Armada League Points System

The League Points System rewards Commander players for doing good/fun things, while punishing them for doing unfun things in multiplayer. Cast land destruction? Boo. Controlling lots of tokens? Yay!

I conceived the EDH League Points system a few years ago (although I suspect I wasn’t the first person to ever think of this kind of thing) and, with the help of Armada Games owners and EDH fans Aaron and Michael Fortino, developed it for play in our Thursday Night League. Michael has since, with suggestions from many of us, taken over administration of it and implementation for each League iteration. I just realized that we had a design and development cycle, just like each Magic set.

I’d like to share the new League 13 Points Sheet. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll remember that earlier League sheets have been a little lengthy and difficult to navigate. A few iterations back, League Chairman Michael Fortino streamlined it to a single sheet. It’s nicely-designed, four rows and four columns, with the names of the awards, a description, and then player numbers, the corresponding names for which are written in at the bottom.

The League points system is designed to promote a particular style of play—generally interactive with no early comboing out. You can see that reflected in the penalties. The codes identify how often you can get an award. (M) means you can get it multiple times, (P) means each player can get it once, and (I) means only the first player to achieve it gets it. Some of you are not going to like the style here, preferring a different kind of game. That’s fine, but the folks that play in the League—regularly 20+ every Thursday—mostly enjoy playing for the entirety of the 2 hours of each round, and this points system encourages that. There’s also a rule that if someone combos out, they get their points awarded, but then the rest of the players continue playing for points as well. This is a judgment call from either Michael, Todd (if he’s not playing), or L1 Judge (and wearer of excellent hats—though he’s no Rashad Miller) Jesse Fisher, who helps with League. I’m not sure what the algorithm is, but so far, everyone has agreed on the calls. Interestingly enough, there’s an amount of judgment that goes into a few of the awards as well, which I’ll discuss when we get to them.

INTERLUDE: Crazy Play of the Week

It was actually two weeks ago. Sean, Shawn, Michelle, and I were playing another game after the last League round. Sean and I coincidentally grabbed Zombie decks, him with Grimgrin, Corpse-Born and me with Lord of Tresserhorn. Michelle was playing Omnath, Locus of Mana and Shawn playing Adun Oakenshield. Play goes along normally for a bit, with Michelle being the obvious early threat and the rest of us neutralizing that some. There’s a Damnation somewhere in there. Shawn casts Black Market; I make a mental note that that’s probably going to really get out of hand and then completely blank two turns later by dropping Tombstone Stairwell. Michelle and I have five creatures in the yard, Sean has three, and Shawn one.

In a turn cycle, Black Market has indeed gotten out of hand and has 30 something counters on it, allowing Shawn to cast Army of the Damned and flash it back on the same turn. There are many Zombies on the battlefield. Sean and Michelle both tell me they have nothing, and I tell them the same. I think Living Death is my only out when I draw for my turn—which turns out to be Gempalm Polluter.

You can see that Michael’s tried to bring a bit of a slasher flick mood to the titles of the awards this time around, in keeping with the current block theme. Too bad there are no chainsaws in Magic.

I’m Too Young To Die! – 4 Points (M): Eliminate a player prior to their 5th turn. The clear anti-combo penalty, you simply can’t overcome this one to win the table. I supposed you could set up a situation where you could both combo and point farm, but find it pretty unlikely.

What Did I Do, No Really??? -3 Points (P): Defending your actions for doing something unnecessarily rude. This is a new one, and one of the judgment calls. Players don’t like it when you try to rationalize after doing something over-the-top unfriendly. I’m a big believer in owning your actions, so if you’re going to do it, I’d personally rather hear you say “Yep, I did that.” This penalty has actually not yet gotten awarded, and I think it’s the threat that is the important part. Michael recently struck out the “unnecessarily” part, since it led to further devolved discussions of necessity of some actions.

Not A Safe Place -2 Points (M): Be the instigator of wrecking one or more player’s mana bases, in part or in full. Formerly called “Chasm,” I like the idea of this one, but the implementation is a little sketchy. If you have four Islands and I Sundering Titan, getting one of them, I don’t get the penalty. If you only have one, I might. Or if your only sources of blue are non-basics but you have plenty of other basics of your other colors, I’d get it for playing Ruination. The good news is the upshot of the penalty being there is that Armageddon effects don’t get played in the League. Most land destruction is targeted, to take out really troublesome things like Cabal Coffers and Academy Ruins. I’m still not 100% behind there being no Armageddon effects, although I don’t like stripping away from player’s the ability to play. I think that creating a situation where players can ramp out lands with no downside potential is nearly as dangerous to good times as blowing up all the lands. Acidic Soil has been a decent answer, as has the “you did this to yourself” Ruhan deck.

Too Many Sequels -1 Point (M): Take a turn of 6 minutes or more. Nothing makes a game worse than one player hogging all the clock time, whether it’s going through some elaborate combo or just being dreadfully slow. Another that I don’t think has actually been awarded, but the threat of it has kept games going at a slightly more brisk pace. Aaron Fortino (for whom the penalty was originally conceived, called “Look at Me, I’m Aaron”) and I are the people most likely to get hit with this penalty, mostly because we’re old, and things are confusing to us.

Too Many Options -1 Point (P):  Have in play Sol Ring or Mana Crypt on Turn 1. Explosive starts can define games and end them quickly. You’d be surprised what a balancing effect waiting until turn 2 to drop the Sol Ring brings. I’ve already seen this one in action numerous times already, and I like the idea.

Freddie’s Gonna Get You +1 Point (P): Play the third spell whose CMC is the third consecutive number. This one requires a little bookkeeping, which is why it went away for a while. If I cast Mana Crypt then Sol Ring then an Azorius Signet, I’d get the point. You’d get it if you then cast Yavimaya Elder. The next player casting Solemn Simulacrum would then get it as well.

The Sherriff is Near +1 Point (P): Save a creature from dying before it takes damage. This one is actually a little tougher than it sounds, more because of the kind of things that get played in the format. Cracking your Dauntless Escort in response to Blasphemous Act will get you this. I think the initial point was to save someone else’s creature, but I’ll double-check.

Mark of the Beast +1 Point (P): Control exactly 6 lands, 6 creatures, and 6 non-land, non-creature permanents. Without some creative sacrificing, I think this one is pretty tough. I can’t imagine a state by which it would organically develop, but it would probably involve an early token-creator, like Awakening Zone.

We Got Ourselves a Killer +1 Point (P): Destroy 2+ Planeswalkers during the game. Combat damage counts for this one. It’s in because Planeswalkers are extremely good in the format, meaning there are many ripe targets. Planeswalker Control is a pretty good deck (I keep trying to get Ben McDole to ship me his Progenitus list, which basically has every Planeswalker printed in it—here’s hoping I can eventually share it), so having additional upside for killing Planeswalkers seems okay. Of course, most of them that aren’t Jace Beleren and Garruk Wildspeaker get relentlessly attacked anyway, since some of the ultimates—notably Elspeth, Knight-Errant, Venser, the Sojourner, and Karn Liberated—are subjects of quite some panic.

Serial Killer +1 Point (P): Destroy 10+ creatures at one time. This one gets awarded several times in most games. It also leads to plays that you wouldn’t normally see, like Twincasting a Wrath of God just to grab the point instead of letting the other guy have it. “Destroy” means “get rid of,” not necessarily the Magic definition of it, so casting Black Sun’s Zenith or Final Judgment will get you this if there are an appropriate number of creatures out.

Creatures of the Night +1 Point (P): Control 5+ non-token creatures with one or more of the following creature types: Horror, Ooze, Spirit, Vampire, Werewolf, Zombie. A clear nod to the current block, which obviously inspired the slasher-flick feel, it’s really easy if you can use tokens, less so without. Zombies is probably the easiest to get; Vampires probably also easy. We’ll see if anyone can manage the others. Speaking of creatures of the night, I thought the thing they did with the Prerelease was awesome. It provided an additional fun, community-building feel to the event. It defined ‘friendly competition.’ I was a Human and stayed a Human all day, although I’ll confess that I didn’t play any monsters. Michael also reused the idea for League Night on the eve of the Dark Ascension Release, randomly assigning everyone one of Werewolf, Zombie, Vampire, Spirit, or Human (except for no two people in a pod were of the same tribe). The tribe with the most points for the evening also received an additional booster pack, which I helped Team Zombie take down.

I Brought Extras +1 Point (P): Control 10+ creature tokens at one time. The Avenger of Zendikar point. I like that while it doesn’t slow them down, Massacre Wurm makes people really nervous about grabbing this point. A few weeks back, playing Karador, I actually survived a Massacre Wurm after casting Avenger, but only due to the fact that I had gained some life from my Turn 5 Baneslayer Angel.

Die Already! +1 Point (P): Survive being attacked for lethal damage 3+ times. Not as easy as it sounds, since you’re going to need to be on the brink the whole time (excepting large-scale attacks). I asked Michael to adjudicate a hypothetical situation where I was at 10 life with an indestructible blocker and my opponent had an 11/11 lifelink creature with which he kept attacking me, just to get his life total up. He said, “Shut the hell up.”

Prepared for the End +1 Point (P): Control 3+ Equipment at one time. Doable, not easy, since the equipment that you generally want are the Swords, which players rightly fear and will destroy when they can.

Your Time has Come +1 Point (P): Eliminate a player or be directly responsible for a player’s elimination. Simply, the kill. Some kill stealing happens which wouldn’t happen in games that are simply last person standing. Here, it’s worth expending the resources, where there it wouldn’t be, since the end result would be the same. I’ve also seen (and done) a fair amount of saving someone to both get the point (next one, below) and then nab the kill right after.

You’re Not an Extra +1 Point (P): Prevent another player from being eliminated from the game. This is one of the most popular points in the League, since it keeps players playing. A simple but clever design to foster the kind of game we like.

Follow the Script +1 Point (P): End the game or be eliminated having searched your library for no card besides a basic land. Opinions are slightly divided over this one. Since it’s not a penalty just a point you won’t get, some players feel it’s a reasonable trade. I kind of like Mindlock Orb EDH, so I’m a bit of a fan, but it’s surprisingly easy to miss out on this one (Prime Time, Survival, even fetching for a dual land). I’ve played around this a couple of times, either when I was hopelessly lost anyway or far enough ahead, but most of the time, I just search early and the point be damned.

Final Credits +1 Point (P): Finish the game without being eliminated. Used to be last person standing, but now it’s everyone who is still in the game, which again fosters a style of play we’d like to encourage. I’ve seen a few tables get down to the last minutes and agree no one will kill anyone else.

Next in Line +1 Point (P): Have the lowest life total, which must be lower than 10, when another player is eliminated without the game ending. I was initially surprised at how few times this point gets awarded, but then I realized how often kills come from big haymakers instead of a slow whittling down.

I’ve Seen This Movie +1 Point (P): Be the first person eliminated from the game. Interestingly enough, this point has seen more strategic maneuvering than any other point. It basically boils down to “I want to kill someone, but I don’t want to give them the point.” Again, it fosters a style of game where players stay in longer and thereby get to play more.

Whether or not this particular instantiation of a points system is your cup of tea or not, I encourage you to suggest some version of it to your leagues. Feel free to develop your own style and flavor to foster the kind of play your extended group likes to Embrace the Chaos. I think it will pay great dividends in the amount of good times it generates.