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Happy 4th of July!!
I've noticed that a lot of your card evaluations and strategies seem to reveal that you play every game as the archenemy, where you assume every card everyone draws will automatically be aimed at your stuff and you assume everyone else has agreed before the game to gang up on you. Is this how you play, and do you think this is the best way to approach the format?
Awesome question! I definitely take a really conservative/pessimistic view of politics in Commander. For example, I definitely assume that I will be public enemy number one and that my stuff is going to die immediately after I cast it, and these beliefs have wide-ranging effects on my view of card evaluation in this format.
One reason that I take this point of view is that it’s a lot easier to expect nothing and then seize opportunities when they arise than it is to have high hopes and then have to come up with a completely new strategy when they get dashed. Have you ever been knocked on your ass by your opponent having a kill spell or counterspell that you were _not_ expecting, and been so thrown off that you proceeded to make play mistakes? Some people call it being “on tilt”, and it can happen if you take for granted something that isn’t guaranteed— such as expecting your Sheoldred to survive to your upkeep or that your opponents will vote the way you want them to. By reducing your reliance on getting lucky/others helping you, you protect yourself against jarring disruptions in your plans.
Some ways you can plan for the worst:
- Play creatures with “enters the battlefield” triggers. ETB triggers can only be stopped by a handful of cards, so they’re a pretty safe bet for getting value compared to creatures that take time to start working, such as those with activated abilities, attack triggers, combat damage triggers, upkeep triggers, etc. Moreover, because ETB triggers only occur once, you can’t feel like you got cheated out of something when they die, the way you might if your Visara the Dreadful died before she was finished taking down all your opponents’ creatures.
- Don’t overcommit to the board. If you only put down what you absolutely need and assume that a board wipe is always around the corner, then you’ll never be too upset when one inevitably shows up, and the cards you’ve stockpiled in your hand will make rebuilding easy.
- Don’t run cards that give your opponents choices. They might not always pick the option that screws you, but they probably should. Another reason that these kinds of cards are bad is that they create uncertainty about the future. When you don’t know what your opponents are going to choose when you cast your Magister of Worth or your Nessian Wilds Ravager or whatever, it becomes a lot harder to predict what will happen after that choice, and planning out your future turns becomes impossible.
So I think being a pessimist is useful for both strategic and psychological reasons. There’s also a smidgen of experience informing my opinion. I play Commander in a couple of playgroups, and among some of the players in some of those groups, I’m the default choice when deciding who to attack.