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By: PatrykG, Patryk K Braganza-Gallagher
Nov 01 2011 10:31am
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(Note to everyone, this is my first time writing for PureMTGO, so suggestions, constructive criticisms, and differing viewpoints are completely welcome.)


So, to start things off, let me introduce myself - I am PatrykG on MTGO.  And, if you've been playing Commander for the last year or so on MTGO, there's a pretty decent chance I've played with you.  I also played "competitively" (if you can call the two Commander PREs, Chaos and Sunday Commander, competitive events) for a good while when I had the time on Sundays.  I believe that these experiences qualify me to talk about the differences in play styles in Commander.


Giant Shark




It should also be noted that I started playing Magic during Beta, and as such, I had at one time a full set of Moxen, and that when I quit playing MTG the first time, I made about 3 grand selling off just a small box of my cards, before giving all the rest away to friends.  So I come from a world far different from yours.  Just as an example, I've seen physical altercations occur when Chaos Orbs swing the right way, or when Jester's Cap neutered a player's deck.  The way we played in the old days was both awesome and horrific in equal measures.   




But that's the past, and this is now.  And the subject of discussion is the Commander format, specifically as it applies to MTGO.  Now, for those in the know, Commander is simply the modern name for EDH, or Elder Dragon Highlander.  I won't go into the history of EDH, but it suffices to say that the creators had in mind a fun, unique, social and interactive way of playing Magic.  It was expected that, just as most people tend to police their normal MTG playgroups (banning players and cards as necessary), they would also police the EDH playgroup as well.  Thus, the rules and the banned list were mainly for severely unfun cards, like Emrakul, Balance, and Biorhythm, among others.

All very unfun cards in a commander environment

As the format spread, it eventually became part of MTGO, under the name Commander.  And I love playing Commander on MTGO.  And since they made the six-player and dueling options available, it's just gotten better.  Now I can actually TEST my decks via Solitaire before unleashing them into the wild.  I can try large massive battles or small skirmishes, and it's awesome.

But, sadly, I've heard far more often that it's not so for you.  I've seen you rage-quit on a casting of Umalog or Time Warp.  I've seen you quit second turn in because "you needed to get that second land" instead of simply taking a mulligan to six cards.  I've read your typed moans of disgust when someone brings to the table a specific commander or when an opponent casts a certain spell.

Don't get me wrong, I understand the fear that an Eldrazi - especially a Lightning-Greaved, Annihilator-4, indestructible one - can inflict.  But my issue with some of you is this - if you were the one casting it, you would be okay.  Case in point - Bribery on a Blightsteel Colossus causes *the owner of the Blightsteel* to quit.  Is that right?



On the other hand, what about the person who, after a slow three or four rounds, "goes off" into an infinite turn combo?  Or the one player, whom I will not name, who literally joins games, waits for his deck to go off, destroys everything on the board, and then quits?  Is that right?

What I'm trying to show here is that there are issues on both sides.  And, when it comes down to it, there are very few ways to completely and amicably resolve this conflict. But I truly feel there is a middle ground, one where the sharks swim happily with the guppies.  Anyone who's ever been to an Aquarium (or has watched any Shark Week specials) can attest to the fact that sharks do not eat every single fish they see.  And, much like in nature, there are a number of ways for both to coexist and thrive.

Solution 1:  Segregation

By far the simplest, if not the worst, way to resolve this conflict, segregation will allow sharks and guppies to co-exist.  Ironically, this is the answer that the creators of the game suggest:

Players should aim to interact both during the game and before it begins, discussing with other players what they expect/want from the game.

And, in MTGO, this is the easiest to implement – simply put your play style in the Description line, and be ready to block and eject any who fail to follow the rules you’ve selected.  Don’t want Eldrazi?  Don’t want infinite combo?  Just say so!




Hell No, We Won’t Combo!


The benefits are clear – like players play with like players, and everyone’s happy.  The detriments, however... those would probably have been a bit harder to see, if I hadn’t purposely chosen the keyword segregation.  Just as in history, separating the Commander world into two wildly disparate groups, both supposedly equal, has some serious drawbacks. 

First off, what defines “sharky” behavior?  Does playing with a deck that costs approximately ten dollars a card count as cutthroat?  Doesn’t a group hug deck that makes people draw their library ridiculously fast count as casual?  What about the guy that plays mono-blue, isn’t he automatically win-at-any-costs – he’s blue, for heaven’s sake!  And this Mayael player, he’s not too bad… Wait, a foil search-land, quit before he kills us all!  And yes, sadly, I’ve seen firsthand each of these examples.  How pathetic is it when a person quits because you threw down a foil Arid Mesa?




Instant Win!!

Not Really.

No, seriously, this is nothing to be afraid of.

Secondly, when you separate out every type of player, you separate out any chance of learning.  This, more than anything else, is the reason why I feel that segregation is a huge mistake.  How can you expect to honestly learn when all you see is the same faces, the same decks, and the same play after play after play?  Even if you don’t get bored (and let’s be honest, it WILL get boring eventually no matter how much you love it now), you’ll never get anywhere.  You need fresh thoughts, new deck ideas, new cards and card interactions, and the only way to get that is to play with as many people as you can.  In a world where you can play Commander 24/7/365, no matter what day, no matter what time, why on Earth would you purposefully limit yourself to a small subset of the ever-growing MTGO Commander universe?

So segregation fails (as it does every time).  What else can we try?

Solution 2: Expanded Ban-lists and Additional Rules

This is the method employed by the Chaos PRE (sort of).  Every week, Chaos has a new theme that you must build for.  It’s the most-fun PRE imaginable, and I highly recommend playing in it if you have time on Sundays.  You have a great cast of regulars, and if you want to see new interactions, bar none it’s the best place to go.  However, the randomness that so thrives in Chaos is impossible to implement on a larger global scale.  Sure, one could argue over and over on the Commander forums – you could even go so far as to kidnap Sheldon and company to make your voice heard – but in the end, you’d fail. 

And that’s a good thing, because the act of banning tons of new cards, and implementing new rules, will invariably anger and upset at least as many people as it would purport to help.  Beyond that, it would also destroy what is (in a great many eyes) the very thing that makes Commander so amazing and fun.  There is no other format in existence today that would allow a person the ability to cast Genesis Wave with an X=20 *twice* in a single turn.  Or where you can come from a ten-land deficit to win the game by killing 3 opponents in a single turn.  The beauty of Commander is that everyone with a proper skill set and mind set can prosper - which brings me to the third, and arguably the best, solution.

Solution 3: Mentor the Meek

My suggestion to resolve the Commander Wars is something that involves not a single rules change, nor a single extra card ban.  It involves no segregation or separation of players whatsoever – in fact, it works best when pitting members of both camps against one another.  And it is an homage to a time and place long ago in my youth.

When I first started playing Magic, I was in High School – back in the late 80s / early 90s – and, as expected, I sucked.  No, I really really really sucked.  I thought white and green were the only colors worth playing (the marriage of Serra Angel and Force of Nature), I laughed at people who played Ashes to Ashes (why would you want to lose 5 life to destroy creatures?!), and I never, never went anywhere near blue.  And then I met a friend of mine who was just as dead-set against white and green as I was for them, and his use of blue was legendary.  And I realized I had two choices, lose spectacularly over and over to him, and maybe destroying and ruining a friendship forever, or (and this is the crux too many Commander guppies miss) learn from my mistakes, allow myself to grow, and perhaps be able to beat him at his own game.

If this card existed during Beta and Revised, I may never have become the player I am today.

And that’s exactly what I did.  With the help of my friend, we mentored each other in the arts the other lacked, and after a while, we were both able to pull off combos that were hitherto unimaginable to either of us.  Games became far more interactive, and more importantly, they became more fun!  And the same can happen in the world of MTGO Commander – if people on both sides are willing to try.

By try, I mean that those on the casual side of the fence need to realize that, instead of being frustrated, look at why you’re frustrated.  Are you having mana problems?  Perhaps your mana ratio is off, perhaps your deck has too high an average CMC, or perhaps you depended too heavily on mana sources prone to removal.  If you’re getting hammered by  creatures, perhaps you need to look at your removal options or look into lifegain abilities.  The point is, if all you do is complain and rage out and quit without ever looking at yourself, you’re destined to repeat the same games over and over.


However, on the flip side, I implore those with more shark-like tendencies to try and relax the slaughter a bit.  Do you really need to cast that third (or fourth, or tenth) Time Stretch?  Do you really need to destroy everyone else’s lands not once, but once per turn?  Or, to put it another way, if your deck truly and consistently changes the game from a 4 player brawl into a single-player game of Solitaire, ask yourself one thing - why are you bothering to play with people at all?  You could have the exact same experience in the Casual Room with Solitaire, or, even better, record the game once and play it over and over and over whenever you felt like you needed to see it.  As said so perfectly by Jeff Goldblum’s character in Jurassic Park:

“Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could that they didn't stop to think if they should.” 

In short, sharks, stop and think about the other players.

If we all did this, truly worked towards this, imagine how much we all could improve.  Think about how much more fun we all could have.  We all love this great game called Magic the Gathering, so we all have some of the same basic likes and dislikes - so why not try and join forces and make MTGO Commander the fun, social, interactive way of playing Magic again. 




All I know is that if I have by smack8001 at Tue, 11/01/2011 - 12:28
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All I know is that if I have to watch one more player cast Primeval Titan followed by Rite of Replication with kicker and then cry cry cry when I cast Wrath followed by Armageddon, I'm going to puke.

Unfortunately none of your card images loaded, so it's hard to know what you're talking about. The writing is good though and I'd love to read a corrected version.

I loved this article. I used by geo67 at Tue, 11/01/2011 - 13:02
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I loved this article. I used to play back in the day, when The Dark had just come out, and I was such a bad player...took an 80 card deck to a tourney. As a fledgling commander, I have struggled with many of the situations out there, and continue to flail in the deep end of the pool. However, as someone with a reasonable level of intelligence, I have learned, and noticed which cards are the main staples of a successful commander deck..i.e. lightning greaves, dual lands, etc.

I have set up numerous, and no doubt very ugly, and horrible, commander decks, have played with all of them, because I really dig the format. Each time I play a new deck, I have a feeling of joy, and hope that this may be the

I win maybe once in a blue moon, but if they person beating me is doing it in a fun, creative and respectful way, hell, by all means continue. I want to see what happens when my opponent steals my undead alchemist, duplicates him with a kicker, he attacks, and generates about 50 zombie tokens...that stuff is cool to me, fun, and fun for the person playing.

I used to refuse to play with a P'Walker in my deck or day of judgement, or greaves, sensei's top, and a few others, but in order for the game to remain fun for me, I've had to adjust, and maybe put some of the necessary cards in my deck. I have learned that just because a card is in my hand, doesn't mean I need to play it ASAP, commander has taught a lot of strategy and patience.

I have a buddy online that created three artifact control commander decks and all they did was shut me down, let him play pretty much solo, and win each game. I let him know that if he ever brought those to a multi game, he'd probably be knocked out first.

The quote from Jurassic Park is right on the money, especially with the ease it is to get cards online.

The problem being, not enough people care to understand...winning is too important.

I have played hundreds of by this isnt the n... at Tue, 11/01/2011 - 13:28
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I have played hundreds of commander games on mtgo. None in 6 months though. My decks were very good, and competetive, but they were fair. Fair decks are not going to have a chance vs unfair decks. Win at all costs should not even be a thought when playing commander, yet there is a large group of online commander players who think that the point of commander is to play the most powerful deck possible, regardless of the other players.

After starting multiple games in a row with "no mass ld" in game description, and then having mass ld used every game i just quit playing the format.
Online commander has turned into a game filled with douchebags doing their best to stop the opps from having fun. Commander is a casual format supposed to be all about fun. Unfortunately a large number of people dont care.

I wont be playing commander online again.

A good example of everything thats wrong with commander nowadays can be found on mtgoacademy.

I agree with you one hundred by geo67 at Tue, 11/01/2011 - 13:42
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I agree with you one hundred percent...there are less people concerned about the coolness of the cards, or "man, I love zombies, so GrimGrin is my guy," or "hey, should do this and that deck would be awesome". Too many people that are like, let's just lock this game down, run counter spells, and to quote the late Al Davis, "Just win, Baby."

If you ever want to have a low key, fun, non LD match, look me up geo67.

Thanks for the comments :-D by PatrykG at Tue, 11/01/2011 - 13:38
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Regarding the pictures not loading, the only time I can think of where the pics won't load is if you have the WOTC Gatherer site blocked. I know at my job, I can't see the pictures, but at my home, I can. Perhaps that's the same thing you're experiencing? As this is my first time writing on here, I did a lot of what I'm used to - Gatherer references and all - and assuming enough people like my writing, I'm planning to continue on with a bi-monthly series about Commander.

My biggest hope with this article is that more sharks read it and ask themselves that question - because, of all the games of Commander I've played, win or lose, the only ones that really left a sour taste in my mouth was the ones where either ridiculous MassLD caused the games to become watch-my-opponent-play rather than interactive. I wouldn't even care if MassLD was used, if you have a way to kill people in a quick fashion - but expecting two to five people to be okay with watching you play solitaire because you didn't bother adding in a kill condition is just not right.

There just needs to be a way by geo67 at Tue, 11/01/2011 - 13:44
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There just needs to be a way to be like Fonzie, and jump the shark.

Welcome to Puremtgo, Patryk. by Paul Leicht at Tue, 11/01/2011 - 14:07
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Welcome to Puremtgo, Patryk. (I feel like I've seen your icon a lot here as a commenter.) I applaud your zeal but I don't agree with your solutions being THE answers. I think the main problem is there is no one answer. Every player gets different things out of commander. Also people can transition from one to another based on their own needs changing over time. I used to only play with people I knew in the group. I'd play in the wild (the wild = randomly selected unknown players in multiplayer or casual play) when I saw a buddy playing in a game that way I knew I could at least socialize with one player even if the game itself went south.

Then I built up a group of "friends" who played less "must win NOW!" decks in favor of the drawn out battle type decks we often hear about in Tarasco's (Leviathan, here) excellent commander articles on here. Then I started playing in the wild without a safety net. I've had some bad experiences with other players in the wild but I've also run into some very good and very smart players there.

Combos and win now strategies abound but they don't always succeed and if the other players are hip to them they may even have a hard time putting any kind of presence on the board to keep them alive. I've seen some vicious comments directed at Animar players by people wrecking them when questioned why they are the target.

Though Chaos EDH was interesting to me when I first heard about it (because of the varying build criteria) for a long time I just didn't bother. Too many other things were grabbing my attention on Sunday. Recently however,(since September) I've been attending these and have been fortunate enough to place well in many of them. The game play is typically of the long drawn out battle type and is quite political. Also quite tactical. Many of the players are Player Run Event Veterans. (See my article from last month for more.)

When someone starts to pull off a combo almost everyone jumps them without needing urging. (And one of the rules of that PRE is no talking in PMs about the game, under duress of a ban if found out.) And no collusion. So this instinct to kill combo is just smart playing and experience.

As far as casual commander goes, I'd say that the real solution is just to accept that there will be "sharks" as you say and build to withstand them without building the obvious deck every time. Or DO build the obvious deck and ignore the comments. Rite of Replication into Primeval Titan is funny as heck, even or especially prior to Wrath+Armageddon.

I have had great fun with a 5-color Zombies deck and a Xira Arien vermin theme deck recently even though they aren't as competitive as some other decks (Intet for example).

And one morning when I was feeling a little sharkish myself I broke out wrathgeddon Hazezon and was pleasantly rewarded by 3 excellent opponents who not only knew the score but were delighted by my deck. (Especially the Jokulhaups post Hazezon which doomed us to some very tedious turns of top decking land and did not give me the tokens I was hoping for, because Id forgotten the clause on my Commander that says "where X is the number of lands you control at that time." Duh? :p Wrath would have been better.) (And yes I generally agree, that mass ld is painful when you don't have a good kill on the table.)

I don't typically play Hazezon that way but I started the game with "play what you want, concede when you want." in the notes and this is the crux of it. Btw I got that phrase from AJ_Impy who is renowned on MTGO for being the guy to kill first (cf: Rule Zero) in commander.

Play what you want, enjoy yourself and expect others to do the same and if the game isn't fun concede if you want. No one is holding you hostage.

Yes, I've commented a lot before :) by PatrykG at Tue, 11/01/2011 - 14:41
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And yes, I agree with a lot of what you're saying as well Paul, but the reason I feel that the mentor solution is the "only" solution (meaning, the only good one) is because I assume that even sharks don't have fun in an empty tank, and if the sharks continue on their chosen path, all that will eventually be left is... Well, sharks. Cannibalism notwithstanding, they'll eventually run out of food.

The crux to any solution in Commander is very much a problem of the different desires, as you mention, but if we continue on as we're going, we lose out - this-isn't-the-name-I-chose being yet another quitter - and I don't want that. I can't know if he was the typical guppy I've seen - but whether he was or not, the fact that he quit means I'll never know what his favorite cards are, what kinds of decks he liked, and that's a loss I mourn every time.

Ironically, your Chaos playing is the inverse of mine - Sunday school and church duties make it impossible for me to continue playing in Chaos, but I do share many fond rememberences of the games and themes. It also showed me many many different cards and ideas, which is why I miss it, too.

I just want enough people to read this and think. Shark or guppy, if I've made ya think a little, made ya improve your outlook or your game - then I feel I've done my job.

Welcome by Lythand at Tue, 11/01/2011 - 18:53
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Welcome to the fun of Commander articles.

Article wise not bad. I would of liked to see a little more. I feel it was a little short. Only one Typo I could find. so for the grammar, not bad.

I'm not against segregation, as I do it myself, but I do believe education is the best form of Commander education. More so in the sense though of educating someone on how the format is intended to be played. For the longest time I played commander like a shark. Not becuase I didn't care about casual players and I was a dick, simply becuase I had no idea what the intent of playing commander was all about. When I finally met Sheldon Menery for the first time and played a game with him, I was opened up to a whole new world of Commander. I realized my vision of the game was way off his, and adjusted accordingly, but who was to say I had to. The problem we face is that not everyones idea of an ideal format for commander is the same. We will always butt heads and disagree with each other on what is acceptable. It's the old question of "what is casual".

Keep the articles comming.

I found a few more grammar by greyes3 at Tue, 11/01/2011 - 22:53
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I found a few more grammar mistakes just glancing through...

Run-on sentences
Sentences beginning with conjunctions (insert Finding Forester quote)
"Aquarium" capitalized incorrectly
Improper hyphen use
Missing commas (debatable I suppose)
Too many commas (again...)
"High School" capitalized incorrectly

Your post isn't exactly a beacon of grammar light either, so it
comes as no surprise to me that you still don't know what casual means.

You seem like a nice enough guy PatrykG, but you'd be better off banging your head into a brick wall a few times, rather than trying to tell the masses how they should or should not play EDH online. Overall, I thought the piece wasn't terrible. Lord knows there is worse stuff published here all the time.

Don't take this the wrong way... by PatrykG at Wed, 11/02/2011 - 09:11
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But I'd like an example of these "run-on sentences". Of all the things that the masses incorrectly label as correct, the "run-on sentence" is second only to the their-they're-there issue in my eyes. As for most of your other "errors", I would be surprised if even a tenth of what you considered "wrong" is, in fact, wrong.

Beyond the fact that almost every single word processing software in existence routinely "corrects" what is not wrong in any sense, a large part of English writing (especially with regards to hyphens, commas, and sentence length (fragments and the "run-on")) is more a matter of preference and style as compared to actually being incorrect. In particular, I tend to write longer sentences, specifically because I like how long well-written sentences trick people into thinking that they're incorrect, which I am 99% sure is the case here.

If you feel otherwise, please show me a few of these run-ons. I'd love to explain why they're not - especially since, as a general rule, most English speakers write like total crap, and I'd love the chance to at least fix one of them.

Oh, and that reminds me -

Starting sentences with a conjunction is also not an "error". Then there's the fact that High School and Aquarium are both capitalized because I used each of them as the proper name of a location.

High school and aquarium were by greyes3 at Wed, 11/02/2011 - 13:48
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High school and aquarium were not used as proper nouns in your writing above.

Maybe you haven't seen the movie I referenced, but there is a scene that talks about starting a sentence with a conjunction. It also specifically talks about why doing it gives your writing a run-on feeling. (think independent clauses)
I'll even paste the dialogue below...

"Paragraph three starts...with a conjunction, "and." You should never start a sentence with a conjunction."

"Sure you can."

"No, it's a firm rule."

"No, it was a firm rule. Sometimes using a conjunction at the start of a sentence makes it stand out. And that may be what the writer's trying to do."

"And what is the risk?"

"Well the risk is doing it too much. It's a distraction. And it could give your piece a run-on feeling. But for the most part, the rule on using "and" or "but" at the start of a sentence is pretty shaky. Even though it's still taught by too many professors. Some of the best writers have ignored that rule for years, including you."

Also, how could a tenth of what I labeled wrong, be wrong, if I only listed 7 things?

I beg to differ on your points by PatrykG at Wed, 11/02/2011 - 14:39
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Just because you listed seven things does not mean that you only have seven things that you saw wrong. As per your list:

Run-on sentences
Sentences beginning with conjunctions (insert Finding Forester quote)
"Aquarium" capitalized incorrectly
Improper hyphen use
Missing commas (debatable I suppose)
Too many commas (again...)
"High School" capitalized incorrectly

With the exception of the aquarium and high school issues, every other issue you listed is (or can be assumed to be) pluralized, meaning (unless YOU made a mistake) that there are multiple occurences of each said mistake type. I realized that you must never make grammar mistakes (otherwise, why would you start picking on others for them?) so I took you at your word that you meant it as such.

As for High School and Aquarium, the reason why it was used as proper names is because I, as the author, meant it as such.

I would highly recommend getting off the grammatical high horse. Don't get me wrong, I am furious about the general decline of the English language, but there are far better targets than what you're choosing to aim at. Considering this is a casual environment with thousands of lines of text that may never have passed through an editor's hands, it doesn't really make much sense to try policing it - especially when newspapers routinely make far greater errors that the "mistakes" you claim I've made.

If you want to count each by greyes3 at Wed, 11/02/2011 - 15:21
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If you want to count each specific case, then it makes the 1/10th number even more absurd, because you don't even know how many instances I'm referring to.

I'm not picking on you. I make grammar mistakes all the time. It was brought up in a previous post so I assumed it was a topic of interest.

I won't argue with you about when nouns should or should not be capitalized, when your rebuttal is well I "meant" for them to be proper names.

quite the contrary by PatrykG at Wed, 11/02/2011 - 16:20
PatrykG's picture

My choosing of the number was quite specific. I said it to emphasize (and slightly to exaggerate) the fact that you picked up on a good amount of grammatical "errors" when I am nigh positive that 90% of them are *not* errors at all. And again, if you feel that your findings are in fact errors, please show examples.

As for the rebuttal, I did that quite specifically, as well. The point being, just because an author chooses to capitalize the first letter of a word, it does not necessarily follow that it must immediately be a mistake unless it's the first word of a sentence. I could just as easily have said that I used capitalization for emphasis, and I would still be right. The crux of the matter being, while the original poster said that he found one grammatical error and left it be, you felt it was important to point out what you saw to be a rather larger number of them. As such, I brought you to task with an valid question - which ones?

My issue with your logic is simple - if you're going to bring up a laundry list of items that you see wrong, but then aren't willing to explain the reasoning behind a large number of them, I am forced to assume that either (a) you're trolling, or (b) you realized after writing that perhaps you were mistaken. Since you have yet to either confirm the latter or produce evidence that you're not the former, I will simply take it that this argument has essentially lost its luster to you, and simply bid you adieu.

I like the idea you propose by Leviathan at Tue, 11/01/2011 - 20:14
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I like the idea you propose about mentoring people in concept. Unfortunately creating those kind of relationships over the interwebs using the current version of the MTGO client is extremely freakin' challenging. Due to the nature of online play a lot of people just find it easier to point and click and avoid interaction. Of course, there are those people that enjoy chatting people up and meeting new players, but I have found that those people usually aren't problematic. So it's sort of a catch-22.

But what I like most about the article was the fact that you articulately made your point without saying "sharks suck" and "newbs learn to play better." And I liked that you did at least come up with a solution, no matter how difficult it may be to implement.

Also, just for future reference, if you want to show pics of cards without having to link to Gatherer, you can just put (pic=cardname) in the editor, with parenthesis. (tmb=cardname) will give you a thumbnail of the card as well.

Good stuff.

Thanks for all the comments :) by PatrykG at Tue, 11/01/2011 - 22:16
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Leviathan, I read your articles religiously :) Between your articles, Hammie's State of the Program and Lord Erman's Rogue Play series, I've ended up getting at least a good 200+ new card ideas / deck ideas, and it's cool as hell to have you like my article :-D

So I'm shooting for an interesting idea for the next article, so in the words of Ahhnold, I'll be back...

Excellent article. On the by JAHeadden at Tue, 11/01/2011 - 23:44
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Excellent article.

On the subject of the fun versus unfun, I will describe what happened when I played It That Betrays with Ulamog in my Ghave, Guru of spores deck which, for the sake of this explanation, had Martyr's Bond and Grave Pact in it. This deck's design was such that while it would eventually amass a large army of saprolings, it would do so while wiping every other creature off the board without having to use asymmetrical sweepers.

During this time, one of my opponents, who played with a Kozilek in his deck (for the purposes of "shuffling the library" as we are often told), decided to Bribery twice (with a Riku deck) and got both of these Eldrazi. He then greaved up Ulamog and proceeded to take out every single one of my lands, then creatures, every turn.

If this is done early enough, as in Azusa, Lost but Seeking decks or typical monogreen or green-blue ramp decks, then it can happen so fast an Ulamog swinging on turn five or so is not a problematic position to make, and this makes the prospect of facing losing all, or most of your permanents a real problem. The other player does not have a mountain to climb back up out of, especially if they are using removal-light colors. In a casual environment, you wouldn't even use that much direct removal, barring Beast Within and such, and only a small handful of green kill exists. And none of it can take out Ulamog, with or without a Greaves on him.

I promptly removed all Eldrazi from my decks, and replaced them with cards more effective in doing what those cards did without Annihilator. I even removed Artisan of Kozilek. My decks do not suffer for this lack, so they were never in a position to require them. My monoblack deck will use Praetor's Grasp to take out a Kozilek or Ulamog, and then leave it in exile, even when I have the opportunity to cast it. I don't care.

The next and only other issue I have is with infect. Poison counters as a theme is fine, but the problem exists that in Commander, there is a solution to everything: even Emrakul, for being so unfun it got banned and not necessarily because it had Annihilator and in spite of his high cost, and it can be Shriekmaw'd, Faceless Butcher'd, etc. Infect has only one solution, Leeches, and it's not online. Moreover, unlike previous creatures with poison, there is a strong distinction in how they interact with cards:

Llanowar Elves compared to Glistener Elf, and a measure of pump. The same amount of pump results in extremely distinct forms of "damage." A Glistener Elf acts as a 4/1 for one and no drawback, and any sort of evasion (flying, for example) makes the damage output extremely problematic. The prevalence and availability of such cards is so rendered that having an infect version of a card is better, simply because the actual cost of the card does not really change. Infect is not a cost against a card, but a null bonus, a "evergreen" effect, and no adequate means of reducing its impact can be made when. If you have any amount of poison, a player can proliferate or simply peck at you, and the process of doing so is faster than just shooting you for two or so each turn. This doesn't mean Skithryx is that much better of a commander than, say, Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed, but it is a measure that players might be so aggressive to taking out the Skithryx player from the game they will ignore the blue or green (or red!) player who's win-con is Blightsteel Colossus with a Greaves on it.

My point: There is no hope and there is no fun to be had. To make this point, I don't run the cards because they are unfun for others. My skill is such that I can likely win regardless, and as such I do not need these cards to make my wins for me. There is such a thing as running cards that take no skill to play, and Blightsteel and Ulamog take NO SKILL to play. They serve only one function, and the game state they create makes it all about them, a feature that has preceded Kokusho and Emrakul being banned. by Paul Leicht at Wed, 11/02/2011 - 04:32
Paul Leicht's picture <---is online as of January (Masters Edition 4) but that doesn't mean it is a good card. :)

Oops! And I know! The problem by JAHeadden at Wed, 11/02/2011 - 04:53
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Oops! And I know! The problem was is that the infect as poison-counter rider on damage was designed to be problematic, and i think a bad design element. It is still solvable, but it makes it troublesome when the mechanic too well. At least annihilator got Tajuru Preserver. No such luck on infect.

*cough* by Bauchelain at Wed, 11/02/2011 - 06:13
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Melira *cough*

I think Infect is actually fine as long as it's not abused. There are obviously some decks that just go for super quick poison kills with blazing shoals and other stupid pump spells, which is just annoying and unnecessary. I play a mimeoplasm 'New Phyrexia' themed deck, obviously containing a lot of infect cards and it's fine since I don't abuse the mechanic.

Regarding infect by PatrykG at Wed, 11/02/2011 - 09:38
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Infect is one of those mechanics that paint a huge target on your head (or should, if people really thought about it). In most of the games I've played, the person with poison was insta-targeted and killed pretty quickly. But I know what you mean, it's never a fun thing to come up against.

Then again, one of the funniest games I've played was where someone had Skittles and I cloned it with Sakashima and poisoned the owner out of the game. Poetic justice 101.

Play by the sword, die by the sword. by Lythand at Wed, 11/02/2011 - 14:59
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I don't see an issue with stealing, or cloning, someone elses incredibly broken card to kill them with it. My play group even has a house rule that if you steal something from someone, then they should be the ones to be attacked with it. Meaning if I take Kozilek out of your deck with bribery, then you best be ready to defend against it.

That is a fun and cool house by geo67 at Wed, 11/02/2011 - 15:30
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That is a fun and cool house rule.

Lythand hit it on the head by PatrykG at Wed, 11/02/2011 - 16:57
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One of my major issues with many casual / fun players is that they will complain over and over about card A or combo B, but only when others are playing it. I have seen that happen so many times, and I've blasted the perpetrator every single time.

Regarding the Eldrazi (and Kozilek specifically), I do have to say that there must be a great many players who use them for mill-protection, including myself. I actually go further than just mill protection - between using him with Survival of the Fittest to keep my graveyard empty and change any creature in my hand for one in my deck or simply casting him to get four cards, sacrificing him to Greater Good, and then (hopefully) discarding him again as one of the 3 cards, I have to admit that he is pretty much one of my auto-includes even though I've almost never attacked with him (shark-hunting notwithstanding).

But that brings up a valid point - when a person no longer falls under the guppy or shark heading, what do we call them :-D

I'm pretty sharky, so I by walkerdog at Wed, 11/02/2011 - 17:45
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I'm pretty sharky, so I obviously appreciate it when someone says "Hey, maybe if you built your deck well (a.e. correct number of lands) and didn't keep 1-landers and scoop on turn 2 (turn 6 I understand, but turn 2?) Magic might be more enjoyable."

I've also tried to keep the number of Time Warp effects minimal in my decks, although I feel 0 guilt about odd ones such as Notorious Throng that you have to work for a little.

Yeah scooping early in by Paul Leicht at Wed, 11/02/2011 - 18:00
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Yeah scooping early in commander is just being precipitous. Even with a terrible hand (after 3-4 mulls) I have come back from a dead draw to win. So it is very likely that anyone can pull out of bad situations in this format. Unless you are facing inevitability anyway and that pretty much negates any hand.

Also as you say land distribution is a huge issue. How can you hope to draw more than a few if you only put in say 25%? And if your deck only needs 1-2 lands to function (rdw style) why build with 40%? Considering the deck at hand is key there.

But criticism like that isn't always easy to hear or understand. Do you give this advice to people when you play them? How do they typically react?

It's funny you ask that by PatrykG at Wed, 11/02/2011 - 19:47
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As that was part of my idea for my next article.

In keeping with my Casual vs Cutthroat theme, I was going to suggest ways for the guppy to improve his game, and at the same time offer ways for the shark to lighten up on the blood frenzy.

As for the actual question, I often start every Commander with a comment or two about specific commander choices - for instance, "Everyone should watch out for Uril, he can get dangerous if left unchecked" or "Great choice with Cho-Manno, you don't see her around much" or something similar. Once the game starts, I tend to already see if someone's either rising fast or struggling a bit, and I change my game up accordingly. If I see any of the Commander deck Legends, I immediately ask if they've edited the deck - since logically if they did, they're likely not new to Commander - and if not, I offer suggestions for specific cards that I like using, often with pricing from MTGOTraders if I know it offhand. Any struggling, ask similar questions and give similar suggestions.

I think (and take this with a grain of salt, obviously) that anyone would be happy to hear friendly advice about how to improve. Sure, some grumbling may occur, but as long as you're not condescending to them, I can't imagine anyone really being dicky about it. And the key part to this whole thing is, even a shark can learn about some new card interaction they've never seen before. I've yet to find a true 100% bastard on MTGO, and God willing, I hope I never do.

Have you met Sabberlod? by walkerdog at Wed, 11/02/2011 - 23:19
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Have you met Sabberlod?

i removed some comments that by JXClaytor at Wed, 11/02/2011 - 23:13
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i removed some comments that i felt were getting too close to personal attacks.

Oh, please. See me in game by greyes3 at Wed, 11/02/2011 - 23:14
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Oh, please.

See me in game Pat if you would like to continue this discussion.