Recently I switched game shops where I play commander out in the wild. I brought with me several decks that ranged from seven to nine on the power scale. I discovered quickly that the power level of decks at this store was drastically different from the last one. The last store ran a league and with it players who wanted to compete for prizes played very powerful decks. At the new location I was greeted with a rule zero conversation which included I have a deck that uses two commanders from Neon Dynasty. “They don’t have the partner ability but they should because they work so well together,” said the owner. I was all for it as I prefer a laid back atmosphere. Since this was going to be my new gaming home, I knew I’d need to power down some decks. This would be so that I could help foster a noncompetitive and fun environment. It would also be nice that I could avoid the reputation of being the guy at the table whom we need to play a game of archenemy against.
Some decks have a maximum power level naturally. Their commander wants the deck to accomplish certain things and the cards needed to do so is limited. In most cases though, decks can scale up and down in power. While in my case, I wanted less powerful decks for a more casual environment. However, the same concepts apply if I want to power up my decks. I just do them in reverse. Here are seven concepts that you can use to power up (or down) your decks as needed.
Counerspells are powerful in commander. They hold two distinct purposes in decks. The first is to prevent players from winning the game. The second is protecting your board once it is developed. By adding more counterspells you can power up your deck by shutting down your oppoennt’s win conditions and protecting yours. One example of this is in My Pakko and Haldan Deck. The quickest way to shut down the deck is to remove Pakko. This prevents me from using my opponents cards against them while removing a threat that grows quite large quite fast. Having a counterspell in hand and using it to deny my opponents the removal needed allows the deck to keep attacking at will. Then I can continue to use my opponents cards against them.
If you want to power up your deck and you are in blue add a package of counterspells. If you need to power down your deck, then remove the counterspells. Add in more cards that synergize with your strategy instead.
Removal is critical interaction for any deck. Every deck often has cards that must be removed otherwise the deck will take over the game and win. A perfect example of this is Smothering Tithe. This is an excellent card. It doesn’t seem like it is doing much but gaining treasure for cards drawn is a significant advantage if allowed to build up over time. Games are won by explosive turns and Smothering Tithe is a must remove card. Your deck needs a way to interact and remove this type of card.
If you want to power up your decks make sure you have ten to fifteen cards in your removal package. Part of winning the game is preventing your opponents from winning until you can win the game. If you want to power down your deck run 6-10 pieces of removal in your deck. This will allow you to answer some threats when working in tandem with the table.
Playing at flash speed is important if you want a strong deck. If you are running counterspells and removal, you leave mana up to have the option of casting them. If your opponents cast nothing worthy of using your cards on, then you want to be able to cast cards from your hand at flash speed. In general, those who use their mana more efficiently often win the game.
If you want to power up your deck use more instants and mana sink abilities. Also run cards like Leyline of Anticipation, Vedalken Orrery, and Alchemist’s Refuge. If you need to power down your deck make more of your removal pieces sorceries than instants. Also remove cards that give you flash speed from your deck. A slower deck is a less powerful deck.
Games can often be won by infinite combos. Najeela the Blade Blossom and infinite mana wins the game. There are plenty more combos that will do the same. If you want to power up your deck, then look to add infinite combos to your deck especially if multiple combos use the same card. the more you add the faster you can win. .
Likewise if you want to power down your deck, then remove the infinite combos from your deck. By removing these combos you will be forced to win the game with either combat or an alternate win condition like Approach of the Second Sun. This will slow the game down.
Wizards of the Coast has released more and more cards over the years. To keep people buying them they slowly power up the cards that they make. This power creep often is created by doing similar things to other cards but costing less mana. The less mana it takes to cast an effect the more cards you can cast in a turn. This creatins an explosive turn that can help you win the game. This is what makes Chulane Teller of Tales a strong deck. It contains a ton of low mana value cards so you can cast a creature spell then draw a card then play a land if you have one and then continue to cast more spells.
If you want to power up your deck, then look to lower the mana curve of your deck. Take out the big splashy spells and add in cheaper spells so that you can cast more faster. Conversely if you want to lower the power level of your deck, then take out some of the lower mana cards and add in more four, five and six mana value cards. By slowing down your deck it will lengthen the game.
More competitive decks run tutors. The ability to get the card you need when you need it or to search your deck for a combo piece is strong. When I played K’rrrik, Son of Yawgmoth with an extort theme, I ran many tutors. Finding Pontiff of Blight was absolutely critical to the deck. Tutors limit the variance of such a deck and help you play consistently from game to game. Tutors are a topic of controversy. You will find some players are OK with them and others don’t feel like they should be in the format.
If you want to power down your decks remove tutors from them. This increases variance and will give games where you wont have what you need to prevent players from winning. There will be games you wont have your cards to efficiently enact your strategy either. Likewise, if you want to power up your deck add a few more tutors to it. Finding what you need makes your deck an efficient, well-oiled machine that it can be.
Base Ten is the concept that your deck has at least ten cards in it that are built around synergizing with your commander. If you look up EDHREC cards that are in the High Synergy and the Top Cards category are often cards that fit into the concept of base ten. They are the Bruce Lee cards of your deck. The strongest versions of your deck run these cards.
If you want to power up your deck make sure to include a minimum ten of these cards in your deck. In fact, cram as many of these cards as possible. Don’t sacrifice the card draw, mana ramp and removal packages of your deck to do it though. This way your deck is doing what it wants to do. If you want to power down your deck remove three to five of these cards. Add in pet cards instead. This will slow down the deck a little allowing for longer games.
Bringing it Home.
For me, I madly brewed two new decks of a seven power level by using these concepts. I still included strong cards, but using these ideas I kept from having them combine to create a high end eight power deck. The next time I went to play I didn’t win, but have a very enjoyable time while doing all I could to keep my opponents at bay. In fact I was only able to play one of my two new decks as the game took several hours and we all had a good time. Your situation may be far different from mine. Either way, utilize these concepts to adjust the power level of your deck to your playgroup so that you can stay competitive but not overwhelm your group. Happy Gaming.