This entry is part 5 of 7 in the series Ancient Wisdom
By Fred Cole AKA OLD MAN FRED

Fred is oldDisclaimer: This piece may seem very dickish.  It’s not meant to be.  However, I wrote it while I was still very annoyed, so if it comes off that way, so be it.  It’s meant to be an explanation of how and why people get annoyed.  I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

My own life is my supreme standard of value.  That means I value it more than anything else. The hours in my day are subdivisions of my life, and thus also very valuable to me.   The time in one’s life is not an infinite quantity.  When I work, I exchange my labor and my time for money.  I exchange value for value.  Our lives are finite, and so I’d rather not expend my time if I get no value in return.

When I was 19, I’d work and go to class all week, then on Friday night I’d play in a Legacy tournament, Saturday noon time was a Standard tournament, Saturday evening was an Extended tournament, then I’d go to see my friend, who was a manager at Pizza Hut and closed Saturday nights.  We’d play in the back of Pizza Hut until he was done, then we’d walk to his house and play Magic until the sun came up.

Even if I wanted to–even if there were tournaments like that and even if my friend still managed the Pizza Hut–I no longer have the free time available to play like that anymore.  The older one gets, the more constraints there are on one’s free time.

So my Wednesday night playgroup at Starbucks is a very precious time for me.  I only get so many hours to play, and I only get to play that one night per week.  I’m not alone.  One member of my play group refers to a “fun pass,” the quantity of time his pregnant wife allows him away to play cards.  And as soon as his child is born, that time will be further restricted.

Why am I explaining all of this stuff?  Because tonight I left early.  In fact, this is two consecutive weeks where I left early.  I left early because I was annoyed.  My time is valuable, and it wasn’t being respected. Some people don’t realize their trespass, they don’t realize how much time they are wasting, so I want to give a few strategies to help maximize your, and everyone else’s, play time.

Don’t Dawdle
This annoys the hell out of me.  I understand you need to smoke a cigarette between games.  I understand you need to get a coffee.  I understand you need to select a deck.  I understand you need to shuffle the deck.  I understand that you need to take a new hand when your first one has no land.

HOWEVER, all of these things on the list should not take several minutes each! Especially since I’ve been shuffled up and ready to go for about ten minutes now. When you do all those above mentioned things very slowly, it’s obnoxious.  I only get so much time here to play, and you’re wasting it.  You can do most of the above quickly and be courteous to me and others.

How To Speed Things Up
Some things, like the cigarette, or going to the bathroom, take certain amounts of time.  But when you stop and talk to people, and take your time and do everything slowly, you’re wasting the time of other people.

The Coffee
Often, to be courteous to other players, especially in EDH where the first few turns are less critical, I’ll set up what I’m going to do (usually land drops) and have someone play those cards for me.  I’ll lay out things, and say “This is for turn one, this is for turn two and this is for turn three.”  Rarely, if I’m quick about things, will my coffee take longer than turn one.  But I’m not going to hold up the game and inconvenience other people if it can be helped.

Selecting a Deck
Deck selection can take a few minutes.  But think about it ahead of time, preferably the game before.  Don’t dawdle and take five minutes to choose.  If it’s that difficult a choice, just roll a damn die.  If you have less than four decks, dawdling on this should be a capital crime.  I’ve been chomping at the bit to play my new deck for several minutes now.

Shuffling Your Deck
Here’s some “Dos and Don’ts” of shuffling that can be applied both before and during the game:

  • DO take the time to properly shuffle your deck.
  • DON’T shuffle the tits off your elves.  You don’t need to shuffle that much.  Five shuffles should be more than sufficient to randomize your deck.
  • DON’T take up my time and everyone else’s by pausing during your shuffling to discuss something irrelevant while other people are waiting.
  • DON’T take the time to pile shuffle.  This is slow and pointless.  Learn to shuffle properly and you won’t be wasting people’s time.
Taking a New Hand
Man, don’t keep a one land hand and then bitch about me rushing you.  If you haven’t dawdled, if you haven’t wasted my time, if you shuffle quickly, then I don’t mind if you take a few replacement hands, especially since it’ll make for a more fulfilling game.  But don’t keep doing it till you get a god hand.  It’s EDH, a hand with three land is good enough.
Keeping it Moving
I haven’t counted recently, but I have over one dozen EDH decks built and ready to play with.  I don’t need to play every one every night, but I’d like to play several games.  It gives me some variety.People complain about how long EDH games take.  Indeed, an EDH game can take multiple hours.  But an EDH game shouldn’t take three hours unless the people in the game make it take three hours.  It’s important to keep things moving, because by the 90 minute mark, I’m bored.
Above I pointed out some ways you can keep things moving between games.  Here I want to talk about ways to keep things moving in-game.
Land Search and Tutoring
Land search can slow the game up considerably. HOWEVER, land search doesn’t need to be done on your turn.  If you’re playing a turn three Cultivate, announce it, show it, then pass the turn and search out your lands on someone else’s turn.  As long as it doesn’t effect the game state, it shouldn’t matter.  This goes for Kodama’s Reach, Explosive Vegetation, Harrow, or any other such spell.  And even if it’s not turn three, if that’s all you’re doing that turn, cast the spell and pass the turn.Cards like Terramorphic Expanse, and other various sac and search lands can be done during opponent’s turns.  You don’t have to wait until the end of the turn right before your own and slow the game up if you know the search won’t effect anything.IT COULD impact the game, and you should be respectful of that.  If I’m going to blow up all Islands, what you Explosive Veggies for on your turn may matter, so don’t let the game be compromised for the sake of speed, just be courteous of other people. If no aspect of the game state is going to change, and you should always ask permission. Land Tax can also be done before your turn to keep things moving.

Tutoring can also slow down the game.  This is a little trickier.  If you pop off a Demonic Tutor and pass the turn, you might be tempted to grab a Terror if your next opponent plays a Serra Angel while you’re searching.  If I were in that position, I’d take a moment and hold back my Serra until they finish their selection.

In the case of a more selective tutor like Fabricate, I might hold back, unless my opponent announced that they were searching for a particular card.  I’m not going to hold my Serra if you’re going to grab a Relic Barrier, and announce such a thing.

Clearly Pass the Turn
Make sure that when you do your thing and pass your turn, the guy next to you knows it.  Many a time I’ve said “Whose turn is it and why aren’t they done yet?”  Only to find out that one player has passed the turn, and the next player doesn’t know it yet. If you pass the turn, and the next guy is staring off into space, TELL HIM.  Don’t sit there for several minutes while he looks at the pretty pictures on the wall.  I’m waiting to play, damnit!

Oh, and one last thing…

Optimal Number of Players
I’m lucky that on some night our play group has seven or eight players.  This is a good thing, it means a healthy and durable play group.  The problem is when everyone wants to play all at once.

I find six player games tedious.  I’ve found that the optimal number of players for an EDH game is four to five.  Two and three player games are fine, but they have specific dynamics.  In a duel, some decks don’t have time to set up properly. And in a three way game, there’s a dynamic that prevents two people from going to war, because the third one will pick off the winner.  In four or five player games those dynamics aren’t a factor.

But why not six?

Here’s why: in a four player game, you’re playing for roughly 25% of the time.  With five players, you’re playing 20% of the time.  Things move around the table more quickly.  There’s fewer permanents and interactions to consider.  The more players, the more complicated.  The slower each turn is.  And the less of a percentage of time you’re playing.

Four and five player games make things more dynamic, faster moving and more interesting. Rather than go for a monster sized game, split it off into two groups, it means more play time for everyone.  Trust me, as someone who has played Magic for a looooooooong time, as counterintuitive as it might seem, bigger is not better.

Conclusions
You don’t have to rush through your games.  But please be respectful of the value of other people’s time.  I have no problem with a relaxed pace if I know someone respects the value of my time.

Remember: My time is valuable.  So is yours.  Let’s make the most of it.

Series Navigation<< Ancient Wisdom 04 – How To Play Five Colors On The CheapAncient Wisdom 06 – Ten Cards From Arabain Nights You Should Be Playing In EDH >>