Embracing The Chaos – Eight Weeks, Sixteen Decks

A new iteration of the Armada Games Commander League starts soon, and that means new point systems! The League uses a reward/punishment system for creating a fun environment for players. Find out more; join your own League!

Iteration 10 of the Armada Games EDH League starts this week. For each League, there are a few modified rules, a few new ideas that creep into the
points system, and a few old ideas that get set aside. We continue with our successes, set aside the failures, and move to conquer new vistas in the
format. With that spirit of change in mind, I’m going to take a new approach to my decks for this League.

Normally, I just let my mood decide which deck I’m going to play, unless I have some other particular goal. For this League, I’m going to
decide right here and now which decks I’m going to play which weeks, and I’m going to play a different one every time.

One of the League rules that cropped up is that if you’re at Table 1 in Round 2, you can’t switch decks—you must play the same deck
that you played in Round 1 (this doesn’t apply to Tables 2 through X). This prevents any ‘pre-sideboarding’ type ideas or being able
to play one of your decks that you know will do particularly well against someone else’s. Theoretically, Commanders are revealed simultaneously
to prevent stuff like that from happening, but the casual nature of the League has led it to be unnecessary. To be on the safe side, the Table 1 rule
was introduced. Knowing that, I asked permission of League Chairman Michael Fortino, who told me that if I was going to list who I would play each
time, then I could switch. I’m going to list them in advance and stick to the plan.

Speaking of plans, for League 10, the idea will be to cut down on the number of awards/penalties in order to speed up games. Often, play gets slowed
down when players start searching the sheet (“Hey, what’s the Block Party point?”). It also leads to players combing the sheet after
the game is over, leading to some questionable point-grabbing (“Yeah, like turn 8, I got Block Party, we just never wrote it down”). A
streamlined sheet, available on a single page, with 16 awards/penalties, will go in the center of the table. When someone gets the achievement,
there’s a space to write it down right under the description of the award.

I like the points system because it rewards a style of play that we’d like to reinforce. We (meaning the folks running the League) are perfectly
aware that it only takes one person uninterested in anyone else’s enjoyment of the game to upset the whole apple cart. We’re not saying you
can’t play the format in a particular way; we’re saying we’d like everyone to play a particular way here. Generally, guiding
the play style is achieved through the penalty system. The predominance of penalties revolve around activities that keep the other players from playing
the game—it doesn’t mean penalties for disrupting their strategies, it means making them sit there and not being able to take action. We
want players in the League to be participants, not spectators.

I think the first penalty ever created was “Chasm,” which penalizes Armageddon-style effects, although the edges of the penalty are kind of
fuzzy. It penalizes players for “wrecking others’ mana bases,” which becomes situational. For example, if you’re playing a
Grixis deck and I resolve Boil, you’ll still have Swamps and Mountains left—no Chasm for me. If you’re playing mono-blue, however,
I’m more likely to get the penalty, unless the resolution of the Boil still leaves you with a reasonable amount of land in play. The common
mantra is “If you have to ask, it’s Chasm.” Michael or Aaron (or whoever is running the League that week) is the final arbiter. I
know most Magic players will absolutely hate this since its relatively subjective, and Magic players want objectivity.

These are the same folks who hate the idea of the ‘social contract’ and the ‘spirit of play.’ I understand the direction they
come from, but I ask a little understanding from them of the other side of the coin. At the local level, we’re operating exactly as I had
intended individual groups to operate—shaping their own Commander experience. I’ll admit that I was thinking about six or eight people, not
the forty or so that the Armada League touches, but the idea scales to a certain point. It doesn’t scale to the macro level, which is why
there’s an official Banned List—so that you know when you play in an ‘untrusted game’ exactly what the rules will be.

The second penalty, “Greedy McGreederson,” is far more subjective. It’s given for taking more than X number of turns in a row.
It’s waffled back and forth between two and three over several Leagues, as we try to find the right spot.

One that came in a while back, left, and returned (although I’m not quite sure it’s coming back for League 10) is “It’s Only
There for the Colors.” It’s an End-of-Game penalty: If you had the opportunity to cast your Commander during the game but didn’t, you
get the penalty. You don’t get it, for example, if you’re playing Thraximundar and could never generate red mana. Otherwise, it’s
intended to make your Commander an integral part of the games you play, not just setting the color palette. This is the only penalty we’ve had
that doesn’t involve taking the game away from your opponents, which is why it might not make the cut for League 10.

There will be a much-discussed penalty for League 10: “My Mind is My Own.” It penalizes a player for activating a second and subsequent
Mindslaver. All the way up to the RC level, our thought is “one Mindslaver is fine, multiples suck,” and there’s no way to set a
reasonable greater-than-one number. Sure, there are frequently hijinks when a Mindslaver gets activated once, but more than one just means locking
someone out, a behavior we’d like to discourage.

Shaping the direction of play doesn’t mean that we think everyone has the right to cast all the giant, broken spells they want. I’m fine
with the idea of “reasonable protection” and in fact think that players don’t often provide themselves with enough of it in their
decks (such as enchantment removal or graveyard hate). I know it’s stretching the analogy just a bit; I liken the way the penalties shape play to
the NBA’s rule against the zone defense. It’s not that you have to let the other team just go to the basket at will; it’s that there
are particular ways that you’re not allowed to stop them.

The spirit of play we’ve developed at Armada is not for everyone, and it’s not intended to be. I have no heartburn with groups playing how
they see fit. It’s foolish and unreasonable for me to think that I can force everyone into playing the way I think is best, and I wouldn’t
want to. It’s also foolish and unreasonable for me (and like-minded folks, by the way—I’m not alone in setting the path for how we
play at Armada) to not try to shape the local environment that I play in. 

Of course, at a macro level, I’m also trying to shape the way we play, but a little less directly. From a Rules Committee level, we can’t
ban every card that we think is ‘unfun’ without destroying the format. We take care of the worst offenders and hope that players get the
idea. We can’t stop the very serious, very competitive players from exploiting the degeneracy of the format. We can share and reinforce our
philosophy. We can set up situations where there’s no real advantage to that exploitation. Ultimately, our control has to be more philosophical
than administrative. In the end, it will simply boil down to us saying, “Here’s the official vision of the format; we hope you like

Why eight weeks, sixteen decks? Because. It’s going to force me to build more decks, although you’ll see I’m going to borrow some as
well, and who doesn’t need more decks? Also, I’m not getting into the rut of playing the same thing over and over. I’ll try to get a
little theme-y with the weeks without being a slave to them.

WEEK 1: Getting Rolling

Round 1: Cromat. This is the contest-winning deck
containing one card of each expansion, which I’ve recently updated to include a NPH card. It seems like the right one to kick off things with.

Round 2: Kresh. I’m going to play it
sometime, might as well get it out of the way early. I played it in a game last week again, realized how much I like it, but also realize it’s
such an easy default choice.

WEEK 2: Other People’s Decks Week

Round 1: Aaron Fortino’s Teneb OR Michael Fortino’s Skeleton Ship, which I’ll provide a list for at the time. I’ve featured
Aaron’s deck in “Other People’s Decks” previously, but he’s made some changes. These guys do such a great job of
promoting the format (and Magic in general) that I’d like to feature their efforts a little more.

Round 2: The one that I didn’t play in Round 1. This is so if one of them is playing that week (only one of them generally plays at a time, if at
all—things are nicely busy at Armada Games), we can be flexible.

WEEK 3: Rith Week

Round 1: It’s Rith Week! In the first round, I’ll play Todd Palmer’s Rith, the Awakener, since I know he’s
building a new deck of some kind and can lend me this one.

Round 2: I’ll follow that up by playing my own version,
Rith and his Soldiers.

WEEK 4: Old School Week

Round 1: Phelddagrif. I’m working as we speak on a new Phelddagrif, and it’ll roll out in Week 4. Right now, it’s a
“Can’t Touch This/Slow Down Your Combos” deck, but who knows what a month will bring. I’m still hoping to make it a little more
beatdown and a little less control.

Round 2: Merieke Ri Berit will make her
appearance, and hope Linvala doesn’t show up battling on someone else’s side. True fact: Last time I played this deck, I ended the game at
248 life from copying someone else’s Noble Purpose. Copy Enchantment is king of sofas.

WEEK 5: Dragon Week

Round 1: Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund. In Round 1,
it’ll be all about getting Karrthus and his Beasts into the Red Zone.

Round 2: Intet, the Dreamer. In Round 2,
we’ll go for “top of the library matters…” and then get into the Red Zone.

WEEK 6: Grixis Week

Round 1: Thraximundar. More Red Zone attacks,
conceding the point that it’s all about Thrax.

Round 2: Lord of Tresserhorn. The 21 May
apocalypse didn’t come, so I’m bringing the Zombies!

WEEK 7: Monocolor Week

Round 1: Some of the forum feedback is that folks would like to see my take on monocolor decks. I’m not 100% sure what I want to do yet (hey, I
have nearly two months to decide!), but I know that mono-green isn’t going to be one of my choices. White probably will.

Round 2: Goblins maybe? Merfolk? Azami and Wizards is done to death, so if it’s mono-blue, I’ll certainly try to find something that
hasn’t been done before.

WEEK 8: New Commander Week

I’ll be building two new decks based on the Commanders that come out of the MTG: Commander product—perhaps even based on one of the cards
that will be previewed on this very site on 6 June. You can check out the very next preview (and an exciting one at that!) at mtgcommander.net on
Monday, 30 May.

Eight weeks, and sixteen different ways to Embrace the Chaos. Let’s see what happens.