Review: The Expanse s1 ep 5: Back to the Butcher
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There is one single rule that Commander advocates love to invoke when you don’t like something in the format: Rule 0. Sheldon Menery of the Commander Rules Committee does an excellent job laying out how Rule 0 works in this article. Essentially, what Rule 0 amounts to, in practice, is that you should, prior to a game of commander, or in general with your regular playgroup, discuss your preferences and ensure everyone is on the same page.
This is a wonderful idea, and these conversations can be very productive and effective in fostering a healthy playgroup. When at all possible, you and your playgroup should look for the arrangement that optimizes the amount of fun you all have when you sit down to play together. For many playgroups, simply having an open and honest dialogue about your preferences, along with some give and take from everyone involved, can help ensure a pleasant experience for everybody.
However, there is an important flip side to consider here, and one that this article wishes to discuss: What do you do when you fundamentally disagree with your regular playgroup? I’m not referring to discussions about exceptions to the rules, like playing banned or silver-bordered cards. I am referring to rule 0 conversations that define your meta, the ones that are based on how you plan to play Commander using the rules and cards that are already in place. Maybe one player finds that they are consistently playing above or below the power level of the rest of the group, and that the expectation is they need to change how they play. Perhaps there are certain cards or playstyles that detract from your preferred type of game, but that is predominantly is being played?
In a perfect world, your playgroup will be able to reach a compromise. It is entirely possible for players to build to a multitude of power levels and deck archetypes, after all. But, you may find yourself in a situation where the rest of the playgroup is happy playing exactly as they are, and you’re the odd person out in the discussion. If the only person who wants things to be different is you, then compromise might not be an option. When that happens, what do you do?
I asked about this type of situation on twitter, and I got several responses. My personal favorite may be the suggestion you just learn to live with it- if you wait long enough, maybe the meta will naturally evolve or your own playstyle will evolve to fit better in that meta. I’m not sure I agree with that approach personally, but I’ll definitely call it the optimist approach. My chief concern with this is it may be committing to long-term unhappiness with your game, and you need to consider your mental health.
You can adjust to your meta. If they are playing more powerful decks than you, consider trying to build more in line with their power level. If you aren’t sure how, maybe someone from the group would be willing to help you. Look at what holds you back the most, and play around it. There is a plethora of content on how to level up your game in EDH across articles, videos, and podcasts, so this may be the most accessible route. However, this may require the largest investment from you to adjust (depending on how you and your playgroup feel about proxies, of course). The biggest problem here is if you don’t find those faster paced, optimized games fun, there is only so much improving your gameplay can do to help the situation.
The exact opposite approach is true if you’re the one playing above everyone else’s power level: consider finding ways to play more at everyone else’s preferred power level. If there are cards in your playgroup that you don’t like to play against, consider building your decks to play around those cards. The problem here is that if you prefer to play a high level of power and your playgroup does not, you may not find enjoyment in these slower paced games.
But, you do have another, more controversial option available to you: leave that playgroup all together. This may seem extreme, especially if the playgroup are close friends. But this need not be the end of your friendships, especially if you have other shared interests beyond the game. You may realize the right thing for you, as a magic player, is to find players who enjoy the game in the same way you do. Even if you don’t leave the group entirely, you can always just play with them less. Commander is, among other things, the format where some players have an excessive number of decks on hand. Maybe keep one or two decks in your stable that are tuned specifically to that meta. You won’t play with those friends as often, but you won’t feel left out the times you do. Just be sure if you decide to leave your playgroup, that you do it on good terms, and with respect.
With any luck, the next playgroup will be more open to your playstyle in that rule 0 discussion. Then you can focus on the things Rule 0 champions emphasize more: ask about playing with a planeswalker as your commander, or with a wishboard, or with silver border cards. Heck, this deck does all three. This is my Urza, Academy Headmaster “Back to School” deck:
These are just the most common solutions I got to the question, “What do you do if your playgroup can’t agree during the rule 0 discussion?” They need not be the only solutions. Have you ever been at this impasse with a playgroup? If so, how did you address it?