Y’all ruined Atraxa. Just putting that out there. This is an open-ended legendary creature that screams to be built around in a ton of different ways, and I was absolutely pumped to build them all when she was first spoiled. But then CMDR16 landed and Atraxa shot to the top of the EDHRec pile, and she’s stayed there ever since. And every deck is jammed with every Planeswalker that fits her colours, and the Oaths, and Doubling Season.

Boring.

Editor’s Note: Today we’re running the “Point.” On Monday, Alex will come back with the follow-up counterpoint, “EDHRec is not ruining EDH.” Thanks for tuning in!

 

‘Walkers is the obvious thing to do with her, and therefore the wrong thing to do with her. That sort of thinking is what led to Leovold, Emissary of Trest getting banned, and I will never forgive any of you for that.

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I admit that I use EDHRec, but I still wish it didn’t exist. I believe that it’s one of the worst things to happen to our format, right up there with Experience Counters and Iona, Shield of Emeria (editor’s note: and along with you dang kids getting on muh lawn). It 100% leads to streamlined, “best” decks and boring games. “Oh, you’re playing Dragonlord Ojutai? Then I know exactly what is in your deck, because it’s all on that site”. How is that fun? You’re just building the same deck as literally everybody else.

Creativity is the best part of this format. Hunting through your cards to find the perfect, unknown answer to a problem in your meta, and having to pass it around the table because nobody knows what it does. That’s why I play this game, and that’s why I build decks—to stretch the creative muscles in my brain, and truly limit myself to what I can find. Yeah, I could just grab a list off EDHRec and probably win a few games, but they would be hollow victories. I played the cards, but I didn’t build the deck.

With that in mind, I’m trying to avoid the site now. I still pop in every now and then just to see how things look, but it is not a part of my deckbuilding process at all. And it shouldn’t be for you, either. Unless you’re brand new to the format, you should be able to figure it out enough to build on your own. Come up with your own solutions and combos. They may not be as effective as the ones that have already been ‘solved’, but they’ll be yours.

More importantly, since everybody else will be expecting the known combo, you’re more likely to slip yours through.

Let’s look at Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice. I finally got around to building the deck, and I didn’t look at EDHRec once. I run no planeswalkers, and no doubling effects at all. I played it for the first time the other day, and it completely stomped a table. The deck is centered around -1/-1 counters, tokens, and just grinding down my opponents. In the first game with her, I was against Meren of Clan Nel Toth, running EverybodyHasTheSameMerenDeck.dec, the Saskia the Unyielding unaltered precon (which is damn solid out of the box), and a super-effective Experiment Kraj list that unfortunately never really got the mana to get off the ground.

With Atraxa out, and the mana to back up my hand, I was able to land and stick the following(despite very little countermagic in the deck):

Nest of Scarabs
Carnifex Demon
Fathom Mage
Vesuvan Doppelganger copying Saskia (and targeting the Saskia player)
Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons

And a few other pieces just to give my board some oomph.

Basically, I was killing everything very slowly with -1/-1 counters off Carnifex, drawing cards like crazy off Fathom Mage, and making a metric buttload of snake and insect tokens. Every single turn. This all happened with just one Demonic Tutor to bring out something that wasn’t really relevant in the end, but got me stable enough at the time to stay in the game.

I won with a fused Ready / Willing followed by a Day of Judgement. I then swung at everybody with everything, and killed them all twice over.

Could the deck have been “better?” Probably. But pulling the card suggestions from EDHRec would have made it your deck, not mine. Would planeswalkers have made the deck more oppressive and able to control the game? Absolutely. But I don’t want to lock people out. At no point was my victory guaranteed, and any one of my opponents could have stabilized and taken over. I like that in a game. Nobody cares that you can lock down a table. And most people will stop playing with you if you insist on doing that over and over again. But people will remember the tight games with the big, splashy plays. They’ll remember the critical topdecks that pulled a game out of the fire.

They’ll remember the decks.

Not the lists that people pull off websites, but the decks that they build themselves. And that’s important. It’s important because we don’t get sanctioned tournaments, or event coverage, or anything like that. Wizards endorses this format, yes, but it’s largely because we force them to. This is a fan-made and fan-supported format. When we start letting people play the ‘best’ decks every time, it becomes competitive. Competition, in that sense, leads to sanctioned tournaments and WotC taking over the format completely, and while that sounds great on first listen, it’s really not. Because then it becomes less EDH, and more singleton Legacy. Then EDH games become about winning, instead of hanging out with like-minded people and seeing what crazy things you can come up with.

It turns into Standard, where everybody is grinding and nobody is having any fun. I don’t want that to happen, and I doubt you do either.