I honestly thought you were all going to be mad. I wrote an article last week that wasn’t about 75% Commander at all, and it was sort of a silly take on the concept I called “heat”—a totally arbitrary measure of how much “heat” or “hate” or “unwanted attention” you were going to receive from your playgroup for doing certain things.
I had a few expectations, but I didn’t expect the good reception it had. Maybe you found it as much fun as I did, and maybe you used it as an opportunity to air a few of your grievances. That’s great—I love hearing feedback and giving some of my readers a platform to have their opinions heard. Even more than the good feedback was the relative lack of bad feedback—that’s characteristic of Gathering Magic but maybe not characteristic of the rest of the Internet.
I expected to address some feedback today, move on to a decklist, and continue with more examples if people asked for more of the heat index stuff. However, no one said any of the things that thinking about the article over the last week has made me realize would be valid points.
Point #1 — The Point Values Seem Arbitrary
They mostly are. I try to score them relative to each other, but the scores are tainted by my personal experience, and they’re super-arbitrary. To a big extent, I’m trying to give certain things (Wrath of God being a 0 and Armageddon being an 11, for example) scores relative to the other things you can do that jive with the 75% ethos. This isn’t a quantitative exercise as much as a qualitative one.
Point #2 — Will You Ever Learn about Using Numbers to Describe Qualitative Concepts?
Point #2.1 — Elaborate
I think the scores are fine as they are. I realize any time you ascribe numbers to something that people want to disprove them or tweak them or disagree. Good. Tell me Prophet of Kruphix is a 9/10 in your playgroup but you unbanned Sylvan Primordial and it only feels like a 3. If my numbers don’t jive with your experience, that’s fine. To an extent, the numbers are arbitrary because there’s no real mathematical way to come up with them. Low numbers indicate things I think are fine in a 75% context, and high numbers indicate things I think you might want to avoid doing if your deck is a 75% build and therefore might not be able to handle the heat.
In a lot of ways, this is a silly exercise, but it also helps me express why I think some of these concepts (face-down tutors, mass land destruction, etc.) aren’t great ideas in a 75% deck. It’s not always because 75% means you play like a bad player and take it easy on people. Sometimes, you might not be able to handle the consequences of antisocial plays and you can do those things, but go loaded for bear and just build the best deck you can.
Point #3 — You Might Not Want to Do These Every Week
I won’t. I received some suggestions last week I want to cover, but this won’t be the entire series from now on. Maybe it’ll be once a month after this one—who knows? You know that Key & Peele sketch about the substitute teacher? I thought it was hilarious, and I thought that the second and third rehashes made the original one a little less funny. It was fun to see the same concept expanded upon, but I understand how too much of a good thing can make it less fun in the future. I’ll find a good balance. In the meantime, let’s have some more fun, shall we?
Transgression: Playing a Bribery
Commander Heat Index Score: 2/10
Notes: I mention this one because in the comments of last week’s piece, there were mixed feelings about Bribery. I think someone may get a little salty if you Bribery that player, but it’s hard to give a play that only affects one other player right away too high a score. Not only that, but even if you annoy someone by handling his or her deck, you’re not doing anything to him or her that he or she wasn’t prepared to do to you. I don’t see the need to bump this number up. If your playgroup hates Bribery, I wouldn’t build 75%—I’d just build with that playgroup in mind.
Transgression: Trying to Mill People Out
Commander Heat Index Score: 0/10
Notes: I thought it was really funny that, last week, Gareth Hughe said his group dogpiles the guy who tries to play a Phenax, God of Deception mill deck. Self-mill is a good strategy for some decks, and cards that mill a ton of cards (looking at you, Leveler) are printed freely, whereas cards that mill opponents for a lot are harder to come by. But milling people is really laborious in Commander with the ninety-nine-card decks—you have to focus on one person for the most part, and if you’re being dogpiled, you may want to play a different deck because your group may not be behaving all that rationally. Milling people is hard. I’d almost let a guy mill me in Commander just to see if he could do it.
Transgression: Sanguine Bond/Exquisite Blood Combo
Commander Heat Index Score: 7/10
Notes: Two-card combos are cute and sometimes powerful, but this one seems relatively trivial to assemble. Playing card-draw and tutors, you can make sure you find this combo pretty consistently, and the results can be pretty devastating. Also, these two enchantments are non-worthless on their own. It can be said that if you assemble a combo like this, your opponents share some of the blame for letting it happen. Mention that next time you Bond/Blood, and let me know how that goes over.
Transgression: Tooth and Nailing with Entwine
Commander Heat Index Score: 7/10
Notes: I should stress that I don’t know that Tooth and Nail is necessarily the problem. If your deck only has one combo to go find, your deck construction is usually the problem. You can legally fetch Mephidross Vampire and Triskelion every time if you want, but that’s going to make people want to hurt you. You’re also allowed to find other cards that don’t make the game end. I think Tooth and Nail tests your commitment to the 75% premise. You can use it to make your deck more linear or more toolboxy. The choice is yours. A ton of heat can be okay if you just win the game, but this could carry over into next game, couldn’t it?
Transgression: Casting Omniscience
Commander Heat Index Score: 6/10
Notes: If opponents can kill you before you assemble whatever diabolical scheme you’re now free to assemble, they surely will. The score wanted to be high because the urgency for the opponents is very high. However, this doesn’t necessarily make them want to kill you as much as kill the enchantment. It’s possible this score should be higher just because of the threat this card represents. If they can kill you but not the enchantment, I guess you should get ready for a beating.
Transgression: Tectonic Instability
Commander Heat Index Score: 8.5/10
Notes: This isn’t as bad as Armageddon or maybe Winter Orb, but it’s certainly not good. Having played against both this and Winter Orb, this almost feels worse. Sure, Tangle Wire is going to be annoying, but having to tap every land every time you play another one is going to make you want to fight someone. You better have a plan if you’re bringing this to the table.
Transgression: Narset, Enlightened Master Is Your Commander
Commander Heat Index Score: 9/10
Notes: The Rafiq problem is exemplified well here I think. No one wants to watch the same player take a bunch of extra turns and combat phases. You could be playing a silly Narset Voltron deck in which you’re hoping to attack and cast a free copy of Steel of the Godhead, but don’t expect anyone to let you live that long. Remember that 75% decks work best in a new and unfamiliar playgroup. Having this on your mat at the beginning of the game is tantamount to a declaration of all-out war. Optimal Narset can be fun for one player and not all that fun for others. I worry that 75% Narset won’t be any fun for you either.
I think I’ll cut it here for the week. In an attempt to preserve the novelty of this concept for an article, I’m going to take some time off. If you have a suggestion, leave it in the comments or tweet at me or something, and we’ll see what we come up with. Feel free to use the comment section to air your own grievances about certain cards or strategies or talk about how the numbers for these cards are different in your own playgroup. Thanks for making this column a blast to write every single week. Next week, I’ll come at you with a new deck, and I’ll come at you so hard you’ll ask yourself if I know about all those times you cast Armageddon without lethal damage on the board. Until next time!