As promised, for Week 4 of League, I trotted out two old-school Commanders, Phelddagrif and Merieke Ri Berit. They both performed reasonably well, but
it wasn’t my own decks or play that captured my imagination. It was the all-commons Child of Alara deck run by Armada Regular John Bolt, whom I
mentioned a while back. We’ll see it in action in Round 1. I also Embraced The Mimeoplasm at the Armada Magic: The Gathering: Commander Launch
There are 23 players, which means either five fours and one three or three fives and two fours, the latter of which is the League’s preferred
state. We’re not big fans of three-person games because there’s less check-and-balance on what any single player does. Five can be slow at
times, but we’d rather that give free reign to an individual player, which a three-person table can bring.
There are also two new controversial surprises on the points list. Before we showed up, no one had any indication that there would be new points. I
know that shop owner Michael Fortino swaps some awards in and out every week, but the two new ones surprised everyone. They were both penalties.
The first was for playing the same spell three or more times in a game. I get where Michael was headed with this, but I think it missed the mark. Sure,
no one likes to watch the same infinite recursion or endless Capsizes, but some recursion is desirable in the format. As you’ll see later on, it
completely wrecked John Bolt’s deck, and I heard grumblings from around the room that people were going to have to keep an eye on casting a
particular spell for a third time (which included creatures, although I think that might have not been the intention—I couldn’t talk to
Michael because he was off judging at Grand Prix Kansas City and eating at Arthur Bryant’s, the bastidge). Perhaps five would have been a better
number; although that starts to get into a good deal of bookkeeping.
In the end, whatever the point/penalty is, something like this would be better announced beforehand than just showing up on the list. I’m all for
using penalties to discourage particular styles of play, but you have to give players the opportunity to adapt and avoid those styles, not simply
penalize them for showing up with those cards. This is like your wife not talking to you for watching Monday Night Football this week when you’ve
watched every week for the last three years. Good idea, awkward implementation.
The second penalty was for playing an X spell where X was eight or more. Again, I see what they were trying to do here, but the same argument applies.
Tell players that it’s coming. Even providing a list and saying “any of these will be possible every week” would be fine. This
penalty may have been better at discouraging some of what (although not all) we’d like discouraged if it said something like “Cast a
non-Commander spell with CMC 10 or greater” (or 12 or whatever reasonable number). Sure, it discourages the crazy ramp into turn 7 Genesis Wave
for 22 or whatever, but it also takes a number of very EDH-like spells off a player’s decision matrix, like Storm Herd. Although this one had
less impact on games than the first one, it wrecked a few decks, with Maga, Traitor to Mortals being the most obvious example. Again, I think the idea
is okay-ish, but the implementation a little misdirected. Advance warning would have been better.
ROUND 1, TABLE 1
I’m seated with Matt (Konda, Lord of Eiganjo), Tyler (Intet, the Dreamer), Nick D. (Omnath, Locus of Mana), and the aforementioned John Bolt. He
says he got the idea from d0su on the forums (who I pinged but haven’t heard back from). Here’s his list:
99 Commons But Child Ain’t One
Dimir House Guard
Drift of Phantasms
Sea Gate Oracle
Muddle the Mixture
- 1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
- 1 Krosan Tusker
- 1 Gravedigger
- 1 Yavimaya Elder
- 1 Trinket Mage
- 1 Twisted Abomination
- 1 Crypt Rats
- 1 Dimir House Guard
- 1 Drift of Phantasms
- 1 Izzet Chronarch
- 1 Mulldrifter
- 1 Farhaven Elf
- 1 Tilling Treefolk
- 1 Wickerbough Elder
- 1 Sanctum Gargoyle
- 1 Child of Alara
- 1 Qasali Pridemage
- 1 Cadaver Imp
- 1 Mnemonic Wall
- 1 Sea Gate Oracle
- 1 Ulamog's Crusher
- 1 Moriok Replica
- 1 Brainstorm
- 1 Counterspell
- 1 Diabolic Edict
- 1 Rolling Thunder
- 1 Capsize
- 1 Darksteel Ingot
- 1 Kodama's Reach
- 1 Terminate
- 1 Merchant Scroll
- 1 Reprisal
- 1 Arcane Denial
- 1 Wayfarer's Bauble
- 1 Condescend
- 1 Aether Spellbomb
- 1 Mystic Remora
- 1 Disturbed Burial
- 1 Rhystic Study
- 1 Mind Extraction
- 1 Far Wanderings
- 1 Deep Analysis
- 1 Death Denied
- 1 Muddle the Mixture
- 1 Perplex
- 1 Wrecking Ball
- 1 Grim Harvest
- 1 Momentary Blink
- 1 Mystical Teachings
- 1 Evolution Charm
- 1 Eyeblight's Ending
- 1 Faerie Trickery
- 1 Oblivion Ring
- 1 Dispeller's Capsule
- 1 Soul Manipulation
- 1 Prophetic Prism
- 1 Cultivate
- 1 Horizon Spellbomb
- 1 Nihil Spellbomb
Note that the Commander Tower on the list was Smoldering Crater for this game. Obviously, the penalty crushes him. The deck revolves around letting
Child of Alara go to the graveyard and then regrowing him to keep a cleared board state. While it’s nearly infinitely recursive, I don’t
find the deck abusive in the least. That’s probably because there are so many low threat-density cards. The engine is there, but there’s no
real way to have it be degenerate.
I’m the early power in the game, starting with Turn 1 Sol Ring (which was my draw), Turn 2 Serra Ascendant, Turn 3 Academy Rector, and Turn 4
Qasali Pridemage. Over a few turns, I spread the love a little (I’m more scared initially of Omnath), but after Tyler, with whom I’ve
played over most of the last several weeks, starts insanely ramping, I point the Ascendant at him. On Turn 4, I could have played Grand
Arbiter—who is there really to slow down the combo decks—but I didn’t want to get the giant target hat. After Tyler plays two more
ramp spells on his turn, I think that I probably should have played Grand Arbiter. I drop him the turn after, but I think for the most part, that horse
has already left the barn.
Matt settles the matter by clearing the board with Day of Judgment. I pull Greater Good, Mirari’s Wake, Asceticism, and Privileged Position out
of the deck, and decide to have the table choose which is the better one for me to get from Academy Rector. True to the spirit of what I’m trying
to do, they actually discuss what will be best for me in the long run. I think it might be Greater Good, but they all agree on Mirari’s Wake.
From there, the game goes into a sort of equilibrium mode. Everyone is doing stuff, but no one is throwing any haymakers which need immediate
answering. We kind of keep Tyler on the ropes life total-wise, and he ends up casting Intet a bunch of times just to sacrifice him to Miren, the
Moaning Well. Nick stalls on mana (funny in Omnath), and Matt gets some survival out of his Commander and some other indestructible dudes.
The significant part of the game becomes John Bolt’s protest to the third-time penalty. He’s regrown and cast Wickerbough Elder twice in
order to take care of scary things like my Akroma’s Memorial, and he hesitates (understandably) doing it again when Tyler gets out Vedalken
Orrery. At some point, he says “screw it, I’m just playing my deck,” and goes about not only playing it but trying to pile up as many
penalty points as he can. It was kind of like watching one of those guys light himself on fire to protest whatever it is that lighting-yourself-on-fire
protesters don’t like.
Matt bashes me a few times with Konda, but once I have out Phelddagrif and Magus of the Library along with a fair amount of mana, I can block, bounce
him to my hand, draw a card off the Magus, and give someone else a card. In the spirit of cooperation, I even give Matt one once, but he doesn’t
bite and keeps sending Konda my way.
Side note on Library of Alexandria, since there are many voices that think it’s not particularly bad and should come off the Banned List: it
would have been ridiculous for me in the situation that I was in. I would have found it pretty degenerate to draw cards for no mana WITH A LAND.
John Bolt piles up his “golf score,” and no one gets knocked out of the game until the last turn, and Tyler can’t deal with
Matt’s Strata Scythe-equipped creature. Matt and I end up tying for first, my points mostly by virtue of casting my General five times out of the
Command Zone in addition to all the times I cast him from my hand. John Bolt’s final tally: -13.
ROUND 2, TABLE 1
As previously announced, I’m playing Merieke. I’m seated with Nick C (Glissa, the Traitor), Tom (Treva, the Renewer), and Cliff (Hanna,
Ship’s Navigator). Tom played Rafiq in the first round and knocked out Todd Palmer (of last week’s Rith deck) very early and decided he
didn’t like playing Rafiq. He asked permission to switch Commanders (not other cards in his deck), and everyone was fine with it.
Cliff starts with Leyline of Anticipation in play. With all the blue and white in this game, I know it’s destined to go long. Cliff has modified
his Jenara, Asura of War deck, taking out the green but keeping its proliferate and heavy artifacts theme. He’s lucky that no one has (or draws
perhaps) the big board sweepers until after he steals Tom’s Elspeth, Knight-Errant with Volition Reins, proliferates it up, and cracks the
The good news for Cliff is he’s putting out lots of stuff and piling up the counters (at some point, Everflowing Chalice has 22 counters on it).
The good news for us is that not many of them are big dudes. Tom at some point casts Hallowed Burial, but Cliff has Fuel for the Cause. Every time
Cliff proliferates something, he adds a counter to Tom’s Lux Cannon, since he has nothing to fear from it. Tom keeps a number of things in check
I do some Merieke stealing and killing of guys, comboing her with Magewright’s Stone. Nick gets in a couple of larger hits on Tom with a Magebane
Armor-equipped Glissa, but Tom fights off a few would-be lethal attacks. Later, when it looks like he won’t be able to, Cliff saves him with some
well-timed creature destruction. Tom pays the favor back by killing Nick with a good creature rush, and right after time is called, Cliff kills Tom
from 25 with a pile of Pentavus tokens. I don’t have enough on my own turn to hurt Cliff badly enough. He’s at 49, and I have both Repay in
Kind and Magister Sphinx in hand with Tainted Sigil in play, which is some laughs but not a winner.
LAUNCH PARTY REPORT
I picked up one deck specifically to play at the Armada Launch Party: Devour for Power. Looking through the contents of the deck, it doesn’t
really seem like it will run particularly well with Damia or Vorosh, since it’s all about the graveyards. As I’ve seen mentioned elsewhere,
I’m not sure how well The Mimeoplasm will work outside the Precons, since there’s a great deal more graveyard hate—but I’m
going to be happy to give it a try.
The Launch Party involved open play, simply signing up and finding a table of four or five to play with, the shop adding some fun and giveaways along
the way. I’m happy to report that the shop had half again the number of players they expected, crowding the place with Commander players for the
majority of the day.
One of the great parts of the social atmosphere among the owners and regulars at Armada, good friends all, is to watch them play practical jokes on
each other. There’s this amusing friendly competition between L2 Judge Ben McDole and L1 Judge/Armada employee (and last week’s Rith deck
donor) Todd Palmer, with whom I was sitting at my first table of the day, along with all around good egg Shea Rutenbender.
Ben had set up something with Aaron Fortino, who was running the event. Ben had convinced Aaron that no matter who first cast Death of Dragons,
everyone currently playing at all tables would get a Dragon token except for Todd. Aaron was actually carrying around a stack of tokens,
waiting for it to happen.
It was just so that Todd’s board position was a little stronger than anyone else’s, and Shea cast Death by Dragons. I could see Ben getting
a little excited, and then when Shea (who wasn’t in on the joke) targeted Todd, Ben let out a huge laugh, calling over Aaron. Aaron dutifully
gave us tokens, then went to the next table and started given them out. They asked “What the…?” and Aaron explained loudly enough for
everyone to hear that any time all day that someone cast Death by Dragons, everyone at each table except Todd was getting one. A huge roar went up from
the room (as it worked out, we realized that the joke got a little stale and stopped at like the third Dragon), and everyone had a good laugh. Todd,
with the great sense of humor he has, high-fived the rest of us at the table, and said “Okay, you really got me.” I’m interested in
seeing his payback for Ben and Aaron.
In play, The Mimeoplasm deck was very strong. I played either seven or eight games over the day with it, and although I didn’t claim all the
kills, I was last man standing in all but one game. The deck doesn’t have too much early game, and the Commander needs some help in order to
work—you simply can’t cast it without dudes in a graveyard. That said, once it gets going, it’s pretty spicy. I was behind in a game
until I copied Vish Kal and something big, even being able to survive the giant swing of a 20/20 Ghave (having to sacrifice the rest of my board to do
so). I think my favorite guy to copy was Simic Sky Swallower. I think the smallest guy I ever used for counters was 6/6, so having a 12/12 or bigger
flying, trample, shroud guy was nice.
In play, it seems like all the decks capture the spirit of the format in that not much goes on too early, and then the big, swingy things start
happening. Right out of the box, they’re fun and interesting to play, although some of them are better at swapping around the Commanders (Intet,
Animar, and Riku especially) without impacting the deck.
Next week is Dragon Week. I’ll be Embracing the Chaos with Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund and then Intet, the Dreamer. I’ll probably find the
time to squeeze in a few of the new Commander cards between now and then, so we’ll see how they go.