Word of Command 14 - Getting Quality Feedback

Welcome to another edition of Word of Command! In this month's issue, Commander moderator bobthefunny goes over a more local issue of how to get the most out of your threads in our Commander subforums. If you need help with your deck, then follow the advice below to get the best chance of receiving quality answers.

Getting Quality Feedback

Welcome to the forums! You are excited to put up your decklist, seeking help and feedback, but get nothing but crickets. What is going on? Do people not care? When you do get a response, it is entirely useless! What to do?

Getting quality feedback on a list can be difficult. Quite often lists seeking help get some answers, only for the poster to become frustrated that the suggestions are not the type of feedback they were looking for. Part of this is that giving quality feedback can be difficult for the other person. The large deck size and singleton nature of Commander can make it difficult to see all the connections, synergies, and relationships between the cards in a list. Without some groundwork, it can be difficult to give feedback beyond the general interactions with the Commander. The more specific you are with explaining what you're trying to accomplish, and what you're having problems with, the easier it will be for people to give you some quality feedback. As a bonus, the more information you add, the better your list is for people looking for ideas from you in the future!

What Helps Most?

To get better feedback, it is important to communicate both what you are trying to accomplish as well as what you are having problems with. The more details you can give, the better position another person has to provide quality feedback. At the very least you should try to cover the very basics of restrictions placed on your deck building, as well as what problem you are trying to solve. If you have more time, or want more specific feedback, adding details to cover the strategy or certain interactions you want to push are great points to cover. From there, actively seeking out other like minded players to collaborate with can be a huge help.

The Basics

Perhaps one of the first things to add to your decklist would be any restrictions on the feedback that you are looking for: Does your playgroup have a special banlist, or a league point list which might impact card choices and strategies? Do you have a budget, should cards above a certain dollar limit not be suggested? Covering these points early on can help give context to the deck and limit the feedback that you receive to that which is actually helpful to you.

One of the more frustrating experiences can be to receive suggestions that are out of your budget, or are perhaps suggestions that you've already considered and put aside. That Crucible of Worlds might be a great addition to your deck, but maybe you have already considered it and are simply building up your budget to get a copy. Put that information below your list! Having that available set of options that you have considered and are working towards acquiring is great to show people of cards that you are already aware of, as well as the direction you plan to take your deck in. You can even put some notes in line with your decklist, such as by putting a note next to a card simply stating "placeholder for Crucible." This lets people know where Crucible will fit into your decklist, as well as what you have identified to be a weaker component to your theme or strategy.

Sometimes cards are simply not run for specific reasons. Perhaps your playgroup dislikes infinite combos, or you dislike winning in certain manners. Having a "Notable Exclusions" list can be useful to let people know that you are aware that these cards exist, but are not running them for specific reasons. Not only does my playgroup avoid infinite combos as a general rule, but I have also removed Craterhoof Behemoth from my decks as I feel it provides a similar uninspiring finish to my games that combos do. Listing this out highlights this obvious exclusion and not only avoids repetitive suggestions, but also helps others understand the direction and feel I want to craft with my deck.

Your Goals

The next point to cover is what you want to accomplish with your deck. Are you trying to build to a certain feel? Push a certain strategy? Make a Cephalid Tribal deck? Are there certain unconventional synergies that you feel should be pointed out? Some of these goals may overlap with the basic restrictions on the deck, such as defining a theme, and that is fine. If it is an important part to your deck's identity, it can be beneficial to reiterate that concept.

The purpose of explaining your goal is to help explain why certain card choices are pushed higher than others and to tailor suggestions to your specific situation. You want to portray an accurate representation of the value of certain cards to prevent cuts on pet cards. It can also help generate suggestions of more off-beat cards that would work better in your shell than certain more traditional staple cards. My Trostani Deck uses Tilling Treefolk, a card not often seen. Without the context of why this card is good in the deck, people would question its inclusion, instead of recommending other cards that would work well with it, or complement my land theme.

What are You Trying to Solve?

As we covered last time, Troubleshooting a Deck is not easy, and sometimes you just need help or different view points. If you are looking for help with specific problems, telling people that can be the most important of all things you can add to your decklist. You should put any questions you have for help either at the beginning or end of your decklist. Placing the questions you have at the beginning allows people to have context of what you're trying to solve as they review your list. Placing the questions at the end allows them to have the context of your deck and strategy in mind while answering your question.

The purpose of adding specific questions is to tailor the discussion to the specific issues that you are having. If you need help finding good wrath options in mono red, saying that up front will help steer the discussion to the information you need. If you are having problems combating a certain control or combo deck, giving the background of that story will bring out responses from players who have faced similar situations. Even if you are not sure of the exact problem with your deck, it is fine to say that. Give a story of your last game and how you lost. Ask for feedback for how other people solved similar situations. As suggestions roll in, you will be able to refine your request to a solution that works best for you.

What's in a Title?

It may seem simple, but if you are looking for help, say it. Put it right up front in your title. People use MTGSalvation to post decklists for all sorts of reasons. Seeking help is a major one, but some people simply want to share their creations, or have a place to track their changes and discuss new potentials. Separating yourself from the crowd can only help. By stating the problem straight up in the title, you can also attract the attention of people who are more familiar with the type of problem you are encountering.

Making use of the built in tags when creating or editing your thread title can also be helpful to separate yourself from the crowd and advertise to like minded people. Labeling your deck as [Budget] or [Competitive] can help set the tone for suggestions before people even enter your thread, and will also call out to other players who have experience in those genres.

While thematic titles are more fun and amusing, switching to a more functional title, such as "[Budget] - Glissa needs help against Jeleva Storm combo" will certainly help draw the attention and answers that you are more likely looking for. You might get a few other Glissa players in your thread sharing what they have tried, or you may even get a few Jeleva players who will stop in and let you know what things give them the most trouble when they play. Then, one you have gotten the answers you need, you can always change the title back to something with a bit more humor or style.

Linking Specific Questions to Your Decklist

The Commander forums separate general discussion from decklists to prevent clutter, but this shouldn't prevent you from asking meaningful questions if you need help. While we do not allow decklists in the main forum area (or posts that only redirect people to a decklist), we encourage people to ask targeted questions. When you craft a specific question to begin discussion on, you can ask for tailored advice and link to your decklist in the decklist area - just make sure that you are not only linking back to your decklist.

As a bonus, try and ask others how they have encountered similar situations, as well as what changes they have made to accommodate them. You may be able to get some links to other decklists and resources to provide a contrasting viewpoint to your own.

Be Patient, and be Responsive

It can take some time to get quality feedback. While some answers might be obvious and can be quickly given, the complexity of deck creation in Commander can make it a daunting task. The same is true for analyzing a deck and distilling some feedback for it. Be patient, and answers will start coming in. As they come in, be responsive and engage the users in discussion. By being responsive and discussing different options you show a continued interest in the topic, as well as provide a sounding board for the other person. The discussion can help bring up more options beyond the more standard answers, some of which may be a better fit for your unique situation.

If you are having problems being patient, there is plenty to do on the forums. Try and step back and look for someone else who you might be able to help on the forums. Aside from providing your own unique feedback, sometimes changing mental gears can help you approach your own problem differently.

Thank the People who Help You

It may seem simple, or silly, but a little bit of kindness goes a long way. Even if the advice received is not quite what you were looking for, explain that to the person and then thank them for the response anyways. People have taken their time to try and help you, and having a pleasant place to discuss and have a conversation makes your thread far more inviting to other people. Threads in which people are either too casually dismissive or outright rude will often not generate as many replies - why would someone take the time to help, when that help will not be appreciated?

Try and also remember that tone does not convey as well across written mediums, so if a post seems rude or dismissive try and give the person a second chance. It might not be intentional. Of course, if something seems to be against our rules, or if someone is continuously disruptive, report that post for our moderation team to review, and we will get it sorted out.

Parting Thoughts

Asking for help should never have to be difficult or frustrating, and giving help should not be either. Taking a bit of extra time at the outset to help ask the right questions can save you a lot more time and frustration down the road. The next time you are looking to get some specific help, try and take a little bit of extra time to add a little bit more. You might just be surprised how much it pays off.

Also, if you think some of these ideas seem a bit similar to the requirements we hold our [Primers] to, try not to be surprised. Our Primers are built to try to answer a lot of these questions before they are even asked, so we hold them to having a lot of this same information - simply a lot more of it. While adding a bit of information to the post will not automatically make your post a primer, it is certainly the first step into creating a lasting and helpful resource; both for yourself, as well as for others.


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