The Big And Powerful Deck Left Standing
(Note from the editor: This article was written before the August 3rd banning of Wilderness Reclamation. We hope you’ll still enjoy reading it, as it was meant to be about overpowered decks in general, and was only using Temur Rec as an example.)
The recent bans that did not affect Standard got me thinking about something as a Temur Reclamation player: what do you do when you know that your favorite deck is overpowered? That it’s oppressively strong and will slam down people not prepared to fight on your terms?
And we are not arguing if it is a broken deck: it is.
I don’t know if it’s that the other busted decks did not survive this long (Oko and Agent and Fires and Field all got banned) and Temur was always this busted, just given a lot of competition, or if something recent pushed the deck to new heights.
If I had to hazard a guess, Shark Typhoons’ ability to circumvent the most powerful anti-Temur tech: Teferi, Time Raveler, had a lot to do with the rise.
But, regardless of why it can stomp most other decks, and by a lot, it leads to a question of being a Magic player.
Where does fun and competition intersect, and should one see an issue in always playing the most busted cards and decks in a pastime meant to be for enjoyment?
The first thing to this discussion is that Temur Reclamation does take a lot of practice. And there’s fun for the pilot in learning to operate such a robust toolkit. I literally have several weeks of hours logged with this deck, so I can navigate its complex plays. But is the skill cap on the best deck being high make it less oppressive?
Is A Deck Fairer If You Have To Think Hard To Win?
Well, that depends on who is on what side of the table. Temur Rec goes big and kills with finality. Those on the receiving end may feel like it was a losing battle from the start and that there was no point in trying.
What might further increase this perception is that complexity: newer players will not only die to Temur a lot but should they put together the funds to play a very expensive deck—or throw it together on MTGA—they won’t be able to replicate the results.
Not that Magic should be a game that dumbs down its decks and strategies—but it might be further adding to the frustration.
And I’m not interested in being prescriptivist for the designers of the game. This is about what we do in the middle of the game as it is. Does an individual player have a responsibility to play more approachable decks?
Do You Play For Fun A Deck You Know Will Win?
I mean, obviously not in one sense. If there is a “best deck,” why would you give yourself a disadvantage and play anything else in a tournament setting? Also, if your main interest in the game is the complex plays you achieve, then you’d want to stick with what is fun for you. But there is a question of building the meta that you want in more local locations or even in digital, casual, unranked spaces.
Yes, winning easily—destroying people in blazes of cards—is a lot of fun, but ask the average Commander player if they would want everyone to run OTK Demonic Consultation/Tainted Pact decks, or if every Brawl deck should be an Oko deck. There’s ultimately a level of bringing nukes to a paintball match that needs to be reasoned with when one goes to play.
If there is an expectation of some back-and-forth and you know the skill-level or budget or experience of the group you are entering, then maybe dial down the big guns.
Yeah, you can find a small community of newer players and then play Amulet Titan and sweep the place: but that’s not sportsmanlike. Magic is supposed to be fun. And what’s fun for you is not always fun for the group of which you are a member. Don’t be selfish in those situations—promote a game night where everyone gets some chance to win.
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