Thursday, May 24, 2012

Another #MayaelFTW

Tonight I played a commander game against Jonathan Richmond (@norbert88) and Zack Levine (@metaknightmare) from Twitter, plus some other guy I don't know.

I'm up against Kresh, Baru, and Merieke Ri Berit. These are commanders I'm comfortable going up against. I assume Baru is a ramp deal with lots of creatures to take advantage of Baru's pump. That means I have to watch out for out-of-nowhere kills from him. Kresh could have any number of tricks up his sleeves, so I'm not sure what to expect from him. Merieke is probably a control deck with white sweepers, blue goodstuff, and such and such, so I'll be looking to play around removal and try to counter any stealing with Homeward Path if necessary.

My opening hand has Top, Boots, and land, so I snap-keep. I think this is a good hand. Swiftfoot Boots is a key card against the mono-green deck because mono-green has so few outs to Blazing Archon--if I can get an Archon in play and use Boots to protect it from Duplicant, Jon might just be putty in my hands. Additionally, I expect a lot of point removal out of the two black decks at the table, so the hexproof should be powerful. If I'm lucky, they'll have all creature kill and nothing for artifacts.

Jon comes out of the gates quickly with a Garruk into Garruk's Horde. Zack declines to cast his commander, which actually seems kinda sketchy in retrospect--if I'd been paying closer attention, I probably would have taken it as a hint that he's holding a Wrath effect.

For my part, I run out Top and Boots. I could try to hold the boots, but I have a gut feeling that the first Wrath this game will not be my own Akroma's Vengeance. I think if I can protect a Mayael, I should be able to drop enough fatties to wrest control of the board away from the mono-green deck. I feel better about this plan when I see a Gisela, Blade of Goldnight on top of my library with Top.

I cast Mayael and equip the boots, planning to spin the Top on my upkeep. Jon decides to point his 7/7 at the Kresh deck, which isn't unreasonable, since Kresh has been ramping quite a bit. I suspect if he'd seen the Gisela on top of my library, it might have been pointed at me instead, but as-is I only had to suffer attacks from the 3/3 Beast.

Incidentally, this It That Betrays is looking very bad.

I manage to find a sixth land, so I'm all set to start spinning the wheel next turn. Meanwhile, Jon has added a Baloth Woodcrasher and a Hidden Herd, while Zack has dropped a face-down creature (claiming in the chat that it is a Zombie Cutthroat). It's obviously not really a Zombie Cutthroat, since that card is unplayable in EDH; I figure it's something like a Vesuvan Shapeshifter, Willbender, or Bane of the Living.

Hidden Herd seems like a bad card. I don't think it should be in the deck. Yes, it's pretty much guaranteed to activate, but a vanilla 3/3 just isn't very good in Commander, even at 1 mana.

Zack plays another morph (loudly declaring that they are both Zombie Cutthroats), Jon accelerates with an Extraplanar Lens drawn off a Harmonize, and Captain America uses a Flametongue Kavu to dispatch Jon's 4/4 Baloth.

For my part, I don't draw a seventh land, seeing three fatties on top of my deck instead. But for now, I play land #6 and get ready to drop Gisela, who has been waiting faithfully on top of my library for several turns. I'll happily slam her to block Garruk's Horde if it comes my way, although I suspect that will not happen.

Instead, Garruk ultimates, and the green squad ranches at Captain America for 22, getting revenge for the Mind Shatter that just emptied his hand. The good Captain scoops...although even if he hadn't, I would have dropped Gisela after blockers to kill him anyway with double damage. But turns out it wasn't necessary.

Zack neutralizes Garruk with a Faith's Fetters, not willing to suicide one of his morph guys (although again, I would have dropped Gisela to make it trade with the beast). Then I finally slam Gisela at end of turn.

I choose not to activate Top in my upkeep here. I know I'm going to equip the boots to Gisela (because she is a monster and if I can keep her in play I will just win the game). If I Top, it means that even drawing an untapped land won't let me equip + activate Mayael, so I draw blind. It turns out it's a Seedborn Muse, which is much better than a land. I cast it, obviously, and pass the turn after hitting Jon for 10 with my angel.

Jon whiffs on the topdeck and attacks Zack, who trades off his two morphs for two beast tokens (turns out they were Willbender and Skinthinner) and goes to 21. I get to drop Akroma at the end of that turn.

Then Zack plays a Martial Coup for 5 to destroy all creatures. This means, as Jon points out in the chat, it's time to mise an Avacyn! I don't hit the Avacyn, but I hit Moldgraf Monstrosity, which is the second-best possible thing--it bounces my Akroma and Seedborn Muse right back onto the battlefield.

This lets me untap, re-cast Mayael, give her haste with the boots, and immediately get right back to dropping an endless stream of fatties. I attack Jon for 6 with Akroma (cleverly remembering the Beast Attack in his graveyard and leaving my smaller guys back) and pass the turn, untapping my stuff.

I flip a Terastodon off the top, which hits three of Zack's mana and eight of Jon's. At this point, I think the game is a lock for me. I have my combo rolling, the Merieke deck that has all the removal that could stop me is stuck on four lands with no black sources, and the green deck has no cards in hand or on the field and probably has little to no outs anyway.

And indeed, I manage to quickly close the game from there after flipping Woodfall Primus, Primeval Titan, and Avacyn--although truth be told, I'm pretty sure that I could have been flipping vanilla 5/5s and won just as easily.

This game really showcased the power of Seedborn Muse. When Mayael and Seedborn Muse are rolling, it's very difficult to lose. It's an obvious interaction on paper, but seeing it in action really makes you appreciate how busted it is.

More subtly, Sensei's Divining Top was an all-star as well. If not for Top, my hand would have been clogged with fatties I couldn't cast. Thanks to the library manipulation, I got to make that Gisela and red-Akroma float on top of my deck while I pulled lands out from underneath them to draw instead. That's a very big deal, and I think it won me the game.

The boots were good here too. If Mayael hadn't had hexproof, she probably would have died to Captain America's Flametongue Kavu; instead, one of my opponent's creatures got blasted. The haste bought me two full Mayael activations as well, thanks to the turn I re-cast her with Seedborn Muse in play.

Gisela was sweet. When she's on the board, it's like I'm invincible. I mean how do you even beat that card? Moldgraf Monstrosity was also great here; this game got to showcase how good it is against sweepers.

On the downside, It That Betrays was a waste of space. I am more and more convinced that this is just a bad card. I threw it into the list just for fun because I had oen in my collection and I wanted to see how it would play out, and it's been underwhelming at best. I think replacing it with Ulamog proper is the right play here--one less mana, two more annihilator, free Vindicate, prevents me from getting decked, and indestructible, in exchange for losing an ability that is never relevant. Yeah, obvious upgrade.

Akroma, Angel of Fury was underwhelming as well. I saw her in my library with Top, and again on a Mayael activation after shuffling my deck, and both times she seemed pretty weak. In her defense, she's in the deck for some pretty specific matchups, but I think she's one of the weaker fatties and she'll probably be on the chopping block soon enough.

Akroma, Angel of Wrath is still better, I think, although she's not irreplaceable either. Her main strength is being great on defense with six first striking power in the air and protection from two colors--the haste and vigilance is a nice bonus, but while she can poke them, six damage isn't super impressive on offense. I like how difficult it is for red and black decks to deal with her, but I have other cards that are good in those matchups, so I could see dropping her from the list at some point.

Jungle Weaver was sort of awkward. I was a little too tight on mana to cycle it this game, so it just sat there durdling in my hand. I still like it, though. Boosting the Mayael hit percentage is a subtle advantage, but it's real, and it's not as if a 5/6 reach is irrelevant--it blocks reasonably well.

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