Raging Levine – Your Tern

My name is Eric Levine, and I want you to build a goofy Commander deck.

Let’s break it down with an example. Today I broke one of my most important rules: I played a seven-player Commander game.

And it was awesome!

Did it take three hours? It sure did. Would I have done this with a different group of people? No, I probably would not have. No offense to any of my other friends, but it takes a lot of concentration to legitimately carry on a seven-player game in a way that’s fun for the whole table. There was, however, another factor that spiced things up.

Now, I’m often willing to take credit for things, so take this with a grain of salt, but I’m pretty sure one of my decks (three of them were involved in the game) was responsible for a good deal of the excitement, and I wasn’t even playing it.

Sure, I had fun with my [card momir vig, simic visionary]Momir Vig[/card] deck, and Paul enjoyed [card ghave, guru of spores]Ghave[/card]. Sam and Danny got to do crazy stuff with Sam’s [card]Thraximundar[/card] and [card]Maelstrom Wanderer[/card] decks, and Emily won the game in the end with [card]Selenia, Dark Angel[/card], but the person who I think probably had (and contributed) the most fun was local L2 Casey Brefka. Who was his commander? Oh, just a little card called [card]Kangee, Aerie Keeper[/card].

My Kangee deck isn’t exactly known for containing cards that are, well, good. The deck used to have some good stuff in it a long time ago, but I cut all the reasonable things that didn’t have anything to do with Birds and replaced them with horrible, horrible Birds and Bird accessories. I’m pretty sure you haven’t lived until you’ve swapped out [card]Glen Elendra Archmage[/card] for [card]Hydromorph Gull[/card].

Why would I do this? What would possess me, an allegedly sane person, to take good cards out of my deck in favor of bad ones? Well, I had two reasons:

1) I wanted the matchup against Emily’s [card]Lorthos, the Tidemaker[/card] deck full of goofy sea creatures to be more even, and
2) I often get asked to play Commander really late at night at GPs, and I knew that if I had a really bad Bird tribal deck, I could play it at those late night games without feeling bad about napping between turns.

It turns out 1) didn’t work out so well, as Birds have actual tribal synergies, and cards like [card]Killer Whale[/card] and [card]School of Piranha[/card] don’t share that attribute (no Merfolk allowed in Lorthos!) but I’ve achieved goal 2) consistently. (I remember, very vaguely, a game at GP Providence 2011 which happened after two games at the hotel bar. I think one of the people at the table was also playing League of Legends. We took that game really seriously, let me tell you.)

The point I’m trying to make here is that playing a goofy deck in Commander is a ton of fun for you and for the whole table. Magic players, and gamers in general, are a lot like businesses in a capitalist economy: we’re all out to maximize. (With apologies to Dr. Bob.) Doing the unexpected or offbeat thing isn’t easy, especially now that Commander is so popular that decklists are posted online, tournaments are run in stores, leagues are popping up all over, and there are plenty of cards people consider “staples” and commanders people call “Tier 1.” Like I always say, though, Commander is a place we go to escape from the world of tournament Constructed formats. The Highlander-style restriction, as well as the large deck size, make it harder for us to “maximize” and easier for us to get back to our casual kitchen table roots and play cards that don’t get to shine in any other formats.

So why should you build a goofy deck?

Playing a goofy deck like Kangee has a few distinct advantages:

1) Nobody kills you in the early game.
2) Everyone reads all of your cards. (Casey cast [card]Aven Warhawk[/card] and revealed 6 Birds, all of which needed to be passed around the table.)
3) Your turns aren’t 10-minute marathons.
4) You have more fun than pretty much anyone else at the table.

Let me tell you about the things that happened in this game because of Casey and the Kangee deck:

Pretty early on, Casey cast [card]Aven Mindcensor[/card] in response to Sam’s [card]Increasing Ambition[/card]. [card]Aven Mindcensor[/card] is one of the very few cards in the deck that’s any good, so it obviously has an impact in a really search-heavy format. You might think [card]Aven Mindcensor[/card] would make the game unfun and frustrating, but the Kangee deck is kind of like a cute, fuzzy pet animal: you can’t get mad at it because it’s so goofy.

Since it was a seven-player game, everyone would forget about [card]Aven Mindcensor[/card]. Then, once in a while, someone would search: at various points, Paul cast [card]Explosive Vegetation[/card], I cracked a fetch, Emily cast [card]Demonic Tutor[/card], Danny cast [card]Bribery[/card] (twice!), and Sam cast [card]Rune-Scarred Demon[/card], all under the impression that we would, you know, get to do what we wanted. But no. Casey, or someone nearby, would shout, “TOP FOUR!” Then the whole table would shout, “TOP FOUR!” and the person who forgot would go “AAARGH!” and usually not get what they were looking for.

Nearly every card Casey drew was a moment of excitement for him, which is why trying out your friends’ goofy decks is always a great plan. “What the {friendly, professional word} is this?” he would ask. I usually experience this problem with people not knowing my random foreign cards, but in this case, Casey was just wondering why the crap [card]Castle Raptor[/card]s was in his hand.

Casey cast a nearly-unending stream of Owls at one point in the game. [card]Sage Owl[/card], [card]Spire Owl[/card], [card]Augury Owl[/card], and [card]Tempest Owl[/card] all showed up over the span of a few turns, and they all got sacrificed to [card]Seaside Haven[/card] in due course. Elliot even reanimated [card]Augury Owl[/card] with [card]Gravespawn Sovereign[/card] so he could scry! Every time Casey cast an Owl, he would shout, “HOOT HOOT” or whatever silly thing he could think of (or whatever I had Sharpied on the card—there are a few seriously altered cards in there) and the table would, of course, join in. At one point, I made an owl noise which Elliot described as “impressive.” How often do you get excited about the cards your opponents are playing? That’s fun for the whole table on someone else’s turn, which doesn’t happen a lot in big multiplayer games.

Random cards Casey had in the deck that were on-theme were occasionally useful, and that made it a lot of fun. Elliot was trying to resolve some good creature at one point, and Casey [card]Essence Scatter[/card]ed it. Now, if you’ve looked at the [card]Essence Scatter[/card] art, you’ll understand why it’s in there and why I then shouted, “YOUR SPELL IS BIRDS!” Elliot took a close look at the art on [card]Essence Scatter[/card], which he had probably not even examined since the card came out, and said, “Whoa! That’s why it’s in there!” He didn’t even care that his spell got countered because the themed goofiness was giving him the fun he was looking for. How’s that for a feel-good moment?

The best thing, though, was when Casey played [card]Dovescape[/card]. A goofy deck definitely needs at least one ridiculous and awesome card that alters the landscape of the entire game. I’m not saying you should necessarily go full [card]Grip of Chaos[/card], but a little [card]Confusion in the Ranks[/card] (or similar) goes a long way in a goofy deck. Suddenly the game was all about something entirely different: BIRD TOKENS. Paul’s [card]Essence of the Wild[/card] got way better, but so did Elliot’s [card]Attrition[/card].

Sam’s [card]Diabolic Revelation[/card] was suddenly more diabirdical, and Danny’s [card]Maelstrom Wanderer[/card] gave its 9 cascade-generated Birds haste. Any card that warps the game around it in that way can create a lot of fun in Commander if your table is ready to have fun, and this table was ready. Everyone started shouting about Birds, especially when Casey played Kangee with 8 feather counters, made everyone’s Birds enormous, and knocked Paul from 99 to 27 in one swing.

So how can you create a deck that will bring this brand of joy to your table? Here are some ideas for goofy decks you can create:

• Make a tribal deck based on a bad or poorly supported tribe. Grab your [card seton, krosan protector]Seton[/card] and play Druids! Have [card]Ambassador Laquatus[/card] command the Cephalid army! Pick some silly black general and lead your Mercenaries into battle! I still need to put my [card]Stangg[/card], King of the Jungle deck together so that he can take charge of a regiment of Apes and Centaurs.

• Make a deck using cards illustrated by a single artist or group of artists. Rob Alexander does some great land cards.

• Play only cards that have been in Pro Tour Top 8s. Get them signed by pros who have played them!

• Play only cards that have never been in Pro Tour Top 8s.

• Create decks themed on bits of the Magic storyline. I still have to get my dueling Weatherlights saga decks together. Phyrexia vs. The Coalition never really grabbed me, despite my love for that part of the story.

• Make a deck themed on a non-Magic concept. Maybe your deck represents the Industrial Revolution, the discography of The Pixies, or the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Impress and confuse your friends, and make every card count!

If you’ve got a goofy decklist you would like showcased, send it on to me and I’ll put it in next week. For now I’ll show off my Kangee deck, which hasn’t been updated recently – I really need to add Judge’s Familiar, for one thing. Enjoy!

Commander: [card]Kangee, Aerie Keeper[/card]

Ageless Sentinels
[card]Apex Hawks[/card] [card]Ascending Aven[/card] [card]Augury Owl[/card] [card]Aven Archer[/card] [card]Aven Brigadier[/card] [card]Aven Cloudchaser[/card] [card]Aven Fateshaper[/card] [card]Aven Liberator[/card] [card]Aven Mimeomancer[/card] [card]Aven Mindcensor[/card] [card]Aven Riftwatcher[/card] [card]Aven Warhawk[/card] [card]Battlewise Aven[/card] [card]Castle Raptors[/card] [card]Celestial Gatekeeper[/card] [card]Cloudchaser Kestrel[/card] [card]Commander Eesha[/card] [card]Crookclaw Elder[/card] [card]Crookclaw Transmuter[/card] [card]Emeria Angel[/card] [card]Esper Cormorants[/card] [card]Glarecaster[/card] [card]Gustcloak Harrier[/card] [card]Gustcloak Savior[/card] [card]Gustcloak Skirmisher[/card] [card]Hydromorph Gull[/card] [card]Kathari Screecher[/card] [card]Keeper of the Nine Gales[/card] [card]Lieutenant Kirtar[/card] [card]Mystic Familiar[/card] [card]Owl Familiar[/card] [card]Phantom Flock[/card] [card]Raven Familiar[/card] [card]Roc Egg[/card] [card]Sage Owl[/card] [card]Sawtooth Loon[/card] [card]Shoreline Ranger[/card] [card]Soraya the Falconer[/card] [card]Soulcatcher[/card] [card]Spire Owl[/card] [card]Stormscape Familiar[/card] [card]Swooping Talon[/card] [card]Talon Trooper[/card] [card]Tempest Owl[/card] [card]Thieving Magpie[/card] [card]Windbrisk Raptor[/card] [card]Wingbeat Warrior[/card]

[card]Astral Steel[/card] [card]Aven Warcraft[/card] [card]Battle Screech[/card] [card]Essence Scatter[/card] [card]Gather Specimens[/card] [card]Traumatic Visions[/card] [card]Wing Shards[/card]

[card]Airborne Aid[/card]

[card]Cloud Cover[/card] [card]Dovescape[/card] [card]Kirtar’s Desire[/card] [card]Serra Aviary[/card] [card]Soulcatchers’ Aerie[/card] [card]Veil of Birds[/card]

12 [card]Plains[/card] 15 [card]Island[/card] [card]Azorius Chancery[/card] [card]Calciform Pools[/card] [card]Flooded Strand[/card] [card]Hallowed Fountain[/card] [card]Mystic Gate[/card] [card]Nimbus Maze[/card] [card]Seaside Haven[/card] [card]Secluded Steppe[/card] [card]Tundra[/card][/deck]


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