This entry is part 7 of 37 in the series Generally Speaking

By Imshan AKA Sinis

Players examining Magic through a particular lens, usually involving a competitive environment, often see the game as a series of threats and answers, with intervening details like card advantage and tempo that fills out the rest of the game.  Commander players frequently follow this philosophy of deck design by including answers for perceived threats, such as Krosan Grip for troublesome artifacts, cards like Bojuka Bog that exile graveyards to counter recursion strategies, and efficient creature removal for threatening creatures, especially generals.  Board wipes are favoured because they often answer many opponents at once.  Players often talk about “win-cons”, which are none other than the threats we expect our opponent to answer or lose to, and card advantage, which allows us to find more answers and threats, and pretty much keeps some players from playing mono-red.

Today, we’re going to throw some of that deck building philosophy out the window.  Instead of guessing at what our opponents will play and then playing specific answers, we’re just going to throw a can of gas and a match at the whole thing, and then figure out how we can win from the ashes.  To be more specific, we’re going to create a toxic game state where every player’s threats, answers, and card advantage are gobbled up by a series of symmetrical discard and sacrifice effects, and then seek answers that only mitigates the symmetrical effects to the very deck we plan to pilot while leaving everyone else spiraling out of control.

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This entry is part 8 of 37 in the series Generally Speaking

By Imshan AKA Sinis

While playing Commander, many players find their decks focusing strongly around a single card that isn’t their general.  Cabal Coffers is perhaps the most notorious example.  Players first begin with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth so that they can continue playing with a high number of non-basic lands, and eventually travel that dark road all Commander players inevitably walk down: we then start to play with Expedition Map to find Cabal Coffers, Deserted Temple to untap it, Vesuva to have another one, Petrified Field to retrieve it once someone has strip mined it, and we finally arrive at Grim Discovery, thinking that it’s worthwhile to have a Raise Dead that digs up our beloved Coffers also.

Often, it’s only once we’ve included Grim Discovery that we really realize what we’ve been doing, partly because it’s the first non-land card explicitly included to protect Cabal Coffers.  Once we realize that, it’s a quick look back up the road to see that we’ve begun to play cards that aren’t really all that great, but for the wealth of mana Cabal Coffers creates.  Exsanguinate is not a terribly exciting card until you power it with Cabal Coffers.  It probably wouldn’t have taken Profane Command’s spot, if it were not for the fact that a larger amount of mana makes Exsanguinate a game closer instead of a makeshift Kokusho, the Evening Star.  A retrospective on games we’ve played also reveals that game play has also been usurped by that land; we think back, and count the number of times we’ve used a versatile search card like Demonic Tutor to find Coffers, an enabler like Urborg, or a duplicator, like Deserted Temple.

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This entry is part 9 of 37 in the series Generally Speaking

By Imshan AKA Sinis

I like playing bad cards.  Almost categorically, the worse the card or mechanic is objectively, the more I am drawn to try to make said card or mechanic work.  This isn’t restricted to EDH or Magic in general; I’ll try to play terrible cards in other card games, I’ll play dreadfully awful characters in MMOs, and I’ll generally pick the weaker side of an asymmetric board game if given the chance.  This probably explains why I find spirit-craft and Kamigawa block mechanics and cards in general so appealing, despite their clear weakness when compared with cards from other blocks.  This isn’t to say that I dislike good cards; I like Demonic Tutor, Necropotence, Primeval Titan and Consecrated Sphinx as much as the next guy, but the power of these cards are at least somewhat dependent on how good the cards you are tutoring, drawing, or ramping up to.  If you’re using Black Lotus to power out War Elephant, the lotus is only as good as the pachyderm.

Why do I like bad cards?  Objectively good generals or cards are boring.  One can play Survival of the Fittest to gain a huge advantage without much thought at all.  Once a player decides to break it, it’s off to the races; the possibilities are all clear and open to find creatures that enjoy being discarded, reanimated or have unearth, or cards that have threshold.  Where’s the fun?  The bad cards have the monopoly on that.

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This entry is part 10 of 37 in the series Generally Speaking

By Imshan AKA Sinis

I have the good fortune to live in the most populous city in Canada.  Our citizens are diverse and so are the groups with which we play EDH.  When you play with more than a couple of groups for EDH, whether they be in local game stores, your friend’s dining room table, or a place like Andy’s floor, your experiences begin to run a wide range of players and decks.

You’ll encounter people who have two decks, untuned and terrifically weak, and you’ll find people who have between ten and twenty decks, all of which are very strong.  More than that, you’ll encounter different viewpoints on what the point of the format is, and what the best sorts of policies there are to make that happen.  A lot of writers focused on this format discuss how they envision it, sometimes in the form of the ‘ban list post’, where they discuss how they see no significant difference between Jokulhaups and Upheaval (or perhaps they do).  I probably wont ever make a ‘ban list post’ (okay maybe I will, but not right now) and you can probably tell what kind of ‘vision’ I have by the decklists I’ve posted in my articles.  Rather, this article is about how different groups can be, and why, perhaps, a stricter or looser ban list may not be as useful as a lot of players think.

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This entry is part 11 of 37 in the series Generally Speaking

By Imshan AKA Sinis

When Torpor Orb from New Phyrexia was spoiled, the online EDH community was abuzz with two things.  The first was the threat to the value creatures that so many of us play; spell effects with legs – like Wood Elves or Shriekmaw – meant to chump block, be shamelessly reanimated, or to carry a Sword of Protection and Value while we marshaled our real threats.  The other was much more strange phenomenon; the increased possibility of using Phage the Untouchable as a general.  There had been other cards that could prevent the game loss trigger on Phage, like Platinum Angel, but Torpor Orb seemed to be the one that people really latched on to.  When Sundial of the Infinite appeared, casting Phage from your general zone seemed downright viable.

The internet talk about Phage was not so much about Phage, I think, but an undercurrent desire to see more viable generals.  At the time of this writing, there are 478 legendary creatures in circulation, a great many of whom are painfully vanilla (Jerrard of the Closed Fist), inaccessible due to costs and/or rarity (Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed), unworkable due to text restrictions (Myojin of Seeing Winds), or outright unplayable (Haakon, Stromgald Scourge).  At its heart, EDH is an inherently narrow format; there are only so many viable generals around, and it is a small wonder that we frequently see the same ones discussed and played with.
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This entry is part 12 of 37 in the series Generally Speaking

By: Imshan AKA Sinis

For a some players, especially those who are game theory devotees, the decision-making process for games of Magic are very broad.  Many players only think of decision-making as the set of choices they make after shuffling and before the game (or match, in a tournament setting) defines a winner.  Yet, it isn’t really the case.  We make all sorts of decisions before we shuffle up and draw our starting hands: we made choices about what cards we play and which general we choose.  This makes a lot of intuitive sense when playing competitively; when choosing a deck or card choices, the best ones will be tailored to the local metagame.

Often, players don’t recognize that the choices that they make in deck construction can have very deep consequences in games, and that deck-building decisions should be taken as seriously as any in-game decision in terms of winning the game.  A player who plays too many non-basic lands might find themselves the victim of a Ruination or Blood Moon-effect.  Sadly, the vulnerabilities that many of these deck-building choices create can have really negative consequences on the enjoyment of the game.

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