This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Hippo Genocide

By Stephen AKA Astray Penguin

Everybody loves group hug decks, drawing extra cards, having extra tokens or a million other freebie effects. But have you ever considered what your group hug deck is really doing?

Welcome to Hippo Genocide: If only they had hugged God.

Many people like the idea of having some group hug cards like Howling Mine or Gate to the Aether which helps out everyone on the table and is a good way to speed up the game. But these cards only make the game even more imbalanced towards people running the high end ultra competitive decks, so is it really a good idea to be including them in your decks?

EDH is a multiplayer format and encourages people with new and old collections to play together. So you’re likely to see everything from Tarmogoyf to Goblin Outlander on the same battlefield. Some people may find this the fun of the format and get to explore lots of weird card interactions and those limited bombs they fell in love with get some table time. But when you start to add group hug effects to the mix you take the imbalanced nature of people’s decks to the extreme. If you’ve got Howling Mine on the ‘field and one guy is drawing Fact or Fiction and the other is drawing Terra Stomper, is it really an equal hug to everyone at the table, or just giving people running the “tournament quality” deck an even bigger advantage?

When you decide to put group hug cards into a game you have a responsibility to the group to deal with the imbalance you’re creating or you’re just going to ruin the weaker guy’s entire games. You are going to need counters, enchantment/artifact removal and a good land destruction package, just to deal with the mess you’re creating. But when you get to that point you’re no longer playing your own game and you’re just putting yourself in an infinite loop of having to deal with the damage you’re doing by being there.

So the solution to this is simple. Pick your group hug cards to help weaker decks, cards such as Infernal Genesis or Jester’s Mask are good for this. They both do very powerful things but in the case of Infernal Genesis give a larger bonus to creature decks. It allows you to shut off some of the most played tutors and give the creature based decks some extra dudes to beat down with. Combo decks tend to be running cheap 1-5 mana cards with broken effects, as opposed to creature based decks which will often have guys all the way up to the 10 mana mark and beyond, giving them far more dudes to break through the combo players “free dudes”, but also giving them larger pay offs for Overrun effects to win games.

Jester’s Mask, on the other hand, serves 2 purposes and has a nice rattlesnake effect while also having a group hug effect for those times when you’re sitting in a game where one guy is clearly frustrated after drawing 0 lands in 8 turns. If a guy is clearly about to combo off you can make his hand entirely Ravnica bounce lands, or go find that other guy Hivemind so when the infinite turn combo goes off everyone is getting infinite turns and keeping it nice and fair again. This is where group hug can be played in a responsible way, instead of the usual “Everyone draws 15” kind of way we often see.

On the other hand you could always go with the good old trick of trying to make a game as random as possible. Drop something like Timesifter, play a couple of Wheel of Fate effects and laugh manically as you watch the game dissolve into such a mess of random card draw and turns that by the end of it make the hardcore EDH player ready to throw his 30 combos deck out the window. Then again maybe you’re not into that stuff as much as me and you’re not wishing Dragon Mage was a Blue/Red legendary creature so you could build a deck around him like I am.

The article is a bit shorter and no where near as focused as I’d like this week due to real life getting in the way, hopefully next week I can be less informative and more pointless rant for your reading pleasure. If you have any feedback or thoughts send them to or drop me a line on MTGO where my username is Astray_Penguin. I hope to hear from all two of you soon.

Series Navigation<< Hippo Genocide 1 – Where the Hippos Died