Commander Challenge 01/28/23 – The Great Irenicus Giveaway

skeleton hands on skull

Hey there Magic players! Earlier today was Commander Challenge, a local casual tournament at my LGS. You can read up on the specifics here, but in brief, it’s several rounds of Commander play in pods of 3-5, where overall placing hinges on games won as well as getting votes from other players. Then there are prizes for everyone, drafted from a big glistening pile. I haven’t been in a while, so it was a real treat to be able to play today.

There have been some recent changes to Commander Challenge, mainly reducing play from 4 to 3 rounds, and having a 1st and 2nd vote instead of just a single vote. 3 rounds was just right. I played 3 full games, plus 2 half games while we waited for the next round to start. That’s plenty. The vote thing is probably good, as it pushes anyone who’s there just to vote for friends to be a little more generous.

I played my Jon Irenicus, Shattered One deck. I wrote a deckbuilding post on it here. It seeks to give away small creatures for value and have them nibble all of the opponents’ life totals.

The deck was chosen for a few reasons. First, it has a really low curve, so it’s going to do stuff. Second, it gives creatures to the opponents which might help get votes. Third, it rarely plays cards that are big targets. Fourth, it should draw a ton of cards. Last, it seems like a lot of fun to play, even if it doesn’t really have a firm wincon.

Put all this together and I should have had a fun day, did okay in the voting, and did well socially. …And I did! Here’s how the the games went down.

Before anything else, however, I should note that all of my opponents today were great people and fair, equitable gamers. It was a treat to play with all of you! Great gamespersonship!

Round 1

My first opponents were Magus Lucea Kane, Xira, the Golden Sting, and Miirym, Sentinel Wyrm. The Magus played lots of cool X-spells, including some I’d never seen before. Xira was all about making tokens and controlling the board. Miirym was dragons dragons dragons.

I handed out some fun creatures early, after playing several mana rocks and a Baleful Strix. Xira kept the board under control with Tetzimoc, Primal Death, and Miirym stalled after Xira killed their Commander before they were able to untap with it.

The Magus landed some powerful cards, including double Fractal Harness, which they equipped on a Marang River Prowler I’d given them. They backed it up with Simic Ascendancy, which put a clock on the entire table. It looked like they’d take over completely, but the rest of us chipped in to take out their threats, one by one.

Xira got ahead, really stopping the Magus’s progress with Blightbeetle. It looked really good for Xira, though my Mystifying Maze threw them off a little. It hardly mattered as Miirym drew and played Majestic Genesis and won that same turn through a combination of Terror of the Peaks, Klauth, Unrivaled Ancient and their Commander.

We had a second game, and I played my Imoti, Celebrant of Bounty deck, but it really came to nothing as Xira had large collection of -1/-1 counter cards, which kept my 1 toughness Commander off the table. It didn’t go long before we were given seats for round 2. You can check out the Imoti deck here.

Round 2

The next round of opponents were Dihada, Binder of Wills, Garth One-Eye, and Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald. If I’ve seen either of Dihada or Faldorn before, I don’t remember them. Dihada is pretty new, but Faldorn is from the same set as Jon Irenicus.

The decks were powerful. While I don’t have the greatest opinion of Garth as a card, it doesn’t mean you can’t build a strong deck using the best cards of all five colours. This was definitely a ‘good stuff’ deck, though it wasn’t so strong on synergy. Dihada was all about synergy, mainly between a suite of powerful legendary creatures. Faldorn was an unabashed combo deck.

Garth looked really good early, landing and flipping a Rune-Tail, Kitsune Ascendant. They followed up with a Kibo, Uktabi Prince and Lightning Greaves to start handing out bananas. They added Etali, Primal Storm and started casting our spells.

Dihada saw the big dinosaur and raised it by Zetalpa, Primal Dawn. They’d tried Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite but I’d turned it into a boar token with Curse of the Swine. Dihada looked ready to pop.

Faldorn had mulliganed several times, but caught up all at once, dropping Food Chain, then revealing Squee, the Immortal. By casting then exiling then casting Squee over and over, they made infinite mana and infinite wolf tokens. The tokens came from each cast of Squee from exile, triggering Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald.

We had a round of turns, as the wolves didn’t have haste, but we each fizzled, and the wolves took us all out.

Since it was a fairly quick game, we tried a second. I played my zero-power Nethroi, Apex of Death deck. An early Sheoldred, Whispering One from Dihada, followed by a reappearance from Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite was enough to keep me from doing much other than milling myself. Garth added to the chaos by copying both praetors with Wall of Stolen Identity and Clever Impersonator.

Faldorn managed to get Squee in the graveyard but failed to find Food Chain. Dihada lined up a huge board of legends and crushed Garth flat. With the coast clear, and graveyard full of creatures, I mutated Nethroi on an insect token and put somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 power on the board. Neither opponent could do much and I actually took down the table. Just in time for game 3. You can check out my Nethroi deck here.

Round 3

Game 3 was terrific. All of our decks were of a similar power level, which was really cool. My opponents were Pramikon, Sky Rampart, Wyll, Blade of Frontiers with Agent of the Shadow Thieves and Queen Marchesa.

Pramikon had a lot of defender/wall/toughness synergies, with some combat control and planeswalkers. Wyll played all sorts of Background cards. I’d really like to see that deck again to see exactly what it was doing. Looked pretty cool. Marchesa was classic mardu monarch with a sweet hand-drawn butterfly token to pass around.

I managed to pull off some sweet janky plays, like using Dreadhorde Invasion to generate a Zombie Army every turn, which I usually gave to Wyll. It’s usually not supposed to be possible to have multiple Zombie Armies, but we made it happen. I also used Hostage Taker to steal and cast Marchesa’s Norn’s Annex. It’s a card I’d play in Irenicus if I could. Cards like Propaganda and Collective Restraint really keep the heat off me. I also used an Evil Twin to copy Pramikon’s Stirring Bard and stole The Initiative. I think that was peak Jon Irenicus, though I don’t know too much of the actual D&D lore.

Jon Irenicus can be a serious card draw engine, and I used Strionic Resonator and Lithoform Engine to give away 3 creatures per turn. The flow of cards was impressive. One of the most powerful cards I run is Dismiss into Dream. It’s surprisingly effective at shutting down a bunch of things a lot of opponents use as finishers, including equipment like Skullclamp. It definitely raised some eyebrows at the table, and the LGS sold some copies if they had some.

The game ended in a draw, and we were all pretty stoked about it. It would have been tough to resolve neatly, and might have gone another hour. We’d all had a good time and were happy to move to prizes. It was probably the best game of the day for me.

Finish and Prizes

I was really happy with how the deck played. I do have a couple of thoughts on how I’d adjust it for next time, however. First, all of the cantrips I played, like Serum Visions and Ponder, were unnecessary. I drew plenty of cards. I would swap most or all of them out for removal spells, which I felt I lacked. I might also make room for something that threatens to win the game more than the current deck does. I like Dingus Staff as a damage dealer that fits what I’m already doing in giving away smallish creatures and forcing combat. I may want to consider the Initiative myself, and/or entering into the Dungeon as something I can do on the side. Adding cards like Crawlspace and maybe even Web of Inertia might help. Taking a page out of Marchesa’s book and playing cards like Marchesa’s Decree could help a lot. Hissing Miasma and Revenge of Ravens are similar options.

Some of the cards I played might be a little strong to give away. Marang River Prowler almost handed Magus Lucea Kane the game by being an unblockable creature they could load up with equipment. I might want to rethink Etrata, the Silencer and possibly Darksteel Myr. I really liked Clattering Augur because it draws a card, recurs, and can’t block. I’d be inclined to find similar cards instead of the more efficient stuff I played. Dreadhorde Invasion was really really good in the deck. Bitterblossom might be worth looking at if there’s ever a cheap copy available.

I didn’t get the best look at the prize pool. The Mystery Box went first, but wasn’t great. A Dominaria United prerelease kit, I believe. I finished middle of the pack, and grabbed a Forgotten Realms prerelease pack. I’m not sure it it was the best prize available but I’m quite pleased. I opened some great commons and uncommons, Monk Class, Minion of the Mighty, Guardian of Faith, Long Rest, Westgate Regent, promo foil Orcus, Prince of Undeath, pack foil Meteor Swarm and full-art Ebondeath, Dracolich. Badass. Lots of playable stuff from a set I have very little of. I really liked Ebondeath when it was spoiled, but it was always too expensive to justify, so having a full-art one is super cool.

This was a really great event, and I’m already looking forward to the next one. Next week the LGS is hosting Phyrexia, All Will be One prerelease events, so it’ll be at least a couple of weeks. If you have any ideas on what deck I should play, leave them in the comments! Thanks for reading!

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