As I was thinking about what I should cover for this month’s Lens of Clarity, my mind wandered (as it always does) to the two missing color identities in my personal Project Chromatic – Mardu (WBR) and Grixis (UBR). I don’t know if it’s just me, but it’s hard to come up with interesting ideas for them.
I was messing around with a Mardu Grand Melee blueprint with Zurgo Helmsmasher at the helm (hehe), where everyone has to attack, nobody can block, and general bloodthirsty chaos reigns. I was thinking of going for a stock Kaalia deck stocked with the iconics of each color. In the worst case scenario, I could fall back on a Mardu Good Stuff list with Oros, but that’s the last place I’d like to go.
Grixis? Nekusar? Nicol Bolas? Thraximundar? I look through the list of available generals and none of them seem fun at all!
As my train of thought ploughed its way through the recesses of my mind, I asked myself, “What would be a fun deck to play within my group?”
Next station: “What is it that we have that others don’t?”
Final station: “House rules!”
(Disclaimer: this train takes unexpected turns and goes on indescribable magical journeys. Sit tight, and hold onto the handrails!)
EDH at its heart is a casual format. While we have the “official” rules set by the Rules Committee (*cough cough* #tuckgate *cough cough*), it is the odd rule change here and there which I feel makes one group distinct from the other.
So why not I talk about the rules that make my group tick?
A little background on my group – I joined these bunch of great guys a few years back, after I made my triumphant return to the battlefield from self-imposed exile, around the release of Zendikar. We started out playing sixty-card decks, but somewhere along the way the fiery fires of EDH consumed us, and before long it became the only format that we play. We do a bit of cube drafting from time to time (Terence, you’re da man!) but EDH is the format of choice for us nowadays.
So people come and go, but we have a core of regular players that play more or less one weekday and one weekend per week:
I’m CK, the residential Chaotic Neutral who loves his beatdown.
There’s QW whose personal quest is to build a deck for each legendary creature – don’t worry, most of his abominations have a lifespan of less than a month!
There’s Richard aka “R9” – the original definition is now lost in the annals of time, but it roughly stands for Ridiculously Raunchy Rubbish who Ramps, Recurs…forgot the rest. He likes to take long turns too.
There’s Simon, the self-styled Troll of the Sewers; he loves to scavenge the draft tables for leftovers.
There’s Eric, the most price-savvy among us, always on top of the latest price trends.
There’s Ince, who loves the sleaze but is actually a good husband/father/man in general.
Then there’s the other members who don’t come by as much, but are still vocal in our little WhatsApp group – TM who’s notorious for having played [CARD]Stifle[/CARD] in one of his decks, Darren the life-gain-loving goody-two-shoes…
The one point we have in common is our lack of playing time – we’re all over thirty, we all have real life commitments to tend to, and hence if there’s time to play, we want to make the fullest use of it. We’re not averse to marathons but we try to stay away from them. We’re not averse to quick wins but we also try to stay away from that. We’re not cutthroat pirates, just honest blokes looking for quality game-time. This is the driving force behind most of our house rules.
In a three- or four-player game, we use the Attack Left/Right variant, which the Comprehensive Rules cover in extensive detail:
803 Attack Left and Attack Right Options
803.1 Some multiplayer games use the optional attack left or attack right rules.
803.1a If the attack left option is used, a player can attack only an opponent seated immediately to his or her left. If a player’s nearest opponent to the left is more than one seat away, the player can’t attack.
803.1b If the attack right option is used, a player can attack only an opponent seated immediately to his or her right. If a player’s nearest opponent to the right is more than one seat away, the player can’t attack.
That’s it! Short, simple, easy to understand!
Well alright, spell range is global, and everyone is your opponent (this point is worth mentioning, because of what comes next). In a four-player game, the player opposite you is your opponent, yet he’s your ally at the same time because he’s not in your direct line of fire. This makes for some situations where you might get him to split your Fact or Fiction piles to get the most advantage, but let’s not forget that he’s in this game to win as much as you are. When the guy whose face you’re smashing is down to one life and victory is imminent, don’t be surprised if said ally stabs you in the back repeatedly!
As we like to say around here, “Allies are but stepping stones towards victory.”
When we have five players, we play what is known as the Star variant – specifically, this one that was covered by Kelly Digges in a Serious Fun column. Tl;Dr – imagine players sitting down in WUBRG order, enemies and allies are as defined in the color pie, allies are not opponents, so they can’t be targeted by “target opponent” spells or affected by “each opponent” spells.
Insert troll humor here.
We have a slight twist on that Star variant though, in the sense that there can only be one winner (most of the time), so if Blue and Green both lose, then the winner will be either Black or Red, whomever deals the winning blow to White. It can be the last point of damage, the last card milled…you get the idea.
Until recently, we had some other house rules and bans in place, but those have since been lifted, and the only restraint we have is our morals – which have been exemplary so far.
Annihilator used to be errata-ed so if a card would annihilate something, instead it doesn’t annihilate anything. This meant that the Eldrazi duo (ignoring the officially-banned Emrakul of course) were good for only their beefiness and their utility.
Cards that provided extra turns unconditionally, like Time Warp and Time Stretch, were heavily frowned upon, to the extent of being a soft-ban. Nowadays we don’t really care that much, because we trust one another to be responsible players. If you can win on your extra turn, then all the better, and we can shuffle up for our next game.
The same line of thinking can be extended to targeted mass-discard (e.g. Identity Crisis and Myojin of Night’s Reach) and cards like Sadistic Sacrament. You know that guy at work/school, he’s there, he does something, but it amounts to nothing and nobody cares? Yes, that’s what the victim of these effect will most likely become. Remember when I said that we want to make the most of our limited playing time every week? I’m sure you won’t want to spend the next twenty minutes drawing, passing, and watching the action pass you by, right?
As I’ve said, we’ve now retired these house rules, and we’re now governed by our inner sense of righteousness. The most profound side-effect I see is that we’re now a pretty closed group – we don’t really have newcomers coming to join us, and we politely decline players who try to approach us for games. I foresee this could be a problem for the group as we grow older, but for now…YOLO!
I’ve been wanting to talk about my group for a while now, and I felt that the topic of house rules is the perfect opportunity. One of these days I might do a play-by-play walkthrough – our games are rarely void of rules questions and convoluted shenanigans, so it should make for some interesting read!
What house rules do your group play with? What makes your rules/variants unique? Share them in the comments!