Welcome to the fiftieth installment of “Embracing the Chaos.” It was a little over a year ago that Pete asked me to rejoin the StarCityGames.com team, and it was the right choice for the format, given it has the broadest possible audience. It’d be pretty easy to do a clip show. (Remember the one where Brian made out with Meg at the Junior Prom? Loved that one.) But “Embracing the Chaos” readers demand up-to-date info and reports, so once more into the breach.
First of all, the answer to
last week’s question…
…is that “Generalness” isn’t a copiable value. Says so
right in Rule 9:
Being a General is not a characteristic [MTG CR109.3], it is a property of the card. As such, “Generalness” cannot be copied or overwritten by continuous effects, and does not change with control of the card.
After playing Intet, the Dreamer for a few weeks, I decided to take Kresh the Bloodbraided to the League. I still played some casual games with Intet, with the addition of Roil Elemental (as suggested in the forums by helpful reader “Urza’s Fallacy”), and taking out Kozilek’s Predator. I didn’t get anything really insane running off of it â€” like multiple attacks with Primeval Titan â€” but it was certainly good enough to warrant keeping. In one of the games, it came online early, didn’t get killed despite me getting Mindslavered, and was the force of control for the entire game, since I had a number of other peoples’ creatures.
I made a few changes to Kresh, taking out Berserk, which had always been kind of disappointing, and adding Basilisk Collar. Is Magma Phoenix far behind? A few weeks back, I’d taken out Reroute and Oversold Cemetery to put in Tsabo’s Decree and Tsabo’s Web, both of which have paid dividends in the casual games I’ve played. Finally, I traded out a Swamp for Phyrexian Tower, since Kresh loves when guys get sacrificed. Since I haven’t posted the list in a while, here it is:
Artisan of Kozilek
Big Game Hunter
Butcher of Malakir
Caller of the Claw
Lord of Extinction
Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
Skarrg, the Rage Pits
Temple of the False God
I’ve gotten some feedback in the forums, elsewhere online, and in-person about the reporting style. It seems like the advocates of play-by-play and the narrative style are about evenly divided. For the remainder of this League, I think I’m going to continue with the narrative, then probably switch back to play-by-play next time.
Elder Dragon Highlander League happens to fall on my birthday, and the gang at Armada Games gets a cake for me. We eat it while playing the casual games. Thanks to Aaron, Michael, and the whole Armada team for making it a great place to game. Thanks also to all the folks on Facebook who wished me well.
I’m seated with Shea (Teneb, the Harvester), Anthony (Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs), and David (Niv-Mizzet “
I swear I’m not running combo
,” the Firemind).
The first enchantment is Precognition, which doesn’t really get used all that much until a bunch of turns in.
I mulligan into a four-land hand, which includes Bojuka Bog. I drop it first, knowing that there are a number of ways to get it back for when I need it. Right now, getting rolling is more important. Shea comes out of the gate with land, Sol Ring, Relic of Progenitus, the last of which seems slightly odd given his choice of General â€” but I’m a believer in having some graveyard hate options.
I don’t do much early besides Yavimaya Elder, and David gets an early Future Sight off of Sapphire Medallion. We’ll see through the course of the game that David, who says he’s been playing since Beta, has a number of cool old-school cards.
Shea’s turn 4 Serra Ascendant plus Creakwood Liege get me to follow up with Pernicious Deed. I decide to sit on the Deed for a while and see how far everyone else will go before reining back in a little. David seems unafraid to cast his General. Several turns later, Anthony drops Avatar of Fury for two mana because Shea already has seven lands. I think about twitching here, but decide that since I haven’t hated on anyone yet, I can probably wait. After Shea casts Leyline of the Void, David casts Bribery. He thinks about targeting me, but then takes it to Shea and gets Angelic Arbiter. Shea immediately blows it up with Necrotic Sliver. I continue to play the waiting game, even taking Teneb to the face once and watching him regrow the Arbiter.
When David shows Trickbind off of Future Sight, I wonder if my plans are going to dust, but he proactively lets us know he’ll probably let a Deed resolve because of everyone else’s board position. I take him at his word, and at end of turn, when I have nine mana, I Deed away everything. Right afterward, the second enchantment, Pegasus Refuge, comes out.
I cast Explosive Revelation, targeting David. I get Skullclamp. Hardly the damage I was looking for, and I’m already considering replacing the card. It’s a little janky, and if I really want to draw cards, I have better options. David follows up with Glen Elendra Archmage, which we had seen off the Future Sight. Anthony casts Gauntlet of Power, choosing red. David tells him to slow down and casts Desertion, taking it and naming blue. Shea recasts Teneb, and I follow with Butcher of Malakir and Krosan Grip the Gauntlet (which I was planning on doing anyway).
Anthony then casts Vicious Shadows (which I also have in hand, but I’ve decided to cast Greater Good instead), which David Mana Drains. I can see Anthony getting visibly frustrated. He gets more frustrated when Shea attacks him with Teneb. (I think Shea finds the frustration amusing and finds it even funnier to add to it â€” which I consider moderately amusing myself.) Shea then casts Righteous War, which everyone has to read.
On my turn, I cast Kresh and Eternal Witness, regrowing Krosan Grip. David uses his Mana Drain mana to cast Mindslaver, then, knowing I have the Krosan Grip, targets me. I think about trying to use the “may I have priority?” trick, but seems unsporting. I know that when it gets around to my turn, bad things will happen, so I’ll try to minimize the damage between now and then by limiting what David can do with my turn.
Anthony casts Akroma, Angel of Fury, and we all marvel over the fact that it doesn’t have haste… Well, Anthony doesn’t marvel so much as complain. When Shea attacks me, I do what I’d intended to do, anyway, which is sacrifice Eternal Witness, Kresh, and Butcher of Malakir to Greater Good, in that order, clearing the board of creatures. Among the cards I intentionally dump in the graveyard are Withered Wretch and Greater Gargadon, who I can see David really wrecking me with. Shea casts Deathless Angel (the cool, foily, full art one) in his second main phase.
For my Mindslavered turn, David puts Overgrown Tomb into play untapped, casts Survival of the Fittest, pitches all six creatures in my hand and fails to find on any of the searches. He then casts Grab the Reins on Shea’s Deathless Angel, flinging it in his face. David does nothing on his own turn, probably exhausted from all the stuff he did on mine.
Anthony casts Gauntlet of Might, Planar Portal, and Wheel of Fortune. I have thirteen cards but no creatures and nothing I really care that much about, so it’s okay by me. My new grip, however, also contains no creatures. Shea Diabolic Tutors on his turn, and the third enchantment comes. It’s Fanatical Devotion. Shea finishes his turn with Lurking Predators.
On my turn, I cast a Lurking Predators of my own, netting Shea a Butcher of Malakir. I recast Kresh, since I don’t really have much else to do. David again does nothing. Anthony casts Sculpting Steel (I wonder if there are going to be any good Scars of Mirrodin cards to copy?) copying the Gauntlet and activates Planar Portal. Shea and I both ship cards to the bottom. When Anthony casts Fanning the Flames with buyback to take out the Butcher, I get Acidic Slime off of Lurking Predators. It seems smart to take out Planar Portal. At this point, Anthony says that he still hasn’t forgiven me for Flinging a giant Lord of Extinction at his face about three months ago because he was “going to win the next turn.” I shrug, and Shea says what’s on my mind: “Guess that was the right decision.” When the Butcher triggers, I sacrifice Kresh to Greater Good. Anthony then casts Flameblast Dragon, getting Grave Titan for Shea and nothing for me. Shea casts Linvala, Keeper of Silence and Yavimaya Elder on his turn, and swings with Titan and friends into David.
On my turn, I know I have to go for it now. David is down to one untapped blue source, and I have Red Elemental Blast in hand. I chain Survival of the Fittest so that I can get Hamletback Goliath, Lord of Extinction, and Stalking Vengeance in the yard, then cast Living Death. David surprises me (a little) with Pact of Negation, which I have no choice but to Red Elemental Blast. He then follows that up with Force of Will (on the Living Death, so that he doesn’t have to pay for the Pact), and I’m out of tricks. I do get Big Game Hunter off of a Lurking Predators trigger and take out the Flameblast Dragon. Despite having eleven cards in hand, I’m now out of gas. David adds insult to the injury by using Strip Mine to take out my Reliquary Tower. Given that there are only about fifteen cards left in my deck and my operatives all in the yard, seems like a waste, but I get that he doesn’t know the deck all that well. (Which means he needs to start reading this website!)
David recasts Niv-Mizzet and Lightning Greaves, then does the obvious and equips it. He also casts Viashino Heretic, which is a card I’d been talking about earlier to some of the gang. In the earliest days of the format, the Heretic was in every deck that had red in it. Today, I don’t see it much.
On his turn, Anthony kills me with Fanning the Flames for twenty-nine. It’s the right choice because I have Regrowth in my hand, and I’m betting David is out of counterspells. I don’t think Anthony had thought of any of the deeper strategies â€” he just wanted to kill me. Good for him. I finish with six points, which leads the table right now, but any of the three of them can catch me. Anthony will have to get two kills to do it; I’m closer to the other two. At this point, I doubt that I’ll win the table, since there are a fair number of points still available.
The enchantment switches to Grand Melee. Shea casts Vedalken Orrery, then swings with all his dudes. Anthony gets eight tokens, since he’s also cast Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs on his previous turn. Shea then casts Overwhelming Stampede, giving his guys +8/+8. Anthony blocks a bunch but still goes to one (which is worth a point called “Where’s Timmy?” for Shea).
Anthony grabs the points award sheet and argues with shop owner Michael Fortino that he should get a point for “Big Game Hunt” (which goes to someone for killing a creature of fifteen power or greater) because he blocked Shea’s biggest guy with multiple dudes. Michael explains that the award is for actively killing a big dude, like with Mortify or Terror, or even Wrathing when he’s out. Anthony responds with, “That’s not what it says.” Michael facepalms and explains again. Anthony gets snotty and repeats himself. Michael takes back the sheet and says that he’ll clarify it. I thought he was going to actually just use his pen and write it down right then and there. I mean, I get making sure you record the points you’re entitled to, but rules-lawyering
doing it with a nasty attitude is full of enough frowns to make it worth mentioning.
Back to the game, David keeps himself alive by casting Fault Line in response to an Overrun, and it gives him enough time to come back and kill Shea. It gives him six points as well, so we tie for the top. He gets the table win since the tiebreaker is most player kills, but I get to go to Table One as the wild card.
It’s David again (Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind, obv), Todd (Rith, the Awakener), and Tory (Horde of Notions). Todd had been playing Gaddock Teeg but didn’t like his build, so he’s back to his old standby. Tory is playing Horde just because of the five colors. His deck is full of 2/2s, and it runs off getting Wild Pair in play and then comboing out with Whitemane Lion and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. It’s a combo that’s involved enough and difficult enough to set up and keep going that it’s not a combo that I’d be irritated about. David shows us his “competitive package” of cards that he says he puts in his Niv deck against the Spikes. It includes the obvious Niv-Mizzet combo cards like Ophidian Eye and Curiosity.
The first enchantment is Customs Depot. I look at the Big Game Hunter in my hand and consider that I have something there. My opener is a little weak, but keep-worthy. The game starts a little slowly, except for David, who has turn 1 Sol Ring, turn 2 Taurean Mauler, and stays in the game a great deal longer than I expect.
It’s turn 5 when I drop Kresh and Madrush Cyclops next. About turn 7, Todd casts Rith, and Tory follows with Academy Rector. David casts Kira, Great Glass-Spinner, and there go my dreams of murdering a giant Taurean Mauler. I hope to draw Skarrg, the Rage Pits, so I can target it once, then do the Big Game Hunter shenanigans. I follow with hardcasting Stalking Vengeance. Todd casts Avenger of Zendikar with eight lands in play.
There are a few small attacks back and forth, and then Todd casts Lightning Greaves, equips Rith, and swings at me. He gets fourteen tokens. David has meanwhile cast Viashino Heretic and blows up my Jens (Solemn Simulacrum) to get the point for “First Blood.” Fair trade. Tory casts Maelstrom Nexus and then in the next turn, Cascades Anarchist into Anathemancer, targeting Todd, who has six non-basics (which is actually a low count for him by this point in the game).
Endbringer’s Revel is the second enchantment, and I’ve wasted the opportunity to loot with Big Game Hunter. On his own turn, David casts Fault Line for six, which is enough to kill all the non-fliers except Taurean Mauler. I respond by casting Momentous Fall on Madrush, hoping to keep alive Kresh. David responds with Trickbind on Kresh, and I don’t have any other outlets for sacrificing stuff to keep him alive. I get the cards and the life and dome David with Stalking Vengeance. Life totals are now Tory at 25, David at 16, me at 33, and Todd at 20. David then attacks Todd with the 22/22 Taurean Mauler, which is enough to kill him. My turn is only Charnelhoard Wurm.
On Tory’s turn, he tries to go off with Wild Pair and Whitemane Lion, but David has Force of Will. Tory has Venser, Shaper Savant, but David has an extra blue card in hand. On his turn, David casts Lighthouse Chronologist. I attack him with the Wurm, getting back Momentous Fall. I have the mana and am going to hold Consume the Meek for the end of Tory’s turn, before David untaps. Tory casts Decimate, targeting his own Maelstrom Nexus (the only enchantment), Tormod’s Crypt, Strip Mine, and the Wurm. He Cascades into Saffi Eriksdottir. I Crypt him, and in response, he activates Elixir of Immortality. At his end of turn, I do indeed cast Consume the Meek.
The new enchantment is Idle Thoughts â€” and Tory has no cards in hand! Â There’s some discussion about being able to use it multiple times by stacking the activations, but folks need to reread the card. You can activate the ability whenever you want, but you only draw if your hand is empty. The empty hand isn’t a condition of playing the ability.
Tory casts Azorius Guildmage, and I respond by sacrificing Primus to Bombardment to blow up the Wild Pair before Guildmage resolves. At end of turn, David casts Evacuation, which is fine by me. I get more use out of the Primus. On his turn, he casts Time Spiral, one of those old-school cards I was talking about. Taurean Mauler makes a comeback, but Tory counters it with Mystic Snake.
On my turn, I cast Withered Wretch, Spearbreaker Behemoth, and Greater Good, getting me two points for “Three’s Not a Crowd,” which is for resolving three different permanent types in the same turn. I also cast Tsabo’s Web, which shuts off my Oran-Rief, the Vastwood, but I have plenty of land.
I cast Solemn Simulacrum, Kresh, and Tormod’s Crypt, then attack David down to three. On his turn, Tory casts Stingscourger, targeting Kresh. I shoot Solemn Simulacrum at David with Goblin Bombardment, let Kresh’s trigger resolve, and then sacrifice it to Greater Good. Tory then casts Riftsweeper, getting back Aluren and getting Anathemancer. He targets David with it, and I respond by flashing in Caller of the Claw. I then kill David with the tokens.
The next half-hour is really painful, as Tory tries to reassemble the combo pieces, and I do my best to prevent him. That’s not the painful part. He spends several turns with Kiki-Jiki and Anathemancer both on the battlefield and is so focused on comboing that he doesn’t see he can just kill me, especially now that Stormbind has become the fourth enchantment. Most of the time, he’s doing stuff â€” bouncing, searching, thinking â€” but he’s missing the obvious. He can just attack me and make a few Anathemancer copies. I have a few turns to draw something to punish him for it, but I don’t. Everyone watching, which is the whole shop by now, realizes the same thing I did, but theyâ€˜re good enough
to not say anything. As weâ€˜re finally coming down to time, I ask him why he hasn’t just killed me yet. Somebody in the crowd yells, “
” Tory is momentarily confused and mumbles something about not getting the combo yet, and I tell him to just swing with his guys. The light finally comes on.
The final point count is seven for me, six for both David and Tory, and three for Todd, meaning I take the table by virtue of the off-turn kill of David.
Even with the modest annoyance of the game (mostly, I was just bored), it turned out to be a pretty good game, since the outcome was in question the whole time.
Tory tells us he’s moving out of town, so this is his last week. We’ll miss his tomfoolery and wish him well. Certainly, props to David for playing Niv-Mizzet “good stuff” without making it Dirty Combo Deck.
I’ll trust my gut when it comes what to play next week. I think I’ll really let my mood do the talking. Until then, keep Embracing the Chaos!