I’m reversing the schedule this week because this article is done and the other one isn’t. Deal widdit.
Is your deck having a hard time drawing cards? For the most part, card drawing is limited to blue and black, with a little bit sprinkled here and there in other colors. White in particular has a very difficult time drawing cards, and Red tends to have to discard as many cards as they draw (though that’s not necessarily a bad thing). Well, there is help out there, but it can be hard to come by. There aren’t a lot of card advantage cards with brown (or grey) borders, but here is a list of all of them I can find with my pearls of wisdom scattered throughout. Enjoy!
Last time I said I was making a conscious effort not to talk about only blue cards, but this one’s caught my eye after it worked its way into my new Bruna, Light of Alabaster deck. I also happen to think this format suffers from the use of too many tutors, and this card is a tutor, but it’s definitely a tutor with a twist. It’s a strange rare from Scourge called Long-Term Plans.
I said in Friday’s article that this would be about how much and what type of mass removal to include, but while I’ll address that somewhat, the main subject of the article is going to be about gauging the commitment level of other players at the table and how to know when to commit yourself. By commitment I’m not talking about going steady, but committing to the board. What this means is, you start committing to the board when you extend somewhat to secure a position. The commitment aspect really means something like, “commitment with risk” — you have to extend somewhat to secure a position, but you also have to be wary not to extend too much such that mass removal sets you really far behind. As such, it’s a Balancing Act, and requires some amount of skill, a lot of guesswork, and more than a little luck.
I mentioned before that the less likely your opponents are to draw a way out of your stranglehold, the more likely it is that your stranglehold will produce an actual victory. This nicely outlines the concept of reliability. A stranglehold is reliable to the extent that escapes from it cannot be found.
The simplest demonstration is a win condition based on beating down with vanilla creatures. There are a vast number of answers to a set of unremarkable creatures available to almost every color, for low cost. Furthermore, Commander decks tend to run these cards for this exact reason. White has Wrath of God and its ilk as well as Moat-style effects, Black has Damnation and more, Blue has Evacuation, Deluge, and so on. Red and Green are less suited to preventing this kind of stranglehold but they are not without their ways to do so (Earthquake, Constant Mists, and so on.) Artifacts like Ensnaring Bridge, lands such as Maze of Ith and Mystifying Maze, and colorless sweepers like All is Dust and Oblivion Stone add to the bulk of answers.
In short, a deck whose sole “stranglehold” condition is to beat down with unremarkable creatures is going to meet with a great deal of opposition. The strategy is inherently unreliable because of not only the proliferation of answers, but because the answers tend to generate extreme card advantage and require very little investment. This can’t be said more bluntly. If your sole strategy in Commander is to beat down with unremarkable creatures, you will find the format very frustrating.