Mechanical Engineering – Finding Resolve in 2022

Commander Mechanic • January 20, 2022

Elvish Reclaimer by Victor Adame Minguez

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.

Does it Resolve?

It’s a new year and a new year is a time for new action—everyone takes the opportunity to try and turn over a new leaf and make a fresh start. Though typically that’s banal lifestyle changes like ‘eating better’ or ‘talking to my family more’, we’re here to talk about what’s important. Magic.

Over on Twitter and on YouTube I posted a poll asking people what their New Year’s Resolutions were for Commander for 2022; what little things did people want to change about their habits in game and out as we head into the new year. Let’s take a look at some of the most common answers—be sure to comment below if any of them are ones you have some personal aspirations towards.

5. Play More Interaction

Starting off with the age-old rebuttal to “Card X isn’t good, just play more removal”, a common resolution I saw users say is that they wanted to play more interaction; board wipes like Wrath of God or single-target removal like Doom Blade or counterspells like, well, Counterspell. One of the things players should ask themselves is WHY they feel they need to run more interaction before they do.

Interaction is an important part of any deck, to be certain, but there’s a saturation point with it where it becomes OPPRESSIVE. I recently played against a King Macar, the Gold-Cursed deck that had about 40 removal pieces in it, counting the commander as a repeatable source of removal and… it wasn’t a good time. It was oppressive and even the pilot felt bad about it. There’s something to be said about overdoing it.

Finding out why you feel you need to run more removal should be the diagnosis here. Is there an oppressive commander in your playgroup like a Tergrid, God of Fright? Are you worried about two-card game-ending combos like Exquisite Blood and Sanguine Bond? Or do you feel like everyone else is running so much removal that your deck is targeted first and you can rarely keep everything in play?

Some of those can be diagnosed by talking to your playgroup instead of warping your decks or your playstyle. Maybe YOU’RE playing an oppressive commander and you want to run more interaction to STOP people from messing with your gameplan. In that case the issue isn’t needing to run more interaction, but rather considering the vibe of your playgroup instead. A lot can be solved with a conversation.

4. Enjoy Decks Longer

Wow, here’s a resolution that’s a real Heartseeker. I have a terrible habit of building a deck, playing it on stream 2-3 times, then tearing it apart. Why? For me, personally, it’s because a deck has proved that it ‘does the thing’. If it works—both well and consistently—then what’s the point of going through the same motions? Where’s the joy in doing something that you KNOW works?

And I’m glad to know I’m not alone in this sentiment. Several people commented about needing to play decks more before they tear them apart, so how do we collectively achieve this?

First and foremost, the pivot. I’ve talked at length previously about my building methodology and my 1/2/3 strategic approach. One of the ways to breathe new life into a deck that you’re considering taking apart is focusing on that tertiary strategic synergy and making it your PRIMARY synergy. Take a deck like Kalamax, the Stormsire or Vadrik, Astral Archmage and pivot it from being a spellslinger-style deck into a stompy, beatdown deck! It’s the same deck but maybe your approach changes.

The same can be said for just changing the commander. I’m a big advocate of having multiple legendary creatures in the 99 of decks so, if you want to try something fresh, you can just swap the commander for a different one with the same color identity in the 99! This can, sometimes, change the way the ENTIRE deck plays with just ONE swap. A great way to get further enjoyment out of a single deck.

3. Finish Updating Precons

Here’s one I didn’t expect to see but was really refreshed to see it. This year saw 15 (!!) new Commander Precon Decks released from the folks at Wizards and, honestly, they were all bangers. Multiple people commented how they had sealed precons still sitting around from the beginning of 2021 that they hadn’t even cracked open yet and were looking forward to upgrading.

I’m guilty of this too, but at least I’ve put together the upgrades for these decks! In fact, my MOST SUCCESSFUL VIDEO of 2021 is my upgrade guide to Lathril, Blade of the Elves from back in March. Here’s my upgraded list:

Elven Empire Precon Upgrade

Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer

 

Where to get started on a precon upgrade, though? Typically my favorite place to start is with the mana base. Wizards has some… ideas… about what constitutes good lands to be included in these precons. Namely the banes of my existence Reliquary Tower and Temple of the False God. Start with cards you KNOW you’ll cut first; cards you have experience with and consistently under-perform. From there open more and more slots in your list and then find replacements.

I advocate playing the precons fresh and out of the box first, to get a feel for what their strengths and weaknesses are. For instance I keep the Prismari Performance precon sleeved up because it’s a STELLAR deck straight out of the box. However, if I were to upgrade it, it severely lacks in win conditions outside of the box legend Zaffai, Thunder Conductor so my first goal would be to add in more ways to win.

With Lathril there were opportunities to replace non-elf creatures with elves, replace symmetrical effects with asymmetrical effects, and sprinkle in some more consistency. Watch my full video here for my full breakdown on the upgrade. It’s a great place to take some inspiration!

2. Brew More Decks

Here’s a resolution near and dear to my heart—I got into content creation and Magic at large because of THIS RESOLUTION. Back in 2019—when people were still playing Magic in person—I resolved to never play the same Commander deck twice all year.

That ended up being a massive undertaking, with me brewing and building around 60 decks over the course of the year! With 3 playgrounds there was some overlap, but no playgroup saw the same deck twice from me. How did I even get started with that, and where can YOU get started if this is what you want to do?

First, if you’re more concerned with brewing the decks than actually playing them, start with challenges. Themes, routines, schedules—open yourself up to looking at different cards, and commanders, and being regular with it. One a week for a year is a noble aspiration, and with literally THOUSANDS of commanders to choose from, you’ll have more than enough inspiration.

Second, if you’re going to be BUILDING decks, create a staples collection. Cards that are used across multiple decks. Then acquire them. Once you start brewing in multiple colors regularly you’ll find there are cards that are put into most decks you run. That overlap is the lynchpin to being able to put together and take apart a deck at a moment’s notice. What can you leave sleeved? Does every red deck want a Dockside Extortionist? Is Fierce Guardianship a must-have in your builds? Does Sensei’s Divining Top REALLY go in everything? If the answer is yes… invest.

Third, if you ever hit a wall, start small. Don’t brew a brand new deck but instead revisit an old one. Or take a deck someone else has built and see how you’d put your spin on it. I’m a big fan of the Tune-Up, so maybe take one of your old, under-performing decks and see if you can’t ratchet up the consistency on it. ‘Brewing’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘brand new deck’.

1. Play More Games

One of the most common resolutions I found was people just wanting to play more Commander. One of the most noble aspirations but for many it’s been difficult. Those that have only had in-person playgroups or only previously played at a Local Game Store (LGS) have had their main source of Magic stripped from them due to the current global environment.

But does that leave you in a Mirror Gallery with no one but yourself to play with? Don’t be stuck with a Mirror March, goldfishing endlessly—there are plenty of online communities to play with!

There are a wealth of resources for how to set up Webcam Magic and use Spelltable to open yourself up to the global Magic community. Here’s a video from my friends The Spike Feeders on getting basic setups and even Magic designer Gavin Verhey released a video about how to play on Spelltable.

These two resources, combined with Discord communities or even the Magic community on social channels like Twitter, can open your world to a brand new plethora of opponents—and friends—to play with!

Countered on Resolution

If you’ve set yourself a Commander-related resolution in 2022, good for you! But remember that TRYING to make a change is the biggest thing you can do. You don’t need to succeed, but reflecting on the WHYs of making a change and planning the HOWs of making a change are the biggest, most meaningful steps you can take.

If you try and don’t succeed—it’s the trying that counts. And remember that you don’t have to make it through the year alone! Talk to your friends, your playgroup, and strangers about what you’re trying to achieve, because everyone’s here to help.

So did you make a resolution for 2022? Let me know in the comments below and, as always folks, good luck and 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!