It's another weekend, and another exciting session of commander with my table. Going with neither tutors nor budget has been working wonders for the table, with everyone having a noticeably better time than they were previously. Without the added consistency of tutors, the threat level has evened out.
This week, we managed to get a solid 4 rounds at the table, with a healthy mix of colors in each matchup.
Our first match was a 3-player setup, while we waited for the other 2 players to arrive. I piloted an Elsha of the Infinite build, and my opponents were Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder and Uril, the Miststalker.
The match was pretty quick, with each of us taking our first few turns to accelerate our mana since our commanders were all five-drops. Fortunately for me, I also managed to eek out a turn three Rhystic Study to get a lot of early game card draw. Unfortunately for both myself and Uril, Endrek Sahr managed a turn four Grave Pact, which hurt since both of us were creature-light decks that focused on our commanders.
I managed to turn this unfortunate circumstance to my favor by playing a Time Wipe to save Elsha and kill the other creatures... which ultimately didn't work since Endrek Sahr sacrificed a creature in response, but their Grave Pact did kill Uril, who was indestructible thanks to their enchantments. They tried to save them with Remove Enchantment, but I managed to Mana Drain it with the excess mana I had from my mana rocks.
In the next few turns, I had managed to recast Elsha and get a few planeswalkers on board in the form of Narset, Parter of Veils and Jace, Wielder of Mysteries. Uril also managed to reestablish their side by recasting Uril and Retethering all of their destroyed Aura to them. Thanks to the ever present threat of Grave Pact, which was still on the board, I managed to convince Uril to direct their aggression to Endrek Sahr to buy some myself some extra time. Poor Endrek Sahr didn't survive, but that wasn't my problem.
The next turned was all I needed to change my fortune. I had Foundry Inspector in hand, but I was still waiting for the remaining piece of my combo. Thankfully, I had just managed to obtain a Cyclonic Rift, which would be able to save me and set Uril back significantly. Using Narset, I was able to get the last piece of my combo: Sensei's Divining Top. However, Uril had enough mana open that if they had a removal spell, my combo would be stopped in it's tracks. With that in mind, I waited one more turn to see if I could guarantee my victory.
This ended up going exactly as planned. Uril was hurting for cards, and tried to cast Rishkar's Expertise until I reminded them that Narset politely locks them out of extra card draw. Once they swung in, I played my Cyclonic Rift and they tapped out to replay Uril. Without enough mana to do anything, I told them the game was over.
With Jace already on board, Sensei's Diving Top, Elsha, and Foundry Inspector go infinite, allowing me to draw through my whole deck. With Foundry Inspector on board, I can cast Sensei's Divining Top for free, and use it's tap effect to draw the top card of my deck and put it back on top instead. Since Elsha lets me cast it from top, this results in drawing through my whole deck and using Jace's effect to win instead of lose. Tapped out, and hurting for cards, Uril could do nothing but surrender.
Our fourth member joined in as we were finished up the first match, and we reshuffled for another round at the table. This time, I deployed a new tutorless brew of Marisi, Breaker of the Coil. Endrek Sahr and Uril reprised their roles while our friend brought in a deck based on a new commander: Sedris, the Traitor King.
This game was a difficult one for me. I don't remember a lot of it, but the finale sticks out because it dramatically tilted the game in Sedris's favor. When the rest of us had established a decent board, and after throwing a ton of creatures into the graveyard with Windfall, Faithless Looting, and similar effects, Sedris played a Living Death that set the rest of us so far back that it was impossible to recover.
That didn't stop us from trying, but our efforts seemed to only make the situation worse. I had to write down the exact chain of events because otherwise I would have forgotten. After Sedris was replayed from the Living Death, Uril tried to set them back by casting Beast Within. Once Sedris said that their commander would stay in the grave, we all knew we were in trouble. On their turn, they used Animate Dead to bring them back, then used Victimize on the Beast to resurrect Chainer, Nightmare Adept and Sepulchral Primordial.
Using their Primordial, they resurrected my Gisela, Blade of Goldnight, in the grave due to the previous Windfall. Since everyone else was already hurting for resources we were all in a bad spot. After they played Feldon of the Third Path to start tokenizing their It That Betrays in the grave, the remaining players quickly surrendered.
At this point, the Endrek player wasn't able to continue due to time constraints, so while they bowed out, our other player who just arrived took their place. I held onto Marisi for one more game, while our new playing brought in Saskia the Unyielding. Sedris switched over to their Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion deck, and Uril was traded in for Korvold, Fae-Cursed King.
And once again, I was barely in the running for most of this match as was Saskia. Arguably, Saskia was in a worse position than I was because they had managed to draw aggro from Korvold by targeting them when the Neheb player was ahead on board with their commander equipped with Sword of the Animist and Hammer of Nazahn, with Combat Celebrant and Tyrant's Familiar alongside it.
With Neheb with such a strong position, and all of us taking on a ton of commander damage to them, it looked like they were going to take the lead. That changed once Korvold, after deploying their commander, played Wave of Vitriol. The resulting sacrifices increased their power up to 21, and with the extra cards that came with this boost, Korvold swung straight into Neheb and killed them instantly. Unfortunately, that same play absolutely crippled the rest of us to the point where we couldn't mount a defense, and the table fell shortly thereafter.
As the night drew late, the Korvold player had to withdraw since they needed to get ready for work. Since the remaining three players were in the mood for one more round, we just had a three player game where I went back to Elsha after being resoundingly crushed as Marisi twice. Saskia moved onto Chulane, Teller of Tales and Neheb moved onto a deck based on the Gitrog Monster.
What actually ended up happening for most of the game was Chulane and I double teaming the Gitrog Monster. On the very first turn, the played Field of the Dead, which set the tone for the rest of the match. Using the Gitrog Monster and Oracle of Mul Daya, they managed to play a massive number of lands. The resulting army of tokens was creating a massive threat for the both of us. That's when I managed to arrive at an Austere Command on top of my deck to clear board. Sadly, it also destroyed their World Shaper, which brought a ton of lands out of their graveyard.
This was especially bad because we knew Gitrog had a Torment of Hailfire in hand thanks to Oracle of Mul Daya showing it to us before they drew it. Our only fortune was that we had counterspells in hand and Gitrog knew it, so they couldn't commit to it. In order to properly set up for this eventuality, they played Boseiju, Who Shelters All.
Knowing we were basically in it together, Chulane and I got to work. At the end of turn, I had a Mana Drain at the top of my deck, which I could play with Elsha, but I had nothing that could take care of Boseiju. That's when Chulane, after cycling through their deck with their commander's ability and an army of little creatures, finally arrived at a Beast Within. After confirming I had a counterspell, which was true at the time, they destroyed Boseiju and once again stopped Torment of Hailfire from taking effect. However, at the end of their turn, Gitrog Putrefied my Elsha.
Now, at this moment, I had a choice. I could play the Mana Drain to save Elsha, but that was the counterspell I told Chulane I had open and it Gitrog would logically conclude that I could no longer stop their Torment of Hailfire. Since I otherwise had a full hand, and I never said the counterspell was on top of my deck, the only real answer was to bluff my way out of this and let Elsha die knowing that it would open up Gitrog to a win if they called me on it.
Fortunately for Chulane, they didn't. Unfortunately for me, they instead dumped the rest of their mana into building up an army and swinging at me for lethal. Once my deception no longer mattered, I revealed the truth and gracefully bowed out. This left Chulane to fend for himself against Gitrog's army of zombies. Since he had a Frilled Mystic, he had to keep enough mana open to use it against Torment of Hailfire, but luckily for him Chulane and Lotus Cobra were keeping him rich in mana, and Panharmonicon and Guardian Project were filling his hand with cards.
Surprising enough, despite having an army against them, they managed to keep just enough mana open to stop themselves from dying, and won by casting Approach of the Second Sun twice, winning the game and snatching victory from the jaw of defeat.
I'm happy with Elsha's overall performance, but I'm disappointed that Marisi got overwhelmed both matches. I want to keep giving my kitty a shot, but I'm not sure what I can do to the deck to make it more effective. Of course, it could also just be a function of the meta.