Command of Etiquette—Stanch the Bleeding

I think I’m over the EDH league at Twenty Sided Store, and from talking to the rest of my usual playgroup I am probably not alone in this. Maybe if I was playing the type of Commander that I liked in these events it would be worth sticking through a dwindling female base of players and Spikes who whine their way into their combo kills. But I am not having fun. And the people I like to play with aren’t having fun. So it seems like it’s not worth coming back to play again.

Here’s how it went down. In the first pod I was paired against Ertai, the Corrupted, Saffi Eriksdotter and Hanna, Ship’s Navigator. After having had success with the deck earlier this weekend (which I will discuss in more detail below), I ended up running Maelstrom Wanderer, my big dumb RUG ramp deck. Ertai played a turn one Serra Ascendant, and then pulled the whole “oh, I am going to attack you all equally so you can’t get mad at me.” I despise that particular style of “diplomacy,” since it’s not strategically useful and it’s a particularly cowardly way of trying to avoid aggro. Ertai then stumbled on land while Hanna took over the game, keeping off the aggro with Propaganda while controlling the flow of the game with Aura of Silence and Telepathy. Telepathy is shockingly annoying in EDH. So Ertai started to hit Hanna with the Ascendant, before Hanna wrathed… and then Saffi dropped the first Sylvan Primordial. Fun fact about that card, the targets are mandatory, which means if a player has no non-land non-creature permanents, it bombs their mana base. Ertai was in this position, so despite being at 80 life (and ending the game at 45 when he finally scooped), he began incessantly whining about the damage we were doing to his mana. Which, I get how it’s not fun to get locked out of a game, but it’s also not fun to have an opponent batter you around starting on turn one. And it’s definitely not fun for a control deck, with Austere Command in hand, to keep avoiding casting the thing because someone else will deal with the threats.

Anyway, being threatened with negative points for land destruction, I held off copying the Primordial twice with Spitting Image, and it resulted in Hanna living about three turns too many and Saffi getting those turns to go off with Seedborn Muse and Winding Canyons. It was filthy, and absolutely no fun to play against, especially when he was playing with his food instead of taking Hanna out. Finally Saffi killed Hanna, and Hanna admitted that on untap his plan was to play Enchanted Evening and Opalescence to win the game. Again! Filthy! But Ertai killed me off next with my own general, and with a minute or so left in the round he scooped to Saffi’s board position. I ended up with a single point when all was said in done, and it was just an unpleasant game. The only good thing to come out of the game was learning about Soothsaying, the newest random weird card I need to find to try out in the format. It seemed really good, and would probably do well in the Wanderer, let alone Azami, Lady of Scrolls.

I broke from my game to find out my friend, who was the only other woman playing in the league that night, had her own horrible evening and had completely soured on the store. Turns out all it takes to make a place toxic is mansplaining and gang-rape jokes. So that weighed heavily on my mind when I sat down for my next pod, only to find out that one of the jerks from her pod had ended up in mine. He overheard me talking to Giaco about the incident, and basically made an argument for the inoffensiveness of his joke that came off as, “It was just a joke, don’t be thin-skinned.” Ick. Giaco seemed as put off by this behavior as I was, so the game descended into a bit of a two-headed-giant scenario.

Giaco was running Yeva, Nature’s Herald, while I had switched over to Dana’s Sigarda, Host of Herons deck. Rounding out the pod was the one guy playing Ghave, Guru of Spores, and a fourth player rocking Cromat for the color. On turn two I dropped Kor Spiritdancer and on turn three I put Unquestioned Authority on it, and I kept swinging in at Ghave until Cromat wrathed the board. And as great as it was playing with Giaco (quite great), the game was won because we kept up the aggressive pace. I played out Vigor and Troll Ascetic post-wrath, and kept swinging at Ghave. Giaco picked up the pace by bloodrushing Skarrg Goliath onto Yeva, and after I dropped Ghave down to three Giaco scored the victory.

This left us against Cromat, who had in the meantime managed to spit literally every basic land in his deck out onto the battlefield, copied and then killed my Vigor, and was doing filthy things with Maelstrom Nexus (the card I most wish wasn’t five-color). After he dropped Leyline of the Void I realized my window of opportunity was closing, so I Opened the Vaults, sliding a ‘yarded Faith’s Fetters onto his Sylvan Primordial and dropping his shields in the air. Sigarda and a giant Hornet token managed to knock him down to size quickly, and when he found his answer he had too little mana untapped to stay alive. Giaco got his second kill, but when he passed his turn I dropped Daybreak Coronet onto Sigarda to balance out her Unquestioned Authority. It was enough to kill him, and the game ended.

While part of me was happy to have finally managed to get a win in this thing, it was immediately offset by several factors. I mean, my first win only came about because I was playing a really aggressive form of EDH while feeding the player to my left (Giaco) several kills. And the deck that got me that win wasn’t even one of my own durdley decks, it was one of Dana’s vicious ones. So sure, if I play decks that don’t do fun things and I play aggressively, instead of taking my time and being social, I can win at this thing. But at that point, why am I even playing EDH?

Certainly not for the right reasons. So I think I am done with the Commander league for the foreseeable future. It’s a shame, because over the weekend I met up with a casual-playing friend, who wants nothing to do with the store. We played several games of three-player EDH, and despite the gigantic power level of his decks and the disgusting way he took both Dana and me to pieces with his Omnath, Locus of Mana monster, I had a ton of fun. I had more fun there than in any of these sanctioned games of EDH. That held true for the pickup games I had been playing with my friends before the start of the official tournament as well.

And that’s why I am done with this league. It’s a great experiment and I am thankful for the Twenty Sided Store’s attempt to finally try their hand at Commander programming. It just seems like the type of EDH they’ve ended up with is not the type that I want to play, and I don’t want to have to open a new front against misogynistic conduct in the game. I know I’ll go back there again. It will probably be as soon as Friday. I know too many people who play there and it is still the best environment that I’ve found in NYC. But I think I am going to keep my EDH-ing only to friends in the future. The more 20SS catches on the harder it is to keep the vibe that I like about the place, and what should have been an attempt to broaden the audience to more casual players ended up creating something more toxic than the competitive side. It’s telling that attendance dropped from almost ten women last week to only two this week; it’s more telling to know that the two of us there this week won’t be there the next.

So, for the time being, I think I am sticking to draft. I have faith that things will change in 20SS’ EDH league, as the store is owned and run by people who do not truck with the misogyny—but I can’t get invested every time this happens. Sometimes I just want to enjoy a space, and it’s hard to do that and police it at the same time.

24 Responses to “Command of Etiquette—Stanch the Bleeding”
  1. sucks you had another crappy week. clearly enough for a person to sour. it’s totally random. i’ve had four run pods in two weeks for sure, at least as far as brutal and busted are concerned. tons of fun, new people. but you’re certainly not alone in facing funcrushers.

  2. SnottNormal says:

    Apologies for playing something so derdly (that Cromat deck)… I honestly cobbled it together over the weekend and didn’t expect my stuff to live as long as it did. My previous pod was seeing wraths every other turn; if I had known how headache-y my board state gets unchecked, I would have just played something else for pod two. Halfway through the game, I realized that shuffling that much is awful (and this is coming from someone who usually plays Vig). I’m going to chalk it up to a bad idea and steal some of Giaco’s mono-green thunder next week.

    (Side note: I’m sad that I never actually cast Cromat. I cast him a *few* times in my first pod!)

    I still think it’s really, really difficult to figure out what kind of deck is kosher with such a huge playgroup. I saw everything from “turning creatures sideways” to “combo kills.” I hope things tilt towards the former, but that’s usually when someone stomps into the room with Kiki-Jiki or whatever. Guh.

    More than anything, it sucks to hear that the environment has turned toxic. I didn’t see/hear it in either of my pods personally, but it just takes one bad comment to sour the evening. I really hope it’s not a regular thing, ’cause everyone I’ve played against there has been good people. Despite fighting with my own board state (and Giaco’s Hornet Queen in both pods), I had a good time playing with the folks I was paired with.

    • Jess Stirba says:

      I mean, I like durdley! Your deck was powerful, but it seemed fun. I just have no doubt that if you had survived Giaco’s assault you would have won that game, which is why you needed to die when you did. And Maelstrom Storm was my favorite card I never got to play with even before I found out it triggers on every turn, which is bonkers.

      How is Cromat as a combat general? I have a 5-color walls deck (totally not powerful enough for an EDH league) that is running Child of Alara, just in case I need a planar cleansing, but I never end up playing the Child out. I was looking at Cromat, but it looks like it’s a little clunky. Do you use his abilities a lot?

      • SnottNormal says:

        Given the limited options, Cromat’s definitely my favorite option. The excessive ramp in the deck was pretty much there to use its abilities. Flying is always helpful, and the threat of the “deathtouch” and Totally Lost abilities is good enough that you don’t often *need* to activate them. It’s unfortunately one of those cards that gets significantly better as you spend more on your mana base. Ugh.

        I realized Nexus triggered every turn when you did. I should read my own cards sometime.

      • Jess Stirba says:

        Are you running Joiner Adept and company? What about Mycosynth Lattice, I find those universal fixers are usually quite useful in a 5color deck.

        I think my next deck is going to be a Horde of Notions deck. I’ve never made one of them, and it seems like it has potential both as a combat and value general.

      • SnottNormal says:

        I tend to avoid Lattice, because it inevitably sends “I am going to do rude things” waves around the table (regardless of actual intentions). I really wanted to run one in a Slobad deck I played for a bit, but it just makes the table twitchy about Vandalblasts and such.

        I haven’t tried Joiner Adept, though I don’t know if I could keep it alive long enough to do its job. I’ve been using Pulse of Llanowar as a budget Prismatic Omen, mostly since I’m so basic-heavy. Celestial Dawn might be worth a try as well. I like enchantment-based fixing a lot – it tends to last longer.

        If you go with Horde, you have to run Conspiracy! Every deck should run Conspiracy!

  3. Justin says:

    Sucks you got a crappy pod again. I was in the pod next to you, and I saw your generals and figured everyone would just be trying to combo out. My experience is that the game gets to such a stupid state that you are forced to try to combo off or go for the win or else you are dead next turn. I played against Hanna last week and while I’ll agree that his win-con is filthy (I did not see Telepathy in my game against him, that seems annoying), I think it’s a perfectly fair competitive deck. Also, I probably would’ve started attacking Lirek just for whining when he was at 80 life and got a first-turn Serra Ascendant.

    I really wish they still had Standard during the week, I might have to start playing Legacy on Mondays and/or switch back to Tuesday Modern instead.

    • Jess Stirba says:

      I mean, I hate Enchanted Evening because it has no value other than a combo card, and is broken with two different cards you can run with it (Opalescence and Aura Thief, obvs). And one of them doesn’t even win the game, it just makes it impossible for your opponents to win while you slowly plink away at their life total hoping someone doesn’t have a pact or something to get out of the landlock. Mycosynth Lattice, though, I like, even though it has the same basic combo. That card fixes mana, which is a totally reasonable reason to play the card.

      But anyway, it wasn’t the deck per se I found irritating, as much as I hate the combo ending. It was the “don’t kill me, don’t kill me, don’t kill me” every turn cycle in an attempt to stave us off to just win. I just don’t like how that plays out. I am all about multiplayer politics, but it seems like the level of politicking is less sophisticated when people are just buying time for combo wins (either technical ones in the case of Hanna or practical ones in the case of those Seedborn Muse shenanigans). I like some back and forth and dealing and impromptu pacts and shifting alliances. These things are better in less competitive games, it seems. Or at least I have the shittiest luck in pods if not.

  4. danaflops says:

    Hm, I think if I go back to EDH league(not looking super likely at this point) I am going to brew up a funcrusher hatebear deck with Gaddock Teeg as my general, RIP,Stony Silence, Sigarda, Angel of Jubilation, and Torpor Orb all reporting for duty. Or maybe I’ll go full-on junk with Doran and slide in Chains of Mephistopheles too.

  5. Rich says:

    That sucks. I actually played the Hanna deck you’re referring to in my 2nd pod. He basically tried to do the same thing with Enchanted Evening but then someone else casted runination and in response someone else popped an aura thief. I just sat there, tapped out with nothing to do. not to mention i could have easily ended the game 2 turns earlier but decided not to because i didn’t want to be that guy. the game needs to end eventually but i just wanted the opportunity to play the various interactions my deck could produce oh well.

    • Matt Jones says:

      that’s called EDH.

      • Rich says:

        Basically. Still had fun, nevertheless.

        On a side note, my experience with this league has been pretty pleasant so far. It’s unfortunate that not everyone is having the same experience. There will always be mouth breathers no matter where you are but I feel that eventually things will level set… I hope.

  6. John H says:

    I’m sorry you’ve had such a sour time at the first two EDH 20SS nights. The insensitive comments are especially troubling (it always seems that people tend to just dig themselves a deeper hole instead of just blushing and saying ‘sorry I’m an idiot’ – but hey that’s why they call it ignorance). One of the great things about the evenings have been reading your and Giaco’s reports.

    Would you be up for writing about what play style you do enjoy and would have liked to see at these games? I note your distaste for the power levels and over-the-top combos at hyper-efficient speeds, but what would mark a positive change in the way decks are run and played?

    Personally I went in to the league expecting to get whomped most of the time, I really just want to play and see big stuff happen. I don’t have a dedicated to group to play with so I just theory craft- but based on “friendly” houserules from active groups I built my deck accordingly. I avoided any land hate, pulled out and stasis/lock down effects, and made sure the wacky big stuff required some time to pull off.

    Perhaps if they put in a player voting system on top of the point cards, something to make it clear that the people who make the games the most fun and memorable, whether they are winners or not, will be the ones reaping the prizes at the end. It also bears mentioning that the as-of-yet-unannounced prize(s) are supposed to be pretty minor- we aren’t competing for a commander’s arsenal or anything. Maybe switching things up now and again so there are randomly assigned 2-headed giant pairings, or Alt-win conditions decided at random.

    I do hope you don’t abandon the evening’s fully- it can only be influenced for the better if you let people know how you like to play and represent.

    • John H says:

      hehe phone grammar

    • Jess Stirba says:

      What I would have liked to see was more casual mixer than fierce tournament. But that’s not how it played out. I like playing against decks where the games are won by incremental advantage, because it means you can both pay more attention to the conversation without risking your board position or ending up just dead and because it means that games are more interactive and involve a greater degree of coordination between the various players. It’s just more about having fun while playing Magic and less about competition. It’s about as collaborative as Magic gets, and that’s what I enjoy about the format.

      • John H says:

        would not having a time limit help that? Have tables set up for play at 7:00p, placed as you arrive, then open up more space for 9:00p for latecomers, and let people play as long as they want/as often as they wish with their pod, and as two pods wrap up just mixing them together into a new configuration of pods? Sort of “casual” it up in format and perhaps in attitude? Leave room for a pod to play for 4 hours, or another pod to play 4 games in as much time, or to disband and redistribute as time allows.

      • Ryan says:

        It sounds like you would enjoy EDH at the Atrium on Mondays. It’s a casual atmosphere, for the most part — there are always a few of the usual suspects with *those* kind of decks but they are certainly the minority.

        That said, I also think there is a lot of value in showing up and playing your style of EDH (which sounds like the spirit of the format ) in spite of the sharks, in hopes that your presence will inspire others to play similarly.

  7. I’m sorry that the environment is what it is become. I imagine that the league is still in its infancy, its participants still learning the community of the store, and a satisfactory equilibrium has yet to be reached. I’m confident that the EDH league will eventually match the quality of 20s’ other events.

    That said, it’s not your responsibility to make that so (as you said). I’m sorry that it hasn’t been fun. If you’d be up for giving it another go, perhaps you could request a pod with friends?

  8. zil says:

    jess, ❤ this post.

    just wanna say that it's not just the edh league – the store has been a pretty toxic place for me in general. i know i'm a broken record here, but there hasn't been any effort to take a pro-active stance against this toxicity, just the idea that we can react to it and tell people when they say something stupid, and that will make it better. except that we're then accepting that people can say stupid things once and that's okay . . .

    • Li Xu says:

      For what it’s worth, the switch to Modern on Tuesdays was an effort to root out a lot of those same people, and it’s become a much cleaner place. Most of the Modern folks are all right. Maybe a bad egg here or there but certainly nowhere near as bad as it was when Tuesdays were Standard.

      What I’m trying to say is: I miss playing Magic with you, Zil. Our test games at Fat Cat were fun. Please come back 😦

  9. Fenrox says:

    I feel like there is a very obvious rift in Magic that is “fun play” and “serious business”. These groups are self evident and do not mesh well, so there should be two leagues. One where the rules are more cutthroat and the decks all brutal, one where the rules reflect doing fun things and the decks are all over the place. If the store would change, I think this would be a great addition. Serious players sometimes see the fun that fun players have and can get into it easily. The dicks almost never see that fun and would very much not want to join the baby league.

    The second problem is that conduct needs to something tangible. Jerks need indicators telling them they are jerks before they fix their ways. If you have rules for land destruction, you have already decided to politicize and undermine freedom in magic, so keep it up! Don’t stop there, rate players with points that refer tho their conduct, when they don’t have enough conduct to play, it’s because they are no fun to play against, just like someone zapping all the lands every game, eventually they are gonna zap themselves out of the league.

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