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Last week’s post can be found here.
Hey Gamers. I finally managed to get back to my LGS’s awesome casual EDH tournament series, Commander Challenge! It was this past Saturday at The Connection in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
In addition to the regular rules, we were playing with some Eldraine-themed story cards. They worked a lot like Planechase, where they added global rules that the players could swap out. It was a good idea in theory, but poor in practice. They were complicated, tough to keep track of, and utterly game-breaking. By game 3, we mostly ignored it.
I brought a deck I’ve been itching to play for ages, Mari, the Killing Quill from Streets of New Capenna Commander. I really like mono-black, because the manabase is nice and simple, and a lot of the non-swamps have sweet utility.
Just so you know, none of my decks run any search effects of any kind, and I’m making an extra effort to run lands that come into play untapped. Commander Challenge games are completely unpredictable, and I’ve been one mana short way too many times. So were a couple of my opponents. Let’s go!
The first game featured Go-Shintai of Life’s Origin, Emmara Tandris and Sméagol, Helpful Guide. The Eldraine story cards were initially triggered by someone playing their Commander, and we all obliged early. I even played a Chain Devil fairly early and caught all 3 opposing Commanders.
Our story card for most of the game was ‘Brawl at the Grand Ball’ which granted a tapped treasure token to a player on their 1st or 2nd cast of the turn. Kinda broken, but symmetrical at least.
Sméagol’s deck was geared heavily towards graveyard recursion, so my deck was a natural predator, despite Mari, the Killing Quill being different from a replacement effect like Leyline of the Void. That means opponents still get death triggers, and creatures hit the graveyard briefly, but are then exiled. It still held Sméagol back.
Go-Shintai had walled up early with Ghostly Prison and Sphere of Safety, so the rest of us skirmished a little and let Go-Shintai go-unchecked. Not the greatest move for the table. Go-Shintai started playing some scary stuff.
The Eldraine story card switched to ‘Armont & the Beasts’ which allowed a player to pay 1 mana to draw 2 cards when they played an enchantment, with each opponent also getting to draw 1. Needless to say, the shrine enchantment deck had a big big turn.
When the dust all settled, we were facing down some huge shrine creatures, a whole lot of token creatures, Muldrotha, the Gravetide and Sanctum of Stone Fangs which was going to chew us all up in just a few turns.
Emmara also took a huge turn, playing a big Comraderie and a big Harvest Season, but wasn’t able to do much against Go-Shintai other than exile Sanctum of All with Conclave Tribunal. Sméagol added to their board, notably Bloodchief Ascension, but passed. One of them destroyed Sanctum of Stone Fangs but I didn’t note who.
I took my turn, but had a specific play I needed to make to stay alive, and passed without doing much. At the beginning of Go-Shintai’s upkeep, in response to their first trigger, I cast Sudden Spoiling to shut off both their Commander and Muldrotha’s textboxes for the turn. The Commander could have responded by reanimating Sanctum of Stone Fangs in response, which would have killed me… except for Split Second. They were also unable to recur it with Muldotha.
Turns out it hardly mattered as Emmara played Thunderfoot Baloth with a board full of creatures and took me out. They attacked into Sméagol also, but the ringbearer survived.
Final Turns were called, and Sméagol was only able to play an Avenger of Zendikar and some tokens, which was far from enough to stop Go-Shintai, who had a massive flying token army thanks to Hallowed Haunting.
Sméagol was actually just short of being able to mill Go-Shintai significantly with their Bloodchief Ascension at full power, which might have done the job. Instead, Go-Shintai finished off both Sméagol and Emmara just before Hard Time was called.
I do have to note that with currently available cards, Black and/or Red decks have little chance against any enchantment-heavy deck like Go-Shintai, without adding another colour. I wrote a post about dealing with enchantments, but I think we need some help from Wizards.
On turn 4, Rasputin played The One Ring and I saw a unique opportunity. More on that in a sec. First, Muxus found the second land and started stringing goblins and red mana together, mainly with Skirk Prospector. Suddenly it was Goblin Matron into Goblin Recruiter.
On my turn I had no response against the Goblins, so I took my opportunity against The One Ring and played Bontu’s Monument followed by my Commander. What does that mean? It means I drained Rasputin for 1 life while they had ‘Protection from Everything.’
Muxus needed combat, and some goblin tokens from Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin, and attacked Rasputin. Rasputin could have sacrificed the germ attached to Mortarpod to kill the Skirk Prospector during combat, but didn’t see it, and Muxus scraped together enough mana to cast their Commander, putting the right goblins directly into play to win the game on the spot.
It involved Conspicuous Snoop, Lightning Crafter, and Goblin Warchief for haste, with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker on top of the library. Snoop copies Crafter, which champions Snoop, Crafter taps for 3 damage to someone, sac Crafter to Skirk Prospector, Snoop reenters, repeat.
All with 2 land in play. It was very impressive. And quick. Turn 5. We went for a second game to pass the time.
Like Sméagol in game 1, Uril was not suited to go up against me. They just didn’t know it right away. Uril runs on being hexproof and getting huge with auras. My deck is full of cards with answers to hexproof, and ways to make players sacrifice creatures, especially if they only play one.
Uril had a massive Commander built up pretty early, and tried to take me out. I had Mari, the Killing Quill, my Commander, equipped with Viridian Longbow and Shadowspear. I used the spear to remove the hexproof and shot Uril with the bow for a single, lethal damage.
It just occurs to me now that Uril traded me that Shadowspear earlier this year.
The game itself was fun and random and such, but like many others, completely derailed by Descent into Avernus. Auntie Blyte played it. It always takes over. It even left the Eldraine story cards in the dust.
Uril built right up again and made sure I didn’t have any answers in play. But I had Sudden Spoiling in hand once again, saving my butt. Ultramagnus had played Platinum Angel, but it hardly mattered as Auntie Blyte had Pyrohemia and cleaned the board, killing Uril and Ultramagnus in the process. Ultramagnus used Fling to send their 11 power Commander at Auntie Blyte in response, lowering Blyte’s life to 2, and removing the last creature from the board.
After some checking, we determined that this caused Pyrohemia to be destroyed, and Blyte was tapped out. They went to their turn without anyway to finish me off before they died to their own Descent into Avernus. I was still alive!
It’s pretty rare for me to win a game at Challenge, and finishing the job was this deck’s big weakness, so this was pretty exciting. On that note, if I play this one again, both Mirkwood Bats and Nadier’s Nightblade are must-haves as finishers leveraging my treasure tokens.
It looks like a really solid deck. I’m going to play it at a Challenge soon, and bring it to the next one for more testing. The plan is to push to the Ring’s 4th level, then rip the opposing life totals down fast with double strike on Bilbo, and even extra combat steps.
I got two testing sessions in, and my initial reactions were that I had too much haste, and didn’t think to leverage the discard aspect of the Ring’s second step. I also got hosed by my own Lightning Greaves, as I want to target Bilbo with a lot of stuff, and Shroud negates that. Oops. Lessons learned. Nice to have another deck that doesn’t want Lightning Greaves.
Placing and Prizes
It was a good day for me, and I placed either 6th or 7th. Not really sure. The prizes are done by drafting a pool constructed by the LGS. Some people take their time. There’s clapping. Unless you finish in the very top or very bottom, it gets tough to keep track.
I had too many options and went for lots of packs to open. I grabbed a March of the Machine prerelease kit, and opened some fun stuff, including an Ozolith, the Shattered Spire.
It was a very good Challenge, and I’m looking forward to the one in October. No date for it yet, but you can find The Connection’s event page here. Since it’s October, I’ll probably be playing something seasonal, like Zombies! Hope to see you there!
Thanks for reading!