This drives me away from EDH

If you head over to twitter and check out the hashtag #youmightbeanedhdbif, you’ll see a list of suggestions about what acts mark you as an EDH DB – that is, an Elder Dragon Highlander douchebag.
The idea behind the topic is that EDH is fundamentally a “casual” format, therefore there are overly competitive or unfriendly things someone could do that makes them a bad person.
So, two things turn me off of EDH.
The first is deck design. I tend to get about thirty cards in and suddenly suffer from flashbacks to my first days in Magic, where I was basically throwing all my halfway-decent cards into my deck and hoping it would work out. I’m sure if I were sufficiently motivated I’d get over that one. However…
The second one is exactly the kind of sentiment that shows up in this twitter topic.
Here are some of the #youmightbeanedhdb suggestions from various folks across twitter:
you play Armageddon, Decree of Annihilation, Obliterate or Jokulhaups and you have no way to win the game shortly after
You insist on playing a UB Storm Combo deck in multiplayer and kill everyone on turn 4, taking a 20 min+ turn.
You cast Time Strech.
you’ve got more board resets and creature kill spells than creatures in your deck
you play Contamination, Ruination, Blood Moon, Quicksilver Fountain, Sunder, Stasis or other similar disruptive spells
you play Myojin of Night’s Reach when you have Nath of the Gilt-Leaf in play.
You play Shahrazad (Especially on Turn 2)
you never intend on actually casting your general
You snack on nachos and touch everyone else’s cards.
So, there are only two of these I’ve 100% agreed with so far – the comment above, and Ken Krouner’s, which I’ll include below:
you think your strategies are fun and other people’s are not
This. Absolutely this.
A while ago, I wrote about why I dislike unspoken rules. Essentially, it’s frustrating as hell to interact with anyone who keeps their social rules hidden until you accidentally violate one of them, and then suddenly you’re a douchebag.
This really struck me, in watching EDH-related traffic over the last few days, because there was some discussion of this guy as a “douchebag” general:
Really? That seemed like a great general to me. I mean, seriously. He’s a vampire bloodsage. He’s also a super-big rattlesnake card – a term I picked up from The Ferret, former Serious Fun author, which refers to a card that is likely to get you targeted for some punishing lickety-damn-split in multiplayer. He’s a flavorful, Legendary Creature that isn’t exactly competitive play material – I’d be happy to see him at my multiplayer table.
Continuing on this thought, let’s return to that sampling of “douchebag” plays above.
you play Myojin of Night’s Reach when you have Nath of the Gilt-Leaf in play.
…sounds awesome. I would love to see that happen in a multiplayer game.
More generally, Ken Krouner hits the problem in this line of thought, which also applies to basically every game in the casual, “anything goes” room on MTGO. “My fun” is fine, but “Your fun” is wrong. But no, I’m not going to tell you what’s okay or not in advance…it would be limiting if we just said you can’t play certain cards. Instead, we’re just going to complain like a petulant teenage girl when you don’t know ahead of time what’s going to be okay or not.
Heck, maybe we don’t even know you’re being a douchebag until you do it. We’ll let you know once it happens, when we’ll accuse you of being a bad person and treat you like crap until you either fix the problem or just go home.
And you know, I’d choose “go home” here, because that sucks.
I like going to a DCI-sanctioned event because I know all the rules ahead of time. I can build my deck to those rules.
Similarly, I have a great deal of fondness for people who make their own rules, whatever they are, explicit. I really appreciate groups that can (1) ban things they don’t like and (2) perhaps incentivize things they do like – for example, having a special points system like Sheldon Menery has talked about, which gives you points for the kinds of plays your group thinks are cool.
Waiting around to ambush people with your unwritten rules is the definition of uncool, and can’t help but turn people off the game so much faster than, say, calling a judge on them for a Game Rule Violation at a sanctioned event will. I really dislike the disservice this does to the community, and wish we could all knock it off, just come out and explicitly say the kind of game we want to play, and leave it at that.
I can see from the replies here and elsewhere that I didn’t make my point clearly. Here it is:
I want clear social contracts.
I’m not saying you need to let me play Kokusho as my general in your EDH game at your store. That would be a dumb argument.
I’m saying that if you are part of a group that hates counterspells, it would be the decent thing to do to tell new players, up front, “You know, we don’t play counterspells for our EDH games, so please don’t.” Then if the new player persists, well, that’s their problem.
The thing I’m concerned about is the idea that the right response to someone playing casual in a way you don’t like is to (1) give them the cold shoulder or (2) just kill them out of your games repeatedly, with no explanation.
Instead, why not just actually state your rules?
“Hey, dude, welcome to our weekly EDH game. Here’s a quick rundown — we use the Legacy Banned list, and we also don’t allow extra turns, and any ‘infinite’ combo is only allowed to go off five times in a row. Cool? Cool.”
The thing that rubbed me the wrong way about the “EDH douche” topic on twitter is that calling someone a “douche” for playing a casual game in a different way than you would play a casual game is, itself, a pretty damn “douchey” thing to do. Similarly, just thinking angry thoughts at someone for bringing a deck you dislike is a far, far more negative thing for the community than, say, having a chat with everyone at the beginning of the game about what kind of game you want to play.
Pauper on MTGO is an excellent example of a well-defined format that fits many of our intuitive ideas about “casual” gaming – they just bothered to actually spell their rules out.
It’s all about clarity. If you want to play a certain kind of casual game, why not have a nice chat about it in advance instead of sending punishing glares and bad vibes at folks who unknowingly violate your unwritten rules?

On fishing

“Fishing,” if you’re unfamiliar with the colloquialism, is the practice of trying to win games and matches not on deck choice or play skill, but by very actively following up on apparent tournament rules violations in hopes of getting your opponent game- or match-lossed.
There’s a lot of fuzzy thinking about “fishing” versus “proper play,” and this is contributes to some players’ hesitation about calling a judge. Are you “fishing” if you call a judge because your opponent missed a trigger, or because they searched for a card, riffled once, and then presented the deck to you?
Fishing is usually done intentionally in gray areas, like insisting that a scuffed sleeve is actually marked (which amounts to fishing for a DQ, which is pretty ugly) or that your opponent is player slowly when they actually aren’t. More to the point, if you know you aren’t fishing, then you aren’t fishing. If you legitimately want to call a judge, do so. Don’t sit there second-guessing the decision to call. If you have correctly identified a game play issue, then the judge will let you know. Similarly if you haven’t. Either way, it’s fine.
I was accused of fishing by one commenter on my report from GP Oakland because I count out my opponent’s deck each time it’s presented to me to start a game. That’s not fishing – it’s just good standard operating procedure. If everyone did this, it would stop any cheaters and generally lead us all to clean up our act in sideboarding. Perhaps even more to the point, at GP Oakland I caught my opponent’s error of shuffling his Marit Lage token back into his deck – there was no game loss for that one, and it headed off the giant mess that him drawing his token would have yielded once we were well into the game.
So far in my sanctioned tournament career, I’ve only made three judge calls that led to opponent game losses. Two were for tardiness, which doesn’t really fall into the same category – although one of these led to a match loss when my opponent was tardy, and then we were deckchecked and he had a registration error. The opponent was Kenny Ellis, though, so he naturally had a great attitude about what a comically bad beat he’d just experienced. My one other “game lossing” of an opponent came during a Standard tournament just after the 9th to 10th edition transition, when I was resolving a Head Games against my opponent and noticed he had Weird Harvest in his deck.
Overall, I’d say that good players don’t tend to fish. They may call judges more often than a typical PTQ player would, but I think that comes down to an attention to proper player procedure more than anything else.
This is on my mind after a match yesterday that mixed clumsy fishing with player sloppiness.
This was late in the tournament, and I was having one of those “deck malfunction days,” including highlights like mulliganing down to four cards in search of land in a deck featuring twenty-four of them. I’ll talk more about the deck in another post, but this was Extended, so it was Gifts.
In game one, my Scapeshift opponent hits the eponymous spell and says “I do eighteen to you” without doing anything else. I wonder for a moment how many people have just been scooping to him there, and say, “Show me.” He then explains that he’s going to get a Valakut and six mountains.
“Okay. Run through it for me.”
And no, it wasn’t a bluff, he had the lands (in fact, barring a weird draw that saw them all in his hand, I don’t know how he couldn’t have, so I don’t know why he didn’t just do the spell properly in the first place).
I lose that game, then take the second on the back of a Bitter Ordeal for all of his Valakuts. Ordeal is a hilarious card in an environment with fetchlands.
In the third game, I play a Snow-Covered Island and he asks, “Did you write Snow-Covered Island on our deck list?”
I don’t know if I was annoyed more by the fishing, the fishing in the wake of the half-assed Scapeshift execution, or the half-assed nature of the fishing itself. I assured him that I did, indeed, write the correct card names on my deck reg sheet and we moved on…to him playing two lands in the same turn a few turns later.
I said, “That’s your second land this turn.” He picked it right up and put it back in his hand, and I said, “It’s not a big deal, but I’m going to go ahead and call a judge.”
Which I did, and he picked up a Warning for a Game Rule Violation. I wasn’t fishing for anything here – I didn’t imagine he had prior Warnings, and I was going to be dead to an unopposed Scapeshift awfully soon. That said, you need to do these judge calls because:

  • 1 – You don’t know if they’ve been doing this all day, and you’re going to actually stop them by netting them their third Warning
  • 2 – You don’t know if they’ve been doing this all day and no one’s called them on it, so you want to be a good citizen and make sure they play properly and there’s a record if the sloppiness continues

Either way, I did die to that unopposed Scapeshift soon after, and even that execution was sloppy, as he cast Scapeshift, then picked up his library and began to search without sacrificing anything. At a PTQ, I think I’d stop him there, call a judge, and point out that he was searching for no lands because Scapeshift requires that you make the sacrifice choice first. At this local tournament, I just stopped him and made him do it right.
My punchline here is that this was one of those rare moments when my opponent’s behavior just put me off. That said, I think it’s important to remember that it’s okay to call a judge, and helps improve the environment of the tournament in general. Even though some folks will clumsily fish for wins via the tournament rules, if all you want to do is make sure the game proceeds correctly, it’s okay to call a judge. Fishing is all about intent – if you’re not trying to do it, you’re not doing it.

How not to be an ass about donkeys

See, the title’s another play on words.
Anyway, I’ve been meaning to post a link to this brief essay by MMYoung about why, in a very pragmatic sense, you shouldn’t deride players who you perceive to be “bad,” especially when they’ve just gotten lucky and taken you down despite their bad play. There are all sorts of reasons why no one should really do this in a legitimate, hurtful way (i.e. not as a fun tease of a friend), starting with basic politeness and moving on through sportsmanship to the fact that you, too, will make a terrible play at some point in the near future. But Mark points out one other fundamental fact: