Degenerate Combos in Commander/EDH

I thought this was a great post, and I asked Sheldon to give me permission to quote him, which which he agreed to.

For those of you who don't know, Commander is based on EDH, and EDH was popularized by the judges who work on the GP/PTQ/PT tours. Since it's an "unofficial" format, it's not controlled by WotC, but instead it's maintained by a Rules Committee consisting of some of those selfsame judges. Now, while Commander IS maintained by WotC, they generally follow the lead of the EDH Committee. This means that, in effect, the EDH Committee sets the de facto B & R list.

I really wanted to start a discussion about playstyles and how they affect the game.
Here's the full Post from the EDH/Truspace forum:

Sheldon wrote:
In order for folks to have intelligent, adult discussions on things, they sometimes have to agree on ground rules and definitions of those things, so that when they use a word or phrase, everyone gets the real meaning of what they're saying, not an implied meaning pulled through the individual's personal filter.

To that end, I'd like to put forward a couple of definitions so that we don't have to devolve into discussions about what something means, we can just have the discussion.

Do not assign any emotional value to the term "degenerate." Some players love its implications, some players hate them, but it's a commonly-enough used term in Magic that it gives us some common ground.

1. Combo: Multiple cards working synergistically. A combo involves two or more cards that work well together or whose effectiveness is increased by the other(s). What differentiates a combo from a degenerate combo is that the former is a feature of a deck, not the focus. Finding combinations of cards that work well together is one of the cornerstones of Magic.

Examples include: Ulasht+Muraganda Petroglyph; Goblin Bombardment+Grave Pact; Kederekt Parasite+Spiteful Visions.

Combos are good for Magic, and good for EDH. They set up favorable situations for players, but further play of the game is still required to win.

2. Degenerate combo: A combo that creates automatic victory or creates a situation where victory is imminent and/or unstoppable. Degenerate combos are those that can be set up easily--the fewer the moving parts, the less easily it can be disrupted, the better. Most degenerate combos are infinite combos, but there some that aren't.

A combo deck is one that is designed for the purpose of getting off the degenerate combo quickly. A deck that has a contingency plan in case it doesn't get off its degenerate combo is still a combo deck.

Telltale signs of a combo deck are a) the combo b) a host of tutors to assemble the pieces, and c) ways to prevent disruption of the combo (such as Orim's Chant, City of Solitude, or counterspells). Speed to the combo is generally what separates a degenerate combo deck from a deck with (degenerate) combos. It's a bit of an oversimplification, but the deck that has no other way to get Kiki-Jiki+Pestermite into play other than drawing into it really isn't a combo deck.

Examples of degenerate combos are: 1st turn Bitterblossom/2nd turn Braids (or even 2nd turn/3rd turn); Fastbond+Crucible of Worlds+Strip Mine(+Zuran Orb); Rofellos+Staff of Domination; Worldgorger Dragon+Animate Dead; Kiki-Jiki+Pestermite

Again, don't get caught in the emotional impications of the word "degenerate." What we're talking about are combos that bring the game to a screeching halt as soon as they're played.

Degenerate combos are good for Magic, and neutral for EDH (and other multiplayer formats). Combo decks are good for Magic and bad for EDH and other mp formats. Here's why:

Degenerate combos are good because they provide players and deckbuilders with a different design space. They provide another path to victory, and in competetive formats, more different ways to win means a healthier format. Combo decks in 1v1 Magic are good because while you're trying to assemble your combo and go off, the other player is actively trying to stop you from going off or killing you before you do so.

Degenerate combos are neutral for EDH because while they still provide the alternate path to victory, they rob the format of its intended interactivity. The good news is that there are more people to disrupt the degenerate combo; the bad news is that once one part of the combo rears its head, the entirety of the game becomes about that one thing. All in all, it's kind of a wash.

Combo decks are bad for EDH because they take most, if not all, of the interactivity out of the game. The common response "someone should just have a counterspell" is missing the point. If there are multiple players in a game, one player with a combo deck can just wait for the table to expend its resources stopping the other combo deck, and have free path to victory. The multiplayer format provides a level of passivity and free opportunity that the 1v1 format doesn't. It gives players even more time to assemble their pieces, making the path to going off far easier.

No one can convince me that the table getting comboed out on turn 4 is fun for anyone except the player with the combo. EDH is designed as a social format, one where players interact both with each other on a personal level and within the boundaries of the game. Most players will agree that the game ending with a degenerate combo after a bunch of other stuff happening is just fine. Titanic battles, an unexpected spell from an unexpected source, player A's card unintentionally combining in a wacky with with player Bs, and so forth, finally ending turns later in someone getting all their pieces together is a reasonable ending. That same ending happening before anyone else has the chance to actually play the game is not.

Whether or not you agree with my position on the impact of combos and degenerate combos on the format, I hope that while starting this discussion, I've put into place definitions that we can mostly agree on, and that we can go forward with the discussion without it devolving into a parliamentary argument on the less significant details than the argument itself.

Sheldon

The only alterations I've made to the above post is to autocard some of the listed cards. Otherwise it is unchanged.

So, Commander players, what do you think?

Guess what? Chicken butt.

I've had some nasty wins in one turn with Hazezon Tamar and his token casting turn. Konda's Banner instantly is a 2/2 bonus. Lovisa Coldeyes played that turn or before is another 2/2 bonus and haste. Just by those cards, they are 5/5 tokens, one for each land. Add in Savage Beating, which I pulled off with all the above, and you can kill two or three players.

Stats - 5/5 Double Strike Haste Warriors with a 2nd Combat Phase.

Trample and Protection via dead Incarnations can make it more of a guarantee.
Is there a point in there? So you can sometimes win with Hazezon Tamar. Congratulations. Is your deck designed to win with Hazezon Tamar on turn 5 every game? If not, I don't think Hazezon is relevant to the discussion tempesteye is trying to foster.

Personally, I do think degenerate combos decks are indeed uninteresting, and as such I don't play them. In a pantsed EDH playgroup, I guess degenerate combo decks have a bit more of a place, because group self-regulation makes it that players won't play their insta-win decks most of the time. Sure, you lose badly a couple times in a row, bring out your combo deck, win a game quickly, everybody has a bit of a laugh, then its back to regular interactive decks for everyone. At least that was my experience with pants MTG back when I had a regular playgroup (we didn't play EDH, but I think that this is relevant for multiplayer in general)

The random partnering nature of MTGO makes this quite a bit worse. There is a chance that someone will bring a combo deck to any given table, and with bad luck you could end up playing several short and boring games where someone wins quickly and "unfairly" in a single evening.

As for what I think -- well, the post quoted by tempesteye doesn't really provide answers or propositions. It's just a constatation, with which I agree, but I'm not sure where the conversation is supposed to go beyond "degenerate decks suck" or "i wuv degenerate decks". I just don't see a way to define degenerate decks, or enforce restrictions that would eliminate them.
Is there a point in there? So you can sometimes win with Hazezon Tamar. Congratulations. Is your deck designed to win with Hazezon Tamar on turn 5 every game? If not, I don't think Hazezon is relevant to the discussion tempesteye is trying to foster.

Personally, I do think degenerate combos decks are indeed uninteresting, and as such I don't play them. In a pantsed EDH playgroup, I guess degenerate combo decks have a bit more of a place, because group self-regulation makes it that players won't play their insta-win decks most of the time. Sure, you lose badly a couple times in a row, bring out your combo deck, win a game quickly, everybody has a bit of a laugh, then its back to regular interactive decks for everyone. At least that was my experience with pants MTG back when I had a regular playgroup (we didn't play EDH, but I think that this is relevant for multiplayer in general)

The random partnering nature of MTGO makes this quite a bit worse. There is a chance that someone will bring a combo deck to any given table, and with bad luck you could end up playing several short and boring games where someone wins quickly and "unfairly" in a single evening.

As for what I think -- well, the post quoted by tempesteye doesn't really provide answers or propositions. It's just a constatation, with which I agree, but I'm not sure where the conversation is supposed to go beyond "degenerate decks suck" or "i wuv degenerate decks". I just don't see a way to define degenerate decks, or enforce restrictions that would eliminate them.

Didn't he ask for deadly combos? Ulasht/Vanilla Boost though is pretty much similar to Hazezon/Banner.

Sand Warriors + Flame Fusillade + 15 lands at that point.
Didn't he ask for deadly combos? Ulasht/Vanilla Boost though is pretty much similar to Hazezon/Banner.

Sand Warriors + Flame Fusillade + 15 lands at that point.

In the post I quoted, Sheldon was making a distinction between three different things:
Combos - cards that have synergistic interactions
Degenerate Combos - Cards that create an immediate or inevitable win.
Combo DECKS - Decks designed to win as fast as possible, with as little interaction as possible using a degenerate combo.

His example using Ulasht and Petroglyph was meant to show a non-degenerate combo. Just like Hazezon with Banner, it's a combo but it's not a degenerate combo.

Perhaps I should provide a little more thrust:
How do YOU feel about degenerate combos in Commander games? Obviously everyone is going to have an opinion and that's what I want to hear.
Are they fair? Are some better then others? Is it acceptable to you if a turn 4 or 5 degenerate combo wins?
Due to the nature of online play, and the lack of social pressure, what are your feelings for the evolution of the format? Will degenerate combos eventually run rampant? Do you block players who play them?

This is the discussion I'm trying to foster.

Guess what? Chicken butt.

As I already said in Tempesteye's thread, I congratulate any player showing me a degenerate combo or even a combo deck for the first time.
Pulling one innovative combo or deck, or tunning it, is an hard work and as someone who takes great pleasure of deck building, I appreciate this work and I enjoy to see the aesthetic of such creations. They speak to my Johnny side.

But the second time I see this deck, I'll block its player. Because now we're not into the pleasure of bringing something new, clever and innovative to a table and show people what we did, we're just into brainless and endless bashing of those people before they could do what they came here for, ie playing a casual, social format about big nasty creatures and devastating spells which are not playable in other formats.

I understand the fun of someone could have to build something innovative (a la Johnny) or to "break" a format (a la Spike). But once it's done, what is the point to play it again and again and again, accumulating free and easy wins to the detriment of frustrated opponents? There are no prizes, no fame, no reward. It's just grief play, the pleasure of ruining other people fun. I block griefiers without an hesitation.

Ok, those combos could be stoppable. Every player could be filling his deck of free counterspells like Force of Will or play otherwise disruption and tutors to be sure they can play them at turn 3 or 4, taking out cool spells to make more place for those securities. But by forcing us to play far more Spike spells and far less Timmy and Johnny ones, this still lower the fun of the format.

Really few people, online, play those kind of combos. Those who do often run the last hyped degenerated combo and not even an original one of their own. I play Commander since the first day it was in test on MTGO, and my blocked list is about 15 people, including griefers, people who abuse bug exploits, rude people, etc. All people I play with regularly stop playing their combo decks once they pulled them off, and remove their degenerated combos from their decks if they prove to be to much efficient. Because they're here for fun, and garanted victory isn't fun nor rewarding.

I don't think those combo decks or degenerated combos are really a threat for Commander. It's a niche format, not the most accessible one, and it draws people with really specific expectation. This make those combo decks really rares, and while I understand their impact on a game is such it makes a big impression, they're far to few to be something else than an anecdotal threat.
As an added note to this discussion. I also believe that the word 'Degenerate' can also be connected to a single card and not just a card 'combo'
There are cards that dramiticly effect the game or are broken combo cards. Cards that fit into a LOT of combo's could fall under my 'Degenerate' card definition. Cards like Zuran Orb are 'Degenerate' all by themselves, and adding other cards to them make 'Degenerate' Combo's.

I, as seen above, like the word 'broken', when describing some card combos and cards. By 'broken' I mean that the card or card combo's boarder breaking the rules and often require a judge to clear up the ending result of using said card or card combo. Cards like Copy Artifact are broken. Actually most copy type cards are broken and often stretch rules as we know them. Thus making them great combo cards.

Just food for thought.

I like combing through the cheap rare section of peoples binders trying to find that obscure legend, you know, the one with just the right ability. And then building a deck to abuse it.

This combo is infinite, but I don't think I would classify it as being degenerate, but it sure is a crowd stopper and jaw dropper.

Commander Teysa, Orzhov Scion with Darkest hour and eithor Nantuko Husk, Fallen Angel or Fallen Ideal. Or any sac creature effect you want to trigger.

I really like this infinite combo because it uses no 'broken' or 'degenerate' cards. Showing you that it is possible to push all kinds of cards to all kinds of limits. You just have to think outside of the box.
How do YOU feel about degenerate combos in Commander games?

It's 100 card singleton with colour restrictions. If you manage to pull off your degenerate combo, grats, you deserved to win. Combo decks by their nature often use massive redundancy to set up, which usually means lots of ways to assemble the parts quickly. E.g If you go for Stuffy Doll + Guilty Conscience, you can run 4 of each and decidate the rest of your deck to finding them and playing them asap (and some defence against disruption probably). This is much more difficult to do in a singleton format, so gg if you manage it.

I will likely block you right after though, if the experience of watching you go through it all was exceptionally tedious and not something I want to repeat. :P
Pulling off consistent combo in EDH is not as hard as you may think because:

1. There are a lot of tutors in the whole classic card pool.

2. You can have multiple combos to increase the likely hood of drawing any one of them.

In the defunct EDH PRE, there were combo decks and they were very apt at winning around turn 4 or 5. You can bring an anti-combo deck to combat it, but only if you're part of a regular play group. Online, random encounter results in random meta-games.
Pulling off consistent combo in EDH is not as hard as you may think because:

1. There are a lot of tutors in the whole classic card pool.

2. You can have multiple combos to increase the likely hood of drawing any one of them.

.

I concur.

..This is much more difficult to do in a singleton format, so gg if you manage it.

:P

If you REALLY want to pull something off in EDH it is not hard to do at all. And to re-do and do again. Even if you are not trying to pull off some Degenerate combo, you need to put in a ton of fetch cards in EDH in general, just so you can make stuff happen constantly. Or go get the right card when you need it. Important stuff.

I will likely block you right after though,

But the second time I see this deck, I'll block its player.

The ONLY reason I block someone is their attitude. If someone is overly rude to me or other players in my games, I Will block them, other then that I think blocking people for building good decks is silly. Build a defense against it or post house rules asking for players not to bring certain types of decks. Not wanting to interact with good deck builders is no way to learn new skills as a magic player, that's for sure.
I'm not sure that having a degenerate combo deck is necessarily a proof of intelligence or experience, and that not having such a deck is a proof of silliness; it might be only the matter of being able to read boards (like this one) and decklists, and having enough money to buy the good cards.

Unlike counterspell or land destruction cases, if someone should warn the others (I don't think it must be), then, I think that the degenerate combo players should be the ones warning the others, not the contrary.
(Particularly, but not only, because tolerance towards CS and LD is great, and these are often played, and tolerance towards degenerate combo is far lesser and those are scarcely played.)

Note that, like you, RoachE, I block people only regarding rude demeanors (which is very rare in my playing experience) and not for their decks or choices, but I understand the reactions of the players who do not want to lose their time foolishly and/or consider the repetitive presence of a degenerate combo deck like an improper behavior in a non-competitive, fun and social format.
Personally, I can't stand them! Its hard enough to get 4 players to a table sometimes, and then have some power tripping clown hit some daft infinite combo.

Just the other night some joker cast Jokulhaps then summoned his commander Niv-Mizzet,the Fire Mind and enchanted it with Curiosity all in the same turn. Draw a card, 1 damage, draw a card, 1 damage and so on and so forth. YAAAAAAWWWWWN!!!

Bang! after waiting 20 odd minutes for the game to start, and just when things are starting to happen, 3 instant concessions and the game is over.

I just don't get how some people roll....

I'm all for players gathering pieces of powerful combos and letting rip with them, but these 'degenerate' infinite combos where nobody can do a damned thing about it are just plain irritating. There's no place for them in commander IMHO. Commander to me is trying to pick the right times to hang back, and the right times to go for it. 3 other players can turn on you in an instant so it pays to be careful about how much of a threat you represent. Commander is sometimes helping another player out and them helping you out further down the track. It's about making alliances and picking the right moment to stab them in the back!!!

It is far more sweeter to win a 3 hour epic battle by the skin of your teeth than luckily draw a couple of cards that will hit the board and force everyone to concede and move on. Its plain boring and not at all what the format is all about (in my opinion of course)
I'm not sure that having a degenerate combo deck is necessarily a proof of intelligence or experience, and that not having such a deck is a proof of silliness....

Note that, like you, RoachE, I block people only regarding rude demeanors (which is very rare in my playing experience) and not for their decks or choices, but I understand the reactions of the players who do not want to lose their time foolishly and/or consider the repetitive presence of a degenerate combo deck like an improper behavior in a non-competitive, fun and social format.

Personally, I can't stand them!

What I said was,
If someone is overly rude to me or other players in my games, I Will block them,other then that I think blocking people for building good decks is silly.

I don't think not having a degenerate deck is silly, blocking someone because of 1 deck they have is silly. I have 13 EDH decks. Only 1 has an infinite combo and its not even degenerate. Blocking me because I do something you don't like is silly. You miss out on all that other fun. And as far as people ruining your games guys, just post what you don't like. Ask people not to bring those kinds of decks, and if you are not willing to do that, prepare yourself for the occasional woopin by someone who has it going on. I completely understand about the 3 hour chess game for the win. It's what this format is all about. But sometimes its just a half hour game and the prize is, I get to get another game in before the night is over. Instead of being mad that these people pull these combo's off, figure out what they did to make it happen, and stop it next time. Or, like I said, ask people not to bring it.
Just the other night some joker cast Jokulhaps then summoned his commander Niv-Mizzet,the Fire Mind and enchanted it with Curiosity all in the same turn. Draw a card, 1 damage, draw a card, 1 damage and so on and so forth. YAAAAAAWWWWWN!!!

For the record, this is not an infinite combo. He can only deal damage equal to the number of cards in his library. And ... he didn't have haste. You could have dropped a land before his turn and just Pathed Nivvy. Anyone could have. Or Swords, or whatever.
"Possibilities abound, too numerous to count." "Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969) "Ever since man first left his cave and met a stranger with a different language and a new way of looking at things, the human race has had a dream: to kill him, so we don't have to learn his language or his new way of looking at things." --- Zapp Brannigan (Beast With a Billion Backs)
For the record, this is not an infinite combo. He can only deal damage equal to the number of cards in his library. And ... he didn't have haste. You could have dropped a land before his turn and just Pathed Nivvy. Anyone could have. Or Swords, or whatever.

Actually the nivvy player could just have drawn a card, e.g. cycled 1...
Actually the nivvy player could just have drawn a card, e.g. cycled 1...

A split second could stop that from happening.

I think his point was, it is breakable. As are a lot of degenerate combos. Play with Combo breakers and you can solve those problems. Take these "Lame" losses as lessons.
Not wanting to interact with good deck builders is no way to learn new skills as a magic player, that's for sure.

1) I know my English is broken, but if what you thought by reading my post is that I don't want to interact with good deck builders, I really badly expressed myself. I wrote the opposite: I enjoy seeing new combos or new tuned versions of combo decks. I love deck construction and I appreciate to see efforts and success in this way, even if this means my lose. I have no problem with good decks builders, I have problem with griefers, ie people that bring dekcs who know that, because they are essentially non-interactive and that almost nobody play answers to them will stop the other people at the table to have a good game of EDH by stopping it again and again and again, having lot of cheap victories with no other rewards than frustrating the other players.

2) I don't play EDH to improve myself at Magic. I play EDH because it's a fun, social format. I love to play goofy cards, I love to do some moves that doesn't make sense competitively speaking, just because it's the format that allow to do that and not lose a game two turns ago. If I want serious play, I have plenty of other formats, and the whole Tournament Practice room. In case you didn't notice, the EDH games are played in the casual room. Which mean we're not here for serious, competitive Magic, and that bringing in degenerate combo decks in this room is just as rude than brining a PT winning deck in the Casual Play room.

3) The "just bring solutions to degenerate combos" issue has already been answered. No, thanks, I won't take fun cards of my decks just to include boring Spike cards just in case someone decided to be rude and ruins lot of games just on after the after. I'll do something simpler: I'll play instead with the vast majority of players who don't do such things. If your solution to a really small percent of griefers is to stop having fun in EDH and make it a clone of competitive formats like 100 cards Singleton, I'll prefer mine, thank you very much.
1) I know my English is broken, but if what you thought by reading my post is that I don't want to interact with good deck builders, I really badly expressed myself. I wrote the opposite: I enjoy seeing new combos or new tuned versions of combo decks. I love deck construction and I appreciate to see efforts and success in this way, even if this means my lose. I have no problem with good decks builders, I have problem with griefers, ie people that bring dekcs who know that, because they are essentially non-interactive and that almost nobody play answers to them will stop the other people at the table to have a good game of EDH by stopping it again and again and again, having lot of cheap victories with no other rewards than frustrating the other players.

2) I don't play EDH to improve myself at Magic. I play EDH because it's a fun, social format. I love to play goofy cards, I love to do some moves that doesn't make sense competitively speaking, just because it's the format that allow to do that and not lose a game two turns ago. If I want serious play, I have plenty of other formats, and the whole Tournament Practice room. In case you didn't notice, the EDH games are played in the casual room. Which mean we're not here for serious, competitive Magic, and that bringing in degenerate combo decks in this room is just as rude than brining a PT winning deck in the Casual Play room.

3) The "just bring solutions to degenerate combos" issue has already been answered. No, thanks, I won't take fun cards of my decks just to include boring Spike cards just in case someone decided to be rude and ruins lot of games just on after the after. I'll do something simpler: I'll play instead with the vast majority of players who don't do such things. If your solution to a really small percent of griefers is to stop having fun in EDH and make it a clone of competitive formats like 100 cards Singleton, I'll prefer mine, thank you very much.

Well, I also said;

I completely understand about the 3 hour chess game for the win. It's what this format is all about. But sometimes its just a half hour game and the prize is, I get to get another game in before the night is over. Instead of being mad that these people pull these combo's off, figure out what they did to make it happen, and stop it next time. Or, like I said, ask people not to bring it.

First, that quote wasn't directed AT you it was a general statement about blocking people with Degenerate combo decks.

Second, I am not the bully on the block, I am just trying to stick up for the guy that brings to the table an unpleasant deck. If the guy ALWAYS brings the deck, even when you ask him/her not too, that would fall under the, rude to me and my players, category of person. And I would most likely block them too. I am just saying that, come one guys, give the occasional combo win guy a break and see what else he has to offer.
Games with degenerate combo decks can be a lot of fun - but only with the right crowd.

Online, when playing with strangers, the tone of the games is way too casual for this.

I think a good comparison is body-checking in hockey. When all the players are physically strong, and have experience playing the game as a contact sport, it can be a lot more interesting to allow checking (as is done in the NHL) than to outlaw it. But playing in the MTGO casual or multiplayer rooms is more like pond hockey...with players of many different sizes, ages, and skill levels. In order for everyone to have fun in this situation, the strongest players have to tone it down a bit and allow the weaker players to participate, even if it means doing less than they're really capable of.

I generally build my decks as I want to (which pretty much means as powerful as possible), but then just adjust my in-game play to suit the caliber of my opponents. There have been more than a few occasions where I have something nasty in hand and simply decline to play it. That doesn't mean I intentionally lose, I just restrict myself to winning or losing through normal/interactive means (handicapping myself in the process).

There have also been plenty of situations where I use every dirty trick available to me and still lose (having a blast in the process, mind you). Had I restricted myself to weaker decks as a rule, neither my opponent(s) nor I would have had nearly as much fun in those games.
Games with degenerate combo decks can be a lot of fun - but only with the right crowd.

Online, when playing with strangers, the tone of the games is way too casual for this.

I think a good comparison is body-checking in hockey. When all the players are physically strong, and have experience playing the game as a contact sport, it can be a lot more interesting to allow checking (as is done in the NHL) than to outlaw it. But playing in the MTGO casual or multiplayer rooms is more like pond hockey...with players of many different sizes, ages, and skill levels. In order for everyone to have fun in this situation, the strongest players have to tone it down a bit and allow the weaker players to participate, even if it means doing less than they're really capable of.

I generally build my decks as I want to (which pretty much means as powerful as possible), but then just adjust my in-game play to suit the caliber of my opponents. There have been more than a few occasions where I have something nasty in hand and simply decline to play it. That doesn't mean I intentionally lose, I just restrict myself to winning or losing through normal/interactive means (handicapping myself in the process).

There have also been plenty of situations where I use every dirty trick available to me and still lose (having a blast in the process, mind you). Had I restricted myself to weaker decks as a rule, neither my opponent(s) nor I would have had nearly as much fun in those games.

I also adjust my in-game play a lot dude. I like what you had to say. Because EDH is a social game. There is no reason not to put something in your deck, if the game is going well and you want it to continue, don't play it. Often what happens tho, is people will see the card and or cards that they are hateful of and then target you needlessly out of fear.
I have 4 or 5 different commander decks each with different levels of power depending on the people I end up playing in the night and how I feel. My strongest one is basically a degenerate combo deck, although I usually don't play it as a degenerate combo deck (i've been known to discard the combo cause I wanted to play more when the group was fun). All I have to say, is that the best decks i've seen on Commander were ones that were packing in a solution for anything the format was throwing at them, in which case degenerate combos don't get through. When I managed to pull off the degenerate combos, it was usually against very bad players that didnt use the tools they had to stop or even slow me down, even when the picture was clear. I feel like degenerate combos can or can not be played, and usually speaking the player who has them doesn't have to use them.

Just to put things on topic, some degenerative combos:

Disciple of the Vault + Sharuum the Hegemon + Sculpting Steel = unlimited damage that instant crit removal destroys

Mindslaver + Sharuum the Hegemon + Tawnos's Coffin = You play for 2 players, add Rings of Brighthearth and it's solitaire

In both cases the Commander is a piece of the combo.
Personally, although I dislike degenerate combo decks, I don't find them particularly problematic, probably because I have absolutly no qualms about conceding at any time if I'm not enjoying myself, but also because I tend to pack a wide variety of answers in my decks and stopping a deck from going off is often an interesting challenge. If a player gets a lock or a combo that I can't stop, I'll just concede and move on, but if I think I have an answer that I might be able to get in time, or some play that'll wreck the lock/combo, I'm going to have a tremendous time.
Yeah, that's the thing. When a degenerate combo fires, it isn't by definition un-fun. The game itself could very well have been an intense struggle against heavy disruption, with multiple attempts to create a window of opportunity and one player eventually emerging truimphant.

What makes combos unfun, is when they're wielded against opposition that is unable to disrupt it, and is unlikely to out-race its assembly. That's not the combos' fault, that's just the nature of lopsided matches. You'd get the same situation if you played moat against players that had no enchantment removal and only non-flying creatures. Or, to continue my hockey analogy - if you put an NHL hockey player playing to the best of his ability on the ice with a bunch of 10 year olds.

I've found that a vast majority of MTGO's commander players fall into that category, where they aren't prepared to (and don't want to) face combos. Abusing that weakness is nearly as inappropriate as Ovechkin body-checking grade 5 kids who just want some afternoon fun.

But if you find some guys who build and play a bit more competitively, it's actually more fun to allow them
A split second could stop that from happening.

I think his point was, it is breakable. As are a lot of degenerate combos. Play with Combo breakers and you can solve those problems. Take these "Lame" losses as lessons.

Fair call, but it certainly wasn't breakable at the time. Nobody had any lands in play and he had a good 70 odd cards in his deck, so for all intensive purposes we were all toast.

For the record, i've never felt the need to block anybody for any reason, let alone their style of deck.
So, Commander players, what do you think?

I like this thread Tempest, it seems to get people riled up. I like stuff that gets peoples blood boiling.
The OP forgot to title this thread "I'm going to list the combos that personally I don't like, but am too lazy to try an counteract".

That's not the same as being degenerative to the game environment.

Kederkt + spiteful visions was particularly stupid, because both are so easily to kill in this format, and all they do is put everyone on a clock that rewards aggression and speed - A good thing depending on who you ask.
The OP forgot to title this thread "I'm going to list the combos that personally I don't like, but am too lazy to try an counteract".

That's not the same as being degenerative to the game environment.

Kederkt + spiteful visions was particularly stupid, because both are so easily to kill in this format, and all they do is put everyone on a clock that rewards aggression and speed - A good thing depending on who you ask.

I am the OP and I take offense at that.
I'm not anti-combo. In fact, as a Classic player I'm PRO combo.

However, as your inference skills are subpar I'll forgive you.

Guess what? Chicken butt.

Wow, I didn't think it was even possible to misread something that badly. I'm impressed.
Do you block players who play them?

This is the discussion I'm trying to foster.

Depending on the social interaction involved, there is a good chance I will block players who play degenerate combos in EDH. It has nothing to do with the combos themselves, and has everythign to do with the format. IMO, singleton formats are there to give variety to the game and increase game variety. When you build a deck that tutors up your combo, that is against what I believe the fomat is about.

So if you play Kiki+Pestermite naturally, I'll say GG and that is that. If you tutor for one of them though, then there is a good chance that I will block you.

I play the same way in Prismatic Singleton, although I am even stricter there. 250 individual cards of 5 colors should not be an efficient 2 or 3 card combo machine.

-MT Head
:D :D :D No matter what.. I like to see the combos. Weather I am on the receiving end or the giver. It's all fun. Takes skill to pull something off in this environment.

:D :D :D ;) :P :D :D
You see, I think it has to do with the expectations that players go into the format with.
Some players are looking for a less competitive, more random type of game (Timmy).
Some players are looking to see if they can break the format (Johnny).
And some players are looking to win any way they can (Spike).

As a general rule the Spikes won't play EDH because there are no prizes so that leaves the Timmy's and Johnny's.
Remember that Johnny's see the game (and card interactions/combos) as a puzzle that are trying to figure out.

My personal feeling is that people are welcome to play whatever they want, but I'm just as free to leave or not play with them.

Guess what? Chicken butt.

You see, I think it has to do with the expectations that players go into the format with.
Some players are looking for a less competitive, more random type of game (Timmy).
Some players are looking to see if they can break the format (Johnny).
And some players are looking to win any way they can (Spike).

As a general rule the Spikes won't play EDH because there are no prizes so that leaves the Timmy's and Johnny's.
Remember that Johnny's see the game (and card interactions/combos) as a puzzle that are trying to figure out.

My personal feeling is that people are welcome to play whatever they want, but I'm just as free to leave or not play with them.

I disagree with your player type analysis.

Johnny is looking to express himself. I think that Johnnies are more likely to work around a theme, or try to pull of an especially difficult effect. That, I fully support.

Timmies are out to experience something. What exactly that is will depend on the Timmy.

Spikes are the ones that try to break any format. They are the ones that are worried about efficiency and winning. Winning through incremental card advantage, resource utilization etc. are things that I fully support.

I simply think that tutors in general are against the idea of singleton formats, and so I highly disapprove of them. I especially disapprove of them when the deck is simply designed to find a degenerate combo.

Basically, my view is that the combos themselves are fine, just don't go searching for them in singleton.

-MT Head
Personally I'm fine with combos as long as they win, as opposed to locking out the board. I'm not 100% saintly in this respect myself, but i understand where the frustration comes from on the other end :P. I think tutoring is fine, i make a lot of 'combo' decks in Commander and despite having most of the best tutors none of my decks are ever consistent enough to be unfun in a degenerate way.

  For me, I've never blocked a player.  If I were to do so, it would only be based on rudeness / verbal aggression, not on anything about their deck. 


  I'm very much a Johnny and enjoy combos.  Some may be considered degenerate, but I can't think of any I play that are assured-wins.  I've seen some Degenerate combos and have witnessed a few players that played such combos without even realizing it:


** One example was a player that dropped Dovescape and Guile - I mentioned to him that infinite creature combos won't win any friends and had to explain to him how the combo worked because he didn't realize he had just played a infinite creature combo.  He said he planned on removing Dovescape now that he knew what the combo was. I don't know if he did, but I told him it wasn't necessary since he could play both and choose not to use that combo.


  I think Net decks of degenerate combos are getting more popular, and when they lock the game down so that nobody can respond, the fun ceases for all but the combo player.  that I think is against the idea of the format.  Joining any random game and using assured win degenerate combos  is off-putting (my least favorite might not even count as such - it's more of a degenerate card, but is very powerful: Memnarch / seemingly Infinite turns, Steal everything on the board until you can win (on turn 4-6). I suggest to those players that if they want to play (playtest) those combos, just open your own game and say what you are using, so players are forewarned.  However, in the above example, during about a half-dozen games that player has always used the same deck and I've seen a few other players crop up using the same deck.  For the most part I think the format is a bit self-regulating.  I think as these combos become more known, the player using them gets targeted early and it makes it harder to pull-off. 


  I like discussions like this, since it increases awareness all around and helps foster self-regulation.  I don't think combos break the format, but players playing those combos that destroy game enjoyment for everyone but themselves should know the effect they have, self regulate when needed and/or create their own games with comments so players joining the game know what they are joining. 


All that said, what really gets my blood boiling is show-offs.  If you have a lock and everyone else at the table acknowledges that, then just win.  don't prolong the game just to show off all the stuff your deck can do, knowing that nobody can respond.  I know some of this is my issue, since I am against conceding, but part of it is also social awareness or "online" hubris.  If you can recognize that nobody else is enjoying themselves and you have a wincon - just win.  Don't show-boat, please.


Sorry for the ramble, guess I needed to vent while making my point. The take away is:


** Combos Good


** Degenerate combos not always bad (some people may not even realize the combo they played)


** Discussion Good (increases awareness)


**  If you insist on always using a highly competitive degenerate combo - open your own game and label as such, so the players that also want to play those decks can join.  Don't ruin random casual games.  If in a casual game, restrain yourself. 


Nothing that wasn't said before, here and there. 


On a separate/similar note: what are the cards/combos that are not assured-win but that you think ruin the fun of the format?  I ask, because I have a deck that I was using Hive Mind + Warp World.  I didn't (don't) think of it as a degenerate combo.  It doesn't win on its own and mostly I built the deck because the synergy intrigued me and I wanted to see how it would play.  I played the deck only once and in that game I was told that Warp World ruins the fun of the game, so I have never played it since.  So I thought I would ask the masses, are there cards that you feel ruin the fun for everyone else? 


 

V/R

Treamayne

Commander Wiki - Casual Format Wiki (once they work again - link pending update)


Winning through incremental card advantage, resource utilization etc. are things that I fully support.


Not sure I agree with you here. I think unfun games are the result of imbalanced matchups. When someone who has a very strong and well-tuned deck beats up budget-restricted newbies, it doesn't matter how he wins. Combo, brutalizing board position, twincasted time stretch...it's not fun getting stomped by an arsenal you can't possibly compete with.


I simply think that tutors in general are against the idea of singleton formats, and so I highly disapprove of them. I especially disapprove of them when the deck is simply designed to find a degenerate combo. Basically, my view is that the combos themselves are fine, just don't go searching for them in singleton. -MT Head


That's an odd viewpoint. This is a format where some very powerful 'must-answer' cards often get played. If you run say, 5 disenchant effects, and your opponent plays an enchantment you can't beat, is it "fun" to just lose because you weren't lucky enough to topdeck one of those 5? You can't realistically run 20 disenchants "just in case", since you'd often be stuck without a good target for them. But you COULD run a handful of tutors that can get you a disenchant when you need it, and something else when you don't. Tutors help compensate for the inherent inconsistencies involved in 100-card singleton decks. They give you better access to the tools you wanted your deck to have, and create a lot of challenging "what should I get now?" puzzles to solve. In my opinion, they add a lot of fun, ESPECIALLY in this format, where you'll have many more unique cards in your deck to choose from than you would in 60 card constructed.

Personally I'm fine with combos as long as they win, as opposed to locking out the board.


Either way, the game's over...just concede and play again. I don't see how one is worse than the other.

when they lock the game down so that nobody can respond, the fun ceases for all but the combo player.


The fun ceases because the game's over. I don't get why so many people complain about players "masturbating" by chaining infinite time stretches or whatever....if you don't like sitting there watching the guy do it, then concede! It's over! It's even possible that he's not really enjoying it either, he's just going through the motions because his opponents are forcing him to.

Conceding isn't rude, especially if you offer a "gg, congrats" as you do it. It just acknowledges a victory. Sometimes, it isn't clear that a combo is infinite (say, they've regrown time stretch a couple times but haven't shown the full witness + crystal shard complement yet), you can ask "have you got this?". I've never seen someone lie in response to this just so they can continue savoring their victory for another minute or two.


All games have to end somehow.


If you have a lock and everyone else at the table acknowledges that, then just win.  don't prolong the game just to show off all the stuff your deck can do, knowing that nobody can respond.  I know some of this is my issue, since I am against conceding, but part of it is also social awareness or "online" hubris.  If you can recognize that nobody else is enjoying themselves and you have a wincon - just win.  Don't show-boat, please.


Why are you against conceding?


On a separate/similar note: what are the cards/combos that are not assured-win but that you think ruin the fun of the format?  I ask, because I have a deck that I was using Hive Mind + Warp World.  I didn't (don't) think of it as a degenerate combo.  It doesn't win on its own and mostly I built the deck because the synergy intrigued me and I wanted to see how it would play.  I played the deck only once and in that game I was told that Warp World ruins the fun of the game, so I have never played it since.  So I thought I would ask the masses, are there cards that you feel ruin the fun for everyone else?


I vote don't listen to that guy, warp world is hilariously fun. My general rule is: anything that doesn't win anytime soon, but severely limits your opponents ability to interact is unfun. So unfun would include mass land destruction (at least, mass LD without a strong enough board position to win by the time opponents recover), cards like nether void, mass discard, etc...Warp world still leaves opponents with plenty of options.


{snip}


** One example was a player that dropped Dovescape and Guile - I mentioned to him that infinite creature combos won't win any friends and had to explain to him how the combo worked because he didn't realize he had just played a infinite creature combo.  He said he planned on removing Dovescape now that he knew what the combo was. I don't know if he did, but I told him it wasn't necessary since he could play both and choose not to use that combo.


{/snip}




I did take it out :D  When I put it in, I thought I could just make a soft lock that any creature with CIP kills enchants could break.  Oodles of ugly tokens was not the intent.  Having seen plenty of people play Kiki + Pestermite or Void + Helm or Academy + Mind Slaver or (insert cheap two card win here) I didn't think Dovescape + Guile was *that* broken. 


I don't have any objection to combos (degenerate or otherwise), I'd just like to see a little more imagination.  I'm also losing my objection to mass LD though I won't play it myself. 


It would help if people used comments fields for games to set expectations.  I'll happily join a game labelled "spike decks" (though I'll probably play my 'pauper' Commander deck for laughs) but joining with my (very casual) Soldier deck and waiting ten minutes to find I'm facing 5cc, Johira and Zur is a bit disappointing.


My favourite deck at the moment uses Nicol Bolas.  There are some card synergies, some cards that people consider "un-fun" but no way to go infinite and no really horrid cards (like Mindslaver, Sundering Titan, Time Stretch).  However, if you've labelled your game "fun decks only" I'll bring Snakes, or Soldiers, or something like that.


 {edited to add Warp World comments}


Love Warp World... I did a Standard WW deck but it got so many concessions in the Standard room and was underpowered for Tournament Practice room    Hillarious in 2HG and multiplayer.


I was in a game with someone playing a chaos deck where a WW resolved with Hive Mind on the table.  Funny as hell.  Would much rather play that game than see Momir Vig, Teferi and Seedborn Muse for the hundreth time... 


 


 

Why are you against conceding?


I guess it just feels too much like quitting to me.  I hate to quit at anything - I'll try until I lose, but I don't like to quit.  On the other hand, there's no reason for somebody to delay winning just for self-glorification either - in my opinion anyway.


I did take it out :D  When I put it in, I thought I could just make a soft lock that any creature with CIP kills enchants could break.  Oodles of ugly tokens was not the intent.  Having seen plenty of people play Kiki + Pestermite or Void + Helm or Academy + Mind Slaver or (insert cheap two card win here) I didn't think Dovescape + Guile was *that* broken. 


Like I said, it is only that broken if you play it that way.  Feel free to play the combo, and it's such a little-known / unused Infinite creature combo, most probably won't even recognize it.


I vote don't listen to that guy, warp world is hilariously fun. My general rule is: anything that doesn't win anytime soon, but severely limits your opponents ability to interact is unfun. So unfun would include mass land destruction (at least, mass LD without a strong enough board position to win by the time opponents recover), cards like nether void, mass discard, etc...Warp world still leaves opponents with plenty of options.


Love Warp World... I did a Standard WW deck but it got so many concessions in the Standard room and was underpowered for Tournament Practice room    Hillarious in 2HG and multiplayer.

I was in a game with someone playing a chaos deck where a WW resolved with Hive Mind on the table.  Funny as hell.  Would much rather play that game than see Momir Vig, Teferi and Seedborn Muse for the hundreth time...  



Thanks guys, I guess it wasn't just me, he just didn't like WW and tried to make it sound like playing it was a hardship on everybody (since 4 players have te resolve all the WW effects and with Hive Mind that happens 4 times)

V/R

Treamayne

Commander Wiki - Casual Format Wiki (once they work again - link pending update)

I guess it just feels too much like quitting to me.  I hate to quit at anything - I'll try until I lose, but I don't like to quit.  On the other hand, there's no reason for somebody to delay winning just for self-glorification either - in my opinion anyway.


It isn't quitting if the game's victor has been decided.

I guess it just feels too much like quitting to me.  I hate to quit at anything - I'll try until I lose, but I don't like to quit.  On the other hand, there's no reason for somebody to delay winning just for self-glorification either - in my opinion anyway.


It isn't quitting if the game's victor has been decided.



That almost seems to lead to a discussion of big egos now.
I'll quit whenever I damn well feel like it, so get off my lawn!

Seriously though, I *will* quit when inevitability has been reached.

It means if you lock out the board with Hokori and have 20+ power crits then that's it for me.
It means that if you're going to recur Beacon of Tomorrows with a Planar Portal for infinite turns then that's game over whether or not you've actually got your WinCon in play.
This means that if you have pretty much any kind of lock and the chance of me breaking it is infinitesimally small then I'm not going to stick around. I would, quite honestly, rather be playing another game.
Believe it or not I'm not against Combo on principle, but I am against having to sit there and watch you take 10 minutes go through it just so you can end the game.
I realize that the there are many players who get their entertainment from assembling the Combo and/or from playing it. But I, like many of the other players who've been around a while, have seen pretty much all of the combos used to lock and/or win. And I'm not entertained by watching you tap cards while I press F2 every few seconds.

It's also why I'm going to kill you as fast as I possibly can, and why I'll muster the table to try to help me. You see, I understand that there are some players for whom winning is the goal. But for me, playing is the goal. I'd rather play a 16 turn game that I lose then a 5 turn game I win.

Edit:
And, to be honest, since there are no prizes in Commander games it's no great accomplishment to achieving the fastest win possible anyway, since most players are not playing that kind of game. I could understand that kind of deck (and mindset) in an environment where being competitive was rewarded (like in a tournament or league), but that attitude in casual games doesn't make any friends. I mean, would you play full power Fairies at your local FNM? Would you bring Cruel Control to a kitchen table game? Pickup games on-line are like the casual kitchen table games offline; players bringing those kinds of decks are effectively ambushing the rest of the table by taking advantage of the expectations of the other players.
Sure, you just won on turn 5 or 6 but all you've really done is make 3 other players less likely to play with you again.

Now normally I'm a big proponent of advertising any restrictions you might have but the thing is, Commander has a built in expectation about the casualness of games.

Guess what? Chicken butt.