Welcome to Reader Mailbag #4, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite things to do in this column. You can read Reader Mailbag #3 from last week here.
Before we dive in, I'd like to ask a favor of you. What kinds of things which we haven't yet done would you like me to cover in future articles? I'm not going to get away from favorites like deck techs and card evaluations, League reports and play-by-plays, and insights from the RC and Pro Tour coverage, but if there's something you want to see here and aren't, feel free to let me know.
How often do you look at demographic information in regards to casual vs. competitive player? Do you have any realistic guess as to the split in 2013?
Which Espuma follows with:
Do you guys (the RC) ever uses statistics from online Magic clients? Do you check the Cockatrice meta, maybe even get data from WotC about Magic Online? If so, (how much) does that influence your decision about any brokenness that might come up?
Not at all. There is a social aspect to the face-to-face game that online can't replicate. This aspect is more important to Commander than it is to other formats, so the value of the data isn't what it would be like in other formats. Hyperbolically, it wouldn't matter to me if more than half the active players (which I have no earthly idea how we'd measure in the first place) were "competitive." The format has a philosophy, and we're sticking to it.
How do you feel about and address the proliferation of "good stuff" decks? Things like the Top 50 card lists are great references, but it disheartens me when I see decks stuffed to the gills with nothing but those cards.
I'm of two minds. Players want to have fun with good cards. I get that. I want to see more innovation, but I understand if you only have one or two decks that there's a subset of stuff that you just want to play with. I can't hold that against anybody. I'm sure I'm personally guilty of running a few staples (like Sol Ring and Solemn Simulacrum) and then a subset in specific colors (like Yavimaya Elder, Skyshroud Claim, and Acidic Slime in green), but then I try to get outside the box. I know the lure of the "best" cards is strong.
How do the people you play with feel about mass land destruction effects? My playgroup has gone out of control with ramp (nearly every deck in the group is heavy ramp), and the only way I have found to counter this is mass LD. Do you know of any other ways to counter a heavy ramp meta?
Every local environment is unique. We're not fans of mass land destruction, but I can understand how it might be a survival method. The best way to deal with heavy ramp is Acidic Soil.
Azn_cbc_1992 wants to know:
What are your thoughts when you hear someone say "the spirit of EDH?" Do you think it's subjective to the playgroup, or is there an actual "spirit" that "exists" when we play? If so, how is it defined?
The spirit of EDH exists. It strives to create a situation where everyone playing is having a good time and awesome Magic stuff happens. I don't necessarily believe that the spirit pervades every group or resonates with every individual. It's one of those ideals you have which you want to share with everyone—without trying to be completely obnoxious about it.
Solemn Simulator came up with:
I'd like to ask about something important for the format (with its often very long games) which often goes unnoticed (until there's a problem regarding it): snacks. What food and drink, if any, does your playgroup consume during games?
Armada Games sits right next to a Cuban restaurant, a pizza delivery joint, a Thai restaurant, and a Dairy Queen. It's in the middle of the university district with endless fast food choices around. Personally, I almost always follow the pattern of having a Diet Dr. Pepper when I show up and then drink water afterward. If I'm going to eat any junk food (Armada has available the usual suspects in packaged snacks), it's either White Cheddar Cheez-Its or a frozen Nutty Bar.
If we happen to be playing at home, then things change significantly. For one, we've probably eaten a full meal, so we'll be having a dessert instead of traditional snacks. Just last week, Gretchyn made homemade ice cream sandwiches by making browned-butter chocolate cookies, putting ice cream in between two of them, wrapping them in foil, and freezing them (you can follow all our food exploits on my blog, by the way). Of course, what we're drinking may change as well. Something out of the cellar is more likely than something out of a can.
Do you think it's a good idea to introduce a person to MTG through EDH, or is EDH something that people should get into after they have acquired a taste for the game in a more "normal" way?
Despite what MaRo thinks, EDH it pretty complex. I'd suggest them learning with 40- or 60-card decks first and then graduating to the 100s.
1. In one of the past reader mailbag articles, you said you play piano/keyboards and expressed an interest in getting your band back together. When is this going to happen?! I want tickets!
If my hands still work right, I'd like to get together the best musicians I've played with for my 55th birthday (in 2016).
2. Given that the format continues to grow in popularity, do you think we will ever see sizable "dedicated" Commander events? I'm not talking about tournaments or sanctioning, but wouldn't it be cool to see a Commander "Grand Melee" or something at one of the SCG events? And what can we as a community do to make this happen?
I'd love to work on putting together an EDH Invitational. What we can do as a community is support the Kickstarter campaign that gets started for it. I don't know if I can make it happen for 2013, but it's something I've given some thought to.
3. What is your favorite book of the Bible and why?
Genesis. It is the beginning of all things, which I find movingly poetic.
Palnar piques our interest with:
1. With creatures and spells getting increasingly more powerful, would you ever consider increasing players' starting life totals to 45 or 50?
I can honestly say that it hasn't come up.
2. Would you consider writing an article pairing commander colors/deck types and wine? For instance, a nice earthy Zin goes with graveyard recursion or a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir for Mono-Blue Control?
I like where you're headed. I'll agree with the Zin, although I think that Bordeaux, especially from the Left Bank, is even earthier. Russian River Valley Pinot is way too aggressive for Mono-Blue Control, though. Russian River Valley Pinot screams Jund deck. Mono-Blue Control is monolithic and tannic California Cab.
What is your favorite number of people to play games with and why?
Four is perfect. It keeps the pace going, and there are enough potential answers to keep most insanity in check. When we have five, I prefer playing the "star" variant, where the two players across from you are your enemies and the ones next to you are your allies. It adds another interesting strategic level to the game.
What are your favorite topics to discuss with fans, enthusiasts, and random people on the Internet?
You've seen a lot of discussion last week and this week about wine. It's a huge part of my life, as is good food. I'm also pretty passionate about film and certain music. I think my obsession with Dream Theater is well documented. Don't even get me started on RPGs and my Four Kingdoms of Therduin campaign (alive since 1987, thank you very much).
Do you play StarCraft?
I have not. I think I own the original Warcraft (not WoW, but actual Warcraft) but haven't actually played it.
If WotC were to introduce another color to Magic and tasked you with deciding which color to add, which color would you decide upon and why? What factors would go into your decision of a color?
If I would choose, I'd say "no way."
If you could answer any and or all of these questions in Pentamic Iambeter, I would love you forever.
I assume you mean Iambic Pentameter. If so, then read the previous answer and start loving.
Vic_Rattlehead comes to us with:
What is your take on Kaalia; has she ever been considered to be banned by the RC?
I'd like to see a build of Kaalia that is radically different than the easy and the obvious. She can be solid, but it's mostly my experience that Kaalia decks quickly run out of steam. She's never been close to being considered a problem card by the RC. I've already started drawing up my own Kaalia build, which I'm going to make with just Demons, especially the ones that have drawbacks.
Schondetta wants to know:
What would happen if you and everyone on the RC died? Who would carry the torch?
This is the second time recently that someone has asked me this. I'm going to start looking over my shoulder.
Shmo40 comes off the wall with:
Pretty sure it's Progeniti. Pretty sure the one Progi-sized Bears would be easier to deal with.
And then Mojo_Rhino wonders:
I would actually like to hear your answer to the original question this is based on as well. Would you rather fight a horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?
A horse-sized duck because duck is 100% delicious. It's the pig of the skies. Imagine the amount of duck pate you'd get out of that thing.
Everything that was given as a reason for banning Primeval Titan can very much be applied to several other cards, most notably Consecrated Sphinx. I know Prime Time is the more contentious of the two, but most would agree that the Con-Father is the more "unfair and unfun" card. So it's hardly unreasonable to ask why it's still considered ok.
I'm going to politely reject the premise that the PT ban criteria can be applied to several other cards and that "most would agree." Simply put, we don't see Consecrated Sphinx as the problem that Prime Time was.
Also, your guest spot on the Card Advantage podcast was pretty great; it would be fun to hear you on some other shows too!
Thanks for saying so. I had a great time and would be happy to do more. I just finished up doing JudgeCast, so you should be able to hear that whenever you like.
Greggy gets at us with:
What's a great day for you? What's it like coming to a local gaming store, being worshipped, and playing against others?
Every day for me is a great day. I wake up next to the most fantastic human being I know, and I have the luxury of being able to be a full-time dreamer. Although I get some perks at Armada Games, I'd hardly characterize the treatment as worship. When the daggers come out, I get nearly as good as I give.
My favorite scheduled day of the week is the second Thursday of the month. I get up and have coffee (Stumptown Roasters, Portland Oregon) and a little breakfast. I sit at my desk with our kitten Vixen (although she's really hardly a kitten any more) and play a game of "You Don't Know Jack" before writing for an hour or so. I plan out which decks I want to take with me. At 1130, I have a 90-minute appointment with my massage therapist. I leave there and grab some lunch (Five Guys Burgers and Fries!) then head straight for the game shop for a full day of pick-games of EDH and then EDH League at 1900, which generally runs until 2300 or so.
Deadguydrew wants to know:
What are your thoughts on playgroups that do not follow the RC ban list because they feel it dumbs down the game for "bad" players? What is your rebuttal to these types of groups?
I'm not going to ascribe any values to why someone disagrees with us. I don't feel like we need to rebut anything or anyone. We fully support local groups changing things to suit their own needs.
Dm225 has for us:
I have seen the "spirit of EDH" used as both a weapon and a shield in many arguments and now cringe anytime I see it used. Do you regret saying those words after seeing what it has become?
Not at all. Just because a good thing is sometimes used for bad doesn't diminish its goodness.
Do you feel like an infinite combo is ever ok in a Commander game? If so, after what turn is it ok to use? I fail to see the difference between someone clearing the table with Avenger of Zendikar or Tooth and Nail and me clearing the table with a three to four card combo. As long as the game is fun and interactive, why should it matter how it ends?
I strongly agree with your last sentence. The only caveat is when it ends. While I can't necessarily put a tag on the exact tipping point, I know it when I see it, as do most reasonable folks ("Yep, that's definitely porn.") What's fine on turn 14 isn't fine on turn 4. As long as everyone has had a reasonable chance to be in the game, I'm happy. The exact number of turns for that to happen is dependent on both the players and their decks. It's nearly impossible to quantify. In the end, the game isn't an allegory for something deeper. It doesn't actually matter whether you killed me with combat damage or milled me out with some Rube Goldberg combo. What matters is if we had a good time along the way.
KarmicNoose reasonably wants to know:
Can you please unban Protean Hulk if we all agree to be good and not search for anything with CMC 0?
Um, no. You kids promise to be good, and then you're throwing a fit in the bike section.
Are you as sad in retrospect as I am that the Nephilim weren't made legendary? Are you hoping like I am that they bring them back in Dragon's Maze? I really want four-color generals.
No, I'm sad that Deadwood got cancelled. The Nephilim not being legendary can't compare on the sadness scale. That said, I've been whispering "four-color legends" for nearly ten years now to anyone in Renton who's been willing to listen, as well as a few who weren't.
Commander differs a lot between 1vs1, four-player free-for-all, 2HG, etc. Some cards get better/worst with more/less players. What kind of Commander matches does the RC play more often? What kind of matches do you prefer?
Except for Kevin, our 1v1 specialist, we all prefer multiplayer free-for-all. Some of us have greater tolerance than others for playing 1v1. I won't build a 1v1 deck, but if there's not a third and/or fourth person available, I'll play one 1v1 with existing decks. I've basically heard everyone else say the same.
Now that a few months have passed, do you (you personally, not the official RC position) still think the Primeval Titan ban was a net positive for the format? How big of an impact do you think the ban has had (on a scale of 1-10, 1 being no impact and 10 being a profound effect on how every game plays out)?
I'm even happier than I expected I would be. I don't miss it at all. It's been a definite positive for the format. I've observed games slowing down by several turns, which leads to more player interaction.
LimDul945 comes outside the box with:
I think much of the player appeal of The Mimeoplasm is due to its Tyrannosaurus arm. What is your favorite dinosaur-referencing card or artwork (excluding avian dinosaurs)?
ThisIsNotMyName takes a different path with:
A common complaint I hear and agree with is that the color identity rule for hybrid cards is against the spirit of why hybrid cards were designed. What are your thoughts on this?
I think that we've beaten this one to death. It doesn't matter why hybrid cards were designed. What matters for this format are its own rules and philosophies.
Gaka is somewhat predictable with:
We all know that Norin the Wary is the best card ever printed and deserves a reprint in every set forever. What general(s) from older sets would you like to see reprinted?
Red, white, or liquor?
Depends on the mood. When I'm not interested in sharing a whole bottle of wine, some nice bourbon is an acceptable substitute.
Racky54 comes with:
What cards are currently on the watch list to be banned or unbanned and why?
Every time, someone tries to trick me into saying there's a watch list. I'm on to you people.
I would like to know what your opinions on Pauper and Peasant EDH are.
Both seem to have developed a following, and the players are having fun with them. I think that's awesome and encourage people to have as much fun as possible.
Mojo_Rhino returns with:
There is a social contract in my and others playgroups restricting certain play styles. While this common set of rules breeds some fantastic games of Magic, I feel something is missing a lot of the time. There are a ton of unique interactions as old as Magic itself left out of our games (LD, silly combos, etc.). I really don't miss these things in our games, but it feels like we are limiting ourselves, like we are missing out on a big chunk of what Magic is.
Do the folks curating the rules have the same kinds of dilemmas in their groups? Have members of the Rules Committee talked much about ways to keep the "battlecruiser spirit" alive while at the same time becoming more lax with deck restrictions?
Limitations are part of what the format is about. I wouldn't call it a dilemma of any kind. Without those limitations, the format just becomes "Alt Vintage," and that's nowhere near what we want. You can battlecruiser away with the choices you currently have.
P.S. Do you tend to prefer wines heavier in malic or lactic acids?
For those who aren't wine nerds, malic acids give wine a pleasantly sour taste, like green apples, which you might find in an unoaked Chardonnay or even the citrusy flavors of a crisp Sauvignon Blanc. By the process of malolactic fermentation producing lactic acid, the flavors are softened and rounded to a richer, more buttery flavor. I'm not a fan of the buttery Chards, especially when they're over-oaked.
PatrickWR wants to know:
Do you keep a "loaner" deck handy that's built and tuned to offer new players a good overview of how EDH plays? Something they can borrow and use for their first-ever game of EDH? If not, what might go into your ideal loaner deck?
My budget Nath of the Gilt Leaf deck was built with an eye toward loaning it out. It's not pimpy or jammed with expensive cards, so if something bad happens to it it's not a major loss. I'd feel really bad for someone if I loaned them a $2500 deck and through no fault of their own it got wrecked. A loaner deck is ideally straightforward to give the new player a sense of how the format goes.
What is your favorite Star Wars movie? Star Trek movie? If a movie was made about you, what actor would play you?
I know we all love the franchise, but all the Star Wars movies are awful—so much so that Episode VII, which hasn't been made yet, is already my favorite. From Star Trek, I like Insurrection the most. I also like the JJ Abrams reboot of the franchise and am looking forward to Into Darkness.
I asked my wife to answer the movie question. She said Kevin Spacey. I have to agree that his extreme talent to morph into the character would let him become me. There's not really anyone with great acting chops and my physical profile, but Spacey could pack on some pounds in his upper body and be a reasonable facsimile.
Pittbunny wants to know:
Have you seen any decks recently in which the execution completely took you left field?
Yeah, just recently, local Armada player Melvin Baez rolled out some changes to his Maelstrom Wanderer deck. With Borborygmos Enraged in play, he cast Enter the Infinite and domed all of us with the lands. Didn't see that coming.
I would like to know what your thoughts are on Hellkite Tyrant. Is this a card that is currently being watched by the RC, or is it just not that big of a deal?
The RC has not had a collective discussion about the card. It seems pretty inoffensive. The conditions are just too narrow for it to ever be a problem.
Captain Loquacious has a slew:
You've been to many places. What's your favorite Magic city?
Seattle, because it's the place other than home where I get to play the most Magic. I also have many friends there, and it's a great restaurant city. As far as cities to which I've traveled because of Magic, Rome because of the food, wine, espresso, and culture. The beautiful Italian women are part of that culture.
What cards, if any, have you regretted seeing play in EDH?
Humility. Hate that card.
What's your favorite guild?
Orzhov: A powerful sense of justice and an unflinching path in seeing it done.
When building a theme deck, which is better: book, music, or film?
Book and film are really difficult because there are characters to which you have to equate creatures (most likely legendary ones). With music, you can explore deeper themes. You'd still have to have a song or movement with a story, I suppose. Perhaps we can work on a Ride of the Valkyries deck.
You answered my question about what made you angry most recently. What makes you laugh in a game?
Lots of things, but it's generally player interaction—jokes about what's happening on the board, or when one player tries to do something mean and another player makes it fall down. Cards that redirect or change targets of stuff are the funniest. Karador player: "Tormod's Crypt you." Kresh player: "Um, Reroute that to you?"
What is best in life?
Being a decent human being. Everything else is just details.
Thanks again to everyone who submitted questions. We'll do this again some months down the road.