Monday, April 27, 2020

Magic: The Gathering - Commander Night Playback - Xyris Draws Me to Victory

What is this? Are we actually back? After spending... *checks notes*... almost half a year on indefinite hiatus, I think it's finally time to bring Commander Night Playback back to the masses.

For those of you who aren't familiar with this series, our objective is to recap and do a postmortem analysis of the Commander games my playgroup run on Cockatrice every Saturday. This session had me equipped with one the newest commanders from Commander 2020: Xyris, the Writhing Storm.

I had run this deck in the previous session. Thanks to some bad luck with my draws, I wasn't able to secure the land drops required to even garner a board presence, let alone win the game. It was worth running again just to see if it would perform better with a more fortunate hand. My opponents this time were running Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord and The First Sliver respectively.

And as far as performance goes, the deck vastly exceeded my expectations in the first game we played. Thanks to an Arcane Signet, I had managed to ramp out Xyris one turn early. Unfortunately, The First Sliver had managed to cast a Smothering Tithe before I was able start attacking. This meant that for every attack that landed, not only was I giving at least one opponent a few extra cards, but I was giving away mana on top of that.

Since The First Sliver was about to receive a glut of mana, but was otherwise running out of cards in their hand from land drops and the few slivers they managed to put on the board, I opted to swing in at Jarad to split the mana/card draw benefits across multiple players. Having missed my land drop that turn, I was more than happy to draw into a Gaea's Cradle, and the extra mana allowed me to cast a Dockside Extortionist and Doubling Season, to create some treasure for each one of the treasures my sliver friend generated off of me.

Even after a few turns, the group wasn't able to do anything to keep my board in check, and after dropping a Beastmaster Ascension with 11 creatures on board, I swing at The First Sliver with everything I had. When they went down, Jarad folded under the pressure. From start to finish, the match took about 25 minutes.


Naturally, we all reshuffled and began a second match with the same decks. I had another fortunate hand. Additionally, The First Sliver had started missing land drops after the third round.

There's a joke among our table that whenever the sliver deck summons a Manaweft Sliver or a Gemhide Sliver, I will always remove it before they are unable to untap. In my defense, the ability to turn all of one's creatures into mana dorks is too powerful to let live, which is why the streak continued. I had no choice but to Pongify that Manaweft Sliver when it hit the board, missing land drops be damned.

Of course, since I wasn't casting any creatures in the meantime, waiting to play Xyris on turn five without any mana ramp, they naturally turned that 3/3 ape onto me. This only continued when I played an Impact Tremors in preparation for Xyris's summoning.

That said, the other problem I was running up to was the fact that I also wasn't sure I would be able to hit my 5th land drop in time. With the mana I had left, I countered the Syphon Sliver my tribal opponent was trying to play with Mana Drain just to ensure I had enough to cast my commander even if I missed my fifth land.

And from there, the game was almost wrapped up. Once Xyris was ready to attack, I played the Purphoros, God of the Forge I had kept up my sleeve, swinging my commander at Jarad and dealing an additional 9 damage to each opponent with the combined effects of Impact Tremors and Purphoros.

With Jarad spinning his wheels, and The First Sliver going what they could with their limited mana supply, I was pretty much free to close the game, especially since I drew into Gaea's Cradle again. Using the mana I now had ready access to, I played Psychosis Crawler to accelerate my victory. Swinging in with Xyris once more, I hit a Wheel of Fortune. With everyone tapped out, and mana to spare, I used it to wrap things up nicely.

There's no denying that this run with Xyris was successful. In less than an hour, I had managed to take home two decisive victories. That said, it is difficult to access how much of that is due to my performance or the deck itself and how much of that was due to sheer luck. Since my playgroup does not use tutors, I was not able to search for any of my pieces: I had to draw into them. I'll probably play this deck more, and if it becomes too strong I'll just table it like I've done with other decks in my group (*cough* Yuriko *cough*).

But before I wrap up, I just want to set some expectations. Last time I wrote this series, I grew exhausted from the need to create a new deck each week, and then recap every game in my playgroup. So to make this easier on myself, I will only write up one of these playbacks when my group runs a match I really want to talk about, and only to discuss that match/those matches.

Until then, take care and stay safe out there.

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