A Grumpy Old Man Jam

 

(EDITORS’ NOTE – The writer is mixing up some solid criticisms with some solid witticisms in this one. Please make sure your sarcasm detectors are fully-charged and properly calibrated.

You have been warned.)

 

POINTING FINGERS

You know how people (read: usually me) tend to look at new generals such as Nekusar, the Mindrazer and complain that they’re too linear? That “Wizards of the Coast is making cards that dictate narrow strategies, instead of making open-ended generals that encourage many different strategies!”

Well…that’s crap. Mostly, anyway.

You know why the EDH hipster(s possibly) at your local shop take one look at a given general at the beginning of a game and immediately say, “Awwwww…THAT deck. Great…”? The easy answer is to tell that guy he’s a douchebag that these preconceived notions are the creations of the guys in WotC’s R&D department. They create the cards, so they’re to blame when Forced Fruition suddenly spikes on the secondary market because everyone is making The Nekusar Deck©.

Except they aren’t. They’re likely not designing in a vacuum, but they are putting in time and effort to come up with cool designs that don’t currently exist in the game. They’re designing with the knowledge that power creep is a thing (and a functional reprint of Barktooth Warbeard isn’t going to cut it these days) and that there’s a such thing as “The Command Zone” now.

In short, the game has changed. But the players are the same, and they’re to blame.

If I say, “Narset, Enlightened Master”, what jumps to mind?

Take your time.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Was it “Time Walk effects”? Maybe “Infinite attack steps”? How about “Proteus Staff, yo!”?

That’s the problem. You people read too much EDH content online.

(EDITORS’ NOTE – Please keep reading EDH content online.)

This is the terrible ‘group think’ mentality that causes people to immediately try to min/max a deck to the bleeding competitive edge. You may be shaking your head in disgust right now, but even EDH purists who would never ever build a deck like that tend to either chip in on a conversation to prove they understand the format, inadvertently loading the guns of the opposition in the process.

Then, people actually make and play the deck. People who net-deck (yup…it *does* exist in this format) and people who like to play to a competitive level and people who have the free will to do what they want to do put the deck together, show up to the local shop, and proceed to play the deck with predicted results (right after EDH hipsters say, “Oh…THAT deck. Great…”)

Thus, The Narset Deck© is born.

Now, this is fine for the most part. EDH purists will be the most likely to be annoyed with this; we’re the ones who smart anytime we read, “I built this deck with the purpose of comboing out on turn three/destroying all lands/taking infinite turns.” Those of you actually doing these things are blissfully unaware there’s an issue, or they simply don’t care to begin with. And that’s fine too; one of the things that we like to preach here is that EDH is “what you make it.” If you like competitive games, that’s fine. If not, that’s fine too. But don’t make the mistake of mixing the two.

Where is this going? No idea…I’m rambling and lost my train of thought two paragraphs back.

<Re-reads the article>

Ah…right. The point is this – Wizards is awesome for giving us all these toys. Let’s stop pointing fingers at them for making things worse, when they’re only making them better. If something sucks, it’s probably our fault somehow.

Except for Worldfire. That stills sucks, and that’s all on them.

QUICK HITS

-Mono-green is terrible at reloading. I ended up in a game the other night where I was left heads-up against a Medomai the Ageless deck while playing my Eladamri, Lord of Leaves deck.

One card in hand and lots of land post-board sweeper. Any guesses on who won that one?

-Let me amend the previous statement: Mono-Green Tribal Elves is terrible at reloading.

-You know what sucks? Prison board-states. Turbo-nothing games because someone played Butcher of Malakir and Grave Pact and now no-one wants to play any creatures, or some jerk (read: usually me) has Aether Flash and Death Pits of Rath and Repercussion out? Yeah, those games suck.

-You know what else sucks? Hyper board states. Put another way, “Why the @#%$&#$ isn’t anyone Wrathing?” Case in point – There may have been a game that happened recently that involved one player with Stolen Identity and Progenitor Mimic on Worldspine Wurm with a giant pile of token copies, while another player had Parallel Lives and Sidisi, Brood Tyrant and Snake Pit, and yet another player had a pile of lands, Prophet of Kruphix, his own Parallel Lives, and Ant Queen. Pure chaos, and no-one could see a way forward. My head hurts just thinking about it.

-You know what sucks about that last one? That someone finally did find a board wipe the turn before my someone’s seventy-six Ant Queen tokens were about to become 5/5 red dragon tokens via Day of the Dragons.

-Actually, board wipes suck.

-Trading still sucks. I miss the days where the only guides on prices available were 6-week-old copies of Scrye Magazine. I want to flop a bunch of cards on the table and pick up another bunch of cards and be happy without needing a wi-fi connection and a degree in accounting.

-Prereleases still suck too. I don’t want faction boxes. What I do what is six packs of the new set, and flights firing from 10am until 10pm. I want to play in seven and feel like I’m leaving with good value because I opened more than a box to play with and left with a handful of more packs even when I scrubbed out of 80% of my games. And I want to rare-draft too, dammit.

Basically, I want all of these things because I want to end up with the cards I need for all of my EDH decks that same day. I want to feel like I’m on the hunt for treasure, and I want to feel the excitement when I open one of the mythics I want, or cross all the rares off my list after cracking my prize packs open on the drive home at 2am.

I’m sick of trolling EBay for a foil copy of a new general and ordering the rest from a store pre-sale. That takes all the magic out of Magic.

HINDSIGHT IS 20/20

It turns out that I suck at building decks.

This is starting to become clearer as time goes on. As evidence, I submit this chat log with Mr. P from the morning after my elves died horribly to flying, extra-turn taking sphinxes:

Cass – Thu, 8:43 AM

I desperately need for Elves to figure out a way to reload after a board wipe.  Good lord.

 

Mr. P – Thu, 8:43 AM

There’s a Dark Ascension card that draws a card for each creature in your yard for 6. Grim Flowering, maybe?

 

Cass -Thu, 8:46 AM

Oh damn!  How’d I miss that?  Nice call.

 

Mr. P – Thu, 8:47 AM

Was that the actual name of the card? 

 

Cass – Thu, 8:47 AM

Yup.  Nailed it.  To be fair, it also needs a little content re-working.  I’m sure that the balance is way off.  

And the deck kind of lives and dies by Door of Destinies

 

Mr. P – Thu, 8:48 AM

Heh…you desperately need a new general as well.  Your general is a total nonbo with your entire deck.

 

Cass – Thu, 8:50 AM

That is true.  Completely true.  Although last night was the first time I really bumped into it.  I aim for mass pump effects so that dude can just protect the team.  Asceticism and that other guy apparently were unlucky draws.  

 

Mr. P -Thu, 8:53 AM

Do you have the Elf the makes Insects? (Wirewood Hivemaster, I think?) If you were leveraging that dude plus the Wolf Guy (Wren’s-Run Packmaster?) you would at least have something to put counters on with Immaculate Magistrate. You running Voice of the Woods? That would work too

Also, do you have Caller of the Claw and/or Fresh Meat for anti-wrath backup?

 

Cass – Thu, 8:55 AM

Initially, I had pulled anything that didn’t make elves, so i yanked Hivemaster and Packmaster.  Voice of the Woods is in there now, though, so I need to consider reloading the other two.  Caller/Fresh Meat are good calls too…I don;t know why Caller isn’t in there, actually.

 

Mr. P – Thu, 8:58 AM

Wirewood Herald for Caller of teh Claw is pretty tight

 

Cass – Thu, 8:59 AM

it really is.

 

Mr. P – Thu, 8:59 AM

I have to go teach, but let’s chat more about your Elf Pile

 

Cass – Thu, 8:59 AM

Cool.  I could use the input.

 

So, in review:

  • I built an elf deck with a general that gives all the creatures in the deck actual shroud (not hexproof), and then included a bunch of targeted effects.
  • I neglected to include some of the best elf-based token creators because they didn’t make elves.
  • I neglected to also include a backup plan for an aggro deck to be able to handle removal and board wipes.
  • I built the deck to fall flat without the use of a very fragile artifact that requires many hoops to be navigated through to be good.

‘Elf Pile’ is right. It’s a miracle I can figure out how to put my shoes on in the morning.

Looking deeper at this, I can see the issue. I have blinders on when it comes to building decks; specifically, I’m overly-sensitive to the idea of return on investment. Let’s look at the above suggestion of Fresh Meat as a good example; in my head, there’s a confluence of events that need to fall exactly right in order to pay off, or else I have a dead card either in hand (if I can’t afford to cast it at the right time or have no creatures) or in my deck. And then, what? I get a pile of beasts that don’t play nicely with the thematic build of the deck.

Put another way, when someone pops off a board sweeper, they’ll be left starting down the barrel of 20-odd power of effectively-hasty creatures with no blockers to protect them. Seems much better from that point of view.

Therein lies my issue. I have a tremendously hard time looking at hidden benefits and potential outcomes versus tangible deliverables. Take the Sharuum the Hegemon deck; It has neither Strionic Resonator or Rings of Brighthearth, despite a load of activated and triggered abilities.  It does have a foil Colossus of Akros, however.

Another example – Hazezon Tamar. I finally added Skullclamp, and then very grudgingly because the deck has no way to tutor it up. I pulled out Thromok the Insatiable, who seems like he’s going to be huge and awesome, but in reality is just worse than Skullclamp; if there are no guys out, neither is very good. If there are, Thromok puts them all in one non-evasive, unprotected basket, while the other draws half my deck for me.

But one of those things might include a 144/144 wurm.

I’m so good at this game.

 

FOILS SUCK

Are you ready for some painful math?

My (almost) all-foil Prime Speaker Zegana deck was being problematic; it had some cards that haven’t been printed in foil (Tropical Island, Winding Canyons, Reins of Power), and the final two that were in foil – Force of Will and Misty Rainforest – are damn expensive. I didn’t want to spend that money, and I did want to complete the deck.

This becomes the main point.  Dodge the cost of Foil Force of Will.

My solution?

  1. Tear down the deck. Strip out the competitive components; foils like Mindbreak Trap and Cryptic Command and Mana Crypt and Scroll Rack.
  2. Realize that I needed to build a new “Metagame Solution” deck to deal with spiky competetive games.
  3. Start building Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir.
  4. Realize I’m missing a ton of things like Time Spiral and Sower of Temptation. Go buy them.
  5. Simultaneously realize that Prime Speaker is better in the deck, and Momir Vig, Simic Visionary is better as the general. Decide to make the deck creature-specific and landfall/tokens themed. Realize that requires foil versions of Genesis, Exploration, Azusa, Lost but Seeking, Oracle of Mul Daya, Lotus Cobra, Crucible of Worlds, and Doubling Season. Heh.
  6. In the process of putting together a shopping cart decide that in order to make the deck fully foiled, I need the last six-odd Zendikar full-art foil Islands and Forests. Also, decide that the Tropical Island (that I do own) should just be a foil Flooded Grove (that I don’t.)
  7. Profit…?

CLOSING TIME

In all seriousness, folks, EDH doesn’t suck in 2014. In fact, it’s pretty damn awesome right now. If there’s a take-away today, I’d ask you all to take a step back. Remember that Magic is a game. Have some fun playing it. Buy or trade for a crazy card or an expensive card or whatever just because you really want it, even if the cost is prohibitive. Talk to someone new in the shop about why they like the format. Suggest some cards for their deck. Maybe even give them a few if you can manage it.

Play some games. Lose with dignity. Win with dignity.

Play the cards you want to play for the reasons you want to play them. Keep your cool when things don’t go your way.

Enjoy the format.

Just enjoy.

-Cass
@GDCCommander