Sunday, September 29, 2019

Magic: The Gathering - Commander Night Playback - Gatewatch Oathbreaker and Scarab God Backbreaker

After having to cancel our Commander night for 2 weeks now due to scheduling conflicts, my playgroup was finally able to get together for a night of Magic: The Gathering.

But before we get to the EDH games, we started by doing an event that we had been planning for a while: Gatewatch Oathbreaker. For those unaware, Oathbreaker is a relatively new format where players build a singleton deck using a Planeswalker as a commander, and a signature spell for the Planeswalker.

The idea was simple, take all current and former members of the Gatewatch, and assign one at random to be the build-around for each player. Then, we'd just play an Oathbreaker game with the decks we built.

The Oathbreaker I was given was Liliana, and I built a deck the uses Liliana, Untouched by Death to recur zombies out of my graveyard in a pseudo-Aristocrats type of build. The other players in attendance used Gideon of the Trials, with Gideon's Triumph as the signature spell, and Jace, Wielder of Mysteries, with Paradigm Shift in the signature spell slot.

Unfortunately, much of my strategy with Liliana went out the window the moment Rest in Peace his board since I didn't have a way of dealing with it and so many cards in my deck hinge on the premise that I can recur cards from my graveyard. The opening from Rest in Peace was enough to give the Gideon player the win in one game, but the fact that Jace didn't have a graveyard made it easy for him to clean up the second of our 2 rounds, both of which had a Turn 2 Rest in Peace.


To help me alleviate some of the salt from my ignoble defeat, we transitioned to playing our usual $300 Budget Commander games. This time, I had brought a deck built around one of my old favorites from the days of the Magic Arena closed beta: The Scarab God. As one might expect, it was a Zombie Tribal deck, that aimed to take advantage of my commander by creating a token of tokens and eternalizing choice cards from every players' graveyard. My opponents ran Rankle, Master of Prankles, and Roon of the Hidden Realm as their generals respectively.

And as far as starts go, I had one of the best starts I've ever had in a Commander game. On my first turn, I played a Swamp into a Sol Ring into a Talisman of Dominance, putting me miles ahead of the other players.

Low on land drops, the Rankle player opened with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. This was something I was able to take advantage of quickly, because when I played Liliana, Death's Majesty on Turn 2, I manage to use her +1 to dump my Crypt Ghast from my deck to my graveyard, which I resurrected on Turn 3.

Liliana later ate a removal spell, but by that time she had already gone more than enough work. Rankle was never able to properly setup and by the time Roon hit the board, I had a Shriekmaw waiting to send it back to the Command Zone. And with my mana acceleration, I was able to combine Scarab God's upkeep trigger with Endless Ranks of the Dead to lock the game down.

There are few experiences in Magic that compare to generating a mass of tokens, and then Scrying 9 cards deep before drawing for turn. The life loss combined with my ability to so finely tune the top of my deck made it no contest.


I kept on Scarab God and the Roon player stayed consistent for the next match, but the Rankle player swapped out for Chulane, Teller of Tales. Though my opening was less explosive than the last round, I was able to still put up a strong start, getting consistent land drops and casting Scarab God on time.

That said, it was clear that I was about to start running out of cards in hand. Fortunately, I had lucked into a Necropotence that I was able to force onto the top of my deck with Scarab God's trigger ability. Unfortunately, Roon has a counter spell waiting in the wings that denied me my card advantage.

It was then that I realized that the nature of both of my opponent's decks could be turned to my favor. Both Roon and Chulane are Bant commanders than rely on easy to recur ETB effects. Using my general's activated ability, I could exile creatures for their graveyards (or my own) to create copies of them and gain those powerful ETBs for myself. For example, creating a 4/4 copy of Roon's Eternal Witness, which I used to reclaim my Necropotence. Even if Chulane was able to destroy it immediately afterwards with a Reclamation Sage he tutored for using Eladamri's Call, I was still able to pay enough life and acquire enough cards to get a second wind.

Combined with the host of lords I had out, my horde was able to quickly overwhelm the board and win me the game, both with Scarab God's ability and with combat.


It was getting late, but we decided we had time for one more round. This time, Chulane and Roon decided to keep consistent, but since Scarab God had already proven itself a bit stronger than I wanted it to be, I decided to use that as an excuse to try a quirky deck I had been tinkering with, in a color combination I usually don't play.

Despite how much he let me down during out Pre-Con night, I decided that Sevinne, the Chronoclasm deserved a second chance, in a deck that could hopefully take better advantage of him.

Sadly, by the time I was ready to start playing the game with my God-Eternal Kefnet, Sevinne, and an Approach of the Second Sun sitting on top of my deck thanks to an earlier Brainstorm, Roon had already lucked into an Avenger of Zendikar and Craterhoof Behemoth combo that won them the game. I feel like there's something to Sevinne, but I'll need to experiment further with him.

All in all, it was a very fruitful night, and despite my earlier saltiness at the way our Oathbreaker games went down, I had a fun time. Everyone won at least one game and/or got to see their deck "do their thing" at least once, and that's best a playgroup can ask for.

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