What a dilly of a pickle! – NOW WITH POLL

09 Mar

I was playing my Savra deck last night and had a bit of a realisation moment; I’m a bad deckbuilder. OK, I may be overstating things a little there, but let me elaborate. I had the following opening hand:

Verdant Catacombs, Crypt of Agadeem, Svogthos, Stinkweed Imp, and some other stuff. Play and crack Verdant Catacombs (getting Overgrown Tomb). My second turn draw; Life from the Loam. “Man I’m good at this game” I think to myself as I cast it and get the Catacombs back, drawing a Swamp for turn 3. I cast Stinkweed Imp, thinking there’s nothing wrong with a bit of early defence… then the Nicol Bolas player to my right plays Consuming Vapors… and then Bojuka Bog’s me. Brutal, but effective. SO effective, in fact that I pretty much do nothing for the next 5 or 6 turns. This is when I come to the realisation I alluded to above. Bogging a graveyard which contained only a Life from the Loam and a Stinkwed Imp should not have stopped me in my tracks, but it surely did. I came to the following conclusions:

  1. My decks all love doing stuff
  2. I tend to put in cards that “do stuff” ahead of cards that “do nothing” (I’ll define that term later on)
  3. If someone manages to stop me doing stuff, I’m back to doing nothing
  4. (not really relevant to this particular game, but) I need to put 1 or 2 (or 5) more lands into all my decks
  5. In order for point 4 to not result in me going “land, go” in the later game, I need to put more card draw into all my decks
  6. More lands + more card draw = less stuff!!! But see point 1!

Hence my dilly of a pickle (of a jam). As far as I’m concerned, spells that say “draw X cards” are do nothing cards. In Savra, I have things like Skullmuncher, Skulltap, Culling Dais and Carnage Altar, which are all pretty good card draw, if you have creatures. Which I didn’t.

Thing is, my decks are already 35-40 lands, plus some “do nothing” cards. If I were to put in the lands I probably need, plus the draw/selection spells to get me past all my new lands, they’ll be about 50% do nothing… which means half the game (to my thinking) will be wasted!

What do you think, gentle reader? Should I bite the bullet and make my decks better, at the expense of doing less stuff? Or should I leave them as is, and just realise every now and then that I’ll get stuck like I did with Savra?

Very keen to hear all y’all’s opinions on this 🙂

Edit: Now with super-poll action!


Posted by on March 9, 2012 in EDH/Commander


Tags: ,

9 responses to “What a dilly of a pickle! – NOW WITH POLL

  1. DJ

    March 10, 2012 at 3:45 am

    I have a feeling that I build (at least from a land count vs. business perspective) similarly to you. I see lists that people post on the MTGC forums with 40 lands, and just cringe. So many slots that could be other things! Gah!

    My “magic” number of lands is 36. I always start here, and modify if I need to. This also takes into account a minimum of 8 mana producers – either rocks or things that find lands. (Map, Cultivate, etc)

    The big thing here is that I tend to slot things like Loam into a “Tutor” slot in the deck, instead of a “mana fixer” slot, mostly to avoid a situation like you had happen. I similarly look at draw and fixing that rely on another permanent to be effective (Altar, Skulltap, etc) as auxillary to the standard loadout – which tends to mean that I’m using it to serve a specific role in the deck, or I’m not playing it in a place where I need to rely on it.

    I wouldn’t necessarily look to front-load more land if I were you…I would look to tighten up things in these places.

    (Also of note – this is the main reason why card draw is so critical! If you’re going to overload on anything, this is the place. If you’re in Savra, for example, run up Harmonize, Sign In Blood, Ancient Craving, Skeletal Scrying…and so on. If you’re drawing more cards, you’re drawing more land *and* more business. I find that extra draw is a great way to balance out issues like you’re seeing.)


    • Viperion

      March 10, 2012 at 10:20 am

      From a purely logical standpoint, you’re 100% right – it simply makes sense to run more mana sources, more draw spells and that way (eventually) you have the lands in play + cards in hand to do the stuff that I want to do. Trouble with that is I have to take out things that already do stuff to make room for those things! If I could make my decks 110 cards just by adding some bits and pieces I so would 😉

      I also start at 36 lands, but I don’t also have 8+ ways of getting lands, unless the deck relies on Mana (Omnath) or has an unusually high mana curve (Mayael).

      In the end I guess I really do just have to realise I need them, and start taking stuff out.

      This also goes back to my unnatural hatred for building decks on autopilot – I don’t want to automatically put Harmonize in every green deck just because I always need card draw….

      • thaumaturge

        March 10, 2012 at 10:45 am

        “This also goes back to my unnatural hatred for building decks on autopilot – I don’t want to automatically put Harmonize in every green deck just because I always need card draw….”

        To me this seems like a knee-jerk reaction (over-reaction) to the unfortunate trend of auto-includes and must-runs in the format. The EDH format definitely benefits from diversity and variety… BUT that’s why the creators built 100-card singleton decks: to make room for plenty of janky pet cards and experimental inclusions, while still allowing space for the boring old utility cards that you need to make the decks actually DO STUFF.

        It is my firm opinion that it’s the cards that you’d consider your win conditions and threats that need the most diversity, to avoid staleness. Do I ever get tired of running Sakura Tribe Elder, Wood Elves and Kodama’s Reacharound as the first three ramp/fixing spells I put into EVERY green deck? NO. I don’t. Because mana fixing and ramping is a means to and end, not an end in itself, so I really don’t care what I use. It’s smarter to just use the best of the best when chosing utility spells like that.

        On the flip side, winning every single game with Sovereigns/Conscription or Akroma, Angel of Wrath, or Exsanguinate for 1,000,000 DOES get old quick.

        In other words, what I’m trying to say is: the cards in your deck that “do stuff” should be where you focus on diversity and variety, and experimentation – but auto-including Harmonize in every green deck should not bother you so much. As long as what your deck actually DOES is cool and not the same thing every other deck does, I see no reason that shouldn’t be enough originality to suit you.

        Refusing to run good, solid cards that patch holes and fix the flaws in your deck just because they’re widely played in the format is rather… “hipster”. Plus it leads to overall weaker decks. It’s hard to make your deck “do stuff” if you have no cards in hand, or not enough mana on the board.

        So yeah, I absolutely think you should be willing to include a handful of boring ol’ staples, if they’re the best option to patch a noticeable weakness in the deck. Diversity is good for the format, but reliability is also key to having a good time.

  2. Sam

    March 10, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    I agree with the last post. Sure its gets annoying when yet another Lurking Predators gets played but thats not a great reason to avoid playing Harrow, Explosive Vegetation, and Sakura Tribe Elder. Those cards do things well, and once they have done their thing you have the resources to do the fun stuff.
    Put it simply – if you dont ramp then you cant cast your expensive fun cards, and if you dont draw cards you wont have the fun cards to cast.
    As for the lands – I usually run 34 or 35 as I like to have more fun cards to play. However I usually play a lot(!!) of ramp and card draw as you may have noticed.

    • Viperion

      March 10, 2012 at 3:37 pm

      Not all my fun cards are expensive, but I get the point.

      As for “if you dont draw cards you wont have the fun cards to cast”, that’s the bit I (kinda) disagree with – instead of drawing that “draw 3 cards” spell, I could be drawing a fun card. With the draw spell I have to spend mana – usually at sorcery speed, but it’s the mana spending which is the killer – to get to the fun cards, which means I cast the fun cards a turn later than I would have without the draw spell mana being used.

      Still, opinion is pretty one-sided so far, and you guys all know what you’re talking about, so there will be some pretty major changes to a lot of my decks sometime… soon. Soonish. This year, anyway 😛

      • Thaumaturge

        March 10, 2012 at 9:38 pm

        To be fair, my opinion is slightlty biased, in that drawing cards IS fun to me, so casting Harmonize or Deep Analysis just appeals to me on a primal level. However, resolving Kodama’s Reach has never been fun, and likely never will be, yet I’ve never been the slightest bit unhappy to keep playing it over and over. It’s just a matter of perspective, really. We can all tell you that including a few ‘boring’ utility spells will make the overall game more fun for you, and while that might be sound logic and true for most of us, your idea of fun might differ from ours in a way that makes such logic irrelevant.

  3. Antti Lax

    March 11, 2012 at 2:58 am

    How about using some cantrips? Stuff like Wildsize (, and especially Altar’s Reap ( could fit that deck. Doing stuff and drawing cards at the same time:)

    • Viperion

      March 11, 2012 at 7:41 am

      Both of those have the same problem that I had with the Skulltap and Culling Dais – they require me to have a creature (which for that game I didn’t). Good call on Altar’s Reap though, it’s an instant version of Skulltap that really should be in this deck!

      • Antti Lax

        March 11, 2012 at 5:02 pm

        Well, I guess you can always target an opponents creature to get a draw, if you are in a desperate need for more cards. But there should be some cantrips that don’t target opponents.

        Then there is always the choice of cycling, although I’m not particularly fond of that myself.


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