From the title of this post you are probably expecting some kind of clever pun or joke about burn decks in EDH or some kind of weird
Burning Inquiry tech. Sadly that isn't the case. In this post I will be discussing some of the strategic and philosophical questions that have come up while playing EDH over the years. If you have additional questions you've encountered or something you'd like to share, visit the Cardsphere subreddit. You will find a post for this article there.
To keep a little in theme with the title, I will include an
Ashling the Pilgrim deck at the end of the article. I will also be including the rough draft of a
Golos, Tireless Pilgrim deck I am building. With each future article I post, I will include updates and revisions of the deck to show how (at least for me) an EDH deck changes and evolves as you play it. I would normally not post an unplayed and untested deck, but since the Golos deck will be an ongoing project to show the changes and updates, I think it is appropriate to start with that roughest of rough drafts. With that all out of the way, on with the questions.
When Should You Tutor?
If you have a tutor in your opening hand, should you cast it as soon as possible or should you wait to grab a potentially game winning card mid to late game? I am firmly in the tutor as soon as possible camp. Use your early tutor to get whatever card will most improve the rest of your turns going forward. If you have access to black/green, a second turn tutor for a
Sylvan Library can make everything about the rest of your game better. It may cost you 32 life or so, but that's how things go sometimes. If you have black/white, getting a
Land Tax or
Scroll Rack could be huge. I have great difficulty arguing against a deck with black simply grabbing
Phyrexian Arena to drop turn three. Holding out and waiting to tutor till turn 8 or 9 and potentially win the game off of what you get can be nice, but by not using the tutor turn 2, you have lost out on all the card advantage, card selection or mana acceleration over those six or seven turns.
Note that I am not a fan of combo generally, but if you are, this may change your answer about tutoring. My answer makes the assumption that you are not playing a combo deck that only needs one card plus your general to win or you aren't one card away from a combo in hand to win the game very quickly.
Should You Combo?
This answer assumes you aren't playing in a cEDH (competitive EDH) meta or one which combos are common. Combo rich metas tend to create an arms race situation where the goal becomes who can combo the fastest through disruption. If you enjoy this type of meta then combo away. I think long term the arms race tends to drive people away but if my meta were cEDH or heavily combo-oriented, I'd be playing it.
Are Proxies Acceptable?
No asterisk or footnote with this one. This is probably the most contentious question on the list. I understand completely that magic cards are expensive. It feels like a battle of wallets versus a battle of skills.
Gaea's Cradle versus
Growing Rites of Itlimoc being $300+ as opposed to under $10 is not trivial. Unfortunately, that is the nature of magic. It is quite possible to build a pretty good EDH deck on a $20 or $50 budget. Examples of this are easy to find. Would these decks be improved with a $300 Cradle or a $200
Mana Crypt? Almost certainly. Are either required? No.
Also, if you insist on doing this, I would personally prefer a simple printout of a card from your printer over the high quality (and improving) counterfeit cards coming out of China. A printout has no chance of fooling someone into thinking the card is real. Some of the Chinese counterfeits might. Avoid the gold-bordered cards too. Nothing is quite as sad as paying $70+ for a non-legal gold-bordered
Gaea's Cradle. It makes me want to cry a single tear like the Native American in those old commercials when people litter.
Must Bling Be Expensive?
No. Much of what is considered bling happens to be expensive but I don't think cost is the only factor. Bling is an aesthetic choice you make while building a deck that makes you happy. Your choice of bling could be using only Guru lands, but going with Unglued or even that hot Rivals of Ixalan forest that costs a dime are all equally valid choices. Bling is truly in the eye of the beholder.
There are even those anarchists out in the world that white-border their decks. I know this makes it feel like some people just want to watch the world burn, but it is still bling.
Mass Land Destruction, Yes or No?
I say a strong no. The problem with MLD is that almost all of the time it grinds the game to a halt while people rebuild. I live in a world where on more than one occasion I've seen a player play their land for the turn then cast
Obliterate. I have also seen players cast
Armageddon because they thought they could top-deck lands better than their opponent. Cards like
Wake of Destruction are slightly better but have the drawback usually only ruining one player's game. There are too many individual lands that need to be destroyed in EDH to not pack a few pieces of targeted land destruction, but wiping out all the lands usually frustrates the other players and extends the game unnecessarily.
Should I Play a Super Aggressive Deck?
Maybe. I was very fond of more aggressive decks when I first started playing EDH. I could often take out a player with a good degree of consistency by turn 5 or 6. The problem with this playstyle is that you also tend to spend a large portion of your resources to eliminate that player, making you a much easier target for the remaining two players. It has the added effect of showing the other players that you are the current threat they need to deal with. If you had a very good draw or eliminating the first player didn't exhaust too many resources you might take out a second player. The problem is that by this time the third player has had a chance to build his board and is now be in the position to squish you.
My personal playstyle moved away from fast, early aggression the more I played because I wanted to both have a better chance to win and get to play in the game longer. Neither of these happened when I was getting taken out second in most games.
Is Helping Other Players Bad?
This one comes up every now and then. The most recent was when I was mocking
Scheming Symmetry (and the person foolishly playing a card that lets an opponent tutor for free). My first thought about
Scheming Symmetry was it would be a card I'd definitely play if I then had some way to play the card off the top of my opponent's deck (ideally without them seeing it coming, so they get a good choice with their tutor). In any game I want to avoid doing anything that benefits my opponent. I will never save another player to keep them around. It's a sign of weakness to save someone so they can help you beat another player. It's more dignified to just lose.
Another time the concept of helping came up was when we were talking about something I'd read online where someone split a
Fact or Fiction into a five and a zero pile. I wouldn't even want to live in that kind of world. Whenever anyone plays
Fact or Fiction, the goal is to get them to take the two pile. In an ideal world, you'd want to make them take a one pile, but if that situation happens, you will usually lose the game to that one.
One exception to my no helping rule is
Tempt with Discovery. I love casting this spell. I get to feel like a crossroads demon every time. You get to point out to the first person to get to decide that you know a certain person farther around the table is weak and will take the land, so they may as well. It makes me smile just thinking about it.
Is Seedborn Muse Overpowered?
Yes. I never understood why
Prophet of Kruphix was ban-worthy while Seedborn wasn't. The Prophet gave flash to your creatures, but Seedborn can be played in so many more decks. Throw in a
Winding Canyons and you have a Prophet with a small surcharge. I say this as someone who has a number of green decks and almost all of them (maybe all) have a
Seedborn Muse. It surprises me that this card doesn't attract as much vitriol as
Time Walk-type cards.
Should You Play Time Walk Cards?
Maybe. If you are going infinite turns with some combo then you have made your choices and you have to live with them. At least it will be over for everyone quickly. If you have one or two in your deck and no way to copy them eight times when you cast them, then I see nothing wrong with it. If you do have ways to copy them three, four or five times then no, you should never do this. There is nothing worse than watching the blue player run through their four extra turns with everyone waiting on them and then they just say "done". Someone failing slowly is the worst thing to have to sit through.
What If My Playstyle Doesn't Match My Playgroup?
This isn't a question we ever discussed during a game, but it is one I've asked myself a few times. For this one, you have a couple of options. If there are multiple playgroups around, you can try and find a new group that does match your playstyle. If this isn't an option or if you are playing with friends and want to continue, you need to figure out a way to make your playstyle and the groups come closer together. Say you are a Spike in a group of non-Spikes. If the members of the group are playing Octopus/Leviathan/Kraken/Serpent tribal and two other odd decks and you are playing a serious deck, it can make the games no fun for them and not challenging for you.
One thing you can do is create limits for yourself in deck building and then play the deck to the best of your abilities. Build a Minotaur tribal deck with hot
Didgeridoo tech or a budget under $30 deck. You will have a deck that you can play to your best abilities and your opponents should still have a chance. Just beware of their
Whelming Wave tech.
No More Questions
Now, as promised, the decks:
Ashling is more of an artifact deck than anything else with almost as many artifacts as lands. There are a number of interesting tricks you can do, but at the cost of being a very high variance deck. One game you may get an amazingly fast hand and have 10 mana on turn three and the next you play a mountain a turn for six turns. Luckily, Ashling gives the deck an option unique to her. In those games with the slow hands where nothing is coming together for a while, you can always play her on turn two, then add a counter or two each turn. When you get to turn six, you triple pump her, blow her up to clear the board, then begin your diabolical artifact plan.
If you want to goldfish this one, you can find it here.
1 All Is Dust 1 Ashling the Pilgrim 1 Basilisk Collar 1 Burnished Hart 1 Caged Sun 1 Chandra Ablaze 1 Chaos Warp 1 Clock of Omens 1 Colossus of Akros 1 Comet Storm 1 Daretti, Scrap Savant 1 Darksteel Citadel 1 Darksteel Forge 1 Darksteel Ingot 1 Dreamstone Hedron 1 Druidic Satchel 1 Dualcaster Mage 1 Gauntlet of Might 1 Gauntlet of Power 1 Gilded Lotus 1 Grab the Reins 1 Great Furnace 1 Grim Monolith 1 Heat Shimmer 1 Hellkite Igniter 1 Insurrection 1 Karn Liberated 1 Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient 1 Mana Crypt 1 Mana Vault 1 Maze of Ith 1 Metalworker 1 Mind's Eye 30 Mountain 1 Mox Opal 1 Myriad Landscape 1 Planar Portal 1 Platinum Angel 1 Pyromancer's Goggles 1 Radiate 1 Reforge the Soul 1 Reiterate 1 Reito Lantern 1 Reverberate 1 Rings of Brighthearth 1 Sculpting Steel 1 Seer's Sundial 1 Sensei's Divining Top 1 Shimmer Myr 1 Sol Ring 1 Solemn Simulacrum 1 Soul of New Phyrexia 1 Spine of Ish Sah 1 Staff of Nin 1 Tawnos's Coffin 1 Terrain Generator 1 Thespian's Stage 1 Thran Dynamo 1 Tower of Fortunes 1 Trading Post 1 Twist Allegiance 1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon 1 Unwinding Clock 1 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle 1 Vedalken Orrery 1 Vesuva 1 Walking Atlas 1 Wayfarer's Bauble 1 Wheel of Fortune 1 Wild Ricochet 1 Word of Seizing
Below is the rough draft of
Golos, Tireless Pilgrim. Here is a link to the tappedout.net deck list if you want to try out some goldfishing yourself.
This is the completely untested, on paper, rough draft. I wrote out the deck list (with lots of colors of ink and notes and cards that didn't make the cut) and will assemble the actual paper deck in the next day or two to test out in RL (Real Life). From looking at the final deck list and doing a few test draws on tappedout.net I can tell I have some early cuts and changes coming.
I think the mana is a little bit... off. I think I need to swap out the all green duals and shock lands (
Stomping Ground, etc.) for a better mix of mana and adjust the Fetch lands (
Wooded Foothills, etc.) accordingly. I am on the fence about
Illusionist's Bracers. It seems like it will either be amazing or just a "win more" card and not worth it. I will probably cut the
Growing Rites of Itlimoc and give the creature mix an overhaul. I will have to see if the
Trinket Mage and
Tribute Mage packages are actually useful or too cute of a gimmick to keep. They could easily be replaced with an
Enlightened Tutor, a few better artifacts and maybe an extra tutor like
Imperial Seal or a plain
Demonic Tutor. So far I have limited my tutors to top of the deck tutors so I can take advantage of them with Golos, but that may change.
The deck is currently at the point in building where you say, "Screw it, I'll just put something together". It's gone from a list of 200+ cards to 63 cards + lands. I have a bunch of cards that didn't make the cut but still could and a few already in the deck that I think are on the way out.
1 Acidic Slime 1 Akroma, Angel of Wrath 1 Alchemist's Refuge 1 Arcane Signet 1 Artisan of Kozilek 1 Avacyn, Angel of Hope 1 Avenger of Zendikar 1 Bayou 1 Beacon of Tomorrows 1 Brainstorm 1 Breeding Pool 1 Bringer of the Red Dawn 1 Cascading Cataracts 1 Circuitous Route 1 Command Tower 1 Craterhoof Behemoth 1 Crystal Quarry 1 Cultivate 1 Deathrite Shaman 1 Dream Cache 1 Elvish Rejuvenator 1 Explosive Vegetation 1 Farhaven Elf 1 Fellwar Stone 1 Fertile Ground 9 Forest 1 Gaea's Cradle 1 Garruk Wildspeaker 1 Golos, Tireless Pilgrim 1 Growing Rites of Itlimoc 1 Illusionist's Bracers 2 Island 1 It That Betrays 1 Kodama's Reach 1 Leyline of Anticipation 1 Lord Windgrace 1 Maelstrom Wanderer 1 Magmatic Force 1 Mana Crypt 1 Mirari's Wake 1 Misty Rainforest 2 Mountain 1 Myojin of Life's Web 1 Mystical Tutor 1 Nexus of Fate 1 Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker 1 Noxious Revival 1 Oracle of Mul Daya 1 Overgrowth 3 Plains 1 Prismatic Vista 1 Rise of the Dark Realms 1 Savannah 1 Scroll Rack 1 Seedborn Muse 1 Sensei's Divining Top 1 Skyshroud Claim 1 Sol Ring 1 Solemn Simulacrum 1 Stomping Ground 3 Swamp 1 Sylvan Caryatid 1 Sylvan Library 1 Taiga 1 Temple Garden 1 The Ur-Dragon 1 Time Stretch 1 Tribute Mage 1 Trinket Mage 1 Tropical Island 1 Ulvenwald Hydra 1 Urban Evolution 1 Vampiric Tutor 1 Verdant Catacombs 1 Volrath's Stronghold 1 Wargate 1 Wayfarer's Bauble 1 Wild Growth 1 Wilderness Reclamation 1 Windswept Heath 1 Wood Elves 1 Wooded Foothills 1 Worldly Tutor 1 Xenagos, the Reveler 1 Zacama, Primal Calamity 1 Zendikar Resurgent
If you have any ideas or suggestions for the deck, you can comment on it and anything else discussed in this post on the Cardsphere subreddit post. In my next post, I will update the deck list and discuss the changes and brilliant and terrible ideas I had for the deck.