The Twenty Sided Store had its first meeting of the Commander League, and my god was it an event to behold. Thirty-six people crowded into the store, many of whom I have never seen play EDH, and some of whom I had just never seen. Going into the night I was concerned about the state of the meta; a wide-open EDH meta can be a hard thing to gauge, and I didn’t want to be the jerk. I shouldn’t have worried on that front, as plenty of other people stepped up to assume that role.

Here are the decks I brought, with a brief mission statement for each one:

Azami, Lady of ScrollsAzami is my suitcase nuke. She’s weirdly reliable, hard to disrupt, and she can generally hold the ground until she bothers to find a combo finish (usually of the High Tide variety). But my friends don’t enjoy playing against her, so usually she stays in the box. I only brought her for fear of a degenerate meta, but still didn’t pull her out when I ran into one. Lessons for the future, I suppose.

Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder—Mono-black ramp tends to be fun, even if you’re ultimating into some shady shenanigans. It’s one of my favorite decks, and I played it in a pickup game while we were waiting to begin. I won that game by comboing off a Sepulchral Primordial with Pandemonium in play; I got a loop by taking the blue player’s dead clones and popping them with the Grixis player’s creature-based removal, facilitating a reanimation loop that finished them off with the Pandemonium damage.

Adun OakenshieldWarp World! Between the first and second rounds I pulled out this deck to remind myself that a deck can be fun and win. It’s a brutal deck that ramps with effects like Heartbeat of Spring and Mana Flare, before Warp Worlding away a large number of tokens with the hope of hitting something like Akroma’s Memorial to allow for a gigantic swing. I beat a Zur deck and a Kaalia deck, one of which Forced my initial casting of my key spell and Damned the board, before I dropped an Anarchist and cast it again.

Edric, Spymaster of Trest—This was the deck I played in pod one. I was credited with a single point in the end, for having died with the fewest artifacts in play (one). Usually Edric is the perfect EDH deck; he draws fairly little aggro, he draws a lot of cards, and he lets me play fun come-into-play effects on my green and blue creatures. Here he was outclassed by Zach’s (of Drawing Live fame) Momir Vig deck that cast a turn three Jace, the Mind Sculptor followed by a turn four entwined Tooth and Nail. He later finished us with that Tooth and Nail, searching up Craterhoof Behemoth and Kamahl, Fist of Krosa. It was unpleasant, and it completely outclassed anything I was doing with Edric.

Zedruu, the Greathearted—In the second pod, I had the choice between pulling out Azami and pulling out Zedruu. I clearly chose wrong. I keep wanting Zedruu to do well, she’s a tribal fliers deck that runs a lot of cards like Skymark Roc and Firemane Avenger along with Lightning Angel and several Archons. It’s a fun deck, combat oriented, that doesn’t have any degenerate combos associated with it. It’s just a deck that draws well, gains life and plays fliers. I gained zero points that round, despite being the last one to die and gaining at least 40 life that game.

So that’s how the night went, and it highlighted a couple of things that I was worried about going into the whole thing. The points system was a little arbitrary and could stand to be adjusted, but it wasn’t the big problem. The problem, as is typical with a new EDH playgroup, is that other people are absolutely terrible. Here are some of the busted things that happened.

1) Zach’s whole Momir Vig deck. I love Zach and generally enjoy playing with him. Just, maybe not in EDH. I have mentioned in the past that I think it’s a little much to be playing Jace, the Mind Sculptor in EDH. But Zach also played the “I am going to be truthful to the letter of what I said” card early on when one of our opponents asked him if he would block Mindslicer if he swung in at him (if so, he was going to swing at the fourth player for the draw off Edric), and Zach convinced him he could swing in at him without fear of a block. The Jarad player swung in at Jace, though, so Zach double-blocked the Mindslicer leaving us all without hands, but him with a Jace left in play. All’s fair in love and war, I suppose, but I can tell you this: I wouldn’t have done it in his shoes. Even his kill was absurd, since he responded to one of the other players trying to put him on a clock by casting an entwined Tooth and Nail for Craterhoof Behemoth and Kahmal, Fist of Krosa, and just in case, he animated a few lands to make the Craterhoof overrun that much more lethal.

2) The girl with the Grave Pact/Debtor’s Knell lock. I used to play Grave Pact in all the EDH decks that could support it, before I realized that it was basically the least pleasant way to control a board possible in the game. It still pops up from time to time in decks that really want for an effect like that, but it’s no longer in Endrek Sahr, for example. So playing that alone was fairly brutal. Following it up with Debtor’s Knell, and then continually recurring a Fleshbag Maurader, is exactly the type of lock that makes the experience unpleasant for the rest of the table without actually winning the game. Losing two creatures a turn, with no way to disrupt the combo, is no fun! She died soon after, and was somewhat confused as to why the rest of the table was ganging up on her. Well, she was facing down two black decks and a tribal deck! What other way did we have to disrupt her combo if not through killing her?

3) Bloodchief Ascension and Sorin the Tenner. Unfortunately, the Debtor’s Knell lock was succeeded by a racked Bloodchief Ascension, supported by Anowon’s own Abyss effect. Bloodchief Ascension is just an unpleasant card to play against in EDH, since it usually turns on after a single time around the table, and cards hit the graveyard all the time in EDH. Still, we held out valiantly. The Ascension gained Anowon’s controller 36 life, 30 of it from me. Just when it was looking like I had a chance to turn things around, she dropped Sorin 1.0, and used it to knock my life total down to ten from 30. Which, as I have stated elsewhere, is something I believe to be one of the more antisocial things you can do in EDH. Two turns later, after I took a hit from a Nirkana Revenant and then gained some more life, she took me and my final ally out with a Profane Command that killed him and prevented me from blocking lethal.


Look, it’s not like I can’t compete on that level; I have a wide variety of decks and some of them are legitimately vicious. But I must play EDH for a different reason than most people. I play for experiences, for fun stories about games well played and great board states established through less powerful cards. The idea of Commander as some sort of Super-Legacy format is unappealing to me, but if last night was any indication in this way I am in the minority. Every pod contained at least one truly degenerate deck, and often more than one. In one deck I don’t recall seeing a single common; sure, Skullclamp and Mother of Runes were printed at uncommon, but that was about it. And the money! All-foil manabases mixed freely with hundred-dollar cards. It would have been something to behold, had it not been three hours of hard fought survival ending in a mediocre result.

Dana and I were talking about the phenomenon on the ride home, and I think she put it best. We’ve reached an almost post-modern deconstruction of the format at this point. We tried playing the bonkers combo decks and good-stuff sinks, but that’s so monotonous! Now I build decks that try to compete by using off-the-radar rares and draft bombs, while she’s gone reactive and built a jujitsu deck and a pillow fort. The name of the game becomes synergy over raw power, and unfortunately there are a lot of different ways in which even the most synergistic deck can get run over by powerful cards, many of which should be banned.

So I still haven’t decided if I am going to keep doing this. My grand total of one point certainly doesn’t give me any reason to buy in for victory’s sake, and I apparently hate other people and how they play EDH. But if I do go back, I expect to be loaded for bear. Maybe we’re still not at Azami levels of fury, but I think I could probably pull out Ulamog, Glissa and Thalia without seeming too much outside the curve.

On a side note, have you seen Melek, Izzet Paragon yet? Sure, he looks somewhat unassuming, but he fills a niche I’ve been looking to see filled. There’s not a great general for a deck that privileges spells over creatures, particularly not in the Izzet colors. Melek fills that niche admirably, and I look forward to trying him out with Galvanoth and Wild Evocation.

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