So last night didn’t quite pan out as expected. My first few games with Nahiri were anything but fun. What happened?
Unbeknownst of events to come
We join our protagonist (which would be me) yesterday evening, unbeknownst of events that would unfold later in the evening. I spent the last part of the afternoon turning my Elesh Norn Commander Lite deck a into Nahiri deck. The enchantment theme took a big step back, as did some amount of token producing. In went various artifacts and cards that interact favorably with them. I decided ‘yay’ on proliferate, one of my all-time favorite mechanics. Extruder, a relatively unknown card that Rick pointed out to me for my Marchesa deck (for which I was, and am, very glad), also got the benefit of the doubt. There’s plenty of card advantage to be had there, weird as that may sound – with a generous portion of recursion, a sacrifice outlet can prove beneficial.
The Elesh Norn version of the deck was kinda lock-ish. I wanted to emulate that too with Nahiri, but with artifacts instead of enchantments. Having another Commander deck that focuses on artifacts (Marchesa, as you may know), I was afraid I would end up with a lot of the same pieces. Except for the artifact mana, two auto-includes (Loxodon Warhammer and Lightning Greaves), an Ichor Wellspring and a Myr Retriever, I don’t think there’s any overlapping card in those decks. Marchesa is more about +1/+1 counters, Nahiri about equipments.
But then, things started happening
All seemed well at the moment – I was anxious to play the deck and just threw something together, reasoning I could switch cards in between games and come to an acceptable deck whilst playing. I lost my first two multiplayer games against Rick and Ruud, and lost two quick games against Ruud’s Animar deck. As it turns out, protection from white is pretty good against a mono-white deck. Heck, even the protection from black was relevant against all my living weapons! But this was not the point of my writing this article (although it was an eye-opener for me, that I should play more artifact-based removal and that I definitely need Wing Shards).
No, it was something that struck my opponents that turned the evening around.
The Fear (capitalization on purpose)
When I was goldfishing, I saw that +2 was a rather big boost for Nahiri’s loyalty. I wasn’t able to get a free equip out of it every time, but sometimes I did. I’d ordered just one Stoneforged Blade token, but decided I might need more. It takes three unimpeded turns to get to 11 loyalty, and one turn less with just one proliferate activation.
But then it struck my friends. The Fear.
“We can’t ever beat that token”, said Rick as he furiously blasted almost every creature he could spot on my side of the board. I couldn’t build anything up, because everything was being torn down. It was quite frustrating for a deck to be able to do so little, especially since these where the first few games I was playing with it. I wasn’t playing to win, I was playing to test. And I was never able to get a solid footing so I could start doing that.
In the end, I was so frustrated I had to leave the table for a while. After hitting the walls a few times (jk!) I came back and we discussed the matter. Rick admitted being afraid of the Stoneforged Blade, and I admitted being frustrated after the first game so that I could not accept that my EOT-flashed-in Stonecloaker wielding the Blade was actually a threat on equal footing with Rick’s hexproof-trampling-lifelinking Behemoth Sledge-wielding Lumberknot. We were two giants swinging giant haymakers, and I let my frustration from the first game of being hated on cloud the second one, where I was – for Rick – the biggest target, and rightfully so.
After my cooling-down period we had a good and reasonable discussion about it. I stopped being frustrated and angry, because I can’t fault someone for the way they behave in a game. While playing, you’re enemies; afterwards, you need to be able to look each other in the eye and congratulate the victor sincerely. I let my emotions get the best of me and carried a grudge outside a game of Magic, however briefly. I was wrong to do so, and I apologize (which I already did face-to-face, of course).
As for the Magic aftermath, I have yet to see how things will pan out. There’s a lot of things you can do to prevent the blade from being the actual Stoneblade (gheh). General strategies include having blockers and preventing evasive creatures to pick up the blade. While the blade is indestructible, the creature isn’t, and it doesn’t get evasion. Just like a Lumberknot without trample, a Stoneforged Blade-wielder can be chumped all day every day without trample or flying.
Then, there’s the colored options to prevent being beaten to death with a sword (try to imagine that). In white, you have exiling like Oblivion Ring and Banishing Light. Blue has bounce, tapping, counters for the creature, and flyers (and the hidden tech of Master Thief). Black has obviously creature destruction, as does red. Green is good at generating tokens to chump, but can also produce a creature big enough to try and trade with the Bladewielder.
I encouraged my friends to change their deck to beat me. Not a lot, but just a few minor changes. I, for one, cannot beat the long game of a graveyard deck (especially one that involves either Wonder, Wurm Harvest or Karador), so now I play cards like Relic of Progenitus and Tormod’s Crypt to keep those decks in check.
Building Nahiri 2.0
Even without the bashing, I have to continue building this deck. After all, I learned a long time ago that a deck is never finished after putting it together and goldfishing – real interactions are invaluable to the process. How many Living Weapons do I need? Will I need more ways to deal with protection from white (or black)? Can I turn Sword of the Meek into a legitimate engine somehow? Can I be an Icy Manipulator-like control deck? These are all legitimate questions.
And, of course, there’s the joyful experience of having cards surprise you as you draw and cast them. I’m still waiting to draw a lot of those, like Brass Squire for example. Is he a stud or a dud? Only time will tell – and I will tell about that in another article, of course.
What’s the lesson I learned?
Fear is a powerful catalyst. But it’s an emotion, and emotions can cloud (or influence) your sense of rationality. So can frustration. Stepping back from the emotions within a game of Magic (or any other real-life situation, really) can pave the way for rational reasoning. But that’s probably the hardest thing a human can possibly do.