Today I am going to share with you two Commander decks, to better highlight to concept of power matching.  In short, not every deck is right for every group of players.  It’s about bringing a knife to a gunfight; if you’re the only one playing a knife you’re going to be outclassed fast, but if you’re the only one playing a gun you’re going to come off like a royal dick.  Neither scenario leads to fun outcomes!  So, just as it’s important to have a variety of tools for every situation, it’s also important to be able to accurately analyse the power of the deck you have together.  Each of these decks falls on the opposite end of the spectrum; it should be fairly easy to figure out which one is which:

Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre

Creatures (22): Arcbound Reclaimer; Artisan of Kozilek; Blightsteel Colossus; Darksteel Colossus; Duplicant; Etched Champion; It That Betrays; Junk Diver; Karn, Silver Golem; Kozilek, Butcher of Truth; Kuldotha Forgemaster; Lodestone Golem; Myr Battlesphere; Myr Retriever; Platinum Emperion; Precursor Golem; Scarecrone; Shimmer Myr; Steel Hellkite; Stuffy Doll; Triskelion; Wurmcoil Engine

Spellish Things (29): Akroma’s Memorial; All Is Dust; Batterskull; Brittle Effigy; Chimeric Mass; Clock of Omens; Codex Shredder; Contagion Clasp; Contagion Engine; Crystal Ball; Druidic Satchel; Energy Chamber; Expedition Map; Karn Liberated; Lux Cannon; Mind’s Eye; Oblivion Stone; Orochi Hatchery; Phyrexian Processor; Planar Portal; Power Conduit; Ratchet Bomb; Spine of Ish Sah; Throne of Geth; Tower of Fortunes; Trading Post; Tumble Magnet; Vedalken Orrery; Voltaic Key

Mana Rocks (9): Dreamstone Hedron; Everflowing Chalice; Gilded Lotus; Mana Vault; Sisay’s Ring; Sol Ring; Thran Dynamo; Ur-Golem’s Eye; Worn Powerstone

Lands (39): Ancient Tomb; Blinkmoth Well; Buried Ruin; Cathedral of War; Cloudpost; Crystal Vein; Desert; Dread Statuary; Dust Bowl; Eldrazi Temple; Eye of Ugin; Gargoyle Castle; Ghost Quarter; Glimmerpost; God’s Eye, Gate to the Reikai; Hall of the Bandit Lord; Haunted Fengraf; Maze of Shadows; Miren, the Moaning Well; Mirrodin’s Core; Mishra’s Factory; Mystifying Maze; Petrified Field; Phyrexia’s Core; Quicksand; Rath’s Edge; Rogue’s Passage; Seraph Sanctuary; Springjack Pasture; Stalking Stones; Strip Mine; Tectonic Edge; Temple of the False God; Tower of the Magistrate; Urza’s Factory; Urza’s Mine; Urza’s Power Plant; Urza’s Tower; Winding Canyons

Child of Alara

Creatures (39): Aether Membrane; Ageless Sentinels; Axebane Guardian; Battle Rampart; Bonded Fetch; Carven Caryatid; Doorkeeper; Drift of Phantasms; Fog Bank; Gomazoa; Grave Bramble; Guard Gomazoa; Joiner Adept; Lobber Crew; Manor Gargoyle; Mentor of the Meek; Minamo Scrollkeeper; One-Eyed Scarecrow; Order of the Stars; Overgrown Battlement; Plumeveil; Primal Clay; Rage Nimbus; Souls of the Faultless; Soulsworn Jury; Sunweb; Tree of Redemption; Trestle Troll; Vent Sentinel; Wakestone Gargoyle; Wall of Air; Wall of Blossoms; Wall of Denial; Wall of Frost; Wall of Omens; Wall of Reverence; Wall of Roots; Wall of Shards; Xathrid Gorgon

Artifacts and Enchantments (30): Chromatic Lantern; Darksteel Ingot; Elixir of Immortality; Font of Mythos; Gilded Lotus; Howling Mine; Journeyer’s Kite; Maelstrom Nexus; Manalith; Mycosynth Lattice; Obelisk of Alara; Paradise Mantle; Prismatic Omen; Proper Burial; Sol Ring; Spectral Searchlight; Spidersilk Armor; Statecraft; Temple Bell; Vessel of Endless Rest

Sorceries (5): All Sun’s Dawn; Conflux; Increasing Ambition; Primal Command; Wave of Reckoning

Lands (35): Command Tower; Evolving Wilds; Exotic Orchard; 9x Forest; Gavony Township; 7x Island; Mikokoro, Center of the Sea; 2x Mountain; Nephalia Drownyard; 7x Plains; 2x Swamp; Terramorphic Expanse; Vault of the Archangel

By this point it should be clear which deck falls on which side of the spectrum.  Ulamog is one of the more vicious decks I play, from its expensive manabase to its (conservatively) twenty-two finishers.  On the other hand, Child of Alara is just happy to be playing with you guys!  It’s a defender-themed deck with a friendly card draw package.  It probably won’t win any games, but it also will probably make it to a lot of endgames, if only because it has a miniscule threat profile.

To really highlight the differences between the two decks, it’s worth looking at the two cards that overlap: Gilded Lotus and Sol Ring.  Ulamog uses both of those cards to the same end, namely to make it to the end game even earlier.  It’s only able to use Gilded Lotus due to a wrinkle in the Commander rule set (that rainbow mana-producers have no color identity), and it just uses it as a mana rock that taps for three.  On the other side, Child uses both of those cards for fixing, not acceleration.  Sol Ring lets the deck theoretically play a mana rock on turn two and still play out a Wall, while Gilded Lotus is one of the better color-fixing cards out there, since it supplies more than one colored mana for tougher to play cards like Souls of the Faultless and Wall of Air.

Now, I would never play these two decks in the same game, but if I was playing against a player for the first time I would much rather play Child than Ulamog.  I’ve made the mistake of playing Ulamog against unfamiliar players before.  Admittedly, it was somewhat warranted since he was playing an Omnath deck with Rofellos, Llanowar Emissay in it, but not only was it not particularly a fun game, but the guy I was playing against remembered the beating he took.  And that’s not an association you really want to be fostering, over the long run.

So remember, it’s always important to recognize the importance of power matching.  While there are definitely exceptions to the rule, I find it best to shoot low when establishing a baseline against new players, and then to adjust accordingly from there.  It’s rare that you’ll be making people have a net-negative time if your deck is a little below the average for the table, but it’s almost certainly true that a more powerful deck is going to rain on everyone else’s parade, and potentially spark a war of escalation that will leave everyone the worse off for it.

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