A question for the more experienced players.
In my playgroup there is an individual who heavily favors attrition style decks. He will find a solution to removing any card he does not like from play/game, and he will do it in a repeatable constant manner. He also triples up on repeatable protection to the point that a single player is unable to remove the important pieces. He does this in a variaty of different ways in multiple decks so it's not just a case of add more plowshares. He frequently wins by eliminating other players win pieces by removal or making them irrelevent.
Karador with repeating ETB remove permanents/recursion/sac outlets.
Elesh Norn with many variations of white control
My question is - how do you beat decks that win via attrition? The only times he loses is from combo decks he's unable to answer immediately. He enjoys stax and typically removes any effect he doesn't like. I tend towards aggro, but that requires extremely fast decks that overpower casual tables. I don't want to have all of my new decks be built with the thought of mass power/combos. Nice guy, I just want viable ways to beat him.
Wish I would've seen this sooner
Maybe I could have chimed in. I love playing slower, more reactive decks- but from the sound of it, his decks may be poorly constructed if his method of winning is by sitting on stacks and just trying to remove everything- and you can take advantage of that.
First, the most important thing to understand, is that playing from behind, or playing for attrition is a disadvantage
- one that in EDH often leads to simply getting blown out by decks that go big enough to stop your deck before it even gets off the ground. This disadvantage has to be curtailed through tech-choices which finely dovetail with your overall gameplan.
In spite of my defensive leanings, my first EDH deck was Rhys, The Redeemed
- and many of my testing mates enjoyed more aggro/midrange based builds- and played them effectively; forcing me to understand the limits of passiveness, and forcing me to build better to make them work.
A thing to understand first, is that there are generally 2 types of defense in EDH. There is the passive defense, which relies on enchantments and artifacts that mitigate aggression typically- and is supported by being relied on heavily by instant speed removal. Passive defenses have a habit of trying not to play during their turn, preferring to play almost exclusively on other player's turns. Because we're playing with Vintage material, these strategies are largely inferior unless they build up to a powerful combo. Typically these involve Generals like Angus Mackenzie
, Grand Arbiter Augustin IV
, Derevi, Empyrial Tactician
. These can be built powerfully AND fun- but are often all too easy to punish with the typical rogues gallery of hate cards played at the right times (Gaddock Teeg
and friends.) I've seen some sweet stax builds that pivot hard with Bruna, Light of Alibaster
, Starfield of Nyx
, Righteous Authority
etc.- but in general they get absolutely creamed by anything rocking big enough alpha strikes through the likes of Kamahl, Fist of Krosa
, True Conviction
, Vicious Shadows
, Infect etc. in the hands of a capable player. Against this, hateful cards like Qasali Pridemage
and Mardu Woe-Reaper
will serve you well. Break their combo, slow roll some threats to bait excessive removal, go for the throat with massive threats.
The active defense, on the otherhand is both trickier to build- and preferable to my tastes as a player. Where a passive defense is all about trying to use catchalls to stall for a gamestate where the player hypothetically has infinite resources- Having an active defense requires understanding the principal that you simply cannot afford to answer everything- and going out of your way to assemble a series of catchalls tends to disrupt your own ability to develop a plan unless you absolutely have a combo-kill to tie it all together. Actively defensive decks have a habit of playing slower, answering fewer things, and hesitating to exhaust defensive resources (spells like Comeuppance
.) Fighting these typically involve being more engaged in mind-games, and understanding the relatively fair strategy that usually fuels them- Knowing that it's typically not worth going out of your way to deal with the marginal advantage they keep building up- since overreacting to them will usually involve dealing with a hard-pivot that leaves you out of the game entirely.
In either case, if you can't "go over" a deck that plays for long term advantage- and the obstacles make it difficult to "go under" in your current build- try rethinking your sum strategy. Is it not clear or redundant enough? Does it not go big enough because of the limitations on EDH as a format? I've seen many great players stumped by the format, because the usual rules for deckbuilding go right out the window. When I first built Rhys, I realized in my first few games that haphazard spending of any of the 99 slots are supremely punishing. Eventually, I just learned how to utilize Rhys' second ability to make bigger plays because usual forms of aggression didn't hit hard enough (learned to really appreciate Knotvine Paladin