I’ve now gotten into my second EDH League, this one on Thursdays at Armada Games in Tampa, where I normally play FNM. This one may eventually become my “regular” one, since the other one is on Sundays. My schedule is pretty fluid, but my wife’s isn’t, so I’d rather play on a weekday than weekend, when I could be spending time with her.

I decided to retool Kresh a little and play it. I accelerated the mana a little, since I found that my curve was a little steep, and I’d like to do multiple things on earlier turns. New cards included Kulrath Knight (so I can’t be attacked with my own Kresh or Hamletback Goliath), Brooding Saurian (newly-promoted L2 Judge Ben McDole plays a deck he calls “Layer 1/Layer 2″ since all it does is copy and control stuff), Greater Good (I had always planned on it in this deck, but didn’t have a foily one until I got one from the store on this very site), Golgari Rotwurm (another way to sacrifice stuff), Creakwood Liege (dudes to sacrifice, and making other guys fatter), Grab the Reins (seems obv to steal and fling, or just to fling Kresh), and Sneak Attack (which kind of seems obvious as well).

We start a little late as shop owners and EDH adherents Aaron and Michael Fortino were running behind schedule a bit. There are eight of us, so we have two tables. I’m seated with Michael, playing Sliver Overlord (it was Michael a few weeks ago who was the recipient of 600,000 damage in a casual game), Kevin, playing Rafiq, and Brennan, playing Sharuum. Brennan swears that he doesn’t have any crazy combos and that he’s only playing two counterspells, he just built a deck and found a General in the colors. Brennan is an extremely good player, so I know to watch out for him no matter what. Brennan, Ben, and I have formed a new team, Team Lives in the Red Zone, but we’re somewhat misnamed, since I’m the only one that actually likes turning them sideways. Brennan is a more of a control player, and Ben understands only combo.

We agree to play with M10 rules, just to get the practice in. As we speak, we’re not that far off from them being official, so it seems like a reasonable thing to do.

We agree to use the Gis mulligan, which I’m beginning to suspect is the best idea for a casual format. I have a five land hand, so I’m playable. Michael wins the roll. The only relevant play in the first three turns is Michael playing a Gemhide Sliver and Brennan with Mana Vault. I worry that he’s going to explode with it, but ends up playing more conservatively than I expect.

TURN 4

Michael: Might Sliver, which Brennan Rewinds. Attacks Brennan (39).

Me: Reliquary Tower

Kevin: Treva’s Ruins and Storm Front, which we all have to read. Everyone then gives him the nod of approval for playing a worthwhile card that other people haven’t thought of.

Brennan: Sunken Ruins, Shadowmage Infiltrator, and Demonic Tutor, which Kevin counters with the original Counterspell.

TURN 5

Michael: Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, and Wild Pair (which we all have to read).

Me: Solemn Simulacrum, get a Mountain.

Kevin: Temple Garden. It’s the last land he’ll see for a while.

Brennan: Mana Vault to 38. Attacks Kevin with Finkel (39).

TURN 6

Michael: Might Sliver, which Kevin Mystic Snakes.

Me: Sapling of Colfenor, who will end up surviving a LONG time.

Kevin: Ajani Goldmane, activates to 42. At his EOT, Brennan flashes in Teferi.

Brennan: He has Teferi, why do anything? At his EOT, Michael plays Grim Harvest, getting back Might Sliver.

TURN 7

Michael: Synapse Sliver. Wild Pair triggers, and he gets Pulmonic Sliver. Attacks Kevin (39), plays Darksteel Ingot.

Me: Penumbra Wurm.

Kevin: With Ajani, pumps up his Snake. Plays Rafiq and attacks Michael to 32. At EOT, Brennan flashes in Arcanis.

Brennan: Mana Vault to 36. Draws cards with Arcanis, searching for something to do.

TURN 8

Michael: Urborg. Casts Psionic Sliver and gets Reflex Sliver with Wild Pair. Drops Might Sliver. Kills Rafiq with the Psionic and Reflex Slivers.

Me: Withered Wretch and Demonic Tutor. I want to get something that will have an impact down the road, but that means figuring out what that thing will be. If I need to Obliterate, which I generally play defensively (and then realize that I don’t have it in my deck) and I’ve already gotten something else, I’m screwed. It looks like this is going to shape up to be a giant creature battle, so I get Living Death. I attack Brennan with Sapling (I want to get the reveal, and I’m not willing to anger Michael for 2 damage), revealing Greater Good. This will be the pattern most of the night.

Kevin: Trygon Predator, activate Ajani (41). EOT Brennan flashes in a Morph.

Brennan: Mana Vault to 35. Attacks Kevin with Finkel. At EOT, Michael taps three Slivers to kill Ajani, but Brennan unmorphs his Willbender to redirect the 3rd activation to the Might Sliver, killing all three Slivers that Michael tapped, since they lost the +2 bonus in the backside.

TURN 9

Michael: Swings at Kevin with Mirror Entity, Pulmonic Sliver at Ajani, and Synapse Sliver at Brennan. Kevin blocks Pulmonic Sliver with Trygon Predator. Michael activates his Entity for 3. Kevin to 37, Brennan to 32. Michael regrows and replays Might Sliver.

Me: Greater Good. Attack Brennan with Sapling, revealing Sisters of Stone Death (me to 38). Kevin reads it and declares it awesome. I keep Penumbra Wurm back as a defense against giant Slivers.

Kevin: Still no land, but gets an Obelisk of Bant. Swords on Pulmonic Sliver. Gains life with Ajani (41).

Brennan: Attacks Michael with Shadowmage Infiltrator (33).

TURN 10

Michael: Reflex Sliver. Psionic Sliver. Fails to find with Wild Pair, since he says none of the right P/T–the ones in play are too big. He taps Mirror Entity to kill Ajani, and then realizes that it will kill itself. Oops! He then taps the Reflex Sliver to kill Mystic Snake, so he can attack Kevin for 13 (26)

Me: Vicious Shadows, which gets a big roar from the table. Brennan goes pale for a second. He then Flashes in Glen Elendra Archmage, which he says is his only other counterspell, and sacrifices it to counter what would probably be a game-ending VShad. I attack him with the Sapling, revealing a land.

Kevin: Akroma’s Vengeance. Brennan doesn’t hesitate to counter it with Archmage, which seems less optimal for him but pretty good for me and Michael. Kevin thinks it’s the wrong play, and I might agree with him

Brennan: Unmorphs Brine Elemental. Attacks Michael with it and Finkel (27).

TURN 11

Brennan is the only one who untaps or does anything. He swings at Michael with Brine Elemental, Shadowmage Infiltrator, and Willbender (20).

TURN 12

Michael: Harmonic Sliver, destroying Brennan’s Mana Vault. Quick Sliver, destroying his Sol Ring. Essence Sliver, destroying his Signet. Michael obviously doesn’t want Brennan to have artifact mana. Essence Sliver looks like it’s going to be a problem, since Michael is going to gain piles of life. He taps and kills Willbender with Might Sliver. Brennan flashes in Mulldrifter to draw cards. Michael then tells me to draw a card and kills Jens; I draw Greater Gargadon. He battles Harmonic and Quick Sliver into Kevin and Psionic, Essence, and Synapse into Brennan. Brennan cycles Decree of Justice for 7 guys. He blocks Synapse Sliver with 5 of them and chumps the other two. Michael ends up at 50 life.

Me: Everyone is tapped out, so this might be the turn to go for the Living Death, but I really don’t have much gas at the moment. I could try to draw into stuff with Greater Good, but getting rid of my guys seems suboptimal if I’m not actually going to play Living Death. I guess that at this point, I could have trusted the deck, since I was going to draw upwards of 20 cards, but I think about playing it conservatively. I Suspend the Gargadon and swing with the Sapling. It reveals Deathbringer Thoctar, which changes my play. Now I know I can Living Death, and even if there’s an answer to the guys I’m going to get, Deathbringer will be pain bringer. I use Withered Wretch to remove Brennan’s Willbender and Duplicant. Since I’ve been using Wretch all along at EOTs, no one has much. I sacrifice guys to Greater Good, which nets lots of fat in the yard. When I finally cast Living Death, I end up with 17 guys (with Woodfall Primus being among them) in play. I consider writing them all down, but figure that if they go to the yard in the next turn, it doesn’t matter which ones they are; if they don’t, I’ll have time to list them after I’ve killed everyone. Michael has Synapse Sliver, and that’s it.

Kevin: Mana Vault, Mana Reflection, Wood Elves.

Brennan: Martial Coup for 5. I sacrifice my dudes to various outlets, and end up with 16 counters on Deathbringer (Shambling Shell providing a bonus one), which I debate about momentarily, and then shoot at Brennan’s head (16). I destroy some good land when Primus comes back. Brennan plays Sensei’s Divining Top, and Venser to bounce my Penumbra Wurm token.

TURN 13

Michael: Sliver Overlord. Now it’s going to get ugly.

Me: Kresh, Lightning Greaves, and boots up my General. I swing at Michael with the team. He activates Overlord twice then blocks Kresh with it. I sacrifice Primus to Greater Good to make Kresh 8/8. Michael goes to 39. Kresh goes to 15/15. I play Bloodshot Cyclops, putting the Greaves on him, and then Boneshredder Brennan’s Venser, taking Kresh to 17/17. Brennan is now in range, and Kevin almost.

Kevin: Mana Vault to 19, and then he peels Austere Command. He chooses the modes of 4+ creatures and artifacts. I sacrifice Gargadon to Greater Good, taking Kresh to 26/26. If I kill Kevin, Austere Command won’t resolve, but it’s way more amusing (and probably a better choice, since Kevin won’t untap before I do, but Brennan will) to kill Brennan. Kresh goes to his skull. Brennan tells me that it was probably the right choice, because he had lots of shenanigans planned.

TURN 14

Michael: Heartstone, Sliver Queen, Necrotic Sliver. Seems like three REALLY good cards in have in a row. He says he’s not going to combo out yet. This seems like a warning to heed. His very fidgety body language tells me he’s on the verge of something. It’s obvious that he has good stuff in hand.

Me: When the Bone Shredder Echo triggers, I sacrifice it to Greater Good. I tap all my mana, which includes Boseiju (36). I play Stalking Vengeance, then Goblin Bombardment. With Bombardment still on the stack, Michael makes a Sliver, and targets Stalking Vengeance with the Necrotic trigger. With the Boseiju mana, I play Grab the Reins on Sliver Overlord, flinging it at Michael’s head. He takes an additional 7 from the Stalking Vengeance trigger (25). I attack him with Sapling (revealing a Swamp), and he blocks with the token. Necrotic looks like it might be a problem, but with the Queen out of the picture, we might have some time. I hold enough mana to play the Wild Ricochet in my hand (and with Boseiju). I’ll keep doing that the rest of the game. While I had originally intended it for other people’s Time Stretches, I figure today it will get me out of a nasty situation that I can’t otherwise see coming.

Kevin: Oblivion Ring on the Necrotic Sliver. Relief sighs.

TURN 15

Michael: Sliver Overlord. Activates, getting Heart Sliver and Virulent Sliver. Plays both, and attacks me with the team (29 and 3 poison counters).

Me: Hamletback Goliath and Graveshell Scarab.

Kevin: Plays a very slow-rolly Rafiq. Really. I think he tried looking at the wall while he was playing it instead of at us. I’m suddenly afraid.

TURN 16

Michael: During his upkeep, activates Overlord to get Shifting Sliver. Plays it, Fury Sliver, and Spinneret Sliver. Attacks me with Overlord and Kevin with the rest of the team. I kill the Shifting Sliver, and block the Overlord with the now 22/22 Goliath (it was that or die horribly, I think). Kevin blocks Poison Sliver, taking 12 damage (7) and getting 6 poison counters.

Me: Mighty Emergence then Spellbreaker Behemoth. I crush Michael’s head with Goliath. I play Fallen Angel.

Kevin: Bant Charm on Fallen Angel, and now I’m so happy I have the Wild Ricochet. I retarget it to Rafiq (and copy it to Rafiq, just in case). Kevin shrugs, and shows me the Might of Oaks he was going to kill me with (he’s 11/11 Double Striking).

TURN 17

Me: Hamletback Goliath is more than enough for his measly 7 life.

We have a discussion afterward about the M10 rules and how they impacted the game. There was only one double block (Brennan’s blocking of Essence Sliver with five tokens), and ordering didn’t matter. Brennan avoided maybe four points of mana burn, which would have not had an effect on the eventual outcome.

We wait for an hour or so for the other table to finish. During that time, we have a longer conversation about ordered blocking and combat damage not using the stack. Brennan points how that he understands what I had previously said about M10 rules favoring the better player. With current rules and damage on the stack, there is a clearly a “best play.” Once you understand how to 2-for-1 (or whatever), the optimal play is generally obvious. You didn’t have to be a good player, just not terrible. Under the new rules, working with a smaller amount of data, the better player is going to be able to more often optimize the situation, because the better player is more adept at assessment and figuring out likelihoods, about bluffing responses and cards in hand. As I’ve repeatedly said, I think we’re going to see M10 rules benefitting the better player.

We do actually play round two, but there are only five of us who’ve stayed. In order to speed up the game, I don’t take notes. I ask the gang if it’s okay for me to switch to Darigaaz and they say sure. I’m again with Kevin and Brennan, Aaron, playing Ertai (but only 8 creatures in his deck–perhaps I should suggest Nuisance Engine to him), and Jose, playing Kumano. Some interesting stuff happens, but it mostly involves the rest of them beating on each other to the point that it’s relatively easy for me to sweep the table. I nearly get three of them on one turn with combat damage, but Aaron momentarily saves both himself and Brennan. Jose turns the tide when he plays Blood Moon; I can pretty much still do what I want, but the other two are nearly completely hamstrung. Once the two of them are gone, I make quick work of Jose.

In further thoughts about the Kresh deck, I see that I’m winning more by flinging than swinging. Of course, there have been a few Vicious Shadows kills along the way. The card is quite game-altering if it resolves. I might actually take it out. I’m a shade bored with it. I would like to find new ways of getting Kresh fat and into the Red Zone, so we’ll see what the coming weeks show. If you have suggestions, feel free to send them along.

Have fun checking out the new cards at your Prerelease. I’ll be at the big one in Orlando, so come up and say hey if you’re there. Otherwise, I’ll see you next time on “We Play Too.”