MTG Commander/Elder Dragon Highlander

A Competitive Mindset
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Author:  hijtblast [ 2019-Feb-21 1:43 pm ]
Post subject:  A Competitive Mindset

Recently, I have seen a large amount of people tell me that plahing commander with a highly tuned and optimized deck is missing the point and that my play group and I are playing commander wrong and that we should stop playing it that way. I play a mono black Sidisi Ad Nauseum storm combo deck, and my playgroup consists of mono blue baral control, Mono white thalia stax deck, and a five color najheela combo deck. Some games end on turn 3, where i or my friend combo off early through disruption, or go to turn 50 because the control deck got enough resources or the stax deck locks us put of the game. The thing is though, all of pur decks are on the same power level, we go into the game expecting said powerlevel, and we enjoy those kinds of games. Why then, is there some all encompassing "right way to play commander" that people keep trying to shove down our throats? The point of magic the gathering, and the commander format, at the end of the day, is to have fun. And I honestly dont see what we are doing wrong or why other people get so worked up about how we play the format. So, i have come here to ask you. Is this wrong? If so, why is it wrong, and why shouldn't we play this way?

Author:  Sinis [ 2019-Feb-21 3:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A Competitive Mindset


I don't think you're playing it the wrong way. I don't think there is a technically right or wrong way to play commander. When people say "You're doing it wrong", they're usually just privileging their kind of fun over yours, in a well-intentioned, yet myopic attempt to 'help' you enjoy the format as much as they do. In fact, given that you and your playgroup seem to have come to an agreement of what kind of game you want to play, I would say you're having an optimal commander experience.

I will agree that I don't think Commander is a competitively robust format, and that the rules and banlist reflect an attempt to make the format enjoyable to Joe Average rather than someone more interested in competitive play, but, I don't think you're playing Commander 'wrong'.

That said, I don't think I'd enjoy myself at your tables. In contrast, my groups play very ponderous and dorky decks, and we do not generally combo off or prevent others from playing the game (i.e. stax).

Author:  Uktabi_Kong [ 2019-Feb-21 4:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A Competitive Mindset

Short answer: Assuming the situation is as you've stated it, you and your friends are doing nothing wrong. The people who are criticizing you are either taking out justified frustrations on the wrong target, or just nitpicky trolls the likes of which Commander (and Magic, and the broader gaming community as a whole) would be better without.

Long answer: The format was not designed with competitive play in mind, its ruleset and banlist take concepts like "balancing" or "not breaking" the format into little/no account, and it is currently as far as I know the most popular casual format. These things all lead to a vision and intention for the format to resemble a tabletop RPG or cooperative game of laid-back social escapism within a game's ruleset. This is opposed to the other formats which do as much as they can to resemble a game of chess where the outcome of any given match is as dependent as possible on the individual skill of the players. This departure from the way other formats are run leads to two major consequences:

1. The format's ability to be enjoyable is much more dependent on upholding the social contract between individual players and rules as intended rather than strict rules as written.

2. The format does not take the pains that other formats do to avoid a situation of being "solved".

As a result, outside of established playgroups between close friends, there really isn't a single "Commander" format. The odds that your deck and mindset will match that of any given opponent is rather slim, and this leads to a consistent problem of guns being brought to knife fights.

This problem is then compounded with players who actually have a competitive mindset, as a pickup game with anyone outside of that mindset is guaranteed to be the equivalent of bringing a Navy Seal's full lineup of gear to a fist fight. And while most of them are accidental, there's an unfortunately sizeable amount of players who know what they're doing, know why others don't like it, and either don't care or actively enjoy it.

And something I need to make clear. Assuming your side of the story is correct you and your group are NOT ^ the players I was just describing. You are a group of friends playing the game the way you all like it and with an established understanding of the expectations involved. That is precisely the type of game that the format was designed to promote, albeit in a roundabout way for your specific case. However, the format is filled with people who play it specifically so they have a space where they can play their favorite cards that have no place in competitive Magic. And when your gaming night is consistently ruined by people who pit their $13,000 Hermit Druid deck up against a bunch of < $200 dragon tribal and enchantress decks, it becomes easy to make the mistake of blaming all competitive players and thinking all of them are "doing it wrong".

That being said, there's also a sizeable number of wangrods in the casual group as well. They tend to be among those who played the format "before it was cool", although far from always. What all of them do have in common is that pedantic numbskullery and a love for bashing other people and their hobbies and then justifying it by appealing to the fact that they aren't technically wrong. The real life versions of Bubble Bass from Spongebob. Thankfully, it's pretty obvious when one of these blockheads is the person you're talking to, and they deserve no space in your thoughts and nothing they say should ever be taken seriously.

Author:  hijtblast [ 2019-Feb-21 4:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A Competitive Mindset

To be fair, we came from vintage legacy modern and standard at a competitive level before starting commander, and we do have lower power level decks that we play in lower power pods. I play a super jank zur cycling deck that I love, and the stax player plays zedruu planeswalkers and instead of ulting give other ppl the walkers to ult. But maybe my thought that a large amount of commander players think that way was misguided. The extremists scream the loudest lol.

Author:  NMS [ 2019-Feb-21 6:39 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A Competitive Mindset

Good answers, but TLDR: If everyone involved is having a good time, you're doing it right.

Author:  Mr Degradation [ 2019-Feb-21 9:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A Competitive Mindset

Honestly, this has little to do with competitiveness, in my experience. What's tuned to one player, or group might not be to another (and I don't mean that to come down on you, OP- it's just a fact that this forum forces us to run our heads into over and over again.) It sounds like you're on a subreddit full of assblasted randos.

There is a "terminal power" in EDH, where decks which makeup the metagame for competitive groups aren't even particularly threatening at the table. If your favorite General's cumulative abilities fill enough of a niche to balance a 99 card deck on- they can hit this terminal power; the format's extended ruleset almost enforces that. Further, there isn't really a mold for what a competitive EDH deck looks like (things like land count, accelerant count etc. are erratically different based on what the deck is doing.) If your instinct is to push your builds to this point, and you aren't trying to do it in an anti-social way; then you have done nothing wrong.

There are individuals who overthink tier lists, usage stats, and other metrics; treating them as a sortof gospel; or possibly resenting some element of what they perceive to be oppressive to their fun. However, EDH is mostly just about the experience of playing Magic as a group.

The earliest playgroups I participated with treated it as a way to weightlift MtG logic to avoid playing Standard in every playtest session, because EDH is the biggest innovation playground to get your hands dirty in. With some groups this attitude can be a guiding light; for others, it feels "Spikey". But in general, the dudes who want to play competitive EDH aren't the ones who come down on it. They might not like playing their best combo decks in that environment (since most of the best combo decks get nailed by EDH's embarassment of riches for removal tools; and the games progress in difficult to predict ways.) In contrast, the truly competitive groups build their decks for 3-6 turn games, which progress in fairly regular and predictable ways. They have their own code of sportsmanship for playing pretty excellent, high level MtG.

It sounds like you just ran into people who like to moan, for the sake of moaning. Play it the way you want to, so long as it serves the experience you are sharing.

Author:  CanadianCole [ 2019-May-23 6:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: A Competitive Mindset

Hey Op.

While I wouldn't say you are doing it "wrong" perse. I would say you have a playgroup filled with the same kind you. Out of all formats, my friends and I have recognized that since the WoTC people have started building cards specifically for commander, that games have started to power creep more into that "Not entirely socially healthy" territory. Abilities like "Eminence" and altering the Legendary rules, and giving players the option to "put their general in their command zone instead of their hand/deck". Selective mulligans rewarding players with combos, and poorly constructed manabases…etc. etc. I honestly preferred it more before the current state of the game, and I miss the EDH I used to play prior to 2016-17.

If I were at your table, I wouldn't mind playing against your "ultra-competitive" (frankly boringly unfun) a couple of times. Maybe until each of the decks has managed to "go off" and masturbate it's win onto the faces of the table, before casting a few crumpled dollar bills down and sliding back into it's deckbox. Then, I would honestly say. "Guys, can we play fun decks now?" I don't necessarily mean bad/budget/chaotic/ when I say fun. I also don't mean "fun for the player". There are plenty of decks that are "fun" for you that will leave a sour taste in the mouths of your friends/competitors at the LGS. That's why I think it's important to balance "Win potential", "Fun for me", and "Not Unfun for my opponents". Edric Spymaster, Draining Whelk, Seedborn Muse, Mystic Snake, Conjurers Closet, tefari, Cloudstone Curio, I counter everything everyone does forever and ever....will never be "Fun" for your opponents.

One of my favorite decks is an Isperia deck. (The one that says "When you damage an opponent guess a card, if the card is in their hand...tutor your library for a creature with flying and bring it to your hand) I run glasses of Urza, Wandering Eye Basically cards that make my opponents play with the hands revealed, or the top of everyone's deck face up. It's honestly hilarious to play EDH when you know what is in everyone's hand!

Just my opinion.

Author:  Ranger_762 [ 2019-Jun-19 3:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A Competitive Mindset

As a newbie who often loses, I can say that if my opponent brings interesting cards and tactics to the table, I can enjoy a game even if I lose it: it's an enriching experience, you can learn new stuff... but sometimes, you can end up in front of someone who's here to increase the size of their metaphoric pen... I mean, their ego by seal-clubbing newbies, which makes you feel like a kid falling down the stairs, and it's not fun at all.
I think the main difference is respect towards the game and the other player. If you're a good person, looking for fun, and you blow me out of the water, then it'll be a pleasant game; but if I get my butt kicked the same way by some arrogant guy who just wants to humiliate noobs and boost their self-esteem with a long list of victories against beginners, then I'll be sour and won't want to stay at the game shop for a while.

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