First thing’s first – hello readers, and welcome to my first article, for my local store, the CG Realm. I’m Liam McMahon, a local EDH / Commander fanatic, best known for my passion for deckbuilding, and also having an aggressive and proactive playstyle in a format otherwise plagued by politics and dissuasion from such tactics.
I am also somewhat known for a stint I pulled early on when joining the metagame of CG Realm’s Wednesday night EDH slugfests – making the unceremonious choice of starting -most- of my decklists with 10 Islands.
CG Realm is known to many as “the blue meta”. In one pertinent example, one final tables saw a turn 3 Pattern of Rebirth from player A. This fetched Consecrated Sphinx and Kira, Great Glass-Spinner the turn after. Player B casts Phyrexian Metamorph, copying the Consecrated Sphinx, and after my turn, player C casts her own Phyrexian Metamorph, also copying Consecrated Sphinx. Back to player A’s turn, he casts his OWN Phyrexian Metamorph to copy Consecrated Sphinx (by now we all knew how this would end, and we were all sides split with laughter). player C uses her Callous Oppressor to take Player B’s Metamorphed Sphinx, and on turn 6, players A and C both draw the entirety of their decks. With a turn 0 Leyline of Anticipation, player C had hoped to flash in her Laboratory Maniac to win her the game, but when Player A showed Pact of Negation, we called it quits. To this day, it is a line of play that I will use to describe our metagame every time.
HOW DO I KNOW WHAT MY META IS?
Basically, a metagame is defined either by the strategy, color or player that reigns supreme over your playgroup. Whether it’s Genesis Wave, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror-Breaker, Grave Pact, Honor of the Pure or Consecrated Sphinx, you’ll either see the winning player or – heaven forbid – the entire table make their move in the same incredulous fashion, you’ll have the answer or you won’t, and life (or the game, sometimes…sometimes) goes on.
I’m a little blue mage, short and stout! Here is my 98, here is my out!
I’ve only been in two metagames- the one I’m currently in, which is reffered to as the survive until your Consecrated Sphinx can safely flip off all of your opponents until it draws you its star-crossed lover, Laboratory Maniac (Sphinx x Lab Maniac OTP). Meanwhile, you sit behind a mittful of cards laughing at your opponents’ attempts to answer you. It’s tiring, it’s repetitive, but it’s answerable, for sure.
Turn 1 Worldly Tutor into Turn 2 Rofellos? I wonder what you’re up to!
The other metagame I was in a couple of years ago was the green metagame, -just- before the printing of Consecrated Sphinx. Half of the decks I would play against or play myself (Guilty as charged) would honestly just play with themselves silly until they made their move by flipping their entire deck over and sending 28/28 trampling Elves or 8 million Saproling tokens or four hundred 400/400 Ooze tokens into the red zone – whatever the way to do it was, the lines of play were even more dreadful – ramp spell, mana doubler, Eldrazi, Tooth and Nail or Genesis Wave. In the green metagame, nobody decided to run counterspells, and that is part of the reason why I’m writing this article.
OKAY, I KNOW MY META, NOW WHAT DO I DO ABOUT IT?
Knowing what your playgroup is half the battle. Knowing how to react to them is the other half. In this series of articles, I’ll cover the various metagames you may run into at your LGS, or just maybe at your kitchen table in general, and answers every color has to deal with them.
THE WHITE META
“Come forth! You will find honor in death!”
White is infamous for its incremental advantage and bonuses because of them. Anthem effects (Crusade), tokens, and lifegain are the name of the game for the white meta, and the bread and butter of most successful white decks. White gets a bad rap for being abysmally short on card advantage and has terrible reach, but the attrition the colour provides through recursion, static token generation, and even a single Anthem effect can keep pressure on board states even if you’ve just cast Wrath of God.
CARDS TO WATCH OUT FOR
-Soul Warden and friends – Like I said, incremental advantage. Announcing “I gain 1 life” over and over can start to dull your senses on how much life the Soul Warden‘s controller is actually gaining, which is not what you want to be doing. Obviously you don’t want to waste a Swords to Plowshares on this thing, but sometimes you’ll have that small amount of damage to throw around – throw it here first. If you want to counter Soul Warden effects, the best ways to do it are effects that negate lifegain (Rain of Gore, Stigma Lasher, Sulfuric Vortex), non-resource-intensive removal (Staff of Nin, Warstorm Surge, Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief), or pressure on that player’s life total (Sorin Markov, Overrun, Relentless Assault).
-Academy Rector – “Don’t attack me or else.” This one is an enigma for players new to playing against white decks. Against multicolor white decks (especially Enchantress shells), you want to do whatever it takes to make sure this card doesn’t trigger. Effects that help to deal with her are counterspells (Cryptic Command, Spelljack, Desertion), exile effects (Swords to Plowshares, Final Judgment, Ashes to Ashes), and tuck effects (Chaos Warp, Void Stalker, Oblation).
-Avacyn, Angel of Hope – A fan favorite, but honestly an underwhelming creature overall in my opinion. Sure, she makes everything you control indestructible, but she is not without (glaring) weaknesses. She’s a creature that doesn’t have hexproof, making her a prime target for exile effects (Path to Exile, Dark Impostor, Unmake), Edict effects (Grave Pact, Fleshbag Marauder, Chainer’s Edict) or bounce effects (Cyclonic Rift, Devestation Tide, Tidespout Tyrant), and all of the examples given above, are powerful tempo plays against her. Her only real merit, in my opinion, is her 8 power, making her valuable in combat and less than a backbreaking loss to a Swords to Plowshares.
-Felidar Sovereign – A powerful win condition in lifegain decks, this basically reads in most EDH games “At the beginning of your upkeep, you win the game.” Aside from killing it or countering it, some strategies that help against it include Cloning it (Rite of Replication, Followed Footsteps, Quicksilver Gargantuan), stealing it (Treachery, Word of Seizing, Grave Betrayal), or pressuring that player’s life total (Magister Sphinx, Insurrection, Triumph of the Hordes). Definitely a ‘kill-on-sight’ card, though.
-Reveillark & Karmic Guide – Definitely the gruesome twosome of white, this pair can produce a few infinite combos, particularly in other colors. If you need to stop any shenanigans from these two, three good ways to do it are to deny the graveyard (Relic of Progenitus, Bojuka Bog, Time Spiral), exile one of the two, (Last Breath, Dissipate, Faerie Trickery), or disrupt the combo with Split Second spell (Krosan Grip the sac outlet, Wipe Away, Sudden Death).
-Stonehewer Giant – A personal favorite of mine, the Giant is a nightmare to deal with in the right deck. Whether it fetches a Sword that ruins your day, Sunforger, or Argentum Armor, having a repeatable tutor-to-battlefield effect for only two mana is hell for the blue player to deal with. Ways to deal with it, aside from the obvious counter / kill arguments, are to generally negate its effect (Linvala, Keeper of Silence, Arrest, Pithing Needle), deal with the Equipment it tutors (Stony Silence, Damping Matrix, Tower of the Magistrate), or copy the Equipment it grabs for yourself (Sculpting Steel, Phyrexian Metamorph, Copy Artifact).
-Sun Titan – Another personal favorite of mine, Sun Titan is the poster boy for white recursion decks. Being able to consistently generate card advantage if left alone, this not-so gentle giant is a powerful engine in the right deck. If you need answers to this card, try denying them their graveyard (Loaming Shaman, Identity Crisis, Rest in Peace), denying the Titan itself the ability to attack (Stormtide Leviathan, Peacekeeper, Tamiyo, the Moon Sage), or use the effect yourself (Clone, Mass Mutiny, Sepulchral Primordial).
-Yosei, the Morning Star – A real annoyance to deal with, Yosei is most commonly played in “Yosei lock” decks. These are decks that tend to recur Yosei from the graveyard to lock one or more opponents out of the game. Do yourself a favor and don’t let this happen to you, making sure to exile it (Path to Exile, Jund Charm, Nihil Spellbomb), prevent your opponent from targeting you and/or your permanents (Leyline of Sanctity, Privileged Position, Witchbane Orb), or preventing it from hitting the graveyard (Leyline of the Void, Rest in Peace, Samurai of the Pale Curtain).
-Wrath of God – Though the card itself has many iterations in more than its own color, I want to generalize board sweepers where they’re most common. It’s used as a political reset most of the time, but sometimes the player who casts it unnecessarily. When they do, call them on it. To be honest, the biggest counter to Wrath effects can be politics – assure that player you won’t attack them, you’ll take out the player who would win if that player Wrathed, then permit them to do it. (Also, don’t stab them in the back about this – it would make future negotiations pretty difficult) Politics aside, sweepers have their fair share of counters, including “save buttons” (Boros Charm, Faith’s Reward, Asceticism), “don’t wrath me” cards (Anger, Academy Rector, Vicious Shadows), and noncreature ‘creature cards’ (Inkmoth Nexus, Assemble the Legion, Rakdos Keyrune).
-Luminarch Ascension – The Turn 2 Terror, Luminarch Ascension is a monster late game if left unchecked and on turn 2 can either win you the game or get you killed on the spot. Being an enchantment, it dodges a lot of targeted removal, but its weaknesses are generally versatile sweepers (Austere Command, Merciless Eviction, Decimate), consistent life loss (Underworld Dreams, Sulfuric Vortex, Invisible Stalker) or deflection (No Mercy, Ghostly Prison, Blood Reckoning)
GENERALS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Why you keep hittin’ yourself? Why you keep hittin’ yourself? Why you keep hittin’ yourself?
One of the most famous Soldier tribal generals in the game, Darien is infamous for being able to numb himself to damage with a single Soul Warden effect in play. Eventually, he’ll start pinging himself for 2-10 damage a turn, spit out an army of Soldiers, pump them somehow and start going completely bonkers.
How do I stop Darien? I have extensive experience playing against three relatively different but altogether similar Darien shells. Here are some tips I have for this matchup:
-Tuck Darien. Seriously. You may get a vulgar response thrown your way, but the deck is extremely reliant on its general to function cohesively. In addition, Darien is hard-pressed for a way to tutor outside of Planar Portal, so ridding yourself of him (or least for a while) permanently is your best option to fight him.
-Kill his Soul Warden. I’ve seen a variant that goes all-in on the plan of getting infinite Soldier tokens so long as you maintain Soul Wardens, so being able to exile them is paramount. Wrath them out, counter the recursion, exile them from the battlefield or graveyard – but remember to assess the threat level of the variant you’re facing if you’ve seen it before. If it doesn’t rely on its Soul Wardens, don’t bother, but try not to let Darien have too much fun.
-Enchantment removal is at a premium. Anthems are common in token decks – Marshal’s Anthem, Honor of the Pure, Divine Sacrament, Cathar’s Crusade – you get the idea. Obviously don’t go for something like Crusade over, say, a Rhystic Study, but don’t let the Darien player get too many enchantments on board.
-Prevent him from attacking you. Pillowfort strategies are really strong against Darien, as it persuades the pilot to aim his dinky little army elsewhere while you dig for an answer. It’s a bit of a selfish answer to a big problem for the entire table, but hey, you have to look out for #1 here.
-Identify what few card advantage engines he has and remove them swiftly. Mentor of the Meek, Sun Titan, Reveillark – counter these, exile these, just don’t let him grind you out with card advantage and attrition.
Why swords make her pregnant…you know what, I’m not even gonna go there…
An infamous general if only because nearly every female player I’ve seen pick up EDH has tried it, Kemba’s simple, cost-efficient and grindy; she spawns litters every upkeep, and her little babies maul you to death while she tries to stick a Sword of War and Peace in her ear.
How do I stop Kemba?
And if you really need to play this card, I question your sanity.
Kemba’s a really simple deck to stop, in my opinion. The deck has only a few lines of play and very little in the way of reach or answers if you can put up an efficient hurdle for it to jump over. Much unlike Darien, Kemba has a significantly worse best-case/worst-case scenario. Best-case, you drew 2-3 Equipment that never died because they were too insignificant, you had a bunch of litters, drew something to make the kittens’ damage meaningful, and went 101 Dalmatians on someone’s face. (Though obviously with cats instead of dogs) Worst-case, Kemba’s in your deck because the jerk to your right used Hinder to tuck her, you have three useless Equipment that do nothing without her, and you’re basically a sitting duck, unable to contribute to the board state in any meaningful way until another player goes off and draws out a field clear, wiping the board as you draw Kemba the next turn, cry in a puddle of your own loneliness and question your life (or maybe just your commander) choices.
(I don’t know if you know it yet, but I don’t think Kemba is very good. That being said, I’ll humor those who have trouble with it.)
-Tuck Kemba. Similar to Darien is the deck’s dependence on the general. What is dissimilar is how much the deck depends on its general. Darien can sit on a Soul Warden at 60 life until he redraws Darien. Kemba…Kemba just doesn’t do much when all the Equipment attach themselves to do-nothing utility dorks.
-Artifact destruction is at a premium. Return to Dust, Vandalblast and Shattering Pulse are all fantastic in this matchup. You may be able to give Kemba the ability to dodge removal, but that’s just it – the deck doesn’t require Kemba to function, it requires its artifacts to function.
-Deny key utility creatures. Examples: Stoneforge Mystic, Stonehewer Giant, Leonin Shikari and Puresteel Paladin. Being able to cut off the deck from what few bodies it has is pretty imperative in shutting it down.
-Prevent it from attacking. Ghostly Prison effects work wonders here, as most of its mana is spent on equipping its dorks with golf clubs and tire irons.
Psst! Hey, you! Come here.
The new kid on the block, Odric is a headache for utilitydorks.deck players far and wide. I Haven’t had much experience against this guy, but his ability gives me enough to work with. Generally, he performs an aggressive role, sometimes even a Voltron role, but for the most part he’s a general who makes all your guys unblockable. How I wish he was blue…
-Tuck Odric. Is this too obvious yet? The pitfalls of monowhite EDH is how general-dependent most of the decks are, and how awful the color is at being able to fix that problem. With few tutors outside of Planar Portal, the deck has such a difficult time recovering from tucking its general with its 99.
-Keep the deck unable to attack with more than three creatures. Pillowforting helps here, but cutting the deck off four creatures is also fine.
-Play politically. If you’re getting your face beat in, do what you can to stay alive – but if you’re no threat to the Odric player…he might as well say “creatures you control are unblockable”, why not let the guy kill someone before you deal with him?
-Be conservative when playing creatures. Always remember that your opponent may be able to kill whatever you play by having it run face-first into Odric’s sword. “Don’t kill me” creatures like Anger, Academy Rector or Brawn are great here.
-Generally, sweepers deal with Odric pretty well. Without haste and a terribly relevant body in combat, Odric gets worse and worse the more mana you have to pay to use him.
So that’s all for this part of this article. I hope I’ve given you some insight on how to fight some specific cards you may be having trouble with in your metagame (all without going too ham). In the next article, I’ll be tackling the big blue menace, and I’ll add black to the mix as well. Until next week.