Thoughts from the Kitchen Table

Hey readers! It’s Casual Friday, and hopefully for you that means FNM on the kitchen table. Not for me. I need a break. I was lucky enough to get two great nights of Commander action in already this week. I have a bunch of random thoughts and reactions from those games I figured I’d share today. Enjoy!

I’ve played a few games now with my ‘Pauper’ Glissa deck that I wrote about earlier this week. From what I’m told, the real Pauper Commander format uses an Uncommon card as a Commander, which doesn’t have to be legendary. That’s wild. I could probably sub Poison-Tip Archer as the Commander without making changes, but I do plan on building a proper Pauper stopper, filled with boppers but no box-toppers, at some point soon.

The Glissa build continues to play like a regular Commander deck. I don’t notice the rarity except for the lack of splashy boardwipes. If you can dump a bunch of stuff into play faster than I can kill it all, then I’m hosed. Top marks to a good friend this week who got my concession after casting a kicked Rite of Replication on my Fangren Marauder.

That means whenever an artifact dies, that clever opponent gains 25 life. The 5/5s are kinda incidental when my deck revolves entirely around artifact recursion. Bravo! My only chance would be Commander damage, which my opponent could deal with easily.

That same opponent brought a ‘Lands Matter’ deck with them, and I’m always wowed by the power and consistency of those decks. One of the old adages of financial success is to buy real estate, and in Magic, it’s so good to have lands.

The deck was commanded by Tatyova, Benthic Druid, and after being demolished by it, I suggested leaning into playing their threats at instant speed with lands like Emergence Zone, Winding Canyons and Simic powerhouse, Alchemist’s Refuge.

The Refuge, like all lands with powerful non-mana abilities, is tough to stop or interact with, and the Lands decks can often recur them without difficulty if they’re destroyed.

Emergence Zone is a land I’d recommend heavily to all Commander players. There are tons and tons of viable colourless lands to add to your various manabases, but coming in untapped, making mana, and giving the ability to fire off an instant speed boardwipe or something like that is invaluable. I even wrote a post about this land.

Winding Canyons is on the Reserved List, and might be expensive. It’s undeniably powerful, though, and with recent Reserved List price spikes, might be a savvy pickup.

Speaking of Lands Matter decks, I played one of my own, based around Karametra, God of Harvests. As much as I hate tutoring, Kara does let me get basics, and I stick to that. I built Karametra around the time when I started playing Commander, and it has always done well in the Commander Challenge tournament series at my LGS.

Recently I ‘powered down’ this and most of my other long-standing decks, because they had some reputations, and some degeneracy, and a lot of cards I wanted to brew with elsewhere. I replaced a lot of those cards with Staples like mana rocks and land ramp and card draw, figuring the decks would mostly still be playable. Mostly.

Turns out I took out almost all of Karametra’s teeth. I think I played every land in my deck before I played any kind of decent threat. There were maybe 4-5 Landfall cards total in a Landfall deck. It drives me crazy when other players amass resources but can’t do a thing with them. This time it was me. Oops. Always good to be humbled, and now I’m really looking forward to the upcoming expansion on the original plane of Landfall, Zendikar!

Another deck I ‘powered down’ was my mono-black Zombie deck, helmed by Liliana, Heretical Healer. I love me some Zombies, and they keep printing em in almost every set. Mono-black feels great, with a deliciously stable mana base of mostly swamps. Make skulls, play Zombies, is the plan. Zombies offer a powerful toolbox, and manage to offer easy access to multiple synergistic effects.

Zombies have a ton of useful Lords, make tokens easily, reanimate themselves and others, leverage death triggers, and have surprising reach with lifedrain effects. While tribes like Allies and Slivers are directly synergistic, Zombies may be better with the tighter range of synergies they encompass.

I have a couple of cards in the ‘powered down’ Zombies build that still need to come out. When a card feels like too much for the Kitchen Table, it’s probably due to be replaced. Thanks for playing, Akroma’s Memorial, you certainly were the ultimate gravestone for my Zombie horde, but you were never fair.

In Garruk’s Wake is on my watch list. While it costs 9 mana, that’s not really an issue in Commander. Thanks to mana rocks, I had that turn 5. It is an excellent, and surprisingly castable boardwipe, and that’s a really good thing. But my opponents in the game I drew it had walked right into it. It would be different if it were symmetrical, and taken my creatures out as well. But it felt bad to have played it, and I’d rather replace cards like that in my builds.

Speaking of cards on my watch list, I’ve got eyes on Altar of Dementia. All the instant-speed sacrifice Altars are broken. Ashnod’s, Phyrexian, yuck. I’ve been playing with a General ‘Lisa’ Kudro of Drannith concept that’s secretly a mill deck.

The list is here. I think it’s changed a bit, as I keep tinkering with it, but you get the idea. It is so not a Friends deck.

It’s a big time ETB Humans build, with really strong reanimation. Some of the best reanimation is on the lands, and the manabase is super-pushed towards getting enough Plains in play to activate Emeria, the Sky Ruin. Maybe I’ll get there someday.

Recent Double Masters reprint Conjurer’s Closet is an all-star in the build…

As is completely underplayed ETB juggernaut Cauldron of Souls.

Sooooo many ETBFx are +1/+1 counter-based. Making Cauldron a straight reanimation. At instant speed. Also a terrific counter to forced sacrifice if that’s derailing your Voltron concept. Got sacrifice outlets in your plan? My Kudrow deck has plenty, including the Altar of Dementia, which when combined with my Commander, Cauldron and what’s becoming a signature card for me, Living Death, milled out one of my opponents.

I like the deck a lot, and milling someone out was my secret Christmasland, but holy cow was the Altar ever bonkers. Making things nastier, though I hardly needed it, was a recent acquisition of mine, Species Specialist.

I feel like I could already write a Commander Staple post about this guy. There are a whole lot of creature-types that have minimal support, and this guy is huge for all of those that play black. Not to mention the effect is certainly good enough for the supported tribes like Zombies, Humans and Warriors. You can even play it as a counter to a opposing tribal deck, then wipe the board for profit. The card is currently about a dollar, in large part because we are being bombarded with Commander cards this year and some are way under the radar.

Want another? Still fairly cheap is Netherborn Altar. Any deck that wants its Commander to be around and plays black should look at this card. The life is trivial, especially if the Commander is the lynchpin of your strategy. Sometimes the most effective way to deal with your dangerous Commander is for me to keep it off the table and force you to pay a ton of tax to bring it back. Most Commanders are big big targets regardless. I love this card, and expect it to see a lot of play as more people discover it.

Netherborn Altar is currently in my Chevill, Bane of Monsters deck. I’ve been trying various fight concepts for a while, and Chevill seems like a pretty good fit. The card draw from the bounties can be pretty sweet, and a great incentive to cash em in. The 3 life gained from each one looks pretty good next to the Netherborn Altar.

The deck got a makeover recently, after my initial build failed repeatedly to close the deal. I needed to be able to make Chevill a threat, other than by suiting him up with Kaldra pieces. The sword, which exiles, is a bit of a non-bo with bounty-hunting.

The updated build is a bit smarter, and attempts to harness the power of archery over fighting. Viridian Longbow and Pathway Arrows are cheap chaff cards that have a ton of power with a bounty-hunting deathtoucher.

It’s also got more ways to make Chevill big enough to take out my opponents with Commander damage. I feel like a native 1-power creature that wants to be the fight champ is a pretty cool way to get Commander lethal. Otherwise I’m relying on my heavyweight pugilists like Apex Altisaur, which isn’t a great clock despite its size.

Sometimes a big beater or two is just what the doctor ordered, however. Recently I wrote about a deck I built for a friend that was experienced with Magic, but new to Commander, and what sort of considerations I had putting it together.

The deck is commanded by Saskia the Unyielding, but it’s all about Dragons. It makes mana well, gets on board, and puts up a pretty great clock. The friend I built it for really enjoyed it, and I’m so happy!

I love building decks, and thinking about how cards interact in the abstract, but a huge segment of the population would love to just pick up a deck and play. Building decks for your friends, especially the ones who don’t have cards of their own, can be a really rewarding experience.

I’ve built a few more decks recently, including one I’ve played with a little, but am keeping under wraps for now. I’ll be writing about those more as I develop them.

Finally, building new decks comes at the cost of some old ones. I had a really cool Valley of the Dinosaurs concept, with explorers and exploration, based around partners Reyhan, Last of the Abzan, and Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder.

The deck, and the Commanders, were meant to play like adventure serials like Land of the Lost, Johnny Quest, Venture Brothers, Lost in Space, etc. Most of those have a brains’n’brawn duo in charge, some ‘family’ (Selvala, Explorer Returned, Pir, Imaginative Rascal), and a hostile environment full of peril. In my case, Ixalan’s finest Dinosaurs.

The Dinosaurs are very cool, but barely synergize, and the effects are really uneven. As are their various sizes. Compared to sisterlizard tribe Dragons, the card quality is lower, and an overall lack of flying really matters. Dinosaurs can totally get there someday, but the tribe needs a few years of support, some unifiers, some redundancy, and either a higher concentration of token generators and lords, or another, more unique angle of attack. A Commander that empowered Enrage in a way that generates card advantage would go a long way.

Another great way to make Dinosaurs awesome would be a ‘vanilla-enabler’ which would give a big bonus to creatures without abilities. Like Muraganda Petroglyphs here.

That ability on a Legendary creature, where it would also apply to Dinosaurs with trample or something, and we’ve got a deck. I’d also like to see an expansion on the Egg aspect of dinos, maybe with some sort of legendary Ancient Maiasaur, or maybe some more cool Raptors. They could have an ability like Gingerbrute, where they could only be blocked by hasty creatures.

I’m watching basketball while writing this, and it’s pretty clear that Nets don’t work against Raptors. Might not be many answers at all. Food for thought for the next trip to Ixalan.

I think that does it for me! Hope you all have a great weekend. May your days be safe, and your kitchen tables be full of feel-good plays. Happy Friday! Thanks for reading!

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