This entry is part 2 of 15 in the series Journey to Nowhere

Posted by Judson AKA GUDoug
GUDoug
EDH as a format can be a tricky path to navigate.   It is a pseudo legitimate “casual” format acknowledged and pandered to by Wizards of the Coast, but also governed by an outside shadow syndicate that supports the use of a made up ban list of their own concoction that you can follow…or whatever.  The format encompasses cutthroat try hards, n00bs, constructed format washouts, casual players, casual elite, durdlers, herps, derps, and Christian Renoe.  With so many participants, each with there own interpretation of what fun is and how the game should be played, it can be hard to meet everyone’s grandiose delusional expectations of the format.  Nothing is ever going to fundamentally shift EDH into a fair format.  The best that anyone can hope is that everyone is at least somewhat playing on the same power level and enjoying the experience no matter how ruthless or sociable those decks may be.

Hovermyr vs Griselbrand(The Epic Battle of Casual/Fun vs. Competitive/Optimized)

 
Starting the game off on a fairly even footing is at the very core of my EDH belief.  I play to have fun and to get in some good games, and just hope that everyone else has the same outlook.  I have never seen the point in curb stomping lesser decks with an optimized deck.  Essentially gold fishing your stack of 99 knowing full well that your opponents have absolutely no foreseeable chance in hell of stopping you, much less even putting up a fight.  Maybe that is a hold over from the influx of constructed players used to tournament settings.  It doesn’t matter if your opponent doesn’t stand a chance in competitive venues because all that matters is the all-important win.  EDH loses something when the power level of decks playing in the same game can range form myr tribal to a consistent turn 3-4 Griselbrand for the win deck.  Our fearless leader Andy put in best in an email back and forth we had where I had expressed my disgust of the current trend in EDH play and sportsmanship (if I can call it that).  In the email he addressed the inequitably short banned list, the incredible redundancy of playing all the best tutors the game has ever printed, and the ridiculousness of starting at 40 life allowing already busted cards virtually no consequence due to there now diminished drawback.  Basically he summed it all up better and more eloquently than I ever could with:

Andy“Optimized EDH decks are a joke. You’re accomplishing nothing. We have a ridiculously unfair banned list, rules that tilt away from any kind of deck that keeps outrageous decks honest, and all you’ve proven is you like spending money on cardboard.  Concrapulations.”

 

If your whole playgroup plays optimized decks and relish the intricacies and tension that can come in the type of game where everyone is capable of winning fast and stopping fast wins, that is great.  I know there are people out there that enjoy this type of play.  The unfortunate part comes when outside players or new players sit down at the same table expecting one thing and getting another.  Regrettably on a few occasions I have seen people up and leave games instead of getting destroyed again and again, crestfallen and demoralized.

When the group of players I EDHed with started no showing the local game store EDH nights, I was suddenly playing with gamers who had decks completely different from what I had become accustomed to combating.  Unexpectedly, I found that most of my favorite decks that I had devotedly tuned over the years were too much for a lot of the games I was playing.  I personally feel embarrassed when this scenario happens repeatedly again and again without the sense that the game was good, fun, or even worth my time.  That sentiment probably puts me in the minority, but I just don’t see the point in continuing if I can’t derive at least some enjoyment out of a leisure activity that is becoming harder and harder for me to find time for.  

So what can a single person do to change this?  Being a seasoned EDH player I tend to roll with 8-10 decks from my arsenal every time I play, and in those 8-10 decks is varying degrees of power levels, aggressiveness, and strategy.  I’ve built several strict theme decks which tend to not be forcefully over powered purely due to the restrictive nature of their construction, extreme budget decks, as well as many others that are not overtly powerful or brutal.  They are all just good solid decks.  Then I still have my three or so decks I choose to bring that are more weaponized and ready for more competative play should the opportunity presents itself.  That being said not everyone feels the same as I do and I have had situations where I had to decide whether to play a high powered deck to keep one other person at the table in check or try and play to the level of the rest of the decks and hope for the best.

I have actually found that when I have powered down a deck it makes it more playable in any situation, and many of the times the change makes the deck increasingly more fun to play.  When you power down a deck it opens you up to a cornucopia of wonder.  Suddenly giving you more deck spots for previously “not quite playable cards” and “not quite playable strategies”, as well as challenging your deck building and in some instances helping you to become a better decision maker in games.  The easiest ways to do this is by eliminating or cutting down on the amount of tutors you are playing, removing cards that are powerful go-to crutches, playing less game lock cards, playing less of the power staples, and making infinite combos less likely to occur.

Changes on that caliber may sound fairly drastic and unhealthy, and I assure that they are not. I am not advocating doing so to every deck.  Having one deck that isn’t optimized to play against newer or more casual players is actually an advantage.  Plus it helps you to become a better player mentally, and not in the “you’re a good guy” type of way…but also that.  I have yet to play a game using a funned-up deck verses similarly powered decks that wasn’t a really great enjoyable game.  Opening yourself and whoever you are playing to new and different cards expands the game and the intricacies of play.  As soon as you start dropping cards that are less played you are introducing a whole new realm of possibilities to the game, and an aspect of the unknown.  To the new player you are an ambassador of new cards and to the more casual player you are letting them know you are one of them.  It is great to see someone discover a card for the first time or to hear that whatever card you just played is an old favorite.  Not to mention that in a more casual game there is much more of a chance see how decks work, talk and enjoy the company of fellow players, and just get the satisfaction of spending your time with like minded people playing a game you are so vested in.  Why be a vampire sucking the life and vitality out of your playgroup when you could be a vampire eating a banana?  A vampire eating a banana, commonly known as a bananapire,  is much more fun.

Bananapires


As an example I recently powered down my Asmira, Holy Avenger deck.  That in and of itself probably sounds like a ridiculous statement because really why would you need to power down a deck that played a crappy white/green less good version of Kresh the Bloodbraided?  The deck started out in its infancy as a quirky thing and then over time morphed into a hyper aggressive amorphic stack that made fast mana, and then just as barfed all its cards into play with haste, or comboed out in a “neat once but annoying from there after” type of way.  It quickly got to the point where it didn’t need Asmira and for me lost any enjoyment and fun to play.  I almost took the deck apart as it sat on the self gathering dust, wasting precious sleeves that another deck could use, but decided to give it another shot.

I laid the deck out and started pulling out cards.  I wanted the deck to not rely on tutors, any of the cards that I always tried to get into play to win with, over the top mana, overtly combo centric cards, and a lot of the staples that find there way into my decks regards of the strategy.  So immediately gone were:
Tutors:
Academy Rector, Fierce Empath, Knight of the Reliquary, Primeval Titan, Stoneforge Mystic, Altar of Bone, Chord of Calling, Enlightened Tutor, Idyllic Tutor, Green Sun’s Zenith, Natural Order, Tooth and Nail, Primal Command
Others:
Avenger of Zendikar, Pentavus, Genesis Wave, Enduring Renewal, Blade of the Bloodchief, Citanul Hierophants, Earthcraft, Mana Reflection, Mirari’s Wake, Sol Ring
There were still powerful cards and many of which are still very abusable left in the deck.  They just aren’t as dangerous or easy to use without being able to tutor them up.  I also left in all the basic land tutors and fetchlands that could get duals as they were not really a problem.

AsmiraNext I needed to find a new direction for the deck.  Having always liked the few creatures in the deck that died and made more dudes than were there before, the idea of playing off that as a strategy was very appealing to me.  I added more of those type of creatures as well as cards that facilitated the making of more dudes when things died.  Suddenly the deck started coming alive.  Since there were no tutors I had to build in redundancy to ensure that a desired effect was met.  Thus extra sacrifice outlets, similar creatures, and recursion effects were reproduced many times as closely as possible.  Then simply by the process of deck building some of the other original cards found themselves on the cutting room floor, but that is just nature of brewing.

In the end I had a deck that played out differently every game, making each time I played it seem fresh and exciting.  While there were plenty of powerful things the deck could do it was still fun to play and play against.  I actually go out seeking people and groups to play this deck against.  In a sense I have become what I set out to foster.  Sure like any EDH deck there is always the possibility of a ridiculous start that overwhelmes the table, but it is never consistently or even regularly doing that.  I feel I could play this deck in almost any reasonably paced game and still be a part of the action and potentially win.  I never feel like I am playing a deck that is too powerful for new or casual players.  Could the deck use a few more lands, a few more explosive cards, a few more cards that give it a leg up, some more pump effects, so more card draw?  Sure, but the way it is now I like it, how it plays in games, and the experience that it brings to the game.  It does something different, plays different cards, and makes cards that seem terrible extremely playable like Field of Souls, Gutter Grime, Ooze Garden, Jar of Eyeballs, and many others.

Does everyone need to fun-up a deck?  Probably not.  There are plenty of groups that are fairly self contained and the players are comfortable with how their playgroup dynamic is.  Yet there are still many other groups that see all sorts of different players of all types, experience, and card availability.  If you want to be a good ambassador of EDH to those players that aren’t as well versed in deck building or EDH in general, more casual players who enjoy playing the cards they play, or to new players, bringing along an extra deck or two that are on a lower power level or that are more fun oriented is a good way to do that.  Anyone who follows me on twitter (follow me a twitter) has heard my EDH motto ad nausea, “All I care about is that everyone in a game is in the same ball park power level-wise. What that level is doesn’t matter.”

 

For anyone interested here is my fun Asmira, Holy Avenger decklist:
General
1 Asmira, Holy Avenger

Creatures
Get Back Guys
1 Adarkar Valkyrie
1 Deadwood Treefolk
1 Eternal Witness
1 Genesis
1 Karmic Guide
1 Reveillark
1 Reya Dawnbringer
1 Saffi Eriksdotter
1 Sun Titan
1 Twilight Shepherd
Mana Guys
1 Farhaven Elf
1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
1 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Yavimaya Dryad
1 Yavimaya Elder
1 Yavimaya Granger
1 Wood Elves
Guys That Make Guys
1 Kozilek’s Predator
1 Mausoleum Guard
1 Mitotic Slime
1 Requiem Angel
1 Symbiotic Beast
1 Symbiotic Elf
1 Symbiotic Wurm
1 Wurmcoil Engine
Other Guys
1 Kamahl, Fist of Krosa
1 Mirror Entity
1 Nullmage Shepherd
1 Skullmulcher
1 Sunblast Angel

Spells
Removal
1 Austere Command
1 Divine Reckoning
1 Martial Coup
Ramp
1 Cultivate
1 Kodama’s Reach
1 Primal Growth
1 Skyshroud Claim
Card Draw
1 Collective Unconscious
1 Harmonize
1 Momentous Fall
Other
1 Creeping Renaissance

Enchantments
Dude Makers
1 Awakening Zone
1 Doubling Season
1 Feed the Pack
1 Field of Souls
1 Gutter Grime
1 Ooze Garden
1 Parallel Lives
Other
1 Aura Shards
1 Greater Good
1 Marshal’s Anthem
1 Martyr’s Bond
1 Martyr’s Cause

Artifacts
1 Ashnod’s Altar
1 Cauldron of Souls
1 Deathrender
1 Jar of Eyeballs
1 Mimic Vat
1 Minion Reflector
1 Nim Deathmantle
1 Phyrexian Altar
1 Skullclamp
1 Slate of Ancestry
1 Spawning Pit

Lands
1 Emeria, the Sky Ruin
11 Forest
1 Gaea’s Cradle
1 Gavony Township
1 High Market
1 Khalni Garden
1 Krosan Verge
1 Miren, the Moaning Well
1 Mistveil Plains
1 Mosswort Bridge
1 Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
8 Plains
1 Savannah
1 Selesnya Sanctuary
1 Temple Garden
1 Winding Canyons
1 Windswept Heath
1 Wooded Bastion

 

Commandercast contributor Carlos recently wrote an article on this same topic. You should check it out:  Elephant in the Room

Email me:  Judsonjg(at)yahoo(dot)com
Follow me on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/#!/GUDoug

Series Navigation<< Journey to Nowhere 01 – Poached ElvesJourney to Nowhere 03 – Next Level Sharpie Alters Part 1 >>