How to Have 20+ Commander Decks
“Magictating” is defined as getting into the zone with your Magic the Gathering collection--thinking, planning, organizing, reminiscing about past games, and imagining future games. It is a combination of hard thinking about the game and calm meditation, reveling in the joy it brings you.
If you read the title and thought, why would I ever need that many decks, then perhaps you just started playing? Once you've been playing Magic for about a year or so, and been exposed to several playgroups or a few players with more than a year or so of experience, you start coming across people with more decks than you've ever thought possible. I keenly remember my first experience with this. I was in college, where many a formative experience may occur, and I met a guy who had a whole box of decks. Not a single one was sleeved, and they all fit in a single, clear plastic box. The case had dividers and amazingly fit all 12-15 of his different decks. I had personally only ever had one or two decks myself. I had a green/white deck, and a blue, black, and red deck. I figured that between those two decks I would be able to use all of my best cards from every color. Once we played a few games and I noticed that his decks were quirky, janky, and in one deck's case hopelessly inferior—an Orcish Lumberjack disaster—I realized that I didn't need to devote all of my resources to one or two decks. This was the beginnings of my inspiration that led me to where I am today—75+ sleeved decks as of this writing. So, how do you get to the point where you can actually build more than one Commander/EDH deck? I'll break it down for you in five simple steps.
Slobad, Goblin Tinkerer - Kev Walker
Don't bother optimizing your decks. It's fun to let decks grow as you go. You can easily build more decks than you might imagine if you opt to put your resources into building a broader collection. The key is to basically avoid being narrow with your collecting, and instead to go-wide. Let's do a “what if” using an older precon deck: Commander 2018's Adaptive Enchantment. This deck is headed by the planeswalker Estrid, the Masked. If you bought this when it released you probably paid around $40 for it. It's possible with preorder discounts that you got it for even less—nicely done! Now, it's been three years since you've bought your precon, and its value has more than doubled since you purchased it. If you try to order one of these today, then you're paying around $90 for that deck. If you started with this as your first EDH deck, then you could have decided to sink your budget into the deck itself. I'm going to assume you have a budget around $400 a year to spend on cards. If your budget is more or less, then please adjust accordingly. Let's go with a $400 allowance for now, and say that you have $360 left to spend on cards.
Now, you could spend that in a variety of ways. You could buy 3+ booster boxes worth of packs and hope and pray that you get enough cards to actually improve your deck or build a couple new decks. That is an unlikely outcome—at best. Sure, you get the thrill of cracking packs, but you're not going to have more Commander decks at the end of that spree. It's possible that maybe you'll cobble together a deck from that. Another option would be to “optimize” your deck. You could buy an Argothian Enchantress for around $25, an Aura Thief for about $15, an Enlightened Tutor for $50, and a Rhystic Study and Smothering Tithe for $40 each. That's nearly half your yearly budget gone in just 5 cards for one deck! If you were interested in expanding your collection and having multiple decks, then you could have taken that $170 and bought the entire set of Commander from 2018 or 2019. Even if you bought the cheaper 2019 set of 4 decks, you'd still wind up with four more decks, plus plenty of staples you could use to deconstruct those precons and build your own brews! You'd still have enough left over to have bought the 4 precons and toss in an Enlightened Tutor and an Aura Thief. Plus, with four more decks, you probably have several other cards you are considering picking up to help flesh out those decks a bit as well. Regardless of how you utilized the rest of your budget, you are able to buy an awful lot more of the basic building blocks of Commander decks when you don't worry about optimizing a single deck. Variety is the spice of life, and so I invite you to expand your Magic palette and get yourself multiple decks. By choosing not to optimize your deck you have chosen to avoid a narrower collection goal and instead embrace a broader and more varied approach to expanding your decks.
Buy precons. After the above example, this should come as no surprise. The rate of return that the precons have offered is really pretty phenomenal. The “beginner” precons from Zendikar Rising and Kaldheim were cheaper than most of the previous decks. These introductory Commander decks were also an excellent deal. To be able to enter this format for only $20 is a steal. I bought multiples of each to tear apart and build other decks! The convenience should not be undersold. Furthermore, by buying precons you give yourself access to the “exclusive” cards that are made in only those precons. While the recent “cheap precons” only offered the unique face commanders as original cards, the rest of Commander Preconstructed deck series traditionally offer up far more. The Ikoria set featured the free-to-cast series that many people find to be “auto-includes” in most of their builds. I'm not personally sold on having to auto-include anything in a Commander deck, but buying precons does give you access to these cards. You can buy these singles later on, but it's often easiest and most affordable to pick up the sealed product. Pre-ordering Commander precons has been something I've done since the first product released, and I can say that I've never been disappointed. Every single year (and apparently multiple times a year now-a-days…sigh) these precons are worth purchasing. Even if you part out the decks afterwards, you still get plenty of deck building value. So, in short, buy precons and you'll amass a large collection of Commander decks in no time!
Collected Conjuring - Steve Argyle
Keep collecting. This might seem obvious, but some people ask how my collection got so big, and it's really just a one or two step process. Step one is to buy cards. Step two, keep the cards you buy. Seriously, when we unload large sections of our collections we end up cutting back on the potential for new builds. When I build a “new” deck I don't go right into my newest cards. I detailed the method I use for organizing my cards, and it naturally brings me to perusing even the oldest parts of my collection. This process helps utilize the older and jankier cards we own that have been forgotten. These cards thrive in Commander, and it's a rare EDH table that doesn't wind up passing at least a few cards around for clarification. I often find that no matter how new the currently inspiring commander or mechanic may be I often fill out decks with all manner of older cards. Either way, once you start collecting you'll often look back fondly on the cards from your first few sets. The memories and experiences you've linked with your first sets will always come back to bring that beautiful nostalgia-filled grin to your face.
Culling Scales - Daren Bader
Pick “sub-optimal” or interesting commanders to helm your new decks. Selecting only the most competitive and powerful commanders to helm your decks often leads people to feeling that they must run the rest of the 99 in a likewise fashion. When you're running Atraxa, Praetors' Voice, Korvold, Fae-Cursed King, Urza, Lord High Artificer or Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow you probably feel as though you have to have the best cards to accompany your incredibly powerful commander. I personally try not to over-power my decks, but stay with interesting or oddball themes. Rather than build a K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth deck as your next mono-black Commander deck, perhaps give something strange like Korlash, Heir to Blackblade a try? It has an ability that is literally useless in Commander. If that's not a sign that you are trying to do something outside the norm, then I don't know what is. Building decks with odd-ball commanders helps you try out interesting strategies and forces you to look for cards that synergize with different concepts. While Korlash isn't overly original in what you want to do, put lots of swamps into play to make him a nightmare to deal with, you can easily Nightmare Lash your opponents to death with Korlash and maybe his pals Squelching Leeches, Dakmor Sorceress, and even the original flaming badass Nightmare! If you're looking for a back-up or rarer version of this, then pick up the granddaddy of the three kingdoms, Sima Yi, Wei Field Marshal—not many will be expecting that white-bordered and white bearded old beau to show up! My main point is that if you select odd commanders then you can expand your fun and your deck building rather easily—without breaking the bank. I'd like to also suggest building a Wurm deck that maybe runs the biggest combat target ever printed—Grothama, All-Devouring. There's a deck that can be built for under $20! If you don't believe me, then perhaps I should write the deck tech for it? Let me know in the comments below!
Enter the Dungeon - Luca Zontini
Play as much as possible and get inspired by your opposition. If imitation is flattery, then prepare to mirror your friends with at least some unique take on one of their favorite sequences, strategies, synergies, or commanders. My buddy Andrew consistently impresses me with interesting builds and never ceases to keep me brewing up new decks in order to either counter his or build on themes he's presented. He has single handedly made me overly fearful of Goblin Trenches. However, when he combines Land Tax, Scroll Rack, Crucible of Worlds, and now this monstrosity called Archaeomancer's Map… well, it's the type of synergies that inspire you to build better. Did I mention there's usually a Goblin Bombardment mixed into this equation? That's the type of brutally synergistic and wonderfully strategic play styles that keep me brewing. I love seeing what other people put together, and then I try to see what I would use or do with their deck's core themes myself. Inspiration is something that is contagious, and the more your group offers up new ideas, well, the more you end up building out your overall collection. When your friends help inspire your next brews you have a focus and rationale behind each trip to your LGS! When you are considering what to build or what to purchase, then you usually have some inklings about what would be most exciting for your next deck.
Those five steps really are the keys to expanding your overall Commander deck base. It starts slowly, but can rapidly snow-ball into a grand collection that you take pride in maintaining and updating. It's a rare day that I don't enjoy just flipping through my decks. I'll admit that it can get really difficult to select which deck to run on any given day or play session or game for that matter! I find myself rolling dice, picking numbers, or finding other creative ways to narrow my choices. Sometimes I'll just pick out four or five decks to focus on and leave those as my only options for the night. Other times it's whatever is newest or oldest or mono-colored. It's nice to have choices, but it's also nice knowing that your choices aren't too wide open. Sure, the grass is greener on the side of more decks, but it's more grass to mow. I hope that you enjoy collecting and playing as much as I do, and I hope that your collections continue to progress toward a fulfilling and exciting end that never truly ends. Until next time my friends, may the cards be ever in your favor.
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