I was pretty happy with how last week turned out. There seems to be some actual hype for Tribal Wars. I was even impressed with the slight Reddit conversations I got to have about the format. A lot of people expressed concern about what would stop people from playing Legacy decks in the format. Even my friend John made a similar comment when I shared the article on my Facebook. I’ll share with you guys how that conversation went.
This is a conversation that comes up a lot when casual formats are brought to the table. What happens when two versions of casual Magic don’t align? Let me share a story with you all.
My Casual is Not Your Casual
At GP Boston I got to play a solid amount of Commander with some pretty good friends of mine. I wouldn’t call everything our decks did “casual” or “fair.” In fact, our decks in a way were pretty degenerate. But our decks were pretty fun. What we called “casual” may not have flown with some new players, which is why we played with each other.
Flash forward to this week. I was jonsing to play some Commander Wednesday night and my friend Jon was willing to give a lift to Grimfoe Games for their Commander Night. The set up is kind of cool. You spend $2, get a pack of your choice, and are entered to win prizes based on Merits, Sportsmanship, and Epic play.
The Merit system allows you to score points and lose points for how you play. So you get points for having 20 creature tokens and lose points for “going infinite.” Seemed fair.
Except, it created a different type of casual.
When you build decks to maximize the number of Merit points you get, you also make decks that suck the fun out of the game. Which is how I felt in a warm up game. I played against a person with an Omnath, Locus of Mana deck. A version of the deck optimized to make sure he could get the most points per game.
See, in packing my bag for Commander Night I had asked Jon what was the level of play. He responded, “pretty casual.” Well, I guess what I expected didn’t match up with Mr. Omnath’s idea of casual as his deck used a solid token engine, Earthcraft, and Genesis Wave to pretty much put his deck on the table and then make Omnath large enough to one shot me.
This was not what I was expecting. Earthcraft does not come to mind when I think of Casual MtG.
My first pod was fun. Sure, the Gaddock Teeg player made it difficult for us to play some spell. But it never felt oppressive. I won the pod and finished with a whopping 6 points. I got points for eliminating two players, player three different nonland permanent types, and playing three permanents from three separate sets of a block. But I also lost points because my Damia deck wins by “going infinite. ” This felt a little unsatisfying. I won the pod, but was pretty low on points.
My second pod might have been worse than playing with Mr. Omanth. I was the first one to be attacked because my opponent did’t want to swing into Rafiq of the Many. Okay, I don’t know why your won’t swing you 6/6 indestructible Sliver Hivelord into a 3/3 Rafiq of the Many and kill it. But sure, I’ll go with it. The following turn, the Rafiq player drops a Finest Hour and turns Rafiq sideways at me. The girl who just took 8 already. I throw my Wood Elves in front of Rafiq. He then untaps and declares that he is attacking me again. Sure, I’ll take 14 general damage. I wasn’t pleased. This happens a lot in play groups. Attack the guy you don’t know. But, it still sucked to take that much damage early. Especially when the Slivers player pretended to do “eenie, meeny, miny, mo.”
I was more than annoyed. The guy playing the Rafiq deck said it was a casual auras deck with a bunch of exalted creatures and “none of the nonsense in those other Rafiq decks.” Well, sure played like a dumb powerful Rafiq deck. Of course, it only happened because you “drew the nuts.” When people say that, it tends to mean their deck isn’t actually casual and they know it.
While the players themselves were cool and the Grimfoe staff were a blast, I left the event fairly unhappy. This wasn’t fun, fair, or casual.
The Quest to Have Fun
I’ve always struggled to find the meaning of the word “casual” when it comes to Magic. The word is fairly tricky since everyone has a different meaning for the word.
For me, “casual” has always meant trying to have fun without ruining the fun everyone else is trying to have. So, my casual decks avoid infinite combos, land destruction, and counter magic. Instead, these Commander decks tend to be heavy on the creatures and have really interesting synergy like my Yeva, Nature’s Herald deck.
With the sour taste left after Commander Night, I decided to look for a way I could have despite the outcome of what the game brought. Brian David-Marshal delivered.
Me: Does Dakmor Salvage/Trade Routes work the way I think it does? @RashadMiller : Holy fuck! Me: I will take that as yes.
— Brian David-Marshall (@Top8Games) August 6, 2014
Trade Routes seemed like a fun card. I remembered I had always wanted to do a lands Commander Dakkon Blackblade deck. With some inspiration, good music, and patience I had a deck. I didn’t add Dakmor Salvage as it didn’t actually do anything for me in Commander.
I will be testing this list out on Magic Online and proxied up with friends. Next week I will let you all know how it plays and might even get to back to some more sweet Tribal Wars content. Until then, keep slinging spells.