This entry is part 4 of 7 in the series Up! Your! Deck!

378127_10150441621792624_1477312954_nAgh! My deck building series is being interrupted by a theme week! Damn, well I guess I can write about keeping this Melvin guy’s decks good in a competitive meta. Who the hell is Melvin, anyway?

(Spends twenty minutes using the internet to read up on Melvin for the first time ever.)

Huh… I guess I’m Melvin.

Well, at least that should make this easier.

I've been a melvin all along? What else haven't I known... HOLY HELL I'M AN ANIME GIRL! WHAT!?!?!

I’ve been a Melvin all along? What else haven’t I known… HOLY HELL, I’M AN ANIME GIRL!? WHAT!?!?!

Melvin loves EDH. Like, looooooooves it. Loves it like Vendilion Clique loves Tunnel Vision. Loves it like Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind loves Curiosity. Loves it like Ghave, Guru of Spores loves… anything.

You get it, Melvin loves EDH.

And it’s pretty easy to see why. A player with a Melvin bent gets the entire catalogue of Magic’s history when building a deck, his limit to a singleton format frees up more room for different cards instead of redundant ones, and he has a general that he will always have access to.

That is a lot of potential for card interactions. And synergy is Melvin’s heroin.

Johnny is his dealer.

Johnny is his dealer.

And y’know what? That’s awesome. Synergy is to EDH as spice is to cooking: takes what is there and enhances it in every way. Unfortunately, too much of it will also drown your deck. Trying to load too much synergy into a deck would be like pouring heaps of salt and pepper on that chicken leg… Is anyone else hungry? Crap, I have to get off this metaphor before my stomach gets grumpy with me.

Here, let me try a different one. Playing EDH as a Melvin is a lot like being the adopted son of an abusive British family. You’ve been mistreated and neglected by other formats, and forced to live in a cupboard under the stairs – until one day a huge, hairy dude kicks down the door and tells you that you’re a wizard. You get all excited and run out with him to go to magical wizard school, where you’re going to learn all about the command zone and general damage. Except sometimes the Sasquatch-like stranger doesn’t take you to Hogwarts, School of Witchcraft and WIzardry. Sometimes, he takes you someplace much darker…

Seriously, legal guardians just let their ward just walk out the door. With him. Yeah, brilliant idea. Their lucky they didn't find Harry a week later in three separate garbage cans.

Seriously, legal guardians let their ward just walk out the door with this guy.  They’re lucky they didn’t find Harry a week later in three separate garbage cans.

For those of you picturing the basement from Pulp Fiction, that’s not what I meant (also, Zed’s dead, baby). I was talking about Magic Christmas land.

All Aboard the Polar Express!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the phrase, Magic Christmas land is Johnny and Melvin’s favourite vacation spot: it’s where players go when they are imagining cards being good in a scenario that is never actually going to happen.

The reason that Johnny and Melvin end up in Santa’s office so much is because they will often use cards that have a synergy that’s just too sweet to ignore, only to realize that unless you have the other half of the synergy the card is just garbage. As you can imagine, this is very discouraging for players like me who love watching the pieces of their deck interact. It gets disheartening when you realize that your Saffi Eriksdotter deck is going to have to come apart because your general needs other cards in order to do anything, and your meta is just too competitive for that. What’s a player-archetype-with-a-really-awful name to do? (To all the people reading this actually named Melvin, I’m sorry that your parents hated you.)

Jeff Dunham named this puppet Melvin. 'Nuff said.

Jeff Dunham named this puppet Melvin. ‘Nuff said.

First of all, chin up, buddy! Vorthos is still a more ridiculous name. And Melvins can be some of the best EDH players out there! They just need to remember to ask themselves what a card does on its own, not just what it does when it’s interacting with another card. As an example, let me tell you about cutting one of my favourite cards.

Sad Kiki-Jiki’s Story of Rejection

Like all red players, I have a pretty special place in my heart for Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. The guy is just rad. Like, all the way awesome. He’s one of the best mono-red generals, he makes copies of your finest creatures, he’s even a goblin! You only get to play your deck because Kiki-Jiki gave it permission to leave the house.

He could be the captain of every football team, but he says that sports with pads are for wimps.

He could be the captain of every football team, but he says that sports with pads are for wimps.

Unfortunately, Kiki-Jiki got cut from my Lyzolda deck a while ago despite all this. The sad truth was, the fact that he only came out when I had other dudes meant that he forced me to overextend to play him. Sure, if I had Zealous Conscripts I just won the game, but if I didn’t I was pretty much writing an invitation for a wrath. Because of this, he was replaced with Master of Cruelties.

And here’s the thing: I never went back on my Melvin ways. Master of Cruelties can combo with Lyzolda to win the game. I can also swing to get his trigger and Ninjutsu him out to get the same effect, and he’s great paired with Chandra, Pyromaster. I didn’t swap out synergy for generic good stuff. I just replaced a card that was only good in a team with one that is also a win condition on its own.

Aww, you have hexproof! Isn't that cute! Let's see you swing past my bodyguard.

Budge over, goblin. Let me show you how it’s done.

Now, I’m not saying not to play cards that rely on synergy (this would eliminate all equipment that doesn’t have Living Weapon from your pool of card choices), but what I am saying is that you should ask yourself three questions first:

1, Does this card carry its weight on its own? There will likely be many times that the answer to this question is no. Don’t panic, you can still play it in a competitive deck if it passes one of the next two tests. Just make sure that the effect you’re getting out of it is powerful enough to be worth the card slot.

2, How many cards does it have synergy with? This is a big consideration. Does it work with any creature? Does it only combo with your general? Does it require a mana cost, thus stopping you from using it the same turn as some other cards? At this time you should probably also ask yourself how easy or hard this card is to answer, and whether your meta will be shutting off its synergy all the time. But even if its scope is limited, you might still be able to tuck it into your deck if it passes the last hurdle.

3, How many cards like this do you already have? This is the final litmus test. If a card fails to pass the other two questions but still has a interaction you are just dying to have in your deck, then go ahead and sleeve it up. Just don’t keep sleeving up cards like that, or you’ll eventually have too much chaff for your deck to run smoothly. Try to keep it to below five of these cards to maintain an optimal deck, but you can get away with nine or less. Once you hit double digits, your deck is really going to start being weighed down by the number of conditional cards in your deck. (Exception to the rule: If you are playing the proactive combo deck from last week, you want to ignore this advice entirely. Your plan is to have too many synergistic pieces for your opponents to answer them all, so you will almost certainly have more than ten cards that don’t pass this test. It’s cool, you are allowed to carry around all that dead weight when your entire game plan is to drop it on your opponent’s head.)

There you go, Eric’s three step process to keeping himself (and you) out of Magic Christmas land. Give it a shot, fellow Melvins. And remember that if a card isn’t good now, it just means WOTC hasn’t printed the other card that breaks it yet – but they almost certainly will.

Probably sooner than you think.

Probably sooner than you think.

When Eric isn’t in Magic Christmas land (or tied up in Hagrid’s basement), he is recording episodes of Rival’s Duel with fellow Commandercast.com writer Nole Clauson. You can reach him at EricBonvie@gmail.com, @ThatBonvieGuy on Twitter, or in the comments below (Eric, not Nole. You can only contact Nole by praying to the heavens. A chorus of cherubs will then whisper your message into Nole’s ears while he sleeps).

 

 

 

 

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