Sunday, September 8, 2019

Magic: The Gathering - Commander Night Playback - Hapatra and Vaevictus Come Close, But No Cigar

For this weekend's Commander night at my playgroup, we decided to lift the restriction on budget so that we could play whatever cards we wanted to in our decks.

And in doing so, I was able to play a very special deck, and another one that I had been thinking about for quite some time. As a whole, the table had a blast and we may consider going budgetless more regularly again.


During the first game, I ran a deck that I had actually won in a raffle hosted by Dan Krause on Twitter. He participated in a Rotisserie Commander Draft at Magic Fest Vegas 2019 and held a charity raffle where the winner received the deck. I won, and promised to play at least one match with it completed unaltered, and this was that match.

My commander was Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons. My opponents were running Emrakul, the Promised End, Zedruu the Greathearted, and Azusa, Lost but Seeking.

As far as starts go, mine was fairly rough. For the longest time, I was flooded with forests but no swamps. Although I had my Golgari Signet in play for black, it was never safe to play Hapatra because I had no one that I would be able to swing into to trigger her ability. The situation only grew more dire when Emrakul's player managed to cast Geode Golem and swing in the following turn at my empty board, since no one had the ability to kill it off, allowing her to cast Emrakul for free. Even worse, she had managed to put Akroma's Memorial out on the table a few turns after Geode Golem.

What an adorable little *problem*!
Fortunately, my dire situation had turned to my favor because nobody saw me as a threat (and, in fairness, I wasn't). Due to past experience, the Emrakul player took control of the Zedruu player and sought to sabotage them. It didn't work, because Azusa's Hall of Gemstone, which had been adversely affecting Zedruu's playability, also interfered with that plan.

We all thought the Azusa player was basically out of the game once Emrakul directly her 13/13 Flampling might towards them, but they managed to set up a strong defense with an Emrakul of their own, along with a Vorinclex to hamper our ability to cast spells. In an act of petty revenge, a concept that I am strongly in favor of, they opted to control the Zedruu player instead of the Emrakul player, because Zedruu had used Vedalken Plotter to take their Gaea's Cradle and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. In all likelihood, this cost him the game, because he was unable to stop Emrakul's Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, which destroyed his Emrakul and fulfilled the promise spoken of in their commander's name.

Pictured: The reason people dislike Eldrazi
While all this was going on, I was mostly a passive observer, but I had finally dropped enough lands and acquired the right cards to make my move. The Zedruu player went before me though, using Gilded Drake to take control of Ulamog. She was going to take control of Emrakul, but I had chosen to forewarn her that my plan was to clear the board. Following through on that promise, I enacted my Decree of Pain.

Reciprocating my earlier forewarning, Zedruu opted to swing in at the Emrakul player with "their" Ulamog the next turn. This freed me up to finally start taking control. Using Demonic Tutor, I searched for and summoned Liliana, Dreadhorde General, using her -4 to deal with Ulamog and the other creatures that had hit the board in the time since the last turn. Although Zedruu was able to keep the aggression off of her thanks to Island Sanctuary, I was able to stay a float with a synergy between Tendershoot Dryad, Yawgmoth, and Dictate of Erebos. With the aid of Gary Asphodel, I was even able to gain back much of my lost life and kill the Zedruu player.

It was close, with Emrakul having only 3 life remaining at the end. However, the aid of Akroma's Memorial and the ability to take control of my turns was too much for me to bounce back from. I was a single turn away from victory, but alas. Still, it was a well-played match and I have no regrets. I'm proud that I was able to make a strong impact despite being out of it for most of the game.


The Emrakul player had to withdraw from the second match due to other obligations, but we were able to bring in a new challenger who had shown up too late to join the first match, who brought with them a Golos, Tireless Pilgrim deck. The Zedruu player decided to replay their deck, and the Azusa player swapped over to their Kambal, Consul of Allocation deck.

As for me, I played a commander that I don't bring out often because it tends to generate a lot of hate, and rightfully so: Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire. The deck is designed to take advantage of both the sacrifice mandate and the ability to cheat out the top card of the deck while including cards that protect Vaevictis and give him haste to swing in as much as possible.

I had a decent, if not great start by playing a Lantern of Insight on the first turn. My plan was to it use to pseudo-control what everyone else was getting out of my future Vaevictis swings, keeping them from accidentally playing their win-cons for free. However, as the turns went on I found myself again not playing much of anything. My field consisted of Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, Vaevictis, my Lantern, and land.

Kambal and Zedruu were doing nothing more than building up their walls. Kambal had Hissing Miasma and Norn's Annex to stop people from swinging at him directly, and Zedruu wasn't performing anything aggressive enough to inspire ire from the table, mostly playing reactively since they lacked proactive plays and red mana.

However, with Azusa on the board, a fetch land in the grave, and Crucible of Worlds, the Golos player was very quickly accumulating large amounts of land, with incidentally card draw due to Tatyova, Benthic Druid. However, both her board and my own were destroyed by Zedruu's Austere Command. To further complicate the matter, she also used her only her source to play Pramikon, Sky Rampart, making me the only possible target of the Golos player.

A very powerful way to control the flow of combat in a deck that needs it.
And of course, the Golos player also quickly recovered from their board wipe and played powerful creatures like Bringer of the Red Dawn. I could deal with it using my Decree of Pain... except I was stuck at 7-mana. Even if I had the 8 mana required to recast my commander, the threat would be the Golos would use Red Dawn to take control of it and swing in, further ruining the game.

The rest of us had tried to start mounting a defense, but by the time we were able to it was far too late. Using Craterhoof Behemoth, and effects like Aminatou's -1 that let her bounce it over and over again, Golos succeeded at knocking each one of us down one at a time, the Sky Ramparts and Kambal's life total stopping her from doing it all at once. I was the first to fall, followed by Kambal, and Zedruu never arrived at the board clear she needed.

A popular win condition in many decks
And a good way to keep getting its benefits
I wonder how different that game would have played out if I had managed to convince Zedruu to counter Craterhoof when it first entered the board, but there's no use crying over spilled milk. Overall, it was a solid match that I had a ton of fun with. I think Vaevictis isn't going to draw as much ire as I was afraid it would it I play him correctly, something to keep in mind for next time.

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