Graveborn Musings – What is Casual?

I’ve been thinking about this question for a while, partly because the closest thing I’ve got to a regular playgroup virtually dissolved at one point because there were too many egos and too many different ideas about how Magic should be played. However, I had an experience tonight that kind of put things into perspective for me, so here is my take on what it means to be playing casual Magic. The way I see it, casual is something that we can define, even though that definition contains a fair amount of subjectivity. You may well disagree – this is a question that has been around since the very beginnings of the game, so I don’t expect to resolve the debate in one article – but it’s important to at least think about what we mean when we call ourselves casual players. Having a clearer picture of what that means can help you to get more out of your play experience and build your community better.

The Game

It started with a game that I lost tonight to a Skithiryx deck piloted by a local player. Well, actually, it began when I was reading posts on the EDH message boards about how he designed the deck and how other people felt about playing against it (or a less efficient version of the same type of deck), and thinking “something’s not right here.” Still, when I turned up tonight there was a three-way just starting up, with Skithiryx and two other decks that I knew to be dangerous but much less explosive. A game’s a game, and I wanted to see if the deck was as fast as advertised, so I pulled out Thraximundar (decklist is here) and joined in.

Before my fifth turn I was dead, despite killing Skithiryx once with an Innocent Blood. Then I sat and watched the rest of the game for 30 minutes before it finally ended. Not my most enjoyable night of Magic, it must be said.

Now it could be that this whole article is just sour grapes over an early exit – I don’t think so, but I’m putting that option out there just to be fair. Also, I’ll show you both sides of the story by sharing the responses I got when I suggested that it didn’t seem like a casual deck to me.

First: “creatures are interactive, therefore it’s casual.” Now, it seems obvious to me that this argument doesn’t hold water, as it fails to distinguish between different creatures. Obviously there’s a difference between “attack you with a vanilla 1/1 until you die” and “attack you with a hasty, shrouded Blightsteel Colossus on turn three, good game.” Not all creatures are equally interactive, and in the specific case of Skithiryx, the combination of haste, evasion and quick kill from poison counters are all designed to minimize the potential axes of interaction. From my point of view, I had so few chances to interact with the deck that it might as well have been an infinite mana/fireball combo on turn five; at least that would have ended the game outright so I didn’t have to sit on my arse for half an hour.

Second: “that’s not broken; if I was going to play a broken deck I’d play Erayo or something and win on the first turn.” Again, that’s a weak argument; more casual than the unfunnest deck in the format is not the same as casual. Jack the Ripper can’t plead innocence because Hitler was so much worse (not that I’m comparing an extreme Magic deck to murder!).

The Lesson

So this guy who claims that he “normally” casts Skithiryx on the first turn, or casts him with haste on the second, killing at least one person on the fourth turn, said his deck was casual, and I said it wasn’t. What I have come to realize though, is that we’re both right.

You see, casual isn’t a format, in the way that Standard, Vintage or even Commander are formats. The same deck can be suitable for casual play in one situation but can be the purest douchebaggery in a different context. How do you know?

Casual Magic means you care about how much fun your opponents are having.

That’s the difference. Casual players care about, and are willing to take some measure of responsibility for, everyone else’s enjoyment. You are playing casual Magic if you don’t want your wins to come at the expense of other players’ enjoyment. You are not playing casual Magic when your “fundamental turn”[i] is on or before the turn where anyone else in your group plays their first spell. You are playing casual Magic when you are prepared to make a sub-optimal play if it will help the rest of the table to enjoy the game more. You are not playing casual Magic when the rest of the table complains about your deck every week, but you keep on playing it anyway.[ii]

What It Means

Now, I’m offering up this definition for your consideration, not claiming this as the word of God or something (and seriously, why is Word of God not the name of Magic card?). Is it a good way to think about casual play, or am I just full of it? One way we can evaluate whether or not this is a useful way to define casual play is to look at how it helps us to deal with some of the typical arguments in the casual play debate.

1) “That isn’t a casual deck”

Sorry to say, not quite true.[iii] When you say this, what you are really saying is that it isn’t considered fun in you playgroup, and that is a valid point. But there are no absolutes; any deck could potentially find a home in some playgroup somewhere, no matter how good, bad or ugly it might be. If the rest of the playgroup expects a 10-20 round game with lots of creature combat and the occasional 100-point Drain Life, and you build your decks accordingly, then you’re being casual for that group. If your group expects the game to be over by the third turn and you lock everyone out with Limited Resources on your second turn, then you’re being casual for that group.

Now, Mr. Skithiryx regularly plays EDH with another guy whose deck is just as explosive, and they enjoy smashing each other in the face with those decks. In that group of two, those decks qualify as casual, because they love playing that way. In the occasional store-organized EDH tournament here, super-fast combo wins are the norm, so again Skithiryx might be considered casual in that environment. Personally, I think that is the Magic equivalent of a game of ‘Wank the Biscuit’, so joining them would not be a fun experience for me. I could go a step further and say that nobody else in our playgroup has, to my knowledge, decks that are designed to win that quickly, so in the context of our broader playgroup those are probably not casual decks. However, we should all get out of the habit of saying “That’s not a casual deck” as if it were an absolute, rather than a relative statement.

2) “Stop whining and play better decks”

The person who says this is to the rest of their playgroup is, in my experience, invariably not being casual. They are basically saying “I am not responsible for your play experience”, which is correct in a tournament setting, but is not casual Magic.

As an aside, I often find that the super-explosive broken deck doesn’t do as well in the second game, because people focus all of their attention on it. I played against Skithiryx again with a deck that featured more answers to his artifact acceleration, and the game was quite different – apparently Return to Dust, Oblivion Stone and a recurring Putrefy were all it took to slow him down. I had just started ransacking his graveyard with a Lightning Greave-ed Teneb when the pizza place closed, but things weren’t looking good for him. The question is, was that game more fun for me? Not really; believe it or not I don’t enjoy games where I have to focus all of my energies killing the same guy every time or I lose, even when I’m successful. That kind of play is appropriate for Archenemy, but in regular multiplayer I enjoy a pace that let’s things unfold, lets everyone do their thing, get some different cards on the table and so on, and so do the vast majority of casual players that I’ve met. In other words, while losing to those kinds of decks is generally an unfun experience, beating them on their own terms is not everyone’s cup of tea either, and thus not always casual.

3) “Casual players don’t want to win”

Not true – this is why I would use the term ‘tournament player’ as the opposite of ‘casual player’ instead of ‘competitive player.’ I consider myself to be a competitive player – I play to win, I tweak my decks constantly and I read whatever multiplayer strategy I can find online – but for the casual player (at least as I’ve defined them here) the ideal game is one where the rest of the group is having a good time while you are beating them. Even in professional sports, being competitive doesn’t mean cheating or playing in an unsportsmanlike way. In the same way, playing casually doesn’t mean that you can’t be competitive, it just means that winning isn’t your only consideration.

4) “How can I care if my opponents are having fun when I’m trying to beat them?”

Honestly, I consider this to be a pretty stupid question; the two are not mutually exclusive. Give everyone a chance to play the game.

5) “But I like building killer decks and winning with huge early combos.”

If winning is the most important thing for you, and you don’t care how you win or how your opponents feel about it, then that’s why there are tournaments. When your casual games aren’t qualitatively different from your Vintage tournament games, and no one else in your playgroup has decks that resemble top tier tourney beasts, then you are not really being casual. Once you understand that casual and tournament play are different, then you can start getting something different out of your casual play experience, but you can’t expect every other casual player to share your focus on that narrow part of the game that revolves around early- or mid-game combo kills.

Keeping it Casual

So what can you do to keep your play casual – and by extension, keep your group as tight as possible? The most obvious thing is to pay attention to the rest of your group. What do they enjoy? What are they expecting/hoping to get out of their games – and are you an essential part of their gaming fun, or an obstacle to their enjoyment? If the people sitting across from you are opponents above all else, then you need to rethink your approach to the game. We may not always have the good fortune to play with friends in the “best buds for life” sense, but casual play only begins when you can think of the people sitting across from you as fellow gamers who have an equal right to a fun gaming experience, rather than just ‘opponents.’

Even before you get to the venue, you have a choice between casual and non-casual play. How many decks are you bringing? How many different play styles and power levels will I find in your deck box? If you’re only bringing your strongest deck, or decks, then you’re missing the point of casual play. If all of your decks are control, or aggro, or combo, or happy tree friends tribal, then you are not doing enough to ensure that your playgroup is having a good time. I cannot stress this enough: more decks is better!

Whether you identify yourself as Spike, Johnny, Timmy or other, bringing more decks will lead to a more enjoyable gaming experience for you, as well as your playgroup. Are you a Spike who wants to prove yourself? Then prove you can beat me with a Standard deck, or a Tribal deck (Legacy Goblins doesn’t count!), or a Budget deck, not just with that $1,000+ masterpiece that you’ve spent the last year fine-tuning. Are you a Johnny who wants to express yourself through your decks? Then I’m probably preaching to the choir, but make sure you express the full range of your personality, rather than just using one deck that represents your dominant side. Are you a Timmy who wants every game to be a fun and unique experience? Think how much more fun you’ll have when you play something new each time!

As far as I’m concerned the only acceptable excuses for bringing one deck to a gaming session are:

  1. I just started; I don’t have enough cards to build a new deck
  2. I’m stony; I can’t afford enough cards to build a new deck
  3. We never play more than one game per session

The first two excuses are acceptable for a limited time only. After a little while though, you or someone in your playgroup should arrange to get another deck together for you. It’s not hard: 24 Swamps, 20 Black creatures and 16 Black spells is all you need. It’s OK if your deck is weak and unfocused, as long as it’s new – a deck should always be a journey rather than a destination anyway, so play a piece of crap, enjoy the new interactions and evolve it as new cards become available to you. The third excuse is only acceptable if you’re bringing a different deck each time. When you bring the same deck to each gaming session, you’re neglecting your responsibility to the rest of the group.

Finally, the most difficult question of all: when to kill? If you usually kill one player quickly and leave them sitting on the sidelines watching the rest of the game for a long time, then you are not doing all you can to ensure that they are having a good time. I’m not saying you should throw the game away because you let a big threat develop, but I think you’re dangerously close to being non-casual if you kill a player early just because you can. Casual doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t kill anyone, but it does suggest that ousting another player is a decision that shouldn’t be made lightly, especially if there aren’t any other games for them to jump into.[iv]

I often hear the excuse “I’m playing an aggro deck; it’s what I’m supposed do!”, but if you build a (usually aggro) multiplayer deck with the sole intention of killing one person before you run out of steam and either die yourself or have minimal impact for the rest of the game, then you are not being casual. It’s easy to kill one person in a typical multiplayer game, but why limit yourself to that low-hanging fruit? Step up to the challenge of building a deck that is capable of winning the whole game; when you succeed it will be a greater accomplishment, and in the process of pacing yourself, you’ll create a more enjoyable gaming experience for everyone else. And no, playing aggro isn’t a valid reason for ignoring this. I loves me some aggro in multiplayer, but not at the expense of everyone else’s play experience, so my aggro decks are usually designed and played to end the game quicker for everyone, not just one person.

Instead of playing with Terminatoresque efficiency, spread the love around a little bit. This is ‘fair’, gives everyone an equal chance to develop, and from a strategic point of view makes you look like less of a threat. As a general rule, the player who just killed someone singlehandedly in the first few turns is the biggest threat to kill someone else in the next few turns. It might be counterintuitive, but you are sometimes more likely to be the last one standing if you let a weak player live a little longer than if you finish them off just because you can.


My intention with this article was not to dictate the terms and conditions of casual Magic from on high, but to contribute in some small way to building a shared base of attitude, behavior and expectation for the casual community. In the end, winning is fun, but it’s not worth alienating your playgroup. When everyone is on the same page, then it’s a real win-win situation for everyone, and when they aren’t, your favorite game can become much less fun, so it’s definitely worth going out of your way to pay attention to the enjoyment of others. And as an added bonus for those who still dream of first turn kills, the occasional extreme deck will ruffle fewer feathers when you’ve already proven to your group that you care about them enough not to get carried away with the ultraviolence.

[i] The “fundamental turn” of a combo deck is the turn at which they consistently “go off” and win the game. In some cases, it is also the turn right before they get roundly pummeled by the rest of the playgroup.

[ii] This can be a double-edged sword. If your deck is so weak and boring that your friends don’t enjoy playing against it, but you’re too lazy to spend an hour on Sunday afternoon improving your deck to the point where it challenges and interests the rest of your group, then you aren’t as casual as you think you are!

[iii] And yes, this means that I made a faulty argument earlier this evening. It happens – but the purpose of an argument is not to shout at your opponent until they stop disagreeing with you; it’s to understand everyone’s point of view and come to a better understanding of the issue. That’s my goal here, even if it means admitting to (gasp!!) being wrong.

[iv] And don’t kill the same guy first in consecutive games without a damn good reason. If you get to play for three hours but they only get to play for 30 minutes because you ousted them first in every game, then you’re responsible for screwing up their night.


About Graveborn Muse

Daryl Bockett has been an avid Magic addict since Legends/Revised. He lives and breathes deckbuilding and casual play. "The more the merrier" is his creed! In those brief moments when he isn't playing, reading or thinking about Magic, he teaches at Rikkyo University in Tokyo. He has a Ph.D. in International Relations, which is basically only useful for helping him to understand the strategic interactions at a multiplayer table.
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29 Responses to Graveborn Musings – What is Casual?

  1. Dominik says:

    Loved your latest article! Real casual gold!
    …. this is casual Magic like I love it… and at its best.
    Probably the best article on that matter I have ever read.
    So there is nothing else to say, than what I always say: “Keep it casual!”
    you just showed us how!

  2. Dominik says:

    I wrote another rant about Spikes in EDH last week and will follow up with an article about how to teach your fellow spike about casual… but am still unsure how that could work without being an ass yourself. Any ideas how to do that?

  3. Seedborn Muse says:

    Just beat the deck enough without showing off. Spikes get away with terrors at the table not strictly because their decks are good, but because the things that beat their decks aren’t played as often in casual. Decks that make an absurd amount of tokens early still die to Pyroclasm, but not everyone plays it. Start including it in a bunch of decks, and suddenly everything’s different.

    Treat Spikes like the severely warped metagame they bring. Leyline of the Void was nothing until Dredge showed up. Night of Souls’ Betrayal (!) and Temporal Isolation (!!) were legitimate options against ThopterDepths. Take a Johnny card that also happens to hose the Spike’s deck, build around it, and play it all the time against him. It can work.

  4. Andy says:

    I like the idea of this article, the ‘casualness inquisition’ is starting to go a little far. I don’t think trying to categorize ‘casual’ or ‘not casual’ is important because the term is used so flexibly across such a broad spectrum of people and playgroups that it holds virtually no meaning, and trying to categorize it just alienates people who don’t fit a given definition. I think the idea we’re looking for here needs to move away from quantifying ‘casualness’ and towards players being honest and receptive with other players (which is what this article is about in part). The term ‘social’ needs to replace ‘casual’ in most player’s lexicon was being the type of game they are looking for.

    I pretty routinely sit down and play ‘casual’ Legacy with other players; games last well under three turns, but that’s just how we roll. It doesn’t make it any less casual for the type of game we’re trying to play and have agreed upon when we pulled out our decks with the most expensive sleeves. Other people’s games in eternal ‘casual’ have no restrictions and consist of Fastbond/Zuran Orb/Crucible of Worlds lock decks and the like. We’re meeting each others expectations, as you said, but those game don’t fit many of the other criteria.

    Instead of trying to categorize people into boxes and camps, which creates a very uncomfortable ‘us vs them’ atmosphere, I think we all just need to agree that all casual players need to be more social about the way we play. Like you’ve said Daryl, just try to have a good time and make sure everyone else does. Don’t do things that upset people, it’s just bad form. Don’t tell people “Y DONT U RAISE UR GAEM” because you just sound like a pathetic washout from real formats (where your efforts would be better focused). If somebody is dominating your table game after game, don’t get all passive/aggressive/pissy on them, just SAY “I don’t really like playing against your deck, can you play something else please?” Most people are so reasonable about this, but sometimes just need to actually be told this kind of thing. There’s not that many people out there hellbent on ruining kitchen table games in real life (on the internet, I’m sure things are different, but that’s why I don’t play online).

  5. Graveborn Muse says:

    That’s the kind of thing I was trying to get at Andy – you and your friends can play 3-turn Legacy under the casual rubric, and my friend Jeff can play his Aisling Leprechaun deck that hasn’t been updated since Homelands in a different playgroup and that’s casual too. Problems arise when people try to play those types of decks together. Both types of players may say “my deck is casual so I don’t need to change the way I play” (although in my experience, the players with the more powerful decks are more likely to do so – YMMV), and so I think it’s important to have a way of thinking about casual that is relative to the playgroup and the players rather than the decks.
    And while being social is part of it, isn’t the Pro Tour quite a social situation? All of the top Pros know each other, hang out and party together, but there are only a few situations when someone is going to change the way they play in order to get a friend a win. I think it’s easier to define the word ‘casual’ (which has strong Magic-specific connotations) than ‘social’ – and without a shared understanding of what the words mean, the same problems will recur, I believe.

  6. Don aka. Rishana says:

    It’s obvious that lately, Sean’s Akroma and my Skithiryx builds are starting to cause some issues. We’ve taken on a new vision of the format that we personally enjoy the hell out of and apparently our playgroup doesn’t want to either combat it or embrace it. To be honest this really saddens me as I’ve build intentional weaknesses into my Skithiryx build to allow for interactivity such as a real lack of ways to deal with Maze of Ith. To be the spirit of interactivity is all about finding new and better ways to deal with problems as Fugu outlined in the threat in which we have discussed these issues.

    The Skithiryx deck was designed initially out of my disappointment with Korlash to effectively deal with Akroma however my joy of playing beatdown in EDH dates all the way back to Worldwake and the release of Abyssal Persecutor. Korlash was a slow general. He’s a house in the 90 minute game but when there’s an Angel of Wrath being well… wrathful on turn two or three, he’s not even a consideration.

    As you can see with the Olinari thread, I originally tried to emulate Sean’s Akroma deck with Spirit of the Night but found that Spirit wasn’t good enough. We put our head together and the Skithiryx deck was born. I had originally really been against the idea as he’s just as lethal in a non-general slot however I fell in love with the turning him 90 degrees.

    Sean and I really enjoy this style. A few others get a some enjoyment out of us Ballstorming our hand onto the board the first turn. I really enjoy stupidity like turn one Mana Crypt, Ancient Tomb, Dynamo, Sculpting Steen the Dynamo, Coalition Relic, go. There are few things I’m afraid of in this format more than a turn one Wayfarer Giant.

    I’ve found the evolution between Sean’s deck and my own to be a fascinating process that I really wish took place to a larger scale in our playgroup. His pathological hate of Maze of Ith comes from me stopping his early Akroma. Skithiryx is deadly but hardly unbeatable. I acknowledge that when I sit down at a table without Sean, I am the threat. I’m comfortable with this. I like to set the pace of the game.


    I do understand that this is not the type of game people want to play. Perhaps this is why there is such reluctance to adapt to either of our decks in the slightest (Seriously, Icy Manipulator fucks us so hard it isn’t funny). If things continue, the play group will break. Brent for the first time expressed he didn’t want to play with either of us and that really saddened me.

    I am currently working on a much slower deck (still mono-black) that uses most of the cards in Skithiryx but isn’t as fast for when people want a different type of game. I’m totally OK with limiting myself at the deck building stage so that other’s can enjoy the game more. However, I do disagree with your assessment of casual and in game tactics. One thing I won’t do is make the sub optimal play. To me, that makes the game trivial.

    So Daryl, how about this. Next time we play, I’ll play my slow MBC build so you can enjoy the game a bit more. I agree with your point that Sean and I are playing a different format. I’m OK with building a deck that is more suited to the game you want to play but I’d like to ask you to give our style a try sometime. I know you have the card pool. Why not whip up a voltron aggro deck and come smash faces with us some time?

    • Graveborn Muse says:

      Thanks Don. I’m glad you guys are open to change. And in turn, I’ll see what I can do to put one of your style decks, although it may take a while. As it happens, my card pool is actually pretty limited relative to the number of decks I have. I’ve got almost everything except the tutors (only the two DTs plus assorted non-tutor tutors), but almost everything is tied up, and am reluctant to break up too many decks…I’ll bring it along as soon as I’ve got it together!

  7. Don aka. Rishana says:

    I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m open to change. I’d word it that I’m willing to play a different deck if people don’t enjoy the aggressive style of Skithiryx. Personally, Sean and I love playing voltron aggro but I understand that this isn’t for everyone. I want people to say “WOW!” when they see my plays. I guess after a little while, the novelty of the explosivity wears off. Well… it certainly hasn’t on me but I can see how people on the receiving end might feel different.

    It also doesn’t have to be hyper aggressive like Sean and I play if you want to build a different style of deck. Nick plays a lot of terrors, royal assassins and the like. He usually has little problem stopping either of our onslaughts. Essentially I think that what you’re seeing is just the Skithiryx and Akroma are tuned to an absolutely obscene level from the two of us always tinkering. If the decks are on the same level of focus with speed or the ability to answer, I’ve found neither Sean nor my deck to be that overpowered.

    If you want, I can give you all sorts of cards that you could try if you want to play in a game with us. I can’t imagine Sean taking part, but I’m more than willing to slow things down for some games if that’s what people want. I just need to make it clear that slowing things down doesn’t mean that I’ll take the power level of the deck down. By removing speed, other elements are optimized instead. Expect huge exsanguinates.

    I won’t be there this week anyway…

  8. Chewie says:

    Wow, I thought for sure I commented on this already. As the first thing I read on your site, I was definitely blown away. Your take on casual solidifies all the random thoughts running around in my head that I couldn’t seem to turn into words. Awesome!

    I definitely love the site – the content and the site’s whole tone just appeal to me. We definitely need to come up with some kind cross-promotional thing. Thanks for the link too! We’re working on that on our site, but my webmaster has midterms. I’ll be in touch after a bit brainstorming!

  9. Graveborn Muse says:

    Much obliged Chewie! This article was very much about those same random ideas coalescing briefly in my own head. Definitely into the crossover…although by the time US midterms are over the semester will probably start here 😀 I’m sure we’ll work something out easily enough.

  10. Don aka. Rishana says:

    Daryl I just wanted to also add in light of Chewie’s comment that I do think your analysis of the spirit of casual is spot on. I totally agree if no one else is running fast mana like Sean and I do then we are cutthroat comparatively. For how we like to play, our decks are indeed casual since our timing is pretty similar. Turn 3 Skithiryx is common for my deck. Turn 4 Akroma is common for his deck. Unless i magically draw/have Sword of Light and Shadow, then things get interesting.

    We both play at such breakneck speed that the timing works out. Other decks aren’t like this and have usually only played a land by the time we cast our fourth spell.

  11. Shoe says:

    Its been said time and time again here, but I want to reinforce how nice it is to have someone define casual in a way that is true for all casual groups. Caring about the other players fun is #1 most important in a game. It is an optional activity and any optional activity should make those involved feel good about choosing to spend thier time that way.

    Keep up the great work here Muses!
    -Shoe, Your #1 Source for Magic: the Gathering Variant Formats

  12. Pingback: How the Casual Inquisition should treat their offenders – without using the stake | Completely    Casual

  13. Dominik says:

    Just referred to your article in my latest post:

  14. Dead_Clown says:

    Possibly the most patronising and sanctimonious article on multiplayer magic that I have ever read.

    • Chewie says:

      You could offer up some reasoning or examples or something other than just some mindless criticism you know. What didn’t you like/agree with? No sense just being a tosser and talking crap just for crap’s sake, that doesn’t help anyone. Explain your problem with the article and open it up for discussion and/or improvement.

      • Dead_Clown says:

        Calling me a mindless, crap talking tosser is an interesting approach to generating debate. I don’t believe it was necessary to be quite so bellicose.

        I certainly hope your casual decks aren’t as belligerent in their approach. God forbid you may win before turn 50 and everyone won’t have enjoyed themselves as much as they deserve to.

        Maybe as casual players, we should all indulge in a healthy session of mutual masturbation at the start of every session, just in case someone wins quickly.

    • Bruce says:

      How so? It seemed fairly open-ended.

  15. Graveborn Muse says:

    Where there are message boards there are arguments…we’ve only been going for three months and here is our first. What a milestone!
    To be fair, Chewie called your criticism mindless, not you – he wouldn’t have asked you to explain if he thought you were mindless, now, would he? 😀
    Rather than take offense, perhaps you wouldn’t mind explaining what points you felt were patronizing? I certainly went out of my way to avoid talking down to people, but I’m open to correction and well-reasoned criticism.
    Definitely closed to mutual masturbation, though…some things are best done in the privacy of one’s own webcam.

  16. Dead_Clown says:

    A few years ago I had a fairly lengthy discussion about religion with a friend of mine who was a born again Christian. However hard he tried, he struggled to hide the fact that he believed, because he had found God, that his approach to life was in some way superior. Essentially, that his way was the correct way.

    Your article reminded me of this conversation.

    There is no right way or wrong way of playing casual magic. When people sit at the table to play the game, they bring their personalities as well as their decks. For God’s sake let people play the game how they want and if you aren’t happy in that group then find another one. But please don’t insinuate that players who have a different style of play lack responsibility to the rest of the group.

    I have enough responsibility in my job 5 days a week. I have responsibility to my wife and kids. The very reason I sit down and play magic once every few weeks is so that I can throw responsibility out of the f**king window and enjoy MYSELF. If others enjoy the experience then all the better. But you want me to ensure I take responsibility for everyone else’s evening; not to take someone out of the game in consecutive games, not to win too early, not to build decks that lock the game down.

    Sorry, but boll0x to that

    You said:

    ‘If you usually kill one player quickly and leave them sitting on the sidelines watching the rest of the game for a long time, then you are not doing all you can to ensure that they are having a good time.’

    Are you really serious? I couldn’t give a sh*t when they are out. I enjoy killing people in Magic. Unbelievably, that’s what my decks are designed to do!

    The more rules, principles and parameters you bring in, the more banal your playgroup will become.

    And you know what, that’s fine. Because it’s your group and you can play however you want.

    The great thing about magic is the freedom that it allows players to express themselves through their deck-building. As long as we have different personalities on this planet, we will have different styles of multiplayer casual magic.

    I am not interested in ‘building a shared base of attitude, behavior and expectation for the casual community.’ Why would I be? Why on earth would anyone want this? I’m interested in having a few beers with some friends, playing some cards and winning a few games. Its Magic, not a summit at the bloody United Nations.

    Criticism is often levelled at players with fast/competitive casual decks, yet it is rarely these players that complain about casual formats.

    You quote:

    ‘If winning is the most important thing for you, and you don’t care how you win or how your opponents feel about it, then that’s why there are tournaments.’

    On the contrary, if creating a level playing field and playing within an agreed set of parameters is the most impotant thing for you, then that’s why there are tournaments. Leave the rest of us alone to play in the way we want to.

    Many thanks for opening an interesting debate.

    I’m off to spend some time with the webcam.



    • Graveborn Muse says:

      Now THAT is the kind of comment I want to receive, thank you. I’m not thrilled by the comparison in the first part, but never mind.
      What you seem to be overlooking is the context. I tried to make it clear that I wrote my article because of something that I had encountered in the real world, and was offering a way to resolve the resulting dispute. Frankly, I have seen too much conflict, including playgroups that died, because of wildly divergent expectations of what casual play is – conflict that I have never been aware of in any tournament format. If you haven’t encountered any such problems with that, then even the issue of ‘can/should casual be defined’ is moot for you, but yours is not the only situation in which casual players find themselves.
      The article offers a definition of casual play – that is the essence of it. I feel that there is a need for a definition, although I am not forcing my definition down anyone’s throat. The rest of the article, which you seem to take issue with on libertarian grounds, is an attempt to explore the ramifications of that definition. If you don’t like the ramifications, then feel free either to explain why they don’t follow from the definition, or offer a better definition.

    • Graveborn Muse says:

      Moreover, while I have no interest in dictating the terms of your gameplay or enjoyment (which is why I made it clear that casual isn’t something that can be defined at the level of the individual), you may find yourself in a situation where not caring about whether other players enjoy playing with you has negative consequences for you – i.e. you get less enjoyment out of the game. I’m not trying to judge you or anything like that, but it is a fact that in some cases, players who are indifferent to their playgroups end up paying a price for it.
      In my group we’ve had two players who were told that their decks weren’t fun to play against. One was willing to change his style, and one said flat out that he didn’t care whether the rest of us enjoyed p;laying against him or not. The first player is welcomed and the second player finds himself getting frozen out of games.
      Whether you agree with anything in my article or not, it seems unreasonable not to expect players to gravitate towards more funner games and away from less funner games, which is a potential danger of an “I couldn’t give a sh*t” attitude.

  17. HighlordBaiden says:


    I think the big point is that we should find out what our playgroup is like. I’ve been in playgroups (like at my local shop) where bigger is better and the faster you can blow everyone away is looked at with shock, awe, and applause. On the other hand, my more casual playgroup (which includes Seedborn Muse, actually) kind of frowns on that for our purposes. It’s not that I can’t win that way but that I choose not to because some of our members do not have access to certain pricy cards and combos and others do not even know of some of those lethal one-two punches.

    I think you made a valid point about your own playgroup that the “power players” sometimes get frozen out of games because their decks may seem unfair and unbeatable. I have several times taken cards out of my decks because they drew too much aggro/exasperated expressions. I found it more appealing to make them a little happier by seeming a little less threatening but still able to win a good bit.

    I think the key point is just to know your playgroup. If you want to have fun then one of the best ways is to make sure others are having fun too so that they will come back next time. I don’t see a point in playing in such a way that you could possibly drive someone away or make others not want to play against you anymore.

  18. Vrag says:

    I totally agree that the casual player cares about the rest of the table having fun. Any idiot can make a 60 card deck who’s first turn is land, lotus petal, dark ritual, Juazm Djinn, go. I have a storm deck that can routinely kill the entire table on turn 4. I’ve played it maybe 3 times in 5 years?
    You think it’s fun to just kill one person in 2 turns and make them sit and watch for the next half hour+ while you’re sitting there with no cards in hand and your one creature now in the graveyard? You like to do this over and over again in your multiplayer “casual” games? You’re a jerk plain an simple. This is not directed to any one person in the comments by the way. Anyone who thinks this is fun, casual, multiplayer Magic needs to stick to duels. GBM is right. Sometimes the right play is NOT to kill them. Sometimes they are the only one who can get rid of the enchantment that you can’t get through.
    It’s ok to play this way every once in a while, but like GBM said, you need to switch it up.
    If you think this is fun, get a group of 4 together. Have one person play discard, on person play counterspells, and one person play land destruction all targeting you over and over. See how much fun you have.

  19. Graveborn Muse says:

    “If you think this is fun, get a group of 4 together. Have one person play discard, on person play counterspells, and one person play land destruction all targeting you over and over. See how much fun you have.”
    Now this is the kind of experiment i can get behind 😀

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