Friday, June 15, 2012

Wearing The Target Hat (aka The Generals That Get You Killed)

I don't recall who it was in my playgroup that coined the phrase 'target hat' but happily enough, a crafts store near my place had a white fishing hat and a small bottle of red paint, and voila! the target hat was born:

Says "KILL ME" so that the purpose is clear.
We used this hat as a way of drawing attention to someone who needed to be attacked for any reason at all, even if it was in the previous game. (Example: "Oh, you attacked for 2048 damage with 128 tokens last game?  Time to wear the hat, sir!")

This concept can be carried over to total strangers: If you sat down with three strangers for an EDH game, what commanders would make you draw a target on their head, someone to focus all your attacks and resources on?

I started this thread on a couple of days ago to find out if other peoples' experiences had been like mine when it came to the idea of 'presumptive degeneracy'.  Maybe you know just one person who built a broken-ass deck with that general, or you'd seen several ridiculous combos based on that legendary creature...but your target is set as soon as they announce their commander.

This is by no means the comprehensive list, nor is it meant to be a 'Don't use these!' article.  If you disagree or have a different view on why these generals make you get hit first, then please, feel free to comment at the bottom.  I have two of these myself, and I'm fully aware of the target I put on my head when strangers see it.

Honorable Mentions:

Momir Vig, Simic Visionary

He's a combo enabler and causes a player to search their library multiple times in a turn.  Takes too long and is ridiculously powerful in a well-tuned deck.  Thankfully there aren't too many amazing  creatures that are both blue and green.

 Uril, the Miststalker

He's non-interactive, but at least he kills via attacking and costs five to play the first time.  I'm pretty sure that he's not six mana because of Dragon Fangs, Dragon Breath, and Dragon Scales.  Do you have a way to kill enchantments?  Yay you live a couple of turns longer!

Captain Sisay

This lady would be 50% less irritating to play against if it wasn't for Akroma's Memorial being a Legendary Artifact.  That's the enabler of shenanigans. and generally speaking, the first thing the Sisay player tutors for.

Next tends to be the Kaldra pieces, and then the real eyeball-gouging begins!

Oh, and Jitte.  Keep forgetting that's a legendary equipment.

Now, on to the main list!  These are presented in no particular order, though the last four are probably the most hated.

Azami, Lady Of Scrolls/Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir

I lumped these two together because they are the king and queen of blue decks.

Let's face it, blue decks are often annoying to play against, with their "You can't do this" counterspells and "Watch me have fun" extra turns, which we will get to.  Azami exists to grab lots and lots of extra cards, which is better or worse than her boyfriend that actually makes the game far more boring.  It's a rare blue deck that doesn't run one of these as the general with the other being somewhere in the 99. (except for another entrant on this list)

The only thing worse than a Teferi deck is a Teferi deck with Leyline of Anticipation out.  This tends to lead to 5-minute end steps, frequently with tutoring, followed immediately with another 5-minute turn where the blue player does lots of things, yet seems to do nothing, and then you're dead.  Or at least it seems that way to the other players at the table.

Both of these embody an aspect of blue.  Azami is pure card advantage.  Teferi has the "You're not allowed to do things that bother me" clause that so many people love to hate.

Teferi having flash is just the silliest part of all, if you ask me.

Riku of Two Reflections

There are very few generals that scream out "I'M GOING OFF" more than Two-Face here.  It seems reasonable enough at first glance, a creature that costs five, has low power and toughness, requires not just another spell to be cast but a specific color cost added onto that spell...where's the harm, right?

Well, having had a Riku deck, and having seen others' decks that use him, he is nothing but harm.  Should he live after being cast on five (which people won't allow now, generally speaking) then on six you're looking at a ramp spell, copied.  All hell breaks loose after that point.  Copied Time Warp, counterspells, card name it.  Every EDH deck is crammed to the gills with gleefully, selfishly amazing spells to cast, and Riku doubles up on your joy and the other players' misery.

Kaalia of the Vast

I thought that Riku would be the most amazing general out of the preconstructed decks of last summer, but I was wrong.  Kaalia will get you evil looks and the target squarely on your chest because of the way she cheats big fat flyers into play, and not just into play, but on the field and hitting hard.  Avacyn Restored made these decks even better, with two on-color angels and the most amazing demon ever printed.

The sheer variety of Angels, Demons, and Dragons means that no two builds will be the same, yet all will be overpowered and entering play far too early for their ridiculously good abilities.  Kaalia is not only a general that is fixated on the attack step, she's able to end the game quickly.

Thank god Kaalia isn't blue, else she'd be able to have counterspell backup to her madness.

Rafiq of the Many

Another overpowered attacker, Rafiq seems to be favored in lots of 1v1 EDH decks. That's a flavor of play I haven't gotten into, but I've seen too many Rafiq decks that are ridiculously fast when it comes to dealing damage.  These decks often take a "Voltron" angle, trying to build one creature up into instant-kill proportions.  Rafiq is a general who you have to kill fast because his whole deck is based around killing you faster.

It doesn't help that Rafiq's colors help the madness of his early attacks.  Blue can give unblockability, green gifts him with Berserk and the like, and white, worst of all, finds the bleeping equipment that makes people gnaw their fingernails off.

Ghave, Guru of Spores

What makes Ghave players so targetable is not just that the general is so darn hard to kill, it's the synergies and repeatable effects that the general enables.  Oh, and Ghave turns seem to take forever, one of the least fun experiences EDH players can go through.

Because of the recursive nature of BWG, there's a lot of coming and going from the graveyard, and if there's a Blood Artist or Grave Pact out, suddenly no one can do anything.  The general feeling is that you're waiting to die.

Arcum Dagsson

While a lot of legends bring about combos just by existing, this guy needs not much to cheat stupidly powerful and board-warping artifacts into play.  Wizards knew that allowing you to sacrifice an artifact to find an artifact was too good. (See Tinker.)  So they attempted to make it more narrow, requiring the sacrifice of an artifact creature to find a noncreature artifact.

Given the busted, ridiculous and silly number of artifacts that exist, this was an oopsie for the casual crowd.  My experience has been that step 1 is to find the Darksteel Forge, step 2 is to find the Disk, and step three is to rejoice in the lamentations of your enemy.  And since Arcum is blue, you get all the artifact enablers like Neurok Transmuter.  Goody.

Jhoira of the Ghitu

This little lady was an important character in the Magic novels, and I was happy to see her get a card.  Fast-forward a few years to playing EDH and she is heavily despised because of her ability and the decks that get cast around her.

You don't see Searing Wind or Time Warp suspended often.  If unopposed, the Jhoira player will cast their general turn three, play a land turn four, then wait until the last possible end step before suspending Obliterate and some big annoying creature (Inkwell Leviathan being a favorite.)  Then, they will take a suspend counter off and you'll have three turn cycles to kill them before the game is effectively over.

The Jhoira player knows this, the other players know it, and now you have a game within the game. 

I think that if her ability could only be done as a sorcery, she'd be a bit less irritating, because the Jhoira player would have to suspend on their turn, giving the table an extra turn cycle with intentions declared.

Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind

Niv-Mizzet is amazingly good and enormously powerful.  He's got single-card combos (Curiosity, Mind Over Matter) and he's got innate card and board advantage.  His colors dovetail perfectly with his abilities, which speaks to the power of elegant design.  Red and Blue have the most card drawing spells and abilities, and even if red doesn't always get to keep the cards drawn, adding a damage per card is amazingly good.

Added on is that because he's blue, the Niv-Mizzet player will have access to all of blue's counterspells and trickery. If you see a Niv sitting down in your game, be prepared to take him/her out quickly.  They are ready for it too.

Sharuum the Hegemon

Ah, recursion.  It's both a staple and a curse of EDH.  This is card advantage at its finest, and with the number of loops and tricks that this card is capable of, there's really no hiding from the beatdown you're about to get.  Her colors allow for tutoring and drawing, for counterspells and extra turns, targeted removal and universal answers.

Oh, and clones.  Let's not forget cloning the legend, then bringing her back, setting up Reveillark, or whatever your combination of choice is.  Add Disciple of the Vault or Blood Artist, and go on about your day. 

Even with the sighs of resignation that other people have when Sharuum is shown as a general, she is not as bad as our #1 contender...

Zur The Enchanter

In terms of what all the legends on this list do, Zur combines them all into one groan-worthy package.  Searching the library? Check.  Casting things free? Check. Difficult to interact with? Check.  Capable of ending games quickly? Check.

There's little doubt that Lightning Greaves is one of the best equipment around, but shroud can mean that it's hard to boost the creature it's equipping...unless you're Zur.  His ability goes around shroud, because of a ruling about how Auras are targeted as they come into play.  (Short version: the targeting happens when you cast the Aura, but not when the Aura is put directly into play as part of a spell or effect.)  So an early greaves into Zur means that now he can go find whatever he needs, and the toolbox available to Zur is second to none.

Oblivion Ring, Phyresis, Battle Mastery, Rhystic's not just Auras (enchant creatures) he can find, it's anything with the type 'enchantment'.  In the Eye of Chaos is a fine example.  But the 'fine, I concede' trump is Contamination.  For self-defense, there's Vanishing or Diplomatic Immunity, or Spirit Mantle...and on and on.

I've got a couple of these decks, and perhaps you do too.  I know how big a target I am when I play one of these with strangers, and I'm prepared to be eliminated early.  It's hard to argue with "Well, I played Kaalia turn three, but they killed it, and I kept trying to get her into play, but they never let up and I died."

I can't fault someone for doing that to me, and you shouldn't feel bad about taking me out like that.  These generals are very frequently on the overpowered/unfair side, and consequently, they bring the Target Hat.

See you next time!

1 comment:

  1. Great article! I found interesting generals, and I want to try them in the future :) Can you write next text about UB generals, like Wydwen or Sygg?