13 Surprising and Sinister Black Spells to Spite Your Foes

A Magictation by Mikeal Basile

“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.

Here are my top thirteen black spells to spite your enemies (I mean, friends) in Commander. Black is known for its death magic, and this list certainly highlights a few targeted removal spells. This list incorporates some of black’s typical effects, which usually involve making a sacrifice to further your evil desires. Swiping the last Cheetos while casting these spiteful black spells is one of life’s finest pleasures.


Ritual of the Machine

Black has a few ways to steal creatures, but nothing tops Ritual of the Machine. Ritual permanently steals a creature. This effect should not be underestimated. Many black decks utilize sacrifice engines and token generation (Aristocrat strategies for example). Ritual of the Machine adds a twist by not only removing an opponent’s creature, but by having it join your fold, swapping a useless serf for your opponent’s meaningful creature. Ritual of the Machine lets you kill your opponent with their own creature–a nefariously satisfying way to win.


Noxious Vapors

Noxious Vapors is meant for a multi-color deck. Only the most malevolent and reckless Magic players will be willing to make this work in mono black. Making many opponents discard multiple cards at once is powerful. Feel free to have Megrim join the party. This allows you to dump creatures into your own graveyard, capitalizing on black’s reanimation powers, simultaneously crippling your opponents’ hands. Noxious Vapors may make a few people salty, but just remind them you had to discard too. Repeat after me: “Clearly, this is a fair and balanced card.”


Unspeakable Symbol

Unspeakable Symbol is a unique pump effect. Bleeding yourself to make your friends bleed even more is exactly the type of effect we need. This activates at instant speed and glows with a dark spectral light in Kathril Aspect Warper decks (and other Voltron style decks, too). Black has tremendous access to life draining effects and lifelinking creatures. You can easily buff your life total, and then buff your team of nefarious vampires. Your friends might think it is an unspeakably bad card, but Unspeakable Symbol will foreshadow their doom.


Chain of Smog

Chain of Smog is another discard spell often overlooked by playgroups. I like most of the cards from this cycle, and find that Chain of Smog can lead to a deadly series of back and forth discards. Allowing Chain of Smog to choke out an entire table is all part of our darkest dreams (and our opponents’ nightmares). Play it while emitting an evil chuckle and see if your friend dares to send it back your way. Once it comes back, then prepare to live the nightmare! Couple Chain of Smog with dredge, scavenge, and recover cards to really throttle the life out of your friends.



Slaughter offers a fantastic rate for repeatable, instant speed removal. Slaughter is far better in Commander, because the buyback cost of four life hurts much less with a starting life total of forty. When you have a deck that drains other people’s life, Slaughter quickly becomes a wickedly good and oppressively repetitive removal spell. 



Desolation is pure spite at its worst. You will immediately suffer for casting it, but with the devilish intention of sharing the misery. This does not trigger until the end step. You can be truly vicious by combining Desolation with Sundial of the Infinite or grind value with Gitrog Monster. Keep in mind that Desolation hits anyone that taps a land during any turn, so pesky blue mages must beware. Desolation spreads misery across the table, and we will revel in each other’s misery, right?


Hissing Miasma

Hissing Miasma is a sinister punishment card. Disincentivizing attacks against you for only three mana is solid. This helps you get to your end game. Hissing Miasma also makes your friend’s token army much weaker. Let your friends know they should pick on someone else by poisoning the table with Hissing Miasma



Phyresis is a toxic little trick which allows you to switch strategies. Perhaps an opponent has “gone infinite” with life gain, but this little enchantment means you only need to deal ten more points with the enchanted creature to kill your opponent with poison damage. Poison is a nasty strategy, and switching to it when required can be a surprising and evil necessity. Snake Cult Initiation provides a similar effect, but it is double the casting cost. Phyresis makes your 5/5’s very scary creatures, and all for only two mana. 


Phyrexian Reclamation

Phyrexian Reclamation is a twisted way to get back your creatures. It comes down for a paltry one mana and costs only two mana and two life to  return a creature from your graveyard to your hand. That is an excellent repeatable way to abuse creatures with ETB effects (think Plaguecrafter, Dirge Bat, or Bone Shredder). I love pairing this with cards like Shriekmaw that can be evoked and then reused almost immediately. Phyrexian Reclamation may cost life, but sacrificing life to wound our enemies is always a worthwhile investment.


Withering Boon

Withering Boon is black’s Remove Soul, and it is worth paying the three life to counter a spell. While black has many removal spells, this one denies  ETB effects (Karmic Guide). Being able to counter Avacyn, Angel of Hope, or Predator Ooze is so worth paying three life. Indestructible creatures dodge plenty of removal, but they cannot dodge anything while they are still on the stack. Withering Boon is the black removal spell that saves you from self-righteous cards like Akroma, Angel of Wrath and Blood Baron of Vizcopa. Withering Boon is a twisted blessing that enables black to answer otherwise unanswerable creatures.



Massacre will usually be free to cast. It is wonderfully named and sickly satisfying to cast for free. Using this to wipe out a couple early utility creatures is great. Depending on the board state, it can be a fine card to cast at its full cost. The possibility of casting it for free makes this an amazing addition to any vengeful black deck. Massacre destroys opponents’ token armies and leaves you with plenty of mana left over. Combine Massacre with Massacre Wurm to completely eviscerate your opponents.


Strands of Night

Strands of Night is underrated. Black has access to many reanimation spells, but this one is repeatable. You repeatedly return creatures from your graveyard for only two mana, two life, and a swamp. Combining this with cards like Cavalier of Knight, Fleshbag Marauder, and Dakmor Lancer can be deliciously deadly. Corpse Harvester and Strands of Night are a crushing combination that allows you to pile on the punishment. Smother your opponents with the suffocating and repeated reanimation provided by Strands of Night.


Ashes to Ashes 

Ashes to Ashes is better than the recently reprinted Reckless Spite. Ashes to Ashes exiles, and only has to give up instant speed to do so. Exiling two creatures for three mana and five life is a sinister spiteful maneuver. Ashes to Ashes also allows us to target black creatures as well, and that is often a restriction in black removal (Doom Blade, Shriekmaw, Snuff Out). There are plenty of indestructible creatures that require exiling (Scarab God and friends). Ashes to Ashes is exactly the type of card that you cast when you have had enough of the nonsense. 

Honorable Mention:

Phyrexian Tribute

Phyrexian Tribute is a one-of-a-kind card. It allows you to destroy an artifact with a black spell. Try finding another black spell that does that! It is not a great rate to sacrifice two creatures for one artifact, and having someone counter this is especially awful, but it does do what no other black card can. Slotting this into a sacrifice deck, tokens deck, or some sort of Aristocrats strategy could be a spicy include that saves you from a Nevinyral’s Disk or Oblivion Stone.

When playing these spells, it is important to announce that you are doing so out of spite. You cast these spells simply to get back at others, and not necessarily to win. Casting Ashes to Ashes may very well kill you, but if it keeps someone else from victory, then that is a win in my book!

Black magic deals in death and unwholesome rebirths. Cards like Reckless Spite, Ashes to Ashes, Strands of Night, and others just sound truly vile. These evil and devilishly cheap cards were collecting dust in my collection for no reason. Stumbling across these grim spells produced many evil chuckles. I relish casting simple Terrors and Doom Blades, yet going beyond one for one removal is always enticing. Dust off your own copies, or splurge the $15 to buy one of each card from this list. It is the best of both worlds–you can be spiteful and cheap at the same time!

If you enjoyed this article, then please consider subscribing to my blog. Subscribing is a free way to help support my writing by letting me know I have a repeat audience. It will also send new articles directly to your inbox., so you won’t have to check back to see if you’ve missed any new fun Magictations. Thanks for reading!

13 Green Spells to Confuse Your Enemies in Commander

A Magictation by Mikeal Basile

“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.

Here are my top thirteen green spells to confuse your enemies (I mean, friends) in Commander. These green cards should see more Commander play than they currently do. Green is arguably the most powerful color in Commander, as it does just about everything well. This list highlights unique green spells that will confuse and perplex your friends. Add more to your green decks than big, dumb creatures and massive pump spells, and make your playgroup green with envy! 


Harmonic Convergence

Green has been hating on enchantments since Alpha, and Harmonic Convergence keeps the hate going. When your buddies flood the battlefield with enchantments and auras, surprise them with Harmonic Convergence. Making your friends redraw the same cards can really keep them in a repetitive turn cycle, just like their hands into the snack bowl. While they are repeating old plays, you are free to continue developing your board with new spells. Tossing those enchantments on top of their libraries is often a better answer than casting Reverent Silence and blowing them all up. It also clears out those pesky, indestructible gods! Enchantment recursion is done on a mass scale (Replenish or Open the Vaults), and Harmonic Convergence sidesteps those annoying effects. The look of befuddlement as you ask them to put all their enchantments on top of their library is supremely satisfying. 


Seeds of Innocence

Titania’s Song was the very first artifact hate spell for green, and Seeds of Innocence helps keep that rancorous tradition alive. Titania’s Song is a great card, but most people are probably aware of it (it does shut off Darksteel Forge). Seeds of Innocence buries (destroys and cannot be regenerated) every artifact in play. It is only three mana, and while it is not an instant like Harmonic Convergence, it does allow you to pound all artifacts to dust. The life gain is not that big of a concern, because green has plenty of large creatures to beat down that inflated life total. Also, you can play politics by reminding them that you did give them life for the destroyed artifacts. Sowing the Seeds of Innocence is a great way to make your friends wonder why destroying all their cool artifact trinkets is so innocent.


Dense Foliage

Dense Foliage basically gives every creature on the battlefield shroud. Yes, effects on the battlefield can still target creatures, but you can use this to your advantage. Your opponents cannot target your creatures with removal spells or cast spells that buff their own creatures (no pesky umbra auras). Dense Foliage is a great card to include in decks that use plenty of Overrun effects and creatures with abilities (think Gigantomancer or Reaper King). It punishes other Commander play styles by rendering many people’s auto-includes useless (no more Swords to Plowshares or Hero’s Downfalls). Having your creatures die to removal is sad. Dense Foliage drops a canopy to perplex people by making every targeted removal spell they hold utterly useless. 


Storm Front

Storm Front is a bargain enchantment (one mana!) and has been my favorite way to hate on fliers for a long time. For years, Storm Front was the reason my wurm deck was able to take down my brother’s dominating dragon deck. While combing my collection, I was reminded again and again how much green hates fliers. Whirlwind is great but is commonly known and costs four mana. Storm Front is a forgotten little card that can completely confound flying decks. Storm Front knocks those fliers down and allows you to swing in uncontested. Disconcert your playgroup by making their evasive fliers into their liabilities.


Familiar Ground

Familiar Ground allows you to leverage green’s best asset–large creatures. This is another card that only costs three mana. Familiar Ground simplifies  otherwise baffling combat math. This is a flavor win: you are still able to double and triple block your opponent’s creatures, while they are forced to block one on one. Familiar Ground’s simplifying approach to blocking can fluster your friends. Combining Familiar Ground with Overrun can make team blocking impossible and clear a path to a crushing victory.


Sight of the Scalelords

Sight of the Scalelords is a blanketed pump effect that is grossly powerful, and the vigilance it grants is pure gravy. This card is like having a mini-Overrun every turn. After dishing out gross amounts of damage, demoralizing your friends with all your post-combat blockers, is something we should all toast. Sight of the Scalelords does not grant trample, but for only five mana, I am certainly not complaining. Casting Sight of the Scalelords is often instantly profitable, and each turn it triggers brings you rapidly closer to winning the game. Sight of the Scalelords is something your enemies will view as a disconcerting enchantment, indeed. 


Chain of Acid

Chain of Acid, printed in Onslaught, is one of a cycle of chains. Chain of Vapor is the blue one that everyone seems to know, while this green gem seems to be forgotten. The flexibility in this green removal spell is second only to Desert Twister. Chain of Acid is the kind of gutsy card where sending it back to you will utterly puzzle most opponents, unsure if retaliation will be worth it. If they do send it back to you, then you return the favor, continuing the chain reaction. I love making my opponents think. The dream scenario is Chain of Acid travels around the table blowing up everyone’s most powerful non-creature threats, while your creatures are left untouched. Use Chain of Acid in a green deck that utilizes mana dorks and land ramp rather than enchantment-based ramp. I am looking forward to starting a Chain of Acid in my Gargos, Vicious Watcher deck sometime soon. 


Gaea’s Touch

Gaea’s Touch is a fantastically underappreciated green ramp enchantment. It comes down early at only two mana, but it is still an acceptable draw in the late game. The ability to cash it in the following turn, for two extra mana, gives this a notable late game edge over cards like Exploration and Burgeoning. Gaea’s Touch does require you to play either mono green or heavy green to truly maximize its benefit. Overwhelm your opponents by combining cards like Tireless Tracker and Nissa, Vastwood Seer with Gaea’s Touch. Once you have the touch, there’s no stopping you! 


Winter Blast

Winter Blast comes from Legends originally and was reprinted in both Fourth and Fifth Edition. Green is definitely not known for tapping other people’s creatures. This can completely catch people off guard. In addition, it has that added little bonus of doing two damage to each of those creatures that has flying. Being able to tap down potential blockers (perhaps even killing them) is a solid effect for green. When you are unable to push through damage because of deathtouch or some other nonsense, it is time to disorient your friends by savaging them with a Winter Blast!



Kudzu is a nasty, jerky card for Commander. Kudzu helps teach people the power of old-school spice. As long as you outpace them with lands, Kudzu will smother your opponent’s plans for big creatures and big spells. Kudzu, not reprinted since Third Edition, has some interesting wording too. Kudzu destroys the enchanted land when the land becomes tapped, and then that player (whoever’s land was destroyed) may (let’s pretend must) return it to the battlefield, enchanting another land. Kudzu returns to the battlefield without targeting. Yes, you can return Kudzu to play, enchanting your friend’s Lotus Field. Feel free to combine this with Nature’s Will or even Icy Manipulator to keep those vines growing. Kudzu will surely entangle your friends, while you watch the invasive vines grow.  


Night Soil

Night Soil is a great card from Fallen Empires, providing graveyard hate and incidental token generation. This can shut down reanimating strategies all on its own. It does need two creatures to fire off, but that is easily satisfied. It grants recursive graveyard hate for only an initial three mana. You get to eat two creatures and generate a saproling token, for only one mana on every successive turn. This will surely baffle even the best reanimator decks. Dig out your Night Soils and clean out those graveyards.


Freyalise’s Winds

Freyalise’s Winds seems much more like a blue, white, or even red card, but this is a green card. This card really slows the game down. You can combine Freyalise’s Winds with cards like Wilderness Reclamation to break the symmetry. To be a complete jerk, thwart your friend’s abilities to play Magic by pairing it with Nature’s Will. It is important to note that wind counters only start accruing once Freyalise’s Winds resolves. You should be sure to tap out prior to Freyalise’s Winds resolving, so your lands will all untap next turn. Dropping this early and promptly breaking the symmetry can give you time to build while your opponents struggle to develop. 


Spore Cloud

Spore Cloud is my favorite, most brutal fog effect. Yes, I like it even better than Constant Mists with buyback. I love that Spore Cloud has so many applications in Commander. Constant Mists enables more dodging, but Spore Cloud, when properly timed, can allow you to blow out two opponents. Tangle only taps down attackers and not blockers, so it lacks the versatility granted by Spore Cloud. Spore Cloud lets you play politics by befuddling two adversaries, nullifying their carefully planned combat. There are plenty of fog effects available in Commander, but none of them affect blockers and punish people the way Spore Cloud does. Next time your overconfident buddies go in for the kill, choke them out with the smelly burst of gas that is Spore Cloud.

Honorable Mentions: Tranquil Domain and Serene Heart

Tranquil Domain and Serene Heart are interesting cards from Mirage. Tranquil Domain destroys all non-aura enchantments. This deserves serious consideration in enchantress style decks. If you have a deck that is running many auras and only a few “global enchantments”, then you should consider running this. Conversely, Serene Heart destroys all auras. This is perhaps more narrow in Commander, but it allows you to build up an array of enchantments and still punish aura-centric decks. Both Tranquil Domain and Serene Heart are spicy includes, but they do require a bit more attention to your deck’s overall build, thus the tie for honorable mention.

Green spells are pretty fun to peruse and organize. I love looking through the variety of artwork on the cards. (Check out Amy Weber’s art for Spore Cloud.) With Fallen Empires, Wizards began the introduction of varying artworks for the same card, bringing much joy to an avid collector like myself. It is nice to be able to choose from different artworks when building a thematic deck. Wizards stopped alternate artwork for a while, but has recently brought it back, which I hope continues. 

While Magictating on green as a Magic color, it was pleasantly enlightening to find that many of the spells went beyond pumping creatures and regenerating them. It is always wonderful having your expectations subverted, leading to new thinking and strategizing. Try some of these surprising green spells to completely unhinge and demoralize your friends!

If you enjoyed this article, then please consider subscribing to my blog. Subscribing is a free way to help support my writing by letting me know I have a repeat audience. It will also send new articles directly to your inbox., so you won’t have to check back to see if you’ve missed any new fun Magictations. Thanks for reading!

13 Spells to Make Your Enemies See Red in Commander

13 Spells to Make Your Enemies See Red in Commander

A Magictation by Mikeal Basile

“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.

Here are my top thirteen red spells to make your enemies (I mean, friends) see red in Commander. I wanted to focus on red cards people do not typically play, and that tend to shine in a mono red deck. When you go beyond the basics in red, you start digging into some more surprising tools. While perusing my collection, I found these undervalued red spells that I cannot wait to use to enrage my playgroup. It is awfully fun making your friends see red while sharing soda and snacks.



Chaosphere takes a potential weakness to fliers and turns it into a strength. If you find the wording on Chaosphere confusing, then you are not alone. It essentially makes, for the purposes of blocking only, fliers into non-fliers and non-fliers into fliers. It twists our expectations just as much as the artist, Steve Luke, warps reality. The flavor text for this card is fairly solid, too, so from an aesthetic angle this card checks all the boxes. Playing this card to set up a large attack is a sweet way to get into the red zone. This is a very powerful effect for only three mana, and using Chaosphere to upend other’s expectations is truly wonderful. Chaosphere is a spicy card that allows you to stare down a flight of dragons with your army of goblins.  I believe the recent printings of cards such as Inniaz, the Gale Force; Watcher of the Spheres; and Skycat Sovereign, that play groups will see an uptick in fliers. Why not use Chaosphere to bring some warped reality back to the game, needling your opponents?


Fanning the Flames

I know this is not super surprising to anyone that has played either Pauper or Magic in the 1990s, but Fanning the Flames seems to be a forgotten card lately. Plenty of people who should be playing this card are not. It is an efficient X direct damage spell, but more importantly, offers the incredible ability to buy it back. Buyback is one of the most powerful effects in Magic. It is also completely acceptable to cast Fanning the Flames early (without buying it back) to eliminate something like a Pelt Collector. It can be annoying dealing with a threat that grows faster than your direct damage. Fanning the Flames is also a fantastic top deck in the late game. It allows you to brutally burn out your opponents over the course of a couple fiery turns. Magictator tip: Do not forget to announce that you are sending the damage, “TO THE DOME!” when targeting a player.   


Glacial Crevasses

Glacial Crevasses comes from the Ice Age expansion and utilizes your snow-covered mountains. This three mana enchantment gives red access to a Constant Mists effect. Three mana to set up and one land to activate, makes this a very efficient effect. Being able to generate repeatable Fogs while tapped out should not be underestimated. Engaging in an all-out attack on one opponent and then being able to blank all counter-attacks for the turn cycle, at the cost of a land or two, will surely infuriate your opponents. The threat of blanking an opponent’s attack, is often enough to have them skip attacking you at all. No one wants to leave themselves wide open. Combine Glacial Crevasses with land recursion like Crucible of Worlds, Dakmor Salvage, or even Planar Birth for true Turbo-Fog action. Most red decks are not able to protect themselves in this way. To truly rile your playgroup, make sure you pronounce it correctly with one eyebrow raised: “kruh-VAH-suhz.” 



Smoke can be oppressive in Commander. There are plenty of tribal, go-wide, and creature-based decks that rely on using multiple creatures to flood the battlefield. At two mana, Smoke allows you to slow the game down. Creature ramp strategies get choked by Smoke. Meanwhile, any deck that relies on using a Voltron-style approach can benefit from this card; you only have one creature you are interested in untapping. Consider adding Smoke to your Godo-Bandit Warlord Commander deck. Combining this with mass tap effects like Blinding Light, or even targeted tap effects like Icy Manipulator, can be amazingly powerful. Your opponents will be smoking from their ears during every untap step.


Ravaging Blaze

Ravaging Blaze brings me back to direct damage again, but I am mostly interested in this card’s ability to do double-duty. Two red and X is fine enough for blowing up a creature, however, I am not interested in casting this without spell mastery. Ravaging Blaze is a card you save for the mid-to-late game. Instantly killing a creature, either during attacks or on someone’s end step, is good, but searing an opponent’s life total is what red spells do. Being able to directly burn creatures, and go “to the dome” at once is great. Do not be fooled into thinking this is another boring Blaze; Ravaging Blaze burns twice as bright, with an added benefit of watching your friends seethe with fury!


Surreal Memoir

Surreal Memoir gives red some chaotic recursion. You need to be patient if you want to manipulate this for maximum value. Red mages are not known for patience, so feel free to cast this whenever your heart desires. The rebound effect is what makes this card surprisingly powerful. Being able to get two spells back for four mana is a solid deal. Using Surreal Memoir to get back some random X-damage spells in your graveyard is usually something that leads to a game ending sequence. I would suggest playing instants that have truly broken effects, like the aforementioned Ravaging Blaze, or even Comet Storm. The rebounded Surreal Memoir makes triggering Fall of the Titans a breeze. This also works well in a blue-red spells deck. By grinding out extra value, Surreal Memoir allows us to rewrite the course of our games. Your opponents think they have dealt with your best instants, but they come back to vex them again.


Uphill Battle

Uphill Battle is another powerful red enchantment for only three mana. This red Kismet is great. People that play Urabrask the Hidden are familiar with this effect. Since Uphill Battle is an enchantment, it is slightly more difficult to remove than Urabrusk. Red is known for having plenty of meaningful creatures with haste. When your opponent’s creatures come into play tapped, you gain a massive tempo advantage. Making blockers harder to come by is a great strategy for red, and something that many other single-use spells are dedicated to. Combine Smoke with Uphill Battle, and make your opponents furiously travel uphill both ways.  


Volcanic Wind

Volcanic Wind was something I actually played with in a draft. The only clear memory of that draft was casting this as a one-sided board wipe. I brought the card home and tried it out in my multiplayer decks. It was amazingly effective. Volcanic Wind can wipe out the biggest threat, but can also be used to crush go-wide token strategies. Perplex your friends  and play this in a Krenko deck to leverage your tokens into a red Plague Wind. Volcanic Wind seems like a heavy mana investment, but when you are casting this during the late-game, it is so worth it. While Blasphemous Act is solid, its symmetry means our creatures die too. Volcanic Wind is beautifully asymmetrical, and it allows you to blow others away.



Onslaught is a greatly underappreciated card. Each time you cast a creature spell, you tap down a creature. Onslaught is only a one mana investment, which effectively adds the ETB trigger of tapping target creature to every creature spell you resolve. Onslaught gives you such a solid return for such a cheap investment. Most opponents will end up spending significantly more mana to remove this tool than you spent to get it. Combine this with hasty red threats such as Vulshok Battlemaster, Zealous Conscripts, or even Zurgo Bellstriker. Dashing Zurgo in, turn after turn, to tap down blockers is really aggravating and obnoxious. Archwing Dragon and Dragon Tempest also synergize nicely with Onslaught. Onslaught into Smoke into Uphill Battle might get you kicked out of your buddy’s house, but no one should stop you from living your truth!


Price of Glory

Price of Glory is the kind of card straightforward red decks love. The price for glory is too high for people to pay, and so they will not be casting any spells, activating abilities, or otherwise engaging in tricky responses during your turn. The effect is symmetrical, so you will not be tapping any lands on your opponent’s turns either. Magictator tips: put this in a deck with only a few instants. Pairing this card with mana sinks (Ghitu War Cry or Pyrohemia) and X-spells (Kaervek’s Torch or Fanning the Flames) is key to getting good value. Unlike targeted land destruction, you should be able to survive without people teaming up on you. They still get to play spells, but they have to play on their own turns. This makes games go by fairly quickly, so take advantage and cast as many ridiculous cards as possible before exasperated friends remove Price of Glory.


Blood Frenzy

Blood Frenzy is a great pump spell that people do not read thoroughly. I mean, +4/+0 until end of turn for two mana is fine. Being able to only target an attacking or blocking creature is good enough. The clause at the end is what makes this spell fantastic: “At end of turn, destroy that creature.” That drawback clause is not a drawback at all. You can target an opponent’s creature. Blood Frenzy can allow you to kill any attacking or blocking creature. In a pinch, when an opponent is attacking you, you can take four more damage to remove that threat. If two other players are preoccupied with each other making optimal blocks, step in and simultaneously kill their creatures, enraging them both. Be a brutal opportunist, and spread the Blood Frenzy among your friends!


War Cadence

War Cadence is better than Goblin War Drums. You may be familiar with its defensive twin, War Tax. Where War Tax is defensive, War Cadence is built for an offensive red deck. Unblockable creatures are amazing, and making all your creatures unblockable turn after turn is rage-making. Your opponents will be worried about tapping out to play their bombs, knowing those creatures could be locked out of blocking. The trick with this card is knowing when to cast it, because if you cast it too early, you are putting a target on yourself and the enchantment. Developing your army of creatures must come first. You want to cast and activate War Cadence in the same turn to have an unblockable army. People do not expect to have to pay mana to block. This card allows you to set up multiple turns where your creatures are unblockable. Combine War Cadence with cards like Neheb the Eternal to maximize your unblocked benefits. Your vanquished opponents will be crushed beneath the drums of your War Cadence.


Artifact Blast

Artifact Blast is my favorite red spell that I came across while organizing my cards during quarantine. It is an instant, and I love the idea of countering artifact spells in red. Yes, red has plenty of artifact hate and removal. The only problem with removal is that the artifact in question has already landed on the battlefield. So many powerful artifacts and artifact creatures have ETB effects that are worth their casting costs alone: Baleful Strix, Meteor Golem, Duplicant, and many more. Artifact Blast says no ETB for you, and it only costs one mana. This solves problematic cards like Sensei’s Divining Top and other artifacts that effectively dodge removal. Degenerate artifacts abound, so including Artifact Blast is never a bad idea. It does not remove the existing artifacts, as the flavor text is apt to remind us, but it stops any new artifacts from ruining your day. Red also has plenty of filter draw spells to trade away unwanted cards, like Cathartic Reunion, Tormenting Voice, and Faithless Looting. The next time some fool tries to resolve Bolas’s Citadel or The Great Henge, demolish them with an Artifact Blast from the past.  

Honorable Mention:

Custody Battle

Custody Battle is a zany card. Sticking this on early threats or making people sacrifice lands to keep control over their commander is hilariously rude. Passing a creature along as the turn order goes is a uniquely peevish effect. This card did not quite make the top 13 list, but I suggest you try it out, especially if you have a sacrifice engine in your deck (Ashnod’s Altar or Witch’s Cauldron). Sacrificing your friend’s creatures for value is funny, right, especially when they get really irritated and mouthy. 

Going through the red cards in my collection was interesting. I kept finding that red is most likely to blow up artifacts, to love going to the dome, to mess with blockers, to hate walls, and to love destroying lands. It was difficult trying to find cards that did atypical red things. While reflecting on my initial stacks of cards, I found myself seeing many redundancies, but this is not a weakness. Red is a color that Wizards has gotten right from the start, creating cards that consistently fit the red personality. If you think there are a few spells I missed out on in this list, then please let me know in the comments. I would love to hear about cool synergies and interesting plays you have surprised your playgroups with. Be sure to get your vote in for what color you want me to discuss next. I hope this article gives you some ideas to keep the red raging!

If you enjoyed this article, then please consider subscribing to my blog. Subscribing is a free way to help support my writing by letting me know I have a repeat audience. It will also send new articles directly to your inbox., so you won’t have to check back to see if you’ve missed any new fun Magictations. Thanks for reading!

Magic without the Gathering, Via Zoom

“Magic without the Gathering, via Zoom”

A Magictation by Mikeal Basile

“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.

Have you missed playing Magic during these difficult times? I have, and I found a way to play paper Magic the Gathering despite the quarantine. I would like to take a little time to tell you about my experiences. At the end of the article, I will give you links to everything you need to start playing Magic this way. My friends and I primarily play Commander. I could not figure out a way to play cube or draft, but I nailed down how to play Commander via Zoom with great success. Being able to leave the world behind and immerse oneself in a game of Magic the Gathering is a therapeutic experience. I always find myself re-energized after even a short play session. I wanted to share this with all my fellow magictators out there, so everyone can play Magic without the Gathering. 

Inspiration: “If I can teach this way, then can I play Magic this way?”

I am a teacher by profession, and during the school shutdowns, my life was less than ideal. I had to rapidly prepare materials for digital formats and engage with distance-learning tools like Zoom and Google Meets overnight. It was a challenge to get my curriculum shifted to an online format, but I managed to do it. While I was recording videos and making materials, I realized I could use my document camera to play Magic with my friends! The document camera I was using to go over literary texts seemed perfect for showcasing my Magic the Gathering battlefield.

The Research: “What is the best and most cost efficient way to get everyone playing?”

I began researching what other people do to play paper Magic online. I found that many others use a Discord server and digital video calls to play. I did not have any experience with that, but I had plenty of experience using Zoom and Google. I figure Discord probably works in similar ways. The next phase was researching set-ups people use to show their cards. Built-in webcams, in short, are awful options and are not practical. Instead of a built-in webcam, you need an exterior camera with 1080p resolution which connects to your computer. For around $60-100 each, my friends and I could all play Magic again. That is a price worth paying.

Testing Phase: “Is this practical, and does it actually work?”

Early on in the quarantine, I sent my brother a link to some webcams and a document camera. Initially he ordered a webcam, but it got cancelled, and then so did his other order too. Finally, a month later, he was able to get his document camera there with actual two day shipping. I suspect document cameras are usually easier to come by and not in such high demand. My brother is not a techy guy, but he had it set up in no time. It went as smoothly as we could ever have hoped. We could easily see each other’s cards and play games with ease. I quickly contacted my college buddy, who lives a few hours away, and asked him to look into getting set up as well. He is a total brain, and after doing his own research, settled on using his phone as a document camera by using a paid app. My brother sent his document camera Amazon link to a couple of his friends, and now we have five of us that can all play remotely whenever we have free time.

Using Zoom to play Magic is easy. You barely need any computer literacy to fumble through using it. Just pick the most “techy” person to be the host for your meetings. That person will send the invite to everyone else’s email, and from there all that is needed is three clicks to start playing. There is no learning curve when using it to play paper Magic. I am also including a YouTube link to a recording of this in action. 

Tweaking Your Set-up: “How did I polish this process?”

The lighting is perhaps the trickiest part of the whole process. If you want to avoid glare, you need to pay attention to your lighting. The built-in lights on the document cameras usually create a glare spot in the center of your battlefield. You can diffuse this if you add other light sources that are closer and coming in from different angles. I do not use the built-in light, and instead use a lamp angled at 45 degrees, pointed at the front of my battlefield. I have the lamp about a foot or so away, which allows me to eliminate most glare. You can also simply place your cards outside of your glare spot. Experiment with lighting to see what works best in your room. 

Cost/Benefit Analysis: “Was it worth it to invest in this technology?”

Of course it is worth buying these items to play Magic with your friends during quarantine, and beyond! What is the grand total for a setup like this? If you already own a computer, you only need to purchase a document camera. If you have a webcam, then you should be able to do this easily by only investing in a goose-neck style mount to help aim your camera. I would say a sweet set-up is about $100; you can get by with a budget setup of about $50. I feel getting a setup like this is similar to the expense of buying sleeves. Sure, it might cost a little, but it is so worth it. This setup will be useful beyond quarantine as well, as it will allow you to play a quick game or two on a random weeknight. My brother and I have played many short pick-up games without having to travel. This setup will facilitate more opportunities for you to play Magic in the future, and the overall cost is very low. In reality, can you really put a price tag on fun chances to play with your friends across town or across the country?

Reflections: “What issues have come up, and how did I solve them?”

I have actually played more often lately, because we can play a quick game here and there more easily. The Zoom setup allows you and a friend to turn any block of mutual free time into Magic the Gathering time. As far as issues go, my list is rather short. Sometimes the document camera auto-focuses on the deck instead of the cards, so you may need to move your deck out of the shot. There are times Zoom closes the meeting out because the free version has a forty-five minute time limit, but starting a new meeting and picking up right where you left off is no big deal. We are not holding a professional meeting; it does not matter if we need to pause for a minute to restart. There are times I have to hold a card up to the camera and get it to focus, but that is similar to passing a card around the table so people know what it does. While recording for the YouTube video, we had our first ever WiFi issues with my friend’s camera setup, but even that was minor. Overall, after playing Magic without the Gathering for several months via Zoom, there have been few issues.

Recommendations: “What should you buy?”

I highly suggest that you watch the video on my YouTube channel to assess which set-up you like best. Your space and place and budget all matter. I am listing the set-ups and pictures for each below, so you can choose which style you prefer. If you have any questions or suggestions, then I highly encourage you to comment here. 

Here is a link to see what all this looks like in action: 

Mikeal’s setup: Uses his existing laptop and a document camera to show his battlefield:

Ipevo VZ-R Link https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0784RZNKT/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_u6HbFb66DDV1V

Philip’s setup: Uses his existing laptop and a document camera to show his battlefield:

INSWAN INS-1 Link https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07PQJZK66/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_54HbFbV8794CJ

Andrew’s setup: Use his existing laptop and his phone (transformed to become a document camera by using an app and WiFi) to show his battlefield.

Gooseneck Bed Phone Holder Mount… https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07S9JXQP2?ref=ppx_pop_mob_ap_share

The app is called iVcam. Andrew paid the $10. We think the free version works too, although there are ads, a watermark, and over time some features potentially become disabled. The app works to stream the video over your network’s WiFi to computer (and Zoom). You need to download the app on both your phone and the client to computer.

Thank you for checking out today’s article. Do not forget to subscribe to the Blog to get all the latest Magictations! I have some special meditations coming, and I can not wait to share them with all of you. Thank you very much for reading and engaging. In addition, if you are reading this article here, then perhaps you could visit FlipsideGaming too, and leave a comment there as well. It helps me keep my blog and my writing going! Thanks so much!

13 White Spells to Stun Your Enemies

A Magictation by Mikeal Basile

“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.

Here are my top thirteen white spells to stun your enemies (I mean, friends). I wanted to focus on cards people don’t typically play, and that have surprising effects for white. Catching your playgroup off guard with an underplayed spell that seems outside the range of your color’s abilities sounds amazing, right? Tossing your spell onto the board after announcing it, watching your friends listen to your summary, seeing them squint at the card in confusion, grabbing it from you in disbelief, is priceless. I’m going to count down my top thirteen underappreciated white cards I’ve stumbled across while perusing my own collection.  


Surprise Deployment

Although Surprise Deployment can be difficult to utilize in mono-white strategies, this is a solid and tricky effect. This card has strong value, even when in a mono-white deck. After all, artifact creatures are not white, so I love the idea of using it to drop a Duplicant into play, exiling an opponent’s creature, and then returning the Duplicant to your hand, only to cast it again later for even more value. Try popping in Grim Poppet to spread around some -1/-1 counters, or you can drop Meteor Golem in to get rid of a troublesome permanent. Myr Battlesphere seems nice with this, and so do all the non-white Gearhulks too! The ability to abuse ETB (enters the battlefield) triggers is pretty sweet, and when you add on the instant clause it really is an underappreciated card.


Guilty Conscience

When Guilty Conscience was first released I thought it was odd, but interesting. When Stuffy Doll was printed, I thought this card was seriously underrated. Give a Guilty Conscience to a Stuffy Doll, and kill an opponent instantly. Otherwise, you can drop this on an opponent’s creature to keep it off you. Most likely, the worst result is taking one hit from the creature in question. It does not work as well on creatures with larger toughness, but those are not usually the creatures you are worried about blocking. Keep in mind that this is any damage the creature deals. Also, Guilty Conscience is the source of the damage, so death touch creatures will not auto kill themselves. 


Chronomantic Escape

White is known for protecting itself. Since Alpha, we have had the Circles of Protection representing white’s ability to be a turtle, using its shell like a shield. Chronomantic Escape is a fun little spell that does not cost very much to suspend, and it happens to throw a monkey wrench into people’s plans. It is a great position when you are immune to attacks for two or more turn cycles. This card makes your opponents struggle to set up a turn to try and kill you. Granting yourself a turn to tap out, attack someone else, and leave yourself open to attacks without fear of reprisals is great! Combining this card with wrath effects and other fog effects can buy you plenty of time. The best part is when it gets cast the second time, and people finally realize that it is not going away, continually helping you escape attacks. 



Breathing fire is a blessing in white. Prior to M14, Blessing had not been reprinted since 4th edition. I remember it being reprinted, and I was excited to play with it again. I had memories of being beaten down by pumped up, blessed White Knights. Blessing is an enchantment, so you can get two-for-oned, but it is worth it. This can be played on turn two, but is more than likely coming down later on and being used to immediately pump your creature. It can make your creature a removal magnet, but it provides more damage than people were expecting from you. Pick up a Revised or 4th edition one and enjoy the old school art and white borders!


Cho-Manno’s Blessing

Cho-Manno’s Blessing is another notable blessing card in white. Oddly enough, this was not the first time white had access to an instant speed enchantment. In Mirage, Wizards made several enchantments that could be played as instants which left the battlefield at the end of the turn, just like instant effects. Ward of Lights does the same thing as Cho-Manno’s Blessing, but if you play it at instant speed it does not hang around like Cho-Manno’s Blessing. This is not super surprising for people, as white has plenty of effects like this, but unlike the other effects, this one stays around. You can effectively counter people’s targeted removal, or use it to offensively punch a creature through blockers. You can also wait until after blockers are declared and use it to win combat. The angles and versatility on this card put it a step above the average enchantment. Be wise about when to cast this blessing, and you will easily get card parity or more.



While sorting, I came across numerous Homelands cards, and I found a white draw spell. No, seriously, a white draw spell. This is a group hug style card, but it is white card draw. Breaking the symmetry of this card is easy when dipping into black or blue with cards like Notion Thief or Narset, Parter of the Veils. Honestly, it is not necessary to break the symmetry. Drawing two extra cards before your turn, in a white deck, can often give you the last pump spells you need to push through for lethal damage. Maybe it even gets you the board wipe you desperately need to save everyone! The extra cards you have given opponents do not matter if you are winning the game. Also, it is fun giving people an opportunity to play more cards. Playing politics is a real thing in Commander, and this spell could allow you to build early alliances.


Blinding Light

While tapping things in white is not new, tapping mass quantities at once with Blinding Light is too powerful to ignore. This card comes from Mirage, and it is just as deceiving as the set’s name. Blinding Light allows us to punish certain decks. Now, there are times that this could be a do-nothing card, but since people seem to malign mono-white in Commander, it will probably tap a few creatures down at the least. People do not expect you to be able to mass tap their creatures. Ivory Giant does the same thing, but for a ridiculous amount of mana, if it is not being suspended. Dawnglare Invoker is similarly mana intensive. Meanwhile, Bond of Discipline gives you a similar effect, but it costs two more, and getting lifelink for that investment means you are not casting another pump spell this turn. If you happen to have a spirits deck, then I would opt to also include Aether Shockwave. Now, the other fun part of doing this is also casting things like Righteous Fury, Sunblast Angel, or Guan Yu’s 1,000-Li March. Granted that is nine mana to pull this trick off, so it is a bit of a reach. Executing this little synergy is difficult, so casting Ivory Giant off suspend is probably more conducive, but Blinding Light combined with one or two pump spells can be game ending. Just imagine Blinding Light into Kytheon’s Tactics, Valorous Charge, Borrowed Grace, Army of Allah, Fortify, or even Rally the Peasants. People expect pump spells, but they don’t expect you to be tapping down all their blockers. 


Patrician’s Scorn

Being able to tap out, and then wipe out all enchantments for free with Patrician’s Scorn is sweet. Patrician’s Scorn can even be cast before your turn if you chain a removal spell or other instant along with it. You can flash in a Stonecloaker, pick up that Archetype of Courage, and then wipe out all enchantments before your turn too.  People never seem to see this coming. So the next time the blue mage counters your first spell, you can blow up all their enchantments as payback! Patrician’s Scorn is seriously underappreciated, and enchantments in Commander have been getting out of hand. I harbor such contempt for them, I cannot help but scorn them all.


Favorable Destiny

Now, aside from having some pretty sweet flavor and interesting art, Favorable Destiny is a card Wizards could have been reprinted in a Theros block. Playing this card means you are destined to surprise people with its effectiveness.The card works to make your enchanted creature untouchable, provided you have at least one other creature in play. The added buff, if your creature is white, is also nice. This is great in commander-centric decks and enchantments-matter decks too. Buff and shroud for only two mana is very powerful. Try this out in an enchantress style deck that runs Tuvasa, the Sunlit; Heavenly Blademaster; or Eidolon of Countless Battles. The effect this card grants is criminally underrated. So use it, and give yourself a more favorable destiny!


Spirit en-Dal

Before you complain, no, Spirit en-Dal is not a spell, but what I am referring to is its forecast ability. This is a spell-like effect. Giving creatures shadow is powerful, and giving powerful commanders or buffed creatures shadow can be game ending. Getting this effect every single turn for two mana is just bonkers. If you ever have a deck that needs to punch damage through, then just give your big attacker shadow! I have seen people playing plenty of other spells that grant this effect, but those spells are not infinitely repeatable for a mere two mana! I love Rogue’s Passage, because it only takes up a land slot, but it’s mana intensive. Spirit en-Dal only costs us two mana! It is not technically a spell, so it is much harder to counter, and usually resolves without issue. Giving your Snapdax, Apex Predator shadow sounds pretty good, right?



Just know that you have to announce Illumination using your best Minions impression: “ILLUMINATION!” I promise your friends will be stunned, and then everyone except the caster will definitely appreciate the jest. People might anticipate you playing Mana Tithe and play around it. But what happens when they do, and then you go ahead and unconditionally counter their bomb artifact or enchantment spell? I’ll tell you: befuddlement, anger, and an appreciation for your sneakiness! Hey, the wound does not bite that deeply; you are giving them life. People usually underappreciate this life gain, but I would not want you to underappreciate this formidable white counterspell. 



Inheritance, a little enchantment from Alliances, gives us conditional card draw in white. It is probably best in some sort of Aristocrats black white build, but it could have a home in a white or Selesnya tokens deck too. Paying three to draw a card is not great, but it is better than getting nothing for each creature that chumped, got sacrificed, or otherwise killed on the battlefield. Having three extra mana to draw can be hard to come by, but if your mana curve is low enough, this could be the enchantment that allows you to keep pace with the larger and more swingy decks in Commander. Since this card is underappreciated, people tend to let it sit out which allows you to get value out of it fairly quickly. It would be fun to combine this with Cathodian and Su-Chi, but that is just my inner Ashnod speaking.


Jabari’s Influence

This is my favorite white spell that I came across while organizing my cards during quarantine. It is an instant, and I love using those to surprise people, and the idea of stealing someone’s creature, permanently, in white is just nuts. Yes, I am aware of the incredibly mana intensive Evangelize. It is cool, but it is no instant, and the Buyback cost is steep. Jabari’s Influence is sweet in that this card is totally unexpected. While most people expect you to kill a creature, they don’t expect you to steal their creature. There is a flavor points win if you manage to play this while controlling either Sidar Jabari or Sidar Kondo of Jamuraa. This is such a fantastically underappreciated and surprising card. Enjoy the new resources you gain while using it! 

Honorable Mention:

Dawn Charm

This spell’s effects are a bit atypical, but that is because it is color-shifted, as that was a theme in the Planar Chaos set. I think it is too obvious of an inclusion for a list like this, but it is very versatile and can surprise people with both the fog effect and the counter spell. It is a very conditional counterspell, but that is mitigated by allowing you to either fog or regenerate a creature. The flexibility of this spell makes it a nice inclusion. I did not feel it was technically very surprising, as this set was full of cards like this. However, it can be a very fun card to stun your friends with.

I recently spent many hours combing through my collection and reorganizing it to optimize my Commander deck building process. During this time, I happily rediscovered many cards. These cards did not make the cut for many of my dozens of sixty-card decks. However, as I have been refocusing my collection and my energies on the Commander format, I have been enjoying falling in love with all these jankarific cards that people just do not expect. I love to spice my decks with cards like these, and if you think there are a few I missed out on in this list, then please let me know in the comments! I would love to hear about cool synergies and interesting plays you have surprised your playgroups with. 

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Commander Deck Building Inspiration

A Magictation by Mikeal Basile

“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.

Greetings, fellow Magictators! I love thinking about Magic the Gathering’s Commander format, and if you are reading this, then so do you. I am going to outline my method for brewing a Commander deck. I’ve been playing this game at the kitchen table for over two decades. It helps to be aware of your process while building decks. My deck building process has been something I’ve always enjoyed, and I’d like to share my ideas and approaches with you. Commander decks can be lumped into three major areas of inspiration: commander, theme, and archetype. They certainly overlap as you continue through the initial building and refining stages of deck building, but I feel that if you are aware of your initial inspiration, then your deck building process will go much more smoothly in the long run.

INSPIRED BY NOSTALGIA: “Does this card work well with my commander?”

Commander-inspired decks focus on the commanders. Before Wizards started printing cards with the Commander format in mind, the commanders for my decks were usually legends from the Legends expansion with which I had a nostalgic connection and wanted to try building a deck around. My Adun Oakenshield, Angus Mackenzie, and Nicol Bolas decks were all designed to have my commander in play. These decks are constructed to maximize the commander’s abilities, and usually lean toward a “commander-centric” design. “Commander-centric” decks function the best when the commander is in play. Things don’t go super smoothly without the commander. Another more recent example of a commander-centric commander would be Gavi, Nest Warden. Magictator’s Tip–protect your commander with Lightning Greaves, Swiftfoot Boots, Spectral Shroud, Cloak and Dagger, Darksteel Shield…you get the idea. Now that your leader is safe, you can proceed to win target game!

SPURRED BY THEME: “How does this card advance my theme while helping me win?”

Themes can be equally inspiring. I usually start by asking myself which theme I want to build around. Can I build a Tribal Drakes deck? How about a Landwalk deck? Flying? Deathtouch? Islandhome? These decks tend to develop around the mechanical theme, and the commander comes later on or jumps out during the initial build process. For example, I stumbled across Radiant, Archangel while building a white fliers deck and suddenly had my new commander. These decks can be very creative, and that’s because you are forcing yourself to move within these self-imposed restrictions. Commanders for these decks can easily be swapped for others in the same color identity. These decks are about as far from commander-centric as you can get. So, when we begin designing decks based on themes, we tend to stumble upon a commander later on.

MOTIVATED BY ARCHETYPE: “How will I win games? Aggressive creature development? Controlling Spells and Card Advantage? Janky Combos?”

Archetypal inspiration is centered on traditional tournament archetypes such as Aggro, Control, and Combo. Commander decks often follow these same lines, but in a more grandiose fashion. Usually I am inspired this way by a resounding defeat. When my buddy Andrew destroyed me with a grindy, controlling, value driven deck, I was thoroughly inspired to build one like it. I hate losing, but certainly sparked some inspiration for me to build a quality archetypal Control deck like it. Archetypal decks require you to focus on what they need: creatures, control spells, or combo pieces. The commanders for these decks tend to come in at the end. Sometimes they fit nicely into the overall plan as a complement (Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma in aggro decks), and other times they actually enable the combo (Maga, Traitor to Mortals), or allow the deck to close games it has successfully controlled (Azor, the Lawbringer). 

BINDER SEARCHING: “What rares and mythics do I have to start this deck with?”

After becoming inspired, it’s time to get cards pulled for building the deck. Picking out all the rares and mythics in the colors, themes, and/or archetype of your deck allows things to form as quickly and efficiently as possible. I separate these into two piles: a definite pile and a maybe pile. At this stage I may have way more than I need, but I wait to make cuts until later. Having a larger selection allows you to stumble across interesting synergies.

THE STAPLES: “What cards do I need to include so I can actually play Magic?”

Staples aren’t as exciting as the rares, but you need them. If you fill your deck with fun and powerful spells that don’t hit on the things staples provide, then you don’t actually get to play much Magic. The staples are what allow you to hit the 10’s jackpot: 10 ramp spells, 10 draw spells, and 10 answer spells. This balance of effects can be found on flashy spells, but are usually more along the lines of Sol Ring, Swords to Plowshares, Kodama’s Reach, Demonic Tutor, Counterspell, and Faithless Looting. Depending on the deck, I’ll include around 20-30 creatures on average, but it really depends on the deck. For example, an archetypal Control deck may run as few as 10 creatures. You’ll notice these numbers don’t add up to 64. The numbers to include for the rest of the 34 cards depend on the type of deck you’re building. Aggro? Pack in the creatures! Control? Wraths please! Combo? Tutors!

SPICE IS NICE: “What cards will no one expect and still help me to win?”

I started playing in 1995, and I’ve been spicing up my decks since my first trip to my local game store. Odd-ball cards that people won’t expect in your deck are the cards you need to hunt down. These are cards like Outmaneuver, Meddle, Strands of Night, Reverent Silence, and Miraculous Recovery. I love that moment after I play an underappreciated card and everyone at the table asks, “Wait, what does that do?” Spice up your deck, and I promise you will find your Commander games are even more fun.

MANA MATH: “Which 35 lands should I include?”

I often run 35 lands, but if my mana curve is mostly in the 5 cmc range or higher, then I up the land count. I generally don’t play fewer than 35, as I hate to mulligan. The fewer colors your deck has, the simpler this process is. I start with trying to meet the color requirements for my deck, and I use a simple method. Count up the number of each colored mana symbol and look to provide double that number of sources for each color in the deck. If this doesn’t work, then I just look for the ratio between colors and divide the sources that way. Give priority to colors that you need early on in your mana curve. The more colors you have, the more you will need to invest in rare lands. Buy them! I am always buying and trading for these, as there is no better investment (from a playing perspective) in Magic than rare lands. 

WORK IN PROGRESS: “What happens when the deck isn’t perfect?”

As you know, it takes time and money to build a great deck. It is better to have a deck that is playable now than to have a deck that is perfect. Have something in your deck as a place-holder and keep thinking about potential replacements. I enjoy the feeling of swapping out subpar place-holder cards for superior ones. This work-in-progress mentality allows me to continually adjust and refine my deck. Borrowing ideas from online deck lists can help you get started with ideas and create shopping lists, or it can help you round out and finish your own creative style. Continual thought and tweaking is key to a solid deck, and playing through its inadequacies can be incredibly enlightening. 

ADVICE: “Make your Commander deck today!”

You can always go online and copy a premade deck list, but for me Magic is more about time spent “Magictating,” using my brain and creative energy to make something new. Identifying your inspiration, combing through your binders, utilizing staples, and spicing your own deck is extremely satisfying. Inspiration is personal, and it is the key to fun and creative deck building.

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