The Commander’s Chair – Forums of Doom

Yes, there is a spirit of EDH, and that’s not it.” – Sheldon on my article The Voltron Matrix

Now, I’m going to say this: the SwordsToPlow guy who wrote that blog article sounds, to me, like a DREADFUL person to play with, I would have a very hard time having fun playing against the sort of decks he seems to like to build.” – Thaematurge

Do you feel the love?

Sadly, there are more statements like these I could pull from forums.  After getting into several arguments with people online, I had a realization. The only people who were arguing with me were arguing with me based only on theory. The people who were criticizing me had never played with or against the lists I posted on the site. I think the issue may be that I have not written how I think the deck should be played. Today I will be going over the decks I have completely built and how I go about playing with them.

Completely Built Decks

  • Arcum Dagsson (Hyper Combo / Prison Lock)
  • Balthor the Defiled (Relentless Rats Tribal)
  • Jor Kadeen (Toolbox/Fast Aggro)
  • Karona/Child of Alara (Group Hug / Snake in the Grass Combo)
  • Commander Precons – All 5

In Construction (For Future Reference)

  • Ghost Council of Orzov (Halloween Themed)
  • Thelon of Havenwood (Fungus Tribal)
  • The Mimeoplasm (Hyper Combo / Reanimator)
  • Ghave, Guru of Spores (Creature Control / Tokens)
  • Jenara Asura of War (Voltron Combo)

The reason why I have so many decks that are in construction is that I do not swap cards between decks and I almost never use any proxies. The only exception I make is for foil proxies of cards that I cannot get in foil. I do test decks on Cockatrice before building them in real life. As I go through I will cover the power level, the monetary cost, the battle plan, the preferred opponents and how I play with it.

For power level I will assign each deck to a tier from 1 – 5.

Tier 1: Powerful, resilient and fast. These are the decks that will consistently end games and take out players quickly. The Commanders for these decks usually have powerful abilities that affect the game the turn they come into play.

Tier 2: Powerful and fast. The biggest difference between tier 1 and tier 2 is that tier 2 decks do not have enough protection or redundancy to survive the numerous answers for the deck. If the deck can’t win if the general gets tucked, then it is probably a tier 2 deck.

Tier 3: Powerful and Resilient. These decks do not win in the first few turns. No matter what answer you have to threats in Tier 3, they have an answer for it. For anyone who designs and builds a Commander deck to win, this is the base level for what you will be making.

Tier 4: Tribal and Themed decks. These decks are not going to win the majority of games. That is perfectly acceptable to everyone who builds them. You build these decks to have fun and be a bit of a goofball. It is easy to see which decks these are. Whenever you here this conversation:

Player 1: “Why are you playing Skullsnatcher, Vintara and Calcite Snapper?”

Player 2:”Dude, Ninja . . . Turtles

Tier 5: Precons, Dedicated Group Hug and other decks that do not win the game. If your deck can not win against a precon, you are not trying to win. These decks are bottom of the barrel. Basically these are decks that do not aim to win or are filled with “good stuff” that is not good.

Arcum Dagsson

Power Level: Tier 1.5

I would call my Arcum deck a Tier 2 deck. However, the win record and other people comments are enough to have it pushing into the top tier.

Monetary Cost: Very Expensive

This deck is Foil, Foreign and not using cheap cards to begin with.

Battle Plan: Arcum is a combo deck through and through. It plays fast and it plays dirty. It can lock down a board or combo in the first few turns. There are enough combos in this deck that it always gets something going.

Chosen Enemies: I will only play this deck against 2 kinds of people; people who I do not like and people who ask to play against it. This deck is not fun for everyone playing unless the people I play against like playing a game that can suddenly end at any time.

How I play with it: This deck is surprisingly complex to pilot. Depending on who I am facing I need to make sure to search for the right combo. The safest bet is to lock down my opponents so that I get 1 or 2 turns without them being able to disrupt me. I will either wait until everyone I am worried about is tapped out or until I have the counter backup to protect my combo. Against smart players I have to pull Houdini like maneuvers. I start telegraphing one game ending combo that they are forced to deal with. All the while I sneak in a less known combo while their attentions are elsewhere. Sometime this means helping out someone else and pretending to be defeated.

Balthor the Defiled

Power Level: Tier 3

Balthor raises the rats up from Tier 4 by letting them be brought back over and over and over again.

Monetary Cost: Below Average

I got the Rats very cheap and there is not a lot in the deck that is worth much. It is not a budget deck thanks to Top, Duplicant, Sol Ring, ect.

Battle Plan: Play Relentless Rats and more Relentless Rats. If I am lucky play a Thrumming Stone and win the game.

Chosen Enemies: Anyone. The deck has enough power in it that it can steal away a win from stronger decks every now and then. It is built so that it does not offend anyone with the way it plays out.

How I play with it: I really just play rats 90% of the time. Every now and then I will drop a ridiculous artifact like Door of Destinies, Coat of Arms or Eldrazi Monument to put the Rats over the top. I only use Balthor to reanimate the rats. I do have 2 fallback plans that I use from time to time; Exsanguinate and Helm of Obedience + Leyline. I do not usually tutor for either alternate win, since I would prefer just to play Rats.

Jor Kadeen

Power Level: Tier 2

Jor Kadeen is a perfect example of what a Tier 2 deck should be. He comes out quick and he comes out strong. In the unfortunate event that he gets tucked, the deck has a hard time pulling of a victory

Monetary Cost: Expensive

While nowhere near the cost of Arcum, this deck still holds a high price tag. With a Dual Land, Mana Crypt, Promo Sol Ring, and Sword of Fire and Ice bringing up a large price tag. I have 2 versions of Jor Kadeen to use as the Commander, Foil and Foil Japanese.

Battle Plan: Play equipment, equip and swing. Use Sunforger and equipment tutors to get exactly what you need every time.

Chosen Enemies: Anyone not playing a precon. While the deck is oddly powerful for its colors, it does not usually do anything that makes anyone too angry.

How I play with it: I play pretty simply. I play artifact acceleration, and then tutor up whichever equipment I think will be the most useful for the particular match. This equipment is usually one of the Swords, Jitte or Sunforger. I then swing in for massive amounts of damage with either Jor Kadeen or a double striker. In desperate situations, I will end up play Armageddon effects to keep people from casting their answers. The deck is made out of cheaper cards and artifact acceleration, so after destroying all the lands, I can have a significant advantage.

Karona/Child of Alara

Power Level: Tier 5

Yeah, this deck doesn’t try to win.

Monetary Cost: Variable

There is a core to the deck that stays the same and then I swap out the “threats” I choose to play. At the moment it is running some weird infinite Mana Echoes combos along with the Valakut + Vesuva + Prismatic Omen (sometimes Scapeshift) combo.

Battle Plan: Make friends by having everyone draw cards. Cast as many Time Spiral effects as possible to make sure no one thinks I am trying to deck them. If the game starts running too long, use one of the combos to wrap it up.

Chosen Enemies: Group games with new players. This deck is fun to have at a table because it allows people to do things even more extreme than normal.

How I play with it: I run off pure good will and mana acceleration. I started using Child of Alara over Karona. Karona just got me killed. Child is a nice rattlesnake effect that dissuades people from swinging at me. I will just hold combo pieces in hand until I have all of them and enough mana to go off all at once. Either that or I play insurrection followed by killing off my own Child of Alara.

If anyone would like to see battle reports, please let me know. I can also play on Cockatrice and MTGO, if you would ever like to see firsthand how I play. If you like seeing this information, I can put it after each deck that I post. I always test the decks I before I put up an article featuring them. I hope seeing this will give people a better idea of what kind of a player I am.

In the future, if anyone has a problem with something I have writer, please contact me at or post a comment here. I would like to have articles that people enjoy reading and that all of you find useful. I hope to see fewer statements in forums like the ones at the beginning of this article and more like;

“I know Swords very well he’s a great guy and fun to play with. He’s no more socially backward then the rest of Magic nerds.” – Chris K

Thank you for reading.



About SwordsToPlow

I like building and tuning decks to make them more fun and more effective.

Posted on July 11, 2011, in Articles, The Commander's Chair and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Good job Sean, tell those “spirit of EDH ” wussies what commander is really about.

  2. Dude you’re one of the most pleasant players to game with ever. Forget about it!

  3. Just thought I would let you know, as I have to many other people…the official Oracle ruling on Relentless Rats is that you can only have one in your deck in EDH (Commander). “This card’s text does not override other format-imposed restrictions on the number of cards. For example, in a Highlander format, you would still only be allowed one Relentless Rat.” – direct quote from gatherer. And this is a Highlander format…just wanted to throw that out there…

    • As this discussion has been on the boards several times. The rules committee for Commander has made a ruling that rats ARE allowed -

      Please check the MTGCommander site for official rules on Commander. According to WOTC they are the ones in charge of rules regarding Commander.

  4. Sheldon and Thaumatage (I assume the one that runs the commandzone blog but if not then apologies) are 2 of the most disagreeable peoplein my opinion I’ve ever seen on EDH scene.
    Sometimes Sheldons articles come off so bitter and angsty especially the abuse he gave poor Jon “Funwrecker”.
    Sometimes it seems he is only happy when he is winning and any game he doesn’t is bad, so to be honest ignore it.

    I always appreciate your articles as they are amusing and interesting when I read them on the bus on the way home from work on my phone.

    • I did not mean this as an attack at either of them. I have not had basically any interactions with either person outside of the forums. For all I know, they are the nicest people in the world in person. Comments like the above were enough to keep me from participating in the Commander forums to a large extent. I do not play Magic to have arguments with people. The forums seem to be for people looking to fight.

      I am glad to here you have been enjoying the articles. If there is anything you want to read about or see discusses, please let me know.

  5. Yeah, sorry. I didn’t read that. I do find it funny that Sheldon goes on and on about the rules for the format though, and decides to just blatantly ignore an official ruling on a card. Oh well, I do stand corrected. I just think that rules for a format shouldn’t necessarily just override the rules for a card, just because they feel like it. For example, how would we all feel if Sheldon just made a ruling that Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth was a black card in EDH, because the rules committee felt it fit better with the format. This is just an example, but if they can override rulings on one card because they think it fits better, why couldn’t they on another? Just to be clear, there is a very large difference between format rules and rulings on cards

    • Don’t even worry about it. It is not very intuitive to have to read through forums to get rulings and not be able to see them all in one place. More and more I am starting to side with Andy on Commander Cast – . He is a big proponent of regulating your own play group and using the “official rules” as a guideline more than a strict template. The only regulations the current rules committee follows is self regulation. Certain members ignore the existence of 1v1 as well as the opinions of others players on the ban list. There will need to be a shift in the way they run or another, more professional, group may take the reins of leadership from them.

  6. At the end of the day, it’s all about the people who are across the table from you. Whoever doesn’t like how you play? They don’t play with you? What’s the problem?

    Anyone (like me!) can have an opinion on a forum. The only opinions that have any relevance are the ones that belong to your playgroup. If they’re happy with how you play and what you play, then you’re good. It’s a social game, it’s for fun, and someone else’s interpretation of fun that isn’t part of your group is useless noise, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

    🙂 Your articles are something that I look forward to every week. Keep up the great work!

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