March is here, and that means madness has descended upon the United States. It’s the magically insane time of year when people who don’t even watch basketball try to scrape up enough insight to fill out a bracket and do some gambling. Here at GDC, we wanted in on the excitement; however, we already have ways to get excited about basketball, so we wanted to focus on our favorite Magical format – Commander.
This year on GDC we are hosting the EDH March Madness Spike Tournament of Commanders. 64 Commanders were chosen to represent the streamlined, no-holds-barred, brutal, spikiest side of Commander. We are pitting them against each other in a head-to-head tournament (well, head to head to two random other heads) to see who comes out on top when the gloves get taken off.
We chose the two top Commanders of each color identity, plus ten lucky wild cards to fill out the 64 spots in the tournament. Decks were then seeded using an algorithm that was based on their ranking within their color identity and the strength of their color identity. The pack of 64 was divided into four conferences (named after the should-be-legendary Nephilim. Well …. Almost all the Nephilim. We are going to ignore the one without blue because this is a spike championship…)
Keep in mind – Commander is like football. By that, I mean that in any given game, anyone could come away the winner. The can be upsets, and you never know if an underdog can chase a hot streak and win it all.
Without further delay here is the bracket for the Spike Championship.
Since we will likely be seeing a lot of these teams going forward, why don’t we get to know some of the highest ranking Commanders in the tournament?
#1 – The Mimeoplasm
Black, blue and green are undeniably the three strongest colors in Commander. So it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that the wedge combination of the three ranks first among the color identities. Mimeoplasm is especially brutal thanks to cards like Buried Alive, Intuition, and Survival of the Fittest. He has access to the best ramp lands in Gaea’s Cradle and Cabal Coffers. It’s one of the decks that can run the Hermit Druid combo without making sacrifices and has counterspells to back it up. When playing against a deck like this, opponents have to deal with threats two or more times due to how effectively Mimeo uses the graveyard. But unlike strict reanimator decks, The Mimeoplasm can still function on a high level without the graveyard.
Go search for TopandGo on Youtube and look for the Azusa videos. It’s incredible to see how quickly a deck can ramp when the builder maximizes that angle. This deck made it to the tournament based on pacing alone. It’s one of the few top ranked decks without either counterspells or infinite combos. After all, who needs combos when you genesis wave for 20 on turn five?
Blue-Black really doesn’t even need a commander to rank highly in the tournament. When you mix counterspells and card draw with amazing tutors, recursion and even more card draw, you are going to get an effective combination. There is a weakness to artifacts and enchantments, but when you are just racing your opponents to a combo finish it probably won’t matter.
As the mother of all toolbox Commanders, Captain Sisay deserves a lot of respect. Her position in the tournament is solidly among the top contenders. Her ability is incredibly powerful especially when you consider that Gaea’s Cradle and Mindslaver are legendary cards. Aside from countering spells, there is nothing this deck can’t do.
I don’t think anyone is surprised to see Edric ranked as a #1 contender. It sneaks in off opponents’ greed and then buries them in card advantage before they know what happened. The biggest weakness of this deck is opponents who are rightfully afraid of it and kill Edric without thinking. I don’t think that’s enough of a weakness to stop it from going far in this tournament.
The top ranked deck to use mass land destruction. Once Jhoira gets ahead the game is over, even if opponents don’t realize it until several turns later. This deck works based on inevitability. Jhoira needs to be countered for her effect to be prevented, and even if she stalls she has the ability to hard cast her spells later in the game. Keep her under a careful watch.
Rounding out the top four is yet another blue deck. Let’s all take a minute to catch our breaths from the surprise. Azami is a perennial favorite who needs to watch her back with all the new up and comers. She was considered the strongest general when Commander was still called EDH. Let’s see if she can keep her title.
Selected as the most promising voltron Commander, Rafiq has the choice of equipment or aura’s for boosting him into one-shot range. There isn’t a permanent that this color identity can’t handle and he can play enough counterspells to keep himself alive. While Rafiq isn’t one of the fastest choices, the lack of weaknesses could take him far.
1st Round Feature Matches
The Mimeoplasm has to prove itself against one of the three big mono blue/brown decks in the tournament. Memnarch won’t have mana issues any time soon and once it reaches a critical mana point, it will be able to steal anything it doesn’t counter. Luckily for the Mimeoplasm, we aren’t talking about dual Commander so Memnarch will have to prove it can control an entire table, not just the Mimeoplasm.
GAAIV might be able to pull an upset by knocking out the #1 mono red deck in the tournament. If it wasn’t for the printing of Zealous Conscripts this would be an easier fight. However, Kiki-Jiki is an infinite engine and with the ability to play both Chaos Warp and Cavern of Souls. So GAAIV can’t count on being around or having counters to save the day. At the same time, red has a surprising amount of blue specific hate up its sleeve that comes out in cutthroat environments. A well timed Red Elemental Blast could be the difference between destroying GAAIV and being laughed out of the competition.
I have one word for this matchup, brutal. Both of these decks are ranked surprisingly low due to being overshadowed by strong Commanders in their guilds. All that aside, these two probably expected less competition in the first round and just drew short straws. It’s anyone’s guess who walks away with this win.
Numot is primarily here because of being in a weak color wedge. However, it’s weak because of the available commanders and not because of the colors themselves. Dedicated land destruction decks can pull off surprising wins, especially against decks with fragile land bases. I would give Karador the edge in this fight, but it’s a razor thin edge.
Personally, I think Thada might be the best mono-blue Commander around. Azami is ranked higher for reputation, but Thada is great at picking apart other high end decks. Since Rubina plays islands she needs to watch out. Thada does have a weakness against other blue decks though, and that weakness is getting stolen. A Commander that can steal her away is one of her worst-case scenarios.
A big stompy creature fight sounds awesome to behold. I have a feeling the other players at the table are going to feel like the teeny people skittering underfoot during the King Kong vs Godzilla battle that will be going on between these too. Before you write off Mayael, keep in mind that she can do mass land destruction and the ability to cheat in Avacyn, Angel of Hope play could make Jhoira’s plans backfire.
Kaalia has to be sad to see Godo setting up across the table. Decks that legitimately play lightning bolt, can tutor up SOFI, and that also want to be aggressive and play land destruction are not what Kaalia wants to face. Godo may be sitting as one of the lowest ranked decks in the tournament, but it might just be a dark horse worth betting on based on how it takes down the glass cannon decks.
It’s almost hard to believe that Arcum had to get into the tournament on a wild card. In any case a hermit druid deck does not want to see a deck who’s commander can tutor up Tormod’s Crypt and Pithing Needle. Five color control can deal with most things though, so I expect this to be a knock down drag-out fight that will represent exactly what this tournament is all about.
OK – That’s our pre-tournament wrap up! Here’s how the contest works:
- We’re giving everyone until Sunday night to submit their brackets.
- Scoring works just like the NCAA March Madness brackets; you get points for every winner you pick correctly.
- Download your bracket using the links up above, fill it out, and email it as an attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- ENTRIES MUST BE TIMESTAMPED NO LATER THAN 11:59PM EST SUNDAY, MARCH 23rd.
We’re using a highly-scientific method that involves logic and randomness to determine the outcome of each matchup, and we’ll post scores as we release results (starting with round one on Monday).
So you want to know about prizes, huh? Here they are:
- GRAND PRIZE: An English foil copy of the commander you pick to win the whole bracket, plus an exclusive GENERALDAMAGECONTROL.COM T-SHIRT and PLAYMAT!
- RUNNER UP: An English foil copy of the commander you pick to win the whole bracket, plus an exclusive GENERALDAMAGECONTROL.COM T-SHIRT!
- PERFECT BRACKET BONUS: If you completely nail every single matchup, you’ll receive a sealed copy of the Commander 2013 “Mind Seize” Pre-Con!
- WORST BRACKET: A selection of exclusive Mr. P’s Custom Tokens!
- ADDITIONAL DOOR PRIZES to be awarded as we see fit. Pick a general not on the bracket? Send us a copy of your geometry homework instead of your bracket? Make us laugh, cry, quit the game in disgust, bribe us…who knows what might come of it?
Feel free to argue about stuff in the comments or call us names on Twitter. We’re excited to share this Commander Spike General Tournament with you, so have some fun with it.
EDIT: Friday, March 21
Lots of questions have been asked. Here are some answers to help clarify a number of things.
For the purposes of this contest if you assume the following you will be in the right direction;
1. This is all multiplayer. Games are four-man pods.
2. Decks are the “best” they can be. Imagine a meta where everybody builds to try and win as quickly and consistently as possible. So you might see Hermit Druid combo from any deck that can run green, as opposed to just the five-color varieties. Try to imagine what each general’s best deck would look like. That will get you close to the lists we’re using.
3. Each round takes place over a set of games. The scoring system is based primarily on most wins, but also includes opponents killed. If the other decks win any given game, it denies the two decks actually competing in for the round from earning points. Each commander will end up with a score between 1 and 80 each round. The total combined score of the two competing commanders will not exceed 100. In the finals, each commander will get a score between 1 and 100 instead of 1 to 80.
4. A group of highly competitive players will be playing each round, and they are all of roughly equivalent ability.
5. It won’t be the same people each matchup, but the decks will be rotated between players over the course of the matchup. This avoids the case where one player pushes a deck because they are better than anyone else in the group. Commanders are being scored on their power level and not that of the player.
6. The players are evenly matched as ability go. You can assume everyone is roughly the same play level as the authors here on the site. 😉
7. The players are experts with these decks. These are generally very well-known and obviously optimized builds and no one is flying blind.
8. The random and multi-player aspects of Commander will still make themselves felt in the results, but you should assume these decks are being piloted and built to be and run the best they can with no budget restrictions.
9. The matches are scored similar to a basketball game. The score is how we we determine who wins the round.
10. Tiebreakers – This field only matters if two people tie for most total points based on their brackets. Just like with regular March Madness, this score will be used as the tiebreaker. Since each general can only score between 1 and 100 in the finals, just pick a number for each general in that range which you feel reflects which should win by how much.
OK. So there’s more info. Hopefully that clears things up so you can get your submissions in. Hit us up in the comments or Twitter if you have more questions.