I have no Magic related resolutions! There I said it. No resolution. I’m a bad llama.

Bad Llama

Right, so back to Playgroup Evolution! We don’t need no stinking resolutions. We move at the speed of natural selection, eventually making a better species. Uh… wait…We move in leaps and bounds making our playgroup better. Yeah, nailed it!

This week, we’re going to discuss teachable moments in EDH. These moments are, as the blatant title suggests, moments during the EDH experience where more experienced players can help the others in their group get better. But you probably knew that, since it’s rather obvious. But that’s the thing – as obvious as this is, we rarely do it. Instead, we simply tell new players or less experienced players that we are correct. End of story. Done.

This is not exactly beneficial to learning. In my work we have many “teachable moments” where you stop and explain to someone why a behavior is wrong/hurtful/inappropriate/offensive/etc. We can do the same things in EDH, but focused on improving game play.  To illustrate, I’ll provide an anecdote from East Coast Gamers (Explore the store: www.facebook.com/EastCoastGamersNJ ):

It was a long game that came down to a Rubinia Soulsinger deck and Xenagos, God of Revels deck. Xenagod had some board position, but the game was heavily favoring Rubinia. Earthcraft and Squirrel Nest for unlimited squirrels was good. The Rubinia player was attacking into a Fog at the time, much to their annoyance because it did nothing but buy a turn. The following turn was another huge attack into a Clinging Mists, the following turn hit Moment’s Peace, and this just repeated for several excruciating cycles. The Rubinia player was very frustrated at the Xenagod player for buying turn after turn, but not developing the board or doing anything to stop the squirrel apocalypse. This culminated in the Rubinia player expressing that frustration (after finally winning the game) about how bad Fog effects are and how the Xenagod player should stop using them.

Now, I understand the Rubinia player’s frustration – and we had six other people waiting for that game to end so we could pod up again. To further things,  this “Fog, hoping to topdeck an answer and then dying anyway” thing happens quite a bit for the Xenagod player. However,we did this wrong.  Everyone was fed up with waiting for a game where the Xenagod player clearly wasn’t coming back (only one or two cards in hand at most, little left on the board, the Rubinia player had removal in hand and plenty of mana), so everyone was…. kind of a jerk about it. I may have been included in the “being a jerk” group. I’m not proud.


What we should have done was explain calmly to the Xenagod player about how the Fog effects only bought time. That they did very little to actually win the game, and that this situation has happened before. While there was the one game where a Fog effect allowed Xenagod to do its thing and pump up some big fat creature to smash face, almost every time before (or after) the Fogs just dragged a game out and ended in the same way. The effects are pretty bad.

This is my goal- you will learn from my mistake and properly teach players when these moments happen. And believe me, these occur a lot more than you think:

  1. “Can you look at my deck?”
  2. “Which of these cards is better?”
  3. “What should I have done last game?”
  4. “Why do you say is bad?”
  5. “Why do you say not to run [card]Elvish Mystic? It’s great in standard.”

The list goes on, but these all provide a place to truly stop and educate someone. Our tendency is to provide short answers, because for many this is common knowledge. However –  these players are asking this question for a reason. THEY DON”T KNOW! This is a problem I see a lot in training Resident Assistants or Orientation Leaders; they get asked the same question over and over and over and over and over (retail workers know this pain and frustration too). It becomes very easy to ignore the question or provide a snarky reply—which I understand! Sarcasm is my first language, which is not helpful to a new student or parent. The player asking for EDH help is in a similar situation. Try to avoid, “Mana dorks are just bad in EDH, everyone knows that!”

Instead, try something like, “Mana dorks work great in a duel environment, but in multiplayer with plenty of sweepers, they are going to get destroyed as collateral damage.   It is often much better to put a land on the battlefield instead. Rampant Growth isn’t pretty, but is often much better for your mana since the lands are unlikely to be destroyed.”

This answer really doesn’t take much more effort, but it helps the person a lot more. Explaining the reason for certain decisions can help newer or less experienced players understand why a pet card or preferred strategy may not be the most useful in a multiplayer environment.  After all, how often has someone challenged a pet card of yours and it only strengthened your resolve? This can be avoided. The next time you suggest a card or a line of play, take the few extra seconds to help someone else understand why it is a better decision.

Here’s possibly the most important part for a teachable moment: controlling your temper. My anecdote above shows a poor way to explain how the Fog effects are less effective than a player thinks. Getting annoyed or angry about lines of play is human; letting them impact your interactions with a friend is still human, but not the best thing for a friendship. Additionally, if you appear to be flustered due to a strategy that drags out the game, your opponents are likely to think it is because they nearly won. In my example, the Xenagod player didn’t see how the Fog effects didn’t actually do much of anything; he saw that he needed to topdeck an answer and each Fog bought him another turn. In this one case, it bought him a lot of time, but he still lost. In other games, they don’t even seem to  buy much time at all – they save his life from one attack, and the next player sweeps in for the kill (and a point). Yet, when everyone was emotionally charged and frustrated, he only saw that he could have pulled out of the situation and was close to potentially winning.


To summarize, explanations can help people understand the “why” in a suggestion. Often, players can become obstinate about card(s), strategies, or even threat assessments, but they don’t see how those choices cost them the game. When trying to help them improve, it is necessary to provide the explanation – not only so they understand in the moment, but so that they can improve in the future. Doing this can be done in a few easy steps:

  1. Calm down
  2. Make suggestion for improvement
  3. Explain rationale behind why new choice is better
  4. Explain how old choice has not worked

Thanks for tuning in to this week’s Playgroup Evolution. In two weeks I’ll be back—don’t fret, as other writers at GDC have got you covered in the meantime. 

Any questions? Comments? Concerns? Hit the comments below or Tweet at me.