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How to Assess a Commander as Competitive in cPDH

This is the ultimate conundrum, isn’t it? What IS the dividing line between a Commander that meets the qualification standards for a competitive environment and one that doesn’t? Some would say, “having a combo-enabler in the Command Zone” is the dividing line between what is and is not competitive. “Anything less simply does not qualify.” So let’s examine this.

To be fair, there is plenty of evidence to support this position. Tatyova, Benthic Druid and the Weavers are easily two of the best decks in the format – both have access to advantage engines in the Command Zone, in concert with ready access to an efficient suite of counterspells. The Weavers list runs the requisite counter magic, plus a draw package designed to filter through their library and get to the supporting land auras and Freed from the Real-like devices in the hopes of generating infinite mana. With this mana, they use their Commander to draw out the table. Tatyova, on the other hand, is something a bit more.

It has been said that the two most powerful things a person can do in Magic: The Gathering is draw cards and make mana. Tatyova allows you the opportunity to do both simultaneously. The simple act of playing your land per turn – with Tatyova on the battlefield – converts a normally mundane special action into a card drawing effect. But wait, there’s more. For each land that enters the battlefield while you’ve got Tatyova online, you gain one life. This doesn’t sound like much on the surface, but it is a lot more relevant than you think. Tatyova secures a win through Ghostly Flicker or Tidal Bore shenanigans, all while using Archaeomancer or Mystic Sanctuary to generate infinite mana before using a card like Capsize or Compulsive Research to eek out a win.

Believe it or not, I didn’t come here to talk about the Weavers or Tatyova Combo the whole time. While they are pretty sweet decks to play and play against, I wanted to use them as the basis for talking about another potential Commander. Though you’ll have to wait just a little longer for spoilers…

It has been debated, argued, and brutally fought over, but Tatyova at its heart IS a graveyard deck. It is heavily dependent on Ghostly Flicker and Tidal Bore, both of which are looped through the graveyard and returned to hand via some creature-based ability. The Weavers on the other hand do not use the graveyard, but hope to generate an overwhelming mana advantage through the use of Wild Growth aura-type effects and land untappers to eventually deck each opponent for the win or form a Capsize lock for Commander damage.

This is how they win. If we study these strategies, then we can formulate a plan to defeat them by denying their game plan.

Dryad Militant has now entered the chat…

Dryad Militant? Certainly, Clay you have lost your !@#$% mind. It WOULD seem likely that I have gone bonkers, but hear me out. Dryad Militant is a one-drop Commander, easily played on turn one. Dryad Militant has a static ability which prevents Archaeomancer and Mystic Sanctuary loops. As a happenstance, Dryad Militant is also in THE best colors for mass enchantment removal; see Serene Heart. And lastly, the Selesnya color pairing also has access to two Presence of Gond-based infinite creature combos. I cannot speak for you, but this all sounds great to me!

Okay, okay… In all seriousness, here’s the rub. In any Magic format, White/x decks are not known for their ability to generate overwhelming card advantage – and I believe this is where folks erroneously begin to dismiss this Commander. I’m not saying their reservations are not warranted. Because frankly, developing card advantage in White is a tough ask. It forces us to be creative and use outlets like Vivien’s Grizzly, a mana dump that can filter through our library to find the creature parts of our combos. Combine that with Heliod’s Pilgrim’s aura tutor ability and we have a readymade way to dig for our combo win. It’s not a perfect solution, but it IS a solution, nonetheless.

The deck still lacks having an abundance of ways to meaningfully interact with the stack, but there are a number of spells this deck can use to interrupt an opponent’s targeted spells and effects.

Feel free to check out my Dryad Militant deck list.

In revisiting the opening paragraph of this article, I begged the question: What is the qualifying standard for a Competitive cPDH Commander? To be honest with you, the real answer is still unknown. The meta share is still too small and certain archetypes have gone relatively underexplored. What we do know is that having a combo piece in the Command Zone is a huge boon to a deck – especially if the Commander’s Color Identity is Simic. We also know that Blue’s draw power is good. Really good. Further, it was initially thought that Blue stack interaction was the premier form of removal, but as time has gone on, free spells like Snuff Out have quickly risen to prominence on the resolved side of the stack. A set of grindier, Midrange Control decks have creeped into the larger meta and are beginning to cut the legs out from under the once dominant Combo decks.

As indicated above, new brews are being constructed as a direct answer to the strictly Combo meta from earlier this year. What we are seeing now is that pod archetype makeup has a big effect on the effectiveness of decks within the pod. In a game with three Midrange Control decks and one Combo deck, the three Midrange decks prevent the Combo deck from going off. The same is true when the numbers are reversed – the Combo decks keep the Midrange Control deck in check. What this means is in an open meta, the player piloting the minority archetype will need to learn to adapt their playstyle to meet the new demands of the pod. Only time will tell as we are still developing and experimenting with these concepts. It’s an exciting time to be brewing Competitive Pauper Commander, for sure!

I’ll see you on the battlefield,



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