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Defending the Commander Social Contract

Tag: GenCon

Flashback Friday: Market Research – The First (Probably More Than) Annual Questions Edition

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published on January 11, 2013. We’re flashing back to some of our best from the past several years every Friday, because what’s old is new again. Cass hasn’t been posting much, but we’re all getting hyped for GenCon (in approximately infinity months) so why not pose a bunch of questions to you, per Cass’s “Market RESEARCH”?

The response to the Blightsteel">Blightsteel Colossus question from Monday really threw me for a loop.  I was hoping for some feedback, and I certainly got that and then some.  That’s really fantastic.

It also got me thinking. I enjoy speaking my mind when it comes to EDH (and I have to assume that you all enjoy reading it to some degree), but I’m as guilty as the next guy of falling into the “ivory tower’ syndrome.  I have a pattern of beliefs, and I like to complain loudly when someone steps on my poor little toes.

So, then…the Blightsteel thing.  This is important.

The reason that I posted the questions stems from a conversation I was having with my co-conspirator here at GDC, Patrick.  I’ve been starting to dive in again to the “metagame-breaker” deck theory-crafting that drove my GenCon exploits last year.  I’ve got a two-part article in the works for LegitMTG.com that will get into very specific details about developing such a deck, what it should expect to face, and how it should be built and played to overcome the gauntlet of an ‘EDH-for-prizes” event.

Long story short, I was trying to figure out how to win with a deck designed to shut down the infinite combos that permeate environments like that without succumbing to the dark side and just playing them myself.  After all, that’s the point – break the broken metagame with a deck that stays true to the core of the “social agreement” at the heart of EDH.

The problem I had last year was that my Riku deck was designed to say, ‘No!”, but it didn’t know what to do from there.

That’s about when I stumbled onto the foil copy of Blightsteel Colossus I had in a box.

I managed pretty quickly to justify One-Shot Robot as a legit win-con.  It was a creature, and it still had to attack in order to defeat an opponent.  The specs of the card just meant that it probably only needed to attack once.  But really, how different is this from swinging with Kresh the Bloodbraided?  Or Moldgraf Monstrosity?  Or Mons’s Goblin Raiders one-hundred or so times in a row?

Patrick called me an ass (in so many words) for playing a card that I’ve professed to hate for so long.  He pointed out that this is essentially joining the dark side anyway.

So I posted the question to you, the dedicated readers of GDC.  In my (thick) head, I still thought I was going to get some justification for doing what I was planning on doing.

That clearly didn’t happen.  Most of you hate the damn thing as much as Patrick, and some of you think it’s worse than combo.  I learned something about you all in the process, and that’s that there’s a whole world out there that I need to learn a little bit more about.

That’s what I think I want to do today.

QUESTION THE ANSWERS

Below are a series of situations and questions.

What I hope each of you will do is to read through them, and find one (or two or all) that resonates with you somehow.  Head down to the ‘comments’ section, and answer the question.

While you’re there, see what others are saying.  If those thoughts resonate, comment there too.

Patrick and I will be doing our best over the next several days to drop in some replies and engage in some good, solid EDH conversation.  We may drop in some answers for ourselves as well…who knows.

Either way, you know who we are, and we want to see the world out there.  Show us who you are.

1.      Blightsteel Revisited

You know have the context that you didn’t have on Monday.  You’ve sleeved up your blue-base control deck and jumped a flight to Indianapolis, ready to lay waste to the field at the Thursday night EDH Constructed Championship Qualifier.  You’re planning on seeing Hermit Druid combo.  There’s going to be some Temple Bell-Mind Over Matter action.  Someone is going to use Palinchron to make a boatload of mana to hit you with a Stroke of Genius big enough to kill you.

You’re not concerned, because you have answers, but you do need one final, solid win-condition for the deck.  You find the Blightsteel Colossus in your binder.

Knowing that your main plan is to ‘take the high road’ against the combo decks you’ll face, do you play Blightsteel Colossus?

2.      When Is The Game Really Over?

This is an example from this past Wednesday that I’m trying to wrap my head around, if for reason other than I still feel conflicted about my feelings, and the other player is a regular reader and good friend.  I’d love to clear the air and see what the feeling is here.

You’re playing in the regular Wednesday shop game.  Buy-in is five dollars; you get a pack for participation automatically, and play for ‘points’ that determine a pick order at the end of the night.

The prize pool to pick from is an additional pack for every two people (so half of the field will get a second pack), as well as a selection of foil promos; the difference between coming in first for two packs or last for a pack and a promo card is pretty negligible.  It’s a really flat payout to promote fun games.

You’ve killed off another player and amassed five points, enough to guarantee that you’ll  get a second prize pack no matter what happens.  Suddenly, the player across the table cranks out a series of cards that will kill you on the spot.  You can’t save yourself.  He’s about to deal you exact damage, which will net him three points; one for eliminating a player, and two more for doing so with exact lethal damage.

You have a Goblin Bombardment and a creature in play.

Knowing that you’re getting a prize pack no matter what, do you sacrifice your creature to Goblin Bombardment to deal yourself one damage, preventing the player who is about to kill you from getting two extra points for the exact damage kill?

3.      Pick Your Poison

Rank the following cards from best to worst using any criteria you want:

4.      Duck, Duck, Duck…

You sit down at a table to play a game of EDH with four other players.  You’ve never met any of them before in your life, and you have no idea what the actual contents of any of the decks are.  The other four generals are Kaalia of the Vast, Zur the Enchanter, Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, and Omnath, Locus of Mana.

You’re the first person to find a creature.  Furthermore, no-one else has a creature in play when you untap on the following turn.  There are no blockers, and you move to your attack step.

Who do you attack? Why?

5.      A Simple Question

When I resolve a kicked Tooth and Nail, I put _____ and _____ into play.

6.      A Loaded Question

The game is winding down.  You have no cards in hand, and one left in your deck.  You untap and draw.  It is Banefire.  You can deal thirty damage with it before you lose the game.  Who do you target?

  1. The slow player who takes fifteen-minute turns every turn.
  2. The player who killed you off first in the last game for no good reason. 
  3. The rules lawyer who openly critiques your plays during the game.
  4. Yourself.

7.      Enough Is Enough

“Goddammit!  If I never see that ever again for as long as I play EDH, it’ll still be too soon!”

What was “that”?

8.   Judge, Jury, And Executioner

As a part of the promotion for the 2013 Commander Pre-Cons, you enter an arm-wrestling competition with Sheldon Menery at one of the release events.  You manage to beat him in a close best-of three match, and the prize is that you get to ‘protect’ any one card ever printed from being on the EDH Banned List.  It can never be banned for the rest of eternity, and if it’s already on the list, it immediately comes off and is legal for play.

Name that card.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

-Cass

Is It Commander Enough? (A Guest Article)

Hello everyone. I’m Kyle Carson, or Cowboy Kyle at events, and this is my first EDH piece. By day I’m a lover of metadata and dedicated family man. By night, well I’m exactly the same. I play commander generally once a week at my LGS on the Space Coast of Florida, but think about the game more than I would like to admit. I recently attended Gen Con 2016 and had an absolute blast. After bumping into a lot of the GDC crew at Gen Con, this guest article happened.

Most people who attend Gen Con play a large diversity of games, try demos, cosplay, and compete in events. That’s not me. I come with my cowboy hat on and I play commander. I do this for four days from 9AM-Midnight, only getting up to eat and drink if/when I remember. Some days I even forget to go in the vendor hall. I play with anyone who I can find, or find my cowboy hat as is often the case, and enjoy the diversity of the format. This year I brought eight decks. One, Maelstrom Wanderer dragons, I built for and gave to my brother who plays once or twice a year. The other seven I rotated daily, carrying 3-4 each day. I had a ton of fun, but left the weekend with a problem. Only two of my seven felt commander enough.

 

What Is “Commander” Enough?

Commander is often called battlecruiser Magic–A format where you can play big, splashy cards, create crazy board states, and have ridiculous amounts of synergy throughout your deck. You can also explore crazy areas of deck building; see KaKa’s Philosophical Commander series or JamesD’s No-Black Dimir. Decks should be able do epic things or feel epically silly. I’m looking at you S tribal.

Only two of my seven felt that way. Lorthos went big and controlling like he is supposed to do. Sedris, with my Lich King alter, got to do his cheat mode shenanigans. These two felt great. I always felt like I was in the game, made big plays, and even occasionally won.

sedris alter small

Alter by Jaclyn Foglia @JaclynFoglia

 

The rest felt some combination of flat, uninteresting, and completely out of the game. My Jori En, Ruin Diver list is supposed to be a blue moon/mill style deck, but almost never had anything relevant on the board and regularly got run over. Glissa, the Traitor recurred less than five artifacts all weekend and felt like it was just missing something. Sek’Kuar, Deathkeeper is filled with synergy like a Jund cockroach deck should be, but took so long to get his feat set that he was always 1-3 turns behind. Dragonlord Ojutai didn’t even make it out of the hotel room. One game on Wednesday night with my roommates and the deck just did nothing. I couldn’t justify carrying it around all day.

The biggest disappointment was my Oros deck. The deck plays efficient threats, a lot of removal, and is often incredibly resilient to whatever my opponents are doing. This year Oros just didn’t feel epic enough. It was still gaining life. It was still attacking. There were even small flashes of brilliance. Thanks Gisela. But the deck just didn’t feel good. My creatures, Gisela aside, weren’t powerful enough to tangle with opponents. My removal and recursion didn’t line up right.

 

Am I Just Bummed I Lost So Often?

To be honest, that’s entirely possible. My old LGS in the western burbs of Chicago had a solid group, but my decks were something to be reckoned with there. This weekend I won five games that I’ll count, out of about 30 to 40 games. Four with Lorthos and one with Sedris. Erik Tiernan paid me the compliment that my decks were some of the better he saw. Austin, a Gen Con attendee, said they were strong and often forced some form of allied effort to take down. But I’m not used to a win rate below 40%-50%.

 

Are You Saying My Deck Isn’t Commander Enough?

No. I’m not saying that your deck needs to come apart. I’m not saying you need to stuff your deck full of commander staples like Tooth and Nail, Bribery, Rise of the Dark Realms, Insurrection, and some big white card. What I am saying is that I wasn’t having fun. This site is about defending the Social Contract so that everyone walks away happy with the game, win or not. I regularly ask what kind of games people are here for, but I try to go one step further. I like to ask if my deck was fun to play against. Did I go too far? This is especially true in Lorthos, who can lock up a game if left to his own devices.

This weekend I only had to ask that question three times… Instead I kept asking myself if I went far enough.

 

So What Next?

First thing is I’m shelving the five for a week or more. Beyond that I’m honestly not sure. I’ve started a running list on my phone of decks I have and those I would like to build. My Magic time is limited and relatively precious to me. I want to feel like I’m a real player in every game, and, If I’m being honest, I want to be at least close to winning. I also don’t like to have more than six decks. I just don’t have time to play them, and tweaking and tuning is a lot of fun for me.

Maybe it’s time for a massive rebuild. I hear that’s a popular choice here on GDC. Maybe I just sit on them and start trying them again at my LGS to tune the problems out or grow the sample size. Right now, I can say I want to build, but it’ll be days or weeks before I can do any real deck building.

So I don’t have a lot more to say about that question – did I go far enough – yet… But I have been thinking about two other questions to help me figure it out:

  1. Is what I’m trying to do worth talking about later? I play EDH because of the stories.
  2. Does “this card” make me smile? Would I enjoy seeing it across the table from me? Those are my goals.

 

I’d love to hear what you think here or you can find me on Twitter @KyleCCarson.

P.S. Wasn’t There An Eighth Deck?

My brother’s Maelstrom Wanderer deck was definitely ”Commander” enough. The deck is devoid of combos and contains simply ramp, dragons, and Warstorm Surge. He ramped, smashed face, and always felt like he was in the game. He did comment that while it was fun, it felt a bit cheesy.

Cowboy Kyle

The GDC Family Is Growing! (Also – GenCon Plans for the Team)

Welcome back, everyone! Today is going to be a bit content-light, as we have a few important announcements and some other assorted odds and ends to manage today. We’ve got some new additions to the crew, and as the GenCon events went live for pre-reder last weekend, we’re all in the mood to talk about the plans for converging on Indianapolis this summer (In 68 days…but who’s counting?) 

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Black Sheep – Newer Year, Magical-er Resolutions

Last year, I wrote a New Year’s resolution article on this site:

http://generaldamagecontrol.com/team-gdc-resolutions-part-two-black-sheep-happy-new-year/

In summary my resolutions were:

  1. Fill my deck box
  2. Update and finish decks
  3. Double the size of the local commander group
  4. Promote players to veterans
  5. Get GDC mentioned on a major site

Let’s see how I did.

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Tilting Point – My Road to Gen Con 2015

Meta-game breakers – You’ve already seen Cass’s super tuned three-year-labor-of-love, and Sean’s takes on turning the GenCon table running jerks’ plans on their head. When I signed on, sent digital high-fives to team GDC as we planned our amazing trip to Indianapolis for 2015, and realized that meant I needed a deck that did something, I knew two things:

I wanted to play color hate to prey on the weird inbreeding that affects building “good” EDH decks

And I wanted to put dem guys on tilt. Big time.

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Black Sheep: The Road to Gencon ’15

seanblacksheep
Nine months from my first GenCon and emotions pull me apart. On one side, excitement has me wishing the event came sooner. On the other hand, my to-do list continues to grow along with my anxiety over failing to accomplish my goals.

The event itself should be epic. We all already have the time off and accommodations. Once I buy an airplane ticket, I’ll be completely invested in going with basically nothing to worry about aside from deciding what awesome things to do at the convention. More importantly, I need to decide and build what I will be bringing to play EDH.

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The Road To GenCon ’15 – Fuel For The (Meta) Hate Game

GenCon 2015. The Best Four Days In Gaming. July 30th through August 2nd, 2015. Nine-and-a-half months away. Event badges won’t go on sale for another three months.

But I’ve already booked a house in downtown Indianapolis for that week. GDC has a house for GenCon 2015…already. I’m nothing if not completely ridiculous.

I’ll be getting into EDH content below, but first, an aside –

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GenCon 2014

So I arrive at GenCon 2014 today.

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