Good morning, good afternoon, good evening and good night everyone! This is Darrel back from a long hiatus of creating magical content, and boy does it feel good! This time, I’ll focus on 1v1 Commander on MTGO. I have been known in the past to complain about this format and address how “un-fun” it is for various reasons. I think the most recent bans, however, have made drastic improvements to the format and have made games of 1v1 commander feel quite enjoyable! I have incinerated my whole Play Point bankroll playing some fun decks (that weren’t so fun against the partner commanders) and supplemented them with 3-2 and 4-1 records with my three favorite competitive control/midrange decks. There may be some cards on my watch list (*cough cough* Breya, Etherium Shaper and Tymna the Weaver), but otherwise, the format seems to be heading in a very healthy direction. Let’s dive into the command zone and take a look at a few of the builds I’ve recently taken to battle.
A good commander is benevolent and unconcerned with fame.
This quote from Sun Tzu is more relevant to the 1v1 commander meta then one might think. The best commander options provide you with something for merely existing (Tymna the Weaver, Nissa, Vastwood Seer, Leovold, Emissary of Trest) or they don’t care about the accolades. Otherwise, they just plain ‘get the job done’ (Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus, Breya, Etherium Shaper, Bruse Tarl). Today I am going to focus on getting free stuff, just for existing, because everyone appreciates a benevolent leader.
This deck’s strategy is pretty straight forward: trade one-for-one or better with your opponent’s resources (creatures in play and cards in hand) until you can resolve card advantage engines and pull ahead, eventually finishing the game with a planeswalker or Queen Marchesa herself. This deck runs a number of cards that can single-handedly take your opponent out of the game (Blood Moon, Armageddon, Jokulhaups) to make way for you to slowly accrue card and board advantage with a planeswalker. You are playing a pretty heavy mana rock package (at least, all of the reasonable ones) to try to ‘get ahead’ of your opponent in resources and resolve a turn-three planeswalker or Marchesa. I’ve included in the deck plenty of resources (47 lands or mana rocks, almost as many as some of the green decks out there) because it is so important that you are able to reach the upper echelon of your mana costs for your most powerful cards, as well as just being able to take back the monarch by recasting Marchesa a second, third, or fourth time. This deck’s biggest weakness is the Monarch token that its own general puts into play. Being able to introduce pain free Phyrexian Arena as early as turn 3 is great, except for when you can’t defend it and your opponent steals it to take the card advantage for themselves. This deck could be running a Crucible of Worlds package, including Throne of the High City, so that you have another route to regain the monarch that is recursive.
Tymna the Weaver and X
The Tymna decks have felt like an extremely favorable matchup because you have so many ways to kill Tymna (34 total removal spells, with some of your walkers functioning as removal as well). The only way you will struggle is if you don’t draw enough instant speed removal spells for the likely partner Kraum, Ludvec’s Opus. You also have daggers in the land destruction spells and Blood Moon. Your opponent’s lean so heartily on their generals so if you can kill them once or twice and increase their casting cost, an Armageddon will make it impossible for them to get back into the game.
This one is rough. You have to get out ahead of them and that is quite difficult since they play much more artifact ramp than you. You have plenty of ways to kill Breya and friends so you can get the monarch and pull away, but your Armageddon is much less useful, and your Blood Moon is lower impact. You just have to try and bury them in planeswalkers before they can cast Winter Orb or Armageddon you with more mana rocks in play. This is the one matchup where you will want Stony Silence or Null Rod and its worth running because of it (despite it being a dead draw in most other matches). Subterranean Tremors does so much work if it resolves for x=four or more.
Again, your removal spells are crucial to making their general uncastable. It can feel pretty bad that every time you target Leovold with a removal spell they will cantrip, but if you can avoid getting wombo comboed by them casting Leovold and a Timetwister effect in the same turn (when you have no instant speed answer), then you should be able to win the game as their deck is quite general-centric. The most recent performing lists are only running 12 creatures not counting Leo. Heavier creature count lists will make it harder to keep the monarch however.
Nissa, Vastwood Seer (or other green ramp)
This matchup can be pretty tough, and you do have to get lucky to beat it. You have a bunch of kill spells for their ramp dorks, but you also have plenty of cards that have no use here (ie. Red Elemental Blast, Pyroblast). You don’t have any counterspells so you might grind them out only to die to top-decked Ugin, Emrakul, or Ulamog. You really need to draw an Armageddon effect to seal this one up and, for this reason, I’ve experimented with including Jokulhaups and Ravages of War too. I cut the Ravages for the flexibility of Dark Petition (which is a little less potent with an opposing Rest in Peace on the board), but I might try to shoehorn it back into the list at some point.
Oloro, Ageless Ascetic
Let’s start with the general. There is a lot going on here. First, if Oloro, Ageless Ascetic is in the command zone or on the battlefield you gain 2 life (we are going to take advantage of the free stuff, I promise you that). This is extremely good for a control deck, especially in a meta where Tymna is the soup de jour. If you can kill Tymna enough that she isn’t castable, your opponent is attacking you with 1/1s and 2/2s, and you can easily absorb hits from irrelevant creatures until you can establish something to end the game. The 4/5 body on Oloro isn’t really anything to write home about for 6 mana, but the fact that he brings with him a card advantage engine while in play is a big deal. Once you resolve and protect Oloro, the cost of one mana to draw extra cards to reach your endgame faster is quite worthwhile.
The recent ban eliminate the most important tutors in the format however, there are two big ones that still exist. The first is Tainted Pact. Two-mana instant speed tutors are often broken and this one is no exception as it allows you to find the card you want at the cost of exiling a portion of your library. This is a feast or famine card and will certainly affect the way your deck is built because you can be stopped by a second copy of a basic land (which is quite annoying, really). You can, however, play two of each basic by circumventing the different name clause with one snow-covered land and one regular basic. The other tutor is Grim Tutor. It is a little hefty on the mana cost but the life loss is easily mitigated by your commander’s life gain.
This is truly an instant speed blue control deck that merely splashes Orzhov colors for good removal. The win conditions are scarce, and I think that is truly the one weakness of the deck. You can grind your opponent down and then hit a big X draw spell to make your opponent feel hopeless but victory is far from assured. If your opponent puts you under any pressure., you don’t have any quick routes to victory. I think the deck could afford to play something like Rest in Peace and Helm of Obedience as a combo finish but, as mentioned earlier, Rest in Peace is generally pretty worthless against many of the decks in the current meta.
Tymna the Weaver and X
This matchup is a little tougher than for Queen Marchesa as your opponent can often get underneath your counter suite (13 counters and 14 removal spells). The deck needs a few more pieces of removal to be able to go toe to toe with Tymna, but you have to play the extra draw spells because you don’t have access to a cheap card advantage engine. If you resolve the Nevermore-type effects before your opponent gets going, you will be very difficult to beat, as you can cut them off from one of their most important resources, their commanders.
This matchup is rough because Breya is a strong closer that comes down early. Beyond that, Armageddon and Winter Orb can really hurt this deck. We do, however, have a ton of counter play and are very good at interacting. We’ve also included Stony Silence specifically to lock down our oponent’s signets and prevent Breya from creating extra value when you threaten to kill her. If you avoid the dangerous cards however, your counterspells and draw spells are better than theirs, so you can take hold of the game and coast to an easy victory. My losses to Breya (6-2) have come off of the back of Dack Fayden being able to loot away the abundance of removal spells that don’t do anything against this deck. Dack may seem harmless because you only have one artifact (Crucible of the Worlds) and rarely will the ultimate do anything, but the looting will cause…problems. Don’t let him resolve. If you stick a Nevermore effect, their deck tends to only have 3-5 answers to it, and they can’t really do anything without Breya.
I haven’t played against Leovold with this specific deck, but I would imagine this to be a coin flip. You have plenty of ways to kill Leo and counterspells to keep the combo pieces from hitting you so that helps but, because Leo plus combo pieces can be so devastating, you’ll have to make sure you have the appropriate answers at the ready.
Nissa, Vastwood Seer (or other green ramp)
This matchup is favorable if you can counter the early threats. Nissa will eventually flip and provide card advantage but the opponent’s deck does have quite a few cards that are pure air after a certain point. All you have to do is avoid the Eye of Ugin, and you should be home clear.