(Editor Note – Today is another joint article by myself and Patrick.  It’s pretty much a continuation and logical conclusion to the Monday piece. 

I guess you can consider it “Mr. P Theme Week.” 

—>DJ )

My presumption is that most people who play EDH are looking for something more than just the opportunity to play bad Legacy. I like to think that the real reason people play EDH is to have fun games, instead of simply grinding wins as brutally and efficiently as possible.
This is probably wrong.
If you play EDH because you want to combo off as quickly as possible or because you want to prison-lock the board with Stasis or land destruction, then this article is not for you. 
The real question is this:
If you are one of these people, are you the minority or the majority?
Up until recently, I would have said that the “combo and prison” crowd was the minority of EDH players. When I played in the EDH constructed event at GenCon last year, it seemed like a minority of the players were playing hard combo or prison style decks, and a majority of the players were disgusted with this (and expressing their disgust in a variety of ways that ranged from “expressing mild irritation” to “threatening to quit the format and/or beat the hell out of the person playing the Erayo deck.”
However, over the past year I have observed a mounting pile of evidence that suggests that the public’s acceptance of these types of non-interactive decks may be substantially on the rise.
Part of this makes a lot of sense, and sadly, the explanation of it involves complaining about getting nice things. Up until a year ago, EDH (sorry…”Commander”) was strictly a casual format, conceived and championed by players who were looking for something very casual and a bit silly, a nice change of pace from the cutthroat, competitive Pro Tour and Grand Prix formats.
When the Commander pre-cons came out (and immediately sold out), it became clear that EDH had become a format for the masses.  Although I have no actual data to back this up, I have beet told anecdotally that EDH is now the most played format in the world. While this may or may not be true (or matter to begin with), it is impossible to ignore he fact that here has been a huge influx of new EDH players in the last fourteen months.
Let’s pause for a moment to engage in a bit of amateur psychology.  Riddle me this: what’s the first thing anyone does when they learn a new game?
Answer: They try to figure out how to win. 
This makes perfect sense; nobody learns UNO and immediately tries to figure out how to avoid winning in order to make the game more fun for the other players. When the new influx of EDH players occurred, they brought along the dominant sanctioned format philosophy that the only thing that matters is the end result of this game. Other than the cantankerous grumblings of older players about “the spirit of the format”, there was nothing telling them that infinite combos, mass discard/land destruction, endless counter spells or prison decks were philosophically off limits. The influx of new players brought vastly increased recognition and clout to the format, but it also signaled a shift away from the format’s focus on interactivity and fun.
(I realize this is a relatively overblown claim backed up by almost no actual evidence, but bear with me here.)
When EDH became recognized as a popular format, tournament and convention organizers naturally recognized is as a means to generating extra revenue.  The result? Side events.  And how do you run side events? You award prizes for eliminating players. And how do you eliminate players? You run non-interactive combo and prison decks designed to grind wins as efficiently as possible. At no place in here is the opportunity to receive any tangible reward for playing a deck hat promotes fun and interactive play.
Of course, may devotees of EDH would tell you that’s exactly the point of the format. Anyone can win a game, but many people who play EDH (especially those who’ve been playing for a long time) are devoted to the idea that “winning” is more about the experience than the end result.
Maybe.
This last statement sounds nice, but it is probably pure crap. Let’s be honest; most people play games because they want to win.
The critical distinction, however, is how far you are willing to go and what you are willing to do to achieve victory. If you are playing at a Pro Tour, the answer to his question is obviously “as fast as I can/whatever it takes.” The same probably applies to your local Friday Night Magic; however this is also an environment in which players may test out less-tuned decks, or possibly play whimsical, silly decks. At the kitchen table it is often regarded as being “douchy” to play a deck that is clearly designed to stop the other players from doing anything, although this obviously varies from playgroup to playgroup.
The point is that in the last year, EDH has gone from being a format that is primarily played on kitchen tables, to a format that is primarily played in environments more similar to a Friday Night Magic or a Pro Tour, bringing with it all that entails.
So what’s the answer to this?  The way I see it there’re two options-
Option one is to begin playing decks that are less interactive and more designed to grind wins.
Option Two is to begin making more of a concerted effort to encourage players to see EDH as a format that is more about interactivity and fun than about strictly winning.
That’s right…This is a “Take back our format” article.
For the record, I’m totally in favor of attempting to win over the hearts and minds of newer EDH devotees. Our local store has been using a “points” system for the past two years, and it has really done a lot to help encourage the style of interactive game-play that we are looking for. Also, anecdotally, it does seem as though this style of play is desirable and enjoyable for many of the new players who come to our shop; many have come to the shop, played a few games using the point system, and made some comment along the lines of “This environment is so much more fun than the environment in which I normally play!”
I understand that this approach is somewhat less than fully democratic, as it prescribes to a particular set of values and rules hat are, at the end of the day, written by a small group of players. (In this case, Cassidy and I, with some input from a few other players and a liberal amount of borrowing from the Armada Games points list.)
Nonetheless, while the system was created by a few, it has only persisted because the players as a whole have embraced it.  The end result is that, for the most part, the games that occur at Worlds Apart games on Wednesday nights are fun, interactive, and interesting.
Maybe I’m preaching to the choir here.  Maybe you tuned out the moment it was obvious I wasn’t going to tell you about the new tech or present another stupid list of “format staples”; either seems like a reasonable response. The point of the story is, if you do care about EDH as a format, you need to start doing something about it.
àMr. P
.   .   .   .   .

I wanted to add in a few words in here.  The second poll at the top of the main page and the decision to run the article Patrick and I put together for Monday was a lead-up to this piece.  I really think this is an important thing to think about for the community as a whole right now, because things are changing and growing at an alarming rate for Commander on all fronts; there are more EDH side events than ever at major tournaments and events, and Wizards of the Coast has clearly recognized the popularity of the format as well in making the decision to release an annual Commander-specific product. 
In short, the times are changing, so be prepared. 
Aside #1
I started to notice an interesting trend recently in the comments section of the ‘Dear Azami’ articles I author over at StarCityGames.com.  I know…writers need a thick skin.  I get that.  But the actual results were a baffling paradox.
When I first started writing, I attempted to make decks ‘better’.  (I know that’s subjective.)  When I did this, the first responses were fairly uniform; enthusiasm, positive feedback, people coming out of the woodwork to suggest other stuff that would work well.
Before long, that business model started to fail.  The same game plan was suddenly getting me results that ranged from people complaining about me missing something obvious, to the dreaded “This is a boring list filled with staples!” accusation.
I reconsidered my position.  Those of you who read this site regularly know that I’m not a fan of blindly tossing good cards at my decks just for the sake of doing so.  I realized that I had a voice, and I could bring it to Dear Azami.
So I did.  I started explaining that I wasn’t going to snap-include good cards for no reason.  I was going to actively remove purposeless good cards for other choices that brought more synergy to the lists.
And things were good.  Mostly. 
I started to see people start to suggest staples in the comments section, or call me out for not using them.  Interesting. 
My personal “Black Monday” hit not long after.  I think it was a redo of a B/W Teysa list, where the author was very good at explaining the purpose of the deck, and the goal of making it more competitive.  I tried to tune it with that in mind, going back to using staples like Debtors’ Knell that clearly made the deck better.
And I got a huge beating for it.  The comments section overflowed with people calling me out for suggesting staples.  The article took a huge beating by angry people suggesting I was just making the deck a “good stuff” list.
So I headed back to the drawing board.  Now, more than ever, I dedicate those articles to making decks stronger at the expense of staples that don’t have a purpose.  I call the cards out.  I’m not shy about it, and people seem to like it.
And then Glenn Jones publishes his piece, telling the word to play all of these cards because they’re staples.
And people love it.
Anyway…
We’re flying out for GenCon one week from today.  I’ll likely be somewhere between the airport in Indianapolis and the hotel downtown at this time next week.  Now, with the Official Commander Forums still down for the count (Sheldon, Genomancer, Ban-Ki…hit me up if you need a new host.  I can’t overstate how important those forums are to the community.), it’s hard to discuss and see the effects globally that Patrick was discussing above.  Specific to GenCon, there’s the traditional 3-round EDH event that was Erayo-locked to oblivion last year, now with way more prize support and an entry into the GenCon Championships, which can net you a full ride (travel, food, lodging, events) for GenCon ’13.  There are “side events” firing as they fill, pitting four players against each other, with packs awarded for eliminating other players.
I’m going to dive into these things full on to see if I can gain a better understanding of how people feel globally about EDH.  I’m not just talking about playing in the events (because that’s going to tell me that people like to win quickly when prizes are on the line, spirit-of-the-format be damned), but also immersing myself in the EDH community that comes together in Indy.  I want to learn more about what kinds of players play the format, and who they play the format.  I’m really hoping to gain a better understanding of where things are going, because at this point, I honestly don’t know.
Aside #2 –
Seems like a good place for this.  Our friend Chad played EDH last night at Worlds Apart.  I wasn’t there.  This was the first time he had played EDH there in a long time.  To sum up his backstory, he started playing EDH with us back in the day, but kind of quit when the format started to take off and games went from people throwing big haymakers around and laughing their heads off to tons of control elements and board wipes backing up combo wins. 
We tried to convince him things were changing.  We told him about the environment we’ve been building, and how much better it is.  We told him things are different now.
From what I understand, in his first game back last night, things went along swimmingly in the early game, until the mono-green player thought it would be a good time to ramp up and combo out the table with Primal Surge.  Game over.
I’m sure that helped to convince Chad things are better.  Fantastic.
Anyway…
We’re not running around screaming that the sky is falling here.  Or at least we’re not trying to.  But the concern is out there.  I love that the format is seeing a ton of new players, and a ton of new product.  I just hope that the masses continue to understand and embrace the spirit of EDH.  Without that, things may continue to get more and more uncomfortable for those of us that do.
So come out and talk to me at GenCon.  Challenge me to a quick pick-up game.  Tell me about why you started playing EDH, and what you like about it.  I want those stories.  I want people to hear about them. 
And help to grow the format on your own too.  You may or may not prescribe to the same mindset that myself of Patrick does when it comes to EDH, but we’re all ambassadors.  Remember what drew you in to begin with, and try to help others enjoy the same feelings for themselves.  Growth is great in the long run…it really is.  The best thing you can do is to try to grow your community.  Help new players learn.  Work on ways to make things fun and engaging for everyone.  Try different things to see what works.
Make it yours.  After all, if you’re reading this, you’re probably a fan.  Since EDH is non-sanctioned and casual, it can be as good as we all want it to.
Patrick talked about ‘taking back the format.’  Here’s to hoping we don’t have to.
See you next week-
àDJ