Hello! My name is Jackson and I have been playing Commander for a long time. If we want to get specific, I built my first deck (Sedris, the Traitor King) back in 2009. Since my first deck, I have ripped through roughly two dozen different Commanders. I have familiarized myself with most of the archetypes that are endemic to the format and by now, I have settled on a few decks that I tune and tweak rather than tearing apart.
As my experience with Commander deepened and my understanding of the format evolved, I found myself growing restless. I was getting bored of loose, unfocused strategies held together by “good stuff”. I found myself craving nuance and challenge when it came to both building my decks and playing them. I was determined to find a strategy and a Commander that hadn’t been done to death, a deck that I could craft to be my own unique weapon.
Jeskai of the Tiger
One challenge I tried to tackle many times was making Ruhan of the Fomori work in a cool way. Something about the Jeskai giant tickled my fancy just right. However, every time I tried to build a cool Ruhan deck, I found myself with some variation on a straightforward Aggro strategy – except for the time I tried Giant tribal. While the deck still mostly revolved around smashing face with fatties, there was one particular synergy that really turned my crank and stood out from the rest of the deck.
When I was building the deck I included Crucible of Worlds as a way to mitigate the downside of Countryside Crusher. Land Tax also landed in the deck as a way to make sure I could consistently make my land drops and play my big, stompy giants. Eventually, Seismic Assault found a home in my list as well. After a few games, I found myself doing everything in my power to get this engine on the table. I quickly realized that it wasn’t Ruhan I wanted to use, it was Jeskai-based land nonsense.
Eventually Ruhan was retired and replaced by Numot, the Devastator and Jeskai Land Shenanigans became my flavour of the month. The deck was a lot of fun to play, it wasn’t overwhelmingly powerful, and it left a lot of people bewildered by its strong performance at most tables. Perhaps the deck’s most important feature was that it was skill-intensive. It was hard to get bored with deck when every game in which it was used was a challenge.
While things were going really well for my unique deck, my discovery of the card Planar Birth changed everything. This obscure rare from Urza’s Saga added a whole new dimension to the deck. Now I could reliably have the ability to make my land drops and use Seismic Assault in the early game and then recover my spent resources in the late game. Suddenly Numot seemed underwhelming as the Commander for the deck, there was so much more that could be done to explore this strategy.
Christmas time is a great opportunity for shopping online, especially for cards. This holiday season, I came across the obscure – and totally perfect for my needs – Hazezon Tamar for only $10. I couldn’t hit the “add to cart” button fast enough. Replacing the Blue with Green in my deck seemed like an excellent way to capitalize on what Planar Birth could do. So far, my instincts have proven to be spot on. Under Tamar’s leadership, the deck performs exactly how I was hoping it would.
Achilles’ Last Land – Jackson Miller
The engine that makes the deck run is still Crucible of Worlds/Land Tax/Seismic Assault. While it may seem fragile and unwieldily, this combination can provide a hefty amount of board control over the few turns that all its parts are likely to survive. Your opponent tapped out for a Burnished Hart? Eat a land. Nice Azami you’ve got there! Land! Oh, you’re hoping to give Captain Sisay some Lightning Greaves? It would be a shame if – LAND!!
Playing Naya over Jeskai also gives the deck access to Life from the Loam; Knight of the Reliquary; Titania, Protector of Argoth; and Sprouting Vines. All of these cards compliment the likes of Tithe, Land Tax, and Gift of Estates very nicely. Stocking your hand with land lets you fuel Seismic Assault in the early game, then an explosive Planar Birth sets you up for the late game.
Landfall triggers are a lovely thing to have when you plan on doing cool things with your mana base. Admonition Angel can be an evisceration when it is triggering twelve times in succession, Emeria Angel brings out an evasive army, and Avenger of Zendikar is always a solid finisher. With tokens abounding, you can rely on things like Elesh Norn; Mirror Entity; Flame-Kin Zealot; and Thunderfoot Baloth to help close things out.
Idyllic Tutor, Enlightened Tutor, and Gamble are in the deck to make sure that you always get what you’re looking for. If some of the important bits bite the dust, Naya Charm, Regrowth, Eternal Witness, Sun Titan, and Nostalgic Dreams will let you have a second kick at the can.
At various points in the past, Craterhoof Behemoth, Overwhelming Stampede, Terastodon, and Tooth and Nail have all been in the deck. While they were all powerful options, I found that they were a little too all-in. If any of the nukes got disarmed, I would suddenly have the whole table’s attention and would be dead a few turns later. I removed the bombastic finishers to make room for a slow-roll, controlling game plan and so far I have found success.
Moral of the Story
So why on earth am I relating this tale of my quirky, odd ball deck to you? Because this story represents a small microcosm of why Commander is the coolest format in Magic. With enough practice and determination, anything can be playable in Commander. Anyone can set out to build a deck around any obscure interaction of cards that they like and come away with at least some success and a valuable lesson or two.
There are precious few other formats that reward creativity the way Commander does. The chain reactions caused by innovation can transform stagnating metagames into breeding grounds for brilliance. Without the pressure of a competitive environment, all kinds of enjoyment can flourish. Success in Standard and Modern is usually measured by how well a deck places in a tournament setting, success in Commander is a nebulous, subjective thing that is usually measured by the enjoyment someone feels while piloting their deck.
Does my Hazezon Tamar deck win every game? No. But every game in which I use my Land Fu deck feels challenging and rewarding. I have kept up with Magic for years because I enjoy the experience of playing the game and I have never found another format that rewards my investiture the way that Commander does.
I am grateful to ManaDeprived.com for giving me a soap box from which I can share my love of weird and wonderful decks with the internet at large. I hope to make Weapon of Choice a glimpse into the multitude of strange minds that flock to Commander. It will take a while for this column to gather steam, so I’m going to focus on what I know best first – my own abominations. Eventually, I would like to start hearing from all of you out there, let me know what sins against the natural order you craft with your cards.
Let’s work together to make the world of Magic a slightly stranger place.