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By: jay85, Jay Nelson
Jun 16 2015 12:00pm
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 For me, Commander is best enjoyed as a multiplayer game. I honestly don't get what the whole fuss is with French Commander (also known as 1v1). I've played it a couple times before and never really enjoyed it. There is nothing else in Magic quite like a 4+ player free-for-all, where you may be the arch-nemesis and get attacked from all sides, or you may be the one teaming up with someone else to take down the biggest threat. Commander takes a different set of skills and strategies than all the other formats, and communicating with your opponents is vital. It's great. It's fun. And I'm bored with it.

 Talking to my playgroup one day I discovered that they were also growing bored with how each game seemed to come down to the same old thing. We were having to deal with creatures like Prophet of Kruphix or Deadeye Navigator soulbond with something crazy like Woodfall Primus or Avenger of Zendikar constantly. And we were just as guilty of using these same strategies from time to time. I won't speak for my friends, but I personally didn't think it was safe not to play with the broken, absurd spells we're all used to seeing in a game. I got into the mindset that if I'm not playing with Consecrated Sphinx, Rite of Replication, or Tooth and Nail and Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger, than somebody else will be and I'll simply become outmatched and lose.

 To be honest, we all kind of quit playing Commander. We used to play three to four times a week, then it became twice a week, until finally we were only playing on Mondays. It wasn't until my friend Azilon recommended we try out Block Commander. It's a format where we each build a deck using only the cards from our chosen block. I thought it was a good idea and everyone else did, too. We quickly became hooked!

 There are some great advantages in playing Block Commander. It requires you to get more creative in how you build your deck because you just can't toss in the usual Defense of the Heart into Consecrated Sphinx and Prophet of Kruphix combo. Sure, you can and should still play with some of them, but the beauty of this format is you can't run both because they are from two different blocks. This particular way to play Commander breaks up the monotony and forces you to rethink how to brew up a deck.

 Then there's how you actually play out a game when playing block. I believe actually winning in Block Commander is harder to accomplish and requires you to think more about what you want to do on your turn. Strategizing is on a whole other level here, and I've discovered striking an alliance with an opponent for at least a turn is vital, even more so than in regular Commander. Why is that? Well, for one it's because our decks don't have as much answers in them. There are only a small number of removal spells at your disposal depending on the color combination you've chosen. If there is an enchantment like Curse of Bloodletting giving you problems, talk to me. I might be the only one in the game that can get rid of it for you with a spell like Revoke Existence. Of course, if I scratch your back then I will expect you to scratch mine if the time ever comes that I need your help. Or you could just betray me and leave me to the wolves. That's Commander for you, and that's what makes it fun and exciting.

 Now, of course even in regular Commander talking to each other is something that should be done, but I've learned that it's even more vital here. My block deck of choice is Blue/White. It's not very good at destroying creatures. In a game it will become necessary to get some help from a Black deck, and vice-versa.

 There are some things I really enjoy about playing Block:

  • It forces you to get more creative when building and playing a deck.
  • You can still play with the broken cards like Exquisite Blood or Sanguine Bond, but no longer together.
  • Block encourages communication with your opponents more than ever.
  • Tribal decks can actually stand a chance at winning.
  • Some cards, like Battlewise Hoplite and Heirs of Stromkirk, are playable and are actually good.

 We just started playing in this format so we are pretty new to it still. I imagine there are some problems with block that we just haven't encountered yet. If you and your friends decide to play Block Commander and come across such a thing then a house rule may be in order. The nice thing about this is since Mtgo doesn't have an option for Block Commander it will have to be played within a group of friends, so it is easier to implement your own rules. The downside is if you don't have a playgroup and you rely on one of the lobbies to get some games in, it may be hard to find other people with decks built from only one block.

 Overall, I feel this is a great way to play Commander. My friends and I are having a blast with it and so I've decided to share it with you just in case you have never heard of Block Commander before. Below are decks that we are currently playing with. I believe each of these decks are good in their own right, so it's a great starting point for someone who is just getting into the format. 

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 Save for only a couple of the cards, I built this deck with ones I already had sitting in my collection. But I really enjoy the deck, and it can win! With this deck you are trying to play the tempo game. Cast Daxos of Meletis early and then disrupt your opponents with spells like Voyage's End, Dissolve, and Sudden Storm. Giving Daxos some protection is a must, therefore I've included Gods Willing and Gift of Immortality. You can give Daxos or other creatures some evasion in the forms of Nimbus Naiad, Heliod's Emissary, Aqueous Form, and even Thassa, God of the Sea. If one or more of your opponents is getting a little out of hand you can reset the game with Elspeth, Sun's Champion, Whelming Wave, or Fated Retribution.

 This deck uses a lot of bombs to help you finish the game. Besides going the voltron route and bestowing your creatures into sizeable threats, there are also Sealock Monster and Tromokratis that can wreak havoc on opponents' life totals. Another nice little detail worth mentioning is neither of these creatures is affected by Whelming Wave.

 Some of my favorite cards in here are Quarry Colossus, which is great at getting rid of a problematic creature for a few turns, Celestial Archon because he can make just about any creature (including one of Heliod's 2/1 Clerics) into game ending threats, and Hypnotic Siren. Being able to steal a commander is downright dirty, which I am not above doing in a game.

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Eidolon of Countless Battles Akroan Mastiff Perplexing Chimera

 Eidolon of Countless Battles is an awesome card and in the right kind of deck he will get out of hand quickly. With Elspeth, Sun's Champion, Heliod, God of the Sun, and even Launch the Fleet, the Eidolon (or whatever it's bestowing) will become massive, leaving at least one of your opponents sitting on the sidelines to watch the rest of the game play out.

 I quickly learned that when you play Block Commander there are sometimes not a lot of removal spells at your disposal. I like Akroan Mastiff because he can simply tap a potential attacker or blocker, depending on your situation in a given game. He may not permanently rid a creature from the battlefield but he can hopefully buy you enough time to draw into an answer.

Perplexing Chimera is more or less in here just to spice things up a bit. The Chimera can be frustrating to play against and he adds a new depth to the game. I enjoy making everyone second guess what they want to cast out of fear of it getting stolen. If you are playing this deck and you're ahead, playing Perplexing Chimera is like a safeguard. Besides someone casting a wrath, it will be hard to target something of yours with this bad boy out. 



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 Olivia Voldaren, at least in Block Commander, is a freakin' machine gun. She will mow down an entire line of creatures as long as you have enough mana to pay for all the pings. When it comes to the Daxos deck mentioned above, Daxos of Meletis is not actually an integral part of the deck besides giving us the color combination needed in order to build the deck. But with this Olivia deck, having Olivia Voldaren out greatly increases your odds of winning. She can either destroy other people's commanders or simply turn them into a vampire and steal them. My advice if you choose to build this deck is hold off on actually casting Olivia. Let your opponents put down some of their better creatures while you build up a decent manabase so you can cast Olivia Voldaren and use her first ability right away. It will give your rivals one turn before you untap and steal whatever your cold heart desires. As soon as you do, your opponents will be scrambling to protect their creatures by any means possible.

 After carefully poring over the list, it may seem a little odd for an EDH deck built specifically for multiplayer to run Werewolves, but I actually think it's a smart inclusion. Sure, most of the time opponents will be able to keep them from flipping, but once they do flip it can become much harder to transform them back into humans. Because this is block we don't have access to a ton of mana most of the time. Trying to cast two spells is a lot harder here than in regular Commander. Reckless Waif may just be Delver of Secrets that can't fly, but the other two Werewolves, Mondronen Shaman and Instigator Gang, are the ones you really don't want to see flipped. Using Werewolves also creates an environment where you can force an opponent to spend his or her spells in order to keep your Werewolves in their human form. No longer can someone hold up counter magic when you can just keep hitting them for a ton of damage, pressuring them to tap out or cast spells they would rather save for later. Then there is the aspect of diplomacy that can come from playing Werewolves. Convincing an opponent who has a full grip of cards to either flip or not flip them is a fun way to play Commander.

 This deck also comes with some hard hitters in the forms of Demonlord of Ashmouth, Mikaeus, the Unhallowed, Balefire Dragon, and Elbrus, the Binding Blade, just in case you can't win the game with just Olivia Voldaren.

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Stromkirk Noble Rakish Heir Otherworld Atlas

 There is some pretty nice synergy between Stromkirk Noble, Markov Blademaster, Heirs of Stromkirk and Rakish Heir. Not only do these guys get big all by themselves, but throw down Rakish Heir and you'll be putting two +1/+1 counters on them instead of just one. They'll get big fast, and you'll be able to keep track of how big they're getting by how fast your opponents' life totals are depleting.

 I like the inclusion of Otherworld Atlas. This, to me, is what Commander is all about. Universal affects like everyone drawing cards is what makes this format fun. Cards like Otherworld Atlas can also be a deterrent for your opponents from trying to kill you first. I mean, who really wants to get rid of the guy who is giving you free cards?



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 Aw, Nath of the Gilt-Leaf. Choosing Lorwyn enables you to use four sets instead of just the usual three. Lorwyn was considered a mega-block by Wizards, containing both Lorwyn-Morningtide and Shadowmoor-Eventide sets all-in-one (a more precise description of this can be found here). In choosing Lorwyn you are giving yourself a distinct advantage and it's a smart move to make during the deckbuilding stage. This block is also a good place to be if you want to make a tribal deck such as Faeries or Elves.

 Nath of the Gilt-Leaf tries to win the game through simple card advantage, but not necessarily by drawing more cards than everyone else. He accomplishes this goal by attacking your opponents' hands. My advice for people wanting to build this deck is to get Nath of the Gilt-Leaf down early and let him start doing what he does best. It'll be easy to win once everyone is low on cards or top-decking and you have a legion of loyal Elf tokens to swarm the board.

 Speaking of Elves, what's an Elf deck without ways to pump them? This deck's got you covered. Imperious Perfect not only pumps Elves but he also makes Elf tokens. Creakwood Liege ultimately does the same thing but without having to invest mana to make tokens. But probably the best card in the deck that has this affect would be Door of Destinies. I can't really think of something better to run in a tribal deck than the Door.

 There is some ramp in the forms of Springleaf Drum, Heritage Druid, Leaf Gilder, and Farhaven Elf so you can cast Nath before turn five and start attacking people's hands early. It's also nice having ramp in this deck so you can get some bombs down before anyone else can. Vigor, Mossbridge Troll, and Regal Force are all pretty good game-enders.

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Pulling Teeth Spring Cleaning Revive the Fallen

 Clash is like playing a game of Hi-Lo Card. With these particular clash cards the upside is pretty huge and even if you lose the clash you still get some pretty decent value out of the spells. Being able to get back Woodfall Primus from your graveyard is nice in itself, but getting the chance to return Revive the Fallen back to your hand is even better. Spring Cleaning may never destroy more than one enchantment even if you win the clash, but against a deck running enchantment creatures like the Daxos of Meletis deck, it may as well be a board sweep!

 My personal favorite of these spells is Pulling Teeth, and not just because of its grotesque art. The card fits well in a Nath of the Gilt-Leaf deck, and forcing an opponent to discard two spells can set you up fairly easily in making him or her top-deck the rest of the game (with the help from Nath, of course).

 Adding cards like these is what I would encourage more of. Variance is not a bad thing. It keeps the games from getting boring and changes how each game is played out. 



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 This Sedris, the Traitor King list is the closest thing to a combo deck than the others previously discussed, so if you want to play combo than this would be the deck for you.

 The main combo that sticks out to me is Sedris, the Traitor King + Corpse Connoisseur + Demon's Herald. But this deck is just chock full of combo goodness. Deathgreeter, Rockslide Elemental, or Deathbringer Thoctar, along with a way to sac creatures with, say, an ability like devour (Caldera Hellion or Tar Fiend), is nothing to sneeze at, especially after you've built up a bunch of tokens with Lich Lord of Unx or Rakka Mar to devour.

 This deck also has creatures with some nice ETB triggers so just unearthing them with Sedris, the Traitor King when there are no profitable attacks can also be the correct play. Malfegor can clear the battlefied so you can get some damage in, Sedraxis Alchemist can be used as a nice tempo play, especially when bouncing an opponent's fatty like Mossbridge Troll or forcing them to spend their next turn recasting Olivia Voldaren.

 This deck also comes equipped with spells that can get these sort of creatures into your graveyard so you can start digging them up with Sedris. Grixis Battlemage, Sanity Gnawers, Malfegor, Corpse Connoisseur, and Tar Fiend can all give the Traitor King some juicy targets.

 A lot in this list can become a potential finisher when timed right, but the hard hitters to me aren't even creatures. Cruel Ultimatum is the ultimate spell not even a Band-Aid can heal. Nicol Bolas is the ultimate Planeswalker, and Quietus Spike is the ultimate artifa... You know what, this deck should just be called, "The Ultimate.dek." 

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Bituminous Blast Deny Reality Unscythe, Killer of Kings

 I like the inclusion of Bituminous Blast and Deny Reality if, for nothing else, just being able to cascade into something even better. I'm not saying dealing four damage to a creature or simply bouncing it is bad, because it's not. Four damage will kill a lot of the creatures in this certain format, but being able to do that and cast, say, Volcanic Fallout or Soul's Fire, is sweet, to say the least.

 Unscythe, Killer of Kings can transform a creature into one of your best threats. Hold the equipped creature back to block and nobody will want to throw away their favorite creature into the exile zone. If you're ahead or want to pull ahead, attack with it and your opponent will have to either take it or chump block. Either way, it's not a good choice for your opponents to have to make over and over again.


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 These lists are a good showing for what can be done in Block Commander. Depending on your style, I think out of the four decks you should be able to find one that is enjoyable to play with. At the very least these represent a good starting point for you and your friends to begin brewing your own. If you don't have a playgroup but still want to try out Block Commander than add me as a buddy on Mtgo and join us. Currently my group is only four players strong but we would definitely welcome one or two more people into the fold. The more the merrier!

 We don't use any house rules and we're not looking to add any anytime soon, so play what you want. Just make sure to stay within your chosen block.

 My friends and I have also been talking about doing some other variants of Commander. One idea I find interesting is each of us choosing a maze runner from Return to Ravnica and building around him or her. We would be able to pull cards from both Ravnica: City of Guilds and Return to Ravnica blocks in order to expand our pool of cards to brew with. I think Emmara Tandris will be my chosen maze runner, but I am also fond of Ruric Thar, the Unbowed and Varolz, the Scar-Striped as fun options, as well. If we end up doing this then expect an article about it in the near future!

 If you're getting a little tired of Commander or just want to try something new then I highly recommend trying out Block Commander. Let me know in the comments which deck I showcased above is your favorite. Out of the four I think I would like to try out Olivia Voldaren. Innistrad is one of my favorite blocks ever and the deck can be quite the wrecking ball. But all these decks are cool and I wouldn't mind testing each one out.

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