Part I Goals Every Deck Needs
This concept seems very basic. But oftentimes deck builders do not think about this concept and utilize it to their maximum potential. It is very easy to see a legendary creature read its ability and just begin building a deck around it. If you are not a Johnny personality type deck building can be a necessary evil. You want to spend as little time as possible on it. That is understandable. Short of netdecking a commander deck spending time on basic level up moments eight nine and ten is worth it. It will improve the play of your deck. For the Timmys and Spikes out there, this is what you really want.
So what does it mean to say your deck has goals? I believe a commander deck has three generic implied goals for a deck to succeed and one specific individualized goal. First we will look at the implied goals and then individualized goal. The general goals can’t be completely addressed unless we define a specific goal for the deck. It defines how we accomplish the generic goals. At the same time, without meeting these general goals every deck calls for, we will not be able to accomplish our individual goals for each deck. For this reason, I would suggest these three generalized goals are more important than the specific goal in deck building. This is the obstacle course to a Magic the Gathering Deck Building boot camp. You may slog through it. You may hate it but you will be better for it. .
Goal 1: Your deck wants to generate mana fast enough to play your cards.
We talk about commander being a casual format. This is true but the game is still on a clock to win. Each meta is different with how much time a deck has to win. You need to be able to cast your cards in a timely manner. Then you must have the board presence you will need to win the game. Because there are mana rocks and green mages who will cast land ramp spells, a basic Magic deck will not be able to rely on play a land a turn and cast a spell to get to the mana needed to win the game.
Also, commander decks often are at least two colors if not more. For this reason you have to generate enough colored mana to cast the spells needed to to win. Mana base is too in depth of a topic to cover here. But we will cover it in depth in a later article. For this stage you need to understand the resources your deck will need to allocate to help generate the mana needed fast enough for you to win the game. This way you can cast your spells on time when you need to.
Goal 2: Your deck needs to disrupt what your opponent is doing just enough for you to accomplish your individualized goal.
In commander you are trying to do some cool things. Your opponent is trying to do them too. Without disruption the commander game devolves into a game of who can get to their cool strategy faster. Luckily there are 100 cards in a deck and lots of room for your cool strategy and other cards. This leaves room for disruption to stop your opponent if he gets out ahead of you in you objective race. Commander is multiplayer and often all players will bring a disruption package to the table. It is a safe assumption that the player who jumps out to the early lead will not win the game. The other players will stomp down on them. From a strategy standpoint if getting there faster does not guarantee a win, then you need to stop what your opponents are doing.
You can be tempted to skip this goal and concentrate on other things. You may think “let the other players stop the early leader.” But consider this. In a normal four player game if you are not in the lead someone else is. This means out of the three opponents two of them want to slow down or stop your opponent. Often there will not be enough firepower to stop the early leader. This means you will not sneak in and win the game after the leader is beat down. Finally, while this is not a website on competitive EDH it is good to note that even the most competitive decks run disruption to give them a chance to win the game.
Goal 3: Your deck wants enough cards to have multiple lines of play during your turn.
There is little more disappointing that being stuck in a top deck situation. Top decking is the situation where you have no cards in hand. You have to rely on drawing a card to be able to do something. Because card draw is random whatever you draw may not even help you. Watching the antics of Han Solo as he improvises to the situations he gets into is very entertaining. So is watching an episode in Yugi-Oh where the hero always seems to be in a tight duel where the stakes are high. These examples are not how it works in the real world. This is not the situation you want to find yourself in for Magic The Gathering. Somehow Han eventually gets himself out of the situation he is in. Yugi, always draws a card they can use to win the duel.
It doesn’t work like that in Magic. There is no screenwriter writing you out of this situation successfully. There is no bluff that works or a guaranteed top deck card you need. For this reason you need a way to help keep your hand full of cards. When it is your turn you have options and with options you can determine the best line of play to continue your strategy or disrupt another players board.
Let me put in another way. You can not utilize the best lines of play for commander if they are not in your hand. With more cards in your hand you have better odds to have the best line of play in your hand. Hidden in the game your deck has the goal of drawing enough cards to have multiple lines of play open to you on a given turn.
And the Fourth Goal…
These are the three goals that every deck wants. When building a deck list it is critical that these goals are addressed in a meaningful way. Commander Clinic wants to keep the lessons to about a five minute read. This is so that you do not want to get bogged down with too much information and lose sight of the key points of the lesson. We will continue this Basic Level Up Moment next time. It’ll cover the specific individualized goal that every deck wants in more depth. As always if you have any comments or questions feel free to contact me at email@example.com. I will get back to you as quickly as possible.