Commander Challenge 10/12/19

It’s that time again…

Hello Commander enthusiasts! Yesterday was another terrific Commander Challenge at my LGS, the Connection Games in Vancouver. There was all kinds of cool tech on display, and I was ready with my janky Beyond Vampires concept. I wrote about building it here.

Mmmm, plants! This was my Commander this time.

In a nutshell, my deck was looking to play the role of a scuzzy chef serving up vegetables to a bunch of Vampire patrons. I had a few payoffs, mostly among the Vampires, but I also was looking to use green’s superior ramp to power out some huge, silly Vamps. What was really driving the deck were callbacks to some fun books and TV of my youth, namely Count Duckula and the Bunnicula series. The third book in the Bunnicula canon is called ‘The Celery Stalks at Midnight.’ There’s a lot of concern in it about Vampire vegetables. And something about that really spoke to me.

Here’s a token I made. This is produced by Khalni Garden.

I like to make my own tokens sometimes. I like the ones that Wizards produces, and those made by third parties, especially the MTG artists. I have some Zombies by R.K. Post and Jason Felix that I picked up at Grand Prix (or whatever they’re called now. Magicfests?). They’re super cool and unique, and I highly recommend getting some the next time you have a chance. Magic artists work hard to make your cards look beautiful, and this is a way to give back to them directly. Support your artists!!

Dowsing Dagger’s finest. I also did Broccoli.

So I couldn’t resist making these Veggie tokens. Grismold gives them out, so I made a decent pile to make sure my opponents got lots. These ones were for the table.

Where’s your pep, pepper?
Someone got your number, cucumber?
This guy was the most popular. Boo-ssaka!

And I had a trick up my sleeve, too. I included a pair of cards that change all my creatures into Vampires: Mephidross Vampire and Conspiracy. With Conspiracy I have to choose, but I’m excited to choose Vampires. I sleeved up a few tokens with a second token on the other side for myself, so I could flip them…

Bleh!
Bleh!
Bleh!

Of course this is just silliness, and does not contribute to a win, but sometimes you just have to proceed down some wild and crazy path with reckless abandon. How did I do? Were there other concepts that blew the field away? Let’s find out!

Er… Bleh?

One last thing before I go to the game recaps, and that’s a recap of the Commander Challenge rules and such. You can skip the rest of this paragraph if you know them already. The Challenge is four rounds of Commander play, each timed at one hour. Each round, players are formed into pods of mostly four, and play a typical Commander game. If a round goes to time, there are a series of extra turns equal to the number of remaining players. Players get one point for each other player they eliminate, and one if they are alive at the end of the time plus extra turns. When the game is over, players vote for another player of their choice, based on whatever reason they want, and that player gets 2 points. At the end of four rounds, points are tallied, and a prize pool is drafted in order of finish. All players get prizes. I cannot say enough good things about this format, or the types of games it creates. It is entirely possible to win the whole thing just on votes, so wacky concepts like mine can absolutely do well.

This is me. The madness part.

Game 1

In play order – Mairsil, the Pretender, Me, Varina, Lich Queen, Marwyn, the Nurturer, and the Ur-Dragon. Yes this was a five-person pod. We had a weird number overall and there were a couple each round. Sometimes that happens. While it might make games a little unwieldy, and threat assessment a little tough, there is potential for extra points in these pods. In my case, variety is the thing. I don’t mind five-person pods at all.

Don’t leave me hangin’!

After lands on the first turn, and Marwyn turned a Forest sideways for a Sol Ring, this game got out to a hot start almost all around. On turn two, Mairsil played Lightning Greaves, I played Viscera Seer, Varina played Necromancer’s Stockpile, and Marwyn played both the Commander and Heritage Druid. The Ur-dragon played a second land and passed, but that’s entirely forgivable for a Dragon deck that’s a turn fast by default.

Dracula’s cool, but so is dis Count. Dragon discount.

Mairsil had nothing turn 3, and so I was next up and able to play my Commander for the very first time. It was great fun to hand out the vegetables. I had been thinking of some characterization of Grismold as a chef, but I never really got there. Varina played the always wild Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, giving us all Swamps for days, and followed with Cemetery Reaper. Marwyn dropped Fauna Shaman, and the Ur-Dragon played Swiftfoot Boots.

This is a great Commander. I won a Challenge with it.

On turn four, Mairsil played Hall of the Bandit Lord and passed. This land is something I probably should get my hands on. It can be painful, but Haste is possibly the most important ability to give a creature in Commander.

Reprint, please!

On my turn, I played Sangromancer, which could be pretty dangerous with Grismold. There’s a more competitive build than mine, which has the poor plants all die when they come in from some static -1/-1 effect like this one.

This would actually have made a huge difference in some of my games.

The deck wants to leverage those death triggers right away with stuff like Sangromancer. I’m not doing that, but you have to be wary of opponents thinking you will, no matter what you say. Varina played Westvale Abbey, and Marwyn played Yavimaya Hollow, in a cool land faceoff. The Ur-Dragon played Monastery Siege, naming Dragons, making them harder targets.

Actually a pretty good draw engine that can stock your graveyard, in addition to the choice we saw.

Mairsil played the Commander on turn five. Mairsil decks are all about Mairsil, so he’s usually out ASAP.

I’d be tempted to get a few cardboard chits and put pictures of Nicolas Cage’s head on them.

The first Mairsil choice was old school Chainer, Dementia Master.

Friends with K’rrik?

The way Mairsil works is that he only gets the activated abilities on cards like this, so the ‘leaves play’ (and anthem effect) don’t figure, just the Nightmare maker. There was no point in paying for the Hall of the Bandit Lord, and Mairsil immediately put on the Lightning Greaves. I’ve seen Mairsil go crazy with toolbox effects, and hold off several other decks. Shauka, Endbringer figured big, which is cool, because that’s in my Vampire deck, too.

Now officially a Vampire. Were the teeth a giveaway?

On my turn, I drew one of my ‘payoffs,’ Mephidross Vampire. I could play it turn five, because I had plenty of creatures and a Phyrexian Tower. Phyrexian Tower figured big for me all day, and I can’t recommend it enough. Copies aren’t cheap, but there’s a recent printing. Now I wanted maximum effect, ie. as many plant tokens to flip into plant vampire tokens as possible, and in my enthusiasm, I chose Sangromancer to turn into BB. Had I been playing more seriously, the Sangromancer might have figured later. But I couldn’t help it. I had two 1/1 plant tokens to flip, and I had both of them in play. Down came the Mephidross Vampire and Double Bleh!

Payoff city! Bleh!

My opponents got a mild kick out this, but definitely not as much as I did. I went to endstep, and added more plants to the table. Grismold is a clog machine, if you want him to be.

A 1/1 Plant every turn you say?

Sometimes your gift of plants might go horribly awry, too. In real life, there’s allergies. In Magic, it’s Skullclamp. That’s what Varina played to start turn 5, and it looked like things might get out of hand fast. Varina added Lord of the Undead and attacked me. I chumped and Scryed, and though only my creatures died, wished I still had that Sangromancer.

Sacrificed for a worthy cause. Bleh!

Marwyn upped the ante considerably on turn 5, playing Blast Zone, Sensei’s Divining Top, Seedborn Muse, and used Fauna Shaman to turn Elvish Champion into Elvish Archdruid.

Yeesh this is so strong for a bear.

I’ve seen this deck before, and it gathers critical mass at ferocious speed. I kept expecting the endgame with each successive play, but Marwyn passed, allowing the Ur-Dragon to play Kokusho, the Evening Star as the last of turn 5.

Would make an excellent Vampire.

Mairsil played Frantic Search and Final Parting, but I don’t remember the end result other than a passed turn. Too bad. I felt like Mairsil was on the cusp of making waves, but got an awkward draw with mana that didn’t support it well. On my turn, I was able to play Khalni Garden, allowing me to flip my third vampire plant token and say Bleh to the table. I don’t know why Vampires say Bleh. I’m half-watching the original Bela Lugosi Dracula while writing this and he hasn’t said it yet. Maybe at the climax.

No Plant Vampires in this classic.

For another theme play, I dropped New Blood, targeting Kokusho. I suppose I could have targeted Marwyn, or another Elf, but I didn’t think there was much chance of putting enough of a dent in the strategy to help. I was hoping for a wipe, and Kokusho would leave me in a solid position. I had Viscera Seer, too, as a sac outlet.

Vampire Elf Mom? Not this time.

Varina made some noise with Skullclamp, Phyrexian Altar and some attacks. The various tokens dying in the process grew Grismold quickly to 11 counters and 14/14. I didn’t have much to help my gigantic trampling Commander in my deck, and maybe that was a mistake. I think when you have a threat that grows and you’re unable to use it well, your opponents notice. As well, this will give Grismold extra hate which is tough for Casual decks to deal with. Threatening Commander lethal freaks a lot of people out, even if you’re just handing them cardboard eggplants. Food for thought.

Aptly named.

I’ll list the plays Marwyn made on turn six in rapid fire: Fauna Shaman turns Temur Sabretooth into Regal Force, Boreal Druid, Elvish Visionary, Marwyn taps for 7, Natural Order, Great Oak Guardian, untap, Noxious Revival putting Natural Order on top (not a factor in anything), Marwyns taps for 9Gs, Finale of Devastation for 10 and Craterhoof Behemoth for the finish. We sorta did the math, and the table’s life points were not enough. Had my Sangromancer been around for some of the creature deaths over the previous turns, maybe…. Nobody had any answer. On to Game 2!

This kills me a lot.

Game 2

I was to start game 2, followed by Selvala, Explorer Returned, Kadena, Slinking Sorceror, and Sek’Kuar, Deathkeeper.

Not a build I’ve seen much.

This was an interesting group, and things even got going on turn zero, with Selvala playing a Leyline of Abundance. Green Enchantments were the early thing, and I played a Forest into Burgeoning. This is a powerful card I haven’t played much, and it can raise some eyebrows. Selvala played a land, and so did I, but that was the end, and Nature’s Claim ate my Burgeoning.

Nuking this is probably a good idea.

Both Kadena and Sek played land, and we went to a symmetrical turn 2 where we all played some sort of ramp. I played Edge of Autumn, Selvala played Rampant Growth, Kadena Nature’s Lore, and Sek Rakdos Signet. Turn three was of similar type, and everyone but Sek played their Commander. Selvala also added Avacyn’s Pilgrim, and everybody got plants. Sek’Kuar played Genesis Chamber instead of the Commander. It was looking like a major tokens festival.

I didn’t get any Vampire Myr out, sadly.

I had a number of cards in my deck for theme value, and some have some utility as well. Floral Spuzzem is one of these. We’ve dropped ‘Spuzzem’ as a creature-type, but it’s still fun to summon.

Elemental type now. Not even a Plant.

I played my Spuzzem, and passed to Selvala. Selvala parlayed, something we’d see a lot over the next few turns. Then Selvala played Archon of Valor’s Reach on Artifacts, causing some protest from Se’Kuar, who was playing a lot of them.

So many good choices.

Kadena played Morphs, big surprise, and Sek played a mana bird, and then used a Murdeous Redcap to off my poor Spuzzem. On turn 5, I played Sylvan Library and Grim Feast, a theme card that also does lots of work.

Does biting a Zombie make it human again?

Selvala parlayed and made a ton of mana, putting it into the Leyline of Abundance and adding a +1/+1 counter to their creatures, including several lucky Plant tokens. Selvala was not shy on attacking with the Archon, and sent it Kadena’s way. Kadena played Trail of Mystery, then another Morph. Sek’Kuar played an explosive sequence of Dockside Extortionist, making 7 treasures, then casting Culling the Weak, killing the Dockside for BBBB and then attempting to Reforge the Soul.

If you can win quickly, giving your opponents 7 cards is just fine.

Kadena revealed Stratus Dancer to counter. Sek’Kuar played the Commander and passed. On turn 6, I drew all three cards from the Sylvan Library, paying down from 47 to 39 life. Lifegain outlets plus Sylvan Library is definitely something I’ll look to do in future. I played High Market and Leyline of Vitality. We all made Plants.

Good any way you look at it.

Selvala played Seeker of Skybreak and sent the Archon at me, taking me to 33. Kadena played Seedborn Muse, and followed with a Morph. Before the turn ended, Selvala landed Cast Out on the Seedborn Muse.

How deep can this go?

Sek’Kuar was willing to make big bold moves. Demonic Consultation can mean your own death if the card you name is in the top six. Sek named Viscera Seer and turned over six cards. Not there. Sek then started turning over more cards, and more, and more. We watched a huge chunk of Sek’s strategy get sucked into exile before the Seer finally turned up. The final tally was 40, including the initial 6! Sek cast Viscera Seer, naturally, and passed.

A powerful sac/scry outlet for a mere B.

I found myself in a midrange bogdown that I think is the fate of my build. My turn 7 play was Deathreap Ritual and nothing else. I think I overloaded on things like card draw, which is crazy to say, and didn’t give myself enough board impact. Selvala had board impact and used the Seeker of Skybreak to untap Selvala and parlay twice. The Archon attacked Kadena, and then Selvala played New Frontiers for 8, shocking all of us. We thought we were in for something nasty, but we got a group hug instead. Hey, you never know.

Lands make a great gift.

Only Selvala had many basics left to play, though. Kadena, now at 25 life, played another Morph and passed. Sek used a Plant to cast Diabolic Intent and found Phyrexian Reclamation, playing it right away. Sek then brought back the Dockside Extortionist and made 15 treasures, then sacced it and did it again, totalling up 28. Sek played Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder and passed. I think there was potential for a crazy amount of treasure, but no immediate payoff. The lifeloss must have been a concern. Otherwise it seemed like Sek was in a pretty good position.

Works great with the Dockside.

I wasn’t. Despite my card draw and Plants and other things, my turn 8 play was Baron Sengir, who is cool and a card I was looking forward to playing, but not an immediate impact.

Fangs for playing me!

When I started building the deck, I was looking for ways my Vampires could ‘eat’ the Plants. Thornbite Staff and fighting seemed too clunky, and I just went with a bunch of big Vamps and hoped for the best. If I return to this build, it’ll probably be to do that. There aren’t enough cards like that yet, though, where a creature can tap to deal damage to another. Most are archery-themed, too. I cut Arena from my deck, and it was a mistake. I would have fought plants all day.

Plants vs. Vampires could be a video game or something.

Selava used turn 8 to parlay twice, then cast Orochi Leafcaller and Serra Avatar, which came in as a 55/55, matching Selvala’s life total. This would have been a problem, but Kadena overloaded Cyclonic Rift on endstep and we all picked up our cards.

Most people do not like this.

While I used some sacrifice triggers to gain 30 life (I had Miren, the Moaning Well and used it on Grismold) Kadena’s next play was Triumph of the Hordes, and I assumed we were all dead.

What on earth were they thinking when they printed this?

Selvala was really on the group hug theme, and had just come from a pod where players were sent on quests, and one of Selvala’s quests had been to save another player from lethal. Selvala tried to Cast out on a Kadena creature that would save Sek, but Voidmage Apprentice was revealed to counter. Selvala wasn’t done, and used Regenesis to Cast Out again, this time for good. Selvala Disenchanted Trail of Mystery, and both Selvala and I died from poison counters.

Hugs for all!

Sek’Kuar was left alive to try and eke out a victory. Sek tried Dockside Extortionist again, but it was stolen by Kheru Spellsnatcher. Sek’ played Blasting Station and Phyrexian Reclamation again. Kadena bounced the Blasting Station with Echoing Truth, but Sek played it again, and added a mana bird and Viscera Seer.

Everyone knows it’s Slinky.

Kadena moved to turn 9, and cast Sek’s Dockside Extortionist for a measly 2 treasures. Ainok Survivalist morphed to kill the Blasting Station, and Kadena tried an Alpha strike with assorted creatures and morphs. It fell short, dealing 29 against 36 life. Sek was at 7. Kadena played another morph and Leyline of Anticipation. Then passed.

Pretty good at instant speed.

On Sek’s upkeep, Kadena played Villainous Wealth for 10, and got Sol Ring, Ashnod’s Altar, Pawn of Ulamog, Eternal Witness and Junk Diver. Sek played Akoum Refuge to go to 8, played Skullclamp and clamped the bird, then played Murderous Redcap and killed the Dockside Extortionist, putting it back in own graveyard. Sek used the Rec, the Skullclamp and the Viscera seer to draw cards and bring back the Dockside and cast it, but went down to 6. Sek cast the Commander and looped the Dockside twice more to accumulate 10 treasures. Sek added Murderous Redcap, Phyrexian Altar, and then out of nowhere, cast Tendrils of Agony for the win. Wow.

Ender of games.

Nobody but Sek’Kuar was thinking storm count. For the win. Super cool. On to Game 3!

Game 3

I was again the first player in Game 3, followed by Questing Beast, the return of Mairsil, the Pretender, and the combination of Akiri, the Lineslinger and Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker.

Apparently it’s a reference after all?

I have to address the Questing Beast. I didn’t think it would be good. I felt, as the Commander, the many words amounted to very little. I was wrong, although I don’t know that I’d want to play it myself. You can absolutely make a great deck around Questing Beast, but the pilot went one step further and gave us a mini-game as well. This particular player does very well at the Commander Challenge, and probably has the most career wins overall. If there was any question as to why, this game should settle that. We each got 3 Quest cards to try and secure the Questing Beast player’s vote. I didn’t get a picture of the Quest cards, but the general idea is a series of objectives to pursue during the course of a Commander game. Mine were casting a card where someone’s arms were above their head, have either 100 or 1 life, and eliminate the player to my left (Questing Beast, lol). Each had a point value, and the player who accumulated the most points at the end of the game would get the vote. Amazing.

Can you Living Wish for the creature?

The Questing Beast player had done these last minute, so they were all over the place and not all realistic, but with some tuning, this is an awesome mechanic. It’s on theme for QB, but could easily be adapted to almost any Commander. King Kenrith could issue Royal Proclamations, for example. The QB pilot also raised the issue of picking your spots for stuff like this. There’s already a lot going on, and if everybody is doing extra, it might be too much for the table. Good to keep in mind.

I’ve seen boardstates that look a lot like the artwork here.

One sneaky strategic element of doing a mini-game for Commander is that it can take the heat off you. If your opponents are busy Questing, they aren’t messing with your plans. Mono-green is strong, but doesn’t get to run many answers, and boardwipes can shut it all down. Every little bit helps.

I’m craving Plants.

Our first round of turns was just lands, and on two I played my #2 plant producer, Khalni Garden. QB played a totally innocuous Mosswort Bridge, Mairsil played Dimir Signet, and the partners played another land.

Can be a vicious combat machine.
Can be a vicious combat machine.

On three I was ready for more Plants, and played Grismold. As with the rest of the day, the Eggplant token was the popular one. QB played Courser of Kruphix and attacked Mairsil with the Plant. Mairsil played land and the partners played Akiri.

This is really good with Grismold, and probably quite a few others.

On my turn four, I cast Primal growth and sacced a Plant token to get two lands. The Questing Beast came out to play and immediately charged the Partners. Mairsil played Forbidden Alchemy on QB’s endstep, then on the following turn, played Buried Alive, getting Anger, Dralnu, Lich Lord, and Aetherling into the yard.

I saw this as a Commander once, not so long ago.

The partners played the other partner, Ishai, who is the kind of sneaky creature that will suddenly be huge if you lose track of him. I’ve seen this partners deck before, sometimes with different Commanders, but the theme of Boros-based aggro supplemented by artifacts and answers has been pretty great. It seems like a really cool evolving thing, that gets new additions with every set and never gets old. Every Commander deck should be like this, and I applaud that particular player for the endless variations and strong play.

Mr. Expendable.

On my turn five I played Bloodtracker. I think I made mistakes with this card, and didn’t try to kill it enough with only a couple of counters on it. Drawing two cards is good. QB played Bear Umbra on the namesake Commander. I tried to Beast Within the QB with the Umbra on the stack, which would be a cool theme play, and should have really targeted the Umbra. Because there was an answer, which for whatever reason, I failed to write down. Mortal’s Resolve? Withstand Death? Something like that. The QB attacked me, and the bigtime untapping started, and Wood Elves appeared in second main. Mairsil played the Commander on the following turn, targeting the Aetherling, then flickering Mairsil and caging Dralnu on endstep.

A nice little control panel for Mairsil.

The partners had played a Darksteel Citadel earlier, and now added Mechanized Production to it. Ishai was at 7/7, and came over my way.

Darksteel Citadel is a great target for this.

Bloodtracker had no counters, so blocking was just chump time. I wanted to save it. On my turn I played the Sol Ring I drew and played Necropolis Regent, a great fit with Bloodtracker. I attacked Mairsil for 2 in the air and got my counters. I was concerned about the Mairsil deck going off, despite the Bear Umbra to my left. As a Quest update, my life was at 26, my leftmost opponent was alive, and nothing I cast had arms overhead.

Pretty great at growing Plants, surprisingly.

QB spent turn 6 playing Hornet Queen, a surprisingly influential play, then attacking with a whole lot of Beasts and Plants at Mairsil. There was plenty of trading, and Grismold got to 13/13. After Combat, Cultivate kept the mana factory humming. Mairsil snuck in a blink at the end of main phase, and added Endling to the cage.

Illness in the Ranks looks really good now.

Mairsil played Thousand Year Elixir for turn, but didn’t do anything else. The partners made a Citadel copy and sent the 12/12 Ishai at me. I was forced to chump the Necropolis Regent. The partners played Storm the Vault and passed. On my turn 7, I played Falkenrath Noble, then Bloodline Necromancer to bring back the Necropolis Regent. What I didn’t do was attack into the hornets with my Bloodtracker. I think that was a mistake.

Double Tribal!

Remember the Mosswort Bridge QB played on turn 2? Well conditions were ripe, and it turned out to be hiding-away Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. Wow.

I’ve seen the -X almost every time. Including with my own Ugin.

I expected the big wipe, but Ugin simply picked off my Falkenrath Noble. QB followed with the impressive Coveted Jewel and Sylvan Library, then attacked the partners with the Beast. I think Mairsil got a weird draw, because the only play was Rainbow Efreet. Phasing is mostly about saving Mairsil from combat, and is kind of awkward with Mairsil overall. I’m not sure it’s quite right for the concept.

I think Quicksilver Elemental would be a better choice. Maybe it was in there.

The partners made another Citadel and added Padeem, Consul of Innovation, then Panharmonicon. Yikes. At least the Coveted Jewel was the highest CMC. At least. On my turn I drew Conspiracy, and was super happy that I had all three flippy Plant tokens in play to turn into Vampires. Bleh!

I choose Vampires! This is great for a lot of theme decks.

QB used Sylvan Library to draw an extra card and cast Finale of Devastation for 11. Mairsil countered it with Disallow. QB attacked Mairsil with the Beast, then used Ugin to kill Akiri, the Line Slinger. Mairsil stood pat again. The partners played Akiri again. I played Once and Future on endstep with Adamant, getting my Falkenrath Noble back. On my turn, I played Retribution of the Ancients, then the Noble. With the Noble on the stack, QB played Krosan Grip on my Retribution, preventing me from using it. Nice one.

This would have made a big difference if I’d been a little sharper.

On QB’s turn, Ugin tried to ultimate, but Mairsil used Dralnu’s ability to flashback the Disallow. QB played Rhonas the Indomitable instead, and using tricky Bear Umbra action, built up more than enough power to kill the Mairsil player. Deathtouch, Trample, unpreventable damage and difficult in blocking makes the QB a real force.

This wasn’t the one QB played. Good thing. These are amazing to look at and hard to read.

The partners had come close to a quest earlier, needing 7 cards in hand and 11 in play for the ‘Go to the 7/11′ achievement. Close wasn’t close enough. Same with 5 Darksteel Citadels. Close. The partners played Whirler Rogue, making a bunch of thopters, then sacrificed an Inventors’ Faire to grab Conjurer’s Closet. Storm the Vault had flipped to Vault of Catlacan, and the 10 U it produced was plenty to cast the Conjurer’s Closet. I had some air presence, and the Hornet Queen and company were a stone wall. So the partners thought. And passed.

Nothing to see here.

On my turn 10, I played Casualties of War, taking out the Coveted Jewel, Ishai, Sylvan Library, the Vault and Ugin. It was a powerful play, but was way too little, way too late.

I was a first-time caster, and will cast this again for sure.

On QB’s turn, the partners died to unstoppable Commander damage. It was then pointed out that Whirler Rogue could have made for some serious unblockability for the partners, and QB and I might be dead. I wasn’t far off, though. Had all the Plants under the partners’ control died when they did, I could have salvaged a kill, because I drew Shizo, Death’s Storehouse on my last turn.

This was the best thing I could have drawn, really.

QB had no colourless blockers, but my Grismold was ‘only’ 14/14, and I had no way to make him bigger in time. I conceded to QB. It’s too bad none of us managed to complete our quests. I would love another shot at that. As much as it ran over us, I hope I see that deck again.

Game 4

My final game of the day was also a five-person pod. It was Zedruu, the Greathearted, Unesh, Criosphinx Sovereign, Breya, Etherium Shaper, Me, and Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain. A great mix. I’ve played against both the Zedruu and Unesh decks before. Great players, great decks. The other two players are also longtime great players, and I knew I’d see something cool from their builds.

Is a Human Artifact creature like a cyborg?

Turn one, we all played land. Jhoira and myself both played Evolving Wilds. Zedruu got down to it with Bazaar Trader on turn 2.

Zedruu’s little helper.

Unesh followed with Thought Vessel, Breya played Wayfarer’s Bauble, I dropped my favourite Khalni Garden (and Plant), and Jhoira played Izzet Signet. Turn 3, Zedruu cast Wild Research. I’m not sure what the plan for this was, but it’s an interesting play.

For those addicted to Gamble.

Unesh played Swiftfoot Boots, Breya cracked the Bauble and both Jhoira and I played our Commanders. Plants all around! Zedruu played the Commander on turn 4. Unesh played Hedron Archive, in a succession of staple Artifacts. Breya played Breya. I played Falkenrath Noble. I feel like I didn’t shuffle very well, in hindsight. I sure saw some cards a lot. I’m getting better at the whole ‘writing down stuff’ while I play, but I could really use a helper sometimes. I hope I run into one of those Opponents who wants to shuffle my deck.

This made a cameo on a South Park episode once.

Jhoira played Myr Retriever and Sol Ring. Zedruu, ever generous, gave me a Plant token with Bazaar Trader. Magic is awesome. On turn 5, Zedruu played Stuffy Doll, targeting Jhoira. Unesh played the Commander, getting a surprisingly weak pile of cards. Unesh is a sort-of mini-game Commander, too.

Fact or Fiction: this belongs in my Changeling deck.

Unesh makes all your Sphinxes arrive with a free cast of this spell.

Alright you got me. 5 and 4 aren’t the same.

It’s fun to have opponents choose, but sometimes the choices available are either pretty great, or pretty bad. In this case it was 3 Islands and another Sphinx. All things considered, that was a bad pull. On Breya’s turn, down came Tezzeret, Master of Metal.

I was impressed by how much work this did.

I drew Mephidross Vampire again. I had tokens again, and could flip them again. It was pretty exciting. For me. My opponents could only chuckle. Jhoira followed me by copying Stuffy Doll with Phyrexian Metamorph, naming Zedruu.

Quietly one of the greats.

Zedruu gave Breya a plant, then played Steel Golem. I remember when this thing came out. I still don’t know what to say about the design, but I’m glad it has a home somewhere.

You do not want to steel this.

Unesh was looking to hit the gas, and played Sphinx of Foresight, and then from the draws, played Lightning Greaves and Sphinx of the Final Word. Zedruu gave the Steel Golem to Unesh, but it was a little late.

Can I still put counters on stuff? Other than this?

Breya used Tezzeret to grab an Artifact, and it was Myr Battlesphere. There were tokens everywhere.

Myr and Plants mixed all day.

On my turn, I took Christmasland to a whole new level with my Plant Vampires. I played Captivating Vampire, then Blood Seeker for good measure.

I’ll invite you in.

I want to use Captivating Vampire and my army of Plant Vampires to take over the world. I was well on my way. While there was probably a serious value play to be had, I couldn’t look any farther than stealing Zedruu and making him a Vampire.

Some say Minotaur, some say Antelope, I say Vampire!

On Jhoira’s turn, Hurkyl’s Recall, a real oldie, bounced all the artifacts, and they came back in a flurry, drawing cards. After a few Jhoira triggers, and not much end in sight, I made Jhoira a Vampire and had her join my ranks. Two Commanders out of four was pretty sweet.

Some say Human, some say Artificer, I say Vampire!

But it was not to be. Zedruu only had land to play. But Unesh had Part the Waterveil, and Mirrorpool in play to copy it.

Parting is such sweet sorrow.

In a couple of attacks, the Zedruu player was dead, and Unesh was free from the Steel Golem at last. Before Zedruu died, they cast Chaos Warp on my Vampire Zedruu, and tried to grab a blocker. It was land.

I did not own Zedruu, just borrowed him.

Unesh then made the play of the day, in terms of raw power. Atemsis, All Seeing arrived, and the pile to choose from was this:

Not this exact Island, probably.
I suppose this draws cards.
Oh no! Deja Vu!
Oh no! Deja Vu!

It was pretty brutal. We split the turns, but Unesh took one of them and killed me with Atemsis and a slick hand full of different CMC cards.

He saw me lose the game.

Breya got a chance, and didn’t miss it, first playing Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer, and then attacking Jhoira for a pile. Post-combat, Tezzeret finished the job with a -3 activation. Jhoira went down.

One of the best designs in Commander.

Unesh didn’t need much more than another Atemsis attack to finish Breya, and the day was done! Time to relax and wait for the prize draft.

Prize time!

I’ve done well, and I’ve done poorly, but something I’ve never done is finish last. Well check that box on the bucket list, because it was my day! Since everybody gets a prize, I took home the White Aggro Challenger Deck, which turned out to have some cool goodies in it, beside History of Benalia and Legion’s Landing. There is also Tocatli Honor Guard and Remorseful Cleric in the sideboard.

Static ETB hate, you say?
Graveyard hate at instant speed, you say?

These are extremely playable cards, and I’m so happy to get them. I didn’t have Benalia or Landing, either.

Benalia has a history of Banding.

It’s great to know that even last place can be pretty great. I had four cool games, did my deck’s thing a few times, and got a pretty decent prize. I’m struggling to find a downside here, which is the main reason I keep coming back to Commander Challenge. Kudos as always to the ownership and staff of the Connection for their hospitality. I hope coverage like this is incentive for more people to turn out more often.

Play Commander? Want to have a good time?

Oh yes, and the event had a winner. Would you be surprised to hear it was Questing Beast? Well-deserved, and no surprise to anyone.

Ding!

For my own deck, I think it would need some updates before I played it again. I’m not sure it’s the best way to play big Vampires, as it doesn’t offer much unity to them. I feel like I didn’t have a plan or much synergy in practice as I did in theme, and while I flipped some cool tokens, I didn’t leverage my advantages, like my huge Troll Commander. I think stuff like that hurts your votes sometimes. My deck kind of played like a chaos deck, in how much it clogged the board. And my focus wasn’t sharp enough to be the best contributor to overall board balance. I’ll keep it together for a while, but I’m already looking ahead to the next Challenge. It’s in two weeks, and I’m playing a slight twist on an old favourite. I’ll reveal that deck, and how I put it together the week before the Challenge, and will be covering it as usual. Thanks so much for reading, and I hope you have lots of fun games!

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