About a month ago we decided to start playing commander. We are a small, isolated playgroup. We had mostly fair decks and had fun games together.
Then an old, hyper competitive friend joined the group.
First night, he brought Hermit druid, he wrecked the board a few times until we decided we would start playing for second place to at least enjoy the game a bit. He of course, felt left out as we would just not pay attention to him and save our disruption for the "real" game. So, that didn't exactly work.
The next night, he proxys up some weird Zur stax with MLD (even though we had agreed that it was off-limits), the orbs, back to basics, and everything he could find to prevent anyone from playing, and DARKSTEEL REACTOR as a win-con.
He won 1 out of 4 games, but made it extremely unfun for everyone nevertheless.
SO, for those in a situation similar to mine (small, isolated, CASUAL playgroups, aiming to insure everyone has fun), how do you deal with this? Do you have house rules that consider hyper-fast/unfun decks to play against? Do you just allow them and let the "meta" adapt? If so, has it worked? Do you allow MLD? If so, how has it affected your playgroup?
A thread similar to this seems to pop up once every couple weeks. In the end, the answer is this: talk to the person that is violating the playgroup's expectations. Make sure he/she knows that what they are bringing to the table doesn't work for the rest of you, and that if he/she wants to continue playing in your group, that they'll have to look for new deck ideas.
Even if you wish to avoid that conversation, it's the only real answer.
I've never been in a playgroup with someone who runs turn-3 hermit druid or anything, so I don't know how to speak to that. When it comes to MLD and really oppressive strategies, though... well, you make it sound like he made a deck just to grief the group, and that's bad. But maybe prolonging games and winning through the grind is his idea of fun. It may not be yours, but you know. Combo and Stax are legit archetypes.
I'd encourage him to build more decks. I know everybody in our playgroup has a deck that everyone else sighs about (whether it be group hug, lock&combo, or fast uninteractive combo) but I think it's unhealthy for the playgroup to just ban certain strategies. I mean, if he makes 10 decks, and puts MLD in every one just to troll, that's bad. Let him have his game with his deck, then shuffle up and play against another. If he's receptive to that, I think it'd be the best solution. But even though he's making your games less fun (and that's bad), you shouldn't tell him he can't play the way he wants to, either (unless he's legitimately just griefing).
Metagame a little for the times he does bring his combo decks to the table. Start maindecking grave hate, or play your ramp deck when he sits down with Stax. It will make him evolve his play style as well as your own.
No dedicated infinite game-winning combos.
The first one is an actual agreement, because no one actually enjoyed playing against Kozilek, Ulamog, Pathrazer and It That Betrays.
Mass Land Destruction is a can of worms no one wants to open. We're scared of the arms race.
Said arms race showed it's ugly face, when I made a Drana deck, that focused on making infinite mana, and sac'ing/reanimating Grave Titan/Wurmcoil Engine, beating with Drana or exsanguinated. Then my friend made an Oona deck, that milled and controlled through infinite mana. Then I built Momir Vig elfball, after which he added Leyline of the Void/Helm of Obedience, Hinder/Tunnel Vision, etc.
We agreed to dismantle our decks after this.
The only house rule we have is the first time you full mulligan, you have to ask "Six or Seven?" and the person has to say "Seven." Sounds silly, I know, but it's been a long-term thing in my group. It's almost a kind of display of mutual respect. Rules regarding partial-Paris mulligan remain unchanged. We have no special house rules regarding decks and generals, but we are stringent on the ban list, even if it's something we might not agree with. RC is law in our house. Other than that, the usual. Have fun, be polite etc.
The only alterations we've made to the rules is to put Infect at 15 (though I personally don't find it necessary, most of my friends have serious hate-ons for it lol). Otherwise we just have gentlemen's agreements like allowing people to undue very recent plays (as long as no one tries to abuse it) or mulliganing away a one or no land hand for free. Things like that, just to keep things fun.
Take a look at my house-ruling thread here and tell your friend to as well. There may be some information that would be helpful to him/her or the group. As a temporary fix, you could simply use a longer ban list until you agree upon a social contract of some kind. You'll need to talk it out, but if that hasn't worked before, perhaps you need more material to work with.
I consider my meta to be small and isolated. It's very casual and quite limited, budget-wise. None of us even owned Sol Ring before the commander set came out.
It's not like we were from the stone age though. Cards like Hermit Druid and Bribery see play; they're just not making degenerate plays. None of the following are rules we follow...it's just how our meta has evolved:
- We don't play 2 card game winning combos. (however 3+ see play with budget tutors)
- We don't play mass land destruction (however targeted land destruction does exist)
- We've just recently splashed in Eldrazi, but more for the ETB effects rather than the annhilator mechanic.
- We avoid multiple tax cards in play such that all our eggs aren't in a single basket.
- With mild exception, most cards in our collections don't value more than $2-3 each. I know that doesn't stop many hidden gems, but it does exclude most things like PT or CS or the like.
Some of the more irregular house rules include:
- We don't play with general damage and don't do infinite lifegain combos. Several voltron generals like Rafiq of the Many, Uril, the Miststalker, and Zur, the Enchanter are all played and are all still quite competitive. At most it gives opponents 1 extra turn to try to deal with them.
- We give 14 free mulligans, without shuffle. That means if you have to draw a 15th time to try to get an opening hand....well, you've just been decked. (this has NEVER happend...at most 4 or 5 if our lands weren't shuffled in properly from the last match) We have an honour system when drawing to play the first hand that is reasonable to give a decent game...3-4 lands and 1 or 2 spells to get you out the gate.
- We don't mind playing against uphill battles on occasion. I don't mind losing to Zur with my Animar deck and the Zur player doesn't mind losing to my Elf deck on occasion. It allows us to explore and better our decks against the tougher matchups.
Anyways, that's a brief description of my meta. Check out my decklists to see what type of stuff hits the table.
At my house if you play a card with flavor text if you forget the cards countered if it's a permanent the first opponent to successfully say it flavor text without looking at the card gains control of it. You may not intentionally pass a card thus way. It's pretty fun Not really what your taking about though. Also since its MY house "when nature calls run" always legal.
No Richard Garfield? Seriously? Mental magic with him at the helm would be the most fun (and potentially funniest) thing ever. I'd build him if I had the enormous evolved space brain to do it, honest to god I would.
-We roll to attack, rather than choosing a target
- Mulligans are done the proper way, none of this exiles your hand business
- Infinite Combos are discouraged, but not forbidden
- No General Damage
I play with a guy who has a pretty good speech about infinite combos. It basically amounts to "If you're going to play a ****ty combo, and you have the means to grab it (ie tutors), then grab it and stop wasting everyones time". This mostly came about when people kept stocking their decks with tutors and degenerate combos, but wouldn't play them because they "didn't want to be a dick".
The first is no house rules by the books EDH and by far my favorite group to play with.
The second has a number of different rules and it tends to be less fun:
30 starting life
No infinite combos
Scaled effects (like Serra ascendant would require 60 life; not 40 which isn't bad. Poison counters require 20 which is BS)
And a few other changes.
The 30 life is not a bad change, it makes aggro far more viable and punishes control and even more so combo. It's not better, but different and a nice change.
The no infinite combos however just makes ramping better. Play a couple mana doublers and play a lethal exsanguinate. It's not infinite so it's "fair". IMO there's no significant difference between comboing a couple cards for big mana and a winning x-spell or comboing a 3-4 card infinite kill combo.
And the scaling is just unnecessary. The solution is to play with a gentlemans agreement: Serra ascendant is not balanced for EDH and really is a DB card to play and rely on. Poison/infect however is not over powered and gets unreasonably punished by this change. And I've ne'er seen anyone win off of Felidar sovereign.
So in general that group is fun to play with but the changes mostly detract more than add to the experience.