You Lika The Juice? – Elder Experiment Highlander

Read Bennie Smith every week... at StarCityGames.com!
Today, I’ll be talking about the Elder Dragon Highlander game held up at Richmond Comix this past Sunday. I talked about my Experiment Kraj deck last week and detailed some of the things I was trying to accomplish with my general. I made some changes to the deck since then, this is the deck I actually took to the fight…

First out, I wanted to take a moment to give a shout-out to fellow casual gamer Chris Romeo and send out a heartfelt prayer and best wishes that he can lick his illness as soon as humanly possible and get back to doing all the things he enjoys doing that have been problematic of late. May your ‘stache and Chuck Norris DNA guide you through and bring you back to these pages soon!

Second, I wanted to extend hearty congratulations to our own Patrick “The Innovator” Chapin for coming a whisper away of hefting the World Champion trophy this past weekend. The StarCityGames.com family encompasses some awesome pro players to be sure, but what I love about Patrick is his passion for the game, and his willingness to embrace new and cutting edge deck builds. Much like myself, of course… but then, he goes and wins a whole lot more than I do! I have to say I was thoroughly impressed with the new Red Storm deck build, and rest assured that I am preparing my rant against Wizards for creating these broken Hideaway lands. Totally sickening! And of course it’s the Green Hideaway land that sucks the most – it’s a conspiracy!

I kid, I kid…

Third, speaking of Worlds, did you follow another of our esteemed StarCityGames.com celebs, Craig “The Professor” Jones’s trials and tribulations? I was saddened to hear that the real world is calling and will greatly curtail his Magic playing in the near future since I thoroughly enjoy reading him, but man… he capped off a nice run, winning his Nationals and going to the Invitational!

Not only is he fun to read, but Prof is also an incredibly good sportsman. Did you read his blog entry for Friday? Here he is competing at Worlds for what may very well be his very last Pro Tour if the real world buries him in responsibilities and such. Round 9 versus Gene Brumby, he mills Vigor into the graveyard when losing the clash from his opponent’s Broken Ambitions, but neither he nor his opponent notice it until a few turns later. They call a judge over, who rules that they get warnings and that the Vigor remains in the graveyard.

Prof’s got a Makeshift Mannequin in hand. It’s perfectly legal for him to take advantage of the situation and put Vigor into play at instant speed, and watch Vigor turn the game around. And who’s to say that, if they’d seen Vigor being milled and shuffled it in, that Craig wouldn’t have drawn the Vigor in the next turn or two anyway? Yet Prof sees that this is really not the right thing to do, taking advantage of the ruling to actually do something impossible, and instead actually concedes to Brumby. How many other people in his position would have done this?

I’ve brought up the issue before about doing the “right” thing versus doing what is legal, and you all know where I stand on that. Reading what Craig did, I stand humbled. He is truly a gentleman of the game, and I will miss him. [Seconded. — Editor Craig, now (possibly) the best Magic-playing Craig in the UK.]


“Of course it will grow beyond control – it was designed to choose its own evolution.”
Momir Vig

Okay, now on to the Elder Dragon Highlander game held up at Richmond Comix this past Sunday. I talked about my Experiment Kraj deck last week and detailed some of the things I was trying to accomplish with my general. I made some changes to the deck since then, this is the deck I actually took to the fight:

1 Experiment Kraj
1 Sol Ring
1 Sensei’s Divining Top
1 Ivory Tower
1 Skullclamp
1 Crop Rotation
1 Magus of the Candelabra
1 Clockspinning
1 Soothsaying
1 Whispers of the Muse
1 Scroll Rack
1 Simic Signet
1 Sun Droplet
1 Twincast
1 Sylvan Library
1 Aquastrand Spider
1 Simic Guildmage
1 Coalition Relic
1 Darksteel Ingot
1 Dragon Blood
1 Thousand-Year Elixir
1 Evolution Vat
1 Rhystic Study
1 Jace Beleren
1 Apprentice Wizard
1 Spike Feeder
1 Eternal Witness
1 Nullmage Advocate
1 Cytoshape
1 Voidslime
1 Plaxcaster Frogling
1 Mindless Automaton
1 Cytoplast Manipulator
1 Rainbow Efreet
1 Sakashima the Imposter
1 Spike Weaver
1 Garruk Wildspeaker
1 Citanul Hierophants
1 Forgotten Ancient
1 Cytoplast Root-Kin
1 Omnibian
1 Mystic Snake
1 Karn, Silver Golem
1 Morphling
1 Aeon Chronicler
1 Vesuvan Shapeshifter
1 Body Double
1 Tidewater Minion
1 Spike Tiller
1 Battlefield Scrounger
1 Seedborn Muse
1 Triskelion
1 Workhorse
1 Time Stop
1 Arcanis the Omnipotent
1 Novijen Sages
1 Jodah’s Avenger
1 Vigor
1 Triskelavus
1 Palinchron
1 Stroke of Genius
1 Maze of Ith
1 Faerie Conclave
1 Tolarian Academy
1 Minamo, School at Water’s Edge
1 Tolaria West
1 Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
1 Vivid Creek
1 Reflecting Pool
1 Breeding Pool
1 Tropical Island
1 Vesuva
1 Simic Growth Chamber
1 Gaea’s Cradle
1 Treetop Village
1 Vivid Grove
1 Llanowar Reborn
1 Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers
1 Miren, the Moaning Well
1 Blinkmoth Well
1 Deserted Temple
1 Urza’s Factory
1 Academy Ruins
1 Temple of the False God
1 Yavimaya Hollow
1 Mishra’s Factory
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Novijen, Heart of Progress
5 Forest
7 Island

So what changed since the list I posted last week?

Ponder, Pulse of the Grid (cut): EDH is a slow format, so I have less need of cards that search for other cards.

Pongify, Jagged-Scar Archers (cut): I decided I was more interested in keeping other creatures around for use by Kraj than removing them.

Berserk (cut): Berserk is a fantastic multiplayer card, but it didn’t exactly fit with what I was planning, and it was mainly cut for space considerations.

Fog Bank (cut): A good blocker, but just not enough oomph to warrant its spot; 100 cards really isn’t very much in this format.

Power Conduit, Sheltering Ancient, Hunting Moa, Marker Beetles, Fungal Behemoth (cut): I decided that Kraj himself is good enough to spread around +1/+1 counters, so I cut back a little bit on the other cards that served that function.

Matsu-Tribe Sniper (cut): This was hard since I think he’s pretty powerful in this format, but in the end he was because he’s fragile and to make room for better cards.

Elvish Piper (cut): Another hard cut, but I thought it would end up freaking people out and wouldn’t survive as a puny 1/1.

Archivist, Pirate Ship (cut): These were “cute” combos with Kraj assuming I got a Morphling out too. They got cut for better cards.

Clone, Quicksilver Elemental (cut): Replaced with Sakashima the Imposter.

Take Possession, Commandeer (cut): Powerful Blue cards to be sure, but I was a bit worried about my mana curve as it was, and I cut them to make room for cheaper cards.

Yavimaya Coast (cut): I thought I knew where my Coasts were, but right before the tournament I couldn’t find them so I tossed in another Island instead.

Ivory Tower, Sun Droplet (added): It occurred to me that, outside of Spike Feeder, I was really lacking in good life gain. There was the possibility that Kraj might be able to snag some lifegaining ability somehow, but I thought I should include some additional sources and these two are some of the best, cheap to cast and use.

Simic Signet (added): I’ve a lot of colorless lands in the deck, I wanted to add some color fixing.

Evolution Vat (added): Works with the theme of the deck quite nicely, and can also serve as an expensive Icy Manipulator. Also functions as a sink in case I get my mana engine online.

Rhystic Study (added): Most of the Rhystic spells from Prophecy were pretty bad, especially in multiplayer, but going through my Blue box I paused at this card and my jaw dropped – this card is awesome in multiplayer! Sure, sometimes your opponents will pay extra to keep you from drawing, but if you’re slowing them down then that’s fine, and if they don’t (or can’t) pay extra you draw a ton of cards. Plus it’s a “may” ability so if you’ve got a hand flush with all you need you can just stop drawing. The big drawback is that you have to keep reminding people about making the choice, which doesn’t exactly endear you to the table.

Jace Beleren, Garruk Wildspeaker, Karn, Silver Golem (added): In the forums last week, someone mentioned an incredibly sneaky combo, using Mycosynth Lattice, Karn, and a Planeswalker in conjunction with Kraj. Assuming you have all four of those cards in play, your Planeswalker is an artifact, so you can use Karn to make it a creature. Once it’s a creature you can tap Kraj to put a +1/+1 counter on it. Now Kraj can use the Planeswalker special abilities, but since Kraj isn’t a Planeswalker he’s not restricted to doing it only once a turn – that’s a limitation inherent to Planeswalker cards themselves! So I could steal Garruk’s ability to untap two lands a zillion times, and then activate the Overrun ability to make all my dudes +3000/+3000 and trampling. Sadly, I was unable to find any copies of Mycosynth Lattice prior to the EDH game, but I thought the Planeswalkers were fine on their own, and Karn could make for some interesting interactions with Kraj being able to use artifact abilities.

Apprentice Wizard, Rainbow Efreet, Tidewater Minion, Arcanis the Omnipotent (added): As I pulled back a bit on the cards that gave out +1/+1 counters, I wanted to add some more creatures with activated abilities I could use with Kraj. If he survived I though Apprentice Wizard could really help out in casting my more expensive spells, but mana was never a big problem as it turned out. Rainbow Efreet was a huge hero though, adding a +1/+1 counter to it let Kraj phase out of quite a few jams.

Sakashima the Imposter (added): Sakashima is just worlds better than Clone, especially in this format where it can become a second copy of your own general or take advantage of an opponent’s general, or just be whatever creature is out there that’s handy.

Vesuvan Shapeshifter (added): He’s a great general assassin, and if I play him out with +1/+1 counters he can flip over and copy a creature with activated abilities that Kraj can borrow. Just an all around fantastic creature as we all know.

Triskelion, Workhorse, Novijen Sages (added): These cards came with their own +1/+1 counters and handy abilities, though when I threw Workhorse in the deck I thought for some reason his counters could be removed for any color rather than just colorless mana.

Tolarian Academy (added): I thought I had enough artifacts that this card would be at least as good as an Island and possibly a lot better. With Garruk in the deck I wanted another land that could be untapped for lots of mana. This also provides an infinite combo possibility with Spike Tiller and Morphling in play with Kraj – activate Tiller to animate Academy (putting a +1/+1 counter on it). You can now tap Kraj for Blue mana equal to the number of artifacts you control, then borrow Morphling’s ability to untap for a Blue mana to untap, and tap for more Blue mana, etc. What to do with all that mana? One idea was to use Clockspinning to add infinite +1/+1 counters to all my creatures who already had them, and if one of them is Triskelion or Triskelavus, then that’s game.

Yavimaya Hollow, Novijen, Heart of Progress (added): The Hollow is just a great card, especially since many “Wrath” clones outside of Damnation only destroy creatures without a “may not be regenerated” clause. Novijen obviously plays well with the theme.

Ten people came out for the game, so it was decided to break it down into two tables of five. At one table the generals were Cromat; Teneb, the Harvester; Ambassador Laquatus; Scion of the Ur-Dragon; and Treva, the Renewer.

At my table we had Experiment Kraj (me); Sliver Legion (Jay); Horde of Notions (Tommy); Brion Stoutarm (Bob); and Ertai, the Corrupted (Shane).

I win the die roll, shuffle up and draw my seven. I have one land in it; EDH has very generous mulligan rules – you get a free “big deck” mulligan, you also get to mulligan if you draw all lands or no mana-producing lands, and then you can Paris if you want. A one-land hand is pretty sketchy…

Except for the fact that I also have Ivory Tower. Turn 1 Ivory Tower is the ultimate cheesy play, but of course I keep. I also have a few two-drops so one more land and I’m fine. Everyone groans when I play it. I rip another land next draw and play an Aquastrand Spider and then the following turn a Sun Droplet (eliciting more groans around the table). Meanwhile, Jay/Sliver Legion cracks a Krosan Verge on his third turn and then plays Explosive Vegetation – wow, that’s some serious mana acceleration! Bob accelerates into a turn 3 Magus of the Tabernacle, stopping everyone in his tracks from any sort of creature development.

Meanwhile, Shane is in a bad spot stuck at two lands, and when he uses his Scroll Rack for six he sinks in his chair – no lands deeper in either! Jay has dropped a morph and after Shane sits stuck at two lands turn after turn after turn, he unmorphs it revealing a Whetwheel, and mills Shane’s deck to give him a shot at playing in the game. Shane thanks him by playing Proteus Staff, an incredibly foul artifact in this format, since it taps to “Put target creature on the bottom of its owner’s library.” Putting someone’s general on the bottom of their library is incredibly bad form.

Next to Shane, Tommy’s Ajani has just spit out a 43/43 Avatar token, which could pretty much kill anyone at the table (but Ivory Tower Boy Bennie) if it connects. Bob has suspended Wheel of Fate, and the turn before its last time counter is removed Jay casts Capsize on the gigantic Avatar. Getting rid of Capsize with buyback makes me incredibly happy about the Wheel, even though I have to ditch some good cards in the process (including a Jace).

Jay has suspended Detrivore and has eaten a few of Tommy’s non-basics (as well as my Maze of Ith), so when a sizeable Detrivore comes out to play, Tommy hits it with a Phyrexian Purge, paying 3 life. Bob casts Shunt, changing the target back to Tommy’s own general, Horde of Notions. “Hey, I’m about to lose the Shunt to the Wheel,” Bob says. “Might as well use it!”

Shane has managed to claw out of his mana problems on the back of a ton of artifact mana, so when Tommy plays Austere Command from his new hand in order to destroy creatures that cost 3 or less and all artifacts, Shane digs up a Dromar’s Charm to counter it; Tommy casts Force of Will to punch it through – ouch! While I’m sad my Ivory Tower bites it, I’m up to 70 life so it’s more than done it’s job; besides, getting rid of Proteus Staff was crucial!

My new hand yields a Gaea’s Cradle and I begin to kick out some creatures, building up to Simic Guildmage, Mindless Automaton, Omnibian (what I called “my flavor creature”), and Experiment Kraj. “Sorry, Bennie – I think you’ve overextended,” says Shane as he plays Rout as an instant before his turn, clearing the board. Gah! It becomes the first of innumerable board-clearing affects that pop out of Shane’s deck and earn him my enmity.

Next turn instead of recasting his Horde, Tommy casts Kaervek, an absolute gross beating of a multiplayer card. Bob casts Evangelize (no buyback thankfully) on Tommy, taking Kaervek from him. Wow, two turns in a row Bob has brutalized Tommy, ouch!

To add to the insult, someone casts a big spell (I can’t remember who or what), and Kaervek deals a big slug of damage to someone. Bob then activates his Spinerock Knoll and flips over Purity, quite a nice combo with Kaervek – giving him the option of dealing damage to creatures, opponents, or himself (gaining life from Purity).

Jay has played Tsabo Tavoc, another rude EDH card, but Jay sends him at Bob; Tommy hits it with Berserk so that it really hits hard and then goes away – yay!

Shane has recovered enough from the Austere Command so that he has enough mana to cast Time Stretch and it resolves. On the second of his extra turns he casts Reverse the Sands; at this point Jay has gained a ton of life and gone up to 75, so Shane takes that life total and gives him Bob’s life in the mid-20s. He then gives my life total of 71 to Bob and gives me his own life total, which is 18. Ouch, dropping 71 to 18 and I can’t even use Sun Droplet to recoup the damage! Needless to say, this earns Shane the status of my primary target.

I finally draw my Seedborn Muse and go nuts. Each player’s turn I cast Clockspinning with buyback, adding counters to my Morphling (after already putting one on it) and Triskelion. This taps me down to 3 mana, and since only one is Blue Jay decides to end the nonsense now. “In response to your last casting,” he begins, and I freeze, realizing I had tapped down low and was now vulnerable. I had a Time Stop in my hand but that required six mana up. As he removes his last ice counters from Dark Depths I realize the problem – he had stolen Bob’s Brion Stoutarm with Empress Galina a turn or so back, and has he sacs off the Depths and a 20/20 Marit Lage token prepares to hit the board I realize Brion pitching 20 points of damage to my dome will kill me at my now vulnerable 18 life. I’ve got Miren in play but not enough mana to use it.

I use four Trike counters to try and kill Brion, but Jay is ready with Scars of the Veteran. Ouch! I finally see a solution in my hand though – Cytoshape! I target my 1/1 Triskelion, and change Brion into a copy of it, so that when the 20/20 indestructible legend hits play it can’t be chucked at me this turn. During Jay’s untap step I get to untap, giving me Miren mana and Time Stop mana.

Jay then steals Miren from me with Galina, leaving me in a bind – if I respond by sacrificing a creature to Miren to gain enough life to survive a flung Marit Lage, he’ll respond by killing me. If I give him Miren without sacrificing, he can then kill me whenever he wants to. Jay doesn’t know I have Time Stop but I’d rather him not know and not have to use it just to save me, so I let him take Miren and loudly lament about how he’s now got me under his thumb.

He later tells me that his main concern was the ridiculously large Morphling I was building, and if I had sacrificed the Morphling to Miren he would not have killed me.

I told him if I’d know that I would have definitely killed the Morphling!

During all this, Bob has been ripping lands off the top of his deck and not having much action. He goes and buys some candy and comes back to the table, plopping down a box of Mentos. “I need some help to get out of this jam,” he quips to considerable chuckles around the table.

Since I’m playing the part of being under Jay’s thumb, I turn my attention to Shane, especially since he’s played Vedalken Orrery and is living in instant-speed land. I attack him with my big frickin’ Morpling, and Shane responds… with Storm Herd. With Shane at life in the high 40s. That horde of 1/1 fliers would definitely be the death of me. I Scroll Rack to see what I can find, and run across Twincast. Hmm. Shane’s definitely going to kill me with those tokens during his next turn, so I decide to give up my trump card and live under Jay’s thumb for real now. First I cast Twincast to make my own copy of Storm Herd. Once that resolves I play Time Stop, so that Shane’s Storm Herd gets removed from the game.

Shane groans and I grin. “That’s like one of my only win conditions!” he laments, and when his turn hits he tosses out a False Prophet. Tommy casts a Hurricane for 1 during his turn to whipe the sky of my 18 pegasus tokens. Sigh.

A few turns go around and Shane finally casts Kirtar’s Wrath, killing most everyone’s creatures and when the False Prophet dies it removes the Marit Lage token from play. I can’t remember why Jay didn’t chuck it at me in response or perhaps something had happened to Brion Stoutarm by then. I save my Kraj and Rainbow Efreet by phasing them out, and when it comes back to my turn I play out a few more creatures.

Jay did use Galina one more time to steal a third legendary permanent – my Academy Ruins, and has used it to draw back his Whetwheel and Thought Dissector. He had at one point hit Shane with several large mills, leaving him with a severely depleted deck, but he’d turned a little milling attention toward me and I had a feeling he’d made up his mind to take me out by decking me. I end up making a bunch of counters on Triskelavus with Clockspinning and then at the end of Bob’s turn I remove them all to make an army of flying 1/1s. I remove 4 loyalty counters from Garruk Wildspeaker to give all my creatures +3/+3 and trample.

“I have a response,” Jay says, and flashes out Cloudthresher.

“As do I,” I reply, and tap Kraj to put a +1/+1 counter on Ertai, the Corrupted so I can now use his activated ability. I then use Minamo, School at Water’s Edge to untap Kraj, and then tap Kraj again for a Blue and sacrifice a creature to counterspell Jay’s Cloudthresher. The attack goes through and takes down Jay. I then sacrifice 5 Triskelavite tokens to kill off Shane’s Ertai. Why would I want to do that, when I have a strong board position now and a basically endless supply of counterspells? Well, I didn’t want Shane access to counterspells himself in case something bad happens; plus, I had an evil plan!

First, I cast the Mystic Snake in my hand to counter another board sweeper. The next removal spell pointed at my creatures I tap Kraj to give Bob’s Adarkar Valkyrie a +1/+1 counter, and then untap Kraj with Minamo and tap it using the Valkyrie’s ability to target my Mystic Snake. I then sacrifice Mystic Snake to Miren (given back when Jay was killed), and it comes back into play to counter the spell. There are groans all around.

Next up Shane plays Angel of Despair to kill my Kraj. I regenerate it with Yavimaya Hollows, a card he forgot about, and on my turn I play Sakashima, copying the Angel to destroy something problematic (I forget what it was).

So now I’ve got options – either sacrifice Mystic Snake and get it back with Kraj to counter something, or at the end of Bob’s turn sacrifice Sakashima and get it back, copying the Angel to destroy something.

Shane is rapidly running out of cards, but since I’m making use of his Angel I turn my attacks elsewhere. I draw Battlefield Scrounger, a welcome sight that adds some key cards back into my woefully depleted library. I also draw Body Double, which I decide to play and copy Tommy’s Kaervek in his graveyard.

Shane draws his last card and plays it – Wrath of God. I counter it with Mystic Snake recursion. Tommy plays some large creatures and my Body Double/his Kaervek nails him down to three life. When I attack he casts Capsize on the Body Double, killing himself and removing Kaervek from the game to give Bob a fighting chance.

This time Body Double comes down as a copy of Cytoplast Manipulator from my graveyard, and Kraj immediately goes to work stealing Bob’s creatures; first the Adarkar Valkyrie that already has a +1/+1 counter, and then the Purity. Bob’s got a Citanul Flute out and uses it to fetch up an Akroma, Angel of Fury – a clever choice that can’t be countered by my Snake nor can it be stolen by my Manipulator! However, I then play Vigor, which allows me to just swing with everyone into his Angel, pumping up whomever he ends up blocking. At this point I’ve gained enough life from Miren to be able to race him, even with his astronomically large life totals.

Six hours later, I emerge victorious in my first EDH victory, and the first group game win in a while too. I would have taken more pictures, but towards the end I was so busy trying to figure out how to stay alive and win the game I didn’t have the time to even think about snapping some board shots.

Over on the other table, it was four relative newcomers to multiplayer Magic, and one old friend Griff, an experienced veteran group game player. He was left alone as everyone poked and messed with each other until less than two hours in Griff set up an infinite mana engine, and hit everyone with a Stroke of Genius to kill them (getting it back each time with Holistic Wisdom). Everyone was a bit stunned, but then proceeded to keep playing to see who could get second place. I imagine Griff taught them all quite a lesson there — never let a guy playing Islands sit unmolested.

I hope I conveyed some of the fun we had with EDH, and if you still haven’t tried the format out yet, I urge you to do so at the next opportunity. The Christmas Holidays offers up a perfect opportunity for something fun and wacky, don’t you think? Here are some links if you want to give the format a shot:

EDH Forum

Other online sources of EDH Information can be found here, here, and here, and on the EFNet IRC Channel: #edh

‘Til next time, take care!


starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com