August 24, 2012
By PAT aka IRPOTENTIAL
The biggest challenge I have ever faced in Magic is getting my wife to play with me. Over the years my wife has played several games of Magic. For two months or so at the end of college, I even had her playing in a limited league, but we moved away from that store and she does not enjoy our new game store as much as the old one. After a game or two she typically gets bored or frustrated and stops playing. To her Magic is a complicated game with many nuanced rules. EDH, the only format I play anymore, only further complicates the rules. I asked myself how I could change my decks or my playstyle to make the game more fun for her so I get to play more.
I decided changing my playstyle was not the approach to take. We are both competitive and like to earn our victories, not have them given to us. I began to think about how I could build a pair of evenly matched EDH decks. How do I build a deck to develop a newer player’s understanding of the rules? Keep in mind, I am not suggesting you teach a brand new player the game using an EDH deck.
I decided the best way to build these decks would be to build a pair of duel decks. The decks will be built specifically for 1v1 play against each other. They will be tuned to have specific answers for the other deck that may not be relevant in every EDH game. Multiplayer games against a developed metagame will probably be out of the question with these decks. Given this starting boundary condition, let us further explore the requirements to build these decks.
These decks should also turn out to be a great tool for introducing new players to the format and giving them a taste of what EDH has to offer. No new player or many experienced players will invest $1000 in a new deck and format they do not even know if they like, but there is a fine line to be walked here. The budget will be tentatively set at $100 per deck. The decks will contain no card worth $10 or more, and avoid cards over $3 at almost any cost. Card availability will also be considered when looking at the pricier cards. An excellent example of this principle is Peacekeeper, a $7 rare from Weatherlight. I have only ever seen one of these, and I traded for it on the spot. His big brother Blazing Archon is $2.50, the upper end of our price scale, and was just reprinted in a sealed product.
2) Power level
The goal is not to build two legacy competitive, singleton decks. The decks should be powerful enough to generate memorable plays, but not so powerful to create haunting blowouts. This means Sol Ring and the rest of the tier one mana rocks will not be in these decks.
3) Skill level
The decks should cater more to a Timmy play style than any other. Spike is completely out of the question and Johnny usually leverages a spectacular understanding of the rules and card interactions. These decks are being built for newer players without those skills. Therefore, the decks will be more linear “Hulk smash” type strategies.
This is a lesson I have already learned the hard way. When my wife would play my beloved Chainer, Dementia Master mono-black control deck, she would have a half grip of tutors, but no idea what to look for. Tutors are more skill intensive than they may seem. They require knowledge of the deck contents and a reasonable amount of threat assessment skill, both attributes I will assume the new player does not have. Tutors will also make the games less diverse, which can make games less memorable. Tutors also quickly break the power level and budget requirements. Add all this up, and I decided there will be no library searching except to find lands.
5) Two-color allied decks
I thought a lot about what color the decks should be. Originally I intended to make two mono-colored decks, but decided against it for a two reasons. First, I have to agree with Wizards’ judgement to build introductory decks as multi-colored decks. There are many great and interesting mono-colored decks, but I feel a mono-color duel does not reflect the average EDH game in any way. I am already conceding the multiplayer element so I will keep the multi-color element. Second, restricting the decks to one color could make the budget requirement much more difficult or result in cards along the lines of Giant Warthog. I then decided the decks should be an allied color pair because mana fixing lands in allied colors are plentiful and cheap. There are at least two cycles of cheap, uncommon, comes into play tapped allied lands and the Odyssey filters are cheap too.
6) No card is in both decks
I do not want anyone building these decks to have to track down multiple copies of any card, so each deck will play different colors and share no cards in common. There is also the ulterior motive that my collection only contains one of each card.
7) Keep artifacts to a minimum
Wizards has warped the color pie enough. I do not need to further mutate what each deck can and cannot do by filling it with artifacts that shore up the one weakness each color may still have. That said, I will use cheap artifacts in place of expensive, on-color cards that I cannot play due to the budget restrictions.
This requirements list will serve as a strong foundation for the duel decks. Hopefully even the prototype lists will provide many high variance, exciting, and interesting games that encourage new players to further explore EDH. It is important to remember that EDH is only as strong a format as we work to make it. For me that means trying to teach my wife to play, but for you it may mean showing the new guy or girl at your store what EDH is about. Perhaps using a familiar 1v1 environment a duel deck provides will help you add new faces to your regular group. It can also be much easier to squeeze a quick 1v1 game with 30 life in between FNM rounds than it is to convince that same player to drop and play a three hour marathon game.
Next time I will break down the list of allied, two-color (white/blue, blue/black, black/red, red/green, or green/white) generals and strike them down one after the other based on my requirements until only two are left standing. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions you can get in touch with me by PM on MTGS or the official Commander forums where my username is irpotential.