Tagged: multiplayer

Don’t Play Your Hand, Play the Situation

This article will discuss a problem unique to muliplayer Magic.  To borrow a phrase from hockey, it’s like skating through the neutral zone with your head down — you gotta watch the play, not watch the puck, or you’re going to get leveled.  In Magic terms, you have to play the situation, not play your hand!

It’s not necessary in two-player Magic to do what the multiplayer crowd calls “threat assessment”.  Threat assessment is understanding who is the biggest threat at the table.  In a two player game, you only have one threat — your opponent.  100% of their resources are devoted to stopping you from winning, killing your shit, and winning the game.  Multiplayer Magic is infinitely more complex — temporary alliances can form and fall apart, the most powerful player at the table varies sometimes by the turn, and occasionally it’s better to leave people alive than it is to kill them. 

Consequently, multiplayer Magic is significantly different from two-player Magic in how one should evaluate their lines of play and pick when to play their cards.  Multiplayer Magic forces us to understand the dynamics of many players all trying to win the game at the same time.  There are many more threats on the table and potential threats in players’ hands, and you simultaneously must not lose to all players, all the time.  Meanwhile, they’re trying not to lose to you as well.  Remember: the single most important factor in winning games of Commander is not losing games of Commander.  Not losing is really hard — everybody is out to kill you!

The potential problem that arises when confronted with this much information is to stop looking for lines of play and evaluating the dynamics of the game, and instead just play out your hand as though you’re goldfishing.  This, in my opinion, is not only a bad play strategy, but it also is the single most important factor informing why people hate combo and land destruction.  Because players are not reading the table and instead are just trying to play the cards they see in their hands, when somebody comes along and stops what it is they think they’re trying to do, they get upset.  And rightfully so, given this mindset — games of Commander can take hours, and when your strategy gets disrupted by somebody suddenly winning or you having all your lands destroyed by an Armageddon, it’s a big kick in the nuts.

But, had you been paying attention, you could have seen this coming and avoided it — or, at least, mentally and Magically prepared yourself for the eventuality.  Here’s how to do that.  But first, a quick scenario on how important this is.

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Cardz of the Week: Colorless Card Drawing

I’m reversing the schedule this week because this article is done and the other one isn’t.  Deal widdit.

Is your deck having a hard time drawing cards?  For the most part, card drawing is limited to blue and black, with a little bit sprinkled here and there in other colors.  White in particular has a very difficult time drawing cards, and Red tends to have to discard as many cards as they draw (though that’s not necessarily a bad thing).  Well, there is help out there, but it can be hard to come by.  There aren’t a lot of card advantage cards with brown (or grey) borders, but here is a list of all of them I can find with my pearls of wisdom scattered throughout.  Enjoy!

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The State of the Union: is the format healthy?

A quick glance at Commander message boards will probably reveal a couple of threads on the topic of whether the format is getting stale, whether it’s healthy, whether the competitive and casual crowds will ever get along, and from players who are frustrated with the format and are giving it up.  Is this cross-section of what people are talking about a fair representation of what’s going on in Commander circles these days, or is it a case of the complainer phenomenon?  The complainer phenomenon is that people will often go out of their way to complain but rarely go out of their way to pay compliments or express contentment.  It might have a flashier name, but I don’t know what it is.  Regardless, that there is any discussion on this subject means it can be argued that the Commander format is suffering from a bit of stale air, and could perhaps be very unhealthy at the moment.  I’d like to pontificate on why I think that is (what else is new).

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Politics: When to Slow Roll, and When to Go For It

I said in Friday’s article that this would be about how much and what type of mass removal to include, but while I’ll address that somewhat, the main subject of the article is going to be about gauging the commitment level of other players at the table and how to know when to commit yourself.  By commitment I’m not talking about going steady, but committing to the board.  What this means is, you start committing to the board when you extend somewhat to secure a position.  The commitment aspect really means something like, “commitment with risk” — you have to extend somewhat to secure a position, but you also have to be wary not to extend too much such that mass removal sets you really far behind.  As such, it’s a Balancing Act, and requires some amount of skill, a lot of guesswork, and more than a little luck.

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No take-backs!

(Due to a scheduling snafu, this article failed to appear yesterday.  Sorry about that!)

You’ve been there.  Your game isn’t going so well.  Everything you do gets blown up, countered, or stolen.  You’re mana screwed and haven’t had good cards in hand all game.  You’ve got three opponents who all seem to have better chances of winning the game than you do, and one guy who’s clearly in the lead.

Dude to the left taps out and Mind Twists your hand away.

“WTF, man?!  I’m not your threat!” you implore, begging him to direct it at somebody else — somebody who actually has a chance of winning and who is actually in competition with the guy.  All Mind Twisting you is going to do is make the game even more boring for you.

Your opponent briefly considers.  He says, “you’re right — I’ll Mind Twist you instead,” pointing it at the next player around the table.

Uh oh.  Now that guy’s complaining about take-backs.

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