Mechanical Engineering – Falling Out Of Love

Commander Mechanic • February 22, 2022

Hey folks, I’m Chris and I’m YOUR Commander Mechanic. You may recognize me from my YouTube Channel or from guesting on major streams around the community—I’m a deck builder and brewer with a very analytical view of the format of Commander. Some have said I take a competitive mindset and apply it to casual Commander, but I prefer to think of it as taking an efficient look at deck building. More of the game is played before you ever sit down at a table with other players.

There’s a lot to be said about other players’ impact on play experience. Expectation mismatches, lack of communication, and differing opinions on what constitutes ‘fun’ can all play a part in how much you enjoy Commander.

Throughout this series I want to take a look at how you can improve play experience—your own and that of others—before you ever play a game. Avoid not being able to play the game due to deck building issues, avoid imposing poor scenarios on others, and ensure you have concentrated efforts in mind when deck building.

But, as always, Commander is about having fun YOUR WAY—don’t let anyone tell you there’s a right or wrong way to play this game.

The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants

With Valentine’s Day recently passing, it’s appropriate to reassess our feelings—and in this case I don’t mean for our partners, but perhaps for our Partner DECKS. Not your spouse but your Sakashima of a Thousand Faces. Because sometimes we fall in and out of love with our decks.

Sometimes we, as players, fall in love with a deck concept. We see it in content or in person and say “I want to do that” and we do—that’s the beauty of this format—we can do what brings us joy.

But what happens when that joy ends? What happens when we want something new and our eyes wander? What happens when we want to break up with a deck, and why?

There’s an adage about “familiarity [breeding] contempt”, which means the more exposure we get to something the less we like it. The newness disappears. The thrill. And that’s exactly what can happen with Commander decks—they were new and fancy when we built them a year ago but maybe you’ve only swapped in or out 2-3 cards across ALL of the new sets, or maybe you’ve continued to tune it to the point where it’s over-performing. So it’s time to move on. It’s time to break up with your deck.

Why We Say Goodbye

Let’s explore that concept for a moment: why might we not love our decks anymore?

For me, personally, there are two reasons why I might break up with a deck. The first reason is that it’s too consistent. Over the course of playing it for weeks and months I’ve tweaked and tuned it to “do the thing” too well. It’s too reliable and it’s become boring or overpowered.

A recent example of this is my Vadrik, Astral Archmage deck. Or “Vadrik, Punch Wizard”, as I grew to call it—aimed at getting your commander’s power up enough that your spells were basically free. Through Equipment like Hand of Vecna or Empyrial Plate and simply drawing cards, you could be discounting spells by 6-7 mana very reliably.

Then I discovered the relationship between Vadrik, Buyback spells, and Storm.

It turns out that Buyback—like on Haze of Rage—is an additional cost, meaning it’s reduced by Vadrik’s power. And Haze of Rage pumps power, has Storm, and has Buyback.

So the line ended up being far too consistent. Find Haze of Rage, find something that refunds mana on cast, and make Vadrik INFINITELY LARGE.

No matter how I tried to play the deck, as a Voltron list or as a spellslinger list, it just became TOO easy and TOO consistent to combo off. I even removed the Haze of Rage and the deck still just became a too-good Storm deck. So we called it quits.

Vadrik, the Punch Wizard

Commander (1)
Sorceries (14)
Instants (24)
Lands (34)
Creatures (7)
Artifacts (17)
Enchantments (3)

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Buy this decklist from TCGplayer

The breakup was dignified—Vadrik cried a little bit, but that’s bound to happen. In the end we agreed that he was just too good for me, and that he’d be happier with someone who played in higher powered pods.

It’s Not You, It’s Me

The other end of that spectrum is when a deck just doesn’t EXCITE you anymore. It’s become dull—it might still be a challenge to “do the thing” but what it DOES just doesn’t get your motor running anymore.

Maybe this is a Meren of Clan Nel-Toth deck that just does graveyard stuff. It’s good. It’s value. But it’s… meh.

Maybe this is an Edgar Markov Vampire deck that is just a Vampire deck. It’s always going to do the same thing: play Vampire, get token. Repeat ad nauseum.

Maybe this is a Volo, Guide to Monsters deck that just does SIMIC THINGS. Make creatures, counter spells, but it doesn’t particularly do anything THRILLING. There are no BIG PLAYS.

And having this feeling is fine. It’s burnout, or at least one form of it, and that’s perfectly OK. That feeling when you look across the decks to bring to game day and you look at a few and think “no, not you”. You’ve fallen out of love with the deck, and that’s OK. But what do we do next? How do we move on?

The great thing about your decks is that you don’t have to write off the whole thing! You could evolve your deck—add some spice—and put a new spin on that boring relationship. Try pivoting the commander to something new in the same color identity but that has a unique spin. I’ve been trying this lately, as shared via Twitter, but in each beck I’m building I’m ensuring to include 3 on-color legends to rotate in and out and see how differently the deck plays.

An example of this is my mono-red copies deck. It started as a Rionya, Fire Dancer deck, but I worked in Delina, Wild Mage and Feldon of the Third Path into the deck. And now ONE deck takes on WILD variants, spanning from spell-slinging to combat tricks to reanimator—all without changing the 99!

The experiment has been working well, and it’s helped me breathe life into stale decks.

The other approach you can take is dismantling the deck and using the pieces for something new. Maybe it’s not the same deck you had originally fallen in love with, but the aspects of that deck live on in a new form. Maybe your old love drew a boatload of cards, so you look for those aspects in a new love. Whether that’s adding colors, removing colors, or looking for something entirely new!

Rekindling the Spark

Using the pieces of an old deck to build a new one is exactly why this format is great. You love the color red? Great, build 10 red decks. Do they all need to do the same thing? NO, of course not! But could they use the same cards? For sure!

Maybe all those red decks have you itching to branch out, to build a color or colors that you don’t normally. Maybe it’s time for a BLUE deck and become that filthy control player!

Try new things. You may love a deck but you aren’t MARRIED to it—and just because you’ve got the 99 just the way you want it doesn’t mean you can’t add, alter, or edit it down the road. Try those new things and find something you love just as much.

Taking a deck apart isn’t the end for it. If you use a deckbuilding tool, like Moxfield or Archidekt, you can ALWAYS re-assemble a list if you’re feeling nostalgic for it. Don’t be afraid to call up that ex for a booty call; who knows, maybe you’ll feel that spark again?

Finding the “Magic” in Magic

It’s perfectly natural to still have that FIRST Commander deck, even if the layer of dust on it is growing thick. There’s nostalgia to all of your decks, but that doesn’t mean you HAVE to keep them all in rotation. If they haven’t seen play in a while it’s time to admit you just don’t feel the same way about them you did originally.

Breaking up with a deck might have that pull of “remember that time we won that game?” or “this is one of my favorite cards!” but if you haven’t felt that in some time… pull it apart, try something new. Move on.

What was the deck that you broke up with that was the hardest decision? What’s the point where YOU decide it’s time to move on?

Let me know in the comments below and, as always, good luck & have fun!

"I'm Chris and I'm YOUR Commander Mechanic!" A die-hard Commander player, Chris is a brewer, deck builder, and player experience advocate. Check out YouTube for Tune-Ups, Twitter for hot takes, and catch him on streams all over the community!