For me, the key to a great story is how it ends. If an amazing story has a lame ending, it will undue every trace of the groundwork that brought it to its conclusion. If a mediocre movie can really stick the landing, then you might be able to forgive mistakes made the the beginning and middle of the plot. There’s just something about a story that really, truly requires you to stick the landing.
Welcome to EDH: IMHO. A diverse haven for passionate, casual weirdos who want to create stories with their friends through a game of Commander!
Last week we talked about….talk. The key to a healthy EDH playgroup is being able to communicate about the kinds of games you want to have. The more you all share, the better the deckbuilding decision-making of everyone in the group. This doesn’t mean you will always agree: these conversations may very well end with some compromises. But at the end of the day, it helps your group to work together toward the most fun games possible.
For the next four weeks, I want to talk about the kind of conversations that should take place for the sake of your playgroup. Most of these conversations revolve around the question: “Is this ok?” Magic is a diverse game with a diverse variety of players, and that can lead to any number of differences in expectation when people play commander together. The last thing anyone wants is a violent mismatch due to the players involved not being on the same page
I will discuss what I believe to be 4 important questions for your playgroup. I’ll share my opinion at the end of each, but I really want to stress that there is no correct answer here, on any of these subjects. In truth, the correct answer can only be the one you all arrive at through discussion. That said, I’ll warn you from the beginning that I, in general, tend to take the conservative route on most of these subjects.
Now, the best place to begin this discussion…is the end.
Question #1: How do you want your game to end? How long do you want your game to go?
In all likelihood, there will be two schools of thought on this subject, and it centers around how people feel when a game winning combo or alternate win condition hit the board.
Some people play commander for the crazy, long, interactive games. They want power to sway several times over the course of the game, and hate it when someone wins out of the blue without ever really interacting with the board.
Others just don’t want games to last that long. As my friend CNWeezard said to me, some games just need to end. Players in this camp don’t mind someone winning all of a sudden; they enjoy finding perfect interactions on the board, and ways to end the game uniquely and efficiently.
A common compromise between the two is setting a number of turns for a game, and to say that after a certain turn ‘anything goes.’ Sheldon Menery, godfather of EDH, has often said that he thinks anything that happens after turn 7 is fair game, which is how this little diddy has stayed off the banned list so long.
Rowsdower take: I love long games, and very rarely do I wish they would end. Only when 3 players have life totals in triple digits do I ever hope for sudden death.
Similarly, I don’t love combos. More often than not, it feels like an abrupt, unearned end to the “story” of the game. I feel like a lot of people in my group tell the story of the Eldrazi Mulldrifter.
For me, I want to create a great story with a satisfying ending. If your group has fun with combos: awesome! Do it! If your group wants combat to always end the game, then consider a ban on infinite interactions. Maybe you want to meet in the middle, and set a turn limit of when a game can end.
No matter your conclusion the important thing, once again, is to talk. Talk to your group about the kinds of stories you want to tell. Talk to them about what kinds of game endings you want to have.
Commander, and particularly casual commander, has a unique advantage over nearly any other game I’ve played. That advantage is this: you, and your friends, get to decide what kind of game you want to have. In any competitive format, you are a slave to a banned list, or to a meta…but not so in commander. In Commander, you have the opportunity to talk to your group and decide exactly what kind of game you want to have.
AkabaneRowsdower is an avidly casual player of Commander. He loves movies, Japanese pro wrestling, and Sphinx Ambassador. Every week, he uses EDH IMHO to share his rambling philosophy regarding the format he loves.