Casual Diplomacy: How To Make Friends And Draw Surreptitious Cards In Multiplayer

So – I trust everyone has had a pleasant holiday season? A large bird was sacrificed over here, and we have finished doing our duty to the poultry university. I imagine that many among you received cards or have bought cards for Christmas; I also imagine that all of you are wondering what to do…

So – I trust everyone has had a pleasant holiday season? A large bird was sacrificed over here, and we have finished doing our duty to the poultry university. I imagine that many among you received cards or have bought cards for Christmas; I also imagine that all of you are wondering what to do with all of those commons, uncommons, and rares. I will leave to the far more eloquent Anthony Alongi the task of having Break That Card segment centered on Collapsing Borders (the gauntlet is thrown, Anthony!). Whereas *I* will spend this column giving some recommendations as the location and manner in which you can subjugate… err… I mean WIN over your casual playgroup. WARNING!!! Suggestions akin to CHEATING included!

(OBLIGATORY EDITOR’S NOTE, HE SAYS WITH A SIGH: You know when we publish one of Rizzo’s articles on how people who ID are unsportsmanlike, nobody says that StarCity is the "Anti-ID" site. Likewise, we’ve got two writers who are in love with their Ankh-Tide decks and we publish THEIR articles, yet nobody accuses us of espousing Ankh-Tide combo decks. Yet if we run a SINGLE ARTICLE on cheating, stealing, gambling, et cetera, suddenly we’re "advocating" stealing and gambling – and probably throwing orphans off of tall buildings, too.

(Get it straight, folks: We don’t. We "advocate" free speech and the open communication of the internet. If you’re ever angered by an article published here, WRITE A COUNTER ARTICLE. But for those of us with glasses, Ye Editor here included, there are probably a couple of tips here you might wanna be clued in on. – The Ferrett, leaving his Windex at home this Friday)

Location, Location, Location

This is THE most important thing. You’ll want a place that can handle four to eight boisterous, uncouth and generally pirate-like people. If no docks or seedy bars are available, perhaps your local game shop can accommodate you. Try not to "Arr!" too much when customers come in, though. Now that you actually have the place staked out – I mean set up – make sure you have the following:

Several bags of chips (I prefer plain or BBQ. Doritos are out. They stain!)
Several bottles of cola (again, the four-letter one spelled C–E is best)
Comfortable chairs (ideally, something with a back rest for older folks)
A clean, flat playing surface (VERY Important)
A door close to the playing area (so you can run quickly).

Clothing is also extremely important. Not only does it prevent you from turning into an icicle here in Canada, but it also makes for a convenient place to slip that extra Dark Ritual or Fact or Fiction (PLEASE RESTRICT THIS IN TYPE I!) When no one is looking. Glasses are horrible unless you keep your hands under the table, as the cards you hold can be reflected in them. Curse my weak eyes!

Before I advance further and talk about deck styles and playing habits, let me say one thing: SUPPORT YOUR STORE! We very nearly had a crisis here in Ottawa that would have had us playing in a sub-par area, but thankfully it was averted and everyone came together in time. But if you ARE going to play somewhere, try to buy something or at least bring in some business.

Anyway, back to the article.

Location is extremely important once you are all seated. Try to sit next to a shorter player, or close to player that is extremely fidgety or gullible. Playing across from someone with glasses can be a godsend… unless they read this article and wind up giving you a wedgie. Exploit ALL advantages you have. If your opponent is shorter, peek down, CASUALLY, at his cards.

Try to distract him.

Me: John, is that a new pair of glasses you have?
John: No – what are you talking about? I’ve had these for years!
Me: And you’d better wash them, fool. Torch you for fifteen, Mr. No Counters In Hand!

Of course, people WILL be onto you when they have experienced this kind of cheesiness up close. This is when you need to add a formidable weapon to your arsenal: the Bambi doe-eyed look. If your opponent asks if you will attack him with that BEST FATTY EVER PRINTED, look at him, eyes wide. Try to force your eyes to water slightly. Look confused. When he starts mumbling, grab the Verdant Force, turn it sideways, and send forth the dinosaurs, laughing evilly.

Snack foods are also key when trying to pull a fast one. While reaching for the Coke, you can casually ask your friends if they want some (hint to everyone, paper cups probably cost fifty cents American, please get some if you do this) and if they accept, they will probably put their hand of cards on the table. By pulling the old "stretch the arms to start a necking routine" trick into play, you can lean far enough to peek a look at his hand, then crush him.

Some chips and munchies have the additional side effect of making the tips of your fingers greasy. When this happens, SLOWLY get ready to draw a card. With any amount of luck, the stickiness will make you pick up TWO cards, and the cards will be so well stuck together that no one will notice. Ancestralling yourself when people aren’t looking also works, especially when you can keep the cards close together. This is not recommended of course, as you might wind up with some broken fingers – but hey, casual play is a jungle, folks.

Deck Construction For Casual Play

This one is a little harder. I would tell you to read any of Anthony Alongi or Ferrett’s columns on the subject, but they’re not here right now, so stuff ’em. 🙂 (This is, perhaps, the silliest thing I’ve ever read – who ELSE do you think hovers over every column on this site like an evil ghost? – The Ferrett, who knows what syntax lurks in the minds of writers) I think this can be best narrowed down to ten rules of thumb:

10) Play green. Lots of green. No one feels threatened by elves, and when they see the Verdant Force or Multani, it will be too late. The most important thing is, don’t play any lands except for forests until you can go into mad combo-creature-transforming mode with Gaea’s Cradle. Green is peaceful, but if you mess with us, we’ll hit you with a tree, bud.

9) Do NOT play with Islands unless you are a master negotiator. In our group here in Ottawa, we relentlessly attack, kill, and crush any player who might even think of countering our spells. It has gotten so bad that Blue decks actually play creatures!

8) As a corollary to #9, play with other blue mana-producing sources, such as Sylvenite Temple, Tolarian Academy (You never know, they could be nice to you), dual lands, or Moxes. Generally, if you play with duals, players will lay off on you until you counter one of their spells or play a Morphling. Then you die.

7) Play "friendly" cards – cards like Overabundance, Mana Flare, the ‘Mongers, and any other card that generally lets people decide the flow of the game. They’re more than welcome in this environment. My Iron Man deck featured two Indentured Djinns; use them.

6) ALWAYS, ALWAYS have a backup plan. Sometimes your infinite damage engine goes awry, and you need a way out. Every deck in a multi-player environment should play with Powder Keg or Nevinyrral’s Disk. Masticore is fine, if a bit overpowered.

5) Play creative Black. Don’t Dark Ritual out three Sarcomancies on the first turn. Instead, play with Diabolic Edict, Sengir Vampire, Sengir Autocrat, Infernal Tribute (look this card up folks – it’s good) and other mid-game cards. Unfortunately, this means that you’ll have to play with three or more Disk-like cards, since Black is notorious for its lack of Enchantment and Artifact removal.

4) Play Chaos Red. Thieves’ Auction, Mage’s Contest, Obliterate, Urza’s Rage and other cards are key. Thieves’ Auction is sure to make at least one or two people concede just because they don’t want to go through it. Obliterate is the best card printed for multiplayer in a LONG time; make sure you either take it into account… or play it.

3) PLAY WHITE. Folks, even if Ferrett and Friggin’ Rizzo and all the others tell you that White is a wussy colour, I am telling you right now, PLAY IT. Play Soul Warden, Angelic Chorus, Rout, shadow creatures, Mother of Runes, Story Circle, Pursuit of Knowledge, Island Sanctuary, and especially CONGREGATE! Congregate is BROKEN in a game where there will be ten to twenty creatures out. To the white nay-sayers, I say, "Join the light side!"

2) Play for Ante. This has been covered in Sheldon Menery column and by the Ferrett, but ante makes the game that much more enjoyable and worth winning. Try to set a standard, though. The last thing anyone wants is more Carnivals of Souls or Impatiences, but they might like getting a Disk or a Time Spiral….

1) Learn diplomacy. I read somewhere that diplomacy is being able to tell your enemy you’ll have his country and having him smile and nod. If you follow no other advice from this column, learn to cajole, beg, threaten, and bribe. Yes, I DID say bribe. If giving an opponent a rare will let you WIN, then do it. But whatever you do, DON’T INTENTIONAL DRAW!

Oops, slipped there, heh heh… If you can convince your opponents that you AREN’T an opponent, then you’ve won half the battle. And remember, there is only one winner – and it should always be you!

Well, I hope that if this column didn’t teach you any new ‘tech, at least it added some weapons to your casual play arsenal. Because remember, the toughest battles are the ones where you’re fighting more than one person.

Keep it casual…

Crazy Pierre