This path isn't working or that combo is too clunky. Sometimes its making the deck a little safer, maybe it's adding more ramp. The more you tune your deck the more fun you have. The more you love the deck. As EDH players we are the group Wizards Of The Coast is catering too right now. Commander legends is around the corner with seventy one new commander options. It's never been a better time to get into the game we have spent the last week seeing extremely expensive cards reprinted.
I will get around to building these but the there is real deck builders fatigue with this set. The dust of commander hasn't settled and we have Core 21 releasing next weekend bringing a slew of reprints and new legendary creatures with it. The set hasn't dropped and there are new legendary and exciting reprints revealed daily and next comes double masters. Then commander legends. This post is really self reflection. That it is time get back to business and build. This slump now is done. I know what needs to be done. It is time to say good bye Prossh. There is a more consistent option for the deck style. There is a safer option. We build decks for the game we love and bring exciting new brews to the table. We build for our meta and search for answers of how to make the deck function in what appears to be an endless sea of card options. It's time for all of us to walk that path.
There is a better way.