As many of you know, there will be more to the Grand Prix Atlanta weekend than just the Grand Prix. Star City Games will be hosting the first large-scale Commander celebration ever, and yours truly will be the most special of Special Guests along with Bennie Smith, MJ Scott, Danny West, and the Commander VS Series crew. It plans to be an exciting weekend of both gathering together with friends from far and wide and digging heels deep into the greatest format of all time.
The Commander Celebration starts Friday with a special meet and greet from 1400-1700 (that’s 2-5pm for you non-military folks). It’s the social format’s social hour, as it were. We’ll leave the serious topics for later in the evening. We’ll get to know each other for the first time or meet back up again. I want to use the time to get to know something about the people who I might see in passing at an event or only know online. I especially want to reconnect with Bennie; we used to live pretty near to each other as well as write a column together on this here very website. I’m really looking forward to meeting all the SCG folks whom I’ve never met in person.
After a short break for dinner (two hours isn’t quite enough time for a dinner break, but these are battlefield conditions — I’m not expecting Pete to take me to Chama Gaucha, Bone’s, or Aviva by Kameel or anything on Friday … ), we’ll be back at 1900 (7pm) for a Commander Panel, where you get to lob all the grenades you like in our direction. I’m sure the banned list will come up. I’m sure mulligans will come up, since it’s our newest topic. No questions will be off the table, whether they’re about the format, judging, Magic in general, or personal stuff. While there’s not a scheduled cocktail hour after the seminar, I’d be willing to bet there will end up being one.
Saturday is when we really get down to it. With the other Special Guests, I’ll be in the Command Zone all day, slinging the 100-card decks with the fans. All the other pomp and circumstance aside, these will be my favorite hours of the weekend. We’ll be in the Command Zone from 0900-1300 (9am-1pm) and then again from 1400-1800 (2-6pm). I’m not quite sure how all the mechanics of it will work, but I’m positive there will be an SCG staffer there to point everyone in the right direction. What I care most about is getting to play the format with all of you. Playing only at your LGS or a close group has both some strengths and weaknesses. The good part is that you develop a rhythm and a patois, earn trust, and generally know what you’re going to be faced with. Of course, that tends to be limiting because there’s not so much new blood or new ideas infused into the group. Due to school, I currently don’t travel like I did when I was a judge or a member of the Pro Tour Coverage Team. This trip will be the first time I’ve left Tampa in more than two years for an event (that one being the first giant Grand Prix Las Vegas). In fact, due to school, I don’t play much at all at the moment. I’m carrying sixteen credits, one of which is a graduate course. My free time is pretty limited, so imagine how stoked I’m going to be to get to spend the weekend doing nothing but playing. I know the sign says that I’m there until six on Saturday, but rest assured that if I don’t have another commitment, I will keep playing well after that — until I drop from exhaustion or hunger. On Sunday, I’d love to stay longer, but I have a flight to catch. I’ll be heading directly to the airport for a late flight back to Tampa so that I can go to class Monday morning. By the way, as part of creating as fun an environment as we can, I intend to trash talk Bennie as much as possible from a different table, so if you’re playing with him, feel free keep me apprised of what nonsense he’s playing with so I can offer some running commentary on it. It’s what friends do.
I want the atmosphere in the Command Zone to be as open and engaging as possible. While I can’t go as far as imposing rules, I’d like to make some suggestions. They’re mostly the rules of decent behavior in polite society.
It’s kind of simple. Treat everyone around you with some respect. We’re not splitting atoms here. A little social decorum goes a long way.
There are no prizes on the line besides our enjoyment. Approach it with that in mind. Bring the deck that gives you the biggest amount of giggles. Part of having fun is also engaging with the other people there. Don’t just focus head-down on your cards. We’re there to be social, so be social. I’m not sure what kind of swag there will be for me to give away, but if there is, it will go to the decks and people that create the most memorable experiences. Bring your Ramirez DiPietro Pirates deck or some other crazy theme build. Those are what we really appreciate seeing.
Think About Other People’s Fun
The two people other than me you’ll be sitting with have also spent time and money to get to the event, hoping for good games. Consider that with your deck choice. Your STAX or Derevi Winter Orb deck might be super-efficient ways to win, but they may not be conducive to an enjoyable time for anyone else. You might consider leaving them for another game. What I’d like to do with each group that sits down is discuss what kind of game everyone would like, then we’ll pick decks accordingly. If you only have one deck, we’ll work with you. I just want everyone to keep in mind that we’re there to have fun together.
Save Your Agendas For The Panel
If you think that there’s a card that needs to be banned, let’s discuss it at the panel. You don’t need to build a deck to show me how broken it is. I’ve heard most of the arguments and seen most of the discussions, and I’m always open to hearing more discussion — but not while we’re playing. There’s no need to create an oppressive game just to get your point across. The same with your deck that consistently kills the table on turn three. If you want to show us the deck, cool; then pick something else to play. I’d rather not spend more time shuffling up for a game than playing it. It’s not a secret that the format can be easily broken. If you really want to show me something, show me that you understand how to not break it and still do something interesting.
With just a few easy-to-follow guidelines, we can maximize the good times for everyone.
I want to give you a look into the decks I’ll be bringing with me for this event. Since I haven’t played much recently, I’m going to bring the ones I love the most and think will generate the most crazy plays in order to get in multiple games. I’ve listed two of the decks recently: last month’s Interview with Yasova and in last week’s mulligan discussion, I listed You Did This To Yourself (which is clearly the deck I’d bring if I were only bringing one). Added to that, I’ll bring Dreaming of Intet (which I’ll play both at Intet and as Riku of Two Reflections), Halloween with Karador, and Kresh Into the Red Zone. Weirdly enough, none of these decks got major updates with Battle for Zendikar, but you can expect to see a few new cards. If you’re not familiar with the decks, here’s a quick rundown:
This deck can’t really hurt you until you try to do something broken. Sure, Ruhan can get in there and attack, but without evasion he’s not really that dangerous. The card which inspired the deck is Parallectric Feedback. I want you to be twitchy about spending 50 mana to cast something. The most fun about the deck is the tension created by not knowing if I’m holding the right prevention or redirection spell. There have been plenty of times that other players have talked themselves out of attacking me because they thought I had Comeuppance or some such. Sometimes I have stuff, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I affect a Clint Eastwood accent while playing the deck. Most of the time, I try to look particularly innocent. You should probably just attack me. It’s not likely I have anything.
What You’ll Like About This Deck: Watching other people squirm when they are thinking about doing something that deals lots of damage.
What You’ll Hate About This Deck: When it’s you.
BFZ Card In This Deck Which I’m Looking Forward To: Hedron Archive. It’s simple, but it’s sweet. It’s needed to exist for some time now.
Thanks, I’m just going to borrow that for a minute. One of my favorite parts about this particular deck is making alliances. It gets quite political, because we can get a two-for-one on the table’s larger threat. You can attack him or her with something, and then I can attack them too. See? It’s a win for everybody. Sure, there are times when I Threaten stuff and then don’t give it back, but that’s only when there’s something super-scary on the battlefield.
What You’ll Like About This Deck: Neat beginning-of-combat tricks and that I’m not playing Insurrection.
What You’ll Hate About This Deck: Greater Good means you’re probably not getting your creature back.
BFZ Card In This Deck Which I’m Looking Forward To: Using Turn Against when someone has Akroma’s Memorial on the battlefield. In the middle of combat.
I’ve recently made some updates to get the deck back into the Red Zone. It had gotten away from that a little and just became an exercise in flinging giant things at people’s faces (which it still does, just so you know). The combat phase is an important thing, so I’ve added a few new tricks along the way. I generally play Kresh as soon as I can then see what happens from there. I like battling with monsters, and this one will bring the pain.
What You’ll Like About This Deck: I took out Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord. It also has plenty of graveyard hate to keep other people from getting out of hand.
BFZ Card In This Deck Which I’m Looking Forward To: The only new card is Vampiric Rites. It’s not fancy, but it’s effective. Kresh needs his bros to die, so this helps a great deal and solves one of the deck’s problems, which is drawing cards.
Since we’ll have just passed Halloween (and I don’t have a Thanksgiving-themed deck), it’s an appropriate choice. It’s a little bit of a grindy deck that can gain some life, although it doesn’t do anything to slow down other players. It’s a deck I’m less likely to play as the last game of the day, since it tends to make games run a little longer.
What You’ll Like About This Deck: Hermit Druid, played fairly.
What You’ll Hate About This Deck: It’s one of the few decks I play any kind of tutoring in (in this case, it’s Birthing Pod). Since I don’t play the deck all that often (and it changes every quarter), I’m not always 100% sure of what I can Pod into. I’ll be as quick as I can.
Since this is my “play rough” deck, I’ll only bring it out on request — but I want to have it on hand in case that’s the kind of game the group wants. It’s still not going to kill anyone particularly quickly, but it can establish some firm control. I’ll only play it if the folks at the table request it. I won’t make any claims on how much the deck wins — because it doesn’t — it’s just that its wins tend to be a little oppressive.
What You’ll Like About This Deck: Probably very little, unless it’s me helping you kill someone else because I have Kessig Wolf Run and lots of land on the battlefield.
What You’ll Hate About This Deck: Some of your stuff is going to get countered. By something I drew off of Consecrated Sphinx.
BFZ Card In This Deck Which I’m Looking Forward To: The only Battle for Zendikar card that made it into an already-tight deck is Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. I don’t know that I’m actually “looking forward” to playing it — it’s just a necessary evil in the harshest of my decks.
I look forward to a great time at the Grand Prix, saying hello to all the folks (Pro players, coverage staff, SCG folks) that I haven’t gotten to see in a while. I look forward even more to sitting with all of you and creating memories that will last forever.
This week’s Deck Without Comment is Halloween with Karador. (* on the list indicates that I have the card in an Italian foil).
Commander: Karador, Ghost Chieftain
Angel of Despair
Archon of Justice
Avenger of Zendikar*
Champion of Stray Souls
Disciple of Bolas
Harvester of Souls
Wall of Omens
Wall of Reverence*
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Ghost Council of Orzhova*
Karametra, God of Harvests
Kokusho, the Evening Star*
Liliana, Heretical Healer
Sidisi, Undead Vizier
Teysa, Orzhov Scion
Wake the Dead
Decree of Pain
Wrath of God*
Caves of Koilos
Maze of Ith
Check out our awesome Deck List Database for the last versions of all my decks:
AURELIA GOES TO WAR;
CHILDREN of a LESSER GOD;
DEMONS OF KAALIA;
EREBOS and the HALLS OF THE DEAD;
HELIOD, GOD OF ENCHANTMENTS;
DREAMING OF INTET;
FORGE OF PURPHOROS;
KARN, BEATDOWN GOLEM;
HALLOWEEN WITH KARADOR;
KARRTHUS, WHO RAINS FIRE FROM THE SKY;
KRESH INTO THE RED ZONE;
LAZAV, SHAPESHIFTING MASTERMIND;
ZOMBIES OF TRESSERHORN;
MELEK’S MOLTEN MIND GRIND;
MERIEKE’S ESPER CONTROL;
NATH of the VALUE LEAF;
NYLEA OF THE WOODLAND REALM;
OBZEDAT, GHOST KILLER;
PURPLE HIPPOS and MARO SORCERERS;
ZEGANA and a DICE BAG;
YOU DID THIS TO YOURSELF;
RURIC THAR AND HIS BEASTLY FIGHT CLUB;
THASSA, GOD OF MERFOLK;
THE ALTAR of THRAXIMUNDAR;
TROSTANI and HER ANGELS;
THE THREAT OF YASOVA;
If you’d like to follow the adventures of my Monday Night RPG group (in a campaign that’s been alive since 1987 and is just now getting started with a new saga called “The Lost Cities of Nevinor”), ask for an invitation to the Facebook group “Sheldon Menery’s Monday Night Gamers.”