Welcome back to Convention Recap Week! Although Erik was not able to make it to GenCon this year, he did attend the first OmarCon in NYC. Here’s what he had to say about it.
If you haven’t seen Bruce’s article about the meetup for Omar hosted in NY recently, then check out his article here. Thank you Omar!
Now that Bruce beat me to the “whole trip experience”, I have to do something else. (Curse you, Bruce!) With that in mind, I’m continuing the Talking Strategy articles with lessons from this meetup. I don’t always get to play outside my playgroup so I jumped on the opportunity. Plus I knew almost everyone going so I wasn’t worried about social contract issues.
First: If you are in Queens, check out the Museum of the Moving Image. It wasn’t part of OmarCon but it was freaking awesome. Plus they have old arcade machines so bring some extra cash to turn into quarters. And the Jim Henson exhibit. And the cool books they have. Place is amazing.
Lesson 1- Bookend Games
I’ve never even thought about the concept of bookend your gaming experience. But during the first game Preston talked about bookending his play experience with a hug-ish deck. Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis is definitely group hug, but Preston has win conditions and lots of interaction in the deck. No idea if he read this analysis of group hug but he certainly followed the advice. Preston’s stance was that he would bring out the group hug deck, play to have fun. Play a bunch of games, and then circle back to group hug for the final game.
His build of Kynaois and Tiro of Meletis has oodles of scalability with clones, Expropriate, theft effects, some counters, and other stuff to scale against the table. The deck can be very reactive, which is helpful for the first game, as well as “powering everyone to the mid or late game early” as he said. Then after getting more a feel for how everyone plays, Preston uses the group hug deck again since he knows what buttons to push and how he can lean on certain players without making anyone upset.
Lesson 2- Read the Cards & Ask Questions
Do you know who played the best during OmarCon? Whoever double checked some cards! My biggest flub of the day was when I left a Liliana of the Dark Realms alive because I knew that she gives +X/-X to a creature. I couldn’t die because she would nuke my opponent’s creature. Guess who died to hubris?
It is very, very common for newer Commander players to feel overwhelmed by the tremendous number of cards we play. Don’t sweat it. Stop and ask questions. Ask what the card does, ask to read it, double check the Oracle text on it. Mystic Remora says target opponent on the card, but it works for all opponents. This is something we double checked during OmarCon. Several of us were pretty sure it worked for everyone, but double checking is worth the few seconds to ensure the game is played correctly. Never, ever, worry about pulling up Oracle text on cards. It’s part of the reason tournament players can call for judges.
As for questions, asking can help you a lot. When someone makes a play that seems to make no sense, ask them what was the thought process. “Hey, when you sent an alpha strike at me what was the thought process of ignoring [other person]?” At the worst, your opponent got tunnel vision. A more likely scenario is that your opponent thought some things would play out differently, or they took a strategic gamble and lost. Rather than brooding, you can have immediate answers.
Asking questions also opens up the possibility for group discussion on a play. Learning that most of the table thought the Eldrazi Monument was much worse than Quicksilver Amulet can challenge your game assumption. Perhaps you didn’t realize how much extra damage it provided. We had a few life total discrepancies that were worked out by some questions, some different strategies and approaches to handling a given board were shared through the same manner. It never hurts to ask questions for a learning opportunity. It hurts to ask questions to show off.
Lesson 3- Strategic Eliminations
I think Ryan was the biggest victim to strategic eliminations during OmarCon, but many of us fell prey to one player or another make the call to take us out. There are typically two approaches to eliminating a player in Commander. Typically. You eliminate players when you can to advance your game plan with the hope to emerging victorious. Or you allow players to keep playing in the game and go for kills only when absolutely necessary. I’m painting in broad strokes, but the approaches are generally to eliminate or keep everyone playing.
This is where strategic eliminations come to light. Having a the long game that is essentially a slapfight is really fun. But sometimes someone (Ryan) will have a field posed to completely take over the game. Now you have a choice. You can keep the slog going, or you can take out Ryan because he has Planar Bridge, Metal Worker, Daretti, Scrap Savant, and a dead Kuldotha Forgemaster ready to end the game. I went for the Take out Ryan play (he definitely would have killed everyone) but then Bruce untapped and did some awesome (for him) Vorel of the Hull Clade and I died at 38 life to a Trygon Predator.
It was a strategic elimination. It didn’t pay off for me this time, but I would definitely repeat this choice. Just modify it a bit to not die to Bruce one-shotting me. Despite my death, the lesson is on evaluating just how much someone can do on their turn versus your ability to keep playing the game. If Ryan got a turn, there was no chance I had another. I made a calculated move to eliminate him and to square off against Bruce who I thought I could race. Sure, I didn’t properly check the math on how much damage could come my way. But make the move to eliminate Ryan was correct. If I had more options in hand, I could have removed some of Ryan’s board to change the circumstances
When you are in games, look for the situations where you are going to die if you give another player a turn. I’m all about a slog game that ends at once, but that doesn’t mean you purposefully put yourself in a precarious position to be punished by your opponents. You should definitely look to eliminate an opponent when you (or the rest of the table) can’t remove a problem (say Metalworker and Planar Bridge). I’m always a fan of the Lightning Bolt Solution of taking out a player to remove a threat.
Moving Outside Your Playgroup
When you game with some new players it’s important to look to keep games moving. I think Preston’s approach to bookending games is something I really want to look to do in the future. I’m certainly going to read more cards and ask some more questions to make sure that I don’t assume the wrong thing about a play, a card, or someone’s deck. In any playgroup, look to make some strategic eliminations to close out games and keep yourself alive.
Have you ever met up with some people outside your playgroup? What lessons do they teach you? What strategies can you talk about from a day of gaming with other friends? Let me know your different experiences here or on Twitter.