Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend

All my bags are packed
I’m ready to go
I’m standin’ here outside your door
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye

-John Denver

ghaveThere comes a time in your life where you have to make a decision. It is a ridiculously difficult decision to make, but it has to be done. You’ve been together for years, but you can no longer deny the fact that there may be better options out there. After all, these things change, and through your time together you have both adjusted to the ever-shifting environment.

I’m sorry Ghave, it’s not you, it’s me.

I hope that we can still be friends.

Every Commander player has a favorite Commander deck. Some, like my friend David, build the deck then spend time and money in “blinging-out” that deck by replacing all the cards with foil versions, or obtaining artist signatures or alterations to the cards, or splurging on that one ultra-rare card that will help to make your deck unique. Others, like myself, look at every new set’s spoilers through the looking glass of which cards will fit into your pet-deck. Others, like my friend Eric, tend to dismantle their decks, choosing to try new things… but there is still that favorite, and if I asked Eric to make his Captain Sisay deck, he wouldn’t even have to do any research to find cards that fit the deck, he would just make it from memory.

Since the release of the original Commander pre-constructed decks in 2011, Ghave, Guru of Spores has been my favorite Commander and my favorite deck. Actually, just before those decks were released, I acquired a little-known card called Doubling Season… ok, ok, it’s a well known card, but for me it was too expensive to obtain until I found one that was heavily played and bought it for $7. I knew that I wanted to build a Commander deck around tokens because that is one of my favorite things, and when Ghave was spoiled from the new Commander product, it was obvious that he would be the Commander for this deck. I built the deck to maximize on Doubling Season, which cared primarily about token creatures and +1/+1 counters. It was glorious, and became the one deck that I played most every time we got together. Through the years, as new sets were released, new cards moved in and out of the deck, sculpting and molding it, but mutations happen, and eventually I realized that the deck actually cared more about Planeswalkers than it did about +1/+1 counters. About a year ago I re-built the deck taking this into account, and currently it is primarily a Planeswalker deck that generates token creatures to protect the 15+ walkers in the deck. It still makes +1/+1 counters, but that is on the back-burner when compared to the other focuses of the deck.

deepglowatraxAs happens with every new release I look to see what will work in my various Commander decks, and the first thing that caught my eye when looking at the 2016 Commander product was a card called Deepglow Skate. It was a perfect fit for my Ghave deck except for one little tiny detail… it was blue! But then I saw her… Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice. A four-color Commander that will protect my planeswalkers, while also being able to attack, AND proliferate!? She seems to do it all. But… to remove Ghave as Commander seems… well, it just feels wrong. He’s been my Commander for so long!

We get attached to our favorite decks and favorite Commanders. We spend so much time creating the deck, and then maintaining it that it almost feels like a relationship at times. When you look to add cards you have to consider not only how the change will impact the deck itself, but also how it will impact your interaction with the deck. The decision to take that deck apart or alter it significantly is difficult. But sometimes it has to be made.

How do we make the decision to give up our favorite? We have to ask ourselves some questions and take a good look at the reasons behind the deck in the first place.

Is this still the deck it was intended to be from the beginning?

Most of the time when we build a new deck, we have something specific in mind. Either we wanted to maximize on a particular Commander’s abilities or we see a sweet combo that we want to build around, or a particular strategy that we want to focus on. Whatever the reason, it is perfectly reasonable to expect that over the years, perhaps the deck’s focus may have shifted to other things. Ghave is a prime example as I said before. The deck was built to exploit Doubling Season and Ghave, making tokens and boosting them up with +1/+1 counters. Yes, it had planeswalkers, but only a few of them, all relevant to the tokens and counters. Through time it shifted, and no longer really cared about +1/+1 counters. Until now, Ghave was still the best option for what the deck wanted to do in the colors that it wanted to be in… but I found that I would wait for longer, until I ran out of other things to do before I would cast Ghave most of the time. The deck had shifted focus and he was no longer a primary aspect of it. As such, there could be other available legendary creatures that might fill out the role of commander better.

What about your other decks?

hazeMany of us have several decks that we can rotate in and out of our play cycle. If our original deck has started to evolve into something else, do we have another deck that can fill the original role? I currently have… I want to say 11 decks, two of which are 2016 Commander pre-cons. My original Ghave was built on the premise of +1/+1 counters and token creatures. It just so happens that I have two other decks that exploit these things quite well. First is Experiment Kraj, who really, really wants to exploit +1/+1 counters. Then we have one of my other new favorites, Hazezon Tamar. It does essentially the same thing that Ghave did, but it is quite a bit more aggressive. I find myself playing the deck quite a bit these days. One of my obsessions in Magic is tokens… but Hazezon never got officially printed sand warrior tokens before. I commissioned Richard Kane-Ferguson at Grand Prix Las Vegas 2015 to sketch a Sand Warrior token for me on the back of an artist proof Hazezon. Now that sketch lives in a plastic case, but I scanned it and made a sweet laser-etched sand warrior token card out of maple!

f9f7c8b91ec6f147d05771f72d8b3d80e0ea3003

Back to the original topic though… yes, I have two other decks that help to fill the role that the Ghave deck originally held. If you don’t have other decks that fill the role, then consider reverting the deck in question back to it’s previous form and then just building a new deck for the new Commander.

Finally, and maybe most important,

Does the Commander add value to the deck?

I know that many people choose a Commander for color identity alone, but personally I build decks that use the Commander regularly. If this is you as well, then consider whether you current Commander is effective in the role, and whether another Commander would be better suited. Ghave is excellent in a deck where you want creatures to enter the battlefield over and over again, and where you need to be able to spread +1/+1 counters around to help certain blockers or exploit a well-equipped Skullclamp. In a deck that now focuses on Planeswalkers more than counters, Ghave is good, but is there someone better suited? Atraxa is not only a powerful creature in her own right, she also proliferates which is perfect for a heavy-planeswalker deck. She is much better suited to run the deck.

Here is the Decklist for my Atraxa Superfriends list if anyone is interested:

Tapped Out – Atraxa Superfriends

While it may seem painful to dismantle that pet deck, if you take a good look at what the deck wants to do and how it functions, you may find it easier than not to swap out that old Commander for a better option.

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