Welcome back to Playgroup Evolution! Since we are still in the beginning of the year, I thought I’d try the whole “goal setting” thing most of the other writers have been doing; See, I can be a team player!  Besides I’m pretty sure Mr. P has the lancer role covered (Here is a link to the lancer role – I’m not sorry!)

So…I was thinking about what to write for this entry in our journey to making the greatest playgroup, and I hit a wall. My group has been running really good. We even have people meeting up on different days just to get their fix for some EDH games. It’s pretty great.

But what is a writer to do when everything is going well? Look inward. I was trundling through my file of half-baked ideas for inspiration, and I came upon an old ‘Fearless Magical Inventory’. My first encounter with concept came from Sam Stoddard’s article at Star City Games (linkified!)  I’ve done this a few times to improve my game when I was playing boatloads of 60 card multiplayer in college. Now, it’s time to bring this idea to GDC.

The key concept is to evaluate your skills and trends in Magic as honestly and objectively as possible. Order and number position do not matter; your biggest weakness may be number 4 or 14 or 40. As you’ll see with mine, sometimes I get on a trend of related ideas and other times it just bounces around.

With no further ado, here is my EDH Fearless Magical Inventory:

  1. I am too focused on winning.
  2. My decks do not have enough synergy.
  3. I get angry when people make bad decisions or play slow.
  4. I get particularly angry when someone attacks me because of a different deck I played in a different game with a different pod.
  5. I get impatient during long games and take too big a risk trying to end it.
  6. I need to pay greater amounts of attention to the mana people leave open.
  7. I definitely need to pay more attention to any patterns people use in leaving up mana.
  8. I often assume my plan will work, and run straight into a spell or ability ruining said plan.
  9. I sometimes forget about onboard tricks which leads to making bad plays.
  10. I don’t run enough library manipulation or card draw in many decks.
  11. I cling to pet cards too long, even when they should be cut.
  12. I don’t pay enough attention to my mana curves when building.
  13. I make a manabase very functional for my initial build of a deck but I don’t make adjustments to reflect card changes.
  14. I abandon working on certain decks to continue tweaking the ones that win more.
  15. I am too focused on winning (it goes down twice – it’s a problem.)
  16. I don’t pay enough attention to new cards people can use.
  17. When I metagame against my group’s trends, I don’t do it for all my decks.
  18. I don’t take the time to properly build and test my decks.
  19. I am too used to being The Threat, my group has a different dynamic and I haven’t adjusted.
  20. I play the same types of decks too often (control and mid-range.)
  21. I rely too heavily on haymakers giving me a decisive victory.
  22. My early turns are boring and should do more than ramp or try to get some equipment out.
  23. I don’t use enough evasive creatures.
  24. I fall prey to combat tricks because I expect everyone to use removal instead.
  25. I don’t work to keep everyone having a good time during the game.
  26. I often enjoy going for the throat during a game, not letting someone breathe and get back in the game.
  27. I don’t play enough counter magic in the decks that utilize counters.
  28. I don’t use enough redundancy or recursion in decks with linchpin cards.
  29. I don’t use enough recursion.
  30. I sometimes tap my mana incorrectly so I can’t play more stuff.
  31. Several of my decks are gimmicky and get steamrolled when that gimmick is removed.
  32. I don’t run enough sacrifice outlets to stop crazy plays like Insurrection or to make mine even better.
  33. I don’t shuffle as well as I should.
  34. When I get taken out early, I blame my opponent for poor threat assessment and don’t think about my reputation, win record, or a lack of early defenses.
  35. Too often I think of a deck as finished and not one that I am constantly trying to improve.

I’m sure that I could go on with more if I wanted. Now, just saying that you have weaknesses or problems is not going to make you a better player. The next step is figuring out how to improve and stop making the same mistakes. It is important to be as honest with yourself in methods of improving as it is in the Fearless Magical Inventory. Lying about how severe a problem is will not help you get better. It is likely to become worse since it is now a conscious blind spot.

Looking over this list, there are several trends I notice – a focus on attitude, deck design, game plans, and technical mechanics to improve. For the next Playgroup Evolution, I’ll be discussing and dissecting these trends so that I can keep improving.  For now, I’ll look at just a couple and provide examples on how I want to fix these issues.

Just A Little Sample

“I am too focused on winning.”

This is a problem of mine. I even listed it twice. Fortunately, this is not exclusive to me; Cass was saying a few weeks ago that he has become “that guy” and needs to change. It’s true…I need to stop being so focused on winning. To do this, I need to be more present during my games, and I need to play in the moment and enjoy the game, the banter, the group, jokes, and other things that come naturally with EDH games. I need to remember that an exciting game I lose is better than a boring one that I win.

I need to stop taking the games so seriously.

If I want to play for blood, then I can go back to tournaments. This change in focus will take time and effort, but I’m aware and I’ll ask some friends at East Coast Gamers (come check us out) to help me focus more on fun and less on winning.

“My decks do not have enough synergy.”

Synergy is king in EDH. Decks that throw a haymaker can win, certainly…but the decks that run like a well-oiled machine?  The ones with the right piece at the right time—every friggin’ time—are built exactly to do so. Synergy makes the deck more powerful because the whole deck is working towards a goal – not just some pieces helping a few others. Fixing this will require me gutting several decks, determining a new goal/theme/strategy, and making sure the whole deck works towards this goal. I’m not advocating cutting card draw, removal, and ramp just to make the deck more synergistic; I’m looking for ways to improve my decks and maybe find overlap between the deck goal and support cards. An example off the top of my head is needing a Disenchant effect in a tokens deck. Nullmage Shepherd and Sundering Growth or Seed Spark to add to the theme while still providing the desired effect.

Next Week’s Plan of Action

I’d love to provide a few more examples, but I’m already nearing 1300 words on in this post. Next week, I’ll discuss how I sorted my Fearless Magical Inventory and what steps I’m taking to improve my EDH game. Let me know how your Inventory works – post it here so others can help!

Hit me up in the comments or on the Twitters to let me know what you think – how your Fearless Magical Inventory is going, or if you think this is all junk and want me to talk about something else. Remember – be objective, but not cruel to yourself!

-Erik
@Erik_Tiernan
-Not allowed to use a cannon on the S.S. General Damage Control until he finishes his MSEd