The older I get, the more I resent time commitments.

It started with video games—at about age 29, I grew cognizant of the huge chunks of time I was devoting to something I, to be generous, enjoyed about 25% of the actual experience. Between backtracking, loading screens, grinding, etc. I realized that, while the dollars to entertainment value was unparalleled, I could feel myself aging.

From there, it progressed to movies—movies with runtimes over two hours I actively resented, even when I enjoyed the film. I’d rather watch something breezy and under 100 minutes—I recently watched Sword of Trust, for example, which is a C movie made a B- by being 89 minutes long—than something maximalist and overwhelming in length and scope.

All of this, of course, means that sometimes Commander tests my patience. All the drawn-out, freewheeling games I loved in college and post-grad, when I was poor and time-rich and perennially bored, now enervate me once the board stalls or someone develops an insurmountable advantage but “wants to play this out, you know, just to be sure. You never know!” So the spoilers for Commander 2019 have been a refreshing reminder of how much I truly do love this game and this format—the generals are creative, the new cards solve old problems and create new ones, and the reprints, limited though they are, are well-chosen. Ob Nixilis Reignited isn’t a high-value card, but I’ve cast it a hundred times and never been disappointed by it. I’ve been more excited about these new decks than I have in a while—and more by the Madness deck than any other.

I already have plans to mash up my Xantcha Commander deck and Seizan Commander deck and have Greven lead the resulting hilarity. Both are group hug decks that set the pace of the game by forcing massive draw and life loss through all the Wheels and all the Underworld Dreams effects, like a less-cruel Nekusar. I stay away from the Megrim/Liliana’s Caress/Fell Specter/Raiders’ Wake side of things, although those style of cards certainly do speed up a game—I want this to be about punishing greed rather than discard.

Better Dead Than Bored (Or Toxic Tick-Tock)

Greven, Predator Captain

Kederekt Parasite
Humble Defector
Magus of the Wheel
Xantcha, Sleeper Agent
Anje Falkenrath
Master of the Feast
Glint-Horn Buccaneer
Solemn Simulacrum
Fate Unraveler
Bloodhall Priest
Bone Miser
Psychosis Crawler
Stormbreath Dragon
Seizan, Perverter of Truth
Kagemaro, First to Suffer
Archfiend of Ifnir
Cavalier of Flame
Runehorn Hellkite
Dragon Mage

Wheel of Fate
Winds of Change
Avacyn’s Judgment
Dark Deal
Nahiri’s Wrath
Molten Psyche
Khorvath’s Fury
Incendiary Command
Reforge the Soul
Nightmare Unmaking
Runeflare Trap
Toil // Trouble
Damnable Pact

Underworld Dreams
Theater of Horrors
Waste Not
Curse of Fool’s Wisdom
Spiteful Visions
Dark Suspicions
Havoc Festival
Price of Knowledge

Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted
Ob Nixilis Reignited
Chandra Ablaze

Sol Ring
Bag of Holding
Anvil of Bogardan
Ebony Owl Netsuke
Howling Mine
Temple Bell
Iron Maiden
Misers’ Cage
Sword of War and Peace
Font of Mythos
Otherworld Atlas
Venser’s Journal
Memory Jar

Command Tower
Blood Crypt
Bloodstained Mire
Temple of Malice
Sulfurous Springs
Smoldering Marsh
Dragonskull Summit
Foreboding Ruins
Lavaclaw Reaches
Canyon Slough
Luxury Suite
Molten Slagheap
Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
Geier Reach Asylum
Reliquary Tower
Volrath’s Stronghold
Swamp (10)
Mountain (13)

This deck allows you to play a Nekusar strategy without drawing the heat that Nekusar tends to draw. The most successful line of play is to play the early game low-key—drop a Howling Mine, activate a Mikokoro, Center of the Sea a few times, cast a few value cards. Then, in later turns, drop several pieces of your draw-hate at once and watch as people choke on their wealth of options. This style of deck plays, more than anything, like a Stax deck—your path to victory comes from overwhelming your opponent with vulnerable but powerful cards.

There are also some fun corner cases: Havoc Festival + Greven, Predator Captain is superb synergy—not only does it speed the game up in general, but it enables a massive attack from Greven. Do note that Bag of Holding and Madness work together, so long as you stack the triggers correctly—you’re going to want to, per some rules knowledge, put the Bag trigger on the stack, then the Madness trigger. Fail to cast from exile, and the Bag will see the card as having been discarded.

I’m not running as many Madness cards as you might expect, as most of the Madness suite is pretty low-impact for multiplayer—and oddly, the latest round of Commander decks didn’t do much to rectify that. Curse of Fool’s Wisdom is exactly where we want to be, but other than that, they left the mechanic mostly unexplored.

I’ve been running Awaken the Erstwhile in my Seizan deck to some success—it works well with Waste Not and will work similarly well with Bone Miser—but some cuts are necessary when you mash up decks. I would call it out specifically as a hidden gem in this archetype, though. This is an exceptionally adaptable deck—while I run a series of more competitive cards, as I want to close out the game fast, you can easily take out the Psychosis Crawler, Price of Knowledge, Memory Jar, and Sword of War and Peace to scale it down for a more casual play group. Obviously, if you have access to a Wheel of Fortune, this belongs in there, but $100 is a bit rich for my blood.

If you’re not careful, you can get dulled by the quotidian. There’s enough in this world to keep you busy that you might not even realize that you’re merely busy—not entertained. One of the hardest lessons I had to learn in adulthood was the difference between “busy” and “productive” and the necessity of hitting pause.

So, when you start getting stressed or dulled or everything seems both incredibly tiresome and completely imperative, take stock of your options, whether that’s revisiting a movie you once loved or trying out a new recipe from scratch or testing a new deck that draws you seventeen cards in a turn and only wins through draw triggers. Sometimes you may think you’re underwhelmed by your life when really, the probably is that you’re overwhelmed by options—so play a deck that mirrors that and you realize that maybe the problem is too many choices, and the solution is to share those choices with the others in your life.

A lifelong resident of the Carolinas and a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Rob has played Magic since he picked a Darkling Stalker up off the soccer field at summer camp. He works for nonprofits as an educational strategies developer and, in his off-hours, enjoys writing fiction, playing games, and exploring new beers.


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