Sometimes, you go through your motions and find something you didn’t find before, causing you to change course.

Sometimes, someone else finds something you didn’t, making you reconsider and reevaluate.

Sometimes, you just aren’t feeling it.

For the past month or so, I’ve been really high on my new commander deck, Urza, Lord Protector. The pieces fit in very nicely, I was very confident in what my game plan was, and I was one click away from making it a reality. 

But I couldn’t do it.

There was something in the back of my head which screamed “This isn’t good enough”. Not for a competitive or cEDH standard, but for my own. I don’t need my deck to be top tier, or even competitively “viable”; as loaded as that word has become. I just needed to be happy with it.

I have a long history of sabotaging my own skill and progression for the sake of “fun” or “uniqueness”. I definitely wish I had done more in my time. But, we’re playing Commander here. I can actually put my energy into my own decks and work on them my way. 

And my way? Just playing the good stuff.

It’s not that Urza, Lord Protector is bad. But I could do better than him. At its core, it was a U/W stax deck that lacked the colors to fully support stax. I had to compensate for this by playing a lot of one off combos I couldn’t quite reliably get to, and blanket answers to things which covered up the fundamental issues with what I was going for. Speaking of fundamentals, my entire gameplan of “isolate all but one player and force a 1v1 game” didn’t really work properly. Standard commander games are filled with all kinds of ways to cause mayhem and nonsense. There wasn’t really a way to keep others from doing that, while also hyperfocusing on singling someone out, while also being reasonably competitive. I didn’t see a path to making this happen, and a complete overhaul wasn’t really something I could figure out.

So, I scrapped it.

I wasn’t too worried about it. Sometimes plans don’t work out, and that’s okay. Even if you put a ton of time into something and you love it a lot, things can change. There’s nothing wrong with changing or moving on from something you can’t work with anymore. What’s important is what you want for yourself, and how you can healthily attain that.

Oh, wait…we’re talking about commander…right!

The white cards were by far the ones I wanted to retain, and I think white is the best color in commander, especially when paired with red or black. I also threw out my overarching isolation plan and went with a more traditional attempt. Hatebears and stax work well, and I dont necessarily need to have commanders which synergize with them. This gave me two options: have enablers and combos for my commanders, or just ground and pound until everyone perishes.

Of course I chose the latter. C’mon.

So, our plan here was simple: Scrounge up as many hate pieces and choking effects we can, sprinkle some tutors and efficient removal, and round things out with a repeatable way to immediately take control, or preferably chip away at the board until people see the writing on the wall. This wasn’t a simple port. This was a complete redesign.

Luckily, one of the most prolific commander deck builders in New York City, Andrew Heitner, offered to help.

And boy, did he ever.

One of my deck building flaws was immediately pointed out, and it’s a fairly common one at that; I was committing too many spots to combos and finishers, and not enough to making the deck function. Having 99 cards to work with does not mean you have infinite space, time, or draws, and it can be easy to want to put all of your toys in a perceived bigger basket. I had to change my way of thinking about how to build this. I tried to ask myself what I would do if I only had, say, 60 or 40 cards to work with. This made it easier to put in the absolutely necessary tools for the job first, then round things out afterwards.

Additionally, I needed to seriously up the overall power level of the cards I was playing. In cEDH, people are not messing about, and if you aren’t handling the things which can kill you on turn 4 or earlier, then you better be doing the killing then. This meant lowering my curve, being proactive in my disruption, and shutting the garbage down early and often. This also meant that when I am ready to win, I do it right then and there. I know that may be too spicy for Magic Twitter, but I actually like my games to come to a conclusion.

I am quite happy with the progress I’ve made so far, and I think I’m going to take things for a spin next week. My foray into commander has been welcomed with open arms, and the NYC commander community in particular has always been wonderful. I look forward to finally battling and giving my deck a real shot against our field.

Anthony Lowry (they/he) is a seasoned TCG, MMORPG, and FPS veteran. They are extensively knowledgeable on the intricacies of many competitive outlets, and are always looking for a new challenge in the gaming sphere.

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