Commander and the Day of Ultimate Luck

Part two of the Community Cup play-by-play, in which I apparently roll through a field of four-leaf clovers on the way to play Magic.

Next event: Commander Unified. Commander is the Magic Online version of EDH (Elder Dragon Highlander). Each player builds a 100-card deck, single cards only, except basic land. Each deck also has a commander (general in EDH), a card that starts the game exiled. You can play it from exile at any time. If it ever dies, you can put it back into exile and replay at any time, adding 2 to the casting cost. No cards in the deck can be a color the commander isn’t (so if your commander is [card]Helldozer[/card], you can only have black cards in your deck). The “unified” format meant that once a card was used, it couldn’t be used in any of that team’s other seven decks.

It’s a multiplayer format — usually you throw down against three other players, who are all your opponents. This was a team competition though, so you had a second community player with you. The goal was to destroy the two Wizards players before they could kill either community player. Obviously, you would never attack your teammate; however, the game still considered your teammate to be your opponent. This was the key to the format.

There are quite a few cards in Magic that offer powerful effects with the drawback of providing something beneficial to your opponent. When you cast a [card]Hunted Dragon[/card] and give your own teammate three 2/2 first strike creatures, that’s amazing. And how about [card]Trade Secrets[/card]? I’d say the word “broken” is appropriate here. I was assigned a mono-red goblins deck with [card]Zo-Zu the Punisher[/card] as the commander.

Now, the team was really underconfident about the Commander event because several of us (like me) had zero experience with it and no ability to build the complicated decks required. It was also common knowledge that Aaron Forsythe on the Wizards team was an EDH master and had a brutal deck. At the last minute, Bill Stark called a team meeting. We sequestered ourselves in a small meeting room and Bill gave a classic coaching speech, boosting our morale and refocusing us on what would turn out to be a hugely important event. We used the white board to lay out our decks and strategies, then went out for battle.

Round one was once again saved by Pennsylvania Magic Online player Joseph Hill. Joseph apparently has psychic abilities, as he realized our remaining opponent probably had [card]Demonic Tutor[/card]ed for a [card]Tendrils of Corruption[/card]. When I drew a [card]Char[/card] with my opponent at two life, I excitedly tapped land to cast it, only to hear, “Wait wait!” I waited and attacked first, only to see the Tendrils come in, which would have resulted in an 8-point life gain. [card]Char[/card] in response ended it. I’d have blundered that one.

Round two had me paired with an aggressive [card]Gaddock Teeg[/card] deck. My turn five [card]Hunted Dragon[/card] gave my teammate triple 3/3 first strikers thanks to his [card]Glorious Anthem[/card]. A [card]Wilt-Leaf Liege[/card] made them even bigger, and we just stomped for the win.

Here’s where things get controversial. Because of our underconfidence at the outset, we were very happy to have split the Commander event (only scheduled for two rounds because they usually take a long time) and maintained our lead. But the commander matches didn’t last very long, leaving us extra time. Instead of letting us play out the missing Rise of the Eldrazi sealed round we’d lost (an event we had dominated), Wizards decided we should play another round of Commander. Instead of playing for points, we’d play for Multiball.

Multiball was a point multiplier that Wizards applied last year to the community team’s final match. Back then, it was based on a die roll and helped boost the community to victory. This year, it would be based on the third Commander round — the team with the better record would get a point multiplier for the next day’s Standard event. If Wizards won, they’d get the multiplier instead of us! We were desperate to split the round and deny anyone the multiplier, so we could win the tournament on a level field.

Who do I end up playing against for that round? Aaron Forsythe and his [card]Zur the Enchanter[/card], which had stomped in the other rounds. Looked bad. Still, he and his opponent kept marginal draws, and Forsythe accidentally skipped a turn due to an interface issue early in the game. They passed a [card]Rainbow Vale[/card] back and forth a few times, but never drew enough lands to really get active. We destroyed Forsythe quickly with a [card]Goblin Goon[/card]. Then my teammate (Joseph Hill) cast [card]Trade Secrets[/card]. We started drawing my entire deck looking for the right combination of hasty goblins to win the game that turn. Then suddenly we draw the [card]Seismic Assault[/card] we’d forgotten was in there. With roughly 30 cards and a dozen lands in my hand (plus a fully leveled up [card]Kargan Dragonlord[/card] on the board, it was a serious beating and an instant win. At that point I was undefeated in Cup events, which was pretty stunning.

I’ll analyze the Standard finale in part three later, as well as an explanation of my insane lucky streak…I’m about to head to the airport right now, so it might be a while.

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