This past weekend, this happened:
— GeneralDamageControl (@GDCCommander) April 26, 2015
I understand that this board state is damn-near impossible to figure out from the picture, so I’ll try to do it justice; the gist is that it centers around the greatest card ever printed – Possibility Storm.
First off, there’s a bit of required reading involved. Our own Black Sheep @SwordsToPlow wrote about his take on Mishra, Artificer Prodigy here. The Cliffs Notes are that Mishra as he is written is a fairly terrible Commander card that suddenly becomes a brilliant card advantage engine as soon as you involve a handful of cards – permanents that counter things, (Blood Funnel and Nether Void are shining examples) and Possibility Storm.
We’ll focus on the latter. The rough interaction with Possibility Storm is that with it and Mishra and in play, you cast any artifact. Possibility Storm exiles that artifact, then lets you start exiling cards off the top of your deck until you hit another artifact, and drop that into play instead. Everything exiled is then put on the bottom of your library. At that point, Mishra’s ability goes looking through your library, graveyard and hand for a card with the same name of the one you initially tried to cast – which is now conveniently in your library. Instant 2-for-1 value-town. (In addition, Mishra is also great at making your artifacts effectively un-counterable for the same reason, so long as the counter isn’t Dissipate or the like.)
All of this aside, the real genius of Possibility Storm isn’t a funny interaction with an otherwise-garbage general. It’s what is printed right on the card.
DON’T FEAR THE WACKY
I had the Mishra/Possibility Storm interaction as one of those “Cute but Obvious” things that everyone knows about. When it first hit the public consciousness, my initial read was that it was a little-too strong of an advantage engine to not piss off everyone, and also that it perfectly exemplifies the term “glass cannon”. I filed it as garbage and moved on.
After Sean’s article, I did some related reading and decided that the deck was pretty much the answer to all of my prayers, and immediately started assembling the pieces (including tossing a ton of trade-ins to StarCityGames.com in order to procure a NM copy of Nether Void. I’m a sucker for old-school Reserve-list stuff anyway, so this wasn’t a hard sell for me.)
The reason it grabbed me is simple – Possibility Storm is an instant cure-all for “goldfish” decks, and my local metagame is currently in a waxing phase in that direction. This comes and goes, but it seems that every once in a while, the vast majority of local players build “Question” decks – ones that are light on removal and other “answer” cards in order to pack in ways to push the main strategy of the deck itself.
It’s a natural arms race…put simply, people like to build a deck, and then spend time making it work better.
The problem stems from the fact that you reach a point where the focus salinity of the metagame is so far out of whack that you end up with games where everyone at the table is effectively racing to goldfish their decks faster, and then wailing for one of the other decks to pull out an answer to the guy who’s in the lead. There are no glorious red-zone clashes or crazy interactions; it’s literally like watching people at a circus play that dumb game where you shoot a water gun at a target to inflate a balloon faster than everyone else.
No one else is playing removal because no one else is playing any to begin with.
Considering that our group eschews combo, this ends up being pretty painful. It’s cool the first time you see a deck pull off a Rube Goldberg machine, but not so much fun after that; it’s kind of a grind. Factor in a whole table of them, and it gets downright painful.
A POSSIBILE SOLUTION
My constant struggle is that I tend to build “answer” decks, which likely stems from years of playing control decks in Vintage and Legacy. This is a losing proposition in Commander in the same way that one-for-one removal usually is; eventually you realize that there are more things that need dealing with than you can handle. The same goes when you’re one of five players at a table, and the other four are all trying to just win; you end up effectively slowing the game down until you run out of gas and someone wins.
What I’ve come to understand is that people plan for the tangibles – removal and counterspells. This is what led me to take on my “Sheldon Menery Did This To You” deck project, packing a deck with reactionary answers like Reflect Damage and Twincast and permanents like Null Rod. You expect someone to try to blow up your Salvaging Station, but what if it just plain doesn’t work? That seemed stronger to me for sure, so that became my new goal – breaking the system in ways no one is expecting.
Ultimately, while I would win a game or two with that deck, it would still typically end the same way that I described above – getting swarmed with a million 3/3 tokens after running out of tricks. I started to pine for a way to take things up a notch; it seemed great to make other people’s cards not work right, but what if I could cut out the middle man and make other people’s cards be something else entirely?
Possibility Storm is that card.
The reality is that people eventually find ways to handle everything. Even if you’re focusing on your combo, you will eventually find an answer to Null Rod. The genius of Possibility Storm is that you suddenly have no control over when that will be, or if it even happens at all. This past weekend, people put Mortify and Acidic Slime on the stack, and got Scourge of Skola Vale and Dig Through Time instead.
Better yet, people were still playing cards. Possibility Storm doesn’t stop anyone from playing the game, but it makes the game go in totally wild and unanticipated directions. It doesn’t stop a deck from functioning, but it does stop it from functioning as designed. I can tell you first hand that every time I’ve resolved this card, people instantly forget about what they were doing and just start rolling the dice. If that isn’t proof positive of the concept, I don’t know what is.
And best yet – I have yet to see anyone at the table not have a ton of fun while this card does its thing. It literally is chaos incarnate, but in a way that keeps the (pardon the pun) possibilities flowing. Straight out of the box, it just makes things crazy and epic and awesome, which as near as I can tell is exactly what Commander should be about.
Possibility Storm – the best card ever printed. Seriously.
BY THE WAY…
The game on Saturday played out in a way that was as awesome as any game I’ve ever played. Possibility Storm hit play and then literally stuck around for the rest of the game, as no-one managed to find removal for it. I resolved Mishra a few times and got my value engine on, but then the player to my right Stormed into Teferi’s Puzzle Box. Font of Mythos was already on the table, and Howling Mine joined not long after.
Each player was literally drawing between nine and fourteen cards a turn.
People were resolving all sorts of crazy cards, swinging at each other, stealing creatures, and really just enjoying the sheer chaos. There was no clear front-runner at all, and it suddenly dawned on me that I might end up decking myself; I apparently didn’t build in Elixir of Immortality, and try as I might, I was dumping loads of cards into my graveyard each turn. It didn’t help that I tried to play a blind Wurmcoil Engine at a moment where Mishra was not in play and got a Staff of Nin instead.
I finally managed to play Daretti, Scrap Savant to get Tezzeret the Seeker into play instead, and ticked him up. With about four cards left in my library, I was able to send lethal damage over to the Puzzle Box player, and a shot at playing Phyrexian Metamorph found me Trading Post. I sacrificed the Staff of Nin, untapped, drew one of the last two cards in my deck, and went ultimate with Tezzeret, swinging at the final two opponents with 95 power worth of 5/5 artifacts. Photo finish.
What do you think? Have you had experiences with Possibility Storm before? Am I right on the money, or do chaos effects ruin the game? Hit up the comments below…I’d love to hear what you have to say.