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Defending the Commander Social Contract

Category: DJ complains too much

Holiday Throwback #1 – Where It All Began

Thanks for tuning in!  While we regroup and gear up for the new year (and my god, do we have plans!), we’re going to dig into the vault and shine the spotlight on some hits from days past.  If you’ve never read them, these articles should be worth your time to dig in on.  If you have read them…well, read them again, dammit.

To get started, I decided to take y’all back to where it all began, three long years ago in Blogspot land (For reference, I was still referring to myself as “DJ”) –  The first real post to grace the pages of GeneralDamageControl.com.  If nothing else, it’s worth it so see how far we’ve come.  (Again, my god.  Thanks for sticking it out, everyone.  Really.)

Happy holidays, everyone.

-Cass
@GDCCommander

 

Originally posted here – “If Anyone Was Wondering How To Grossly Mis-assess Threats In EDH…”

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Grumpy Old Man – Part Infinity: The Culling and I Hate Conspiracy

Change is a powerful thing. I have the Japanese kanji for “change” tattooed on my right chest in black, with a red circle background. I like to think that it’s here as a guiding factor in my life, so that I always understand that change is a constant. Really, I got it tattooed there after a very recent ex-girlfriend got the same tattoo. I figured she’d never see it anyway, and it would just be my way of still staying connected to her or some crap like that.

Kids do dumb things sometimes.

It went on to be a focal point on one of my band’s albums. I’m not sure I remember the reason, but in my poor little twenty-something brain, it felt like some sort of spiritual confluence. It was “right” somehow.

God-bless youthful exuberance.

One of the secrets of growing older is that with age comes the development of a sense of simplification. There are lots of things that matter when you’re eighteen; when you’re thirty-seven, you can narrow that list waaaay down. I want to believe that it’s a matter of perspective, but I think it might actually be that old people are just tired of the BS.

I used to worry about opinions and great social injustices and the effects of climate change on indigenous plant life on Zimbabwe. Now, I worry about paying bills and having beer in the ‘fridge. I can’t wait to get old enough that I can get away with taking off my pants in public and crying during beer commercials.

(I may already do one of those things from time to time.)

Anyway, the point of all of this is partially to illustrate the joys of the middle-age wandering mind, and more importantly to talk about the fundamental reason EDH is awesome – care-free expectations.

WHY I PLAY EDH

The secret to EDH for me is the pace of the climate. Standard is cutthroat; Limited is frenetic. Vintage feels like getting dropped into Clash of the Titans, while Legacy feels angry that Modern is stepping on its toes all the damn time.

EDH is like sitting in an Adirondack chair in the backyard in late Fall, wearing your favorite sweater and enjoying a lovely cigar. It’s nice, relaxing, enjoyable, and most importantly, it sticks with you even after you gargle with Listerine a few times. It’s not rushed, and the entire point is to take it all in and enjoy it for what it’s worth. The good games are good, and even the bad games are still worth talking about.

No drama. Just fun.

THE CULLING

I think I’m having a mid-life crisis. I did the unthinkable last week; the culling of the decks.

Again.

The truth of the matter is that I find my playtime limited these days, so I want my games to count. I discovered that I would be well served by really focusing on the decks that I enjoy and play all the time, which I made possible by weeding out the rest of the stuff that never quite gets there, or never even gets taken out of the bag to begin with.

Also, my back hurts when I drag the whole bag to and from the card shop to my car. Worth noting, I think.

The Ones That Made It:

Kresh the Bloodbraided – Good old Kresh. Everyone needs a screaming aggro blitzkrieg, so I took parts of Xenagos, God of Revels (Sheer Ridiculousness) and wedged it in there. Highlights: Xenagos himself. Berserk. Sneak Attack. Phyrexian Dreadnought.

Prime Speaker Zegana – I’m taking her back to well-documented GenCon Combo-Breaker status. The current count of missing foils: 13. (Five Zendikar full-art Islands and Forests each, a Misdirection, and Misty Rainforest. Oh yeah…also Force of Will.)

Angus Mackenzie/Roon of the Hidden Realm – These two continue to cohabitate the command zone like a proper played-out buddy-cop drama. Grizzled veteran, meet young blood. (And yeah…Roon is better. Sorry, Angus!) Sometimes, you just need to bust out Aluren and Man-O’-War.

Hazezon Tamar – On the one hand, I hate token decks, and I always take them apart. On the other hand, I love being able to slam my fist on the table and scream “Delayed trigger! DELAYED TRIGGER!” just to scare the younger players. Recently added – Ice Cauldron. Just to ensure that someone calls a judge every time I play this thing.

Eladamri, Lord of Leaves – I’ll be damned if this thing isn’t my most favorite deck right now. It’s elves…but then you get moments when Concordant Crossroads, Door of Destinies, and Coat of Arms is in play, and you’re drawing extra cards off of Font of Mythos. Three mana later, and someone is getting the business end of a 14/14 Llanowar Elves. Someday, I will live the Helix Pinnacle dream with this deck.

Zedruu the Greathearted – I dismissed this thing as an exercise in theorycrafting, and it has ended up being the most memorable of my decks in the past year. I can’t thank Sheldon Menery enough for the concept. I find myself price-shopping Beta Smoke because of this deck, and that’s pretty awesome.

Sharuum the Hegemon – She’s back…again. With all the new players in the shop, I look forward to having to explain to at least one person each time I play it that it doesn’t go infinite in any way shape or form, and that instead they need to fear my Guardian Beast and Mycosynth Golem. Here’s hoping it doesn’t suck this time around.

Hanna, Ship’s Navigator – I couldn’t very well tear everything down without building something new. Hanna makes the scene as the new enchantress deck in my quiver, because I’m dying to play Moat[card/], [card]Opalescence, and Archetype of Imagination.

No more Melek “all the spells”. No more Sigarda “the other Enchantress”. No Thraximundar, no Memnarch, no Ghost Council 1.0. All gone. I even killed off mono-white angels.

Here at GDC, boredom reigns supreme!

ABOUT THAT MID-LIFE CRISIS

I live in rural New England. We’re an environmentally-conscious community who experiences some pretty brutal winter weather. Naturally, it is only logical that I trade in my dependable and sensible Subaru sedan for a 425-horsepower rear-wheel-drive muscle car with 20” wheels.

This seems like a good idea to me.

Outwardly, I’m reconciling the decision to the fact that my wife has an all-wheel drive minivan, and we commute together. I won’t miss work in bad weather, and I have a fun car for the weekend. Inwardly, I’m looking forward to 14 miles per gallon and flipping off Prius drivers with “Shop Local” bumper stickers on them while I do nice, smoky burnouts in second gear at highway speeds.

Note to self: tell the wife the first part, not the second one.

WHY I HATE CONSPIRACY

It’s official – I’m the only person on the planet who didn’t enjoy Conspiracy. And yeah, “hate” is a strong word. The official party line is that I do not enjoy the format at this juncture, and I look forward to further engagements with which to alter my opinion.

Quick story – My one and only experience was a home draft at Mr. P’s house. I drove an hour and fifteen minutes each way for it. I then totally forgot to keep in mind the fact that it is a multiplayer format, and drafted a monster of a R/G beats deck that would kill in a 1v1 environment. I opened a Reflecting Pool for value. Then, we sat down, and I was killed on the sixth turn by a player running triple Muzzio’s Preparations. Turns out it says “card”, not “creature,” and all of those 4/4 flying spirit tokens were much smaller, since you can’t name “spirit” and get the bonus.

So yeah…equal parts “I suck at drafting it” and “RTFC, everyone!” But I digress.

  • My big fear with this set is that people will bring to the table expectations in line with their particular gaming preferences, and that these will clash heavily and create some bad blood. In specific:
  • EDH players like casual multiplayer games. Conspiracy is touted as a fun casual multiplayer format.
  • Limited players like the skill of drafting a deck that will be the most efficient at defeating his/her opponents. Conspiracy is a draft format.
  • My empirical evidence sucks, but I know when I was eliminated, I was irritated that I was killed off on turn six. Aren’t multiplayer games supposed to be fun, not cutthroat?

If they’re EDH games, yes. The lesson? Don’t confuse the format for something it isn’t, and it’ll likely be fine. Or savagely rare-draft foil Misdirections and stuff.

IN CLOSING

…because this is getting a bit long, I’ll wrap it up for now. I know this is disjointed and all over the place, but that’s the point. If you’ve learned anything today, I hope it is one of the following things:

Man, people make no sense sometimes.

EDH is like smoking and drinking mouthwash.

Dodge Challengers have a backseat, so the car-seats still fit. Also, the terrible rear visibility will prevent the kids from seeing daddy flipping off nice old ladies.

Tattoos are forever. Teenage angst, thankfully, is quite temporary.

If you have opinions, base them on fleeting experiences that don’t actually resemble anything close to what they should. Defend them with fierce (and totally misguided) conviction.

Hope I’m passing to you in the next draft you’re in.

Q&A?

If you feel like it, answer one or more of the following below:

1. Because the deck-building bug bites quickly and symmetry is three decks to a fat pack box, what is my lucky ninth deck going to be?

2. What was your experience with Conspiracy? Did it meet and exceed your expectations, or fall a little flat?

3. Should your humble author actually go ahead with the musclecar purchase?

4. Is your humble author losing his mind?

5. In a single word, what is EDH to you?

-Cass

@GDCCommander

GDC Podcast #5: Complainatron 5000 – Kaalia, Goodstuff, and Staples

Check it out. Podcasts two weeks in a row. Woot!

Download GDC Podcast #5 by clicking this little number.

In this edition of Grumpier old men who play EDH, Cass, Sean, and Mr. P discuss EDH, the issue of staples and goodstuff, Kaalia of the Vast, what qualifies as a staple, and silly prices.

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Labor Day – The Lighter Side Of EDH (A Mr. P Joint featuring DJ)

(Hey Everyone-
So this is apparently what happens when I get a Monday off from work.  My brain goes into “Still Sunday!” mode, and things don’t get done. 
Better late than never, right?
So there’s lots to talk about today…Return To Ravnica spoilers, From The Vaults, Xiahou Dun…the list is endless. 
In honor of that, here’s something completely different!
àDJ)

Key:

 Regular text = Patrick 

(Bold text in parenthesis = Cassidy)

We complain too much.

I had written an article that Cassidy was theoretically going to publish today. You know what it was about? Complaints.  I have another article that I’ve been writing.  You know what it is about? Commander’s Arsenal.  Specifically, complaints about it.

I complain too much.
(Ironically enough, Patrick gave me this article after he dropped by my parents house and I started immediately complaining about how I didn’t have anything ready to put up on GDC today. 

And you all really thought you were in the clear here…)

When I stop to think about this, it bums me out because of how much I enjoy playing EDH.  Despite the fact that I am somewhat predisposed to complain all the time, I absolutely love playing Magic, and EDH is by far my favorite format.

I love EDH because it allows for endless creativity and silliness.  In honor of this, I’d like to share some ideas for how to maintain the casualness and fun of it all, especially in the presence of all this talk of “competitive” EDH.
(I’m with this.  It’s really easy for myself especially to get caught up in things like spiked-out decklists in articles and $75 pricetags on Commander product from Wizards of the Coast, and before you know it, I’m complaining my poor little head off.  It’s nice to remember that we play this format because we enjoy it.)

IDEAS FOR HOW TO PLAY

1) Use a point system
This is an idea we instituted at out LGS when the weekly EDH event started to take off.  To be fair, we completely ripped off the idea from the Armada Games lists that Sheldon has mentioned repeatedly in his articles.  While not perfect, the point system has helped us to maintain a pretty casual environment, and it also serves as a nice advanced warning system; players who are new to the show can read it over and glean understanding of what sort of play environment it is (there are penalties for going infinite or playing Armageddon effects, for example.)
(It’s really important to mix things up from time to time as well.  Armada does this each iteration of their league seasons, and we’ve done it a few times as well.  It keeps people on their toes, and prevents the games from settling into similar ruts as people get familiar with the current list.)

2) Eternity Map!

We tried Planechase several times, but it always seems a little too random and swingy.  The Eternity Map Planchase variant, on the other hand, is pretty swell.  It takes the Planes from being a random factor that can suddenly swing the game, and turns them into much more of a strategic element.  As I mentioned in my article, the biggest downside of the format is that it requires additional space, and it really helps if the players all know what the Planes do.  Still, if you can overcome these, it is a fun format.
(I sincerely want this last part to be the truth.  I do.  However, at current time, I’m pretty much in the “Planechase can kiss my entire ass.” camp.  Let me know if you all want the reasons for this, but be prepared – they’re not all that interesting, and most stem from me losing due to a random plane flip at an inopportune time. 

Yeah…I’m that guy who sucks at memorizing things, and still screws things up despite Patrick’s insistence that EM can be fun.  Tell your friends.) 
3) Archenemy! (why not?)
(Because it sucks worse than Planechase?)

To be fair, we’ve never actually played a game of Archenemy EDH that was good, although we gave up after maybe five attempts, so we may not have given it enough of a chance.  Part of the issue was the starting life totals: the Archenemy rules suggest 40 for the Archenemy and 20 each for the “Heroes,” and this always seemed a bit low, but starting the Archenemy at 80 and the Heroes at 40 wasn’t great either.  There was also a numbers issue: 2vs 1 was always won by the Archenemy, and 4-vs-1 was always won by the Heroes.  I hope to one day figure this out; please feel free to share your thoughts.
(Again, a format that I want to be good.  But holy hell…the balance is just terrible when you introduce 100-card tuned EDH decks.  If anyone has found the sweet spot, please let us know.)

4) Make tacos!
(Random departure from topic, but will allow.  Proceed.)

Have you ever made your own refined beans? It will make you wonder why you’ve been buying the canned ones all these years.  Sauté up some onions and garlic (and some jalapeños if you are awesome), add some beans and some olive oil and some spices (cumin, black pepper, cayenne, and whatever else you feel) and mash them shits!
(He’s not kidding.  They’re delightful.)

I’m vegetarian, so I will bypass the meat, thanks, but you should go extra meaty!  Get some good burger or some chicken or chorizo, and cook it up nice and spicy! Get some lettuce and olives and onions and avocados and fine cheeses and you are ready for a party! Oh, and play EDH! Social!
(It’s worth noting that my wife still raves about Patrick’s chili.  She doesn’t rave about anything at all that I cook.  Period.) 

5) Emperor EDH!

We’ve never actually tried this, although it gets jokingly brought up every time we get six players at the shop.  (I’m going to Google this as we speak.)  This seems like a great thing to do, especially in the context of…

6) Have some drinks!  (If you’re old enough.  Otherwise, have some chocolate milk.)
I’ve held EDH Night at Mr. P’s House several times, and it is super fun.  I am a big fan of Junior Johnston’s Midnight Moon Moonshine (And Junior Johnston is apparently a big fan of over-abundant alliteration…) which mixes delightfully with pretty much anything (the Cherry goes great with Dr Pepper).  Having some drinks also makes the game more fun; who cares who wins?
(Back from Google.  Seems like a good time, although I highly suggest random seating to prevent teams form getting together ahead of time to build complementary decks. 
And I will admit the moonshine is both wonderful, and enhances the game night like no other…)
Speaking of not caring about winning, if you can let go of your desire to achieve supreme victory, you can open up an exciting world of deck building possibilities.  Which leads to…

SUGGESTIONS FOR HOW TO BUILD FUN THINGS

1- Build a deck around aesthetics!

I currently have two of these.  One is a Symmetrical Art deck with Riku as the general.  This deck is a pet project of mine, partially because finding cards with symmetrical art is difficult and partially because the deck has to be able to function enough to do something (because everyone sees the General and assumes it will eventually take infinite turns or something.)  I have limited myself to cards with approximately symmetrical art, and a few cards that do not have symmetrical art but do create twins (hi, Stangg!).  The deck is extremely fun to maintain, and it gets played occasionally.  The most fun thing about its when a card like Lunar Mystic gets printed, and I get to go rush off to find a foil one.

My other art deck is the Bad Art deck, and it is a blast to play.  In order to maintain my commitment to excellence, I had to be willing to completely forsake winning for the chance to play shit like Coils of the Medusa and Brushwagg.  This deck is also an endless work in progress.
(I watch Patrick play this deck, and then I see the washable crayon art my 14-month-old son does on the side of the tub each night, and I realize that he could be the next Jesper Myfors.  Like right now.

See what I mean?!?!?)

Before the forums burned down, there was a guy who had a Zur deck that was based around artwork featuring old people; he had helpfully posted pictures of the entire deck, and it was hilarious.  Artwork theme decks are probably not going to win you many games, but they are fun to maintain and play.

Next project; Bad Flavor Text deck!
(Where’s a good aneurism when you need one?)
2- Avoid linear strategies

Let’s be honest; your Talrand deck probably runs a bunch of instants and sorceries.  Let me guess; your Kaalia deck runs dragons, demons, and angels.

Fascinating.

(Wait a minute…you’re the one being positive here, and I’m the one still complaining.  Penalty box for you.

Back to it…

3 – Don’t be afraid to sacrifice the…er…sacrificial lambs?

I talked a bunch about how to make your deckbuilding more rewarding when I was building my creatureless Sisters of Stone Death list.  There’s something nice about taking an element (such as creatures, but it can be whatever…instants, sorceries, bad Jesper Myrfors art, etc) completely out of the mix; you start to dig deeper into the card pool to find new and interesting ways to fill functional needs, and your decks start to look very much unlike anything else out there.

I won’t toot that horn too much here, but I promise there’s something very rewarding about playing a green deck that doesn’t auto-run Eternal Witness and Primeval Titan. 

Seriously…if you haven’t yet, pick an angle, and give it a try.  I can’t suggest this angle enough.)

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING

Enjoy the ride (Simply put, stop caring only about winning, and have fun.)
(It’s easy to forget that this is a game, after all.  To assimilate and simultaneously murder a classic golf mantra, a bad game of EDH is better than a good day at work. 

Have fun with it, everyone.  Even we take a break from complaining to do just that from time to time.  Trust me…it’s worth it.

XO,
->Mr. P
(-àDJ)

POLL RESULTS – How Do You Play EDH?
I thought you guys might be interested to see the results:
-To win as brutally and as effectively as possible – 8%

-To play a crazy game…who cares who wins? – 12%

To win the hard way – no combos, unusual card choices, etc – 32%

To play a fun game, and maybe win from time to time – 48%

…And my faith in humanity is restored!

àDJ…Again.

The June 2012 Commander Banned Announcement (Alternate Title: Huh? Sundering Titan?)

Hey, folks!  Soapbox time.
The buzz leading up to the Banned Announcement for EDH this season was at a full-on fever pitch.  While there are always tons of forum threads active on the topic of cards that deserve banning (or un-banning), it seems like there was a hype this time around that had people really worked up.
And I think the actual announcement this week met the hype on equal ground…just not in the way that anyone expected.
In the first place, Sheldon Menery had been regularly detailing various attempts to work with house bans and testing for actual banned cards in the Armada Games EDH League on his StarCityGames articles.  Fueling all sorts of speculation was the fact that the league had both house-banned Primeval Titan, and also opened testing on allowing Kokusho, the Evening Star back into the format.  (Recent updates seem to indicate both that no-one particularly missed Prime Time, and Kokusho is a non-event.)  On the Official Forums, heavier-than-normal discussions were very active surrounding Painter’s Servant, and (to a lesser extent) cards like Staff of Domination.
And, of course, Griselbrand.  Lots of internet shouting matches surrounding him.
And so it was that thousands of EDH fans stayed up, refreshing their browsers and Twitter feeds around midnight on the 19th, waiting for the axe to fall (or, I suppose, someone to break out the scotch tape…) and the format to take a giant step in a new direction.  Fresh air, and all of that.
And the announcement hit.
And there was a giant sigh of relief.
And then…a lot of heads being scratched in confusion.
LOW-HANGING FRUIT – GRISELBRAND
Griselbrand surprised no-one.  Even those (misguided) souls who blew up the comments section on Sheldon’s regular Wednesday StarCity article with comments on how wrong it was to get rid of Yawgmoth’s Bargain On Legs seemed to understand where it was coming from.  Let’s face it – if you saw this thing in action, you understood.  I managed to experience it in one game from two angles; the player to my left dropped it into play and was gang-beaten for it, but not before drawing twenty-eight cards first.  I followed up by playing it myself, getting gang-beaten for it, but drawing twenty-eight cards first.  Even if you’re not specifically trying to break the card in a combo engine, it was horrifically unbalanced. 
(My apologies to those of you who disagree with this, and lost your favorite new card-drawing powerhouse.  Oh…and you’re also out of your minds.  But I digress…)
The reaction to Sundering Titan, the only other change to the Banned List, was vastly different.
HEY RC – YOU MISSPELLED “PRIMEVAL!”
First off, there’s a fantastic thread on the Official Forums here that specifically discusses the Sundering Titan ban.  Among other things, two of the EDH Rules Committee – Sheldon and Ban-Ki Moon – have weighed in on the decision.  I would advise first hopping over there and reading up on the current state of things.  
In a related note, however, both that column and the afore-mentioned comments section of Sheldon’s StarCity article this week seemed to divide into two camps with relation to the Titan:
-Those who feel it shouldn’t have gotten the axe because it is a useful role-player in certain decks
-Those that are glad to see it go, because it only seems to ruin games.
I personally fall into the second category.  As you’ll see in the forum discussion, I can’t remember the last time I saw this card played in my local metagame, and that’s strictly because it never did anything fun when it hit play.  Some players experienced a hit to their mana bases strong enough to shut them down, while others essentially dropped the current game of EDH in favor of a massive tug-of-war with the Titan in the middle.  
Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad to see it go.
But the other reaction – one I share as well – seems to be one that encompasses both camps.  Confusion.  Not based on ‘why?’, but rather ‘why now?’
BACK TO THE FRONT
Sundering Titan first saw print in the Darksteel expansion; Darksteel hit in February of 2004, making the Titan more than eight years old.  For a good many of us, it probably pre-dates our involvement and/or exposure to EDH.  I certainly recall many a heated discussion (and possibly some actual violence) surrounding the card as EDH started to gain a public handhold.  I included the card personally in the first version of my original Sharuum deck before learning a bit more about the spirit of the format and working to remove ‘griefer’ cards that just seemed to wreck games.  There’s certainly no question that Titan has always been on the “un-fun” radar as far as cards like this go.
The big issue with this ban seems to be that there aren’t many people that are screaming about it right now.  The announcement Sheldon made seems to indicate otherwise:
Sundering Titan has long been a card on the edge. The decision to get rid of it came from the combination of two points. One, it simply created undesirable game states. It was too easily both intentionally abused and unintentionally game-warping, especially since its ability triggers on both entering and leaving the battlefield. Two, there has been a fair amount of community distaste for the card, and we agreed that the card overwhelmingly creates a negative experience for players. Listening to the ever-growing and ever more-involved community is important to us.”
However, looking at the forums, you wouldn’t necessarily know it.  There’s no doubt that Titan has been included in recent discussions on the official forums, but it seems drastically overshadowed by other cards that always rise to the top – things like Primeval Titan, Consecrated Sphinx, and Tooth and Nail.  These (among others) are cards that have a very active impact on nearly every metagame; cards that are mentioned like this:

“…Well, I know it’s a crazy card, and I hate it personally, but it’s too good not to include.”

 

You don’t hear that in regard to Sundering Titan too often.  More likely, you’ll see this:

“God, that card just pisses everyone in my playgroup off.  I cut it completely”
As a result, there feels like a slight disconnect.  Why is a minor player that many people steer clear of at this point anyway being hit instead of some other fresh contenders that arguably break games much more?
“CRITERIA” IS A FOUR-LETTER WORD
Looking at the criteria the Rules Committee uses doesn’t seem to help either.  I’ve taken a look at the list in the past, but to refresh everyone, here’s what they apply when deciding on whether a card should be banned or not:

For a card to be considered for banning (or kept banned), it should be causing problems in EDH games due to one of three things:
  1. Its power level in multiplayer EDH is significantly higher than both what’s expected for its mana cost AND it’s power level in other formats (due to different rules or game sizes). [Examples include Panoptic Mirror and Biorythm]
  2. it’s dollar cost is prohibitive for most players and the card usually detracts from the playing experience of everyone in the game [The Power 8].
  3. it belongs to a class of cards which can’t be consistently interpreted by all players [Silver bordered cards, dexterity cards]”

We can instantly rule out #3.  We can rule out the “dollar value” clause of #2.  Let’s move on to the rest.
-Power level seems to be debatable.  Sundering Titan doesn’t appear to be any stronger in EDH that it is in any other format; and the nature of EDH means that you have a solid chance that you’ll end up facing down a boat-load of non-basic lands that are immune to Titan, or a preponderance of decks playing the same colors, spreading the effect out a bit.  (There’s an inherent danger that there’s one poor guy who shows up with a mono-color deck that no one else is representing who will end up as collateral damage, but we’ll look at that in a minute.)
The other issue in this area is that one of the larger threats in recent EDH history is the “ramp” strategy.  Mostly green-driven, ramp decks have the ability to run out a disproportional number of lands in a very short time in order to simply overwhelm opponents with the mana advantage it creates.
There are really two issues here.  One is that Sundering Titan has absolutely no effect on decks like this, as the disadvantage it creates is offset by the fact that the ramp deck can typically out-race the land destruction, and the cost of the Titan itself means that the ramp deck is usually well ahead by the time it finally shows up. 
The second issue is that in the Primeval Titan Era, *every* deck is a ramp deck.
By the letter of the rule, this seems to be a non-issue.
-The second part of rule #2 is the “detracts from the playing experience of everyone in the game”.  This is a bit more difficult to quantify.  Sundering Titan really punishes the player who runs either a mono-color strategy that is not a ramp strategy, or the five-color player with the Revised dual land mana base.  Titan does not really bother mono-green decks or two-color decks.  It doesn’t touch non-basic land types, meaning all of those Reflecting Pools, current Core Set/Innistrad duals, Winding Canyons, High Markets, Cabal Coffers, and so on are immune.  Three-color decks start to get into the danger zone admittedly, but that’s not an absolute. 
Looking at this rule, that means that the average game is going to see impact from Sundering Titan, and potentially heavy impact at that, but it shouldn’t detract from “everyone in the game.” 
Going further, the spirit of the criteria seem to indicate that only creatures that break the game state in half and create a position of undeniable superiority for one player get the axe.  Griselbrand embodies this.  Emrakul embodies this.  These are creatures that, through virtue of their design, simply cannot be played fairly. 
Sundering Titan?  I’m not sure that it belongs in that company.
INTERLUDE – WHERE THAT LEAVES YOUR HUMBLE AUTHOR PERSONALLY
Thinking about it, I’m essentially in an extremely awkward position of being happy about a banning of a card that I don’t believe fits the criteria put forth by the Rules Committee, while also being confused as to why it got banned long after it stopped being an issue to begin with. 
Weird.
THE RULES COMMITTEE CHALLENGE – TELL US WHAT WE SHOULD KNOW!
I think the real question here is that if we’re going to be able to support the EDH Rules Committee’s decision-making, we need to have more in the way of information on the ‘how’ and the ‘why’.
As I’ve said elsewhere, it’s easy for the DCI to issue bans for sanctioned competitive formats, because there is empirical evidence to support those decisions in the form of tournament results.  If a specific card dominates a specific format and tournament attendance dips in result, it’s clear why that card had to be removed from the format.
In EDH, we don’t have that luxury.  While the RC is very vocal (well, some more than others) about their feelings and motivations, at the end of the day, we’re forced to take the word of a very small independent body of people when it comes to decisions that affect one of the most popular Magic formats out there.  Since the body of players in this format make up thousands of small local metagames around the world that see their own rules and preferences and sometimes don’t have the luxury of intersecting with other metagames elsewhere, it can be quite a system shock when a ban like this overlooks a more problematic card for one that may not even see play at all. 
It’s for that reason that I echo a challenge that I’ve already issued to the Rules Committee on the forums.  When there’s a change to the rules or the Banned List, give us details!  Lots of details!  You guys are responsible for shaping the format we all love here – I’m sure one of you can lay out some more content in times like these.  You love the format clearly – You should be able to talk about it in a bit more depth so that we can understand why things happen.  We need more than just a canned line or two:
-Has something put the card back on the radar recently?
-Talk about the community input.  Are there specific forums that are up in arms over a card?  What about regions or countries? 
-Are there personal anecdotes that have driven you towards the decision you made? 
-Why did X card get hit when card Y and card Z seem like bigger threats to the format?
Honestly, I think the Rules Committee does a fantastic job of making this format as wonderful as it is.  I think it would go a long way in the eyes of the community to hear a bit more detail when something like this comes down.  Without a doubt, the Sundering Titan ban has garnered more confusion than any other I’ve witnessed since following EDH, and I think the vast majority of it would not have been present with a little more information. 
Enough said.  I’m off to unload my copies of Griselbrand.  Any takers?

àDJ

Monday at GDC: Water Is Wet, Sun Rises Daily, And Other Shocking Developments

Any guesses on how I did at the Prerelease this past weekend?
.   .   .   .   .
Happy Monday, faithful GDC-ers.  I hope you all had an opportunity to get out and attend an Avacyn Restored Prerelease this past weekend.  The stars aligned and I was able to hit up one of the regular spots to catch a Helvault-enabled event on Saturday.  Then, the stars un-aligned and one of them fell on my deck, knocking me out of contention after going 2-1 in rounds.  Such is life.  Especially if you’re me.  I was left to sit in a corner, mumbling to myself about the glory days of the Mirrodin prerelease and scaring off the younger players.
Nothing new, in other words. 
Where to start?
What did you open, DJ?  Did you land that foil Sigarda?
Nope.  Sadly, I saw one the entire day, opened by the guy sitting to my immediate right.  When it was noticed by one of my companions and mentioned that I would likely trade for it, the player picked it up, hugged it to his chest gingerly, and scowled.  He then poked me in the eye with a pen.
Guess that’s a “no”, then?
So if any of you came across a foil copy, I’m still in the market.  Holler at your DJ.
You didn’t open anything worthwhile?  Man, your luck is terrible…
It’s not all bad.  I did win the Cavern Of Souls lottery, so I was effectively playing losing for free.  In addition, there were a few goodies that fell my way.  I opened a Descendant’s Path (man, is that artwork cool…) and a Soul Of The Harvest in green, and Herald Of War, Terminus and Banishing Stroke in white.  I whiffed on mythic rares completely and missed all of the decent lands.  Oh well…at least I can rare-draft some of the stuff I want after the event winds down, right?
Great…here he goes again…
Seriously, Wizards…it’s patently ridiculous that you’ve nixed drafts at Prereleases.  We had nearly forty players at our event; an informal polling returned about six players who didn’t want to draft…and that’s because they all had to leave by a certain time. 
The owner of the shop told us that he had the product to run multiple Prerelease and Release events if he wanted to, but was limiting things to keep attendance up at the events he did run.
There was enough manpower to have both events judged.  There was space for drafts to run.  There was desire for drafts.  There was product for drafts. 
Can someone again please explain to me the problem with running one as an auxiliary Prerelease event?
Yawn…are you done complaining yet?
You are aware of what site you’re reading, right?
Whatever.  Talk about how things played out.  Or anything other than complaining, really…
My pool basically built itself.  Opening my packs, I immediately removed black, as I simply didn’t have any of the solid removal options or reasonably-playable creatures.  Red fell next; playables were limited to only a pair of Hanweir Lancer, a Pillar Of Flame, and a Thunderous Wrath.  Splashable, possibly.  
After seeing Terminus, Banishing Stroke, Herald Of War and more than a handful of other decent white role-players (Defy Death, a pair of Midvast Protector, Nearheath Pilgrim, two Seraph Of Dawn, Spectral Gateguards), I was fairly solidified in white.  
I passed on blue, despite it being the deepest color I had; what I opened managed to miss all of the real aggressive creatures, flyers, and good Soulbond options (Elgaud Shieldmate, for example), instead leaving me three copies of Fleeting Distraction.  Awesome.  There was a reasonable amount of bounce, but not enough fat to keep up the pressure in the way I felt the white inclusions were pushing me.  
Green was the perfect complement.  I lucked into a pair of Druid’s Familiar, a Howlgeist, Joint Assault, Nightshade Peddler, the afore-mentioned Soul Of The Harvest, a pair of Timberland Guide, and a Trusted Forcemage.  I had a Vorstclaw and a Wildwood Geist for late game staying power, and a Wolfir Avenger for a reasonable flexible roleplayer, defender, and combat trick.  (Which I of course never drew once…) 
With all of the Soulbond I ended up with, I rolled the dice on a pair of Flowering Lumberknot, and they were the MVPs of the deck; neither were ever dead at any time.
So G/W midrange Soulbond.  Seems solid.  What the hell happened?
Here’s the thing about Avacyn Restored limited – with the right cards, it’s fast.  Blazing fast.  My deck was designed to really get rolling at the four-mana mark, and if it was given the opportunity to do so, it could present a board-state that could keep improving itself through the heavy Soulbond options.  When I got to the mid-game, I frequently saw myself sitting on Druid’s Familiar paired with Trusted Forcemage.  If something was traded in combat, Flowerknot came down and immediately made the team better all over again.  Synergy was very high.
However, I’d guess that roughly sixty-five percent of the room was playing aggressive red/white.  My deck had exactly one way to handle the hyper-aggressive starts that archetype could pull off – Draw and play Terminus somewhere near turn four for its’ Miracle cost, and build a better team from there.
Guess how many times that happened? 
Now guess how many times I drew Terminus in my opening hand instead and couldn’t play it when I needed to?  
(I’ll give you a hint; the two numbers referenced above are “0” and “5”.  You figure out which one goes where.)
I managed a win round one primarily because my opponent was gracious enough to explain to me that Soulbond triggers not only when the creature with it enters play, but if that creature is unpaired and another creature enters play.  I’m nothing if not bad at reading cards.  I lost the first game based on a self-imposed penalty (I ended up mana-screwed after realizing that Abundant Growth doesn’t read “When this land is tapped for mana, add one additional mana of any color to your mana pool…), but managed to stabilize my mid-game in the next two to take the round. 
Round two was a harbinger of things to come.  My opponent was playing a three-color mid-range brew (green/blue/black), and managed to stick every land drop to have two of each color by turn six.  I was overwhelmed by Undying demons and solid removal.  I took the second game when the other player was mana-screwed, and my Soulbond lifelinkers took me to over fifty life on the way.  This was a first for me in limited.
Before the third game, my opponent decides to “sideboard” in a red/white deck that was cobbled together out of the other leftovers from the three-color main deck.  I keep a hand that offers me my first creature at the three-drop slot, and curves through to Vorstclaw at six.
I lost on turn five to aggressive red one-drops and key removal for my third turn guy.  That’s a serious sideboard.
Round three was quick and painlessful.  I dropped game one to quick, aggressive red beaters.  I stabilized for game two and took it down on the back of Soulbound Lumberknots. 
Game three?  Lost again on turn five to aggressive red one-drops and key removal.  
You suck at Sealed.  Just saying.  What do you think about the set?
From a limited perspective, Soulbond is the real deal.  Because of the way that it passively triggers anytime the creature with it is unpaired, it just serves to make every creature in your deck far better than they should be alone.  I do feel the mechanic isn’t particularly skill-intensive because of the way it works; you basically just dump out the stuff you have, let it all get better together, and move on with your game.  However, it does favor the deck-builder as a result, which is right up my alley, and it’s a fun mechanic.  It makes games feel powerful.
I’m on the fence about Miracle, primarily because I need to re-learn to play the damn game now.  Banishing Stroke was a pain in my ass all day; There were several times where I could have turned a game around by being able to effectively Swords To Plowshares away a problem creature, but instead, I grabbed my draw, jammed it into my hand, and then realized I missed my opportunity.  Twice over, really, since I was also usually at about four lands. 
Similar to Soulbond, it’s not a particularly challenging mechanic, but I like the flexibility.  Most decks I saw favored playing the Miracle cards as soon as possible, unless they were already way ahead and didn’t need it.  I have a feeling that most of these cards may as well not have Miracle in EDH and will probably be played “fairly” at the correct time, but I guess an optional discount doesn’t hurt.  
Overall, I like the format quite a bit.  I was very put off by Innistrad and Dark Ascension, so this is a welcome change.  It feels less like Kamigawa block and more like Ravnica to me – wonky mechanics and tribal angles taking the backseat to bombs and solid standalone options, with synergy available to the discerning builder.  
So what’s “the card” for this set?
Odds are I’ll start opening Gallows At Willow Hill like I own stock options.  For now, though, I pulled an Arcane Melee out of my Prerelease pool, which is a card that screams “You might want one of these for a niche deck, but that’s about it!”, so I’m sure there will be three in whatever Fat Pack I open next weekend.
Let me know if anyone out there is willing to toss Sigarda my way for a playset of either of those.  I’m sure I’ll be able to deliver.  Any takers?
àDJ

Monday Comes Too Damn Quickly At GDC: Sharuum Wildcard Round Extended! Also – things that drive DJ crazy, and other assorted musings…

Good lord…that came up quick.  Where did the last four days go?

Ah well…welcome to Monday here at GDC, everyone.  Thanks for stopping in.  I’ve got a few things in store for you today, so we’ll see how far this cup of coffee gets me before I pass back out on my keyboard…

IT’S MONDAY, JERK.  WHERE’S THE “SHARUUM” WRAPUP?

Awesome question.  The short answer is that it’s coming on Thursday this week instead of today. 

The longer detailed answer is that I compiled the data and ended up with a spreadsheet containing over four-hundred lines of card suggestions.  This is in addition to a few pages’ worth of tallying results of the various questions and talking points I posed to you all as well.  Fully not expecting that.  Wow.  So I basically need some more time to process here, folks.  (The good news is that both Archer and Walking Dead are finished for the season, so my weeknights have opened up quite a bit…)

The other thing I noted was that there are a few very conspicuous missing replies to the “Wildcard” round posted last week, so I’m keeping it open for another few days.  You know who you are (especially since a few of you told me to expect a post), so we’re all waiting for you here.  No pressure.

I have decided what you should expect, however.  Some of you have actually sent me decklists already, and I’m going to take into account what you all answered to my questions as guidance and attempt to put together a baseline decklist of my own.  It probably won’t be the correct number of cards, and I guarantee it will be rough and disjointed.  I’m also going to make available the card list, suggestions, and answers you submitted.  I’m going to put my list up on the site, and send it back out to you to tune and make the changes that will put us at a finalized list. 

You can submit to me through e-mail, and I’ll provide a deadline.  Once we reach that, I’m going to work through everything and publish the final list, to be immediately followed up with a good test drive and my results and thoughts, and we can put the project to bed once and for all. 

I’ll also be doing some tallying and sending you guys some return e-mails with a bit of a questionnaire.  This is going to help me decide how I’m going to give you all participation prizes.  I’m not totally finalized on the actual prize pool, but there will be foils, alterations, and other goodies. 

And again, if you contributed, you’re on the list. 

So stay tuned for Thursday.  It should be pretty exciting.

SO WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE GENCON THING?

Awesome question.  Again, long story short, we’ve decided not to try to run our own event this year.

The active words are absolutely “this year”.  Mr. P and I have spent a good chunk of time brainstorming and putting pen to paper as far as designing a constructed Commander event for GenCon; one that wouldn’t end up like the same old lousy competetive ones that happen all the time at big events.  We bumped into one minor problem that was compounded by another slightly bigger one:

1. Sponsors!

I sent out a request to a few of the bigger Magic vendors, ones that I knew would be present at GenCon, looking for some form of support.  When everything was tallied, we knew we would be into the event for two to three boxes of boosters, and an additional pile of promos and other goodies that would run another few hundred-dollars from there.  My request was to simply ask for any help these vendors could offer at all in exchange for name recognition as the event sponsor.  Any help at all would be appreciated.

Yeah…still haven’t heard back.

Now, this wasn’t a deal killer for us.  We were prepared to come out of pocket to try to help this event grow solid legs, even to the point of funding it entirely.  However…

2. Conflicting Events!

The more I looked into getting responses from the community through various channels on what they wanted to see in an event like this, the more I turned over other organizations that were planning on holding their own events.  I can’t verify one-hundred percent, but there is one relatively local Indy vendor that is claiming to have submitted as many as five constructed EDH events over the weekend, and there was a strong rumor that at least one major vendor is planning another one, in addition to whatever might already exist on the schedule from Wizards. 

That’s pretty near enough time spoken for to fill the prime hours over the entire four-day event, if all of these hold true.  The fear here was that we would invest quite a bit of money up front to make this event happen and either end up getting handed a midnight-6AM slot, or worse yet, be scheduled against a competing local store, with the overall result being five players attending an event designed for ten times that many. 

So we’re backing down this year.  Our plan is to watch the schedules and try to glean as much information as we can on what events actually happen, and how the turnouts are.  We’ll look at the structure, see what works and what doesn’t, and have the better part of a year to come up with a revised plan for running an event at GenCon ’13, and hopefully more opportunities to secure partners that share our goal of making a fun and enjoyable for-prizes EDH event.  So we’re down, but not out.  Hey – the good news is that you’ll have a bunch of EDH events to play in this year if you’re going! 

Thanks do go to everyone who gave me feedback.  Hang tight for now…but we’ll be back.

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT…

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been able to just bitch about things, so I figured I’d do some free-range complaining here.  (Think chicken, but way more surly and far less tasty…)

-I hate mass land-destruction.  Full respect to the new(ish…I know you’ve been in before once or twice) guys at the shop last week, because you guys were very cool, and it’s nice to have a few other older guys around as well.  But our environment has all-but tuned out this sort of thing, and it was a bit of a reaffirmation as to why we did.  After Armageddon hits on about turn six, one of us scoops on the spot.  I spend the rest of the game drawing into a 6-to-1 ratio of business-to-lands, and randomly discarding my hand.  I know anything goes, one person’s fun isn’t necessarily the same as another’s, and so on…but man – I can’t get down with something that ruins a game for half the players. 

-I hate mass-discard.  I watched Mr. P go pale after he was hit with a “Discard X cards” spell of some sort for his whole hand, and I just cringed.  It’s important to note that this is certainly better than losing all of our lands, as he was able to draw back into the game after a while.  But it still sucks to be on the wrong end of that sort of thing, and I just can’t justify it in my head.

Related note: It’s possible that we play with understandings that narrow the scope of the game too much, or that remove otherwise-viable strategies for our own comfort, but there’s nothing more deflating than not letting people play the game.

-I hate that I participated in a conversation where I actually claimed to like the idea of starting to work Sundering Titan back into my decks.

Side note – I hate that the casino had about four pop songs on repeat when I was there a few weeks ago.  I say this because I hate having Bruno Mars stuck in my head since then.

-While I’m at it, Pumped Up Kicks by Foster The People can suck it too.

-I absolutely hate the way that cards have appreciated in value as a result of the popularity of Commander.  Two years ago, I was irritated at having to pay $40 for an Underground Sea.  Heh.  Golden years in current comparison.  I’m putting the finishing touches on a Grixis zombie deck, and for the time being, it has to stay “budget” due to the cost of Revised duals, Onslaught fetchlands, and Ravnica shocklands.  For the perfectionist in me, that drives me absolutely nuts.

-Dammit, Sean…stop mentioning Winding Canyons in your StarCityGames articles.  I hate what that card is going for these days.

-I love Cardshark.  I hate the interface for loading cards.  Jesus…can I get a reasonable way to do batch uploads from Excel for non-MTGO cards please? 

-I hate preconceived notions in EDH.  I’m pretty sure that no one except Mr. P believed me when I said my rough Sharuum list from last week didn’t run Mindslaver, Disciple Of The Vault, or Thopter Foundry and Sword Of The Meek.

-For some reason, I still bristle when someone counters my spells.  I won’t quite go so far as to say I hate it, but my knee-jerk reaction is a flash of anger. 

I kinda hate that reaction, actually.

-On the same note, I hate my mono-blue Venser list.  Yes, it’s packed with counterspells.  And I hate that I’m starting to like the idea of slotting counters into my other lists.

-I really hate the constant debate on the official forums surrounding whether Primeval Titan and Kokusho both deserve to be banned (or not banned) for similar power-level reasons.  Good lord…you guys have been going strong for like four months straight.

In a related note, I hate that my opinion has shifted to sit somewhere on the fence in between both sides, and that I’m hoping that the RC will ban PrimeTime and un-ban Koko just to break things up a bit.

Mostly so I can build mono-black Kokusho…

-I’ve come to the conclusion that I hate Tooth and Nail and Survival Of The Fittest.  I’ve actually found myself staring at Tooth in hand, with plenty of mana to cast it entwined, and coming up with ways to discard or shuffle it away.  It just feels way too dirty to play at this point.

I hate Survival for a different reason.  There’s been a ton of talk lately about tutors, and how they affect the format, and I’m at the point where I agree with the position that prefers a random game to a completely scripted one.  (I’m looking forward to when Mr. P posts about his experience with Momir Vig on his blog…)  Now, a single Demonic Tutor doesn’t feel off to me; a one-time reach into your deck for the card that cracks open the game for you, or removes that troublesome permanent, or hell…finds you your third land drop, even…that doesn’t seem off.  What does seem off is being able to dig out every single creature in your deck via one card, and worse, I hate the auto-pilot game that it creates. 

I think I have some revamping to do in my green decks later…

-Good god, I hate the Venser vs. Koth Duel Deck lists.  Kinda makes me yearn for the days of From The Vaults: Legends

Related note: I love that SCG thinks that thing is worth $79.99… 

-I hate Gaddock Teeg as a general.  And Grand Arbiter.  I hate that I’m about to become a huge hypocrite (see above: Sharuum list), but you know what?  These never are different from what I expect.  Never.   

Dammit…coffee is gone, and my IPod is almost dead.  I hate the damn battery life on this thing.

—>DJ

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