Embracing The Chaos – Playing With The Big Boys

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Thursday, September 24th – When the Armada Games Tampa $3k tournament came around, and Director of R&D Aaron Forsythe, DCI Tournament Manager Scott Larabee, and former Vice President of Organized Play Chris Galvin all ended up here, it seemed like opportunity knocking; opportunity to play Magic with some of the most influential persons in the game’s history. All I had to do is fling open the door.

Life gives you opportunities, and sometimes you create them yourself. Either way, it’s a pretty good rule to take advantage of them. When the Armada Games Tampa $3k tournament came around, and Director of R&D Aaron Forsythe, DCI Tournament Manager Scott Larabee, and former Vice President of Organized Play Chris Galvin all ended up here, it seemed like opportunity knocking; opportunity to play Magic with some of the most influential persons in the game’s history. All I had to do is fling open the door.

Scott arrived via red-eye Thursday morning, Chris Thursday afternoon (on his “One Lap” driving tour of the United States), and Aaron Friday evening. What with dinners at Mise en Place (Tampa’s best “foodie” restaurant), and Bern’s Steakhouse (one of the world’s great steakhouses), and the $3k event itself, we hadn’t had much time to actually play all weekend. Aaron spent all day Saturday being the guest at the event, so he played lots – surprisingly most of his gunslinging matches were 1v1 EDH and not Standard or Extended – but I was HJing and Scott was scorekeeping, so we were out of luck. That luck changed when the Top 4 players decided to chop, equally splitting the prizes. We suddenly found ourselves done 2 hours early. We hung around and chatted with friends a bit, then headed out. We grabbed some KFC on the way back to the house and made the plan to swing with the hundred card decks, poolside, in the humid Tampa night.

Chris had spent the day exploring some of Tampa’s shopping opportunities, to include B-21 Wine and Spirits, one of the best shops for both I’ve ever come across. He brought back, among other things, a bottle of Highland Park 18 year old single malt, which he called one of the best quality-to-price ratio whiskies ever. I fetched some proper glasses and he poured us all a taste. He was not wrong. After that, we’re off to the races. We decided to not play with Planechase mostly because I was too lazy to go get the cards. We were already outside with drinks, shuffled up and ready. It would have taken me more than three minutes to get the PC cards, which seemed unreasonable at the time. Hey, I was on my feet all day.

Scott, who wins the roll, is playing Teneb, Chris is playing my Phelddagrif deck, Aaron decides to run out Endrek Sahr from his collection of decks, and I grab Kresh. It’s lands all around on turn 1, with Aaron trotting out Thawing Glaciers. Turn 2 Scott casts Sylvan Library, and Chris a Chromatic Star and a bounceland.

Scott: Sterling Grove
Chris: Nothing
Aaron: Thawing Glaciers again.
Me: Spawnwrithe

Scott: Drumhunter
Chris: Washes some mana through the Star and drops Yavimaya Elder.
Aaron: Blinkmoth Nexus
Me: I look at Aaron and his Blinkmoth for a bit, then decide to attack Chris with the Spawnwrithe. He doesn’t block and I get the token. I then play Spellbreaker Behemoth.

Scott: Cracks Flooded Strand (39) for Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author] and plays Teneb. At EOT, he draws from Drumhunter.
Chris: Sacs the Elder for the lands and draw, and plays Reliquary Tower.
Aaron: Magus of the Coffers. This somehow doesn’t seem good for us.
Me: Attack Aaron with the Spellbreaker (35) and Chris with the two Spawnwrithe tokens (34). Aaron mentions that I might get out of hand quickly. I Demonic Tutor for Grave Pact, since I don’t think that I’m going to have too many answers to Teneb.

Scott: Attacks me with Teneb (34) and regrows Chris’ Yavimaya Elder. Casts Karmic Justice (a card I love in this format – it’s the perfect rattlesnake).
Chris: Mirari’s Wake
Aaron: Deathgreeter and Oblivion Stone. I ask Aaron if this is the deck I saw him playing earlier which has Mind Slash in it. He tells me that it is. Dunno why I thought of it at this point.
Me: Attack Scott with the team. Elder blocks Spellbreaker and Drumhunter a token. I assume he didn’t block the original because he knows I have graveyard recursion. At the end of my turn, Aaron pops the Oblivion Stone. Aaron goes to 45 from the Deathgreeter, and Scott destroys two of his Swamps and the Blinkmoth from Karmic Justice. I’m not really sure why he did it then – I assume he didn’t want Chris to untap with Wake in play – but I guess he knew that Scott was going to get retribution with Karmic Justice, and he wanted to limit his exposure.

Scott: Pristine Angel. Such a good card.
Chris: Beacon of Immortality (68). After he plays it, we mention it’s an Instant, and he facepalms.
Aaron: Shizo, Death’s Storehouse and Solemn Simulacrum. At end of turn, I Makeshift Mannequin Spawnwrithe.

At this point I’ll make a strategic note. I’ve seen lots of folks who will hang onto cards like Demonic Tutor and Makeshift Mannequin, waiting for what they see as an “important” time to play them. I certainly agree that tutoring can get you out of a rough spot, but I think that it’s better to keep yourself from getting into the rough spot in the first place. Especially since I’m not playing a combo deck (boo!), I’d much rather be proactive and doing things instead of waiting to do the Big Thing. Will there be better things in my yard down the road for Mannequin? Probably. Will I actually get the chance to play it and have it mean something? That’s far more in doubt. I want to be an active participant in this game right now, and that means playing the cards in my hand – not all of them, of course, but some of them – that will allow me to have an immediate and direct impact on the game.

Me: Sol Ring, Grave Pact, attack Chris (66), get a token.

Scott: Minion Reflector
Chris: Aura of Silence, practices saying “Did you pay 2 more for that?”
Aaron: Trots out Endrek Sahr.
Me: While it’s Aaron’s turn, I was thinking “Okay, play Kresh, swing into Scott with both tokens, get one killed to pump Kresh, get another token.” Of course, on my turn, I draw, swing with both tokens and realize that I’ve forgotten to actually play Kresh. I play him after combat.

Scott: Defense of the Heart. Chris has the good sense to Voidslime it.
Chris: Plays the waiting game
Aaron: Withered Wretch. That could put a crimp in my plans, and Scott’s. In response, Scott puts Pristine Angel back on top with Volrath’s Stronghold. Krovikan Horror. Aaron ends up with 6 Thrulls. Attacks Scott for 2 General damage (29).
Me: Attack Scott with 2 tokens (25), getting 2 more.

Scott: Pristine Angel. Copies it with Minion Reflector. Attacks me with the token (30).
Chris: Taps out to play Tidespout Tyrant.
Aaron: Loudly announces that he’s about to sacrifice a token to Krovikan Horror. Chris gets where he’s going and kills Grave Pact with Aura of Silence. He then kills the Spawnwrithe with 1 damage because it had the Mannequin counter on it (Kresh +6). He then plays Fleshbag Marauder. Chris and Scott are forced to sacrifice fatties, so Kresh is suddenly +21.
Me: Lurking Predators and Greater Good.

Another note: EDH players just don’t pack enough enchantment removal. Good enchantments can be really, really swingy. It’s viable strategically to play good enchantments because the environment is less hostile to them than any other type of non-land permanent.

I can kill Chris or Scott with General damage. I worry that Scott is definitely more explosive, but Chris has more board sweepers. I mull over whether that’s actually bad for me (Aaron’s token army can certainly be a huge threat), and decide that I’d rather keep my stuff. Kresh swings and domes Chris.

Scott: Peels Lurking Predators off the top. The insanity begins! I reveal a Swamp from mine when he casts it.
Aaron: Thinks for some time, then plays The Abyss. Scott tries to Volrath’s Stronghold his Angel, which Aaron Wretches away. Scott and I both whiff on the Predators. Aaron kills my token with Krovikan Horror (Kresh +25), which means I now only have Kresh and then attacks me for 12 (18).
Me: Abyss triggers, and I target Kresh. I sacrifice it to Greater Good and draw a significant part of my deck. A plan presents itself. I Suspend Greater Gargadon, then play Insurrection. I’m hoping something really good comes off the top of Scott’s deck from Lurking Predators, but it’s a land. Aaron shoots the Krovikan Horror at my head (17). I attack Aaron (35) and afterward sacrifice all the dudes to Greater Gargadon. I cast Oversold Cemetery since I’m going to have to discard a bunch. Scott gets Shriekmaw off Lurking Predators, but there’s nothing to target. When I discard, I keep most of the non-creature cards I have, needing only to toss a couple of lands.

Scott: Abyss eats Shriekmaw. Casts Ivory Mask. My Predators gets nothing.
Aaron: Crucible of Worlds. Scott Predators up Karmic Guide and targets Drumhunter. I get Grave-shell Scarab. Aaron plays Bitterblossom. Scott gets Big Game Hunter off the Predators, targeting Grave-shell, which I sacrifice to draw a card. I get Woodfall Primus off of mine (seems like I did better) and knock off his Predators.
Me: I Cemetery back Dragon Broodmother. I sacrifice Primus to the Abyss; when it Persists back, I destroy Minion Reflector. I cast Fires of Yavimaya, Bloodshot Cyclops, and Sprouting Thrinax. Primus and Thrinax attack Aaron (27).

Scott: Pays the Echo on Karmic Guide. It tells me that he doesn’t have much else to do or that he really wants the Protection from Black flyer hanging around. He sacrifices Big Game Hunter to Braids and casts Divinity of Pride. He’s at exactly 25, so Divinity is good for now. My Lurking Predators whiffs again.
Aaron: Bitterblossom to 26. Replays Sahr. I whiff again. He casts Braids. Swing and a miss for me.
Me: I target Boneshredder with the Cemetery, Thrinax with Abyss and then sacrifice Thrinax to Braids, getting three tokens. I cast Stalking Vengeance and Dragon Broodmother. This game is looking very good for me. Chris refills the whisky while he’s watching. Highland Park 18 reinforces itself as a winner.

Scott: Abyss targets Drumhunter, which he sacrifices to Braids. Casts Privileged Position and my Predators gets Sapling of Colfenor. He’s Sterling Grove away from all his stuff being untargetable.
Aaron: Bitterblossom to 25. Coverts a Thrull into a Faerie. Attacks me with a Thrull, which I block with a Saproling. Stalking Vengeance domes Aaron for 1 (24). He casts Krovikan Horror again. At EOT, I use Bloodshot Cyclops to throw Woodfall Primus at him, doubling the damage because of Vengeance (14).
Me: Target Primus with Cemetery. Stack Gargadon, and Broodmother, target an existing token with Abyss, then sac it to Braids (Vengeance Aaron to 13). Token comes in and eats two of its brothers (Aaron to 11). Play Primus, destroying Privileged Position. I then sacrifice it to Greater Gargadon, destroying Ivory Mask. I target Aaron with the 6 damage. He knows he’s dead, so he wipes out my Broodmother, him getting more to the face. He then shoots Cyclops four times. On the fourth activation, I sacrifice the Cyclops to itself to do four damage to Divinity of Pride. Aaron dies. I sacrifice the 5/5 dragon to Greater Good, dealing 5 damage to Scott, which kills Divinity of Pride. Off the draw, I reveal to Scott Living Death, Hamletback Goliath, and Tormod’s Crypt, and he doesn’t hesitate to scoop.

The Kresh deck once again proves its flexibility by being able to live in the Red Zone, kill with General damage, or just deal direct damage in other ways. I took out Vicious Shadows when it was temporarily banned by my local EDH League (it’s back in now – that was just an experiment), and I think I’ll leave it out. It’s a ridiculous card in the format, but I’m just kind of done with it. Time to move onto something else.

As far as Zendikar is concerned, I know that Eldrazi Monument will make it into this deck, probably replacing Fulminator Mage, which has proved of limited use. I put it in there in the first place to deal with Academy Ruins and other lands that do silly recursion things, but it’s been suboptimal. I notice that there are six Beasts, so perhaps adding back Ravenous Baloth and Contested Cliffs (swapping out Boseiju) is an idea. Maybe a few more Beasts (or Chameleon Colossus)? Rampaging Baloths certainly seems like a winner. Other than that, I don’t know if I want to change much. Here’s the list as it currently stands.

Creatures (36)
Acidic Slime
Big Game Hunter
Bloodshot Cyclops
Brooding Saurian
Creakwood Liege
Deathbringer Thoctar
Dragon Broodmother
Eternal Witness
Fulminator Mage
Grave-Shell Scarab
Greater Gargadon
Hamletback Goliath
Indrik Stomphowler
Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund
Krosan Tusker
Lord of Extinction
Madrush Cyclops
Nantuko Vigilante
Nezumi Graverobber
Penumbra Wurm
Sapling of Colfenor
Scarland Thrinax
Solemn Simulacrum
Spearkbreaker Behemoth
Spellbreaker Behemoth
Sprouting Thrinax
Stalking Vengeance
Wilderness Elemental
Withered Wretch
Woodfall Primus
Yavimaya Elder

Artifacts (9)
Fellwar Stone
Gruul Signet
Lightning Greaves
Scrabbling Claws
Sensei’s Divining Top
Sol Ring
Talisman of Indulgence
Tormod’s Crypt

Enchantments (8)
Call of the Wild
Fires of Yavimaya
Goblin Assault
Goblin Bombardment
Grave Pact
Greater Good
Lurking Predators
Oversold Cemetery

Spells (8)
Demonic Tutor
Gift of the Gargantuan
Grab the Reins
Living Death
Makeshift Mannequin
Red Elemental Blast

Land (38)
Barren Moor
Boseiju, Who Shelters All
11 Forest
Forgotten Cave
Golgari Rot Farm
Graven Cairns
4 Mountain
Rakdos Carnarium
Reliquary Tower
Savage Lands
Skarrg, the Rage Pits
Spinerock Knoll
8 Swamp
Temple of the False God
Twilight Mire
Urborg Volcano
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

If you think there’s (an officially spoiled) Zendikar card that makes more sense, or something that’s just simply a better version of a card already in there, let me know.