Greetings, Commander players. Have you misbehaved lately? C’mon, we all know taking 10 extra turns in a row or blowing up everyone’s lands isn’t cool. Worry not, for today I am here to talk about the 7 deadly sins of Commander. This article will discuss how to identify such transgressions and teach how to combat these atrocities to improve your game and overall playing experience.
So what does this have to do with our favorite game Magic: the Gathering and Commander? Well, if you play Commander… religiously (haha), you can identify how some players in your group are prone to “immoral” or unethical plays and habits. We all have those friends who play a Consecrated Sphinx while the other copies it with Progenitor Mimic. “Oh you’ve cast Mind Over Matter. I wonder what will happen to us all now?” “Attack with Narset, cast Time Stretch…” Do any of these sound familiar?
There are obviously innumerable “sins” that can be committed when playing Commander. Naturally, different play groups will have different house rules or things they deem acceptable or kosher. This article will make generalizations regarding people’s tolerances in EDH. But the purpose is to focus on ways to counter what I have experienced to be common grievances among countless Commander enthusiasts. Also to note: Any such poor etiquette mentioned here should only be considered for casual, multiplayer EDH. Anything goes in 1v1, and it should always be that way. Let’s get started.
Sloth. Laziness, indolence, or slowness in pace. In Commander, this could mean taking an excessive amount of time for your decisions or slowing the game down to a snail’s pace with cards that bog down the game.
Occasionally, there’s a player at the table who takes forever to make their plays each turn. Magic is a complicated game, and playing with four or more players at a time only adds complexity. It’s perfectly reasonable for someone to think about tough decisions or tough turns. But that is about where the pensiveness should end. Taking too long wastes everyone’s time and makes a game drag out longer than necessary.
It’s awkward to call this out in a casual setting. Even among friends, nobody wants to be the person who “calls the clock.” My advice is to just be cognizant of how long your turns play out. Save up any extra time you may want for a truly complex turn or a hard decision. If politics are involved and players are discussing things with you, don’t worry that it’s your clock that’s ticking since everyone is at fault there. It’s not important that it’s specifically your turn or your decision to make in that case.
Another way to speed up your play is to think on your opponents’ turns. Think about how the game is going, examine your cards in hand, the board state, and decide on your best plan of action. Obviously, things can change drastically from turn to turn, but thinking about things on each player’s turn will minimize the time you take away from others.
Sensei’s Divining Top is an interesting culprit and deserves a segment of its own.
Aside from times where you need to directly respond to something, it is assumed the optimal time to activate a Top is at the end of the final player’s turn. Let’s say the turn order is Player A, B, C, and you, D. The best time is to activate it at the end of Player C’s turn, when you have the most information possible before you untap.
If the group is interested in shaving down on long turns, let a player with a Top activate it at anytime. Then, if things change, allow them to rearrange them again without paying additional mana, whenever they like. The reason for this is that if the player waits until the end of Player C’s turn to activate the Top, they are wasting everyone’s time for the sake of playing correctly.
The same goes for fetchlands. Again, the ideal time to do this is at the end of the Player C’s turn, before you take yours. I will often play my fetchland, pass my turn, and grab something while my opponent is playing their turn, implying that the land isn’t coming into play until later. I am merely shortcutting to save time, and these little things add up over the long run. Less time spent on actions like excessive Top activations and late fetching/tutoring means more time for more actual Magic!
If you really dislike Sensei’s Divining Top, cards like Krosan Grip and Pithing Needle are great answers. Overwhelmingly, I dislike “house bans,” or bans where you as a group ban or unban cards because you like/dislike them. I think the best way to grow as players, and even have more fun overall, is to find effective answers to problem cards and come together as a team to punish such plays. It creates an effective “ban” on the card by making the opportunity cost for drawing/playing it too great. That is a huge aspect of the fun of multiplayer to me. Don’t take the easy way out.
I can hear an audible groan from here. Having a dislike of cards like this is normal and completely understandable. They are notorious for slowing the game down and causing unpleasant board states. Most players would rather lose quickly than endure this slow, miserable death.
In the case of backbreaking enchantments, players at the table should be packing a fair amount of removal for artifacts and enchantments. Everyone packs sweepers for creatures, but sometimes you need to hit enchantments. If you are playing black or red, All is Dust is a great answer to cards you can’t deal with easily. Green and white have access to dozens of powerful Disenchant effects with cards like Wave of Vitriol, Bane of Progress, and Fracturing Gust. These offer great ways to break out of inundated board states.
Armageddon, Ravages of War, and Sunder can be a bit more tricky. You are most likely going to need to counter these spells outright in order to handle them. Politics play a small role when everyone has their lands wiped out, so it can be difficult to even retaliate against the offender. Decree of Annihilation and Obliterate are extra heinous, and using these cards will cement you as truly, despicably slothful.
Greed. Insatiable desire. Wanting everything and having it all is to be greedy. In Commander, this could mean utilizing infinite combos game after game when others aren’t equipped to combat you. When you are greedy, you only think of yourself. Similar to a slothful player taking all the time, greedy players can end a game abruptly with an instant kill or infinite combo. If you are playing against other decks not at this level, this manner of play can be inconsiderate of the other players’ time and fun.
Make sure players have like-minded Commander philosophies going into a game. If everyone at the table wants to play long, drawn-out games of interaction and hay-makers, make sure everyone is on the same page. If even one person shows up with something a bit more focused or cutthroat, everyone else will feel shorted. Being honest about your deck and intentions for gameplay is important for a group to get together and have a great time. There is nothing wrong with winning, but having concern and consideration for your fellow players will make you less greedy.
Okay, so what happens when someone you are playing with is intentionally being greedy? After all, sometimes the best way to combat the culprit is to put them back in line. Take action yourself, and you can conquer the greedy player. A deck jammed full of infinite combos or cutthroat cards like Necropotence, Omniscience, or Ad Nauseam may be difficult to dismantle, but they have a key weakness.
Teamwork. Yes, as simple as it sounds, teamwork and cooperation is an effective way to take down a greedy player. Being greedy makes one no friends—they are riding solo. Take advantage of this by forming a temporary truce with your fellow tablemates. Aim all forms of interaction and disruption at the greedy mage and end their tyranny. Be careful. If you earn the trust of your tablemates and betray them, you may be the next in line committing this deadly sin.
Cheap interaction is the best way to dismantle more cutthroat strategies. This may seem obvious, but throwing a Swords to Plowshares in your deck often isn’t enough. Interactive cards that I like to include, by color, are the following:
These are cards some players may simply overlook at times. Everyone should play Swords to Plowshares and Counterspell when they can, but with a few extra tricks up your sleeve, you can dismantle any deck at the table.
Beware of Greed, for a player who is greedy may employ many political tricks. They may have convinced someone to work against others at the table or mislead you into falsely identifying the real threat at the table. After all, the nail that sticks up gets the hammer. Don’t be fooled by their tricks, for your error may be the table’s last. Greedy players are all too familiar with causing disarray.
The solution here is luckily also one that will help your multiplayer game grow in leaps and bounds—threat identification. Being able to quickly and correctly identify the largest threat at the table is important. It allows you to continue a game that could otherwise end abruptly, and not in your favor. The political nature of multiplayer also allows you to discuss with the table the best ways of dismantling too powerful a board state. This may even include taking out the offending player entirely. You never want to stick out too much at the table, lest you become the primary target yourself. Combat greedy players by properly identifying them as the threat they are. If you happen to be the greedy player… well then shame, shame, shame.
Well, that does it for part 1 of the 7 Deadly Sins of Commander. Are you excited to hear the rest? I will be breaking down the remaining 5 sins in my next two articles. What characterizes Sloth in Commander to you? What about Greed? I would love to hear your input in the comments. Thanks for reading and until next time, may your schemes always go unnoticed.