FABLES FROM KITCHEN TABLES – PAINTING A TARGET

Hello, readers! In this week’s article, I’m going to talk about a facet of politics some people have trouble actually understanding – drawing hate. This is a bit of a light example, as the topic of politics has spawned near-endless threads of discussion, but here I want to cover something in specific that is largely misunderstood, by both the offender and the offended.

It’s very simple to sit down at a table and, right from the get-go, know who you’re gunning for just based on the generals people have. Seeing Zur, the Enchanter, Oona, Queen of the Fae, Kaalia of the Vast or Nekusar, the Mindrazer at a table can immediately give you an impression of what your opponents are going to attempt; whether it be Solitary Confinement, Grand Architect, Iona, Shield of Emeria or Teferi’s Puzzle Box, there are some strategies that demand you answer them.

What boggles me, however, is the entitlement players seem to have when going for these strategies. There are a handful of people who believe they have the right to freely combo out, and whine like petulant children when their combos are disrupted. I’m sorry you’ve tried this combo on me once before and I fell for it, but you know how it goes; fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

There are plenty of times when you get used to your playgroup and play with or against rather irritating strategies. (Infect, LD, Stax, infinite combo–the list goes on) Knowing which of your opponents to aim removal at can be key to winning a game.

But what bothers me is the political jackhammer known as the guilt-trip. “Oh, you wiped my board! Now can you leave me alone?” To be fair, this argument is perfectly fine if your opponent’s marquis move has been made, and you’ve exhausted the entirety of their resources. However, if your opponent’s sandbagging something, don’t take their whining at face value. Destroy whatever is causing you trouble as you please, and don’t give into their complaints. Too many games are decided by players whining their way to victory, which, in my opinion, makes your politics game weak. There are better options than simply crying about it.

For one, if someone is targeting you, you have to be acutely aware as to why. Let’s say your opponent casts Return to Dust targeting your Sol Ring and Rhystic Study. While you have no threatening permanents on the board, remember that if your opponents aren’t playing anything, such a play is perfectly reasonable. Sitting around with an active Rhystic Study is basically playing the blue rattlesnake; the more cards you have in your hand, the larger overall threat you pose to the table.

Along the same vein, firing salvos and creating a fireworks show is a one-way trip to getting yourself killed first. This happens often with both myself and certain strategies our metagame at the CG Realm lends itself to–I find myself casting Serra Ascendant in most games on the first five turns, and I see my opponents drop 2-card combos like Basilisk Collar with any pinger or Deadeye Navigator and Sylvan Primordial on the regular and then get pissed when they’re removed. It boggles my mind that a table would logically let you untap with that sort of debauchery.

Planeswalkers are also a big no-no in EDH, especially unprotected. Tamiyo, the Moon Sage and every incarnation of Jace are often cast and just as often swiftly and painfully dealt with, much to the chagrin of their controllers. You’re consistently casting cards that eventually win you the game; you’re either going to get an untap or two out of them and do something cute, or people will gang up on it immediately and destroy it. If they don’t do it immediately, they’ll do it eventually, and you can’t be upset about it.

Spot removal is a volatile thing. There are certain spells in the category that are absurdly powerful and impossible to ignore (Beast Within, Vindicate, Maelstrom Pulse, Putrefy, Mortify, Return to Dust, Orim’s Thunder, Decimate, etc.), but there are only so many spell slots in your EDH deck, so spot removal is few and far between in most lists. On that note, you have to be aware of what you’re able to deal with.

Let’s say the player to your right, playing Oloro, Ageless Ascetic untaps, having just been survived an onslaught of aggro from the player to your left, playing Gahiji, Honored One, and slams the Wrath of God he drew. Low on cards, he uses his Sol Ring and an Island to cast Rhystic Study. You untap, and you’ve drawn Return to Dust. The player to your left is playing Sharuum the Hegemon and has a Phyrexian Metamorph in his graveyard, 7 mana, and multiple cards in hand. You lack any other form of instant-speed artifact removal. Oloro, however, has 3 mana open, despite being low on life.

The answer may not be as black-and-white as you might think. Despite Sharuum’s mitful, Oloro’s low on mana but also low on life, and survival is key. He can live if you RtD his resources. He can’t live if Sharuum combos off. You, playing Marath, Will of the Wild, are in no position to stop Sharuum yourself, aside from the Return to Dust. You know Sharuum wants combo off, and the Kaalia of the Vast player is completely tapped down, no cards in hand, and will spend their turn rebuilding, allowing Oloro to reap the benefits by drawing a bunch of cards.

It might be a douche move, but personally, if I were in that position, I’d force Oloro to stop Sharuum.

That being said, there is also Memnarch, who can resolve under Sharuum’s promise to leave Oloro alone if it does resolve, and you’re a little light on artifact removal in your deck.

Weighing your options and knowing the full scope of your situation can be paramount to your success. If you can weather the storm of what you know your opponents are capable of, you can pull the trigger on the spot removal. If you can’t deal with the repercussions, I’d advise keeping it for paramount targets, because there always is the chance that Sharuum opts forMemnarch and you get to untap and RtD both Memnarch and the Rhystic Study instead, which is overall a better play.

Another political technique that’s very often misconstrued is the concept of “kicking a player when they’re down”. As an example:

The Kaalia of the Vast player gets a blistering start with Aurelia, the Warleader into Lord of the Void into Iona, Shield of Emeria locking down the Talrand, Sky Summoner player from using Bribery or Devastation Tide. The Uril, the Miststalker player casts Wrath of God, wiping the board. After your turn, Kaalia, out of cards, untaps, draws, and on 6, casts Kaalia. Talrand Hinders.

Naturally, it’s easy to understand why Kaalia would be a bit frustrated at the situation, having been essentially Time Walked with one card in hand and stuck on 6 mana in a Kaalia deck, but after completely shutting the Talrand player out and exiling most of your Mayael the Anima deck’s decent creatures, it’s easy to see from the perspective of every other player why this play occurred. Politics are a two-way street, and any player, including myself (because I’ve done this on so many occasions it’s ridiculous), should be well aware of when a game of EDH turns into an Archenemy game. If you’re going to attempt to usurp complete dominance of a table, expect the table to fight you for it. Expect them to kick you when you’re down. And you damn well better expect them to pull the most disgusting (sometimes unnecessarily so) shenanigans to shut you completely out of the game.

On the flipside, there are situations where your opponents can tunnel vision the board state. For example, before Kaalia’s turn, you cast Flameblast Dragon, and Talrand Hindered Kaalia regardless. Uril, the Miststalker is recast in tandem with Replenish, and suddenly the threat of an imminent double-striking, trampling, lifelinking, vigilant, flying 16-power Uril looms over the table.

Did I mention Uril also had Shield of the Oversoul tacked to him?

There are instances where you have to remind your opponents that firing spells at things just because they can is an unnecessary endeavor that will end up costing them at some point because they either wasted the mana or they don’t have the resource they wasted at a pivotal moment. Don’t ever feel like this is a bad habit, either–because, let’s be real, watching your permission control opponent slam a sweeper when Maelstrom Wanderer is at 7 mana is a far worse habit. Reminding your opponents to allocate their resources properly slows your opponents down from winning the game, helps you not lose, and it’s a means to an end–if it’s a threat to the whole table, opponents who can deal with it in situations where you can’t can and will deal with the imminent threat of the table if it saves their behinds.

The last point I want to make regarding the razor’s edge topic of politics is the nonsensical plays that stall the game, with no real indication of progress. The most innocuous offender in this regard is without a doubt Armageddon, a card that brings the most disgusting shudders through mention alone.

Let’s use the same 4 players in the last point – you, playing Mayael the Anima; to your left is Kaalia of the Vast; beside them, Talrand, Sky Summoner; and to your right, Uril, the Miststalker. All four of these decks have multiple “stall” cards that can slow the game down significantly, much to the chagrin of the other players:

-You have a decent curve, running out Mayael on turn 3 and then casting Wood Elves on turn 4. Untapping with 6 mana, you cast Conjurer’s Closet and then next turn sneak through a Sylvan Primordial. Your opponents have by this point tucked Mayael, and your only hope is to thin your deck of Forests to increase your chances of re-drawing Mayael. In the process, you’re LDing your opponents out slowly but surely, with only a 1/1 and a 6/8 to beat face with.

-Kaalia gets a turn 5 Aurelia, the Warleader on attack, and then promptly casts Armageddon. You respond by Chaos Warping Kaalia, which becomes a land (and laughs are had by the entire table). With nothing but Aurelia, Talrand, a single 2/2 Drake, Mesa Enchantress and Mayael on board, the game is suddenly ground to a halt.

-Talrand gets ahead on creatures, but in an attempt to stop Uril from getting crazy, casts Ixidron to remove hexproof from it before bouncing it to their hand. At the same time, both you and Kaalia are out of creatures in your hand, but are not short of creatures on board, and due to your repeated beats, all four of you are low on life, making combat with your morphed armies a bit of a risky prospect.

-Uril is having a hard time dealing with the amount of pressure Kaalia has created on the board, and thus casts Humility to blank their army. Mind you, Uril, despite being a 1/1 now without hexproof, still has just about every Aura under the sun attached to it, but of course, the one ability the now 1/1 Uril is missing just happens to be trample. Did I mention you managed to flip Avenger of Zendikar with Mayael in response to Humility?

In general, there’s a lot to be said about stripping your opponent’s resources away from them (mostly lands, but sweepers are also an offender with this) for the sake of nothing else but to do the act. Communicate with the table if you feel a player is a problem (by swain). You don’t have to cast an unfun card and enrage the table just because you feel you have to.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

There’s a lot of political angles in a game of EDH, and I definitely feel that “being that guy” is one of the more heated and opinionated discussions when it comes to the format. There are a lot of ways to become the target of everyone’s sweepers and spot removal, and it’s a misunderstood concept from both sides; the offender can needlessly waste resources or just remove resources for the sake of dragging a game on, and the offended can whine and cry about how they don’t deserve to be kicked when they’re down when they’re perfectly capable of rebuilding their resources (as all EDH decks should be).

But that’s my take on the subject. Until next week!
~L

Check out my previous articles here:

Adapting to EDH Metagames:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1177
Part 2 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1252
Part 3 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1317
Part 4 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1370
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1454

Building on a Budget:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1522

Choose Your Champion:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1594
Part 2 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1868
Part 3 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2539

Dragon’s Maze Prerelease Weekend:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1810

Guidance:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2548

Hits & Misses of:
Dragon’s Maze -http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1870
Innistrad - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2586

M14 –  http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2295
Theros - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2508

Legen-Wait for It-Dary:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2264

Let’s Build:
Part 1 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1606
Part 2 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1595
Part 3 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2214
Part 4 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2278
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2303
Part 6 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2310
Part 7 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2323
Part 8 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2336
Part 9 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2341
Part 10 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2525
Part 11 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2617

Let’s Talk M14:

http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2228

Let’s Talk Theros:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2362
Part 2 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2378

Planeswalking and You:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2184 

Resource Management:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2200

Stacking Up Commander 2013:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2561

The Slippery Slope:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2440

Trial & Error:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2089

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