Do you remember your first time? First friends, first group, first laughs? The first time you realized you were in danger and your buddy zipped in for the rescue? After years of wondering what my first would be like, this past weekend, it was time stop theorizing and start doing. In all my years of Magic, I have never had the pleasure of watching or participating in a game of Commander.
I don’t have very many magical friends living within a hundred miles of me. Usually, my husband sneaks up behind me and whispers in my ear, “Ready to get crushed?” to which I sharply reply, “Bring it, Buster,” and the Vintage battles commence. I suppose during one of these sessions together we could have built a Commander deck and played—just us—but it seemed a hollow gesture. I guess I kept hoping I would make to Gen Con and get to play Commander with some of the amazing Wizards I talk to on a daily basis on Twitter. Alas, that has yet to happen. Fortunately for me, Christmas did.
As I ripped through my Christmas presents with absolute glee (I am a big fan of people giving me presents), I discovered I was now the awesome owner of all five Commander (2013 Edition) precons. It was officially time to quit waiting for the mountain to come to me. After a little bit of cajoling and persuading, I was able to commandeer two of my close friends from work, Ty and Dougie, and invite them over for a Magical night of food, cards, and alcohol. Ty had played a few previous games before and was aware of the basics, but this would be Dougie’s first game of Magic. With that in mind, I wanted it to be a great experience, so that: My friends would become addicted to Magic and I’d have new Magical people to play with; and: A Commander group is born. It is my first time, after all, and every girl’s first time should be special.
First thing’s first: Pick out four play mats from my narrowed-down selection of play mats. There are a couple very special play mats only I get to play on—those have been excluded. IT’S MINE, PRECIOUS.
Okay, so once I had the play mats picked out, it was time to set the scene. I wanted to make sure all the initial investment was mine—if they become as addicted as I think they will, I will already be responsible for them throwing Benjamins at Wizards like its 1999. First thing any real Magic party needs is, of course, sleeves. (As a side note, I see you, you who does not sleeve his or her cards, and I am judging you. A lot.)
Can you guess which sleeves are designated for me? I like the Max Protection sleeves for when I am drafting and sleeving it up at the table because they have awesome graphics and have a good price point. You feel free to go forth and throw your Commander parties with whatever sleeves make you tingle inside. AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE! (I don’t care about how uber-awesome your rose-colored whatever sleeves are, so keep it to yourself sleeve, SNOBS.)
Next, it was time to finish setup by giving everyone Sign in Blood life pads. For the entirety of my Magical journey, score-keeping occurred on an abacus or on dice. I have learned recently the benefits of keeping all your games in one note binder and writing down your opponent’s information. I want Ty and Dougie to learn correctly from the beginning, so they received my last two Sign in Blood books I picked up during Grand Prix Vegas. I cherish my Sign in Blood life pads, so this was a small sacrifice on my part, but if I get a Commander group out of it, it’s well worth it. (After having now played Commander, I think it would be cool for Sign in Blood to make a Commander-specific book, with space to keep track of commander damage as well as life totals. Get on this, boy. I’m trying to make you millions here.) After I distributed life pads, I wanted to play a little game with myself and see if I could guess which decks my friends and husband would want to play. This is what I picked:
Ryan (Hubby) – Evasive Maneuvers
He is a lover of green and tends to splash black over white, but I still thought this might suit him best.
Ty – Nature of the Beast
Ty loves white the most (no wonder he is one of my best friends), and I thought he might like the splash of red.
Dougie – Power Hungry
Dougie is very smart and has a very calm personality. For some reason, every red mage I ever met was also one of the calmest. So I decided to set out for him Power Hungry.
Me – Mind Seize
It’s my party, and I’ll play what I want to. I am one hundred percent Selesyna, but I decided for Commander to go outside my comfort zone and into the dark magics.
Now with the table set up (and my guests prepared) . . .
It is time to get to the GRUBBAGE.
The first thing I decided: I wanted finger foods. I had a feeling it would be a long night, and I wanted everyone to be able to munch themselves into happy oblivion. The first thing I made was roasted pineapple and habanero meatball sliders. You simply make beef meatballs following your normal guidelines (or meat/non-meat of preference) and then drop into Costco to buy a big bottle of their Robert Rotschild Farm Roasted Pineapple & Habanero Sauce. You could make it from scratch, but ain’t nobody got time for that. You will adore this sauce; I put it on literally everything I cook. (You can also take a softened block of cream cheese and pour a good amount of the sauce over it and have an instant dip.) I am a huge fan of Fresh and Easy hummus, so I went with that on this epic day.
Next, we are going to prepare the simplest and most important form of food a Southern girl ever learns how to make: pigs in a blanket. These I usually whip up a homemade pastry for because we Southerners like our piggy dough a little thicker, but there was a lot to do, so I cut all the corners and simply used the Pillsbury croissants rolls with little piggies tucked comfortably inside.
All the preparations are completed. Let the battles begin.
LET’S GET IT ON
Well, it turns out I suck at judging my husband and my friends. I did manage to pick Dougie correctly, but there was minor problem. Dougie wanted to play Power Hungry, and my husband (whom I am reevaluating a human being now) also wanted to play Power Hungry. Fortunately, just a week before, I was told to go to Target because they had some crazy deal going on where the Commander decks were only $8. I did as Twitter instructed me and picked up an extra Power Hungry on sale. I snuck into the back room and grabbed it for Ryan to play, but I instructed him and Dougie they had to play different commanders from Power Hungry. That worked out well, as Dougie wanted to play Prossh, Skyraider of Kher, and Ryan picked Sek'Kuar, Deathkeeper. Ty decided to chime and let me know he wanted to play Eternal Bargain. After a quick swap out with Nature of the Beast, everyone now had his preferred Commander deck. Meet my very first commander in my very first Commander game:
As per always, I whooped the room’s ass in sleeving, shuffling, generally, and just being a better person. (If you thought the game doesn’t begin with sleeving, YOU WERE WRONG.) Pick me, teacher. I am ready to go!
The opening of the game went pretty smoothly. We explained the basics to Dougie, and he caught on much more quickly than I have to anything in my whole life. I was finally able to cast my commander for the first time ever, and my husband promptly killed her. I reminded him in a not-so-subtle way I was in charge of his future happiness and to proceed accordingly. I cast her for a second time, and I must say I hate the commander zone tax. My Commander seems easy to kill (I am sure I was casting her at the wrong moments), but by the end of the game, she cost 12 mana to cast. ABSURD.
Dougie (being in his first game) decided to play with his hand showing so I could help if required. For the most part, he just used Prossh and his token creatures to bring the pain on the whole table. Prossh is beast.
It was funny how the ebb and flow of the game went. Ryan and Dougie both had Power Hungry and were bringing the pain the quickest, which caused me and Ty to focus all our efforts on them. Their token armies would grow so large that when one of them played a commander, they would have to bash each other as well, lest one grow too mighty. This left me mostly to my own devices, building mana, making everyone dump cards into the exile zone, and getting a little help from my friend to figure out I could cast other people’s exiled cards.
@Revisedangel Anyone's but only cards that she has exiled— Tigre De La Noche (@HobbesQ) February 2, 2014
Ty was the sleeper cell. His commander was Oloro, Ageless Ascetic, and he landed Sun Droplet early on, but he had a severe case of the mana screw for the first half of the game. With Ryan and Dougie dropping bombs like it was cool, no one seemed to notice Ty losing 20 life and then slowly marching himself back up to 47 life points. If you are wondering WHAT THE ATCUAL HELL when looking at the organizational state of his board, you would not be alone.
Late in the game, I was able to use my now LARGE mana pool to drop Army of the Damned and march (I don’t really know if Zombies march—maybe saunter) over to my husband, with my thirteen 2/2 Zombies, and KILL HIM. Teach him to kill my first commander on her first appearance in the world. Now it was time to focus all my attention on Ty. Dougie had plenty of mana, but not enough to cast his commander and pay the commander tax, and he had no fatal threats showing. Ty, however, just cast baddest mofo the world has ever known: Serra Avatar.
Serra Avatar entered the field as 46/46. Damn. That was some sexy crazy Serra trying to kill me and Dougie. No one gets to wield the power of Serra against me, however, and the Universe concurred. As the battle frenzy began to take hold, I cast Phthisis, with Army of the Damned and Jeleva already on the board from my previous turn. Phthisis targeted Serra Avatar, and Ty took the damage right to the FACE. That was one of my luckiest draws in history. Ty played a quiet, sneaky, good game. (We didn’t read Oloro correctly until about round six, so the whole time he was in the command zone, Ty should have been gaining life but wasn’t. What dodos.)
With Ty dead to Phthisis, I turned my Zombie army and Jeleva toward Dougie, who only had 13 life left and one blocker. VICTORY WAS MINE. It was good it came that turn because one more turn, and Dougie would have had enough mana to recast Prossh. Overall, my first Commander game, with my first Commander group, was super-fantastic. I still have much to learn, and there were a few hiccups along the way—like when Dougie drew the following two cards:
Have you ever read something like ten times and sworn on all that is holy you never read it all because your brain wouldn’t get it? When Curse of Chaos was pulled, I had the damnedest time figuring out why the hell I would want to cast a card that let someone—not me—draw cards. So, because I have no pride, I took to Twitter during the game to ask my friends.
@Revisedangel it encourages everyone to attack one person (not you) so they can dump bad cards for draws.— Eric (@evilbeard) February 2, 2014
@Revisedangel Okay, I get it. it's a political card: it says "hey, guys, don't attack me. Attack this shmoe, you get stuff."— Russel-Snow Creature (@RogueArtificer) February 2, 2014
@Revisedangel Yep. Also works for 1v1 if you just want to draw then discard whenever you attack.— Lee Sharpe (@Lee_Sharpe) February 2, 2014
She might not be the quickest Angel in the tool shed, but by GOD does she make it look that way as well. Thinking political was hard for me. I had no idea if I should have been going for the throat of the weakest player or if I should have been beginning to knock back Ty, who was slowly building a fortress made out of life, floating on an ocean made out of life. I think I still have a ways to go before I master the political aspects of Commander (or in the case of the Curses, simple reading), but it is definitely something I want to play again and again—hopefully soon with all of you.
Next time, though, we are doing it at someone else’s house so that person gets stuck with the cleanup.
P.S. I am not sponsored by Wizards of the Coast, Goose Island Pale Ale, Max Protection, play mat makers, or Sign in Blood. Awesome people just like awesome things.
Be kind each to the other.