Tagged: tutors

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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Card of the Week: Long-Term Plans

Last time I said I was making a conscious effort not to talk about only blue cards, but this one’s caught my eye after it worked its way into my new Bruna, Light of Alabaster deck.  I also happen to think this format suffers from the use of too many tutors, and this card is a tutor, but it’s definitely a tutor with a twist.  It’s a strange rare from Scourge called Long-Term Plans.

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Deck Salad Surgery: We Didn’t Start the Fire

This week’s Deck Salad Surgery expands on a little idea I had while reviewing the Magic 2013 set: make a deck designed to exploit Worldfire.  The idea consisted of lots of low-cost, hasted dudes so your deck would play better than everyone else’s after a Worldfire.  All you need is a Raging Goblin and you’ll probably win.  And hey, if you don’t, you still blew up the entire world and there was a crazy finish, right?

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Casual vs. Competitive metagaming: Or, why aren’t you playing Stranglehold?

Hey everybody.  After taking last week off for a little vacation and to spend some time with my folks after a loss in the family, I’m back!  While on my long drive out and back, I immersed myself in the world of Magic podcasts (specifically, the Eh Team and CommanderCast, both of which are fantastic.)  I have volumes of upcoming new material for you guys, so pull up your sleeves and dig in!

This article stems largely from a conversation I had with my longest-running Magic buddy and fellow Thwomper Brad.  He was over at my place after some time at the driving range and hadn’t brought his decks, so he was shuffling up my decks against me.  He immediately reached for my Captain Sisay stax build and said something along the lines of, “I need to know what makes this thing work.”  He told me that of all my decks, he most loathed to play against that one, which I was certainly surprised to learn.  He then qualified that and said, it’s not the least fun to play against — that honor belonged to the U/B Dralnu infinite-turns monstrosity that I built here — just the scariest.  I was surprised to learn that what I thought was my best deck, Arcum Dagsson, is neither the scariest or the least fun.

I wanted to understand why he felt this way about these two decks, and the ensuing conversation ties very much into the long-running casual vs. competitive Commander debate that rages on still to this day.  It was particularly interesting to me as I consider Brad more toward the “competitive” side of the Commander coin than just about anybody else we play with, save yours truly.

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Why Sideboarding is Stupid

There are certain playgroups that make use of the optional sideboarding rule as outlined on mtgcommander.net, which reads as follows:

  • Sideboards

    Rather than filling every deck with banal responses, it is preferable to allow some flexibility in the composition of a deck.

    • Players may bring a 10 card sideboard in addition to their 99 cards and 1 Commander.
    • After Commanders are announced, players have 3 minutes to make 1-for-1 substitutions to their deck.
    • Any cards not played as part of the deck may be retrieved by “wishes”.

    Reasoning:

    Highly tuned threats piloted by skilled opponents mandate efficient answers. The minimum number of response cards required to ensure they are available in the early turns can easily overwhelm the majority of an EDH deck’s building space.

    Sideboards allow players to respond to the “best” strategies in a timely fashion . They should be strongly considered as a necessary defense against brokenness and degeneracy in an environment where no gentlemans agreement on style of play exists.

Sir, I disagree.  Here’s why.

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The Art of Disruption

I stated in an earlier post that many Commander players don’t spend enough time thinking about how they might lose the game.  Of course, many Commander players spend an awful lot of time thinking about how their deck is going to win the game.  I would hope everyone with a Commander deck has thought about how to win at least a little bit.  But it’s vital to remember there’s an extremely important factor in winning games of Commander — not losing games of Commander.

It seems obvious, doesn’t it?  But few people do it.  They’ll throw in a few Wrath of God-style effects, an Oblivion Ring, one or two counterspells, and maybe an Oblivion Stone or All is Dust, then call it a day.  That’s enough disruption, right?

Maybe it is.  But it probably isn’t.  How much disruption to include and of what kind is a very complicated process.  It involves a lot of understanding of the metagame you usually find yourself in, an understanding of the overarching Commander metagame including an understanding of what top decks do, and an understanding of the stranglehold analysis that underpins the success of any Commander deck.  Synthesizing all this information with your particular stranglehold analysis, coupled with an understanding of how your particular deck accesses not only its strangleholds but its disruption, and an understanding of the relative speeds of competing strangleholds with your strangleholds is a start.

What?

If that sounded like Greek, you’re probably guilty of not thinking enough about disruption.

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