Games The RC Plays

Get some valuable insight into how members of the Rules Committee approach playing Commander by reading Sheldon’s latest article!

I had the great pleasure of close friends and fellow Commander Rules Committee members Scott Larabee and Toby Elliott visiting for a week of gaming, food, friends, and fun. We decided to play and record a three-player game to demonstrate the style of games the RC (at least this half of us) enjoys. We didn’t pick our strongest decks; we picked the decks we most enjoy due to the crazy things they can do.

Toby trotted out Zedruu the Greathearted; Scott pulled out his recently built Oona, Queen of the Fae; and I grabbed Animar, Soul of Elements. I think it’s an interesting point that each of these commanders can be built in a pretty unfriendly fashion. For example, I’d never expect Toby to play Illusions of Grandeur in his Zedruu deck or Scott to run some infinite mana combo for Oona. I do a fair amount of what you’d expect with Animar, although I can’t do it too early.

My keep was okay, with Civic Wayfinder and Oracle of Mul Daya, but this meant I’d have to use the Wayfinder to fetch a Mountain so that I could play Animar. I normally like to do this on turn 3, but in this game unless I got a good topdeck, I’d have to wait until turn 4.

Turn 1

Toby: Sacred Foundry.

Scott: Swamp.

Me: Tropical Island.

Turn 2

Toby: Mystic Gates.

Scott: Terramorphic Expanse, cracks it for Island.

Me: Island.

Turn 3

Toby: Island.

Scott: Vesuva copying Island, Fog Bank.

Me: Reliquary Tower, Civic Wayfinder, get that Mountain.

Turn 4

Toby: Vivid Meadow.

Scott: Phyrexian Tower; Thada Adel, Acquisitor.

Me: Mountain, Oracle of Mul Daya, and a Forest off the top of my library. I’ve decided to go this route instead of dropping Animar, Soul of Elements due to the nature of the other two decks. Developing the mana base is always good in the first place. I want to be a little cautious here because I suspect that both decks have quite a bit of stuff that steals creatures. Turns out I’m right.

Turn 5

Toby: Puca’s Mischief. Scott and I both read the card, and Toby giggles (which he frequently does while playing commander). Boros Garrison, bouncing an Island.

Scott: Reliquary Tower, attack me with Thada Adel, Acquisitor (38). Scott riffles through my library, listing all the good artifacts. The discussion turns to "worst case, there’s Sol Ring," and I tell him that due to the color greediness of this deck it’s one of my few that doesn’t have Sol Ring in it. He settles on Solemn Simulacrum, casts it, and fetches an Island.

Me: Island, cast Animar. I say, "Thank you, Scott Larabee," and cast Man-o’-War, bouncing Solemn Simulacrum. Tick up Animar by one.

Turn 6

Toby: On his upkeep Toby exchanges Puca’s Mischief for my Oracle of Mul Daya. He uses Oracle’s ability to drop Phyrexia’s Core and Island. He casts Jinxed Choker and Zedruu the Greathearted. At end of turn he gives Scott Jinxed Choker.

Scott: Choker takes him to (39). Volrath’s Stronghold. Battles Toby with Thada Adel, Acquisitor (38) and gets Sol Ring. After the last turn’s discussion, Toby mentions that this is the only deck in which he actually has Sol Ring. Scott casts it and then Keiga, the Tide Star. I’m going to have to do some stuff next turn because I’m not going to have Animar, Soul of Elements long. Fortunately I have stuff in my hand that might help. At end of turn Scott gives Jinxed Choker back to Toby, which seems to upset Toby’s plan for the thing to walk around the table damaging people.

Me: Use Puca’s Mischief to trade back for my Oracle of Mul Daya. Play Hinterland Harbor off the top revealing Steam Vents, which I put in untapped (36). Cast Equilibrium. Scott chuckles and says, "Oh, now you’ve just turned into BDM." We agree that our dear friend Brian may be unnaturally attached to bounce. I cast Jens, adding a second counter to Animar, Soul of Elements and bouncing my Man-o’-War with the Equilibrium trigger.

I suspect that this is where Scott will take action with Keiga, the Tide Star / Phyrexian Tower, but he doesn’t. I feel like I need to force him to do it now so that I can try to get back Animar next turn and restart adding counters. Because I can now cast Man-o’-War for only one blue, I do so, targeting Keiga when it enters the battlefield. Scott responds by sacrificing it and takes control of Animar, now with three counters.

Turn 7

Toby: Triggers Jinxed Choker, Zedruu the Greathearted, and then Puca’s Mischief. Mischief resolves, and he once again takes Oracle of Mul Daya. Zedruu draws him two cards and gains two life, and then Choker deals two damage, putting Toby at (38). He drops Rupture Spire and pays for it with Phyrexia’s Core, revealing Reveillark on the top of his deck. He casts Sea Gate Oracle, takes whatever the not Reveillark card is, and at end of turn ships Jinxed Choker back to Scott.

Scott: Takes three from Jinxed Choker (36). I had gotten up from the table for something (perhaps to grab another bottle of the delicious Vichy Catalan sparkling water that Scott had shipped to the house in advance of his arrival) and upon returning hear the two of them whispering in conspiratorial tones. Scott attacks Toby with Thada Adel, Acquisitor (34), taking Spine of Ish Sah from him. He casts it, blowing up Equilibrium. I say "fair." Animar shenanigans can ensue if that thing stays in play. At end of turn Scott ships Jinxed Choker back to Toby, a skirmish that I am happy to continue to avoid.

Me: Puca’s Mischief targets Animar, which Scott sacrifices to Phyrexian Tower (meaning I keep it a whole turn). At this point our afternoon snack is ready, so we take a break to eat some delicious tortellini soup. When we come back, I cast Xenagos, the Reveler, who immediately starts partying by giving me three mana. I use it to help cast Maelstrom Wanderer. I get into the worst double cascade ever with Mystic Snake, which I choose to not cast, and Wall of Roots. I have no profitable attacks, so I pass the turn. At end of turn Toby donates Jinxed Choker to Scott via Zedruu.

Turn 8

Toby: The Zedruu the Greathearted count is four, so Toby’s back up to (40) and an overfull grip, which he’ll keep courtesy of dropping Reliquary Tower. He casts Journey to Nowhere on Thada Adel, Acquisitor and then drops a Mountain of the top via Oracle of Mul Daya.

Scott: Jinxed Choker takes him to (32). Drops Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and Stormtide Leviathan. This will be painful for me because I don’t have any Islandwalkers or many fliers. Scott and I reach a deal where he’ll ship Jinxed Choker back to Toby and I’ll blow it up. We have a brief discussion about the long term value of always keeping your word when you make an in-game deal. I think it’s just good ethics for one, but in the long run it’s more valuable than people wondering if you’re going to dagger them. They’ll make more deals with you if you keep your word, and in multiplayer games deals sometimes need to happen.

Me: Puca’s Mischief gets back Oracle of Mul Daya. I cast Acidic Slime, blowing up Jinxed Choker as promised. My creature count is high at this point, so Xenagos, the Reveler revels for seven. I recast Animar, Soul of Elements and Garruk’s Packleader. This will hopefully set up some insanity in coming turns, as I’ll cast creatures for little mana, draw off of Packleader, tick up Animar, and have more stuff to cast. I’ll need to do some math on how to maximize the mana off of Xenagos. At end of turn Toby donates Journey to Nowhere to Scott and Sea Gate Oracle to me. I think maybe the other way around would have been better since it helps limit the mana I get from Xenagos. That said, maybe Toby is counting on Scott battling Xenagos with Stormtide Leviathan.

Turn 9

Toby: Toby stacks the Zedruu the Greathearted trigger and then Puca’s Mischief. Mischief resolves, and he takes Solemn Simulacrum. He draws five and goes to (45). He then puts Hobble on Stormtide Leviathan, revealing that he wasn’t counting on Scott killing Xenagos, the Reveler. He drops Rainbow Vale (go ahead, I’ll wait while you look it up) and casts Political Trickery to snag Scott’s Phyrexian Tower, exchanging it for Rainbow Vale, which was going away anyway. He casts Council of Advisors.

Scott: Casts Copy Artifact, copying Spine of Ish Sah and blowing up Hobble. He casts Nezumi Graverobber but doesn’t quite want it flipped yet, which he can do by removing the only card in my graveyard, Equilibrium. I think he wants a little graveyard control instead of just being able to reanimate stuff. He takes Jinxed Choker out of Toby’s yard as a preventative. When it comes to attacks, I expect that Xenagos, the Reveler is going away (which is why I haven’t taken the time to do all the math), but he attacks Toby instead. Probably something to do with all the choking and hobbling. Toby goes to (37).

Me: Puca’s Mischief targets Solemn Simulacrum, which promptly gets sacrificed to Phyrexia’s Core. I drop back-to-back Island off the top of the library and cast Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre, which blows up Zedruu the Greathearted, and I draw off of Garruk’s Packleader. Toby’s hand is just getting out of control over there. Seeing that Stormtide Leviathan headed Toby’s way, I gamble that it won’t come mine next time either. Just in case I cast Spearbreaker Behemoth and Keiga, the Tide Star of my own. Animar is plus four, and I have enough mana to save him if someone casts a sweeper.

I tell Scott and Toby that we have an agreement among our local players that Eldrazi tend to not attack unless someone really needs to be attacked—like if they have a pile of tokens or are getting out of hand somehow. We never simply annihilate someone to cripple their mana situation. It’s one of our local habits; the lines are obviously a little fuzzy, but it works for us. There’s often a group discussion on whether or not it’s cool to annihilate someone.

Turn 10

Toby: Drops Kher Keep. Solves my problems by putting Faith’s Fetters on Stormtide Leviathan, going to (41). Casts Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind, telling me that it was the absolute right thing to kill Zedruu the Greathearted.

Scott: Beseech the Queen. I feel pretty good here since I can recover well from a sweeper via Spearbreaker Behemoth. Scott ends up going for Tamiyo, the Moon Sage. He casts it, locking down Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind. He ships me back Rainbow Vale.

Me: I’m going to go for it here. I use Puca’s Mischief to take Fog Bank. I cast Primordial Sage, drawing a card off of Garruk’s Packleader. It’s Mischievous Quanar, so I play it as a morph. With Xenagos, the Reveler and Animar, Soul of Elements, I can play Mistcutter Hydra for plus twenty. I draw two, peel an Island off the top, and then cast Sun Quan, Lord of Wu, drawing two more. I now have enough counters on Animar to play Artisan of Kozilek for free, drawing two more. The cards are Strionic Resonator and Duplicant. I cast Resonator and then Duplicant (for free), copying the trigger and removing the remaining blocking creatures—importantly the Stormtide Leviathan—at which point Scott and Toby agree that we’re done.

We count up the damage anyway, and it’s just short of 100. Animar can indeed get silly. It happened a few turns earlier than I like, but I think it wouldn’t have been able to happen as early if there were a fourth player (which is why four is our preferred number).

After the game we talked about a few things. Toby pointed out there were a few times that I could have taken Zedruu the Greathearted from him with Puca’s Mischief. I countered that Zedruu costs five, and he flipped the card in my direction. I facepalmed. I brought up Stormtide Leviathan not killing Xenagos, the Reveler to Scott, and he said that he had forgotten about it and was indeed paying attention to the fact that Toby kept messing with his stuff. All in all not our finest hour for displaying skills, but it was fun nonetheless.

To show you a little more about how we approach the format, Toby was very excited when in another game he "pulled off a combo that hasn’t happened before." That combo (if you’ll call it that) was turn 1 Llanowar Reborn; turn 2 Skullbriar, the Walking Grave (his commander). We often like to do stuff just so that we can go "whee!" That game featured Scott, who was playing Rakdos, Lord of Riots, controlling my turn with Sorin Markov (something he’d never done with it) but not quite being able to hold me back enough to overcome Divinity of Pride on an empty board. To be fair, he could have set me to ten instead of taking my turn, but it wouldn’t have done as much good as getting rid of my stuff via Ghost Council of Orzhova.

I hope this glimpse into a game gives you some insight into how members of the RC approach the format. We don’t think it’s the only way to play, but it’s the way that we like it best. Here’s hoping you think giving it a whirl our way is worth a try.

Zedruu the Greathearted
Toby Elliott
Test deck on 03-13-2014

Oona, Queen of the Fae
Scott Larabee
Test deck on 03-13-2014
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