Command of Etiquette—When You’re Not Having Fun

Let’s face it, sometimes games of Commander stop being fun. Whether it’s because you’ve misread the power level of the game, or it’s reached a very grindy stalemate, or even you’ve been kept from making an impact by mana issues or flood, a game can stop being enjoyable. This past weekend I had a couple of these games; in one, I was missing one of my (three) colors all game, and in the other I was eliminated a good 45 minutes before the next person was knocked out. By mill! It was galling. But I am still glad that I played, and here’s what I do to amuse myself when things are otherwise frustrating.

Make a Little Difference

Sure, sometimes you’re not going to be in a position to win a game outright. In fact, you might be on the verge of getting yourself killed. But EDH decks tend to have a lot of tools that can be used to affect the game state, even if the change isn’t necessarily going to be positive for you. Still, when you’re about to get knocked out of a game, all bets are off! Go wild! Nurse a grudge! Make things as chaotic as possible. Once winning isn’t on the table, many of the social constraints of an individual game are lifted. It can be quite freeing.

Cling to Life

If chaos isn’t your thing, there’s often a way to make it very resource intensive for an opponent to actually finish you off. Who knows, the extra turns you buy yourself might give you time to find your way back into the game… but usually that’s not the case. No, clinging is about just not giving up, and making it cost as much as possible for one of your opponents to actually do the final deed. If they’re going to kill you, they should have to work for it.

Play Kingmaker

Instead of being chaotic, there’s always the possibility of playing kingmaker, and providing support to a player you’d like to win. Often this will be the person who can kill you whenever you become inconvenient, but sometimes it’s just a friend, or someone you think would provide a more entertaining or quicker win. So long as you’re helping another person, they have an incentive to help to keep you alive, and while they’ll have no trouble finishing you off once they’ve cleared the rest of the table, you still get to come in second place!

Tune           

And, finally, you can use the opportunity to mentally tune your deck for future matches. If you’re seeing unhelpful cards off the top of your library, make a mental note of them and consider replacing them with cards that are better when you’re behind. If you find yourself weak to a particular strategy (like, for instance, mill), think up cards you could use to plug the hole (like legendary Eldrazi, or the Incarnation cycle from Lorwyn). If your deck has mana issues, maybe you need to recount your mana sources to make sure they’re properly balanced. Every loss is a learning opportunity, so long as you seize it.

Now, that’s not to say that losing is always going to be fun; sometimes, no matter how you coat it, it’s going to suck. But if you broaden your personal victory conditions to be more than just “win the game,” you’re more likely to find that silver lining, and make the best of an otherwise bad experience.

Bonus Deck Time:

Here’s the list for one of my favorite decks, Endrek Sahr. Sahr is my take on a mono-black ramp deck. He’s fun, and he makes good use of one of my favorite Commander cards, Ashnod’s Altar.

Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder           

Creatures: Avatar of Woe; Blood Artist; Bloodghast; Bloodgift Demon; Bloodline Keeper; Crypt Ghast; Dark Imposter; Disciple of Bolas; Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief; Entomber Exarch; Grave Titan; Graveborn Muse; Harvester of Souls; Hell’s Caretaker; Lord of the Void; Magus of the Coffers; Mortician Beetle; Necropolis Regent; Nirkana Revenant; Ogre Slumlord; Pack Rat; Pawn of Ulamog; Phyrexian Gargantua; Phyrexian Obliterator; Phyrexian Plaguelord; Reaper from the Abyss; Royal Assassin; Rune-Scarred Demon; Seizan, Perverter of Truth; Sepulchral Primordial; Shriekmaw; Skirsdag High Priest; Solemn Simulacrum; Thrull Parasite; Twisted Abomination; Undercity Informer; Vampire Nighthawk; Viscera Seer

Spells: Ashnod’s Altar; Attrition; Bitterblossom; Caged Sun; Decree of Pain; Demonic Tutor; Diabolic Revelation; Doubling Cube; Dread Return; Expedition Map; Exsanguinate; Grave Betrayal; Grave Pact; Greed; Hecatomb; Increasing Ambition; Lashwrithe; Liliana of the Dark Realms; Phyrexian Altar; Phyrexian Arena; Scroll Rack; Skullclamp; Sol Ring; Undercity Connections

Lands: Cabal Coffers; City of Shadows; High Market; Lake of the Dead; Phyrexian Tower; 29 Swamps; Thespian’s Stage; Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth; Vesuva; Volrath’s Stronghold

There are some interactions worth pointing out! The big mana suite is anchored by flare effects like Crypt Ghast, Nirkana Revenant, and Caged Sun, along with doublers like Cabal Coffers, Magus of the Coffers, and Doubling Cube. It also uses Ashnod’s Altar and Phyrexian Altar to convert the thrull tokens Sahr makes into mana, with the helpful side effect of keeping the thrull count down so Sahr can stick around for longer. Other ways of keeping your thrull count down are utility effects like Attrition for removal, Hecatomb for direct damage, Skullclamp for draw and Viscera Seer for card selection. Recent additions include Lord of the Void, Ogre Slumlord and Undercity Informer. Lord is a great finisher, the Slumlord is a tier-one EDH token generator, and the Informer gives me another way to maximize the value of the thrull swarm. But I particularly love cards like Harvester of Souls, Reaper from the Abyss, and Skirsdag High Priest. Turns out, in your average Commander game creatures die a lot! These creatures trigger on the death of your opponent’s creatures as well as your own, adding up to a tremendous amount of advantage over a typical game.

And in a format like Commander, value is the name of the game!

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  1. […] you do when you can tell you’re going to lose at the EDH table? Don’t be a nozzle. Just follow this advice to have moar fun. Fantasy/Art Article of the […]

  2. […] other formats (yes, there are apparently formats other than Modern), Jess Stirba highlighted some Commander strategies for those time when you aren’t having fun, Hunter Slaton forced […]



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