Recently on GeneralDamageControl.com JamesD wrote an article attacking EDHREC.com on how it spoils the creativity of the format. I’m here to defend EDHREC and also propose that even if you don’t like Net-decking that the site is still net-beneficial to our community.
James D’s Point
James D argues that EDHREC is spoiling the possibilities for creativity by providing players information on what cards are common in various commander decks.
I believe that it’s one of the worst things to happen to our format… It 100% leads to streamlined, “best” decks and boring games. “Oh, you’re playing Dragonlord Ojutai? Then I know exactly what is in your deck, because it’s all on that site”. How is that fun? You’re just building the same deck as literally everybody else.
No, It’s Not.
Actually you are not building the same deck, EDHREC is only providing users information on commonly used cards that are popular. These ‘popular cards’ often number by more than 100 non-land cards and usually at least 40 or more non-basic lands: even with the recommendations you have to filter all of these options down into what eventually becomes your deck.
Also note that the recommendation generator does not capture everything – it is only working with data that is captured, and you can’t capture everything in a format that is played heavily in paper. For example, if you go to EDHREC and type in Marchesa, The Black Rose you will not find the card Lifeline – a card that some Marchesa decks might want – is not visible anywhere on the page.
While my Marchesa example is a corner case think also about how long EDH has been around. There are so many internet resources to find information on commander that I would argue that creativity nowadays in EDH is ultra subjective and can only be seen in the eye of the beholder.
Net-Decking VS Creativity
The arguments for and against net-decking have been around ever since Magic:The Gathering developed an online presence and tournament reports included top performing decks. Here is the basic breakdown of the pro/against arguments and their stakeholders:
Pro Net-Decking: These players want to learn more about the game, how to build decks, and expand their overall palate. They don’t want to spend tons of hours building their own deck and prefer to take the net-decking route as a means to find a playable deck to start getting repetitions with.
Pro Creativity: People who want to play creatively (and bear with me creativity is a super vague term) often want to play with lesser-known cards and/or experience the game on their own terms.
Because net-decking can be comparable to conformity and trying to enforce the idea of “this is how you do it”, the self proclaimed creatives will naturally never surrender fully to the idea of net-decking. The two parties’ ideas can’t effectively coexist. It’s why Magic:The Gathering has many different formats and ways to play the game so that players can find groups that play similar to their preferred style.
Why EDHREC is Good for the Format
No matter what side of the spectrum you fall in for the netdecking/creativity (if any at all) I don’t think you can argue that EDHREC isn’t good for the format. It provides a service to a large audience, and this support drives EDH. This drive indirectly effects local gaming stores, various online communities, and kitchen tables all around the world. With all of the content creators, online communities, and services that exist in Magic there are both positives and negatives but a lot of the services are driving the overall audience for magic and this inspires both the player base and WOTC.
Even if you yourself don’t benefit a lot from the recommendation engine think of all the new players who want to enter the format but either don’t know much about magic at all or feel overwhelmed by the vast amount of options in front of them. If EDHREC didn’t exist there would still be net-decking or recommendations of some type – it would just be done in another context or facilitated through other channels like tappedout.net. EDHREC is doing something to fulfill part of the MTG market demand and doing it well.