don't speak much French. Despite a few years of language classes in high school and college, I'm left with just a shadow of what I learned.
Café au lait s'il vous plait. Merci!
The basic elements of polite interaction well short of conversational skill can be an awkward position to be in when planning to travel to a country that uses that language primarily. While Canada on the whole is bilingual, the province of Quebec has a general preference for using French. Pro Tour Gatecrashtook place in Montreal, which happens to be the second largest French speaking city in the world after Paris, France.
I traveled there two weeks ago, where I spent time sharing the sights and tastes from the city and event proper. All Pro Tours are incredible events to attend, particularly if you're a participant (which I was not), and this trip left me looking longingly at San Diego later this year. But the Pro Tour was just a piece of what made this trip exciting.
I have a few friends who live north of the United States border and getting the chance to see them doesn't come very often. While you may travel to events to compete for prizes or support your friends who do, I travel to experience new things. Montreal is a great place to do it.
Two Worlds Made One
With the final match of the Pro Tour running, I met up with two of my many friends through the weekend.
Dave, better known as @derfington on Twitter, is a Commander fanatic like me and brought a powerful Chainer, Dementia Master deck to bear. While multicolor decks are the usual suspects for Commander, a mono-black deck filled with mana acceleration and ways to recur creatures is a force to be reckoned with. I counted on seeing both, with a dash of Damnation on top.
The affectionate man known affectionately as Scotty Mac, or @MrScottyMac on Twitter, wielded the Bant-based Jenara, Asura of War. When green, white, and blue come together, it's usually a "good stuff" deck with mana acceleration, Day of Judgment effects, and card-drawing spells.
While neither deck was unusual to see, knowing that both would be setting up the long game was a welcome way to test out this new Zegana deck:
Prime Speaker Zegana
Commander – Prime Speaker Zegana
While I can normally elaborate on how my deck has a clever plan and clear ways to achieve it, this deck is really just a grab bag of blue and green goodies. I tracked down several premium cards from Gatecrash, such as Mystic Genesis, Urban Evolution, and Unexpected Results, and this was a great way to use them. Proper planning can be handy, but not every deck needs to be a paragon of strategic plotting and preparation.
Scotty Mac fired up his handy phone to stream the coverage happening live, since it was set too far back to see from the tables we could game at, and we started Commander up as you might expect:
The haymakers started to fly early, too. I added Edric, Spymaster of Trest to the battlefield and protected him with Swiftfoot Boots. With a lack of other creatures and my Homeward Path in play, I sat in a position where Dave and Scotty Mac would look to attack each other.
So they did.
Dave's Sangromancer, which would go on to gain at least 30 life for him, and Scotty Mac's Jenara flew high across the battlefield. Dave also had Geth, Lord of the Vault, which was de facto unblockable, but it was Geth's recursive ability that scared the rest of us.
After playing Saffi Eriksdotter, Scotty Mac cast Austere Command, choosing artifacts and creatures with converted mana cost 4 or greater. Can you see the difference between these pictures?
If you answered "Saffi is now on Dave's side, and artifacts were destroyed," you'd be right. Cleverly, Dave used Geth repeatedly to steal Saffi at instant speed to save his army of fatties, then used Geth one more time after the Command resolved to set up an insurance policy. Homeward Path couldn't break up this pattern since Dave had so much mana available.
Scotty Mac was disappointed with the result. Compounding things was Geth's ability to also put cards from Scotty Mac's library into his graveyard; Angel of Serenity was a juicy target for when Dave could untap.
With a small window to work with, I decided to unleash a little of what I had been holding back. I cast Phyrexian Metamorph, which Dave responded to by sacrificing Saffi to save Geth, should I choose to copy it. I did anyway.
"Are you sure? I get him back," Dave asked.
"Oh, I know," was all I offered him before the Legend rule kicked in to send my Metamorph to the graveyard and his Geth back to play. My immediate follow up of Vesuvan Doppelganger had Dave drop his head as he moved Geth to the graveyard.
Dave's follow-up brought his Chainer, Dementia Master to command his forces, but he didn't go for his Geth, Lord of the Vault first. Solemn Simulacrum made a follow-up appearance behind Nirkana Revenant from his hand. Scotty Mac and I prepared in different ways, with him choosing to find more mana while I used Mystical Tutor for Cyclonic Rift, with more than enough mana to overload it.
Scotty Mac used a Cyclonic Rift of his own to move Dave's Crypt Ghast away for a turn before playing Seedborn Muse. The late game had arrived and I finally had my play: Rite of Replication, kicked, targeting Dave's Solemn Simulacrum. With a furious flicking of cards, Dave could only look over to Scotty Mac.
"I'm okay with that," he said.
A small army of tokens appeared and a sea of Islands rose up behind them. Dave couldn't untap fast enough to cast Decree of Pain. I was out of cards in hand so Dave again looked to Scotty Mac.
"I'm not okay with that, but I don't have a counterspell."
Dave drew a hefty fourteen cards from Decree of Pain. I don't know what was in his hand, but mine brought Sylvan Primordial, Cackling Counterpart, and more lands. Scotty Mac started his recovery with a Sun Titan, getting back Saffi Eriksdotter, but I was ready to take my moment to shine.
With the lands I played for my turns, I added eleven to the battlefield over two turns, which pushed my count well into the mid-twenties. But that wasn't all: I ended the turn after casting Prime Speaker Zegana to draw a few cards too.
Dave decided to keep pace by replaying his Crypt Ghast, but Scotty Mac now had a Cryptic Command to stop it. Going further, Dave went for Yawgmoth's Will, which did resolve, so Crypt Ghast and Lightning Greaves returned anyway with a new Mikaeus, the Unhallowed from his hand.
Scotty Mac and I laid a few attacks out over the next turn cycle, dropping Dave down to 28 from his high of 52 at one point, but I cast an overloaded Cyclonic Rift after combat to clear Dave and Scotty Mac's boards. When Dave went for Crypt Ghast for the sixth time that game, I had a counterspell with Mystic Genesis.
Dave was finally exhausted of cards again, so Scotty Mac turned his gaze to my side of the game. After he replayed his Sun Titan and Saffi Eriksdotter, he used a Detention Sphere and locked up my Sylvan Primordial.
A humble Bramblecrush unlocked my Sylvan Primordial, which wiped out Dave's Cabal Coffers and Scotty Mac's Azorius Chancery. However, I also discovered that I had run out of Forest cards to put onto the battlefield. Dave spent a turn casting Darksteel Ingot and Charcoal Diamond before Scotty Mac went for a Deadeye Navigator, which resolved and began flickering Sun Titan like no tomorrow:
It was an impressive way to set things up, so I simply cast Consecrated Sphinx and passed to Dave. Getting to draw extra cards was awesome, but Dave outpaced Scotty Mac instead of fighting him. Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed let Dave grab back Balthor the Defiled, which was immediately used to empty his graveyard of creatures and put them on the battlefield.
Dave resolved his triggers and passed to watch how Scotty Mac would respond. The answer was to mirror Dave's action by using an evoked Reveillark and Saffi Eriksdotter to get Karmic Guide and Trostani, Selesnya's Voice, and in turn the Angel of Serenity that exiled Dave's Geth, Lord of the Vault and Butcher of Malakir, along with my Consecrated Sphinx. Seedborn Muse, Azorius Guildmage, and others returned to the battlefield as well. Ending the turn at 54 life put crosshairs back on Scotty Mac.
"I'm going to attack with Zegana," I said to Dave. "You should block so we trade creatures."
"You think I'll let that happen?" It was more declaration than question from Scotty Mac.
I just shrugged and sent my 7/7 Prime Speaker Zegana into Dave's forces. Before he could block, Scotty Mac used his Azorius Guildmage to tap down all but the puniest of creatures Dave controlled. If there was going to be a trade, Dave would have to offer up a lot more than one guy.
Instead, he just put Disciple of Bolas in the way. With most of Scotty Mac's mana used up I decided to go for the only way I could see breaking up both recursive combos: Diluvian Primordial.
While casting Dave's Increasing Ambition from the graveyard to search for two cards in my library was neat, it was the Terminus from Scotty Mac's graveyard that would undo all the work both of them had done. For the third time in the game, everything had been reset. This time, however, only I had a grip full of cards to work with.
That grip included both Blue Sun's Zenith and Stroke of Genius. Cards in hand wouldn't be an issue again.
However, something special had happened during the game: Tom Martell won Pro Tour Gatecrash just feet away on the stage. While we had taken a break to congratulate him (and tweet about it), the venue itself was beginning to shut down.
With the historic Pro Tour completed and a small army of Canadian friends dispersing, we all agreed not to call it a draw but instead a great game of Commander. Each of us had our chance to do what we wanted to do, putting impressive combinations of cards on display:
- Dave's mana wells and graveyard grabbers went to town, wrenching his army from the jaws of destruction and emptied his well-stocked coffins onto the battlefield.
- Scotty Mac lived the dream of Deadeye Navigator, Saffi Eriksdotter, and Reveillark shenanigans, seeing the full benefit of his combos realized.
- I had most of the lands in my deck on the battlefield, and used them to power out huge plays using my favorite blue and green spells. I even drew a new hand of cards thanks to Prime Speaker Zegana, exactly as you want to when you cast her.
Both Dave's and Scotty Mac's decks were primed for battle, with deep pockets of powerful synergies, but I was most impressed with my deck. Despite "not doing much" in the early game, waiting to take advantage of late-game chaos with buckets of lands paid off. I didn't overpower my opponents, muscling them into submission, but I did make the most of my moments to shine.
It had been a long time since I enjoyed such an intricate game of Commander with this much might on display, where everyone stayed strong through to the end, but it was worth it. And that is one of the many reasons I love travelling to Grands Prix and beyond to play Magic. You may want to try it yourself sometime.
Join us next week when we crush them, then eat. See you then!