Embracing The Chaos – Why I Hate My Own Deck

Wednesday, December 22nd – I have put together a pretty saucy deck featuring Intet, the Dreamer. It’s quite strong and has done quite well when I’ve played it. And I absolutely hate it. Let me tell you why.

I have put together a pretty saucy deck featuring Intet, the Dreamer. It’s quite strong and has done quite well when I’ve played it. And I absolutely hate it. Let me tell you why.

Before we get there, I’d like to make sure I clear up something. I think that it’s no secret that I’m the face and voice of the format, but that doesn’t mean it’s a one-man show. The Rules Committee isn’t a body of yes-men who bow to my whims—in fact, when Gavin Duggan initially suggested a RC, I knew that it would have to eventually be filled with people with varying ideas on how to implement our shared vision and people who wouldn’t be shy about telling me when they think I’m wrong. I might be the poster boy, but I’m certainly not the only brain in the collective.

A poster on one forum or another mentioned that ‘one man’s vision isn’t enough,’ and while I won’t deign to compare myself to real-life visionaries such as Gandhi or Steve Jobs, I will contend that it is indeed enough—in fact, I think it’s just what’s needed to accomplish something special. I will agree that one man’s

isn’t enough. Great efforts generally require many hands. There’s no way we would have ever gotten here had I been working alone. After I picked up the format from Adam Staley and gang, it was my vision that got us going and started popularizing the format. It was then the multiplicative efforts of Gavin that pushed things to the next level and opened the doors to get us where we are today. There was a little bit of luck, a little bit of hard work, and a little bit of talking to the right evangelists.

It’d be disingenuous to suggest the vision I had was what the format has become. I only had the vision of what, in a small picture, I wanted it to be—a socio-casual format that like-minded people could enjoy as an alternative to more serious and competitive formats. When those previously mentioned doors started opening, I knew we had to walk through them, but “EDH in the Comp Rules” wasn’t in my original blueprint, for sure.

That said, I enjoy the privilege of guiding the format forward. I get quite a bit of say in what happens, but I’d like to think it’s about achievement of a particular end, not stroking my own ego or fulfillment of some shadowy agenda. Cards don’t get banned because I hate them. They get banned because I and the others on the RC don’t like what they do to the format. From reading a number of the comments after last
week’s announcements, I think there’s a great deal of misunderstanding (perhaps due to our lack of articulation) that power level is a

in banning, but in the end, it’s not the final and singular

The decision to ban a card doesn’t break down to a simple equation. Sometimes there are easily objective measures for doing so; some are more subjective. Most of the time, it’s a combination of factors, and that’s how we’d like it to be.

It’s my intention to continue to guide the implementation of our vision in the direction that we’d like it to go. I don’t recall who coined the term ‘socio-casual,’ but it strikes the perfect chord. We’ll continue to foster an environment where players are interested in more fun than just their own (I can’t really stress how vital this point is), which I know is a significant sticking point for some folks. It’s a style of game that has absolutely no resonance with them—they simply don’t get at a gut level why anyone would play that way. This format is not intended for them.

I’m not naïve enough to believe that everyone will like the direction, but this is the direction we’re headed, and we’re happy to have you join us if you like. If not, that’s okay, too—no dismissal, no insults, no eye-rolling implication that we’re somehow more sophisticated higher life forms just because we sometimes have a different definition of ‘winning.’ Just, simply, this is the way we’re going.

I’d also like to welcome individuals and individual groups to play however they wish, but I hope they understand that the official version of the format is still going to be geared toward the aforementioned casual player who is interested in everyone at the table having a good time…

…which segues very nicely into why I hate my deck. If you haven’t seen the list, it’s included at the bottom.

There are two reasons that I hate this deck (even after the removal of Emrakul), one of which is narrowly focused, one of which is bigger picture.

First of all, at a certain point, it’s really involved and complicated to play. Once the Scroll Rack, Crystal Ball, and/or Sensei’s Divining Top comes online, especially with Greater Good going, I’ve noticed that there are an increasing number of decision matrices going, and it gets in the way of socializing. The deck is very, very thinky. It was actually easier with Emrakul, since everything eventually boiled down to getting him cast repeatedly, which made it almost a combo deck, since combo decks often operate independently of any board position. Unlike combat-step-oriented decks, which have to take into account the guys that can block, combo decks only care about other cards and whether those cards are disruptive to what they want to do. They can ignore everything else.

Without Emrakul, those decision paths are more dependent on what’s on the board because there is no set and specific path to victory (unlike, say, my Kresh deck, where if the beatdown-with-giant-dudes plan isn’t working, there’s always Fling). While I appreciate to a great degree the intellectual challenge of figuring out the best of the myriad choices I might have, burying my face into my deck for the entirety of the game isn’t the game I want to play, and hopefully that gives you a little more insight into our desires for the format. Again, it gets in the way of socializing. My preferred style of play for Commander might require some level of thought and planning and surface evaluation of the board state, but I’d much rather be spending a fair amount of my mental energy having a good time with the folks I’m sitting with, whether it’s talking about the game we’re in, the one we just played, movies, women, wine, or whatever, and not being 100% focused on my own stuff. While playing at the game shop, there’s constant traffic coming in and out, and I’d like to interact with some of those folks as well. When they come to watch the game for a bit, I’d like to engage them so we can share experiences about our common hobbies. This deck absolutely prevents that socialization. I’ve found myself constantly buried in thought while playing it. If I were playing a 1v1 format, that might be fine. Commander is not a 1v1 format, and the deck actually inhibits the way I like the game to take shape.

Amusing Side Note from the Last Time I Played This Deck

Aaron Fortino: Cast Avenger of Zendikar

Me: Seems reasonable to Desertion that

Aaron: When the hell did you get back Desertion? You already cast it on my Angel of Despair

Me: Remember last turn when I cast Eternal Witness? I was going to get Night Soil back, but you suggested Desertion instead.

Aaron: Oh, yeah [facepalm]

Second Amusing Side Note, Same Session, Different Deck

I have Kresh (currently +27) and Hamletback Goliath (+15) on the battlefield (among other stuff) and Momentous Fall in hand, knowing that there’s Fling in the deck.

Aaron: …untap Cabal Coffers, tap it again, Genesis Wave for…

Me (in my head): This is going to be epic…

Aaron: 47.

Me (again, in my head, in a Peter Griffin voice): hehehehehehe

Aaron: Put [all this stuff into play], triggers on the stack [targets stuff]. I have 52 power of guys coming in for your Goliath.

Me: Okay, so Goliath is +67. Wait. [Count library. 66 cards left] … [facedesk]*

The second reason I hate this deck is that it definitely violates the ‘everyone have fun’ tenet—not because it’s a lock/prison deck or complete control or anything; it’s because the turns it takes are (as mentioned) complicated and time-consuming. I’ll concede to being a little deliberate at times, but even when I’m trying to play quickly, I’ve noticed that the deck is a clock hog. Whether it’s my turn or not, I end up being the active player quite frequently, so it ends up that I do a great deal of playing, and others don’t. It came to roost in the last game when I’d take a 3-4 minute turn (which is an eternity for someone watching and waiting), and then other players would take thirty seconds. I don’t want to be a complete socialist or anything, but I’d much rather the amount of play be a little more equitable.

The net result of gobbling up all the time for myself is a significantly diminished experience for everyone else at the table. I’d prefer that everyone be engaged and interested, not daydreaming while one player is in his own little world. I’d much rather at the end—regardless of who actually wins—have everyone going “that was epic!” instead of drifting away out of boredom.

So what’s that mean for the future of Intet? I’m not quite sure. Despite the fact that I sometimes hate it, there are also some engaging challenges to playing the deck, and sometimes it can go into beatdown mode, which you know I love. It’s not all downside. Maybe I’ll only play it if I’m stuck at a table with people I dislike. **

Here’s the list:

Ant Queen
Artisan of Kozilek
Aura Thief
Avenger of Zendikar
Brooding Saurian
Coiling Oracle
Cold-Eyed Selkie
Djinn of Wishes
Dominus of Fealty
Echo Mage
Eternal Witness
Frost Titan
Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
Lighthouse Chronologist
Momir Vig, Simic Visionary
Murkfiend Liege
Nest Invader
Oracle of Mul Daya
Primeval Titan
Renegade Doppelganger
Roil Elemental
Seedborn Muse
Solemn Simulacrum
Stormtide Leviathan
Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
Yavimaya Elder

Acidic Soil
Growth Spasm
Hunting Wilds
Mass Polymorph
Rampant Growth
Recross the Paths
Skyshroud Claim

Artifact Mutation
Cerebral Vortex
Chord of Calling
Cryptic Command
Mana Drain
Mystical Tutor
Overwhelming Intellect
Reality Spasm
Reins of Power
Worldly Tutor

Crystal Ball
Darksteel Ingot
Proteus Staff
Scroll Rack
Sensei’s Divining Top
Sol Ring

Awakening Zone
Goblin Assault
Mystic Remora
Night Soil
Rhystic Study
Survival of the Fittest

Jace, the Mind Sculptor

LAND (37)
Breeding Pool
Cascade Bluffs
Eldrazi Temple
Forest 9
Gaea’s Cradle
Island 9
Maze of Ith
Mountain 2
Mystifying Maze
Raging Ravine
Reliquary Tower
Simic Growth Chamber
Steam Vents
Stomping Ground
Strip Mine
Temple of the False God
Volcanic Island
Yavimaya Coast


Next week, just in time for Christmas, we’ll Embrace the Chaos with another installment of Other Peoples’ Decks!

* Obviously, I know that I have to resolve each Goliath trigger separately, so I can wait until he has the right number of counters on him to cast the Momentous Fall; I don’t have to let them all resolve. But that would be far less amusing.

** [Eye roll]