August 25, 2011
It was so freaking shiny.
I was entranced by my Judge Promo Sol Ring. My fascination with the shininess only grew as I tapped the Sol Ring to cast an equally shiny Umezawa’s Jitte. I proceeded to ride a Jitte-equipped Student of Warfare to victory. My opponent didn’t stand a chance.
Don’t worry, this article isn’t going to be me bragging about my beloved Eight-and-a-Half-Tails (although it is very pretty). This game was the beginning of my journey toward the most horrible deck I’ve ever constructed. I realized that by thoroughly wrecking people, I was making them lose their desire to play EDH. It’s just a part of human nature: nobody wants to play a game they can’t win. It got to the point that nobody but my personal playgroup would sit down to a game with me.
Whatever. I didn’t want to play with those scrubs anyway.
So I went on my merry way. I could promote EDH in my area without actually playing, right? Turns out I was wrong. Once my friends and I started just playing among ourselves at my place, all the casual games went underground. No longer could you yell, “Hey, anybody up for a game of EDH?” across the store on a Friday night after you scrubbed out in swiss at FNM. So after a few weeks of watching yet another series of boring Standard games, I came up with the solution: I was going to build a casual deck.
I started out with Group Hug, starring the most evil hippo of all time. Horrible idea. The deck was fun for the first game. After that crazy game (which may or may not have involved Jace 1.0′s ultimate on myself to Open the Vaults and get all the most annoying Group Hug enchantments in one swoop), everyone refused to play against the deck. I would sit down to play, and everyone would say, “Why don’t you go get a real deck to play, please?” Thus Phelddagrif went back into those vaults, and to this day she sits all alone and unsleeved in a white cardboard box.
So then I came to my senses and went back to my normal decks, right? Nah. Stubborn and determined, I started another pile of cards. They ranged from horrible to absurd. I decided that only the worst of generals would do for me: a bad dragon. Once I had assembled this monstrosity, I decided that a field test was required for Vorosh. A friend of mine was working on a Jaya deck. Although it had a more serious orientation than mine, it was still in its initial stages of construction. So we sat down for a game. I just knew that my deck was going to suck, and that I was going to lose horribly and have an awful time.
Game 1: I drop a Phyrexian Processor and he has no answers. A 10/10 every turn is hard to fight. Oops. I knew from personal experience that Processor was not always the best in multiplayer, so I had put it in because I have a soft spot for the card. I chalked that up to a misrepresentation of the deck’s power level. In a 1v1 situation Phyrexian Processor is a bit more powerful.
Game 2: I get thoroughly stomped by powerful fliers and some sort of X-fire spell. Now my deck was doing its job and being horrible. My work was complete. Now I had some pile of crap to pull out when I didn’t want people to whine about the power level of my other decks. But we still had one game.
Game 3: We both set up. I play some ramp spells, he casts some rocks. We play some utility dudes. Then I draw the strangest card, but it’s a 5/5 flier so I play it. Might as well get some beats in. The text box was packed, but I assumed there was some reason it had ended up in my pile, so I gave it a read. The card was Sphinx Ambassador. (http://magiccards.info/query?q=sphinx+ambassador&v=card&s=cname)
Go give it a read. Sphinx Ambassador is wonderfully janky, and I immediately realized why I had tossed this particular bit of cardboard into the stack. So I gave it a swing. The trick is to not name their best creature. Turn after turn, I cheerfully hunted through his library, careful not to grab Akroma, Angel of Fury or Steel Hellkite. Bogardan Hellkite was soon joined by a host of other red creatures, and I shouted obnoxiously across the store for everyone to come see. Even my opponent was reduced to near tearful laughter at the absurdity of loosing to a card we had groaned at pulling out of packs so many times.
That game was one of the most memorable I have ever played. Even my Jaya-playing friend, a dedicated control player in EDH, has not forgotten that game. When I told him that I was writing this article, I was informed in no uncertain terms that I had to tell the story about “that damn Sphinx whose name I can’t remember.” That game also taught me so much about casual playing. I had been operating under the false assumption that all casual decks were full of bad cards. I thought that their creators did not want to play a good deck. I was so wrong.
Casual decks have their place in this format, so much so that I believe that all of us should have one laying around somewhere. They allow you to enjoy this wonderful format without stepping on any toes. I know that there are people out there who love all sorts of archetypes that are frowned upon in many circles. We all know that LD is a great strategy for both fighting ramp and winning the game, but when you play a casual deck you don’t have to worry about playing the best cards, or making the best play. Just play all the cards you love but can never justify in your other decks. My Vorosh (Soon to become a certain legendary creature with a T-Rex for an arm) does not have a Regrowth or a Demonic Tutor, but it does have my Russian Ravnica Recollect and my foil Odyssey Diabolic Tutor.
Another thing that casual decks do is get you away from the homogenization that so many on the interwebs have been preaching about. Casual decks, like budget decks, take you out of your deckbuilding/playing comfort zone. In casual deckbuilding, you don’t ask yourself “Is this a good, powerful card that will contribute to my deck’s strategy?” Instead, you go with the harder question of “Is this a card that will be fun to play and play against?”
I’ve noticed something else in the course of playing with my normal playgroup, where dual lands, Sol Rings, and top-notch tutors run rampant. Potential new EDH players walk by, and of course we’re trying to lure them in, so we invited them to sit and watch. After about ten minutes, many spectators say the same thing: “This format sure looks fun, but I just can’t afford all those expensive cards.” By playing nothing but our best, most powerful cards and decks, we are misrepresenting the barriers to entry. It’s difficult to convince new players that a Survival of the Fittest is not necessary for a good EDH when they just saw it win you a game.
And of course, my last argument for casual decks it that they’re fun. Spirit of EDH, social format, blah blah blah. The only difference is that I’m saying that powerful decks full of expensive cards, hated decks, and “d-bag” (There you go Andy, I put quotes around it so it okay to say!) generals also have their place in this format. But don’t take my word for it. If you’re not a fan of casual decks in this format, start looking through your collection. Pull out all those cards you’ve always wanted to play but could never find a home for. Find a general that shares a color with most of them, and slap a deck together. Then, maybe you too can have your very own Sphinx Ambassador story.