It has been some time since my last PSA. I moved back to first shift at work, and now regularly attend my LGS for Commander night. This past Wednesday was a solid evening of games. I managed to squeeze five games into four hours (shout out to my Edgar Markov deck for making two of them end quickly), and the final game brought about an idea for this article.
I am sure plenty of us have games where we put blinders on, and focus solely on developing our own board. When this occurs you can miss important plays, or key permanents that truly need to be removed from the field. Your board seems stable, and there is no worry of an opponent killing the table, when you suddenly lose the game. This kind of experience highlights the importance of having battlefield awareness.
My mindset during an edh game.
In multiplayer games, and Commander in particular, the battlefield can become cluttered, confusing, or simply overwhelming. It is easy to focus on your quadrant and react only when in dire straights. However, I firmly believe in being proactive when assessing threats and potential problems for future turns rather than waiting until your hand is forced. I make a point to destroy unwanted permanents as soon as I am able, especially those that could potentially end the game.
To set the stage, I was piloting my Sidisi, Brood Tyrant Spider Spawning deck (shout out to Brian David-Marshall for this one) and facing in turn order The Scarab God, Karlov of the Ghost Council, and Ghave, Guru of Spores. Karlov was off white mana for several early turns, Ghave was not doing much other than playing some enchantments, and I was happily milling myself away. The Scarab God was helping me do so, thinking his job in the late game would be made easier as I was doing half the work for him. We all started interacting with each other as usual, and Karlov finally hit a couple Plains so he could develop his board as well.
Fast forward several turns to Karlov casting Enlightened Tutor to find Exquisite Blood, with Sanguine Bond already on the battlefield. He cast it on his turn, so luckily there was time for us to react. The Ghave player cast Oblivion Ring to exile the Bond (though this felt like borrowed time with how fragile O-ring tends to be. I could write a seperate piece entirely about this type of ‘removal’. You should – Editor
I took my turn, not doing much, and passed. Scarab God recurred Bribery and targeted the player piloting Ghave. Scarab God had started to become worried about me, so after a little searching he choose Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite and dropped her onto the field (making some comment about keeping ‘zombie-boy’ in check). This killed a few things that had been played since the last board wipe, but not much. Suddenly, shortly after Ms Norn’s timely (and inevitable) trip into exile, Karlov played Vizkopa Guildmage and immediately drained us all for the win.
Sometimes finding answers is far better than big, flashy plays.
I fully believe Scarab God could have, and should have, found something in the Ghave deck to be rid of Exquisite Blood. At any moment a Mortify, Anguished Unmaking, or even Disenchant from Karlov could have ended us all by removing the O-ring. But that is not where Scarab God was looking, even though it was plainly a threat on the field. Analyzing the board state, and checking for threats that could kill you immediately, is an important step when making decisions in this game.
What do you think? What do you take into account when situations like this arise? Do you play the part of cleaning up the battlefield, or are you one who goes after whatever looks best or most silly at the time? If you have answers to share on this, or comments on the deck I played, let me know in the comments section. But if you find yourself casting a spell, and have not taken a moment to search for potential dangers, remember it is best to have some battlefield awareness. Thanks.
Chris is a Strictly EDH player and thorough Melvin from Columbus, OH. He squeezes in games whenever he isn’t on adventures with his wife and toddler daughter.