Friday, July 08, 2011

It's the Magic: Commander

New Hotness
Commander, also known as Elder Dragon Highlander, is a Magic: the Gathering format for three or more people. It features larger decks with only one of each card, as well as higher starting life totals. That means that games tend to last longer and be a little less consistent. That means instead of playing well-honed decks in burnout matches against a single opponents, player must establish their footing, understand what their opponents are doing, and do a significant amount of social wrangling to stay ahead.

EDH was a fan format until the guys who make Magic opted to make an official--and identical--version called Commander. They released specialty decks, some of them had original cards made specifically for the format. They were also about thirty bucks apiece.

The boxes look like this.

My go-round with the Commander decks consisted of a three way game between myself, Terry, and Katie.

My deck was the White, Blue, and Red “Political Puppets.” It used a lot of ‘good for everyone’ cards along with control effects to win enough good will to sucker punch everyone else with a big, final win.

Terry’s deck was the White, Black, and Green “Counterpunch.” It generated a lot of tokens and used them mostly to destroy your opponents’ creatures with Attrition. It did that, and it did it very well.

Katie’s deck was the Blue, Black, and Green “Devour for Power.” It was chock full of cards that cared about the graveyard and became stronger as the game progressed.

Terry developed well early, but held his fifteen or so puny creatures back, either because he saw his position as being weaker than I did, or because he just felt sympathy for my sorry board state and he wasn’t ready to go toe to toe with Katie’s fewer, but more formidable creatures.

Katie stumbled a bit at first with no graveyards in a deck that loves graveyards, but her first real powerful card was a Sewer Nemesis that targeted me. It slowed me down and I got a little offended by that, as a player. I kept my actions to a minimum until I could remove the Nemesis (He came back of course, that’s Devour for Power’s whole deal) and got a bit too agitated over it.

So then I played Insurrection. I was the only person packing counterspells and I let it passed, so after Terry sacrificed half of his dudes to a Nantuko Husk, I took control of the rest. He took a hit from his own dudes and Katie’s dudes, but due to a miscalculation on my part, it wasn’t quite enough to kill him. When Katie got her guys back for her turn, Terry’s were still tapped from attacking him and instead of letting her stroll over there and finish him, he conceded to at least let her swing at me a turn earlier.

That turn didn’t amount to much in the end. I dropped the Dominus of Fealty I’d been saving and began stealing her biggest guy every turn and slamming it into her. The game ground down until she conceded by swinging in and leaving herself undefended for a final assault by my dudes.

Not fun. It’s not the fault of the format or the players. Well, it is kinda mine.

“Political Puppets” works to achieve victory based on two precepts:
1) If you give people something, they will forget there can only be one winner and they’ll like having you around instead of slamming you in the face. Then, you sucker punch them.
2) They will also forget the sucker punch that you pulled on them last game.
Implicit in this is that before you give folks stuff, you’ve got shit on the board that no one else would want. It puts you in a very bad position. It might be easier to get away with it in a larger multiplayer game, but with just three people, I felt how easy it would be to take a few “free” swings at the weakest opponent (me), who’s devastating riposte would be…Howling Mine. Political Puppets is frustrating because its diplomacy is virtually all carrot, but I would infinitely prefer just a little bit of stick in there.

Anyway, I played a few one on one games as well. The first, Counterpunch vs Political Puppets, was a blowout courtesy of Attrition. The second saw Heavenly Inferno get schooled by Mirror Mastery’s Animar, Soul of Elements, as two thirds of its spells just bounced off of the ever-growing general’s hide.

Ultimately, I think the new Commander release is promising, but I just haven't played enough to know for sure.

This Week's Best Thing Ever
Hey, they had a series of field reports on the Magic site a while back, covering the war on Mirrodin. They were scattered everywhere and came out sporadically, so I didn't fucking read them. However, they eventually collected them all so that I could sit down and enjoy them. They were actually pretty good, so I thought I'd share.

Considering the villains of the story were victorious, don't expect any happy endings for the heroes. Considering who the villains of the story are, don't expect any happy endings for the villains either.:
Ria of Bladehold
Unctus of the Synod
Kessla of Temple Might
Roxith, Thane of Rot
Farris of the Anvil

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