You Lika The Juice? Commander Optional Rule: Sideboard
Life Update: I'm dubbing 2011 as the year I Take Back My Life. Some of you may be aware that I'm going through a wonderfully amicable divorce, and I'm writing that with no irony at all. We've lived apart over a year now, and things are going smoothly, and the kids are doing great. Really, the only negative is just how damned expensive it is to live in a two-bedroom apartment alone, with child support and regular child expenses that occur during the precious time I get to have the kids over. I've got a decent full-time job I enjoy that pays well and doesn't demand much more than my 40 hours a week, but I'm having to work my ass off at my part-time job just to keep my head above water, and even then I'm sometimes half-drowning.
This is no way to live. Sure, I've got my freedom and peace and all that, but… there's hardly any time to stop and smell the roses.
Over the past couple of years I've had family members pass away or who are in declining health, and I've tried unsuccessfully to reconnect with old friends… but there's just not any time. I'm always working, and I've realized that I need to make a change. Life's too damn short!
What's interesting about how the universe works sometimes is that, once you set your mind to something, a path forward sometimes opens up. Turns out my ex is interested in buying another house, one that's a bit bigger than the one we bought together that she currently lives in with the kids. The kids' rooms, particularly Aaron's, are pretty small, and she'd like to find a house with bigger bedrooms and just a bit more room overall. With the interest rates so low, and the housing market a buyer's paradise, she can get just such a house for about the same mortgage payment as she's paying on our house now.
When she first talked to me about the idea, we both were a bit worried about what we were going to do with our house—while it's a wonderful time to buy a house, trying to sell a house sucks right now! Then I thought—wait a minute, why don't I move back into the house when she moves out? We both realized how perfect that would be—we wouldn't have to worry about selling the house, and to the kids coming to visit Dad would be like going home, literally. Smallish bedrooms really wouldn't matter that much for weekend visits—besides, the kids seem to just want to sleep on my sleeper sofa when they visit me anyway nowadays.
Anyway, I could take advantage of low interest rates to refinance the mortgage on the house, cash out her equity, and very likely have a mortgage that's no more than I'm paying rent on now. More or less the status quo, only I'd be back to owning the house I'm living in rather than renting.
But wait a minute—wasn't I looking to change the status quo, to make some sort of change so I didn't have to work so much? Moving from an apartment to a house is more or less a lateral move financially, at least in the short term.
Our hero has a plan to make it through: Act II of the plot would be to get a roommate to live with me in the house! With rent and shared expenses to offset some costs, I can cut back on the crazy part-time hours and begin to truly reclaim my life! Printing off a sample calendar month with the typical hours I work and what dollars that is in income, I started crossing off work days and seeing some daylight—trimming off the two Fridays and two Saturdays I work each month is a great start, and opens up lots of quality time for visiting family and friends, going out, being social—playing more Magic!
I'm pretty sure I can make my house pretty enticing for a roommate. While the upstairs bedrooms are pretty small outside of my master bedroom, the area that's currently the family room is big and can easily be turned into a nice bedroom space for a roommate. There's a half-bath and closet connected to the room, and it can be closed off with two doors for privacy without prohibiting movement around the rest of the house. That would still leave the living room for a common TV area. There's also a full bath in the upstairs hallway that would be more or less the roommate's domain (there's another full bath off the master bedroom that I'd use), and the roommate would of course have full access to the kitchen, dining room, laundry room, yard and shed.
My hope is to attract a friend -- or a friend of a friend -- to come live with me, since I'm a little leery about having a complete stranger around when I'll be having my children come stay periodically. The ideal situation of course would be to have a game-playing friend, and one who also plays Magic would just be the pinnacle of FTW! Keep your fingers crossed that things continue moving in a positive direction for me this year and that things work out.
The point of this preamble, besides just keeping those of you who are interested posted in how things are going in my life, is the hope that I'll soon have more time to do fun stuff… like what was recently announced for Richmond Comix, the local game store I try and frequent as often as I can:
“Starting April 1st the Richmond Comix Commander League, or the Artist Formerly Known As The Richmond Comix EDH League, will return!” Full details can be found here but there are two items that I think offer up some very interesting Commander deckbuilding considerations:
1. Each person you eliminate will get you one point; if you're the last man standing you get another point.
2. We will be playing with the optional sideboard rules.
The last time they ran the League I was particularly bummed because I wasn't able to make it out on League nights. They've shifted things around so that Friday nights are included as League nights, so I know I can at least make a couple of those a month!
Sheldon Menery has written about the EDH League Awards they use at Armada Games, and there are over 40 of them listed here. I find their approach compelling because the awards are designed to reward people for playing in the spirit of the format even with prizes on the line, and also to punish those who violate the spirit in the interest of winning (with the “Chasm” and “Greedy McGreederson” negative awards). However, I do worry that adding more than just a handful of awards might tend to bog down play with record-keeping, trying to remember the awards and additional “in the tank” moments when you're trying to figure out a complicated way to achieve an award on the list. At some point I want to examine the Armada awards points and boil them down to a smaller, core list that might feel easier to manage while maintaining the spirit of the format in a competitive league environment and give them a try here.
The RCMX points awards are simple and intuitive, though they do obviously encourage cutthroat play, whether with aggressive decks or fast combos. This is a problem that always crops up whenever you add prizes to the line and risk threatening the cool, laid-back vibe that attracts so many of us to the format to begin with. To balance this, they're allowing the optional sideboard rules, something we've never done before. Intriguing!
The official Commander rules for the Sideboard option reads as follows:
Rather than filling every deck with banal responses, it is preferable to allow some flexibility in the composition of a deck.
- Players may bring a 10 card sideboard in addition to their 99 cards and 1 Commander.
- After Commanders are announced, players have 3 minutes to make 1-for-1 substitutions to their deck.
- Any cards not played as part of the deck may be retrieved by "wishes".
Reasoning: Highly tuned threats piloted by skilled opponents mandate efficient answers. The minimum number of response cards required to ensure they are available in the early turns can easily overwhelm the majority of an EDH deck's building space.
Sideboards allow players to respond to the "best" strategies in a timely fashion. They should be strongly considered as a necessary defense against brokenness and degeneracy in an EDH environment where no gentleman's agreement on style of play exists.
Any living, breathing Commander deck struggles between staying pure to the vision of the deck (especially those that really focus heavily on its Commander) and making sure to have some number of cards that answer other players' decks. Having a pre-game sideboard (and one that can be accessible via Wishes) allows for an additional layer of options and flexibility that I'm really looking forward to exploring.
To kick things off, I was curious what might have already been written about the topic. Naturally I went to Twitter first to ask my Commander fan followers:
@blairwitchgreen: Can anyone point me to any good articles on EDH/Commander sideboards (pre-boarding)?
The only response I got was someone worried I was going over to “the dark side” (aka 1v1 Commander play). So I went to the Google to see what I could dig up.
Mostly, I couldn't find anything outside of some forum posts where someone put up a decklist and asked for sideboard suggestions.
Sounds like an opportunity for a column or three, doesn't it? Unfortunately, I've not yet played in pre-board games of Commander so I can't say with certainty how one goes about building one, but if any of you have experience using Sideboards in League play I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject in the forum. I'm going to consider today's column “Part Zero” on Sideboarding as I try to logically work through the implications.
Avoid Monocolor Commander Decks
Magic's early days are jam-packed with incredibly brutal color hosers. Cards like Gloom, Tsunami, and Karma are a massive kick in the teeth to monocolor decks. At least initially, I expect that people are going to load up their sideboards with cards like these, so minimizing your vulnerability to these sorts of hosers seems prudent. It also makes me want to play blue for cards like Magic Hack to turn things around on the players who go that route.
The Sideboard as your Anti-DB Reserve
I've always been a bit disgruntled when I've drawn a Jester's Cap from my deck and I'm playing against a bunch of folks and none of them are playing overpowered decks or jerk cards. The best use of it in that case is to Cap three basic lands out of their deck to thin it out a bit. Of course, on the flip side I've felt like an idiot shuffling up a Cap-less deck and I end up facing Arcum Dagsson and Uril, the Miststalker. The Sideboard seems like the perfect place for Jester's Cap and Jester's Mask to be.
The Sideboard as… a Sideboard
Of course, a Commander sideboard is ultimately going to be just like your sideboard in Constructed Magic, a place you go to shore up weaknesses against the metagame. Right now, Week Zero, I'm not sure exactly what I'm going to face… but I can make some educated guesses. I know that Griffin's got a monored Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker deck that is just brutal, fast and insanely consistent… and relies heavily on land destruction to lock people out of playing their game. You can best believe I'll be packing Crucible of Worlds in my sideboard for if I see Griff putting Keeks out there as his Commander! Similarly, there will be Tormod's Crypt for those who go nuts with graveyards, Back to Nature for Uril or Zur decks, Bribery for ramp decks, an Eldrazi titan for mill strategies… it'll be interesting to see how everyone's sideboard and deck choices evolve over the month to respond to someone's “broken deck” or sick strategies.
I want to keep in mind that having a sideboard option doesn't mean I can totally ignore including answer cards in my maindeck—moving my Wraths to the sideboard is silly. I'd keep Carpet of Flowers in my main deck since I expect someone is going to play a fair number of islands at any given table, but if I sit down and it turns out not to be the case, it's the perfect card you can swap out. I also need to note which cards in my maindeck can easily get swapped out for sideboard cards—3 minutes isn't a whole lot of time!
Don't Forget the Wishes!
There are nine “wishes” – Burning Wish, Cunning Wish, Living Wish, Death Wish, Golden Wish, Glittering Wish, Research/Development, Ring of Ma'rûf and Spawnsire of Ulamog. These cards aren't generally used in Commander games, but in this League they open up some nice possibilities, and are especially nice if you end up finding out that you pre-boarded something out that you end up needing. If you've got some expensive, game-winning spell you can leave it in your sideboard and wish for it when the time is right.
Keep in mind that used Wishes are put in Exile upon resolution, which is not considered “outside the game” and thus not accessible to other Wishes (or copies of Wishes). Cards like Riftsweeper and Pull from Eternity, however, can access those Wishes and opens up some possibilities, such as breathing new life into cards that self-exile like those with flashback or unearth.
What do you think? What other implications do you see in having pre-game Sideboards?
I'm not yet sure what am I going to be playing April 1st when I head down to Richmond Comix late after getting off from work at 11pm, but it's probably not going to be Glissa Sunseeker, Savra or Konda, at least not until the League progresses! I look forward to sharing with you how League play with Sideboards impacts our games.
I'm a VCU alum, and while I'm not a rabid sports fan, if the Rams wins the NCAA tournament I just might have to get one of my Damnations altered to read RAMNATION! *putting Eric Klug on my speed dial*
@JennyJohnsonHi5: Fox News is like Yo Gabba Gabba! for old white people. Hee hee…
From @moxymtg (MJ Scott)'s blog, writing about chasing after her energetic toddler: “The baby has infect, devour 3, trample, and apparently hides a Mindslaver somewhere on his 28-pound person.” Any Magic-loving parent can totally relate to this description :)
@Conley81: Weak finish, do not play this deck without arena of the ancients!!!! Conley Woods unveiled a new rogue creation at this past weekend's Legacy Open, MUD Bugs. Featuring a host of infected artifact creatures, alongside equipment and the fast mana of Ancient Tomb and City of Traitors, it looked promising… but apparently badly needs to have an answer to Progenitus (and don't we all).
I'm pretty stoked about HBO's miniseries A Game of Thrones coming up soon… and apparently if you live in New York, there's a Game of Thrones Food Truck?!?
Dan on the Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 66 cracked me up talking about the new Camelot mini-series on Starz: “Starz has found a formula and it's that sometimes people screw… and nudity-- which has its advantages… I mean, if a show is going to have Eva Green stripping on a weekly basis that at least allows for the possibility that I might watch.” Ditto.
@mtgaaron: Don't expect Commander to attempt to solve Legacy card availability issues. That isn't its job. It is for Commander players.
Ouch! That's Forsythe coming down off the top ropes like a ton of bricks on Bleiweiss's #1 assertion that Commander products will have some awesome Legacy and Vintage cards. For those hoping for a backdoor fix to card availability issues with Legacy, not going to happen with this product. For those worried that such a fix would explode the prices on these Commander products… we can breathe a little easier!
That's it for this week. If you're in the area, get your Commander decks ready to rumble, and hope to see you up at Richmond Comix!
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com
New to Commander?
If you're just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:
- Commander Primer Part 1 (Why play Commander? Rules Overview, Picking your Commander)
- Commander Primer Part 2(Mana Requirements, Randomness, Card Advantage)
- Commander Primer Part 3 (Power vs. Synergy, Griefing, Staples, Building a Doran Deck)
My current Commander decks (and links to decklists):
Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus: