This last weekend, my gaming group, The Mercy Killers, needed to unwind from all the hard work we had put in getting ready for Kublacon. Conventions are a lot of fun, but we had just run through preparing armies and playing in back to back 40k tournaments. What we really needed was some casual gaming. This meant that we sat down around a table, had some good food (thanks to my friend Garye’s marvelous cooking), had a few beers, and played more than a little commander.
The funny thing about gaming groups is that even if you are supposedly focused on one game, everyone is still a gamer at heart. So this 40k squad has no problems branching out to Magic, Cards Against Humanity, Talisman, Pathfinder, or whatever. Only five of us were able to make it, which turned out to be a perfect size to play commander. Not everyone owns a deck, but luckily an addict like me always has a few extra decks sleeved and ready to go.
Phase 1: 1v1
While Garye was getting food ready and people were arriving, me and my friend Dawson wasted some time playing a handful of heads-up games. Dawson is one of those guys who show up looking for a good time, loves to laugh and shoot the shit. Our games were about 25% actually playing Magic and 75% harassing each other. It’s good that he wasn’t taking things seriously, because 1v1 Commander has serious balance issues. He played his Rakdos, Lord of Riots deck against my Jeleva, Hannah, and a couple other decks that I honestly can’t remember.
In many of our games, Dawson ended up being a civilian casualty of what I like to call “the god effect.” Because of the Indestructible Gods in Theros, I made changes to almost all of my decks to include tuck removal (putting a card into a library). Gods are incredibly difficult to deal with and cheap to cast, so my answer has been shuffling them away. In almost every game we played Rakdos got shuffled into the library.
Most of the games were a little one sided, of no fault of Dawson’s. If Rakdos isn’t there to reduce the cost of creatures, that deck is slow due to the high curve. My budget decks are low curve simply because casual low CMC cards are generally cheap. It does mean that those budget decks get rolling out the door a little faster on average, and when facing a single opponent they can knock out a slower deck before it gets online. This advantage is completely negated in multiplayer, so while it made for a disproportionate number of wins in the 1v1 setting, the decks seemed to be on par for group games.
Phase 2: 4 Player
After about an hour of playing 1v1, we got to start up our group games. Dawson only had the one deck, so he played it throughout the day. Garye had just built his first EDH deck (yay!). He missed out on some of the “rules” in building for EDH, but shockingly, no one cared. Jojo had built an EDH deck using a planeswalker as the Commander, again no one cared. I think I may have mentioned before that I don’t care about the ban list. I honestly don’t care if you follow any of the rules for Commander as long as you have the mindset that you are there to have fun.
The first game ended marvelously, when I cast Chaos Warp on Rakdos, bringing out a Malignus. To make matters worse, his Mindclaw Shaman took Rite of Replication out of my hand, giving him over 40 power in creatures. A little War Cadence insured no one could possibly block the duo, and Jeleva’s judo backfired right in my face.
The second game Jeleva was able to get her revenge on Rakdos. She cast Mind Games to fill Rakdos’s hand with expensive creatures that he couldn’t afford. Then, she copied other players’ Acidic Slimes to keep him from playing anything. Jeleva then used Bribery to steal from the crippled Rakdos deck and used his power to clear the table.
The third game was controlled by Sherei from beginning to end. Attempts were made to reset the board, but the shear card advantage and recursion in the deck kept everything well within control. This marked the first game that Rakdos was able to take advantage of the Commander’s ability. Attrition won the day as Sherei ended with over 80 life and killed players, one point of life at a time. The highlight of this game was cracking Jar of Eyeballs for 30 and still not getting the card I was looking for. It was that or the swing of emotions when I cast Twilight’s Call to players immediate delight and then seeing them realize that the game was over.
It was at this point our friendly Rakdos player remarked that win or lose, I was a controlling presence in all the games and that people should really be putting more effort into killing me. I argued that it was the creatures from his deck that had caused the most carnage. He must have a higher charisma stat than me, because I think people weren’t buying my story.
The only game so far that didn’t feel close was the Sherei win. The deck got banished to the deck box for the rest of the day.
Phase 3: 5-Player Planechase
Seven games and four hours of fun into the day, the real games started. Our friend Mike arrived and we added Planechase to the mix. The games at this point became a blur of chaos and fun. I think we played four to six games and I couldn’t tell you who won which ones. No one deck or one player dominated the table and it seemed like everyone won at least one game. We had some hilarious moments. For example, because the Planechase deck has about three of each plane, we got stuck. We were trying to escape the Moat Plane, and after two turns of rolling, one player finally managed to flip us over to the next plane, but a second copy of the same plane was right underneath.
Blood was spilt, life was gained, hopes were raised, and then hopes were dashed against the rocky shore of reality. All things considered, a great time.
As the sun was setting and people were cleaning up to go home and get ready for the work week it still felt as if we didn’t have enough time. We all agreed we needed to do this again soon. The only thing we would change is to include even more friends. It was so much fun; we just want to share the experience. This is what these nerd hobbies are all about. It’s about having a good time with good friends, which become great friends over time. I’ll save the beardy complaints for another day, because today I love Commander.