Banned List

Nearly all formats in Magic have a list of banned cards. These are cards you’re not allowed to play in your deck, usually for reasons of them providing an unfair power advantage over other decks. (Cards that deal with ante or dexterity are universally banned due to creating problems with game play itself, and some cards are banned due to the decks that played them causing issues at tournaments.) Commander has its own banned list, which can be found here.

The Commander banned list is managed not by WotC but by the Rules Committee. This means the philosophy of banning cards in Commander is a bit different from the philosophy in banning cards in other formats. In Modern, Birthing Pod got banned because it was used in a large percentage of decks, and WotC wanted a greater variety in game play. In Commander, Sol Ring and Sensei’s Divining Top are used in a large percentage of decks, but they seem in no danger of getting banned.

There used to be a distinction in Commander between “banned as a commander” and “banned in the 99.” I personally liked this distinction, because it meant that if there was a card that was overpowered if you were guaranteed access to it, but less overwhelming otherwise, you could still play it. Something like Narset could be banned as a commander without being rendered completely unplayable. However, that rule is no longer in effect, so if something is banned, it just can’t be played at all.

Since Commander is ultimately a casual format, it’s up to each playgroup to determine their own banned list. If all the players in a particular group are fine with playing with banned cards, those cards may be played. The banned list is only official for officially sanctioned tournaments, such as Commander pods at a GP.

That being said, the banned list exists for a reason. The first card to be banned was Rofellos. In fact, the command tax was originally known as the Rofellos rule, and stated that if a commander cost less than 6 to cast, its controller still had to pay 6. Rofellos was still a problem, though, and eventually it was just decided to do away with the card altogether. That banning created a lot more parity in the format.

For the most part, bannings in Commander are designed to keep the format fair and fun. While the Rules Committee wants to keep to the philosophy of being able to play all your old cards that are unplayable in other formats, they also want the game to be welcoming to new players and rewarding of innovative ideas. Cards that consistently create an unfun and unfair environment for those forced to play against them are carefully considered for potential banning.

Unlike with other formats, Commander bannings don’t come out with each new set. The last one was Prophet of Kruphix, which was announced in January. That’s because the format doesn’t require regular banned list updates. Between the format not being tournament-supported, and it being multiplayer singleton, cards that are broken in other formats are much more manageable in Commander. Either their monetary value puts them out of reach of the patrons of the local gaming store, or their impact on the game is severely reduced by the fact that each player has multiple opponents who all start at forty life and are likely to take it ill if one player starts the game with a distinct advantage. Something that could win the game if it showed up opening hand in a game of Legacy will be much less advantageous in a game of Commander, as well as being less likely to show up early on. The chance of having a particular card opening hand in a typical game of constructed is about 40%. The chance of having a particular card opening hand in a typical game of Commander is about 7%. (These numbers don’t take into account any mulligan decisions that might be made.) While a one in fourteen chance of being able to play Olivia on Turn 2 due to having a Sol Ring in opening hand seems pretty good to me, it’s not going to make my opponents never want to play with me again.

Then there are cards like Shahrazad. While she’s not over-powered or anything, Commander games last long enough as it is, without throwing a subgame into the mix. Don’t get me wrong; I would love to play the card in my Judgebreaker deck, just to see the judge’s face when I ask what happens to the commanders still in the Command Zone at the beginning of the subgame.

There are of course still some cards that make the cut. Rofellos, mentioned earlier, is just way too powerful in a format that encourages large, stompy creatures that would normally be too costly to cast. Prophet of Kruphix allowed its controller to basically take a turn on each other player’s turn, the only mitigating factor being the lack of card advantage. Then again, an Azami or an Arcanis on the field would create or even increase said card advantage. The end result was that if the game wasn’t over after you dropped Prophet of Kruphix, it was because you’d built your deck wrong.

That’s not the sort of play style we want to encourage in Commander. It shouldn’t be about whether you can draw or tutor into a specific card. Commander is about fun interactions that come about when you have multiple decks trying to do disparate things all in the same game. We don’t want one player taking up half the time we’ve allotted for the game. We want everyone interacting and having a good time.

So there you have it. Some cards that are super-powerful in other formats are much less game-changing in Commander. And some cards that are fine in two-player suddenly become oppressive in Commander. The banned list reflects this. Don’t be surprised to see cards that are banned in Legacy or Modern are legal in Commander, or vice versa. And don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because something is a bomb in another format it will be equally good in this one.

Nemata

This one is at the request of my friend Nik Zitomer, the fungus guy. He wanted me to do a deck tech on a fungus deck, and Nemata is my Saproling/Fungus fun deck, that is surprisingly able to win games. I built the deck because I love tribal, and upon seeing Nemata’s ability, and knowing a lot of cards, fungi especially, that either created or dealt with Saprolings, I couldn’t resist. I had a Saproling tribal subtheme in one of my other decks, which gave me an opportunity to pull those cards and co-opt them for Nemata, where they were more useful and thus more fun.

Naturally most of the deck revolves around cards that create Saprolings. There aren’t any actual Saproling cards in Magic, only Saproling tokens. Most of the creatures that create Saprolings are Fungi, which gain spore counters on their controller’s upkeep and have an ability that removes spore counters to create Saprolings. The deck is not at all optimized—for instance, Coat of Arms would improve the deck significantly, and Adaptive Automaton would probably be a good addition, along with any permanent that gives my creatures trample. But the point isn’t to win as many games as I can; the point is to get a bunch of adorable Saprolings and occasionally turn them into an army that stomps all over my opponents.

Fungi:

Feral Thallid

Fungal Behemoth

Mycoloth

Psychotrope Thallid

Savage Thallid

Spore Flower

Sporemound

Sporesower Thallid

Sporoloth Ancient

Thallid

Thallid Devourer

Thallid Germinator

Thallid Shell-Dweller

Thorn Thallid

Utopia Mycon

Vitaspore Thallid

Most of these interact with Saprolings, although not all of them do. Some of them, while they don’t create Saproling tokens, still get spore counters, which can become Saprolings if I have Sporoloth Ancient. Even those that wouldn’t normally get counters can get them with Sporesower Thallid in play.

Other Creatures:

Dreampod Druid

Elvish Farmer

Jade Mage

Thelonite Hermit

Verdant Force

Verdeloth the Ancient

All of these creatures do interact with Saprolings, either by creating them or by buffing them. Earlier versions of the deck had some creatures that were just good for the deck, but I decided to take them out in order to make the deck more on theme.

Saproling Creators:

Druidic Satchel

Sarpadian Empires, Vol. VII

Greener Pastures

Night Soil

Saproling Cluster

Sporogenesis

Verdant Embrace

Scatter the Seeds

Sprout Swarm

Fungal Sprouting

Saproling Symbiosis

Spontaneous Generation

Naturally I want to make as many Saprolings as possible, in order to take full advantage of Nemata’s ability. With enough Saprolings, I can swing all out at an opponent, sacrifice the ones that get blocked, and kill him with the remaining ones, which are now huge.

Interactions:

Doubling Season

Fungal Bloom

Life and Limb

Overwhelming Instinct

Parallel Lives

Primal Vigor

Bloodscent

Second Harvest

Parallel Evolution

Cards like Doubling Season and Second Harvest are pretty obvious: They increase the number of tokens I’m getting. Doubling Season has the added advantage of also increasing the rate that apore counters are placed on my Fungi, essentially quadrupling the number of Saprolings I can make. Life and Limb, of course, turns my Forests into more Saprolings, but it also turns my Saprolings into mana. Overwhelming Instinct gives me card draw, which I probably need to replenish my field. Bloodscent allows me to sacrifice a single Saproling in order to get the rest of them through, enabling me to swing in for the win even against an opponent who has a stronger board presence.

Buff:

Tower Above

Predatory Rampage

Overrun

Hunter’s Prowess

Enlarge

Tribal Unity

Sylvan Might

Strength of Cedars

Stampede

Resize

Primal Boost

Might of Old Krosa

Might of Oaks

Giant Growth

Echoing Courage

Awaken the Bear

These cards are vital to the function of the deck. They allow my harmless little Saprolings to get big enough to deal actual damage. Even without Nemata in play, something like Overrun can buff my Saproling army enough to take out one of my opponents.

Removal:

Krosan Grip

Naturalize

Unravel the Æther

Bramblecrush

Skyreaping

Removal is necessary, even in a fun deck—perhaps especially in a fun deck. If one player is dominating due to one or two cards—for instance, because he has an Akroma’s Memorial, or a Dictate of Erebos—there’s not much of a chance for me to remove that player from the game, so my best bet is ensuring I can remove his problem cards. While I can’t do much about Avacyn, I have the potential to handle just about anything else, ensuring a fair game for everyone.

And there’s the deck. Nothing too overpowered, just a lot of good synergy and adorable Saprolings. I took it to the card store to play at Friday Night Commander, so I could see it in action. Admittedly the deck I was playing wasn’t exactly the same as the decklist I have, since I just threw the deck together from cards I had on hand and haven’t gotten around to ordering the better pieces, but the core of it was the same.

The first game, I was playing against Leovold, Nekusar, and Daxos the Returned. Nekusar actually arrived late and we allowed him to bubble in the first three turns, during which he played a few lands and a signet. Daxos I’d played against before, with my Kaalia deck, and the Leovold deck I’d glanced through before the start of the night, because he was borrowing it from a friend of mine.

Leovold stole my Verdant Force, earning my enmity. I’d gotten out Nemata on Turn 5, and cast the Verdant Force the next turn, which would have netted me a ton of Saprolings over the course of the game. Leovold wound up with 11 before losing the Verdant Force, and he only lost it because he attacked with it…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

With Leovold on the field, Nekusar’s main wincon was fairly useless, since Leovold prevents all opponents from drawing more than one card per turn. So, Nekusar played Kiki-Jiki, Mirror-Breaker, and Pestermite. It’s an infinite combo which sees play in Modern. The basic idea is to copy the Pestermite using Kiki-Jiki’s ability, which allows you to untap the Kiki-Jiki with Pestermite’s enters-the-battlefield trigger, allowing you to get another Pestermite, ad infinitum. The tokens all have haste, and are exiled at end of turn; so you swing out for the win, since you can create an arbitrarily large number.

I’d had a Spore Flower since Turn 2, slowly accumulating spore counters, and when Nekusar tried to end the game, I removed three of them to prevent all combat damage that would be dealt this turn. The Nekusar player was at 39 life, and the Leovold player had potentially 38 damage on board, with the Nekusar player tapped out, as long as I sacrificed all my Saprolings so his would get Nemata’s buff—because she buffs all Saprolings, not just those I control—and cast Tribal Unity for all my mana. Leovold also had a Duskmantle Seer, so it would probably be fine, but we wouldn’t know that until his upkeep; if Nekusar revealed a land to Duskmantle Seer, he wouldn’t lose any life, and we’d be screwed. So, I attacked him with my one Saproling that could attack, bringing him definitively into killable range.

Leovold attacked, and I dutifully created three more Saprolings, sacrificing them along with the two I’d gotten from Utopia Mycon, which had been out since Turn 1. That was enough to eliminate the Nekusar player, leaving just myself, Leovold, and Daxos.

Daxos was building up a decent boardstate, including Cathars’ Crusade, which I initially took out of several decks because it’s such a headache to keep track of, but have been putting back in so I can use it to troll my fellow judges. Being a deck that generated a number of tokens, Daxos of course had some difficulty representing how large each token was, since normally they would all be the same size but Cathars’ Crusade was throwing off the math.

I knew Leovold could kill Daxos if I cast Tribal Unity, which I had in hand, and sacrificed the four Saprolings I had on board; that would give all his Saprolings, eleven total, a bonus of +11/+11 until end of turn. I indicated this to him, also pointing out that if he attacked me, I could just use Spore Flower’s ability to Fog again. After he declared attacks—all at Daxos—Daxos said he’d kill Leovold next turn then scoop to me if I saved him. While I was considering this, he tried to talk Leovold into changing his attacks to me. I determined that, with the mana I had available, I could make three Saprolings with Nemata’s ability, giving me seven total that would be able to attack on my turn. After Daxos killed Leovold, he’d have three blockers. Between sacrificing the three blocked Saprolings and casting Tribal Unity for seven, there would be forty-four damage getting through, which was more than lethal. For me, the knowledge that I could have won was enough to get me to honor my initial agreement; I am, after all, a woman of my word. Plus, in a casual game with no prize support, there’s no quantifiable difference between knowing you could win, and actually winning. My deck had the wherewithal to win on its own; I’d agreed to let Leovold kill Daxos; the most advantageous path for me would be to uphold my agreement, and thus prove myself to be a reliable ally. Daxos chose to block several of Leovold’s attacking creatures, including Verdant Force, thus killing them.

With Daxos dead, we were at a stalemate, because Leovold had Experiment Kraj, and Nemata had +1/+1 counters on her. He cast a Stunt Double copying my Spore Flower, and later got a Lighthouse Chronologist. He’d put a +1/+1 counter on Utopia Mycon using Kraj, and thus was able to activate Utopia Mycon’s ability to sacrifice seven of his Saprolings to produce seven blue mana after casting Lighthouse Chronologist, leveling him up all the way.

At that point he had two spore counters on his Stunt Flower Double, so I swung all out, knowing he’d need to block or die. He had to block with all but two creatures in order to keep me from killing him; the two he chose to keep were Experiment Kraj, because it allowed him to continue to create Saprolings; and Stunt Double, for the Fog effect. Five of the Saprolings he blocked with also survived, since I sacrificed the ones they were blocking in order to pump the rest.

The next turn, I swung again, forcing him to use up his Stunt Fog. He then misplayed, casting Villainous Wealth rather than Mind Grind for 17, which would have milled me out, since he’d already Traumatized me, and I was at 31 cards in my library, only 13 of which were lands. Because he misplayed, I was able to swing in the next turn for the win—just as time was being called.

The second game, I was playing against Athreos and Sliver Overlord. That game started off much slower—no Turn 1 Utopia Mycon or Turn 2 Spore Flower. My first play was actually a fungus on Turn 3, then on Turn 4 I was able to cast Sprout Swarm and pay its Buyback cost. I really like that card. It seems underpowered—two mana for a 1/1? Five mana if you pay the Buyback? But with Convoke, it becomes easier to cast each subsequent time, and you can cast it multiply times in a turn. Sure, five mana for a 1/1 is a bit much even as an activated ability, but since I don’t have to invest actual mana to get the effect, it evens out.

On Turn 5, Athreos was able to sacrifice his Quest for the Holy Relic in order to tutor out Loxodon Warhammer and attach it to his commander. Slivers took eight commander damage, among other combat damage. The next turn, Athreos cast Silverblade Paladin, soulbonding it to Athreos, and swinging for another sixteen commander. Slivers blocked four of it, just enough to survive at twenty commander damage and five life. He then Fetched, bringing himself down to four.

On my turn, I had four Saprolings that could attack, along with a few creatures, one of which I didn’t really care about, since it was one I’d decided to purge from the decklist but hadn’t gotten around to physically replacing. I case Predatory Rampage, giving my guys +3/+3 until end of turn. Since Slivers had four blockers, I attacked with my four Saprolings and the dude I didn’t care about. None of them actually died, since Slivers’ largest creature was a 2/2. Even though I’d just killed him, he did me a solid by destroying the Loxodon Warhammer, which actually dragged the game out quite a bit.

Several turns later, with eight Forests in play, I used Utopia Mycon’s ability to sacrifice a Saproling to create a mana, then cast Enlarge on Feral Thallid, followed by Fungal Sprouting in order to get 13 Saprolings. I should have attacked with my 13/10 trampler but was so excited about my Saprolings I completely forgot.

Athreos attacked all out; after blocks and combat damage, his commander’s ability resolved, and I chose not to return Silverblade Paladin or the other creature to his hand, in the hopes that he wouldn’t be able to play enough creatures to keep me from killing him next turn. With fourteen Saprolings on the battlefield and the mana to re-cast Nemata, who’d been killed the first time I tried to play her, I had enough to deal the thirty-five damage necessary to kill him. Unfortunately he boardwiped, and since I was at three life, there was no way I would recover in time to save myself.

Overall, the evening was a smashing success. I’d forgotten how much fun it is to play a janky deck that isn’t designed to win. Although it was neat to win the first game, and almost win the second, that wasn’t the best part of playing the deck, which should be obvious given that I gave up a guaranteed win for what seemed at the time to be my certain demise. Teaming up to prevent the Nekusar player from killing us with his infinite combo was definitely the highlight of the evening, and it was pretty cool that my janky deck was able to do that. Unfortunately there wasn’t time this past weekend to play against Nik’s Ghave deck and see who could fungus harder, but perhaps we’ll get another chance at some future event.

Infinite Combos

Coming up with new combos can be one of the most fun aspects of playing Magic. Seeing a card and realizing it has synergy with another card, then putting them in a deck together and seeing how they function, is part of what drives my own personal enjoyment of the game. The best are infinite combos—those aren’t just good, they’re abusable. But the problem with abuse is that there’s now someone getting abused. My opponents are in this game to do fun and crazy things with their own decks, not have the game end Turn 3 because I combo’d off with Sharuum. And iven if the game doesn’t end, they’ll know it’s only continuing at my forbearance.

You might wonder what’s so bad about that. They’re getting to play their decks, right? Shouldn’t they be happy? Well, not so much. It’s a matter of basic human psychology.

My ex liked to be king of the battlefield. Even if he didn’t win, he liked to know that he could have won at any time, and that the game only continued because he oh-so-magnanimously allowed it to. He also liked to announce this to the table, so everyone could be appropriately grateful for his generosity. Thing is, people don’t like having their fun be at someone else’s discretion. Just like he enjoyed being in control of the table, so did everyone else. They wanted to command their own destinies.

Once you have an infinite combo set up, that game is yours. Eliminating you is the only way for the other players to take back control. Until you’re gone, their potential to enjoy the game is greatly reduced. So don’t be surprised if they team up against you despite your restraint.

Imagine a farming monopoly that controls all the produce available. The only way to get any sort of vegetables is through them. They benevolently give away their produce at no charge, but refuse to break up the monopoly. Should the people be content with the way things are? After all, they’re being provided free food. Or would it be reasonable for them to revolt in some fashion? To create their own farms and eliminate the monopoly?

That being said, there are still some ways you can have fun with infinite combos. One way is to run combos that don’t immediately end the game. I have an infinite mana combo in my Riku deck, consisting of Myr Galvanizer copied with Riku’s ability and any two manadork Myrs (or one also copied with Riku). I can tap the two Myr Galvanizers in succession to untap each other and all my other Myrs, then do ridiculous things with arbitrarily large amounts of mana. That doesn’t in itself automatically win me the game, unless I have an X-spell in hand.

Actually, that kind of infinite combo has the potential to be the most fun to play against. If my opponents do win the game after I’ve supposedly combo’d off, their success is all the more sweet. A combo that leads to a powerful board state that can still be defeated a large percentage of the time can still be fun for all players. Especially if it doesn’t come up every game.

Another way is to run multiple decks. You can have your degenerate combo deck you play against strangers in the Commander pods at GPs, and your fun deck you play with your friends. Or, if you only want to run one deck—maybe you’re broke, or you only really like one style of play—you can sideboard out the infinite combos when playing more casual games. But you actually have to take them out; if you leave them in, we’re back in the situation where your opponents are only having fun because you’re nice enough to allow it. (Alternatively, you could promise not to play those cards, which changes the dynamic from being nice to being trustworthy.)

But what if you never go to GPs? Maybe you’re one of those players who never leaves their local store—or never even goes to a store at all. You still want to try out these fun combos.

Well, go ahead and try them out—once. See how they work, and whether they’re achievable. Then take them out of your deck and bask in the memories of that one time you did something awesome. If you’re excited to be doing it, your friends will probably be excited with you, at least the first time. It’s when it happens more than once that it becomes a problem.

So let’s take a look at some infinite combos that are possible in Commander.

Exquisite Blood is a popular one. That card is good all by itself, since in multiplayer opponents lose life a lot. Pair it with anything that causes opponents to lose life when you gain life, such as Viskopa Guildmage, Cliffhaven Vampire, or Defiant Bloodlord, and you’ve got yourself an instant win.

This is also one that shouldn’t be brought out too often. Any kind of instakill like this—especially one that only requires two cards—can be extremely frustrating for opponents. That’s fine when you’re playing for prizes against people you’ll likely never see again. Not so fine when you’re playing a casual game against friends who may decide they don’t want to play with you anymore.

Mindcrank is another one that goes infinite pretty quickly. Pair it with Duskmantle Guildmage or Bloodchief Ascension, and they’ll trigger off each other, Mindcrank making the player mill a card every time life is lost, the other card making them lose life every time a card is milled. Anything that causes each opponent to lose life at once—extort comes to mind, since it’s already possible in those colors—and unless someone has more life than the cards in their library, the entire table is dead. Even the lifegain player is going to die on their draw step unless they’ve got something like Elixir of Immortality to shuffle their graveyard back into their library before they draw.

Another mill combo is Leyline of the Void or Rest in Peace plus Helm of Obedience. This one functions because the text of Helm specifies that the cards must be put into the graveyard; since Leyline sends them directly to exile, neither condition (X cards or a creature card) can be met, and therefore the player continues to mill until their entire library is in exile. The Rest in Peace version is actually the better of the two. Besides costing less mana, it also gets rid of already existing graveyards, preventing the victims from saving themselves with something like Elixir of Immortality.

These two are pretty cool the first time they’re executed. Mill is a fairly underused strategy, and while it upsets players all out of proportion to its actual usefulness, it can be interesting to see in action. That being said, doing either of these a second time is like telling a bad joke the listener has already heard. The first time might have gotten a chuckle; after that it’s just annoying.

I’ve actually seen the latter combo in action, against a Kaalia player who absolutely deserved it, because she was a whiny crybaby who got upset when I took the initiative of removing her threats and who then talked her boyfriend into targeting me. Since the other players unfortunately had to deal with her on a regular basis (I was just visiting town for a few days), one of them got bullied into letting her shuffle what graveyard she already had back into her library so she could survive a few more turns. Let me reiterate that this was a Kaalia player, who got so butthurt at getting targeted other players were afraid to make her less of a threat lest her crazy boyfriend do something to physically hurt them. While of course I’m biased because she took it out on me, I heard from the other players later that the only reason they played with her was to make their friend happy.

This actually illustrates another aspect of some infinite combos in multiplayer, in that they’re not truly infinite. The Leyline/Helm combo is only good to take out one player at a time. If used properly, it can be a useful political tool to keep other players in check. For instance, if the Sharuum player starts trying to combo off, his entire library can be exiled at instant speed, and the rest of the table will probably be grateful for the rescue. It’s when you succumb to the temptation to use it as a club rather than a scalpel that it becomes a problem. Exiling libraries just to help yourself win the game, or using it as a threat whenever someone tries to do something you don’t like, will draw the ire of everyone else, who will try to eliminate you before you can do the same to them. Making it clear that you’re restraining yourself because of the threat posed by multiple people—assuming there is such a threat—rather than any innate benevolence, can even make them feel good about themselves, rather than oppressed by the way you’re controlling the board. And yes, in some cases, this is a lie, and in some of those it won’t even be believable. If there aren’t at least two players at the table with the potential to wreck you in one or two turns, it might be better just to keep the pieces in your hand until the boardstate becomes more equitable.

Another semi-infinite combo is Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind, and either Curiosity or Ophidian Eye. This one is found in almost all Niv-Mizzet decks, and is typically the purpose of the deck. The limit to this one is the number of cards currently in your library; often you can only kill one or two players with the first pass, and lifegain is difficult to overcome. But as long as you have some kind of graveyard shuffle effect—usually one of the Eldrazi titans—you can repeat the combo on your next turn.

While this could be used as a political scalpel similar to Helm of Obedience, it never is, and no one expects it to be. The deck is built around getting the combo to happen in order to win, and everyone knows it.

Now, to be quite honest, there are a couple instant-win combos I do run. I justify them to myself by saying that I rarely play those decks and the combos haven’t ever come up.

In my Mikaeus deck, I run a Triskelion. It’s a 1/1 that enters with three +1/+1 counters, with an activated ability where I can remove a counter to deal a damage to target creature or player. With Mikaeus in play, it’s actually a 2/2, so I remove two counters targeting itself, then one counter targeting an opponent with the first two activations still on the stack. It dies with no counters, returns with four counters due to Mikaeus granting it undying, and the process repeats. The thing is, because I don’t tend to run tutors in my decks out of respect for the singleton nature of the format, I have no way to make this happen reliably, and in fact it’s never come up in a game.

The other combo I run is Hellkite Charger plus Sword of Feast and Famine. Hellkite Charger has an attack trigger that lets me pay a certain amount of mana to untap my creatures and get an extra combat phase. Sword of Feast and Famine has a combat damage trigger that lets me untap all my lands. In this combo, Hellkite Charger can be replaced by Aggravated Assault, an enchantment that does the same thing, and Sword of Feast and Famine can be replaced by either Bear Umbra or, if you have a sufficient number of creatures, Druids’ Repository. The idea is to have some way to untap your lands or otherwise create mana with each combat phase.

This is also a combo I’ve never actually played, because it’s in my Aurelia deck, which is still under construction. I like it in my Aurelia deck because the theme of the deck is extra combat phases. However I’ll probably take it out after the first time it happens. Hellkite Charger will stay, but Sword of Feast and Famine doesn’t really do anything for the deck except facilitate the combo. (Yes, I know all the Swords are good. Almost too good. They tend to hose specific decks, which I find neither fair nor fun. So unless I have a specific reason, I don’t like to run them in my decks.)

One combo a friend and I came up with, but I’ve never actually seen in action, is Time Sieve plus Thopter Assembly. The way it works is, at your upkeep, as long as you control no other thopters, Thopter Assembly returns to your hand, and you get five thopter tokens. You then sacrifice those to the Time Sieve in order to take an extra turn, and re-play Thopter Assembly so the process will repeat. It’s slow and ungainly, but the net result is infinite turns. I tried to build a deck around it—the original design was Phenax big butts with mill as a primary win-con, and I also played around with it in a Sharuum deck—but I was never happy with the build, probably because I was trying to force an unfun wincon, and eventually I gave up.

The other day I actually was able to stifle a combo, which I’ll talk about more in my next post. The combo was the Kiki Jiki/Pestermite infinite hasty tokens, swing out for the win, and I delayed it a turn with a Fog effect, then was able to buff another player’s creatures enough to eliminate the player who’d played the combo. I’d actually been planning to ally with the Kiki player, but the fact that he had an insta-win combo convinced me to team up with the other player, who’d actually stolen one of my creatures earlier that game, earning him my enmity. Ironically, the player would have had a better chance at winning if he hadn’t tried to combo off and win.

The point is, while infinite combos are fun to play, they aren’t very fun to play against. In one-on-one, where fun tends to be zero sum, that’s fine. In a multiplayer format like Commander, whose casual nature means your opponents have the choice whether or not they even want you at their table, pursuit of fun at the expense of your opponents becomes negative sum, and if everyone’s playing a negative-sum game, no one’s actually netting enjoyment.

So don’t be that guy. If the GP Prize Wall tickets are that important to you, save your deck for a GP. If you just like winning, build a deck that others enjoy playing against even when it wins; while your win percentage may be lower, your number of games played will increase, because people will actually be willing to play against you, and thus your number of wins will likewise increase. If you just want to try out this cool new infinite combo you’ve discovered, either take the combo out after you’ve managed to make it go off, or switch to a different deck so your opponents don’t have to deal with it every game.