Tag Archives: Commander

THE MANA DORK—Tools of the Trade: EDHREC

by June 3, 2017

We’re in a bit of a lull here at the Mana Dork—we’re working on the Amonkhet Planeswalker Deck Challenge behind the scenes, and Amonkhet League 2 launches this weekend—so for today, I figured I’d take the time to walk you guys through one of the tools I use when building EDH decks!

Wizards maintains an official database for every Magic card ever printed, called Gatherer. But Gatherer has a few drawbacks. Among other things, you can’t find out what other people are using in their decks—you can’t build off of the collected wisdom of the online EDH community.

That’s what EDHREC is great at.

EDHREC analyzes decks that have been posted to TappedOut or DeckStats to find out which cards people are using with which commanders. It then aggregates all that data into a set of card suggestions for that commander.

In plain language, EDHREC tells you what the most popular cards are for any given commander or it can tell you which commanders work best with a certain card.

What this does is provide you with a ready-made list of suggestions for the latest legendary creature that has caught your eye, stretching all the way back to the beginning of the game!

To see how it works, let’s look Athreos, God of Passage, the commander for a deck I’ve spent a lot of time tuning lately, my Athreos Apostles combo list.

The first thing that comes up are “signature” cards for Athreos—cards that are used for Athreos more than any other BW commander.

These are useful for most builds of Athreos—you’ll probably be sacrificing or blocking often, since you’re likely to get your creatures back, so Harvester of Souls and Dictate of Erebos are fine choices for any build.

But we want to go deeper. Let’s filter Athreos lists by Shadowborn Apostle—this lets us only see suggestions from lists that feature everyone’s favourite token non-token creature:

Nice! This is handy!

But let’s go one step further. My Athreos Apostles list combos off with Thrumming Stone—what if we only look at lists that have both Apostles and Thrumming Stone?

Helloooo, what’s this?

We’ve found a card that I don’t currently have on my list. Secret Salvage. And it’s in 100% of the decks that have both Apostles and Stone? Surprising!

Secret Salvage came out in Aether Revolt, and I initially dismissed it. Because my deck relies on leaving as many Apostles in my library as possible when I combo off, I don’t really want more than one or two in my hand at any given time. And paying five mana to get a whole bunch in my hand seemed… steep.

But I missed a key turn of phrase: “any number of cards”.

I don’t have to fetch all 34 Apostles with Secret Salvage if I don’t want to (and by the way, you should play Magic with 34 copies of the same nonland permanent any chance you get, it’s amazing—I also recommend Relentless Rats!). I can fetch just enough to make sure my hand has some gas when I hit the combo turn.

Five mana is still steep, but if I’m sitting there with six lands and thumbs a-twiddle while everyone else is Doing Things™, it’ll seem a fine price to pay.

TRIBAL DECKS

But that’s not EDHREC’s only trick. It’s got a couple more up its sleeve.

If you love tribal decks—and who doesn’t?—EDHREC has a section that aggregates data for tribes instead of individual commanders.

This can be extremely handy if you’re actually me in real life and you’ve spent literal days hitting EDHREC’s “Random” button to find an interesting general. Who cares about the general? Build a tribe! I have elves on the docket, I think, and I’m definitely going to be visiting EDHREC’s Elves page for ideas while I build it!

CUSTOM SUGGESTIONS

Here’s EDHREC’s most impressive trick, though—suggestions customized specifically for your list.

What you see above are EDHREC’s suggestions for my Athreos Apostles list. As you can see, most of them are about improving the mana base—and rightly so, since I haven’t put a lot of the fancier lands in my deck. (If you’ll recall, I’m a big advocate of basic lands.) But if I want some consistency—which I do, because a combo deck requires consistency—I should definitely consider it.

Custom suggestions will only work once you’ve uploaded a decklist to TappedOut.net or DeckStats—I recommend the former—but once you’ve done so, it will be a tremendous help.

HOLY CRAP I WANT TO SEE A MAGIC DECK WITH 34 OF SOMETHING, WHEN ARE YOU AT THE STORE

I’m glad you asked!

In the world of Magic, I’ll be there this Sunday for the kickoff of Amonkhet League Part 2. It’s all the fun of kitchen-table Magic with all the new friends you make from organized play! Buy in for $20 any time in the next few weeks, play League games with other League players any time you’re in the store, and earn special prizes!

If Magic’s not your agenda, make sure you swing by for the Netrunner Regional Championships on June 10th! AMNG has a great Netrunner community that provides some stiff competition when the cards are shuffled up, so it should be a great time!

And finally, AMNG is also running a special Father’s Day Ticket to Ride Tournament on Sunday June 18—and if you’re lucky, you may even be able to meet the illustrious Mana Dork the Elder while you’re there!

See you at the store!

Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor to A Muse N Games. He is probably going to get thoroughly crushed at Ticket to Ride. Tune in every two weeks for The Mana Dork, his column about all things Magic!

THE MANA DORK—Is Wizards Taking Control of Commander?

by March 24, 2017

Well, this is fascinating.

We’re going to take a break from the Planeswalker Deck Challenge series (1, 2, 3) this week to talk about a recent announcement Wizards of the Coast has made, and what it could mean for Commander as a whole.

Specifically: Wizards is going to be making 1v1 Commander on MTG Online a Thing. And this has Implications.

(First, a very quick glossary of some terms that might not be familiar:

  • MTG Online/”MTGO”: The official client for playing Magic online.
  • Rules Committee/”RC”: The grassroots group of community members that currently governs the Commander format, making rule and banlist decisions.
  • Duel Commander: A 1v1 rules variant of Commander with its own Rules Committee and its own banlist, very different from regular Commander. Controversially, they changed starting life totals from 30 to 20 last year. Popular in France, and sometimes called “French EDH”.
  • Leviathan Commander: A format that splintered off from Duel Commander last year after the life total change. Leviathan Commander is roughly identical to Duel Commander, except it keeps the starting life total at 30. Popular in Italy.
  • 1v1 Commander: Not currently an official format—just a term used to describe one-on-one Commander games on MTGO. But that may change.)

This week, the official Wizards Tumblr page for Magic Online made the following announcement, which I will quote here in full:

30 LIFE FOR 1V1 COMMANDER

The Modern Masters 2017 Edition deployment today contained a change which moved the starting life total from 40 to 30 for 1v1 Commander games.  (Games with 3 or 4 players remain at a starting life total of 40.)

We have plans to introduce more support for 1v1 Commander.  As part of this, R&D determined that format is better off with a starting life total of 30. At one point we had planned to introduce this change as well as league support and a modified banned list today, but later decided to instead introduce it during Amonkhet season.

Unfortunately, in this process the life total change did not get taken out of this build, and so today it is live. Now that it is live, since it is a change we were planning on making anyway in the future, our intent is to simply leave it in place.

Stay tuned for an article about what support we plan to offer for 1v1 Commander leagues moving forward!

– Lee

 

To my knowledge, this is the first time in the history of Commander that Wizards has taken control of some rules for the format—even if it’s just for a variant. Previously, they have left every decision in the hands of the Rules Committee.

Going from 40 life to 30 life for 1v1—identical to Leviathan, and Duel Commander pre-2016—is interesting enough. But modifying the banlist is a big signal that more changes may be en route.

The Commander banlist has been the subject of vociferous discussion for years, and I have spent many thousands of words (that I could have gotten paid for by writing articles for the store instead! Ah, hindsight is Marit Lage… ) arguing for and against various cards. It is at the heart of the many PR problems faced by the Rules Committee as a whole, and it is what makes many players question whether or not the Rules Committee remains relevant today.

The idea that the Rules Committee controls the list entirely, without input from Wizards, is core to the identity of Commander. This is The Casual Format, The Grassroots Format, safe from the hard-edged Pro Tour circuit, and you can tell because Wizards isn’t even in charge of it.

But despite that, all is not well in the clachan. Many believe that the Rules Committee’s choices of what and what not to ban are dubious, based largely on anecdata from their personal playgroups. And regardless of what you believe, it is fact that if they collect real data, they share none of it with the public when making announcements.

This lack of transparency has not helped the RC’s public image. Even when Sheldon Menery—the public face of the Rules Committee—writes a column about the banlist philosophy in an attempt to explain their thinking, he is… circuitous.

That article is approximately 2,000 words spent building up the straw-man fallacy that banning cards based on mechanical strength would lead to cascading additional bans, when Menery could simply have said that the format is about mechanical strength, and bans are instead made based on whether or not a card creates “garbage time” scenarios where multiple players spend multiple turn cycles with zero relevance in gameplay. Which is all true, if never stated so concisely.

And yet Commander has been extremely successful in recent years, as the Casual and Competitive events at the store show. Is this because the RC is doing something right? Is it simply because Wizards is putting Commander pre-cons on every shelf? Is it both, neither?

So it’s in the middle of this bubbling cauldron that Wizards makes the announcement above.

But what does it mean?

 

Let’s look at one more key line from this announcement—the fact that Wizards will be supporting 1v1 Commander leagues going forward. This is new, and huge.

Currently, Magic suffers from the Not-Hearthstone problem. Specifically, it is a game designed for paper play in physical spaces with instant-speed interaction and counterplay, making it unsuitable for presentation as an eSport. Hearthstone, meanwhile, is designed from the ground up as a digital game with almost no instant-speed interaction, allowing for a slick, smooth presentation and no constant little delays waiting for priority from an opponent passed out/BMing on the other side of a keyboard three million miles away.

Hearthstone is a very popular eSport, and it got there using a business model Magic pioneered. It’s ridiculous to think that Magic can’t be successful in that same arena. There’s money to be made in eSports, and it makes sense that Wizards would go after it.

But how do you get there, given MTGO’s notoriously user-unfriendly graphics and constant priority delays?

Well, you start by giving viewers a strategy they can latch onto quickly. One with a strong visual component. Possibly one that centres on a legendary creature they can see at all times and that the players have access to at all times.

I think Wizards will be pushing 1v1 Commander as a potential eSport. I think they’re taking precisely the steps required to do so—running 1v1 Commander leagues, and asserting control of the banlist and ruleset—and I think they will watch and see how the community responds (cf.: how popular the leagues are on Twitch) before pushing further.

I also think Wizards is testing the waters for asserting control of Commander as a whole. Today, many players enter the format thinking Wizards controls it, as they do every other format, and are shocked to learn that the Rules Committee exists and has the power it does. The RC was instrumental in the creation of Commander as a whole, but the format is now largely self-governing, and there’s an argument to be made that the RC is almost vestigial in its purpose and impact. If players respond warmly to the choices Wizards makes governing 1v1 Commander on MTGO, this announcement may be a bellwether for Wizards’ eventual assertion of control over Commander some years from now.

Only time will tell.

THAT WAS LIKE THE CHEAPEST TROPE YOU COULD POSSIBLY END A COLUMN ON, MACKENZIE, HOW ABOUT YOU TELL ME WHAT’S GOING ON AT THE STORE INSTEAD

Can do!

The Standard Spring 9-Week Challenge rolls on, with Standard every Tuesday night, On-Demand Standard whenever four or more folks want to shuffle up, and one more special Sunday tournament in April.

The GPT Farewell Tour is off and running, with Kickoff Weekend starting tomorrow! GPT Vegas Legacy is tomorrow at noon, GPT Vegas Limited MM2017 is Sunday at noon, and GPT Vegas Modern is Monday at 7! Make sure you show up 15 to 30 minutes ahead of time to register.

Speaking of registering, Amonkhet Pre-Release events are now open—you can register at the store or on Eventbrite for $35 before 10 PM Wednesday, April 19th!

Finally, Free Games Day is happening tomorrow at the store! Bring a game, bring a friend, bring both, bring neither and just show up and learn some new boardgames—it’s all good! Admission is free, but the fun is forever.

See you at the store!

Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor to A Muse N Games. He is not sorry for the Heartstone/Hearthstone pun half a column ago. Tune in every two weeks for the Mana Dork, his column on all things Magic!

The Mana Dork – You’re All Clear, Kid by Jesse Mackenzie

by March 26, 2016

The Mana Dork

 
This is a story about why it’s important to have good friends.

Continue reading

THE MANA DORK—Let It Go, Let It Go – By Jesse Mackenzie

by January 21, 2016

The Mana Dork

“… that perfect girl commander is gone… “

I’ve decided to retire a deck, folks. And rather than “conceal, don’t feel”-ing about it, I’ve decided to share the story.

Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest

Shu Yun wasn’t originally a voltron deck—a deck where you suit up a commander with powerful effects and swing for combat damage. Continue reading

Battle for Zendikar Release Weekend

by January 15, 2016

Battle For Zendikar Header

Blight Herder Launch Promo - Play in store October 2,3, or 4 and receive a copy for participating

Blight Herder Launch Promo – Play in store October 2,3, or 4 and receive a copy for participating

The Eldrazi are here! It’s up to you, will you help save Zendikar, or will you choose the side of the Eldrazi and obliterate Zendikar?

Here are your launch weekend opportunities:
Continue reading

Friday Night Magic – July 2015 Changes

by January 15, 2016

FNM

In response to customer feedback, effective July 3 2015 we are implementing the following changes to Commander:

  • All Official FNM Commander Games will have a 90 minute time limit.
  • The 7:30 Flight of Commander will now be split into Competitive & Casual Pools.

Continue reading

Magic The Gathering: Commander 2014

by November 23, 2014

magic commander“For the first time, you can lead your forces with a Planeswalker commander in this exciting multiplayer Magic format. Dominate the battlefield with new combinations of strength and skill. Fight wisely, for only one commander will prevail

“FORGED IN STONE
“Nahiri, the Lithomancer knows that victory comes from having the right weapons. This Planeswalker commander is a master of arms who creates powerful equipment and enchantments to prepare massive armies for the fight.

“PEER THROUGH TIME
“Teferi, Temporal Archmage manipulates time itself. This Planeswalker commander uses an arsenal of tricks to keep his options open and his opponents guessing until he can send forth massive blue creatures to deliver the final blow.

“SWORN TO DARKNESS
“Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath is a ruthless tyrant who will stop at nothing to achieve his aims. This Planeswalker commander saps his opponents’ strength, summons powerful demons to the battlefield, and compels the dead to rise and fight.

“BUILT FROM SCRATCH
“Daretti, Scrap Savant brags that he can build anything out of anything. This Planeswalker commander is a master artificer. He sacrifices trinkets to bring back treasures and cobbles together an army of automatons to crush the opposition.

“GUIDED BY NATURE
“Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury protects the forest and the elves who dwell there, and they protect her in return. This Planeswalker commander summons loyal elves to her side and unleashes the full might of the natural world upon her enemies..” – Wizards of the Coast

Mid-Day Magic

by January 15, 2016

Recently we’ve had some customers who work evening shifts and have expressed a desire to play Magic during the day. So to help that out, we’re announcing our Mid-Day Magic Series

From Noon-3pm:
Wednesday – Modern
Thursday – Standard
Friday – EDH / Commander (There will be no MDM on October 31st)

We’ll start with casual play, and if enough players are present / interested we will look at running quick tournaments.