Command_Tower

Always Be Closing

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The letter I!f you've ever been in job where you sell things, even for just a day, you're probably familiar with a scene from the movie Glengarry Glen Ross where Alec Baldwin's character delivers a powerful, vulgar speech about sales. The mantra "Always be closing" took on a life of its own, as it's a compelling idea: If every step you make is toward completing the sale then you should be completing more sales than if you weren't.

Trading Post | Art by Adam Paquette


Of course, there are problems with forcing every interaction to move down the sales path. Success comes in many forms, not all of which are winning. But what is success without victory—closing the sale?

Attention—Interest—Decision—Action

Last week, when I asked you about your most successful Commander deck, I left the definition of success open to interpretation. The most common way to handle "success" is to look for wins, and the powerful decks you shared are archetypes to find wins. This was from Matthew:

Here's my current best commander. She's Karametra, Gods of Harvests! As soon as I saw her previewed I knew I had to do a landfall Commander with her. I did my research, built my list, waited for Born of the Gods to release, waited another week to find some with a Karametra, and then built the list. It's pretty insane—plays like Genesis Wave for twenty, Boundless Realms with Lotus Cobra out, any landfall card with creatures in hand and Karametra, and having no more lands in my deck. She's pretty powerful as a commander, and I haven't lost a game in two weeks with her!


Matthew's Karametra
Commander

Main Deck

99 cards

Commander
Dryad Arbor
17  Forest
Gavony Township
Ghost Quarter
Plains
Selesnya Guildgate
Selesnya Sanctuary
Temple Garden
Temple of Plenty
Temple of the False God

34 lands

Angel of Jubilation
Arbor Elf
Archetype of Courage
Avacyn, Angel of Hope
Avacyn's Pilgrim
Avenger of Zendikar
Azusa, Lost but Seeking
Blightsteel Colossus
Budoka Gardener
Champion of Lambholt
Courser of Kruphix
Craterhoof Behemoth
Emeria Angel
Fleecemane Lion
Gaea's Herald
Garruk's Horde
Giant Adephage
Jugan, the Rising Star
Kitchen Finks
Liege of the Tangle
Lotus Cobra
Loxodon Smiter
Mistcutter Hydra
Nylea, God of the Hunt
Omnath, Locus of Mana
Oracle of Mul Daya
Platinum Angel
Polukranos, World Eater
Rampaging Baloths
Roaring Primadox
Scute Mob
Sigarda, Host of Herons
Soul of the Harvest
Terastodon
Thorn Elemental
Trostani, Selesnya's Voice
Voice of Resurgence
Vorapede
Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger
Wolfbriar Elemental
Woodfall Primus
World Queller
Worldspine Wurm
Yeva, Nature's Herald

44 creatures

Asceticism
Boundless Realms
Cathars' Crusade
Condemn
Crop Rotation
Explore
Genesis Wave
Ground Seal
Into the Wilds
Kodama's Reach
Mirari's Wake
Path to Exile
Primal Surge
Primeval Bounty
Rites of Flourishing
Seer's Sundial
Sol Ring
Tempt with Discovery
Terra Eternal
True Conviction

20 other spells

Karn Liberated

1 planeswalker

Karametra, God of Harvests


Winning in Commander feels good, since winning at Magic feels good. It's what hooks us on any game: finding the path to winning. If there were no winners, Magic wouldn't quite feel the same, right? In a format like Commander it's almost trivial to include combos that can instantly take over a game, or even win it outright, as Sakae shared:

My most successful deck is my Karador, Ghost Chieftain deck, due to a combination of powerful control/removal and recursion. With this deck, nothing is safe. Indestructible? Exile with Ashen Rider, Merciless Eviction, or Luminate Primordial, or drop toughness to 0 with Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter, Blood Arbiter. Hexproof? Mass removal with Kirtar's Wrath, Novablast Wurm, or Merciless Eviction. Indestructible + hexproof? Cruel Edict you with Sheoldred, Whispering One; Butcher of Malakir; Fleshbag Marauder; or (again) Merciless Eviction. Card in your graveyard? Take it with Sepulchral Primordial or Debtors' Knell. Hand? Mind Slash to see and maybe make you discard it. Library? See and maybe exile it with Thoughtpicker Witch. My opponents can't win if they have no cards to win with.


Meanwhile, my own cards become impossible to stop. If you destroy my cards, I'll just retrieve them with Sheoldred, Reya Dawnbringer, Karmic Guide, Sun Titan, Eternal Witness, Adarkar Valkyrie, Debtors' Knell, Deadbridge Chant, Paleoloth, or Karador. If you try to exile or bounce one of my cards, I'll sacrifice it to Attrition, Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter, Thoughtpicker Witch, Perilous Forays, Grim Backwoods, Ashnod's Altar, or Phyrexian Tower, and then reanimate it. If you do end up exiling something, I'll rescue it with Riftsweeper or Pull from Eternity. Plus, I have Spearbreaker Behemoth, Archetype of Endurance, and Glory for extra protection.

As a last resort, I have three ways to suddenly win the game: if Lord of Extinction; Svogthos, the Restless Tomb; or Nighthowler is big enough, I can sacrifice it to Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord to kill everybody. Reveillark + Karmic Guide + Ashnod's Altar = infinite colorless mana that can be used with Nim Deathmantle to infinitely reanimate something, or simply just exile everybody's libraries with Thoughtpicker Witch. Finally, with only six other nonpermanents, Primal Surge will usually dump enough of my library onto the battlefield to completely dominate the game.


Sakae's Karador
Commander

Main Deck

99 cards

Commander
Command Tower
Forest
Gilt-Leaf Palace
Godless Shrine
Grim Backwoods
Homeward Path
Isolated Chapel
Jund Panorama
Mosswort Bridge
Murmuring Bosk
Overgrown Tomb
Phyrexian Tower
Plains
Sunpetal Grove
Svogthos, the Restless Tomb
Swamp
Temple Garden
Temple of Plenty
Temple of Silence
Temple of the False God
Woodland Cemetery

36 lands

Adarkar Valkyrie
Archetype of Endurance
Ashen Rider
Brawn
Butcher of Malakir
Corpse Connoisseur
Dawntreader Elk
Eternal Witness
Fleshbag Marauder
Genesis
Glory
Harvester of Souls
Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord
Karmic Guide
Kokusho, the Evening Star
Krosan Drover
Lord of Extinction
Luminate Primordial
Nighthowler
Novablast Wurm
Oracle of Mul Daya
Paleoloth
Reaper of the Wilds
Reveillark
Reya Dawnbringer
Riftsweeper
Rune-Scarred Demon
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Sepulchral Primordial
Sheoldred, Whispering One
Solemn Simulacrum
Soul of the Harvest
Spearbreaker Behemoth
Stinkweed Imp
Sun Titan
Terastodon
Thoughtpicker Witch
Valor
Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter
Wood Elves

40 creatures

Ashnod's Altar
Attrition
Aura Shards
Birthing Pod
Black Market
Darksteel Ingot
Deadbridge Chant
Debtors' Knell
Fog
Golgari Signet
Jarad's Orders
Kirtar's Wrath
Krosan Grip
Merciless Eviction
Mind Slash
Nim Deathmantle
Orzhov Signet
Perilous Forays
Primal Surge
Pull from Eternity
Selesnya Signet
Skullclamp
Sol Ring

23 other spells

Karador, Ghost Chieftain


Sakae's deck is the Magic equivalent of "Always be closing." It's packed with ways to disrupt opponents, redundant effects, and a few instant-kills to ensure even tenacious opponents can be sold on the win. But there's a price to be paid for power, as Raymond shared:

My answer: Momir Vig, Simic Visionary. I call it, "Behold My Creations!" or "I'm not saying it was Momir Vig, but it was Momir Vig." Being a diehard Simic player, Momir is my most successful Commander deck because I can tutor up any answer to deal with almost any situation. I also have a strict rule about Momir, which may explain some choices on the cards in the deck: If a blue and/or green creature can do what any other spell or permanent can do, the creature wins and is selected over the option, because of the synergy with Momir. It has a very repetitive play style, which can lead to unexciting games sometimes, in that it searches for the combos it needs to win the game: Treasure Mage into Planar Portal into Tooth and Nail entwined into Deadeye Navigator and Palinchron into infinite mana into Enter the Infinite into Laboratory Maniac and draw all the cards possible to win the game! There's also Biovisionary as an alternative win condition as well.


Within my Commander playgroup, Momir is usually the first one to be attacked because everyone knows if they just leave me alone I'll eventually combo out and win the game. I'm okay with this, though, since I understand it's supposed to be fun and if a deck is always winning every single game, it's not fun for anyone else. I enjoy playing it because I enjoy seeing how many different ways people attempt to stop the combos, or how I can still combo out to something when my plans go awry.

Raymond's Momir Vig
Commander

Main Deck

99 cards

Commander
Alchemist's Refuge
Breeding Pool
Forest
Halimar Depths
Hinterland Harbor
11  Island
Misty Rainforest
Reliquary Tower
Rogue's Passage
Simic Growth Chamber
Simic Guildgate
Temple of Mystery
Temple of the False God
Treetop Village
Yavimaya Coast

31 lands

Acidic Slime
Beguiler of Wills
Biovisionary
Birds of Paradise
Clone
Consecrated Sphinx
Craterhoof Behemoth
Cryptoplasm
Deadeye Navigator
Djinn of Wishes
Draining Whelk
Edric, Spymaster of Trest
Elvish Piper
Eternal Witness
Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur
Joiner Adept
Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
Laboratory Maniac
Lighthouse Chronologist
Magus of the Future
Melira, Sylvok Outcast
Mystic Snake
Oracle of Mul Daya
Palinchron
Phyrexian Ingester
Platinum Angel
Primordial Sage
Progenitor Mimic
Prophet of Kruphix
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Seedborn Muse
Soul of the Harvest
Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
Treasure Mage
Trygon Predator
Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
Venser, Shaper Savant
Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger
Woodfall Primus
Yavimaya Elder

40 creatures

Akroma's Memorial
Archmage Ascension
Asceticism
Boundless Realms
Creeping Renaissance
Cyclonic Rift
Doubling Season
Enter the Infinite
Explosive Vegetation
Genesis Wave
Gilded Lotus
Kodama's Reach
Omniscience
Planar Portal
Plasm Capture
Rite of Replication
Sensei's Divining Top
Simic Signet
Sol Ring
Sylvan Library
Time Warp
Tooth and Nail
Triumph of the Hordes
Voidslime

24 other spells

Garruk, Caller of Beasts
Jace, Architect of Thought
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Tamiyo, the Moon Sage

4 planeswalkers

Momir Vig, Simic Visionary


Raymond's deck is also built to be a closer, but it also became the target of his playgroup. To mix clichés, "With great power comes great responsibility" was something said to Spider-Man but it's just as applicable here. Commander is a format that asks for things that are in tension against each other: Powerful decks built around a recursive creature and decks that create a great experience for other players.

That's another definition of success some of you chose: creating that lets-play-again feeling among friends. Rahil shared more:

This deck isn't quite designed to defeat opponents. Nor is it as broken as possible. It doesn't contain any of my best cards, either. In fact, this deck is virtually a bunch of green and blue one-of cards I had laying around, stacked together and garnished with basic lands.

In spite of all this, it is my most successful Commander deck. It could be the opponents underestimating me for silly plays, like amassing Fertilid copies off Progenitor Mimic to bring out all of my basic lands (for no other reason than "because I can"). I don't know. My best guess is the element of surprise that comes from a deck like this. And believe me, I'm as shocked as anyone else at the table when I win the game with a colossal Cloudfin Raptor or an arbitrarily large Ooze token, or even a Drake armada accompanied by a sea of +1/+1 counters. Winning is awesome. Winning awesomely is awesomer. There is no set strategy and nearly every game plays out with newly discovered interactions—and that's what I love about it. It's truly serendipitous.



The deck does "suboptimal" things in "suboptimal" ways. It relies on the randomness of games and doesn't create similar game states each time. It isn't always closing in the traditional sense—doing the most powerful and disrupting things possible—but it still meanders the path toward victory. This type of success in Commander is one that looks at how the deck feels to play and be played against, a subjective measure, rather than an objective ability to find wins. Keegan explained further:

The one that has held the most success for me is the only one I actually own—my Derevi, Empyrial Tactician deck. Essentially, the deck takes advantage of Derevi's untap trigger and a bunch of creatures to either ramp or abuse activated abilities like that of Bloom Tender's. Early in the game, untap triggers get pointed at lands and mana rocks to accelerate my progress. If I don't just straight-up ramp and tutor to a Craterhoof Behemoth or Mirror Entity combo-kill, eventually my continual mana advantage and higher card quality/relevance (via search and deck manipulation) causes opponents to crumple.


The deck plays just a spritzing of dedicated disruption spells. I prefer to only use a few versatile disruption cards since I would rather just be making somebody deal with my threats. As an aside, I do specifically go out of my to not play the "threats" that are particularly cruel or unfun, like Winter Orb or Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur, as they tend to make the table groan in frustration (although I do run a Cyclonic Rift as a catchall answer to on-board combos). The thing I love about this deck is that it always manages to have something strong and relevant to do, and with just a few cards in hand, one turn can last quite a long time. The combination of "fair [think fun] power," board relevance, consistency, and the ability to switch gears midgame makes my Derevi deck a success to me.

Keegan's Derevi
Commander

Main Deck

99 cards

Commander
Alchemist's Refuge
Azorius Chancery
Breeding Pool
Celestial Colonnade
Command Tower
Dryad Arbor
Flagstones of Trokair
Flooded Grove
Flooded Strand
Forest
Gavony Township
Ghost Quarter
Glacial Fortress
Hall of the Bandit Lord
Hallowed Fountain
High Market
Hinterland Harbor
Horizon Canopy
Island
Misty Rainforest
Mosswort Bridge
Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
Plains
Reliquary Tower
Savannah
Seaside Citadel
Selesnya Sanctuary
Simic Growth Chamber
Temple Garden
Temple of the False God
Tolaria West
Tropical Island
Tundra
Vesuva
Windswept Heath
Yavimaya Hollow

37 lands

Acidic Slime
Arcanis the Omnipotent
Augury Adept
Avenger of Zendikar
Azami, Lady of Scrolls
Bloom Tender
Captain Sisay
Coiling Oracle
Consecrated Sphinx
Craterhoof Behemoth
Dauntless Escort
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Eternal Witness
Fauna Shaman
Glen Elendra Archmage
Karmic Guide
Knight of the Reliquary
Magus of the Future
Mirror Entity
Momir Vig, Simic Visionary
Mulldrifter
Myojin of Life's Web
Mystic Snake
Oracle of Mul Daya
Phantasmal Image
Phyrexian Metamorph
Progenitor Mimic
Prophet of Kruphix
Qasali Pridemage
Restoration Angel
Rhys the Redeemed
Solemn Simulacrum
Sower of Temptation
Sun Titan
Trygon Predator
Vendilion Clique
Venser, Shaper Savant

37 creatures

Azorius Signet
Bant Charm
Beast Within
Beck // Call
Birthing Pod
Chord of Calling
Coalition Relic
Cyclonic Rift
Genesis Wave
Green Sun's Zenith
Lightning Greaves
Mana Reflection
Mirari's Wake
Search for Tomorrow
Sensei's Divining Top
Simic Signet
Sol Ring
Sword of Feast and Famine
Sylvan Library
Tooth and Nail
Voidslime
Wargate

22 other spells

Elspeth, Knight-Errant
Elspeth, Sun's Champion
Jace, the Mind Sculptor

3 planeswalkers

Derevi, Empyrial Tactician


Building a fun deck doesn't necessarily mean skimping on powerful cards. The ability to go big on the battlefield is something other players will expect and try to do as well. Keegan's approach combines that mutually understood goal with a modicum of ways to stop others. Avoiding powerful, repetitive disruption means that others have the chance to stop you or go big themselves. This type of success in Commander doesn't mean avoiding power, but balancing how you use it so others can play, too.

But there's one more flavor of Commander success, and it's my personal favorite way to see it in action. Jordan explained:

When I read the article, my mind first flashed to my Karador, Ghost Chieftain deck. However, after reviewing my thoughts and my notes of all my Commander decks come and gone, I decided "successful" was subjective, and went in a different direction. My most successful Commander deck was under Grimgrin, Corpse-Born, because that deck was my first of many, and what cemented my interest in the play style. Without Grimgrin, there would be none of the MANY that would follow.


I'm sure you can see the theme of the deck. Zombies, or Zombie-related.

Success as the deck that made the format click with you? I think many of us remember our first decks fondly; I know I'll never forget exploring the colors and potential of Jund with Kresh the Bloodbraided. Without playing that magical deck, I'm not sure I would have picked up Commander the way I did. After all, drafting is always just a few tables away and that's something I enjoy almost as much.

Third Place Is You're Fired

Are any of these definitions of success in Commander better than the others? Ultimately, that's up to you and your playgroup to decide. The best experiences I've had playing were with decks that let others do their thing, too, and the best memories of Commander games come from exploring new cards and decks with others bumbling around trying something different, too. But I have friends who found joy in building ever-stronger decks, playing off the internal metagame their playgroup created among themselves.

The best Commander play is, as always, the one you appreciate the most. Good luck finding it!

This week's question plays off the "others" focus from today: When someone needs to borrow a Commander deck to play, which deck do you lend and why?

  • Feedback via email
  • 300-word limit to explain your point
  • Sample decklist is requested (does not count against word limit)
  • Decklists should be formatted with one card per line with just a leading number, such as "3 Mountain"—just a space (no "x" or "-") between the number and the card name
  • Name and email required (non-personal information to be used in column)

Getting new players into the game is daunting when they have to create their own deck, so lending one to give them a taste of the format is the most common way to go. I want to know how you hook others on giving it a try.

Join us next week when we actually discuss the merits of one color or more. See you then!




 
Adam Styborski
Adam Styborski
@the_stybs
Email Adam
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Command Tower

Adam "Stybs" Styborski joined DailyMTG.com in 2009 to take over Serious Fun, before switching over to begin Command Tower in 2013. With his passion for Commander and community inclusion, you'll find plenty of opportunity each week to share your thoughts about everyone's favorite casual format.

 
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