Down The Rabbit Hole We Go

John Humphreys • October 28, 2018

Hello again my fellow EDH comrades.

It’s your pal Johnny Slivers coming at you with a bit of a confession. I am no authority on EDH. Nope. I’m an every day EDH Geek just like many in the world of EDH. Nothing has made that more apparent for me more than my commitment to this column for Cardsphere. This isn’t inherently bad of course. One of my quiet missions via content creation is to participate as a voice of the more casual Magic player population at large. Though I know the more I get into content creation, the further I will delve into a world of increasingly competitive game play. My aim for this article is to be a glimpse at those early steps of this adventure. This is also prompted by a few things going on concurrently in and around my gaming life so I will parcel them out piece by piece.

The Cyclonic Debate

Chances are if you have an EDH deck, a digital device and a pulse, you have encountered some debate on whether or not something should be banned in the Commander format in the last year. Odds are better still these discussions are centered around cards like Cyclonic Rift, Paradox Engine, Deadeye Navigator or even Sol Ring. These debates have been so persistent in fact that Sheldon Menery weighed in recently on the subject of the EDH Banned List and the Rules Committee with an article at (Commander Cards You Shouldn’t Play.)

Sheldon’s article provided interesting insight into the processes of the Rules Committee (RC) and why they ban the cards that they do. It also acknowledges that the Rules Committee's ideal Commander is not necessarily everyone's, which is why the EDH ban list is as short as it is. Sheldon also shares his personal list of cards he doesn’t think should be played in Commander due to what he considers negative gameplay experiences. Regarding his list I can respectfully disagree with the notion that certain styles of card shouldn’t be played. Not because I don’t think they’re broken of course, but because I don’t think they are a detriment to the community of Commander Players at large.

Through all the debates I’ve witnessed online and even reading Sheldon’s article I never felt like these hot button cards were issues that EDH players at my local game store couldn’t navigate. At least in my neck of the woods Commander players tend to be compulsive brewers to the extent that most are sporting those sweet Stanley tool boxes that got the thumbs up from Tolarian Communtiy College. This often means everyone has multiple decks at multiple power levels all the time. With so much deck variety on hand we haven’t had difficulty keeping our games at pretty equal power levels. We essentially self-regulate and I’m willing to bet most other EDH play groups do the same. Heck. Just looking at Sam from Rhystic Studies and how his crew has collectively “unstapled” Sol Ring from their decks is probably the most obvious case of this happening elsewhere in the EDH world.

Besides, if cards like Sorin Markov, Derevi, Empyrial Tactician and Winter Orb got the old ban hammer I think things could get stale. Broken cards in EDH are what drives us to brew better. They create a level of play that we can always strive to reach even if we’re getting our butts handed to us 99 times out of 100. I think it is healthy to have that kind of threat looming at a Commander game night.

But Johnny, those hyper competitive brews fly in the face of the social experience that EDH is supposed to be…

Maybe. If the person playing those hyper competitive decks is only there to fluff their own ego, then yes. However, if the consensus of an EDH pod of players with hyper competitive decks is to next level their skills in the game then there can still be that positive social experience. There just needs to be clear communication with that intention and it kind of leads us to our next segment.

The Nibbling Competitive EDH Bug

For the longest time I have been pretty casual in my Commander game play. Most of my decks are relatively sub optimal and the few “competitive” brews I have get little play because I feel dirty playing them in an environment of friendly games. Of course, there is this one event that happens in my area every November called Carnage Con. Last year they had a Commander Tournament and they will be having another one this year as well. Since I showed up ill prepared last year to interact with much more powerful decks I decided to make a concerted effort to brew something more top tier around Aminatou, the Fateshifter. I did some brainstorming, settled on a strategy, picked up some key pieces and started play testing. The first week of games seemed good and I thought I was on the right track. The second week was a different story however. I sat down to play with one of our more competitive EDH players for some games and it turns out my strategy was on par with showing up to race the Indy 500 with a riding mower.

This is when I found out about /r/CompetitiveEDH subreddit and Laboratory Maniacs on YouTube. After looking into these resources, it became abundantly clear that I was missing a very significant community in the world of EDH. Particularly when I noted the 20k+ subscribers to r/CompetitiveEDH. Now that I’ve taken a peek down this competitive EDH rabbit hole it’s something I can’t ignore.

Even though my EDH life is predominantly casual in nature, this competitive subset is always going to be in my periphery going forward. Not just as a concept in deck building but also as an important part of our EDH community. It will most certainly play a role in my future deck brewing. I will also be making sure I take it into account with my content creation as well, even if only as a nod.

As for my Aminatou deck, it is basically up on blocks. I will be making some last-minute adjustments in the week prior to the tournament to have a better fighting chance. Don’t worry. I will share what that final iteration looks like with some after action review. For the time being I want to share with you a new tool I came across in my research for this article.

The Competitive-O-Meter

It had been a good while since I used for deck construction but in the initial preparation of this article I had returned to the website to organize my deck building concepts and noticed a new little widget. As part of the criteria options in the brewing page there is a box you can check if you want to see how competitive your deck happens to be. I was intrigued by this new feature and gladly checked it off to see where my brews stood. To my dismay, the brew I was hoping to wow people with was only 29% competitive. I did still love the feature regardless. It seems like such a great and immediate way for a player to gauge the power level of what they are building.

It got me thinking more about some of those debates we discussed earlier. Many magic players in my social media circles have been floating ideas of in-house formats and personalized banned lists. I’ve not been totally on board with some of the ideas, but I get why people are having the conversation in the first place. Even I have been toying around with an EDH variant using only cards printed in the Commander Pre-Cons but I've been finding glitches in the concept. Then this competitive meter got me thinking about how games like Warhammer 40k would set the power levels of league games with a points system for a players army. This competitive meter on could work as a points system for EDH players trying to match the power levels for their decks.

I think this could do some really good work for players trying to tackle the conundrum of brewing with some of these problem cards that are sparking so much debate. Imagine the challenge of brewing around Stasis or Seedborn Muse while keeping the competitive rating for the deck under 35%. It gives players the opportunity to play with some ridiculously good cards without breaking the pod they are playing with.

It’s some good food for thought.

With that it is time to sign off but not without at least sharing some of the creative process I journeyed through for this piece.

EDH Super-Stock?

As I mentioned I have been toying with the idea of brewing Commander decks with the limitation of only using cards from the Commander Pre-cons. This is my first venture into this concept brewing around Mathas, Fiend Seeker. This is ultimately a casual brew aiming for some political aggro centered on Mathas’s end of turn ability. I’ve build in a pillow fort component with some grave yard shenanigans and an ETB loop combo off Fiend Hunter + Sun Titan with a sac outlet getting value off of a Blood Artist effect. It’s considered 71% casual/ 29% competitive but it feels like it would be fund to play. Feel free to jump in with your thoughts.

Until next time, have a great day and good game.

1 Mathas, Fiend Seeker

Creatures (32)
1 Mother of Runes
1 Viscera Seer
1 Blood Artist
1 Leonin Arbiter
1 Leonin Relic-Warder
1 Monk Realist
1 Vampire Hexmage
1 Alesha, Who Smiles at Death
1 Bastion Protector
1 Blood Bairn
1 Feldon of the Third Path
1 Fiend Hunter
1 Magus of the Wheel
1 Mentor of the Meek
1 Monk Idealist
1 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Varchild, Betrayer of Kjeldor
1 Angel of Finality
1 Angelic Field Marshal
1 Anger
1 Falkenrath Noble
1 Fate Unraveler
1 Iroas, God of Victory
1 Loyal Unicorn
1 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Windborn Muse
1 Basandra, Battle Seraph
1 Karmic Guide
1 Reveillark
1 Sun Titan
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Avatar of Woe

Spells (10)
1 Wheel of Fate
1 Vandalblast
1 Rakdos Charm
1 Teferi's Protection
1 Diabolic Tutor
1 Languish
1 Return to Dust
1 Wrath of God
1 Incendiary Command
1 Reforge the Soul

Artifacts (12)
1 Blade of the Bloodchief
1 Sol Ring
1 Boros Signet
1 Conqueror's Flail
1 Fellwar Stone
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Orzhov Signet
1 Rakdos Signet
1 Chromatic Lantern
1 Crawlspace
1 Mimic Vat
1 Temple Bell

Enchantments (10)
1 Phyrexian Reclamation
1 Blind Obedience
1 Darksteel Mutation
1 Aura of Silence
1 Ghostly Prison
1 Phyrexian Arena
1 Spiteful Visions
1 Mystic Barrier
1 Sphere of Safety
1 Martyr's Bond

Lands (35)
1 Arcane Lighthouse
1 Barren Moor
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Boros Garrison
1 Caves of Koilos
1 Command Tower
1 Dragonskull Summit
1 Exotic Orchard
1 Forbidden Orchard
1 Forgotten Cave
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Grand Coliseum
1 Mortuary Mire
1 Mountain
1 Mystifying Maze
1 Nomad Outpost
1 Opal Palace
1 Orzhov Basilica
1 Path of Ancestry
5 Plains
1 Rakdos Carnarium
1 Rogue's Passage
1 Scoured Barrens
1 Secluded Steppe
1 Shadowblood Ridge
3 Swamp
1 Temple of the False God
1 Warped Landscape
1 Wind-Scarred Crag