In Bennie Smith most recent article,”The Legend of Chuck,” Bennie discusses a player in his multiplayer group named – not surprisingly – Chuck. Most every multiplayer group has at least one Chuck, and just about everyone would like to get rid of Chuck- or at least see him change his style.
Bennie then continues on explaining that his reputation has preceded him to the point where his group takes any opportunity presented to kill Bennie right away. Bennie asked for suggestions to help him deal with his reputation as a strong player with solid decks that can kill everyone on the board quickly. I’m here to show you how to”ground” Chuck, and dump the reputation that is putting a damper on the win totals.
A”Chuck” is that player who lashes out at random for no apparent reason, or is the player that single-mindedly attacks the first player that attacks him, taking both of them to their death. His thought process is that after doing this for a while, he will develop a reputation and the rest of the group will not take shots at him, giving him more time to set up his deck for the win.
Chucks will win games if you don’t do anything about it. Eventually, the group will stop attacking him or targeting him in the hopes of being left alone. Chuck is like that crazy kid at school; you didn’t talk to him and just left him alone, since the last time someone talked to him, he freaked out and made a scene.* Why would you want to be part of that mess? That sort of attitude is fair enough – but if you leave anyone alone long enough in Magic, they will eventually win the game. This sort of behavior in Magic needs to be discouraged before everyone in your group becomes a Chuck, creating games where no one is willing to do anything to anyone.
There are two ways to deal with a Chuck – and the first way involves removing them from your group. I suppose some people would be willing to do it this way, but that doesn’t seem particularly sporting. Besides, Chuck is not necessarily a jerk; he’s just someone who has a play style that you don’t want to encourage.
The second way, which is far more entertaining, involves single-mindedly killing Chuck. You’ll want the help of at least some others in your playgroup, since it will be more effective to have several players involved. You simply play the game normally… Until Chuck starts pounding on a player for doing something normal. When the guy playing the Tim deck is targeting each player in turn around the board and Chuck takes offense to taking the damage everyone else is taking, everyone should attack him – and only him – until Chuck is out of the game. This will likely take more than just one game to convince Chuck that he needs to play a different style, but being the first or second person out every game will give even the most hardheaded Chuck the idea that it is time to change their ways.
My group also suffered from a Chuck. We solved this in the manner that I described. It took two full nights of constant bashing, but he eventually relented. Playing like a Chuck is no different than handling a bully in the playground; as long as everyone deals with him, he’ll stop.
How To Change Your Reputation
The easiest way to change your reputation is to change your decks. Are you constantly setting up the combo? Switch to creature rush; try control. You must mix things up and surprise people. If they are expecting the combo and all you do for a couple of weeks is weenie rush, they will forget about the combo reputation.
Another alternative is to play with weaker decks. After a period of time everyone will stop picking on you and your reputation will fade. Once the reputation fades, you will begin to win more than your share of the games again. While it seems to go against logic that a weaker deck can win more often, it works. No one takes your decks seriously, so no one takes you out. Just hang in there until the end, saving the few decent spells in your deck so that you can power through to the end. The others in your group will target someone who jumps out to the front, and will do it especially if they see that person jumping in front all the time. That is how a reputation develops… So avoid doing it!
It isn’t just the deck that needs to change to get rid of a reputation, though – your play style needs to change as well. Keep in mind that there are three ways to play in multiplayer. Your reputation will come out of the style you play.
The first style is to play not to win. This isn’t exactly accurate, though, since it implies that you’re trying to lose. What you are actually doing is playing towards an alternate goal. Pick something other than winning the game and try to do that. Perhaps you want to hold thirty cards in hand; you want to get the Big Furry Monster in play. Just choose something that you want to try and go for it.
This style is where you see a lot of Chucks initially; they understand they are not trying to win, but discourage others from attacking them. As long as your goal doesn’t interfere with others, you’ll be left alone. If this is something you’re willing to do, then getting a reputation shouldn’t be an issue for you since you aren’t concerned with winning the game.
The second style of play is from the Alongi school of multiplayer: You do something amazing and make the board deal with it. To do this, you need to be a strong player with a solid collection of cards. This appears to be the best approach for Bennie. He has a deep card pool and is a solid player with the personality that says,”I’m King of the Hill – come try and knock me off!” Nothing needs to change about his play style, just his decks. He needs to be aware that his decks will need to either have the combo go off quickly, or have a way to deal with every player on the board attacking him right away.
The problem with this style is that this is already what he is doing, and his reputation is killing him. While it is usually best to force the other side to play to your strengths, it can often work against you when there are too many opponents. Aluren may work well against one opponent, but with several opponents, Massacre may spoil your fun.
This leads directly to the third style of play: The Diplomatic approach. I have been an advocate of this style of play for a while, and a previous article lists the five ingredients to playing this style effectively. Generally, it involves”laying low” and doing as little as possible to get yourself noticed by the rest of the group. This style is designed to prevent getting the dreaded reputation that gets you targeted in game after game.
Obviously, with a reputation already in place, it will take longer for this style to start paying dividends, but it will work. Even after my group realized what I was doing (they had a T-shirt made for me that said”Beware of the Quiet Guy”), that style of play was still effective.
If you are playing with a group of challenging opponents, no one is going to win every game, no matter what style you play or what your reputation is. As long as you can manage to win more than your share of the games, then your play style is working for you. The Diplomatic style can work for anyone if you give it the chance.
* – Or were you the crazy kid?