Play the Ten Drop – Optimizing Your EDH Fun
By Kyle A. Massa
When most people sit down to play a game, they play to win. That axiom is true of sports, video games, board games, and, of course, Magic.
But I’ve been playing Magic for thirteen years now, and the more I play, the more I see what makes the game special: you don’t always need to win to have fun.
No other format illustrates this notion better than Elder Dragon Highlander. For those who don’t know about the format’s origins, a bunch of judges dreamed it up to pass time between rounds at tournaments. If there’s one tenant which EDH was built upon, it’s casual fun.
Now when we talk about fun in EDH, it’s not just about you having fun. It might be fun for you to pull off one of your numerous Niv-Mizzet combos and wreck boards. But how fun is that for your three friends? Or what about that Derevi stax deck you have that taps down the whole board, destroys lands, and generally makes life miserable for everyone? Sure, you’ll win most games with it. But if your idea of a good time is slowly killing your friends, you probably won’t have friends to play with for much longer. Also, you might be a sociopath.
Instead, why not try something that’s fun for the whole table?
Let me give you an example. I built a Zedruu the Greathearted deck a few years ago that focused on giving away the absolute worst permanents you could think of. I’m talking stuff like Grid Monitor, Aggressive Mining, Statecraft––basically, R&D’s cruel jokes that somehow made it through to release. The deck played well and won me plenty of games.
But here’s what I began to notice––first off, no one liked to play against it. In fact, my friends would groan whenever I took it out, and then they’d just start attacking me right away. The fun of those games seeped away because the objective for all my friends changed from “How do I win?” to “How do I not lose to the goat overlord?”
So I tried something new. I deconstructed my perfectly serviceable Zedruu deck and created something much…stranger, we’ll say. I added cards with Will of the Council on them, fun creatures like Arjun, the Shifting Flame, and just plain wacky stuff like Warp World. When making the deck, I went in knowing it wouldn’t win many games. But that wasn’t the point. The point of the deck was to make each game unpredictable, and fun––and not just for me.
So I brought my deck back, and when I took it out, I got plenty of groans again. And then on turn two, I played Liar’s Pendulum, which is definitely not what one might call a competitive card. Everyone knew something was different.
After we played, all anyone wanted to talk about was the Zedruu deck and how much fun it was to play against. They loved the interactive cards, the way I gave away fun creatures, and how they felt challenged––but noticeably not frustrated––when playing against it.
And it was a funny thing. I didn’t win the game. In fact, I didn’t even come close to winning. If you judged the deck on game performance alone, it was horrendous. But, that being said, I and my friends actually had more fun playing with the ostensibly worse version of the deck.
Thanks again, goat lady. You’ve given us all so much.
To reiterate, there’s nothing wrong with playing to win. You wouldn’t show up to a GP with a Hedron Archive deck, right? (Well, actually, I might do that, but that’s not the point.) All I ask is that you try building an EDH deck that’s main focus isn’t killing everyone immediately. You might be surprised at what you find.
Here’s a decklist for those interested in trying it out!