Pattern Recognition #274 - Slow Grow 4 - The Finale

Features Opinion Pattern Recognition


16 March 2023


Good day everyone! My name is berryjon, and I welcome you all to Pattern Recognition, TappedOut's longest running article series. I am something of an Old Fogey and a definite Smart Ass, and I have been around the block quite a few times. My experience is quite broad and deep, and so I use this series to try and bring some of that to you. Be it deck design, card construction, mechanics or in-universe characters and the history of the game. Or whatever happens to catch my attention each week. Which happens far more often than I care to admit. Please, feel free to talk about my subject matter in the comments at the bottom of the page, add suggestions or just plain correct me.

And here we go, one last article for this year, and two weeks to go! I know how this ends, and so does everyone else who is reading from my FLGS. Including you, the manager! Yes you!

So if you're ever in Strange Ideas, give them a visit and buy lots of product! SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL BRICK AND MORTAR STORE!

And there's no sense in waiting any further, let's go!

Deck Choice
Commander Choice Discussion
Weeks 1 and 2
Weeks 3 and 4


IN: Path to Exile, Swords to Plowshares, Settle the Wreckage, Tragic Arrogance, Single Combat
OUT: Crushing Vines, Curse of Vitality, Arahbo, Roar of the World, Relic Crush, Spirit of the Hearth

Round 13! FIGHT!

I'm starting the week off with 31 points, and my first table is a doozy. First player is a Slow Grow Player who has missed a couple weeks, so they're just having fun, and are rocking a slightly modified Adrix and Nev, Twincasters deck, which I can respect as they're not taking the Aesi way out. Yes, that's a pun. Live with it. Second is the modified Necron deck being run by Ashnod, Flesh Mechanist and I'm already reaching for the pen to give them First Blood damage. And third place at the table, but highest in points at said table, is Chatterfang, Squirrel General, the modifies Witehrbloom precon. And I'm sitting in last place in points for those playing all weeks, and last in turn order.

So anyway, Ashnod hits, Turn 1, and hits me for First blood. I Drop a T2 Mirror Shield, and a Turn 3 Mirri for the pun. Meanwhile, everyone else is accelerating, having multiple mana sources and here I am, playing fair Magic. You want to know how fair?

Ashnod plays a T4 Bolas's Citadel.

And so he starts playing cards off the top of his library, and we're waiting for him to resolve stuff when he hits it. Aetherflux Reservoir. I IMMEDIATELY call for a stop to the game, and point out, literally, "Hey guys, I have my notepad here. Let's go back and start recording spells from the top so there's no argument about what happened, and how much life is gained." Everyone agrees, so we name each card as it goes, and I'm writing it all down. Bolas's Citadel. Phyrexian Obliterator, Necron Deathmark, Lokhust Heavy Destroyer (Bye Mirri!), Wreck Hunter, Aetherflux Reservoir (Lifegain counts begin here, but count everything before it), Phyrexian Scriptures, Sceptre of Eternal Glory, then a Sculpting Steel on the Phyrexian Obliterator that had been turned into an Artifact by Phyrexian Scriptures, then he stalls out having already played a land for his turn.

Chatterfang has no response to this, and I make the best play I can - Nissa's Pilgrimage! Oh Urza, I hate this deck now. I really do. But I'll see it through to the end. Thankfully, Adrix and Nev comes through with the pinch removal, and casts Pest Infestation on the Citadel and the Reservoir. Woo! Sadly, Ashnod sacs 10 permanents to the Citadel in response.

Mirri #2 drops on Curve, and then gets destroyed before I can get around to equipping the Shield to her and making her Hexproof. sigh Aiming for Casting #3 then. Maybe I can get the point for 4 casts? I have plenty of Boardwipes in hand, Single Combat and Divine Revelation, so I can keep down the board while I draw more acceleration or mana. But I also draw Oreskos Explorer to help offset my mana, and he's Equipped with a Skullclamp and a Behemoth Sledge. I swing at Chatterfang (because he's the only one who is even close to open, so the Sledge gets hit with a Mortality Spear, and he trades with Chatterfang, so at least I draw 2.

Then Ashnod recurrs Marionette Master, and stops me from wiping the board because of Biotransference.

Mirri #3 takes out Chatterfang #3, and the turns slowly pass back to Ashnod.

Who casts Sensei's Diving Top, then recurs the Sculpting Steel to copy the Top. That's game. I'm in last with 1 point.

Round 14! FIGHT!

Braids, Arisen Nightmare is first around the table, another Necron modification. Abaddon the Despoiler is second, and highest points at the table with 41. Brago, King Eternal is a replacement Commander for Ranar the Ever-Watchful, and I'm fourth. Again. Look, if you're ever playing against me, the best play for you is to sit to my left to go first.

Anyway, I Path to Exile a Turn 1 creature (My handwriting is atrocious, and I have no idea which one it was) to avoid losing out on First Blood, and Braids drops of Turn 3. However, it's First Blood to Abaddon with their Seeker of Slaanesh. Braids chooses things I can't afford to lose, so I'm losing life instead.

Abbadon then double-cascades, and all is wrong in the world with so much free stuff. It gets worse when Brago then plays Sludge Monster, sliming Mirri (WHY!?!?!? She's not Equipped with ANYTHING! And ABADDON IS RIGHT THERE DOUBLE-CASCADING!)

screams internally

Anyway, we have a discussion while the game state 'advances' about whether or not we could get a Ghostbusters Worlds Beyond to get more use out of Slime counters, and I cast Abundance, and start throwing Mirri at people to try and get her dead so I can recast her.

Time gets called, and I lose on life totals. :sigh: Another 1 point game.

Round 15! FIGHT

Aesi, Tyrant of Gyre Strait is first, then I'm second, then Mishra is third, then Ashnod is back from the first game! I keep a land with three hands, sorry a hand with three lands, and drop a tapped Land T1. Right on que, Ashnod is cast on Turn 1, but you see, I have a plan.

Ashnod swings!

I Condemn Ashnod.

This is, as I would find out next week, the only time in five weeks that Ashnod didn't get First Blood. Instead, that honor goes to Mishra, and the token they made from a Servo Schematic. Good for them! Aesi misses land drops, and that's not good for them, but it gives me a chance to build my own man a base for the inevitable mana screw. Or needing to cast my Commander 4+ times.

But Aesi isn't so mana screwed that they can't counter Mishra, while Mirri gets killed by Ashnod as vengeace for taking out Ashnod. But!

Hero's Blade will auto-equip to Kemba, Kha Regent, meaning I get Kitties each upkeep! Woo!

So Ashnod drops a Meathook Massacare for 5, wiping the board.

screams internally. At least I didn't lose Mirri again. But she's been doing work, and most importantly, has had Lifelink on her from Shadowspear, meaning my life total is going up slowly. I'm whittling down Ashnod and Aesi, so I have options.

But did you know that Path of Ancestry is good? It's really good. Mirri enters for Round 2!

But while I'm waiting for my turn to come around, Aesi Mystical Tutors for Expropriate. Which he can now Hardcast as he's built up his manabase over the course of the game. He doesn't have to cheat it. But Mishra is holding up Counterspell mana, even as I realize I only have Mirri and nothing else of note. I swing at Aesi, hoping I can survive the extra turns to slam home a Commander kill.

So Aesi risks the counter, and.... Mishra lets it go. I immediately vote for Time, because I can't lose Mirri. The others vote for Money, and they lose Mishra and an Aetherflux Reservoir from Ashnod.

On his next turn, Time gets called. He casts Time Warp, which means that Ashnod won't get their last turn. But I still do. We point out to him that he could have double-Reservoired with more spells thanks to Mishra and the Goldfish Bowl, but he's sitting on a handful of lands. He spend 15 mana to draw 3 cards.

I have a serious issue in front of me. Aesi or Ashnod? I can take out either, but not both. I can survive Mishra's response. I gamble that there's no free counterspell. You see, I have Mirri, and Mirri has Trample thanks to the Spear. However, both of my targets have a blocker which can absorb enough toughness to prevent me from taking them out with Commander Damage.

I have Swords to Plowshares in my hand. The plan is simple. Attack one, let them block. Swords the blocker. Kill them with the Trample damage.

I swing at Aesi. He blocks. I Swords.

Fierce Guardianship.

I don't deliver the kill. But we all agreed that I got target-fixated on Aesi for being the threat, and if I had swung at Ashnod, I would have been in the clear.

However, two days later, after calming down, I realized that I still made the right decision. Had I gone through with my plan against Ashnod, then the same plays would have happened. And Aesi would have scored a Save Point in the Process. I know, I know, playing the meta and not the game, but I can live with this. 4 points on the game, for having the highest life total.

37 points at the end of the week.


This week, there is only two rounds as the prizing is pretty heavy, so the store wants more time to deal with that. I'm OK with that. I'm nowhere near the top, so I'm just hoping to finish in the top half.

IN: Prepare / Fight, Feat of Resistance, Moment of Heroism, Sylvan Might, Snakeskin Veil
OUT: Qasali Slingers, Hungry Lynx, Dreamstone Hedron, Alms Collector, Sword of Vengeance

The logic this week is simple - a little more protection for Mirri, a couple sources of Lifelink, and surprise embiggening. What I'm tossing are expensive cards, cards that I haven't seen, and the Lynx hasn't pulled its weight once. I'm done, and it's pretty much auto-pilot.

Round 16! FIGHT

Jinnie Fay, Jetmir's Second, 53 points, is first. Chatterfang, Squirrel General is second, also at 53 points. Leinore, Autumn Sovereign is third, and I am fourth. By unspoken agreement, Leinore and I do not target each other. It's us against the two people with 15+ more points than us. I get an opening hand of 6 Lands and Nissa's Pilgrimage, and I keep it, knowing I don't have to worry about my mana base this game.

Jinnie Fey opens with an Essence Warden and takes First Blood. But Orzhov Advokist drops on time, and I drop Mirri on curve so I can get the two +1/+1 counters on the rotation.

But Jinnie's accelerating a little, and Chatterfang hits Sanguine Bond on Turn 4. Good for them! But the turn rolls around, and Mirri is now a 5/4. I swing her at Chatterfang, who doesn't have a blocker! And that Bond is going to hurt.

He turns her into an Assassin's Trophy. :sigh: This is going to hurt me. I was looking forward to starting the Commander Kill train. I only have one this wole tournament, and that was week 1! On my Turn 4, I cast Abundance, which allows be to get around Jinnie's eventual Smothering Tithe because I don't actually draw cards. And because my hand is full of lands, I can go for non-Lands each time!

Also, Aven Mindcensor hurts when you're trying to fetch lands with Nissa's Pilgrimage. Jinnie drops an Aura Mutation on the Sanguine Bond, making 5 Cats as Jinnie herself is in play. In response, on his turn, Chatterfang Meathook Massacare's for 3, but hey, Mirri isn't back yet, so I don't lose her. Thankfully. But it's still a pretty solid boardwipe, save for the Advokist, because he's been getting his own counters.

I cast Mirri #2 on Curve, and hope for the best. Then I note that Chatterfang cast Noxious Gearhulk on "A. M." and I have no idea what that is. What was I doing, past me? Take better notes!

I clutch draw the Boots, and equip them to Mirri, and I don't really have a good attack, so I throw her at a Jinnie token, just to protect me. I then draw Fleecemane Lion, and hey, I have an emergency blocker! Thankfully, her response of playing Kitt Kanto, Mayhem Diva means that Mirri is still booted, and protected. But I don't really have a way to swing Mirri at anyone worth anything.

So I draw Rogue's Passage instead, and I use it to hit Chatterfang to 17 Commander damage. I can do this! I CAN SCORE POINTS! I'M ALMOST THERE! I CAN TASTE IT!

Jinnie Fey, with Cryptolith Rites. Impact Tremors. Doubling Season. Call the Coppercoats for 10. 20 New creatures. I'm down to 6 life, and there's nothing I can do as Chatterfang gives me an off-handed kill with a Vampire Nighthawk that has +1/+1 counters on it. I'm in fourth. Again.


So for the final round, everyone is seated in order of their ranking over the course of the tournament. The top four players - where I was last year - get table 1. I'm sitting at Table 5. Of 8. In the lower half. sigh. 37 points, and the top two at the table have 39.

Mishra is going first, Imoti, Celebrant of Bounty, a modification of the Quadratix Strixhaven deck is second, Another Abaddon, this time playing into the Chaos theme is third, and I'm sitting in fourth. We all know there's no real chance in our prizing, and we're so far down that placement doesn't really matter. So we all sat down to a casual game. My opening hand is 4 lands, Clamp, Oreskos Explorer, and Hunter's Presence.

I get First blood on Abaddon, though no extra Plains from the Explorer. Sad, but acceptable. Then Imoti drops a Managorger Hydra, and I have no way to deal with it! This could be very bad. I mean, it's not like Abaddon adds a Rhystic Study to the mix now, would it?

But what happens is far, far more fun. Abaddon was in play, and I really need to stop putting two "b"s in his name, and he gets equipped with an Assault Suit! And they don't swing, instead, they pass it to me! I swing with him, and Mirri at Imoti, who doesn't block. That's going to be 11 damage, so I can now Cascade for the rest of the turn.

I cast Arcane Signet into a Snakeskin Veil, which I cast because it's a +1/+1 counter. Then I start the endgame. Tragic Arrogance. I get to pick what each player keeps, and while I can't sacrifice Abaddon, I can take out the Assault Suit, meaning that the Cascade train goes around the board. In fact, there's a lot of discussion and negotiation about what needs to go and what doesn't. Including the Managorger with nearly a dozen +1/+1 counters on it because apparently I'm the only one running mass removal. Anyway, while I can't force Abaddon to be taken out, I do take out pretty much everything else, leaving me in the clear for future turns.

In fact, we have so much 'fun' talking about this that I completely forget to Cascade off of the Arrogance. Instead, people rebuild off the Arrogance, and I get to drop a Taj-Nar Swordsmith and go get the Hammer of Nazahn and now Mirri is pretty well protected. Me? Not so much, but hey, the odds of losing Mirri went down slightly.

Imoti then cast Myr Battlesphere as the first card they could Cascade off their Commander all game, and the first card they flip over...?

Llanowar Elves. Yeah, we all laughed at that.

Anyway, time gets called, and I decide that, you know what? Single Combat. Everyone is down to one creature again, but the best part is? It's the end-game, and no one can cast another creature for the rest of the game. I lose on life totals, with 25 and the next lowest at 28. But, hey, it's the thought that counts, right?


Right, so after-thoughts...?

Wow did I muck things up with my deck choice. 5-6 years is a lot of time for precon decks to evolve, and many times I was just being straight out up-valued by the default cards in all these other decks. Yes, Mirri is a good card, but this was also from an era where Wizards didn't design a single deck with differing ways to improve it. No, they built three partial decks, and threw them together in a blender of WTF-ery. I'm serious.

The more I played this deck, the more I hated it, and the more I just wanted to rip it apart and start from scratch. I was even joking that I would dismantle the deck at the end with my best Darth Vader impression of "You have Failed me for the Last Time!"

Look, there are good cards here. Mirri is amazing. Abundance cannot be undersold. Arahbo is actually solid if he never leaves the command zone. And I suppose some other cards might be good or not depending if you can cast them. But my URZA some of the card choices in this thing. Argentum Armor? That's 12 mana to cast and Equip! And the lack of any 1-drops, let alone creatures is outright criminal. Look, I know this is from before Amonkhet, but you still have, in roughly alphabetical order, Glittering Lynx, Jungle Lion, Loam Lion (IN A DECK THAT RUNS FORESTS), and Wild Nacatl, which is the former but for Plains. And the biggest mistake of all! NO Savannah Lions It's gone from being a Rare to a Common, and there is no way that a 2/1 would have broken the game like this!

Of course, a lot of this is because of the one card that Wizards has issued and Official Apology (tm) for. The inclusion of Skullclamp in this deck limited a lot of options for preconstructed deck-building as anything with one toughness becomes a case of an easy drawing of two cards. And that made it more of an opportunity cost for me in the games it saw play.

Oh yeah, I'm not joking. Yes, that's a link to the Web Archive because it's been removed from the official website.

Anyway, other people's dumb decisions aside, I suppose in the end, I made the mistake of trying Voltron when I should have gone all-in on Cats. The way the tournament played out, I misread things badly, and I should have gone wide, and started throwing all the Cats in, with Arahbo in the zone the whole game making my kitties bigger.

Oh, and the top two players? #2 was my brother, with his Lathril deck. Number 1 was The Usual Winner, piloting Chatterfang. Which means that for no cause of its own, the Strixhaven deck is banned. Because of no cards in it, but the 25 that went into it over the course of the tournament. Yeah, symbol:GB wins.

In the end, I didn't really have fun in this tournament, but I did persevere. Time to start plotting for next year, and I already have two ideas in mind.

First is after the absolute blast I had playing Balmor, Battlemage Captain in the leadup to the Slow Grow, so I have my eyes on the Prismarti deck as a roaring Spellslinger deck. No guts, no glory, so stopping the sling-train!

On the other hand, I'm wondering what the Superfriends deck that's coming out with the next Commander set this summer. I know the Sliver and Eldrazi decks have a lot of hype around them, at least in the circles I travel, I've never really done Superfriends despite having a lot of the cards needed for that style. Or perhaps I'll run one of the Doctor Who decks coming out next year, maybe drag my dad along for the tournament as a casual player as he's a huge Doctor Who fan. I have options this year, and I'm going to keep them open.

But now I've taken apart all my decks, and I'm taking a break from table-top Magic this week to cool off. I wonder what I should build next...?

Anyways, if any of you have thoughts or suggestions about what I could have done better in terms of deck choices, I'm all ears. Comment below!

Thanks for reading, and I'll see you all next time, when I actually get around to talking about the cards that actually broke the game.

Until then please consider donating to my Pattern Recognition Patreon. Yeah, I have a job, but more income is always better. I still have plans to do a audio Pattern Recognition at some point, or perhaps a Twitch stream. And you can bribe your way to the front of the line to have your questions, comments and observations answered!

Please login to comment