Courtesy Wizards of the Coast, Art by James Paick
I was correct, Ghave turned out to be a real fun guy. *hides*

As promised what follows is an account of how a bit of Commander play went down at the Loomis home in Allentown on Saturday. Wizards of the Coast, in my opinion, knocked it out of the park with these preconstructed decks. They are solid investments in terms of rare cards, they stand alone as perfectly playable decks and give great jumping-off points for future supposition and deck-building exercises. But more on that later.

I opened up Counterpunch and made a few tweaks right off the bat. Not that there is anything wrong with the deck as it’s built, but the presence of the Aquastrand Spider convinced me that the presence of the Sporeback Troll and Cytospawn Shambler would not go amiss. I also included a Kavu Predator since I knew plenty of life-gain would be happening and a Contagion Clasp because proliferating in a deck based on counters just makes too much sense.

My father, being the subtle fellow that he is, fields a Heavenly Inferno deck altered to include his sentimental favorite Shivan Dragon. Close as it is to the deck he’s played for years, a red-white one with a “big creatures SMASH” theme, it wasn’t hard for him to get to know it pretty well.

My niece is still getting used to using Political Puppets. I don’t think many changes were made to the deck, and there are a lot of combos to it that beginning players might miss out on. Still, she had enough weapons in the deck to make us all very nervous.

My brother-in-law started with Mirror Mastery. It was probably the deck I knew the least about among the pre-cons. As such, the smart thing would likely have been to make him my primary target, but as such things tend to go around the family gaming table, whomever played the last card that several annoyed everybody else became the target.

So the first match got underway. It took me some time to wrap my mind around the ins and outs of Ghave’s token production and counter-swapping, but it proved to be really irritating for an opponent wanting to eliminate a creature, as Ghave can always move tokens around in response to threats. Unfortunately my main means of protecting myself from flying threats didn’t show up until late in the game, and by then my brother-in-law had used his Commander’s ability of doubling spells on Call the Skybreaker so many times that he had, at one point, nine 5/5 flying elementals on his battlefield. He might have had more. I can’t remember clearly. I just remember lots and lots of pain.

He then switched decks to Devour for Power. This means that most of his creatures now contained black. As did many of my father’s. Which in turn meant that the bulk of my creature removal spells were useless, as they can only remove non-black creatures. That coupled with an early expulsion of really useful cards from my starting hand really slowed me down. Still, my fungus minions and I soldiered on as best we could, even if in the end the kraken from my brother-in-law’s deck rolled over our faces. In my haste to exile creatures from graveyards I’d forgotten all about Wrexial. It proved to be at least part of my undoing.

In retrospect I should have taken more time to study the other decks. Cards like Call the Skybreaker and Windfall might not have taken me by surprise if I had. I will make sure I’m not as unprepared for next time.

From what I saw, Political Puppets would be a deck well suited to my play style. I like to build up momentum, wait for my opponents to open themselves up and then run them into the ground by one means or another. I may let my niece try out Counterpunch and experiment on the Puppets with a couple tweaks I have in mind.

The other thing I want to do is take the Heavenly Inferno deck, pull out white and replace it with green. Basically the notion is to dial down the other creature types and ramp the dragons up to maximum. With a little help from the planeswalker Sarkhan (even if he goes mad due to my machinations…) and some of the cards I already own, a plan of mine that’s been rolling around for some time may soon come to fruition…

Commander Archenemy.