I played some Commander over the weekend with my lady (Dana) and one of our good friends (Clay). Since Clay usually beats us bloody with his ridiculous Omnath, Locus of Mana deck, I came loaded for bear. I brought Sliver Overlord, Sedris, the Traitor King, and Maelstrom Wanderer. Dana brought her two nasty EDH decks, Sygg, River Cutthroat and Sigarda, Host of Herons (although she audibled to Krond the Dawn-Clad* because she’s been having some balance issues now that Sigarda is basically unkillable under the new legend rules). And of course, since we came prepared for Omnath, Clay ended up trying out his new Daxos of Meletis deck.


Side note: Daxos of Meletis is a strong card, and I think he makes for a good general. Put a (good) piece of equipment on him and he becomes nearly impossible to kill in combat. Every time he hits you, you draw a card, mill your opponent for one, and then gain some (usually non-zero) amount of life. It is pretty sweet, and all this is just on a three drop. My only quibble is that, were I to make the deck, I would probably include a fair bit of artifact ramp to help let you play the cards you steal off your opponents’ decks, but that’s a mere quibble. He’s a strong card, and Clay played him well.


Anyway, game one I played with my sliver deck and crushed face with a fairly aggressive start. Game two we sorta lost interest halfway through, due to hunger and a pretty stalled out board state. But it was game three that presented the first legitimate quandary I’ve had about EDH etiquette in a while.


See, Dana (playing Sygg) had painted me with a target early in the game. I hadn’t been doing anything more aggressive than putting out lands, but Dana was wise to point out that giving me 12 lands and a turn is a dangerous game indeed. So while she had been ripping me to pieces (Silent-Blade Oni is a beating), I felt unfairly picked upon and was quite clear and expressive with this feeling.


And then I untapped, dropped another land, cast Zhur-Taa Ancient, Rude Awakening to untap my lands, played Domri Rade and then cast Maelstrom Wanderer, which hit Lotus Cobra and then Bloodbraid Elf into Cultivate. With 26 mana at my disposal, I used Domri Rade to trade the Maelstrom Wanderer with the Silent-Blade Oni, recast it, and after it cascaded into a Bow of Nylea and Acidic Slime. Then I swung in, knocking Dana down to around 20 in one shot and devastating her board. Clay, voice of reason, pointed out that this was the content of a single turn.


So, Dana was pissed, and it left me wondering whether or not I had protested too much. Decks like Maelstrom Wanderer, explosive decks, generally don’t let you live for all too long after you hit your one big turn. Some of them combo out, but many others will just put themselves so far ahead on the board that it makes coming back almost impossible. Sigarda, Host of Herons has had its own one big turns, and so has Omnath, Locus of Mana. I don’t feel like, knowing what I did going into the game, that it was wrong for me to bring that deck and let it do what it likes to do. But when you can’t stop the one big turn, or even stall it out to buy yourself some time, the only solution is often to kill the person whose lurking threat hides behind a less-than-robust board state.


Yeah, I think I am coming around on the ethics of such an early elimination, although this illustrates why I get so annoyed with competitive EDH. The entire point of playing with other people is to PLAY WITH OTHER PEOPLE. Having to respond to a Spike at the table by eliminating them before they end (or just take over) the game is a frustrating endeavor. And it’s not all that hard to do! There are plenty of ways to hit you. It’s even not that hard to aggro out your opponent; try Ezuri, Renegade Leader if you ever need to make a low curve deck that does some truly filthy things.


But at the same time, the one big turn is half the reason to play EDH. Being able to do something truly wild, like casting Maelstrom Wanderer twice in a turn, is how you create the types of stories that make Commander so much fun to play. So I’m a little torn. I think the best situations are those where everyone scales up together, but that requires perfect power leveling, and that’s a pipe dream. In the meantime, I think we’re just going to have to live with people wanting to knock you out before you’ve established a defendable board state… and that’s fine too.


Anyway, as soon as some of the spoilers for Commander 2013 hit, I plan to go over them. The new generals already look interesting, although it’s the Esper lifegain one that intrigues me the most. Vizkopa Guildmage is still a truly bonkers card, and there’s a Soul Sisters deck in there somewhere. I hope they’re well balanced between people who are new to the game and those who are established; having pre-ordered the full set (dropping out of Standard leaves a surprising amount of money laying around in the Magic budget) I am personally invested in them containing the types of cards that are either new to me or those of which I could stand having an extra few copies. Until then!


*Krond the Dawn-Clad is really fun to play with the gods. Just fyi.

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