Number of games that I played over the weekend: 21.
Number of them that were miserable: zero.
That’s how SCG CON Summer (my third) went, and I couldn’t be happier. I think the message of Rule 0 is really resonating with players of all stripes. Pregame conversations led to reasonably balanced deck choices between the players and some reasonably tight games, which some predictably epic results.
Gretchyn, my wife, traveled with me this time since we’re good friends with SCG Vice President Crystal Van Hise, and the two of them have become close over the last few years. We stayed with Crystal, which produced some challenges, since I wanted to be on site before the doors opened each day and the two of them wanted to enjoy a more leisurely pace for the weekend. Enter the weekend’s hero, SCG Operations Manager Jason Brooks, who generously agreed to come get me and take me to the site at somewhat unreasonably early hours.
It was a weekend full of great meals and great company, to include a number of Magic luminaries, such as Brian David-Marshall, Gavin Verhey, and the RC’s own Scott Larabee – but you’re here to hear about the Commander. I’ll provide a very brief overview of each table (there aren’t any involved play-by-plays), what happened, and some bigger-picture impressions. We’ll cover Friday and Saturday in Part 1. Let’s get into the games.
- Dave: Raff Capashen, Ship’s Mage
- Steven: Sakashima the Impostor
- Jake: Marchesa, the Black Rose
- Me: Aminatou, the Fateshifter
I’ve seen Dave twice before, and he’s always a pleasure to sit with. His Queen Marchesa deck inspired me to build my own. I’m certainly not thrilled about sitting down with three other blue decks, especially a mono-blue one, but it means that I’ll have to play very carefully. At some point, Steven cast Counterspell on something. I immediately wrote down “Who plays Counterspell?” and ribbed him about it. Dave chimes in in agreement. Longtime readers are aware that I’m of the mind that one-for-ones in Commander are mediocre at best, and hard Counterspell that doesn’t do anything else seems like a suboptimal choice. Later, Dave also cast Counterspell on something, taking the last laugh.
At some point Steven cast an extra turn spell; I asked him if he’s just taking infinite extra turns. He said no. In the mid-game, there’s a massive counter war over Living Death. When it looked like I’d be the one to suffer the worst of it, I Teferi’s Protectioned my happy self out of there for a while. While I was away, he took four or five extra turns (hey, I guess it wasn’t infinite) and weakened Dave and Jake. Later, I ended up with Liliana’s Contract and four Demons. Unfortunately, one of them was Abyssal Persecutor. They left me alone, thinking I can’t win. That’s when I went for what I thought would be an amazing play. On my upkeep, Liliana’s Contract triggered. I then cast Sudden Spoiling, targeting myself. It got a great response from the table. Unfortunately, after it resolved, Steven cast Summary Dismissal, wrecking my well-laid plan. A few turns later, he won the game.
The game goes long enough that it’s the only one I play in the morning. I need to get some lunch so that I can do the day’s two panels. The first was with Gavin, Brian, and Justin Parnell on Commander deck-building. The second was “Ask the RC” with me and Scott. Video for both will be up soon.
- Dave: Ishkanah, Grafwidow
- Liam: Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign
- Anthony: Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis
- Me: Saskia the Unyielding
Anthony is Elder Dragon Statesman podcast partner Anthony Alongi and Liam is his son. There wasn’t anyone waiting in line (although by this time, the Command Zone is packed), so Dave, who happened to be around, jumped in. Liam cast Void Winnower twice and must die for it. BDM happens by and is intrigued that someone else is playing Ishkanah. Dave says that he’s not playing any other Spiders, because you don’t need them; Ishkanah will do the work. The epic play was when Dave targeted me with Emrakul, the Promised End. On my own turn, I was forced to cast Eerie Interlude, which blinked Saskia, and I was compelled to name myself. Dave eventually won with Spiders.
- Mike: Mathas, Fiend Seeker
- Jeremy: Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign
- Daniel: Sydri, Galvanic Genius
- Me: Saskia the Unyielding
It’s a good, friendly game, and a bunch of stuff happens. At some point, Daniel went infinite with Grand Architect and Myr, gaining a billion life. We realized we’d have to kill him with commander damage. Before we could, he drew Aetherflux Reservoir and murders us all. The game had gone a reasonable amount of time, so no one is salty.
- Kevin: Brion Stoutarm
- Mike: Gonti, Lord of Luxury
- Blair: Thrasios, Triton Hero and Ravos, Soultender
- Me: Intet, the Dreamer
Blair is a longtime Commander fan and great supporter of the format, and I’ve talked before about some of the games we’ve played at previous SCG CONs. Mike, who I got several games in with over the weekend, and Kevin were both good table-mates. He definitely plays 100% decks. Not competitive, and not early turn kills, but extremely well-constructed and well-tuned. Mike has Gonti on the battlefield, and when I draw a Clone, I feel like the only thing to do is copy Gonti, because, well, Gonti. There’s a great deal of back and forth. In the late-game, with everyone still in it, I was in top-deck mode. I wasn’t too worried, because I had Intet, Pyromancer’s Goggles, and Zendikar Resurgent on the battlefield. I attacked into Blair with Intet and triggered its ability, getting a delicious Plasm Capture.
On his turn, Blair cast Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. He targeted Zendikar Resurgent and Intet. I was sad to lose my mana doubler and card-drawer, but the ten mana was good. Back around on my turn, it was really good, because my topdeck was Comet Storm. I had enough mana to kill both Blair and Mike, but not Kevin, because he had gained enough with Brion’s lifelink. I didn’t really think that I had that much of a chance, because I was pretty low on life as well and needed a good peel. On my next turn, I drew Bonfire of the Damned. At first, I did the calculation and realized that I was a few damage short. Then I realized that Bonfire is a miracle. When it comes down to it, I’d rather be good than lucky, but luck-sacking it is sometimes okay.
- Ed: Jodah, Archmage Eternal
- Chris: Niv-Mizzet, Parun
- Other Chris: Rith, the Awakener
- Me: Karador, Ghost Chieftain
I’ve played some pretty epic games previously with Ed, who has a flair for the chaotic. His last name is Almodóvar, so at some point I asked him if people always wonder if he’s related to the filmmaker. He said that no one knows Pedro Almodóvar is, so not really. I’m a little flabbergasted. In the mid-game, Ed cast Tempting Wurm. I had in hand Ashen Rider, Restoration Angel, Eternal Witness, and Saffi Eriksdottir. No complaints. Then he cast Psychic Battle, which everyone had to read. The game was already absurd when Ed cast Eye of the Storm. Rith Chris decided that, once it’s on the battlefield, casting Teferi’s Protection would be a good idea. Seeing the way this was going and having an otherwise superior battlefield, I end up being the fun-wrecker and nuked Eye of the Storm with Necrotic Sliver at the first opportunity. Without the chaos elements, I took pretty firm control of the game.
- Mike: Traxos, Scourge of Kroog
- Ryan: Rhonas the Indomitable
- David: Ghave, Guru of Spores
- Me: Muldrotha, the Gravetide
I got a pretty rampy starting hand which included Seedguide Ash, and once I got Prime Speaker Vannifar going alongside Kiora, Master of the Depths, Seedguide Ash turned into Kokusho, the Evening Star, and another five-drop turned into Progenitor Mimic, copying Kokusho (of course letting the original die). They put up a game fight, but there was an inevitability to my position.
- Phil: Sliver Overlord
- Josh: Nylea, God of the Hunt
- Jared: Wrexial, the Risen Deep
- Me: Zedruu the Greathearted, leading You Did This
I wrote about playing with Phil at the last two events, to some controversy. Phil continued to impress me with his adaptability to the way other folks enjoy the format. Josh and Jared are friends of his, so it was a very collegial game. Slivers can get scary, but we kept them in check. Phil’s draws weren’t all that great, and a little bit of control goes a long way against them. There was a good deal of punching and counterpunching all around the table. I enjoyed giving away Lightmine Field and Powerstone Minefield in order to keep my hand full. Everyone eventually got whittled down by each other until it was finally just me and Phil, both at single-digit life. He battled into me with Sliver Overlord, and I cast Honorable Passage for the killing blow.
- Cody: Sidar Kondo of Jamuraa
- Jonathan: Ezuri, Renegade Leader
- Scott: Brion Stoutarm
- Me: Yasova Dragonclaw
I’m pretty sure I remembered both Cody and Jonathan from previous events, but it didn’t come up in conversation. The Scott in this game was Larabee of the RC. Yasova did Yasova things, although I have to confess it was stealing Scott’s Etali, Primal Storm and blinking it with Conjurer’s Closet that really did the trick. In the end, I finished off everyone with a nice Savage Beating.
- Dan: Wort, the Raidmother
- Mike: Rubinia Soulsinger
- Anthony: Dragonlord Ojutai
- Me: Aminatou, the Fateshifter
I’ve played with Dan lots of times, and he was even on my flight coming into Roanoke. Playing with him is always good times. Mike is the Mike from before (whom you might know as cryogen on the official forums). Anthony is Mr. Alongi, who happened to be free with no one in line. This game was the first and only Turn 1 Sol Ring I saw all weekend. Anthony used it to cast Smothering Tithe on Turn 2. This felt like it’s going to be a short game. Mike cast his own Sol Ring on Turn 2, then used it to cast Clever Impersonator, copying the Smothering Tithe. For a few turns, the two of them kept each other in check while Dan and I cowered. Anthony’s Containment Priest completely daggered Mike’s Conjurer’s Closet. Eventually I got to seven mana and, somehow still alive, cast Cyclonic Rift for equilibrium. The game then rebuilt and we had some back-and-forth battles. Dan became the threat and then cast a giant Finale of Devastation and, going old school, Forked it. I had only one choice, and got out of Dodge with Teferi’s Protection. He wrecked the two of them, and I got him on the crackback.
- Jonathan: Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury
- Mike: Mathas, Fiend Seeker
- Scott: Karador, Ghost Chieftain
- Me: You Did This, once again with Zedruu
Everyone is a repeat player, so we’ve already developed a rhythm and patter. The game went how you might expect: we avoided getting killed early by Elves, Mike’s bounty counters helped out everyone, and Karador did some tomfoolery. I fended off some attacks, got some reset buttons, but didn’t donate anything to anyone. At a critical juncture, I got Gisela, Blade of Goldnight onto the battlefield in time to preserve precious bits of my life total. It’s looking pretty grim for me until I peeled Acidic Soil. By the grace of everyone’s favorite Boros Angel, I cast it. It didn’t look like it’s going to kill anyone. I then had to cast Refuse in order to get it into the graveyard; Gisela again protected me. I could then cast Cooperate, copying Acidic Soil. The double doubling gets everyone at the table.
- Jonathan: Gwendlyn Di Corci
- Ed: Niv-Mizzet Reborn
- Scott: Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle
- Me: Muldrotha, the Gravetide
Unfortunately, this one wasn’t that interesting. Scott looked like he was going to get somewhere with Arixmethes, but then someone Wastelanded it before he could get the last counter off. It allowed me the opening to get Zendikar Resurgent running with Muldrotha staying on the battlefield for too many turns. Verdant Catacombs meant that I was thinning my deck every turn and drawing gas, so forth and so on. It turns out that when you have big piles of mana, you can do stuff. It also turns out that Evolutionary Leap is really good when you can cast stuff from your graveyard. I’d also highly recommend playing Guardian Project.
- Zach: Mizzix of the Igmagnus
- Patrick: Meren of Clan Nel Toth
- Brandon: Muldrotha, the Gravetide
- Me: Intet, as Riku of Two Reflections
Zach, Patrick, and Brandon are friends who are also cEDH players. Meren and Muldrotha don’t seem particularly competitive, but I raise an eyebrow at Mizzix. I feel like Zach is underselling it when he tells me that he can go infinite on Turn 4 “like 5% of the time,” but when his buddies, who don’t seem the least bit sketchy, confirm, we dive in. Zach goes infinite on Turn 4, courtesy of Paradox Engine. He makes infinite Treasure tokens and mana. He then blanks. The best part of the game is when Brandon says, “You need to give me a finite number of Treasure tokens, because that’s how big my Bane of Progress is going to be.” Obviously, Zach can sacrifice the tokens, but it got a pretty big laugh from everyone. He decides that he’s not going to get rid of the tokens, because it’s funnier that way. Fortunately, Patrick’s Grave Pact saves us from having to deal with it. Without access to Paradox Engine, Zach doesn’t do much, so we leave him alone while we whittle each other down. The two of them combine to kill Zach, one kills the other, and then I mop up at the end.
- Ezra: Ramos, Dragon Engine
- Jeff: Traxos, Scourge of Kroog
- Chris: Kresh the Bloodbraided
- Me: Ezra’s Gishath, Sun’s Avatar
This being my ninth game of the day, I’m a little brain dead. It’s not quite time to go, but I don’t know if I have another one in me. After chatting a bit with Ezra, Jeff, and Chris, I realize that I’d be missing the chance to play with some pretty cool people, so I offer to play one more. Ezra tells me that if I don’t really want to think too much, I can play his Gishath deck. Seems like a good deal.
The best part of the game was Jeff playing (and making copies of) Jester’s Mask. Even when he filled my hand with suboptimal Dinosaurs, it’s good times. Ramos, as you might imagine, took control of the game. Ezra dealt out some serious damage and killed Chris by two-shotting him with Ramos. Jeff and I were barely hanging on when I topdecked Blasphemous Act, rendered really good by the Temple Altisaur that Jeff had given me a while back, leading the way to knocking out both of them.
The game finished just in time for me to hop a ride right to the restaurant for our dinner at Frankie Rowland’s Steakhouse. Someone made the choice (right or wrong, depending who you asked Sunday morning) of putting me in charge of the wine list. Follow this link to Gavin’s Twitter feed, and it’ll tell you everything you need to know about how things went.
In Part 2, we’ll cover Sunday and then I’ll delve into some final thoughts.
Sheldon Menery’s Deck Database
Check out our comprehensive Deck List Database! Click each section for lists of all my decks.
These are the decks that define my personal play style to the greatest degree and to some extent lay the original foundation of the format. They’re also the ones you’re most likely to see me bringing along to spell-sling at an event.
The Chromatic Project
The Chromatic Project started as an effort to build at least one deck of all 27 possible color combinations, which was expanded to 32 when we finally got four color commanders. There’s more than one of some combinations, mostly because I have a Temur problem, plus some partner combinations are too enticing to pass up.
Shards and Wedges
The Do-Over Project
The Do-Over Project is the next step after the Chromatic—building a deck with each of the same Commanders, but not repeating any cards save for basic lands (props to Abe Sargent’s “Next 99” idea). The Do-Over Project is still ongoing because we keep getting saucy new sets with creative and colorful commanders to build new decks with.