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I Am an EDH DB – And You Are Too


While it may seem like an obvious overlap at first glance, there are a lot of Magic players who are down with the cutting edge of technology such as Droid and iPhone mobile calling devices. Intimate knowledge of which chain restaurants carry free, and reliable, wi-fi. Magic-dedicated Facebook fan pages and marketing tools are employed by Wizards as well as a whole host of retailers. Magic and technology have been pretty much BFFs since Magic Online hit the scene back in 2002.

While the technology can have its downsides, as Trick handled well a few weeks ago, Twitter is one of the most explosive ways Magic information is being shared. I'm not going to debate the merits and flaws of using it – you'll find me happily tweeting away as @the_stybs – but discuss something that was remarkable last week: the hash tag #youmightbeanedhdbif (You Might Be An EDH Douchebag If).

Star-Struck and Fast-Tracked

If you feel like this is a familiar topic for an article you would be correct: Bennie Smith at StarCityGames covered this last Friday. While it wasn't the only topic he touched it would do a disservice to ignore what's already been said. And he wasn't alone – but more on this later. Taking Bennie's approach, here is a recap of many of the tweets with the above hash tag:

You Might Be an EDH Douchebag If...

... You play Armageddon, Decree of Annihilation, Obliterate or Jokulhaups and you have no way to win the game shortly after.

... You keep track of your life and counters in your head, basically forcing other players to do it for you.

... You insist on playing a UB Storm Combo deck in multiplayer and kill everyone on turn 4, taking a 20 min+ turn.

... You use Mindslaver and Academy Ruins/Bringer of the White Dawn to lock someone out of the game.

... You cast Time Stretch.

... You cast Time Stretch... With Eternal Witness and Crystal Shard.

... You wait until your turn to use the washroom, get a drink, and pause the game in some way.

... You play Contamination, Ruination, Blood Moon, Quicksilver Fountain, Sunder, Stasis or other similar disruptive spells.

... You attack the same person with a certain 15/15 legendary Eldrazi on more than two consecutive turns.

... You play Shahrazad

... You copy Shahrazad.

... You run both the Pickles lock and Crystal Shard/Draining Whelk in your Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir deck.

... You run Erayo, full stop. Add Arcane Lab for added dbaggery.

... You play The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale and Stasis.

... You snack on nachos and touch everyone else's cards.

... You wait to use all you shuffle, tutor, or Top effects until the end of turn of the person on your right.

... You Strip Mine my turn 2 Karoo, unless I'm playing Doran, Jhoira etc. Then I probably deserve it.

... You think your strategies are fun and other [players'] are not.

(Bennie listed those above, a few more I found relevant are listed now below)

... You complain when you lose to combos that can be beat by some of the most abundant and most played cards in the format.

... You're waiting to scold people about how their fun is wrong.

(Bennie listed it but I had bookmarked Aaron Forsythe's tweet already)

... You think anyone that regularly beats you is #anedhdb.

(This one courtesy of part-time developer and former DailyMTG.com columnist Chris Millar)

#youmightmakeplaysthatIpersonallyfinddreadfullyoffputtinginedhif you play Iona naming green and say, "This aggression will not stand, man."

(And a more serious comment from judge Riki Hayashi)

There's no ifs ands or buts. You ARE an EDH d-bag. Format is getting way too spikey. Banned list needs to be an EDH deck long.

That's quite an assortment of statements pulled together. Please understand that small sample sizes aren't sufficient for reliable indications of causation (thanks, math degree) but that at this point our data set becomes sufficiently capable to showing us interesting indications. I won't apply anything rigorous due to the potential for pathological science to occur (thanks, psychology studies methods) but I can make some opinionated but justifiable observations.

The real questions is "What is everyone really saying?" Let's group some similarly themes quotes into three distinct camps:

"Why aren't you 'playing' better?"

  • Keeping track of things in your head
  • Complaining about losing to ‘easily' defeated combos
  • You think your version of fun is strictly better
  • You scold people about how they thing Magic is fun

There are those who feel that you can't possible play Magic without engaging in an organic, reactive, evolving environment where the answers to any problem in game states is always just a binder full of potential tech away. The idea is that by refusing to change yourself and your decks you're locking into experiencing the same thing again and again, which clearly must be bad since you're complaining to begin with. The idea that there is "one, best way to play" is illusory since the best way is an every changing goal to work towards achieving – things always change,

"Why aren't you 'playing' fair?"

The almost opposite side of the coin above are those who question the reasoning for playing with the expectation that everyone should be able to stop me. If I'm not gunning after you with very synergistic interactions why are you coming after me with your big guns? Politicking and diplomacy (and a touch of deadpan, poker face lying) should influence where the mortars are falling more than any one player focusing on locking things down as a general rule. Playing the game, in the most general of senses, means letting everyone actually play the game.

"Snarky remark here."

  • Snack and “attack” others' cards (a reason why I sleeves all my decks: self-protection)
  • Cause the game to be put on pause temporarily

The final group were those who, regardless of investment or EDH aptitude, felt that the discussion had taken a sharp turn into no-man's land, wanted to play off of the clear animosity being expressed. Perhaps they have a strong opinion or believe they have no suitable response – but empty commentary in an open social medium only crowds and hides relevant commentary (though I laughed heartily). It's an unfortunate but understandable middle ground between angry enemies.

Douchebag City Population: Many

Bennie's conclusion can be best summed up as that:

"It's in the best, long-term interest of all your players that as many of them are having fun each and every EDH game so they keep coming back for more, and the easiest and most reliable way to maximize that potential is to let people actually play their cards."

Certain synergistic combinations that can be useful to have are also those with a high potential for what can be described in a dichotomous manner: abusable and good. Consider the classic Strip Mine and Crucible of Worlds. Having the ability to remove any annoying land – like the often cited Gaea's Cradle, Academy Ruins, and recently banned Tolarian Academy – is certainly a nice. The possibility of using it to lock out players from their sources of mana is where it gets tricky.

The camp of those who feel that decks, and therefore their player pilots, should change to adapt to the potential for:

Turn 1: Forest, Exploration

Turn 2: Strip Mine, Wasteland, Crucible of Worlds

Turn 3: ROLFstomp opponent's mana sources

It may be a once-in-a-blue-moon hand for the deck but add in some tutors and getting it up by turn 5 or 6 in many games isn't unreasonable. The fact is that this type of play exemplifies the broad division in playing paradigms: playing to win, and "winning" by playing.

It's not just "Spike-types" and "Tournament Players" who play to win: I know I'm certainly not in either camp in any sort of measure yet I will play for cutting the throat from time-to-time. But week in and week out I feel like a winner just seeing the insanity that characterized many impressions of EDH. I can play the recursion-control route with Kresh and clear the path for his stomping victory charge through the red zone but I experience a better night taking the risk and putting him out there unprotected. It's an odd sensation when I revisit the game I mentioned a few weeks ago where I comboed out by making a ton of green mana: self-disgust.

Is it some sort of "social contract" that Bennie suggests EDH is supposed to represent? A counterpoint is the soon-to-be-more-legendary "This drives me away from EDH" article on the GiftsUngiven.com blog. It, without pulling any punches or even being very nice about it, explains that unspoken and vague, unclear “rules” around gaming are both detrimental and antagonistic to player experiences.

And I completely agree.

While I'm both a fan and exemplifier of the "If they're a gaming issue, don't game with them" principle of handing playing differences, if you've never bothered to actually express, concisely and contentiously how you feel you're not actually doing anyone any favors. The gulf between how two players view Magic can be massive: assuming everyone with an EDH deck adheres to the same principles in playing as you is both foolish and arrogant.

And this goes both ways: Magic allows an entirely too-hard-to-define universe of ways to play. To assume that players need to adapt is just as dense and narrow as assuming players won't bring Balance or Obliterate to games. That said the ultimate conclusion from Gifts Ungiven is the same as Bennie but stated differently: Bennie wants us to keep the social contract of "everyone should be having fun" in clear focus while Gifts Ungiven is happy with any social contract so long as "everyone is clear about what's in and what's not."

The fact is that both sides of the "EDH douchebag" coin want the same thing: clarity. They want to know what the other player is planning to do (in a general sense) before they're in a pickle (like a Pickle combo lock). While they may not agree on precisely what's acceptable or fun, knowing what the other wants upfront and coming into the game prepared and anticipating the way to play is a welcome feeling. When you're playing with unfamiliar faces and new players, everything that's been built up to by your play groups is both open for interpretation and should be shared with an open mind.

This is a contributing factor to why teaching a new player EDH is often a quick lesson in why knowledge is best imparted incrementally in a logical sequence rather than dumped unceremoniously.

Get on with it!

The fact is that both sides of the coin are EDH douchbags at some point. If you've ever scolded someone for playing blue-based group control, ran nearly 99 cards of answer-threat hybrids that always provide mileage for you, brought recursive land destruction and used it, or argued for minutes about why "doing X is/isn't fine" or "that Y has Z answers" – all things that I have been guilty of at one point or another – you've been an EDH douchebag.

There is only one starting point: discussion. Talk. Share. You won't always agree, see eye-to-eye, or even find much common ground with other players but you're a responsible Magic player, right? Find the ways to meet others part way, give up something that's potentially abusable for something a little less provocative, and share the awesome tech and synergies that make stronger decks tick: if you're playing Magic but not having fun you're doing it wrong – but other's aren't having fun with you you're probably doing it wrong too.

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