God, I love spoiler season.  It used to be the thrill of the chase; getting the inside track on new cards and new tech, seeing the explosion of internet forums as people race to uncover new interactions and builds, and the hype going into the Prereleases.  I read everything I could, wrote out lists, and prepared for a host of upgrades to the stable.

These days, I’m more interested in the spectacle than anything else.  I like watching the hype machine in action, going full bore and eating itself in the process like a modern-day nerded-out Oroboros.  I’m not as interested about the tech, since I’ll see it one way or the other eventually and I favor going my own way a little more than I used to.  I don’t attend the Prereleases, and that likely won’t change until they give me back my drafts.  I’ve taken to buying the cards I want on or around release day instead; sure, it’s not as exciting, but my doctor has me watching my blood pressure, so it’s probably for the best.

No, the joy these days is the “rubber-necking at car crashes” game-plan.  I love the spoiler season because when people see a new card, there’s an instant reaction to one extreme or the other:

  • *Yawn* That card is so under-powered.  Boring.  Crap card, won’t see any play.”
  • “WTF!?!?!?  That card breaks the format!  Quick…we need to bust out a Change.org petition to force the Rules Committee to pre-ban that thing before it ruins the game forever!”

There’s never any in-between.  It’s like watching a tennis match; back and forth, back and forth, until the set hits and people digest (and forget) everything that was said and move on with their lives. 

Good times!

Today the primary excitement was over Soul of New Phyrexia, spoiled over on GatheringMagic.com by Uriah, the man behind @CMDRDecks:

 SoulofNewPhyrexia

 

I’m refraining from joining the hype at this time, because I have a tendency to see the super-type ‘Artifact” and instantly lose all ability to dissect the card in terms of a non-artifact-centric deck.  To that extent, this thing simply isn’t taking the place of Darksteel Forge in Sharuum the Hegemon anytime soon.  (I like my indestructibility to have protection from Swords to Plowshares…)

That said, it’s awful nice of Wizards to drop us Commander folk a new toy that seems to be custom-tailored for the format.  And also, this seems like a consummate bulk rare, so foils should be abundant a la Colossus of Akros.  (Edit: Preordering at $15?!?!?!  I call total bullshit here – this is price based on hype alone.  This is a six-drop that likely does nothing the turn it is played.  If this thing doesn’t turn out to be way over-hyped and loved in Commander alone, I’ll be amazed.  Seriously, who’s playing this in constructed formats?)

Anyway, what’s your take?  Is this thing the real deal?  What do you plan on using it for?  Am I an idiot based on my prediction?  Light me up in the Comments below.

LETTING THE STABLE OUT FOR SOME EXERCISE

I was able to get out for three games last week, with my new, much-lightened EDH bag.  So far, I’m feeling very good about trimming the fat and slimming down to my most played, most-enjoyed decks.  Here’s how it went:

GAME 1: Hanna, Ship’s Navigator

The only new deck of the bunch came out for game one.  We had a five-player game featuring a nice spread of decks and strategies, including our old friend Lund (up from his home in Virginia to visit family) with his Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge deck.

I got a fairly strong start, landing a turn one Mystic Remora that drew me a few cards before I quit on the upkeep costs to drop a Sol Ring and a Rhystic Study.  Before long, Honden of Seeing Winds joined the party, followed by Blind Obedience and Karmic Justice.  It was about this time that The Mimeoplasm player dropped Bane of Progress.

Now, I’m not a fan of wiping a player out of the game with one fell swoop, but Karmic Justice doesn’t give you that option; the person that did the damage gets the full brunt of the assault, whether you want them to or not.  Mimeo forgot the wording on Justice was so harsh, and was unfortunately left with one basic land to his name.  Insult to injury, I followed up with Crystal Chimes and got my board back within a turn.

I was able to find Leyline of Anticipation, allowing me to dump Sphere of Safety into play prior to a Rakdos player announcing a huge Taurean Mauler attack.  From there, I untapped, drew Omniscience, played my tenth land, and went to town.  Idyllic Tutor found Moat, Enlightened Tutor found Opalescence, and when Mr P. pointed out that nothing could attack, I spun my Sensei’s Divining Top and saw Archetype of Imagination in the top three.

Thus, I was able to live the dream.  I attacked someone for lethal damage with a flying Moat.  So far, I love this deck.

Game two saw the reincarnation of Sharuum the Hegemon.  So continues the quest to find the non-combo-riffic Esper Aggro deck.  All in all, the game progressed quickly; Lund again set up Jeleva, and before long, we were facing two copies of Consecrated Sphinx and a Rhystic Study.  Lund’s aggressive start let me set up shop, finding a Duplicant that dealt with two different gods over the course of the game.  One of the other regulars, Shawn, had his enchantment-centric Opal-Eye, Konda’s Yojimbo deck in action, but I was able to find both Dispeller’s Capsule and Ethersworn Adjudicator with a Darksteel Plate on it to keep him in check.  Lund at one point milled my deck for a bunch of cards, and that allowed me to Sharuum in Mycosynth Golem and go nuts.  I aggro-ed the board out shortly afterward with an artifact team led by Sphinx of the Steel Wind and enhanced with Akroma’s Memorial.

I love this deck too.

Game three brought out Kresh the Bloodbraided.  I haven’t actually played this deck in a long time, so it was nice to see what it could do.  I got a slow start, and everyone at the table was getting pounded by Shawn’s Doran, the Siege Tower deck.  I finally tabled Asceticism and followed it by Kresh and Phyrexian Dreadnought (A.K.A. “One Colorless Mana For Four Giant Growths On Kresh”).  This staunched the bleeding for a few turns, but I found myself at sixteen and facing a horde of treefolk.

The following turn, I drew into Survival of the Fittest, which found me Worldspine Wurm with the last discardable creature I had.  Knowing this was my make-or-break turn, I played Sneak Attack, dropped the Wurm and attacked Shawn, and then Sneak Attack-ed in the Disciple of Bolas I was hanging on to as a lifeboat to gain fifteen life, draw fifteen cards, and build a team of 5/5 blockers. 

Shawn declined to attack me for lethal damage due to my blockers, and I seized the moment.

Starstorm for 4 left Mr. P under fifteen, and he and Lund with no blockers.  I swung a 43/43 Kresh at Lund, and three 5/5 Wurms at Mr. P to eliminate them both.  On my second main, two mana for Flesh/Blood finished off Shawn for a complete table kill in one turn.

I love this deck more.

WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE

One of the other things that happened during the evening was the catalyst for a lengthy discussion afterward.  Shawn was seated at a different table than me in the first game, and I checked in late after the Hanna win to catch up on things. 

Apparently, Lund had sat down early, realized he had an illegal deck, and scooped out of a sense of fairness (this was the for-prizes round.)  If I understand it correctly, sometime later on in that game, two other players scooped for unknown reasons, leaving just Shawn and another player to slog through a very uncomfortable and heated match.  Shawn is an EDH player that really gets the environment we have fostered on EDH nights; no mass-land destruction or infinite combos.  He likes a good, engaging casual game. 

The other player was new to the shop, and as it turns out, comes from a background that is decidedly more competitive.  Some of the players in the shop had played games with him in one of the other stores in the area, and one such game involved him and an Azami, Lady of Scrolls deck that set up shop behind a wall of nothing but card advantage and counterspells, only to finally deck and win with Laboratory Maniac.  He stated afterward that this was the type of game he enjoyed playing.

This game was decidedly different.  Shawn, playing Dakkon Blackblade, ended up going spell for spell in what I thought was a very balanced and engaging game.  As it turns out, the competitive nature of the other player had him very much on edge and irritated over a series of stronger plays (Nevermore locked him off of playing Dakkon, which I think might be a first in the history of the game.), with Shawn left feeling like the shoe was going to drop into a late game infinite combo at any time.  Once I stopped to watch and listen, I understood what was happening by the tone of the comments being traded.

When the game was very close to being over, and somewhere around the two-hour mark, the other player abruptly scooped.  He commented that Shawn didn’t seem to be having any fun at all, and neither was he as a result.  This was frustrating to Shawn, who felt he was close to earning a win over a deck that he stayed in a game (that he otherwise didn’t want to be a part of) for far longer than he wanted to, in order to earn the satisfaction of defeating it. 

Needless to say, a bad time was had by all.

We ended up discussing the merits of our ‘points’ system and the new influx of players that were creating issues we hadn’t seen in a long time.  The new blood that has come out of the woodwork lately is different than the old guard, in that they aren’t often experiencing the format for the first time when they enter the shop; the enter the games with a solid foundation of the way EDH is played that differs very much from the way we tend to do it. 

Judgments aside, it left us with a very real set of questions.  How does the line between casual and competitive bend without breaking?  Is there a way to find a balance that doesn’t involve one set of players being forced to play a game they don’t want to play?  Does communication actually stand a chance of mattering at all when two sides that are very invested in their own way of playing collide?  Who do you think is in the right here?

I’m very interested in hearing what some of you have seen, heard and experienced along these lines.  Please – hit us up in the ‘Comments’ section below (and undoubtedly on Reddit as well!) to let us know what you think.

Rock on…

-Cass
@GDCCommander