First, a precursor – I’m an idiot.  At least some of the time, anyway.

Next – This is important:

Now…down to business. Today, a tale of woe, and a (sort-of serious…ish. Maybe.) lesson on how to protect yourself when the social contract can’t.

Last week, I was fooled twice in a row by the same player. Now, it’s important to note that this is totally my fault; EDH is booming at our shop, and we’re getting lots of new players all the time. I need to remember that the ‘old guard’ has had several years to get used to each other, the expectations of deck composition, and most importantly, the games. The newer players haven’t had that chance yet. They’re nearly all very cool people – including the guy who got me here (twice!) – but there are very different expectations in the shop these days.

Here’s how it went down:

I sat down at a table with three younger players for the first game of the Wednesday Night EDH evening. Now, it had been at least a month since I had made it down to the shop, and those of you who follow me on Twitter know I’ve been in building mode – I had four brand new decks with me, and I was itching to play them all.

(Proof of My Idiocy #1 – I ignore warning signs and tunnel-vision in on shiny and new every time. This never works to my favor.)

So as I was busy shuffling up my new Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest deck, the players across the table were busy dropping Edric, Spymaster of Trest and Kaalia of the Vast into their command zones. Expected hilarity pretty much ensued.

(Proof of My Idiocy #2 – I didn’t immediately grab a deck with enough control to handle this mess, instead hoping that I was wrong and these weren’t going to be ‘those’ decks. Expected hilarity absolutely ensued.)

My mind keyed in on Kaalia first, which proved to be a mistake in the long run. This was reinforced when the Kaalia player decided to tuck my general on turn four or so, even though I had Soulfire Grand Master in play as well. The Edric player, meanwhile, played his general, so people were pretty cool with him.

I played out Mystic Barrier to make sure that Jazal Goldmane to my left was not going to smash my face in with tokens, and sat back looking for some card advantage. Edric was quietly ramping, playing Kruphix, God of Horizons, and finding Swiftfoot Boots.

Play continued to focus on Jazal’s tokens and Kaalia’s Angel of Despair schenigans. Edric found Reliquary Tower, and his hand started expanding rapidly. After a few turns, he entwines Tooth and Nail, and the first card he drops on the table is Deadeye Navigator.

Those two cards alone should be all you need to know. There was eventually a Prophet of Kruphix, and a Mystic Snake, and on and on. I managed to stick it out until the end, but it was inevitable – Edric easily took it down.

Supreme Proof of my Idiocy – I never asked the questions I should have.

At one point, we had the conversation regarding Prophet of Kruphix at the table. The Edric player even drew the card, looked at it, and said, “Do I really want to do the un-fun thing?” I said what I always do – “Own your play.” I went on to explain that I should have asked what kind of game everyone was expecting, and that it wasn’t his fault for running the overpowered deck.

“Goodstuff” is a nebulous term in my opinion – play the cards you like, and let the social contract sort the games out, but remember that whole “A rose by any other name…” thing.

I should have expected exactly what I got, and I should have opened the communication before the game and changed my deck and play choices accordingly. Given that, I really should have done the same damn thing for the second game, when the player diagonally across the table from me dropped Xenagos, God of Revels onto the table, and Mr. Edric from the first game went for Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury.

You see, my thinking was, “Hey…Xenagod is capable of stupid things quickly, and Elfball does its Elfball thing!”  And I was exactly right. Still, something in my critical thinking circuits must have been down for (apparently) much-needed repair, because despite knowing this was all about to happen, I still decided this would be a great game to try out Bennie Smith’s Tasigur, the Golden Fang experimental list.

This would be the deck that I kept telling people has an unmatched card advantage engine, but no real win condition and a very light removal suite. Go me. (It’s actually better than that – way better – but that’s a story for another time.)

Long story short, some combination of Xenagod and a horde of pissed-off elves killed off the Hazezon Tamar player on about turn six and took me down to about 8 in the process, at which point Freyalise Overran the Gruul God for like 58 trample damage.

And then triggered Mr P’s Child Of Alara to wipe the board just because he felt bad.

The moral of this story is…well, still primarily that I’m an idiot. Past that, it’s the usual obvious thing – ask the questions, and the social contract will treat you well. If not, you deserve what’s coming to you.

APPENDIX I: GDC STARTS THE CONVERSATION FOR YOU!

I thought I’d compile a little set of questions to ask if your group is all over the place, sees a ton of new players regularly, or tends to shoot first and ask later. If someone drops Hakim, Loreweaver into the command zone, chances are good that you can hit the mark on expected competitive level pretty easily. But it’s awfully hard to gauge some of the other low-hanging fruit at times (especially if you’re me, apparently…)

To make things a little easier for you all, below is an easy-to-use cheat-sheet. Simply look around the table, match the general to the question or probing comment, and ask away. You’ll know exactly what to expect in the game to come.

GENERAL – Kaalia of the Vast
“Your thoughts on Master of Cruelties and Armageddon?”

GENERAL – Sharuum the Hegemon
“Good thing the general rule doesn’t work with Sculpting Steel or Phyrexian Metamorph anymore!” (Hint: it does. This is a bait question. A vehement opposing statement means you should be prepared to eat a ton of Bitter Ordeal triggers.)

GENERAL – Any 5-Color Sliver
“Oh neat! What slivers do you run in there?”
(If they pause or seem to be searching in vain for the name of any sliver at all, follow up with, “Does your Hermit Druid combo build use Imperial Seal?”)

GENERAL – Zur the Enchanter
“Do you just not like people in general?”

GENERAL – Edric, Spymaster of Trest or Momir Vig, Simic Visionary
“Is Prophet of Kruphix in there?”
(This is all you need to know. The rest doesn’t matter; hold your counterspells and removal for anything this player does, or kill them as fast as possible.  With fire.)

GENERAL – Jhoira of the Ghitu (with the assist from @SwordsToPlow)
Say nothing. Punch them in the face twice; once immediately, and once with a Suspend trigger.

GENERAL – Nekusar, the Mindrazer
“Does anyone know if the house ban on draw-sevens is still in effect?”
(Watch for wide-eyed, petrified reaction.)

GENERAL – Azami, Lady of Scrolls
“Will this game reach a point where you’ll counter City In a Bottle or Didgeridoo just because you’ve got nothing else to do?”

GENERAL – Arcum Dagsson
Lead with, “Hey! I thought of a cool combo for Arcum involving Darksteel Forge and Nevinyrral’s Disk!” Wait for the guilty look to appear.

GENERAL – Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
“The last time someone played that general against me, he resolved Knowledge Pool and hard-locked everyone out of the game. Oh…by the way, I should mention that I have severe anger management issues. So…what’s your deck do?”

GENERAL – Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind
“Out of Curiosity, would you recommend that we keep a close Ophidian Eye on your play this evening?” (Feel free to groan yourself after that one. Everyone else will.)

GENERAL – Maralen of the Mornsong
If I resolve a turn-one Extract naming Ad Nauseam, do you scoop in response?

GENERAL – Riku of Two Reflections
“If I resolve Bribery, how likely am I to find Palinchron in there?”

GENERAL – Maelstrom Wanderer
Actually, you know what? Don’t even bother asking a thing. Assuming that the rest of the players at the table are awake and have a pulse, you should all be on a page as to who goes out first in this game.

GENERAL – Mikaeus, the Unhallowed
“Word association time. When I say ‘Triskelion’, you say…?”

GENERAL – The Mimeoplasm
“Do you plan on Entomb-ing Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon at any point this evening?”

.     .     .     .     .

This is by no means all-encompassing, but it’s a good start. Good luck out there, and remember – when in doubt, ask the question.

Don’t be…er…well, me.

-Cass
@GDCCommander