Fairly Degenerate

By Adam Willson
I’m not always a sore loser.  Sometimes I get to be a bitter winner.  Maybe I’m exaggerating, but I’ve had my share of seething frustrations with competitive gaming.  Most of the players in my playgroup at Jupiter Games play competitive Standard, Legacy, Limited, or all three.  There’s plenty of testing, brewing, metagaming, sideboard discussions, and Batterskull-induced rage quits.  There are only 2 days each week here that don’t have scheduled Magic events (and that’s not including the North East Legacy Championship Series).

We have our share of competitive Magic, and we take it seriously.  There are other players at the Jupiter, players that don’t don’t care about Standard and don’t want to buy into Legacy, players that have found their Magic home in the beloved Commander format.  These players take Commander just about as seriously as others take the other formats.  The disparity becomes evident when I, who see Commander as a day off from competitive Magic, is in a game with ‘Commander-only’ players.  Admittedly, I have some pretty nasty interactions in my ‘Rafiq of the Many’ deck (e.g. Dueling Grounds + Finest Hour, etc.) and if unchecked, the deck will do some pretty intense things, but I’d be content sitting back and watching my Lorescale Coatl grow.  It’s almost every day that I mournfully go through the deck looking for a card to cut for my beloved foil Omnibian.


For some others, however, Tuesday night Commander is it.  It’s the one night a week to dash hopes, to see the blood of their opponents splashed on the rocks of destiny, take all the turns for the rest of the game, to attack each opponent for 100 points of damage, to harness the Sun and shove it down everyone’s throats.  To people who aren’t expecting it, this can be a real bummer.  But who’s to blame?  People deserve to play degenerate Balthor the Defiled/Iname Death Aspect decks if they want, and people deserve to take a break and play Omnibian if they want.  Recently I’ve solved the problem for myself by hand-picking my Commander games, sticking to games with people who share the same code of Commander ethics, and avoiding games with Commander degenerates.  It’s not perfect, but I haven’t found myself leaving the table with a heated “You people deserve each other” lately.
The new Commander preconstructed decks Wizards of the Coasts releases today are another healthy step in that direction.  Don’t be fooled, these decks are not 100 card Intro Packs.  You may have heard that all five decks come with a Sol Ring, but you may not know that Brainstorm, Ray of Command, Propaganda, Insurrection, Living Death, Austere Command, and Garruk Wildspeaker are star players in some of the decks.  Not to mention the 10 new insane Legendary creatures that are Commander options.  These decks are no joke.  They contain Commander staples, and ridiculous newly printed cards.  They ramp fast, and when they have mana, they know what to do with it.  What the decks don’t contain are infinite combos, or turn five kills.  You get plenty of the broken interactions and haymakers that draw people into Commander, without games where one person spends his or her first 6 turns with three lands on the table and no hope for interaction.  Each deck has what it needs to scrap its way to the top of the hill, and knock someone else down if they got there first.  This is Commander the way it’s meant to be played.  Players who have degenerate decks (which I’m sure are fun to pilot) have the option to be conscientious in games with more casual players and pick up one of the preconstructed decks instead of Zur the Enchanter or Azami, Lady of the Scrolls.
These decks are also the perfect starting point for a player looking to get into the Commander format.  For someone who wants to play Magic, but is either just starting, or has sold their collection and just can’t stay away, the cost of a 100 card deck can be a little overwhelming, but the $30 Commander MSRP puts fun, interactive games of Magic within reach.  The decks are powerful, quirky, and ready to go right off the shelf.  A new or returning player can feel perfectly confident picking one up and jumping into a game of Commander, then later building his or her own original Commander deck, using one of these as a template for its construction.  I strongly encourage both new and veteran players to try the Commander format, and start with one of the new preconstructed Commander decks.
The Commander release party at Jupiter Games is scheduled to begin at 11am on Saturday 6/18/11.  The entry fee is $35, which includes the Commander deck of your choice.  Promotional oversized foil Legendary creature cards (ones not included in the Commander boxes) will also be given as door prizes to everyone who enters Saturday (while supplies last).  The event will last as long as people are willing keep playing, and it’s sure to be a blast.
For information regarding the Commander format, visit: http://mtgcommander.net/rules.php
Decklists for the new Commander decks can be found here:http://www.wizards.com/magic/magazine/Article.aspx?x=mtg/daily/arcana/732

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