Welcome back, everyone. Thanks again for tuning in for the GDC March Madness event we just wrapped up on Monday. I hope it was a good time for everyone; we certainly had fun watching it play out.

Tuesday morning found part of the GDC team – Dave, Sean, and yours truly – collected in our regular Google Hangout, attempting to properly caffeinate ourselves and get back in the swing of writing normal content. Turns out it’s difficult to shift gears, especially when you’ve taken a few weeks off and the coffee hasn’t kicked in yet.

Fortunately, inspiration struck, and it dawned on us that it might be interesting to pull back the curtains a bit and let our readers see a little bit of what makes us each tick. We decided to “mailbox” each-other, coming up with a series of questions – some EDH related, some not so much – that we’d all answer in turn before moving on to a new topic.

If you’ve ever wondered what we do in our spare time as much as you’ve wondered what our favorite generals of all time are, this article is for you.

. . .

What decks are you currently playing in real life?

Sean:
I currently have 6 active decks. Arcum Dagsson – combo/lock. Rhys – all-foil non-English elves. Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge – Judo. And the three budget decks I wrote about – Shirei, Shizo’s Caretaker, Edric, Spymaster of Trest and Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer.

Dave:
In paper: Radha, Heir to Keld ramp, Purphoros, God of the Forge tokens, Sydri, Galvanic Genius prison beats, Damia, Sage of Stone allies (shamelessly stolen from Sean’s Edric’s allies deck), Teysa, Orzhov Scion sacrifice/extort, Nemata, Grove Guardian of the 42-Forests-all-I-do-is-ramp-and-make-saprolings. Other decks I rarely bring include Aurelia, the Warleader (takes all the attacks), Isperia, Supreme Judge (durdly control and draw-all-the-cards), Ghave, Guru of Spores saproling token combo, boring Roon of the Hidden Realm blink/legends, and Nath of the Gilt-Leaf hates-your-hand elf combo.

Cass:
My list is fairly extensive…17 active-ish decks.
Under Construction:

The Active Decks:

…Mono-white angels, Mono-blue artifacts…(Good lord, I’m losing count here… Melek, Izzet Paragon (All the spells…) and Sigarda, Host to Herons (Enchantress)
Got there!

…You want my Legacy decks, by any chance? 🙂

Dave:
So we all have an artifact-y goodstuff/prison decks, an elf-y deck, a judo deck (I forgot about Garza Zol “grabby-hands and stack fun” in my list). I’m the loner without a mono black deck. And then Cass has a billion more.

Cass:
I’m a bit ridiculous.

What, if any, are the other formats you dabble in?

Dave:

Just cube and draft. A friend and I have a fairly unbalanced “nostalgia cube” that is really fun for the weird opportunity to make Sengir vampire and Dark Ritual-into-Hypnotic Specter be good alongside suiting BBE up with a Jitte and trying to combo out with Channel, Fireball, and a mana artifact or two.

Cass:
I’m the world’s most sporadic drafter. I love it, but I never get to do it anymore. Once in a blue moon – especially since WotC got rid of regional Prereleases and Prerelease drafts. I’ve come to hate Sealed as of late too, so I’ve given that up completely…I just hate the variance that comes in the pools. I’ve recently re-emerged as a closet Legacy player as well, although I play that only once in a blue moon too. I’ve still managed to build Omni-Tell, UWR Miracles, Forgemaster MUD, Solidarity, Manaless Dredge, and R/W Imperial Painter. Now, to find time to play…

Sean:
Cube and just getting back into 60-card casual. I prefer Commander by a large margin, but I try and play whatever formats are played locally to support the community.

On that note, it’s insanely difficult to find balance with 60-card casual decks for me. I’m currently just using four 2014 Event Decks mushed together.

Cass:
I honestly wouldn’t even know where to begin there.

Mechanic/theme/thing you’d most like to see pushed on a legend (including colors) so you could build an exciting new EDH deck

Sean:

Hmm. Good question. I would really like to see three major commanders printed, so I’m trying to decide which one I would like to see the most.

I’ll go with the one that people would immediately play. I would like to see a Jund Werewolf legend that pushed the DFC mechanic in Commander. I think they really dropped the ball not making Huntmaster of the Fells a legend. Jund colors, so that it allows Garruk, the Veil-Cursed. Because why have a transform legend without the transform planeswalker?

Cass:
I think what I’d like to see personally is a general that would punish ramp in a big way, either through providing it to other colors, or through serious creature/damage bonuses. For example:

Esper Guy
Legendary Warrior
1UWB – 3/4
Whenever an opponent puts a land onto the battlefield, if it is not the first land he or she played this turn, Esper Guy gets a +1/+1 counter and gains landwalk X, where X is the name of the land played.”

I really want Esper aggro to be a thing, but I want some ramp hate too.

Dave:
What if it was “Whenever a player puts a land that isn’t the first into play, a creature another target player controls gets…”

That way it would punish all rampers – even the Esper ones.

Cass:
Sure! Basically, I really want to see the green player need to figure out how to win immediately after a Boundless Realms, or immediately die to unblockable general damage.

Dave:
Word. I’d like either a Grixis or BUG legend that had one or more triggered abilities when anyone discards a card. That way you could build a discard and/or cycling deck around it for maximum value. Plus, I love cycling. If it’s a cycling specific general, it could be UWR because that wedge really needs another general, but I’d prefer the discard language so it’s not so obviously a “Here…this deck is basically built for you!” thing.

Cass:
God…a general with “All your cards gain cycling” would be insane.

Dave:
That would be amazing even with “cycling x” where x is equal to the converted casting cost would be interesting

Sean:
Ugh. Lands would be zero-cycling cost though. Maybe cycle non-lands?

Cass:
Maybe if it’s a cycling general, it can be a Swiss-army knife like Deathrite Shaman? ”Non-land cards gain ‘cycle X’, where X is their converted mana cost. Lands gain ‘2: basic landcycling’.” or something like that. Makes lands glorified fetches…Not insane draw engines.

How much do players in your local groups read articles or go to the internet for Commander knowledge?

Cass:
I’d say my local group is fairly split. On the one hand, I know several players have Twitter accounts and read both GeneralDamageControl and StarCityGames, but many seem honestly blindsided with new things. Like, “Check out this deck I just created last night! It’s Nekusar, plus a bunch of Wheel effects!”

So I may honestly have a good mix of off-the-grid people.

Sean:
The local groups around here are almost completely absent from the internet when it comes to Commander. Some go to the forums but that’s about it. Few people are even aware I write.

Which leads to power differential that’s painfully obvious at times. They don’t know a large number of the cards I play, and so the interactions come off as bizarre to them at times.


Like last night – I beat a guy playing non-budget Mayael the Anima with Shirei, and he looked a bit embarrassed to have lost to a field of the world’s crappiest creatures. He saw me scry away like 20 cards with Viscera Seer without being concerned. I don’t think conceptually he understood how powerful what I was up to was. It’s the “unseen resources” effect that takes a lot of players, who don’t read any game theory, off guard.
Oh…and he was playing Primeval Titan.

Cass:
Could have been worse. He could have busted out Gifts Ungiven in a GenCon event…

Sean:
Lol. I’ve had people play Power and Yawgmoth’s Bargain against me.

I never say anything, because without fail someone will walk by, watch and be like, “Um… Isn’t Black Lotus banned in Commander?”

Dave:
I get the sense that a lot of players in the larger group are mind-blowingly not online. Like trade grinders who are behind on prices for cards being talked about everywhere. However, I haven’t seen any of the lag on stuff like the banned list that would mean they’re completely ignorant.

Also, we don’t talk about online articles a ton, so I am often surprised when someone’s like “Oh yeah…I read GDC too.”
However, my main group now consists of four other guys, and I know at least three of them are deep into everything online and dig hard with Gatherer to come up with rad tech. It’s amazing because when we rap on a person’s deck idea, it’s the same as these chats almost. Lots of interesting deck ideas and weird board states that highlight new interactions and push me to actually do something better.

Cass:
Unrelated side-note – Bearer of the Heavens gets the finger.

Dave:
Yeah right.
This set seems full of plants for existing/annoying decks – the 3-mana black flyer Howling Mine guy being the other plant I have in mind.

At least they need a sac outlet for killing the world, instead of just suspending Jokulhaups a turn earlier

Sean:
Think about this: Battlefield Thaumaturge plus Comet Storm.

Dave:
That card is certainly cool.

Cass:
Regarding Bearer, I’m just sick to death of WotC printing these cards that tempt younger players to push the envelope on what passes the social contract test. No matter how many times people have it pounded in that Obliterate isn’t much fun for the rest of the table, there will still be some kid that will come in and play Worldfire, get a bunch of angry responses, and *still* not understand why people get irritated at his “tech play” of Bearer plus Boros Charm.

Sean:
Yeah, having to go through the maddening process of relearning how to properly play those effects every other set is discouraging.

I’m also not sure who keeps thinking “You know what red really needs to be playable? Another Jokulhaups.”

Dave:
I understand some of the appeal of printing cards like that. It’s part of what red does flavorfully. But it’s boring for everyone who plays Magic, except for that new kid who thinks he’s discovered something until he whips it out the first time to nothing but groans.

I will say though that I don’t care about losing to ‘Haups or anything else, as long as the guy has a plan- same as with Armageddon. Kill me however you want, but don’t expect kudos for doing something unoriginal.

Top 3 reasons you dislike Theros block? You can also add top 3 things you like…

Sean:
1. The gods. They didn’t give any help to the color identities that could have really used it, and indestructible enchantments flooding into the games are just annoying. Boros, Izzet, Rakdos, mono-white, and mono-red are all really limited in strategy choices. The gods don’t make room for any new choices. We basically saw 15+ wasted legend opportunities.

2. It is the biggest functional reprint set we have seen in years. Adding a keyword or making things enchantments isn’t really set design.

3. Scry lands. If I want lands that come into play tapped, I’ll play uncommons.

Dave:
I agree big picture, but I don’t think all 15 were misses. I like Athreos, Thassa for mono-U aggro, Ephara for a weird u/w flash deck, and Xenagod for a deck that doesn’t extend into Wraths.


Cass:
1: The god mechanics. I’ll steer clear of the actual abilities, because they’re wildly all over the place (Xenagos versus Thassa, for example…), but the execution is a little soft. Honestly, as far as EDH is concerned, there’s little reason for anyone to really try to “activate” them. Indestructible enchantments seem just fine…who needs a body? I would have liked the transition from creature to…whatever…to have been a little more interesting or pertinent.

2. The re-treads. I’m with Sean…slapping flash on an older effect may make a functionally-better card, but it feels pretty uninspired, which in turn makes me uninspired to crack packs.

3. The creature mechanics don’t particularly matter to EDH. Heroic has to be seriously built around to get any sort of meaningful card advantage, and I fear the same will come of constellation. Inspired will be a PITA to really put to use, and strive kind of feels to me like it’s been done better in the past.

Dunno…a lot of this seems inapplicable to EDH. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong.

Dave:
1. Monstrous. Pretty non-applicable to EDH. Format loves mana sinks, but all the monstrous options are pretty boring.

2. No spell lands. I love spell lands. Lots of room for awesome mythic locations to do sweet stuff.

3. There’s no Deathrite Shaman. By that, I mean a 1-2 CMC card that is flexible and pushed to make a splash across formats. I want to be lowering my curve in EDH, while still staying competitive, and I don’t see much that helps me do that. Sure, there’s Ashen Rider but we don’t need more splashy big mana cards force-fed to us.

I do really like Brimaz, King of Oreskos because I like that they gave another toy to the cat lovers…; I like inspired because I think tapping is an interesting resource to push a different angle, and although I don’t tend to like how it ended up playing out, I can appreciate that the gods made enchantments viable as generals.

What’s your all-time favorite general, and your all-time *least* favorite general?

Sean:
Hmmm
My favorite is probably Karona, False God. Mostly because Karona is the universal sign for “Let’s have a good time, fellas!” I loved my Hypergenesis Karona. If it hadn’t been worth more than its weight in gold, I would have kept playing it.

My least favorite is Jhoira of the Ghitu for basically the same reason. When you see someone playing Jhoira, your instinct isn’t “They like playing big creatures.” You have to assume that the Jhoira guy is going to do something that deserves a dick punch.

Dave:
This is tough. I strangely enough really like Momir Vig, Simic Visionary because you can do so much with it and the deck will still work okay. Tribal elves, wizards, toolbox, combo, teeny value dude horde, etc. Also, U/G is a fun color combo.

I’m pretty unhappy with Kaalia of the Vast because it’s like 80% the same 99% of the time, and that’s dumb.

It’s funny because think those choices are both very experience-dependent.

Cass:
I think that’s the true joy of the format.

I think my all-time favorite general is likely Sharuum the Hegemon. This is why I keep coming back around to her. The stigma attached to her is pretty severe, but she was the first general I ever built that really had some serious synergy and muscle. I still love anything that cheats casting costs as well, so she’s really pretty perfect. Easy to abuse, sadly.

My all-time least favorite general is Geth, Lord of the Vault. I find him to be annoying on his own due to the stupid mill effect, and then it is exacerbated by the fact that it’s a continuous non-tap ability. On top of THAT, I closely associate it with a player we refer to as “Captain D-Bag” – he’s the only player who has gotten me to raise my voice in anger, and the only one in the shop to nearly cause me to engage in a physical altercation.


So screw Geth.

Band you rediscovered that makes you think maybe your music taste in your younger days wasn’t actually so bad?

Sean:
Dr. Dre. Turns out The Chronic holds up really well.

Cass:
Agreed there too! And dammit…I still love my Digital Underground…

I could go on forever in this category, I’m sure. I’ll try to keep it under control, though…if there’s one band that I consistently listen to twenty years running, it’s Iron Maiden. Those guys defined harmonic metal guitars, and Bruce Dickinson is still an unbelievable singer and performer.

Dave:
Hah. Maiden is an amazing call. It’s like saying you love Ozzy; of course you did, but it turns out “Blizzard of Oz” is a nearly perfect album.

Mine’s easy; on the other side of horrible hardcore bands like Integrity and Madball, I was also really into Richard Hell and the Voidoids. That band is incredible.

Sean:
On the actual band end of things, I found out I still really love the Tossers. I can’t stop playing their stuff once I start. It’s binge listening.

In the past 5 or so years I’ve gotten really into Johnny Cash and Great Big Sea.

Dave:
Wow. Celtic punk and neo-ska. Those are some interesting answers.

Sean:
I’ve got the musical tastes of a retired Canadian mineworker.

Celtic punk rock is amazing by the way. It’s hard to find a band that plays that genre that I don’t like. I think it’s written just for whiskey lovers.

Cass:
That’s true. I’m still in possession of old Pogues albums, and they’re fantastic. And there’s the Dropkick Murphys thing – required listening if you’re from the Boston area.

I keep coming back to The Mighty Mighty Bosstones myself, since they were so instrumental to my youth too. Although these days, I’m a neo-hipster; I only listen to Alkaline Trio and Gaslight Anthem, apparently…

You lose a bet and can only watch one movie for the rest of your life. What do you pick?

Dave:
One movie for the rest of my life – Cool Hands Luke. Took me a few seconds to decide between that and Dr Strangelove…they offer a different watching experience every time.

Cass:
Damn…good suggestions.

I wrote so many papers on Stanley Kubrick in college. So good.

Sean:
I want to say a good movie…. But I’m going to go with “The Punisher” starring Thomas Jane. Fun movie. Decently-acted. It’s like a reel of one-liners.

Cass:
My pick hands down is Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. I could watch it every day.

Dave:
God that’s a great one too. Tina Turner alone…

Cass:
Right?

What geek/nerd hobbies do you have outside Magic?

Dave:
Outside of Magic: just some light gaming. D3, Starcraft, Hearthstone…but I don’t really have time for those. Most of my other hobby time is spent on going to the gym/surfing/travelling/hanging with my son.

And guitar!

Sean:
I do miniature war-gaming and painting. I’m a moderately heavy reader of sci-fi fantasy and do lite computer gaming. RTS and FPS.

Cass:
I’m a huge fan of post-apocalyptic fiction, so I read that stuff like mad and love TV like “The Walking Dead”. I don’t do any other RPG-ing anymore, but I can’t help but buy and read through Battletech and Shadowrun stuff. Comic fan…mostly Marvel stuff, on top of WD and stuff from my childhood like G.I. Joe. And I used to be a big video game guy, but kids tend to kill that noise. Fair-weather now, when stuff like Uncharted, Batman or Bioshock releases happen.

How about other hobbies/interests?

Dave:
Lifting, running, surfing, cooking, rock climbing, guitar, throwing my son in the air. (Not in that order!) Also reading and movies, but that’s more of a vacation thing since I don’t get a ton of down time for those.

Sean:
I do ballroom and Latin dance. I make earrings for my wife to sell when she goes to art fairs to sell her paintings. Go to the gym 4-6 times a week. I play pool decently. Have my own cues and used to own my own table. I go bike riding like everyone else in my town.
Also, I like scotch.

Dave:
So your team GDC shirt should just say “Also I like scotch.”
Pool is also an amazing hobby

Cass:
I used to be very into pool. Still have a cue that my grandfather brought back for WWII.

So…let’s see…my hobbies:

I’ve been a drummer for the past 21 years, in two serious bands (one still sort-of exists) and a few others. As a result, I dabble with a guitar (I’m better with wiring and setting them up than I am playing them) and I enjoy recording as well. I used to skateboard and snowboard, but my old-ass knees can’t take it anymore, so I now longboard here and there, and snowboard a few times a year. I’m an avid golfer with a handicap that does not reflect it. Getting back into mountain biking now that my son is old enough to ride bikes. Big movie buff in general. And I’ve become a huge history buff in my old(er) age. Go figure.

Dave:
What about cars and wrenching?

Cass:
Oh damn…yeah, forgot totally about that.

Love working on cars. Do all of my own maintenance, and have owned and built a pair of Subaru WRX to various levels of tune. Currently have a ’92 Nissan 240SX with a full JDM SR20DET engine swap, custom suspension/exhaust, wheels, interior…the whole deal.

Again, *really* hard to do with kids running around.

2-Parter:

  1. Group/music you’re into right now that surprises you about yourself.
  2. What is on in the background when you do your best brewing/tuning?

Cass:
1. I’ve found myself a little into folky stuff lately. My brother has a group (The Once Hollow) that leans in that direction, and I’m finding myself liking some things in that genre. Also, Imagine Dragons. *shrug*

2. I distract super-easily, so usually my deck-building is done sans music. The only thing that I can seem to handle there is The Clash. Fave band of all time.

Dave:
1. If I had 10 straight hours of Seu Jorge right now, I’d listen to it twice through.

2. Battlestar Galactica hands-down, because I’m still on season 1.

Sean:
1. Found myself really liking Sage the Gemini. Shows I still have desires to shake my ass.

2. Either Jimi Hendricks or JJ Grey & Mofro. I like mellow for building.

If you drink while playing Commander, what is your preference of adult beverage?

Dave:
Merp

Cass:
Ha!

I tend to like a good rum-and-Coke myself while playing. Or a good mix from Mr P, featuring Junior Johnson’s Moonshine and Dr. Pepper.


Something sweeter. Nice sipping whiskey is also acceptable to augment my Diet Coke.

Guilty pleasure card/synergy you play more often than you wish because you can’t stop loving it?

Sean:
Card synergy. Ashnod’s Altar and Nim Deathmantle. It’s like a colorless Deadeye Navigator for all the enters-the-battlefield effects.

Cass:
Gather Specimens and Spelljack. Can’t put them down. Closely followed by Sylvan Library.

Dave:
Spelljack just seems like awesome. I don’t know what you’d call that a guilty pleasure!

My guilty pleasure cards: “Not playing Magic” – Seedborn Muse and Alchemist’s Refuge and/or Prophet of kruphix. Mana doublers – Mirari’s Wake, Mana Reflection, Vorinclex, Nirkana Revenant, Crypt Ghast, Caged Sun, Gauntlet of Power, and Extraplanar Lens.

. . .

There you have it, folks – this is what happens when three guys, mentally exhausted and searching for inspiration, get picked to sit in a chat room all day and talk about random things. I hope you enjoyed a little bit of a personal look today; if you’re interested, we’ll do a “mailbag” feature in the future, so please submit any burning questions to us via email.

Three Cards Deep returns Friday, so we’ll see you then!

Cass
@GDCCommander