I read this deck doctor article the other day and at some point realized I disagreed with nearly every piece of advice. The average D-Dr hating EDH player (aka the average player) has a few options at this point: A. Insult the author, call them an idiot, and be just like every other a-hole (my first instinct); B. Let it go because it’s not worth their time (probably many adults do this); or C. Make it a crusade, trying to improve a broken art form. Which one do you think I picked?
Why Do I Want to “Fix” deck doctor as a concept for commander? For starters, because (EDH) Deck Doctor articles are terrible.
Yeah. I know. Breaking unknown territory here.
I had an “a-ha” moment with the piece in question. The article itself didn’t particularly suck; rather, CONTEXT MATTERS. All the author’s suggestions were to specific to their context, and thus, sounded stupid to me. I think I’ve found my soap box.
The author and I don’t share context or really even similar ideas of what is fun (or rather, what constitutes un-fun). And it seemed that in this case, the author and the submitter didn’t share much context either, so the suggestions just sailed off into the air, missing their target. Context wrecked us.
Still not turning any heads with my revolutionary new ideas.
Now put these two conclusions together (Deck Dr. Articles for EDH Are Stupid; Because Context Matters), and we’ve got a thesis idea.
If only we could write deck doctor articles with flexible suggestions, attempting to account for even unknowable context, we might create something that is at least not-sucky in terms of actually providing “good” advice (although still potentially profoundly boring).
With What Shall I Fix It?
So here’s how I’d kick off a Deck Doctor piece. I’d work with the submission to answer three questions about the submitter.
- What do we know about their context, tastes, restrictions and goals because they told us?
This is the provided information question. Things like budget, basic strategy/focus of the deck, and some vague, probably subjective and utterly meaningless words about level of competitiveness fall into this bucket.
- What can we guess?
This is where we deduce and infer information. The easiest example I can think of is if the submission has Revised duals and fetches, but excludes some other high-power, expensive staple. We can infer from this that the deck builder deliberately avoided that kind of card/strategy due to strong preference, not because they lack the means or desire to optimize.
- What do we definitely not know?
This is where the real work happens. If they deck submitter says “my group is fairly competitive, and I’ve started to lose more as people increased their card quality,” but leaves out any mention of what kinds of decks and strategies to win are or are not Kosher with the group, we can identify Combo, Mass LD, and Mass Discard, for example as clearly unknown.
Or more likely, as the Doctor we might not know how fast the submitter’s meta is—which would influence things like how much ramp to suggest, at what point on the curve, and the importance of a better land base. Obviously, this list could be virtually infinite in length, but you could probably boil it down to 10 key questions you need to know to understand what is fun and effective for a player, and just work from that list.
Great. But nobody wants to read an entire intro that is stiff as a board. This introduction to a college science experience that I just outlined sounds about as fun as using a bag of rocks for a pillow. Normal people would probably go through the process of answering those three questions, then summarize the super relevant and interesting things they uncovered and use them to set the focus for the piece.
A lesser write like myself would probably just plow through with the robot dryness, and try to spice it up with lines from amateur mic night.
Aaannnnnd Then…?!? (The Cookies Fortune!)
So we start fixing the poop storm that is Edh Deck Doctoring by digging into context. But that’s not a list. We need cards. The next step is to do the really obvious stuff like normal: improve the mana base, tighten up the spell suite to do what the deck actually wants. Basically, get that low hanging fruit.
But that leaves the big, challenging, fun part, the payoff at the end of this riveting journey: offering options for a number of potential sicknesses. Aka, provide a few suggestions with if-thens, so the submitter can account for context.
- You’re facing a medium-ishplaygroup obsessed with value, card advantage, and the mid-to-late game turns;
- Take this medicine: more resilient threats and recursion tacked on to things that can double as threats for.
- They’ve progressed to prioritizing tempo and answer-density, meaning cheap spot removal over card advantage;
- Take this type of pill: diversify your threats, find different angles so you can syncopate your timing to avoid their spot removal, and add more fast-fast mana so you can crap out the threats.
Of course, it’s easy to speak in generalities, but that’s still the idea. Instead of saying “you came to me with list a, but now you should probably go for something more like this, because based on my experience it’s awesome”; the supposed MD of decks would say “these are the easy upgrades for your purpose, and these are the choices you should make based on what you’re facing in terms of x, y, and z.”
Make sense? Since we’re almost 1,000 words in, that’s probably enough theorizing. However, I’m going to effing TRY IT and see. I’m willing to bet if I execute, it’ll be a CMDR deck doctor almost good enough to justify the art.
Thoughts? Would a clear assessment of what the Doctor knows and then a suite of modal suggestions make anything better? I kinda think it might.