This entry is part 16 of 23 in the series Savor That Commander Flavor

By William aka BlueRam


“We will grow an army large enough to withstand the Izzet’s madness.”
             -Trostani (Growing Ranks)

I’ll be honest with you. I was going to write a nice narrative this week that paralleled my experience at the Return to Ravnica pre-release, with a title drop and everything. But a few days before the deadline, I decided to scrap it in order to give what I feel is a truer sense of just how special the event was for me. There’s a time for epics recounting the class of demon and dragon, but I’m afraid that today’s story mandates that I recount what actually happened.

Don’t worry, there’ll be a narrative next week (different from the one I was going to post), but today I’m going to recount the amazing events that transpired, and introduce you to the amazing general who blessed me with her very hands.

What’s that? You already know who I pulled? Well if that’s the case, I’d like to direct your attention to this special apparatus in my totally not-digitized hands.


We’d all been waiting rather impatiently. The store was hectic as players walked around, waiting for early events to wrap up and new events to start. My sister, brother, and I were sitting with Gary at a table, just hanging around and messing around with our unopened guild packs.

My sister, Audrey, was excited to be at her first pre-release, and she was desperately hoping that Rakdos, Lord of Riots would appear for her loyalty to the his sacred cult. My brother, David, was hoping for similar action with Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius in his Izzet pack. Gary identified with the Izzet guild, but went with a clean Azorius pack, for the power of detain more than anything else. I’ll never understand Spikes.

I played Azorius the night before at the midnight event, so I knew detain was one of the more powerful mechanics, but I had reserved today weeks in advance for my favorite guild in the set: Selesnya.

Boros and Orzhov might by my favorite guilds overall, but with them being held back until GateCrash, the Selesnya conclave was getting the bulk of my support. I’d decided to play Azorius the night before in order to scout out the environment, figure out which cards were gold, and which ones were “kill-on-sight” good. Everything was set to have a good run.

I’ve written before about hoping to pull legends, like Audrey and David were now. This time, I can honestly say that there weren’t any commanders I was dying to have in this set. I knew I would get a copy of Rakdos for Kaalia at some point, but I was lukewarm to the others.

It’s not that I didn’t like them, but the new legends weren’t doing a whole lot to spark my deckmaster’s imagination. Isperia was, I felt, an improvement on the original, and I would’ve liked to have pulled her the night before. She was a great fit for the “Guild Wars” format I wanted to try, but that was about it.

Some people call Niv-Mizzet’s new design “lazy” and “uninspired”, and I can’t really argue with that. I think there’s a certain amount of deceptive cleverness to it, and it’s certain got a bit more power than Niv 1.0, but I never really identified that well with the dracogenius (Though there IS a nice story from a commenter regarding Niv at the end of the aforementioned “Guild Wars” article).

Then there was Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice…what could I say about her? I was underwhelmed by her preview. I was hoping for a card that worked well with tokens, and she does that, but I was looking for an addition to my Rhys, the Redeemed deck (which I hear is pronounced REE-SE, like Reese’s Peanut Butter cups), and I felt that Trostani was an upgraded Essence Warden at best. The token armies I build up are small: 1/1 soldiers and saprolings. My style of token making was multiple chumps with a plethora of pump effects and anthems. Trostani would help me make an additional soldier a round, sure, but that was a marginal effect at best.

On top of that, I already had a Sigarda deck. As a general rule, I don’t have any more than one deck in single color combination, but I made an exception for Sigarda because the deck I could build with her was so radically different from what I was doing with Rhys. Trostani didn’t have that luxury. She couldn’t even make her own tokens. I deemed her a roleplayer that I would try to find room for in Rhys and left it at that.

Returning to the present, we were finally given the okay to open our guild packs, albeit roughly 40 minutes after we were supposed to start, but I digress.

After the precision cutting required to preserve the fantastic boxes that were the guild packs, everyone started tearing through their packs. I started with my guild pack, hoping that I might get at an Angel of Serenity in one of the regular ones.

But no amount of laminating could stop my joyous outcry as I revealed Trostani to friends and family. Pulling a legend at a pre-release is always special, but pulling one from your guild pack must mean that fate is involved. But even knowing that fate, or luck, or whatever, was on my side, nothing could have prepared me for the second Trostani I pulled from the regular packs. She was quickly followed by a treasure trove of Selesnya cards, from the three Centaur Healers, and the Selesnya Charm to the towering Risen Sanctuary. I’d even gotten an elemental token. If I’d gotten Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage too, I would’ve thought I’d died of boredom during the long waiting period.

I was absolutely stunned. Things just weren’t adding up. I never got this lucky at pre-release. I had to go through five events before I pulled Sigarda, and the Yeva I found at M13 was a rare I’d gotten after I bought her starter deck (I chalk that up to karmic irony). Yet her she was, double Trostani. What could this mean?

The answer I came to was simple: clearly I had been hand-picked by Mat Selesnya herself. She had chosen me to be her new herald, and she’d blessed me with pure beauty of Trostani. She was truly mine to command, mine to be with…she was my new soul-partner, and I was the only one capable of properly wielding her untold might.

You don’t mess with a herald of Mat’Selesnya

When time on deck-building was called, I had been assimilated into the Conclave. I had shuffled my Selesnya deck, carefully placed into Selesnya sleeves while being carefully held within a Selesnya deck box. I was ready to fight for the chorus.

One round later, and I was 0-1 and cursing my stupidity. Never keep bad hands, never! This wondrous card pool was going to waste with my pitiful talents. I managed to pick up a win during the loss, so at least I wasn’t out of it. That, and the attendance was so large that I figured the store would be placing out to at least twentieth-place.

The next two rounds were much more favorable, as I swept both matches. Round three in particular was rather satisfying as Trostani unleashed three of the 8/8 vigilance, elementals onto the unconverted.

Round four proceeded very much the same way. The life-buff the three Centaur Healers were providing for me gave me enough cushion to survive the early onslaughts, and while detain is powerful in limited, the token production gave my opponent too many targets to stop any one threat, particularly when Trostani was constantly pumping out birds from Eyes in the Skies.

Trostani showed up in just about every game. The life gain was more than relevant, keeping me alive long enough to show my opponent what a Centaur Healer enchanted by Knightly Valor and Ethereal Armor could do. While I’d been focusing on weak her populate ability would be in multiplayer, it was absolutely brutal in limited. Knights, centaurs, and birds were swarming everywhere, and my opponent’s had little ways to answer them.

Every time I cast her, I would chant a silent prayer, “In the name of the Mother, the Daughter, and the holy tree of Vitu-Ghazi…”, arcing my hand over my head to represent the sun on the guild’s signet. (I will continue to do this until I die, for I REFUSE to believe that there wasn’t some holy trinity inspiration when Magic R&D Creative came up with her character). Every time she hit the board, my opponent would be genuinely impressed with her appearance before being genuinely frustrated at how big a hurdle she’d just become.

Enter Round five. This was the second-to-last round, and I’d just found out that the prizes were only placing to eighth. I’d already lost one match, and with this many people, a second loss would mean I had no chance of getting in on prize support.

I’d barely sat down for the first game when I’d been killed five-ways to Sunday by the hyper-aggressive Rakdos deck that took advantage of severe mana screw. (Note to self: DON’T keep bad hands!!!)

When I started game two, the same thing started happening. I was getting beaten down by cheap punks, and was coming dangerously low on life. But I had my secret hand ready. I was able to draw the forest I needed to play the Centaur Healer, and started to stabilize. The next turn top-decked another forest, and gave me the clear to herald in the arrival of Trostani. NOW I was in business. With Trostani out, my next Centaur Healer netted me an additional six life, before a Perilous Shadow, enchanted with Deviant Glee started crashing into me, pumping for huge and trample every turn.

I was still severely land strewn at this point, as Risen Sanctuary sat uselessly in my hand, along with my second Trostani. If I needed to, I could sacrifice the first one to block and plan the back-up, but I held that option back as a last resort. At this point, all I had on the field was Trostani and a double-enchanted Centaur Healer, complete with a pair of +1/+1 counters, compliments of Common Bond.

The shade slammed me turn, after turn, as I tried to dance around it. Without Trostani’s life gain, I would’ve been dead three times over in that game. But each time my opponent thought he had me on the ropes, a large creature or a populated knight token would come into play and provide me with further life buffer. I was just barely hanging on, even if I had to play my second copy of Trostani in order to survive. The surprise on his face after he’d thought she was gone for good was priceless.

Rakdos wasn’t drawing any of his kill spells, but he was dropping a land every turn, and pumping his shade more and more, beyond what I could handle. It finally cracked through my defense as I was forced to double-block the shade with Trostani and the Centaur supreme. He elected to kill the centaur once and for all, and I was left with nothing but Trostani on board, and an elemental in hand that I couldn’t cast.

Things were bleak, and I would be dead on the next turn. With everything riding on the next turn, I drew…and windmill slammed the seventh land I needed to cast the Risen Sanctuary that’d been sitting in my hand since the start of the game. My opponent threw his hands up, astounded and amazed at how he just. Couldn’t. KILL ME.

But alas, that was the end of my luck. I was forced to block with Trostani to keep the offensive power of the sanctuary in play. Rakdos dropped a pair of chump blockers he’d been holding back, and passed the turn. I swung with the sanctuary, was blocked, and passed before being killed in the next few turns.

I’d just been 0-2’d, and my chance of placing was gone. The game had been strung out for so long, that the round was just about to be called for time, after the first game took all of five minutes. It was the most physically exhausting game of Magic I’d ever played. I was much too tired to be angry at the mis-plays I’d made and couldn’t stand without feeling wobbly in the knees.

Gary had long since dropped and left by that time, as I texted him my standings. We agreed that I probably wasn’t going to place, but I decided to continue, regardless. I figured that if I could sweep my next opponent, and got lucky with some tie breakers, I might be able to squeak in.

My hopes were dashed as I lost game 2, even though I came back to win the match overall.

I packed my things, and watched David and Audrey finish their matches.

We hung around to see if I could have made it, but when I didn’t hear my name called for the eighth slot, we started to leave.

“William Hernandez!”

I stopped. The shop owner had been reading the prize placings in reverse-order, and somehow I’d gotten sixth! I looked around. A LOT of people had apparently thought the same thing I had: that there was no way to make up for a couple of losses, and dropped out. This had cleared the way for me to catapult straight to sixth, where I won three packs of Return to Ravnica, supplemented by 13 packs of M13.

I was, literally, jumping for joy with Audrey after I collected my prize. I hadn’t wasted Selesnya’s blessings! I’d actually won something! This had been the best finish I’d ever had at a pre-release BAR NONE. I couldn’t sing Selesnya’s graces enough, nor do I think I ever will be able to.

When we got home and opened the packs, we found a some pretty neat stuff in Garruk, Primal Hunter, Liliana of the Dark Realms (this one follows me EVERYWHERE, I swear), and Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord. This spoils of war were bountiful, indeed.

This story is a happy one, and I’m going to treasure it forever (I curse the fact that I didn’t bring a camera for photos). But it did raise a major problem for me. What was I going to do with my double Trostani?

I could use one for the “Guild Wars” deck I plan to build, but I always promise the legends I pull the chance to be at the helm of a commander deck, and the way Trostani played had at least earned her the opportunity to play in an actual deck, rather than a narrow-theme deck. But to do that, I would have to completely change the Rhys token deck I’d JUST finished….or would I? But that’s a narrative for next week.

As always, if you have any comments/questions/ideas for articles/etc, feel free to leave some comments down below, tweet my account @BlueRam1409, or send an email to my inbox at Wiehernandez(at)gmail(dot)com. I’m also “BlueRam” on the MTG Salvation forums, if you want to send me a message there. I’ll try to help with decks as best I can, as quickly as I can, but I’ll always have time to just chat or answer a question.

Join me next week as I grapple with Rhys and Trostani to see who will remain king of the deck, and who will remain a role player.

Until then, may you be blessed and hear the voice of the holy choir.

Series Navigation<< Savor That Commander Flavor 19 – Guild WarsSavor That Commander Flavor 21 – Sibling Rivalry >>