I’ve built Commander decks a variety of ways. I’ve built the whole deck online, tested it thoroughly, and then bought the cards I need. I’ve started from pre-constructed lists and then tweaked them slightly. I’ve started with cards I have lying around the house and iterated from there (as From the Ground Up readers know).
But I’ve never used the 8×8 Theory, and I’m curious to try it.
For those who don’t want to click the link above, the 8×8 Theory suggests you choose eight key effects you want to include in your Commander deck. Then, you select eight cards for each of those effects. Add in 35 lands (and your Commander), and you’ve got yourself a Commander deck. Whether or not that deck’s any good, well …
The theory seems imperfect, but it interests me. So I want to give it a shot. At the very least, it’s as good a starting point as any.
As I laid out a couple months ago, I want this Wydwen deck to be tricky. I want to lean on Wydwen’s Flash ability to operate at primarily Instant speed. That means, whatever effects I pick, those effects have to appear on a reasonable number of good Instants.
Thankfully, the first effect I want to include appears on only Instants. A Wydwen deck seems especially suited to playing counterspells, the joy of Blue mages and the bane of others. If opponents play spells I don’t like, I can counter them. If not, I can Flash in Wydwen, provided the time is right.
Below, I’ve laid out the eight counterspells I plan to play in my Wydwen deck. I’ve also written up a list of counterspells that came close to making the deck, but fell just a bit short. Using those lists, you should be able to create a solid counterspell suite for your own deck.
- Remand. Remand is one of my favorite cards, and seems especially suited to Commander. In my playgroups, opponents often spend their turns casting one or two big spells, spells that are ripe for Remand-ing. However, Remand doesn’t actually counter the opponent’s spell, mitigating the “feel-bad” moment counterspells often create. Additionally, Remand is cheap to cast and draws you a card, which is the very best effect in Magic.
- Cryptic Command. Speaking of counterspells that draw you a card, Cryptic Command does it all. It counters spells, draws cards, bounces problematic permanents, and allows you to open an opponent up to attack (an attack that doesn’t have to be yours). Cryptic Command’s non-counterspell modes overlap with some of the non-counterspell effects I plan to include in this deck, but as it will most often counter a spell and draw a card, I chose to include it in the counterspell section.
- Counterspell. Counterspell does exactly what it says on the label, and it does it efficiently. As long as you have two Blue mana untapped, opponents will live in fear of Counterspell. I currently own Tempest Counterspells, but I’ll likely upgrade to Eternal Masters or M25 for this deck.
- Dismiss. Dismiss functions as a second, weaker copy of Cryptic Command, but in a format where countering just one player’s spells puts you behind your opponents, the ability to both counter a spell and draw a card to answer the next opponent’s threat is gas.
- Insidious Will. Insidious Will is the trickiest counterspell available. It allows you to easily create two-for-ones, by redirecting an opponent’s spell rather than countering it, or gain access to effects you couldn’t include in your own deck. Being able to straight-up counter a spell is great, but being able to take control of that spell or create your own copy is even better.
- Mystic Confluence. This deck’s expensive counterspells follow a theme: They’re all worth more than one card. Countering a spell and drawing two cards is better than countering a spell and drawing one card, and because my playgroups play expensive spells, Mystic Confluence’s Mana Leak mode will often be live. Like Cryptic Command before it, Mystic Confluence could’ve slotted into a list of card advantage or bounce effects, but since it’ll most often be countering spells, I put it here.
- Dissolve. Magic has no shortage of three-mana counterspells, but Dissolve is my favorite. As those who play Temples already know, Scry-ing 1 is deceptively powerful, and often makes the difference between drawing an answer or drawing a dead land in tight situations. If Dissolve’s not your cup of tea, I’ve listed a couple similar (and arguably better) options below, but I’d encourage you to give Dissolve a try.
- Force of Will. Force of Will is not especially good in Commander, but I’m including it for two reasons. One, it plays into this deck’s tricky nature. After a playgroup sees Force of Will, they tend to always assume you have it. With Force of Will in your deck, your counterspell shields are never down. Two, I spent a lot of store credit acquiring a Force of Will, and goshdarn it, I want to play it.
What Didn’t Quite Make the Cut:
- Rewind. Rewind plays into the deck’s theme, allowing me to both counter a spell and have lands untapped for the next player’s turn. However, Rewind’s mana cost puts me off playing it. For four mana, I want my counterspell to not only counter a spell, but put me up a card or provide some other unique effect. Why pay four mana to counter a spell and then get that four mana back (provided Rewind resolves), when I could simply pay two and still have two lands untapped (regardless of whether Rewind resolves)?
- Mana Drain. If I owned a Mana Drain I would play it, no question. It is likely the best counterspell ever printed. However, the $50 price tag isn’t currently worth the upgrade in effect. If I happen to earn enough store credit to grab a Mana Drain, or the Wydwen deck sticks around for a while, you’ll likely see Mana Drain enter the list.
- Pact of Negation. Pact of Negation is interesting, and along with Force of Will, is arguably one of the game’s trickier counterspells. However, having to tap a bunch of mana on my own turn, to pay for a previously-resolved Pact, doesn’t play into my game plan. Additionally, I’ve seen too many people lose to missing their Pact trigger, and I will not join their ranks.
- Disallow. Disallow may actually be better than Dissolve, since it’s much more flexible. However, I value the ability to Scry 1 more highly than the ability to counter activated or triggered abilities. It’s very possible that I’m wrong and should be playing Disallow, and I plan to try it out at some point.
- Dissipate. Exiling spells is especially relevant in Commander, a format that often seems built around players eking out value from their graveyards. However, just as with Disallow, I value Dissolve’s Scry 1 ability higher than I value exiling the spell that Dissipate countered. Luckily, I own Dissipate, so I can swap it in if I decide Dissolve’s not pulling its weight.
I’ll be filling this series out over the course of the next few months, adding effects and lists of cards as I go. If you have a card or effect that you’d especially want to see in a Wydwen deck, let me know! My decklist is nowhere near final, and I’m open to suggestions.
But next time, we’ll be focusing on Modern, with a match report from the trenches of Tuesday Night Magic. Until then, may your opponents’ spells never resolve.