Celebrating Commander Celebration

The Commander Celebration at #GPAtlanta was one to remember! Bennie Smith shares the lists he played during the weekend and shares some of the great stories that made the event so much fun!

From where I stand, the Commander Celebration at Grand Prix Atlanta was a smashing success! I got to play a ton of fun games of Commander and was able to
meet lots of fellow Commander enthusiasts. It was wonderful seeing Sheldon Menery again after many years, and I was thrilled to get to meet Mark Globus
from Wizards of the Coast. Mark’s enthusiasm and love for Magic – and Commander in particular – was a joy to see and makes me very glad he’s working to
make our game even more fun with every set.

It was particularly fantastic to get to meet MJ Scott, who was the featured cosplayer for the weekend. Not only is MJ a good friend and not only does she
make a kick-ass Elf, but she’s also the editor and project manager for my eBook, The Complete Commander. With me living in Virginia and MJ living on the
west coast, we had to do all of our work over the internet through email, shared documents, and Skype. Being able to give her a big hug for all her hard
work and chat in person was a great added bonus to the weekend. Her husband, Elliot Scott, was also super-cool, and I was glad to meet him in person too.

My journey began early Thursday morning, and I hit the road around 7am to drive from Richmond to Roanoke, the hometown for Star City Games. Almost three
hours later, I parked and hopped in a car with a handful of Star City folks for the long drive down to Atlanta. When I finally got to my room I was
exhausted, but the view was pretty awesome-apparently there’s a Ferris Wheel in downtown Atlanta!

Friday was spent being briefed on the logistics of what was expected of me Saturday and Sunday, and then we had a meet and greet with Commander fans before
getting to speak at the panel on Commander along with the Q&A afterwards. I’m pretty awful at giving speeches, but thankfully, Sheldon, MJ, and Mark
picked up the slack, knocking it out of the park.

Then it was Saturday and time to play Commander! I brought nine different decks with me of varying power levels, along with a tenth deck utilizing the
rules for Duel Commander in case someone who was a fan of that format wanted to play some games. While I normally like long, rambling games of Commander, I
did tweak most of the decks so that there were some outlets available to end the game if it went on too long so I could play as many games – and against as
many players – as possible over two days. Today I thought I’d briefly recap each of the games I played with a different deck and share the decklist as I
played it.

Day 1, Game 1: Skullbriar, the Walking Grave

Other Commanders:
Sharuum the Hegemon; Scion of the Ur-Dragon; Prime Speaker Zegana

As my opponents gather around my table, I ask them what sort of game of Commander are they looking to play. “A man’s game,” says one as he boldly tosses
down Sharuum the Hegemon. When Scion of the Ur-Dragon and Prime Speaker Zegana follow, I see we’re playing a high-powered game.

Skullbriar, the Walking Grave it is! With the new rules against tucking or bouncing commanders, Skullbriar’s power has gone off the charts, so I built this
deck to be very aggressive and capable of killing quickly. The gameplan is pretty easy: play Skullbriar on turn 2 and start attacking. Add counters and
kill blockers as needed.

I came out swinging as per the plan, but I lived in fear of someone suddenly going off and killing the table at any moment. Then an interesting thing
happened. Since each of my opponents were playing blue and rarely tapped out, they kept each other’s combo potential in check. I could have quickly killed
any one of them, but I was a little worried about tilting the balance of power by taking down one of the blue players, so I spread around the commander
damage, killed creatures when needed, and kept growing Skullbriar.

I did get Skullbriar up to being a 15/15, and everyone had enough commander damage that a single hit would have them losing the game. There was a little
counterspell tussle that left the Scion player a window of opportunity to cast Animate Dead on Worldgorger Dragon, giving him infinite mana that he used to
cast Scion, searched up Shivan Hellkite to copy, and killed us all. It was only then that I realized this game had actually gone on for almost two hours!


Day 1, Game 2: Aurelia, the Warleader

Other Commanders:
Omnath, Locus of Rage; Ezuri, Claw of Progress; Sedris, the Traitor King

After such a tense, high-powered game I was a little apprehensive to see what the next group of players wanted to play, but when I saw someone wanted to
play Ezuri, Claw of Progress from Commander 2015, along with Omnath, Locus of Rage and Sedris, the Traitor King, I felt like I could relax a
little bit. Maybe. Ezuri and Sedris could both start rolling really fast, so I decided to play my Aurelia deck. It wasn’t super-fast, but it could assemble
some game-winning combos if someone looked to be closing out the game. There were two ways to gain infinite attacks: I could deal combat damage to a player
with Sword of Feast and Famine, untap my lands, and activate Aggravated Assault to attack again. Another way was attack with Aurelia, the Warleader and
Felhide Spiritbinder, untap Felhide Spiritbinder to copy Aurelia, sacrifice the original one and then attack with the copy on the extra attack step. Then
there was the chance of equipping Basilisk Collar to Boros Reckoner and if anyone dealt damage to it, I could cast Boros Charm to make my permanents
indestructible and keep looping the damage back onto Reckoner and gain infinite life. I also included some smash mouth combat tricks and other fun cards,
but when we played out the game I ended up drawing Helm of Kaldra and Shield of Kaldra, which I equipped to Auriok Champion and shifted my gameplan to
finding Sword of Kaldra. A funny thing happened though: I ended up with a Sun Titan in play and equipped with the Helm and Shield of Kaldra. I kept
sacrificing Commander’s Sphere to draw cards and getting it back each time I attacked with Sun Titan and drew into Aggravated Assault, which gave me even
more attack steps and drew even more cards. It wasn’t long before I found a way to search for equipment so I went ahead and found Sword of Feast and Famine
to finish the game.

Day 1, Game 3: Feldon of the Third Path

Other Commanders:
Uril, the Miststalker; Animar, Soul of Elements; Vorel of the Hull Clade

When my opponents revealed their commanders I knew we were leaning a little high on the power scale. I decided to give Feldon of the Third Path a try. I
love my Feldon deck, but my original build was a bit ponderous so I trimmed some fat and juiced it up a bit, including the very recent inclusion of Ulamog,
the Ceaseless Hunger. I got a pretty good start with a lot of early plays but nothing really exciting to start taking over the game when an opponent on
turn 5 played Chaos Warp. I had five mana open and a Radiate in my hand. I had eleven permanents in play, while my opponents had considerably less than
that. The only problem was one opponent had just cast Uril, the Miststalker which of course wouldn’t be targeted by the copies of Chaos Warp, and he could
very well flip over a bunch of auras to enchant Uril with and quickly destroy all of us. However, he only had five permanents in play other than Uril, so
it was possible he could whiff on the Chaos Warps.

Come on though… if you have a chance to Radiate Chaos Warp, you really have no choice but to Radiate Chaos Warp. Let chaos rain down!

When the insanity was resolved Uril only got a single aura added to his bulk but had whiffed enough that he only had two lands in play. The chaos had
granted me Hellkite Tyrant among a few other goodies, and when I drew Liquimetal Coating I knew what my plan was going to be-let’s steal things! Everyone’s
attention quickly shifted to stopping my shenanigans, destroying Liquimetal Coating, and when I cast Goblin Welder, that was countered. I then cast Feldon,
equipped with Lightning Greaves to copy Goblin Welder in the graveyard, and then since the copy is an artifact, I sacrificed the copy to get back
Liquimetal Coating. My tyrannical plans seemed unstoppable so I was shocked when the Animar player went off and killed us. I can’t even remember the
specifics of it, but I know no one will forget when Radiate hit the Chaos Warp!

Feldon of the Third Path
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 11-26-2015

Day 1, Game 4: Brago, King Eternal

Other Commanders:
Hixus, Prison Warden; Ezuri, Claw of Progress; Shirei, Shizo’s Caretaker

I see Ezuri, Claw of Progress is a very popular new commander. This game was notable for two things: first, the Shirei player had to bail about twenty
minutes into the game because he was waiting for a Duel Commander tournament to start. The second thing was that I got Brago, King Eternal on the board
early and managed to both protect him and find ways to deal combat damage to a player each turn (particularly once I found Writ of Passage). If Brago, King
Eternal gets to trigger multiple times in a row, the advantage you can rack up is pretty overwhelming, and having one of my opponents drop out certainly
didn’t help the resistance. Mastery of the Unseen did insane work here!

Day 1, Game 5: Cromat

Other Commanders:
Scion of the Ur-Dragon; Daxos the Returned; Karador, Ghost Chieftain

I wasn’t entirely sure what sort of Daxos deck he was running, but my instinct is that Daxos can be made quite high powered, and since Scion and Karador
are no slouches either, I decided to break out my insane five-color planeswalker deck built around Cromat. I talked a little smack about Cromat, but once I
played my third planeswalker I think my opponents started to figure out my shenanigans.

The game was most notable when I got Gideon to 47 loyalty. Unfortunately that was because my Daxos opponent had just played Storm Herd and had made over
forty 1/1 fliers. Since none of my planeswalkers had reach and I couldn’t find mass removal, I quickly died.

Bennie Smith
Test deck on 11-26-2015
Magic Card Back

Day 1, Game 6: Nin, the Pain Artist

Other Commanders:
Meren of Clan Nel Toth; Daxos the Returned; Ezuri, Claw of Progress

This was an interesting game. I kept a mostly unremarkable hand but had lands and spells, and drew Deceiver Exarch, which I then cast at the end of my
third turn. Then I drew Splinter Twin on my fourth turn. My opponents kept tapping out so the coast was pretty clear for me to just win right there, but we
were only about five or six minutes into the game. I didn’t get the sense that my opponents were playing high-powered decks and I didn’t want to end things
so quickly, so I just kept the combo pieces in my hand. Of course then I drew Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, which made things a bit more awkward; I didn’t
want to just win on the spot, but I also didn’t want to discard it since two of my opponents were playing black and I didn’t want to give them a reanimate
target that could blow open the game. So I played Nin, pinged Deceiver Exarch to draw cards, and we played out a much longer game. Meren of Clan Nel Toth
ended up crushing us by making tons of Plant tokens when my shields were down, attacking us with 14/15 Plants.

Day 2, Games 1 & 2

On Sunday I get to the venue early and see that Mark Globus and Sheldon are both there, so we nab a fourth and decide to play a game for fun. I pull out
Karador, Mark’s playing Progenitus, and Sheldon (I think) was playing Animar.

We have some fun interactions with lots of joking and laughing, but then we notice a small crowd is starting to gather around and Mark suggests we call the
game and each of us start new games. Mark’s table quickly fills up, and Sheldon gets two opponents, but then the rest of the players have started another
game already so I decide to be Sheldon’s fourth. I’m playing Jalira, Master Polymorphist and Sheldon is playing his “You Did It To Yourself” Ruhan of the
Fomori deck. We have an epic throw down, and once the other two players are eliminated we get down to brass tacks: me versus Sheldon for the ultimate smack
talk bragging rights. He’s got a Repercussion on the table that ends up dealing us both a lot of damage, and once I’m low enough, his Circle of Flame
pretty much shuts down any attack on the ground, but I’ve got a Faerie Conclave and Kira, Great Glass Spinner to take to the air and get him low enough
that one more attack will kill him. Unfortunately, he plays Mob Rule which will end up killing me so I’m forced to use the only counterspell in my hand:
Swan Song. That gives him a flier. If I attack, we both lose from the Repercussion, which I suppose would be apropos, but I draw Evacuation. I cast it,
getting rid of his flier, recast Kira, Great Glass Spinner, equip her with Lightning Greaves (which fizzles), but I can equip her again to give her haste,
activate Faerie Conclave, and swing in for the win…

…but he’s got Reverse Damage, which means he only goes to one life, and I’m dead. It was truly epic!

Jalira, Master Polymorphist
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 11-26-2015

Day 2, Game 3: Cromat

Other Commanders:
Karametra, God of Harvests; Karador, Ghost Chieftain; Riku of Two Reflections

I decide to break out Cromat for planeswalker shenanigans again. I draw and play Sylvan Caryatid on turn 2, so I start dropping planeswalkers on turn 3 and
my board gets insane pretty quickly.

The two cards up top are ones I stole with Sorin (there was another more threatening creature I stole, but it was quickly killed). I tutor up Doubling
Season to really put things over the top, but it is quickly destroyed with a Krosan Grip. While everyone is justifiably working on stopping my push, the
Karametra player is developing a rather scary board with Zendikar’s Roil, which works nicely with Karametra’s trigger. Casting creatures and ramp spells,
he’s got an army of Elementals and makes his move by dropping Beastmaster Ascension. Since no one has any way to destroy the enchantment, his suddenly
gigantic Elementals begin taking scalps, with mine being the first.

Day 2, Game 4: Prossh, Skyraider of Kher

Other Commanders:
Meren of Clan Nel Toth; Melek, Izzet Paragon; Ezuri, Claw of Progress

For this game, I break out Prossh. This deck can hit hard with Prossh like any other good Prossh deck, but I’ve also tweaked it so that I can actually beat
down with the Kobolds.

Check out that Taskmaster! I did also have the Kobold Drill Sergeant, but it had died by the time I snapped this picture. I came close to winning this game
with Eldrazi Monument, but Meren of Clan Nel Toth was able to steal the win with a few well-timed removal spells.

Prossh, Skyraider of Kher
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 11-26-2015
Magic Card Back

Day 2, Game 5: Karador, Ghost Chieftain

Other Commanders:
Gahiji, Honored One; Melek, Izzet Paragon; Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge

This was a really nice, laid back game with a lot of fun smack talk and plenty of back and forth interaction. Jeleva tried to run away with the game early,
but the other three of us managed to contain the madness long enough for me to take that player out and begin to construct an end game of my own. The
turning point was copying my dead Willow Satyr’s ability with Necrotic Ooze to steal Gahiji, Honored One to juice up my small army of small creatures into
a more fierce force.

Karador, Ghost Chieftain
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 11-26-2015

Day 2, Game 6: Mizzix of the Izmagnus

At this point, the day was winding down. Sheldon and Mark had rolled on, and most of the players had left. There were four people still hovering around The
Command Zone and since I had a copy of each of the Commander 2015 precon decks, I asked if they wanted to do battle with the precons. I let them
all choose a deck to play, and I was left with Seize Control, the Blue/Red deck. I have to say that I was very impressed with how the decks played out-each
of them seemed very well balanced against each other, with plenty of muscle and juice for fun games. Playing a deck focused on instants and sorceries was
certainly out of my comfort zone, but I had a good time doing something different. The Green/Blue deck playing Ezuri got knocked out first, and then we had
to band together to take out the Red/White deck playing Anya, Merciless Angel. The three remaining jockeyed for position a bit, with the Green/Black Meren
deck growing in strength to the point where she had to decide which player to take out next. The Daxos player and I gave our best political pitches, but I
came up short and got knocked out first, with Daxos following soon afterwards. It was an incredibly fun game, and I can definitely recommend people
thinking about keeping the precons together for battling to give it a try.

The Commander Celebration was an absolute blast, and I wanted to thank everyone who came out and played games with me. All of my opponents were fun to be
with, and I was thrilled at the variety of different decks you all brought to the table. If you enjoyed yourselves too, please reach out and let Star City
Games know how much you loved the Commander Celebration. Who knows, we might be able to do something similar again sometime.

A special shout out to Barry Snow, one of the judges assigned to The Command Zone. I’d never met Barry before, but he was an absolute joy to be around all
weekend. He had a very wry and British sense of humor that constantly had me chuckling.

I’ve written about some of the decks before (at least older versions), but some I haven’t, so if you have any questions about them, please ask and I’ll do
my best to answer. I’m quite eager to add some of the new Commander 2015 cards to the decks! Which of the new cards do you think would go great in
some of these decks?

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 write-ups I’ve done
(and links to decklists):

Zurgo Bellstriker (Bellstriking Like a Boss)

Dragonlord Ojutai (Troll Shroud)

Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund (Dragons, Megamorphs, and Dragons)

Dromoka, the Eternal (One Flying Bolster Basket)

Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest (Tempests and Teapots)

Tasigur, the Golden Fang (Hatching Evil Sultai Plots)

Scion of the Ur-Dragon (Dragon Triggers for Everyone)

• Nahiri, The Lithomancer (Lithomancing for Fun and Profit)

Titania, Protector of Argoth (Titania’s Land and Elemental Exchange)

Reaper King (All About VILLAINOUS WEALTH)

Feldon of the Third Path (She Will Come Back to Me)

Sidisi, Brood Tyrant (Calling Up Ghouls with Sidisi)

Zurgo Helmsmasher (Two Times the Smashing)

Anafenza, the Foremost (Anafenza and Your Restless Dead)

Narset, Enlightened Master (The New Voltron Overlord)

Surrak Dragonclaw (The Art of Punching Bears)

Avacyn, Guardian Angel; Ob Nixilis, Unshackled; Sliver Hivelord (Commander Catchup, Part 3)

Keranos, God of Storms; Marchesa, the Black Rose; Muzzio, Visonary Architect (Commander Catchup, Part 2)

Athreos, God of Passage; Kruphix, God of Horizons; Iroas, God of Victory (Commander Catchup, Journey into Nyx Edition)

Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient (Ghost in the Machines)

Jalira, Master Polymorphist (JaliraPOW!)

Mishra, Artificer Prodigy (Possibility Storm Shenanigans)

Yisan, the Wanderer Bard (All-in Yisan)

Selvala, Explorer Returned (Everyone Draws Lots!)

Grenzo, Dungeon Warden (Cleaning Out the Cellar)

Karona, False God (God Pack)

Child of Alara (Land Ho!)

Doran, the Siege Tower (All My Faves in One Deck!)

Karador, Ghost Chieftain (my Magic Online deck)

Karador, Ghost Chieftain (Shadowborn Apostles & Demons)

King Macar, the Gold-Cursed (GREED!)

Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind ( Chuck’s somewhat vicious deck)

Roon of the Hidden Realm (Mean Roon)

Skeleton Ship (Fun with -1/-1 counters)

Vorel of the Hull Clade (Never Trust the Simic)

Anax and Cymede (Heroic Co-Commanders)

Aurelia, the Warleader ( plus Hellkite Tyrant shenanigans)

Borborygmos Enraged (69 land deck)

Bruna, Light of Alabaster (Aura-centric Voltron)

Damia, Sage of Stone ( Ice Cauldron shenanigans)

Emmara Tandris (No Damage Tokens)

Gahiji, Honored One (Enchantment Ga-hijinks)

Geist of Saint Traft (Voltron-ish)

Ghave, Guru of Spores ( Melira Combo)

Glissa Sunseeker (death to artifacts!)

Glissa, the Traitor ( undying artifacts!)

Grimgrin, Corpse-Born (Necrotic Ooze Combo)

Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge ( Suspension of Disbelief)

Johan (Cat Breath of the Infinite)

Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer (replacing Brion Stoutarm in Mo’ Myrs)

Karona, False God (Vows of the False God)

Lord of Tresserhorn (ZOMBIES!)

Marath, Will of the Wild ( Wild About +1/+1 Counters)

Melira, Sylvok Outcast ( combo killa)

Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker ( Outside My Comfort Zone with Milling

Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis (evil and Spike-ish)

Nicol Bolas (Kicking it Old School)

Nylea, God of the Hunt ( Devoted to Green)

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic (Life Gain)

Oona, Queen of the Fae (by reader request)

Phage the Untouchable ( actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)

Phelddagrif (Mean Hippo)

Polukranos, World Eater (Monstrous!)

Reaper King (Taking Advantage of the new Legend Rules)

Riku of Two Reflections (

steal all permanents with
Deadeye Navigator + Zealous Conscripts


Roon of the Hidden Realm ( Strolling Through Value Town)

Ruhan of the Fomori (lots of equipment and infinite attack steps)

Savra, Queen of the Golgari ( Demons)

Shattergang Brothers (Breaking Boards)

Sigarda, Host of Herons ( Equipment-centric Voltron)

Skullbriar, the Walking Grave ( how big can it get?)

Sliver Overlord (Featuring the new M14 Slivers!)

Thelon of Havenwood ( Campfire Spores)

Varolz, the Scar-Striped (scavenging goodness)

Vorosh, the Hunter ( proliferaTION)

Xenagos, God of Revels (Huge Beatings)

Yeva, Nature’s Herald (living at instant speed)