The last day of Round One is finally here. I hope you all have had fun following your favorite and most-reviled Commanders’ progress. I know we have! Day three offers a great set of matches if you like watching the wheat getting separating from the chaff.
(The same note holds: If you’re wondering or have forgotten how we assess points, deck construction, and anything else, please refer back to the post announcing our March Madness tourney.)
Let’s take a look at who we can say goodbye to and who we can start rooting for. Here’s the bracket, because we know you all just want to see the results.
This early feature match demonstrated what happens in the matchup between blue artifact control and UB(g) combo. Tyrannosaurus-arm is just oozing with combos. Most of these games played out such that Memnarch got to play the savior instead of a super villain by keeping early combos from hitting the table. He soon learned there was a price for progress as the same combos were returned from the grave. Controlling a table with a dedicated combo deck requires you to keep a tough balance. All the combo deck needs is one opening and the game is over. Liquid is the best thing at finding cracks and ooze is technically a liquid. The Mimeoplasm squeezed out the win and left the tournament with one fewer mono-blue deck to deal with.
Winner: The Mimeoplasm, Score: 29-20
One of the original Elder Dragons is trying to turn Commander back into EDH with some old-school cruel Grixis control. Squaring off against the slowest vampire in vampire-land, Magic’s second most continuous villain appears to prove that not everything that is new is better. After the battle we asked Nicol Bolas what he thought of the Vish Kal March Madness served to him this evening, and he responded, “A little cold and too fat even for my tastes. I had to drown out the flavor with plenty of A-1.”
Winner: Nicol Bolas, Score: 35-21
A battle of enchantment decks! This one was interesting. Zedruu had life gain and card draw in one hand and interesting gimmicks and Oblivion Ring style removal in the other. At the same time, Uril had Zedruu’s great heart in one and her severed head ripped ruthlessly from her body in the other. It was very Mortal Combat. This is what happens when you get invited to the tournament based on color identity, kids. Just showing up doesn’t guarantee you have a chance to even leave undecapitated.
Winner: Uril, The Mistalker, Score: 37-2
Dralnu is the #2 ranked deck coming into the tournament due solely to his color identity. But judging by his performance against Riku, he didn’t deserve that spot. This match was surprisingly close. It turned into a combo race that went back and forth; being a black deck saved Dralnu. Superior tutors were all that stood between him and a major upset. But the close race against what is accepted to be a second-tier leader for dedicated combo certainly puts his tournament hopes under a different, far less hopeful light.
Winner: Dralnu, Lich Lord Score: 38-32
In an unlucky twist of fate, Savra was paired against a token deck right off the bat. Grave Pact effects have a much smaller impact against a deck with nearly unlimited tokens to sacrifice. Savra did her best while Prossh shuffled along to a slow but easily won series of victories. This was not the brutal creature-destroying prize fight we were hoping to see.
Winner: Prossh, Score: 22-13
Ruric Thar had the distinction of being many people’s Dark Horse coming into the tournament. Everyone was looking forward to seeing a deck that punished other decks for playing so many low cost instant-speed answers. But it was not to be. Ruric drew Teysa 1.0, perhaps the general who cares the least of all about Ruric’s punishment and has the easiest time getting rid of him. Lacking a good way to find Primal Surge reliably, Thar has to stand idly by as Teysa constantly, repeatedly picked apart his creatures.
Winner: Teysa, Orzhov Scion, Score: 42-6
Despite what we had hoped, Thada and Rubinia offered us yet another example of how being a feature match doesn’t mean the contest will be close. Thada Adel landed quick and punished Rubinia even quicker. Before Rubina even landed Thada had already run away with handfuls of Rubina’s own stuff, and that quickly helped shut her down. I would recommend that Rubina stick with her Soulsinging career and leave playing Commander to the professionals.
Winner: Thada Adel, Acquisitor, Score: 47-13
Nath is one of those guys you have to see to understand his power. He gets played as a token control or and/or an evil elf ball. Instinctively some people believe that Oros is good at taking care of tokens, so he must be good at fighting token control right? As we got to see today, this just isn’t correct. You see, token control works by having tokens to give you value from both entering and leaving the battlefield. Thanks to a seemingly never-ending set of Grave Pact effects, anytime a Nath token dies, so does something on Oros’s side of the field. This means that it is really pretty simple to just keep forcing an opponent to sacrifice Oros. Oh – and then we saw that elves just ramp in an outstanding fashion as well. Just jamming down an early game Exsanguinate or Genesis Wave is enough to skew the game too far in the elf players’ favor for the rest of the table to recover.
Winner: Nath of the Gilt Leaf, Score: 34-3
Plants vs. Zombies – it had to happen. If you have played the game enough, you already know how this works. No matter how many zombies you kill, there will always be more. The best you can hope is to try and last as many levels for as long as you can. At the end of the day, the zombies always win. In game terms, a graveyard-based combo deck is going to be able to get it’s combo out quicker than a multi-piece value combo/control deck. Ghave is really very strong and does an amazing job at inevitably winning games that drag on. The problem is that for Ghave to keep operating properly it has to allow the actions that Balthor uses to blast out victories.
Winner: Balthor, the Defiled, Score: 36-19
In another feature match, we had the battle cruiser shootout between Jhoira and Mayael. Mayael stormed out creatures in a quick and impressive fashion and began to pound down enemies till they were near death. Just before Mayael dealt the final death blow, Jhoira revealed the concealed explosives. Then….boom! With the world around them decimated, the creatures Jhoira had been hiding just outside walked in and casually gave mercy to anything still twitching after the blast. Not exactly honorable, but very effective.
Winner: Jhoira of the Ghitu, Score: 44-16
Marath is fresh on the scene as a ramp deck. It was ready to fight Kamahl with a horde of tokens and some power board resets if she ever fell behind. Kamahl however, had experience and tact. It only took one Wrath of God effect for Marath to realize the Kamahl was in a different league. Accidentally casting a one-sided Armageddon where another player gets the full benefit is simply all it takes to throw you off your game. Anytime any player would try to slow down Kamahl with a board wipe, he would simply take them off at the knees. If they did nothing to stop Kamahl, he would Overrun the table before they could build defenses. Hopefully next year we will see Marath again – this time with more experience and tact.
Winner: Kamahl, Fist of Krosa, Score: 37-9
This matchup was a sword fight on a tightrope over an active volcano. Both of these decks can deal a lethal blow basically as soon as the game begins. When you have decks like these facing each other, the game breaks down into three distinctive sections. The first is the “blitzkrieg” section. This is when each deck tries to race out a win to steal a victory. In this stage, if either deck was squared off against softer unprepared decks, they would simply run them over and it would be done on the spot. The second section of the game is a winter war. This is where each side tries to grind out advantage in any way that they can. To a casual observer it may look like the game has stalled or two players are at a standoff. This phase is crucial however, because it prepares you for the final stage.
At some point one of the players will either weigh the odds and consider themselves ready, or else just lose patience and just rush in. At this point you enter the final section of the game – the endgame. It is at this point that one party begins to launch everything they have at the table. If prepared, they may be able to break through and win. More likely, they will push as hard as they can and come out spent. With their defenses down, their opponent can then launch their counter-attack through an unguarded flank and end it all. If during any of these phases a major mistake is made, you will slip and fall into that active volcano. In this match, Arcum won by a slim margin of consistency. A mono-colored deck that depends primarily on colorless spells and a low curve was just enough of an advantage to squeak out a win, this time.
Winner: Arcum Dagsson, Score: 30-25
That’s all for round one – hopefully, your brackets aren’t totally wrecked at this point. We’ll be back Monday with the first part of round two. It just gets more exciting from here!