Greetings, readers! Like a complete idiot, I forgot that July has one Wednesday left in it, so here I was thinking that it would be the 1st or 2nd of August for some reason, and that I’d just jump right into Let’s Build month. In light of that, I’m going to divert from my usual cutesy themed articles and discuss an issue that I can’t help but notice when I play EDH.
Over my years of playing EDH, I’ve gone from starting with playing heavy combo-based strategies, then shifted towards a heavy control approach when I started playing at CG Realm, and most recently, after becoming entirely burnt out of permission-based control, I’ve taken to aggro. I’ve tried a lot of interesting things over the years, and some have worked, some haven’t. What ultimately decides whether I continue down the path of playing an EDH deck are a few factors, but the biggest factor I take into account is whether or not the deck’s able to do what I want it to do. At the end of the day, if I’m playing one of the three main archetypes (combo, control, or aggro) and I’m unable to one-shot the table, live until turn 20, or beat everyone’s faces in, respectively, then I’m probably not seeing a future playing that deck, no matter how fun its best-case scenario is.
Too many people I know are obstinate about making their game plan work. Whether their argument is “I want to just play it for fun!” or “I want to cast this spell, or attack someone with this creature!”, or “I want to win.”, people will run headfirst into danger. While I don’t want to evoke my first article series, Adapting to EDH Metagames, too much by saying metagames have an impact on the deckbuilding process, it’s an undeniable fact, and if your proactive plan of using Jhoira of the Ghitu to cast Obliterate into Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre continues to steamroll your local playgroup, it’s not up to you to make your deck worse by comparison. You want to do what you want to do; with a deck like that, I’d wager winning is a pretty high priority for you, and a strategy like that is pretty solid, if you ask me. If your playgroup would rather whine about you using “unfair” cards than adjust their strategies to what you’re doing, that’s the problem of your metagame and not you, and don’t let side eyes and trash talk misconstrue your perceptions.
But let’s see the argument from the other side. You and your friends are a nice little playgroup with your tokens deck, the Oloro, Ageless Ascetic deck that reaches 200 billion life every game, the wacky tribal list that worked that one time (and they’ll never cease to remind everyone about it), and then there’s that guy; the guy who walks in with his foiled out Grand Arbiter Augustin IV deck with a turn 1 Mana Crypt into turn 2 GAIV into turn 3 Linvala, Keeper of Silence into turn 4 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. Perhaps even more frustrating to play against is the proactive strategy that’s just as linear as it is miserable. See: Hermit Druid.
In general, it’s your choice how you want to win your games, but a concept I think few players realize they’re doing is mashing their proactive strategy against an opposing proactive strategy and just hoping for the best every time. That sort of approach will favor the better-constructed deck nearly every time (and an absurdly lucky draw in the remaining cases), and anyone who’s put time and effort into making their proactive strategy difficult to stop will have the tools necessary to put up roadblocks against you that deter you so thoroughly you’ll eventually be buried in them while your opponent steamrolls you into the pavement.
The solution, however, is not to cry broken and lament over something insignificant as “how your deck sucks” or “man he just drew so perfect”. EDH is nothing if not a flexible format, and while some people are able to drop some serious cash into their hobbies, Magic’s immense card pool allows cheap, efficient answers so that even the most expensive decks can falter if a timely response disrupts a critical piece of their engine. What bothers me most, and the reason I’m writing this article, is that so few people are willing to see the two biggest issues that are holding them back from becoming great players, the players their metagame fears.
The first and most important part of “stopping the menace” of your store is to realize how they win. The biggest way someone can be oppressively reactive is to stick something that both adds pressure and allows them to overextend. The biggest perpetrator of this crime by an astronomical margin is Avacyn, Angel of Hope; if the player is playing aggro, sticking Avacyn will answer the biggest problem an aggro deck has; Wrath of God. The next thing your opponent will try to do after sticking Avacyn is giving her hexproof, through Asceticism, Privileged Position, Lightning Greaves or Archetype of Endurance. While it’s a powerful game plan–your board is indestructible and your threats have hexproof–if any sane person allows this to happen, you really have to question why you aren’t able to handle this. If you can, and you didn’t draw what handles the problem, that’s one thing, but there are a number of factors to consider when it comes to a setup like this. For one, it costs anywhere between 10 and 16 mana to setup, so if your deck is “proactive”, you should be proactively removing this sort of threat from the table, and you have no reason not to if you know what that player is capable of.
If you’re more of a reactive deck, with answers and counterspells, you have to always be aware of who and what you should be answering. If someone attempts to remove your permanents and you have just enough mana to counter it, consider letting it die so the next player in turn order doesn’t combo off and win the game. Yes, it sucks when your opponents sweep your board, but always be mindful of the greater good.
Once you’re aware of how your opponents win, you can adapt your playstyle to them. Generals and specific cards become familiar game to you; I don’t think I’ve ever learned this lesson harder than watching a Rhystic Study hit the table. That being said, ensuring that you properly allocate your resources comes first; usually, the player who casts the first-turn Sol Ring and has a follow-up play with it is the one to watch out for, but keep in mind if you remove their resources and suddenly someone else is the threat, don’t keep kicking them when they’re down; make sure you assess the threat density of the table appropriately as the landscape of the game evolves.
Magic has a beautiful tendency to create cards that are proactive, reactive, and not totally dead all at the same time. Let’s backpedal to Jhoira of the Ghitu for the moment; while terrifying, you can play things like Pithing Needle and Nevermore, which are cheap and effective, or you can play things like Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir or Linvala, Keeper of Silence to stop her as well. While the former two are a little inflexible in that Pithing Needle is only really good as a Trinket Mage target in a vacuum (you won’t always be playing against a general with an activated ability), and Nevermore is an awkward card on its own, Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir has the bonus of stopping opponents’ other spells (like counterspells), and Linvala, Keeper of Silence doesn’t restrict you to naming a card (by joshua). While I realize these latter two are expensive to invest in, it’s merely an example to show that if you really want to stop specific strategies, there are ways to do it without the cards being dead draws in other matchups if the consistency of your strategy is something you value.
The biggest answer to the question of “X card is starting to show up in my meta and I need to beat it” is “run more removal for it”. I will tell people until the end of time, it’s as easy as shoving Swords to Plowshares, Cyclonic Rift, Grave Pact, Chaos Warp or Beast Within in your deck and calling it a day. Running your deck entirely proactively without at least some room for spells that react to a potentially more proactive deck than yours is just asking for those decks to show up and destroy you.
For reference, I’ll give you a nice little list of spells you can run as potential removal, to save you the trouble of looking them up:
-Swords to Plowshares
-Path to Exile
-Ashes to Ashes
If you’re running removal in your deck and you still get steamrolled, maybe your opponent did draw well. Maybe you drew terribly. Maybe you wasted your removal spell on something you didn’t need to. If you want to better yourself as a player, though, and break through a bad losing streak in your metagame, consider why you lose the games you lose, and what you can do to make your deck better and your draws more consistent. Maybe you need to add more removal. Maybe you just need to cut the dead cards.
That brings me to my next point, something I struggled with for the longest time. Sometimes, there’s that combination of cards we really love to draw, and have a great best-case scenario together. For example, in my Marath, Will of the Wild deck, I used to run a Goblin Welder alongside Wurmcoil Engine and Solemn Simulacrum. While I didn’t mind drawing it after I had the latter two, on its own, it was extremely weak, and ended up just being cast as a 1/1 blocker while I was behind. Mind you, when ahead, I was constantly swapping those two artifact creatures and making a bunch of tokens with Seedborn Muse and Doubling Season, but overall, I found that its worst-case happened far more often than its best-case, and it just slowly found itself becoming the worst card in the deck.
Sometimes, we just have to understand that cards like that just don’t have a place in our EDH decks. While the card is powerful, narrow, swingy cards that do absolutely nothing when you’re behind ultimately are the first cards you cut from your deck. Anything that depends on anything else already being in play ultimately falls by the wayside when you want to improve the consistency of your deck.
There’s also a case to be made about redundancy. I’m without a doubt the type of Magic player who would rather run a bunch of silver bullets and tutor them all than be bothered to run three variants of Acidic Slime. While removal has a bit of leeway from this argument, there’s something to be said when you hold 3 cards that all have to wait for your opponent to play something for the card to be good. Running cards that remove different things in different ways, or are more flexible in their targets, are the best types of removal to consider, in my opinion, as they’re rarely ever dead, and if you draw multiple removal spells, you have the opportunity to answer multiple things as opposed to answering the same thing multiple times.
This article is merely something to consider. Overall, I’ve heard a lot of complaints about a lot of things, whether it be blue, combo, or some unfair card or another. I wrote this as an answer to the outcry of problems people seem to have, because it’s really that simple: make your deck better. I’ve gotten to the point where my Marath, Will of the Wild list has a “sideboard” of cards that are only really powerful in certain matchups but fall flat in others, and I just put them back in the deck as the metagame shifts. Learning how to adapt to the playstyles of the people around you is the first step you can take if you want to win, or at the very least, have a significantly less miserable experience playing against certain strategies.
Remember, for every problem in Magic, there’s a solution.
Next week begins Let’s Build Month. Until then!
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:
Dragon’s Maze Prerelease Weekend:
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
Born of the Gods - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2800
Journey into Nyx - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=3101
M15 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=3174
Legen-Wait for It-Dary:
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
Part 12 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2691
Part 13 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2822
Part 14 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2933
Part 15 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=3086
Part 16 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=3134
Part 17 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=3153
Part 18 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=3181
Let’s Talk Conspiracy:
Let’s Talk M14:
Oh My God:
Painting a Target:
Planeswalking and You:
Stacking Up Commander 2013:
The Slippery Slope:
The Top Soldiers Of:
Azorius - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2640
Bant - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2907
Boros – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2854
Dimir - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2653
Esper - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2957
Five-Color - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=3156
Golgari - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2760
Grixis – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2984
Gruul - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2669
Jund - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=3124
Naya - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=3146
Orzhov - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2681
Rakdos - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2663
Selesnya - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2677
Simic - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2900
Trial & Error: