This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series True Conviction

By Matt

Dear “Stan,”

You often say that you’re like everyone else, although ‘I put my pants on one cloven hoof at a time’ sure makes us wonder. ‘My other mount is a Nightmare’ isn’t helping your case, either, though that’s not nearly as heinous as the fact that you think bumper stickers are a great form of self-expression.

But you would think something like that, because you’re the sort of person who builds a five color Commander deck without a general.

Excuse my tone. I promised myself that I’d be civil, but you make that difficult for me in light of all your smug indifference, your blatant disregard for both format and group expectations, and how you’d quite clearly rather be playing Highlander or perhaps Solitaire instead—if Solitaire had a component where three of your friends were strapped to medieval torture devices.

I understand that a fella’s gotta eat, but you really ought to expand your palate beyond ‘devouring the misery of my friends for sweet sweet sustenance.’ Your words.

I’ll never forget the day you joined our group, and not just because that’s when our LGS started to smell like brimstone (that shit’s more than ‘a glandular problem’). No, what truly stood out and burned its way into my memory is the confusion you created when you first sat down to play with us—for some reason smug and indifferent about the six prodding eyes waiting for you to reveal your General.

I’d had to break the silence, “Hey… what General are you playing?”

You’d smirked, “I guess if I HAD to have one, I’d go with Hoard of Notions—but just for the colors.”

I suppose you’d missed the memo that the phrase ‘just for the colors’ is to Commander players as ‘of course I use steroids’ is to baseball purists.

When I’d then asked why you’d sit down to a Commander table with no General and no intention of bringing one, you looked bewildered for a moment before declaring, “Oh, I’ve got a prison-style Gaddock Teeg deck I found online if you’d rather I played that.” You’d said it with such a straight face that I was certain this was your practiced comedy shtick, and I’d laughed.

But you weren’t joking.

You played your 5-color deck for us then, spending your first handful of turns dropping Sol Ring and playing Tier 1 tutors. The first five lands you played totaled more in cost than the entire rest of the other 3 decks at the table combined.

After you played 5 consecutive global sweepers, your inevitable non-interactive combo went off. You looked so proud of yourself, especially when you stood up on your chair, dropped your pants, and proceeded to do what I can only describe as an overexcited hula.

In hindsight, I’m not sure why we were willing to forgive that. But I’ve since learned that evil prevails when good men allow piss to spatter in their faces, as they say.

Which brings me to the next point: You piss all over the ideals of Commander and our expectations as a group every time you play with us, regardless of the deck you bring to the table. There’s a reason I sound like a broken record with all that ‘missing the point of Commander’ talk, and you’re that reason.

I can’t believe I even have to say this, but apparently I do; Commander is a format designed for positive social interaction in which you build around a Legendary creature who acts as the ambassador of your deck. Let that sink in for a bit.

Now let’s imagine what kind of statement you’re making about your country when you refuse to give it an ambassador.

Envision Commander as a hearty band of adventurers journeying to faraway countries to find other individuals who enjoy sporting competition. They gather at the battlegrounds at the center of the world, and each time the neighboring landscapes shift and transform to encompass the country that is each Commander’s deck. There’s a fog of war in the air that shrouds surprises in those landscapes, but you can make out familiar details through the haze that look like amusement parks, sports stadiums, and casinos.

But where there are normally four ambassadors meeting before the event, one spot stands conspicuously empty. However, someone—or something—has clearly risen to the challenge, as there are signs of a country through the misty veil behind where the ambassador ought to be standing. Beyond the veil, the three ambassadors can vaguely spy an obsidian castle surrounded by a lava moat.

One ambassador, Angus Mackenzie, calls toward the mist: “Hullo?”

In response, a cold wind blows from the black fortress, and it seems to be whispering “Fuuuuck yooooouuuu.”

Angus, hard of hearing, says “Whats’at ya say?”

A port opens up in the dark walls like a certain unmentionable orifice, and out comes a giant megaphone and the following: “I said ‘FUCK YOU!’” And then a million such orifices open in the castle walls, and five colors of lasers shoot out in every direction, immediately transforming the planet into a French discotheque.

The point of this is that there’s nothing positively social about playing Commander like an isolationist fortress comprised entirely of assholes.

Additionally, it ought to have been immediately clear by the confused and annoyed reactions you caused with your opening statement that you weren’t going to jibe with our group’s expectations, as none of us were playing combo or lockdown or ‘for the colors.’ I sincerely regret that we weren’t able to communicate this effectively enough at the time, but the constant stream of insults that were your every move left us speechless.

Sure, you’d asked after our first game if we’d feel better about your deck if you bought that Hoard of Notions after all, but that’s missing the point; even if you had a taxidermist’s nightmare blob of animals standing impassively in front of your fortress, your deck would still be all secrets and selfishness. It would still not be designed for social multiplayer gaming.

And that brings us to our final point, which is that you’re simply not playing Commander. What you’re playing is the primitive distant relative of Commander, a format called Highlander. This is the format for those who want to play their cards to their chests and build up their win percentages, a dead format that was slain by derivative 5-color combo decks and a banlist that couldn’t keep up. Deckbuilders like you are making this trend all too prominent, endangering the health of our casual, creative community.

But since all the other Highlander players have gorged themselves to death on human misery, I have a few other suggestions for games you can play. For starters, there are solitary card games like, y’know, Solitaire. And there are card games where winning actually kind of matters and people won’t think you’re an asshole for being so obsessed with the idea, like Poker after you’ve anted up your teensy left testicle—although that might require too much social consciousness for you. Well, there’s always Kitten Punting. First to make a bystander cry wins!

That was a joke. Please don’t punt kittens.

Trust me when I say I understand the impulse to build the most powerful decks, and it’s undoubtedly a rewarding challenge to build a deck that beats not only one but THREE opponents simultaneously, but Commander isn’t the place for that. Not group Commander, anyhow. You never ever bring a duel deck to a casual 4-way game.

A duel deck, if you’re confused, is a deck designed to win first, win the most, and win the fastest. A duel deck is a race to the finish, where the end goal is you standing atop the piss-spattered corpses of your enemies. If you’d sat down at our table and saw Sharuum, Azami, and Scion of the Ur-Dragon in the little General orgy pile at the center of the table, then your duel mentality would have been welcomed. The utter lack of General still, however, would have elicited disapproving smirks at the very least.

Those smirks are warranted because we’re playing a different game than you, a game where our Generals are the heart and soul of our decks—and no doubt that is a large part of why this format prospers; it’s as if we’re putting our souls onto the table in the pregame, expressing to everyone what we’re made of and the sort of experience you can expect from us. When someone reveals Angus Mackenzie and explains “He seemed like the best General for Bird Tribal”—that is the sort of soul you’re happy to find in commander.

But you? You have no soul. Or at least, that’s the impression we get from the flippant statements you’ve made and the show-off, cutthroat cards you bring to the table every week. And no, the spinning-rims shiny motif of your deck isn’t distracting us away from the bottom line; that your Oath of Druids is a Foil DCI Judge Promo doesn’t excuse the fact that you put together a derivative of a broken Legacy deck based around Oath of Druids.

So where does that leave us, “Stan?” Do you think there’s any chance of reconciliation between you and our group? Though I suppose if I’d thought that there was a chance, I wouldn’t be condemning you in an open letter on the internet.

I guess we can both be jerks sometimes.

Maybe that’s why I’m so loathsome of your behavior, because I’ve had all your same anti-social impulses in one life or another—but I managed to defeat them. And I never had the advantage of someone spelling it out clearly to me that I needed to change my attitude. Somewhere, buried beneath your cold and calculating exterior, I know that you have some intuition in there as well, the sense that guides conscious people to be mindful of others. Though the voice might be a faint whisper to you, the message is the same for everyone: Adapt or GTFO.


~The Casual Inquisition

Series Navigation<< True Conviction 01 – Tutor Generals Kicked My DogTrue Conviction 03 – “Let’s use the optional sideboard rule!” or How to Fail The Voight-Kampff Test >>