Hey there magic people! Yesterday was another Commander Challenge, my LGS’s casual EDH tournament. It’s an awesome way to spend a Saturday afternoon slinging spells and dodging alpha strikes.
It took a while to settle on a deck to play, but I eventually went with my Kosei, Penitent Warlord deck (list here). I’ve wanted to play it since I built it, and while I expected to draw a lot of hate and present an obvious target, I figured it was worth it to see how the deck did.
The morning before the tournament, I went through the deck and took another look at things. I took some stuff out, and put some stuff in. There’s a breakdown of what’s new in the deck in the list (linked again here), but the biggest changes came in dropping a bunch of utility lands for basic forests and other green sources, and adding a bunch of Fogs. Not actual Fog, sadly, but similar cards. Fogs with upside, mainly being able to stop any damage, not just from combat. Would they make a difference? How did I do? Read on to find out!
My opponents were Ramses, Assassin Lord, Urza, Chief Artificer, and Halana and Alena, Partners. Rameses is a newer version of classic Legends card Ramses Overdark, and is a card I’ve never seen. The deck was mysterious, and didn’t let on its plan until very late. Urza’s deck was the precon, straight out of the box, and a player somewhat new to Commander overall. Halana and Alena (H&A) was very similar to a deck I run in Xenagos, God of Revels, which looks to make a massive threat very quickly. The deck was more +1/+1 counter-based than mine, for obvious reasons. My Xenagos deck is here. I actually brought it as a backup, to play in between rounds, and shared some key cards with the H&A player.
The game started in ominous fashion, with H&A casting Worldly Tutor on turn 1 for Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider. That was bad news for me, as I have a lot of ways to put a single counter on my Commander, and that rounds down to 0 with Vorinclex out. Ramses also expressed displeasure at seeing Vorinclex. Those praetors are almost all table-warping. Be prepared to feel the wrath of the table if you play them.
While both Ramses and I tried to power out cards before Vorinclex appeared, Urza went on the offensive and smashed us all up a bit with Alela, Artful Provocateur equipped with Cranial Plating. The lifelink put them up, but drew all of our attention, especially considering H&A was stalled on 5 mana.
I took down Urza’s Chrome Courier with my Bow of Nylea, but Urza responded with an Austere Command on their turn, wiping out most of my board and some of Ramses’ too. H&A lost a sizable Hydra to the Command, but held onto their Commander, and was able to rebuild, quickly adding Vorinclex to the board, along with Monstrous Growth.
I managed to get a fully equipped, countered, and aura-ed Kosei, Penitent Warlord online, but Ramses played Notion Thief and took my extra draws. Considering Vorinclex and H&A were threatening to stomp us all flat, I was happy to have a black/blue deck dig for answers.
H&A grew Vorinclex big enough for an alpha strike and took out Urza. Urza blocked with Alela, using deathtouch to trade with the big threat in a parting gesture.
Ramses revealed the plan, casting Phyresis on their Commander, and equipping it with Inquisitor’s Flail. I had kept up mana and played an unexpected Thwart the Enemy, keeping both myself and H&A alive.
Which only prolonged the inevitable. H&A crushed Ramses next, as we were all pretty low on life anyway. I was in the crosshairs, finally. I had two options: either hold up mana for the Chameleon Blur in my hand and hope another turn would get me somewhere, or replay my Bow of Nylea which I’d retrieved from the graveyard with Once and Future and then use Khalni Ambush while Kosei was attacking, before blockers, to kill Halana and Alena, Partners to buy time to finish their player off.
I went with the Bow and Ambush combo. Sadly for me, H&A revealed Tamiyo’s Safekeeping and the game was essentially over.
We went a few turns into a second game, but time was called in the round and on we went!
Round 2 provided Zabaz, the Glimmerwasp, Breya, Etherium Shaper, and Olivia, Crimson Bride. Zabaz was artifact creatures, mainly modular. Breya was a lot of powerful ‘goodstuff’ centred around treasure. Olivia was running the Sisters of the Undead version of their Commander. The deck was all about Legendary Vampires, and included many of the Dracula versions from Crimson Vow.
Zabaz got out and running fast, with an obvious part of the plan being to play the Commander turn 1. Breya countered with Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, which bumped around the table for a few turns until there were blockers for Zabaz and Olivia, and I had a Maze of Ith.
The Maze kept me alive while all three opponents grew their boards. I copied it with Vesuva for good measure. Breya tutored for Descent into Avernus and accelerated things dramatically. Their turns got long and convoluted as they exploited treasure for value beyond just mana. With just a few creatures of their own online, they cast Wrath of God , wiping both Zabaz and Olivia’s progress mostly away. I had Gaea’s Gift and cast it, keeping Kosei in play.
Olivia rebuilt very quickly, and Breya cast Windfall to dig for answers. I only had one card in hand, but it was Wildest Dreams, poised to win me the game. I had a ton of treasures from Descent into Avernus, and could have played my Wildest Dreams for enough to grab all of Gaea’s Gift, Bear Umbra and Umezawa’s Jitte from the yard, and still have enough to play them all and swing for what might have been lethal on at least one of them.
But that Windfall.
I discarded my Wildest Dreams and drew 3 lands.
Breya cast Rise of the Dark Realms, and suddenly had all of their creatures back, plus most of Zabaz’s and a couple of Olivia’s. Without haste, we all got another turn, but it was looking grim, and possibly poised to end during upkeep with a Hellkite Tyrant trigger.
Olivia, not to be outdone with a splashy spell, cast Mob Rule, stealing everything with 4 or more power. After a lot of math and plenty of attempts to dig, Breya finally went down to Olivia’s mob. Zabaz was next, and while I had plenty of mana and some lifegain from Retreat to Kazandu, I drew seven consecutive lands. Olivia had plenty of edict effects to keep my Commander off the table, and won with an overwhelming army of vampires.
Again, we got a couple turns into another game, including Breya swapping out for Codie, Vociferous Codex and giving us each a copy of their Commander with Fractured Identity, but we had to move on quickly for the next round.
The final matchup was against Raggadragga, Goreguts Boss, Hamza, Guardian of Arashin and The Ur-Dragon. I’d never seen Raggadragga before, and it was all about mana dorks, as the card suggests. Hamza was similar in that it played directly into the Commander’s strength, with counters aplenty. The Ur-Dragon‘s deck was something a little different… except to maybe me. For a long time I’ve been running a Changeling deck, with The Ur-Dragon as the Commander. I think it’s the best (non-combo) option for Changelings, and it was so cool to see someone else who agreed. Here’s my list. We compared notes afterward, and I hope they get a copy of Greatbow Doyen is it’s just plain unfair in the deck.
This was a barnburner of a game. We all got good starts. The Ur-Dragon played Changeling Outcast and Anowon, the Ruin Thief for card advantage and got off and running with a board full of changelings.
Hamza made great use of the Outlast mechanic, and grabbed extra value from their Arcus Acolyte by attacking for extra life via lifelink. Hamza came down quickly, and their board filled up.
I had no idea what Raggadragga was going to do, and they also filled up the board. A steady stream of mana dorks, Garruk’s Packleader, and their Commander making the dorks all +2/+2, made for a ton of card draw. They didn’t draw so many finishers, however, and the table maintained a sort of tenuous balance for a while. They did land a Quest for Renewal briefly, before The Ur-Dragon used a Masked Vandal to exile it, and loaded up a scary 10 mana for what turned out to be the overflowin’est Everflowing Chalice I’ve ever seen.
We were all quite low on life. I had managed to accumulate a pretty solid Kosei, with Bear Umbra, Cartouche of Strength, Blade of the Bloodchief and Mirror Shield. With some counters from the Blade, Kosei was a whopping 8/15 and suddenly a pretty real threat for the table. When I drew and played Rogue’s Passage, I had a serious shot at winning.
Hamza had a ton of life, but I had hit them a couple of times with my Commander so it didn’t mean much. The others were below 15 each. The Ur-Dragon lined up an alpha strike on me, but I had another Fog, this time Fallen Empires’ finest Spore Cloud, not only preventing the damage but leaving The Ur-Dragon tapped down.
Raggadragga wasn’t able to get through, but Hamza also lined me up for lethal. Again I had a Fog, this time Chameleon Blur, and stayed alive. The Ur-Dragon had one last shot at me, and got me to 2 life after using a Shapesharer to copy Hamza’s Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider (him again), and swing in with several hasty creatures boosted by Mirror Entity. One mana short, however.
On my turn, I had options, but Treefolk Umbra was simplest, doing 17 to each of them and taking the game! Huzzah! Considering I play mostly jank with few big wincons, it was pretty cool to get a game win.
Wrapup and Prizes
Winning a game did a lot for my score, and I guess I got some votes also, as I finished 2nd! This is one of my best finishes ever and I’m super pleased. I chose the Mystery Box as my prize, and opened a Dominaria Remastered Collector Booster, which was pretty sweet and full of potential.
Inside was my bane, a trio of tutors. I got a foil Gamble, a full-art Mystical Tutor, and a foil, old-frame Goblin Matron. Lots of other cool jank, too, so I’m pretty happy overall.
The games were excellent, and I’m excited for the 2 upcoming Challenges in March. One of those is the now-infamous ‘No Search’ Challenge where effects that search or cause searches of libraries are banned. My jam.
It’s funny, but something I did notice this time around was that nobody cracked a fetchland in any of my games. Awesome. Can’t wait for No Search. Thanks for Reading!