Star Wars: Shatterpoint by Atomic Mass Games has just been released, and epic duels in a galaxy far, far away are right at our fingertips! For those of you asking, “What’s Shatterpoint?” well, I’m glad you asked! It’s only the best skirmish miniatures game on the market! I don’t have the space to explain everything here, but please stop by the shop and we’ll happily play a demo game with you! For those of you as excited for the game as me, you might be asking, “Which heroes or villains should I take to the battlefield?” or “Which characters are the best in the game?” While I don’t feel qualified yet to give a definitive answer to those questions, I do feel like I’ve obtained a decent grasp of various units' strengths and weaknesses. Hopefully this quick guide will help you in making the tough choices regarding which characters to put on your table, whether playing at home or at an event! Today, I will be sharing brief thoughts on the primary characters from the first wave of releases. Anakin Strengths: Best offensive unit in the game. Can gain you extra momentum. Has excellent movement options on one of his stances. The best part of his identity (scoring extra momentum) doesn’t care about key words, so I give him high flexibility in list building. Bringing 4 force points to the table is excellent. Weaknesses: All displacement relies on dice, as he has no displacement force powers. Incredibly force hungry, plan on spending 3 each time you activate him, and he is often going to be your shatterpoint target. This means he pairs really well with Dooku to get a large force pool and force refresh. Highly defensive characters that can punish you for attacking them like Ashoka and Dooku check his power somewhat, though they aren’t straight up counters. Only having 7 points to build with limits the options of who you can bring with him. Ashoka Strengths: Incredibly mobile, highly defensive, can ruin your opponents scoring with her identity giving her out of turn movement to get onto a point.The out of turn recovers on a key piece can be increíble relevant as well. She has the potential to wound enemies on their turn with her reactionary abilities, but most of the time it will just be chip damage on them. Incredibly self contained, can be played with literally any other character in the game without losing on any of her synergies. Weaknesses: Offense is pretty weak for a primary. Her control stance has less dice and a worse expertise than her damage, making it so she has little reliable control. Strain shuts her down hard, taking 3 damage to use her reactive abilities is brutal. Her own activation can sometimes feel a little lackluster, and all her best stuff happens on the other players turn. Doesn’t have a force jump to get on top of terrain. Lord Maul Strengths: Almost has it all, guaranteed displacement that comes with a status condition, high damage, high mobility, excellent ranged and melee options. His force economy is amazing. The more damage he takes, the more consistent he becomes. A self contained unit that can go in any team. Weaknesses: The one thing that I think keeps him from being the best in the game is that he only has 2 stamina, which means it’s reasonable for your opponent to remove him. He’s also not great at getting up elevation without a force power jump. Offers no synergy benefits to the rest of your team. Asajj Strengths: Highly mobile, incredible displacement, and surprisingly good at recovering not just herself but her allies as well. Her identity lets her refresh force, which is excellent. A character that does a lot on her activation, making her a good shatterpoint target. Has powerful out of activation movement if you build your list around her. Weaknesses: Frail defensively for a primary. Needs separatists/dathomirians around her to get the most out of her abilities, making her not as splashable. Very force hungry. Dooku Strengths: Makes the rest of your army more mobile, has two very solid stances, and incredible defense. His identity is crazy good, in contention for the best. Refreshing force when your opponent wounds your units is amazing, it makes every unit you have better. Twice the Pride, Double the Fall, triggers may more than you think it would, as every block removes a strike from the dice pool. Additionally his 5 dice attacks tend to hit pretty decently as 1 expertise equates to 2 crits. Oh, and he comes with 4 force points. Weaknesses: Bad at getting up elevation, and relatively slow for a primary. Lacks guaranteed displacement. All of that is somewhat made up for with early displacement on the stance with his absurd expertise. He also needs mostly separatists around him to be getting his full value, so he’s not very splashable. Other units can get splashed into a Dooku separatist list, but not Dooku into their lists. Obi-Wan Strengths: Can hit hard consistently, mobile, and defensive. His identity is a powerful buff to your strike team, making everyone harder to kill. His order card manipulation is excellent, and he force economy is pretty decent, as he only needs to spend 1 force to have a full activation. Three shoves and a pin if you make it through his Ataru tree is incredible. Weaknesses: Not super splashable, you really need to be playing galactic republic to take advantage of his identity. No guaranteed displacement, though that’s not a huge deal with how many dice he can roll with Ataru, which can easily result in many shoves. If you feel I missed anything, found this article useful, or disagree with anything, please leave a comment or stop by the store to let me know! May the force be with you!-Samuel Sweeten
Back to the fun articles! Let’s do another $50 commander list, this time around a newish favorite of mine, Anhelo, the Painter. This ugly mug eats your small creatures to Casualty the first spell you cast each turn. So I tried to focus on having 2+ power creatures that want to die, big ol’ spells that make 2/2’s, and impactful instants and sorceries that would be fun to copy. To start off, here is the decklist itself: Commander (1) (1) Anhelo, the Painter Creatures (23) (1) Accursed Witch (1) Baral and Kari Zev (1) Boneclad Necromancer (1) Clone Shell (1) Cormela, Glamour Thief (1) Dire Fleet Hoarder (1) Diregraf Horde (1) Doomed Dissenter (1) Errant, Street Artist (1) Exultant Cultist (1) Filigree Familiar (1) Grixis Slavedriver (1) Guildsworn Prowler (1) Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia (1) Kingfisher (1) Lagomos, Hand of Hatred (1) Lucius the Eternal (1) Overseer of the Damned (1) Solemn Simulacrum (1) Squee, the Immortal (1) Talrand, Sky Summoner (1) Torrential Gearhulk (1) Youthful Scholar Sorceries (11) (1) Army of the Damned (1) Cruel Ultimatum (1) Dreadbore (1) Enter the God-Eternals (1) Expressive Iteration (1) Rags // Riches (1) Slave of Bolas (1) Stir the Sands (1) Syphon Flesh (1) Time Stretch (1) Twisted Justice Enchantments (3) (1) Cryptic Pursuit (1) Double Vision (1) Oversold Cemetery Instants (16) (1) Arcane Denial (1) Bedevil (1) Big Score (1) Blood for the Blood God! (1) Fact or Fiction (1) Far // Away (1) Grixis Charm (1) Hurl Through Hell (1) Kolaghan's Command (1) Maestros Charm (1) Magma Opus (1) Memory Plunder (1) Rona's Vortex (1) Silumgar's Command (1) Startle (1) Terminate Artifacts (5) (1) Birthing Boughs (1) Dimir Signet (1) Izzet Signet (1) Rakdos Signet (1) Sol Ring Lands (41) (1) Akoum Refuge (1) Bloodfell Caves (1) Choked Estuary (1) Command Tower (1) Crumbling Necropolis (1) Dismal Backwater (1) Foreboding Ruins (1) Frostboil Snarl (9) Island (1) Jwar Isle Refuge (9) Mountain (9) Swamp (1) Swiftwater Cliffs (1) Temple of Deceit (1) Temple of Epiphany (1) Temple of Malice (1) Xander's Lounge I wanted to use this list to demonstrate the way I build commander decks. When I sit down to craft a new list I pick my commander first (obviously) then, depending on the budget, I put in my less than 3 CMC mana rocks and the fetches, shocks, and duals that apply. I try to have around 45 mana sources between the lands and rocks. I always do my lands first so I’m not tempted to cut a land at the end. Once my lands are taken care of I move on to: PLAN A Plan A is the primary goal of the deck. Every card in the deck should lead towards that plan. In combo decks this would be your combo pieces along with ways to protect and acquire your combo. In this deck it is 2 power creatures with death triggers and giant instant and sorceries (and if those sorceries also make 2 power creatures, even better.) Some of the more impactful cards in this section for the creatures are: Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia, Solemn Simulacrum, and Youthful Scholar. Jadar makes a never ending stream of fodder for Anhelo, along with his less effective buddies Diregraf Horde and Overseer of the Damned. Solemn Simulacrum is a card I usually do not put in my commander decks anymore. He is usually a little too slow and clunky for most of my decks but this is exactly the type of deck he’s perfect in, he plays into the synergy and puts me up two cards quickly. Youthful Scholar is a piece of draft chaff I’m going to assume most of you haven’t played before. It was pretty awesome in Khans of Tarkir draft because of all the Exploit and it will be good here for exactly the same reasons. Turning him into an extra copy of your spells and two additional cards is perfect here (along with his less successful versions Kingfisher and Clone Shell) When it comes to upgrading this particular part of the deck there aren't a whole lot of impactful upgrades, most of the cards you want are dirt cheap. You could run Drivnod, Carnage Dominus to double up on the dies triggers, but ultimately you want cheap creatures with dies triggers that either replace themselves or do some on board damage. The second part of this deck’s Plan A is the fun part: the big sorceries. You get the big thumpers like Cruel Ultimatum, Magma Opus, and my personal favorite spell in the deck Time Stretch. But you cannot run a deck on 7+ mana spells, you need the 2-5’s to keep yourself alive until that happens: Enter the God Eternals, Hurl Through Hell, and Wrecking Ball will keep your opponents off your back and give you the velocity to end up winning the game. Breaking the budget on this section is where you can really decide what you want this deck to be. If you fill the deck with expensive card draw spells I would pair it with something like Psychosis Crawler or one of the Blue/Red Niv Mizzets and start plinking your opponents to death. If you want to be an absolute psycho, fill the deck with extra turn spells and really make yourself a target in the next game you play. The first time you double (or triple or quadruple) resolve an Expropriate you will win on the spot. The final part of Plan A are the cards that support your commander. In this deck’s case I couldn’t run a lot of the ones I wanted to because of the budget constraints. I was only able to fit three of them in and they are Errant, Street Artist, Double Vision, and Cormella, Glamour Thief. Errant makes your already silly commander ability even better. Getting another free copy of your Casualtied spells is when this deck really goes over the top, hitting each opponent with a Cruel Ultimatum or taking 6 extra turns with a time stretch is exactly what I want to be doing with this particular commander. For upgrading this part you get some of the more expensive pieces I wasn’t able to put in. Twinning Staff, Chandra, Hope’s Beacon, Storm Kiln Artisan (stupid $8 uncommons), Veyran, Voice of Duality and Archmage Emeritus being just a few of the more powerful options (there are actually about 2 dozen copy spell upgrades you could play but I don’t want to just list them all). I would stay away from one shot copy effects like Fork and Dual Caster Mage. I would prefer to have the ones that trigger over and over again. Now that we have Plan A covered we can move on to the part of a commander deck no one really likes: THE INTERACTION: I am a firm believer in the fact that every commander deck should have about 1/3 of its non-land cards be some kind of interaction. Ideally your cards benefit your Plan A and work as interaction, in this deck you have cards like Twisted Justice and Hurl Through Hell. Both of these cards are decent removal spells that give you some decent card advantage. Similarly cards like Syphon Flesh that I don’t usually like very much becomes a premium removal spell that gives you six more creatures to feed to Anhelo. I also put lots of single target creature removal into the deck, something I don’t usually do, but with Anhelo’s ability working on each turn doubling up Terminate with a creature that doesn’t matter anymore makes it worth playing. I’m also running several artifact destruction spells to keep your opponents from getting too far ahead of your Grixis self. Things like Kolaghan’s Command and Bedevil keep the board clear so you can win with your, admittedly, stinky creatures. Upgrading this bit gets expensive fast. Free counterspells, premium mass removal, and Cyclonic Rift will make this deck better but aren’t strictly necessary. This is one of the more powerful budget lists I’ve ever made because all of the synergy is so powerful. It relies pretty exclusively on the commander so keeping him alive should be a priority with things like Lightning Greaves, Deflecting Swat, and Darksteel Plate. The last section of a commander deck I look at is: THE VALUE: This is where I put the cards that don’t necessarily fit into any of the other categories. Rhystic Study, Fact or Fiction, Demonic Tutor, etc. This deck doesn’t have a lot of these cards since most of them are staples and on the expensive side. It also doesn’t need most of them because the synergies are so powerful. That’s not to say that you won’t benefit from running a Rhystic Study but with all the card draw in the deck and all the advantage you will get from your commander’s ability you really don’t need it. The value pieces I did manage to put in are Torrential Gearhulk, Fact or Fiction, and Rags//Riches. I’m not 100% sold on the split card but getting to steal two creatures from each opponent seems pretty decent and getting to clean up hoi polloi while keeping your commander alive should be fine too. I hope you’ve all enjoyed walking through how I build a commander deck and I hope Anhelo has given you some ideas for a new brew in the future. If you have any questions or comments about the list please drop them in the comments. -Adam Godfrey
Magic players, it’s prerelease time, which means it’s time to review the newest set of Magic cards. I have some thoughts about these new cards and so I thought I’d share them with you all just in time for prerelease. This set seems incredibly fun and I’m super excited to get to cracking packs with all of you and start exploring a set of brand new mechanics. On that note, let’s talk about one of those new mechanics, and it’s the one that everyone is most excited about. Battles! I’m not 100% sure how battles are going to play out. Am I supposed to take two or three turns off from killing my opponent to flip this card into something better? I just don’t know and that is what I am most looking forward to in this set is figuring out which of these are worth wasting combats on and which are not. I feel like Invasion of Belenon is one that I will want to be playing, since UW is Tribal Knights and a 3 mana 2/2 with vigilance isn’t too far below the curve. The second of three new abilities in this set is Incubate. When you Incubate you put a non-creature artifact token into play with X +1/+1 counters on it. Then whenever you have priority you can pay 2 generic mana to transform it into a 0/0 Phyrexian creature. I think all of these cards are neat for limited because they all effectively say draw an X/X creature when you play this spell that costs 2 mana. Compleated Huntmaster is the premier uncommon for this ability in my opinion. It is a magnet for removal because your opponent will not be able to have attacks that accomplish anything until it is off the board. My intuition is every card with Incubate is better than it looks on first blush. The third, and last, new ability from March of Machines is Backup. If this format turns into a "curve out, kill you dead" format, it will be because of this ability. When a creature with Backup enters the battlefield, put a +1/+1 counter on a creature, it can be the creature with Backup itself, if it’s a different creature then that creature gets the rules text from the creature with Backup. It sounds super complicated but I think it will play very simply and intuitively. For my money the most dangerous not-rare for this ability is Bola Slinger. If you curve 2 drop into 3 drop into this thing, put the counter on the 2 drop and attack, your opponent is hurting badly. Especially if you follow this guy up with the 5 drop that Backups a creature with flying. Flying Bola Slinger seems like it would end the game very quickly. Pairing any of these cards up with any of the several cards in this set that care about counters being placed, or put more counters on, and you have a solid beating to deliver to your opponent. Now that we have some of the basics out of the way, we can talk about the bugbear of limited for the last couple of sets: the speed of the format. Brother’s War and Phyrexia: All Will be One were both blisteringly fast sets, where the aggressive decks pushed out a lot of the interesting things you could do with the different archetypes. Compare them to Dominaria United, which is one of the slowest sets in recent memory, and all of the goofy stuff you could get up to with Domain and Spells Matter and Defender. None of those decks would fare particularly well in either BRO or ONE because you’d be dead long before you could get any of the pieces together. For the returning abilities that some of you might not have had the pleasure to play with: Land Cycling is incredible and you want at least two in every limited deck. Good early and good late is everything you want in a card. Convoke is certainly just as powerful here as it has been in every Ravnica set, granted it’s Blue/White instead of Green but all of the Convoke cards are much better than they look just on the Vanilla Test. Just looking at the cards I feel like this set will be on the slower, grindier, side of things. Between Battles and Incubate and the removal being both very good, and on the expensive side, this set seems like it will be whoever can generate the most advantage will end up winning. That’s not to say you can just durdle around and not do anything until turn three, there will still be assertive decks (think BW Knights, GW Backup, and the GR Battles decks) but if you can get your defensive speed up and running you should be able to make some pretty spectacular limited decks. The last thing I want to talk about are some cards I think are traps. Cards that seem like they could or should be decent, but are probably not worth putting in your limited deck. Scroll Shift: I’m not 100% sure this card is a trap, but it seems like spending three mana on this effect is not where you want to be. There’s spinning your wheels and then there's actually doing nothing. Invasion of Vrynn: Same as with Scroll Shift. I don’t know the exact speed of the format, but if this card is actually good in MOM limited this will be one of the slowest formats ever. Etched Host Doombringer: From a couple cards I don’t know if they will be traps or not to a card I KNOW will be a trap. A 5 mana 3/5 is too far below rate anymore and Black isn’t a Battle color. If this card was Red I’d be a lot more likely to play it. Corrupted Conviction: This card, if you know what you’re doing and have a deck built to play it, rocks. If you don’t have those aforementioned things then you should probably leave this in your sideboard. Akki Scrapchomper: One drops are good in limited now, but this one isn’t. If you draw this on turn 7 it is a dead draw. The good one drops are the ones that are good at basically every part of the game or are super busted on turn one. This card is neither. Mirran Banesplitter: If you are ok playing a combat trick that is R:target creature gets +2/+0 then play this, my hunch is that you will almost never want this card. Crystal Carapace: Everyone loves putting expensive auras in their limited decks. Maybe don’t put this one in yours. Placid Rottentail: You have to really, really, really want a cheap dork to sacrifice for this card to be good. If you have three of the GW uncommon that gives extra counters to things have fun with your Fungus. Seed of Hope: This is a constructed card. Leave it in your sideboard. I’m super excited to play this set. The prerelease should be outstanding! Game Grid is hosting them all weekend. The events are at 4 PM and 9 PM on Friday the 14th, 1 PM and 6 PM on Saturday and 2 PM on Sunday. I’ll be playing in all 5 and if you defeat me in a round anytime this weekend I’ll give you a pack of March of the Machine. We will see you this weekend!
There are multiple very good trading card games on the market right now. I’ve always been a big proponent of expanding your TCG horizons by learning to play and getting competitive at those games. Like an NFL linebacker learning ballet, learning these other TCGs will make you a better Magic player. So this week I want to talk about some of the other TCG’s I’ve been playing and how they’ve advanced my Magic capabilities. POKEMON Let’s start with the only game that’s ever been a real competitor for Magic outside of Japan. Pokémon. The Pokémon TCG is a whole separate monster from the video games and the shows and the comics. I will say for the record I haven’t played Pokémon competitively for several years, but I just finished putting a new standard deck together with the rotation coming up on April 14th. In case you live in a cave and have never seen anything Pokémon before, here’s a crash course. You have small little pocket monsters that can evolve into bigger, nastier threats. In the TCG you use energy cards to power your attacks by attaching them to your Pokémon. At the start of the game you put out six prize cards and every time you K.O. one of your opponents Pokémon you take some number of prize cards depending on how powerful the Pokemon you K.O’d was. When you claim your sixth prize card you win the game. This goes both ways, when you play your more powerful Pokemon you put yourself at risk of your opponent getting extra prize cards. In that vein the aspect of Magic I think you get the biggest boost in by playing Pokemon is risk management. Knowing when and how to push your luck, how to read the board to intuit what is in your opponent’s hand, and knowing what your lines of play and outs are. Those are the things that set apart the very good Pokémon players and are something you can put directly towards your Magic game. DIGIMON For the main part of this article I want to talk about the Digimon TCG. For me, personally, Digimon is the game I think has the most skills that are applicable directly to Magic. When you ask a Magic player what their least favorite thing in Magic is, almost all of them will get to Mana Screw eventually. While I think Mana Screw is an important and necessary part of the game, making it so the underdog can win sometimes being just one reason why, most players I’ve spoken with think the game would be better without the possibility of Mana Screw in the game at all. Digimon handles this in a nice way. In Digimon your resource is Memory. Below is a Memory Gauge, It starts at zero and ticks up to ten on either side of the gauge. When you play a Digimon you pay some amount of memory, let's say you are playing this Agumon, in the top left of the card there are two costs. A play cost and a Digivolve cost (the Digivolution cost doesn’t matter here so we will ignore it for now). To play this card from your hand into your battle area it costs three memory, so if you play him that way you would move the marker three spots up the gauge. If it ever ticks above zero on your opponent's side of the gauge your turn is over and it is now their turn. Then they have however much memory you gave them, plus however much they want to give you for your turn. They could give you one memory, or they could give you ten if they felt like playing something very powerful. This push and pull dictates the play of every game of Digimon. Some decks try to choke their opponents out by only giving them one memory a turn, while others don’t care how much memory they give because their individual card quality is so high. Managing this resource is the single strongest aspect of the entire game of Digimon. Because of this, sequencing your turns in the proper order becomes the most important part of becoming a good Digimon player. Becoming proficient at keeping my board states in order and sequencing my turns properly has made it easier for me to play some of the more complicated Magic decks that are super dependent on sequencing. My success with decks like Titan, Yawgmoth, and Grixis Midrange in standard have all been improved by becoming proficient in Digimon. Digimon is easy to get started with as a new player, with starter decks available at just $12. Yu-Gi-Oh I’ve not played Yu-Gi-Oh in over a decade and I know that the game is very different now than it was then. That being said, the one thing that game did teach me as I got better at it was how important testing new decklists is until you have a smooth list that has all the cards you could need. So many Yu-Gi-Oh lists are built around one-ofs and very specific card interactions that taking that ethos to a game like Magic can give you the edge you need when you start to deck build in Limited as well as eternal formats. EVERYTHING ELSE There are a million games that you can play to widen your horizons and add the skills you learn to your Magic repertoire. Drafting games like Sushi Go, or games like Sentinels of the Multiverse can help your Limited game by giving you another lens to look at the draft through. Learning games like Warhammer Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40K will make you a more well rounded gamer. While these games might not have anything specific I can point to and say “I am better because of this”, learning new tactical games and gaining new experiences will expand what resources you can draw on. What do you think? Are there any games that you’ve played that you think lines up well with a particular Magic skill? Let me know what kind of games you play besides Magic.
Now that we have a consistent Standard scene here at Game Grid, I thought I would share a couple of budget lists to get you into the format. Standard can be super expensive, what with your Sheoldred, the Apocalypses, your The Wandering Emperors, and your Fable of the Mirror-Breakers. But it doesn’t have to be. You can build a competitive, fun deck to play on as little as $40. Mono Black Aggro Creatures (24) (4) Cult Conscript (4) Blade of the Oni (4) Misery's Shadow (4) Tenacious Underdog (2) Graveyard Trespasser (3) Shakedown Heavy (3) Defiler of Flesh Spells (11) (3) Cut Down (4) Go for the Throat (4) Invoke Despair Enchantments (4) (4) Okiba Reckoner Raid Lands (21) (20) Swamp (1) Takenuma, Abandoned Mire The nice thing about aggro decks is they have pretty straightforward lines. You play creatures and turn them sideways. The things that change are when to go all out, and when to hold back. This deck has a pretty clean 24 creatures (28 if you count the Okiba Reckoner Raid) with Cult Conscripts and Reckoner Raid being your solid one drop options. Conscripts gives you a decent amount of longevity as it comes back over and over to attack into 1/1 soldiers so your bigger menace threats get through. Speaking of menace, this deck has 14 menace creatures, meaning your opponents will have a headache trying to put blocks together that don’t leave them vulnerable to an all out attack in the coming turns. Tenacious Underdog is the most important creature in this deck. It gives you the reach and sustainability to go into the long game with the midrange and control decks that are dominating the format. A two mana 3/2 is already a bear to deal with normally, but making it draw you a card over and over again can be just what you need to get over the finish line. It gets supported nicely by Misery's Shadow, keeping opposing Underdogs and Haughty Djinn’s easier to deal with, plus its pump ability can put it out of range of an opponent’s Cut Down for one mana. Your three mana cards are where things get interesting and a little controversial. Graveyard Trespasser is an incredible threat at all stages of the game, but the mana cost is a little high for what is, ultimately, a replaceable creature. Which is why we are only running the two of them. Shakedown Heavy is a perpetually underrated beatdown card that has been overshadowed by the likes of Sheoldred and Raffine, Scheming Seer. 6 power is a ton for three mana, and the menace means there won't be any profitable blocks for your opponent. Sure they could let you draw a card, but then you’ll have the beefiest blocker in standard and be one card closer to the best card in your deck. Invoke Despair is so good that three color standard decks are making sure they play only lands that can tap for black just to cast it. Esper Invoke and Grixis Invoke have been top of the board for almost a year, since Invoke Despair was printed. It just does everything; games where you cast it you will win easily, games where you don’t draw it will be much harder. Once again WotC has proven that it doesn’t matter how many colored pips of mana you put in something’s cost, if the power is high enough, players will make it work in their two and three color decks. Invoke is a clean answer to practically every threat in standard, when backed up with intense aggression and cheap removal, it can be absolutely back breaking. Making sure the slower decks don’t have a creature in play when they cast their Fable of the Mirror-Breaker will make it so Invoke deals with both pieces of that card and draws you an additional card. If you can ever cast Invoke Despair and leave your opponent with an empty board you will usually win on that turn. The sideboard changes based on your local meta, but things like Duress, Reckoner Bankbuster, Whack, and more Graveyard Trespassers will make your life a lot easier. For easy upgrades, you have of course Sheoldred, the Apocalypse. But if you aren't looking to drop $150 on Sheoldreds, other cheaper upgrades would include Phyrexian Fleshgorger and Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor. Liliana of the Veil is a fine addition to this deck but you risk turning into more of a midrange deck if you go too hard on three drops. A one mana card I wouldn’t run more than 2 or 3 of is Evolved Sleeper. Its stats are too small for an all out aggro deck. It is a fine card to draw on turn 5, but less good to have in your opening hand. This deck wins quickly and takes over the board in a way that aggro decks don’t typically. I took a very similar version of this deck to Mythic rank on MTG Arena last month (it had Sheoldred in it) and I have nothing bad to say about it. (Nearly) Mono Green The second deck I want to talk about is another aggro deck but this time mono Green (with a teeny tiny splash of red). Creatures (30) (4) Ascendant Packleader (4) Evolving Adaptive (4) Cankerbloom (4) Quirion Beastcaller (4) Yavimaya Iconoclast (4) Bloated Contaminator (4) Simian Simulacrum (2) Defiler of Vigor Spells (5) (3) Tyvar's Stand (2) Gaea's Gift Enchantments (3) (3) Audacity Lands (22) (2) Copperline Gorge (16) Forest (1) Mishra's Foundry It is very similar to the Black version, with the exception of running no removal. This is pure, play a dude and turn it sideways. Want a bigger dude? Put Audacity on it. Your opponent trying to kill your stuff? Make it indestructible. There’s not a lot to say about this deck, except for the two Copperline Gorge to kick your Yavimaya Iconoclast. If you have the budget, upping that to 4 Copperline Gorges and 4 Karplusan Forests will also give you access to some more sideboard options in red. Where the last deck was all Menace, this deck has 14 creatures with Trample and 5 ways to give trample to anything you control. Bloated Contaminator is a fun card in this list, not because of the Toxic win, but because so many of the cards have +1/+1 counters and proliferating to make your dudes into bigger dudes. The last card I want to talk about for this deck is Cankerbloom. It is a two mana 3/2, which is the way to be aggro nowadays. Do not be bashful about sacrificing Cankerbloom to kill a Fable of the Mirror-Breaker or Wedding Announcement. Getting these value engines off the table is how you don’t get buried by your opponents before you can kill them. As far as upgrades are concerned, running more than two Defiler of Vigor is a good place to start. Your one and two mana spells are pretty well locked, you’re already playing the best ones in the format (if you're feeling more midrange than straight up aggro, you can run Rootwire Amalgam at two). At three you have a couple other options as upgrades. Primal Adversary is a bulky creature that can explode in the end game for big damage. Briarbridge Tracker gets you a little more sustainability that Simian Simulacrum won't give you, but you lose some of the nut draws that let you really beat down people on turn three. The last upgrade you could try is one that I’m not sure about. If you run Clay Champion, you have access to a four mana 8/8. On the surface this feels super powerful, but I expect for most board states Defiler of Vigor nets your more power and toughness for the mana. If someone does the testing on this let me know, I’m curious how this turns out. Titania and her respective land is the way to go if you feel like going a little more midrange than straight aggressive. Going more midrange also nets you access to Primal Adversary and Ulvenwald Oddity for the longer games (Oddity would also slot into the aggro version of the deck instead of Defiler of Vigor if you prefer that route). The most expensive upgrade for this list is fortunately a one of Boseiju, Who Endures. Boseiju is a free disenchant in this deck that you should have available. As far as sideboard options you have things like Carnivorous Canopy for some added enchantment control, and on the plus side, you get free proliferate when you deal with some of the more common enchantments in the format. Bouncer's Beatdown is a fine anti-Sheoldred or Raffine card. You also don’t have to worry about Sheoldred’s deathtouch ability since it's a punch and not a fight. The rest of the sideboard is dependent on what you plan on playing against. Whether it’s more protection spells or color specific removal spells you have plenty of options for good sideboard cards. If you have any budget decks you’d want me to talk about, for other formats or other colors in standard, let me know. Thanks for reading and we will see you next week.
Since a large part of my job is pulling everyone’s commander lists, I get to see certain cards very often. Things like Sol Ring or Arcane Signet. I also see a lot of cards that, in my opinion, shouldn’t really be in most commander decks. For this week’s article I wanted to talk about some of the cards I don’t see enough of and cards I see too much. Keep in mind these are all my opinions on cards and if you have a niche deck that needs to run Lightning Bolt or Mind Funeral have fun with it. These are general tips for deck building in Commander. Let’s jump right in with: Commander’s Sphere. If you’ve played commander in Game Grid since I’ve started working here you know I have nothing but disdain for 3-mana rocks. If they cost three they’d better do more than tap for one mana. Even Commander’s Sphere cycling in the late game isn’t worth it for me. It is effectively a worse Triome at three mana to draw a card. The only 3-mana rocks I ever play are Worn Powerstone in 1 or 2 color decks and Coalition Relic or Chromatic Lantern for 3+ color decks. There are so many 2-mana rocks you should be playing instead of the 3-mana options. Cards like Star Compass, Pillar of Origins, Prismatic Lens, and even one-shot cards like Pentad Prism if you have a combo that you want to get quickly. On top of the dislike I have for 3-mana rocks, green decks should be playing less mana rocks and more cards that cost 2 that search up lands into play. Cards like Rampant Growth, Farseek, Nature's Lore, and Three Visits are better than your 2-mana rocks when you have lands that count as Forests in your list. When your Three Visits goes and gets a Zagoth Triome you are much further ahead than the 4-color deck that went and cast a Commander’s Sphere, putting a Shock Land into play untapped with Nature’s Lore and Three Visits is icing on the cake. Green also has access to the one mana ramp spells of Wild Growth and Utopia Sprawl, both of which should be in basically every green deck. If you are ramping hard and aren’t in Green you have some other options for big rocks. Cards like Thran Dynamo and Gilded Lotus are expensive but put you very far ahead if you can play them on turns 2 or 3. From ramp to removal: a common problem I see across most commander games I witness at the store is that people do not run enough interaction. This isn’t 2010, you cannot afford to only play one Swords to Plowshares, one Naturalize, and one Wrath of God. Commander decks are so streamlined and so linear now that you have to have interaction at every spot in your curve. Whether that’s a counterspell at 1 mana, like An Offer You Can't Refuse, or a multi-target removal at 6 mana like Casualties of War; you have to be able to interact with your opponents at every stage of the game. You don’t have to have best-in-slot for every card in your deck. Don’t wanna spend $7 on Cryptic Command? Play Dismiss. Most of the time Dismiss is going to do exactly what Cryptic Command does for an easier mana cost. For your white based interaction: if it only kills one creature it had better cost one mana or be free. There’s a reason that Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile are the high water mark for removal. White is king in board wipes, and has been since Alpha, with old cards like Wrath of God and Akroma's Vengeance all the way up to more recent additions like Farewell and Vanquish the Horde, white has firmly cemented white as the board control color. When you pair white up with Black you get some of the most effective spot removal in the game, with Anguished Unmaking and Utter End being catch all removal for everything but lands and Vindicate picking up the slack in that department. Cards like Oblivion Ring and Banishing Light are fine for Commander but I would stay away from them unless you have enchantment synergy of some kind (when your Oblivion Ring also draws you a card it makes the risk of giving them back the card less painful). The last thing I want to talk about in white is Disenchant style effects. While there is nothing wrong with playing good old Disenchant itself there are better commander options with cards like Dust to Dust and its more contemporary clone Return to Dust. Both of these cards are great for dealing with the more problematic card types that normal removal doesn’t hit. Ideally you want your interaction to hit as many things as possible, which is why Arcane Denial and Counterspell are my top choices for interaction in blue, your countermagic needs to be fast and hit most threats which is why Arcane Denial is my first stop for blue countermagic. If your counterspell cannot counter everything it had better only cost one mana. An Offer You Can’t Refuse, Swan Song, Flusterstorm, and Stubborn Denial are all contenders for spots in my deck depending on what the rest of the list looks like. If I’m not playing a lot of big creatures, I won’t be playing Stubborn Denial for example. I also tend to stay away from countermagic that opponents can get around just by having lots of lands in play. So cards like Spell Pierce, Mana Leak, and Convolute very rarely make it into my decks (with the only exception being Mystic Confluence because that card does so much other stuff.) Black is the first color I think of when I want to remove a creature, and as such it has lots of cards I usually don't play because that’s all they do. Like with white, don’t play removal that only kills one creature unless it costs one or is free. Cards like Bone Splinters and Spark Harvest fit into lots of black strategies and Snuff Out is a very powerful card at most tables. To be frank I think black really needs some help in the interaction department for Commander, it is very good at advancing its own game plan with tutors and graveyard interaction and is pretty poor at stopping the opponents in a multiplayer format. You really do not want to be playing Thoughtseize in your commander deck, but something like Go Blank is a card that makes it into most of my black heavy decks. Black really hits its stride with the two color removal we have already talked about with white and some other fantastic options with red. Dreadbore, Bedevil, and Kolaghan's Command all stand tall as very good options for removal that can hit multiple card types. The new Sheoldred's Edict is a card I haven’t had a lot of experience with in commander but it does hit all opponents and you do get a choice of what card types you’d like to remove. Red loves two things: direct damage and screwing with blue players. At higher power tables where 3 of the 4 players are playing blue, cards like Red Elemental Blast and Pyroblast tend to make it into my CEDH decks. Red’s removal tends to be lackluster for everything except artifacts ( Blasphemous Act notwithstanding). The best way to remove a creature while you are playing a red deck is to force your opponent to have to block to stay alive, that doesn’t mean you get to ignore your artifact removal however. Shattering Spree and Shatterstorm can set those players who got ahead with mana rocks back to playing fair magic Green is in a similar spot to red, in that it has a hard time removing creatures. Outside of a few niche commanders, fight spells aren’t super worth it in commander, there are too many things that can go wrong. What green does get, and I try to play as many of these effects as I can fit in my deck, are creatures with enter the battlefield effects that destroy artifacts and enchantments. Reclamation Sage should be in every green commander deck, or you should have a good reason why you aren’t playing it. The same goes for Boseiju, Who Endures and I have even been enjoying a Carnivorous Canopy style effect more and more. Green also gets the mass enchantment removal spell Tranquility, which if it won't hurt your deck too severely, is definitely worth running in your creature heavy lists. The last green card I want to talk about has been a Commander staple since the format’s inception, Beast Within. It answers everything and should be in almost every green deck. I like it better than the white version since white has more efficient options but Generous Gift does work in a pinch. Let’s talk about card draw, direct damage, and mill spells. What do these three things have in common? You shouldn’t play one shot versions of either of them in commander. As much fun as Lightning Bolt can be in 60 card formats, it will be underwhelming in basically every commander board state. The same is true for small, one shot card draw. Divination shouldn’t be in any commander deck. If you’re playing at higher power level tables you have access to cards like Brainstorm, Ponder, and Preordain. At lower power tables you have cards like Silver Scrutiny or Stroke of Genius, with Stroke of Genius having the added benefit of drawing someone else out of the game. Turn your infinite mana into infinite cards for your opponent and draw them to death on their upkeep. Mill and Burn have the same problems in Commander. You have more opponents with more resources. In a modern or standard game of Magic you have one opponent with 20 life and 60 cards in their deck. Easy enough to burn through. In Commander you have three opponents with a total of 300 cards and 120 life. You just do not have the resources to kill all your opponents if you are spending cards like Lightning Bolt to remove 2.5% of your total opponents life totals. Same with cards like Tome Scour or Archive Trap. You can absolutely win with mill, but it will be all at once in one big turn with Prosperity and Sphinx’s Tutelage. The other option is a little more Commander specific but with Phenax, God of Deception or Captain N'ghathrod, you can nickel and dime your opponents’ libraries out of the game. If you are running mill, just be sure to bring all of your Tormod's Crypt and Relic of Progenitus so you can stop them from getting value from their graveyard. Burn in Commander looks a lot different than burn in every other format. You need consistent and repeatable forms of damage. Instead of Lightning Bolt, play Ankh of Mishra, Sulfuric Vortex, or Roiling Vortex (with the added bonus of Roiling Vortex really punishing people trying to cheat cards with things like Cascade.) Red damage doublers like Furnace of Rath or the new Solphim, Mayhem Dominus really crank up your effects that do the consistent damage, with Chandra's Incinerator cleaning up the creatures so you don’t get left behind by your opponents. The one exception to the one shot damage cards for me are the X spells that can target players. If you have ways to make all the mana, turning it into a Banefire can delete one player from the game immediately. If you don’t feel like singling out one player, use something like Comet Storm or Rolling Thunder to off the whole table and each creature in play at the same time. I have also witnessed one of the sillier burn wins, Earthquake for 30, then in response to my own Earthquake, cast Teferi's Protection and blink out leaving everyone else to deal with the Earthquake. These are a few of the cards and archetypes I see a lot of when pulling lists for Commander and hopefully you’ve seen some things that will help elevate your existing decks or better your deck building for the future. Remember that Commander is supposed to be fun and collaborative, if you have a decklist you’re having a hard time getting to work, bring it into the store and we will help you get the final list hammered out. Or if you’re looking to build a new deck and need some cards for it, send us a list. Thanks for reading and let me know if you agree or disagree with any of the cards I’ve mentioned here.
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