For this week, one of our playgroup couldn't attend due to personal business that needed tending to. When factored in with the schedules of a few of our other members, it was a night of tons of 3-player games.
It was an interesting change of pace, quite literally. The accelerated speed of our games meant we got more rounds in than usual. And also, by sheer coincidence, the two decks that I bought to bear this session also happened to be in Esper colors.
The first match of the evening had my dust off an Aminatou, the Fateshifter deck that I had built a while back, but never played. My opponent's were Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder and Surrak Dragonclaw with their army of big boys.
The problem I experienced in this match, which became a recurring pattern with my Aminatou deck, was that I was accruing a ton of value by blinking cards like Disinformation Campaign and Agent of Treachery, but I lacked in ways to cash out on the value because my opponents would build up board states that I could not swing into.
This also meant that I was drawing the ire of the rest of the table without mounting a sizeable enough defense to protect myself from the retribution. So when Surrak untapped with Ilharg, the Raze Boar, Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle, and a Genesis Hydra, they weren't going anywhere else but towards me. I was quickly overwhelmed and defeated.
This left Endrek Sahr to basically clean up after me using a combination of Dictate of Erebos and Yahenni, Undying Partisan combined with their thrull army, to remove all of the threats mounting again them and quickly takeover the game, winning in no time once I was dealt with.
In the next round, I didn't feel like playing Aminatou a second time, so instead I ran one of the new Brawl commanders, just not the overpowered ones. No, rather than build a Chulane or Korvold deck, I opted to create a big ol' horde of artifacts and enchantments for Alela, Artful Provocateur.
Facing me in battle were Obzedat, Ghost Council and Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons and her withering forces.
Luckily for me, Alela wasn't running into the same problems that Aminatou was. In fact, I more or less had the game on lock when I saw my opening hand. As the other two players were setting up, I used a turn two Arcane Signet to play Smothering Tithe or turn three, and Alela on turn four. Since we were still so early in the game, nobody was going to pay the mana to prevent me from accumulating treasure.
Oddly fitting, I played All The Glitters on Alela. While this did put both of my opponents in severe danger, the truth was that I merely wanted to keep my life total as high as I could for fear of a massive swing out of nowhere. Using my remaining mana for the turn, I played Mirrormade as a copy of Smothering Tithe to keep the money flowing.
It was the next turn where I revealed my turn plan by casting Revel in Riches. By this time, I was swimming in treasure, so unless my opponents could destroy my enchantments or myself in the next table rotation, victory was mine.
While they didn't succeed, Hapatra had an excellent play with Grismold, the Dreadsower combined with Harbinger of Night and Hapatra to swing in for a good chunk of damage. A good effort, but not enough to stop me, and once my turn came around I won through the power of wealth and capitalism.
Indeed, the lesson here is that just having a large amount of money is a victory in and of itself. Jeff Bezos would be proud.
Game three has Alela reprised her starring role on my side of the field. Facing me down was Zada, Hedron Grinder and their goblin pals and Titania, Protector of Argoth.
While I didn't realize it when I put her onto the battlefield, Hushbringer ended up being one of, if not the most important card on the board. As it turns out, both of my opponents were relying heavily on creatures with effects that trigger upon entering the battlefield. The fact that Hushbringer remained on the board for the duration of the game actively prevented them from leaning into both of their decks core strategies as much as they wished. In addition, the lifelink from both her and Alela allowed me to staunch the bleeding from Titania's and Zada's massive swing into my face.
As Titania was producing Elementals and Zada was trying to generate a board state, I was flying over them with my Faeries, enhanced by cards like Ethereal Absolution and The Immortal Sun. In addition, I was able to use Bolas's Citadel to gain extra value through both free land drops and a couple of choice top decks at the cost of a bit of life. Once Titania was knocked about, cleaning up Zada didn't take much longer.
Since we were all still keen on playing some more, we just kept rolling with it. I kept playing Alela, and the Titania player wanted to give their deck another shot, but Zada switched out so that they could start slinging spells with Vial Smasher, the Fierce and Kydele, Chosen of Kruphix.
This one wasn't so lucky for me. Titania got an early start with a turn two Burgeoning, which they took advantage of for early ramp since with I nor the partners could just stop playing lands. In the next couple of turns, as the rest of us deployed all of our commanders, Titania dropped an early Nissa, Vital Force, which they promptly ult'ed the next turn to draw cards for each land drop.
Combined with Burgeoning and Titania herself, they kept them flush with lands, card draw, and Elementals. Meanwhile, using Kydele and her god, Kruphix, God of Horizons, the pair her accumulating a ton of stored mana. When Titania finally played their Craterhoof Behemoth, they didn't have enough power to knock both of us out, so they directed just enough ire at me to defeat me since they couldn't handle my flying Faeries.
Sadly for them, this proved to be a fatal mistake, because this was when Vial Smasher and Kydele combined to great effect. Using the extra mana at their disposal, they played Torment of Hailfire, where X was equal to 20. Since there was only one opponent, Vial Smasher did 22 damage to Titania, and then they didn't have enough permanents and cards in hand to survive both the damage from Torment and the inevitable attack. Just like that, the victory that was all but assured had turned into a spectacular, glorious defeat.
Having stated by desire to give Alela a chance, I switch back to my Aminatou deck for this next round. Vial Smasher and Kydele were swapped out for another partner pair of Tana, the Bloodsower and Ravos, Soultender, backed by a legion of powerful creatures. While Titania didn't win, they made a strong enough splash that they wanted to switch off to play Oona, Queen of the Fae.
Though I once again wasn't able to deliver a victory with Aminatou, there's no denying that my presence significantly warped the board. Using Disinformation Campaign, I significantly hampered both players by forcing them to discard several cards out of their hands. The partners were able to handle that well enough, but it crippled Oona severely.
My other big play was Ixidron when both Ravos and Oona were on board, turning them into 2/2s with no name and no text. That said, this created the same problem it did last time where I was drawing so much ire without a board state to defend myself with.
Once I fell, Oona went down in short order since they lacked the cards required to fight back when the partners were swinging in with Tana and Elenda, the Dusk Rose. It was a quick match.
The final match was between my Aminatou, Gishath, Sun's Avatar along with their extinct buddies, and Yarok, the Desecrated.
What I learned in this match is that Yarok is truly terrifying. The creature a powerful engine using The Great Henge, Deadeye Navigator, Gonti, Lord of Luxury, and Gary Asphodel to draw cards, take out cards, gain life, and ultimate finish us off.
While I tried my best to disrupt it using cards like Merciless Eviction, Duplicant, and Disinformation Campaign, the fact that I was an easier target for Gishath through most of the game, combined with the sheer overwhelming resiliency of Yarok, proved to once again be Aminatou's undoing.
Alela performed even better than I hoped she would, and I can't deny that the Revel in Riches win still makes me smile. However, I cannot help but be disappointed in how Aminatou did. She generated value, but lacks the defense and resiliency that I like from my value decks like Muldrotha, the Gravetide or Teysa, Orzhov Scion. Maybe a miracles build would work better, but that's not the kind of deck I want to run.