The problems with alternative wins

city of shakar

Since about a month ago or so, I’ve been driving an hour back and forth to my job. This ends on Monday, when I switch my work place to something closer to home, but for the last month I’ve been doing a lot of driving, especially since my job involves quite a bit of it as well.

As such, I’ve been consuming podcasts at an unprecedented rate. One of the podcasts I’ve stumbled upon is a pretty new EDH podcast known as Commander’s Brew and I find it a pretty nice listen. Every episode, the two hosts agree upon a theme (a commander, a card, a strategy) and both brew budget lists around the decided theme – usually the decks weigh in at around $50 or so.

In this week’s episode, they brewed The Mimeoplasm and the hosts started discussing Infect and Mill as alternative win conditions in EDH, since one of them made his deck to be an Infect deck.

And I have to say I don’t like either, but for different reasons.


The only way I’ve ever won with Milling.

At first glance, milling (i.e. putting cards from the opponent’s library straight to the graveyard without passing GO! until they run out and deck out) seems to be a perfect viable strategy, since it actually doesn’t scale with the format, at least not as much as life totals does. In regular Magic, players start with 20 life and usually 60 cards. In EDH, where we have 40 life and 100 cards, the life is thus increased by a factor of 2, where the cards are only increased by a factor of 1,67. It is therefore, logically, easier to mill someone out in EDH compared to regular constructed than it is to eliminate someone by combat damage in EDH compared to constructed.

As with milling, Infect doesn’t scale with the format, and Infect doesn’t scale at all! Whereas players double their life total, 10 poison counters is still a kill, meaning that if a creature with Infect could be regarded as dealing twice their power of combat damage to a player in regular constructed, it deal four times its power in combat damage in EDH, making them four times as effective as non-Infect creatures in the format! Pretty good, right? Wrong.

inkmothnexus.hqThe issue with both milling and Infect as paths to victory is that they are inherently alternative paths to victory, different from what the players around the table are trying to do. Most EDH games will likely end in either a huge infinite (or redundantly powerful) combo, or via a grind eliminating players in succession of aggression or perceived strength. Infect contributes to neither – and it will draw lots of hate.

When an Infect player sits down at the table, the following scenario is likely to happen. Player A (Infect) “goes off” and kills the weakest player, Player B, at around turn four or five. Player C and D realise the imminent threat, gangs up on Player A, stomps on his face and eliminates him. This leaves Player A and B to sit around and do nothing while player C and D finish the game. This is feel-bad for all players. In the following game, players B, C and D will gang up on Player A right from the get-go.

Milling doesn’t draw that amount of hate, but every time you sit down with a mill deck at a table, you will not be able to make alliances with other players and gang up on someone to face a threat or go in for the kill, since likely everyone else tries to win via a combo or combat damage. Instead of facing around 60 life points, reasonably 30 of which you can almost expect others to deal with (unless they are on the mill or the Infect plans), you sit down facing three-hundred cards, all of which have to be milled in order to eliminate the other players. Since you probably can’t help much, building alliances will be tough.

Voltron strategies suffer a bit from the same issue, but nowhere near as bad, as they tend to (aside Skittles) to deal regular combat damage as well, meaning you are moving the game forward for everyone, not just yourself, when you attack someone with your Voltron’d up Commander.

In both of these cases, I’d say the strategies can work, but probably better in a 1 vs. 1 setting, or else it takes a lot of alliance making and politricking. I guess I could give it a recommendation to experienced players looking for something different to play with newer playgroups. Not Infect, though. Never Infect.

Leave a comment


  1. Andy

     /  August 6, 2015

    Love the post, and my thoughts exactly re: Infect. In the end after building my deck I just don’t see it as a fun commander experience. I will say though, that Sean’s build was more about milling others for value – as in reanimating creatures and creating a big Mimeoplasm, Great stuff and thanks for listening!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Definitely, milling for value is great, and my post was about these win cons in general. I’ve seen decks with Phenax for example. Milling to fuel your commander (Mimeoplasm, Lazav) is, perhaps a bit hyperbolic, like drawing cards from everyone’s decks 🙂


    • crazyaboutmtg

       /  August 8, 2015

      Andy, I love your podcast. 🙂


  2. crazyaboutmtg

     /  August 7, 2015

    Great Post! Interesting Topic! Where can I find this podcast?


  3. crazyaboutmtg

     /  August 8, 2015

    Listened to all of them in two days. Love it. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Grim Lavamancer

     /  August 10, 2015

    Infect and milling… Imagine if you will that playing EDH is sort of like going to a dance club to pick up a partner. This usually involves a lot of dancing, back and forth moves, perhaps some delightful banter and so on. That is if you’re using your guys or spells to beat down someone’s life from 40 to 0. Now, milling, that is more like grinding on some sweet thing without his or hers consent. And infect is obviously slipping a knock out pill in someone’s drink when they’re in the bathroom. Don’t be that guy.

    Liked by 1 person

  1. Lazav’s Mind Grind won’t grind minds | Goyf Wars

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