If nothing else, I can say that Dragon’s Maze delivered a very wide variety of experiences this past weekend. There’s lots to say here, but first, let’s start with a bit involving EDH. (Gotta give you all a little moneys’ worth, after all.)
I’ve decided that the single biggest problem with EDH is that it’s a casual format. Now, I understand that this doesn’t make much sense, so I’ll tell a story first.
While sitting around the shop on Saturday waiting for one of the rounds to finish, I happened to overhear two people discussing EDH. In specific, the discussion revolved around Master of Cruelties. Now, one of the players was younger and doing most of the talking; the older guy was someone I assume isn’t a regular player of the format. He was listening intently as the kid espoused the virtues of this card.
“…And that’s why it’s so good in Commander. It’s got a perfect blend of special abilities. First strike and deathtouch together are incredible, and whoever you attack has no choice but to throw his best creature in front of it. It’s like win/win decision every turn – kill something awesome and keep your guy, or just win the game.”
I won’t get too into the card itself; I’ve already discussed what I think of Master of Cruelties, and in a nutshell, it’s not a card I want to see in the format in any normal games. (Thank god this kid didn’t start talking about throwing it into his Kaalia deck.) What did jump to mind, however, is that this poor guy might show up at one of the regular EDH nights in the near future, and he might play this thing, and because of how our crowd is, he’ll get hated out of the game in a hurry.
Worse, he probably won’t understand why.
The problem stems from the fact that no organized play (read: tournaments) means that people tend to pick EDH up through word of mouth. When you rely on word of mouth, things slip through the cracks. I know when I started playing EDH back in the day, Mr P explained that it was multiplayer, ninety-nine cards went in the deck, and there was a general that could be played from some other place at any point that gave the deck its identity.
As a result, my first deck was something that ran counterspells, draw and tutors, and some infinite combos. (You all know this story already, so I won’t go any further.)
Now, several years later, I’ve learned more about what makes EDH such a fun format to play. The secret is two-fold; finding a like-minded playgroup, and learning to play games for the sake of the game itself, not the ending.
Now, I respect that this differs from person to person, and I respect those of you whose goal it is to play to win, and be as hardcore and cutthroat as possible. That’s not my cup of tea, but if you seek out a playgroup of people who all want that, you’re still essentially doing the same thing I am. (I apologize in advance that we probably will never play at the same table, but I still respect your preferences.)
It’s this loose casual set of expectations that screw us over. Everyone knows what to expect if they go to play in a Standard Grand Prix, or show up for a Legacy tournament. That’s not the case with EDH. Think about it:
-Are there house bans that don’t match the official list?
-Are there any house rules?
-What level of competition exists?
-Are there certain cards that aren’t well–received?
-Are there players who expect certain things to happen (or not happen) and don’t handle it well if the results end up differently?
Really, that’s just a start. And the thing is, this is all acceptable, because EDH is essentially a kitchen-table format with some official product support.
It’s really no wonder that people love to complain about the Banned List; these are the people who likely understand what a cluster this format can be, and want to take out as many variables as possible to smooth the ride out. I get that. Makes logical sense.
I’m not sure that there’s a good point to this line of thinking. It just makes me sad that the thing that makes EDH so great is probably also the thing that makes it the hardest to come to terms with. I’m not going to stand up and give the “Why can’t we all just get along?” speech, but I can’t help but think that the deck is stacked against us from the get-go.
Anyway, moving on…
THE DRAGON’S MAZE PRERELEASE
What’d I learn? A few quick lessons:
-Wizards totally screwed themselves with the Zendikar “Hidden Treasures” promotion.
There is literally nothing they can do that will top heading to the Prerelease, opening up a pack, and seeing a Black Lotus staring you in the face. Even the Helvault promotion was pretty decent in terms of delivery and hype, and all that happened is that people got mad that they were getting tokens and things that weren’t more good cards. And then they heard that some of the Helvaults were special ones that had foil promos and Judge Foil Demonic Tutors and Decree of Justices inside, and they got even angrier and the unbalanced nature of the whole thing. It isn’t fair!
Wizards is never going to live “Hidden Treasures” down.
That said, the ‘Implicit Maze’ really did blow.
-Mr P was right.
He told me it didn’t really matter what I played, because all guilds had potential and the randomness of the allied pack leveled things out.
This was largely correct from a personal perspective. Unlike Gatecrash, you couldn’t buy your way into prize support by showing up early enough for a Boros guild pack. While some people made some claims as to what was the best guild, there were stories of strong decks all over the map guild-wise, at our shop and elsewhere.
That said, Orzhov did win the Implicit Maze at the beginning of round three, and Simic didn’t make it past the third stage. But whatever.
-Don’t trust that guy.
When you walk into the room on Saturday, and there are a group of players all with Fat Pack boxes filled with cards and Dragon’s Maze Prerelease boxes from the event, you’ll likely be naturally distrustful that there might be some cheating happening today.
All I’ll say is that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…well, you know the rest.
-Holy collating problems, Batman!
One the first day, people started noticing that there was a player with a pair of the same uncommon from the Return to Ravnica guild pack. This was not supposed to happen. However, people who played the night before noted that they witnessed it happening as well there. I headed out to Twitter to see if this was a widespread occurrence, and got tons of results confirming that it was.
Man, it’ll suck to be on the wrong end of the wrong screwed up pack…
-Yup. That’s confirmed.
I chose Orzhov on day two, got paired with Golgari, and opened that guild pack up to find one uncommon and no rare. In a bomb-defined format, this is a problem. Add to it that my Orzhov pack was terrible, and I ended up cutting black completely just to manage to put a reasonable deck together.
Yes, I had a ton of black.
No, it wasn’t very good.
It went down about as good as you’d expect. I got home very early on Sunday.
-What a difference a day makes!
On Saturday, I chose Orzhov. I received Golgari. My pool curved beautifully, I had to cut playable removal to trim the deck down to size, I had seven playable Extort creatures, and my bombs had synergy; Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord plays really nicely with Voice of Resurgence, for the record.
This pool was good for third place. That would be about fifty two places higher in the standings than I did on Sunday.
-Didn’t get there
Foil Melek, Izzet Paragon? Nope.
Foil Plasm Capture? Nope.
At least I managed to grab that Deputy of Acquittals I needed for Angus Mackenzie right?
-Might have gotten there after all
What the hell? Voice of Resurgence is worth how much, again? Man, do I need to unload this thing before it turns into a pumpkin…
WRAPPING IT UP
All in all, it was a good weekend. I picked up some of the odds and ends I wanted to (Hello, Obzedat’s Aid!), and had a lot of fun. Well, Saturday, anyway. This block has been fun, and the Prereleases have been interesting with the guild structure, but I won’t miss them when the next block rolls around.
For now, I’m off to Ebay to ship this Voice off and do some foil shopping.
How did things go for you? Any cool stories or solid pickups? Hit the ‘Comments’ to let me know what went down.