How much responsibility do casual deckbuilders have to be able to close out games?

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
Not sure if this will be of interest or not, but I thought it went beyond the scope of the thread for my deck itself, and the issue made enough of an impression on me to want to ask about it here.

Before the pandemic, the main venue where I was playing Magic was an LGS just down the highway from my house, and that gameplay was dominated by the "West Coast Commander League." I've written about the League before in several threads. The weekly events and point system in the League gave me a structure to explore deckbuilding to an extent I had not gotten to experience in almost 20 years. Generally, I'd thought of myself as a rather mediocre deckbuilder, with my talents better suited to refining or adjusting a deck someone else started and really getting deep in the play patterns and optimization of a deck. Actually building new decks didn't come to me as easily. The West Coast Commander League provided an incentive for me to really practice deckbuilding in EDH, and I really do think that my ability in this regard improved.

Unfortunately, the League only ran for about a year before it was shut down, and at this point I don't know if it will ever be back. I was holding out hope for a while, but skepticism has crept in. Another LGS in the opposite direction recently reopened their facility for in-store gameplay, and a D&D group I'm in got back to in-person sessions at this store. So when I found out that this LGS has EDH on Wednesday nights, I thought maybe this could be an opportunity to get back into EDH. Last week, I was able to physically reconstruct three of my old decks I'd had together in 2020, but didn't have time to build a new deck.

I should probably mention that I had some trepidation about building decks to play at this store because I was worried that I'd overshoot the average power-level of gameplay, as people who'd played EDH at both game stores had commented to me on this. So the decks I brought last week were...

Epic: https://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/16-03-19-epic/
The End of Eternity: https://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/the-end-of-eternity-1/
Unsavory Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: https://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/unsavory-deeds-done-dirt-cheap/

In the CPA threads for those decks, I noted how things went. So I'll recap. The first game went off the rails because of an opponent playing a group hug Phelddagrif deck. Thanks to my Loam engine, my deck was able to build a better board position than the other decks, but the chaotic environment caused by the Phelddagrif deck made finishing the game difficult. After about three hours, I finally won. The second game saw me curve out with God-Eternal Oketra and her zombie hordes, killing my opponents despite their attempts to block. In the third game, I went group hug myself, but mostly stalled out. I was able to keep a less experienced player alive against attacks that should have killed him, and he managed to combo off with Mind's Desire in a big, convoluted turn. All in all, not bad. But I did see some relative inexperience around the shop and continued to worry that I'd overshoot the power level I should be bringing to this venue.

For this week, I had intended to build my first Hazezon Tamar deck, as that's something I'd been wanting to put together for a long time. Well, I didn't finish that deck at all, but I did rebuild another one of my old decks from 2020, and I updated it somewhat: https://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/is-it-dark-in-here-or-is-it-just-me-redux/

Mooseman might remember this as the deck from our game last summer. I made some adjustments, but didn't fundamentally change the way the deck is intended to play. It's a U/B control deck with a heavy aura theme, and it gains value from stealing or killing opposing creatures, then kills opponents by beating them down with each other's stuff. I thought it could be a good deck to bring to this game store for several reasons...
  • I already had a decklist to start from, so I'd be able to revise that and physically construct it in time for gameplay on Wednesday, rather than trying to build something new from scratch. I'm still rusty at that, and my Hazezon Tamar concept was taking too long.
  • The aura theme lets me use a lot of cards that don't normally see much EDH gameplay. My deck has both old obscurities like Funeral March as well as some newer oddities like Dead Man's Chest.
  • This deck can eventually pack a punch once it gets going, but it doesn't have the potential for fast kills, like I saw happen with "The End of Eternity" last week.
  • There's no real hard control or lockdown here. Land destruction, heavy discard, exile stuff, and most other elements that tend to upset EDH players are all absent. Other than a small countermagic suite, the interaction in this deck revolves entirely around killing, weakening, stealing, or bouncing creatures. And even new players can generally play around those things and have a good time.
  • Ramses Overdark has amazing artwork.
  • Revising this deck from the 2020 version gave me a place to use some old cards that I've never played before.
When I showed up at the store, one pod was already playing and a couple of us got a table for a second pod. The group quickly grew to five players, and when a sixth player showed up as we drew our opening hands, we split and formed two pods of three players. I wound up in a group with a Dakkon Blackblade deck (fellow Legends legend!) and a Nevinyrral, Urborg Tyrant deck. The Nevinyrral deck was that player's first EDH deck ever, and he'd just recently gotten back into Magic. All three of us had fairly slow starts, and I was able to get Pemmin's Aura on Ramses Overdark. Although I drew very few auras after that, I was able to make them count and get value from killing some creatures. My opponents couldn't get rid of my commander through the shroud granted by Pemmin's Aura, so I started to accrue some card advantage. Before I completely took over, there were some fun moments. I got to play Wall of Putrid Flesh for the first time in my life. One opponent tried putting Festering Wound on my biggest attacker, then after the first counter was added to Festering Wound, I used Enchantment Alteration to move it onto the other opponent's creature. The Dakkon Blackblade player had some self-inflicted life loss from Glacial Chasm, so I was able to use Dragonlord Silumgar to steal his commander, then I killed both players in one turn by bouncing their blockers (Dakkon Blackblade was big enough to finish off the Nevinyrral player, and my own army easily dispatched the Dakkon player). So I was pretty satisfied with this game. I won, but I didn't dominate the game, and the other two players had chances to do their own stuff.

After some brief discussion, I got into a second game. The Nevinyrral player was still playing his deck, and we had two other opponents. One was playing Edric, Spymaster of Trest. The other was playing Maraxus of Keld. If you're not familiar with Edric, the card is a somewhat infamous commander that tends to quickly turn small, evasive attackers into overwhelming card advantage. The Edric player in our pod did have a slightly toned-down approach to this, although some of the essential character of an Edric deck was clearly manifested here. As the game got rolling, the presence of Edric was a problem for me, as I got off to a very slow start and had no blockers, so all three of my opponents could attack me and draw cards for each attacker. The Edric player also had Equilibrium, and once I had enough mana to play my commander, he bounced my commander, so I continued having no blockers and taking a beating. None of the individual attackers were huge yet, but my life total dropped quite a bit in the early game. Equilibrium also prevented me from getting much value from my auras, so I had a dead hand for a long time. I got Rhystic Study out, so I had some incidental card advantage and began building up resources and planning to protect myself, then the Nevinyrral player used Xanathar, Guild Kingpin to play the Maraxus player's Wheel of Fortune. I countered it with Swan Song, but the Maraxus player used Dualcaster Mage to copy it, so I lost the hand I'd been building. The Edric player and I both wound up with much worse hands (mostly just lands) than what we'd lost to the Wheel. The Maraxus player built up a large number of permanents including equipment and prepared to start picking players off with his now-hexproof commander. He also had Arena, and used it to make his commander fight our creatures. Fortunately, my opponents were letting me draw cards off Rhystic Study too often, so I was able to get Maze of Ith and, most importantly, Arcane Lighthouse. The Edric player and the Maraxus player both used a lot of hexproof effects, and Arcane Lighthouse kept me in the game. I got enough defenses to make attacking me more difficult, so the Maraxus player finished off the Nevinyrral player. The Edric player, for whatever reason, targeted me aggressively, which forced me to use Maze of Ith and Arcane Lighthouse both on him, as well as getting some of our creatures killed trading damage with each other in combat. This let the Maraxus player attack me, which almost got me killed. I thought for sure I was dead and that the Maraxus player would then easily kill the Edric player, but I always had just enough resources to fend off both opponents, even though it was basically two-on-one at this point. And this lasted for several turns. I was frantically examining the contents of my hand and trying to figure out if I could fend off attacks from both players for another turn. My life total and my card advantage were both plummeting, but they never quite finished me off.

This dragged on, and on. I kept finding lines of play that preserved my existence, but couldn't find ones that looked to turn the game around. I was hanging on with just enough blockers and just enough removal to keep myself alive each combat. Then on my own turn I'd try to puzzle through how to do it all over again for another turn cycle. Both of my remaining opponents were frustrated that this long game was still going and wanted to end it, but their way of ending it seemed to be to kill me first, and it wasn't like I was just going to let them finish me off. And on the other side of the table, my opponents always seemed to expect that the next time I untapped for my turn, I'd reveal the big bomb that I'd use to kill them both. Of course, such a bomb doesn't exist (see my decklist). As these maddening turn cycles went on, gameplay began revolving around the Maraxus player's Armory Automatron, since it could gain the benefits of all equipment cards used by both of my opponents. Even with Arcane Lighthouse to deal with hexproof and Maze of Ith to remove it from combat, I was in trouble. At one point, they got me down to 3 life. I took 18 commander damage from Maraxus. And the Armory Automatron kept getting stronger. So I finally found a way stole that thing and use it against its controller. I couldn't finish him off, but the Edric player, seeing that I now had blockers and that the Maraxus player was tapped out, swung in on the Maraxus player in hopes of drawing enough cards to overwhelm me. The game was now down to the two of us. I drew Force of Will in time to counter my opponent's Time Stretch, and was able to get advantage on the battlefield by cycling Decree of Pain to pick off the Edric player's small creatures. Dragonlord Silumgar stole another commander and came through for me again, then I used Venarian Gold to tap down the Edric player's only blocker. I wasn't able to finish him off in just one attack, but I had him dead on board (I think) and the game store was supposed to close in 15 minutes, so he scooped. The game had gone on even longer than the big one I was in last week. Someone said three hours, twenty minutes. I didn't keep track of the time, but it was probably close to that.

There was some post-game conversation, and both the Maraxus player and the Edric player were very civil about it, but did express that the game ran on for an egregiously long time and this this was primarily the fault of my deck construction. They weren't unhappy with the way I piloted the deck or the way I conducted myself, but they believed that my deck being a control deck without a strong "win condition" caused this to happen. The Maraxus player was more laid back about it, but did ultimately want to just offer that as constructive criticism, guess. The Edric player was polite, but did say some rather severe things. He was seemed to have wanted to leave the game store earlier that night because of his work being early in the morning and he expressed that his evening was "ruined." There was also something about it being "disrespectful."

For my part, I thought that this was one of the best games I'd been part of in a long time, and had the hallmarks of a classic, casual game. Each player was eliminated through combat damage. No one got locked out of the game or perpetually hosed by hate cards. There were no infinite combos and no huge, explosive combos. There was never really any hard control (I countered Time Stretch with Force of Will, Maraxus of Keld with Mana Drain, Wheel of Fortune with Swan Song, and some spell that was going to kill my commander early on with Arcane Denial, but there were no counter wars or recursive countermagic engines or anything like that. There was no mass land destruction or mana denial (I used Wasteland to kill Arena, and that was it). Board wipes happened, but they were infrequent and everyone had a chance to develop their board states. The game was a war of attrition over creatures on the battlefield, with attacks, blocks, and combat tricks. Everyone's deck got some chance to shine in some fashion. Commander damage was a major threat at several points in the game. There was a lot of intense strategy. Multiplayer politics came up a bit, but not enough to dominate the gameplay. Basically, this was a 3.5-hour slugfest with each player eliminating another player right up until the end. So I had a blast, although I was admittedly getting burned out after spending so much time trying to sift through my hand for the lines of play that kept me alive. I won in the end, but it was very, very close at multiple points. I don't think it was just my eventual victory that made me satisfied with this game. If I'd gotten eliminated at any point after about the time that the Nevinyrral player did, I'd have thought it a job well done. However, I don't want to claim that the criticism proffered by two of the other players wasn't valid.

To be clear, I'm not saying that every game of Magic should last over 3 hours, nor am I saying that I actively seek out such games. In fact, I'm probably still used to the West Coast Commander League, where our EDH pods had rounds that lasted 90 minutes (although this limit was sometimes exceeded for the third and final round of the day). I acknowledge that 3 hours is a long time to be in a single multiplayer game, and it's not something I strive for or think should be the norm. But if I do find myself in some big epic of a game, I always try to roll with the punches, as happened here. I absolutely would not have begrudged any of my opponents for needing to bow out early, but none of them were inclined to. They wanted to finish the game. They chose to finish this game. And so did I.

At the CPA, people are probably aware that I do enjoy things like infinite combos, mana denial, and other things that may be frowned on in a lot of EDH groups. I've also written somewhat about the issue of expectations, and I've tried to hone my EDH deckbuilding to be a little bit more wacky and a little bit less dangerous than what I think my opponents will be playing, but still able to pack a punch. This is the first time I can remember where there were such vocal complaints, not over a player stopping opponents from getting to execute their own deck's gameplan in a casual game, but for allowing opponents to do their thing but managing to stay alive despite that, and for not being able to kill the rest of the table.

I'm curious what people here think. Should players in casual EDH feel obligated to run explosive kill conditions in their decks? I was taken aback, as we're not exactly talking about some hyper-controlling deck that just goes into turtle mode or whatever. My deck has a lot of utility and has the potential to either protect itself somewhat or to kill opponents. In this game, my resources were being taxed barely hanging on for an extended period of time. I had no countermagic in my hand for most of the game and I didn't do much to stop players from building their own board states. So that wasn't the criticism here. Instead, the crux of the issue seemed to be that I built my deck to be defensively robust enough to weather the considerable attacks thrown at me, but that my deck lacked big closers. My tutors and card-drawing led to answers, and my opponents weren't quite able to break through those answers. If I had built my deck differently, I'd have won a lot sooner. As I pointed out, my victory didn't really have inevitability going for it. Both of them were one small step away from killing me at different points, and it was just the nuance of a single card that made the difference. I also wasn't stalling or slowing the game down so much, as my deck wasn't built for that either.

Anyway, what say you?
 

Mooseman

Isengar Tussle
Yep. I do remember that deck. I doesn't seem to me that your deck was the only contributing factor to the length of the game. I find that in all multiplayer games the decisions of the players can lead to length of games, as they try to position themselves for the win, but sometimes players change focus of their aggression that allows other player to continue in the game. It seem that they were blaming you for not winning sooner, but they didn't win "sooner" either. Maybe you should make a bit of a "bomb" deck to play against them if they are in your pod next time. But your overall plan is most likely fun for a lot of players. Casual player like to.... well play and not have games end in the first 5 or 6 turns.
 

turgy22

Nothing Special
The answer to your question is, of course, no. You play any legal deck you want.
However, your opponents have the right to avoid playing against you in the future or deciding to gang up on you earlier to prevent the game from dragging on.
 

saprolingtoken

New member
You opponents sound angry they lost and are trying to rationalize it and offload the responsibility on you. The criticism of "why didn't you just win earlier also we are going to gang up on you so you have to use your resources to prevent yourself from dying instead of winning: you built your deck wrong" is, uhh... quite a statement. How were you supposed to win when you are behind on board? Oh, that's right, an infinite combo would do that by ignoring anything your opponents were doing but I imagine they would be upset about that too. If they wanted to leave they could leave. You weren't holding them there at gunpoint.

I like the deck theme, very sweet, and it looks like it's built fine too. I don't see the problem there. It's not like it is mono-answers hard control deck with only one or two cards that win the game so that criticism is wrong too. I mean, you can build it in a way where you loop Expropriate but I feel like that wouldn't be well-received either.

Complaining about 3 hours games in EDH is dumb. That's like being mad you get Tendrils'd on the first turn in Legacy or Vintage: it doesn't happen very often but it is a feature of the format. These things are bound to happen. That game sounds pretty fun if you ask me. Sounds like there was a lot going on, some back and forth, and all that.

I don't think people should feel like they have to do anything, to please some sort-of phantom consensus that doesn't actually exist. EDH players all have different ideas on what the format should be like, how games play out, what cards/strategies are taboo, etc.

Anyway, you should play Grave Titan. That card is sweet.
 
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