Let’s Discuss EDH: Netdecking

EDH decks are a work of art; is it okay to use a list that’s not your own?

There’s a lot of animosity around netdecking in EDH: many players say, yes, it’s alright, while many more cry blasphemy at the very notion. So today (regardless of whether you play competitively or casually), we’re going to discuss the impact of netdecking in Commander – why people do it and how it can be used both positively and negatively.

But first, what exactly is netdecking?

We’ll be using the generally accepted definition – finding a deck online, copying it card-for-card (perhaps changing only a few things), and then going to your local game store/play group and piloting it.

Why would someone netdeck in the first place?

The world of EDH is vast, with hundreds upon hundreds of possible generals and strategies. In fact, there are so many different combinations of cards that the possibilities are innumerable. Newer players entering the format can easily become overwhelmed by over fourteen thousand existing Magic cards and options for generals exceeding six hundred. In this regard, netdecking makes sense, especially for newer players for whom it’s incredibly difficult to find an enjoyable strategy. We have the internet at our fingertips – why not use it?

Spreading EDH decks – and, in fact, any type of deck – across the web actually helps to grow Magic as a community and game. It spreads the word to millions of people and allows entire communities to share their ideas and interests to the rest of the Magic world. For new players, it lets them easily access guides that guide them through the process of entering the game. I remember when I first began this game; I had friends to help along the way, but I still felt overwhelmed with all the options. In fact, when I first began playing EDH, it took me over half a year to finally settle on a deck, and even today, I still explore different options. If I hadn’t had people to help guide me along my journey (and had no other resources like the internet), I honestly don’t know what I would’ve done. Various online communities devoted to sharing deck lists are an invaluable resource to newer players; they at least provide a foundation for beginners.

Some make the argument that if a newer player gets used to netdecking right away, then they’ll always do it. However, we believe this isn’t necessarily the case. There are so many different personalities in the world, and if someone is already predisposed to netdecking beforehand, then they’ll do it anyways, regardless of when they were exposed to it. Others (likely the brewers) may use netdecking as a crutch early on, but then go on their own path as they learn more about how to brew and articulate their ideas into different strategies.

People argue that EDH is a casual format and shouldn’t be played with winning in mind; however, it’s all based on how your group wants to play and has fun. It’s a completely understandable concern to have: if people begin netdecking in EDH, then an established meta will occur, and the magic of finding a powerful strategy will go away. What would EDH be if there was a completely solved meta? This seems very unlikely to happen, however.  There’ll always be brewers and designers out there – people who dive deep into unexplored territories, searching for the perfect strategy that has yet to be found. Even in the cEDH (Competitive) community, where decks are created specifically to compete and be as powerful as possible, there isn’t a specifically established meta. There are definitely decks considered more powerful than others, but there are far too many variables that can occur in a Commander game for any one deck to be considered the very best.  In fact, from what we’ve seen, the cEDH community is always changing its top decks, and the meta spread is incredibly diverse. Saying that spreading decks online and allowing others to build them will completely ruin EDH is highly unlikely. Yes, the spread of netdecks could increase the popularity of certain strategies, but there will always be brews and new strategies cropping up because of the very nature of Commander.

Netdecking could even open the door to new ideas. EDH decks are, in many cases, carefully cultivated works of art. A player can sometimes spend years finding the perfect cards for one. While netdecking does get rid of some of these aspects, it doesn’t stop a player from changing later on. In fact, those inclined to do so should be encouraged to explore the various options their chosen strategy has to offer. Who knows? Maybe they’ll even invent a new sub-strategy or archetype that nobody else had previously thought of.

Netdecking technically already exists, even outside of the internet. Wizards’ own preconstructed EDH decks are, in a way, a form of netdecking; in fact, they’re almost the exact same thing. While not being as powerful as, let’s say, a Derevi Stax deck, they can definitely create a similar situation where a specific general could be played more than it would if the product didn’t exist and the general was printed as a stand-alone card in a set. The preconstructed Oloro deck is a perfect example of this. With a few changes, it dominated the meta game of EDH for quite a while, holding its own as one of the most played decks for a substantial amount of time. If preconstructed decks aren’t ruining EDH, then how would a new player, who’s completely lost and is just innocently looking up lists online, destroy the format?

But what about experienced players? Is it be okay for them to netdeck, too?

This comes down to a matter of opinion and play style. It’s completely understandable to look down on netdecking, since many players do play the format casually. People feel that netdecking just to win is a real shame because of the spirit of the format, but there are so many different reasons people netdeck, not necessarily to always win. We’ve already mentioned the overwhelmed new player, but some people just don’t enjoy making decks – they’d honestly rather jump in and play the game, rather than spending weeks and weeks brewing and slowly piecing together a strategy (which is completely understandable; brewing your own deck is an incredibly daunting task). If someone is netdecking to win, then so be it. It’s their choice, and if they’re having fun, there’s no reason for anyone to be upset. We all play this game to have a good time.

Another issue is players bringing an overpowered deck they netdecked to a casual play group. People should be cognizant of other people’s feelings. It’s not fun for anybody when the relative power levels of decks in an EDH game are completely skewed. Be aware of what your group wants to play, and don’t netdeck at the expense of others.

For all intents and purposes, netdecking EDH decks isn’t some grand scheme to undermine the community – it’s the natural evolution of Magic as a game. While there are concerns that too much netdecking could lead to the downfall of the format’s spirit, it won’t ravage everything Commander is known for. Netdecking is an invaluable resource for both newer and older players alike, letting people have new ideas and explore exciting strategies. It also allows those who don’t find deck-building fun to just play the game and have a good time casting their spells.

We hope this article was helpful to you in some way! If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to leave them in the comments section below.

And, as always, happy EDH playing, everyone!

P.S. If you’re looking for a new deck to try out, here are some possible commanders that can be really fun to play:



Sylvan Studies Team
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