The Fated Encounter

Posted in Serious Fun on March 6, 2012

It wasn't long ago that I was at Grand Prix Baltimore and felt like Ke$ha: I was heading out for a good night and boys were blowing up my phone. Technology I only understood as science fiction in episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation is today an everyday convenience, and my "smart phone" lets me do very dumb things, like put out a general call for Commander games at a Grand Prix with attendance in excess of 1,500 players (not counting those who didn't register for the main event).

It turns out there are quite a few players who enjoy Commander at these things. Who knew!

I apologize to everyone who rolled over to get in a game but found I was already full; keep heading to Grand Prix and I promise you'll have a another chance to smash me. I know I'm planning to go!

It must have been fate, or clever Twitter monitoring, that brought two players to me. It was time for Ghave, Guru of Spores, and the cumulative effort of the readers to Serious Fun, to take Commander to task.


    Through the Fires and Flames

As you recalled, the final winner in voting was a Ghave, Guru of Spores deck with a strong sacrifice theme layered onto a powerful mana base built from nonbasic lands.

Adam's Ghave, Guru of Spores—Sacrifice and Nonbasic Lands

Download Arena Decklist
Planeswalker (1)
1 Garruk Relentless
100 Cards

This deck has plenty of mana, plenty of token producers, and plenty of ways to make those extra creatures into everything from extra cards to Doom Blades. I love it, as I should: I built the pieces that were merged together to form it!

While decks are awesome, Commander for me is more often about the players I'm enjoying the game with.

Amanda, the @sagegnosis of Twitter, was packing a very focused blue deck, powered up by Commander Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir. When asked if the deck could counter spells, Amanda merely shrugged, giggled, and feigned ignorance.

Jorge, of the less imaginative @jorke550 of Twitter, brought one of my favorite legendary creatures to the party: Edric, Spymaster of Trest. I don't know where Trest is or why Edric is the spymaster, but the prospect of producing a bucket of tokens to pin-prick opponents on my way to drawing lots of cards was appealing.


I have a brief aside. When I created the initial Commander voting I assumed I had a spare copy of both Ghave and Vish Kal. Of course, this proved untrue. Thanks to everyone at the convention center Friday and Saturday who helped me find both!

Our game started like so many Commander games: Amanda and I hit all our early land drops as Jorge, starting strong with a Leyline of Anticipation, sputtered on two for a few turns, although he had a Lightning Greaves to show for his effort. At five lands or so, I decided to start easy by casting Ghave, Guru of Spores. After a moment of consideration, Amanda played the old-school original Counterspell.

Amanda had some justification for the all-stop on Ghave. "I kinda feel bad but I'm trying to remember what's in your deck. I'm pretty sure he's bad for me."

"He probably is," I admitted with a shrug.

Jorge hit a third land and didn't wait to use it by snapping down his Edric, Spymaster of Trest, slapping Lightning Greaves onto it, and poking Amanda for 2 to draw a card. Amanda and I both didn't play anything on our turns, so Jorge got to repeat it again immediately before he cast a Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary. Amanda tried to Hinder it, but Jorge busted out an unexpected Force of Will.

Just like that, mana was no longer a problem for Jorge!

"Oh, it's on now!" Amanda warned Jorge.

Amanda continued to just play a land and pass to me, but with my seventh land in seven turns I tried for Ghave again. Success!

Apparently, lots of mana is a good thing.

At the end of my turn, Jorge added a Trygon Predator to his team, then used it to take a flying stab at me. Amanda, having been burned losing the counterspell war, leapt in with a Venser, Shaper Savant to bounce the Trygon, slowing down Jorge.

Amanda wheeled to me quickly, so I just kept on the path of the first part of our plan and made some tokens via Hornet Queen. At the end of my turn again, Jorge popped out a Solemn Simulacrum, then tried for a Fact or Fiction.

And it was on.

With Jorge tapped out, Amanda's response of Withdraw seemed surreptitiously timely—sending Solemn and Edric to hand—and the follow-up Snapcaster Mage for one of the counterspells in the graveyard sent the Fact or Fiction packing. Jorge just passed his turn to Amanda, who only added a Nevinyrral's Disk to the battlefield. After poking both of them with my evasive tokens and their flying Queen, I cast a Woodfall Primus that resolved to snuff out Jorge's Lighting Greaves.

At the end of my turn, Jorge dropped down the three bounced creatures: Solemn Simulacrum; Trygon Predator; and Edric, Spymaster of Trest. His main phase featured a newfound Rhystic Study, then a quick attack at Amanda. While the Snapcaster Mage traded with Solemn, the Trygon hit home and took out the Disk.

But when Jorge went to end his turn I had a surprise: thanks to an abundance of mana I was able to sacrifice Woodfall Primus twice (by taking a +1/+1 counter off Ghave to create a Saproling, only to immediately sacrifice the Saproling to put a +1/+1 counter on Woodfall Primus to cancel out the –1/–1 counter from persist), powering through Jorge's Stifle to take out his Leyline of Anticipation.

At this point, having enough mana and tokens to power it through, I could have used Woodfall Primus to chew through lots of my opponents' lands. I chose not to, and instead selectively picked apart things I found annoying (although I will always pay for an opponent's Rhystic Study). Having the power and capability to do something doesn't mean you always should, even if it seems like it would win you the game.

I wanted to play an awesome game, and I set the tone by leaving their resources relatively untouched; I only demolished little engines that pulled players ahead. "With great power comes great responsibility," Uncle Ben once told Peter Parker, and it's worked out pretty well for our friendly neighborhood web crawler.

Amanda added only an innocuous Jace's Archivist and let me take a turn to poke them both again—Jorge to 25 and Amanda to 26. And with Edric in play I got to draw cards too (Thanks, Spymaster!) before closing the turn by recycling the Woodfall Primus to take out Rhystic Study.

Jorge had some other tricks in mind, and at the end of my turn he cast Worldly Tutor for Consecrated Sphinx. It was the obvious and immediate play on his turn.

Passing to Amanda, a devious plot was set into motion. With a tap of Jace's Archivist, everyone drew seven cards—the number in Amanda's hand—followed by Jorge choosing to draw a full twenty-eight more thanks to the Sphinx.

But Amanda had also discarded a Mindslaver to Jace's Archivist. One Argivian Restoration later and Jorge was under a Mindslaver for his following turn. I had drawn into Crop Rotation, so I transformed something into Volrath's Stronghold, which let me put my discarded Primeval Titan on top of my library.

Not surprisingly, Prime Time drew out a Cryptic Command from the hand-flush Jorge, which also returned Ghave, Guru of Spores to my hand. By tapping out, though, I knew I could swing through without worry, and Jorge was left perched at a precarious 15 life. I added a Spawning Pit before letting the turn go.

Amanda then took over for the turn Mindslavered (It's a verb, really!) from Jorge. With an eye on naughty and nice things, Amanda did quite a job of making the most of the "extra" turn:

The turn then went to Amanda, who finally brought in Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, followed by Knowledge Pool and an activation of Jace's Archivist. I responded by cycling the Woodfall Primus through the Spawning Pit to ensure the Knowledge Pool was left unknown.

Now, if you recall, there were more than thirty cards still in Jorge's hand, and Jace's Archivist's ability to discard then draw the highest number is mandatory, unlike triggers from the Sphinx. While Amanda and Jorge had huge hands...

Jorge actually had to draw more cards than there were left in his library. Boom! Jorge was down! At the end of Amanda's turn I used my Stronghold to recycle Primeval Titan to the top of my library—and therefore to my hand on my turn.

But the game was about to end expeditiously.

With a furrowed brow and evil grin, Amanda declared I would lose on the next turn, but I had my turn left to figure out a way for my own win. With about thirty-odd cards in hand to look through, I found two of the most powerful I could have in the situation: Mikaeus, the Unhallowed and Unburial Rites.

As Amanda had said earlier, "It was on."

I cast Mikaeus, the Unhallowed. Amanda responded with Gush, then responded to that with Mystical Tutor to put Force of Will on top of Amanda's library. Mikaeus was countered.

I then cast Unburial Rites, targeting the countered Mikaeus. Amanda rifled through thirty or so cards in hand and introduced me to Thwart. Unburial Rites was countered.

Do you remember how I said I was hitting my mana every turn and had an abundance to work with? That didn't stop happening, so I had enough to use the flashback on Unburial Rites. Amanda looked at a bunch of tapped lands, shifted through the massive hand looking for another free counter spell (Pact of Negation, perhaps?), then frowned.

Mikaeus, the Unhallowed entered the battlefield.

With the threat of doom looming overhead, I decided to pull the trigger on a Mikaeus-based combo I shared a few weeks ago. Cycling Woodfall Primus through Spawning Pit, with Mikaeus in play, I chose to meet assured doom with overpowering force, and wiped away all of Amanda's noncreature permanents.

Unable to capitalize on the massive hand without any mana, Amanda knew the jig was up. My follow-through attack forced Amanda to block with what few creatures were left, and my next turn would have sealed the deal. Victory!

    The Pick of Destiny

If you're wondering whether Ghave, Guru of Spores is an unbeatable machine, have no fear—the obligatory follow-up game the next day featured Amanda again, as well as Andrew (@a_magrini) and Omar (@itomarhernandez). Despite a first-turn Burgeoning for Andrew, and plenty of token making on my own part, Omar crafted an incredible battlefield before wringing our lands out of play through Keldon Firebombers.

Nice job, Omar!

All said, I really enjoy this deck we've made together, and I'm pleased to have seen several (okay, many) suggestions and adaptations from readers who also enjoy putting Ghave in command. Thanks for making this awesome!

This leads me to this week's poll:

Do you want to build another deck with Adam?YesNo

It's pretty simple: Build more decks, or no? I'm not speaking to any specific format, as I think that's something you could certainly vote on, but if "build by community" is an approach you'd like to see again soon I'd be glad to make it happen!

Last week's poll was about how I should share my cube with you.

Which Limited format do you want used for Adam's cube?
Winchester—the two player Draft format47721.9%
Regular 6-8 player booster Draft114152.3%

While there was another slight glitch in the poll, it's overwhelmingly clear that an old-school draft is preferred! Awesome!

And, yes, I did get a handful of emails asking about Rochester Draft. While I share appreciation for that method, I want to be able to spend some time discussing my cube and cards. Recapping a full Rochester is much more detailed than I want to cover at first blush (see Kelly Digges's awesome feature article linked above), but I am looking at the logistics to see how to make it happen someday!

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