A Flood of Ideas

gp_logoMy friends and I are going to meet up at Grand Prix LA. This will be only my second time back to California (that wasn’t related to a family member passing) since I moved to Washington, so I am excited to get to see my friends and play some Magic! The Grand Prix format is Modern, but we aren’t going to play in the main event, we are going to hang out and spend time together. Of course I’ve been thinking about which Commander decks I want to take, and I’ll start checking the artists that will be in attendance soon so I can be sure I have a good mix of cards to get signed. I’m certain that we will get in a Shadows Over Innistrad draft while there as well. Above and beyond all of that normal Grand Prix stuff I’ve been coming up with new ideas now and then to throw a wrench into the mix! Don’t get me wrong, I love playing Commander with the decks that we’ve all had for years, but I don’t want to “only” play against those decks. I want to try some new things and I want the guys to branch out and try some new things as well.

Tiny Leaders

athreos-god-of-passage_6The first “new thing” isn’t actually new. It is the Tiny Leaders format. We each have (or had at one point) a Tiny Leaders deck. I haven’t changed mine, so I plan on taking it with me. Tiny Leaders for those not familiar is a format started a couple years back which is essentially 1/2 Commander. You have a commander and your deck has to follow the normal deck construction rules with just two minor changes. Your deck is limited to just fifty cards including your commander, and the cards in your deck must have a converted mana cost of three or less (“X” is zero in the case of “X” spells). poprocksncoke-shadowbornapostleIn looking back at my past posts it seems I may not have discussed Tiny Leaders or my deck, so here it is… briefly. I got my inspiration from the Command Zone Podcast if I recall correctly, where they made a full Commander deck with this strategy. My commander is Athreos, God of Passage, and I have twelve copies of Shadowborn Apostle in the deck. I also have a lot of sacrifice outlets, removal, every demon that costs three mana or less, and so on. It is crazy-fun to play, but I rarely win with it. By the way, Tiny Leaders is meant to be played with just two players, but we regularly played it with three or four players. I thought I had a list on Tapped Out, but apparently not. I’ll get one up and add a link when I do.

Commander Cube

My next format is also an old one, and is one that I have written about a few times… Commander Cube. I started with each of the first ten Commander pre-constructed decks and added cards from there. It is a lot of fun to draft, and I can’t wait to do so again. Here are links to some of my previous articles on the Commander Cube:

Coming Soon…

Commander Cube – Ready to Go!

Commander Cube – Sleeved and Tested!

If you are interested in drafting the Commander Cube with us at GPLA, that would be great! Find me on Twitter (@cmartinell) and we can coordinate up to eight players (that we would then split into two 4-player pods).


marathAn easy choice, for me anyway, was to introduce the guys to the 2DH format. Here in the Pacific Northwest, there is a group of players who get together regularly and play 2DH. They have a tournament each week in which those players try to come up with the most hardcore decks that they can, but they also have poeple who are there just for casual play. I’ve made my deck, but haven’t had the opportunity to get out to the shop they meet at to play. 2DH is Commander, but with a $2 value ceiling placed on all cards in the deck. This means that you have to constantly watch the value of your deck, especially if you utilize cards that are near that $2 price limit. Tappedout.net is a great place to house these decks, as you can sort the deck by price and it will tell you which cards are under $2 and which are over. Here is my deck, commanded by Marath, Will of the Wild, and as you can see, all cards are currently under $2. I know that many people love the fact that they can play with their powerful, expensive cards, but I like the fact that 2DH brings the power level down a bit, but still has competetive decks. I would guess that many of the “tournament” decks could beat most of my casual regular Commander decks. I posed the challenge to build 2DH decks to the guys and we shall see what they come up with. Note that both have access to my list above, so if they wanted, they could build their decks to destroy mine… and I’m ok with that. I hope they don’t, but if they do, they still have to worry about each other.

Spousal Decks

One Thursday I sat at work and decided that I wanted to head out to the game shop and play Commander. I was going to catch the train to my car, then run home and grab my decks, and head over to the store, but my wife said “why don’t we meet for dinner and I’ll bring whatever you need from home?” I was fine with that, and told her that I would text her a list of what I needed. She replied back “I could just build you a deck”… On that day I passed, but recently the thought of my wife building me a deck popped back into my head and I immediately forwarded that idea to the guys. What if we each provided our wives with the bulk of our collections, and had them build a deck for us with minimal instruction aside from some of the basics?

The Rules:

  • Choose 2 colors
  • Explain deck construction rules:
    • A deck must have 60 cards minimum.
    • There may only be 4 copies of any given card except basic land.
    • There will be a distribution of spells which have mana costs, and lands which produce mana.
    • Basic land are not governed by the 4-copy rule.
    • If text on a card conflicts with one of these rules, then the card text governs.
  • Explain mana cost and Mana generation (i.e. land)
    • The top right corner of every card has a mana cost in it. The colored symbol represents mana of that color, the diamond in the circle represents colorless mana, and the number in the circle represents generic mana (meaning any color or colorless mana may be used to pay that cost).
    • Lands are cards that produce mana. Each type of basic land produces a single mana of one of the five colors, and one produces colorless mana. Non-basic lands and other cards may also produce mana, these have a {T} symbol followed by the mana symbol or a circle with a number, and when tapped produce mana of the color and in the quantity identified by the symbols.
    • Lands have the type “Land” in the type line.
    • In a 60-card deck, approximately 24 cards should be lands.
  • Explain Creatures:
    • There are many types of cards, but the most important type are creatures. Approximately 60% of the non-land cards should probably be creatures.
    • Creatures have the type “Creature” in the type line.
    • Creatures also have a power and toughness in the lower right corner in the format X/Y, where X is the power and Y is the toughness. This represents how much damage they can deal when attacking, and how much damage they can take before dying.
  • Explain Converted Mana Cost and the “Curve”:
    • The converted mana cost of a card is its colored mana requirement plus the generic mana requirement. For example, a Serra Angel costs 3WW, its converted mana cost being 5.
    • In a deck the converted mana cost of the cards should match a standard distribution bell curve. This means that you should have a few cards costing 1, a few more cards costing 2, more costing 3, more costing 4, then maybe less costing 5, less costing 6, and very few costing 7 or more.

Do not explain anything else. Nothing about instants, sorceries, artifacts, etc… Do not explain anything related  to tribes or flavor at all. Be available to answer questions, but do so in a non-biased manner. For example, If Jan were to ask me “What is a homarid” I would explain that it is a type of creature in the game, as opposed to saying “homarids are horrible, don’t use those!” Do not watch over their shoulder, and if you do see what they are doing, do not provide commentary or give ideas/suggestions.

My wife has already built my deck. Beyond the fact that it is black and blue, I do not know anything else about it, and I will keep it that way until I break it out against my friends. If anyone else is going to GPLA, then get your spouse, significant other, child, roommate’s best friend’s aging grandmother, etc… as long as they know little or nothing about the game to build you a deck!

In conclusion, I am very excited for my trip to Los Angeles. I only have about 36 hours from wheels down to wheels up at LAX, so it will be difficult to squeeze in all of these crazy ideas, but I’m sure going to try!

If you would like to find me to get a game in, hit me up on twitter (@cmartinell) and maybe we can!

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