John E. Douglas, the FBI’s premiere serial killer profiler, almost died thanks to his dedication to the profession.
They found him in his room one day; his skin was the color of wax paper, his heart fluttering erratically, like a wounded bird trying to fly. He had been working himself raw because there were thousands of murders happening each day, and only one of him. As such, every case he turned down was another person dead… and who could take that responsibility?
Left isolated by his superiors, who refused to allocate more manpower to the fledgling science of psychological profiling, John Douglas literally worked himself into a coma. It was only by the grace of God and a close set of friends that he managed to pull himself out… and to this day, he is still frail and sickly because of it.
Now, I haven’t had a heart attack yet… but I gotta tell ya, being the world’s first Sneaky Multiplayer Writer sure puts a damper on my game.
Because for one thing, I’m sharing tricks that I’ve used for years, telling you all of my battle-tested, time-worthy techniques… but the people I play with read my columns. How the heck can I be sneaky when everyone at the table knows exactly what I’m doing? It’s like trying to be a burglar and scheduling appointments, for God’s sake. It’s like General Eisenhower trying to fight an effective battle with Germany while writing weekly columns with subjects like, “How I Would Assault Omaha Beach” and “Weaknesses in the German Defense Lines”.
But that’s not the worst thing. Okay, fine, everyone knows I’m a sleazeball — and that I write a weekly column about what a sneaky, underhanded jerk I am when I play. I can live with giving all my secrets away.
But now they EXPECT ME TO DO IT.
The people I play with keep waiting for me to pull out this amazing bag of tricks, and it’s difficult to sneak when there’s a big spotlight trained on you and an eager crowd going, “Watch him! Ooo! Ooo! He’s gonna psych me out, I just KNOW it!”
I wind up a big disappointment.
Man, does THIS suck.
So I just hope you appreciate what I’m doing here. The ground I’m breaking comes at the expense of my own amusement… and although I don’t intend to play myself into a coma anytime soon, I could very well be the victim of my own success. Sniff, cry, moan, bitch.
So that said, here are three sample profiles from players that I actually used techniques on successfully. First, read last week’s article to get the idea. Then, read the clues; try to figure out what exactly drives these people — what brings these folk to the table? And then, finally, use that knowledge and ask yourself the critical question:
What can I do to make these people so happy that they won’t attack me?
Remember, these are actual players. In the future, I might even write up a couple more of these and make a contest of it; do me a favor and lemme know if it’s something of interest. It’s not exactly “Break This Card”… but there is a certain sadistic appeal in “Break This Player”, isn’t there?
So! The profiles!
Player Level: Pretty good to excellent. Knows all the little tricks, but deck construction showed odd choices.
Caution: When attacked, he immediately took the damage, saying“Oh HO! Somebody wants to play, hanh?” The next round he Control Magic’d the biggest creature (a Phantom Monster) and proceeded to attack with that (and only that) continually until it died, all the while mentioning how he could sacrifice it to a spell or maybe use it for something else. He later admitted he didn’t own a Treachery.
Losing: Cheerfully. Hung around and made comments about other players’ place in the game, but did NOT look at their hands. Liked the sneaky plays a lot.
Deck-Switching: Stayed with the same deck throughout the entire night, even though he won only once with it.
Deck Style: Blue bounce with large phasing big creatures. No counterspells. Large fading critters frequently left him defenseless, and he used Disappear a lot.
Tabletalk: Constantly, usually about what he could do or how the guy next to him could win. Talked about good deck design and why he was using Phasing creatures. Discussed numerous combos one could pull off with Parallax Wave.
Play Style: Showed “Fade Away” no less than five separate times before he cast it, saying repeatedly to several players, “Man, this would hose you if I played it now!” (It would have.) Finally cast it against someone who had tapped out and attacked him — the same guy who he Control Magic’d his monster.
What Is This Man’s Burning Desire?
How Can You Minimize His Damage?
His Burning Desire: Feeling important. He doesn’t necessarily care if he wins, so long as he is respected as Somebody Who Knows the Game.
The Clues: He really wasn’t a great player (he played with Phasing creatures, for God’s sake!), nor was he particularly committed to the game (no Treachery…and you call yourself a Blue Mage?), but he liked all the sneaky bouncing tricks because he could control everyone at the table… and force them to acknowledge his impact on the game.
The fact that he showed his hand constantly indicated that he really enjoyed having power over everybody, and the way he tried to humiliate the guy who had the temerity to attack him further highlighted his power tripping. Staying with a consistently losing deck shows that he had some attachment to the playstyle, too. His interest in the game might make you think that he really loved playing… but the way he never even looked at anyone else’s hand tells us that he wasn’t so much interested in the outcome as he was in telling everyone what he would do.
Method Of Disposal: Feed his ego. As soon as I realized what this guy was up to, I looked at his “Fade Away” eagerly and said, “Oh, man, that WOULD hose me!” (Despite the fact that I had tapped out several times, and was playing a green Stompy deck that was the biggest threat on the table to him, he ignored me — as I bet he would.) I didn’t ask him, but if I was really worried about his deck, I would have asked him for advice on some random play. Some other newbie did do so, and he gave advice for the rest of the game and never attacked him.
And most importantly, do not attack him until you know you can overwhelm him; this kind of guy is rife with hidden fast-effects and other tricks. It took me and another player seven turns to kill him thanks to a variety of effects. But then again, I expected that — and complimented him on his fine deckstyle. He never attacked me once.
Player Level: Mid-level. Knew the tricks, but sometimes forgot to use them under pressure, and made a face whenever we reminded him; had a basic idea of stack manipulation.
Caution: When attacked with an easily-destroyed creature, he threw a larger critter in front of it and waited to see what would happen the next round. When I didn’t attack, he didn’t either.
Losing: Not particularly thrilled by it, but generally took his losses in silence. (Not an angry, fuming silence… he just had nothing to say.) If the game was one of those exciting,“Who’s gonna win it” moments, he’d shake your hand with an infectious grin and say,“Good game!” even if he lost.
Deck-Switching: He brought only one deck. He said he didn’t have time to make another one.
Deck Style: He played a green-and-white theme deck made up entirely of Archers and archery-related cards, mostly Elves backed with a few large critters. Needless to say, there weren’t that many instants or sorceries in the deck, but it was a fairly solid theme deck— the Ballista Squads and Titania’s Chosens turned out to be MVPs. However, it rolled over and died against certain artifacts, enchantments, or HUGE creatures.
Tabletalk: Quite a bit, though usually not about the game itself. Extremely friendly, we discussed everything from comic art to Hong Kong movies, only occasionally verging into game talk when there was something hit the table. Even then, it was usually an explanation of the card and why it was good rather than a Dojo-style analysis.
Play Style: Despite the fact that the deck was butt-simple to play, he nevertheless had a good idea of when to attack, WHO to attack, and when he should back off. However, he disregarded advice on which targets to hit, even when it was a combo deck that all the other players at the table had seen before. “Hit the Tradewind! Hit the Tradewind!” we cried, and instead he nailed another target. He lost because of it — we all did — but he mumbled a half-hearted apology and certainly showed no actual remorse. He was able to laugh at himself when he made awkwardly bad plays, although the occasional rules flareups left him fuming… even when they didn’t involve him. Those who tried to get him to target other players generally wound up on the receiving end of an archery smackdown… but only if it made sense for him to do so. (No psychotic plays here.)
What Is This Man’s Burning Desire?
How Can You Minimize His Damage?
His Burning Desire: PressurePot is a man who plays Magic… but it isn’t his lifesblood. He’s a proud person who doesn’t want to admit that he’s really sort of substandard when it comes to Magic. His goal is to play competitively and seriously to have fun with his friends, without feeling inadequate.
The Clues: The tabletalk should have clued everyone off as to his interests, and Magic is not amongst them. He’s coming to this table to enjoy the socializing, not the thrill of the game — which can also be seen by his “fun” deck. He only has one deck (NOT the sign of a thorough player), and although he’s gone to some efforts to make it workable, he’d still rather play a substandard theme than take out the chaff and make it more flexible.
His reaction to the attack was telling, as he didn’t use strategy — he just watched to see what would happen without much anticipation. For the PressurePot, the fun is in seeing what other people do, not in the fun of beating them… which is actually kinda common. The arguments which slowed down the game made him furious, as it’s this sort of niggling where a) he can contribute nothing and gets to sit on the sidelines, and b) it makes the game into an adversarial contest rather than a social outing.
The pride thing comes in strong when he refuses to hit the targets which other people call out for him, and his angry lashing out at those who are seen to manipulate him. He may not know what he’s doing all the time… but by God, force his hand and he’ll strike out at the irritation.
Method Of Disposal: Be friendly. Talk a lot and chatter. And above all, never suggest anything outright.
You can sleight-of-mind the Pot into hitting the targets you want simply by pointing them out AND LETTING HIM DO THE REST. Because subconsciously, he knows he’s not the best player. But the more experienced player to his right bitching about something can make him feel inclined to take it out; after all, if the top-flight players can’t deal with it and he can, doesn’t that make him a better player?
The methods which worked best were actually pleading to him for help:“You’re the only one who can stop him, dude. That is, if you want.” Specifically picking a target for him to blitz didn’t work, but moaning loudly about the troubles that Artifact X was going to cause was surprisingly effective. Sneaky sneaky!
Player Level: Decent. Knew to cast instants at the end of the phase and played two modified DojoDecks, but didn’t play them particularly strongly.
Attitude: Consistently returned fire whenever attacked, and continued to attack for a few rounds afterwards… but rarely went in for the kill, strangely enough. On defense, he played erratically, making some odd choices (see“Play Style”).
Losing: Smiled when he lost, but it took an effort. When the game was over he watched quietly but with interest, hanging around the table waiting for the next game to start up.
Deck-Switching: Switched fairly constantly, once after the first game, then pulled out a modified Wildfire deck after my Bouncing Weasels deck trounced him,“Because this deck’s a pretty good matchup against Green.” It either wasn’t or he got very bad draws, as I generally beat him in five turns— but he stayed with it and seemed content, ready to try again next game. For the last game, he changed to a blue deck.
Deck Style: First, a green/red combo deck which never fired in time (but was said to be quite good when it did). His Red deck was, as stated, modified Wildfire; the third was a Horseshoe Crab machine-gun deck.
Tabletalk: Usually talked only to the players next to him, although his attention could be drawn across the table. Most of his stuff consisted of griping, albeit goodnaturedly, about how his game was going. Generally kept up a stream of game-related chat with whomever he was attacking or defending against.
Play Style: Brought out threats and usually had them disposed of in short order. Tended to attack in a fairly random pattern, causing border skirmishes by the dozens — usually getting the ire of the person sitting to his left or his right, since he attacked in a circle. As noted, however, he rarely went in for the kill immediately and switched targets indiscriminately. On defense, he frequently undercommitted, losing a game against me because he refused to cast a creature spell — even though his friend told him that a single Giant Growth would kill him. (In fact, I had a Might Of Oaks up my sleeve.) At one point early in the first game, while mana-screwed and creatureless, he cast an Angel’s Trumpet — knowing full well that everyone would begin attacking him.
What Is This Man’s Burning Desire?
How Can You Minimize His Damage?
Burning Desire: Avoiding both boredom and personal conflict. Marvin hates to sit around doing nothing, but he doesn’t want to make enemies at the table. Therefore, he tries to spread the love around because he wants an exciting game that lasts a long time.
Clues: The attacking randomly, but not to kill is a major clue that you should have homed in on immediately. Next, add in the fact that he purposely cast an artifact that he knew would kill him because he was mana-screwed — and is a picture of impatience starting to set in? Note also that the only time he stayed with a deck type was when I beat him quickly and repeatedly, indicating a preference for exciting games over winning ones. The last clue is his erratic defense capabilities — he’s not great at defense, even with advice, simply because he just doesn’t do it that often.
The conflict, however, is highlighted by the random nature of his attacks. He constantly got himself into wars with single players because he attacked until he found someone who fought back — and the fact that he refused to consistently kill defenseless players meant that his game was not about winning, but fighting. Winning, for Marvin, was something you did after you crushed your opponent’s defenses.
Method Of Disposal: Suck up the damage quietly and without fuss, as if it had no impact at all on your overall strategy. Shrug. He will then attack someone else, who will hopefully be more outraged and counterattack, causing an exciting border skirmish. Making friends with this guy will simply cause him to attack you first, because you’re his game buddy, so avoid table chat. If you’ve already talked to him, sit on the far side of the table.
Marvin attacked me with a 10/10 shadow creature with Empyral Armor on it. I had nothing to stop it, so foolishly I counterattacked the next turn with my 13/13 Stampeding Weaselbeasts. Alas, I hadn’t picked up the clues yet — and he looked at me with mild astonishment, then offhandedly killed me the next turn. “I would have left you alone,” he said simply; “I was going to attack that guy this turn.”
What, you think I get it right every time?
I TOLD you to stop expecting great things from me…
NEXT WEEK: Prophecies About Prophecy
Visit The Ferrett Domain if you’re not easily offended. Matter of fact, stay away if you’re offended at all. Probably it’s best if you leave now, really….