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 Post subject: Public beta: Optional rule for tournament/untrusted games
AgePosted: 2008-Dec-21 1:13 pm 
EDH Rules Committee
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Joined: 2006-May-09 4:17 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
Location: Calgary, AB
EDH is a format designed to foster a social, interactive style of game while still requiring (and allowing) competitive play and strong deckbuilding. Because it is primarily played in a multiplayer environment, the structure of the rules reflects this and social conventions (peer pressure) have been used to further tune the game style as each playgroup desires. We refer to these games as "Trusted" games, because trust in the other players to accept those social conventions was important.

***FIRST AND FOREMOST***: If your playgroup is not having problems with degenerate strategies, "unfun" or "broken" decks/generals, then the following does NOT apply to you. You don't even need to read it, because the proposed rule change would be OPTIONAL. It is designed to be used by groups who are experiencing stability or degeneracy problems and who can't or rely on social pressure to prohibit behavior they see as "unfun".

As the format has become more popular, and seen more play in tournament environments and against unknown opponents, the existence of a different type of game has emerged. "Untrusted" games are those with primarily non-social goals (such as prizes) or against opponents who aren't constrained by (future) socialization. Certain degenerate strategies have emerged in untrusted environments, and will continue to do so in future.

Some of these strategies have arisen because of removing the "6 mana minimum" for generals. That change has largely been positive for the format, introducing a plethora of new generals and strategies, but certain legends have proven exceptionally powerful. Rather than banning a bunch of those options, and having to ban more as they're printed, we're looking for a solution which allows players to cope appropriately.

Other degenerate strategies are deck based, but can be fun in moderation and aren't considered "unfun" or "unacceptable" by some groups. As such, banning large swaths of cards to mitigate them would do more harm than good.

KEY POINT #1: In both cases, the type of cards required to mitigate those strategies are cheap, narrow and efficient... but NOT the kind of cards that people want to fill their EDH decks with.
KEY POINT #2: The General rule makes some strategies more consistent, but the 100-card-highlander nature of the format makes answers less consistent.
KEY POINT #3: There are several such strategies, and being prepared for all of the ones which might show up in your metagame requires overcommitment.

Example: Cheap generals like Braids, Arcum, or Zur ("the unholy trinity") require cheap creature removal which is otherwise undesireable in EDH. They also require those answers early in the game, which the 100-card-highlander nature of the format makes difficult... to reliably have those cards in hand by turn 3 means having 4-6 of them in the deck (at least, depending how many players there are in the game).

Since there are multiple such possible opposing strategies, that means dedicating 10-20% of an EDH deck (up to 33% of the nonland cards) to non-EDH style (read: Cheap, boring) cards just to survive till the midgame. The net result is that those combos either dominate the format or cause a massive shift in deck composition away from the playstyle we want in EDH.

ANSWER: Sideboards.

Oh God! No! It can't be! EDH is for _casual play_! Sideboards are an abomination! You suck!

Ok, have we got that out of the way? Good. Let's look at it rationally.

Proposed Rule change: If the tournament organizer or game convener chooses to allow them, players may bring a 10 card sideboard with their EDH deck. After Generals are chosen and revealed, players may swap some cards in their deck for those in their sideboard.

As EDH becomes more competitive and cutthroat, it becomes more evident that well tuned threats require the opponent to adaptation and react efficiently and effectively. Game-one Sideboards are the ideal way to allow this without creating a huge shift in the maindeck composition.

Because EDH games are long by design, we're not introducing multi-game matches or anything of that sort. It's been tried, and the results are ugly and undesireable. Instead, sideboarding is done for game one, after generals are announced so that you have some idea what you're facing but not exactly.

Most people play 1-2 "answer cards" maindeck already (Swords to plowshares, Withered Wretch, etc)... by boarding in 3-5 more against only those threats which are actually present, the game is re-balanced.


We've been testing it for 6 months among closed/private alpha testing groups and the feedback has been pretty positive. Now, we're opening up this strategy for public testing and commentary until the March 09 B&R annoucements, at which point it will either become an official-optional rule, or we'll look to other solutions (Banning a bunch more cards and generals, likely). This thread will be the primary place to respond and voice opinions, feedback, etc.

My only request is that people actually test the rule before they comment. We've discussed this at length with over 30 people in half a dozen groups, so we've heard and addressed most of the superficial/initial reactions and issues. We're looking for data on games played... preferably with the normal EDH rules (40 life, one free mulligan, etc), and preferably at least 5 or 6 games of testing.

* This allows flexibility, interaction, and the ability to cope with dominating strategies.
* Because those strategies are then mitigated, they become less enticing to play, shifting the format back towards its desired playstyle.
* It opens up an entirely new class of cards for play in EDH.
* It introduces new strategic and skill elements: anticipation, planning, misdirection, etc

* There are a few cards which might need to be banned for being too good with sideboards. On the whole, most "hate cards" aren't very good anyway, but some like Conversion/Karma might need to go. Boil and the like really aren't very good if people are playing an appropriate mixture of Basic and Nonbasic lands (which they should be anyway, in a competitive environment). In any case, those cards are not much better than they are without sideboards, so we don't see them being a real problem beyond kneejerk reactions.

Additional notes:
* With the advent of sideboards, the rules for wishes become more clear.. wishes can be used to get any sideboard card or RFG'd card from the maindeck.
* The size of the sideboards might be increased in future, but for now testing and probabilities have shown 10 seems to be the correct number.
* If you're playing on MTGO, it requires an additional step to test sideboards but it's not difficult.

Again, this rule would be OPTIONAL... only used for those playgroups/tournaments who feel they need it because their games are being dominated by certain strategies. I can't stress that enough... if your games are working fine (with or without social pressure or other solutions)... it doesn't impact you at all :)


Last edited by Genomancer on 2009-Jun-18 2:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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AgePosted: 2009-Jan-28 11:49 am 
EDH Rules Committee
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Joined: 2006-May-24 10:14 am
Age: Elder Dragon
Location: Tampa, FL, USA
I support this effort wholeheartedly.

"Leave the gun. Take the cannolis."

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