For reasons you will never be able to understand (don’t try), you find yourself wandering in a vast labyrinth. In your left hand, you are carrying a large meatball sub. In your right hand, you carry a velvet bag continuing six (6) live skunks. You are wearing a custom purple and yellow mariachi band outfit, complete with a hat with bells and a custom guitarrón (this is important).
You round a corner, and pass through a door that immediately slams shut behind you. You find yourself sealed in a room with three locked jail cells, one on each of the walls of the room (the fourth wall contains the door that sealed you in this silly room to begin with.)
In the cell directly across from you is a large man wearing a bloody apron and ass-less chaps. He is staring at you, salivating, and revving a chainsaw. In the cell to your right is a middle-aged man seated in a booth with a sign reading “FREE PANCAKES.” In front of him sits a gigantic steaming pile of fluffy pancakes. In the third cell is a 6-year-old girl playing with a crate of baby seals.
Suddenly, a buzzer sounds and the gates to the three cells spring open. You hastily gulp down the meatball sub (You sure was hungry!), and throw the bag of skunks.
Unless you’re a scumbag who plays non-interactive combo or prison decks, proper threat assessment is the single hardest aspect of playing EDH.[i] Improper threat assessment is the reason you lost that game the other night that you thought you were winning. Improper threat assessment is the reason that “being the least threatening player at the table” is a widely accepted strategy for winning games. Improper threat assessment is the reason why at the end of some games you want to throw your deck across the room and punch a cop.
Let’s talk about this.
The reason threat assessment is so complicated (and so easy to get wrong) is because it shifts at all times, based on a huge list of factors. As I mentioned in an article on my (long since abandoned) blog, when looking at a player’s board state and trying to determine how threatening they are, the quick list of questions you should be asking yourself includes:
-who is their General?
-how many lands do they have?
-which lands do they have?
-how many cards do they have in hand?
-how many cards do you have in hand?
-what cards do you think they have in their hand?
-what cards do you think they have in their deck?
-what permanents do they have in play?
-what other permanents are in play controlled by other players?
-what is in their graveyard?
-what is in everyone else’s graveyard?
-how much life are they at?
-how much life are you at?
-how much life is everyone else at?
-do you have a counterspell?
-do you have Rout?
-what answers do you have in hand or in play?
-what type of player are they?
If you consider that you need to start considering those factors pretty much from turn 1, and if you consider that the average EDH game probably lasts about 20 turn cycles, and if you presume that the average EDH game contains 3 other players, then the Mr. P Inane Threat Assessment Questions Calculator dictates that you will be answering approximately 1,100 questions per game, which sounds pretty miserable.
So it’s Wednesday, and I’m playing some green thing. I keep an opening hand that contains Indrik Stomphowler. The player to my immediate right plays Sylvan Library on turn two. I immediately begin staring at the Stomphowler in my hand and making plans. I play a land, and the player to my immediate left plays Sylvan Library. The player to his left plays Mirari’s Wake, and the first player plays Mimic Vat.
Who do I throw my bag of skunks at?[iii]
Is it wrong to attack the player who played Top on turn one? Well, that depends; are they going to use it to dig for combo pieces? If so, it’s probably correct to attack them. Are they playing mono-white tribal cats, and are running Top to try to provide any source of card draw or filtering to get to their terrible cats?
(The chainsaw guy was going to attack the baby seals. He was staring at you and drooling because he admired and coveted yourguitarrón.)
Mr P is dashing and daring, courageous and caring, faithful and friendly, with stories to share.