Once again, the Reader Mailbag has been opened. I've queried the major websites, Twitter, and Facebook, getting enough that it'll take us this week and next to cover. No sense in fooling around. Here's what has come my way:
What's your favorite beer/other non-wine drink?
My favorite beer is Hoegaarden Verboten Frucht/Le Fruit Defendu, although I'm also pretty partial to Leffe Radieuse. I suppose my Belgian prejudice is showing through. As far as other drinks, we're a bourbon house. We have Wild Turkey 101 for mixing with ginger ale, Blanton's for making Mint Juleps, and Pappy van Winkle for just sipping.
Favorite non-EDH/Commander legal card?
If you mean card that's not legal in EDH, I love me some Prime Time.
Favorite non-EDH variant of Magic?
I always loved playing Standard in its various incarnations.
Place you'd like most to visit/have been to?
We spent nine days in Firenze (Florence) for our honeymoon. I liked the fact that a lot of folks there haven't quite gotten the memo that the Renaissance is over.
Dune is probably the book that's been most significant to me in forming personal philosophy. I love the "Game of Thrones" series, and Storm of Swords is clearly the best of the five so far.
Card you'd like to see most in a future expansion/set?
Tyrant of the Red Zone 5BRG
Protection from blue instants and sorceries
Creatures attack each turn if able.
Creatures block each turn if able.
Favorite style to play in Skyrim/open-ended RPG?
Real men stand up next to things and look them in the eye before they kill them. That said, I was in love with the magic frozen bowling ball in Diablo II.
From Tim Proctor:
You constantly talk about building casually and playing competitively but usually have infinite combos or insta-win combos in your decks; you say that when you pop them off, you regulate the board to a more neutral state. Isn't that building competitively and playing casually? How and where do you draw the line between the two?
I'm going to disagree with the premise that I "usually" have infinite or insta-win combos, although that's a discussion we had just last week. I've occasionally discovered them in play and tried to use them judiciously. I would agree that building them in and not using them is the opposite of "build casually/play competitively," but I think they're enough of an aberration for me as to not be contradictory. There's a distinct difference between actively putting infinite combos in decks ("I'm going to set up my deck to abuse Woodfall Primus / Melira / Goblin Bombardment") and putting it together passively ("Melira is in my deck so that my guys can't get proliferated away").
We all know EDH is a social format; what would you say are the three cards (I think of something like Illicit Auction or Goblin Game as being really social) that add the most social interaction to the game?
I think it's the players that create social interactions by way of the cards, not that the cards are the genesis of the social interaction.
Why isn't there a selection in the deck database for Commander decks like for Legacy and Standard? It seems like it'd be easy to just put it down in the corner with the "Include Suggested Decks" box already checked. Maybe even have a "Commander" search criterion.
Thank you for your insightful question. It sounds like a wonderful idea. All fans of the format should provide the SCG web design folks with that suggestion.
[Editor's note: There actually is a box you can check to search for Commander decks in the deck database. Check it out here (and don't forget to check the "Include Suggested Decks" box)!]
Besides Magic, do you play any other strategy or hobby games?
My love of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and V: Skyrim are well known. My favorite board game is Twilight Struggle (although I don't play it as much as I'd like), and I dabble in most of the other popular ones (Agricola, Dominion, Ascension, Puerto Rico). A year and a half ago, a friend got me a copy of Catacombs, which is a classic dungeon crawl board game with a twist. Monday Night Gamer Keith Bogart recently got me Dragon Age: Origins, and I'm about two hours into that.
I've successfully and intentionally avoided all the online games (EQ, WoW), not because I wouldn't like them but because I'm worried that I might like them a little too much, although I played quite a bit of Diablo II in single-player mode. The game I'm still playing after all these years is Heroes of Might and Magic III, mostly because of the scenario editor.
I have a rules question concerning the color identity rules, asked through the following example:
I play a mono-blue control deck, and my opponent plays a black/white deck. Say my opponent controls a Spectral Lynx and I successfully steal Lynx with a Control Magic. Now, according to the color identity rules, I will not be able to activate the Lynx's ability. Wouldn't it be very awesome to be able to use a card like Political Trickery or Annex to steal my opponent's land (one that produces the colors from that player's general, say Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter) and be able activate the stolen Spectral Lynx's ability?
I know it would be an awesome playgroup-only rule to "steal" off-color mana to activate stolen permanent abilities (stolen permanents only?), but I'm curious if this optional (perhaps tricky) rule is ever discussed by the Rules Committee.
Off-color mana activation or, more correctly, getting rid of rule 4, has indeed come up. Personally, I don't think that it would be awesome at all.
Do you have any weird/interesting hobbies outside of Magic? If so, what are they?
I'm pretty much a full-time gamer in one way or another. Drinking and collecting wine, eating at nice restaurants, and blogging about it could probably be considered a hobby, although I'd consider it more "lifestyle." I was a pretty serious weightlifter through the late 90s before I was derailed by a shoulder injury. I played a great deal of golf for a few decades, and I'm not exactly sure when I stopped playing.
I'd probably call watching TV and movies a hobby because it's rarely random. I don't just turn it on for something to watch. I plan the Netflix queue (which ends up with more TV series on it than movies) and schedule the DVR activity based on several criteria. It's not all about being high-minded, but we tend to watch things that engender discussion, whether it's the oddball legal cases that come up on Boston Legal or the liberties they take with science on Fringe.
There's been some discussion in the Magic community about tournament coverage and how it falls short of coverage of other popular games (League of Legends and Star Craft II, for instance). Do you think that this is a problem for the game? What flaws do you see in tournament coverage today, and what solutions, if any, can bring it up to par with other games?
I don't think that it's a problem. Magic is a slower-paced game for one. It doesn't have the constant adrenaline rush other games do. You're just not going to get the pulse-quickening beat that games with explosions have. One strength of our coverage is being able to discuss the human element because it has a significant impact on how games, matches, and tournaments play out. We talk about teams, about what players did differently to prep, the whole national team missing a plane, etc. I don't think that Magic coverage is going to be like coverage of other games, but that's hardly a sin. We have different pieces to our game. It would be folly to try to cover them the same way.
Sheldon, you have mentioned that you're attempting to pimp out at least one of your decks in Italian foil. Do you buy the cards one-by-one? Did you pick up these Italian foils during your globetrotting days as an L5 via trade? Were you a trading fiend during Worlds/PTs/etc. while Head Judging?
That's my Kresh deck. I do what most of us normally do: I buy them when I see them if they're a good deal and trade for them when I'm traveling to events. Of course, I also take donations. I honestly buy most of the cards that I buy right here on SCG (convenience and industry-best customer service). I'm only just getting started. At the moment, I have Kokusho, Tangle, Garruk Wildspeaker, Bayou, Graven Cairns, Savage Lands, and Taiga. If anyone wants to trade away their foil Italian stuff that's in the deck, I'm game!
John Cochrane wants to know:
"What wines and food parings would you suggest (in a low-to-very-modest price range) to try to wean a sweet-toothed budding (for the past 30 years now) oenophile into a more sophisticated and wider palette/palate? Please tell me that the high school consumption of Boone's Farm and Annie Green Springs hasn't destroyed my appreciation for the finer wines for the rest of my life. Help me, Sheldon-Wan Menery. You're my only hope!
The progression from sweet to dry wines is a pretty common one, but you told me you've liked the really sweet ones for a long time, so we're dealing with a preference, not an experience or sophistication level. You like what you like, and there's nothing wrong with that. If you want to take a step toward a drier wine but know that you don't like the big tannins, I'll suggest Australian Shiraz (d'Arenberg's Stump Jump, around $12) as nicely fruity without the bite.
Snowpaws wants to know:
How true do you like to keep to your general's colors? For example, would you use Esper Panorama in a blue/white deck? Would you use extort in a mono-white or mono-black deck?
I'm a bit of a theme slave (but Toby Elliott is worse). I won't go off-theme on a color word. I wouldn't run Verdant Catacombs in a green-but-not-black deck. Hell, I won't even play Phyrexian Processor in Trostani because it makes a black token. I'd never try to write a rule that would keep people from playing the off-color word things (it'd be really onerous), but I do my best to set a positive example.
All your decks seem to be creature based or at least creature high. Did I miss one? Do you play a creature light/creature-less deck? What would tempt you to make a more spell-slinging style deck or one with a heavy focus on noncreature permanents?
Here are all of the creature counts, which don't include the commander: Adun 35; Animar 47; Geist of Saint Traft 29; Intet 29; Jarad 39; Karador 43; Karrthus 29; Kresh 32; Lord of Tresserhorn 33; Merieke 28; Mimeoplasm 28; Nath of the Gilt Leaf 35; Oros 23; Phelddagrif 28; Prime Speaker 46; Rith 29; Ruhan 14; Thraximundar 27; Trostani 33.
Ruhan is clearly the abomination with only fourteen. You can see that the last two I built, Prime Speaker Zegana and Animar, Soul of Elements, have the highest counts at 46 and 47. Take out Oros in the low 20s and everyone else falls into a pretty consistent range. The types of spells that got me creature low both in Ruhan and Oros are the types that let me be dangerous without creatures. I suppose that I could build some sort of Sharuum deck with lots of noncreature artifacts, but in general, I like creatures because they can both do stuff and then get into the Red Zone. I have a tough time imagining myself playing a ten-creature classic control deck. I just like to be more active. Maybe I'll make the five-color deck I eventually build into a zero-creature planeswalker control deck.
What is the most terrible wine you have ever tasted/experienced? And why?
I assume you're not talking about wines that have spoiled or are corked. That can be a really unpleasant experience, and I've had it more than I care to. Brian David-Marshall visited me once and brought a bottle of Chocovine as a gag. It was pretty foul, but I'll say that no wine regardless of how sickly sweet or poorly made compares to the experience of putting your nose into a wine that is badly corked. Imagine a wet dog that's somehow wrapped itself in moldy cardboard.
Did you play Type 1, and if you did, of what card from the P9 do you have good memories?
I did but before it was called Type 1. I remember some crazy with Time Twister. There was a Time Walk in the first pack I ever opened, which is a pretty good memory.
How far will a card be able to ride its sentimental value before getting the axe? Is it even a criterion?
I'm not the sentimental type. If my mother were bad for EDH, I'd ban her.
I'm sure you've answered this before and a few other questions have touched on it, but where is "the line" in Commander? With the increase in multiplayer power level in the last few year's releases, decks that don't specifically restrict themselves to themes or certain power levels are just becoming multi-headed hydras where any single card can break the balance of a game. This discourages some because opposing decks are just too poly-dangerous and they lose interest in playing, while others see it as an excuse to power-up on their own side and a full-on arms race develops.
The increasing quality of creatures might eventually raise a concern, but I don't think we're there yet. Commander is battle cruiser Magic, so let slip the dogs of war.
As a follow-up, have you considered any sort of deckbuilding handicap (points based, counting total casting cost, etc.) to encourage players to become more creative and less "I'll just put the newest bomb in with all the others"?
I don't think you're giving fans of the format enough credit. I'm pretty sure most folks are looking to use newer cards in creative ways. We've talked before about points-based deckbuilding systems but quickly came to the conclusion that it would be WAY more work than it's worth. Administratively, it'd be pretty much a nightmare to first create and then maintain.
Do you prefer red or white wine while playing? That's a serious question actually. I myself prefer white.
I generally don't drink when I'm playing since I'm at Armada Games. If I'm playing at home and want to drink something, it's more likely to be red. According to cellartracker.com, which I use to track my cellar (funny how that works), if you count Champagne and sparkling wines as whites, I have fourteen bottles of white wine out of a total of 396, or 3.5%. There are great white wines out there; we just prefer the reds.
MaRo recently said on his Tumblr that EDH is a "casual" format that he doesn't think "complex" older mechanics have much of a place in. Do you think he is missing the point that both casual AND competitive players can enjoy EDH due to it being a social experience first and foremost?
I mean him no disrespect when I say that he doesn't get the format. It takes a particular mindset—not more or less sophisticated, just particular—for Commander, the way we've envisioned it, to really resonate with you. I do think that he's missing the point.
ISBPathfinder wants to know:
I wouldn't mind just moving this to what your thoughts are on Sylvan Primordial. How do you personally feel about it currently?
And Elvish Sniper follows up with:
Have you seen Sylvan Primordial before turn 4 yet? How did it impact your game? (Should I order zero or ten+ foil ones?)
I feel pretty ambivalent about it. I've heard more talk than I've seen it in action, and I certainly have yet to see it before turn 4. I'm actually not sure I've seen it before turn 7 or so. I think the rumors of SP consistently wrecking games might be overstated at the moment. I won't speculate on the value of cards, any cards.
What are your thoughts on recently printed "dumb" cards like Omniscience and Enter the Infinite? Does the RC have any influence on or are you somehow in contact with WotC to address the issues many people have with cards that actually are huge "I win" cards that seem to be created with only EDH in mind? Edit: Scotch single malt whiskey FTW!
I'm going to agree with you on single malts (Islays in particular). I'm not sure what issues you're specifically talking about, but I don't have too much against really mana-expensive cards that do epic stuff. If Enter the Infinite cost four, then we might have a problem. It doesn't.
Which XeroxedFool follows up with:
Do you think that the format can survive the recent card design philosophy? Wizards of the Coast does a great job, but cards that cost more than six mana are experiencing a higher concentration of power creep.
I think that the format will flourish with the recent card design philosophy. Commander players love giant stuff. R&D is giving it to us. What's not to love?
1. To the entire RC: If you all got stranded on a desert island and you each could only have one deck with you, which would you choose?
I can't speak for them, but I'd bring Ruhan and make them do it to themselves.
2. To whom should I send my application to become a member of the Rules Committee?
By asking for an application, you've invalidated yourself as a candidate.
3. What is the one card you most want to come off the reserved list and get reprinted so that you could more easily obtain copies for EDH?
What is your favorite deck engine (recursion, Blink, dredge)?
What strategies or playing styles do you (and your respective playgroup at Armada) consider fun? Not necessarily to set a precedent or anything like that, I'm just curious what the Godfather of EDH enjoys. Also, any advice for budget deckbuilders? What constitutes as necessary expense and as fluff?
The best games to me are the ones where lots of stuff happens, momentum swings, someone tries to do something crazy, and then someone else blows them out somehow. The guys that I play with the most have a similar view, which is probably why I play with them the most.
My primary advice for the budget conscious is that you don't need to spend ridiculous amounts of money on your land base. The percentage by which Tundra will in practice improve the way your deck performs over Adarkar Wastes isn't commensurate with the cost difference. There are no necessary expenses in this format. I've seen all-commons decks truly hold their own.
Macius wants to know:
Who among the RC would survive best in the wilderness?
Accepting that I'm more than ten years older than anyone else and maybe slowing down a step or two, I'd still say me. The RC is filled with smart, genteel folk. I might be more Machiavellian than any of them, and I'm pretty sure I'm the only one with any survival training. That said, Gavin and Alex are Canadian, and that's some rough country.
A player walks over to your table at the end of a particularly fun game of EDH and asks if he/she can play with you next game. They've been playing Standard for a year or two, but they've never played any EDH. They need to borrow a deck to play. First off, do you lend them a deck? And if you do, what kind of deck do you lend them? Something simple and fun? Something epic and hilarious? Do you ask what kinds of Standard decks they usually prefer and then go from there?
I stopped filling my decks with non-English cards just so that I could lend them out. I'd ask them what they like about whatever formats they play in and try to give them something suitable.
How does a test like the "Kokusho" test happen, and when will the RC do this for other currently banned cards like Staff of Domination and such?
Once in a lifetime, so not likely. Toby told me I was crazy for even mentioning the Kokusho test. I'm beginning to suspect he was right.
To which Galspanic adds:
To run with this question a little bit, how has Koko been since the unbanning? Has there been any player anything?
There's been a collective "meh" from the player base. Creatures are better than they used to be. While she's still really good, Kokusho is no longer simply head and shoulders above most everything else.
That's all for this week. Tune in next week for the exciting conclusion!