The importance of "having an answer" in your deck

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darrenhabib
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Post by darrenhabib » 9 months ago

How important do you think it is having at least one answer in your deck to almost anything that can be done in commander?

The example I have had recently is that I have ways to draw cards in my deck at instant speed, but I at least need a card to be physically in the deck to even have a chance at preventing what opponent might do.
Sure the odds of drawing it as part of the top cards of the deck are slim, but it's a fun element of playing Magic, where you are desperately trying to survive and every so often you actually manage to pull it off. In many ways this can feel more like a victory..than a victory.

In my last experience I had added a Repudiate // Replicate to a deck and found myself trying to find it in response to game winning triggers. I've failed a few times, but when I did get it, it just feels incredible to find your only out. Blessed.

So my question is do you prioritize individual cards that can answer particular plays that might win or lose a game, just on the chance of being able to draw into it?
If so what might those cards be and how does the color identity of your commander influences this?

Sure if you are in blue then a simple Counterspell is going to answer a lot, so I'm not interested in this. Cryptic Command might be the better example, but still kind of obvious.

What are game winning plays from opponents? What else can I add to this list?
  • Lethal attack.
  • Combo win with permanents.
  • Combo win with stack.
  • Combo win with graveyard.
  • Trigger or activation on stack for win.
  • Massive draw leads to inevitable win.
Can you A) handle any of these at instant speed with a card in your deck? B) Have ways to draw these at instant speed if you don't have it already?

Keen to hear if you have any cards that you like to play based on this "I want to have at least one answer in the deck for what you might do".
Maybe you can recall a time when you had to scramble to find it and through whatever means you got there in the end.

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Post by MashedPotato » 9 months ago

darrenhabib wrote:
9 months ago
So my question is do you prioritize individual cards that can answer particular plays that might win or lose a game for opponents, just on the chance of being able to draw into it?
I play Aurelia, The Warleader and Niv Mizzet Parun as my two commanders of choice.
For Aurelia, everything supports each other to get to critical mass / commander damage, so being Boros, answers are more boardwipe or removal of X card. I stick to my gameplan and ignore what others have. If I had to pick the one card that is in there for X or Y play it would beAngelic Arbiter, as it forces everyone to play.
Niv however, is a spellslinger deck to generate tokens and ping what is out there. With all the card draw available, it carries a lot of single target removal / bounce / blink effects to control the game. Probably Ral, Izzet Viceroy is this decks answer to a lot, I run Karn's Bastion to boost up his loyalty for the ultimate, which really answers then a lot.

I don't prioritise individual cards to answer a play, but rather support how my commander and rest of the deck plays.

darrenhabib wrote:
9 months ago
Can you A) handle any of these at instant speed with a card in your deck? B) Have ways to draw these at instant speed if you don't have it already?
With boros, the only way to handle the points raised, is by hoping I have a Deflecting Palm or Comeuppance in hand, but that's purely because Boros is horrible for instant speed responses on other turns outside removal.
Izzet, I should have a better counter suite on hand to handle the points, but Cyclonic Rift is pretty standard along with Disallow, with Niv's massive draw and pinging engine these are easy enough to come into.
darrenhabib wrote:
9 months ago
Maybe you can recall a time when you had to scramble to find it and through whatever means you got there in the end.
Niv Mizzet equipt with Gorgon's Head, someone decided to play politics and cast Chaos Warp on Hydra Broodmaster, drew into Windfall with Hypersonic Dragon on the board, was fun

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Post by PrimevalCommander » 9 months ago

I like having answers to many situations, but I do not stress on answering every possible play. That is simply not practical. There are tons of odd and unlikely ways an opponent can win, and outside of blue (counterspell), it waters your deck down too much to prepare for all these corner case wincons. If your in blue, there are many flexible counters that can get you out of stick situations. Voidslime was my favorite, now even easier to cast with Disallow. If your not in blue the fact is there are some things you cannot prevent, which is part of the game, and you have to rely on other ways of slowing down your opponents to prevent them from getting to a winning position before you.

Mill is a good example. I don't play Eldrazi in every deck, or any other ways to stay alive after a full deck mill. That situation is not very common and if it happens, then I lost that game and can try again next game.

Fogs are something I don't play much, and roll my eyes when I do see them. But their blowout potential cannot be argued, and I do believe they have value for those in combat heavy metas. A single fog can be more devastating than Swords to Plowshares if you hold it for the right moment.

Certain wincons are much more common: Attack phase, Combo with permanents, and graveyard interaction. I like to have several answers for each of these as they are the most likely I will see. Wraths, Spot Removals, Grave Hate are all staples in my decks for these reasons.

Instant speed removal can solve more problems than many people realize. I even don't play as much instant speed removal as I think I should. I'm a sucker for flexible sorcery speed removal myself. My primary strategy to prevent people from doing broken things is to KILL COMMANDERS. Seriously, everyone uses the Commander as a linchpin of the deck. Prevent the use of the commander and many decks slow down significantly. Has worked for me quite well so far.

Cards I like:
Nature's Claim - I don't even play it, but I like the card and want to put it in something.
Cremate - The effectiveness of this card amazes me, even if the impact is lower than other grave hate. I can be a 3 for 1 if you think about it. Remove nasty card from graveyard, counter spell or ability targeting said card, draw you a card.
Faerie Macabre - instant speed, reuseable creature
Voidslime Disallow Insidious Will - Insidious Will is a pet card of mine since release becuase Copying and Redirecting spells is something I find satisfying, and this has the all important hard counter backup for those game winning plays.
Trickbind - havn't seen this in years, but it was a heavily played card years ago. Split second really rains on peoples parade.

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Post by pokken » 9 months ago

I don't worry that much about having answers to everything. I try to have a good number but lots of times it's a better percentage play to have proactive hate for some plays. E.g. not every color has good instant speed yard hate or ways to deal with large attacks.

Sometimes a ghostly prison, ethersworn canonist or grafdiggers cage has to.be enough.

I also play a few decks whose answer is to go bigger faster. Maelstrom wanderer just wants to race with other aggro decks and apply so much pressure to combo players they can't win - or tempo them with a remand or stealing some of their lands or strip mining them

I tend to look at each decks gameplan before thinking about what kind of answers it wants to what. And I don't mind leaving a few weaknesses.
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Post by Sinis » 9 months ago

It depends on the deck. My more control-oriented decks will run lots (and lots AND LOTS) of answers. I favour modal spells that could flexibly answer a variety of things. Something like Repudiate/Replicate is acceptable in a deck that might want a token-clone.

Decks that are more in the aggro or combo/synergy space just run fewer answers, and they tend to be incidental or catch-alls (like counterspells). Sometimes cards like Boros Charm function as an answer (for a planeswalker), but most of the time, it's securing my board or punching for lethal. I find it's not that important, and weirdly, I find that my more proactive decks tend to do better than my control decks. This has come up pretty frequently with Toothy/Pir, which tends to draw a bunch and just overwhelm the table with threats or ways to end the game, while having very few answers of its own (among them Repudiate/Replicate; getting a token copy of Toothy is a recipe for card advantage).

So, not that important. But, that doesn't seem to stop me from running lots of them.

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Post by toctheyounger » 9 months ago

I generally think it's important to have at least one 'Swiss army knife' in a deck. The amount of games I've seen won because no one else was running answers is farcical. Usually it leaves you trying to play the arbiter of justice for the table and that's not ideal. It means you run out of steam before everyone else, so often the better course of action is to turtle shell and just remove pieces that impact you, or take away the time pieces needed to win from the dominant player (if you can recognize it and have the timing right).

My favourite pieces are, for various colour splashes:
Krosan Grip, Constant Mists, Beast within
Unexpectedly Absent, Return to Dust, Generous Gift
Chaos Warp
Rakdos Charm
Aetherize, Pongify, Unsubstantiate

There's obviously plenty of others. Rift, obviously, various fogs, plenty more. For what it's worth I don't think it's worth filling your deck with these. A deck full of answers isn't likely to have a win con of its own, and it's no one persons job to play control police for the table. You shouldn't want to. But definitely having one or two, as well as ways to get them, I've found to be very important. Having an answer at the right time will stop the win being swept out from under you.

There's also the phenomenon that outlasting the table is often what wins the game. If you have more gas in the tank once everyone else is bone dry you're that much more likely to drive home the win. So yeah, having answers, even if it's just one or two, is pretty crucial to my mind.
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Post by DirkGently » 9 months ago

I think "having one answer" is kind of a crutch for people who want to feel better about their decks than they should. "Sure, he won, but I COULD have won if I'd drawn X", that kind of thinking.

What matters is, how reliably can you get that answer when you need it?

I think it can be really valuable to have 1-of niche answers IF you have tutors that can find it at the appropriate time - which is tricky since most tutors are sorceries [citation needed]. If you're just hoping to draw it, meh. I'd focus on having answers for as broad of problems as possible if you're relying mostly on draw. repudiate/replicate is good because it has both modes, so it can play offense or defense. Stifle alone is a good card, but if you aren't playing a decent density of answers, it doesn't matter that much, and I'd think about something more flexible.

A few niche answers I do include in Phelddagrif:

-exiling non-countering counterspells, for boseiju, obliterate, etc.
-nexus of fate to block mill.

those are in addition to a fair bit of draw and tutors so I have decent odds of hitting them (well, nexus I don't actually need to hit of course).

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Post by KMA_Again » 9 months ago

I love playing control as I love having a ton of answers in my deck for anything that could happen. You don't need a lot of win cons, just enough that can make it through, especially resilient/recyclable ones. If I don't have a pile of answers in my deck I feel powerless to stop big threats against me.

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Post by gilrad » 9 months ago

I think it's less about YOU having a wide variety of counterplay options as much as THE TABLE having the variety. If someone is going to combo before turn ten using their graveyard and that fact is well known from the moment the commander is revealed, one player hoping for an answer in 18 cards doesn't look hopeful, whereas three players brings the total to 54 cards seen.

It's also why I really like the political nature of cards like scheming symmetry, wishclaw talisman, and even head games, though that also has the benefit of being able to close the game once you're ahead as well.

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Post by Dunharrow » 9 months ago

So my Karador deck is a deck that has in the past had answers to everything. But it was also possible to tutor out those answers every game. The deck has a ton of tutors. I could also do things like dig tutor and reanimate creatures at instant speed to break up a combo.
But since I decided to push it into cEDH territory, it has dropped some answers in favour of becoming a more efficient deck.

I think that if you want to have answers to everything, you need to be able to get them when you need them. Having a silver bullet in the 99 doesn't do much unless you can reliably get it when you need it. That's why GBx toolbox decks that can tutor out your hate cards when you need them are often the control/stax style decks. They want to control the game, then win.

But most decks can do a better job of winning by pushing their own win conditions than by answering other people's, so I think most of the time it is not a good idea to play silver bullets.

Like the card mentioned in the original post - If the card has use as a clone, sure keep it in. But if you are just playing it for the stifle effect, then it is not a good silver bullet unless you can get it whenever you need it.

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Post by hyalopterouslemur » 9 months ago

The big question is getting reliable, versatile answers. Also, getting cheap, instant-speed answers. Card advantage is good, but you'd be surprised how many times you just want an instant. Though you will also want some wipes, both to deal with shroud/hexproof and protection and when you're losing by so much.

I place synergy at the end of my list of priorities. It's good to have, such as playing Aura Mutation or Artifact Mutation with Purphoros, God of the Forge out, but when you're talking about five mana or more or sorcery-speed, the question becomes why.
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Post by NZB2323 » 9 months ago

It totally varies in my decks. The only interaction pieces I run in Edgar Markov is goblin bombardment and Charming vampire. The deck is an aggro deck so the goal is to kill my opponents before they get going.

My Niv-Mizzet, Parun decks runs tons of interactions. In many ways it's a draw go deck.

My pauper Edric, spymaster of trest deck runs 5 counterspells, 4 artifact/enchantment removers, and Lingnify, but it's limited by being a pauper deck and wants to be aggro.

My Captain Sisay deck can find an answer at instant speed, and play it at instant speed with Vivien, champion of the wilds.

My cleric tribal Tymna the weaver and Ravos, soultender plays a lot of answers, but most of them are creatures who can't be played at instant speed. Maybe I should add Vedalkken Orrery to the deck.

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Post by Mookie » 9 months ago

I generally try to run answers for every permanent type in my decks, but how many answers and the quality thereof depends heavily on the colors of the deck. Kess has only one or two answers to enchantments, while Animar only has one or two answers to creatures.

As far as it goes for answers to instants and sorceries, the quality goes down significantly - unless you're running counterspells, there aren't really good ways to stop most of them. That's part of what makes cards like Cyclonic Rift and Torment of Hailfire so powerful - most colors just don't have good answers to them.

As a corollary, the things my decks have answers for varies greatly based on what the deck is doing. Thada has a bunch of countermagic for Cyclonic Rift and mass artifact removal spells, while Teysa has recursion to recover from a board wipe, and Sharuum has artifact/enchantment removal to get rid of Stony Silence and Aura of Silence.

I'd also say that the 80/20 rule applies here - if you consider the amount of interaction necessary to solve 100% of all situations, you can probably solve 80% of those problems with 20% of the interaction. I wouldn't try to solve more niche / obscure cards unless they consistently came up in my meta. (for example, I could run Seal of Primordium in Animar to answer Humility.... but as I almost never run into it, it isn't worth the effort)

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Post by schweinefett » 9 months ago

The only deck i have that can answer almost any threat at instant speed is my legacy high tide deck. If anything that's almost always the plan with said deck (with 'my death' on the stack).

In EDH, i don't think in terms of being able to answer everything to be necessary. Most my my decks are between 40-60% towards my game plan, and maybe 10-15% towards answers. Bear in mind that there are usually 2 other players in the game who can answer threats too, so it's not like I always need to be the one who has to answer the problem.

Also, in general, my focus in EDH is generally to answer the player (i.e. kill problematic players) and not necessarily the cards that are on the table/stack.

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Post by Rorseph » 9 months ago

Let me preface this by saying removal is important. You need to have answers for things, but these should probably be focused around answering things that ruin your day. Artifact removal for things like Pithing Needle or Phyrexian Revoker when your commander has an activated ability or Torpor Orb when you've got a lot of ETB effects. Enchantment removal for stuff like Rest In Peace or Leyline of the Void if you've got a graveyard strategy. Have answers to protect your strategy.

However, my thoughts are that we might be approaching this from the wrong angle. The real answer you probably need a higher threat density. To quote Dave Price, "while there are wrong answers, there are no wrong threats." I'm very much of the mind that it can be advantageous to put the board on notice and be the beatdown you want to see in the world. Granted, this is can be (and often is) an uphill slog in a multiplayer format like EDH/Commander but there are rewards to playing cards that must be answered. Additionally, there are ways to be the 'beatdown' and play aggressively beyond just simple aggro strategies. Any deck that's proactive can slot into the 'beatdown' role. Make things happen and you won't need to have to worry about answers to everything, just the things that slow you down.
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Post by Rumpy5897 » 9 months ago

Mookie wrote:
9 months ago
I'd also say that the 80/20 rule applies here - if you consider the amount of interaction necessary to solve 100% of all situations, you can probably solve 80% of those problems with 20% of the interaction.
Pretty much this - removal needs to be universal, and catch most sensible scenarios. There's little room for synergy and what-if'ing, answers should be utility first and foremost. Swords to Plowshares and Beast Within are two of my gold-standard measuring sticks, as they can be fired off with laser precision in times of need if you had the foresight to leave the mana up. Counters are a solid catch-all, but I don't run much blue so can't be too preachy on the subject. Wipes are a little more situational, as different decks have different criteria for breaking symmetry, but Blasphemous Act and Toxic Deluge are recurring all-stars. I acknowledge the importance of modular wipes that can reach non-creatures, but don't find myself using them a lot. Probably as I'm the one most likely sitting on a pile of non-creatures myself :P
Rorseph wrote:
9 months ago
Have answers to protect your strategy.

However, my thoughts are that we might be approaching this from the wrong angle. The real answer you probably need a higher threat density.
Hot take incoming - I've actually been largely decreasing my interaction total in decks with time. This is not objectively correct to do, as evidenced by my reference cEDH list being packed to the gills with interaction. However, in a lower power world that's not just about winning, but rather having fun while trying to win, I've found excessive removal to lead to a negative gameplay experience. I've always been of the persuasion that it's better to squeeze in 3+ games where people's decks do their thing in the space of one never-ending wrath crawl, and my group seems to agree with me by virtue of their own deck construction. As such, you'll rarely see me packing double digits of combined forms of interaction, and instead focusing on trying to get my heap to do its thing.

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Post by toctheyounger » 9 months ago

Rumpy5897 wrote:
9 months ago
Hot take incoming - I've actually been largely decreasing my interaction total in decks with time. This is not objectively correct to do, as evidenced by my reference cEDH list being packed to the gills with interaction. However, in a lower power world that's not just about winning, but rather having fun while trying to win, I've found excessive removal to lead to a negative gameplay experience. I've always been of the persuasion that it's better to squeeze in 3+ games where people's decks do their thing in the space of one never-ending wrath crawl, and my group seems to agree with me by virtue of their own deck construction. As such, you'll rarely see me packing double digits of combined forms of interaction, and instead focusing on trying to get my heap to do its thing.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing to do at all, whether it's objectively correct or not. There's something to be said for the concept of 'threat overload' (yes, I picked up the phrase from dragonlover's Golos primer application, it's worth using more). It's a more proactive way to play, it's more fun and it can be pretty successful. My Vial Smasher/Kraum superfriends jank build sort of does this - the idea is to cause opponents to have that 'deer in the headlights' reaction of not knowing which way to direct answers and possibly misplaying; even if they ping the right thing you're still well set for keeping your momentum up with layers of synergy. My Nissa build can do the same, and most games where either decks is in this position I either do well or win. There's also the thing of having a more memorable game, too - crazy games are what make this format fun.

Answers definitely don't need to catch everything, just most of the things that your particular build tends to struggle with. We're seeing a lot of card tags come up over and over in this thread that answer a ton of stuff. Beast Within, Swords to Plowshares, Anguished Unmaking type things that are just a solidly versatile 'no thank you'. Being able to find them when you need them is important, or having enough redundancy in answers to be able to reliably hold one or two in hand as needed; but regarding the latter there's definitely a point where you can go too far. All you really need is enough to keep your deck humming.

I will say, having seen a few more Chulane, Teller of Tales deck about lately I've been thinking about running more instant speed 'stop you in your tracks' things like Mindbreak Trap, Summary Dismissal or Time Stop. They're probably pretty niche outside of this application. These kind of decks irk me though - Chulane, Animar, Yarok and such, they're not quite good enough for cEDH but streets ahead of a casual deck and they can just run away with a game far too easily. Maybe it's just me - not a fan.
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Post by Rorseph » 9 months ago

Rumpy5897 wrote:
9 months ago
However, in a lower power world that's not just about winning, but rather having fun while trying to win, I've found excessive removal to lead to a negative gameplay experience.
Another thing that happens here is that you're simplifying your lines of play. Since this is already one of the more complex and skill intensive formats, dialing back interaction allows you to be more social in this social format because you're not sweating as much. Win/win?
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Post by toctheyounger » 9 months ago

Rorseph wrote:
9 months ago
Another thing that happens here is that you're simplifying your lines of play. Since this is already one of the more complex and skill intensive formats, dialing back interaction allows you to be more social in this social format because you're not sweating as much. Win/win?
Definitely a positive on a casual table. Also, it's hard to make friends when all your plays say no; it's part of why stax isn't popular with most people.

I've also found it pertinent to remember that you don't need a clear board all of the time either. Say there's a couple control pieces that are putting pressure on the board. Remove the one that causes the most trouble for you, and leave whatever else that causes more issues for the rest of the board than yourself. It makes sense that any deck has a finite number of answers, so use them sparingly. You're still doing the table a favour, you're just doing yourself MORE of a favour.
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Post by FoxOfWar » 9 months ago

I try to run a reasonable set of catch-most's, but at the same time... I run enough decks (and then some) that them having a 'weak point' is fine.

My Jeleva can and will lose to a well-timed aggro push, as obviously a lot of the answers are dependant on me being able to attack with Jeleva in the first place(and somewhat getting lucky with her ability) and she's a 1/3.

My Breya certainly folds to a lategame artifact sweeper, since a lot of my recursion and draw... are also artifacts.

My impulse-draw-threats Etali is not the best at answering combos due to the chaotic nature of the deck (and being mono-red).

And so on. I try to have a reasonable answer or two to things that would make my life hard... but I play on relatively casual tables. I don't think I've ever seen a Humility, and very few Torpor Orbs, for example.

I also very much enjoy being the one people have to react to, so I have less answers just because it dilutes from being able to be the threat. I don't need a wrath when I'm the one with the biggest, baddest board, I need an Overrun.
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hyalopterouslemur
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Post by hyalopterouslemur » 8 months ago

[mention]FoxOfWar[/mention] Allow us to introduce ourselves

(Seriously, that's a whole other question on overrated cards, but since you're already in green, Overwhelming Stampede is generally better. You just need a creature with power 3 or greater to make it equal Overrun but easier to cast, power 4 or greater makes it better.)

Back on topic, I think it's casual versus competitive. Casual players, in my experience, it's pretty much the pro-combo "format" because of how much control is decried. (Ironically, by aggro and midrange players.)
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Post by 3drinks » 8 months ago

[mention]darrenhabib[/mention] you know my thoughts on this since the Greven thread, but to chime in since I don't post enough publicly outside the RCotD thread;

Answers are important. I'd argue you need a multitude of them, because this is a fast format that can come from all directions, regardless of the archetype you're on. Otherwise you know what you are? An uninteractive combo deck, and you just turned the game you're playing into a race to combo. You can't play an all in deck with one answer with any kind of regularity, not just from a feasibility point of view, but also from a personal one; with such a build, you'll begin to develop linear play patterns and soon after, become bored with the deck and thus killing the investment you made into that deck's portion of your collection.
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Post by hyalopterouslemur » 8 months ago

Exactly! The hate on control decks always bugged me, since the combo deck is far worse. The game's meta is sadly somewhat anti-aggro/midrange, but it's like, really? You want t1/2 wins? Play Vintage. Because house-banning control or failing to include answers in your deck, every deck, is how you turn every format into Vintage.
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Post by Rumpy5897 » 8 months ago

I'm not following your logic here. Answer density has nothing to do with the deck's win plan. Just to illustrate, my Feather and Ghired both pack extremely similar removal suites. One is a horribly uninteractive cast spam machine, the other is straight-faced aggro. If you look at linearity from a conceptual angle, anything with a game plan qualifies as linear. Ghired (the less conventionally linear of the two, as most of Feather's games end with Phyrexian Altar setups) plays creatures, copies them and punches people. The exact configuration of copied creature, copy engine and various support/value pieces kicking around may vary, but the overarching idea is the same. Kaalia cheats in fatties and screws with resources to break symmetry. You get the point.

That said, I don't think anyone's advocating for an answer-less goldfish town, just for some restraint to stop games degenerating into a never-ending removal garbage fire. My most interaction-light decks still run five pieces of removal, which allows some hope of having a response in an emergency.

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Post by plushpenguin » 8 months ago

Every archetype needs answers, as every deck has weaknesses that can be exploited by the right cards. Or simply needs to buy time against something faster than itself.

I don't hate control decks. In fact, I enjoy the challenge, but I pack enough heat to make the 40 life buffer... less of a hinderance.

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