To upgrade or not to upgrade, that is the question. Whether it is better in my mind to suffer the struggles and losses from a casual deck, or to take arms against my playgroup and by opposing end them.
I stand on the edge of a cliff, trying to decide if I take a leap or turn back and step away. The problem with a cliff is that once you decide to go over the edge, you can’t back track until you have hit bottom. Assuming you survive, the climb back up is long and arduous.
My core group of friends has started to get back into playing Commander on a regular basis. As a group we normally played Warhammer, Pathfinder, Cards Against Humanity, ect, ect. We have played Magic together in the past, but had been playing with other groups or taking breaks for a little over a year. Now that we are all playing together again, we are dealing with the power imbalance that comes from a variety of playgroups.
When you get a variety of power levels that clash, archenemies commonly develop. In one game this past weekend, I was playing my Judo deck against a Karn deck, a Jund deck, and a Shirei deck. The Karn deck was clearly dominating the table by generating 10+ mana a turn and quickly taking bites out of my life total. After he Mindslavered a player to my left, I was forced to search up Insurrection and kill him off before he could kill me. The Insurrection wasn’t enough to kill off the other two players and I was left with zero cards in hand, 1 card set aside with Praetor’s Grasp, just an Arcane Melee in play, and Mystical Teachings in my graveyard.
After I killed the Karn player, he suggested that “If you don’t kill him now, he will win in two turns.” One of the two remaining players took this to heart and swung into me with lethal damage. This forced me to flashback the Mystical Teachings to keep myself alive. Luckily for me, I had shown some foresight with a Praetor’s Grasp at the beginning of the game. I revealed the card I had stolen from Sherei on turn three, Rise of the Dark Realms, fulfilling the prophecy from the now ex-Karn player.
The win created an issue. My friends are pretty smart. They put together that while it appeared I had no threats on board and slim resources, I had been setting up for an end game the whole time. The rest of the day, I got attacked pretty hard under the logic that they couldn’t trust what they were seeing on the board because apparently I could set up ways to win without a strong board position.
This is a fair assessment. When people come to the conclusion that a player is always a threat, they are left with only one option; kill that player before s/he can do whatever it is that they might be trying to do. Becoming an archenemy or the default target in a playgroup is problematic, because it leaves me with few choices on how to handle the situation.
Option 1: Do nothing
The archenemy effect doesn’t last forever unless it is well deserved. I think my decks are fairly casual. I could just wait it out and watch the effect fade slowly over time. Of course, this would mean losing for a long time since each win would push me further into the archenemy territory.
Option 2: Tone down my decks
I can go through and give the Jason Alt treatment to my decks and make them all 75% of what they are at. Of course, decks that are 75% of what I want to be playing are usually 100% less fun to actually play. This option doesn’t kick start an arms race, so at least there is that…
Option 3: Tweak decks slightly
I can make slight changes to my decks to make them a bit more survivable so that I can weather the storm and stand a better chance of winning in the current environment. It would be fairly cheap and wouldn’t change the power level of my decks, at first. The issue I have with the tweaking process is that it’s like trying to fall off that cliff slowly. Once I start tweaking my decks, my group would probably start tweaking their decks. This would cause me to tweak my deck more, precipitating the obvious and oft-bemoaned arms race, a vicious cycle that ends with Arcum Dagson burying Zur and Uril in a Mana Crypt while Captain Sisay prepares the Skyship Weatherlight to take them to their new lives in Tijuana. Little does she know, Arcum is about to die of a heart attack and she will be alone and friendless in a foreign country. No one wants that.
Option 4: Overhaul a couple decks
The last option I can think of is very similar to the ‘do nothing’ option. The main differences are it is a lot more work, a lot more aggressive, and costs a lot more money. I could embrace the current situation and rebuild one or more deck to be setup to take down multiple opponents. This is the most tempting option for me, because it allows me to flex my deck building skills. The main problem with this is that every game would turn into everyone vs me with survivors battling for first place. My friends are also competitive by nature. There is still a chance this could lead to an arms race. Plus, I already have Arcum Dagsson. I would need to deck that found a balance between that and my current budget builds.
I am honestly not sure what I will be doing at this point. By default I will be doing nothing for the time being. If any of you have experienced this before, please share your thoughts in the comments below or message me on twitter @SwordsToPlow.