"I cast Earthquake for 6. Everyone takes 24 from the 3 Furnaces. You're all dead."
"No, I'm not. Remember the Spirit Linked Masticore?"
"Neither am I. 48 point Congregate."
That is, as near as I can remember it, a direct set of quotes from a recent multi-player game. I'm the second guy. Now, for my play group, this is a fairly normal order of affairs. We always have enormous damage bursts and extreme life totals! This is normal! Isn't it?
No, it's not. I remember a time last year when no one could win before turn 5. There were no Earthquakes, Dual Lands, Wrath of Gods, Disks, etc. in our group. It was all about creature combat, with the occasional Drain Life or other weird spell. I played a Greater Good with only one Greater Good. Put simply, my decks sucked. A lot. And, oddly enough, so did everyone else's. With a few exceptions, we were playing complete and utter piles of junk. 'Mana curve?' What's that? 'Card advantage?' Say what?
I've been wondering what happened. Because we aren't like that anymore. Over the course of 9 months or so, we've gotten really good at this 'Magic' thing. I have 4 Masticores. I have 4 Rishidan Ports. And I know how to use them. I still don't go to tournaments, but I have the cards to play and win. The same thing has happened to everyone else.
As near as I can figure it, at some undetermined point last year, someone set out to actually accomplish something with a deck. It was probably a direct response to one of my weird infinite combo decks (Aluren, Wizard Mentor, Tim, and Concordant Crossroads), or a response to the one Pros-Bloom deck in our school. Someone actually wanted to beat us. I don't even know who, just someone. And thus began the chain reaction.
A well tuned deck showed up, designed solely to beat the combo deck. It succeeded. So I turned around and built something to beat it. Repeat, ad naseum.
And that sets off the 'power curve.' One power deck appears, and to beat it, you need another deck. That deck requires more cards. So players get more cards, build new deck. Beat old deck. Player with old deck finds deck to beat new deck. Etc, etc.
So, is this a Good Thing(tm) or a Bad Thing(tm)? Well, the multi-player games are much more interesting now. No longer are the games limited to who casts Overrun first. Disks exploding left and right, double digits of damage are spread liberally across the board. On the other hand, I'm questioning just how 'casual' we are today.
Think about it. Where does the casual player end and the non-casual player begin? Where is this invisable boundry, and have I already crossed it? I mean, I have people from the Dojo writing me for deck help on serious extended decks. I know what a metagame is, and I build for it. I have versions of decks that are commonplace on the Dojo 'Decks to Beat.' I play in formats. I avoid banned cards. I even draft within my play group. And I win a fair number of those drafts.
Am I still casual? And what is a casual player?
--Zadok001, aka Greater Good fanatic
"We have more sprouts than they have hands."
-----David Zadok Stroud (Yes, that's my middle name)