I think there’s a pretty widely held conception that there are certain sorts of strategies that are unfun, annoying, unfair, or against the “spirit” of Commander. Unsurprisingly, these strategies also happen to coincide with the sorts of strategies WotC would rather not encourage in tournament play either. Most tournament players are “Spikes”, or the competitive sorts who will do whatever it takes to win, regardless of what their opponent thinks or how much fun they have in getting there. The fun is in winning. So if the strategy is a good one, it will get played.
This is not the same in “casual” Magic like Commander. Commander attracts some Spikes, but it also attracts many more players who care more about the route they’re on than whether they win or lose. Some players, like me, are blends of both. I want to win every game I play, but I want to do so in unique ways, and I don’t want to make the rest of the table angry. Well, not too angry.
The casual vs. competitive debate could be the subject of many posts, but it’s really only the background of this one. The point of this post is to spread some information about how to beat a lot of the strategies that are viable in Commander because the card pool stretches back into the mists of Magic’s past, when cards like Back to Basics, Stasis, Smokestack, and their ilk were commonplace. These remain good cards, and you will see them from time to time.
In general, I think the sorts of things that really annoy players, especially those trending toward the more casual side of the equation, can be grouped into two main categories:
- Lockdown — Not being able to play their spells
- Combo — Suddenly losing the game to infinite combos
Beating these strategies is really not that difficult if you prepare adequately. If you haven’t read the article The Art of Disruption, do so now, then come back. This is a specialized application of the strategy outlined in that article.