This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series This Olde Guildhouse

 by Dan aka chaosorbFTW
dan

“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.”
-Friedrich Nietzsche

No matter how fervent and dedicated a recovering addict is, the smallest slip can cause a relapse. Hang out with the wrong people, stop reminding yourself that you have a problem, overlook a 10 mana enchantment’s ability to corrupt. Any of these situations can change things in the blink of an eye; suddenly you’re at a table while 4 other players watch you combo off. It’s a sobering thought that it can happen to any one of us. Here’s the story of how it happened to me.

omniscience
I was one of the lucky few who had a chance to purchase a Commander’s Arsenal. I’ll admit that as a try-hard, the set was exactly what I was looking for: very playable foil cards, printed in a small number. It was like hitting a jackpot. Then I heard even better news: my LGS was holding a tournament where the top 8 would draft the set, from cards to battle marks. I wanted to play, but I also felt a little greedy trying to win additional cards from a set I already owned. After some deliberation, I decided I would play, but my goal would be to pick up the cards that my playgroup wanted if I won, and distribute them as best as possible if I managed to top 8. With that mission in mind, I set out to build a deck that would work for the tournament.

The Rules

Like some commander leagues and a few tournaments I have seen, winning here was based on a point system. Just comboing off with Azami or Damia wouldn’t win much, there needed to be a much larger element of interactive play. Based on the rules listed here, I decided I wanted to play my old standard: Sen Triplets. I realized that while the deck is powerful, it was not unfairly so. It doesn’t take infinite turns, it doesn’t ramp to insane amounts of mana, and it doesn’t prevent other players from interacting. It is just very adaptive and hard to beat, and I thought a good choice for staying in the game as long as I could to gain more points.

The List

Sen Triplets

Chromatic Lantern
Grim Monolith
Mana Crypt
Sensei’s Divining Top
Sol Ring
Thran Dynamo
Tormod’s Crypt
Gilded Lotus
Scroll Rack
Mind Slaver

Force of Will
Dismiss
Desertion
Mana Drain
Misdirection
Spell Crumple
Fact or Fiction
Jace’s Ingenuity
Stroke of Genius
Opportunity
Swords to Plowshares
Vampiric Tutor
Mystical Tutor
Capsize
Pull from Eternity

Akroma’s Vengeance
Army of the Damned
Black Sun’s Zenith
Bribery
Decree of Pain
Deep Analysis
Demonic Tutor
Grim Tutor
Temporal Manipulation
Vindicate
Wrath of God
Time Spiral
Timetwister
Entreat the Angels

4 Swamp
3 Plains
5 Island
Academy Ruins
Arcane Sanctum
Azorius Chancery
Bojuka Bog
Command Tower
Dimir Aqueduct
Drowned Catacomb
Flooded Strand
Glacial Fortress
Godless Shrine
Hallowed Fountain
Marsh Flats
Maze of Ith
Polluted Delta
Riptide Laboratory
Scrubland
Strip Mine
Temple of the False God
Tolaria West
Underground Sea
Watery Grave
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Cavern of Souls
Tundra
Isolated Chapel
Celestial Colonnade
Mystic Gate

Aven Mindcensor
Snapcaster Mage
Voidmage Husher
Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
Vendilion Clique
Venser, Shaper Savant
Memnarch
Rune-Scarred Demon
Restoration Angel
Akroma, Angel of Wrath
Angel of Despair
Sphinx of the Steel Wind
Karmic Guide
Consecrated Sphinx
Mulldrifter
Phantasmal Image
Blightsteel Colossus

Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Moat
The Abyss
Phyrexian Arena

I liked the list, but I wanted to see if I could do something more fun. I wanted to try and add a new twist to a formula that had worked for me for some time. I had been playing Show and Tell and Omniscience combo in Legacy for a while, and I thought it would be fun to mix the new blue enchantment in to try and speed up my games and allow me to earn more victory points. While I originally toyed with the idea of making a full on Replenish style deck, I ended settling on tweaking my list to add Omniscience and Academy Rector as a way to help cheat the hefty enabler into play. Those decisions made, I decided it was time to start testing the deck out, and see if I could streamline it any more.

Out: Entreat the Angels and Mindslaver
In: Omniscience and Academy Rector

curio

After some testing, I loved having Omniscience in the deck. It gave me an edge against other blue decks, and it allowed me to deploy late game threats starting on turn 5 or 6 at times. I was never worried about tapping out, and I was able to be both proactive and reactive, as my mana pool was no longer a consideration once I had slammed the my newest toy onto the table. I did find that several of my other card choices were marginally worse now, and decided to cut Capsize and Pull from Eternity from the deck. The former was just no longer as good as I wanted it, as it was generally a late game hero in the original list. Simply put, the deck just seemed to not get into a very late game anymore. Pushing to get Omniscience into play earlier on made the deck play more aggressively, and I found that I was much more of a midgame deck that could go long, as opposed to a deck that had to win by attrition and a deep endgame. Cloudstone Curio was my first replacement, and it was perfect. It let me reuse all of the enters the battlefield creatures, and I could theoretically answer any spell or threat once I had a few key creatures on the board. I also decided I could justify adding a Tendrils of Agony to the list, as I would be casting a large number of spells and could storm out an opponent if need be with relative ease. I was still convinced at this point I was running a control list with a combo element added in, and thus felt comfortable in telling people that my deck was “fair”. Hindsight being what it is, the inclusion of Tendrils of Agony was probably the point that the list flipped from control to full on combo mode, however there was one more change to be made to the list before I was complete with my tinkering.

Out: Capsize and Pull from Eternity
In: Cloudstone Curio and Tendrils of Agony

ms

I knew after I made my last change that I had gone over to the darkside, and gone back to full on Try-Hard mode. I wanted a way to make sure that once Omniscience hit, I drew nothing but pure gas for the rest of the game. Since I would no longer care about my lands or mana base, I was going to make sure I never drew them. Mana Severance stripped all of the resources I no longer needed from the deck, made sure I was hitting draw spells and threats, and enabled my Tendrils of Agony plan to go off without a hitch. I was sure now that if I made an all in move with the deck, I would be able to power out a lethal storm spell to kill anyone left at the table without needing to worry about drawing poorly after I started to combo. Anything I drew would be a spell, and it would allow me to add one more to my storm count. Case closed, nail in the coffin: I was running a full on, unfair combo deck. Happy with my list, if not with my backslide, I sleeved up and prepped for my Sunday afternoon date with destiny. Or at least I hoped a foil Sylvan Library

Out: Mystic Gate
In: Mana Severance

Turnout was good for the tournament, and we had 5 pods playing 3 individual rounds. Each 4-5 player group was have 90 minutes to complete their game, and then point would be tallied and the next round would begin. I was really pleased with myself when round 1 began, and the table was one of the most friendly I had been at for some time. We got into a lot of early banter, and I really ended up not doing very much in the game. I cast a few spells, played a few creatures, and generally interacted with the rest of the players in our group an incredibly large amount. The deck played very well, and I was really pleased with the changes I had made. While I had expected to be constantly pushing the tempo at the table, the game turned into a much longer war of attrition than I had anticipated. Once our 90 minutes were up, the game had come to almost a complete draw. No one had been able to gain any noticeable advantage, and while a few points were awarded around the group, I finished my pod with 0. Not to worry, with 2 rounds left I was confident I could make something of the day.

Round 2 was a mirror of my first group. It actually included the player who had given me the most problems, and since we each had an idea of what the other was trying to do, our sights were set on each other from the get go. We had a quicker game the second time around, but yet again I came up short. A lethal series of pumps from Kamahl, Fist of Krosia later, and the table was dead. Still no points for me, and no real chance to top 8. I was frustrated at my play, but I was having an excellent time. It was all the excitement of a tournament setting, yet there was so much more interaction and camaraderie than I could have imagined. I had expected a group of players running degenerate combos, broken interactions, and unfair decks. What I found was 20 or so people who had come to just play Commander with everything from the original pre-constructed product to fully altered pet decks. The sense in the room was that while there were prizes on the line, they were there to as a second thought to the games. Have fun now, and see if it gets you enough to win was the order of the day. As I shuffled up for my final round, I felt confident knowing that I had built a good deck, and was enjoying myself. Whatever else happened, it was going to be a memorable Sunday afternoon.

restorsd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My last pod was a group of 5, and it was the most surprising game of Magic I have played in a very long time. Unencumbered by prize-hunting at the end of a long day, I decided I would just have fun and see  what the deck could really do if I pushed it. My opening draw was perfect, and I chained Island into Sol Ring into Mana Crypt into Timetwister. I hadn’t seen that opening combo since I had stopped playing Vintage many years before. I was shocked at how many people I had to explain the blue sorcery to, as they had never heard of the card. The table seemed to think it was a cool spell, and after resolving I checked my new 7 to find the Academy Rector that had eluded me all day long. Two more turns around the table, and the mini-moat was on board, steering attacks firmly towards my opponents. By our fifth turn, I had drawn a way to dispatch the Rector myself, and was ready to go all in. I cast Angel of Despair, searched out my enabling enchantment, and played my first free spell: Bribery. I was planning on getting the biggest creature I could find in my opponent’s deck, but I ended up deciding at the last minute on Rune-Scarred Demon. Now, truth be told I knew there were some borderline dirty interactions in my deck, but I had never really pieced out exactly what I would be able to do once I lined everything up perfectly. His demon tutored up mine, which tutored up Restoration Angel. A quick blink later, and I had Cloudstone Curio on board. I had a final ace in the hole in Venser, Shaper Savant in my hand, and once I cast that and explained the interaction, a funny thing happened. Instead of being angry or frustrated, the table was pretty amused. I was going to pump my storm count, kill the pod, and move into some casual games afterwards, but several of the players stopped me. “So, you can cast anything in your deck, right?” I agreed that pretty much yes, I could do what I wanted to now. “Then lets see how many points you can get!” I was a bit taken aback, as I had not expected the group to be behind my plan to cheat every spell in my deck into play, but they universally were. From the Indiana Jones achievement to Bases Loaded, I ended up casting almost every card in the deck, and wracking up 22 points in my last game. More thrilled at the prospect of getting to make insane play after insane play than the prize, I had the most fun I have had playing a game in a very long time. At the end of the game, the table was laughing and calling over other people to see what was going on. It had turned from what could have been a very unfun game into a sideshow event, and everyone was enjoying it.

At the end of the day, I ended up picking up a good number of cards and items for my finish. I had actually ended up second after my monster game, and had gotten most of the cards I wanted. Even better, several others from my playgroup had done well, and had also gotten the cards they wanted. I did indeed give away most of my winnings, as that was the promise I had made myself to justify playing what I thought would be a downer of a deck. In the end, it was nothing near to that reaction. I am always amazed by the ability of the casual community to take games in stride and enjoy new, exciting experiences. Mix in a group of competitive Standard and Legacy players at that table, and the response to my combo would most likely have been much less affectionate. I’m not saying that my decklist wasn’t a step backwards in my journey to casual play; it was anything but a fun, casual build. However it did let me put on a good show for a lot of people, and I think my backslide gave me some new insights. Enjoy the game going on around you, don’t get caught up in the score, and remember why you’re playing. I don’t know if I’ll be regularly breaking out that deck again, as a repeat performance of that 15 minute turn will probably not be appreciated the same way. On the other hand, I don’t think I’ll be taking it apart any time soon either, as it’s always nice to have a reminder of where you came from. Besides, every once in a while it’s always nice to break out a big Magic trick in front of a new audience.

Series Navigation<< This Olde Guildhouse 03 – Repeat Offenders