I received an e-mail that I would like to talk about.
Yo i was wondering if you had any tips on what i should be expecting at an event during GP Washington DC. i play edh casually but im worried about speed and unfairness of players when prizes are on the line. i want to have fun but i’d like a chance to win as well. i play scion the ur dragon so color is not a problem. what hate should i pack for a more cut throat event?
This is actually brings up 2 legitimate questions and something you’re always going to have to deal with. First, I’m a big fan of EDH being a casual format and any time you add a prize incentive to beat the other opponents it goes from a fun format to a more cutthroat one, and that’s a slippery slope. There have been some people clammering for Pro-Tour type event for EDH but I am firmly against that. I joked on Twitter that I don’t want to play against “Flores Uril” and “Flores Azami” to which Mike Flores replied he’d play Vendilion Clique and it all went downhill from there.
Anyway, with Grand Prix: Washington D.C. and some of the Star City Games events they’ve got going on, side events have included EDH matches where you do 4 person Chaos battle (everyone against everyone) and the winner gets packs. For GP:DC, you get 10 packs for winning. While 10 packs may not be a lot to some of you for others it brings in a good number of cards for trading or upgrading your EDH decks if you don’t buy all that often. Also, there’s a tournament for a From the Vault: Exiled and Top 8 prizes, so there’s enough incentive there.
This has some interest to me because I okayed it with my wife (Remember: when you get married, you’re a team), I’m going to start running EDH nights at my local store very soon (expect posts/pictures/vidoes on this blog). I don’t want the games coming to quick kills; I want people to play, have fun and maybe pass out prizes to other players. I’ve been checking out what Sheldon does down in Orlando to keep score and have EDH decks do other things than kill your opponents and I’m impressed. By awarding points for meeting goals, it allow other playstyles and keeps the fun casual feel while encouraging new and different decks all the time. This is something I may do in the future, but to start out with would just be getting people in the door and playing. Of course, in a large chaos game it might not be the best idea for that kind of scoring unless you set up for it and it doesn’t sound like that’s what doing on for GP:DC.
That leads us into the second issue (and what the letter wanted in the first place), what you need to do to shift your deck from casual to competitive. While this won’t lead us to a debate of multi-player vs 1v1 (something we’ll get to and has ties to this topic), I am fine having EDH decks be a bit more competitive. If your playgroup is a bit more competitive and you’re having fun that way by all means do it; I’m not going to tell you guys to slow it down. It’s the going into a new inexperienced metagame that’s going to be the shift. Sometimes you’ll be the one carrying in that new deck that beats everyone up, or you only have mana ramp and big spells and get crushed. That’s the issues you deal with metagames, you don’t know what to expect.
But since you asked for advice, I’m going to dispense it. Yes, when going to a place that has prizes for how well you do, you’re going to get more cutthroat decks. You’ve got a right to be a little worried, but what I’m going to suggest will be something that you should be doing anyway for EDH, casual or competitive. While I’m not really giving out hate that you asked for, I am suggesting somethings for you to look at.
– Know your deck’s weakness
Can your deck handle token swarms? Big creatures? Graveyard recursion? Discard? I’m not saying that you have to be prepared for all of these all of the time, but know what hurts your deck. If your deck can’t work without a graveyard, don’t counter that Wrath spell, instead save it for when someone tries to remove your graveyard. By knowing what hurts your deck, you can focus on trying to stop that from happening if you start to see it head that way.
– Know your deck’s strengths
The flip side of the above bullet point. Does your deck have a ton of card draw you how have a better chance mise-ing your way out situations (not the best plan, but alright)? Do you continuity wipe the board free of creatures so you’re not worried about who has what in play? Can you generate a ton of mana easily? Having these strengths in mind will allow you to think outside the box when a new situation presents itself that you need to work through. That’s brings us to:
– Have a game plan
Do you kill by your General? Does an army of 20 Dragons fly over for the victory? How about Milling or taking control of everyone’s turn? Unless you’re playing a “silly” EDH deck not designed to win (which you most likely shouldn’t be entering those in competitive EDH games anyway), or a “Group Hug” deck, you win by having the opponents lose. How does your deck accomplish this task? If you shrug your shoulders and say “by winning,” go and deconstruct your deck and find out what you need it to do to win.
This is even better. If you’re not drawing what you need to complete that combo, or everyone’s point all their hate at you, you need to have a backup plan. Someone put Uril on the bottom of your library, what do you do now? You’re not going to last long if you just sit there if you twiddle your thumbs waiting to draw him. People are trying to defeat you and if they’ve seen your deck work, they know how to do it. Have a back up plan, and if it’s a good plan, they may start to fear it more than the main one.
– Have ways to get rid of Generals
Not only will it most likely screw up their game plan and have to shift to back up plans, it will make it easier for you to win. Every color has ways to get rid of Generals (Yes, even Green). And before you ask what they are, that’s another topic that I’d be happy to talk about soon. There are plenty of Artifacts that can get rid of creatures and those can go in any EDH deck.
– Always carry removal for every type of card
Smart EDH people play enchantments and artifacts. Why? Players don’t always play removal for those type of cards. Suddenly your deck gets shut down by a Hum of the Radix? Bad form. While Black and Red don’t always have the best cards to get rid of enchantments, they do have their ways if you’re playing a mono-color deck. Green can get rid of creatures if you look at see what cards it has access to. You even have to watch out for lands. Strip Mine, while some people hate it, can be used for the good side if another player has a Tolarian Academy on the table.
– Play politics
This might not be the most popular one and this one requires more playing than looking at a deck and seeing what you can do with it. A multi-player article I’ve sent back to the editing bin discusses this so I’m not going to dwell on it, but sometimes the way you save yourself is to save others. In a cutthroat game you might not get the desired result, but people will take notice of what you’re doing. Their play style will change because of what you’re doing. This is the hardest thing to master (if you even believe it exists at all).
There was no “awesome” secret tech that you might have been hoping for, but I hope I gave you something to think about. You can still have fun and run a more “casual” deck if you keep those things in mind. They aren’t “Spike ideas that should be kept away from casual games” but just good ideas in the first place. Maybe they’re more relevant in casual because you don’t know what you’re playing up against. Let me just tell you this: if I see someone sitting down with Scion of the Ur-Dragon across form me, I know that A) they’re playing dragons (big flying creatures capable of smashing) and B) if I keep Scion off the table, I have a better chance of winning the game since the deck is based around that card. I may be gunning for them earlier because they can be hard to stop once they get going.
But here’s the best advice of all: have fun. You’re playing EDH at a Grand Prix meeting people that have a common interest with you, enjoy that time. (Real advice: Play See Beyond)