With another Saturday night, my Commander playgroup go together to run another play session, and this time we managed to get in two really solid games out of the three we played that night.
It seems like going tutorless has actually been a boon for our group, because we are starting to see a lot the play-space open a bit in a way we didn't really get with the $300 budget idea. If this week's matches were anything to go by, we're closing in on the right track.
Thankfully, the first match was the one that was the least interesting, so we can quickly get it out of the way. I had run a new tutorless version of one of my favorite commanders: Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow. Across the table from me were Ghalta, Primal Hunger, a Karametra, God of Harvests deck, and The First Sliver.
It was a quick game on account of my extremely fortunate opening hand. On the first turn, I had managed to play a Sol Ring and used extra mana to play Fellwar Stone, which I could use to cast Slither Blade thanks to First Sliver's Volcanic Island.
This meant the I was swinging in with Yuriko on turn 2. And as the turns progressed, my lead was only extending. The First Sliver was the only one who was able to mount much of a counterattack thanks to Sentinel Sliver keeping their defenses up, but Throatseeker was giving me enough life back that I could mostly ignore it.
What ultimately sealed the deal was a turn 5 Cyclonic Rift that I was able to cast thanks to my early mana acceleration. Combined with Spark Double on turn 6 and Sakashima the Imposter on Turn 7, both copying Yuriko with their abilities, the number of Yuriko triggers was overwhelming, and the table just never had an opportunity to catch up. It was a fairly swift win.
Since Yuriko came out far stronger than I had expected her to, and the resulting game was a bit poor, I decided to switch it up and play another old favorite of mine. As a man with a healthy adoration of Aristocrats decks, I brought out Teysa, Orzhov Scion. Ghalta and The First Sliver didn't change, but Karametra was swapped out for their new Neheb, the Worthy build.
For the early game, both Neheb and I were struggling to really make a presence on the board, both The First Silver and Ghalta really pulled ahead. Ghalta had a couple of decent sized creatures and a Beast Whisper keeping them topped off with extra cards while The First Silver was able to mount a sizeable counter offensive with Shifting Sliver, Sentinel Sliver, and Brood Sliver along with their commander. On one hand, this was fortunate for me, since the two of them were so preoccupied with killing each other that they were ignoring me and allowing me to bide me time.
At the same time, it also meant that I had to play very carefully. While I'm not one to sing my own praises, my playgroup would probably agree that I'm the one that most frequently becomes the table's Archenemy. So while I was behind with naught but a Grim Haruspex, my commander, and a Skullclamp on board, I knew that if I made big moves there was a good chance the table could turn their aggression towards me before they went back to killing each other. In hindsight, I probably should have just played the Necropotence I had and used it to replenish my dwindling hand, since nobody was going to swing into a clamped Grim Haruspex, but at the time I was afraid of the potential threat that could instill in my adversaries.
Especially since afterwards, the Ghalta player displayed a very crafty and effective synergy, which they had the mana for after a Traverse the Outlands on the previous turn. After Ghalta was killed when swinging into The First Sliver's board, she kept it in the graveyard and used Praetor's Council to return it to her hand and remove her maximum hand size limit. Then, she followed it up by recasting Ghalta and playing Return of the Wildspeaker to draw 12 additional cards. With all the excess mana, she had set herself up nicely for the following turn, ending with a Lighting Greaves on her commander. It made my use of a Skullclamped Reassembling Skeleton for card draw feel impotent in comparison.
Just as I was about to come online, Ghalta commenced her endgame by playing Craterhoof Behemoth... followed by an Overwhelming Stampede. Before the resulting attack, Neheb threw in a Terminate and a Hero's Downfall to destroy 2 creatures, but for my game the damage had was already too great to staunch. Out of the remaining 3 attackers, 2 of them came after me, and Ghalta went for The First Sliver. Through commander damage, The First Sliver was dead. By blocking with every token I had managed to accumulate the earlier turn, I had survived with a single point of life.
Unfortunately for the Ghalta player, the sheer aggression of their move proved to be their undoing as all they just played unwitting kingmaker to Neheb. They had falsely believed that they could survive the turn afterwards, but none of us saw what the Felhide Spiritbinder could do if it untapped, since it managed to swing in at The First Sliver a turn earlier. Using its ability, Neheb copied Craterhoof Behemoth and mopped up the rest, snatching up the victory. Admittedly, I was a bit sore about this suicidal charge at the time, but in fairness no one else saw or called out the Spiritbinder ability. If we had, then the game might have gone differently.
Or maybe they wouldn't have. It's hard to say.
Still, one can't entirely begrudge a player for going out on a high note by swinging in with a bunch of big, tramply creatures with large numbers attached to them. And Ghalta left on a high note to play Dungeons and Dragons with her other group.
This left the rest of us to engage in one more 3-player EDH round before we all called it a night. I decided to give Teysa one more chance, and The First Sliver did the same with their deck. Meanwhile, Neheb swapped out for a deck with Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer at the helm.
The first few turns went by with each of us setting up in our own boards. I was a bit behind on creatures, with only a Solemn Simulacrum, but between it's extra land and my Ancient Tomb, have 5 mana on turn 3 isn't the worst thing in the world even if The First Sliver had a Scroll Rack and Necropotence on their board and Brudiclad had a ton of mana from other Arcane Signet and Gilded Lotus.
The following turn allowed me to cast a Dictate of Erebos, and between the three slivers that The First Sliver had out, and the Brudiclad, token Myr, and Dockside Extortionist, I was falling a bit behind. Luckily, Brudiclad had opted not to transform their treasures into Myrs. This allowed me to summon Liliana, Dreadhorde General and use her to wipe the board clean, even if she fell in the following turn.
The First Silver finally took the stage that turn, and it's 7/7 body dissuade Brudiclad from attacking. So to speed the process along, I used Ravenous Chupacabra to open them up, since I had managed to get a decent engine going with Ayara, First of Locthwain, my commander, and Sengir Autocrat.
Sadly, or not so sadly for me, I ended up needed all of those tokens, because in the following turn Brudiclad used all of their mana to make a big play, using Beetleback Chief and Maverick Thopterist to make a mess of tokens, then casting Shared Animosity. Turning all of their tokens, including their two remaining treasures from Dockside Extortionist into Myrs, they created nine 11/1 Myr tokens with haste. The resulting swing took The First Silver out, but I was able to block with my tokens since Myrs don't have Trample.
Luckily for me, I had been sitting on a Kaya's Wrath just in case The First Sliver was starting to creep too far out of hand. That never happened, but this was close enough that I still hit that reset button. To establish, I played creature and them Victimized it to resurrect Ayara and my Autocrat.
Battered, but not beaten, Brudiclad started to establish themselves with Saheeli, Sublime Artificer and casted their general once more, this time attaching Lightning Greaves to it for extra protection. With very few options, I played Teysa one more time and brought out Zulaport Cutthroat and Viscera Seer with the hope of getting back life while churning through the top of my deck until I got to some good cards to play. And that's when I hit my hopes and dreams: Austere Command. In exchange for my paltry mana rocks, I was able to complete destroy all the artifacts and enchantments on their board, which just happened to include all over their creatures. They overloaded a Cyclonic Rift in response to set me back, but I already done what I had hoped to do.
In my following turn, when I played Ayara once more, she was exiled by a Reality Shift. Fortunately, this too turned in my favor because the manifested card turned out to be... Teysa Karlov. And so, with my Cutthroat, Viscera Seer, two Teysa cards, and a Sengir Autocrat, I mopped up the game in due time, taking the win.
The Yuriko game ended a bit too quickly, but the other two were well-fought matches. On one hand, I do feel a bit bad for The First Sliver deck because it never got a chance to show off the way it wanted to. Even in the match where it had Scroll Rack and Necropotence, it got mana screwed and stuck at five lands.
On the other hand, I can understand the apprehension to give Slivers any quarter, because once the table does it's easy for them to quickly snowball into a win. And it was also kind cool, upon reflection, to see a mono-green strategy finally take off in our pod. I look forward to seeing what else springs up in this group while we go without tutors.