Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Going Colorless in 2018: Eldrazi, Artifacts, and Collecting Magic Cards

Commander, for me, has lost it's luster.


There, I said it.

I think it all started when the 1vs1 banlist changes were implemented on MTGO. The format started to feel fragmented. Finding a game become more complicated. Following content, and watching games, became more confusing.

Baral, Chief of Compliance

Wait. What version of Commander is this?

Commander is still, in my heart, a crazy format where big things happen, where style matters, where friends get together and ramp into fantastic combos, where blowing up the entire board at a crucial moment to clutch victory from the jaws of defeat makes for a heroic story. Tuning Commander decks into 1vs1 competitive machines is the opposite of that!

Don't get me wrong. I don't begrudge anyone who wants to play Magic with any format or restrictions that makes them happy. But, at the same time, it pulls the format all over the place.

Time Stretch

I only have so much time!

Trying to get a pick-up game of Commander on a lazy Sunday afternoon at the local game store became a nightmare because everyone is going in different directions with deck construction.

More and more, I've come to like the "idea" of things, but not often the "execution."

Commander Cube is a great example of this. In theory, it works well. I can throw together a box of cards for Commander, quickly swap cards around to build new decks, try out new strategies, and see what works. In actuality, it's a nightmare to keep everything organized, keep up to date on new cards, and even to build working decks. There's nothing worse than sitting down with a brand new deck and finding out that your general mix of cards is way off, and the deck just doesn't do anything impactful. That ruins the night for everyone involved.


Another great example is my 5c Cromat deck I call Burberry Cologne. It's a beautiful deck, in theory. I like all of the cards. I like collecting all the cards. I like the slow, control aspect of how it plays out. But, in practice, is miserable to play against. It locks the game up. It takes forever to win. It's so controlling that it stops all the other decks from doing what they do. It's the antithesis of what the format is about.

Competitive Magic is the same way for me. I don't have the time to keep up on what's going on, so Standard is out of the question. It changes too quickly. Modern seems like a mess where powerful combinations of cards can win out of nowhere. It's probably the most balanced of the formats in the sense that your pet deck can sometimes take down a local tournament.


I like playing control decks, in theory. That's the style of play that I'm drawn to. But, Wizards understands that a lot of players do not like playing against that type of deck. They are right. They worked to change the game to make hard control decks weaker relative to the field. I'm making comparisons between the game 20 years ago and today.

In practice, playing a hard control deck successfully is complicated and hinges on correctly evaluating threats and countering the right ones. I'm not any good at that anymore because I don't have the time to pay that much attention to what's going on in any format.

So, where does that leave me?

Thought-Knot Seer

Like I said, Wizards has done a good job of creating cards that allow for a tap-out, disruptive, aggressive deck to be successful. In my mind, Eldrazi decks embody this type of strategy. Basically, if you are playing Eldrazi, you are running aggressively costed creatures that attack, you are tapping out on your turn, and you have disruptive elements to proactively "counter" what your opponent is doing. It's an interactive, quicker, and straightforward way to play the game.

As a bonus, there are similar, viable colorless decks in Vintage, Legacy, and Modern. It's time efficient, because by swapping around a handful of cards in the main deck and sideboard, you can shuffle up for different formats. The decks have similar lines of attack, similar disruptive elements, and so the practice time and experience ends up being time efficient, too.

Walking Ballista

I have also been impressed by how a similar strategy works in a more casual setting. A tap-out, aggressive deck with disruptive elements has a good feel in Commander, 7-Point Highlander, and even Old School 93/94. Going colorless, and leaning on utility lands, artifact ramp, and creatures with disruptive abilities just works, is fun to play with and against, and has a lot of cross-over potential for individual cards. A card like Walking Ballista has a myriad of great uses, and plays a role in a lot of different decks and formats. It's a great value and often a fun puzzle to solve.

So, 2018, for me at least, is the year of playing cards and strategies with maximum value.

I spent the last few weeks leading up to the new year trading cards online to build up my colorless collections. And you know what? It feels great. I am ending up with a smaller, more focused collection that I can be proud to show off. I'm building decks that I feel confident to play, and that are fun and interactive to play against. And I feel like it takes the massive psychological burden to "keep up" on every new thing in check.

It's going to be a magical year.

Ring of Renewal