Welcome to the third installment of Deck Salad Surgery. Today I’m going to be building a deck from the ground up. I mentioned the first concept back in this post, where I noted I was inspired by a legacy Show and Tell Griselbrand deck. Of course, Grizzy’s been banned, but if I let a little thing like banning the centerpiece of the deck stop me, where would I be in life?
(Answer: probably still writing a Magic blog.)
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.