As we do most weeks, my pod got together for our regularly scheduled doses of EDH. Although we saw a few new cards from Eldraine make appearances last session with Rankle and Chulane, this week was where the new set started to make inroads and impacts on the game, with strategies that were enabled by some of the legendary creatures added to the set.
The first match was my Marisi deck up against The Locust God, Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion, and a Torbran deck I had loaned to the 4th player since they hadn't the time to think up a new deck.
It was a slow start for me, as I wasn't really able to play many cards early on. Torbran took a somewhat early lead with a turn 1 Sol Ring into a Ruby Medallion. Using the combined ramp and discount effects, they were able to play Syr Carah, the Bold on turn 2, and Torbran on turn 3.
While they realized how powerful it was that Syr Carah can tap to inflict a combined 3 damage to anything with Torbran's effect, the skimmed over the first paragraph, which was the actual reason she's in the deck. After 2 rounds had gone by without it going off once, I politely asked them to read through the paragraph one more time. Realizing their mistake, they begun directing their pings away from creatures and towards players, but it was too little too late. As The Locust God built up an army of insects, the board clear intended to clean them up also destroyed most of Torbran's born and more or less kept knocked them out of the game since they weren't drawing into any of the deck's card advantage pieces.
This was when The Locust God began to get scary. In the same turn, they played Consecrated Sphinx and Jace's Archivist. Fortunately, the cooperation of the table managed to take care of both of them before the next turn came up, but they had still managed to amass an army of insects in the intervening time.
In my card, I had Swords to Plowshares and Insurrection. Thinking I had one more turn, and seeing that the Torbran player placed their commander on the board. I decided to wait. Since the army wasn't large enough to kill all players at once, I figured that with one more round of the table The Locust God would have enough insects for me to take control of all of them and end the game. Unfortunately for me, The Locust God was ready to win, and swung all out, killing everyone almost at once with Throne of the God-Pharaoh. I realize now that if I had acted sooner, I could have at least kill Locust God and possibly crippled the Neheb player enough that I could sweep up the game quickly, but alas.
In the next round, all of us but Neheb player kept player the same decks. They swamped from WAR Neheb to Neheb, the Worthy instead.
They also had an early start, with their own turn 1 Sol Ring which they used to summon Neheb on turn 2. Thanks to my Varchild, Betrayer of Kjeldor, I was safe from their aggression, as was Torbran with a early Goblin Chainwhirler. Defenseless, The Locust God suffered from the brunt of Neheb's early game aggression. The rest of us also had to discard cards to his triggered ability, but it was better than taking that hit.
Swinging in at Neheb with Varchild, I moved to force a more aggressive game from my table by deploying Fumiko the Lowblood. With the Survivor tokens Varchild created also swinging in, Fumiko proved by a adequate deterrent from Neheb's aggressive swings. When Torbran played Manabarbs to try to slow down the game, all it accomplished was getting The Locust God to surrender because they had 18 life and nothing left and had just gotten to the 6 mana they needed to play their commander.
Of course, with The Locust God out of commission, and quickly surrendering under the pressure, Neheb just directed their aggression to Torbran, since my Fumiko was forcing them to attack still. With only 5 life left, Torbran's own Manabarbs was what ultimately killed them.
Sadly, because Fell Specter had been forcing me (and everyone else) to discard so many cards, by the time it came to the 1v1 my only hope was drawing into a removal spell of a board clear. Neither or them materialized and I was quickly executed.
The Locust God player had to withdraw from the last round due to some pending engagements, but that still left us with enough players to play one last match. Torbran decided to stay on his deck, while the Neheb player switching to Alesha, Who Smiles at Death. On the other hand, I had decided to run the new deck I built based on Syr Konrad, the Grim.
This time, it was my turn to start with a turn 1 Sol Ring, which I had used to play Expedition Map to ensure my 3rd land drop. With that I was able to set the stage with a Mindcrank on turn 2, and finally deploy Syr Konrad himself on turn 3.
The synergy between these two cards enabled much of my success in this match. To explain, Syr Konrad deals 1 damage to each opponent whenever a creature dies, or is put into the graveyard from anywhere other than the battlefield, but whenever my opponents take damage, Mindcrank forces them to mill the top card of their deck. Should that card be a creature, Syr Konrad deals 1 damage to each opponent, and the process repeats. The odds of a successful scale with the number of players in the game, but even with 3 players this synergy can pull a lot of weight.
In addition, Alesha, since she relies on ETBs, had Corpse Knight on the board. So whenever she played a creature, Torbran and I would take 1 damage. Since this had the potential to start other Mindcrank chain, I had deemed it an acceptable loss. However, when Alesha was deployed, I immediately Defiled her because with my mill strategy in place, it was far too risky to let her resurrect her minions.
Things were progressing smoothly. I had even managed to deploy an Altar of Dementia and a couple of other one-time mill effects like Sticher's Supplier and Balustrade Spy.
Then, I made one crucial mistake that nearly knocked me out of the game, and gave Alesha the opportunity she needed to win. When Torbran swung at me with his forces, with only 7 life remaining, I had forgotten that Syr Konrad can force all players to mill the top card of their deck for 1B. If I had remembered that, then I would have still been at 25 life instead of 3. Fortunately, when they used the mana from Neheb, the Eternal to cast Chandra's Ignition, I had finally wizened up. Activating Syr Konrad, I had initiated a Mindcrank chain large enough to kill Torbran before the Ignition could resolve, but the Alesha player survived, killing me with a few creature drops.
I blame myself for both that loss and the early one with Marisi. I must've been having an off night, because it both cases I would have been able to buy myself crucial time in I had been paying attention and not been so careless in my play. Oh well. It wouldn't be the first time I died to player error, nor will it be the last.
Still, I'm proud of both decks I ran. Torbran is a strong commander, and the Stax strategy I build around him can work. I just think either I or its pilot this round need to tune it a bit so that it goes off the way I want it to.
This night may not have gone my way, but I can't deny that I had a great time. Eldraine looks like it's got some choice treats for us EDH players, and it'll be exciting to see what else gets brewed up with them.