Above and Beyond Rule 0

Dana Roach • March 3, 2021

We cannot expect people to respect law and order until we teach respect to those who enforce those laws.

Rule 0. It's where we all say our deck is a seven power level and then roll to see who goes first.

Maybe it gets a little more complicated than that once in awhile. Someone might ask if everyone is cool if they run Princess Twilight Sparkle or if anyone objects to sideboard tutors like Glittering Wish, but by and large the conversation is often fairly rote.

We could change that, however.

We could have a robust, explanatory dialogue about what we're hoping for from the pod, freely exchanging information about what expectations all players have to hopefully ensure everyone has the best time possible, because currently I'm not sure we're doing enough.

Going Above and Beyond Rule 0

Before we get into that, let's go over a few ground rules. A Rule 0 conversation about our Rule 0 conversation.

  1. I'm not going to talk about what exactly Rule 0 is specifically. If you're interested in that discussion, Sheldon Menery himself has gone into very specific detail in multiple pieces easily searchable on Google, and in far more detail than I ever could.
  2. I have no expectations that anyone else does what I do specifically, nor am I suggesting you do what I do. I'm just relaying what information I provide during a Rule 0 conversation, and why I provide it. Hopefully at the very least that gets you thinking about what else you yourself could add to an exchange that sometimes is a little to bereft of information.
  3. I'm aware that in a lot of cases this sharing too much information is probably putting me at a strategic disadvantage. I'm fine with that. I'd rather lose a game because I gave something away than risk someone who just had a bad day winding up with an experience they weren't in the mood to have.

So let's start with what specific information for my decks I've been adding to my Rule 0 talk.

I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me

Athreos, Shroud-Veiled, Glissa the Traitor and Vela the Night-Clad: All three of these are decks where I like to warn strangers that they contain cards of a value and reputation not necessarily commiserate with the deck's power. To a newer player, the price alone of things like ABUR duals, Grim Monolith, and Memory Jar can be intimidating, let along their reputation. That's not without reason, either. I even wrote an article about it where I found statistically speaker decks with ABUR duals were generally running other, more powerful cards than decks without them.

I'd much rather give a pod the heads-up that while performance-wise Athreos is a six, the deck is in fact running a Badlands, Replenish and Yawgmoth's Will, primarily because I had them before they got crazy expensive, and in the case of the latter two because it is a Pestilence deck and given the finite amount of those effects I need ways to recur them. Yawg's Will is very much not Yawg's Win in the deck; it's a glorified Regrowth, but I'd rather give that warning in advance even if it is a strategic disadvantage to tell people the cards I'm playing.

Edric, Spymaster of Trest: This is a deck I rarely play in a pod where Rule 0 is relevant for a couple of reasons, but in a theoretical situation came up where that wasn't true, I'd warn everyone about the deck's tendency to take stacked extra turns. If I had any other decks with extra turn spells I'd probably warn people in those conversations too, but it just so happens that this is the only deck where I can take turns out nowhere by casting something like a Time Warp.

Second, this is probably a deck where I'd also point out that it's fairly counter-heavy. For me the line where it's worth mentioning countermagic is 10 spells. Less than that and you're just playing removal for things on the stack, but to me over 10 warrants warning people that they're stepping into a situation that might be more control-based than they'd like.

Glissa the Traitor: Infect. It's not just for people who won't wear masks to Walmart. It's an actual game mechanic, and it's one that tends to be either loved or hated, often depending on which end of the poison counters you happen to be on. My Glissa deck runs a couple of infect cards primarily due to the synergy with Fynn the Fangbearer. It's a sub-subtheme at best, but it's there, and given the strong feelings people sometimes have to dying to infect, I like to give some warning that there's a possibility it will show up in a game.

Isperia, Supreme Judge: I suppose it's fairly obvious than an Azorius Sphinx deck is probably at least a little controlly, but it's still something I like to at least passingly reference before we start, even if it's just to say something as generic as it's a Sphinx tribal deck that looks to play light control.

Talrand, Sky Summoner: Talrand, especially prior to the existence of Baral, Chief of Compliance, was a commander is often associated with a heavy counterspell build designed to control the game while profiting off those spells with Talrand's passive ability. Counterspell control to this day remains the second-most popular theme on EDHREC. As a result, I like to give people some notice it isn't that deck. It's not that counterspells are a problem or anything, but there's a difference in the experience of fighting through a deck that has six and fighting through a deck that runs 28, and for me personally there's going to be nights I'm not in the mood to play against "Oops all Counterspells" Talrand. Because of this I like to mention that the deck is running six counterspells, just to set the expectation. Essentially I'm doing the opposite of what I'd do with Edric, and warning them it's not they deck they might think it is.

Vela the Night-Clad: This is the one deck where I currently have a proxy, namely Phyrexian Altar. I only have one copy, and that copy is currently being altered by my friend Ryan Peneff. Since there's currently a hastily-sketched version of the card in the deck, I like to give people the heads-up that I'm running a proxy, and give them time to object so I can swap it out with the Altar of Dementia sitting in my token box.

I have a theory that the truth is never told during the nine-to-five hours

Those are specific examples from my current suite of decks, but here's a couple more I would also go into if I had any decks where they applied.

Mass Land Destruction: I don't have any decks that currently destroy lands en masse, but if I did I'd give people a warning. I'm not necessarily against MLD, but I've also been that guy who had a really bad day, showed up at the shop just wanting to bash some Craw Wurms into each other, and watched someone with no plan cast an Armageddon immediately after I just played the last land I had in my hand. I'm somewhat open to the idea that MLD may have a place in EDH, but I personally would also like the option to opt out depending on my mood, and I'd offer that same courtesy to anyone I'm playing.

Heavy stax/tax/discard: Similar to mass land destruction, heavy versions of stax, tax, and discard strategies are things that I'm sometimes just not in the mood to deal with. I'm specifically using heavy here because I don't think a single Grave Pact makes a deck a stax deck, nor does an Aura of Silence make it tax, nor Syphon Mind make it discard. I'm talking about a density of cards that make the strategy the deck's main line of play.

Tutorable combos and combos: I'm not a combo player at all. Combo doesn't make for a satisfying win for me, and given the choice I'd rather lose a game than win one with a combo. That's not something I hold anyone else to, mind you, but for me it's just not how I want to end a game. In the past when I've stumbled across one however I've made it a point to give the pod a warning that my deck does have an insta-win condition, and that condition is easy to track down via tutor.

Eldrazi/annihilator: This one is tricky. I'm not sure I'd feel the need to mention running one single Kozilek, the Great Distortion in my list, but if I had multiple creatures with the annihilator mechanic I'd offer a warning. It's less about the strength of annihilator, and more about the game states it can create where it leaves one person helpless for multiple turns while you turn your attention to the other two and try to neuter them as well.

Non-local language cards: The reality is, not everyone knows what each card does just by the art. It might not be a big deal if your Savannah Lions are in a non-regional language, but a four-ability planeswalker is a whole different thing. The few times in the past where I ran non-English cards, I warned the pod and brought the card up on my phone if it came into play so people could read the text. The inverse would hold true if I was playing with people who didn't generally speak English, at which point it's on me to make sure everyone can easily grok the cards whose words I take for granted.

There are times, however, and this is one of them, when even being right feels wrong

Again let me stress that none of those things I'm doing are things I expect other people to do. I'm just using them illustrate what kinds of things I working to add to the Rule 0 conversation to hopefully get you thinking about what you could add in the hopes of creating a better experience for everyone. If you have any comments or suggestions for what you like to bring up during this talk, please sound off below, and thanks!


You can find more editorial content from Dana here!

Dana is one of the hosts of the EDHRECast and the CMDR Central podcasts. He lives in Eau Claire, WI with his wife and son where he has been playing Magic so long he once traded away an Underground Sea for a Nightmare, and was so pleased with the deal he declined a trade-back the following week. He also smells like cotton candy and sunsets.