I tried. I really did.
I’ve been trying out the new “Zen” approach to EDH the past few weeks. Getting mad at things that happen in games doesn’t serve a good purpose, so I’ve been working on tuning my emotional responses. This is supposed to be fun, after all. Right?
It isn’t as easy as I was hoping it would be. Things happen, and emotions surface. As it turns out, I’m human. Go figure.
Before I continue, let me start with my thesis statement for the night:
Exsanguinate is a sad card.
There are a ton of ways to access that statement, and I’m going to try to sum a good chunk of them up in the context of how things went down at Worlds Apart this week. (And possibly last week too.)
Without going into details or reopening the discussion about combos, the first game we played for the night this past Wednesday involved a good game that ended with a huge Exsanguinate. This is pretty much the same thing that happened the week before as well. I wrote a bit about Keenan and his Wrexial deck on Monday, and I don’t think it’s bad to name names here because I’m not pointing fingers, and I’m of the opinion that he (at least partially) agrees with my thesis.
Keenan has Exsanguinate in his Wrexial deck. He won the two ‘league’ games (the first games of the evening that we play for points and prizes) over the past two weeks with 20+ point Exsanguinates. No-one was particularly excited when it happened, including Keenan, which is the first indicator that it’s a sad card.
Here’s the thing – I’m of the belief that you should play whatever you feel like playing, so long as you believe in the cards. Put another way, you should want any given card to have a place and a purpose in a deck, and you should play it with conviction.
Keenan didn’t windmill-slam Exsanguinate on the table with a primal scream and flip the table over when he played it.
He looked around, asked for life totals, counted his mana, and when someone else correctly guessed, “Exsanguinate, right?”, he kind of sheepishly shrugged and answered, “I guess so?”
This happens often to players that incorrectly assess a playgroup and win with a combo or absolutely annihilate someone really quickly. It’s a feeling of needing to be apologetic for your play. Personally, that’s not worth it to me, ever. I’ve been that guy in the past, and it never feels good.
Another reason Exsanguinate is such a sad card is that it’s absolutely devoid of skill. There is no board assessment. There is no strategic play. There is no epic clash or critical removal on a cog that allows a veritable Rube Goldberg-esque unfolding of events that allows you to barely eke out a win against all odds.
It’s just tap some mana and end the game.
Part of the reason I think Keenan reacted the way that he did is because I think he gets this. Keenan is a solid player who enjoys competitive play across multiple formats. He’s a skill player. He makes intuitive plays and solid assessments, and doesn’t over-extend.
Simply put, Exsanguinate is so far below Keenan as a player that I’m kind of surprised it’s still in his deck.
I don’t particularly think that he’s trolling for a free pack of Gatecrash with these wins. I don’t think he particularly cares about the prizes. I think he’s like I am (albeit a far better player) – he wants the good game experience.
Instead, when he played Exsanguinate the past two weeks, three or four other players just glazed over and picked up their cards without any conversation at all. It wasn’t epic or interesting…it was boring. Games that were really, really good up until that point just stopped being games.
That’s what Exsanguinate really does. It may as well read, “Target game ceases to exist. No-one wins.”
And that is the core of why I feel like it’s a sad card. It makes me sad to watch a good game just die like that. It doesn’t reward anyone for playing it, and it likely makes everyone who didn’t play it just feel unfulfilled. It impresses no-one in my experience.
I know there’s an argument to be had as to why three or four other players just let the games end like that, and why we didn’t do something to prevent the outcome. Again, that’s something for another time as well. I get it, and I can understand both sides to the story, but the result is what I’m interested in here.
I guess it’s not exactly Zen-like to undress a card like this, so maybe I still have some work to do, but emotion is always honest in my opinion.
What do you think? I’m interested to hear your reactions. Are your metagames different from mine? Am I missing some angles and nuances with this card? And if it’s not Exsanguinate for you, are there other cards that elicit this reaction from you?
Tell me some stories, everyone.