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MTG Commander Tales From SCG CON Richmond

Bennie Smith had a real Commander Celebration with SCG CON Richmond in his backyard! He shares the memorable moments from the eight games he played over a great weekend of Magic.

Rafiq of the Many
Rafiq of the Many, illustrated by Meel Tamphanon

I haven’t had a chance to play in-person Commander since before the COVID pandemic hit, so I was incredibly stoked to be able to attend SCG CON Richmond this past weekend. Plus, it was right here in my hometown of Richmond, VA, so I was able to go all three days, bring a different mix of decks each day, and sleep in my own bed at night!  2024 marks 25 years since I first started writing for StarCityGames.com, so being able to celebrate with my SCG family made this even more special.

SCG CONs have a ton of events to satisfy every Magic fan’s favorite ways to play, but for this weekend, my plan was to hang out in the Command Zone and grind as many different games of Commander with as many different people as possible. I’m happy to report I managed to do just that, playing eight Commander pods over the weekend. Let’s recap the games!

Commander Pod 1

In my first game of the weekend, I got to play against Ben, a friend and coworker from right here in Richmond, running Trynn, Champion of Freedom partnered with Silvar, Devourer of the Free. It’s notable that Ben is a huge fan of Temur and most of his Commander decks are Temur, so building and playing a Mardu Humans deck was stepping outside his comfort zone.

I was playing my Ellie and Alan, Paleontologists deck for the first time, and it performed as I hoped it would! 

I had a fair number of cycling creatures that I discarded early for new cards or effects, so once Ellie and Alan hit the battlefield, I was able to activate the ability over the course of several turns. While I didn’t hit anything awesome with discover, it definitely was grinding value. I did get an early Saffi Eriksdotter and Dauntless Escort on the battlefield, which put a dent in a few players’ plans to sweep the battlefield clear of creatures.

Trynn, Champion of Freedom Silvar, Devourer of the Free Ellie and Alan, Paleontologists

This was a picture-perfect game of Commander. Each player got to “do the thing” their deck wanted to do, with lots of big swings back and forth before ending. The Caesar, Legion’s Emperor deck went wide and aggressive, becoming quite threatening before a sweeper trimmed his threats back.

Next, Ben got Greymond, Avacyn’s Stalwart on the battlefield, choosing first strike and lifelink, and had Vizkopa Guildmage on the battlefield and enough mana to activate it three times, though I managed to counter the last activation by cycling Nimble Obstructionist.

Caesar, Legion's Emperor Sidar Jabari of Zhalfir

With three activations, Ben could have easily killed the table, but with just two, he was likely only going to be able to kill two of us, so he attacked the Sidar Jabari of Zhalfir player – who responded with Teferi’s Protection, so there was no combat damage dealt, no lifelink lifegain, and no life drain! Ben had swung out with everyone and was relatively low on life, so he was vulnerable to counterattacks and was taken out before he could get back to his turn.

I managed to take out the Caesar player, and looked like I had the game well in hand when I attacked the Sidar Jabari player with all my creatures for 21 points of damage – but he again had a game-breaking response with Inkshield, preventing the damage, and getting 21 2/1 flying Inkling token creatures which very easily were able to attack back and kill me. What a game!

Commander Pod 2

I feel like there was a little bit of a misunderstanding on the power level we settled on with the Rule 0 discussion here, since my Valduk, Keeper of the Flame deck was way less powerful than the cards my opponents were playing.

Valduk, Keeper of the Flame Gonti, Canny Acquisitor Zaxara, the Exemplary

Zaxara, the Exemplary had ramp on Turn 1, Turn 2, Turn 3, and Turn 4, so even when his commander was killed twice, he very easily just redeployed and started churning out gigantic Hydra tokens and big X-spells. He very easily could have killed us for several turns but just kept his huge Hydras back for several turns to give us some time to find answers (spoiler: we didn’t find any).

After the game, it was revealed he had a Torment of Hailfire and The One Ring in his hand that he just never played. While I applaud his restraint, I think if he’d been up front as to power level of his Zaxara deck, I would have picked a deck that could have more easily interacted at that level.

Durnan of the Yawning Portal Sword Coast Sailor

I will give a shout-out to the player with Durnan of the Yawning Portal with the Sword Coast Sailor background. I love Durnan, and Sword Coast Sailor making it unblockable is a really sweet interaction!

Commander Pod 3

For Pod 3, I sat down with SCG’s own Jeremy Noell of Commander VS fame, and since he wanted to play one of his signature decks – Maelstrom Wanderer – I broke out my signature Grothama, All-Devouring deck. His deck came out guns blazing, with the Pantlaza, Sun-Favored deck providing the best resistance to Jeremy’s shenanigans.

Grothama, All-Devouring Pantlaza, Sun-Favored

Jared Carthalion Maelstrom Wanderer

Sad to say, my deck’s draw ended up being a little clunky, and I ended up dying without ever getting a chance to cast Grothama, which was a little unsatisfying personally, but the game itself was a lot of fun watching the other players pop off, with Jeremy taking the whole thing down with hasty monsters.

Commander Pod 4

This pod, I got to play against my Magic creator friends Kurohitsuki with Stella Lee, Wild Card and Matt from the Flavor Profiles podcast playing Miirym, Sentinel Wyrm.

Stella Lee, Wild Card Miirym, Sentinel Wyrm

Matt, who’s a longtime Dungeons & Dragons fan and Dungeon Master, explained his Miirym deck wasn’t a busted Dragon deck, but rather built with the flavor of Miirym’s story in D&D.  Miirym is a ghost Dragon that’s been cursed to haunt a huge arcane library, so Matt’s got a bunch of Adventure cards to represent various “books” from the library that Miirym is guarding.

I asked if anyone would mind me playing my Rainbow Dash deck, a silver-bordered card that’s technically not legal for Commander, but everyone was fine with it during the Rule 0 discussion. I built Rainbow Dash as a “Boros” deck, where all the spells could be cast with Boros mana, and the WUBRG mana I get from the Sonic Rainboom ability would either be mana ramp for my bigger spells, or occasionally be used for activated abilities.

Rainbow Dash Dragonlord Ojutai

Unfortunately for my and Matt’s silliness, the other two decks were at a much higher power level, with Stella Lee set up to combo kill the table relatively quickly; the Dragonlord Ojutai deck has Stax pieces designed to stop people from comboing off, with an early Cursed Totem shutting off Stella Lee’s ability to combo but also shutting down my own commander’s activated ability. They also had a Blind Obedience which completely hosed all my haste creatures!  I did get up to 240% cool before finally destroying the Cursed Totem and activating the Sonic Rainboom ability to draw a card and activate Najeela, the Blade-Blossom’s ability to get an extra combat step, but only with like three creatures and no Warriors. The Dragonlord Ojutai player eventually took down the pod.

Commander Pod 5

For this pod, they wanted me to pilot my Grothama deck; they had heard about it and had never played against it before, and since my first time running it was a bit rough, I was happy to give it another whirl.

Thalia and the Gitrog Monster Xavier Sal, Infested Captain Don Andres, the Renegade

I was a little nervous about squaring off against Thalia and The Gitrog Monster, since that commander can just attack and fight Grothama and kill it with deathtouch whenever they wanted to, but it was an interesting thing to try and play around. Turns out they had mana issues for much of the early-game, so Thalia and the Gitrog Monster didn’t hit the battlefield until quite late in the game, and basically functioned as a brick wall to defend against attacks for most of the game. Xavier Sal, Infested Captain was doing some wild stuff with Saga cards, while Don Andres, the Renegade was using some of the cool new cards that allowed him to play cards from other people’s decks.

I snapped a picture of a pretty good setup in the mid-game; Stuffy Doll named the Thalia and the Gitrog Monster player, since no one would be able to get in a good attack there, so I could attack with Stuffy Doll and fight Grothama. With Liquimetal Torque, I could make a nonland card into an artifact and kill it with the attack trigger from Kogla, the Titan Ape. My Italian Greater Good (Bene Supremo, thanks Sheldon!) stood ready to sacrifice any of my big creatures in the face of removal for a nice bumper of cards for a consolation prize. Note that I had been labeled “The Problem” (see the upper right corner), and it was justified, as I did eventually take the game!

Commander Pod 6

The next pod, I circled back to my friend Ben, this time with three of his friends, so we gathered for a five-player pod. Ben was back to Temur, and wanted to run his Illuna, Apex of Wishes (using the Godzilla skin Ghidorah, King of the Cosmos) deck, which featured a bunch of mutate creatures along with a lot of chaos cards – he was running Possibility Storm, Warp World, and Knowledge Pool. I decided to play my Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis deck, which I’ve had together a long, long time and is one of my favorites. It still has Treacherous Terrain as a game-ending big play, but I’m constantly tweaking it over time with new sets. In recent months it’s taken on a “legendary creatures matter” theme.

Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis Obeka, Splitter of Seconds Ratadrabik of Urborg Aesi, Tyrant of Gyre Strait Illuna, Apex of Wishes

Ben popped off early with Illuna, able to chain several mutations each turn and pretty much forcing the rest of us to gang up on him to slow him down. He recovered quickly and alarmingly each time, and so it basically became a game of Archenemy, doing what we could to keep him from crushing the rest of us. Eventually he cast Warp World, and I was actually pretty excited to see what we all might end up with – I had eighteen permanents on the battlefield and some pretty awesome hits! 

But unfortunately, the guy running Obeka, Splitter of Seconds cast Cyclonic Rift with overload in response, leaving me with only eight lands as permanents.  I shuffled the cards into the deck, shuffled it some more, and then counted out the top eight cards – three lands, and five instant/sorcery cards. I had no lands in hand and only three cards I could cast for just three mana, so I packed it in – death by Warp World is a fine way to go! 

The rest of the pod ended up with a decent mix of creatures and lands, but Ben hit an Omniscience, so he was able to instantly redeploy and restart his mutate chains again and quickly won the game. That deck is brutal!

Commander Pod 7

For my penultimate Commander game, I broke out my Rafiq of the Many deck, which is chock-full of as many initiative and delve into the dungeon cards I could cram into the Bant shell. The Clavileño, First of the Blessed deck came out strong in the early game and put together the Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose plus Exquisite Blood combo that demanded an immediate reaction, so I was able to hit Vito with a removal spell.

Rafiq of the Many Clavileno, First of the Blessed

Next, the Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire player took over as the threat, disrupting our permanents with its trigger, and deploying a Mindslicer on the battlefield ready to strip us all of our hands at any point. He attacked me with an Elder Brain, exiling my hand which included a Pull from Tomorrow, so I fully expected him to get that Mindslicer dead with a Vaevictis trigger and leave all the rest of us in topdeck mode.

Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire Obyra, Dreaming Duelist

I did manage to give us some breathing room with the Twisted Caverns from Dungeon of the Mad Mage preventing it from attacking one turn, and then I drew some removal to kill it the following turn to buy even more turn. Meanwhile, I had worked Ellywick Tumblestrum up to eight loyalty and -7 for the emblem, which gives all creatures I control trample, haste and +2/+2 for each differently named dungeon I’d completed, which was two at the time.

Over the course of two more turns I completed a third dungeon and started down the last – Tomb of Annihilation – but the emblem did enough work to take down the pod.

Commander Pod 8

For the last game, they wanted to play higher-powered decks, so I broke out my Ashaya, Soul of the Wild deck. It was a bit of a dog against the Toshiro Umezawa deck, which ended up chock-full of instant-speed creature kill, so each time I tried to do something interesting with Ashaya in the early-game, it would die a horrible death.

Ashaya, Soul of the Wild Toshiro Umezawa

I did get to the point where I had Ashaya and Karn, Silver Golem on the battlefield and tried to cast Boompile while the Urza deck was tapped out, but they sacrificed their next turn to cast Pact of Negation. If Boompile had resolved, I could turn it into a creature with Karn, and it would also be a Forest thanks to Ashaya, and so I could activate it without destroying itself. I did get to use Legolas’s Quick Reflexes on Ashaya to tap twice for ten points of damage to take out the two biggest threats, and that was fun!

The First Sliver was getting super-scary doing Sliver things, but the hall was closing down, so we had to pack it up without getting to resolve the game.

The First Sliver Urza, Lord High Artificer

Everyone seemed happy, though, filled with a whole weekend of fun Commandering!

In-Between

Between pods, I walked around the hall to stretch my legs, selling and picking up singles from Star City Games, and checking out the other vendors. Mark Tedin was there, and I picked up a sweet signed playmat featuring his art from Timetwister. I also grabbed some cool fridge magnets!

I sure hope you’ve been able to attend an SCG CON or another Magic convention recently, or maybe sometime later this year?  It really is an awesome time to hang out with such diverse people all connected by a love of Magic!

Talk to Me

Do me a solid and follow me on Twitter!  I run polls and start conversations about Commander all the time, so get in on the fun!  You can also find my LinkTree on my profile page there with links to all my content.

I’d also love it if you followed my Twitch channel TheCompleteCommander, where I do Commander, Brawl, and sometimes other Magic-related streams when I can.  If you can’t join me live, the videos are available on demand for a few weeks on Twitch, but I also upload them to my YouTube channel.  You can also find the lists for my paper decks over on Archidekt if you want to dig into how I put together my own decks and brews. 

And lastly, I just want to say: let us love each other and stay healthy and happy. 

Visit my Decklist Database to see my decklists and the articles where they appeared!

Decklist
Database

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SCG CON is coming to Baltimore, MD on July 26-28, 2024! The world’s premier trading card game convention features three full days of Magic: The Gathering, Flesh and Blood, Disney Lorcana, and Star Wars Unlimited action:

  • Magic: The Gathering Bloomburrow Prereleases all weekend long, Modern $10K, Legacy $5K, cEDH $5K, Commander Celebration, and Regional Championship qualifications
  • Flesh and Blood Pro Quest + events
  • Disney Lorcana Core Constructed $2K and $1K events
  • Star Wars Unlimited Premier Constructed $2K and $1K events
  • Side events all weekend long

And so much more!

Plus, meet fan-favorite special guests and artists!

Make your plans for SCG CON Baltimore!