My fellow GDC writer James argued on Friday that “EDHRec is Ruining EDH,” explains his personal view of EDHRec as an agent that stifles creativity in EDH. (Editor’s Note: People read it, thanks to shares from the community! And some people disagreed with James.) I am here to offer the rebuttal that EDHRec is simply a recommendation that players utilize for deck building, a tool that can be used creatively or not.
EDHRec as an Instrument
If you are not familiar with EDHRec, it aggregates EDH online deck lists and uses the data to show what cards players are using in their EDH decks, good or bad. The crux of my argument for why EDHRec is not ruining EDH has two parts:
- Data summarizing player decisions are not requirements
- Deckbuilding doesn’t have a monopoly on the expression of creativity in EDH
EDHRec is just an aggregator (albeit a very thorough, wide-reaching one), no more, no less. It doesn’t have the powers of the Commander Rules Committee to shape the format by changing the rules of the game. It doesn’t have the capacity of your fellow players to agree upon and set expectations for the style and intensity of the games you play. It certainly does not have WOTC’s ability to print new cards.
Further, it’s you making the choices of what cards to include in your deck. You have the power to say “Yes” or “No” to the cards that pop up when browsing EDHRec. For most people who use the site, it actually shows them new cards, so it actually gives them more options to which they can respond yay or nay. But nothing you see is required to be in your EDH deck.
Second: James’s view is one shared by many online EDH content creator, namely that deckbuilding is the ultimate form of creativity, and that things that might reduce creativity impede the format from expanding. I believe creativity can be found in other forms and is not the exclusive domain of deck building in EDH. There is creativity in playing the game of multiplayer EDH, which is often overlooked or undervalued by EDH content creators.
Creativity sparked can appear different forms; turning a foe into an ally requires creativity of persuasion, and is something that can only be found in a multiplayer format. A sly remark about a threatening card on the table to draw the attention for your fellow players requires creative thanking and language. Hosting your own social gathering to play Magic and making new friends at a local card shop require creativity of planning and social tact.
As a format, EDH thrives on the back of all these kinds of creativity, so even if decks were homogenizing the format would continue to expand, and all these other forms of creativity deserve recognition and acknowledgment.
There are EDH players that view deck building as of secondary importance to playing this format. EDHRec offers those players, as well as new players and those who want to be thorough and ensure they didn’t miss anything, the means to get on to playing the game. There may be potential downsides to EDHRec, and the things James mentioned are risks that merit debate. However, I want EDH to grow and flourish as a format, and limiting the player base by stifling EDHRec isn’t the best path forward.