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Thursday, March 24, 2016

How did I come to play EDH on Magic Online? Is it worth it?

Elder Dragon Highlander or Commander as it is now officially called is available as one of the formats on Magic Online. Since I was fine with playing 'normal' competitive formats I never felt the urge to try EDH Online. But then I was asked to come to an EDH Christmas tournament and that led me to try EDH on modo. Here is the summary of how I actually came to EDH on modo.

EDH is one of the most problematic formats there is because it can be played casually on many different levels and even competitively. The players are not the same, their notions of fun is different, the way they like to play may differ a lot, there are cards each players hates and like and that means that many players simply do not understand each other when they play a game of Magic. I experienced this many times and I have the impression that there is no place for me in which I can play EDH the way I would want to. I like Highlander formats but I also like players to make sense with their plays and I like decks that are solid and have many synergies or many ways how to deal with something.

For this reason playing competitive EDH makes more sense to me since there I can expect a certain skill and power level. So when someone proposed that I should go play in the Christmas EDH tournament that was hosted by a LGS I decided to go.

I haven't played EDH in a long time though and my deck I used played got few cards banned (Mystical Tutor, Entomb, Natural Order). I obviously needed a new deck (or at least I got a reason to play with different deck). The deck is not particularly fun to play and the games are short - that is ideal for big tournaments but not for a tournament in which one wants to have some fun and play some grindy games.

I had two generals in mind - Dragonlord Ojutai or Tasigur. Dragonlord Ojutai would allow me to finally play a pure control deck that could possibly have a combo finish (Helm of Obedience and Rest in Peace) and it would also give me access to a general that is (supposedly) difficult to deal with (not true) and that allows me to Impulse each turn. Tasigur on the other hand is a general I wanted to play right when the card was spoiled. But since I thought the card would be banned very soon I decided to play Dragonlord Ojutai instead which would hardly be banned. Since I would just play this deck at this one particular tournament and I really wanted to play something I would really like I decided to go with Tasigur.

But going to the tournament without knowing what the deck does is not usually a good idea even if you build the deck and you are fairly sure that you know what you are doing. Being quite late and there was not much time for finding players IRL I decided to try my deck against some people online. So I put some 100 cards together that seemed ok and could be found in my collection (because I did not want to spent any tix on that) and went to the play lobby to find someone willing to play a game of EDH. I found out that the lobby is full of EDH games and that they start almost immediately (1-on-1 games, multiplayer games take about 5 minutes to fire). I knew bringing my deck to Just For Fun would probably not end well, but I did not know anything about the power level of EDH decks on Magic Online and 'fun' can mean practically anything. Since modo is considered as a client that allows competitive players to test their decks (and that is what I wanted to do in this case) I kind of expected broken EDH decks. But who would want to play that every day? Certainly, not me.

I wrote in the comments field 'French EDH' and waited for someone to join my game. Someone actually joined. Played a land, Sol Ring and passed the turn. I played a land and passed the turn. My opponent then played another land and Thran Dynamo. I Force Spike'ed the card and my opponent conceded. After this I tried few more games but with the comment 'Competitive'. Some opponents conceded after they joined the game and saw my general, some after I played my second counterspell.

This was my first experience with EDH on Magic Online. I made a mental note that next I should not play with a competitive deck if I want to actually play a game that does not end with my opponent ragequitting.

So I gave up and wrote to some players I know that were currently online if they would be up for a game of EDH in the middle of the night. Hopefully I found such players and could play few games thus. During those games I found out that some cards I put there just because I had them in my collection were actually fine. For example Black Sun's Zenith is one of the cards. It makes Tasigur smaller if he is in play but this card can be tutored with Muddle the Mixture. Languish is enough for most normal or utility creatures and does not kill Tasigur. I also found some cards are horrible like Scatter to the Winds or Dismiss and replaced them with cheaper counterspells (Spell Pierce and not sure what else). What I did not find at that time was that I had 2 Forests in the deck and they were REALLY BAD. Anyway I got the information and experience I needed for the tournament. This helped a lot in winning the tournament (there I found out that the prize pool is way bigger than I thought so I was very grateful to all those that played few games with me the night before and thanked WotC for allowing this via modo).

After this I did not have the urge to play EDH or even try it since there are other formats I play and like - Vintage mostly. Recently though I watched SaffronOlive play in 100tix Modern challenge and I had the chance to see some of his awesome EDH decks in between rounds. This motivated me to write something about EDH (because I knew this would mean I would have to play EDH and have the reason to play it^_^). Yesterday my article about casual EDH Deck - Phelddagrif Turboland was published on pureMTGO. For me it is not just an article because behind it there was a lot of work and playing. This article required me to build the deck, buy it (that meant many trades), play many games, record them, talk a lot during the matches. It 'forced' me to do many things I don't usually do and I could imagine how it feels to 'play Magic for living in SaffronOlive way' (what SaffronOlive talked about a bit in his stream). Writing the article was the result of all this. I wasn't sure how the article would be accepted but in the end it seems that I did not need to fear it at all.

Anyway I put the deck list at work together out of a deck I already played in our local play group. I updated the list on MTGGoldfish so I could just download it and load it via modo when I would come back home. When I did it I looked at the marked cards that I do not own and looked them up on MTGGoldfish. I found out that Time Warp, Celestial Colonnade and Oblivion Stone are actually expensive. Since I wanted to spend only part of my mtgotraders credit for it (15tix max) I had to cut cards costing more tix than I wanted to pay but I still needed to buy majority of the cards. Something like this came out of it (Oblivion Stone was needed afterall) after ages I spend waiting for a bot to allow me to trade something.

The deck was ready and I could try a game. I doubted myself because I wasn't really sure how my article would be accepted and I also knew that the deck is not good so I wondered how it would fare. I joined one game and I did not regret it. The following few days I spent practically in front of my monitor staring at Magic Online playing EDH and it was so much fun that I can't even describe it with my words! I don't even remember the last time when I played Magic for hours and hours straight and I wasn't playing in a premier event of some kind O_O.

In the end I would conclude that my deck's power level was lacking (even though the tix price can be rather daunting) but I could win the games by playing simply well or doing necessary plays that probably wouldn't be seen as 'fun' by some players. But what can I do since I got Strip Mine'ed, Mind Twist'ed and I faced an army of 1/1 Elves and Skullclamp? Is this something an EDH player online plays against?

As with everything online there are pros and cons. In the case of Magic Online and EDH:

  • Good EDH decks can be build for 10-50 tix which is nowhere as much as it would cost in paper.
  • Very expensive cards from paper are actually cheap online (Moat, Mishra's Workshop, Mana Crypt)
  • You can practically play anytime 1-on-1 or a multiplayer free for all games.
  • Magic Online client will solve very strange and difficult situations for you.
  • No need to shuffle your deck^_^

Since you will be playing online the social aspect is not really present. Even though politics and many messages sent your way telling you what to do exist on modo. They just feel different since you can't hear the players and you don't usually know the players. But once you discover a group of players or a clan you'd like to be part of this both of this becomes possible (certain group of players create their own rules/limitations to deckbuilding etc which makes the games more balanced).

Also when trying to play Online one needs to understand that the power level, skill level and the notion of fun (play style) is very different (pretty much the same is IRL but here it is more evident). This means that there will be those that ragequit, those that will utterly crush others with 'unfair' cards not even blinking an eye and those that will be nice, friendly and chatty or those that actually understand a game politics. This means that half of the games one might play may not be ideal. But after finding players you had fun with you can just add them and play with them without worrying that you will have to play against someone who will just kill you by turn 3 with his Animar or won't let you resolve a single spell while playing Azami, Lady of Scrolls.

During those days and nights I played EDH though I played more games that I really appreciated than I would have thought. I had fun games, I played games in which I could just watch my opponent do something since I couldn't do anything but was very nicely surprised that those decks were actually pretty cool. I also played very challenging games in which I just tried hard to survive and then later win the game. Yes, there were disconnections and concessions on the other side of the table but one needs to live with that. It's the internet where nothing needs to be personal. During that time though I found players I can play with casually and 'cutthroat players' as they are called that I can play competitive EDH. All is well! Now I just need to put together more decks and have more fun!

I smiled while playing, I laughed and I was taking screenshots quite often. So playing EDH Online is certainly worth it. Even if this would mean that you would build one deck and play with it from time to time. EDH games can get very strange and complicated and that's the beauty of it. Certainly worth playing at least from time to time.