Alright, so two Saturdays ago Richmond Comix held its second Commander tournament. To change things up from last time, they decided to limit the sets from which you could build your deck to just Modern-legal ones to give newer players with more limited collections a better shot at building competitive decks. As someone who's been playing multiplayer forever and has at least a single copy of nearly every card I might want in multiplayer, I found it an interesting deckbuilding exercise and talked about it in a column a couple weeks back.
Not too many people showed up for this one. Our previous tournament drew forty players, with a handful of people who came afterwards and just played in the side Commander games. This time we just had twelve. The prize this time was stellar—the winner got a Prerelease box from each of the ten guilds in Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash. I'm not sure whether it was just bad timing for a lot of the people who came out last time or whether restricting the sets to Modern-legal was a big turn-off, but hopefully we'll see more of them next time.
The original plan for the tournament was that you'd break up the players into initial pods and the winner of each pod would advance to the final table. With only twelve players, that presented some problems. You could either have three pods of four with the final table only having three players, or you could have four pods of three with the final table having four players. The problem of course is that three-player Commander is little better than 1v1 Commander, and games can end fast if you draw strong and your two opponents don't have the right answers soon enough. I don't consider fast games of Commander very fun.
I favored having two pods of six players with the top two or maybe three players from each table advancing to the final table, but when I suggested that no one else seemed to like the idea.
I was particularly concerned because my beloved Doran, the Siege Tower deck wasn't exactly designed to come out the gates fast and furious. Sure, I could cast Doran fast and he could start swinging, but having to connect five times to take someone out with Commander damage isn't exactly swift. I'd designed the deck for a good, long game, and I was afraid that a three-person game wasn't going to last long enough for me to have a shot at winning a spot at the final table.
I pretty much played the deck I wrote about a couple weeks back—the appropriately named All My Faves In One Deck!—with a few last minute tweaks. There were five cards I wanted to add, and after thinking about each card in the original list, I made some hard cuts. Vhati il-Dal is great with Doran but didn't exactly play into all the other themes I had going on. Order of Whiteclay and Golgari Guildmage were decent but a bit mana intensive, I had lots of mana fixing so Coalition Relic got the boot, and Green Sun's Zenith only being able to tutor up green creatures made it a little less appealing than some of the other tutors.
Here are the cards I added to the deck:
Dark Depths + Vampire Hexmage: Another favorite combo. With ways of searching for both lands and creatures, it seemed silly not to include this powerhouse duo. Besides, I have the Marit Lage token card, and it's a shame not to use it!
Sylvan Ranger: Sometimes you need to use your creature tutor to fix your mana.
Thousand-Year Elixir: Some of my combos required tapping to activate, so shaving off the turn it takes to shake off summoning sickness seemed prudent, not to mention being able to swap life totals with Tree of Redemption twice in the same turn could prove to be crucial.
Seedborn Muse: I still think this card should be banned in Commander, but while it's legal it really should be in every green deck.
After the three-man pods were randomly drawn, I sat down with Jay playing Rafiq of the Many and Joshua playing Sharuum the Hegemon. Yeah, my concern that this game was going to be way too short for my shenanigans was definitely justified!
Joshua came out fast with lots of artifact acceleration, played Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, and then played Fabricate to tutor up Darksteel Forge, but luckily he was a couple mana away from playing the Forge—though digging with Tezzeret it seemed likely he'd hit another mana rock pretty quickly. Jay had some acceleration too and tutored up Sovereigns of Lost Alara, a dangerous card made even more so with his commander Rafiq ready to come play at any moment.
I'd accelerated a little bit with Scuttlemutt but had stalled with just five lands on the board. Luckily, I had Qasali Pridemage and Nim Deathmantle in play, so I felt confident I could knock some teeth out of Jay's assault if he pointed it my way—but I had two problems. The first was all the mana it required me to hold up the Qasali Pridemage and Nim Deathmantle activations, especially since I'd not drawn any lands for a couple turns. The second was that I didn't included any way to deal with Darksteel Forge in my deck, so I felt that I needed to wave away Jay to take down Joshua before he got impossible to kill.
This meant I didn't really get to do anything to give me a chance to advance my own game plan, but thankfully Jay obliged and annihilated Josh pretty quickly. I went ahead and used Qasali Pridemage on the Eldrazi Conscription at the end of his turn and got my Cat back with Nim Deathmantle. On my turn, I drew Silklash Spider. I had Basilisk Collar in play, so if I equipped the Silklash Spider, I'd be able to nuke the air if he tried to fly with a tutored-up Aura, and I'd be able to block ground pounders with the Silklash Spider and kill it that way. So I went ahead and played the Silklash Spider and hoped I'd live long enough.
There were no instant death shenanigans that happened on Jay's turn, and on my turn I draw Jarad's Orders. I went ahead and cast it, desperate to search up some sort of answer. As I went through my deck, I realized that what I really needed was Shriekmaw to kill off Sovereigns of Lost Alara, but alas I didn't think to include it. In fact, the only real answer I had was the painfully slow Magus of the Disk, and I was short on white mana, having to rely on Scuttlemutt to provide the white so far. So I put Magus of the Disk in the graveyard and put Necrotic Ooze in my hand. Since I only had two mana left, I went ahead and equipped the Silklash Spider with the Basilisk Collar.
Jay saw the Necrotic Ooze / Magus of the Disk writing on the wall and came at me hard with another creature getting the boost from Sovereigns of Lost Alara and Rafiq of the Many. I tossed a chump blocker in the way and survived. On my turn, I drew a land and contemplated my position. I had mana up now to activate the Silklash Spider for flying defense, but I really need to play that Necrotic Ooze if I wanted to blow up the board and have a shot at winning. So I went ahead and did that.
On Jay's turn, he played Finest Hour. Ouch! He attacked with Rafiq of the Many (which had a power-boosting Aura from attacking Joshua) and fetched up Steel of the Godhead, which made Rafiq of the Many unblockable! I went ahead and blew off Qasali Pridemage to kill Steel of the Godhead, but between the other Aura and the exalted triggers, Rafiq's double strike would kill the Silklash Spider before it could deal its deathtouch damage. I was screwed. I took the first hit and then chumped with my Silklash Spider on the second attack.
Then Jay played Time Warp. My heart sank, both from the hopeless situation I was in and from the fact that I was gonna lose to one of my most hated effects in the game. "Jay, I'm very, very disappointed in you" I said in my best stern father voice, and he shook his head. "Yeah, I feel kinda crappy playing the card, but I've got to. I don't think I can recover from the Magus of the Disk."
I scooped…and then Joshua pointed out that I could have used Scuttlemutt to turn Rafiq of the Many red, which would have turned off Steel of the Godhead, and then used Qasali Pridemage to kill the other Aura, blocked Rafiq with the Silklash Spider, and it wouldn't have been big enough to kill Silklash with first strike damage, and the deathtouch would have killed Rafiq [Editor's Note: Yeah, how could you miss such a small, non-convoluted, simplistic sequence of plays!?]
D'oh! Oh Scuttlemutt, I love you dog, how could I have failed to see that? Sure, how many times do you ever use Scuttlemutt's color changing ability, but it's one of the reasons why I love that card and play it in almost every deck! I'd just been so reliant on using it for mana that game I'd totally lost sight of its other use as I was scrambling to survive. Not that I'd necessarily have won that game, but at least I'd have had a shot.
A bit disappointed in myself, I wished Jay luck at the final table, where he sat down with Eric also playing aggro Rafiq of the Many, Nicolas playing Prime Speak Zegana, and my roommate Chuck playing my Rakdos, Lord of Riots deck that I'd modified to make Modern-legal. I of course was pulling hard for Chuck to bring it home since the prize loot would fall square into my own lap.
I went ahead and jumped into a side game with five players—ahhhh, much more my speed! I decided to give Doran another whirl and this time pulled out the win on the back of a 20/20 flying indestructible Marit Lage token and Necrotic Ooze shenanigans—first going nuts with Devoted Druid and Grim Poppet abilities to clear away everyone's blockers and then borrowing Heartless Hidetsugu and Devoted Druid abilities to reduce everyone low enough in life to swing with a couple creatures to finish things off.
Yeah, pretty epic!
I checked back in on the main event, and it was still going on—all four players were still in it. Apparently, the two Rafiq players were constantly jockeying for position that neither were able to explode out the gates, and the game had progressed long enough for Rakdos and Zegana to establish solid board position as well.
Then things began to change, apparently starting with Lurking Predators from Nicolas. Spells from his opponents over the course of a few turns gave him a few small creatures on the board that got a little bigger with Master Biomancer—and then he hit Craterhoof Behemoth! Of course, having it come into play during an opponent's turn is much less impressive, but when Nicolas drew Phantasmal Image and played it copying the Behemoth, suddenly he was able to dish out enough damage to take down the whole table. It was epic enough that all of his opponents unanimously nominated him for the Bennie Smith Spirit of EDH Haymaker Award, and he selected the fine alter by MJ Scott of Keiga, the Tide Star as his prize.
I made a video of his award for posterity with my iPhone that's embedded below. I apologize for the awful sound quality and the terrible "vertical video" that I did once again after promising myself to record horizontally after the first time I did it.
Nicolas was kind enough to type up his list for me and send it so I could share it with all of you. He said this was the first time playing it and that he'd love to hear any suggestions you might have for it in the comments below. It looks to me like a solid deck chock full of value creatures and a nice +1/+1 counter theme. Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir and Deadeye Navigator certainly let you know you're playing this in a high-powered, cutthroat environment.
- 1 Duplicant
- 1 Phyrexian Metamorph
- 1 Avenger of Zendikar
- 1 Coiling Oracle
- 1 Craterhoof Behemoth
- 1 Deadeye Navigator
- 1 Elvish Visionary
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 1 Farhaven Elf
- 1 Fathom Mage
- 1 Fertilid
- 1 Glen Elendra Archmage
- 1 Gyre Sage
- 1 Master Biomancer
- 1 Murkfiend Liege
- 1 Mystic Snake
- 1 Oracle of Mul Daya
- 1 Pelakka Wurm
- 1 Phantasmal Image
- 1 Plaxcaster Frogling
- 1 Rampaging Baloths
- 1 Roil Elemental
- 1 Sage of Fables
- 1 Scute Mob
- 1 Seedborn Muse
- 1 Skyshroud Ranger
- 1 Sower of Temptation
- 1 Sphinx of Magosi
- 1 Sylvan Primordial
- 1 Sylvan Ranger
- 1 Trygon Predator
- 1 Vigor
- 1 Voidmage Prodigy
- 1 Wood Elves
- 1 Woodfall Primus
- 1 Zameck Guildmage
- 1 Azusa, Lost but Seeking
- 1 Keiga, the Tide Star
- 1 Momir Vig, Simic Visionary
- 1 Prime Speaker Zegana
- 1 Sakashima the Impostor
- 1 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
- 1 Venser, Shaper Savant
- 13 Forest
- 9 Island
- 1 Alchemist's Refuge
- 1 Breeding Pool
- 1 Cavern of Souls
- 1 Hinterland Harbor
- 1 Misty Rainforest
- 1 Novijen, Heart of Progress
- 1 Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
- 1 Reliquary Tower
- 1 Rogue's Passage
- 1 Minamo, School at Water's Edge
- 1 Miren, the Moaning Well
- 1 Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
- 1 Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers
- 1 Loxodon Warhammer
- 1 Sensei's Divining Top
- 1 Skullclamp
- 1 Sword of Feast and Famine
- 1 Vedalken Orrery
- 1 Asceticism
- 1 Bear Umbra
- 1 Doubling Season
- 1 Ground Seal
- 1 Hibernation's End
- 1 Leyline of Anticipation
- 1 Lurking Predators
- 1 Nature's Will
- 1 Cyclonic Rift
- 1 Simic Charm
- 1 Snakeform
- 1 Cultivate
- 1 Explore
- 1 Kodama's Reach
- 1 Rite of Replication
- 1 Tooth and Nail
- 1 Urban Evolution
I'm really looking forward to playing in the midnight Dragon's Maze Prerelease at Richmond Comix tonight, where I'll be rocking Golgari along with whatever guild I get as a mystery ally. I've got my fingers crossed for Simic, but I'll be happy with Selesnya or Orzhov. Wish me luck that Golgari will prevail running the Implicit Maze!
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com
Make sure to follow my Twitter feed (@blairwitchgreen). I check it often so feel free to send me feedback, ideas, and random thoughts. I've also created a Facebook page where I'll be posting up deck ideas and will happily discuss Magic, life, or anything else you want to talk about!
New to Commander?
If you're just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:
- Commander Primer Part 1 (Why play Commander? Rules Overview, Picking your Commander)
- Commander Primer Part 2 (Mana Requirements, Randomness, Card Advantage)
- Commander Primer Part 3 (Power vs. Synergy, Griefing, Staples, Building a Doran Deck)
- Commander Starter Kits 1 (kick start your allied two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 2 (kick start your enemy two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 3 (kick start your shard three-color decks for $25)
My current Commander decks (and links to decklists):
- Doran, the Siege Tower (All My Faves in One Deck!)
- Johan (Cat Breath of the Infinite)
- Lord of Tresserhorn (ZOMBIES!)
- Borborygmos Enraged (69 land deck)
- Aurelia, the Warleader (plus Hellkite Tyrant shenanigans)
- Oona, Queen of the Fae (by reader request)
- Karador, Ghost Chieftain (my Magic Online deck)
- Karona, False God (Vows of the False God)
- Skullbriar, the Walking Grave (how big can it get?)
- Phage the Untouchable (actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)
- Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind (Chuck's somewhat vicious deck)
Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus:
- Yeva, Nature's Herald (living at instant speed)
- Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis (evil and Spike-ish)
- Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius (new player-friendly)
- Trostani, Selesnya's Voice (new player-friendly)
- Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord (drain you big time)
- Riku of Two Reflections (steal all permanents with Deadeye Navigator + Zealous Conscripts)
- Phelddagrif (Mean Hippo)
- Sigarda, Host of Herons (Equipment-centric Voltron)
- Bruna, Light of Alabaster (Aura-centric Voltron)
- Ruhan of the Fomori (lots of equipment and infinite attack steps)
- Ghave, Guru of Spores (Melira Combo)
- Glissa, the Traitor (undying artifacts!)
- Grimgrin, Corpse-Born (Necrotic Ooze Combo)
- Damia, Sage of Stone (Ice Cauldron shenanigans)
- Geist of Saint Traft (Voltron-ish)
- Glissa Sunseeker (death to artifacts!)
- Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer (replacing Brion Stoutarm in Mo' Myrs)
- Thelon of Havenwood (Campfire Spores)
- Melira, Sylvok Outcast (combo killa)
- Konda, Lord of Eiganjo (The Indestructibles)
- Vorosh, the Hunter (proliferaTION)
- Progenitus (Fist of Suns and Bringers)
- Savra, Queen of the Golgari (Demons)
- Uril, the Miststalker (my "more competitive" deck)