As the Magic Community gets geared up for an extra-exciting year thanks to the StarCityGames.com Open Series & Invitational in 2010, I want to make sure that the more casual players out there don’t think that the weekends are going to be just about big cash prizes and accumulating points. There are going to be plenty of players like myself who are going primarily to scratch the competitive itch in Standard and Legacy, but after a couple of misplays and an unlucky draw or two, any of us could quickly find ourselves looking for some side events. Booster drafts and win-a-boxes are fun, but nothing beats a little EDH to unwind, right? So check out the info page at the Open near you:
Four Player EDH Chaos Games
Entry Fee: $5.00
Prizes: 1st Place: $20 Dealer Credit
Of course, you can’t play EDH if you don’t bring an EDH deck, so make sure you’ve at least got one in your car with you, and if you have more than one, bring those too. Once you’re playing an EDH game, you’re bound to run across a friend who’s been knocked out of the tournament and didn’t even think to bring his EDH deck with him, so you can really make his or her day if you can lend one.
EDH side events at big tournaments like the Star City Opens offer up some great opportunities. For some people, it might be their first chance to play the format if it hasn’t yet caught on at their local game shop or kitchen table. For others, it’s the chance to play against people outside your regular EDH group, which is always a nice way to get some new ideas to percolate on.
The impetus for this week’s column comes from my experiences playing in these EDH side events against people I don’t normally play. Usually I have a pretty good time, but one thing I’ve noticed is that there is usually at least one person who shows up with a deck that would be considered overly aggressive and “un-fun” among my group of regular players. EDH is a social game and your playgroup will typically sort out what is acceptable play and what is not via social pressures over time. However, at an EDH side event typically you’ll have 4 people from 4 different playgroups, each of whom has a different idea of what’s fun and acceptable. You might even have a Spike EDHer who going all out to crush everyone at the table as quickly as possible to win the Star City dealer’s credit that’s typically offered up as a prize.
There are two ways to approach this potential problem. One is to fight fire with fire, to power up your own deck with ways to aggressively win before they do. Of course, what happens when the other three people are playing more your own style? Suddenly you’ve become the “bad guy.” While I do think it’s perfectly fine to “power up” your EDH deck to some degree when there’s money (or dealer credit) on the line, I don’t necessarily think this is the best approach.
Another option is to regulate. Below are some cards I encourage you to consider for your deck as a way of keeping in check buzzkill players who don’t subscribe to your idea of fun EDH. You probably don’t need a bunch of these when playing in your regular playgroup but you may want to tweak any decks you take to the side events with some of these regulators.
Aven Mindcensor, Shadow of Doubt, Mindlock Orb
One hallmark of a player who has not fully embraced a Highlander format is an over-reliance on tutor effects as a way to force consistency into a deck that is inherently chaotic. It is also very often a sign that your opponent is looking to assemble some sort of deadly combo-kill. Mindlock Orb and Aven Mindcensor are great ways to shut down those shenanigans, and Shadow of Doubt can be a nasty little one-shot surprise. Just be careful you make sure everyone knows you’re playing these cards to prevent Spike from combo-ing out and killing everyone too fast, and not just as a general annoyance.
Arcane Laboratory, Rule of Law, Ethersworn Canonist
Killer combos often entail multiple spells cast in one turn (sometimes including the previously mentioned tutors), so these cards are quite handy in either shutting down that possibility or slowing the roll over the course of multiple turns, thus giving everyone more chances for thwarting the shenanigans.
Storm Seeker, Sudden Impact, Gaze of Adamaro, Runeflare Trap, Blood Oath, Black Vise, Iron Maiden, Viseling, Storm World
Besides lots of tutor effects, Spike-ish EDHers will also often load up on tons of raw card-drawing such as Stroke of Genius, backed with Library of Leng or the new kid on the block, Reliquary Tower. Often they will feel nigh-invulnerable behind a fistful of cards, so make sure you bring some spells to point out to them that it’s not always great to have a huge hand. Five of the cards above are instants, which make them ideal for coming out of nowhere and dishing out incredible damage. Then there are Black Vise and its variants, though keep in mind the ones that hurt everyone around the table can make you everyone’s enemy if you’re spreading the pain around too generously.
Jester’s Cap, Sadistic Sacrament, Bitter Ordeal, Nightmare Incursion, Denying Wind, Extract, Supreme Inquisitor, Earwig Squad, Rootwater Thief
One card I think every EDH side event deck should have is Jester’s Cap. It’s an artifact, so anyone can run it, and you can use it on someone without knowing exactly what sort of shenanigans they may be up to. Removing three cards is typically just enough to torpedo an obnoxious combo-kill without neutering the player’s ability to play the game. The other cards vary in their ability to remove cards from a player’s library, but all provide you with the knowledge of what your opponent may be up to and what they may still be able to pull off with his remaining cards. I didn’t list Neverending Torment above, but if you’re ballsy and really want to shaft a Spike for the rest of the game, that’s quite a doozy!
Scour, Quash, Counterbore, Splinter, Eradicate, Extirpate, Thought Hemorrhage, Cranial Extraction, Lobotomy, Knowledge Exploitation
These spells are more surgical, and require either a target or that you having some knowledge of what you’re going after. Removing a combo-piece from the game is helpful enough, but these also allow you to stride through your opponent’s library and scout out what else they may be up to.
Here’s another card I’d recommend you strongly consider for your EDH side-event deck, an artifact that can serve multiple functions. You can seriously slow down one suspicious player by giving him a useless hand while scouting his deck, or you can help out another player who might be struggling to get in the game and win yourself an ally. You can take that one step further, and if one player is setting up to dominate the table, you can set up another player to be the giant-killer, giving him the perfect hand to put a stop to the shenanigans.
Time Stop, Mindbreak Trap, Double Negative, Swift Silence, Last Word
If you play Blue in your EDH deck, you’ve got to play a copy of Time Stop, and you need to make sure you hold it until you can really save the day. There are so many ways a Time Stop will just halt a combo player in their tracks that it would be silly to go into them all here, just suffice to say – put it in your deck and keep your eyes open. Outside of Time Stop, counterspells in general are often very helpful in breaking up combo kills, and counters that can counter multiple spells on a stack are exceptionally useful.
Memory Lapse, Lapse of Certainty, Remand
Speaking of Counterspells, decks that don’t necessarily have much Blue in them (or in the case of Lapse of Certainty don’t have any Blue at all!) can run these easily splashed spells to buy time. When your combo-kill Spike goes for it and gets his spell countered for the turn, everyone else will know that disaster was averted and will hopefully rally round in their next turn to make that player’s life exceedingly difficult.
Tormod’s Crypt, Phyrexian Furnace, Relic of Progenitus, Identity Crisis, Honor, the Fallen, Jund Charm, Necromancer’s Covenant, Ravenous Trap, Skullsnatcher, Rysorian Badger
I almost hate to say this because I personally love graveyard recursion, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that lots of combo-kill shenanigans (or at the least some exceedingly devastating plays) involve the graveyard. The Magic 2010 gem Empty the Vaults is just the latest in a long line of “stock my graveyard full of stuff and then bring them all back into play and kill you” cards such as Living Death and Replenish. Tormod’s Crypt is another card you’d probably be wise to have tucked away in whatever EDH deck you bring to the side events, though Phyrexian Furnace is a little less harsh and a good way to keep Genesis shenanigans in check. If you’re playing the right colors, the other cards pack quite an anti-graveyard wallop.
Trickbind, Stifle, Azorius Guildmage, Bind, Interdict, Rimewind Cryomancer, Squelch, Voidmage Husher, Voidslime
A lot of EDHers overlook cards that counter triggered abilities and effects, of which there are a ton of in any EDH game. Triggers of various sorts will often accompany various killer combos, so you should consider trying out some of these cards to combat them. One card I’ve been particularly happy with is Voidmage Husher since he can be used over and over again, and I just love creatures that do cool stuff.
Gilded Light, Ivory Mask, Solitary Confinement, True Believer, Angel’s Grace, Platinum Angel
Despite your best efforts, sometimes you can’t stop the shenanigans from firing off so you need some good defense. Giving yourself Shroud is often quite helpful, and of course setting up the Angel defense of “I can’t lose, you can’t win” is really awesome too. Don’t underestimate the surprise value (and split-second-ness) of a well-timed Angel’s Grace.
Boseiju, Who Shelters All; Vexing Shusher
Often your adversary will be protecting his winning combo or unassailable position with counterspells of his own designed to stop you from stopping him. Vexing Shusher is particularly helpful since he can not only make sure your countermeasures aren’t countered, but he can also make sure other players who are trying to stop the shenanigans can fire off their spells too. Boseiju helps to punch through your instants or sorceries, but it will also act as a Strip Mine to your opponent’s copy in case he’s planning on using it to help punch his combo through counterspells.
Regardless of where you’re EDH game is, if you’re playing green and white you’ve got to have a copy of this card in your deck. In an EDH side-event, combo-shenanigans will often include some number of enchantments or artifacts, and there are few better ways of continuously blowing up artifacts and enchantments.
This nifty little spell is cheap and can go a long way in scouting out what some player might be up to and, if need be, let you sound the alarm.
If the graveyard shenanigans you’re most worried about involve creatures, this nice little gem can be a surprise hit for you, and if you don’t need it you can always cycle it away.
It just recently occurred to me how helpful this card can be for getting around the “unassailable fortress” that some players construct on their way to crushing the table. When there is a clear enemy at the table, play this card and pick that player. Stuffy Doll doesn’t target the player, and damage dealt to it is redirected without targeting the player either. So if someone’s Mortivore can’t punch through to kill Mr. Spike, he can attack your Stuffy Doll insteadâ€”problem solved!
I’m sure there are lots more “regulator” cards out there that I’ve overlooked, so if you think of some others please share them in the forums!
One last thoughtâ€”if one player brings an obnoxious deck that combo kills everyone fast despite your best efforts, congratulate him on the victory… and just keep playing without him. Chances are the rest of you will have a much better time without him anyway, and can relax without any prize on the line.
The main takeaway I hope to convey today is that 2010 is going to bring a lot of opportunities to play Elder Dragon Highlander against a new batch of players at the Star City Opens, but you need to be prepared. Not everyone’s idea of fun is going to evenly match up with your own thoughts on the matter, especially when some dealer credit is on the line, so you need to adjust your EDH deck accordingly… and be prepared to regulate.
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com
My current EDH decks:
Tibor and Lumia (copy copy copy copy)
Doran the Siege-Tower (toughness matters!)
Baron Sengir (Evil Vampires!)
Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary (huge creatures, big mana spells)
Sharuum, the Hegemon (Kaldra Lives!)
Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund (DRAGONS, RAHRRR!!)