Roll With It: Ol' Buzzbark and Enjoying Unstable Commander

Feature Article from Bruce Richard
Bruce Richard
1/16/2018 11:01:00 AM
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Yesterday was the last day silver-bordered cards were officially legal in Commander. Yes, I too shed a tear. Not for those silver-bordered cards that would not see Commander decks again, but for those of you who for whatever reason can't continue to use the Un- cards in your decks!

As someone with a fun playgroup, the deadline set by the Commander Rules Committee means nothing to me. Each of us understands that the real ban list with our group is whether or not the deck is fun for everyone. We play Magic for the fun game experiences and there are times when Un- cards offer than experience.

If you can, I recommend encouraging your group, whether you play at a kitchen table or the local game store, to continue to allow the silver-bordered cards to thrive. I understand the reasons behind the Rules Committee's decision, but I know how much fun my group has had and want everyone to get a chance to enjoy it the same way!

In that spirit, I want to share my Ol'Buzzbark Commander list:

Commander Buzzbark

For those of you not as deeply ensconced into Unstable as the rest of us, Ol' Buzzbark says that if you pay X mana when he enters the battlefield, you get to drop X dice from X inches high. If the dice end up on your creature cards, those creatures get +1/+1 counters equal to the value on the dice touching them. If the dice end up on your opponents' creature cards, those creatures take damage equal to the value on the dice touching them. This leads to all kinds of wacky interactions you just never see in regular games. I find this sort of thing just awesome!

Dice

One of the first things I heard about Ol' Buzzbark was the knock about rolling dice. Critics were concerned about 12 dice crashing down on their cards from a foot in the air. Many players are very particular about their cards staying in pristine shape (I'm one of those people!) and the thought of big dice crashing down, leaving dints and dings in their cards made them not want to play with or against Ol' Buzzbark.

I had a ready-made solution for that problem.

Foam dice.

I've been using yellow foam dice for years. They weigh virtually nothing and have large numbers on them, so they are easily visible across large tables. Not surprisingly, they cause no damage to anyone's cards, no matter how high or how many of them are rolled.

The next step was to determine the size of the dice. A one-foot square foam die is going to touch a lot of cards, so I was pretty sure that this was something that was considered. I checked the Unstable FAQ for Buzzbark and found that one cubic inch is the biggest die you are allowed to use with Ol' Buzzbark. My yellow dice are horrible undersized, coming in at only 5/8,” so I found some dice online that would do the trick and I was on the way!

The Deck

I know it is easy to glaze over 100 cards of decklist, so let me guide you through my selections.

Dice-related. When I was building initially, I expected this section would be huge, since there are plenty of cards that involve dice. The trick here is that this isn't a die-rolling deck, this is an Ol'Buzzbark deck. A card that rolls dice is fun, but if it isn't getting a benefit or offering a benefit to Ol' Buzzbark's rolling, then it isn't making the cut. This means that a card like Free-Range Chicken which involved a lot of die-rolling just isn't going to make the cut.

Four dice-related cards did make the cut:

· As Luck Would Have It. I figured with Ol' Buzzbark rolling a lot of dice, As Luck Would Have It would have a real chance of hitting 100 counters.

· Krark's Other Thumb. My group determined that with Ol'Buzzbark, you should roll 2x dice if Krark's Other Thumb is on the battlefield. However, getting to choose the best half of all the dice seems better than the card intended. I resolved this by getting different colored dice! This way I can choose one of the two blue dice, one of the two red dice, and one of the two purple dice! It seems like a fair, elegant solution!

· Steel Squirrel and Willing Test Subject. With all the Buzzbark die rolling, Steel Squirrel and Willing Test Subject should have plenty of times when they get bigger.

Upping the damage. There are some pretty big creatures in Magic. When 3.5 damage is the average amount you can expect from a single die, and that only happens if your aim is good, you probably want ways to up that total. The usual suspects are there (Furnace of Rath, Dictate of the Twin Gods and Insult // Injury, along with two others that were a little new to me: Embermaw Hellion and Angrath's Marauders. I was lucky enough to see both of the new cards in action. The Marauders are pretty much what you would expect in that it costs a lot and are pretty susceptible to removal, but the Embermaw Hellion was great. Adding a single damage just doesn't seem like a lot to most players, so it didn't get targeted a lot, but adding a single damage when using Buzzbark is great. If it hits three of your opponent's creatures, it adds a single damage to each creature! When you are looking at three or four damage from Buzzbark, adding one more can be essential!

Mid
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The Countdown Is At One never showed up in my game, but doubling damage on everyone is a good thing, and enchantments tend to get targeted far less, especially when you are helping to move the game along!

Upping +1/+1 counters. The usual suspects are here, along with Animation Module and Nissa, Voice of Zendikar.

The rest of the deck is made up of things you would expect. I thought Buzzbark would like Panharmonicon. I included plenty of ways to draw cards and ramp my mana. I included several creatures that would get benefits from +1/+1 counters since I expected Buzzbark to rain counters down from the sky on these creatures so seeing cards like Gyre Sage, Forgotten Ancient, Triskelion and Hydradoodle should not be surprising.

The Game

Ol' Buzzbark jumped into one game. His highlight came fairly early in the game:

Having done five damage and destroyed the creature I was hoping to kill, he worked out fairly well. It was a Two-Headed Giant game and we were eliminated fairly early, so Buzzbark's opportunities were limited. I still had plenty of fun and can't wait to play him again! There were a few things I learned, even in that short period of time.

Discoveries

Players move their cards. In Unstable, there is a card called Slaying Mantis. It has an ability called Just a second that says players can't move their cards. Ol' Buzzbark doesn't say that, so our group has decided that means you can move your cards. While we say that you have to keep them on your playmat, they get spread everywhere, making it almost impossible to hit more than one creature, no matter how many dice you roll. This limits the usefulness of the damage-dealing part of Buzzbark and encourages you to really focus on making your own creatures bigger. I'm not ready to eliminate the cards that increase damage just yet, it probably makes more sense to focus on my own creatures.

Since I already had ways to up the +1/+1 counters on my creatures, I figured adding creatures was the next step. I pumped up the ways to make token creatures, knowing this would allow me to practically wallpaper my playmat with creatures, guaranteeing a more effective Ol'Buzzbark throw.

Once Buzzbark is on the battlefield, he is just a 3/3. My opponents really aren't interested in killing him to give me another chance to throw the dice. Even if he was bigger, they would just chump block him. I initially thought that I needed more ways to make him die, but that isn't what I'm looking for either. Casting him repeatedly from the command zone means that I'm getting two fewer die rolls every time, because he is getting more expensive. Bouncing him doesn't work either since he would enter the battlefield and X would be 0. What I needed were ways to recast him from my hand. Since there is no blue in my deck, this would be a little more difficult, but my friend Jesse suggested Oni of the Wild Places! Once we went down that track, we found a handful of cards that would do a great job. Josh also suggested the Stampeding Serow and Wildebeest, along with Erratic Portal as a repeatable option that can also mess with your opponents!

Deathtouch is silly. Deathtouch creatures are nasty, but I put the equipment in thinking it would make the die-rolling particularly deadly! If I rolled only a one, any creature would still die! The obvious problem is that the die-rolling is an enter the battlefield ability, so Ol'Buzzbark will never be equipped when it happens – the same goes for lifelink equipment. Whoops!

Given these changes, here is the new list!

I can't wait for a chance to throw handfuls of dice onto a playmat covered with my creatures!

Anyone from the Commander Rules Committee will tell you that the purpose of Commander is to have fun playing Magic. If your group has a more fun playing Magic with silver-bordered cards than without, then keep playing with those cards! And invite me over; I have this great Ol'Buzzbark deck that promises to be a lot of fun!

Bruce Richard
@manaburned




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