In the past, I have been somewhat proud of having more Commander decks than sense. I can’t help it. There are so many good themes, and I want to build around every last one of them. But building Commander decks is one thing; managing Commander decks is another one entirely. Every new set introduces a cumulative upkeep cost, and there has basically been a new set of cards each month this year, something which looks to continue with Commander 2016 on the near horizon.


And Commander 2016 is basically the last thing that I have the energy to look forward to this year, so thank goodness it’s the last product to offer me new cards this year. I mean, sure, Planechase Anthology is a thing, but unlike Duel Decks Anthology (a thing I own) I don’t see much benefit in buying those decks to keep together, and I already have all the planes and singles. If you haven’t had the opportunity to play Planechase, I highly recommend it, but otherwise Planechase Anthology is probably worth skipping.


I have come to a point where, having been overwhelmed by options and not having the time to play regularly in person, I need to minimize my fleet of potential Commander weapons (pictured in the featured image, but not pictured in full). I think the damage started when I made the decision to start foiling out some of my top tier decks, a choice which put them to the front of the prioritization line when it comes to choosing an instrument. They’re shiny, and it would be a shame not to play them, so how is the unupdated Roon of the Hidden Realm deck in the mediocre Legion sleeves going to get a fair shake? It’s not, and that’s why I think I need to start taking many of my old decks apart.


Side note: It’s actually interesting to me how my ability to find decent sleeves kept me going for so long. Since all I had to do to start a new deck was buy a $10 pack of Dragon Shields, the proliferation continued in earnest. However, once Dragon Shields changed up their packaging and I realized I could no longer reliably ensure that the box I was purchasing actually fit Magic cards, this expansion came to an abrupt halt. While other sleeves are decent, such as the KMC Hypermats that so many people love, most of those sleeves come in denominations other than 100 per pack. Then you run into issues of minor variations in cut, having to buy in bulk to get the right amount, and the absence of the convenient little box that Dragon Shields come in. It’s a mess, and another reason to cut back on my overall stable.


Knowing that I have to do this is one thing. Actually following through on such an act of creative destruction is proving more difficult. I am still wavering as I examine mentally the boundaries of this course. Do I want to keep one of each color combination, a baseline that keeps me scrambling to update but allows me to play any card in at least one extant Commander deck? That seems like the best way to handle it, but a) that still leaves me with a ton of Commander decks, particularly after the new four color commanders expand the spread by another five slots, and b) what about the decks that don’t need updates (for example, my Animar, Soul of Elements deck is a morph deck, and will likely not be updated again in any major way for years). Do I narrow down to a single rainbow deck, or do I keep the four different five-color tribal decks I’ve made together? Scion of the Ur-Dragon, Reaper King Eldrazi, General Tazri Allies, and Sliver Overlord are all decks that require minimal upkeep now. Is it worth keeping them together for that reason alone?


I probably shouldn’t have included Reaper King in that list, for what it’s worth. That deck is one of my tier one decks. I finally realized that the best deck to foil out would be a relatively static one, so that deck is now 100% foiled out, a first and a sign that it’s sticking around for a long time yet to come. Initially it was just a desire to have a place to display some of the otherworldly Eldrazi which pop in foil, but the deck itself tends to be fairly vicious. I took out the gimmicky Xenograft/Conspiracy line of play once Eldritch Moon provided the tribe with even more tribal tools (including a Scarecrow that does an acceptable impersonation of Burnished Hart and some of the emerge Eldrazi), so now it’s got a relatively nice curve, and a bunch of shiny mana rocks, including the Dreamstone Hedron/Hedron Archive cycle (which seemed on theme). That deck is absolutely staying together, so the real question is whether or not purity of boundaries is worth scratching off those other three decks, which are not otherwise competing for resources with their less colorful brethren.


Much of the proliferation has stemmed from the positive habit of Commander products to provide at least two different paths for any given preconstructed deck to follow. I totally agree with that decision, but it has left me in a lurch in a couple of places. For example, do I cut the Oloro, Ageless Ascetic lifegain deck or the Sharuum the Hegemon artifact deck, both of which occupy the Esper Shard? Both decks got some neat new toys in Kaladesh, and both commanders are mechanically interesting in their own ways. The Abzan wedge (Junk, the first color combination I played in Legacy and a personal fave) gives me both my tier one Doubling Season deck off Ghave, Guru of Spores (a deck which wavered about a counter theme before leaning into the planeswalkers) and my tier one Living Death deck off of Anafenza, the Foremost. They’re both very different decks, and very well optimized to be what they are, so which deck gets priority?


Then rinse and repeat for basically every color combination, including monocolored decks.


Interestingly enough I ended up taking apart my colorless deck recently, leaving me with the thought that perhaps I could just leave a couple of colors utterly uncovered. Do I need monoblack and monogreen decks? They all tend to play out the same. What about monowhite; can that better be covered in the Selesnya or Boros human decks I have been idly building on the side? Monowhite decks are always irritatingly short on draw options. For monoblue I can keep together Azami, Lady of Scrolls, despite never getting a chance to play that deck. It’s basically High Tide, but the Commander version, and it’s not the most fun for my friends. The Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy deck I built when I purchased the SD Comicon set for Magic Origins never really came together well, so it may as well be cut. Really, all that leaves in flux is red, and with red it’s just because I want to still see if that Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh deck is a salvagable concept, burn in Commander being a risky proposition. Were it not for that, Daretti, Scrap Savant would easily take the spot, being the perfect commander for machine red.


Of course, now I remember that there’s a third monored deck in my collection, Krenko, Mob Boss. Tribal Goblins. I have so many decks that I can’t even remember all of them; that’s a problem, and why this project has become so necessary! And since I just spent some time making my collection more organized, it’s a better time than ever for me to take these decks apart, knowing as I do that they won’t end up in some nameless box in the back of a closet, but will instead make it back into the binders and boxes from which I will be easily able to use them again.


So au revoir, my old decks. You served admirably, but now it’s time to step back and allow the wheat to grow through the chaff. And then in a month, when Commander 2016 is out, I’ll start the process all over again with those five decks. We contract so that we might expand; unceasing expansion has left me in an impossible state, and it’s time to get back to basics.


Jess Stirba is part pack rat.

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