This entry is part 1 of 8 in the series Wild Research

By PAT aka IRPOTENTIAL
The biggest challenge I have ever faced in Magic is getting my wife to play with me. Over the years my wife has played several games of Magic. For two months or so at the end of college, I even had her playing in a limited league, but we moved away from that store and she does not enjoy our new game store as much as the old one. After a game or two she typically gets bored or frustrated and stops playing. To her Magic is a complicated game with many nuanced rules. EDH, the only format I play anymore, only further complicates the rules. I asked myself how I could change my decks or my playstyle to make the game more fun for her so I get to play more.

I decided changing my playstyle was not the approach to take. We are both competitive and like to earn our victories, not have them given to us. I began to think about how I could build a pair of evenly matched EDH decks. How do I build a deck to develop a newer player’s understanding of the rules? Keep in mind, I am not suggesting you teach a brand new player the game using an EDH deck.

I decided the best way to build these decks would be to build a pair of duel decks. The decks will be built specifically for 1v1 play against each other. They will be tuned to have specific answers for the other deck that may not be relevant in every EDH game. Multiplayer games against a developed metagame will probably be out of the question with these decks. Given this starting boundary condition, let us further explore the requirements to build these decks.

1)   Budget
These decks should also turn out to be a great tool for introducing new players to the format and giving them a taste of what EDH has to offer. No new player or many experienced players will invest $1000 in a new deck and format they do not even know if they like, but there is a fine line to be walked here. The budget will be tentatively set at $100 per deck. The decks will contain no card worth $10 or more, and avoid cards over $3 at almost any cost. Card availability will also be considered when looking at the pricier cards. An excellent example of this principle is Peacekeeper, a $7 rare from Weatherlight. I have only ever seen one of these, and I traded for it on the spot. His big brother Blazing Archon is $2.50, the upper end of our price scale, and was just reprinted in a sealed product.

2)   Power level
The goal is not to build two legacy competitive, singleton decks. The decks should be powerful enough to generate memorable plays, but not so powerful to create haunting blowouts. This means Sol Ring and the rest of the tier one mana rocks will not be in these decks.

3)   Skill level
The decks should cater more to a Timmy play style than any other. Spike is completely out of the question and Johnny usually leverages a spectacular understanding of the rules and card interactions. These decks are being built for newer players without those skills. Therefore, the decks will be more linear “Hulk smash” type strategies.

4)   Tutors
This is a lesson I have already learned the hard way. When my wife would play my beloved Chainer, Dementia Master mono-black control deck, she would have a half grip of tutors, but no idea what to look for. Tutors are more skill intensive than they may seem. They require knowledge of the deck contents and a reasonable amount of threat assessment skill, both attributes I will assume the new player does not have. Tutors will also make the games less diverse, which can make games less memorable. Tutors also quickly break the power level and budget requirements. Add all this up, and I decided there will be no library searching except to find lands.

5)   Two-color allied decks
I thought a lot about what color the decks should be. Originally I intended to make two mono-colored decks, but decided against it for a two reasons. First, I have to agree with Wizards’ judgement to build introductory decks as multi-colored decks. There are many great and interesting mono-colored decks, but I feel a mono-color duel does not reflect the average EDH game in any way. I am already conceding the multiplayer element so I will keep the multi-color element. Second, restricting the decks to one color could make the budget requirement much more difficult or result in cards along the lines of Giant Warthog. I then decided the decks should be an allied color pair because mana fixing lands in allied colors are plentiful and cheap. There are at least two cycles of cheap, uncommon, comes into play tapped allied lands and the Odyssey filters are cheap too.

6)   No card is in both decks
I do not want anyone building these decks to have to track down multiple copies of any card, so each deck will play different colors and share no cards in common. There is also the ulterior motive that my collection only contains one of each card.

7)   Keep artifacts to a minimum
Wizards has warped the color pie enough. I do not need to further mutate what each deck can and cannot do by filling it with artifacts that shore up the one weakness each color may still have. That said, I will use cheap artifacts in place of expensive, on-color cards that I cannot play due to the budget restrictions.

This requirements list will serve as a strong foundation for the duel decks. Hopefully even the prototype lists will provide many high variance, exciting, and interesting games that encourage new players to further explore EDH. It is important to remember that EDH is only as strong a format as we work to make it. For me that means trying to teach my wife to play, but for you it may mean showing the new guy or girl at your store what EDH is about. Perhaps using a familiar 1v1 environment a duel deck provides will help you add new faces to your regular group. It can also be much easier to squeeze a quick 1v1 game with 30 life in between FNM rounds than it is to convince that same player to drop and play a three hour marathon game.

Next time I will break down the list of allied, two-color (white/blue, blue/black, black/red, red/green, or green/white) generals and strike them down one after the other based on my requirements until only two are left standing. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions you can get in touch with me by PM on MTGS or the official Commander forums where my username is irpotential.

Series NavigationWild Research 02 – General Selection >>

246 Responses to “Wild Research 01 – Research Proposal”

  1. When I first started playing Magic with my wife, it was through the Garruk vs. Liliana pre-con. She had a great time playing those, but as I amassed more cards and built competitive decks, I noticed that her interest wained. After some talks with her about it, I’ve come to terms with the fact that while she enjoys playing, she couldn’t care less about deck-building, competition, or any of the other forces that used to drive me. Still … in Commander, there was hope.

    I remember reading about the nature of 60-card pre-cons/duel decks. How Wizards uses them to show off several mechanics, while still keeping the creatures on a sliding scale of simplicity. Garruk v. Liliana is a great example. Think of an spell, ability, or permanent type and there’s bound to be an example of it in those decks. The balance of those decks speaks to what you’re looking for – they interact best against each other’s threats – but it’s the depth and versatility that kept her interested, surprised, and excited. The duel deck idea creates a great tension, and so long as the decks are “fair,” I think they’ll be a success.

    I built a Child of Alara deck for my wife. We call him “Big Baby.” It’s not exactly competitive, and there’s really no thematic element, but it’s a recreation of a pre-con, giving a nice breadth of mechanics and spells, from graveyard recursion to buffs like Rancor. Yet, when I added in any tutor effect – even Birthing Pod – it wound up bogging down the game, so I took it out.

    In order to play against her deck, I used a Tibor and Lumia deck that was really janky, using a coupla tutors to find equipment with deathtouch and lots of multi-colored spells to trigger both of the general’s effects. It was basically me trying to jump through hoops for the entire game, and trying to find some duct-tapey way to deal with things like Legacy Weapon and Door to Nothingness in her deck.

    One of the most important things I learned in all of this was that as I adjusted both decks over time, she disliked them more. I was refining them, because that’s my nature, but she liked the variance and stupidity that was inherent in a coupla builds that included less-efficient card choices like Genju of the Fens, etc. We’re continuing to play, happily, either with Commander or Standard pre-cons. All I had to do was learn to separate my competitiveness from the game.

    Good luck!

    • irpotential said

      I have had nearly the same type of experiences. My only complaint with the WotC products is they normally have significant driving factors in design besides balance. Some of the Duel Deck series or pre cons are terribly balanced so that they can focus on a thematic or mechanical element.

  2. Mightily_Oats said

    I replaced every instance of “Magic” in the first paragraph with “my dongle” and it is still depressingly true.

  3. Chris Lindores said

    Really enjoyed this; I wrote an article about this same subject and it was terrible (http://www.commandercast.com/?p=2627&preview=true) and I have no money to spend on my decks. Taking out tutoring is something I might do myself though.

  4. I’ve had a similar experience playing with my fiance. We got into the game a couple of years ago at the same time, but I was more interested in Magic in all of it depths and becoming better at the game than she was, so my decks quickly overpowered her. For 60/4, I found pauper decks tend to be at a similar level, and if I get too bored playing my same two decks all the time I can always borrow one of hers as I know they’ll be at her level even more so than anything I could try and build. Not sure what I’d do if it were Commander decks and not 60/4 ones I was talking about. Unfortunately I don’t think I can get her into Commander, which is too bad.

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