(Hello everyone!  Quick note on what’s coming up next:

Thursday is my vacation day, so regular content resumes next Monday.  From there, there’s a boat-load of literary unpacking from GenCon.  Some after-thoughts and other general details, A breakdown of tuning Intet Riku for the expected Commander Event metagame (And how it performed), and what I’m expecting to be a pretty heavy discussion about the Saturday night Commander Event – this is an unbelievable confluence of organizer mistakes and the worst of the format we all love, and I don’t plan on pulling any punches when I try to call out exactly what went wrong.  Please stay tuned.

After that, we’re putting the wraps on Xiahou Dun.  I’m pretty excited to get this list into a good place.

For today, Mr. P brings his exellent coverage of the Thursday night Commander Event.  Please enjoy this…he really went above and beyond with coverage, and nailed the breakdown.

See y’all next week-

—>DJ)

THE PROLOGUE

9:34 PM.  Woke up today at 1:45AM , after tossing and turning for three hours, and sleeping for maybe one of them. Tyler and Cass and I began working on a gigantic bottle of whiskey at about five this afternoon, and now it’s time to go find out what “Constructed EDH” looks like.

Let me make this clear: I expect this to suck.

So far, GenCon 2012 looks a lot like GenCon 2011, although the layout of the vendors is different and the cool vendor from whom I purchased some shirts from last year (sighco.com) does not appear to be present this year. (EDIT: just kidding! Found them!)  In the positives category, the CVS around the corner from the hotel still sells whiskey, and calling ahead to the hotel managed to get us adjoining rooms despite suggestions that it would not happen.  It’s going to be a fun weekend.

A bit of background on last year; there was a Thursday night “EDH constructed” event that we played in, and despite the fact that Cass and I played in at least one decent game each, the overall feel of the event was clouded by the presence of several Erayo decks, which has been well documented by Cass in his very first SCG article.

I struggled over the decision about whether I should play this year, mainly because it is my perception that the “global” EDH community has spent the past year devolving into something that holds little interest for me; a non-interactive metagame dominated by combo and “TurboNothing” control decks (as documented here.)  I ultimately decided that I would not play, based on the motivation to instead document and gather data, and the recognition of the fact that I have been drinking whiskey for the last 5 hours.

Time to find out if my fears are justified.

THE SETUP

The Thursday event this year is prize-supported, like last year.  For people who expect the worst, the concept of prize-supported EDH fills them with abject horror.  For the benefit of those people, let me be the first to note that this year’s event is substantially more prize supported, with the “winner” of the event receiving a box of M13, a From The Vault: Legends (who cares…), and an invitation to this year’s GenCon Championship, which offers the winner a lucrative prize package including a full ride to GenCon next year.  Perhaps this will encourage people to play more “reasonable” decks.  Don’t hold your breath.

THE REALITY

The 11:00 event played host to 27 players, meaning the players were grouped in six pods of four and one pod of three.  Points were awarded for the order in which one finished, and players were awarded 2 packs for each player they eliminated.  Second and third round pairings were based on point standings.

Since I’m ridiculous and detail-oriented and have a tiny brain, I went ahead and recorded all three rounds of pairings, along with results of each game and some observations.  I am struggling a bit to figure out how to express this data, as it is voluminous and predictable and not very interesting.  Perhaps the best route it to try  to break it down.  Let’s do this.

THE GENERALS

If one were to make a list of the most popular generals for EDH (which I believe existed on the forums before they burned down) and then compare it to the list of represented generals at the Thursday event, one would see a lot of overlap.   There were a few slightly oddball choices, but a majority of the field was the expected – Azami, Scion, Arcum, Maelstrom, Zur, and friends. (Missing or unrepresented: Kresh, Jhoira, Vig, Sharuum, and anything mono-black.)

THE GAMES

Yes, I recorded all the round results.   How did the games go? (Or more specifically, how did they end?)  Well, to be honest, less like what I expected, while also exactly what I expected.

Of the 21 games, nine were won with a hard combo finish, five were won through “prison”-type strategies, one was won through pure aggro, and the other six were won with some combination of aggro-combo or aggro-prison, or aggro-‘metagame hate’. (Nice one, Cassidy.)  With the exception of a (puppet general) Scion Hermit Druid combo deck that either won or lost all of its games by about turn five, most of the combo decks seemed interested in assembling a combo finish that had less to do with speed and more to do with inevitability.  The prison-style decks focused on lockdown strategies that eventually ground out the win through attrition, solitaire, disruption, mana denial, and annihilator triggers.  The decks committed to aggro strategies either played straight beatdown (with mixed results) or hybridized into aggro/combo or aggro/prison (with better results.)   Which leads to…

THE WINNER

As you may have heard, the deck that won was an Edric deck that played roughly 60,000 one-drops, including a large suite of some of the jankiest creatures you’ve ever seen.  (Sorry!)  Its game plan was to play guys for two turns, drop Edric, and then amass a gigantic mountain of card advantage from basically endless draw triggers, which it would then use to play extra-turn effects backed with cheap or free counters.  While technically an aggro deck, it did have an element of “combo” (and, I suppose, prison) in the extra turns and counters to protect its team; to be fair, it also benefitted from the fact that while decks were packing hate cards, they were mainly geared towards stopping other combos and not, say, killing a team of Cloud Pirates, Grayscaled Gharial, Shanodin Dryads, animated Veil of Birds, and Scryb Sprites.  The Edric deck was innovative, kinda awesome, and something I sincerely hope I never have to play against.  Big congratulations to the dude who won; I hope you kicked ass on Sunday.

To be fair, I hope I never have to play against most of the decks that I saw.  The tournament represented the epitome of “tuned” EDH decks, geared towards grinding wins and preventing anyone from doing anything.  To also be fair, this makes complete sense when considering that the prize was a box, a FTV:Unimpressive, and an invitation to the GenCon championship; no one (except possibly Tyler) was going to show up playing Beasts tribal.  Since I was not playing, and since “fun” is subjective, I cannot say whether the games were “fun”, although I did hear “that was a good game” and “that game sucked” about evenly.  (I suppose there’s an article to be written about whether serious tournament games are “fun” in general, but I’m not that motivated.)  Suffice to say that tournament EDH looks an awful lot like any other constructed tournament; players bring the “best decks” and play brutally and without mercy.  This either totally surprises you, or tells you exactly what you already knew.

THE DETAILS

There were some pretty cool things that happened.  The Edric win was funny, if only because absolutely no one saw it coming.  I witnessed a round one game where the Azusa deck managed to outrace the Azami deck.  In the second round, there was accidentally a pod of mostly aggro-ish decks that was won by the Animar player, who threw one of his “bounty packs” to each of the players he eliminated. 

There were also some uncool things that happened, such as a combo player scooping in response to being attacked for lethal so that the Edric player could not draw cards off the damage triggers.  (Editors Note: I had a guy scoop so that the Jin-Gitaxis I had Bribery-ed would be removed from the game to give his friend a better chance to beat me.  —>DJ)  Again, I understand that this is a tournament, but that still seems pretty weak and directly against the theorized “spirit of the format.” There was also a bizarre ruling in the last round that if you scooped, you got to keep your own “bounty packs,” which makes absolutely no sense…and then makes less sense the more you think about it.

(Distractable writer side note: the Vintage Championship Timetwister has a grammatical error on it:

Clearly fake. Hate hate hate.)

THE TAKEAWAY

Tournament EDH is bad Legacy with multiple players.

Again, who does this surprise?  Most of the players who showed up seemed prepared for this, and planned accordingly.  What does it mean for the format as a whole?  I have no real idea, other than the fact that it confirms my suspicions that I should stick to playing EDH at my house (EDH Night at Mr. P’s for the gosh-darn win!) and at the local game stores where we have spent the last three years fostering a metagame that is (voluntarily) almost entirely free of combo and prison decks. 

I suppose at this point there is little reason to hope that tournament organizers will stop offering substantial  prizes for EDH based solely on how efficiently you can win, but I do hope that there will also continue to be a large base of EDH players who play more casually, and I hope that “the spirit of the format” continues to mean what it is supposed to have meant all along, and that that ends up mattering to most people.

I guess we’ll see.