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The Thanks Of Giving In Commander
by Bennie Smith

Here in the States it's the season for giving thanks. As you read this, I'll be down in Virginia Beach with my kids hanging out with my mom, my stepdad, and my stepsister, and her family at the campgrounds they're staying in. I've got a lot of things to be thankful for, and my awesome family tops the list.

But given this is a column about Magic and because this is my week to focus on Commander, I thought it might be fun to list a bunch of cards in Magic that help out or give something to your opponents, and I'll wrap things up with a funky five-color monster that gives its commander to each opponent every turn—the ultimate in giving, no?

The Spirit of Giving

Why would you want to do nice things to your opponent in a game of Magic? Well, sometimes it's simply the joy of giving, and stuffing your deck full of cards that help out your opponent is just so weird and strange that it's fun simply for its novelty. In Commander and other multiplayer formats, these decks are referred to as Care Bear or Group Hug decks; sometimes the giving is a way to keep you around long enough to assemble your end game, and sometimes the giving actually is the end game.

In multiplayer games, playing cards that give nice things to other players can adjust people's priorities in your favor. There are quite a few different tactics in multiplayer politics, but giving gifts—especially ones that give over and over—are very effective. If an opponent has a monster he's just itching to unleash at an opponent, the one who's giving him gifts might be saved for later.

Even if Care Bear/Group Hug Magic isn't something you're interested in, take a look at some of these cards. Often these are powerful cards that are balanced by having a drawback of giving something nice to your opponent, and in multiplayer you can give that benefit to an ally while leveraging the powerful card against an enemy.

Eurekas

Eureka, Hypergenesis, Tempting Wurm, Show and Tell, Boldwyr Heavyweights, Iwamori of the Open Fist, Hunted Wumpus, Braids, Conjurer Adept, Wild Evocation

Eureka-type cards make great gifts because you're spending mana and a card to let your opponents play stuff for free. What makes them great fun—particularly in Commander—is that you never know where you're gonna end up on the board once the dust settles. There could be some crazy stuff, fun stuff, or it could even blow up in your face. Until you pull the trigger, you just don't know. Of course, since you get to time when you play these spells, you can often set things up so that you benefit more than your opponentbut that's being a tad selfish don't you think?

Probably my favorite on this list is Boldwyr Heavyweights, which gives you a huge body for just four man; yet it's also the most risky of all since letting your opponents tutor up whatever creature they want from their deck and put it into play is bound to end up with some huge monsters on the Battlefield. That's why I save him for decks where I can also run Clone effects so I can take advantage of some juicy targets.

Helping as a "Drawback"

Shah of Naar Isle, Aku Djinn, Karona, False God, Spurnmage Advocate, Questing Phelddagrif, Phelddagrif, Gwafa Hazid, Profiteer, Forcemage Advocate, Pulsemage Advocate, Wall of Shards, Hunted Lammasu, Hunted Troll, Hunted Phantasm, Hunted Dragon, Hunted Horror, Shieldmage Advocate, Nullmage Advocate, Forbidden Orchard, Loxodon Peacekeeper, Soldevi Sentry, Indentured Djinn

These are the cards that typically give you something quite nice for the cost, but to balance it out your opponent(s) get something in exchange. The Hunted and Advocate cycles are particularly nice political cards in Commander.

Share the Wealth

Homeward Path, Living End, Alliance of Arms, Winds of Change, Anvil of Bogardan, Elephant Resurgence, Exhume, Lore Broker, Flux, Game Preserve, Jace's Archivist, Waiting in the Weeds, Whirlpool Warrior, Windfall, All Hallow's Eve, Balthor the Defiled, Brooding Saurian, Empty the Catacombs, Kamahl's Summons, Leyline, Liege of the Hollows, Mnemonic Nexus, Spiritual Sanctuary, Teferi's Puzzle Box, Tombstone Stairwell, Living Death, Patriarch's Bidding, Death by Dragons, Infernal Genesis, Pyrrhic Revival, Twilight's Call, Arbiter of Knollridge, Plague of Vermin, Yomiji, Who Bars the Way, Aluren, Awakening, Furnace of Rath, Ghosts of the Innocent, Bubble Matrix, Wishmonger, Seed the Land, Dual Nature, Upwelling

While researching for this column, one thing that constantly popped up was the reminder that for many, many years, nearly all of green's funky/cool/weird cards had to share its effects. Being a green mage for many years, this was frustrating from a tournament perspective, but for Commander it's one of the many reasons why green is such a great color.

Of course, while most all of these are effects that your opponents can enjoy, often you can set your deck up to break the symmetry and take better advantage of these cards than your opponents can. Living Death made a huge splash in Constructed Magic by filling up your own graveyard faster than your opponent could, and you can do the same sort of thing in Commander. While everyone has access to a legendary permanent in their general, you can break Yomiji, Who Bars the Way by filling your deck full of Legends.

One quick note: I hadn't thought of it before, but Dual Nature is an interesting legend hoser. I'm not sure what legend you might be able to use to actually take advantage of it (maybe Iname as One or Jugan, the Rising Star?), but it's something to ponder

Everybody Accelerate

Collective Voyage, Eladamri's Vineyard, Magus of the Vineyard, New Frontiers, Veteran Explorer, Clear the Path, Rites of Flourishing; Shizuko, Caller of Autumn, Blinkmoth Urn, Gate to the Aether, Heartbeat of Spring, Keeper of Progenitus, Helm of Awakening

Commander is the format where big, splashy plays—haymakers—are one of the primary reasons to play. Of course, a lot of times those haymakers require quite a bit of mana, and that often takes time. So one of the best things you can give people are ways to accelerate their mana so they can start dropping those haymakers!

I included Gate to the Aether here because it'll hit lands a lot of the time

Everybody Draw

Mikokoro, Center of the Sea, Wheel of Fortune, Wheel of Fate, Minds Aglow, Prosperity, Howling Mine, Kami of the Crescent Moon, Runed Servitor, Skyscribing, Vision Skeins, Temple Bell, Time Twister, Truce, Walking Archive, Diminishing Returns, Font of Mythos, Nature's Resurgence, Otherworld Atlas, Spiteful Visions, Magus of the Jar, Memory Jar, Reforge the Soul, Seizan, Perverter of Truth, Time Reversal, Time Spiral, Dragon Mage, Temporal Cascade, Heartwood Storyteller, Fecundity, Vision Skeins, Horn of Greed, Unifying Theory, Horn of Plenty

Of course, right up there with letting everyone accelerate into their haymakers is playing cards that help everyone draw into their haymakers! The most giving of these is probably Font of Mythos—you're spending four mana to let everyone else around the table draw two extra cards before you finally get a chance to draw. People will love you for it. Temple Bell, Otherworldly Atlas, and Mikokoro, Center of the Sea are "safer" because you can time their activation to best suit your needs while still giving everyone the benefit of extra cards.

Everybody Tutor

Weird Harvest, Maralen of the Mornsong, Noble Benefactor, Hired Giant

These cards are extremely dangerous since allowing your opponent to Tutor up specific cards in their 99 just might end the game on their turn when they untap, but what embodies the spirit of giving more than saying, "Go aheadpick out what you want?"

Oaths

Oath of Druids, Oath of Ghouls, Oath of Lieges, Oath of Scholars, Greener Pastures

I broke these out of the Share the Wealth category because the Oaths are conditional cards that can sometimes help your opponents but only if their behind the applicable resource. Oath of Mages didn't make the cut because it just didn't exactly feel like a very giving effect. Greener Pastures felt "Oath-like" in its effect so I put it on the list.

Sharing But Not Really

Forced Fruition, Trade Secrets, Zedruu the Greathearted

These cards masquerade as Care Bear/Group Hug type cards, but really they're not. Forced Fruition buries you with gifts and kills you unless you happen to have a few cards in your deck to deal with it, and Trade Secrets is often just a really bad deal for your opponents. ZedruuI love the card, but it tends to make opponents regret getting those gifts!

While I tried hard to make this list as deep as I could, Magic has a ton of cards and this is by no means an exhaustive list. I hope that perhaps I've found some cards here that you may have forgotten about—heck, maybe even never seen before—but if I've missed some "biggies," some really great "giving" cards, please share in the forums!

A Legendary Gift

Okay, so below is my funky deck. While researching this column, I started pondering Karona, False God. Initially I was going to make a Five-Color Group Hug deck, but then I began to get intrigued by the notion of enchanting Karona with one of the Commander deck Vows, making Karona more deadly (and a better gift to give my opponents) while giving myself protection from her when you have to hand her off to your opponents. Once I threw in the Vows I started thinking about other auras and aura support, which led me to including Zur the Enchanter and Uril, the Miststalker (nice to see them in a supporting role), which then gave me a legend theme of sorts (hello, Captain Sisay!).

Vow of Malice and Vow of Duty's non-power and toughness boost is pretty unimpressive on Karona, so I almost cut them. But I decided that I wanted to keep the Vow count high to combo with Karona and besides, they still work as psuedo-removal on your opponents' creatures.

One thing I tried to do when selecting cards for the deck was, even though we're playing five colors, not putting too much strain on my colored mana base. So I avoided cards with casting costs involving two of a single color where I could (though Bruna, Light of Alabaster and Yomiji, Who Bars the Way were just too good not to include and I adjusted my mana to compensate).

Vows of the False God
Featured by Bennie Smith on 2012-11-25 ()
As written about in http://www.starcitygames.com/php/news/article/25245.html
Print this deck!
Maindeck:

Artifacts
1 Chromatic Lantern
1 Coalition Relic
1 Darksteel Ingot
1 Fellwar Stone
1 Scroll Rack
1 Sol Ring
1 Sun Droplet

Artifact Creatures
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
1 Scuttlemutt

Creatures
1 Academy Rector
1 Argothian Enchantress
1 Auratouched Mage
1 Birds of Paradise
1 Bloom Tender
1 Clone
1 Deadwood Treefolk
1 Dowsing Shaman
1 Glamer Spinners
1 Joiner Adept
1 Noble Hierarch
1 Nomad Mythmaker
1 Sovereigns of Lost Alara
1 Totem-Guide Hartebeest
1 Veteran Explorer
1 Windborn Muse

Enchantments
1 Arcanum Wings
1 Ethereal Armor
1 Fertile Ground
1 Flickerform
1 Fool's Demise
1 Indestructibility
1 Infiltrator's Magemark
1 Necromancer's Magemark
1 Pattern of Rebirth
1 Rancor
1 Runes of the Deus
1 Shield of the Oversoul
1 Shielding Plax
1 Spirit Loop
1 Spirit Mantle
1 Sylvan Library
1 Trace of Abundance
1 Unhallowed Pact
1 Vow of Duty
1 Vow of Flight
1 Vow of Lightning
1 Vow of Malice
1 Vow of Wildness


Legendary Creatures
1 Bruna, Light of Alabaster
1 Captain Sisay
1 Edric, Spymaster of Trest
1 Hanna, Ship's Navigator
1 Hazezon Tamar
1 Karona, False God
1 Saffi Eriksdotter
1 Uril, the Miststalker
1 Yomiji, Who Bars the Way
1 Zedruu the Greathearted
1 Zur the Enchanter

Sorceries
1 Retether

Tribal Enchantments
1 Eldrazi Conscription

Basic Lands
3 Forest
2 Island
2 Mountain
2 Plains
2 Swamp

Lands
1 Badlands
1 Bayou
1 Clifftop Retreat
1 Command Tower
1 Exotic Orchard
1 Forbidden Orchard
1 Glacial Fortress
1 Hinterland Harbor
1 Homeward Path
1 Isolated Chapel
1 Maze of Ith
1 Plateau
1 Reflecting Pool
1 Rootbound Crag
1 Rupture Spire
1 Savannah
1 Scrubland
1 Selesnya Sanctuary
1 Stirring Wildwood
1 Sunpetal Grove
1 Taiga
1 Tropical Island
1 Tundra
1 Underground Sea
1 Vesuva
1 Volcanic Island
1 Wooded Bastion
1 Woodland Cemetery

Stats:
Average mana: 2.07
Average creature mana cost: 3.97
Average creature power: 2.03
Average creature toughness: 2.79

Deck Composition:
Artifacts: 7.00%
Artifact Creatures: 2.00%
Basic Lands: 11.00%
Creatures: 16.00%
Enchantments: 23.00%
Lands: 28.00%
Legendary Creatures: 11.00%
Sorceries: 1.00%
Tribal Enchantments: 1.00%



Yes, this is far, far from a budget-friendly list!

One thing I hope to pull off with the deck is to attack with Karona naming Sand Warriors and hopefully swing with a bunch of 'em from Hazezon Tamar!

What do you think of Vows of the False God? Missing anything obvious?

By the way, Magic Online Commander fans, it looks like I'll have two rare Tuesday nights off December 4th and December 11th, so I thought I'd dedicate those free nights to playing some Commander on Magic Online, and I'd love to play with some of you, so add me to your buddy list (I'm blairwitchgreen) and look for me online around 8 PM Eastern time and lets have some fun! I've updated my old Commander list with new cards and have created a brand new one I want to give a whirl.

Take care, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

Bennie

starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com

Make sure to follow my Twitter feed (@blairwitchgreen). I check it often so feel free to send me feedback, ideas, and random thoughts. I've also created a Facebook page where I'll be posting up deck ideas and will happily discuss Magic, life, or anything else you want to talk about!

I write a blog that you may find it fun to read and comment on. I update at least once a week so check on it often and let me know what you think!

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:

My current Commander decks (and links to decklists):

Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus: