This entry is part 11 of 12 in the series Let's Kill

 Hayes Pierson


Hey again! The purpose of this week’s article is to give a visual representation of a game, and who is winning, to players to use as a tool while playing EDH. Hope you enjoy.



(Click Each Picture To Enlarge)

This is a circle with each of the primary archtypes in EDH around it. Along the X-Axis (left to right) we have archtypes that are traditionally the most proactive before winning the game. Along the Y-Axis are archtypes that are usually reactive before making moves to immediately end the game.


In the middle we have a little yellow dot. This represents which archtype (not necessarily player) has the most potency to win the game at any given moment. The closer the yellow dot is to one of the archtypes, the closer the game is to ending.


Consequently, any move made by players affects where the yellow dot will travel. Let’s say there is a midrange Prossh, Skyraider of Kher deck that just cast Prossh with a coat of arms already in play. This sets the Prossh deck up for a massive swing the following turn. The yellow dot travels closer to midrange to represent the gain in momentum.


A combo player at the table doesn’t like this. He casts Akroma’s Vengeance to destroy the threat. In this way removal usually moves the yellow dot closer to the center of the circle and permanents/threats usually drive the dot to the outside of the circle. The dot is pictured going in two different directions because it is unclear which archtype benefits more from the Akroma’s Vengence. If the Prison player had a bunch of controlling permanents out, like propaganda then it would probably move towards combo.


The circle is easy to visualize but is actually an assumption. Usually metagames are skewed to benefit one type of archtype. In the picture above the metagame is tilted towards combo. There might be more combo players. There could be a single combo deck that is extremely well tuned. Either way there is more area (moves – playing cards, triggered abilities resolving) where the yellow dot can move towards combo, representing all the moves that benefit combo.


We might know the shape of our metagame, but sometimes the generals can confuse our interpretation of which general fits which archtype. Take Teysa, Orzhov Scion for example. She can be built to be a high caliber combo deck or a midrange deck. If you focused hard you could probably go the prison/control route. Many EDH generals can act like other archtypes which they do not seem to initially be. This makes past information critical. Knowing what other players in the playgroup like to play can help form your assumptions.


No EDH game is a game without politics. To account for politics lets go back to our original circle which assumes balance in the metagame. Let’s add another circle around the first. This outer circle will represent who has the most political influence in a game. Names of some of the Commander Cast crew are by one of the spots where the archtype names are. In this example the four of us are playing the various four archtypes: Nole Combo, Will Midrange, myself Prison, and Jon Aggro.


Now flip the outside circle. We have a three dimensional object now, pivoted about the X-Axis. We use the X-Axis because it is the axis that traditionally represents a clock to opponents. Combo and Prison/Control decks usually win without relying on attack damage. The blue ring represents the political spectrum and the area where political power can move. The pink dot moves along the Z-Axis, towards the names of players.


The closer a pink dot is to a player signifies that player has the most influence in the game. It starts in the center just like the yellow dot. Influence can mean many things to different players, whether it be “The one who hasn’t done anything harmful” or “The guy who didn’t counter my Tooth and nail” or “The guy who wrathed to save the table”. Most often the person who has the most political influence will be the one who is not harassed by the creature based decks. Each person at the table will have a different perspective on where the pink dot will move with each interaction. Some rationally, some perhaps irrationally.


Jon could have an army of Elves at the ready. Nole is being a jerk and is playing Azami, Lady of Scrolls, perceived by us to be a very traditional and potent combo deck. Jon decides to pressure Nole with a large attack. Nole responds with an Evacuation. With Evacuation on the stack I counter it with a Counterspell. Nole responds with a Negate to my Counterspell. Will thinks for a moment, looks at his hand, then casts a Mana Tithe with no available remaining mana for Nole. The pink dot will move towards Will and I because we directly helped Jon. The yellow dot stays close to Jon because he still has a army of Elves. In the future because Will and I have gained some political leverage there is an argument that we might not be harassed as much when trying to commit to our board. It depends on how much Jon valued that disruption we gave him. He chooses the amount the pink dot moves toward us.


These shapes are only mental images, and they are perceived differently by each of us for each multiplayer game we play. Shapes can become increasingly complicated with each individual group’s metagame and political history.

Hopefully this analogy of an article can be used helpfully in making and discussing in-game decisions. Using simple shapes is easy to visualize and discuss with others. I also wanted to stress the impact of the political frame on games. Often we pick who wins EDH games. Topdecking a specific card to get us through a narrow trench and across the finish line happens but not very often.

Feel free to comment and discuss. I want to know: is this effective? Is it properly serving the political frame as well as the gamestate?


Thanks for reading! Until next time.

Series Navigation<< Let’s Kill: Azami, Lady of ScrollsLet’s Kill: Green Prossh >>