Tagged: Magic

Casual vs. Competitive: What’s Going On? and, A Proposed Solution

I imagine there are not many playgroups out there that haven’t suffered some conflict based on the casual and competitive division in this format and the debate that arises therefrom.  Like it or not, this format attracts about the widest variety of Magic players you can find, both in terms of style and of play skill, to an arena where their relative styles and play skills have no bearing on who plays who.  To make matters worse, the card pool is exceptionally large and some very expensive and hard to find cards can make their way into decks; those players who have the benefit of having played for a long time and have a large collection have a massive advantage in card quality over players newer to the game.  On top of all this, there’s little way to tell ahead of time which player is which and which deck is which — people don’t come with glowing neon signs saying “15-year Magic vet with $2500 Commander deck”.  It’s a situation ripe for conflict, and will remain so unless the format is dramatically altered by changing the banned list.  (That’s a subject of another article, but I’m really fucking sick of playing with and against Primeval Titan and Cabal Coffers.  Anyway.)

While Commander is often branded as the “fun” format, or the anti-competitive format, it should be pointed out that neither play group has a legitimate claim to “ownership” of the format, and neither group has an advantage on who deals with the situation in a more positive and constructive way.  A format that allows you to play Mana Crypt and Imperial Tutor cannot honestly call itself “casual only”, but on the other hand, a format that expressly resists any formal competition cannot honestly call itself competitive.  As it stands, judging by the air space this topic receives and the sheer volume of complaints from one side about the other, both sides can take an equal share of the blame for not meeting in the middle.  The competitive crowd (like me) belittles the casual crowd either aggressively or passive aggressively (like I do), for lacking deck building skills, card selection skills, and Magic play skills.  The casual crowd passively aggressively promotes an atmosphere and tone of debate that “EDH should be fun“, and commonly points out the competitive crowd has many other formats to direct their competitive spirit toward.  To them, the casual crowd “just doesn’t get the format”.  One side tries to win, the other side claims they don’t.  Both sides insinuate or just come right out and say that the other should conform or GTFO.

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Deck Salad Surgery: We Didn’t Start the Fire

This week’s Deck Salad Surgery expands on a little idea I had while reviewing the Magic 2013 set: make a deck designed to exploit Worldfire.  The idea consisted of lots of low-cost, hasted dudes so your deck would play better than everyone else’s after a Worldfire.  All you need is a Raging Goblin and you’ll probably win.  And hey, if you don’t, you still blew up the entire world and there was a crazy finish, right?

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Casual vs. Competitive metagaming: Or, why aren’t you playing Stranglehold?

Hey everybody.  After taking last week off for a little vacation and to spend some time with my folks after a loss in the family, I’m back!  While on my long drive out and back, I immersed myself in the world of Magic podcasts (specifically, the Eh Team and CommanderCast, both of which are fantastic.)  I have volumes of upcoming new material for you guys, so pull up your sleeves and dig in!

This article stems largely from a conversation I had with my longest-running Magic buddy and fellow Thwomper Brad.  He was over at my place after some time at the driving range and hadn’t brought his decks, so he was shuffling up my decks against me.  He immediately reached for my Captain Sisay stax build and said something along the lines of, “I need to know what makes this thing work.”  He told me that of all my decks, he most loathed to play against that one, which I was certainly surprised to learn.  He then qualified that and said, it’s not the least fun to play against — that honor belonged to the U/B Dralnu infinite-turns monstrosity that I built here — just the scariest.  I was surprised to learn that what I thought was my best deck, Arcum Dagsson, is neither the scariest or the least fun.

I wanted to understand why he felt this way about these two decks, and the ensuing conversation ties very much into the long-running casual vs. competitive Commander debate that rages on still to this day.  It was particularly interesting to me as I consider Brad more toward the “competitive” side of the Commander coin than just about anybody else we play with, save yours truly.

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Cardz of the Week: M13 Set Review

Hey folks, I thought I’d do something a little different today and rather than going deeply into one card, talk about the highlights for Commander players from the newest release, Magic 2013.  I won’t talk about every card, just the ones I think are interesting or could find a home in a lot of Commander decks.

I’m more excited about this core set than I’ve been about a core set maybe ever.  (Of course, if I’d realized just how good the Titans would be, that set would have been worth getting excited over!)  They’ve printed a cycle of new (potential) Commanders, two new planeswalkers, and a slew of interesting cards.  There’s even some utility spells worth adding to decks which I find rare in new core set cards.  So, let’s get started!  For the most part, I’m only going to talk about new cards and not reprints (functional or identical).

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Deck Salad Surgery: Damia, Sage of Stone

Welcome to the third installment of Deck Salad Surgery.  Today I’m going to be building a deck from the ground up.  I mentioned the first concept back in this post, where I noted I was inspired by a legacy Show and Tell Griselbrand deck.  Of course, Grizzy’s been banned, but if I let a little thing like banning the centerpiece of the deck stop me, where would I be in life?

(Answer: probably still writing a Magic blog.)

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Why Sideboarding is Stupid

There are certain playgroups that make use of the optional sideboarding rule as outlined on mtgcommander.net, which reads as follows:

  • Sideboards

    Rather than filling every deck with banal responses, it is preferable to allow some flexibility in the composition of a deck.

    • Players may bring a 10 card sideboard in addition to their 99 cards and 1 Commander.
    • After Commanders are announced, players have 3 minutes to make 1-for-1 substitutions to their deck.
    • Any cards not played as part of the deck may be retrieved by “wishes”.


    Highly tuned threats piloted by skilled opponents mandate efficient answers. The minimum number of response cards required to ensure they are available in the early turns can easily overwhelm the majority of an EDH deck’s building space.

    Sideboards allow players to respond to the “best” strategies in a timely fashion . They should be strongly considered as a necessary defense against brokenness and degeneracy in an environment where no gentlemans agreement on style of play exists.

Sir, I disagree.  Here’s why.

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Card of the Week: Braids, Cabal Minion

Happy Friday everybody!  Today’s CotW brings you some end of the week cheeriness with an unmistakeable grin:  Braids, Cabal Minion.  She continues a streak of favorite cards of mine, an affair dating back to my first foray into competitive Magic during Odyssey block.  There she fell naturally into a powerful mono-black control archetype along with Cabal Coffers, Cabal Therapy, Faceless Butcher, and Chainer’s Edict (most of which find homes in many decks sporting black still).

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DSS: Commander Uncensored — EDH without the ban list

Welcome to the second edition of Deck Salad Surgery!  I had the idea for this particular column while driving over to a friend’s place to sling some cardboard.  The basic premise is this:  what kind of deck would you make if there weren’t any banned cards (except the ante cards, of course)?

There’s obviously a few ways to go with it, but I chose to go top-down.  What cards would I most like to play if they weren’t banned?  Then, how do I abuse those cards?  (Of course, many of the cards on this list don’t require much work to abuse.)  Two sprang to mind immediately, but I won’t give away which ones just yet.  Instead, let’s look at the banned list and break it down by colour.

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Hello and welcome to Nerd Alert!  This is a Magic: the Gathering Commander blog, updated every Tuesday and Thursday, featuring deckbuilding tips, strategy, editorials, and more.  Tuesday alternates features between general strategy articles on just about anything Commander, a deck building column entitled Deck Salad Surgery, or an editorial on the Commander scene in general.  If you’d like your deck to be dissected and discussed in DSS, please send it on in!  Thursday is a Card(z) of the Week column, discussing cards or categories of cards that catch my eye for the Commander format.

This blog initially began as an essay for a friend explaining the differences in card selection in Commander vs. standard Magic.  It is now my attempt to bridge the gap between the so-called “competitive” and “casual” Commander crowds.  I believe both crowds want fundamentally the same experience out of playing Commander; their fundamental difference comes from their approach to deck building.  My goal is to educate the “casual” crowd how to understand and approach deckbuilding such that they will not be at a disadvantage when shuffling up against them, but without having to change what their deck does.  As such, it contains intermediate and advanced strategies but is written with relatively new comers to Magic and Commander in mind.  Thanks for reading, and comments are always appreciated!

No take-backs!

(Due to a scheduling snafu, this article failed to appear yesterday.  Sorry about that!)

You’ve been there.  Your game isn’t going so well.  Everything you do gets blown up, countered, or stolen.  You’re mana screwed and haven’t had good cards in hand all game.  You’ve got three opponents who all seem to have better chances of winning the game than you do, and one guy who’s clearly in the lead.

Dude to the left taps out and Mind Twists your hand away.

“WTF, man?!  I’m not your threat!” you implore, begging him to direct it at somebody else — somebody who actually has a chance of winning and who is actually in competition with the guy.  All Mind Twisting you is going to do is make the game even more boring for you.

Your opponent briefly considers.  He says, “you’re right — I’ll Mind Twist you instead,” pointing it at the next player around the table.

Uh oh.  Now that guy’s complaining about take-backs.

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