A Duel Commander series in Prague was started by Vinni. I learned about the first one after it happened already but it sparked my interest I wanted to join the following event. I planned to actually prepare for the event since I had enough time for that, but for some reason it didn't work out. So my preparation started the day before the event.
It's been a long time since I played French EDH and all my decks I used to play cannot be played since their key cards got banned in the meantime - also all the generals I played got banned. I just read the Banlist Announcements each time and wondered how the format possibly looks like. I had my idea of it, but that was just a guess. Those of you who are not familiar with this variant of EDH you can go check the format's website at http://www.duelcommander.com/. French EDH has a starting life total of 20 and rather long banlist compared to the Magic Online's one.
On November 15 cards from Commander 2017 became available on Magic Online through Treasure Chests. I started a search for Edgar Markov which I finally bought for 20 tix (current price 35tix). I wanted to write an article about this card, because I think that this card deserves a very quick ban (the article can be found here - Edgar Markov, the Breaker of Rules. In order to come up with a playable deck I jumped in 1v1 Leagues. My deck changed considerably. Relatively soon I got tired of facing Edgar Markov in roughly 2/3s of the time so I gave up on playing and started writing my article. The most successful decks in the sea of Edgar were Kess, Dissident Mage and Leovold, Emissary of Trest. Any other generals most of the time just terribly died to a flurry of Vampires.
After this experience I knew one thing and that is that I'm still not the best pilot of creature decks no matter how overpowered they are so I decided to play something different. I already put together Tymna/Kraum aggro-control which was doing pretty well on Magic Online but I wasn't sure if that could do something in French EDH. I decided to go either for something more straightforward like Saskia the Unyielding or more universal like Leovold, Emissary of Trest. Saskia can ruthlessly kill on turn 4 but against combo decks she can't do much. Leovold on the other hand can deal with aggressive decks and combo decks at the cost of being way more difficult deck to pilot. As for control I was fine playing with either of the decks. One of the reasons to play Leovold that other players mentioned is that you can play Timetwister and I also wondered how my opponents would look at me when I would tell them to discard their hand and draw a card. Since Leovold seemed more fun from the pilot's perspective I decided to play with that for a while so I wouldn't totally mess up during the EDH event.
On Friday I put Edgar aside thus and imported a Leovold deck. I stared at it for a while. Since I was told that the French EDH is rather aggressive I put some cards allowing me to gain some life. Since I can't play Kitchen Finks I put Vampire Nighthawk there, Obstinate Baloth and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. I played ten matches in total and in all of them I certainly made a fool out of myself. It took me quite a while to realize that I should actually play my general - usually the cards like Anvil of Bogardan and Timetwister in my hand made me go 'oh, I forgot to play Leovold!'. I won 7 times out of ten but I didn't feel good about it at all. I messed up pretty much anything from fetching wrong lands, not playing Leovold and then casting Anvil of Bogardan too early. I even died in a game where I played Timetwister with Leovold in play and my opponent on Goblins just played Goblin Ringleader, hit several Goblins and killed me that turn (I couldn't stop several hasty, pumped goblins). After this I tweaked my deck so I would avoid certain scenarios in the future and made a mental note to put my general somewhere I can see him. I literally played my following matches with Leovold on my keyboard.
After I finished my games I started looking for the cards in paper. 2 hours passed and in front of me was a complete Leovold EDH deck. I took a photo of the decklist (in case decklists would be needed) and went to a local game store to pick some decks up. I met one of the EDH players there so I asked him for a game. I played some games with another player and learned that Saskia is kinda mean. I knew that the matchup of my two decks is not really favorable for Leovold but it always felt bad when I played a discard, saw my opponent's hand and knew I'd lose the moment Saskia would hit the table. I continued in my stream of misplays but occasionally won. After that I went to check out the Arcade Bar the event would be held the next day, played some arcade games and went to sleep - terribly exhausted.
I got up early and left for the bar. On my way I met two suspicious men that turned out to be Magic players which I didn't know but they knew me. I showed them the way to the bar and went to register.
There I was asked what general I play and I reluctantly replied 'Leovold'. I paid for the entry and went to ask if the bar offers a coffee. One of the bar owners was ready for the Magic players and brought us some instant coffee. I sat there at the bar for a while wondering how the event would go since the day before I couldn't obviously play Magic at all. Many people I knew came to the event, there were just few players I didn't know but it was possibly I already met them at previous events. 31 players came to play in the event.
Round 1 - Akiri/Silas
Game 2 was very interesting. I took a very hard beating at first. My opponent played Etched Champion which I couldn't really deal with since I had no Edict in my hand. I knew though that unless it would get equipped with Cranial Plating I should be more or less fine. When the generals started attacking I needed to deal with them too and took even more damage from Akiri. I was then lucky to draw Demonic Tutor and wondered what to do with it. Earlier in the game I produced True-Name Nemesis that I used as a blocker for Akiri but unfortunately it couldn't block the Etched Champion.
I passed the turn though and hoped I'd live one more turn to be able to cast the tutored for card. My opponent top decked Stoneforge Mystic and slammed it. That didn't look good. I was wondering what other equipment there could be instead of Cranial Plating that would pretty much kill me. My opponent looked for the Plating, equipped it on Etched Champion and hit me for 8. I was down to 3 and needed to play Toxic Deluge still. I played it on my turn and then hoped I'd survive. Actually everything looked pretty well for me. I played The Scarab God later and next turn I was ready to bring back True-Name Nemesis. Unfortunately my opponent drew Ghirapur Aether Grid and I lost since my counterspell couldn't counter it and two lives I could have gained weren't good enough.
In game three I mulled to five keeping a very bad hand in general. My opponent just played some artifacts and killed me swiftly with Akiri. Not much I could have done. Sad story.
Round 2 - Kytheon
After my loss in the first round I went from table 1 to table 14 where I sat across a player on Kytheon. I was glad I didn't decide to play Saskia but rather Leovold but I still wasn't sure how big of a difference turn 1 Kytheon could have on the game. Since I played a fair amount of games against White Weenie decks with BUG Control I wasn't really afraid of the deck. Obviously being on the play or draw is a big difference. I was honestly glad that I didn't cut Force Spike or Mental Misstep from my deck. I kept a hand featuring Tarmogoyf and I hoped that it and Leovold would be able to stop the Weenies. My opponent played Kytheon, followed it with Precinct Captain and Soldier of the Pantheon. I had to let the first attack go through since my creature wasn't big enough. Later I played Leovold and destroyed one of my opponent's creatures. I wondered if my opponent would attack into my creatures but he didn't. Obviously he didn't have a way how to deal with Tarmogoyf and later died to it.
In game 2 I was again trying to cope with Kytheon from turn 1. It was joined by two other creatures which I wouldn't really mind if there wouldn't be Honor of the Pure in play as well. When I thought I could finally do something, my opponent played Elspeth, Knight-Errant and I was screwed. I needed to deal with too many different kinds of permanents and died a bit later.
Game 3 I was on the play which was half of my chances to win as it seemed. I kept 4 lands, Tarmogoyf and Titania. I hoped that this would be enough to stop my opponent. Tarmogoyf and Leovold proved to be good at that (if an Anthem effect wasn't in play). I played a discard spell targeting my opponent and saw that he had Path to Exile, Fairgrounds Warden, Kytheon's Irregulars and a creature that puts +1/+1 counters on up to three creatures. I got rid of the Path to Exile knowing that I could bounce Fairgrounds Warden later in the game to get my Tarmogoyf back with Mystic Confluence, kill a creature and then let my opponent discard his hand. Everything went according to my plan, my opponent played the Dwarf creature targeting Tarmogoyf while Leovold was in play. I drew a card, let him hit me with his creatures, killing one in the process. I used Cephalid Coliseum targeting him wondering what card he'd keep. He kept the Fairgrounds Warden which I discarded then with Thoughtseize. When I played Titania, Protector of Argoth and cracked a returned fetchland my opponent conceded.
Round 3 - Arahbo
I was looking forward to seeing cats in action. Arahbo, Roar of the World seems to be a strong general to me. It's not Edgar Markov for sure but it seems that its ability is good enough for competitive play - if there is enough cats that is. I was wondering if I can stop the cats hitting me for +3/+3 more than their normal power/toughness. I made sure to keep a hand that contained either Force Spike or cheap removal. This way I was able to deal with the first cat. The cat that followed was Qasali Pridemage which was hitting me each turn for six. I was staring at Sultai Charm in my hand and wondered if the card shouldn't be something else. I was unwilling to draw 2 cards and discard though and waited for a different removal spell. In the meantime I was attacking with Leovold which could hardly race the opposing cat. When my opponent hit his fifth land I realized that the general can also be played and that its ability might be a seriously problem since my general would just block 3 damage out of 12 (and the cat general could also attack). That didn't sound good. I drew a removal though and dealt with the big cat too later. I won the game later. That was close.
Game two didn't go well for my opponent. He took a mulligan (or two) and kept a one lander with several two drops in his hand. Unfortunately he didn't draw his second land fast enough. He played a cat a bit later but was still desperate to draw a land and played Gods Willing on his creature at the end of my turn. I killed the creature in response and my opponent didn't draw the land he needed and I won.
We played a third game after this where I kept a good hand with the exception I didn't have a source of green. That was pretty bad because part of my cards were actually green and I needed to cast them in order to stop the cats from hitting me for too much. I managed to deal with some cats but then my opponent played Mutavault that I couldn't deal with. Again I drew Demonic Tutor for the rescue. Next turn the Mutavault would deal 16 damage to me (general was in play, it would pump the Mutavault that would also be equipped with Sword of Fire and Ice, double its power and give it trample). I destroyed it and then I needed my opponent to blank few times since I also double blocked the general and had nothing to attack with nor block with. I had nothing relevant in my hand but I finally drew a source of green, meaning I could cast Sylvan Library. My opponent just passed the turn and I was able to see the cards I'd draw. I drew Sultai Charm so I could destroy the Sword or another creature. Next turn my opponent played their general. I cast mine so I could chump block. Next turn my opponent just played a land and I desperately looked for something so next turn I could deal with Arahbo again. I didn't find anything. The creature I faced next was Fleecemane Lion which was pretty bad because it could get Indestructible and Hexproof at instant speed. My opponent used the Monstrous ability at the end of turn, so I cracked Cephalid Coliseum drawing three cards and discarding three cards. One of the drawn cards was Murderous Cut, I played it targeting the cat. My opponent had Blossoming Defense that pretty much meant I just lost the game. It was a fun game. Next time I should not keep a hand without a source of green! (at least I had Cavern of Souls so I could cast a chump blocker from Command Zone, poor Leo).
Round 4 - Kytheon
Game 1 I was on the play which allowed me to deal with Kytheon on turn 1. I decided to cast Force Spike instead of playing Ghastly Demise later. This resulted in me not being able to deal with Grand Arbiter since I had only 1 card in my graveyard. Fortunately my opponent wasn't putting me under much pressure and was just attacking with the Arbiter. When I played Leovold I stopped the attacks and later I even managed to play a cantrip and fill my graveyard with a second card. My opponent played few more creatures but I was able to kill them and start swinging with my general. My opponent ran out of cards and removal and I got to te point when I could start casting my five drops. Going through The Scarab God and Titania, Protector of Argoth is difficult for any deck.
In game 2 I took a terrible beating. I wasn't able to deal with Kytheon this time nor other creatures that followed and died very fast.
In the deciding game I kept a hand with Spell Pierce, Duress, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Miscalculation and lands. It didn't really look good against White Weenie deck but I decided to keep because Miscalculation would certainly hit something, Leovold on turn 3 seemed good and Jace on turn 4 would at worst be a rather expensive Brainstorm. I cast Duress on turn 1 not expecting to hit anything relevant and to my astonishment my opponent immediately showed a sign of horror on his face. He showed me his hand featuring a Plains and Land Tax (and other cards I didn't care much about). We certainly had a good laugh since either of us didn't expect that Duress could be crucial in this matchup. I discarded Land Tax and was very grateful for my keep while my opponent was still shaking his head. I knew that I couldn't possibly lose this game. My opponent played Kytheon for which I didn't have an answer but I could put Leovold in its way which was pretty much enough. I followed with Jace, the Mind Sculptor and brainstormed. My opponent tried to deal with Jace attacking it with Mishra's Factory and Kytheon. My opponent had Brave the Elements but Mishra's Factory wasn't a white creature so I could use Fatal Push on it and actually kill it. Jace went down to 1 counter but that was enough since I could deal with a lonely Kytheon by just playing Leovold. I kept two mana open so I could counter another threat and then my opponent conceded.
Round 5 - Braids
Game 1 was one of the most epic games I ever played and it is a pity that I lost it in the end. My opponent started with turn 1, Swamp, Dark Ritual, Phyrexian Arena. I wasn't happy about this because it would take a while for me to play Leovold to try stop that Arena from drawing cards. I was playing against Mono Black though and that also suggested that my creature wouldn't last long in play. My opponent's turn 2 was even worse for me because he played Bitterblossom. I couldn't deal with either card and wondered if I can beat this. I decided to see what my opponent plays though to have more information and also see how he plays. He messed up many things during the first turns, might be because we were all tired but it also meant that I could possibly win from a very bad losing position. I tried my best to stay alive. I managed to produce Obstinate Baloths and Kalitas which bought me time. My opponent was also choosing lines of play that favored me so I was lucky in that regard. Unfortunately I still couldn't go through all the Faerie tokens. I started beating with Kalitas and Leovold but then my opponent played Umezawa's Jitte that totally changed everything. I counted several turns ahead and figured out that if my opponent would use all the counters on his Jitte to gain life I'd win the game if he wouldn't play a hasty creature which would have to hit me with Umezawa's Jitte as well. I didn't expect this to happen so I turned my creatures sideways 3 times. Unfortunately when my opponent went down to 1 life he also drew Bloodghast. He played the card, equipped it with Jitte and I lost the game I could have won next turn by just swinging with everything I had. I was very sad about this. It was a fun game though!
Game 2 my opponent kept a one lander, couple of three mana cost cards and Lotus Petal. I cast Duress on my turn 1, discarding the Lotus Petal. Since my opponent didn't play a land on turn 2, the card he kept on top wasn't obviously a land. It turned out to be Dark Confidant that I managed to deal with immediately. My opponent couldn't find a land so in the meantime I played Leovold and started slowly beating down. I won the game relatively soon and it was time for game 3 for which we most probably didn't have enough time.
Game 3 looked almost good for me till my opponent drew Bitterblossom and played it. Again I had no answer to it. The game still looked well for me since I drew Liliana, the Last Hope and Jace, the Mind Sculptor (but there were already 3 Faerie tokens in play). We had just few minutes left though so I couldn't go ultimate with Jace in that time. My plan was to find a fifth land, play The Scarab God, reanimate something and kill my opponent with it. This would have worked under several conditions. I needed the land, I needed my opponent to try to race me and I also needed him not to kill any of my creatures. Everything went as planned with the exception that I couldn't find the fifth land. When I found it there was also Titania, Protector of Argoth that could have closed the game faster but unfortunately for me, I already removed my only fetchland from the game earlier in the game. So I still had to go for the Scarab God plan. We had 5 additional turns to play and my plan was still live. On the fifth turn I was able to deal exactly lethal. My opponent though played Go for the Throat targeting my Scarab God and the game ended up in a draw (I would have won most probably a bit later).
I scooped my cards and wondered what I'd do after the event. With my 'luck' I expected to end up ninth and didn't even consider that I could end up in the top 8. In the past few highlander events I missed the top8 in a similar fashion so I expected that this would be another event like that (this one was way smaller than the previous ones). I quickly glanced at the standings to confirm that. 9th was the place, again. It hurt. I went to play some Pump it Up and hoped that I would get rid of this bad feeling because otherwise the event was awesome and I can't express how much fun I had. Maybe not that much fun, but I enjoyed it a lot and was very grateful that I was able to come and play.
I'd like to thank all that were involved in organizing the event and providing prizes. You did a great job and I'm looking forward to another event, hopefully more people will come next time!
Comments about my deck and card choices
When I started with Edgar Markov on Magic Online I changed the deck considerable during the first several events I joined. With Leovold I didn't expect to change the deck that much since I already started with a list that was good. I still had to tweak it more so it would suit my needs and be ready for the metagame I expected. My expectations though could be totally wrong. I put more counterspells in the deck and added Brainstorm, Ponder and Preordain which are banned on Magic Online. I cut all the other Timetwister effects and cards like Teferi's Puzzle Box. It seemed sweet and also as a win condition but I simply didn't want to depend on having my general in play and then casting a card like that, it just didn't feel right (not to mention that I do not own the cards and wouldn't be able to buy them prior the event). I'd rather be able to win the game even without Leovold in play and not end up with dead cards in my hand. Anyway, I kept Anvil of Bogardan and Timetwister in because those were the cards that I was willing to cast even without Leovold in play. I was fairly content with this list and the last matches I played went well - if I omit my misplays.
After the Duel Commander event I could review the deck again and this time be more objective because I saw at least a part of the metagame. The cards that didn't perform as well as I would like during the event were Grim Flayer and Sultai Charm. I would replace Grim Flayer with Bittterblossom and Sultai Charm with Golgari Charm. I was even thinking about Nature's Claim since destroying artifacts/enchantments was something I really needed. Vampire Nighthawk, Obstinate Baloth and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet performed surprisingly well. On Friday they were more or less helping me come back into a game I screw up so I was thinking about cutting them and replacing them with other cards. During the tournament though they actually impacted the game a lot so I suppose they will stay in my deck. Repeal is also a card I was pondering about on Friday. When I was putting Repeal in the deck I wasn't sure if the card would be good enough but during the event I wish I had more of them in my deck!
Thanks for reading,
S'Tsung (stsung on MODO, stsungjp on Twitter)