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Defending the Commander Social Contract

Tag: eggs

The Thing That Should Not Be Part 4 – 50 Shades of Eggs

Editor’s Note: After a brief hiatus that had nothing to do with GDC going down for a few weeks, Lord Krazy Kaka is back with the next chapter in his multi-part series discussing how to build an eggs deck in Commander, and what his favorite breakfast food can really do.

 I recall many years ago watching a fishing and travel documentary called “A River Somewhere.” It was an entertaining tale of two blokes travelling to different locations and fly fishing for whatever was there. While travelling around they would have a bit of a chat about the local town or some other amusing anecdote. One particular episode they were fascinated at one restaurant offering 50 different ways to fry an egg. While I don’t know 50 ways, I do often employ several methods depending on whom I am cooking for and my mood. As I become more sophisticated and adventurous in the kitchen, I find myself trying and employing new and different techniques on my eggy dishes.

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The Thing That Should Not Be – Part 3

An interesting fact about eggs: not only can they be cooked and used in many dishes, but they also come in a large number of edible varieties. Not only bird eggs, but fish eggs (caviar/roe), frog eggs, and even snail eggs can all be consumed. Furthermore, there are many types of edible bird eggs. Most folks would be familiar with chicken eggs, but maybe you’ve tried duck, quail or pheasant, and perhaps even goose or turkey eggs. For the adventurous perhaps even ostrich, pigeon or even emu eggs.

If you wanted to have eggs every day, you could go almost two weeks without duplication, simply through the types of eggs I’ve listed above. With a little research and a slightly wider view of thought on the matter, I’m sure you could go even longer without repetition, as long as the common denominator is not too restrictive.

The point is that they are all eggs.

The 7 to 9 Rule of Consistent Combo

This is a little something I learnt when I was first getting into playing Vintage Long Storm decks. This rule states that in a 60-card format, if you want to have access to something in your opening hand, you need seven to nine copies of the effect in your deck. To look at the probability of actually having something in your opening hand in EDH, you need to look at several factors:

  1. The number of cards in the deck.
  2. The number of copies of the effect in the deck.
  3. The number of cards you are going to see.

We can use this kind of information to calculate the probability of finding any card or copy of an effect in a deck at any given time (providing you can do the math quickly enough). For the purpose of the conversation today, let’s look at the odds of finding a given card or effect in your opening hand.

In a 60-card deck, the 7-9 rule states that we need seven to nine copies of an effect to reliably see one in your opening hand. Specifically having seven copies gives 86% probability, eight copies leads to an over 98% chance and nine copies is 110%. Therefore if I want to guarantee access to an effect in my opener, I’ll play nine copies of it. If we’re less desperate for the effect, ie able to wait a draw or two, then we can reach a degree of certainty that we could expect 100% access to an effect with fewer instances of it in our pile of 60 cards.

60 card opener probability

This is in essence the 7-9 rule. In Cifkas’ Second Breakfast list, the rule is applied heavily to allow the deck to reliably recur its namesake effect. It featured four copies of Second Sunrise and four of Faith’s Reward, totalling eight copies of the mass recursion effect. Following this rule is fairly straightforward for deck design in 60-card formats, as you are able to include up to four copies of the same card. EDH throws two mighty spanners into the works – we’re playing a singleton format and we need to fill 99 slots as opposed to 60.

Extrapolating the Math to the Big House

As with any probability equation, the 7-9 rule can be adapted to fit the different scenario that EDH presents. The first problem is recalculating what density of an effect is required in order to find it reliably. As for the 60-card format, I’ve produced some data that we can use to extrapolate this. How this is calculated: the probability of finding a copy of the desired effect, calculated as the sum of the probabilities of finding the effect on each drawn card, based upon how many cards are left in the deck (assuming that the previous draw failed to find). Here is a big table and graph of said data.

99 card opener probability

Editor’s note: The chart goes up to 30 copies, but that image wouldn’t fit. Here’s the file if you want to play with it, including both 60- and 99-card calculations.

Suffice to say, the closest probability of finding a card in a commander deck should use the 12 to 14 range as a minimum.12 copies of the effect offers as close to similar opening hand probability as seven in a 60-card format. This offers a range of high 80’s to just over 100% on an opening hand of seven. Obviously you can also increase the density of the required effect as far as needed, under the constraint of being able to find sufficient functional copies of said effect.

As a personal preference, both for explaining the extrapolation behind the maths and for meeting my preference for a slightly higher density probability, I generally recommend in the range of 13 to 15 copies, preferencing 15 copies where possible for a necessary effect. Why 15? When you look at a 60 card deck, you can roughly divide 60 cards by seven cards to get nine groups of cards (in actual fact 7 x 9 = 63, so we’re talking six-and-a-bit worth of opening hands in a 60-card deck). So if we want to make a given effect highly likely to show up in an opening hand, then we need one copy per opening hand. Nine hands of cards means nine copies of the effect. To equate this to EDH, our favourite 99 card format, a rough comparison of 99 to 60 cards is an increase of exactly 65% .This is roughly equal to an additional six opening hands in the deck, which means we would be looking to add an extra six copies of our target effect on top of the nine you need in the 60 card format.

Editor’s note: The previous section is dense, and was tough for me on the first read, but it is actually a great way to think about the math, and all the numbers and logic are there. Please give it a few reads before firing off in the comments, if you’re struggling to follow Kaka at first (unless I’m a moron and you’re all mega brains).

Multirole Madness

Combo in a non-highlander format is easy. You can find the optimal card (or two), grab a playset of four, and jam them in the pile. In singleton formats (and sometimes Vintage and Legacy), it’s not that simple. When you can only have a single copy of a card in the deck, you have to look for different cards with the same effect. As an example, say I wanted to be able to reliably exile an opponent’s graveyard. As a classical Vintage player, my mind immediately jumps to Tormod’s Crypt. In EDH however I can only have one Tormod’s Crypt, so as I want to reliably access this exile effect, I need to find 14 more functional Tormod’s Crypts. The modern players out there are probably confused as to why I didn’t immediately start with Relic of Progenitus (heh easy one, Crypt is free), which is a great example of a functional approximation of Tormod’s Crypt despite being overcosted (HAH).

We still need 13 more. Okay well how about everyone’s favourite card – Leyline of the Void? Great card, but if you weren’t in black you may well be now. Black also adds Ravenous Trap for some surprise (and often free) action. This brings us to four functional approximations off the top of my head. A quick rummage through the Gatherer database turns up a surprisingly large selection of graveyard hate, including some odd coloured gems like Bazaar of Wonders in blue. Depending on your deck design restrictions (only spells, all creatures, death by enchantments, mono blue, whatever), I’m pretty sure you could fill out 15 cards fairly easily.

What if however you were trying to find 15 copies of something much narrower, An effect that is so bizarre that it has only ever been printed once? What if you needed to find 15 functional copies of Leeches? There are plenty of ways to get poison counters, and a prolific number of ways (literally…. prolific) to proliferate more poison counters, yet only one card has ever been printed that removes poison counters. There is no Blood Drinker Worm card, nor an Anti-Coagulation Supper Slug card, and definitely no BYO Blood Drinkin’ Swamp Varmint card to clear off your toxic tokens. As such one has to consider the question:

“I need this card. There is only one copy of this card that I can put in this deck. How can I make this deck behave as if it had 15 ways to get this effect?”

I’ll bet most of you by now are taking bets on where I’m going to mention that fateful word “tutors”. You’re probably nodding along there chuckling and thinking “yep, I got fifty bucks on at the bookies that he’s about to do this.” Well, sorry gang, but look again at the last sentence – I guess I win this one.

Yes, the answer is in part tutors, and I know that a lot of people out there choose not to use them or just despise them as ruining the randomness of the 100 card deck. I can totally respect that and I do recommend using as few tutors as possible to fill the gaps, as using a tutor to fish up your target card functionally removes two copies of the effect from the deck. In the case of Leeches, this is dangerous, as there is only one copy of that effect in existence. Hence if you needed to use it again, no matter how good Demonic Tutor is, you cannot use a DT to grab the Leeches out of your graveyard. Demonic Tutor however could find a Regrowth, which could be used to bring Leeches back to your hand. In that sense you have a slightly convoluted and fairly expensive copy of Leeches relatively on tap.

My point here is that a card can best be defined by how you look at them. When I look at a Demonic Tutor, I see literally every other card that is still in my deck, from a basic land through to a Black Lotus. When I see a Regrowth, I see literally every card in my graveyard. Sometimes you have to look sideways, but looking at what things could be, what they could do for you, will often allow you to fill in those blanks.

Parting Thoughts

I hope that has got you all thinking about cards in a different light. Until next time I’d like to leave you with this quote from H.P. Lovecraft as food for thought.

“Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.”
― H.P. Lovecraft

Love and Velociraptors
Kaka
@TheKakaStorm

The Thing That Should Not Be – Part 1 – What Makes Me Tick

It’s been a little while gang, so I hope y’all are anticipating something fun. Many of you know me well enough by now to know that I usually have many projects on the burner. Hopefully, you also know me well enough to be aware that I like what I call “real combo” decks: cerebral magic that rewards skill and heuristic mathematics applied on the fly. Decks where you have to earn the right to take the win.

Editor’s Note: KAKA takes his time in this piece, but we promise, it’s worth it. The payoff in future parts is a doozy. 

The little project that I would like to introduce today is an ocean of shenanigans that I first began working on conceptually about 2 years ago. Coincidentally, it happened when one of the players at my LGS said the fateful words, “Kaka, you can’t build that. It’s not possible in EDH.” If there is one thing you can say to me to get my hackles up, it’s to tell me something cannot be done.

So, without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to the concept of my new deck, a little something that I like to call “Full Metal Pavlova.”

The Thing That Should Not Be

If you’ve been paying attention and know what a Pavlova is then you might have an inkling about what I am about discuss. However, before that, I’m going to take you all on a bit of a ride, a magical journey through time and space, to the land of delicious treats.

The Pavlova is something that Australia and New Zealand have been fighting over for about a hundred years, each claiming to be the originating nation for this delicious dessert (of course the Kiwis are wrong, as usual). Essentially, a Pavlova is meringue based dessert, which is topped with fruit and cream. For those of you who know your desserts, I can hear your brains all clicking into gear. For those who do not…meringues are formed from beaten egg whites and sugar. It takes skill and knowledge to get them to the perfect consistency. The forming of the meringue takes patience, but the baking requires exquisite timing to execute, timing so that it resolves in the perfect crispy outside with the soft gooey inside. If you haven’t had a Pav, then I hope you take a quick peek at Google as there are some great recipes out there – passion fruit and kiwi fruit are to die for on one.

No, not this egg.

So now that I have you all up to speed, yes, we’re talking about Eggs in EDH.

A Historical Interlude

I first encountered the concept of “Eggs” after returning to Magic from one of my many hiatuses over the years. I’d just moved states to live with Pigtail (aka “Wifey”), and I’d been scouting around for a new geek family to assimilate into. My old cards had been gathering dust until I found a Vintage group playing monthly at a comics and games store called Games Quest. At the time, I was playing a little, sodding awful monster of a deck that I’d been tinkering around with back when the original Mirrodin was in Type 2, menacing board states with indestructible Nevinyrral’s Disks and Tinkering out and going sideways with Darksteel Collossus. This was where I first encountered Vintage Storm and fell in love with combo. Specifically, it was my first encounter with Long.dec. If you’re not familiar with the archetype, then I would highly recommend reading some of Stephen Menendian’s work from over the years, especially this.

The concept evolved into a list again developed by Steven Menendian and his team which they called “Meandeck Tendrils.” The list tried to make plays in a cohesive sequence that created a situation where the “golden ratio” was exceeded. The golden ratio is a topic that I’ve spoken about in the past, but not one I’ll be elaborating today. Notably, the list featured several “eggs” in the form of Darkwater Egg and Chromatic Sphere, and later versions featured Chromatic Star.

In more recent years, a similar deck gained popularity in Modern when Stanislav Cifka dominated a pro tour event with a list called “Second Breakfast.” Sadly for me, this deck was banned, one of the reasons I find little to interest in Modern (I told y’all I’m a dirty combo player in competitive formats). I found a mechanical and mathematical beauty in these lists, in that they have multiple viable paths to victory. The lists reward both the play skill and ability to apply heuristic mathematics on the fly to make the right decisions. They are decks that for me, if I win a game with them, then I have had to earn my victory.

Adventure Awaits

Where to from here? Well I hope you’ll enjoy coming on this journey with me. When I first postulated the idea of building Eggs in EDH, I was told it had been done. When I said I was going to build Second Breakfast in EDH, I was told that it could not be done. How could a deck that relies on manipulation of the probable contents of its cards, drawn through density of effects, to sequence its plays, be viable in a singleton card format? How does this monstrosity work? What demon did Kaka summon and listen to the gibbering tongues of? These are all questions I hope to answer for you all in an entertaining as possible way.

This is the thing that should not be.

Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Kaka R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn
Kaka
@thekakastorm

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