Last night I played two games of Commander. In it of itself that isn’t strange - it’s one of my favorite ways to play Magic with friends. I trekked up to the Upper West Side with Andrew to join one of his playgroups.
Here is where things start to veer from the normal course.
First off, I only brought one deck that featured Green and Black - my favorite color combination up to this point (and I didn’t even play it). Second, Andrew had warned me that this group was a little more cutthroat than my usual experience so I should come prepared. With that in mind I brought two decks that have the ability to go up against stronger opposition: Sek’Kuar, Deathkeeper and Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest.
Sek’Kuar is one of my many graveyard based decks but this one is focused on two card combos. Stitched together with Victimize, Ever After, and Birthing Pod, the deck wants to assemble Nath of the Gilt-Leaf and Sadistic Hypnotist, Triskelion and Mikaeus the Unhallowed or Mephidross Vampire. I recently added Winding Constrictor and Walking Ballista to the deck and was eager to give it a go. Shu Yun is a trinket based deck, using cost reducers like Etherium Sculptor and Herald of Kozilek to fuel massive Shu Yun swings, Nettle Drone pings, or Altar of the Brood triggers.
I didn’t play either of them. Instead I brought out two Mirage Legends in Zirilan of the Claw and Hakim, Loreweaver.
First up was Zirilan. I had been wanting to build a mono-Red deck for some time and finally got around to putting it together. I like the idea of setting rules for combat so the deck features cards like Angel’s Trumpet, Avatar of Slaughter, Bedlam, Dictate of the Twin Gods, and more. The deck also runs a nice suite of Dragons and ways to keep them around beyond the Zirilan exile trigger. Conjurer’s Closet and Sundial of the Infinite do the heavy lifting here. Finally the deck is an excuse to run Dragon Tempest which can deal a surprising amount of damage on its own.
The game set up with Andrew on Karona, the False God “Symmetry”, me on Zirilan, Tony on Diochan, Artful Beauty, Colin (our gracious host) on Dragonlord Atarka, and Mike on Narset, Enlightened Master. I was able to develop my mana early thanks to Myriad Landscape and Magnifying Glass and stuck an early Flameshadow Conjuring. I got my first taste of the Spikey nature of the table when Mike stuck Burning Sands and then played out a bunch of mana rocks.
Yeah, it was going to be one of those games.
Thankfully I had Hellkite Tyrant in hand and got it into play, copied it with the Conjuring, and stole all those rocks. When Mike inevitably cast a board wipe I was in fine shape to start recovering. A copy of Chandra, Pyromaster kept drawing me into lands so I was able to build up my board again all the way up to Avatar of Slaughter. Hoarding Dragon found me a Conjurer’s Closet to go with my Humble Defector - a combo I didn’t realize until everyone stared awkwardly at the two cards. With Mike at one I passed up the opportunity to Earthquake him out of the game only to lose that Earthquake to Incendiary Command. Andrew and Colin eventually fell to Tony stealing Andrew’s Hydra Omnivore, leaving the two Red mages squaring off. I was at 9 facing down a lethal attack next turn and ripped a Conquering Manticore. I could cast it and steal one of Tony’s creatures to put him to exactly one.
If only I had cast that Earthquake. Instead I offered up the hand. Still, a second place showing with a deck outside of my comfort zone and one built “for fun” was better than I expected.
Avatar of Slaughter
Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs
Koth of the Hammer
Into the Core
Jaws of Stone
Slice and Dice
Barrage of Expendables
Dictate of the Twin Gods
Altar of Dementia
Sundial of the Infinite
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Temple of the False God
Next up was Hakim, Loreweaver. I had recently broken down my Bruna, Light of Alabaster deck and had planned to build a Aboshan, Cephalid Emperor “flying tribal” build. Hakim was always going to be a part of the deck but then I saw a post about how you could stack Hakim’s upkeep ability multiple times and I was smitten. I put something together this week and decided to give it a go.
Game two started with Tony on Reyhan, Last of the Abzan/Ravos, Soultender, Colin on Iroas, God of Victory, Mike on Oloro, Ageless Ascetic, and Andrew on Sharuum the Hegemon. This time around I got off to a very slow start and didn’t hit my third land until turn 6 or 7. I managed to stick a Claws of Gix, Sword of the Animist, and Compulsion but was far behind everyone else. Colin had played Serra’s Ascendent which Mike stole and managed to buff his life total into the 70s. Andrew thinned his library with Solemn Simulacrum and Blade of Selves while Tony played out solid value creatures. I was at 20 life and barely a threat when I manage to stick a Nevinyrral’s Disk. Somehow I survived long enough to activate it and reset the board, leaving Tony with a massive Stonehoof Chieftan. Mike followed that up with Humility and Andrew with his own copy of Disk. I waited patiently, just playing lands, as the second Disk blew.
Then things got really crazy. Mike cast Magister Sphinx a number of times, targeting everyone else but me. Tony was the first to fall as the aggro he had thrown at Mike came back to bit him. Colin sat down building out a massive board with Avacyn, Angel of Hope, Iroas, Sun Titan, and Repercussion. Andrew fell to Repercussion triggers and Mike would have fallen a turn earlier if not for my Evacuation. He recast the Sphinx, sending Colin to ten. I played out Hakim and got Drake Umbra on there. Colin went crazy and cast a ton of stuff, attacked Mike for lethal, and fetched up a land with Arid Mesa. Going down to a single untapped Plains he passed the turn, leaving up Avacyn to block. I cycled a Lonely Sandbar and saw Zephid’s Embrace. I drew for my turn and saw Tricks of the Trade. I had plenty of mana at this point. I put Tricks on Hakim, then gave him a warm Embrace and swung in for exactly 9.
I had no business winning that game but boy did it feel good.
Hakim, Loreweaver turned itself into a surprisingly fun and competitive deck. I do not doubt that one of the reasons I survived the night was because I was an unknown quantity - if these guys knew how I played there’s a chance I would have been eliminated earlier both times. But I played to my outs and managed to win a game. I also forced people to read old obscure cards which is probably my second favorite thing about Commander.
Archetype of Imagination
Rayne, Academy Chancellor
Fact or Fiction
Scour from Existence
Honden of Seeing Winds
Flight of Fancy
Ordeal of Thassa
Sigil of Sleep
Tricks of the Trade
Claws of Gix
Helm of the Gods
Sword of the Animist