Conferences are wonderful things.

If you've ever been to a conference, at the very least you'll be questioning the validity of that statement, and at the worst, you'll be questioning the sanity of the author, so I should clarify.

Conferences, in New York City, that my wife has to attend, are wonderful things! With her work paying for the hotel and related expenses, it meant that if I agreed to drive her and a coworker to New York from Boston, I would have an entire weekend to do whatever I wanted in New York! Naturally I talked to a few friends and soon enough I had plans to meet and play with several New York Magic friends!

On the drive down to New York City, I was regaled with stories of TPS reports gone wrong, workplace drama, and riveting accounting emergency stories. My personal favorite moment was attending an hour-long teleconference concerning HR middle management issues. With this level of excitement, it isn't surprising to any of you to hear that the drive flew by.

Thursday night was a rare mixing of worlds for me. My wife and I met up with our friend and Magic associate, Andrew Magrini. Andrew is my go-to guy for all things NYC. When I'm looking for a recommendation relating to anything in New York, Andrew has never steered me wrong. We met up at a bar he suggested and enjoyed a few drinks with him and several of my wife's coworkers. He had to leave early in the evening to attend a concert, but we followed up the bar with Andrew's pizza recommendation: John's Pizza. After parting ways with Yolanda's coworkers we met up again with Andrew at our hotel's rooftop bar for one more drink to wrap up the night. Things may have gotten a little out of hand.

Showing a little more leg than I meant to. @A_Magrini #NewYork #PersonalSpace

— Bruce Richard (@manaburned) July 21, 2017


There was no Magic played on Friday. I managed to get to several interesting places. Twitter hit the highlights.

Spent my morning sleeping in, eating a bagel sandwich, and drooling over board games at The Compleat Strategist. @compleatStrat #NewYork

— Bruce Richard (@manaburned) July 21, 2017


— Bruce Richard (@manaburned) July 22, 2017

(Chocolate dessert not pictured)


This was a highlight of the weekend! When I told friends that I would be in town this week, Omar stepped up and offered his place for a full day of Commander! He organized everything, getting friends lined up and encouraging mutual friends who live a couple hours away to come as well. Add to the organizing all the drinks, snacks, and food he provided and Omar went above and beyond to make this a great Commander get together for me and everyone else who attended. Thanks again Omar!

I arrived and Omar had set up two tables for up to ten players. I was the first one there, so we chatted about life in general and everything and anything Magic until the others arrived. It wasn't long until the others were there and the nine of us started in!

Carlos Doing Carlos Things

The first game included Carlos, Jason, and Brian. Jason and Brian you may know from the Commander podcast, the Singleton Syndicate. If not, check them out, I've enjoyed their podcasts so far. This game though, was all about Carlos. We've all played against Carlos before, and we all know what is coming. Carlos builds decks with inevitability like no one else I've ever faced. His decks often start out slowly, but eventually the ramping and card draw just get so out of control that there seems like there is very little that the entire table working together can do to stop him.

For this game, he was playing Sasaya, Orochi Ascendant.

He ramped into a variety of interesting nonbasic lands, but more importantly, over half of his lands were Snow-Covered Forests. Brian, Jason, and I all knew what was coming so we were making efforts to put Carlos' life total low, but we could also see the threats each of us were playing as well. This meant that we weren't exactly piling on to Carlos like we should have, but were spending some attacks on each other. This was a mistake. From the moment he revealed the seven lands in his hand, things became impossible. All ten Snow-Covered Forests tapped for ten green mana each. When an opponent is playing green and has access to over 100 mana every turn, things wrap up quickly. Nine 9/9 Ooze Tokens and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger in a single turn meant things were wrapping up quickly.

Zombie Machinations

The four of us finished ahead of the other group and started another game. Jason opted Queen Marchesa and I had Grenzo, Dungeon Warden. Brian and Carlos also had commanders, but the relevant part was they were both running zombies. My deck fell flat on its face, while Jason and Brian were passing the Monarch back and forth, enjoying the extra card draw. Carlos and Brian were building up and both running recursion engines that were producing Zombie Tokens all over the place.

Some Commander games can get out of hand. @cag5383 and @thatman42 doing zombie things.

— Bruce Richard (@manaburned) July 22, 2017

My first big mistake of the night came in this game. Brian had played one of his commanders, Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker and it had been accumulating tokens for several turns. I had Kulrath Knight in hand and decided it would be a great way to stop Ishai from attacking me, so I played it. It also hit a couple other creatures, but Ishai was the real target. The problem was that it was apparent to everyone else that Ishai was going to attack Carlos as he was the major threat on the board. I was only helping Carlos!

While I think Carlos did win that game, I can't recall. Both he and Brian seemed impervious to mass removal and recovered far faster than Jason and I did. Seeing the insanity of their battlefields was the memorable moment of the game!

Double Trouble

This game involved a different group of players. Ryan is a local who helps organize the New York Commander community. With rent for businesses being so high, game space is at a premium so Commander players rely heavily on Facebook groups and meeting in public places to get their game on. Ryan is a big part of making that happen each week. Preston was one of the players who came to Brucon and regularly attends the Magic games in Manhattan. Erik came in from New Jersey with Liz who didn't play this game. Erik regularly writes about Commander at We first met at Gencon a couple of years ago and stay in regular contact on Twitter.

In this game, I played my durdly Vorel of the Hull Clade deck. I get a few counters on creatures, then start doubling things here and there, proliferating counters, and occasionally attacking. Generally, it takes so long to get a creature big enough that I'm willing to attack with it that the deck normally is a threat to no one.

The game progressed as most do, then Preston started applying more and more pressure, eventually taking out Ryan. My game was the typical durdlefest. I had a Trygon Predator, Vorel, Master Biomancer, and Crowned Ceratok. The Ceratok was there to block if needed. The Biomancer was there to give creatures counters when they enter the battlefield. The Predator was played to take out someone's enchantment, but they had a bigger flyer, so that plan was on hold. I had managed to get four counters on the Predator, then drew the Doubling Season, aka Double Durdle!

Erik took his turn and saw the opportunity to take out Preston, so he jumped on it, swinging all in. He had 38 life, so he expected he would be safe, assuming Preston actually died. Preston obliged me by dying and Erik went to his end step. On his end step I used Vorel to double the tokens on the Predator. Instead of getting four more tokens, I got eight more due to the Doubling Season. On my turn, I used Vorel again, doubling the 12 counters, and Doubling Season doing its thing again. With 36 +1/+1 counters, the Predator attacked and did the 38 damage to kill Erik exactly!

Dealing Off the Bottom of the Deck

Rakdos Commander!

— Bruce Richard (@manaburned) July 22, 2017

Grenzo, Dungeon Warden has been a challenge for me. Most games with Grenzo have involved quick starts by someone else, so I haven't been able to get a sense of whether the deck is good or not. In this game, I actually had some time to develop the board, so I got a chance to use the deck as I had envisioned. One particular play was memorable for me. Erik played some mass removal spell while I had everything rolling on the battlefield. I knew Grenzo would be in the Command Zone and ready to be cast on my next turn, but I wouldn't have a way to get my creatures out of the graveyard to the bottom of my library. I responded to the mass removal spell by using Viscera Seer to sacrifice my Myr Battlesphere, Glorybringer, and the Viscera Seer. I then used the Epitaph Golem's ability three times, setting the three creatures up on the bottom of my library in just the order I wanted them. Once the mass removal spell resolved, Grenzo and the Epitaph Golem were the only creatures I had left in play.

While the play doesn't sound too exciting, it was exactly the sort of play I was hoping to see out of the deck on a regular basis. I was talking with Mel Li and comparing our Grenzo decks. While I'm trying to control which creatures are on the bottom of my deck, Mel has opted for a more chaotic approach. Her deck uses more ramp and just flips more cards from the bottom than mine.

I didn't win the game, but at least control Grenzo is showing promise! We'll see what the following weeks offer as I consider whether to switch to a more chaotic version.

There were other games that night. I managed to play at least seven games through the afternoon and into the night! There were big plays and big laughs to be had in most of the games. We had great times and the chance to meet a few people in person that I had never met before was not to be missed. Brian, Ryan, and Liz are wonderful people who I can't wait to play more games with in the future (Gencon is barely four weeks away!). Turns out New York and the people who live there are a lot of fun!

Bruce Richard