Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Primordials, LOL

It hasn’t been that long since Wizards officially endorsed EDH as “Commander”, and started printing cards that are either explicitly for the format (commander precons) or obviously intended for Commander play (“all opponents” or “each opponent” type cards). I’m not a big fan of these “EDH plants” since part of the fun of EDH was taking cards that Wizards thought could be playable in standard (but actually weren’t) and giving them a home. It’s less satisfying playing a 7 or 8 mana spell in EDH knowing that the designer never actually thought it’d be played anywhere else anyways.

What’s worse is how these plants are often complete and utter no-brainers, as they viciously out-class the competition. Specifically shit like this:

While these were printed in Gatecrash, nobody’s fooled by their purpose. These are unplayable in standard/modern/legacy and only mediocre in limited. When we move to multiplayer EDH though, these cards become completely and utterly absurd.

The Old Guard:
Putting an existing spell onto a creature as an enters-the-battlefield effect is nothing new; it’s been around since man-o-war started unsummoning enemy bears back in visions. Spells “on legs” are generally preferred to legless versions since they can block, wear equipment, and be blinked/recurred to repeat their effect; in fact the way power creep is going its starting to be a waste of time to play any creature that does not come with some sort of “enters the battlefield” or “dies” ability.

While you might expect to pay more for “legs”, the way we pay more for the sum of turn//burn than we would for shock + ovinize, many of these creatures come at either a break-even cost or an actual cost advantage compared to similar “raw” creatures:

Eternal witness for example is effectively  a 1 mana 2/1 with regrowth strapped on.
Indirik stomphowler is effectively a 3 mana 4/4 with naturalize strapped on.
Angel of Despair is effectively a 4 mana 5/5 flyer with vindicate strapped on.

The premium we pay is.. elite vanguard, loxodon smiter, and no-drawback-rathi-dragon; respectively. Life is hard isnt it?

Primordials LOL
Well apparently wizards thinks life IS hard with those sorts of rates on our creatures. Because what’s better than getting a body that’s extremely well costed? Getting a body that’s so cheap it goes way beyond being “free”! Enter the primordials in multiplayer EDH (assume 4 player game):

Sylvan: 3x creeping molds (12 mana) + 3x rampant growths (6 mana) = -11 mana for a 6/8 reach!
Sepulchral: 3x ashen powder (12 mana) = -5 mana for a 5/4 intimidate!
Diluvian: 3x memory plunder (12 mana) = -5 mana for a 5/5 flyer!
Molten: 3x act of treason (9 mana) = -2 mana for a 5/4 haste!
Only the luminate primordial clocks in with a measurable rate, as a 4 mana 4/7 vigilance with 3 swords to plowshares strapped on its back.

The “raw materials” value obviously isn’t the whole story. We’re generally happier getting 3 swords to plowshares over a single vindicate, even if we’d be inclined towards a 5/5 flyer for 4 over a 4/7 vigilance for 4. Likewise, we’re happy to pay 1 mana for swords, but probably not really keen on the 4 mana of a memory plunder or creeping mold (although I’ve played both in EDH!). Alternatively then we can look at the raw card advantage of each:

Sylvan primordial: 7 to 1
all other primordials: 4 to 1
Angel of Despair: 2 to 1

Remember, angel of despair was already awesome and commonly played in EDH. But you now what’s cool? Cards that are TWICE as effective, or even FOUR times as effective. But fuck it, why stop there?

“Despair Primordial”
The primordial equation seems to be take a spell, add ~2 mana for a 5/5-ish body with an ability, and triple the effect of the spell. Since Angel of Despair costs 4 more than the spell (vindicate) and has a higher colour requirement than primordials, the body should probably have ~double the abilities and ~double the P/T. What would angel of despair look like if Wizards made it today? Here’s my best guess:

Despair Primordial
Flying, Lifelink
When Despair Primordial enters the battlefield, for each opponent, destroy target permanent that opponent controls.

The way Wizards is printing cards these days, don’t be surprised to find something roughly this stupid coming to a booster pack near you.

Macaroni or Cheese?
Since wizards is unlikely to get better at this stuff, I’m predicting either a decline in interest in EDH as new cards render too many old cards completely obsolete, or the development of “legacy EDH” which will consist only of cards printed in the old card frames - or only cards printed prior to the commander pre-cons.

For my own part, I’ll be sighing everytime one of these dollar bin rares hits the table and ruins yet another game of EDH. Fuckin gouda

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Play it again, Sam!

One of my more recent pet peeves in EDH is seeing the same card played turn after turn. Creativity and diversity are two of the cornerstones of a good EDH game - while repetition may be effective in generating “virtual card advantage”, it is antithetical to what makes a multiplayer session of spellslinging fun.

We’re already dedicated to seeing some of the cards over and over again from the command zone, there’s no need to make it worse - and definitely no need to play commanders that in turn recur shit we’ve already seen on the board (and probably killed for good reason the first time). Bad enough to have “staples” like genesis and debtor’s knell that make sure you haven’t seen your last eternal witness - but leading this degenerate recursive army are the king and queen of stale shitty games:


What do these cards have in common? Whatever you just killed on the board, you’re probably going to be killing it again... and again... and again... until everyone says fuck it and kills the person who won’t stop re-playing spore frog (hi matt!) or phrexian metamorph (hi melissa!).

At one point I got so sick of mimeoplasm and genesis and made a deck packed with graveyard hate: leyline of the void, relic of progenitus, necrogenesis, and even grafdigger’s cage. The problem is none of those cards are actually fun to play, and while it was respectable at disabling the graveyard for a while, it was only a matter of time before the hate cards got blown up and we went right back to the recursion game.

Here’s the thing... if what you had was worth killing once, its worth killing twice. But if I keep dropping removal spells, we both know that I’m going to run out of answers from my hand before you run out of shit to reanimate, and thus we know who wins the attrition game. You won’t like it if I hit you for 40 with a kicked savage beating, and I don’t like having to deal with the exact same card turn after turn after turn - so let’s call a truce. I’ll keep spreading my early game damage around, and in return you promise to play different cards from turn to turn. Win-win!

Macaroni or Cheese?
While they still look tame compared to the stupidity of the mimeoplasm, the king and queen of repeat offenses are unquestionably cheesey. If you must play junk, play doran. If you must play esper, play daakon blackblade. Leave the lame train for the Sunday tournaments at comic book shop!