Monday, August 24, 2020

Magic the Gathering - Commander Night Playback - Killing Your Own Forces for Fun and Profit

Another week, another couple of rounds of Commander with my playgroups. Yes, you read that correctly.

One of my friends who used to be in the first playgroup but needed to drop out for his new job started up another one with a few others at a time better suited to his schedule. After awhile, I was invited to join the group, and I did so gladly.

Of course, that also gives me more material for this series. I won't go into every match I ever play. That said, as long as my stamina is up for it, I'll write with about those matches that just need to be saved for the record books.

With my new Tuesday group, I brought out a new version of my Syr Konrad list, removing the Mindcrank combo from last time and adding in a density of creatures to get more triggers of his ability. The other players were running Xantcha, Sleeper Agent, the Gitrog Monster, and Heliod, Sun-Crowned.

I had a slow-start, but at I managed to consistently hit my land drops for most of the game. Xantcha... wasn't so lucky. They started with 3 lands in hand, but one of them was Maze of Ith, and they rarely drew lands for the entire match despite having 37 of them in the deck. 


Aside from casting their commander onto my board, I don't remember them actually making many other plays at all. And sadly for them, they didn't realize that the Ayara, First of Locthwain I had on board allowed me to sacrifice her before my turn came up.

Meanwhile, Gitrog was doing the kind of thing one expects a Gitrog deck to do, after getting him out early with a Dark Ritual. And with cards like Ramunap Excavator and Scapeshift, they were able to generate quite a lot of value on board...

...especially when those lands obtained with Scapeshift include Cabal Coffers, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, and Field of the Dead. With a Retreat to Hagra, that also led to a sizeable life drain.

Life which was sorely needed, because Heliod was growing into a surprising terror. As experience has taught me, the turn 1 Serra Ascendant is no joke in Commander. Those early swings can really add up, especially when coming from a big flying creature. Fortunately, I had tools to start recouping losses even after it was gone, like Gary Asphodel with 8 devotion to black.

But the real terror came from Heliod's synergies. He had a combination of Pristine Talisman, Alhammarret's Archive, and Rhox Faithmender on board, which meant his life total was soaring to such extremes that the rest of us had difficulty keeping him down. My strategies was hampered briefly by his Angel of Jubilation, but I has able to give it the Tragic Slip after chump blocking a few attacks. Between his swings and my pings, the rest of the board couldn't keep up and starting dying until it was a one-on-one between Heliod and myself.

This was where I started to reassert control of the game, because I was able to reliably accrue bodies to block with, and draw more cards the Heliod could, to the point where he had to cast Cleansing Nova to wipe both boards out just despite having more powerful pawns to lose.

Afterwards, I manage to achieve a combo of Syr Konrad and Bontu's Monument, with Carrion Feeder as a sacrifice outlet, Pitiless Plunderer for mana, and Gravecrawler to achieve infinite cast and death triggers to melt away the rest of Heliod's impressive life total. No matter how much life one has, it is always a finite number.

While I ultimately combo'd into a win, Heliod was top-decking at that point while I was still able to use cards like Skullclamp for card draw. Odds are I would have taken the game over just through attrition, but having the ability to finish the game off quickly just saved us all the time and heartache. That said, it's conceivable that Gitrog could have taken over if they were luckier, or Heliod might have taken me out if I couldn't block enough of his damage. Anything can happen in a game of EDH, so you need to watch out.

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