Greetings! For those of you looking for Jack’s regular article do not be alarmed. My name is Sean T. Patchen aka SwordsToPlow. I write a biweekly article series over on CommanderCast.com. This month CommanderCast is running completely off of Crossover articles. All the regular CommanderCast material is being posted on any site that will tolerate us, in exchange for having the regular articles for those sites put up on CommanderCast.
I am a firm believer that Commander decks are extensions of the builder’s personality. By building a deck you are looking at not just the cards available, but into who you are and what you want from your gaming experience. Deckbuilders who build many decks are simply exploring the different parts of their psyche. In the same way that everyone is some mixture of Johnny, Timmy and Spike, everyone also has at least a little of each color inside them. To explain how each color represents an aspect of humanity Wizards of The Coast came up with this marvelous chart:
If you have never seen this before, it may look a little odd. The outermost ring is comprised of the keywords that most represent the color. The inner, from left to right, represent the shortcomings, the goal, and the means. For example; Red is represented by impulse and chaos. The goal of red is too achieve freedom by means of action. Red’s shortcoming is its shortsightedness.
Like many Commander players, I end up playing at a friend’s home almost as often as playing at the local game store. The advantages to playing at home are that you can stay longer and, more importantly, that you can drink. I am one of those players who like to embrace the overall experience of Commander. It is not just about playing and winning. It is about spending time with friends, constructing the decks, choosing the best looking cards and having decks that are as full of flavor as they are effective.
As a result, I have found it beneficiary to select a beverage that appropriately matches the style and feel of whatever deck it is that I happen to be piloting. I am also the type of person who believes that whiskey goes with everything. For me it is simply left to which brand best matches the deck that I am playing. Through rigorous and extensive testing I have discovered which whiskeys pair well with the different combinations of the Magic color pie. If you would like to study this for yourself, I would encourage you to drink responsibly. Aside from all the various dangers related with the overconsumption of alcohol, being excessively inebriated will skew your findings and you will miss out on many of the subtleties of the whiskey’s mentioned.
White is about morality and order. White mages pursue peace through the application of law. White Commander decks revolve primarily around the Wrath of God effects that are more prevalent in white than any other portion of the color pie. White is the traditional soldier color and wins through the use of traditional tactics.
Soldiers, more than anyone else, don’t care what kind of whiskey they drink as long as it gets the job done. White represents purity and so this is a pure whiskey. The color in whiskey comes primarily from the barrels it is aged in. This clear white whiskey has absorbed all of the flavor but none of the char from the barrels it is aged in. Therefore it retains the natural clear color that all whiskeys have before they are aged. Sadly, it does lose some of the traditional whiskey flavor in the process. Luckily a good soldier doesn’t care. This works just as well disinfecting wounds as it does enhancing a game of Magic.
Green is about instinct and nature. Well, I’m not sure about all of that. I am sure that in Commander mono-green decks are almost exclusively ramp decks. We are talking lots of lands and lots of mana from the beginning to the end.
Glenmorangie tastes of the earth from the beginning to end. It is rich and full flavor that could calm even rampaging baloths. Glenmorangie has a pleasant warm finish that gives you an inner calm and an outer strength.
Red decks are not about being subtle or delicate. Red decks are about impulse and action. Red decks are about being in your face and obvious. Red decks are also about destruction, burning and most importantly FIRE.
Dr. McGillicudy’s Fireball whiskey was the obvious choice for mono-red. If only there were also a mix of Ambien and whiskey called Mind Twist, or a mix of Whiskey and chloroform called Force of Will. Dr. McGillicudy’s Fireball whiskey is cinnamon flavored and is not a whiskey designed for someone with a discriminating pallet. It is, however, surprisingly easy on the tongue and can lead to a night to remember… or at least one you wish you could.
Black is about being infectious and all powerful. I don’t think that any force of evil represents black quite as well as the Phyrexians. Black Commander decks let you embrace your inner villain like no other. What black doesn’t do is run away from horror clichés. Your typical black decks are filled with Vampires, Zombies and Demons.
The Jack Daniels brand is better known than Twilight. Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniels and his brand are surrounded with as much intrigue and fairy tale as the monsters associated with swamps. With a biography named Blood and Whiskey, you can feel confident that the deceptively smooth and sweet Single Barrel and Gentleman Jack are made up of the blood and tears from the distillery’s enemies.
Blue is the color that represents logic and technology. More than any other color blue uses, abuses, and bends the rules to outmaneuver opponents. Blue is about subtly and cunning more than speed and brute force.
Drambuie is not technically a whiskey, it is a whiskey liquor. Drambuie is used to make a Rusty Nail by being mixed with scotch. In other words, Drambuie uses the other selections on the list to make it great. Drambuie also has the lowest proof of anything on the list. Like mono-blue it is slow to act, smooth and subtle. Also, I play mono blue a lot and I drink Rusty Nails a lot. I want to rename the mix to a Rusty Spine of Ish Sah.
DUAL COLOR PAIRINGS
The Selesnyan Conclave
GW decks are about numbers. The Selesnyan Conclave has been described as the “group think” guild. Most of the GW commander decks out there revolve around tokens. GW decks value the whole over the individual. Therefore, we should look for a whiskey that is smooth, peaceful, and very popular.
Jameson Irish Whiskey has a soft pleasant nose with a light bodied taste. It has a lasting yet surprisingly smooth finish. Jameson is made by Mideton Distillery and is the world’s top selling Irish Whiskey. Any of the Middleton whiskeys (Jameson, Paddy, Powers Gold Label and Midleton) are fine products are make piloting a Selesnyan deck an enjoyable experience. They will lull you into a sense of comfort until you are fine going along with the rest of the group.
House Dimir is a group that will do anything to gain knowledge and power. Dimir decks like Sygg, River Cutthroat use smaller Ophidian-style creatures to gain incremental advantage. Dimir players can sneak away victories by playing threats that seem innocuous on their own but add up over time to their victory.
Woodford Reserve is a personal choice of mine. The first time I ever had Woodford Reserve was while I was on location working in Tennessee. After meeting with some of the local management, we went down to a private cellar for dinner and drinks. Woodford Reserve was my introduction to what people refer to as the “good old boys club”. The experience was both enlightening and slightly disturbing. Woodford Reserve is an exceptional whiskey that will always carry the edge of dark memories for me.
The Gruul Clans
The Gruul Clans are all about anger and revolt. The Gruul Clans refuse to ignore the rule of the guilds on Ravnica. Gruul decks similarly try to break the preconceptions about Commander. They are all about aggression and anger. GR decks try to win through fast aggro strategies, the strategies widely accepted as one of the hardest paths to victory in Commander.
Glenfiddich is not a subtle scotch. It is strong and smokey from the first sip to the last lingering taste. The smokiness will keep you reminded of the smoldering remains of your enemies as you break apart their plans and blaze a path to victory.
The Azorius Senate
The Azorius are all about control and long term planning. In Commander one of the most popular UW Commanders is Grand Arbiter Augistine IV who is a perfect representation of Azorius’s strict belief that since anything can tip the world into imbalance the best thing that can be done is stopping people from acting at all. Azorius decks are slow, controlling decks that think about the long term.
Bowmore is the world’s oldest legal operating Scotch Whiskey distillery. Bowmore is one of those whiskeys that is a truly acquired taste. It is rich, smoky and very strong. It will take an experienced pallet to pick up the hints of dried fruit among the malt and smoke in all aspects of this scotch. What I am trying to say is that both UW and Bowmore are for you older, beardy players.
The Cult of Rakdos
Rakdos is can be explained with one word: anarchy. The Cult of Rakdos combines hatred of others with a selfishness that is unmatched. There is no crime that the Rakdos are not willing to commit and they are willing to do anything to have fun at the expense of others. Rakdos decks and players carry this idea perfectly into the realm of Commander. They will do anything to snatch victory away from their opponents. BR decks are traditionally your stax control decks that everyone loves.
If you live in the United States you have heard of Wild Turkey. This is a whiskey that is taken in shots rather than sipped. Wild turkey is held as a means to an end more than a whiskey to savor. I have seen this whiskey cause more chaos and anarchy than almost any other. Just take a shot before the game and embrace the anarchy!
The Boros Legion
Boros is a guild defined by law and action. As a result they pursue a police state and are quick to use strength to enforce order. Oddly they are also inconsistent with their punishments and enforcements.
As a result, something that gave you a slap on the wrist one week might carry a death penalty the next. In Commander, Boros decks are efficient and straightforward. Since they have a limited amount of tutoring and card draw, you can be ensured that each game is different from the next.
Ballentine’s Finest goes well for the Boros spot more for the history than the flavor. Ballentine is an elegant and complex blend of subtle flavor with a marvelous finish that is nearly as enjoyable as the taste itself. Ballentine has been doubly endorsed. It was first given the honor of the Royal Warrant by Queen Victoria. Later on it was granted the use of a coat of arms in recognition of the “incorporation noble on the Noblesse of Scotland”. Going further, Ballantine’s is one of the favorite whiskies of the police officers of Spain. In 2010 the Badalona police discovered a man who was counterfeiting Ballantine’s whiskey by mixing cheap whiskeys to create something similar in flavor. Apparently the police in Spain had a trained pallet and were not fooled by the forgeries. This is the type of whiskey the Boros leaders would enjoy.
The Golgari Swarm
The Golgari are also known as “The Undying”. The Golgari’s personality is very similar to that of pure capitalist theory; each individual works for their personal needs and that ends up moving the horde in a unified direction. In Commander, GB is a sign that the deck is going to be abusing the graveyard. Just killing the creatures in the deck will not stop them from coming back.
The story of Black Bottle is one of tragedy and triumph. This blended whiskey dates back the the reign of Queen Victoria, who you may have guessed by now was a Scotch drinker. Tragedy first struck in 1898 when the distillery Black Bottle used collapsed. The creators built their own facility and continued on. During the first World War, Black Bottle was forced to give up the traditional black bottle for the current green bottle, since the black bottle was made in Germany. That means this blend has actually been in both Black and Green, which makes is doubly appropriate. Then in 1947 the building with all the records and recipe’s for Black Bottle burned down. It has only been recently that Black Bottle has once again recovered as is back to making the Whiskey blend we all know and love. When you drink Black Bottle you get the feeling that you can also rise from any tragedy to grasp victory from the clutches of defeat.
The Izzet are both impulsive and insightful. They have tons of new ideas, but rarely follow any through. As a result you have Izzet mages who go out of control with their ideas over a short period of time.
Be on the lookout for these cans of whiskey. This was definitely a crazy scientist idea. None of the “Scotch” made by this company has been aged for more than three years. I can only assume that if they aged it any longer they would stop caring about it and move on to producing Wine in Capri Sun pouches. If you want to really embrace the chaos and experimentation that goes with running an Izzet deck, I would suggest drinking a variety of whiskeys rather than just sticking with one. Be impulsive and just try a new whiskey each time you play Izzet.
The Orzhov Syndicate
The Orzhov Syndicate is the Mob of Ravnica. They are all about controlling money and using that money to rule the city. In Commander, Orzhov is all about playing creature control and Gravepact effects. BW is the rattlesnake effect color combination. You try to dissuade other players from attacking you for fear of the repercussions.
Jim Beam was one of the first American Whiskies to start up again after prohibition. Many of the other post-prohibition whiskey brands have been since bought by Jim Beam. This whiskey is a reminder that the crimes during prohibition can pay off and money can change darn near everything. The black label of Jim Beam is surprisingly good compared to the original. The alternative to drinking Jim Beam is playing the mob boss. It doesn’t matter which whiskey you are drinking if you are strong-arming other players into giving you whiskey to leave them alone.. If you are powerful enough, you can get drunk by giving them the choice of losing or giving you more to drink! I realize such things are not allowed in tournament play, but you can’t drink during sanctioned events anyway. Intimidate your way to a nice buzz while in the privacy of your own home.
The Simic Combine
The Simic are a hive mind who believe in shared knowledge and growth. They believe in not just the study of life but in the idea that they can improve upon it. Momir Vig himself puts it best, “Of course it will grow beyond control – it was designed to choose its own evolution.” The Simic’s biggest weakness is their overconfidence. UG in Commander reflects that weakness in that it has the least amount of creature destruction. After all, it would never cross a Simic mage’s mind that there would be creatures that couldn’t be controlled.
Macallans is a great brand with a wide variety of options. Their worst scotch is better than 90% of what you can find at your local grocery store. I have traded Magic cards for the 21yr Fine Oak. I don’t remember what cards I traded away, but I will always remember that bottle. The biggest weakness of Macallans is that is makes you think that all whiskey tastes this good. Drinking Crown Royal immediately after drinking Macallan can induce a gag reflex.
Bant is a land of honor, pride and distinction. The Bant is focused more on white with green and blue being mainly supporting colors. Most of the popular Commanders lean heavily on white strategies. They use green and blue as primarily utility and to fill the gaps missing in mono-white.
Taketsuru 21 Years Old has won more World Whiskey Awards than any other whiskey out there. It is a blended malt whiskey that crushes in the heads-up, champion style, comparisons that any of the inhabitants of Bant would approve of. Each of the awards is like another sigil of respect. I am sure that Rafiq would prefer a whiskey with as many awards as himself to drink away the pain of being forced to kill his best friend.
Esper is the shard defined by thought, wisdom, artifacts, and planning that is ruled by the Sphinx’s. Esper decks are about abusing powerful artifacts and has the best collection of tutors that will let you accomplish this.
From the country that gave us the sphinx’s and the pyramids, we get Auld Stag. Auld Stag is one of the best Egyptian Whiskey’s on the market and will get you running your Esper Commander decks like a great pharaoh. Be careful though, around passover time you might have a few plagues turned against you.
Grixis is a shard of death and evil. Grixis has no new life, so the undead struggle for every little piece of lifeforce. Grixis decks are more likely to play creatures and spells from the graveyard than from the player’s hand.
Sir Robert Savage was said to give Bushmills to his troops before bringing them into battle. Bushmill’s Black Bush blend is their oldest blend and it is still kicking. Bushmills has a smooth warming effect that I have heard can raise the dead. I am not sure about that, but I have personally seen the most Iconic Grixis character in Magic enjoying a glass of Bushmills while reading is his private chamber.
In the absence of blue and white Jund is home to a volcanic landscape ruled by dragons. Dragons are powerful creatures that live and breath fire. The ash from the volcanoes make Jund a hot and dark realm. Jund decks are equally dark and aggresive. Jund decks run powerful creature control elements as well as strong creatures with haste abilities. Jund strategies benefit from destruction of any and all permanents.
Knob Creek is a dark, strong and hot whiskey. Bottled at 100 proof, you will be feeling the heat that Jund dragons bring to their realm. The dark color from the whiskey comes from the charring on the inside of the barrels it is aged in. You will feel like you are tasting both the ash and fire of the Jund realm.
Naya is a realm defined by growth and life where brute strength is valued above all else. The giant behemoths of naya are worshipped by the smaller inhabitants and every inhabitant works to protect their realm. Naya decks represent idealism within the Commander community. They are just about playing your biggest and best creatures. Most Commander Naya decks do not attempt to play Commander in any sort of degenerate manner. Instead, they push for the fun and absurd that runs with Commander.
The Glenlivet is an idealistic scotch. This goes well with Naya decks that strictly adhere to the spirit of Commander. Glenlivet is smooth and light that uses waters from the nearby natural springs create an clean and unadulterated flavor. The Glenlivet is pure of taint just like the Naya realm before the Conflux.
PLANAR CHAOS WEDGES
Without a plane to draw upon for inspiration it is difficult to place specific whiskeys to each of the planar chaos wedges. Research is being performed that is both ongoing and extensive to try and match the planar chaos wedges to the appropriate whiskey. Many of the evenings at worlds will be spent rectifying this situation. I invite anyone willing and of legal age to assist in some after-hours research. Perhaps with future sets we will see the chaos wedges used in a way that helps us better match flavor of a story to the flavor of a beverage.
Five color decks are varied and hard to pin down a specific flavor. The idea of all five colors converging is the idea that all colors and there nuances can be mixed to create a unique personality. We are all five color at heart and we swing to different segments of the color wheel. Five color Commander decks are a varied breed that are as strong and unique as their owners wish them to be.
Like the five colors of magic, there are five distinct flavors of Johnnie Walker blended scotch whiskey. Each of the flavors, itself is a mixture of many whiskeys. Somehow Johnnie Walker maintains a consistent, high level of flavor through all of its labels. Johnnie Walker is a good whiskey to drink if you are having a hard time nailing down your own color identity. Let it dance upon your pallet and see if you can pick out a particular scent or flavor within that attracts you. Chances are the flavor that you like best out of the flavors blended into this beverage will also be the style of deck you most enjoy.
I hope you have found some knowledge and enjoyment out of reading this post. I have had a blast researching it. I encourage you to try the color and whiskey combinations for yourself. If you have found something that works particularly well for you and a color identity please let me know. This is an ongoing project. It is a project where the journey is more important than the destination.
If you would like to get back to your regular readings from Jack, he has posted one of his articles over on CommanderCast.com. Do not worry, he will be back to keep you entertained on his regular schedule. I want to thank Mana Deprived for being willing to let me and the Commander Cast team post on this fine website. Most of my articles relate to strategy and card technology and Mana Deprived has been very considerate to allow my whiskey fueled ramblings. If you get some time, please check out my Accumulated Knowledge series every other Friday over at CommanderCast.Com. I hope to see you all at worlds!