They don’t get it.
Anthony Alongi doesn’t get it. Sam Zitin doesn’t get it. Stijn van Dongen doesn’t get it. Tom Fenwick doesn’t get it. Robert Taylor doesn’t get it. Andrew Healy sort of gets it, but not really. I think Peter Jahn gets it, but he doesn’t write about it. I thought Tim Ward was going to get it, but then he lost it. The Ferrett gets it, but he hasn’t reminded anyone about it in over a year.
All of these people have written some kind of multiplayer article in the recent past. Every single one of them focused on a card, or a deck, or types of cards. While these are all helpful, there are thousands of Magic cards, and hundreds more are being created right now in the dungeons at Wizards of the Coast.* All these authors are doing is pointing out how certain cards interact differently when there is more than one opponent in the game.
The fundamental difference between multiplayer and a dual game is the number of opponents. It sounds relatively obvious – but again and again, most everyone ignores it. If there is only one opponent, there is only one target. If there are several opponents, there are several targets. Doesn’t it make sense that you should do whatever you can to ensure that you are not the target selected?
Now, obviously the deck you play and how you play it can be a big part of that. But I’m not here to tell you how to play your deck (perhaps in another article). So regardless of what your deck is, what can you do to not be a target?
Blend in! If you take only one thing out of this article, this is it: If your opponents have forgotten that you are even there, or don’t think you are a threat, you will not be attacked.
This brutally obvious statement is ignored again and again. If you can follow it, your chances of winning go way up!
So how do you blend in? Well here are the soon to be copyrighted, trademarked and patent-pending:
The Five Keys To Being Ignored
1. Don’t Piss People Off!
So many people feel the need to open their big fat mouths. Whether they are laughing at someone for making a truly stupid play, or insulting someone for putting an Eager Cadet in their deck, these people just can’t shut up. They talk about all the fictitious women they’ve slept with and all the Pro Tours they have won. They just keep on talking and talking and driving you crazy…
You should love this guy.
You should subtly encourage him to just keep it up. You should not be this guy. Inevitably, this guy starts to get picked on. People will be willing to let themselves die just to kill this guy. He irritates the hell out of everyone, and everyone loves to see him die.
You want to keep him talking. Odds are, as long as he is still in the game, you will probably not be the target. This is always good.
2. Be A Friend
When you show up at your buddy’s place to play, offer to help set up. You brought something to eat, right? Say hello to everyone with a smile. Just be an all-around good guy. You might not think so, but it does play a part in many players’ decisions.
I don’t recommend that this carry over to the game. Being a friend to someone usually involves pissing someone else off – and see the first key to being ignored if you have already forgotten.
This is the most important key, after you have won a game. The next game you play that night, you will be a target. Minimize that by being a good winner. Just smile and chalk it up to luck, being in the right place at the right time, or whatever else you want. If you lord it over them, you will get hammered – and hard.
But assuming that you were the good winner, and your opponents are still working you over…
3. Point Fingers
If it looks like you are becoming the target, do what you can to point fingers at the other players in the game. In a game we played, Scott had two Penumbra Wurms and a Penumbra Bobcat in play, piloting mostly-red deck. I had seen the deck and knew Obliterate was going to come soon. I happily pointed the finger, but only when it looked like I was going to be picked on.
This must be done carefully: Don’t point the finger at someone who is obviously in a hopeless situation. It must be believable to the opponents who can do something about it.
This is a situational defence and should be used sparingly. Remember when you do this, you are stepping out away from the other opponents to point at someone else. You are taking a risk here, so do what you can to ensure that everyone will follow the tip of your finger to your opponent, and not simply stare at you and your steadily improving position.
There are times when lying becomes the only real option.”I wouldn’t target you,””We need to work together,””His deck always starts to really get rolling about now.”
All are common lies that can work.
But again, this must be done with caution. Every time you open your mouth, you risk becoming a target. It should also be mentioned that this should be done sparingly. If you become known in your group as a liar, the target on you will only get bigger. Do the best you can not to use this, or to at least lie in ways that you are not likely to get caught. Vague generalities are usually the best. When you start getting really good at it, you can try something a little more intricate – but for now, limit how often you have to do this.
Number four is something that I have pretty much already said in the previous three keys. Chris Rock also recommends doing it when you are pulled over by the cops…
5. Shut The Â£&%$ Up!
This should just go without saying… But in the hundreds of multiplayer games I’ve played with close to a hundred different opponents, I’ve only ever seen perhaps four or five guys actually do this right.
I’m not saying that you need to sit there like a deaf mute. If everyone laughs at a joke, laugh too. If you are asked a generic question (“Would you like a drink**?”), answer it. If you are asked a specific question (“You could do six damage with Urza’s Rage couldn’t you?”), deflect it (“Actually, Harold could do much worse with the Urza’s Guilt he is about to play”). I am just saying that you shouldn’t be saying anything to draw attention to yourself.
The Five Keys work. Even when one of the guys (Dave) noticed that all I was doing was sitting quietly until the end and stealing wins, and told everyone about it, nothing changed. He would say it and I would intentionally lose a game or two. Then when I had blended in again, I’d get another win.
Go through my previous articles and tell me that I would have won any of the games if I had ignored these rules.
I don’t have four copies of all the latest and greatest cards. I am not a spectacular deckbuilder. In spite of that, I was regularly winning 25% of the games that I was in, and those games involved between five and ten players.
This was not happening because of my subpar deck or my play abilities; this was happening because I was following the Five Keys.
Note: I’m still looking for players in Winnipeg. Drop me an email.
* – Anyone else ever notice that Randy Buehler always looks a little bewildered at the tournaments? He has the distinct look of the animal that just got released from his cage, but isn’t really convinced that he is free. Just what are they doing to the R&D guys anyway?
** – For God’s sake, say yes! It will get the opponent up and away from the table, and you get a drink out of it. Careful not to drink too fast if the alcohol content is listed on the container.