Throughout my time deck building and brewing for commander I’ve found one specific aspect of building decks for the format to be incredibly important. And thus I present my concept of:
Consistency within Inconsistency
Now this phrase alone probably doesn’t mean much to you. You’re probably wondering, “What in the world does that even mean??”
Well fellow reader, you are right, it’s quite the debacle of a phrase, BUT fear not, for it makes sense once explained. (Although maybe I should’ve given this a different name…)
Well anyways, without anymore further ado, let’s get into some EDH philosophy!
EDH decks by nature are inconsistent, running 99 main deck cards, and having all of them except for basic lands be entirely unique just sets up the format to be inconsistent. Now you might by thinking, well zebotc, why not just run multiple copies of the same effects. Problem solved right? Need exiling effects in white, meh just throw in a Path to Exile, Swords to Plowshares, Condemn, Oblivion Ring, ALL OF THE EXILE.DEC. But that doesn’t solve the problem. Then you are just running a consistent deck for only one type of solution, that won’t find it’s other answers, it will instead just be clogged up with targeted exile.
What I mean by consistency within inconsistency is that a deck builder generally should find a happy medium between running multiples of the same answers, and a large variety of answers. Don’t just go and play every board wipe in Magic unless you’re edgy like that. I’ll use the example of my recent Narset list. Whenever I make a new EDH deck I generally like to gather a pool of about 200-400 card options of varying degrees of synergies from a whole bunch of different strategies. Then with that 200 card pool I proceed to pick the strategy that I enjoy the most, and trim it down until the deck is fully optimized/working. Anyways for Narset I had an issue, I wanted to play every single card. All of them were super fun, and very good, so I couldn’t decide. I sat there for a long time trying to figure out what I should cut next, and almost made zero progress. And then! I suddenly remembered the idea of, “consistency within inconsistency”, and the deck building process became much easier.
For example, I had around six board wipes laying out, around five targeted removal spells, about eleven counterspells, and a bunch of equipment cards. I also had a lot of tutors, such as Mystical Tutor, Enlightened Tutor, Personal Tutor and Merchant Scroll. Additionally I had a lot of card draw and filtering such as: Sensei’s Divining Top and Dig Through Time. So with all of those options I set to work. I started with the board wipes; realizing I had access to multiple tutors, and that almost all of the board wipes (Even though they were all very unique on paper) where really, when it boiled down to it, the same exact thing. So I went through and selected the most versatile of the board wipes available and cut the rest. Currently the list is running around 3 board wipes. I then moved on to targeted removal, the counterspells and then every other category and applied the exact same process.
In layman’s terms what I did was say, “while yes it would be cool to run all of these unique board wipes, and targeted removal spells that are situational and or do the same thing, it’s not necessary. I’ve already got a plethora of tutors, and overdoing it with any card just makes the deck lack answers in other areas.”
The issue with EDH is that a deck needs to be able to defend from almost every angle the mechanics of Magic could throw at it. This means that decks quite literally cannot afford to go all in on one single type of answer just to be consistent, because in fact that will make the deck more or less inconsistent with how it interacts efficiently to various threats. Instead it is much more viable in MOST cases (unless you are running a very specific type of strategy like: Storm, Tribal etc) to run a very versatile few of each type of answer and have deck filtering effects, and other card advantage engines that allow you to quickly get them when needed.
While some mono colored strategies do have issues with this card filtering and searching, the majority of dual colored and multi colored commander decks definitely have very versatile options for doing this. Here are a few of these supplemental cards that can be safely run in almost any EDH deck to raise its consistency in finding answers, without actually adding an overboard amount of the same type of effects that would dilute the overall effectiveness of the deck.
This list is by no means complete, but it is just an idea of what each color has to offer.
Colorless will generally have a lot of library filtering effects; it is very good at setting the top cards of your library, but also contains a lot of land and artifact search.
These two artifacts help almost any deck filter their draws and set up a hand. They can be very versatile in almost any situation, and can help a player find the answers they need when they need them.
- The Hideaway Lands
White honestly does not have that many card tutor effects or drawing, but it does have a few very powerful options that can help with some specific strategies.
- Enlightened Tutor: Perhaps the most powerful tutor spell in white, the ability to search for any artifact or enchantment right before your turn at instant speed, and put it on top of your library is very versatile.
- Steelshapers Gift
- Stoneforge Mystic
The two equipment tutors of white, and one of them even has the ability to cheat things into play. If you are running both white and a fairly good volume of equipment in your deck, then these two spells are pretty good options to be running.
- Idyllic Tutor
- Three Dreams
- Pursuit of Knowledge
- Recruiter of the Guard: A fairly new card that has the ability to search for various useful answers to your opponents shenanigans. It can be used to find cards such as Banisher Priest and Containment Priest.
- Weathered Wayfarer: Very useful for ramping, color fixing and fetching up utility lands.
Blue is one of the most powerful colors for using this type of philosophy in deck building. It is entirely full of draw spells, tutors, cantrips, you name it blue has it.
Some of the most powerful draw spells in Magic are in blue, and these two commander staples are no exception. With the latter letting you dig really deep to find the cards you need.
Blue’s got a lot of tutors to find Instants and Sorceries. These are some of the most efficient ones.
Blue also has a lot of library filtering and card draw, these are some of the best cards to do just that, allowing a player to get answers they need with ease, and even in some cases rid their hand of unneeded cards.
While not exactly search engines, these two creatures can really help by adding recursion to a deck. Have a Lightning Bolt? Why not have two instead?
- Sign in Blood: Black has a lot of cards similar to this one – which allow a player to draw cards at the cost of another resource.
- Demonic Tutor
- Vampiric Tutor
- Grim Tutor
- Imperial Seal
- Diabolic Tutor
Black is the color or tutors. If you need almost any card black can usually get it for you quickly and efficiently. However some times at a cost.
Black also has card tutors in the form of Entomb effects. These cards allow a player who is playing a reanimation strategy to fill their graveyard with a toolbox of creatures they might use.
Much like white, red also lacks in card search and draw, however it does have some fairly good tutors and spells that allow a player to find things they need.
- Wheel of Fortune
- Imperial Recruiter
- Cathartic Reunion
- Gamble: One of reds only true tutors, the added effect of discarding a card at random can be risky, but it can be well worth it for the cheap mana cost of this spell.
- Wild Research
Unlike the other colors, green is a master at finding creatures rather than anything else. This means that a deck running green can fill their library with cards such as Acidic Slime, and Scavenging Ooze, and Fiend Hunter. Additionally the really nice thing about green’s tutor spells, is that they typically put the creatures right into play, rather than in your hand, which means that they have immediate benefit for being cast. Green also has a lot of cards which search for lands which can be very useful at color fixing and finding utility lands.
- Worldly Tutor
- Chord of Calling
- Green Sun’s Zenith
- Survival of the Fittest
- Elvish Harbinger
- Natural Order
- Birthing Pod
- Fauna Shaman
- Search For Tomorrow
Now another problem comes up; If a deck starts running too many tutors, then it will always have to tutor for it’s answers because there just won’t be enough volume of actual directly impactful cards in the deck. So when constructing a deck there should typically be a happy medium between the amount of tutors, the amount of parallel answers and the variation of answers.
In general, unless a deck particularly suffers against a certain type of strategy, it is appropriate to run around 2-4 of each type of answer, and sometimes as low as one or as high as six depending on what it does. This is by no means a strict rule to follow, but it’s helpful to note when constructing a list for the first time. Another important thing to note is running cards with multiple effects can be very good. Austere Command, Kolagan’s Command, Cryptic Command and Wear//Tear are all examples of cards that have multiple effects and or options. These cards allow a commander deck to be very versatile with its plays, and respond even more efficiently to various threats by running high impact cards that shine in entirely unrelated situations.
Generally by running a good variety of high impact versatile answers, and ways to find them, a commander deck can become increasingly good at responding to almost every situation that could be thrown at it consistently, without actually being entirely “consistent”.
So the next time you’re building a commander deck maybe try applying the idea of Consistency within Inconsistency and hopefully you’ll be running a pretty solid list in no time.
I hope this article was helpful in some way to you! If you have any questions, comments or concerns feel free to leave them in the section below.
And as always, happy gaming!