September 10, 2012
Posted by ‘BRIONNE’ aka ‘FORK OF DOOM’
In the first days of Magic, when people riffle-shuffled their grimy, unsleeved cards, there was a guy. Maybe he kicked puppies for sport. Maybe he volunteered at homeless shelters. We don’t know. But one day he showed up to the kitchen table sporting a new deck, one that he had spent weeks building. He played his new Black Lotus, then used it to cast Channel. Following that was a lethal Fireball. He was promptly labeled a jerk and everyone refused to play against “that stupid deck” ever again.
Since that fateful day, casual Magic players have been dealing with the question of what cards and decks are okay to play. Since I believe that a definite answer to that question would create a black hole in the internet, I’m not going to answer it. What I will tell you is why you wanted to punch that person who won with Kiki-Jiki/Pestermite last weekend.
Let me pose a question: Given a Grand Arbiter prison deck, Zur beatdown, and Sharuum combo, which would you least enjoy playing against?
Decks like the Sharuum combo deck mentioned can reliably win the game before turn six. They feature two card combos, or combos that are easily assembled. They are often full of efficient draw power and cheap tutors. I like to call decks like this “100 card Vintage”. Given that we play a format with a ban list similar to that of Vintage, it isn’t hard to throw together a list that can crush any Grand Prix pod. The issue, of course, is that most Commander players hate early game decks. Ironically, these decks are less likely to play “d-bag” cards than decks that win later in the game. Pact of Negation isn’t a “jerk” card, it’s just an extremely effective counterspell.
Unlike this guy. He probably kicks puppies for fun.
The next group of decks are represented in the question by Zur the Enchanter. These are decks that win in the mid game. Sure, they can stumble into a godhand and win turn four, but they are designed to stick around for a bit longer. These decks devote less deck slots to winning and more to interacting with the rest of the table. These decks can feature clunkier combos and “d-bag” cards. I’ve noticed a lot of decks with with tons of ramp and splashy draw power in this category.
Last we have the late game decks, like the Grand Arbiter deck mentioned. This is where the prison, stax, and heavy control decks start to win. These decks devote most of their deck space to keeping you from winning. Late game decks often lock you out until they finally draw their win condition.
This could take awhile.
The decks in all three categories are obviously good. We may be Commander players, but we still like winning. Why shouldn’t we appreciate good decks?
The early game efficiency monsters, for starters, cost crazy amounts of money. Many players get upset when they feel a deck has overpowered them simply because of its price tag. Of course, the most obvious problem with these decks is when they win. Early game decks can goldfish before most players are able to cast their general. You didn’t go to all the trouble of building your Kaervek the Merciless deck to spend the game starting at him in the command zone, knowing you’ll never cast him. Another thing people hate about early game decks is they feel these decks don’t belong in the format. Early game decks play Mox Diamond instead of Gilded Lotus. EDH is supposed to be a place for big mana spells and cool creatures, not for vintage-esque combo decks. My biggest problem with these decks is that it takes me at least ten minutes to shuffle my deck. (Worst part of being a woman and playing Commander– my hands are too small to shuffle the whole deck!) If the game doesn’t last longer than the time it took me to shuffle I’m going to be annoyed.
I will admit right now that the next category of decks are the most likely to bother me. Mid game decks run at about the same speed that most EDHs do, only they’re more broken. Common occurrences with these decks include “Tooth and Nail for Kiki-jiki/Pestermite, I win” and other big mana combos. The number one reason these decks upset people is the perceived amount of skill required to play them. When all a deck seems to do is ramp, draw cards, blow a few things up, and then play its combo, the other players at the table get mad. They think the deck is one that pilots itself. Also, because these decks are so similar to most Commander decks in speed, this is where many players feel restraint should come in. When you play against a deck that’s like yours but with a few more powerful cards (maybe even “d-bag” cards) and interactions, it’s very frustrating. You think “my deck could easily be that good but it wouldn’t be very fun to play against.” These thoughts and feelings have a strong impact on how players treat the pilots of mid game decks.
The last category of decks is one that lots of people love to hate. Few players enjoy prison decks because they dislike not being able to play their cards. The same goes for stax and control decks. These decks often allow players a normal game while they sculpt their hand and set up their board position. Then, bam!, you can’t do anything. This leaves a player with the unpleasant feeling of being toyed with.
I hope this breakdown of hated decks will make you stop to think the next time a deck or player makes you angry. Often, stopping to ask yourself why this is the case (and not answering with “because they’re a jerk for playing X card or deck) can make your Commander experience better. If you hated the Crucible/Strip Mine lock, perhaps some exiling artifact removal like Revoke Existence would be helpful. If it was the Tooth and Nail win that annoyed you off so much, counterspells or an effect like Time Stop might be in order. And if you can’t adapt your deck to the situation, then you might simply be out of luck. Yep, I said it. Sometimes people play cards and entire decks that piss us off. There are few choices in how to deal with this.
- Escalate the arms race
- Bitch to anyone who will listen
- Call people names (bitching optional)
- Stop playing with them
- Play solutions to their cards
Each one of these possibilities impacts playgroups and environment, so it’s important to consider the results before acting.