We’re back!

In case you’re new, I’m Erik; I’ve been a regular writer here for a while (which means I get to use the cannon on the Good Ship GDC). Welcome to Playgroup Evolution; a series where we (me via writing, you via comments and Twitter) work to improve the group experience! I have a good group of articles on ‘point systems’ and how to create and evolve one for your group; check the archives for the whole deal.

For those of you coming back to us, it’s good to see you again!  Let’s dig right in.

It’s the start of a new year.  I’m trying be a bit more introspective and…well…reflective (hence the title), so I made some goals and taped them to my fridge. Then, I thought about how last year I posted a “Fearless Magical Inventory” in February (I came across this idea from Sam Stoddard’s excellent piece on StarCityGames.com – great work, Mr. Stoddard!). I figured I’d do some reflecting and see how much I’ve actually managed to change in my inventory. Going over it was easy in theory because I had it saved (yay articles!), but soon proved a little challenging.  The basic idea was to copy the inventory I created and respond line by line to each item, and Boom- articled!

It…uh… didn’t work out quite so well.  

I originally copied my “Fearless Magical Inventory” from my article and added responses to each.  It was a monster.  Based on feedback from the GDC crew, I moved things around to make 4 groupings that my FMI falls into:

  • Deck Construction
  • Emotions
  • Fundamentals
  • Competitiveness

‘Deck Construction’ is by and far the largest, so I’m going to look at that today; the rest, including a “Final Reflections” bit that looks at the big picture for me this year, will follow with my next article.

Let’s see how I did!

DECK CONSTRUCTION

1) My decks do not have enough synergy.

Improving! I’ve been revamping decks with a lot more synergy. Damia, Sage of Stone has fewer blatant goodstuff inclusions and more stuff that helps the deck run. I do need to add more mana rocks. Hazezon Tamar, Gisela, Blade of Goldnight, and Mizzix of the Izmagnus all run like combo decks from having damn near every card be about getting into the game or accelerating the game plan – way tighter focus on what the deck is trying to do. A nice thing is I can now run Hazezon Tamar and Dune-Brood Nephilim and they play very differently.

2) I don’t run enough library manipulation or card draw in many decks.

Ugh… I need to start buying some of these cards in bulk.  (Queue sad trombone… – ED)

3) I cling to pet cards too long, even when they should be cut.

Better, but if EDH isn’t for pet cards, then I don’t know what to do anymore. This one had a shift in perspective. I’m okay with losing some efficiency to giggle. Life needs more giggles.

4) I don’t pay enough attention to my mana curves when building.

This is probably my MVP. I pay much more attention and more mana rocks/ramp to make this happen quickly. I overhauled something like seventeen decks to meet this goal. There was a month or so with cards everywhere, and me ordering things like 20 Commander’s Spheres and Hedron Archives.  Thought Vessel is a new sweet card. But being able to run Sol Ring, Mind Stone, Thought Vessel, Commander’s Sphere, Hedron Archive, and Dreamstone Hedron makes me giggle. A lot.

5) I make a manabase very functional for my initial build of a deck but I don’t make adjustments to reflect card changes.

Ah ha! more success. This has been pretty easy once I got into the review habit for my decks as detailed above.

6) I rely too heavily on haymakers giving me a decisive victory.

Incremental advantage is my best friend. (Haymakers still do work, and my fallbacks still get there. Sneakily.)

7) My early turns are boring and should do more than ramp or try to get some equipment out.

I actually went in a different direction than what I intended here – I went deeper into ramping.  I have way more ramp used to make my early turns matter more. Some decks went a little far, but I’d rather flood than having nothing to do.  Sure – I still ramp on turns one to three, but from there I now start having more relevant plays and bigger plays, and they hit earlier. If we’re playing “Battlecruiser Magic”, I need the industrial war machine to get there. PT Boats make good stories, but when you need a battleship… well a PT just doesn’t cut it.  (So…no on 7?  😉  – ED)

8) I don’t use enough evasive creatures.

I upped this, as well as increasing my utility and token options as well. I can swarm around in many decks.

9) I don’t play enough counter magic in the decks that utilize counters.

Fixed! I have moved away from counters in general a lot (They’re not as fun as people think…), which lets me run more in the decks that really want to focus on them.

10) I don’t use enough redundancy or recursion in decks with linchpin cards.

Improving… this needs some work.

11) I don’t use enough recursion.

This needs a lot of work.

12) Several of my decks are gimmicky and get steamrolled when that gimmick is removed.

This still happens, but I’m okay with Godo, Bandit Warlord needing the general in play for optimum efficiency, or recasting Zedruu the Greathearted or Meren of Clan Nel Toth a lot.

13) I don’t run enough sacrifice outlets to stop crazy plays like Insurrection or to make mine even better.

Some decks I didn’t change, while others have more outlets than a Best Buy with a sale on surge protectors.

14) Too often I think of a deck as ‘finished’ and not one that I am constantly trying to improve.

Half success? Yeah.. half sounds about right. I need to do this more but struggle to keep over 20 decks constantly up to date.

SUMMARY

This category is a large improvement.  My decks all run much smoother, and I’m much happier with my mana curves and overall construction. There are some situations where I made sacrifices or found that some issues bother me less than when I originally created this inventory; for instance, pet cards are something I am embracing more, rather than viewing them as a poor choice. In striving for more fun and less ‘bloodthirst’ in my play, I actually find pet cards to be a great thing – they demonstrate personality and increase giggles, while helping me hold to theme.

Other improvements, such as better mana curves, are a new focus of mine to have more action in early turns. Losing with eight-mana spells in my hand that I didn’t play is a lot less fun than losing in a game where I kept everyone on their back feet until they banded together to crush me.

Tl; dr – I want better experiences- so I adjusted my decks accordingly.

.     .     .     .     .

Stay tuned for next time – I’ll be looking at how well I manage my emotions, handle competition, and pay attention to fundamentals.

For now, what do you think?  Do you have any deck construction roadblocks that you can’t overcome?  If you’ve worked through them, what did you do to fix things?  Am I on the right page? A good page? The wrong page? The wrong book? Let me know what you think in the comments below and the Twitters.

Thanks for reading-

-Erik
@Erik_Tiernan