Another Story Circle

Posted in Top Decks on March 27, 2014

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

Many games of Magic are mundane. Creating stories is an exception.

Story Circle | Art by Alan Pollack

Unlike formats like Standard and Draft, where three games are meant to be played in under an hour, Commander is a multiplayer format known for games that go longer. While the complicated nature of the format slows things a step, it's also a function of playing with more than one opponent: there are now two, three, or more other turns to wait through until yours is up again.

But the format was designed with multiplayer in mind.

Legendary creatures. Big spells. Wacky cards and effects. The focus of Commander is creating stories, trying to ensure every game plays out in a way that's fun, engaging, and surprising. The different experience Commander provides is one of the reasons so many of us enjoy the format so much.

The other week, I asked you for your best stories, the moments and experiences that stand above all the games of Commander you've played. As usual, you didn't disappoint.

Of Legends and Lore

Stories come in all styles, and why a story will stand out to one player may not make it resonate with another. With the flavorful nature of game, it's no wonder flavor hits make sense, as Alex shared:

My best Commander deck story comes from my Prossh, Skyraider of Kher deck. It has plenty of good stories behind it. Sometimes, it's a ramp deck that powers into big creatures; other times, it's a Rock deck that grinds out opponents with value. But one game held a particularly serendipitous moment that I consider its defining play.

Over time, the deck has become something of a Jund superfriends fiasco, and so Xenagos, the Reveler found his way in. In some manner I can't recall (and this was before the deck had Doubling Season), he survived to six loyalty counters—enough to use his ultimate ability. In that vulgar display of power, Xenagos ascended, revealing Xenagos, God of Revels. I won that game off the back of narrative serendipity.

Xenagos, the Reveler
Xenagos, God of Revels

With savage regards,
Alex

Alex's Prossh

Instant (2)
1 Rakdos Charm 1 Beast Within
99 Cards

Sometimes, though, it's anti-flavor that takes the cake, as Matthew shared:

Commander is actually why I got back into Magic! I was living in Washington and flying to California to see my girlfriend frequently, and one day she introduced me to Commander when she and her friends regaled me with tales of having Commander "tea parties" involving Olivia Voldaren, Teysa, and Yeva.

Olivia Voldaren
Teysa, Orzhov Scion

The conversation led me to build a deck based on my favorite tribe: Kithkin! Here it is below:

Matthew's Karametra

Sorcery (2)
1 Cenn's Enlistment 1 Harmonize
Tribal instant (2)
1 Crib Swap 1 Surge of Thoughtweft
99 Cards

It's gone through some revisions since its inception, and it's not a super powerful deck, but I like its flavor—a few human heroes aiding the kithkin in defense of their town. And in general, that's how it goes. I sit quietly while everyone else assembles their massive armies, and then we meet with their army and my thirty or so Kithkin tokens.

However, my most memorable bout wound up being the most ludicrous. We were trading blows here and there, and a few of my friends at the table had decided that they'd simply wreck all the Kithkin that came into play. But they were leaving my enchantments alone, and I had a few Kithkin that escaped notice. So I played Springjack Shepherd with seven chroma and Parallel Lives in play. The shepherd was killed chump-blocking after that, but the fourteen Goat tokens became my last, best hope to stall.

...until I played Marshaling Anthem and I brought that stupid Shepherd back again.

That was the day that the Kithkin stayed home, but their Goats marshaled to war and won the day.

Ever since then, I make a huge deal every time I summon even a single Goat token. "WATCH OUT GUYS, I'VE GOT A GOAT!" And in general, people tend to react appropriately afraid.

Goats are serious business.

—Matthew

It's not just flavor wins that steal the spotlight. How decks play out can factor into making average stories turn out great, as Dan explained with a deck designed to not kill:

I play a Jhoira of the Ghitu deck that everyone both loves and despises because of my love for Scrambleverse, Warp World, and other crazy effects, along with a lot of card drawing and letting players play spells. The deck really has no win condition (the closest I think is Sphinx of Uthuun), yet I almost killed someone on turn 6.

I was playing a five-man game with my local playgroup, and the beginning wasn't very exciting. I then cast Wild Evocation to let everyone play some spells. The guy next to me, Rob, who plays a very serious and good deck, gave a small groan. On his turn I found out why: he Wild Evocationed into Enter the Infinite. He proceeded to draw his deck as we all freaked out because he could die soon! This wasn't supposed to happen! Luckily, he had an Elixir of Immortality to save himself, but I still can't believe killing someone with this decklist!

—Dan

Wild Evocation
Enter the Infinite

Dan's Jhoira


A deck like Dan's is what I would consider the archetypical "story-maker" deck: It keeps players with full hands, plays effects that get things into play for everyone, then applies a little randomization to ensure even the best-laid plans are transformed into something spontaneous. This style of deck is at odds with the approach many of us bring to the format—"Here's my plan. Can you stop it?"—but how often is our core plan as interesting as a more scattershot situation?

Bobby's Nin, the Pain Artist deck has a plan to help someone else win, but even that can be shifted with the right situation:

My Nin deck has one goal: lose. Don't try to win, help someone else do it. Blast their guys for just less than lethal and draw them cards, counter the other players' scary spells.

The first game of the first night the deck existed I sat down to a five-player game and set to work. I decided who I was going to help, tried my best to hide this decision, and subtly drew him cards and countered things that were aimed his way. However, my inexperience with the deck and dumb luck got the best of me, the player got too scary, and a collation of players took him down. So there I was, with no idea what this deck was supposed to do, staring down three players. I stayed alive for as many turns as possible until it hit me. It got round to my turn and I asked someone "Cards in deck?" then turned Nin and my mana sideways at his library for thirty-five. The other two players realized what was going to happen and tried their best to stop it. But a grip full of counter spells let me keep twentying libraries away. I went from directionless to winner in four turns.

Nin, the Pain Artist

The first time I play the deck and it doesn't even do what it's supposed to do.

—Bobby

Bobby's Nin


Some of the stories that we remember are those that are just for us, victories and come-from-behind moments that aren't a shared experience. Taylor's story is one I think all of us have had in some form or another:

My crazy story involves absurd lifegain. My favorite deck is Ghost Council of Orzhova, mainly for the lifegain. I was down to 3 life points. My opponent had Nekusar on the field, so using my Underworld Connections put me down to 1. But it was so worth the draw. It was Rhox Faithmender. With thirteen 2/2 Zombies (From Army of the Damned) ready to swing, I swung. My opponent set up blocks, apparently unaware of my Vault of the Archangel untapped with mana. After that combat phase, my opponent had a much smaller field and I had 53 life (1 + ((13 × 2) × 2)). A few turns later, a flashed back Army of the Damned and some other creatures and swung to gain more than 100 life with the Rhox Faithmender/Vault of the Archangel combo.

Rhox Faithmender
Vault of the Archangel

With the decklist here, I think you can see other ridiculous lifegain scenarios.

—Taylor

Taylor's Ghost Council

Planeswalker (1)
1 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
99 Cards