The last week of the current iteration of the Armada Games EDH League came, and I left with a whimper.
In my ongoing quest to do something different in the League, I played Phelddagrif for the first time in a long time. I played in one long game and one short one, and although I was pretty much a non-factor in both, they were both relatively interesting.
Twenty-one players show for the finale, meaning four fours and a five. I’m seated at Table 3 with Anthony, at whom I had flung a 41/41 Lord of Extinction at last week, again with Reaper King; Ryan with Child of Alara; and Patrick with Endrek Sahr. I had just finished playing a casual game with Patrick (a five-player casual game in which I had a Red Elemental Blast in hand and for the first time in EDH history… it was a dead card, as there were literally no Blue players at the table), and I’ve seen the deck in operation a few times recently. It’s mostly about Vampires, getting Conspiracy so that the General doesn’t go away, and recurring Malakir Bloodwitch. Ryan’s deck is all about getting to a giant Last Stand and copying it. Anthony has changed some cards from last week, and has a couple of new choices that are kind of cool, one of which caused me to afterward email interim Rules Manager Matt Tabak about the wording. We’ll get to that.
The first Enchant World is once again Caverns of Despair. The Enchant World thing was modestly interesting, but I’m not sad to see it go. There were too few of them, so we repeated often, and they just didn’t have the wow factor on the game that I think shop owner Michael Fortino envisioned.
Ryan: Seaside Citadel.
Me: I keep a six-land hand, and draw… Breeding Pool. I play it.
Anthony: Mox Diamond, pitches a land, has no other land to drop, but casts Meekstone. Interesting already.
Ryan: Rootbound Crag, Rhystic Study
Patrick: Bojuka Bog targeting Anthony (he says he just needed the land, so no reason to save it for later).
Me: Qasali Pridemage, pay the extra mana.
Anthony: Equinox on Academy Ruins. Here’s the card that I’m struggling with the wording of.
“Enchanted land has “T: Counter target spell if it would destroy a land you control.” Great card choice for Anthony in light of him having artifact landsâ€”so if someone could cast (as I later do) Austere Command choosing artifacts, he can counter it. My problem with the word is use of “would.” First of all, I’m okay with the card working how we think it should work (so it can counter the aforementioned Austere Command). My trouble is with the word “would.” You can’t know that the spell is going to destroy the land until it actually tries to. I’d rather see the wording work as some kind of replacement effect. Conditional counterspells remove the spell from the stack when the counterspell resolves, but the condition is something that can be determined during resolution of the counterspell. When the activated ability resolves, you don’t actually know yet that the Austere Command is going to destroy a land. This “would” is very tenuous rules-wise. Anyway, I shipped it off to Tabak to see what he has to say.
Anthony attacks Patrick (38).
Patrick: Tormod’s Crypt, Font of Mythos (pays the extra).
Me: Galepowder Mage, don’t pay, Island (so I have the mana up for the Pridemage).
Anthony: Attack Patrick (36). At EOT, Ryan Putrefies the Pridemage, and I whack the Rhystic Study. Says he would have rather saved it, but with the Font in play, he’s going to end up discarding anyway.
Ryan: Solemn Simulacrum.
Patrick: Swamp, Diabolic Tutor.
Me: Forest, Crovax, Ascendant Hero. Kills the Outcast and the Scute Mob before they get out of hand. I have to discard, and do so with a bounceland.
Anthony: Sea of the Synod, Aetherium Sculptor.
Ryan: Return to Dust on the Crypt and Font. Patrick uses the Crypt on Ryan.
Patrick: Fleshbag Marauder. I sacrifice the Galepowder Mage, Anthony the Sculptor.
Me: Morph. Everyone screams “Willbender!”
Anthony: Crystal Quarry.
Ryan: Attack me with Jens, and I don’t block (39). Dunno if he has tricks, or just wants to draw a card, but I’m not biting.
Patrick: Vampire Aristocrat, Underworld Dreams. Is there a Puzzle Box next?
Me: (38). Reliquary Tower, Pristine Angel.
Anthony: (39). Proclamation of Rebirth. Wow, what a good card that no one else is playing. There’s a new Enchant World, and it’s Serra’s Aviary.
Ryan: (39). Eternal Witness, getting Return to Dust. Casts Reveillark.
Patrick: And there’s the Teferi’s Puzzle Box. I think about it a little, but I have cards in my hand that I’d really like to keep (that Austere Command is one of them), so I Voidslime it. I was a little less worried about the damage, since I have some lifegain, but it just seemed like trouble.
Me: (37). My plan is to attack Ryan with Pristine Angel, have him let it through, then untap when I cast Phelddagrif. I have miscalculated. I don’t have anything in my hand to untap it as an Instant and protect it, but I just figure he’s not going to bite, especially since the only thing he has in the yard is Jens. I’m so wrong. We trade. I cast the hippo.
Anthony: (38). Elixir of Immortality, which is seeing lots of EDH play already. Skullclamp. Seaside Citadel then activates the Elixir (43).
Ryan: (38). Beseech the Queen. Gets Reverberate. Casts Wrath of God.
Patrick: Subterranean Hangar and Hell’s Caretaker.
Me: It’s time to get rid of the stuff on the board. Cast the Austere Command, choosing enchantments, and when I’m about to choose artifacts, Anthony sportingly reminds me of the Equinox, so I choose CMC 4+. I then recast Phelddagrif.
Anthony: Sun Titan, which gets back Equinox, which he puts on Crystal Quarry.
Ryan: Beacon of Immortality, targeting me and getting him a point (72), then Reverberates to himself (76).
Patrick: Phyrexian Plaguelord.
Me: I know I’m not killing Ryan with normal damage, so I’m going to go in for General. I give it flying, letting him gain the life (78), then attack him (73).
Anthony: Ornithopter, attack Ryan with Titan (67), getting back Outcast. That damn thing won’t die.
Ryan: Child of Alara. Child to the yard will reset the board and really wreck Anthony. Ryan then casts Wargate for 0, getting Prahv, Spires of Order, which while expensive to activate, can protect you from any source.
Patrick: Dread. At EOT, I use Phelddagrif, giving Patrick a token, so that he can kill the Outcast with Plaguelord. He complies.
Me: Give Phelddagrif Flying, giving Anthony the life this time (45), but when go to attack Ryan, Anthony asks how the hippo got untapped, pointing to Meekstone. I facepalm.
Anthony: Demonic Tutor for Survival of the Fittest. Attack me with the Titan (66), getting back the Outcast. Seeing the writing on the table, he simply Clamps it away.
Ryan: Rites of Replication without Kicker on the Sun Titan. Kicked, that would be ridiculous. Gets Prismatic Omen and casts Diabolic Tutor.
Patrick: Attacks me (60). I see the writing on the wall in this game. I’m pretty sure Ryan has Tutored for Conflux, and it is soon to be over, since I have no counterspells in hand. I Beacon of Immortality on Patrick (58), just to get the point.
Anthony: Survivals away Phyrexian Dreadnought (which I’ve actually considered putting into Kresh) for Ranger of Eos and Casts Vampiric Tutor (43). Attacks me (54). Gets back Outcast, Clamps it again. Maybe I should have let Underworld Dreams stay in play.
Ryan: Attacks Anthony with Titan token, gets back Eternal Witness, getting back Beseech the Queen. Plays the Beseech for Mana Reflection and casts it. The clock is ticking.
Patrick: Lim-Dul, the Necromancer. I finally have the sense to bounce Phelddagrif so that I can recast it and get around Meekstone. I have Patrick draw.
Me: I ask my deck for some card draw, and it responds with a Top. Cast it and cast Hallowed Burial. Ryan responds by Mortifying Child. Hope dawns for a second, but I know it’s a fool’s hope, since he’s not going to blow up his own good stuff. He sends it to the Command Zone. Patrick sacrifices his guys to Plaguelord so that they’ll be in the yard.
Anthony: Salvaging Station, Voyager Staff.
Ryan: Reliquary Tower. Conflux, getting Twincast, Privileged Position, Last Stand, Dread Return, and Nuklavee. I’m pretty sure that Patrick also knows this game is over; I’m not sure Anthony realizes it yet. Ryan demonstrates by casting Last Stand and Twincasting it, killing Anthony, setting himself to 115 and getting 24 Saprolings. He then casts Open the Vaults. I have nothing whatsoever. Ryan has a giant board (which includes Leyline of Anticipation), and Patrick gets back Underworld Dreams, Crypt, and Puzzle Box. Ryan then sacs some of his guys to cast Dread Return, getting Seedborn Muse (which was in the draw/discard mayhem). At this point, I flip the Top to get Twincast, use it, and get back Crovax, which at least kills his tokens. At EOT, Patrick Crypts Ryan, to which he responds with Elixir.
Patrick: Puzzle Box for six. Swamp, Pestilence, Beseech the Queen, gets Living Death. New Enchant World is Field of Dreams. Living Death. I pay to bounce Crovax (52). When Fleshbag Marauder triggers, I sacrifice Willbender, who is no good face up, Patrick sacs Lord of the Pit. Patrick ends up with a Straight Flush out of his dudes. At EOT, Ryan flashes in Eternal Witness to get Seedborn Muse.
Me: Puzzle Box (48). Island. Attack Ryan with Akroma, which he Prahvs. Phelddagrif.
Ryan: Beseech the Queen for Conflux, and you know what’s coming. Kills us both, winning the table with 18 points, and puts himself in pretty good position to catch Nate for first place in the League, since Nate has gotten combo’d out on a different table and gotten minimum points.
I’m paired with Tory (reaches for Kresh, then decides to play his Horde of Notions deck, better known as “Bears,” the withertos and whyfores of which will become apparent), Todd (Kamahl, Fist of Krosa), and Nate (Radha, Heir to Keld). What we have here are four of the top five places in the league (only Ryan is missing). Don’t know if that was intentional in Michael’s part or not when he paired the tables. I know it’s not completely random in round 2 – he does his best to make sure people aren’t seated with anyone they played with in round one, which I think is a nice touch.
The first Enchant World is Forsaken Wastes. Strangely enough, this seems to make us all play faster. This game becomes something of a stereotype of EDH games. It’s quiet early and then BOOM!
Todd: (39) Treetop Village.
Tory: (39) Island.
Me: (39) Island. I’ve kept a three-land hand (two Islands and a Forest) with nothing but spells that have White in them. In retrospect, I should have taken my free mulligan here.
Nate: (39) Mosswort Bridge, which is getting activated soon in his deck.
Todd: (32) Sylvan Library.
Tory: (28) Horde of Notions. Attacks Nate (26). At EOT, I have a choice: I’m going to play Krosan Grip. The question is do I hit the Top for the point, or Greater Good because it’s a giant threat? I choose to go for the point, because I have a feeling it’s the only one I’m going to get. This game it going to get out of hand quickly, and I’m going to just be a spectator.
Me: (31). Nothing else to do.
Nate: (25) Skyshroud Claim nets two Beasts. At EOT, Todd makes Thornling 7/1 then sacrifices it to Greater Good.
Todd: (31) Harmonize, Top, Rofellos. Overrun alert!
Tory: (27) Fetid Heath, Regrows the Top, casts it.
Me: (30) While I’m doing nothing, Nate gets Primeval Titan off his Mosswort, getting Gruul Turf and Spinerock Knoll, using the Turf to bounce Mosswort, and getting two more Beasts. I make a comment about it getting insane over there, and Nate says “It’s about to get crazier.”
Nate: (24) Overwhelming Stampede. Tory says once you go to your attack step, I’ll cast Naya Charm,” and we all breathe a bit. Nate casts Krosan Warchief.
Todd: (30) Wild Pair, which I Voidslime. I know that can be some crazy right there. Casts Nacatl War-Pride.
Tory: (26) Nature’s Spiral on Fertilid, Tops, drops Exotic Orchard and a Wild Pair of his own. Recasts Fertilid, which gets Whitemane Lion, which in turn bounces itself. Most of the rest of Tory’s deck is 2/2 creatures, so this could be awesome.
Me: (32) Still no land.
Nate: (23) Activate Bridge, getting Pelakka Wurm (but no life). Forest, getting another Beast. Attacks Todd with 6 Beasts, and sends the Wurm, Titan, and Baloths at Tory. Being a little nicer, I think this is where Nate makes a mistake. Todd’s board is kind of obvious, and he’s going to kill someone. Given the league standings, if I were Nate, I’d assume it would be me, so I think killing Todd is the right answer here. The â€˜mistake’ is revealed to not be one when he casts Savage Beating, Entwined. I guess I could just let it go, effectively ending the game (I have no comebacks without White mana), but I Venser it (since he doesn’t have the mana to cast it again) just to see what will happen. Todd goes to (6) and Tory double-blocks to kill the Titan (13).
Todd: (5) Kamahl, declares attacks, and a new Enchant World (Chaosphere) comes into play. It really has no effect. War-Pride attacks, making 12 copies, and then Todd uses Rofellos mana to Overrun twice, killing Nate.
Tory: Whitemane Lion, bouncing itself and triggering Wild Pair, gets War Priest of Thune, blowing up Greater Good. Casts the Lion again, getting Kiki-Jiki.
Me: The good news is that I finally get White mana. The bad news is that it’s Selesnya Sanctuary.
Todd: Gauntlet of Power for Green. Activate Mosswort Bridge, getting Restock, returning his Wild Pair and Greater Good. Casts Arashi, the Sky Asunder, which triggers Wild Pair. I ask Tory why he didn’t Kiki-Jiki the War Priest so that Wild Pair doesn’t trigger and he just shrugs and says he didn’t see it. Todd gets Primeval Titan and couple of lands. Declares attacks. Tory flashes in Whitemane, searching up Venser to bounce the War-Pride and the Whitemane, then gets Viridian Shaman to blow up the Top.
Tory: Peels Aluren of the top of his deck and vomits all the 2/2s in his deck onto the battlefield. The Anathemancer kills Todd, and Flame-kin Zealot is the last one he gets, attacking me for the kill.
I love my Phelddagrif deck, but it seems horribly underclassed these days in environments that are slightly more competitive (this is not a complaint, just an observation). I wouldn’t call the League Spikey by any means (I mean, Ryan doing crazy Last Stand stuff on turn 19 is hardly â€˜comboing out’), but many of the folks have put together some pretty dangerous decks that can pile up points and kill people pretty early. In round one, two of the tables were done before the first Enchant World changed, with one player killing folks with Rafiq/Eldrazi Conscription, and another playing some kind of lock deck. The question is will this lead to controllish decks returning to the environment, or are people going to come up with even faster kills? The former will not hurt the environment; the latter will probably completely wreck it. Complete exploration of the power creep phenomenon is coming up next week.
I’m not completely sure about the final League standings since the match with Ryan in it still going on when I left, but I think Tory’s overkill on me led to him catching me for fourth place, with Todd firmly in third, and Nate and Ryan neck-and-neck for first. We’ll see when the final standings come out.
The League is off for two weeks before restarting on 19 August. Between now and then, I’ll probably have brewed up some new technology for the League, and hopefully I can find the middle ground between being competitive enough without breaking the format. I do promise there will be Mono-White Isamaru at some point.
Starting this Thursday, I’ll be at GenCon, running Massive Multiplayer Magic and gunslinging all four days. My schedule looks like this:
Thursday: 11am-noon, MMMTG. 2-3pm, gunsling. 3-4pm, MMMTG. 4:30-5:30pm, gunsling.
Friday: 9:30-10:30am, gunsling. 11am-noon, MMMTG. 2-3pm, gunsling. 3-4pm, MMMTG.
Saturday: 11am-noon, MMMTG. 2-3pm, gunsling. 3-4pm, MMMTG. 5-6pm, gunsling.
Sunday: 10-11am, gunsling. 11am-noon, MMMTG. 1:30-3pm, gunsling.
Everything will be taking place in the TCG Hall, so drop on by and we’ll Embrace the Chaos.