Embracing The Chaos - New Commanders Week
For the 8th and final week of the Armada Games EDH League 10 I promised decks with two new Commanders. I delivered and I'm happy to say so did the decks leading me to a top table win and second place in the League.
The first deck was Animar as I suggested back during Commander Preview Week. The only changes I've made since then were to take out Jugan the Rising Star and Avenger of Zendikar (to put into the Riku deck) and put in Melira Sylvok Outcast (after the deck got savaged in some casual games by Contagion Engine Contagion Clasp and Black Sun's Zenith) and M12's Garruk's Horde although I slipped in a Spine of Ish Sah since I didn't have a Coalition Relic sitting around. That point brings me to a realization that I've had over the last month or so since I've been in kind of a flurry of deckbuilding: when you have a lot of decks you're probably going to end up with some less-optimal choices. After all even those of us with large collections have a finite number of certain cards.
Ultimately the variation in having many decks is positive. In an Eternal format like EDH decks aren't subject to as much change as in formats that constantly rotate. We add new cards because they're cool or swap out things that aren't working quite the way we wanted but in the majority of cases our decks stay relatively constant. Variation between decks of the same or overlapping colors keeps the format fresh for us. If all I had to play was my Kresh deck as much as I love it I imagine I'd get pretty tired of it after a while. Having many different decks means having many different options and gives me the chance to pick a deck to suit my mood.
The main problem I've found is with the mana bases. In the 37-40 lands you're going to play in your Jund-color build there are some nearly absolute best cards to play: Badlands Bayou Taiga Stomping Ground Blood Crypt and Overgrown Tomb among them. It's easy to come by a dozen Reliquary Towers or Temples of the False God but the dual lands are a horse of a different color. Getting the right lands in the right balance can be problematic when you get to the mentally unstable point of having 15 or so decks (with more to build!!!). Other seeming auto-includes like Sol Rings and Solemn Simulacrums (Simulacra?) compound the problem.
There are also cards that I simply like in their colors such as Lurking Predators and Greater Good in green. The temptation to always run them is powerful but I don't want there to be too much sameness to the decks. I guess the bottom line is that I'm going to suggest and build some decks and there will inevitably be “I can't believe you didn't include X” choices that are simply victims of not having enough copies of the card or have been sacrificed for variety's sake. I'll try to make a point of mentioning “hey I didn't have any more Badlands” or “yeah Cryptic Command would probably be better here but I'm totally playing Rewind instead” or whatever when posting lists. That doesn't mean suggestions are unwelcome (such as sambrookjm's Angry Mob idea for mono-white). There are many better Magic minds than my own out there and it'd be silly to ignore them.
ROUND 1 Table 1: Animar Soul of Elements
On the drive up it occurred to me that since this was the last week the top 4 players in the League standings should be at the first table. I simply liked the idea that we'd have to battle each other for top spot. As it turned out League Chairman Michael Fortino had had the exact same idea and was already going to implement it.
There are 29 players tonight a strong turnout. I'm immensely pleased and think that the Commander Precons have a great deal to do with this. I sit with Tom (Skullbriar the Walking Grave) Danny (Riku of Two Reflections) and Cliff (Hanna Ship's Navigator). Tom announces that he's “going aggro” tonight because in casual play over the last week he's “seen too many damn Riku decks.” Danny as good-natured a kid as there is agrees with him but contends that his deck is a “party deck.”
Tom does get aggressive right from the start with a turn 2 Skullbriar followed by turn 3 Rancor. He smacks all of us in turn but Cliff points him in a different direction with a few Myr. Animar has protection but courtesy of the Rancor Skullbriar still tramples over him for a bit until I cast a few creatures including Forgotten Ancient and Viral Drake. Shifting the counters from Babycakes to Animar ends Tom's beats on me. Danny does indeed start his partying with Rites of Flourishing and eventually Font of Mythos and Wild Evocation.
Side story from a casual game the day before: I wasn't all that sure why I put Braid of Fire in the deck until I dropped Nin the Pain Artist and Darksteel Colossus (having lived the dream of casting it for free). “Upkeep deal 8 to Darksteel draw 8” is all kinds of OK.
Woodfall Primus and Melira (having not considered the combo at least for this deck until it hits the table in front of me) keep Tom off my back but he's still smashing into Danny and Cliff although plenty of chump-blocking is keeping the damage down and finally the other dudes are just too big and the Skullbriar-ing grinds to a halt. I cast some guys; Cliff casts some guys; and we're all drawing cards and putting stuff into play off the Wild Evocation (although in a 12-card hand I hit Apocalypse Hydra). Tom gets a whiff on a Nemesis Trap and Cliff gets one on Power Sink a clever enough card which I haven't seen played much. Even in the world of vast mana-ramping folks push things to the mana cost limit pretty often and a Power Sink for one or two might be devastating.
Finally Animar is giant big enough to kill in one swing. Tom is tapped out and Skullbriar is useless in this situation (not to mention he's in first place in the League) so I swing for him. Danny saves him with Evacuation which he says he was going to save for when Tom tried to kill him but now seems a good enough use. Bounce being about the only thing that hurts Skullbriar this is a good plan.
A few turns later Animar is once again built up to lethal levels (mostly to do with the extra cards off the Font and extra land drops off the Rites) and there's no one to save Tom. Something about Danny's body language tells me he has Insurrection in hand and I mention to Cliff that it would be lethal to both of us Animar one-shotting someone (probably me since that's The Way It Should Be) and he says he has Day of Judgment but only one white mana. I feel like we're sunk until I reread Fertilid and do the only thing a reasonable person would: cast it and activate its ability targeting Cliff. He casts Day of Judgment and the board is safe for a moment.
We once again rebuild quickly. I get to cast Ulamog for free. Right afterward Cliff from a large hand randomly gets his Ulamog off of the Evocation—nabbing a point for blowing up my Maze of Ith. When he then casts Time Reversal we find out that Danny does indeed have Insurrection in hand but had passed up a few opportunities to play it. Good to know my read skills are still intact.
The Insurrection threat averted for now and an Oblivion Stone activation having come the build-back is slower and none of us get there. Cliff Tom and I end up in a three-way tie for the table.
ROUND 2 Table 1: Riku of Two Reflections
There are a zillion ways to build Riku and I've already seen a dozen or so. The basics—copying cool dudes and cool spells—are the same but the flavors widely varied. Here's how it ended up from a few weeks ago:
- 1 Duplicant
- 1 Phyrexian Metamorph
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Acidic Slime
- 1 Aura Thief
- 1 Avalanche Riders
- 1 Avenger of Zendikar
- 1 Body Double
- 1 Clone
- 1 Cold-Eyed Selkie
- 1 Djinn of Wishes
- 1 Dominus of Fealty
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 1 Fierce Empath
- 1 Frost Titan
- 1 Glen Elendra Archmage
- 1 Heart Warden
- 1 Inferno Titan
- 1 Krosan Tusker
- 1 Man-o'-War
- 1 Oracle of Mul Daya
- 1 Phyrexian Ingester
- 1 Primeval Titan
- 1 Seedborn Muse
- 1 Wood Elves
- 1 Woodfall Primus
- 1 Yavimaya Elder
- 1 Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
- 1 Rayne, Academy Chancellor
- 1 Riku of Two Reflections
- 1 Citanul Flute
- 1 Darksteel Ingot
- 1 Mizzium Transreliquat
- 1 Skullclamp
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Sword of Fire and Ice
- 1 Tormod's Crypt
- 1 Future Sight
- 1 Night Soil
- 1 Rhystic Study
- 1 Survival of the Fittest
- 1 Artifact Mutation
- 1 Beast Within
- 1 Cerebral Vortex
- 1 Chaos Warp
- 1 Comet Storm
- 1 Desertion
- 1 Ertai's Meddling
- 1 Noxious Revival
- 1 Sudden Impact
- 1 Summoning Trap
- 1 Turnabout
- 1 Wild Ricochet
- 1 Worldly Tutor
- 1 Cultivate
- 1 Genesis Wave
- 1 Growth Spasm
- 1 Hunting Wilds
- 1 Rampant Growth
- 1 Recross the Paths
- 1 Skyshroud Claim
- 1 Sleep
One of my early plans was to make it Sudden Impact.dec. I was going to play the whole suite of Sudden Impact Storm Seeker and Cerebral Vortex but eventually cut Storm Seeker (it gets pimp points but Sudden Impact was simply handier). The Sword of Fire and Ice was supposed to be a Sword of War and Peace and will be once I pick up another but I simply didn't have one.
I wanted to go with as few Legendary Creatures as possible since they're mostly terrible to copy. I went back and forth over between Kozilek and Ulamog but in the end card availability once again made the decision. I was actually going to use both until I came up with the Rayne idea—a neat idea and something I'm simply not playing in another deck.
There were a number of last-minute changes from draft to final version based on either not having the card or a small strategy change. I had done some consideration of the copy theme so had Mirari in the deck but changed it to Citanul Flute for more dude-searching. Sensei's Divining Top became Skullclamp because I like drawing cards. Consecrated Sphinx turned into Heart Warden for two reasons. First I wanted a touch more ramp—Riku can get a little spendy. Second Consecrated Sphinx is a card that causes other players to panic. It might be fine if you're playing a dedicated control deck and can protect it but just hanging it out there seemed like a better choice in the Philosophy of Second Best arena.
Coiling Oracle was sacrificed to the altar of being in too many decks and exchanged for Glen Elendra Archmage which I barely play at all (and makes a tasty copy target). Dominus of Fealty came in for Murkfiend Liege but that's going to change back once I pick up another Liege (especially since we live in the post-Homeward Path world). Of all the less-than-a-dollar rares running around I couldn't find Ravenous Baboons so it became Avalanche Riders. I decided I didn't care about my stuff getting exiled so Riftsweeper became Wood Elves. Krosan Tusker replaced the Scavenging Ooze that I didn't have another copy of. I simply couldn't go without attempting the insanity of copying Avenger of Zendikar and it's a decent card by itself.
I knew I wanted to do something tricksy with tapping creatures which is why Cryptic Command was originally in. I decided that I'd go outside the box with Turnabout—and you'll see it come up later. Chord of Calling became Summoning Trap in another bout of not playing much of the latter—not to mention the superdream of casting it copying it getting an awesome guy and then copying that. I didn't have a spare Mana Drain so I thought Ertai's Meddling might be worth some laughs. My card draw being okay enough I added Sleep to the package in place of Overwhelming Intellect a card that I continually find myself doubting when to hold back mana for.
The deck is also very color-dependent so I went without Homeward Path and Mystifying Maze opting for Yavimaya Coast and Shivan Reef and when I didn't have a Volcanic Island available put in Scalding Tarn.
With 29 players and 7 tables there are actually two Table 1s. I'm seated at one of them with David (Sharuum the Hegemon) Josh (Ink-Eyes Servant of Oni) and Joel (Rubinia Soulsinger). We wonder how Josh is going to get Ink-Eyes into his hand since we know it's going to happen. Turns out that he uses Haunted Crossroads after letting it go the graveyard.
The game is tighter and a little tenser than the last. Joel casts turn 2 Sylvan Library and I say what I say every time: “A real man would take 8 a turn.”
He says “That's exactly what I'm going to do.” He takes himself down to 19 life before anyone else actually damages him.
The battle settles into back-and-forth between Joel who is in serious control mode and David who is playing lots of artifacts and copying them with Mirrorworks. Joel starts recurring Body Double with Genesis to try to keep David in check and David blows up the board a few times with Scourglass and its copies.
Seeing that something is going to have to break loose before I can do much I just keep recasting Riku eventually getting it five times. When it gets killed again I'm pretty sure there's not a sixth time in me. I have a terrible (uncopied) Summoning Trap nearly whiffing. My only creature is Avalanche Rider and there's not even a Maze of Ith to blow up.
Joel recasts Consecrated Sphinx a number of times after David kills it. Josh isn't much of a factor after his Cabal Coffers gets stripped. I have Sudden Impact in hand and try to bait Joel—who has Ulamog the Infinite Gyre on the battlefield—into drawing too many cards by casting Acidic Slime targeting his Greater Good. He doesn't rise to it because his graveyard is serving him better than drawing cards anyway.
The mood gets a little testy when David is a little deliberate with his turns (in his defense he has multiple Gilded Lotus and Voltaic Key and a fairly large decision tree) and then with Joel at 7 life David steals his Ulamog. Joel casts Consecrated Sphinx again and has drawn up to seven when David attacks him. Joel starts to scoop up his cards and I ask him to wait. He's tapped out anyway but I don't think he would have counterspelled even if he wasn't. I cast Sudden Impact stealing the kill from David. Joel sort of taunts David on my behalf while reaching across and picking up his Ulamog.
The game doesn't last much longer after that. David casts Blightsteel Colossus. I have Desertion but I don't see that he has Homeward Path on the table. Josh attacks me with Ink-Eyes Servant of Oni to get the Frost Titan out of my graveyard tapping down Blightsteel but that doesn't matter in the face of Voltaic Key.
After he kills me David wants to point farm before killing Josh which isn't all that bad but there's also a penalty for taking too long a turn (currently set at six minutes which is a really long turn). He starts doing stuff and I mention it's only fair that if he's going to take the extra points for the farming he's going to have to accept the penalty for the extra-long turn. He briefly dissents but finally casts Sharuum for the fifth time and then kills Josh with Blightsteel. The last three points puts him in second for the table with five one behind me (winning on the Block Party point!).
Tom wins the League with 52 points; David and I tie with 50 for second (apparently Michael hadn't figured in the 'dropping worst two weeks' part yet so I was a little farther behind than I originally thought). This League was a fair amount more fun with the points system not so onerous and time-consuming and the players in general being far more interested in good times. The points system has encouraged a particular style of play and while it might needs some tweaking has done a decent job.
Michael announced that for League 11 the prize structure will flatten significantly and I'm happy with it. There will still be an abbreviated points system but that will only be for determining table/pod winners. Instead of paying out the bulk of the prizes to the table and League winners every entrant will get a booster of current expansion. Each table winner will receive two promos and second place at each table will receive one. I assume this will be a pick from the promo binder which they've done for stuff in the past but I'll get some clarification. There won't be a running League total which means less administration and overhead. We'll see how that works. I'm hoping the flatter prizes will encourage even more folks to come out. The place already gets pretty busy on Thursday nights and I'm hoping we can get it completely packed.
There will be two weeks off between Leagues but next week Original Virginia Group member Justin Norris is in town so we'll be headed off to sling spells all day and I'm certain there will be tales to tell. For Week 1 of League 11 I'll be at Gen Con but that doesn't mean I won't be playing the 100-card decks. I'm going to be one of the Guests/Spell-Slingers so if you're there please come on by and we'll shuffle up and Embrace the Chaos together.