The Flyin' Lion Tries Commander

Posted in Serious Fun on September 16, 2014

By Bruce Richard

Bruce's games invariably involve several friends, crazy plays, and many laughs. Bruce believes that if anyone at your table isn't having fun, then you are doing it wrong.

This was going to be good.

We'd just played a game where Andrew got the win by comboing out. Not some dirty, two-card, instant-win combo, but it just wrapped up the game quickly and left everyone with a wish for a good Commander game. Everyone chose their decks accordingly, and we got started.

Describing this game by jumping right to the game play...just doesn't do it justice. To get a sense of how grandiose it was, you need to understand the atmosphere, picture the scene, know the players. Let's get you up to speed.

It was Sunday afternoon at Grand Prix Boston. Our group of gamers enjoyed a morning, and now afternoon, of casual games before everyone headed home. Andrew, Adam, and I had just finished a game and drafted Becca in to make up a foursome for a promising Commander game. The four of us had spent a good portion of the Grand Prix together, with a handful of other Commander players, setting up at various side tables, out of the way of the main event, playing one game after another. I had only met my new friends in person for the first time that weekend. I'd had varying contact with each online before the weekend, but that was our first face-to-face encounter.

Krond the Dawn-Clad | Art by Zoltan Boros

Becca is a quiet player (or perhaps the rest of us were just loud) who enjoys the game. She was most happy when her deck's theme came to the fore, or when she was getting the chance to make a big, memorable play. Becca followed the game but without the intensity of someone who is focused on the win. She would watch the other game playing next to us, but would snap her attention back to our game just as something big was about to happen. She is a veteran Commander player who understands the flow of the game better than I do.

Andrew enjoys the interactive nature of Commander. He was constantly engaged in the game. He built his decks with an eye to taking advantage of his personality and charm. We played a few games over the weekend and each of his decks relied on his ability to convince another player or players that what he wanted was also in their best interests. I suspect he runs other commanders that don't demand this, but those were the ones I saw and they were well-suited to his talents. As someone who likes to see interesting things happen in Commander games, I proved to be particularly helpful throughout our game. While relying on his talents, his decks also allowed him to constantly be involved, no matter whose turn it was, so he was constantly active.

Most of you know Adam as Adam Styborski, the writer of Thursday's Command Tower. "Stybs" stayed at my house for the GP and we spent most of the weekend slinging cards together. Adam wants everyone to be having a good time while he crushes them under his heel. He's another personable guy, and the games I played with Adam were always fun and interesting.

For Sunday, we set up in the VIP section. It was a quiet space with nice tables and chairs; there were even a few snacks available. It was the perfect place to hang out for an epic game! With time winding down, it was likely going to be the last game of the weekend for us, so we all wanted to make it count. The decks came out, and I got my first look at my opponents' commanders.

Becca was running Oloro, Ageless Ascetic. This guy is newer, but he has already proven that he can be a nightmare, depending how you use him. I wasn't sure what Becca had planned, but I expected all sorts of lifegaining shenanigans. Each of the players were kind enough to send me their decklists.

Becca's Owloro, Ageless Ascetic

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Oloro, Ageless Ascetic
99 Cards

Andrew was running Edric, Spymaster of Trest. I would later see Edric's attempts to manipulate players to attack others was a theme throughout his card choices. At the time, I was expecting some Simic nastiness, but discovered something curiously different instead.

Andrew's Political Enchantress

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Edric, Spymaster of Trest

Stybs's commander was Pharika, God of Affliction. He had built it specifically for the games he expected to find at the Pro Tour in Portland. The coverage squad tends to be a little more cutthroat than your average Commander group, so he had ramped up the power of the deck a bit. He was concerned that he may have gone too far, but after the game we all agreed that it was probably just right.

Pharika is an interesting choice, since she can really mess with opponents' graveyards. This can lead to a variety of ways to build decks. You can try to control what is in your graveyard. If you want certain cards to loop regularly, Pharika can likely make that happen. If you want to prevent others from using their graveyards as resources, you can snatch away their cards permanently. A third option involves spreading 1/1 deathtouch Snakes to several players, grinding many games to a halt. While Adam was prepared to do a little of each, with the focus being on his own graveyard, I was just curious to see how a commander new to me would play out.

Stybs's Pro Tour Pharika

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Pharika, God of Affliction
99 Cards

I chose a Krond the Dawn-Clad deck. The deck was another creation of Judson Gruber. I went into more detail relating to how the deck was built in a prior article. If you're interested, check it out there.

Krond was an interesting choice. There are several other commanders that interact with Auras, and do a far better job of it than Krond. Zur the Enchanter and Bruna, Light of Alabaster jump to mind. However, they also draw significant fire because of their ability to simply take over games and/or wipe out opponents in one fell swoop out of nowhere. Krond decks have a low profile online and are not seen as a real threat. I prefer to keep a low profile in my games, so this appealed to me. I knew I wouldn't have time to build Krond from scratch, so I asked for suggestions and Judson Gruber provided me with an entire Krond list. Jud's theme required there to be cloaks in the art.

GuDoug's Capes and Non-Sleeved Cloaks

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Krond the Dawn-Clad
Artifact (2)
1 Godsend 1 Staff of Nin
99 Cards

The early turns went as you might expect: plenty of ramping while Oloro did his thing in the command zone. I'm curious if Marchesa, the Black Rose decks will become a regular occurrence in Commander games. Giving some powerful creatures a way to get bigger and return to play repeatedly, all the while giving you a built-in excuse to attack the Oloro player, might not be a bad thing.

By turn seven, the board had developed. Plenty of land for each of us (more for some than others), and a few smaller creatures there to chump in case of a massive hasted fatty and to further add to the land count. Becca had been hitting players with small fliers that no one was able to block. It was into this battlefield that I dropped Krond. The following turns delivered 8 damage to Becca and 18 damage to Andrew. At this point, Andrew and I started to work together. He understood that I could kill him with a swing from Krond, but neither of us was ready to see him leave the game yet. It was already clear he had ways to make Krond better, and as long as I wasn't swinging at him, it was in his best interests to help Krond along.

The next big play was Stybs dropping Deadbridge Chant. He recounted a previous game where someone emptied his graveyard, leaving him nothing to search. At least it was nothing until he sacrificed one of his creatures. The almost-empty graveyard gave him a lot of control over recursion possibilities and made the Chant a nightmare in that game. In our game, things went a little differently. Adam got the chance to search a couple of times...then Andrew bounced the Chant back to his hand. When Stybs played it again, he was left with 21 cards in his graveyard. At one point in the game, there were 37 cards in the graveyard![1] Unfortunately for Adam, he mostly found lands to put onto the battlefield. By this point, mana wasn't an issue, so it wasn't the best use of the Chant, but an extra card each turn (even if it was a land) is still something.

With Adam getting Deadbridge Chant in play and his position starting to ramp up, and Becca starting to see some density of permanents on her side as well, Andrew and I started working more in lockstep than before. I only had a couple creatures in play other than Krond, so I was vulnerable. Andrew's life total in the teens wasn't looking all that strong either. It was at this point Andrew enchanted Krond with False Demise.

He knew full well that he wouldn't be getting Krond. As my commander, I can choose to put him in the graveyard or the command zone, so enchanting him with False Demise was probably not the optimal use of the card. It did mean that Krond was enchanted, though, and could take out permanents. Rather than eliminate Andrew, I looked at my other two opponents and saw an opportunity to attack Becca. She was having none of it and blocking with chump blockers, but I was exiling permanents and killing blockers, so there was some upside.

I couldn't pick on Becca exclusively, since I hadn't decided whether she or Adam was the bigger threat. The problem was that I knew Adam would have the removal for Krond, so I was hoping to draw something that would protect him. When that didn't happen, I decided it was time to force Adam to use up a removal spell, so I sent it at him. He had the removal spell. Instead of putting Krond in the command zone, I sent him to the graveyard and False Demise triggered, giving Krond to Andrew.

This was a bit of a surprise to the others but it made sense to me. I was confident that Andrew wouldn't attack me with it, so why not leave Krond on the battlefield if I could? Paying eight mana was something I could do to get Krond back, but there were other options in my hand and multiple threats on the board seemed a better plan.

Unfortunately for me, Becca chose the next turn to play Order of Succession, and she took Krond from Andrew! I used the opportunity to take Sepulchral Primordial, mostly to stop getting hit for 5 every turn.

Stybs looked at the board and realized Becca was the threat. Her life total was into the 60s and she had most of the threats on the board. Andrew and I were still several turns away from death, but if either of them made a concerted effort, we would be gone in short order. Stybs attacked with several creatures, forcing Becca into blocks she would rather not make, leaving her with little ability to attack, and returning Krond to the command zone.

I had little going on in my deck, so I got Krond back onto the battlefield and equipped Godsend to him. It isn't an Aura, but giving the big 6/6 flier +3/+3 and the ability to exile blockers seemed like a good thing. Becca seemed to think so, too, and Krond was once again hers.

It was at this point Becca realized she needed to pull out the stops if she wanted to survive through the next turn. A Storm Herd can really help make that happen. I believe Becca was at 54 life at that point of the game, so there were plenty of flying horses on the battlefield. The tables looked like they had turned. If she were to get an attack phase with the Pegasus tokens, I expected Adam, and Andrew or I, would be dead.

Adam opted to play Pernicious Deed to save his skin, once again wiping the board. I wondered if he considered playing it for less and getting rid of just the Pegasus tokens, but he had plenty of mana, so wiping the entire board was not a problem. That was quickly followed up with Kokusho and things were turning dire for the rest of us. Throughout all of this, Andrew was trying to make Adam's life difficult, playing bounce and whatever counters and destruction he had, but it was all delaying. Kokusho was activated twice in the late game, leaving Andrew and me both at less than 10 life.

Becca was building up some defenders again, but Adam played Overwhelming Forces against her and left her defenseless once more. I was unable to block the Primordial that had found its way onto the battlefield again and died. Andrew was the next to go, fighting on for another turn or two, hoping Becca would be able to pull off something. Adam then turned his plentiful forces against Becca and, even with her gaudy life total in the 50s, didn't take long to claim victory.

The game was a great way to wrap up a wonderful Grand Prix Boston weekend. It had some great back-and-forth play that ended with a strong deck having the answers needed to take the win.

Bruce Richard


[1]In case you are wondering, made choosing a card at random from his graveyard fairly easy. [Return]

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