This article is brought to you by oatmeal. Oatmeal is a perfectly viable breakfast food. If I choose to consume mine in raisin cookie form, that's my business.
Several times a year, I open up the reader mailbag to answer questions from all across the community. I usually post threads on a few websites, to include the Official Commander Page. No topic is off limits. Questions range from the obvious Commander and Magic stuff to what's going on in my personal life and thoughts on a wide range of topics.
In Commander, what is your favorite Commander to use and what is your favorite deck archetype to play?
My favorite commander changes; It's dependent on mood. My stock answer is Animar's Swarm because it's the one which creates the craziest game states. I've recently played Merieke Esper Control a little. I like it because it's generally not my style of deck. I want to be an active and aggressive participant in games, so sitting back and being reactive takes a great deal more patience than I normally have-which is a good learning experience. I highly encourage folks to get outside their personal comfort zones in play style. My favorite archetype is midrange toolbox Jund. It just does all the stuff I find cool about the game. The deck I put most often into the case I carry with me to the shop is Halloween with Karador, which also does a bunch of stuff I find cool about the game.
What, in your opinion, is the best way to prepare for becoming a Judge? Not just with regards to the test, but in general.
Rules are the obvious baseline, but judging is also about developing a reasonable level of interpersonal skills (notice that high-level judges routinely have excellent people skills). Like with any culture, look at people you admire and see what skill set they have. There are many styles of judge. Approach the style that best suits you. Finally, follow Sheldon's First Law of Leadership: give a damn. You'd be surprised what you can accomplish when you care about people (for real, not the fake kind so that you can show you care).
If you could violate a color pie principle to enhance EDH what would you do?
I'd give red more exile ability because it needs the help.
What is your favorite equipment in the game?
Thousand-Year Elixir is my favorite "equipment." It has two seemingly simple but significantly powerful abilities.
What is the current set of rules for the Armada Commander League Points System?
Armada Games EDH League #25 is going with a trimmed-down version of the points system. There are four negative points (for negative point stuff, like drawing ten-plus cards in a turn cycle, eliminating people too early and the like) and four positive points-one of which is to have fun. There's now a negative point called "I'm an Ass," which one can earn by violating the principle of DBAD (which has nothing to do with the cards one is playing).
If I ask you questions about Conspiracy again, will you actually answer them this time? :P
Under advice of counsel, I decline to answer any questions regarding conspiracies.
Doomsday vs. Four Horsemen, which would you rather pilot at a Legacy event?
They both sound sufficiently apocalyptic for my tastes, but I have no idea what either deck does.
Do you still go out and judge events? If yes, could we meet up at them and talk/sling cards?
I haven't been to an event since doing coverage at the giant Grand Prix in Las Vegas. My judge certification has lapsed. My last official event was Head Judging the World Championships in November 2011. I will, however, be making an appearance of some sort at SCG Orlando 3-5 October. I can't pass up the opportunity to see the whole extended gang just an hour away from the house. I would love to meet up with folks who I've previously only met online, sling the 100 card decks, and make some new friends. More on that as I know more.
What is the most unlike you deck that you currently run?
Dreaming of Intet , a mean, savage thing (although I recently took out the Vorinclex and Jin-Gitaxias; I really didn't want to be That Guy). It's difficult for me to build a deck that's unlike myself since I want to put some portion of myself into it. One of the reasons I like doing the Other Peoples' Decks feature is to get thinking outside my own mindset.
How is school going?
Extremely well. I just finished taking two courses over the summer, Late Shakespeare (with the remarkable Dr. Jay Zysk) and Film & Culture, which wasn't as easy as you think it might have been. It wasn't just about watching movies, it was about watching movies and then being able to articulate something intelligent about them. The film list for the class was:Casablanca, The Graduate, Silence of the Lambs, LA Confidential, Run Lola Run, Memento, Match Point, No Country for Old Men, Gran Torino, and Black Swan. All of them are worth watching (although I have some strong unkind feelings for Black Swan despite the fact that Natalie Portman was pretty good in it). LA Confidential is the best of the bunch, and after watching it in this class (with more of the eye of a film student instead of casual viewer), it's moved into my top 5 movies of all time (along with The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Usual Suspects). The two film courses I've taken so far may lead me to a minor in Film Studies. I have a few weeks of break, and then head back on 25 August. I have an aggressive fall schedule which puts me there from 1400-2130 on Mondays and 1400-1815 on Wednesdays. I'm taking History of the Medieval West, American Literature 1, Italian Culture Through Film, and Fiction 1 (with the published and well-regarded authorKaren Brown). Once fall classes start up again, I'll also be back to doing my show on Bulls Radio, Brain Salad Sandwich, an exploration of prog rock and metal. I hope you'll tune in.
You're a foodie, so what is your favorite food-related show on TV?
Alton Brown's Good Eats. I like him because he gets into some of the whys of making great food. There's a little science, a little art, and a lot of fun with his show. I also enjoyed his Feasting on Asphalt series. I enjoy Best Thing I Ever Ate on Food Network. In general, I dislike competition cooking shows even if I can occasionally steal ideas from what they do. I haven't watched too many of his shows, but I've thoroughly enjoyed every Tyler Florence recipe I've come across. My appreciation for Bobby Flay rises as it falls for Guy Fieri. And despite him being from my hometown of Baltimore, I've always hated Duff. Speaking of cooking, there's an interesting little EDH Iron Chef competition going on over at the official forums. Check it out.
Why is there a rule about not being able to produce mana not of your commander's color identity? You still wouldn't be able to play cards with any symbols outside the identity and would have to get it off stolen lands or "any color" lands and mana rocks since you can't run lands that produce those colors specifically, but the only things that it seems to prevent are use of cards like Nightveil Specter, activating abilities on stolen/copied permanents, and Sunburst.
It was an initial part of the format's design and continues to be one of the elements which makes it unique. It's part of the format's identity, and changing the rule would change part of the inherent nature of the format. I am not opposed to the idea of change, but it has to be for a purpose. I get that there is an argument that it might be a little easier for new players to grasp if there isn't the mana limitation, but Magic players are usually pretty smart. It's not a difficult concept for them. I also think that changing the rule would most benefit an already over-represented strategy (copy, clone, steal) without providing any upside to other strategies. Limitations are part of what sets Commander apart, and I'm strongly committed to keeping that separation.
How much do the opinions on this forum (mtgsalvation) contribute to discussions among the RC?
That's impossible to quantify. I'll say that opinions aren't what matter, but well-reasoned arguments do. We pay a great deal of attention to what the community has to say. And while we're talking about this, if there's a card that you think is broken, don't build a deck around it and annoy your friends just to demonstrate that it is and then scream "LOOK! IT'S BROKEN!" Quality arguments, no annoyance of your friends. That's a formula for getting us to listen to you.
If you could be any animal, what animal would you be and why?
I would be a lion. They have the best job-protect the pride and make lion cubs. A lion is an unrepentant killer when circumstances dictate, but the rest of the time he sits in the shade enjoying life. That's my kind of jam.
Can you do an updated who's who of the RC? (the last one is quite old)
Yeah, I'm going to do a new version of that article in the near future. Someone else pointed out how old it is, and I'd like to give you a look at what everyone has been up to. Look for it in the near future.
Do you consider gold-bordered cards magic cards or proxies? Are you ok ay with people sitting down across from you with them in their decks?
Proxies and I'm not a fan of them, although I wouldn't raise too much of a stink if someone were playing with a card from the International Collector's Edition. If someone has a legit reason (and "I couldn't afford a Mishra's Workshop but I want to run it" is not a legit reason), I'm fine with them for a short period of time. Recently, Armada Regular and Monday Night Gamer Shea had 7-8 cards off being altered, which is a weeks-long process. Proxies would be okay in that situation. Otherwise, not so much.
Are you the one who knocks?
I know you mentioned this a little bit in other threads, but could you tell us how the RC was involved in the development of Commander 2014?
Being in the building, I know Scott was involved (although I'd have to double-check to see if he has a design credit). I'm pretty sure they ran some rules stuff past Toby and talked to Toby and I together about the idea of having planeswalkers being allowed as a commander.
I know you were directly involved with the kerfuffle that resulted from Cavern of Souls. Was it difficult to come to a consensus on how to use its second ability?
I was there doing coverage for that event, but the Head Judge (Riccardo Tessitori) brought me in on the discussion. It was involved, to say the least, with both sides intelligently argued (so no, it wasn't easy). In the end, I think Riccardo made the right call for the event.
How do you feel about them finally printing more ETB hate in the form of Hushwing Gryff?
I'm happy with it, and I think they need to keep it up. I like when they provide "reasonable protection" cards. I'd like to see more things that can counter both activated and triggered abilities as well.
If you could have any non-legendary creature (besides any of the four nephilim) reprinted as a legend, which would it be?
If you're asking which non-legendary creature I'd like to play as a commander, I'd pick Lord of Extinction. I haven't really seen too many creatures which aren't already legendary that I'd want to build around. I do think that Valakut (and any permanent which has a name, whether it's a creature or a land or whatever) should be legendary.
Best TV show of the last year or so?
The five best TV shows of the last year or so have come from two sources: Netflix and FX. House of Cards is beyond description; Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright are transcendent. Orange is the New Black is nearly as good. I appreciate the way that both of them are revolutionizing how we watch TV. Other than live events like sports or news, I don't want to watch TV on someone else's schedule, I want to watch it on mine (although I'm committed to the idea that Game of Thrones must be watched live-we all have our pecadillos). FX is producing outstanding work with Justified, The Americans, and Fargo. All of them are worth binge-watching. Timothy Olyphant's character in Justified is thematically a continuation of his character from Deadwood, the greatest show ever on television.
Marmite - love it or hate it?
Do you know anything about wine?
I know enough to not eat marmite and drink wine with it.
What is the best beverage to drink when playing each of your top 5 favorite EDH decks ? Which EDH decks make the cut?
What card would you like to own in a foil version, whether it exists or not? (Ex: Tolarian Academy)
Portcullis! I have at least one of all the foils that I want. I hope that eventually, everything reasonably playable in the format comes out in foil version. Fault Line is on my wish list, as is Turnabout.
Do you try to have the same artwork for your basic lands in any given deck, or any sort of theme?
Kind of. If I can't have all the Zendikar full art lands that I want (and I only really like one of each of them, save for the island which has two cool versions), the rest of my lands are all done by one of my favorite artists, Rob Alexander. I'm particularly fond of his M12 Island.
What is your favorite version of chocolate: white, milk, or dark?
Dark, no question about it. We have a shelf in the pantry full of Trader Joe's 60% and 72% just for baking, plus various bars of Theo chocolates. The Ghost Pepper bar and the Pili-Pili are life-changing.
Would you buy a gold -bordered Commander product?
Unlikely. I like collecting but only to the end of playing with them. I will only play with legal cards (or cards that were legal before they were altered).
Do you ever go through periods where you tire of Commander? If so, how do you recharge?
Strangely enough, no. That's probably because I don't play as much as I want to. My schedule limits to me to one day a week at best, and since I don't currently go to events any more while I'm in school, I don't have any of those week-long binges. The good news right now is that as we speak, fellow RC member Scott Larabee is landing in Tampa for a week-long visit. I imagine there will be an overload at some point.
For many people EDH is a game of building resources into a big finish. This naturally gives the advantage to the colors of resource advantage, green and blue. Are you concerned about the continued printing of powerful blue finishers like Omniscience and Enter The Infinite and enablers , like Prophet of Kruphix and even Kruphix himself , that it is pushing a meta full of games of only UGx decks particularly for new people to the format without deep card pools at their disposal?
Omniscience and Enter the Infinite are super-expensive cards which can sometimes get cheated into play. They don't cause any concern at all. This is the eleven-mana format. If you can do epic stuff for 8UUU, more power to you. Kruphix, God of Horizons isn't quite as dangerous as Omnath, Locus of Mana because the mana becomes colorless. I don't think either is ready to wreck the format. Prophet of Kruphix is extremely strong-but extremely strong isn't a banning criterion. We want strong cards that fuel crazy things. Sure, I've seen Prophet occasionally take over games, but that's also fine. It's when a card always takes over games that it becomes a problem. Prophet is a cog in a machine, not the sole offender. I don't think we're anywhere close to everything being a UGx deck.
How long do you think it will take to latch onto the clan names for the wedges or will keep using what we have been using?
A season or two of playing the wedge archetypes in Limited will probably get us there. The less playable the wedges are, the longer it will take. I don't remember how long it took the Alara shards to catch on, but wasn't overnight.
If Chaos Orb were legal to play, how exactly would it work if you got Mindslavered?
Ben McDole would laugh maniacally. After that, prison rules. Don't be a snitch.
But who was phone?
I didn't get the reference, so I looked it up. I then wept for humanity.
How often to people approach you and just rage because of this commander ruling, or that commander ruling?
In person? Rarely. Even if folks disagree with something, they're pretty reasonable about it. Once or twice at an event I've had someone sink their teeth into me and not want to let go, to include a guy telling me I didn't understand how Magic works-on and off for an entire day. The card in question was Chromatic Sphere. The person insisted that he could announce a spell or ability, use Chromatic Sphere to pay for it, but if he liked the card he drew better, he could refuse to actually pay for the spell, and use the mana to cast the new card.
When you come to a new local game shop how do you determine their social contract?
The primary aspect of the social contract is communication (and DBAD). Groups are better when they discuss with each other their particular styles of play, goals, hopes, and desires for their regulars. I haven't been to a new LGS in quite a while since I have my "home" store. If I were traveling, I'd simply inquire in advance, probably via social media, about the place I'd be visiting. I won't compromise on the style of game I'm willing to play, but at the same time, I'm not going to try to force anyone-especially with an established community and player base-to do it my way. If what works for them works for them, then I'm happy. If a local shop is having me in as a guest, I assume that the reason they want to is that the particulars of the format which I promote resonate with them.
Thanks to everyone who submitted interesting questions. I thoroughly enjoying doing these. Per usual, here's this week's latest version of one of my 30 decks, listed without comment (but feel free to comment yourself).
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Steel Hellkite
- 1 Balefire Dragon
- 1 Bogardan Hellkite
- 1 Destructor Dragon
- 1 Dragon Broodmother
- 1 Dragonmaster Outcast
- 1 Dragonspeaker Shaman
- 1 Flameblast Dragon
- 1 Hellkite Tyrant
- 1 Hoard-Smelter Dragon
- 1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
- 1 Savage Ventmaw
- 1 Scourge of Kher Ridges
- 1 Scourge of Valkas
- 1 Shockmaw Dragon
- 1 Siege Dragon
- 1 Stormbreath Dragon
- 1 Thundermaw Hellkite
- 1 Utvara Hellkite
- 1 Warmonger Hellkite
- 1 Atarka, World Render
- 1 Bladewing the Risen
- 1 Dragonlord Atarka
- 1 Dragonlord Kolaghan
- 1 Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury
- 1 Ryusei, the Falling Star
- 6 Forest
- 4 Mountain
- 1 Swamp
- 1 Badlands
- 1 Bayou
- 1 Blood Crypt
- 1 Bojuka Bog
- 1 Cavern of Souls
- 1 Command Tower
- 1 Crucible of the Spirit Dragon
- 1 Dragonskull Summit
- 1 Golgari Rot Farm
- 1 Gruul Turf
- 1 Haven of the Spirit Dragon
- 1 Kessig Wolf Run
- 1 Maze of Ith
- 1 Mosswort Bridge
- 1 Opal Palace
- 1 Overgrown Tomb
- 1 Rakdos Carnarium
- 1 Savage Lands
- 1 Skarrg, the Rage Pits
- 1 Stomping Ground
- 1 Strip Mine
- 1 Taiga
- 1 Temple of Abandon
- 1 Temple of the False God
- 1 Woodland Cemetery
- 1 Volrath's Stronghold
- 1 Darksteel Ingot
- 1 Gilded Lotus
- 1 Quicksilver Amulet
- 1 Scrabbling Claws
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Dragon Breath
- 1 Dragon Fangs
- 1 Dragon Tempest
- 1 Flameshadow Conjuring
- 1 Frontier Siege
- 1 Greater Good
- 1 Guild Feud
- 1 Might Makes Right
- 1 Pernicious Deed
- 1 Warstorm Surge
- 1 Beast Within
- 1 Comet Storm
- 1 Fault Line
- 1 Into the Core
- 1 Momentous Fall
- 1 Crux of Fate
- 1 Cultivate
- 1 Decimate
- 1 Decree of Pain
- 1 Earthquake
- 1 Explosive Vegetation
- 1 Genesis Wave
- 1 Insurrection
- 1 Nissa's Revelation
- 1 Patriarch's Bidding
- 1 Rampant Growth
- 1 See the Unwritten
- 1 Violent Ultimatum
If you'd like to follow the adventures of my Monday Night RPG group (in a campaign that's been alive since 1987), ask for an invitation to the Facebook group "Sheldon Menery's Monday Night Gamers."
Here is the latest database version of all my decks:
ADUN'S TOOLBOX ; ANIMAR'S SWARM;AURELIA GOES TO WAR;EREBOS and the HALLS OF THE DEAD;HELIOD, GOD OF ENCHANTMENTS;DREAMING OF INTET;HALLOWEEN WITH KARADOR;KARRTHUS, WHO RAINS FIRE FROM THE SKY;KRESH INTO THE RED ZONE;LAVINIA BLINKS;LAZAV, SHAPESHIFTING MASTERMIND;ZOMBIES OF TRESSERHORN;MELEK'S MOLTEN MIND GRIND;MERIEKE'S ESPER CONTROL;THE MILL-MEOPLASM;NATH of the VALUE LEAF;OBZEDAT, GHOST KILLER;PURPLE HIPPOS and MARO SORCERERS;ZEGANA and a DICE BAG;RAKDOS: LIFE IS SHORT;RITH'S TOKENS;YOU DID THIS TO YOURSELF;RURIC THAR AND HIS BEASTLY WEREWOLF FIGHT CLUB;THASSA, GOD OF MERFOLK;THE ALTAR of THRAXIMUNDAR; TROSTANI and HER ANGELS