You Lika The Juice? – EDH and Commander

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Wednesday, April 2nd – For the last EDH, I played a rather ridiculously tricky and powerful Experiment Kraj deck, so this time around I wanted to be more or less straightforward. Yes, I had some powerful cards, but I didn’t work in any infinite combo engines. The sickest thing I had going was Kiki-Jiki and either Reveillark or Karmic Guide…

Last week you all held exactly the sort of conversation I was hoping to have in the forums in response to my column regarding Magic Player Rewards. And I learned a few things, namely that the cards selected for MPR are rather constrained by the “rules” that they be instants or sorceries. I was quite vocal in my irritation over Mana Tithe and Disenchant, but it was pointed out that there are not all that many good White sorceries and instants that are simple and iconic enough to work as textless spells. Okay, fair enough; checking Gatherer for Standard White instants and sorceries reveals a pretty barren landscape. You could definitely help White’s cause by opening up the rules to include enchantments and creatures, though in the case of creatures you’d obviously need to modify the format a bit to include power and toughness I’d imagine.

Someone also suggested textless lands, which I think is a fantastic idea. Anyway, my main point was to get some discussion going, and hopefully some folks at Wizards took note. Maybe something will happen?

Last week I had originally planned on talking about some decks I played two weeks back, so let’s do some catching up. For Friday Night Magic I wanted to try running a deck based around Thousand-Year Elixir. In the lead-up to playing it, I organized the cards on the table by casting cost, and was rather dismayed by the curve. 16 cards cost three mana, and that’s not even counting evoking Mulldrifter. There were no one-drops, no mana acceleration, and the only two real two-drops were evoked Shriekmaws (since you’re not going to have anything to use on Familiar’s Ruse and Momentary Blink on turn 2). I debated switching over to a powered-up version of Ben Bleiweiss Thousand-Year Elves, but I had already told my buddy Chuck he could play Red/Green/black Mana Ramp, Chris Woltereck-style, and that pretty much hogs many of my good Green cards. Besides, I really wanted to try Merieke Ri Berit. I was around the first time she was printed, and she terrorized our casual table back in the day; paired with an Elixir she could get downright ugly.

So I went to work lowering the mana curve and giving the deck something to do in the first few turns before the onslaught of three-drops came online. At one mana I decided I wanted to work in some Unsummons, a card that some versions of Reveillark Blink decks have been running. Unsummon gives some good early defense and plays a cheap Blink in a pinch. I also decided to give Icatian Javelineers a try with an eye on the match up with Faeries. There are an awful lot of tiny little one-toughness critters in that Faerie deck that could use some javelin lovin’. In a pinch you can attack with the Javelineers, then untap with Elixir and throw the javelin.

At two mana I decided to run with Riftwing Cloudskate, suspended. I figured it was the perfect “test spell” to resolve the turn you want to drop Merieke or Mangara, so if you’re playing against Blue that gives you a turn to overwhelm countermagic.

The last big change was adding Grim Harvest, suggested in the forums, Mannequin-style. Here’s what I ended up running:

Results were mixed. I went 2-2, losing round 1 to Mono-Blue Guile (though the one game we finished was surprisingly close).

Round 2, game 1, out of my first 14 cards 12 of them were lands (including 2 Terramorphic Expanses that were used), and game 2, out of my first 16 cards 12 of them were lands. Both games I conceded in disgust after drawing so many lands in a row. Shane was playing an interesting B/W Control concoction with manlands, Phyrexian Totem, Wraths, Damnations, and Feudkiller’s Verdicts. I actually think it would have been an interesting game if I had drawn a more reasonable mix of lands and spells (and yes, I did pile and riffle shuffle several times before each game).

Round 3 I play against young Logan playing Kithkin, and feel a little guilty because my deck is certainly geared to slaughter his, and I win in two.

Round 4 I play Daniel running Blue/Green Aggro-Control. Before the match he says something like “I know you’re not running Mountains so I don’t have to worry about Mogg Fanatic, which just kills me!” I smile inside, since I doubt he knows I’m running the White Fanatic, those crazy Javelineers! He’s got a fair number of small toughness creatures, including Pestermite, Vendilion Clique, and Looter il-Kor, some counterspells, and Tarmogoyf. We have a great match, trading tempo and board advantage back and forth, though I think in balance I have a slight edge with the Javelineers and the Thousand-Year Elixir/Merieke combination, and I squeak it out in three games.

I don’t make the cut to Top 4, but Chuck comes over and we play a few games against the Red/Green/black Mana Ramp. The first game I get mana flooded again and he makes short work of me. The second game goes long and I pretty well lock him down by having plenty of mana, Thousand-Year Elixir, and judicious use of Grim Harvest (though there was at least one time he could have forced the Recover ability to remove the Harvest from the game), killing him with 2/2s.

The deck is… interesting. I really do like Thousand-Year Elixir, and there’s no doubt that Merieke combos with it quite viciously against creature decks. The deck could probably use Reveillark, which of course pushes it down the path of the more stock versions of Blink decks. Is it better than those? Not really. So I think for now I’ll be shelving this version, and perhaps giving an Elf version a try down the road.

For now though, I’m not going to be playing goofy Bennie decks in Standard; Star City has graced my hometown with one of their kick-ass cash tournaments – the Mega Magic Weekend, May 9-11. I’ve already made sure I have off the day of the big $5,000 Standard tournament, and though I know the Champion seat is being kept warm for its rightful owner Chris Woltereck, I hope to at least shoot for the $600 2nd place seat. In order to do that I need to get plenty of practice playing something powerful. I am, of course, open to suggestions.

The Saturday after FNM Richmond Comix ran another Elder Dragon Highlander tournament. We ended up with 11 people around the table at noon, here were the Generals:

Jacques Le Vert (me)
Horde of Notions (Tommy)
Savra, Queen of the Golgari (Amy)
Nicol Bolas (Logan)
Doran the Siege Tower (Jessica)
Brion Stoutarm (Rooks)
Sliver Overlord (Roger)
Sliver Legion (Hunter)
Xira Arien (Griffin)
Dromar, the Banisher (David)
Grand Arbiter Augustin IV (Forrest)

Here’s the deck I played after tweaking it some from the list I posted the week before:

1 Jacques Le Vert (General)
1 Berserk
1 Candelabra of Tawnos
1 Crop Rotation
1 Essence Warden
1 Ivory Tower
1 Magus of the Candelabra
1 Sensei’s Divining Top
1 Skullclamp
1 Sol Ring
1 Allay
1 Constant Mists
1 Invulnerability
1 Life from the Loam
1 Saffi Eriksdotter
1 Scroll Rack
1 Scryb Ranger
1 Shattering Pulse
1 Sun Droplet
1 Sylvan Library
1 Wall of Blossoms
1 Wall of Roots
1 Carven Caryatid
1 Darksteel Ingot
1 Eternal Witness
1 Imperious Perfect
1 Jaya Ballard, Task Mage
1 Loxodon Warhammer
1 Pulse of the Fields
1 Reiterate
1 Rings of Brighthearth
1 Spidersilk Armor
1 Spike Feeder
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
1 Sword of Light and Shadow
1 Tamanoa
1 Urza’s Rage
1 Anger
1 Chameleon Colossus
1 Greater Good
1 Loxodon Hierarch
1 Marton Stromgald
1 Masked Admirers
1 Power Matrix
1 Scapeshift
1 Spike Weaver
1 Tawnos’s Coffin
1 Willow Satyr
1 Genesis
1 Karmic Guide
1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
1 Radiance
1 Reflect Damage
1 Reveillark
1 Silklash Spider
1 Weatherseed Treefolk
1 Word of Seizing
1 Adarkar Valkyrie
1 Cloudthresher
1 Deadwood Treefolk
1 Johan
1 Livonya Silone
1 Hazezon Tamar
1 Molten Disaster
1 Starstorm
1 Diamond Valley
1 Maze of Ith
1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All
1 Cloudpost
1 Deserted Temple
1 Gaea’s Cradle
1 Gruul Turf
1 Krosan Verge
1 Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
1 Mishra’s Factory
1 Nantuko Monastery
1 Petrified Field
1 Reflecting Pool
1 Rith’s Grove
1 Savannah
1 Selesnya Sanctuary
1 Skarrg, the Rage Pits
1 Stomping Ground
1 Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion
1 Temple Garden
1 Tiaga
1 Tranquil Thicket
1 Treetop Village
1 Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree
1 Winding Canyons
1 Windswept Heath
1 Wooded Foothills
1 Yavimaya Hollow
1 Plains
2 Mountain
4 Forest

For the last EDH, I played a rather ridiculously tricky and powerful Experiment Kraj deck, so this time around I wanted to be more or less straightforward. Yes, I had some powerful cards, but I didn’t work in any infinite combo engines. The sickest thing I had going was Kiki-Jiki and either Reveillark or Karmic Guide, but I purposely did not add in any tutor effects to assemble the combo pieces; if it came up, it came up. I also picked Jacques in a bit of a metagame call, since I knew Jessica was planning on playing Doran, Jacques would effectively give all my Green creatures +2/+2. A 9/9 Silklash Spider sounded pretty good!

I won’t go into the blow-by-blow, because I was unable to stay the entire game this time. Unfortunately, my mother-in-law is in the hospital, and my wife wanted me home by 5:30 to watch the kids so she could go visit. We also broke for a meal at the Italian place a few doors down, and that took about 45 minutes. I was also a bit frustrated through much of the beginning of the game; after utilizing the generous mulligan rules for EDH to toss my hand back twice, I settled on a hand that seemed workable… I had Green mana, an Essence Warden, and a few colorless mana sources. Of course, turn 1 Essence Warden gets people’s attention, but most people don’t play too many creatures early on. I draw into a Skullclamp and play it, but I’ve got no creatures I can play and no Red and White mana to play Jacques. After a few more turns (where I draw Pulse of the Fields and Reiterate, and nowhere near being able to play either one), I decided to go ahead and equip the Warden to Skullclamp to dig deeper. I draw Gaea’s Cradle and Sword of Fire and Ice, and look mournfully at the Spike Feeder in my hand that I can’t cast since my second source of Green mana is the Cradle—but I just sacrificed my only creature.

Meanwhile, David and Griffin have been bitching about my Skullclamp and how dangerous the card is. Of course, in other decks it could be sick; I’ve been known to go nuts with Spontaneous Generation, and lots of 1/1s can quickly turn into tons of cards. Some of the other players look a little nervous, and when I end up playing Gaea’s Cradle (and still no creatures), David and Griffin start loudly proclaiming I’m about to go off and kill everyone. When I cast Sword of Fire and Ice, they practically fall to the ground gnashing their teeth and foaming at the mouth in a panic, and Tommy decides to counter it with Broken Ambitions. Among the cards that get put into my graveyard are a White source of mana and Loxodon Hierarch.

He burns a counterspell on a Sword of Fire and Ice in an 11-man group game when I have zero creatures.

David and Griffin keep on harping about how dangerous I am and I snap. I flip my hand up on the table to show them I’m not a threat, I’ve got crap going on, and I leave my hand on the table for the next hour, drawing a card and flipping it face-up on the stack unless it’s something I can play. Everyone seems to feel a little guilty and leaves me alone after that.

I do eventually climb back into the game but I don’t ever really get really good going on. I did want to point out one thing – look at the list of generals above, do any of them jump out to you as a really, really bad idea? If you have an iota of multiplayer sense, then you’ve got to realize that Grand Arbiter is a horrendous choice as a general; taxing everyone else at the table an extra mana for their spells is not powerful enough to shut everyone down, but it is incredibly annoying. Forrest started freaking out when it became obvious that several players had decided to put an end to the nonsense and started gunning for him, and seemed perplexed when the situation was explained to him. Of course, this is the fellow who, when we played our first EDH, followed up a Damnation (destroying LOTS of creatures across the board) with a Magus of the Abyss, and then wondered why several players started attacking him exclusively. Forrest definitely does not have a future in politics, but I’m hoping he’ll begin to start getting a feel for what cards not to put in his deck. He was the first player eliminated in that game.

An amusing anecdote from the game: Jessica played Dread, and when someone attacked her she informed them that the creature would be destroyed. When they seemed confused, she pointed to Dread and read the card. Somebody else piped up, “Who knew Jessica had Deathtouch?” Her boyfriend Rooks raised his hand, “I do.” She hops up and playfully punches him in the shoulder and we all have a good laugh.

Right before I had to leave, Griffin suspends Detritivore with three counters; the next turn he Diabolic Tutors, and the next turn after that he casts Obliterate. I use that opportunity to scoop it up and head out, since that Detritivore is going to be pretty ridiculously large with all the non-basics Obliterated the turn before. I touch base with him later to hear how the game went, he kills a couple people, ends up down to him and David and he finally rips Yawgmoth’s Will to do silly things with Fastbond, and Obliterates again and wins the game.

Due to my mana issues, I’ve decided for the next EDH I’m building a Mono-Green deck where mana will NOT be an issue. And I wish crush everyone, MHUA-HA-HA-HA!!

On a related note, this weekend I finally got to try out Commander, the Magic Online format that emulates Elder Dragon Highlander quite nicely. Interestingly, when I bought and cracked open a half-dozen or so Masters Edition packs, one of the cards I got was my man Jacques Le Vert, and since I had previously done some work collecting cards for a Green/White group game deck already, I thought it would be pretty easy to pull together Green/White/Red for Commander.

Since the good dual lands are rather expensive, even the uncommon ones, I decided to hunt around the online traders for some mana-fixing artifacts, and while I did I also checked out their Masters Edition singles. Remarkably, the cards that don’t happen to be potent dueling cards are dirt cheap; one 16 for 1 autobot had Singing Trees! Singing Tree is one of the few Green cards I’ve lusted for since I first became enamored with Green after opening Force of Nature in my very first Unlimited Starter deck. I didn’t get one in the handful of Arabian Nights packs I bought, and the singles price has always been just a little more than I was willing to pay for what is really a fairly mediocre casual card.

But it looks so cool! So I bought a playset as a component of my 16 for 1 tix trade and dropped one in my Commander deck immediately. Some other dirt cheap (less than 1 tix and sometimes much less) Masters Edition singles I picked up that I was thrilled to find was Tawnos’s Coffin (an awesome multiplayer card), Forcefield, and Tornado (a card with a lot of potential that I’ve still not yet truly abused even in real life). I was also looking forward to using the Berserk, Sylvan Library, and Diamond Valley I’d gotten in my Masters Packs, and the Hazezon Tamar that I got from some special promotion that I don’t exactly remember.

Here’s what I built, perhaps going a little overboard with non-land mana-fixing but I was hypersensitive after my experience in the previous weekend’s EDH. Orochi Leafcaller is probably excessive, haha!

1 Jacques le Vert (Commander)
1 Berserk
1 Chromatic Star
1 Dead/Gone
1 Death Spark
1 Greenseeker
1 Orochi Leafcaller
1 Springleaf Drum
1 Terrarion
1 Wanderer’s Twig
1 Dragon Breath
1 Dragon Fangs
1 Dragon Scales
1 Edge of Autumn
1 Evolution Charm
1 Farseek
1 Fellwar Stone
1 Gaea’s Blessing
1 Honorable Passage
1 Kavu Predator
1 Prismatic Lens
1 Saffi Eriksdotter
1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
1 Scryb Ranger
1 Selesnya Guildmage
1 Sylvan Library
1 Talisman of Impulse
1 Talisman of Unity
1 Wall of Roots
1 Carven Caryatid
1 Exile
1 Fatal Frenzy
1 Fiery Justice
1 Forcefield
1 Foriysian Totem
1 Grinning Ignus
1 Imperious Perfect
1 Kodama’s Reach
1 Krosan Grip
1 Search for Tomorrow
1 Spike Feeder
1 Thunder Totem
1 Weatherseed Totem
1 Wood Elves
1 Yavimaya Dryad
1 Galepowder Mage
1 Harmonize
1 Loxodon Hierarch
1 Masked Admirers
1 Singing Tree
1 Tawnos’s Coffin
1 Wild Ricochet
1 Changeling Titan
1 Fissure
1 Gigapede
1 Indrik Stomphowler
1 Silklash Spider
1 Spectral Force
1 Tornado
1 Word of Seizing
1 Cloudthresher
1 Deadwood Treefolk
1 Hazezon Tamar
1 Krosan Tusker
1 Protean Hulk
1 Diamond Valley
1 Boros Garrison
1 Fungal Reaches
1 Grove of the Burnwillows
1 Gruul Turf
1 Horizon Canopy
1 Mutavault
1 New Benalia
1 Saltcrusted Steppe
1 Selesnya Sanctuary
1 Skarrg, the Rage Pits
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree
1 Vivid Grove
4 Mountain
5 Plains
12 Forest

What really hit home to me about the beauty of EDH and Commander is the singleton format. In the course of drafting and cracking occasional packs, your collection will often include single copies of some really good cards. For instance, in the draft I played right before I went to work on my Commander deck, I opened a Mutavault. If I wanted to play Mutavault in Standard or other Constructed tournament format, I’d have to sell my soul to round out the playset (I didn’t look up the going price, but I’m sure it’s quite a few tix). Considering that I have not yet been able to pick up two more Mutavaults for my real-life collection, I don’t see investing in virtual Mutavault singles anytime soon!

To a lesser extent cards like Grove of the Burnwillows and Horizon Canopy aren’t exactly budget either. But I’ve randomly picked up single copies of those cards along the way, and Commander/EDH is the perfect format to make use of them!

I jumped into my first Commander game, my three opponents were running Horde of Notions, Lovisa Coldeyes (Mono-Red!), and Teneb, the Harvester. I ended up drawing into a pretty ridiculous setup while the Horde of Notions player got everyone nervous with an early Zur the Enchanter, so I was left alone for a bit.

I got out a Spike Feeder, Tawnos’s Coffin, and Jacques to hold the fort early, drew and played my Diamond Valley, and once I had 7 mana I cast Protean Hulk with Deadwood Treefolk already in hand. My plan was to sac and go get Saffi and Galepowder Mage to go nuts with Deadwood, but Horde of Notions played Honden of Seeing Winds after fetching out the Red Honden with Zur so I thought getting Indrik Stomphowler (along with Greenseeker) was more prudent first, and nuked the Seeing Winds. Of course, Greenseeker got nailed by the Red Honden. So I played Deadwood, got Protean Hulk back, replayed him and then got the Saffi/Galepowder combo.

Things went on for a while; the Teneb player had some mass removal and tricks to keep me in line. Horde of Notions and Lovisa went at each other for a good long time, and eventually Horde of Notions had run out of gas, was at 11 life and decided to pack it in for the evening. I still had the Protean Hulk, Deadwood, and Saffi engine going (though sadly Galepowder Mage had been removed from the game). I had drawn Hazezon Tamar but, since I still had plenty of other stuff to do, decided to just hold back on Hazezon as reserve in case my engine got broken up. About that time I realized that Hazezon makes Warrior tokens, and Lovisa gives Warriors +2/+2 and Haste. Nobody knew I had Hazezon in hand, so if I could set things up so that Lovisa is in play and drop Hazezon, the 15 or so Sand Warriors would do some serious damage…

Lovisa dropped a Hamletback Giant and thankfully I had plenty of chump blockers. In fact, I had Word of Seizing, so my plan was to get a moment to clear away a blocker as a surprise, Seize the Giant when he was lethally huge, and then sac him to the Diamond Valley (and cackle evilly, even though no one could hear me). Teneb had a Duplicant in play, so I tried to nuke it with Stomphowler, but I forgot he had Glory in the graveyard so he just gave it protection from Green. Then Teneb played Visara the Dreadful and my priorities changed. I obviously had to do something about Visara, so Word of Seizing had her name on it. I also had a Scryb Ranger in play, so I could use Visara twice. I could either use Visara to kill the Duplicant and the Hamletback, or I could kill the Duplicant and attack with Visara, along with my team, to take out Teneb, but leave me pretty much with no way to deal with Hamletback outside of chumpers.

I decide to take out Teneb and attack with his own Visara.

Nothing terrible happens to my chump blockers so I don’t immediately die to Hamletback, but he does replay Lovisa – YES! I play Hazezon, I survive his turn, and then 15 3/3 Sand Warrior tokens come into play with Haste, and he concedes before I can cast a creature before attacking – I wanted to push the Hamletback into triple digits, but alas he only got up to a 96/96.

While Jacques and I couldn’t make it happen in real life tabletop Magic, it was nice to have success in the virtual world. If you haven’t made a Commander deck on Magic Online yet, I highly recommend you do. Browse the traders and pick up some cool Masters Edition singles to spice up your deck, and have some fun!

See you next week!


starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com