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 Post subject: What exactly IS wrong with arms races?
AgePosted: 2017-Jan-20 4:42 am 

Joined: 2016-Mar-16 12:03 pm
Age: Drake
I was reading the evil-Greg archetype thread and found myself wondering why an arms race is so bad. For me, it depends on the group I guess. In my situation, we've been playing together now for close to 25 years. Some people in my group had the same decks after I left the Navy that they had when I joined, and then failed to update for another five years. It got pretty stale. Budget had something to do with it, sure. So I decided to do something about it. First, I gave away a lot of cards to help some friends catch up and then started to slowly turn up the heat, minor tweak by minor tweak. Fast forward five years to today, we're having more fun today than ever before, my friends have seriously more competitive decks, and I've taken the foot off of the gas such that I lose more than I used to, and that's alright.

So I'm wondering if I've just been lucky, and what experiences you've had with arms races. Did it pan out for your group?

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Current decks:
Xenagos, God of Revels - Hydras

Under Re-Construction:
Hazezon Tamar - Defenders of Dune (only 8 less Fremen/equipment, adding ramp and answers)
Prime Speaker Zegana - Zegana's R&D
Jenara, Asura of War - Jenara's Celestial Army (needs more answers, ramp, less angels...turns out Jenara can tank quite effectively as a voltron.)

Nuked decks:
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 Post subject: Re: What exactly IS wrong with arms races?
AgePosted: 2017-Jan-20 6:22 am 
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Joined: 2009-Aug-20 7:49 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
Location: New Hampshire
Arcane Archer wrote:
found myself wondering why an arms race is so bad.

Because the logical conclusion is 5 minutes shuffling to play a game that lasts 1 minute and half the players don't get to take their first turn.

Because it takes the things that make EDH EDH and throws them out the window, transforming it into singleton Vintage with legends you probably don't even bother casting.

It's not reasonable to expect people to not evolve their decks over time, but there's a difference between that gradual evolution and an arms race.

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 Post subject: Re: What exactly IS wrong with arms races?
AgePosted: 2017-Jan-20 6:44 am 

Joined: 2016-Mar-16 12:03 pm
Age: Drake
Isn't that kind of part and parcel of the people involved, though? I'll admit I was nervous as heck for a while because it was never my intent to take it to the bleak state you brought up, though I've played in enough stores to know of which you speak. Maybe I just take a milder spin on the term to mean deliberately pushing the other players to step up their game. Also, my question wasn't tailored to just the edh format, but rather all magic formats.

Interesting.

I will also admit that an unintended consequence of pushing the group is that some of their decks now contain infinite combos, even several in their edh decks. Still, it wouldn't be good form to complain since I kicked the whole arms race off. :D Be careful what you ask for, I guess, lol.

_________________
Current decks:
Xenagos, God of Revels - Hydras

Under Re-Construction:
Hazezon Tamar - Defenders of Dune (only 8 less Fremen/equipment, adding ramp and answers)
Prime Speaker Zegana - Zegana's R&D
Jenara, Asura of War - Jenara's Celestial Army (needs more answers, ramp, less angels...turns out Jenara can tank quite effectively as a voltron.)

Nuked decks:
Sliver Queen - Tokens (converted back to the 60 card deck it originated from, ending its edh dependency on tutors)


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 Post subject: Re: What exactly IS wrong with arms races?
AgePosted: 2017-Jan-20 2:39 pm 

Joined: 2014-Sep-13 7:28 am
Age: Elder Dragon
An arms races is totally fine if that's what your group enjoys.

There's a thin line between metagaming and playing racecar decks, though. Although ofc both of these are fine as well if your group is into it.

I think the major problem is that some people don't want to build more powerful decks constantly, but rather have levelled games. Then one person is "nah, i want to 75% of my four-player pods", and the others try to bring their deck up to power to balance when they really didn't want to in the first place.

It's probably a lot easier to make your deck more powerful than it is to try to tell others to not do so.


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 Post subject: Re: What exactly IS wrong with arms races?
AgePosted: 2017-Jan-20 4:28 pm 
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Joined: 2010-Dec-10 12:16 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
It's also probably way easier to manage in a group that's been together for years over one that has only been playing together for weeks or months. Or with people that are dedicated to a single group, than those that regularly (or semi-) play with two or more groups (unless they are just using entirely different decks with the different groups).

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 Post subject: Re: What exactly IS wrong with arms races?
AgePosted: 2017-Jan-20 5:50 pm 

Joined: 2011-Aug-18 3:35 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
Half our group stopped buying new cards due to interest/life while the others still did. Most of us tried to keep power level in check with the increased power level of newer cards but one of us didn't... resulting in that player winning probably 90%+ of games. I decided to up my power level a bit since I was new to the format which turned it into the two of us winning 90% of games and everyone else still losing just as often. Power hungry douche alters his decks to combat my increased power ultimately resulting in a board wipe or targeted response every other turn. Suddenly the only way to win is to build in a way that combos off in a single turn which tends to lead to very long, non-interactive turns... and so it continues with all of us having less fun overall. All of us, including power hungry douche start playing less in general. Eventually, we just stop inviting the one player and power our decks back down. Of course, this is a long running kitchen table group of friends... we literally stopped hanging out with an old friend largely due to his inability to power down his decks to a "fair" level. 

Another related scenario, I had just started playing again and discovered EDH. I check out a nearby LGS and start trading and joined their EDH league. I start collecting all the best cards from modern forward since I hadn't played in ~10 years. I create an Omnath deck that worked as noted above by a massive turn that wins out of nowhere (because that was the only way to win in our kitchen table group) and start playing it at the start of a new season... I literally win every game and get massive amount of points in the process for the first half of the league. I realize how stupidly easy it is to break the format and power my own decks down. However, people power up their decks to even beyond mine and build them with specific intentions to farm points. I start losing some due to the increased power level (fine) but people start playing with no possibility of winning just to try to beat me in points. For example, we'd have two or three pods of 4-5 playing. Pod one ends "normally" with people having maybe 3-4 points and the winner maybe getting 7-10. Pod two goes to time with people having 30+ points. Round two is supposed to be the winners table and the losers table but that can't work since all of pod two abused point farming so round two is nearly identical pods with identical results. At the end of the night, #1 on game points get 5 league points #2 gets 4 and #3 gets 3 with everyone else getting a point per game played. Halfway through the season I had a 25 point lead over second place which is where I decided to power down while some others decided to just point farm. People eventually stop coming, point systems go through massive rapid changes and the LGS ultimately just stopped hosting leagues at all after a few years. They now have a far more casual EDH night now that is a fraction of the former success but at least there's a more balanced meta...

It's not just healthy metagaming, it's pushing things beyond what is reasonable. Building a stax deck to combat a ramp deck is fine. Adding split second, morph, or can't be countered spells/abilities to combat counterspell.dec is fine. Building in a way that makes it impossible for the table to stick threats at all or that just abuses point systems or whatnot is where it becomes an issue. It's not really an arms race IMO until it escalates beyond the level of "healthy" metagaming.


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 Post subject: Re: What exactly IS wrong with arms races?
AgePosted: 2017-Jan-21 12:37 am 

Joined: 2016-Oct-11 12:53 am
Age: Wyvern
While I would not say our playgroup evolved to wholly spike levels, I saw the same familiar cards and the experience became more homogeneous each session. When we first discovered the format, people used silly cards.

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Last edited by sea bee blue on 2017-Jan-22 10:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: What exactly IS wrong with arms races?
AgePosted: 2017-Jan-21 4:19 pm 

Joined: 2015-Nov-11 11:42 am
Age: Hatchling
I stopped playing standard format years ago primarily because I grew tired of trying to keep up with all the new sets and decks. I sold the bulk of my collection and moved on to other things. When I heard of EDH, it reignited my love for the game. All I had left was a few decks that I had kept. The group I joined was a decent size and they helped me make a good commander deck with the cards I had. I was amazed at the diversity of the decks using cards that normally would have been regulated to binders or the bottom of collection piles. Everyone was always trying out new ideas and it was rare to face the same deck twice on any given night.

Things started to change when Wizards began to release official cards and decks for commander. Soon the diversity of the game slowly began to vanish. Competitive decks began to crop up and the same cards began to appear in every deck. I soon got to the point where I needed to keep buying new cards and stop building creative decks. The whole reason I got into EDH was gone. I still play with a few of my friends every now and then, but I have stopped going to the group games. The group still gets together, but the number of players had dwindled and the barrier of entry for new players is higher than it was when EDH was first created.

I am a casual player at heart. I've played a bunch of collectible games over the years. Magic, Yugioh, Heroclix, and others. All of them had their own version of the arms race. The problem with arms races in games is simply the fact it can easily ruin the game for anyone who isn't willing to join it. The need to buy more and more can strain anyone who doesn't keep up with the latest strategies or simply can't afford it. Those who do stay ahead in the arms race tend to win all the time, and while there is nothing wrong with that, it is hard to keep new players in the game when they have no hope of winning if they didn't buy or build the right thing ahead of time. Many play groups in my area have broken up simply because the majority of the players got fed up trying to keep up.

I am trying not to come off as a complainer, but this has always been the truth of collectible games. And sadly, this truth now applies to EDH.

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 Post subject: Re: What exactly IS wrong with arms races?
AgePosted: 2017-Jan-21 10:20 pm 
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Joined: 2008-Dec-26 7:50 am
Age: Elder Dragon
Location: Amsterdam, Holland
I have the problem that I like to tune and improve decks more than I like building new ones. I naturally incite an arms race. I know we lost at least 1 person from our group because he just wasn't willing to keep up. Some others mostly left because of other commitments. Most people in the group were only marginally updating their decks or building new ones. Fortunately I am aware of where the arms race might lead and therefore I was limiting myself on purpose. Still it's tempting to add new cards and gradually the power level will creep up. For me the precons offered a new challenge in that they were weaker decks I could play that allowed me to focus more on play skill.

There is nothing wrong with the arms race in itself, but the end scenario is that more and more people just can't keep up and that you start losing group members. There'll always be someone more committed to winning than everybody else and they are going to come out on top eventually. If you're lucky that takes a while, but it will happen.

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 Post subject: Re: What exactly IS wrong with arms races?
AgePosted: 2017-Jan-22 1:15 am 
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Joined: 2006-May-24 10:14 am
Age: Elder Dragon
Location: Tampa, FL, USA
Sid has it right. When you spend more time shuffling than playing, you know you've crossed the boundary. As I've said repeatedly over the last decade (although I actually think it was Toby who said it first), the secret of this format is in not breaking it. The gamer mindset is to figure out how do things more efficiently, and that often means doing them faster. If your initial target is dealing 120 damage (enough to kill 3 opponents) on Turn 10, then you're going to want to figure out how to do it on Turn 9, and then 8, and so forth. What's more in line with what we'd like to see is that you figure out how to do 1200 on Turn 10 instead of 120 on Turn 9. When you hit than, then figure out how to do 12,000. The games or moments became more memorable, and creating good memories is what we'd like to be about.

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 Post subject: Re: What exactly IS wrong with arms races?
AgePosted: 2017-Jan-22 5:25 am 

Joined: 2016-Mar-16 12:03 pm
Age: Drake
I'm kind of like Pi in that I always tinker with my decks, regardless of format. If a deck is doing poorly, I either spruce it up with new cards to improve it or I break it up. For the most part, this is how I influenced friends to make some changes to decks. I kept track of the state of our meta and adjusted to keep an edge without blowing folks out. Whether I was good about it or just dumb lucky, it worked. To Sheldon's point about creating good memories, I heartily agree which is why I know it worked. Everybody is more excited about playing now than they were ten years ago and they consider less stuff unfun than they used to.

Still, sounds like it goes wrong more that it goes right.

_________________
Current decks:
Xenagos, God of Revels - Hydras

Under Re-Construction:
Hazezon Tamar - Defenders of Dune (only 8 less Fremen/equipment, adding ramp and answers)
Prime Speaker Zegana - Zegana's R&D
Jenara, Asura of War - Jenara's Celestial Army (needs more answers, ramp, less angels...turns out Jenara can tank quite effectively as a voltron.)

Nuked decks:
Sliver Queen - Tokens (converted back to the 60 card deck it originated from, ending its edh dependency on tutors)


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 Post subject: Re: What exactly IS wrong with arms races?
AgePosted: 2017-Jan-22 11:31 pm 
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Joined: 2011-Jan-16 5:36 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
Location: Toronto, ON
I'll take a different tack and say there's nothing inherently bad about arms races. But, you have to know what you're getting into.

When you arms race, you move towards the kinds of games the other posters are describing. This is *also* not inherently 'bad'. I've played with groups and people that explicitly find that game fun, where your turn 1 Duress is a big part of the game (also, people play Duress).

That said, most people (who play EDH) aren't going to want to play this kind of game and other people not wanting to play = bad.

So it depends on what you and your friends want from a game of EDH. All that said, I think that the 'arms race conclusion environment' is better experienced in other formats (like Legacy).

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 Post subject: Re: What exactly IS wrong with arms races?
AgePosted: 2017-Jan-23 1:11 am 
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Joined: 2012-Jan-06 10:25 am
Age: Elder Dragon
Location: Seattle
The trick is making sure everyone at the table is having fun. If your group likes the arms race and playing the fast and furious decks then there's nothing wrong with it.

It gets tricky when you don't have a solid group and have to deal with lots of random people, you have to *gasp* TALK to the other players.

"Hey what sort of power level do you all play?"
*group pulls out Lovisa, Stangg, and an obviously intact pre-con*
"Cool!" *puts away Zur*
/insert great games here
"Fun times! See you all next week!"

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 Post subject: Re: What exactly IS wrong with arms races?
AgePosted: 2017-Jan-23 1:19 am 
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Joined: 2009-Aug-20 7:49 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
Location: New Hampshire
scatteredsun wrote:
The trick is making sure everyone at the table is having fun. If your group likes the arms race and playing the fast and furious decks then there's nothing wrong with it.

It gets tricky when you don't have a solid group and have to deal with lots of random people, you have to *gasp* TALK to the other players.


I agree with the sentiment, but the no solid group part really isn't relevant here - you can't really have an arms race without a semi-consistent group, because there's no one to race with. "Arms race" implies that I improve my deck so you improve yours and he improves his and she improves hers and so on until everyone's deck is a purring engine of pure undistilled badassery that kills turn 2 every game. I am of course being a little hyperbolic here, but think about it this way - would the US have as many nuclear weapons as we do if the Soviet Union hadn't been there? Probably not. It's the presence of a rival that constantly seeks to better you that fuels an arms race. Playing with randoms doesn't really do this.

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 Post subject: Re: What exactly IS wrong with arms races?
AgePosted: 2017-Jan-23 1:22 am 
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Joined: 2013-Jan-28 5:35 pm
Age: Drake
Location: Seattle
scatteredsun wrote:
you have to *gasp* TALK to the other players.


I wont do it and you can't make me!


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