The air in Week 5 of the Armada Games EDH League was filled with Dragons, from the raw aggression of Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund, to the careful planning
of Intet, the Dreamer. Karrthus faced down two of his draconic brothers, while Intet ruled over more earthbound foes.
After quite some controversy over the negative point for casting the same spell three times in a game, the penalty was changed for casting it the third
time on a single turn. This was a much better solution, as it attacked what I think League organizers perceived as the problem in the first place. I
spoke briefly to Armada owner Michael Fortino about it, and he said he was considering tossing it altogether because of the bookkeeping requirement.
I made a few changes in the post-Commander world, but Karrthus seemed like he didn’t need or want many. First was swapping out a Forest for
Command Tower. Second was taking out Galvanoth, which always seemed like a more Intet-ready card anyway (although I didn’t put him in the Intet
deck), and putting in Hydra Omnivore. Finally, I took out World at War and put in Stranglehold (now challenging Reparations for best flavor text ever).
I’m going to look over the new cards, and probably some of the M12 ones as well, to find a replacement for Savage Beating. I thought I’d
enjoy multiple attack steps more than I actually did.
I won’t be changing the deck much off of being a Beasts deck with a minor landfall theme, but this will be the last time it’s played as
Karrthus. I want a lower-cost Commander, so I think I’m down to a choice between Adun Oakenshield, Xira Arien, and Sek’Kuar, Deathkeeper.
I’m really leaning toward the pimpiness points of the original Legends creature, Adun’s ability probably suiting me a little more. In the
post-Mimeoplasm world, I imagine we’ll see a little more graveyard hate, but maybe not. Since Adun’s ability wouldn’t be the
centerpiece of the deck but just some nice utility, graveyard removal wouldn’t be the worst thing.
We have 23 players, meaning three tables of five and two of four. As you’ll see for round two, the five first-round tables create a bit of an
unusual situation. I’m seated with Anthony (Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief), Shea (Teneb, the Harvester), Wayne (Rith, the Awakener), and Jay (Saffi
Eriksdotter). It looks like a fun table, and I know the players are all of the “let’s have a good time” sort. The first thing I note
is that there’s no blue at this table, a highly unusual case in the format. It makes the Red Elemental Blast in my deck worthless—although
later in the game when Anthony casts Syphon Mind, I have something I don’t mind pitching.
Just as we’re getting started, Shea gets a phone call that he has to take, so we chat a bit. I’m not sure how we get on the topic of
basketball—but we agree that it’s been a while since there’s been a truly dominant ‘big man’ in the game, or more to the
point that big men are no longer the game’s centerpieces. There was a day when offenses were all about getting the ball down low to your George
Mikan or Wilt Chamberlain, or the next generation’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Elvin Hayes, or even the later Hakeem Olajuwan, David Robinson, or
Shaq, but today’s game is given over to the smaller guys—the Iversons, the Jordans, the Lebron Jameses. I suppose Dirk Nowitzki might be an
exception. I lament the heady days of the Magic Johnson/Larry Bird matchups, someone calls me old, Shea comes back, and we move on.
My turn 1 drop is Mosswort Bridge, and I look at three lands and Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger, and I realize that I had wanted to take him out too.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s really good, but the locking down of mana, while strategically sound, is politically difficult. It’s the
kind of card that will get a fair amount of hate pointed your way (justifiably), and it violates the rule of Being Second Best. I’ll have a
mid-game opportunity to active the Bridge, but I end up choosing to Plague Wind instead, feeling that give the board state, I would have gotten
orc-piled. There are some cards whose value is proportionate with the amount of fear and/or hate they generate. Vorinclex seems to make way more
trouble for you than he’s worth.
My turn 3 play is Pernicious Deed, and it causes me to write a note to myself about T3 P-Deed strategy. I think we could probably do an entire strategy
article on whether or not you want to run it out so early. In most cases, I think it’s the right play. Even if you’re playing moderately
aggressively, it gives you a kind of control you might really enjoy. You can play the waiting game of simply piling up mana until the X-for-1 value is
extreme. Even the most cautious players are going to put out some of their minor threats.
You can play a little chicken game of putting out small-to-medium sized to force everyone else into answering you. The obvious play for them is to drop
a larger dude than yours, especially if you’re battling them with it. You still have the protection of being able to blow it at will, so
they’re likely going to point their things some other direction.
Of course, it will always blow up tokens for zero mana, even if you’ve tapped out to do something large. In addition to you knowing that, your
opponents do as well, which means they’ll be keeping token-generators in their hands. It still means that you’re controlling the narrative
of the game.
You obviously have to pay attention to your hand when you’re considering whether or not to make the T3 Deed play. In this particular case, my
choice was pretty easy because I only had higher-cost stuff in my hand (plus Reroute). If you have turn 4 and 5 plays that will push the game’s
direction, you might think differently.
Naturally, there’s the risk that someone will blow it up before you can use it effectively. I think the risk is well worth the reward. The worst
that will happen for you is a one-for-one trade. There’s a large potential benefit that outweighs that risk.
As it happened, Shea does in fact on turn 5 use Krosan Grip to blow it up. Events partially conspired in this case because he was mana-screwed. He
hadn’t drawn any since his opening hand and was stuck at three land. His choice was use the K-Grip or discard. Otherwise, he probably would have
played something big, knowing that I would be unlikely to blow the Deed until he attacked me, using my own caution against me. The good news for me in
this case that he doesn’t then have the removal for the Lurking Predators that I cast. Unfortunately for me, Wayne does, in the form of Revoke
Existence. The card on top is Sensei’s Divining Top, which I obviously don’t ship. I do later get a little sloppy in using it, opening the
door for Jay to nab a point by Disenchanting it.
After that, the game settles into a pretty good rhythm, with Shea eventually recovering from the mana problem. Wayne provides himself with some
protection by casting Angelic Arbiter which slows down the combats some, as folks want to get permanents out. There are a few board wipes, I get in one
hit on Jay with Karrthus before it gets destroyed, and I miss some opportunities for activating Spinerock Knoll (which had under it Hydra Omnivore)
because I had no other source of red mana.
I eventually get online Nezumi Graverobber. Wayne’s graveyard, with five cards in it, is by far the smallest, so at Anthony’s EOT, I use
six mana to remove three of the cards, then on my turn use four more to take the other two. Shea choses that time to use Tormod’s Crypt to remove
Wayne’s graveyard (thereby countering the ability), but I had held an answer for just such an occasion: Reroute (although I was also secretly
hoping that Anthony would attack someone for lethal by using Drana’s ability and I could save them, get the point, and kill Drana at the same
time). I change to the target to Shea’s own rather large yard, and the Graverobber flips.
I reanimate Big Game Hunter to kill Anthony’s Sheoldred and then of course, reanimate the Whispering One for my own nefarious uses. It lasts long
enough to make Anthony sacrifice the Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre he had just cast, but then someone fires off another board wipe, putting an end to my
Jay’s life had gotten down to about 15 when he casts Avenger of Zendikar with eight lands in play. Someone mentions Massacre Wurm, and I do my
best to poker-face things, since I have one in my hand. I shake my fist at Anthony when he casts Life’s Finale (targeting Shea), but Jay has the
answer that he doesn’t know would kill him: Otherworldly Journey. I drop the Massacre Wurm, and Jay is no more. Pining for the fjords.
We get down to the point where there are only a few minutes left in the round, when Shea casts his General to ward off the potential attack of one of
Anthony’s fatties. Anthony provides a haymaker by casting Wound Reflection, killing Teneb with Phthisis (there’s 12), and then attacking
Shea for 8. Boom goes the dynamite.
Neither Wayne nor I do too much, and when it gets back to Anthony’s turn, he says “it’s late in the game, I guess this isn’t
too mean,” and casts Sorin and sets me to 10. “Fair” is all I can say.
Jay actually takes first at the table on the heels of getting the points for casting his General five times (I think he may have actually cast him
about 7). All in all, it was a good game with good guys.
Three people end up dropping, leaving us at 20 players. Because there were five tables in Round 1, there have to be five players at Table 1 in Round 2
(all the Round 1 table winners competing for top prize), and one of the tables ends up being a 3-person. That table happens to be me, Matt (Maga,
Traitor to Mortals), and Nick (Glissa, the Traitor).
Matt, who it’s clear isn’t aware of my contributions to the format, tells me that he’s chosen playing in League over playing FNM
Standard. He mentions really enjoying the social atmosphere of both the format and the shop on Thursdays, and how no matter how well he does playing
Standard, he rarely has fun. He says he had great fun in Round 1, is looking forward to Round 2, and coming back regularly. Internally, I’m quite
pleased to have helped bring this kind of enjoyment to someone.
Nick is the early aggressor, hitting both of us for 9 Glissa damage. I think about trying to make this deck run without losing the bonus points for not
tutoring and not ramping out lands, but I realize that it’s a lost cause, and if I don’t play the deck as built, I’m just going to
get steamrolled. One Worldly Tutor for Primeval Titan, and those two points are gone.
I’ve previously played against Nick’s Glissa deck, and it can really get running nicely with the cheap artifact recursion, keeping
creatures in check with Executioner’s Capsule. Unfortunately for him, his draws get kind of empty. Glissa is about all he ever casts except for
Butcher of Malakir, which I have Desertion ready for. From there, I cast Artifact Mutation on his Palladium Myr to get tokens with which to threaten
blocking Glissa with, and I’m off to the races.
I have Spell Crumple in my opening hand, which I assume I’m going to need for Maga, but Matt stalls out on about seven mana. Intet starts to fire
on all cylinders, and I have out a fair number of permanents. At one point, Matt equips a moderately large creature with Hammer of Ruin and casts Ichor
Explosion. I figure it’s time to use the Spell Crumple instead of saving it. From there, I’m pretty much in complete control, and can
Generalissimo them both with Intet.
We have some good chats after the game, and Matt asks for suggestions. I always try to carry a few promos with me, and I happen to have a few Rise from
the Grave, which I ship to both of them.
Next week is Grixis week. I’ll be Embracing the Chaos with Thraximundar and one of my true favorites, Lord of Tresserhorn (and his Zombies!!!). I
still have only one monocolor deck for Week 7’s “Monocolor Week” (which is right now Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker, leading an army of
Knights, but I might switch it to Isamaru, Hound of Konda), so I guess I need to get to the drawing board.