When you can play any card in your hand whenever you want, and some of those cards are outrageously-powerful pieces designed for the ‘late game’, you can end up with some pretty strange interactions. In boring Magic, a combo deck usually drives purposefully towards assembling two or more cards for a specific purpose, pushing towards this same objective like an OCD sufferer on speed over and over again in every game. As we’ve discussed, Type 4 games tend to be inconsistent so consistent combos are hard to pull off, but forming from the chaos of limitless mana you will occasionally see an infinite loop assemble itself.
Usually, it’s almost inadvertent; sometimes, people don’t realize it’s a combo until a player who doesn’t control the pieces points it out. It can feel a bit odd to be mired in a typical Type 4 slugfest with 8/8 creatures crashing into each other when suddenly somebody goes, “hold on, I think I just won.”
So you have to ask yourself, ‘is this a bad thing’?
Does this card belong in your Type 4 stack? No.
…unless you’re building a very specific style of Stack. Welcome to the world of Sudden Death.
If you’ve played much entry-level EDH, I’m sure you’ve played lots of games where everyone has built up a board presence, and now all you do is sit around waiting for a serious wipe to reset things, or for somebody to blink first and expose themselves to serious damage. This types of games are more commonly known as “boring”, and it’s something you want to avoid. Unfortunately, as more and more Magic spirals into the quest for value, these types of things are bound to happen. This is when you need to have a guy in size-16 jackboots pop up and kick all the accountants busy counting mana-usage ratios and card advantage in their eyes.
I don’t condone violence against any kind of pencil-pusher or bureaucrat, mind you, but the cardboard equivalent–burn spells–is always highly encouraged in Type 4.
I draw a lot of parallels between Type 4 and Cube because Cube is the only thing in Magic I can really see many similarities to. They’re both player-constructed limited formats. …that’s about it. There are a lot of lessons to be learned from Cube building. Since being introduced to ‘serious’ Magic players and being subjected to the naturally-accompanying over-analysis that Magic websites need to deliver daily ‘content’, there is a lot of discussion on how to build and hone a Cube to your vision of perfection. There’s also a lot of gibberish, but we’re not going to address that at the Academy today (or ever probably). Instead we’re going to zero in on Stack sizes, and here, we can also have a sort of drive-by glimpse at what our Cubing brothers are up to on the sane side of the player-created limited world.
This is part two of a series on using your dirty, smelly peers and their stinky feedback to make your Type 4 experience less putrid. In chapter one, we looked at some mechanisms to force your team into providing some feedback on your card choices; now we’re going to learn how to be criticism-snobs and turn our noses up to some of it. Not all, mind you, but you have to something something to something something effective allegory. Feedback is the breakfast of champions and effective lawyers, but when your man shits in your Wheaties before sliding you the tainted bowl on the slant, you need to know how to filter the good from the bad.
Nothing here is rocket science, but I figured it was worth writing about because nobody else seems to do it. There’s a lot of people constantly seeking feedback on their cubes and such from a community of virtual strangers on the internet, but the most important resource is right in front of you, wasting their time playing your pile of crap every week or so. Make like Google and data mine these people for maximum profits (though perhaps try to be less shady about it). If you’ve never really undergone this kind of collaborative construction project, though, these pointers might help you screen the data a bit.
We’ll look at the Good and Bad types of feedback and how to try and get something out of all of it.
Building a stack that will compel your team to keep coming back is a collaborative exercise. You want your Type 4 experience to be a timeless classic on the same type of scale as Supreme Clientele. For those unaware, Clientele is Ghostface Killah’s classic 2000 ‘solo’ album that is one sort of a blueprint for quality hip-hop that came after it. This is because while you only see Ghost’s name on the cover and RZA gets most of the production credits for building the beats, the truth is… well, best explained by Bobby Digital himself.
“Usually a producer comes in, makes a beat, mixes it, and gives the direction for it. But not with this album. That’s why you get that special sound. I just needle and threaded the beats all together.”
So he took the production of many collaborators and just made sure it was cohesive. The opinions of others were important, but RZA was the final authority, and made sure no one sound drowned out the others or broke the feel of the album. The result is pretty much the best rap album of the 2000s in my humble opinion (if you haven’t heard it please do, it’s rather brilliant).
…so, back to the point, when building your Stack, put yourself in RZA’s position.
Games of Magic in pretty much any format are back-and-fourth struggles, unless the game sucks and one player is steamrolling one another. Even if the two decks compete with totally different M.O.s like a combo decks against a zerg rush, they still probably interact in some way trying to gain supremacy. This usually makes for fulfilling, close games of Magic where all the participants feel like they had a good and enjoyable match with meaningful participation.
The issue is if you go a little too far in encouraging even play and you end up in this boring cycle of threat-removal-threat-removal. Players get trapped in a purgatory of equality, unable to break free and rip each other’s body parts off to savagely beat the next contender with. You’ve also probably experienced this type of game, usually in multiplayer… it feels like five hard control decks staring each other down saying “go ahead and so something… ANYTHING.” Nobody can stick a problem card on the table, and everyone is hesitant to try.
This isn’t what you want, though playing Type 4 at the office would be pretty sick I guess
Type 4 lends itself to this because of the nature of the format. Free mana and massive threats mean people building Stacks can may think “I need to cram as many removal and counterspell cards in here as possible”. Unfortunately, this can lead to a sort of Homeostatic environment where everything is at equilibrium, and nobody is doing anything. It’s the worst, especially in a format that’s supposed to burn up faster than lighting a pile of oily rags ups with a flamethrower.
Avoiding this condition is the Stack builder’s responsibility. Continue reading