This entry is part 1 of 9 in the series Line in the Sand


If you guys are anything like me, then at least one person at your LGS (assuming you’re lucky enough to have one) has asked for your help with their EDH deck. For some reason I can’t quite figure out, everyone in my area considers me the go-to person for deck advice. I have had the privilege of working on everything from duals-and-all Thraximundar voltron, to Numot Land Destruction control, to Drana tribal vampires. In the beginning, I would get annoyed that people wouldn’t listen to my advice. I was suggesting all these great cards, and they were just wanting to play Lava Axe. If they wanted me to help them, why were they still playing all of these bad cards?

This caused me to stop helping people with their decks for quite some time. That is, until I became a member of the internet EDH community. As I began to read opinions on the format that differed from my own, I realized that I had to stop forcing my views and card choices on others. If someone asks you for help with their deck, you have to remember it is still their deck. The most important thing to do is keep them involved. After all, you’re not the one who has to play the deck. Here are some other things that I’ve learned over the past few months.

Keep their collection and budget in mind
When asked for help, especially from newer players, you have to approach their deck systematically. The first thing to do is find out what cards they have avaliable. Some players might not even own cards from sets as recent as the Zendikar block. For them, finding something as simple as refuge lands or an Expedition Map might be a chore. On the other hand, you might be dealing with a player who has been around since Alpha. This is especially important consideration if your LGS doesn’t have an extensive inventory.

Once you’ve worked out what the players have available in their collection, find out what their budget (if any) is. A lot of players have not only an overall budget, but a limit on what they will spend on an individual card. If you’re doing more than just giving their deck a quick glance, then you’ll want to talk to them about all this. Look through their binders and maybe even their common and uncommon boxes. This process can be very time consuming, but if they honestly need help, then neither of you will regret it.

Know their playstyle
Many of the disagreements in the EDH community, both at large and in my meta, revolve around differences in playstyle. What one player considers a jerk deck might be someone else’s favorite strategy. When I’m helping someone with their deck, or even just trying to help them pick a general, I talk to them about their favorite archetypes. What’s their favorite color? Do they like a particular card? What about aggro versus control? All the Cryptic Commands and Hinders in the world aren’t going to do any good if the person you’re helping hates countermagic. Which leads me to the second part of this point: you have to determine what they’re willing to play. Many EDH players hate the usual suspects: LD, stax, and combo. There is also the odd player that loves these strategies.

Your job when helping people is to find out this information, even if they don’t realize it about themselves. I’ll use myself as an example. In theory, I’m completely okay with combo and LD as strategies. They are legitimate ways to win the game. But, as anyone who has ever played with me will tell you, Wake of Destruction, Cataclysm, and Armageddon are probably some of my least favorite cards of all time. Talk to the player you’re helping. The more you know about someone’s playstyle, the more efficient you can be.

Accept what their deck is trying to do
Once you’ve found out the basics of what you’re working with, it’s time to get a little more specific. What is the theme of their deck? Because, like it or not, that’s what you’re working on now. There are some exceptions to this, but you have to really know the person before you suggest changing the goals of their deck. If that is something you think should be done, then the best thing to do is lay out your argument logically. Don’t yell at them, or call them names, or degrade them as a player and/or deckbuilder. That may seem like common sense, but it’s very easy to do these things if you think they are indeed taking the wrong route with their deck.

If a logical argument doesn’t work, or if you didn’t have a problem with the deck in the first place, then you just have to remember to stick to the chosen theme. When you drastically change an EDH deck in a manner that is not in line with its owner’s preferences, then it becomes more your deck than theirs. You cannot allow yourself to do this, because self-expression and creativity are pillars of the format. So, get in, make the deck do what its trying to do better, and get out. The time and place for enforcing your own ideas about deckbuilding is in your own decks.

Don’t cut Giant Shark
Every Magic player I’ve ever met, especially the EDH ones, has the same bad habit: pet cards. EDH has a well-earned reputation for being the format where you play the bad (or just sub-optimal) cards you love. One of my personal favorites is Tower of Calamities, which I run in my Azusa deck. Many people have tried to talk me into cutting it for better cards. I’ve told myself many times that Predator, Flagship would be better anyway. Yet, after all this, it stays. It is a cool card, and my foil looks great. If someone like me, who is so obsessed with running good cards, refuses to cut pet cards, then I doubt that few people would. The best thing to do is shake your head and save your breath when it comes to these cards.

Keep personal bias out of the equation
The last issue I’d like to touch on is an ethical one. Many people wouldn’t even consciously do anything wrong. Still, you have to fully examine your motives when you’re tinkering with other people’s decks. It can be easy to cut cards that hose your decks, perhaps without even realizing. For example, my boyfriend plays Adun Oakenshield. He runs Wake of Destruction. I. HATE. THAT. CARD. When two of your three decks are mono color, someone resolving Wake means you lose. Often, it will be just you, if other people at the table are not running basics of the same color. So, every time I look at his deck to make room for new cards, I say, “You know, you really should cut Wake of Destruction.” That might be okay, because he knows I’m just annoyed about losing to it all the time, but it could be different with someone else.

If another person respects your opinion, then you cannot let your own bias factor into card decisions (you can tell them if you have a problem with the card, but that’s another discussion for another day). It would also be very easy to talk someone into cutting a card if you know it will make its way into their trade binder (I’ve had this happen with my foil Japanese Batterskull). Just be honest with yourself. If you have a problem with a card in someone’s deck, open a dialogue with them about it. Don’t tell them “That card is bad and you should feel bad,” because that’s not the truth. You’re the one who has a problem with the card, and it is, after all, their deck.

Saying goodbye
Helping someone at your LGS with an EDH deck is very different than helping someone on the internet. With those anonymous people, you can suggest whatever you feel like, regardless of budget or their personal opinions. You won’t ever know if they took your advice, or if it was at all useful. It’s different with the people you see all the time. You know if they took your advice, they know that you know they put some crappy pet cards back. (It’s also different than helping new players with Standard decks. You don’t have to be as considerate about pet cards, just for heaven’s sake make them cut that stupid Lava Axe.) Next time someone walks up with a towering monstrosity of crappy cards, keep yourself from wasting the time of all parties involved. If those people that approach you are willing to be helped, then these suggestions could serve you well.

Once you’re done helping with someone’s deck, you might feel a sense of accomplishment. You might even be proud, depending on how involved you were. It is now time to let go. However, there is one thing I like to do to stay involved with people’s decks. Whenever I see a nice foil in a trade binder that would look good in someone’s deck, I tip off the potential owner. If I see see cheap foil commons somewhere, often times I’ll pick it up and give it to them. I’m out fifty cents, and the deck that I’ve put work into looks nicer. That is how I leave my own personal touch on other people’s decks. I’ve had a hand in the deck, and I remember it when they counter my Tooth and Nail with that stupid Overrule.

Jerk. I’m taking it back.

That’s what you get for helping people with their decks. Maybe thanks, but mostly you get better opponents and more enjoyable games. That’s reward enough for me.

Series NavigationLine in the Sand 02 – Be An Ambassador >>