As a full-time dreamer* “I wonder what would happen if” is a phrase I frequently use. This week’s wonder was how good Kresh actually is of his own accord. I realize that with a deck tuned to take advantage of the ability to chuck him and his friends at other people’s domes, he’s insane–but what would happen if he were commanding a different army? I decided to give him a chance to lead the troops normally reserved for Darigaaz and see what happened.

The first thing I wanted to do was to tighten up the Darigaaz deck a bit. I was really, really top-heavy. In games that don’t go 20+ turns, twelve 7+ spells was too many. I didn’t want to get too Spikey, but I also didn’t want to sit around not playing stuff.

Out: Herald of Leshrac, In: Puppeteer Clique. More action, greater threat density.

Out: Temporal Extortion, In: Living Death. I realized I only had Living End in there, and Living Death isn’t so much a combo piece as it is an answer to board-sweepers.

Out: Helldozer, In: Singe-Mind Ogre. Confessedly, I only really put this in because I have a foil, but seems like he’ll do a fair amount of damage in this format, especially recurring him.

Out: Chord of Calling, In: Goblin Bombardment. I’ve found that I usually sit around with this in my hand in this deck because I’m always playing stuff on my own turn. Goblin Bombardment is defense against getting stuff stolen or bounced. We hate and fear Capsize.

Out: Kaervek, In: Soul Snuffers. The ability to wipe out weenie hordes and combo with Kulrath Knight seems sexy.

Out: Sarkhan Vol, In: Garruk. Both of these have their charms, but I traded for a foil Garruk at Nationals (giving up a foil Maze of Ith), and I want to play it.

Out: Vexing Shusher, In: Heart Warden. I found that since I’m mostly dropping creatures, folks aren’t countering my spells. The combination of mana acceleration and the ability to draw a card when I’m done with it makes Heart Warden perfect. It’d be cooler if it had Exalted.

Out: Forest, In: Tower of the Magistrate. There’s enough stuff flying around the league, like Shackles and Swords, not to mention artifact creatures, to make this worthwhile.

Out: Spiteful Visions, In: Rumbling Slum. As much as I’d like to penalize people for drawing cards, this also puts cards in their hands and makes me a bigger target. Rumbling Slum is just a guy to turn sideways.

Out: Magus of the Moon , In: Civic Wayfinder. More guys with more ETBT abilities. Could have also been Elvish Visionary. More land is mo’ better. As much as I like turning off the non-basics, I’m running a fair amount myself, so this seems slightly counterproductive (and I still have Blood Moon).

Out: Detritivore, In: Burning-Tree Shaman. Lots of activated abilities going around (although not so many for me), and I found myself never really Suspending Detritivore, who is also counterproductive with Wilderness Elemental.

My intention with the Darigaaz deck has always been to control the narrative of the game by putting early pressure on everyone via the Red Zone. Kresh shouldn’t really change that much, but I think what will happen is people will get frightened of him, drawing removal, not paying attention to the fact that they’re getting smacked around by my other guys. I’m playing Obliterate and Living Death as defensive and recovery strategies, respectively, although there are a few ways either can be very aggressive. I never want to put too much into the Living Death plan, since there is a fair amount of graveyard hate running around here.

We have a great turnout of 16 players, so we’re four pods of four. I’m seated with (in order, to my left) Team Lives in the Red Zone member Ben (who makes the nearly-unforgiveable mistake of saying “Team Combo” at one point, but makes up for it by mising a $5 large pizza), with Sakashima, also called The Destroyer (ask the guys in Ft. Lauderdale what happens when they trot out Sundering Titan, only to get it copied multiple times), Michael with Sliver Overlord, and Zach with Grand Arbiter. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I don’t mind that Grand Arbiter makes his stuff cheaper–it’s that it makes my stuff more expensive that’s annoying.

Ben wins the roll, which means I go last.

TURN 1

Lands for everyone. Ben also drops Mana Vault.

TURN 2

Ben plays Jens to accelerate even faster, Michael plays a land, and Zach gets a huge roar by casting Meddling Mage, naming Sliver Overlord! I drop a land and am done.

TURN 3

Ben: Mana Vault to 39. Attacks Zach, who blocks with Meddling Mage. At EOT, Michael flashes in Quick Sliver.

Michael: Plays Umezaw’s Jitte, attacks Zach (39).

Zach: Land

Me: Fellwar Stone and Ancient Ziggurat. I’m not liking the way my hand looks at the moment. I have Pernicious Deed, but no dudes, and that Ziggurat seems like little help.

TURN 4

Ben: Mana Vault to 38. Casts Acquire, targeting Zach, getting another Jens. It feels like he’s ramping up to an early Eternal Dominion.

Michael: Equips Jitte to Quick Sliver and attacks Zach (38).

Zach: Carry Away on the Jitte. Michael sacs the counters (44).

Me: No land, for frowns. I play the Deed anyway.

TURN 5

Ben: Mana Vault to 37. Attacks me with Jens (38)

Michael: Attack me with Quick Sliver (37).

Zach: Nada

Me: Spinerock Knoll, which shows me Artifact Mutation and 3 lands. I could have used those. I put the Knoll under.

TURN 6

Ben: Mana Vault to 36. Jens attacks Michael (42). Nevinyrral’s Disk. At EOT Michael flashes in Darkheart Sliver.

Michael: Sliver Overlord. We all look sideways at Zach. Attacks me for 3 (34). At EOT, Zach cycles Akroma’s Vengeance.

Zach: Grand Arbiter.

Me: No land. Bigger frowns.

TURN 7

Ben: Mana Vault to 35. Attack Michael with Jens, who blocks with Overlord. Targets Grand Arbiter with Persuasion. Zach gets “Hey That’s Mine.”

Michael: Attacks Zach with Overlord (31). EOT, I Spinerock to get the Artifact Mutation, targeting Disk. Ben blows it and Michael gets First Blood. Michael also searches up some guys and gains life (51)

Zach: Nothing

Me: Molder Slug. EOT, Ben Mystical Tutors for Bribery.

TURN 8

Ben: Draws the Bribery but passes the turn. I wonder what’s up.

Michael: Wild Pair. EOT Zach casts Dismantling Blow with Kicker on it. Ben Twincasts it, so he gets to draw the two, not Zach.

Zach: Sacrifices his artifact land. RFGs two cards to play Sunscour, getting “I’m Cool Too.”

Me: Face down Morph (Root Elemental, which I doubt I’m going to have the chance to turn up).

TURN 9

Ben: Jace, and we all draw. Dominating Licid. Cryptic Commands Michael’s bounce land and draws a card.

Michael: Obelisk of Alara, and shocks himself with Blood Crypt (49). EOT Zach Disenchants the Obelisk. Seems like his whole m.o. is to blow up stuff. In White/Blue no less.

Zach: Coastal Tower.

Me: Tap Spinerock for mana, then return it with Darigaaz’s Caldera. Kulrath Knight.

TURN 10

All draw. Helm of Possession.

Michael: Root Sliver. Harmonic Sliver, killing Helm.

Zach: Kirtar’s Wrath. Ben Dominates my Morph in response “for funsies.”

Me: Spinerock Knoll again. My choice is between Stomphowler and Leyline of the Black. I’m playing Survival, so I know I can eventually go get the Stomphowler if I need it. I choose the Leyline and then cast Greater Good.

TURN 11

Ben: All draw, then Bribery me. He gets my Charnelhoard Wurm, dreaming about replaying Bribery every turn. He drops Crucible of Worlds.

Michael: Sliver Queen.

Zach: Attacks Michael with the Kirtar tokens (47). Wrath of God. There is a sigh of relief. He casts Callous Oppressor, and has Ben choose. Ben says “Slivers.” Seems good.

Me: Thicket Elemental with Kicker, getting Fumiko, who is always fun.

TURN 12

Ben: Mindslaver, and activates it on Zach. We all draw.

Michael: Joiner Adept. There’s a chorus of “Hey, that’s not a Sliver.” Michael shrugs. Sedge Sliver then Spinneret Sliver.

Zach (Turn courtesy of Ben): Targets Ben with Opportunity. Ben’s at least gentile enough to say “thank you.” Steals my Thicket Elemental with Callous Oppressor, but I Greater Good it in response.

Me: It’s a turn for enchantments: Oversold Cemetery, Blood Moon, Survival of the Fittest.

TURN 13

Ben: Vedalken Shackles, we all draw, then Grim Monolith.

Michael: Firewake Sliver, Sliver Legion. Attacks me with the Legion, which goes to 11**, the rest of the team to Zach (17), except for Joiner Adept, which attacks Jace. I block with Fumiko, and then after the Bushido trigger resolves, Greater Good it. I get no real answers.

Zach: Callous Oppressor steals Joiner Adept. After that resolves, Ben steals it with Helm, getting a point for What Goes Around. Sphinx Ambassador. At EOT, I Survival for Soul Snuffers (combo with Kulrath Knight!!!).

Me: Swamp, Sol Ring, Garruk. I’ve drawn Decree of Pain this turn, and I think it’s a better choice than the rather unstable combo. I draw 7 cards and need to discard. I keep Living End, Lurking Predators, Insurrection, Obliterate, Lavalanche, Withered Wretch, and Boseiju. I figure the creatures I can just get back, either with Cemetery or Living End/Living Death.

TURN 14

Ben: Mana Crypt, Sensei’s Divining Top, and Covenant of Minds, targeting Michael. We all think it’s pretty cool when Ben gets three lands, but then Michael surprises us by saying “pitch ’em.” The politics of multiplayer have arisen.

Michael: Fury Sliver.

Zach: Imperial Mask.

Me: I regrow Puppeteer Clique then play Lurking Predators, Withered Wretch, and a Talisman. Ben Helms me for 6 at EOT, and the first card is Ravenous Baloth.

TURN 15

Ben: Mana Crypt to 34. We all draw. Ben casts Capsize, no Buyback, on Blood Moon. I get Civic Wayfinder off of Predators. Ben Dominates, targeting the Wretch. I remove Sliver Legion and Sliver Queen, then sacrifice the Wretch to Greater Good. Predators shows Vicious Shadows, which I put on the bottom. Ben Tutors with Portal for Copy Enchantment and casts it. I get Singe-Mind Ogre, targeting Ben. Ben copies Lurking Predators. He reveals Timetwister (31). It could suck if he actually casts that, since it’d reset my awesome hand and graveyard.

Michael: Sword of Light and Shadow. Ben shows Treachery, which he puts on the bottom, and I get Burning-Tree Shaman, which seems good under the circumstances. Sword of Fire and Ice. Ben and I both show land. Equips both to Fury Sliver, taking two from the Burning-Tree Shaman (45). Michael laments not being able to attack me since I have a green guy (Civic Wayfarer), so Ben Shackles it. Michael attacks me for 14 (20), killing Burning-Tree Shaman and drawing two cards.

Zach: Morph. Ben gets Empress Galina, I get Graveshell Scarab.

Me: Attack Michael with both my guys (38) so that I can activate Spinerock, putting in the Leyline. Ben reveals Island. Ben is completely tapped, Michael is tapped, and Zach has five mana open, so I know he can’t Time Stop (which would be worse than Venser). I float 12 and cast Obliterate, leaving BBBR. Ben sacrifices the Baloth (30). I get a -2 for “Chasm,” since I destroyed all the lands (we vote right then and there that I would still get it if someone had an Indestructible land, since that’s really the spirit of things). I drop the Wretch, remove something from Michael’s yard, play a land, and Red Elemental Blast Jace.

There’s a little more that goes on, but I’m clearly way out in front. A couple of turns later, I kill Zach, and Ben and Michael offer to concede. I mention that because of league standings, I can still run up the score before killing them, and that we have a gentleman’s agreement that there won’t be any scoopage just to keep folks from scoring points. They stipulate to the Straight that I’m about to get, and I don’t get greedy (I think I could have gotten both Flush and Straight Flush) so that we can get onto the next round. I find out that we’re not the last table, so I guess I could have gone for it.

I win the table with 5 points (three kills and last man standing, minus Chasm).

GAME 2

I’m seated with the winners of the other three tables, Jon, who combo’d out everyone with Arcum (courtesy of Mycosynth Lattice and March of the Machines), Jay, who killed everyone with Thraximundar (in the Red Zone!) and Allyn, who won a tough table with Korlash. I go right after Jon verbally, hating on combo. It’s mostly over-the-top bombastic and in jest, more designed to get inside his head than anything, but hey, I also hate combo. This format is designed as a social and interactive format, and combo is neither of those two things. I’d rather the banned list not be onerous. There are likely really wacky things you can do with Arcum without wiping out everything turn 4 and making players unable to play lands, so it’s not banned. We’d rather have it available and let people and play groups police themselves. If you want to play in a Super-Spike environment, where no game lasts past turn 5, more power to you. That’s not the environment the folks who’ve founded Armada’s League want to promote, and you’ll see how it plays out.

To Jon’s credit, he kind of shrugs off the verbal beating and takes it well. Jon only makes a single mistake during the exchange–he says “Sorry.” Playing degenerate combo is bad enough. The insincere apology really gets my goat.

I don’t have to suggest that we gang up on him–one of the other two (I think it was Allyn, but I could be wrong) doesn’t suggest it, he states it as if it were the 11th commandment.

As we’re shuffling, I ask Allyn, who is new to the shop, how he found out about our Armada Games EDH League, and he tells me that he was playing in the Sunday League at Anthem Games across town, and that he heard “the guy who invented the format played at Armada, so I had to come here. I guess that would be you.” I blush a little. Ben hears the story, and pulls out a promo Char and gives it to Allyn as a welcome gift. Jay then tells us he’s driven all the way up from Sarasota (a good 90 minutes) to play with us. Ben is out of promos, but I happen to have one, so I ship it Jay’s way to say thanks for the effort. That drive is above and beyond.

Allyn wins the roll, which means I’m going last again.

Turn 1, it’s all lands, plus Sol Ring for me. I’ve kept a plenty-of-mana but creature-weak hand. It would violate the spirit of the Gis mulligan to ship this, so I don’t. I want a mulligan that will keep players from getting mana-screwed, but doesn’t promote players easily setting up combos.

TURN 2

Allyn: Bitterblossom

Jon: Land, Signet

Jay: Land, Izzet Signet

Me: Land Garruk, and nothing else, even with my two untapped lands.

TURN 3

Allyn: Bitterblossom to 39. Temple of the False God.

Jon: Veldalken Archmage.

Jay: Oboro, Suspend Greater Gargadon, Dimir Signet.

Me: Swamp, Genesis, which is the only guy I have in my hand.

TURN 4

Allyn: Bitterblossom to 38. Cabal Coffers, Withered Wretch, which is really bad for me this early. Attacks Jon (39).

Jon: Pentad Prism.

Jay: Nekretaals the Archmage, but Jon has Rewind ready.

Me: Survival of the Fittest, attack Jon (35), Ouphe Vandals, which seems to displease Allyn a bit. We’ll find out shortly why and what he does about it.

TURN 5

Allyn: Bitterblossom to 37. Attack Jon (31). Imperial Seals (35) to get land. At EOT, Jon Vensers Garruk.

Jon: Arcum and Lilting Refrain.

Jay: Thraximundar, attacking Jon, who sacrifices Venser (and gets a point for First Blood). Jon goes to 24. I think he’s feeling the pressure already. He tells us his combo is difficult to set up, but we don’t fall for it.

Me: Attack Jon with Genesis, he blocks with Archmage. I replay Garruk.

TURN 6

Allyn: Darksteel Gargoyle, attacks Jon (19).

Jon: Undo, targeting Thraximundar and Genesis, then Coldsteel Heart, naming Blue.

Jay: Puppeteer Clique, targeting the Eternal Witness in my yard. Allyn removes it with Withered Wretch. At EOT, I search up Bogardan Hellkite.

Me: I take painland (39) and play the Hellkite. I realize after I’ve announced it that I tapped out to do it and Jon could activate Lilting Refrain, but I tell him that I’m going to take out all but one of Allyn’s team, so he allows it. I get a point for “I’m Cool Too.”

TURN 7

Allyn: Bitterblossom to 33. Beseech the Queen.

Jon: Mind Spring for 5 and cycles Lonely Sandbar.

Jay: Attack Jon (16), Mind’s Eye.

Me: Solemn Simulacrum, attack Jon (11).

TURN 8

Allyn: Bitterblossom 32. Shield of Kaldra, and Worldslayer. He asks if equipping something is an activated ability that can be countered with Ouphe and tell him that it is. His plan seems simple enough.

Jon: Prismatic Lens, Energy Chamber.

Jay: Thraximundar, which Jon Overrides. [card]Innocent Blood[/card]. Jon Arcums Allyn’s [card]Darksteel Gargoyle[/card], and Allyn gets [card]Darksteel Citadel[/card]. I sacrifice Jens, Allyn sacrifices tokens, and Jon sacrifices Arcum. Jay gets Jens with his Puppeteer Clique, and attacks Jon (9).

Me: [card]Overrun[/card] my remaining guys and kill Jon, then play Kresh.

At this point, there will be those of you who will point out the hostility to the combo player. This hostility is deserved, and not due to any kind of moral or ethical failing of the combo player. If it’s OK to like a particular style of play, it’s OK to hate one as well, and it’s OK to try to shape your local game through play. Those of us who like the Red Zone are no different than those folks who like to create a hostile environment for creatures (like Zach in the first game, with all his Wrath effects) or those who pack a great deal of graveyard hate for the recursion decks. In this case, the group spoke, and the message was “play degenerate combo, and you’ll get hated out.” I’d much rather the local play group speak with this kind of voice than the Rules Committee.

TURN 9

Allyn: [card]Bitterblossom[/card] to 31. [card]Reanimate[/card] Jay’s Nekretaal (27), targeting [card]Ouphe Vandals[/card]. Equips Worldslayer and Shield to token and attacks me (38). Blows up the world. Jay responds to the trigger by sacrificing down to 1 counter on Gargadon. The only things left are Allyn’s, and he gets the -2 for Chasm. Seems like the earlier discussion on someone having an Indestructible land bears fruit.

Jay: Gargadon, attacks Allyn (18).

Me: [card]Savage Lands[/card].

TURN 10

Allyn: Starts to swing again with his Worldslayer-equipped guy, and shop owner and EDH proponent Aaron Fortino, who is standing behind him, reminds him that he’ll get -2 every time he destroys all the land in play. He thinks better of attacking. The consolation is that he can block Gargadon forever.

Jay: Attacks me (30)

Me: Spinerock Knoll, putting Molder Slug under. I’ve been holding back lands since the beginning, so I should recover relatively quickly.

TURN 11

Allyn: Nothing

Jay: Attacks me (21)

Me: Stomping Ground.

TURN 12

Allyn: Nothing

Jay: Attacks me (12)

Me: Land, Shatterstorm, getting only the Worldslayer, but it’s enough to keep the threat away. It might be strategically advantageous for Allyn to Worldslay again and take the penalty in order to kill everyone.

TURN 13

Allyn: Loxodon Warhammer.

Jay: Nothing. Yay! Doesn’t attack me, I think as a thanks for blowing up Worldslayer.

Me: Peel Acidic Slime to take care of the Warhammer.

TURN 14

Allyn and Jay: Nothing

Me: Bloodbraid Elf into ¦Heart Warden. I was hoping for Living End.

TURN 15

Allyn: Syphon Mind

Jay: Nothing.

Me: Fumiko!

TURN 16

Allyn: Damnation. I sacrifice Heart Warden to draw. Attacks me (11).

Jay: Barter in Blood.

Me: Talisman

TURN 17

Allyn: Asks the familiar question “How many creatures are in graveyards?” and we know the [card]Avatar of Woe[/card] is coming. Demonic Tutor for Maze of Ith.

Jay: Nothing.

Me: Kulrath Knight, at least hoping that Allyn will attack into it.

TURN 18

Allyn: Does not fall prey to Wither stuff. He waxes Kulrath Knight on his own turn. EOT, Jay casts Makeshift Mannequin to get back his Gargadon.

Jay: Makes a small mistake in attacking Allyn with Gargadon, since targeting it with Maze of Ith destroys it. In response, he sacrifices it to Miren to gain life.

Me: I see a small opening and regrow Bloodbraid Elf, but hold onto it to cast Puppeteer Clique for Jay’s Gargadon, swinging at Allyn (9), so that I can activate Spinerock Knoll for Molder Slug.

TURN 19

Allyn: Sacrifices Darksteel Citadel, which is a really good play. Kills Molder Slug with Avatar of Woe, then plays Disk.

Jay: Jay looks at everyone’s graveyard for quite a while, and then decides to pass the turn.

Me: Bloodbraid Elf into… crap. I swing, he doesn’t miss the Maze, and I play the Artifact Mutation which I’ve been holding quite a while, destroying the Disk and getting four guys.

TURN 20

Allyn: Finally plays Korlash. EOT, Jay cycles Decree of Pain, killing my guys, which is a good play because it probably prevents me from killing Allyn. He does point out that Puppeteer Clique keeps the guy until my EOT. I take Darksteel Gargoyle.

Jay: Does nothing. Explains that he only cycled Decree to dig for action cards, and that it would be too long to wait to get the 8 mana to play it. At Jay’s EOT, Allyn kills the Clique.

Me: I Demonic Tutor for an answer, and realize I’m not going to live if I don’t kill Korlash. Living Death isn’t an option because I don’t have two black up after the Tutor. I get Bituminous Blast, again hoping to dig for something good (C’mon Living End!!!)

TURN 21

Allyn: Top. Attacks me with both, I Bit Blast Korlash and take 6 (5). I turn up nothing remarkable.

Jay: Sower of Temptation, stealing Avatar of Woe. Allyn gets the point for “Hey, That’s Mine.”

Me: Regrow Bloodbraid Elf. Play it into Shunt. I’m so bad at Cascading.

TURN 22

Allyn: Untaps, and I say “Wouldn’t it be funny if you play your own Barter in Blood?” And he does. I live another turn!!!

Jay: Niv-Mizzet, which spells my doom if I don’t have an out. I have an one, though.

Me: Regrow Puppeteer Clique, getting Jay’s Nekretaal, taking out Niv-Mizzet. Attack Jay (45).

TURN 23

Allyn: Gauntlet of Power for black. This is getting ugly for me.

Jay: Tolaria West.

Me: I’ve spent all this time just trying to stay alive. Last turn, I drew Thicket Elemental, so now it’s time to play it into some action. I play it with Kicker and get Ravenous Baloth. Seems like I might live another turn.

TURN 24

Allyn: Tops and draws it for Island of Wak-Wak. Gets major props from me for outside-the-box thinking. Then casts Magus of the Mirror and I’m pretty sure he’s not going to switch life totals with me.

Jay: Casts Body Double, copying my Hellkite. When he deals 3 to Magus of the Mirror and 2 to Allyn, I realize that he’s sealed my victory. He attacks Allyn to 5, making the deal completely done.

Me: No regrows, and swing at Allyn with everyone for the kill. I have one more out–I cycle Barren Moor but it’s into another land, so I’m done.

I win the pod with 5 points, while Jay has 4. It must be said that I really liked Allyn’s deck. It was tight and interesting, with some clever choices. I’m a big fan of Shield of Kaldra, so that might have swung my vote.

These matches demonstrate the fun and interesting times of interactivity. Without the Chasm penalty, Allyn just never lets us get permanents in play. With it, he rethinks his plan and we have an exciting game.

Denying your opponent(s) the opportunity to play their stuff is a reasonable way to win in competitive Magic, and in “real” competition, I have no problems with however you want to win. As I’ve said before, winning in EDH is when everyone has a great time, so here’s to everyone being able to play.

Even though I win both pods, I’d have to call the Kresh experiment a failure. There was rarely a time when I thought that playing him would be a better idea than what I had in hand, or what I needed as an out. I’ll switch him and Darigaaz back to their decks, and go from there.

In addition to those two, I currently have the following decks: Phelddagrif, Lord of Tresserhorn, Merieke Ri Berit, Rith, and Thraximundar. I’d starting to work up Momir Vig before BDM ran it at US Nats, so if there’s a more interesting and less trite idea in blue/green feel free to suggest it.

See you next time on “We Play Too.”

* Spinal Tap reference #1

** Spinal Tap reference #2