Though I was a bit bummed when GDC went on hiatus, it wound up being a silver lining. After my last article, I had a wave of good fortune in the form of a couple of jobs opportunities, but ones that were going to be extremely time intensive. I wound up needing all of the time we had off to complete the applications and gather all of the necessary paperwork.  I’ll know more about my prospects later in the year, but in the meantime I’m going to be back here at GDC in a more limited position.

In the midst of this, I also changed regular work schedules, so I’ve been adjusting to working afternoons now. It has been fine for the work aspect of it, but it is going to eat into my EDH playing time, as well as my other activities. I’m down to playing once a week for a few hours, and it pains me every time I see my group setting up an alternate EDH night because I just can’t make it during weeknights anymore.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m still grateful that I get to play on a weekly basis, but I’m always itching for more opportunities to get some more EDH in.

Even though there was a lot of fluctuation during the hiatus, I was still brewing and keeping up with the Joneses with my builds. We’ve had a few sets released, some rule changes, and even a banning (see you later Prophet of Kruphix! I won’t miss you!). I also had a lot of time to reflect on how I’d been playing EDH (both in game and attitude­-wise), and frankly I saw a lot I could improve on.

FUNDAMENTALS

This reflection started in earnest after my last article, in which I gave a play by play account of one of my group’s games. While I was chronicling the game, I noticed how focused I was on the minutia of the game. I wanted to get every detail in the game right, and I paid more attention to this particular game than I had paid to any other EDH game I’ve ever played in. I was catching minor errors in gameplay, knew basically every card in each other player’s graveyards, and was way more aware of the board state as a whole. This served me well for writing the article (along with the copious notes I took), but I couldn’t help but feel that this should be the norm for playing – not an outlier occurrence.

EDH games are long. If you start a game, you’re generally looking at an hour-plus of time invested into it. There are lulls in play, and it is not easy to be on point for the entirety of the match – especially when distractions abound outside of the game (trade binder sifting, cell phone checking, and lots of other random occurrences). All that stands, but I know I really should pay more attention during games.

I only have a limited time to play, and when I do I should be fully invested in the game.  Moving forward, I’m going to make a Concerted Effort to be more present in my games.

Besides my increased presence, attitude is another area where I can improve. I’m usually going to EDH night after work, which starts at 5 AM. I’m usually up by 4:20 or so to get to work, so by the time I’m arriving at Magic night, I’m usually pretty tired. Ask anyone who knows me well, and they will tell you that I’m not the most chipper person when I’m in this state. I’m usually annoyed and irritable. Add this in with some of the things that irk me on EDH nights anyway,  and it can lead to a recipe for me getting mean-spirited.

Players have made plays or comments that I’m not too happy with and I’ve gotten snippy with them, making some sarcastic comments or even getting irrationally angry with them.

This is unacceptable. Everyone who comes to Magic is there to have fun in their own way, and no one deserves to have that kind of attitude hoisted upon them. We all have had full days by the time we get to our EDH nights, and exhaustion is not a good excuse for having an attitude like that. As a result, I have made efforts to be more positive and not let things spiral into negativity. The EDH experience should be good for everyone; if something does annoy you, then you can discuss in a non­-disparaging way and let the other person see your side of it.

RETRIBUTION

Another habit I want to curtail is vendetta-based play. It is not something I do often, but it can be a bad habit that takes me out of games. You know the situation; someone makes a play against you, and for the rest of the game you seek retribution. Every action you take is another step towards exacting your revenge. You attempt to destroy their permanents when there are greater threats on the field. Your attacks go their way even if it is more profitable to swing elsewhere. You continue until they are vanquished.

And soon after, you’re following them right out of the game.

While this is definitely a strategy that feels good in the moment, its implications can be harmful in the long run in both the current game and in future games with your play group. Blinded by vengeance, a lot of your critical thinking skills and the ability to assess threats go right out the window. This usually leaves the window open for another player to capitalize on your mistakes to open up an insurmountable lead while you squabble with your rival. You can also easily alienate other players by constantly picking on anyone who goes after you off in the slightest, leaving players hesitant to enter games with you.

How do you offset this behavior? For starters, don’t take this to the extreme. Recognize the difference between someone going after you for no reason and someone targeting you because you are in the best position on the field. I’ve gone from getting angry in-game to pointing out that a player going after me was the right move because I was clearly in the driver’s seat.

Be cognizant of the game state and come to realize that everyone is not always out to get you.

THE SOCIAL CONTRACT

I want to end on a note about deck construction and philosophy. I’m very proud to be a writer for GDC, where our official tagline “Defend the Social Contract” is a movement towards promoting interactive and fun games that work in our playgroups, and serve as an example for EDH players everywhere. While Team GDC collectively pursues this goal, the truth is that not every player is on the same page in the EDH landscape. Different players have different goals going into games, and when those philosophies clash, there can be some friction.

When said friction arises, I tend to get into the “holier than thou” position. If you’ve seen the decklists that I run, they generally trend toward thematic builds that have a lot of synergy while also running a lot of obscure cards. I have dismissed people playing staple-heavy decks as unimaginative, complained about having to see the same cards every game from the same player, and blown off peoples’ suggestions for cards to play just because they are boring.

Though I may not share an opinion with the other players in my group (and sometimes even think they are dead wrong in their own opinions), they have every right to believe and play how they want. There are various types of players attracted to the format, and they all have different goals when approaching their card selection and play style. I cannot force people to change their ways, but I can show them my approach and the positives that it brings to the games I play in. Also, having more nuanced discussion rather than outright dismissing another player’s opinion goes a long way towards fostering relationships, and can go a long way towards helping to open up another player to hearing other sides of the story rather than just their own.

Being present.  Improving your attitude.  Not holding grudges.  Listening.  Leading by example. When you break down what I’ve discussed to the core elements, these simple thoughts can go a long way towards helping you improve yourself. I honestly hope all of you can glean some kind of insight from this article, and I challenge you all to reflect on areas where you can improve your own game.