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By: CheshirePlaysGames, Albert Caynes
Mar 06 2018 1:00pm
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 Cheshire wants to share his passion of Commander with you, so to do that he is writing a series of articles based on different considerations, deck building guidelines and behaviour guidelines that you can use to make yourself a better member of the community, and a better player. These are THE COMMANDER FILES.

Last time, on The Commander Files, we covered deck building tips and basic staples that you should be aware of. Today, let's discuss play groups and community interactions on MTGO and in stores. 


Academy at Tolaria West

Commander is political, but that doesn’t mean you need to start a war with every country. If you’re really a megalomaniac hell bent on wrecking face with broken combos, go play modern, legacy or competitive 1V1 commander. Just don’t be THAT person unless your play group all like to play busted decks with super gross combos.

These may sound like harsh words, but Commander was originally intended to be a  CASUAL format and is intended to be fun, but you should also bear in mind the fun of every player at the table, not just your own enjoyment. The best casual games I have ever played in MTG formats usually involve good friends, alcohol and you know…. PLAYING Magic. There is nothing worse than sitting down with a freshly brewed deck, only to have your game cut short on turn four to a degenerate combo deck that locks out the entire game.

The EDH committee says this about EDH/Commander: "You won't remember that game where Spike won with a gross combo on turn three, but you will remember that game with that amazing play that was well plotted and executed, where everyone had fun", or something along those lines. The thought behind this is: go out, have fun and may your deck work the way you intended.



One of the key things about group play, is understanding who the threat is and how to contain that threat. You must also understand the basics of Commander politics as well as what can make YOU the threat.

Collusion: Collusion usually favours mutual advantage, that's well known as a fact. However, you will need to negotiate so that YOU are one of the players colluding and conspiring against the others. In a four person game, the two players colluding are often time better off (even if for just a few turns) than the other two players who are going it alone.

Alliances: When you're weak and low on life or board advantage, it's always going to be in your best interest to attempt to forge an alliance with another player. "Look at how strong Sue is, she has thirty eight life and a full board! I can wipe her board if you can help me stay alive a little longer, what do you say?". Making an alliance can be instrumental to winning a game, it's not just throwing down your biggest dude or dudette and swinging over the table.

Manipulation/misdirection: This doesn't mean a straight up lie to an opponent, this is more around a tiny lie that they can't possibly know, so long as your delivery and explanation is on point. "I'm sorry Joe, I have to kill your commander, that thing is just too scary to be left alive". There are many situations where you may want to manipulate an opponent, something like your opponent deciding who they want to kill, you may jump in and explain why it's better to leave you alive rather than Fred as you have little to no current threats.

WHAT YOU PLAY: This is the BIGGEST lesson I can teach you, what you play informs your opponents on your threat level. Everything you play, from your commander to that board wipe in your discard pile, is telling of your power level. Be aware that the copy of Propaganda you just played swung everyone's attention from another threat, straight to you. Jane may not have swung that attack at you, if it were not for the fact that you're forcing her to pay mana to attack you. Johnny probably wouldn't have killed your Consecrated Sphinx if you hadn't played <INSERT POWERFUL CARD HERE>. You deck is telling to how powerful you are. Your play style is telling people how badly they need to kill you, so take that all on board and remember that every card in your deck, every card you play all informs decisions of your group..


No one should HAVE to prepare for your two card turn three infinite combo and there should never be an expectation that everyone should always have all the answers to your deck, and if they don’t then what do you care, you won, right? If your response was the bold and italic heading above, you need to take a step back and have a real long hard look at yourself before you decide to interact with other humans again. You need to assess what it is that you want out of playing this format, be better. BE BETTER.



If you like to play oppressive hard lock decks like Stasis/Winter Orb, don’t. I say this because YOU are the type of Spike that just wants to watch the world burn through 100% oppressive control. This may sound like fun to you, but it’s going to lead to some pretty frustrating games where your opponents are all simply going to either target and knock you out first, or just be “busy” when you want to hang out and play. “Busy” like you know, them thinking you’re an ass-clown.

Infinite combo decks can be fun, using several cards to push an opponent off a cliff is fun especially when the setup is hard, but don’t let that fool you. Some two or three card combos (looking at you Sword of the Meek/Thopter Foundry) can ruin everyone’s experience and while it may technically be “fair” and “someone should have been holding a counterspell or something” to answer your combo, that’s not really that fair at all. Especially when the combo is infinite. No one at your table should be expected to play counterspells just so they can deal with your super amazing infinite combo.



Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind Curiosity

But that doesn’t mean you NEED to play your turn one UN-fun deck that consistently wins the game and cry that other players should be playing Force of Will in EVERY deck. Cards that lock away the ability to actually PLAY Magic, while not banned in Commander, ruin the experience for everyone. If you force players to only be able to play one card a turn, you’re that jerk face. Destroying all your opponent’s land over and over? Can you take a guess what you are, buddy? A JERK. Oppressive magic isn’t fun, it isn’t innovative and more often than not, is a waste of every player’s time at your table.


Winter Orb

Oh you’re cute, aren’t you? Be reminded that this isn’t a COMPETITIVE format. This means that even though it is an official format acknowledged by WotC, the format itself isn’t the focus of Wizards of the Coast. Any bannings that have been made, have been made by a council of players and not by WOTC. So, even though many oppressive cards AREN’T banned, perhaps have a good long think about what you’re running before sitting down to play a game with your group.

Maybe even discuss internal banned lists with your group, start a discussion about oppressive cards and see how they feel. This biggest part of casual Magic formats is OPEN COMMUNICATION, talk with the play group, talk with your friends and build relationships. Magic should be celebrated, but we should always be mindful of how other people feel and react to our decisions.


We all forget to bring tokens and dice sometimes and that’s okay. No need to stress, but try not to make this common place. If you’re playing Talrand, try to have a stack of 2/2 Drake tokens with you along with some six sided dice and your 40 counter life die (or 2x 20 sided dice). Ask your play group or store if proxies are allowed and let people know if you play any proxies well ahead of time.


This is THE question you should be asking yourself of any format you play. Why are you playing it, what is your goal and do you WANT any friends after you finish the game?

Don't be a jerk. Be a better player and think of the group you're playing with. Your decks should match the power level of players in your group, so if they are playing down and dirty decks, go nuts. But don't do it if everyone else is playing fun casual decks, don't be that player who plays the Krenko Gobbo flood deck or the Elfball Flood Turn Three deck unless you're sure that others are going to be playing decks of the same power.

And you know, BE BETTER. Be the player you want to play against, rally your troops and lead the charge to fun!

That's all, folks! Go forth and may your land drops be perfect and your curve amazing - Chesh.


1000% agree with these by Paul Leicht at Tue, 03/06/2018 - 17:35
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1000% agree with these points. It hearkens back to my paraphrasing of Sheldon Menerie's quote about the format: "Breaking the format is easy. ANY idiot can do it. Don't be that idiot."

I think more of Wil Wheaton's by CheshirePlaysGames at Thu, 03/08/2018 - 04:24
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I think more of Wil Wheaton's "don't be a dick" :D

You don't think my phrasing by Paul Leicht at Thu, 03/08/2018 - 06:18
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You don't think my phrasing is pertinent? I mean being a dick requires an active sense of malice. Some of these fools don't even realize how angry they make their opponents. Someone driving 200miles (or 440km) to play a game of casual magic doesn't want to waste 90% of their precious evening out watching someone play solitaire. They don't consider that. Hence "idiot".

I think there certainly are competitive players who don't know how to build multiplayer decks that don't instawin on turn 3 or take infinite turns or otherwise go infinite (maybe very slowly) because they just know the deck they are playing wins. Not how god-awful it is to witness time and again. Particularly the repeat performance is what I hear most often about when people complain about ridiculously unfun games.

Some of those players certainly are being dicks. But you're NOT going to get them to stop by calling them that. Pointing out that they are essentially masturbating instead of playing a real game is usually what gets them to rethink their approach.

Play counters, ld, hand destruction, removal, mass removal, pillow fort lockdown even, but don't waste people's time doing it. That's what I am getting at. The message never gets old and never becomes obsolete.

re by Hearts at Thu, 03/08/2018 - 06:47
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Articles like these underline how much poorer the game is in mind and spirit than what it could have been.

- "be prepared with tokens and dice", how pathetic is that to put in an article to display.

On CFball we regularly see articles that talk about "remember the picture on that basic land, if you see a different one later you know he has drawn a land".

Cliches, repetition, obviousnesses, the game is ridden with stupid/and/or/nonexisting rows of "logic" in the rules. This in turn affects how people talk/lingo. Mtg makes stupid.

That is certainly an by Paul Leicht at Thu, 03/08/2018 - 11:11
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That is certainly an opinion...

re by Hearts at Thu, 03/08/2018 - 20:44
Hearts's picture

Think it is a very reasonable one, and not at all specifically directed at this article writer. On the contrary, my point is that this is prevalent in the whole community/websites.

Did I miss something? This by CheshirePlaysGames at Fri, 03/09/2018 - 19:12
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Did I miss something? This series is aimed at newer players and though it seems obvious, it actually isn't second nature to newer players.