The gentleman way

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Magic is a very social game. EDH is a very social format in a very social game. It’s therefore no wonder that measures are taken against antisocial behaviour in many EDH groups. Politics are a part of the game when you sit down with four or five opponents, and if you turn against all of them, you will be left in the dust. Still, it is an inherently unbelievably broken format, and most EDH decks can produce combos of cards that will either win the game right there and then if left to its own accords, or will lock one or more players out of the game in a way that is generally felt as “unfun”. This is arbitrary as all hell, but I would like to share my playgroup’s list of banned cards and errata’d cards, for the sake of argument, to demonstrate the gentleman ban – or the gentleban.

Let me just clarify that I am in no way talking about a “gentleman’s agreement” in the way Tom LaPille once described Mystical Tutor‘s scarcity at low-profile Legacy events. The article, by the way, has gone down in (infamous) Magic history and is still four years later often referred to on Legacy forums on the internet. Tom LaPille, by the way, is the guy who proposed Great Sable Stag as a solution to Legacy at the time the format was completely overrun by Mental Misstep.

I should also note that this list is in no way comprehensive. There has never been a council where the group sat down, proposed a list of cards and voted upon them (although I’d love that), the list has evolved over time to include stuff that the group has experienced as overpowered or unfun. It is my ambition that other groups might use this list as a starting point for similar reasoning when it comes to house-ruling or gentlebanning cards.

Mindslaver. Mindslaver is a very special card with a more or less unique effect (it was unique at the time it was printed in Mirrodin anyway) and has a certain way of conveying flavour through game play that I personally find very exciting. It is very violating towards other players, however, and problems arise when you start to recur it. Recursion of Mindslaver is really the biggest reason it is gentlebanned, Sorin Markov‘s ultimate and Worst Fears are less problematic in general. I guess recurring Worst Fears is pretty easy, but you can’t Gobin Welder or Daretti it into play, nor can you get it back with Sharuum the Hedgemon.

Unlimited_Power_9591Mind Twist, Mind Sludge and similar effects. The group seems to have no issue with targeted discard that discards only a single card, i.e. Thoughtseize, Duress etc. but binning somebody’s entire hand can generally be done quite early with Mind Twist and similar cards, and although Mind Sludge is much, much slower, it will also in general discard a player’s entire hand. Such awesome power (such “unlimited power”) generally wins a game if there are few players left, or makes a player lose the game to card disadvantage. Not fun. Nobody likes it. Moving on.

Armageddon, Decree of Annihilation and other mass-land destruction. One could argue that aggro might need these types of cards in order to compete against control strategies, and one might be right. That said, what these cards often do is that they either do effectively nothing but prolonging the game another ten turns while players complain about mana screw, or they win right on the spot, because the guy in front played one and nobody could recover. The bench mark of these cards, Armageddon, costs only four mana, which is rather cheap for winning the game if you ask me. Blood Moon and similar effects are not the same problem, since they punish the decks with greedy manabases rather than just everyone.

finalfortune.hqTime Warp and similar effects. Taking extra turns in a format as slow as EDH is very problematic, especially when recurred, since it serves as one of the format’s most reliable win conditions for UGx decks. As with Mindslaver, it is the recursion itself that is the problem, rather than the cards, but taking infinite turns is generally considered bad form in the group, for a good reason. Cards like Final Fortune and similar are on the other hand considered “hilarious” and “f*cking awesome”, and are therefore completely fine to play.

Aside this short list, there are also two cards that are errata’d in the group, Sorin Markov and Magister Sphinx are both extremely powerful in formats where players start with 40 life instead of 20. Sorin Markov can activate the turn he comes down, and Magister Sphinx can be bounced or recurred, meaning he can do it to more than one players some times. We’ve interpreted these cards to state that a player loses life equal to half the starting life – i.e. they read “Target player’s life total is 20” instead when we play free-for-all in single player. In 2HG, where the teams have 60 life, their effects would be even more devastating, and in these cases, the group assumes that each player in a team contributes an equal amount of life to the team – i.e. 30. Losing half that means losing 15 life when Magister Sphinx comes into play or Sorin Markov activates his -3. This effectively nerfs the cards pretty badly, they fall into a limbo of semi-playability instead of being obvious inclusions in decks that could run them, which is fine by me.

What do you think of these house rules? What does your group use for house rules? Leave a comment below!

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  1. Grim Lavamancer

     /  November 13, 2014

    Dang! That Darth Sidius, he sure likes to play his Mind Twists, then cycle his Decree of Annihilation and finish up with a Time Warp. What a douche.

    As stated before, I am not that particularly fond of Rite of Replication. But that’s just me.


    • He also casts a Sun Titan on his extra turn, returns an Eternal Witness to get back the Time Warp, then casts a kicked Rite of Replication on the Sun Titan to go broken.

      I completely agree on the Rite of Replication, but since it’s not gentlebanned, I didn’t include it. I was going to add it to Augustin, by the way, but when I started to leaf through the deck for something to take out for it, I had a “what monster have I become?” moment of clarity, and decided not to add it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Grim Lavamancer

         /  November 13, 2014

        And then, just to finish it up. He takes a dump on your play mat. That’s just the way he rolls.

        Good man! Sometimes you just need to trade power for what’s fun to play. Otherwise, how else would Kamahl, Pit Fighter see any play? 😉


  2. psykopatmullvad

     /  November 15, 2014

    I agree with all you’ve said here. Quite a nice article!



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