Whenever Dana and I want to go to bed mad at each other we pull out our Commander decks and play a few rounds of one on one. Invariably this gets the job done, and often it ends with one of us (no comment) hurling their hand at their opponent in frustration. And this is when “a couple of rounds” doesn’t turn into several hours of grinding a hopeless matchup, because one of us (not the same one!) hates to lose. Yet we continue to do this from time to time, despite all feedback that suggests that one on one EDH is a bad idea.

Why do we engage in this behavior? Well, for one thing we’re both apparently masochists. But less flippantly, we are driven to play out some higher-level Magic and it’s a constant challenge to keep our decks tuned to a place where we can have these games without one of us simply rolling over the other.

This will be complicated by the new Legendary rule. Dana plays Sigarda, Host of Herons, which for a while now has meant that all my blue decks run some Clone effects to get rid of the damn thing. This is no longer a winning strategy! I get the reasons they made the change, although I think it manages the holy trifecta of being fairly annoying on flavor, competitive, and casual levels. But all of a sudden one of Dana’s decks has expanded in its power level, and that throws a wrench into our little two-person meta.

It’s about balance. In a closed meta (whether it be you and your significant other, roommate, or platonic life-mate) keeping your decks balanced is the only way to ensure you’ll continue to be able to play the type of Magic that most people like to play. When we were grinding Modern, that meant that we didn’t just play Eggs versus Storm every night, and when it comes to EDH it means that we try to keep our instruments well-tuned.

One of the things that dropped out of our little meta-of-two was the omnipresence of wrath effects. For a while both of our rosters tended to be full of them, but it became almost impossible to win through normal means. This meant our games drifted into more irritating pastures, with cards like Lurking Predators answering game plans like resource denial, as one of us has a fondness for Sinkhole (she is a monster), and combo, like the Splinter Twin package I was running in the Zedruu the Greathearted deck when it was still configured to theoretically be Hugs.

This is not the style of Magic we like to play. Dana’s two main decks are an Enchantress brew (Sigarda), that is shockingly resilient, and a jujitsu deck (Sygg, River Cutthroat), that actually runs counterspells. Unlike Dana, I don’t have the focus to just have two EDH decks, but my perpetual stalwarts tend to either be value decks (like Edric, Spymaster of Trest and Glissa, the Traitor) or ramp decks (like Ulamog the Infinte Gyre and Maelstrom Wanderer). These strategies balance well against one another! Sygg is good against the ramp decks, but tends to weaken when faced with equally powerful card advantage engines. Sigarda can lock out my Mulldrifters, actually creating board states where it costs me more mana to attack than I even can access, but when faced with one big swing she’s a little more vulnerable. Meanwhile, there are always exceptions, games in which one of us slips through the other’s guard a bit earlier than expected, or where a promising hand collapses on a series of bad cascades. Not that I have any games in mind. Nothing like that…

But I am worried that this new legendary change is going to shake things up. My more competitive blue decks have been abusing these rules for ages, whether it’s Phantasmal Image and Phyrexian Metamorph tag-teaming the indestructible and hexproof generals that some people play, to the inclusion of Jace Beleren to keep opposing Jaces in line. None of these strategies work anymore, and I am afraid that it’s going to take more drastic measures.

In blue decks this means more counterspells and effects to “tuck” opposing Commanders. Dana and I have long thought this to be a rather dick move, but I fear I am running low on options. In white decks this means running mass exile effects (like Final Judgment and Merciless Eviction) over the less frustrating wrath effects that still let reanimate shenanigans get their feet off the ground.

It will take a while to rebalance our own closed meta, and in the meantime I expect more thrown cards and rounds that never end. But it’s a goal worth pursuing, because Commander games tend to be a fun way to while away the time in a way that is usually less true of more competitive formats. The increased variance means that games don’t always play out the same (or similar) ways, and it also means that sometimes it’s just as fun to lose. But when one of us gets too powerful, the games homogenize again, and that’s bad for our fun levels.

So, if you ever get graced with the chance to play in a closed meta, keep an eye on your power levels. There’s nothing that can make a person quit playing with you faster than a series of blow-out games, and a meta of two is infinitely more enjoyable than playing in a meta of one.

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