Christmas Kresh Play-By-Play

This Christmas Day Sheldon has a nice holiday treat for you with this play-by-play of a Commander game he participated in with his Kresh the Bloodbraided deck.

Merry Christmas everyone! I haven’t done a play-by-play in a long time. Since folks have been asking, I thought that it’d be a nice holiday treat.

This Christmas play-by-play is brought to you by my love for recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Rush since I watched the ceremony last night. I’ve been a Rush fan since before many of you were born, and those guys can still play. Watching their career retrospective was moving.

Listening to Dave Grohl go on about them got a little tedious (as was Alex Lifeson’s blah-blah-blah part of the acceptance speech), but the payoff was then watching Foo Fighters start into "Temples of Syrinx" with Grohl in an Alex Lifeson wig and everyone in mid-70s silk kimonos before being joined by Alex, Geddy, and Neal to finish the piece. Foo Fighters exited, and Rush did their most giant of hits, playing "Tom Sawyer" (a frighteningly difficult song to play) before finishing with "Spirit of Radio" (additionally difficult, especially in the transitions). The whole thing was breathtaking. You can imagine what I’m listening to as I write this article. If you’re not familiar with the band and you like prog rock with power, I encourage you to give them a listen.

I’ve started a tradition of giving a small present to all the Armada Games EDH League regulars, something that I hope they can find a use for in their decks. Last year it was foil High Market. I was pleased to see many of them in play during the course of 2013. This year it’s Opal Palace (which is unfortunately not available in foil).

I sat down with two regulars, Apple (playing Oros, the Avenger and whose card I modded to be "Apple Palace") and Kyle (Ghave, Guru of Spore), and Michael, a newer guy to the shop (playing Kresh the Bloodbraided). I had already pulled out my Kresh deck, and everyone agreed that we should go for it. With the M14 legend rules, it seemed like it could be interesting enough.

Turn 1

Kyle: Vivid Grove.

Apple: Vivid Crag.

Me: Bojuka Bog (I knew I’d get it back to hand later with Rakdos Carnarium).

Michael: Swamp.

Turn 2

Kyle: Overgrown Tomb tapped.

Apple: Vivid Meadow.

Me: Blood Crypt tapped.

Michael: Mountain.

Turn 3

Kyle: Swamp.

Apple: Swamp.

Me: Forest, Withered Wretch.

Michael: Forest, Awakening Zone. Apple chuckles cryptically.

Turn 4

Kyle: Forest, Corpsejack Menace.

Apple: Mountain, Aether Flash. Now we know what the laugh was about.

Me: Forest, Survival of the Fittest. Unfortunately, I have only one creature in hand. I’m going to pitch it to get Yavimaya Elder.

Michael: Spawn token on his upkeep dies to Aether Flash.

Turn 5

Kyle: Vastwood Hydra, Orzhov Basilica, bouncing a Swamp. Attacks Apple (36).

Apple: Homeward Path, Spreading Plague, another card we have a chuckle about. I definitely get Yavimaya Elder with Survival since it kills both of Kyle’s creatures.

Me: Forest, Yavi. It triggers Aether Flash. I have enough mana to draw a card, but I keep it up for Withered Wretch instead just in case something scary hits the yard. This early in the game I should have probably drawn the card since I had nothing but lands in hand.

Michael: No land, discards.

Turn 6

Kyle: Land, Bane of Progress. Here we have three triggers: Kyle’s, putting counters on the Bane, which goes on the stack first since he’s active player, then Apple’s Aether Flash and Spreading Plague, which goes on second and third (Apple got to choose the order of his own). Spreading Plague doesn’t have anything to kill. Aether Flash resolves, killing Bane of Progress before it can get the counters.

Apple: Temple of the False God, and Oros, the Avenger. I eat Bane of Progress and Corpsejack Menace with Withered Wretch.

Me: Rakdos Carnarium, bouncing Bojuka Bog.

Michael: Reliquary Tower.

Turn 7

Kyle: Plains, Ghave, Guru of Spores. I know Kyle’s deck is about getting out Ghave, developing a bunch of mana, and making lots of little guys, which he sacrifices to get additional effects. The best way to shut him down is to make the cost of Ghave prohibitive so that he doesn’t have the mana to do shenanigans.

Apple: Attacks Kyle with Oros (34). Oros triggers, and he pays 2W to kill Withered Wretch.

Me: Opal Palace, play Kresh with it. The guys ask why mine isn’t signed and marked with "Christmas 2013" like theirs. I tell them that while I think a little bit of ego is fine autographing your own cards for your own decks is completely over-the-moon narcissistic and I would never want to be that guy.

Michael: Green Sun’s Zenith for three, getting Vampire Nighthawk. Kyle inexplicably sacrifices Ghave to itself.

Turn 8

Kyle: Terminus, making the Ghave play make sense. Michael breathes a sigh of relief that he didn’t also play his Kresh.

Apple: Sun Titan, although he has nothing to get.

Me: Swamp, Devouring Swarm. I hold on to Big Game Hunter because I know Kyle will recast Ghave and not have enough mana to make it small enough to avoid the trigger condition.

Michael: Miren, the Moaning Well.

Turn 9

Kyle: Bojuka Bogs me and then casts Ghave as predicted.

Apple: Attacks me with Sun Titan (34).

Me: Big Game Hunter to kill Ghave. Kyle looks at the mana, recognizing that he has only one, shrugs, and returns Ghave to the command zone.

Michael: Swamp, Phyrexian Arena.

Turn 10

Kyle: Taps eight, plays Selesnya Sanctuary, bounces a land, and casts Woodfall Primus. Blows up Arena.

Apple: Attacks Michael with Sun Titan (34), uses Vivid mana for Massacre Wurm. In response I draw with Grim Backwoods, sacrificing Big Game Hunter. Devouring Swarm then eats itself to avoid the Massacre Wurm triggers. A discussion ensues about a swarm being able to devour itself, which we spend far too much time on.

Me: Temple of the False God. I cast Demonic Tutor, get Lurking Predators, and cast it. It was the first super cool thing that I came across, so it seemed like the right choice. I’m sure there were strategically better calls to make. Apple casts Enlightened Tutor, putting Repercussion on the top.

Michael: Primeval Bounty. I Preds into Overgrown Tomb and ship it. I have lands, thank you. Plus, if you’re on the Lurking Predators plan, you have to stay on it.

Turn 11

Kyle: Plains, Sylvan Primordial. I Preds into another land; the tone for my game is getting set. Kyle takes out Primeval Bounty, Lurking Predators, and Vivid Crag, which leaves Apple with only one red source.

Apple: Attacks me and Michael for six each (28) and (28), getting back Vivid Crag with the Sun Titan trigger.

Me: Forest. My run of lands has begun.

Michael: Demonic Tutor and passes.

Turn 12

Kyle: Temple Garden. Battles me with Woodfall Primus (22).

Apple: Miracles Banishing Stroke, taking out the Sylvan Primordial (which I’ll point out was strong but not oppressive in this game). Kyle responds by sacrificing it to Momentous Fall, drawing six and gaining eight (40). Attacks Kyle with both creatures (28).

Me: Bojuka Bog Kyle.

Michael: Dragonmaster Outcast, which I’m sure isn’t what he tutored for. I don’t think we ever find out what it was.

Turn 13

Kyle: Homeward Path, Renegade Krasis. Pays nine for Ghave. Krasis evolves, so everyone gets counters. Sacrifices Woodfall Primus to Ghave (+7). Woodfall Primus persists, blowing up Repercussion. Krasis evolves again. Kyle ends up at (38) from the Massacre Wurm.

Apple: Attacks Michael with Sun Titan (22), getting back Repercussion.

Me: Strip Mine.

Michael: Gets 5/5 Dragon. Casts Swiftfoot Boots, equips them to Outcast.

Turn 14

Kyle: Golgari Rot Farm, bouncing Bojuka Bog. Casts Leyline of the Void and Soul Warden. Removes a counter from Ghave to make a creature and gain one and sacrifices it to put a +1/+1 counter on Woodfall Primus (eliminating the -1/-1 on it). Ends up at (25). He then sacrifices Woodfall Primus. Apple responds by casting Erase on Leyline of the Void. Woodfall persists back, blowing up Repercussion. This battle will happen many times.

Apple: Attacks Michael with Sun Titan, getting back—you guessed it—Repercussion. Michael blocks with a Dragon and then sacrifices it to Miren, netting only three because of Massacre Wurm (25).

Me: Bloodshot Cyclops. Kyle goes to (26) due to Soul Warden.

Michael: Gets another Dragon on upkeep. Main phase drops Blood Crypt untapped (23) and casts Grave Pact.

Turn 15

Kyle: Rupture Spire, Solemn Simulacrum (27).

Apple: Nothing. Sweet FA. Nada.

Me: Draw Living Death, which is really no help since there’s nothing good in my graveyard and some spicy stuff in everyone else’s. Drop a Forest.

Michael: Grave Titan plus two Zombies get Kyle up to (31). Follows that up with Bitterblossom.

Turn 16

Kyle: Bojuka Bogs me. Casts Merciless Eviction for enchantments, ending that Repercussion problem once and for all. Casts Farseek, getting a Swamp. Attacks Apple with an 8/8 Ghave. Apple blocks with Sun Titan.

Apple: Swamp. I totally misread that because he had chumped with Sun Titan (it wasn’t like Kyle had enough stuff to sacrifice to kill him with commander damage) Apple was going to do something on his turn. At EOT, I know I need to get something going really quickly, so in desperation I send Bloodshot Cyclops into the Grim Backwoods. It’s Greater Gargadon.

Me: Badlands, suspend the Gargadon.

Michael: Gets another Dragon token. Puts Splinter Twin on Grave Titan. Taps it, gets all the creatures, and attacks Apple, who blocks with Massacre Wurm. Kyle ends up at (34), Michael (21).

Turn 17

Kyle: Drops Dryad Arbor, casts Blood Artist. This is going to get ugly. Sacrifices Solemn to put a +1/+1 counter on Woodfall Primus. Pings Apple to (35) with Blood Artist. Casts Karmic Guide, getting back Solemn Simulacrum. Kyle ends his turn back at (40).

Apple: Suspends Greater Gargadon. I wonder what he’s holding back since he hasn’t really done anything on the last three turns despite an ever more threatening board state. I’m pretty much confused at what his hand might look like.

Me: Take a counter off of Greater Gargadon, draw Sol Ring. Yeah, that card’s busted.

Michael: Gets Dragon. Kyle to (41). Casts Kresh. Taps Titan, Kyle to (44). Attacks Kyle with two Dragons and Titan token. Kyle blocks Titan with Solemn Simulacrum and one of the Dragons with Karmic Guide. Sacrifices Solemn, draining Michael (20). Sacrifices Woodfall Primus, Michael to (19). When it persists back, it blows up Splinter Twin. Kresh up to plus sixteen. One more sacrifice puts Michael at (18) and Kyle finally at (42). Apple tells Michael he should probably put those Swiftfoot Boots on Kresh. Michael agrees, and then Apple Reroutes it to a token just to draw a card since Michael has the mana to reequip anyway.

Turn 18

Kyle: Attacks Apple with the team. Apple springs the trap he’s been waiting for, casting Nemesis Trap and then Radiateing it. Kyle sacrifices his creatures to Ghave to avoid having them exiled. Blood Artist triggers take Michael to (13) and Kyle to (47). Casts Final Judgment. Uses Murmuring Bosk for white mana (46) to cast Marshal’s Anthem kicked three times. Gets back Karmic Guide, Woodfall Primus, and Renegade Krasis. Karmic Guide gets back Solemn. Kyle wonders if he has any basic lands left in his deck.

Apple: Balefire Liege.

Me: Bayou.

Michael: Life’s Finale, targeting Kyle. Puts Avenger of Zendikar, Mikaeus, and Terastodon in Kyle’s yard. Woodfall Primus persists back, blowing up Swiftfoot Boots.

Turn 19 

Kyle: Doesn’t pay Karmic Guide echo. Casts Diabolic Servitude, getting back Karmic Guide, which returns Avenger of Zendikar, getting him 21 plants. Drops a Swamp to trigger Avenger. Pays eleven for Ghave. Attacks Michael with Woodfall Primus (7).

Apple: Netherborn Phalanx. Kyle all the way down to (21).

Me: I draw Flesh // Blood. I have crazy dreams about tapping mana, sacrificing it to Greater Gargadon, casting Flesh // Blood, and killing someone with it. I’m not quite ready to go out in that blaze just yet.

Michael: Lightning Reaver, Skullclamp. Forgets that Reaver has haste and passes.

Turn 20

Kyle: Doesn’t pay the echo on Karmic Guide. It gets exiled, and Diabolic Servitude goes back to his hand, which he then recasts, getting Solemn Simulacrum. Drops another land, giving the Plants a third counter. Sacrifices Solemn to put a counter on Woodfall Primus. Casts Diabolic Servitude again, getting Mikaeus. Battles everyone for lethal with 5/6 Plant tokens. I make a deal with Apple. If I save everyone right now and he has Insurrection, he can’t kill me when he casts it. He points to Kyle’s Homeward Path. I point to my Strip Mine. He agrees. I cast Tangle.

Apple: Insurrection. I try to pump up the drama by waiting until it’s on the stack to strip Kyle’s Homeward Path, but everyone knows I’m keeping my word. He kills the other two.

Turn 21

Me: Nothing.

Apple: Brings in his Gargadon, attacks me with it (11). Casts Windborn Muse. So much for my Flesh // Blood plan.

Turn 22

Me: Nothing.

Apple: Battles me with both. I have to sacrifice a few things to get my Gargadon into play to stay alive. When I draw nothing relevant the next turn (and he shows me Grab the Reins), we’re done.

Although I was mostly a non-factor in the game and the hot double Kresh action never materialized, there was plenty of other stuff happening for me to enjoy. It’s easy to do lots of stuff when you have a pile of mana, but I thought Kyle especially got great mileage out of his cards. Lots of players, especially those who want to play out of their graveyards, would be quite skittish about using Diabolic Servitude as aggressively as he did. I think he realized where we were in the game and that it was time to make a move. Well played.

It’s been a spectacular 2013, and I’m looking forward to more of the same in 2014. Thanks to all of you who regularly read and comment on the column. Keep ’em coming.

I’ll be staying home on New Year’s Eve with a few friends, running all three of the Lord of the Rings (Extended Version) movies, a New Year’s Eve tradition we started in 2004 (although we’ve skipped once or twice). This year will be the first year we have them all on Blu-Ray, and with a new TV I expect them to be spectacular. We’ll be starting The Fellowship of the Ring around noon, which will put the One Ring into the lava right around midnight assuming we don’t take too long with dinner (which we normally do). Please have a fun and most importantly a safe New Year’s Eve.

Embracing the Champagne,


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