Courtesy Wizards of the Coast
Just imagine this guy immune to your spells and regenerating all damage.

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about Magic: the Gathering, but recent trips home have pulled me back into what players would call the ‘local meta’ of my family. Here’s a quick recap:

Once, they called it Elder Dragon Highlander. It is a variant of Magic: the Gathering geared for multiplayer mayhem. It was so named because the decks used by players were defined by a legendary creature, usually an elder dragon. The deck could only contain colors matching those in the dragon’s casting cost, and only one copy of each card other than basic land was allowed. And Highlander? Well. In the end, there can be only one.

The variant turned out to be staggeringly popular, to the point that Wizards of the Coast decided to give it the official multiplayer variant treatment. It has now joined the ranks of Planechase (which I haven’t played) and Archenemy (which my family won’t play with me any more for some odd reason…) with a selection of high-end preconstructed decks with unique, rare and prized cards among the lists. And, unwilling to be sued by an angry sword-wielding member of the Clan MacLeod, the variant has been remained Commander.

I’ve tried my hand at the varant several times before, with varying degrees of success.

Teneb the Harvester was my first go-to Commander. As a fan of necromancy as a means to victory as well as motivations for villainy, altering my Reanimator deck into an (at the time) EDH variant seemed logical. It worked very similarly to it’s Standard origins, with creatures not staying dead, only it was very big creatures not staying dead. As I mentioned previously, though,
my sister-in-law fielded Teneb so I needed to choose another.

The other massive, legendary dragon to which I have access is Vorosh the Hunter. Back when Time Spiral was the hotness, Ravinca block boosters were still kicking around on the cheap. I’d picked up quite a few back then, and in doing so had acquired many creatures with Graft abilities. Since Vorosh is all about the +1/+1 counters when he noms on an opponent’s face, why not also make him trampling, or regenerating, or immune to spells or abilities? It never quite worked as well as I’d hoped, so I tabled it.

Razia, Boros Archangel had better prospects, but my father immediately adopted her as his first Commander ever, as red and white are his main colors. ‘Ouch’ is the word that best describes what happened next.

Turning back to darker roots, I mined my Dragonfire Archenemy deck for ideas. Lyzolda, the Blood Witch offered me her sultry services and I obliged. The resulting deck was nasty but suffered from a bit of the old ‘glass cannon’ syndrome. Still, of my previous attempts, it might have the most potential as a homegrown Commander deck, provided I can lay my hands on some of the tastier singles new to the variant thanks to Wizards (Command Tower, the Vows, etc). Considering its roots and the presence of dragons elsewhere at the family gaming table, a more vicious Commander might be Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund. In the meantime, now that I have Accorder’s Sheilds out the yin-yang, maybe I can keep Lyzolda from being what the kids call “bolt bait.” I mean, a Commander with 1 toughness? Better be ready to defend it.

Speaking of the latest expansion block, I tried to breathe new life into Vorosh’s deck with some infect and proliferation. Again, it was a noble effort but it never quite hit the stride necessary to keep up with the others around me, especially now that the new pre-constructeds had been introduced.

My last purely homegrown attempt was a red/blue number with the twin wizards Tibor & Lumia at its helm. It had a tight focus on direct nastiness against my opponents and their spells, but lacking the mana ramp of other decks it was quickly left behind. I was frustrated, and unsure of what I’d do next, other than insisting we stick to Standard constructed so I could roll all over people with my Katamyri deck.

And then, as a belated Father’s Day present, my father picked up the pre-constructed deck Counterpunch.

What an interesting choice. So much of the counter-based tomfoolery I’d been fumbling with in my Vorosh deck but in the colors of Teneb. My father, however, expressed trepidation at the word ‘counter’ in the title. “No, it’s not Counterspells. It’s the counters on the creatures and the little generated creatures often represented by counters.” (His response was “Oh. That makes me feel MUCH better.”) I then explained that counterspells or, at the very least, denial was the purview of the Political Puppets pre-constructed deck. He felt better since he hadn’t gotten me that one, but he’s still not sure what to expect.

The deck appears, as The Casual Planeswalker put it, pretty darn solid, but I do have a tweak or two in mind. I have, after all, been toying with a very similar concept for the better part of a year. Expect an after-action report on some nice, wholesome family fun (with the occasional muttered swear or threat of physical violence) after I pick up the deck from Allentown this weekend.