Turning Data to Decks — Embracing New Players

Hello Everyone!

Kya here! Also known slightly better as The Girl with the Lotus Tattoo!

Who am I you ask? The same as you, a Commander player who enjoys spending my spare time slinging spells and talking smack while doing so. Okay...well maybe you're just into that first part about slinging spells, but I just can't help myself sometimes...

When I'm not slinging spells though, I work as a data analyst. Not the most exotic profession, but it's something that allows me to afford my cards! It also taught me that research is very important. Although I've been playing for quite a while, I remember clearly when I first started playing. There were so many cards to choose from and so many options on how to play that I was often awash in options! Many cards I never heard of or wouldn't have if it wasn't for EDHREC and especially the Internet.

The Decks Have Eyes

Now I know what some of you are thinking. "Oh no! A Net Decker! Run for the hills!"

For those unfamiliar with net decking, it's when someone finds top tier decks or tournament listings online and replicates said decks. There's a strong stigma against doing this, as many complain it ruins the spirit of Magic the Gathering. Personally, I don't find anything wrong with wanting to try and compete with your veteran friends on their level of card quality. For some, bridging the experience gap may take too long to cross naturally. However, I do understand the fear of players losing creativity. What I've noticed over the years is many confusing net decking with any research or ideas provided by others online.

This series' purpose is to show a fair middle ground between net decking and creative deckbuilding by utilizing the power of EDHREC. EDHREC is an amazing database of commanders and cards that allow newer players and veterans alike to build decks. I personally found many cards and synergies I've never heard of before because of EDHREC. Using these new found insights I can continue to build stronger decks, all while keeping my creativity.

Dank Themes

Now that the explanation is out of the way... let's get down and dirty and do some deck building!

Now many already know how to navigate EDHREC and I'm guessing most primarily use the site by searching by their desired commander. But there's another way to search for fun deck ideas.

Today's article is going to use the Theme section to craft a deck!

It's here we can look up a particular play style that is one of my favorites... Group Hug! What is Group Hug and why is it so special to me, aside from having a giant magical flying hippo grace the table in all its sparkling goodness? Well because it allows everyone to do what EDH does best, cast giant spells and cause flat out ridiculous turns for everyone at the table.

And as a self-proclaimed envoy of EDH, one of my favorite (and cheapest) decks that I own is my Group Hug Phelddagrif deck.

And look! He comes right up as the first listed commander of the Group Hug Page

Fun fact! Phelddagrif is actually an anagram for Garfield Ph.D., the creator of Magic the Gathering. You know, just in case you also don't spend your time browsing Wiki...

Now I know what you're thinking. We just got a group hug deck recently from Wizards, why make a deck based off one of the most statistically dangerous creatures on earth?

Because a few reasons. One, look at him! He's the face of Group Hug! That should be a good enough reason in its own right. Even his abilities are group hug! Giving people tokens? Life? Cards while evading? What more can you ask for? But mostly the reason I go Bant is that with four colors it becomes slightly harder to budget building from scratch. That and if you give me red, Warp World is going in and NOBODY wants that!

Our Powers Combined!

Now I'm sure looking at the EDHREC page with all these options can be a little intense, so let's look at some of my favorites.

Here are some cards right off the Bant that shows the spirit of Group Hug. Notice something else? Yes! They are all Join Forces cards! Encouraging players to work together for a single moment, to ensure that the board becomes full of ...wait for it...Magic!!!! See what I did there?

I'm sorry...but at least I gave everyone 12 lands by turn 3? Right?


Now a few sorcery spells are nice, but it wouldn't be much of a deck without creatures, so let me introduce you to Santa Phelddagrif's helpful little elves!

Okay, Santa Phelddagrif was short on elves, so there's also wurms and snake people involved, but they're just as eager to help! As you can see, each card is a gift to the table in which everyone can enjoy! Finally, you can safely cast that Edric, Spymaster of Trest without someone looking at you suspiciously!

As you're beginning to see, there are a multitude of cheap and fun cards that can quickly warp a game into something much more than a typical EDH game. Play that Tempting Wurm for the first time with your friends and watch their reaction! Those reactions are the greatest moments I've had in my history of playing. Finding out what everyone does as it resolves is a suspenseful but joyful experience. Except for that time I accidentally caused my friend to play a turn two Blightsteel. Oops!

No Glove, No Love

One of the best aspects of playing group hug though is that the pressure of being targeted and trying to win is minimized. That being said, I do happen to keep a Strength of Cedars for hilarious Phelddagrif swings. Despite this though I find that most see others as the bigger threats and leave me alone. There are some grumpy people out there though who don't like hugs, so here are a few things to keep you safe!

Notice how even my wall gives gifts???

Money for Nothing and Hugs for Free

Did I also mention it's my cheapest deck? Cheap as in money, not cheap as in my Zur Doomsday wins. As you can see on EDHREC, Group hug cards are all very cheap and you can find a large assortment of different ways to surprise your friends. Also being group hug, there's no real standardized way to build or play such a deck. Using EDHREC's list of popular Phelddagrif inclusions alone, you can't go wrong with what you decide to include in your deck.

At the end of the day though, it's all in moderation. Although my baby hippo is a favorite by far, I only pull him out upon occasion. Like your love life, sometimes you just got to spice things up from the same old everyday experience. Considering how cheap you can create such a deck I would suggest that every hardcore EDH player try building one. It's a nice break having a deck that encourages others to play. That and the expectation of winning isn't there, but if you do, it's a nice and usually hilarious surprise.

Below is my decklist. You'll notice outside the previously mentioned Strength of Cedars, there are NO wincons whatsoever. This is because again, the deck is not designed to win. I did keep out my Show and Tell though from this list due to how expensive it is. I pulled one fairly recently, and I couldn't resist!

Thank you, everyone, for the long read! Hopefully, this will encourage Group Hugs to become a little more popular, as I've noticed it's died down a little from what I've seen. Below is my full decklist. You might notice some cards are not quickly found just on my main man-hippo's page. Well, that's when further research, my ever decreasing wallet and current availability come into play 😉

Embracing New Players

View on Archidekt

Deck Notes: I have another chaos deck so cards like Eye of the Storm and Hive Mind were taken out of this long ago. I'd 120% agree with adding them in though if you're not interested building both hug and chaos.

Tune in Next Time...

My next article will show everyone another interesting way to use EDHREC, along with another fun and uncommon play style. Please look forward to it!


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