Holiday A-Musings

Welcome to the holiday season, at least here in America. It is a time for family, friends, and toasty warm feelings to keep us comfortable on long, cold winter nights. For me, where there are friends, there is also Magic. So, what is your Magic group doing for the holiday? Here are a few suggestions to make things a little extraordinary.

The holidays. A time of festivity and friends. Something that often gets overlooked is how Magic is a social event for most people. The best deck, the best match-up, boring solitaire-oriented combos in Extended or Type One match-ups. Mana bases, sideboards, card advantage, mulligans – all strategies designed around maximizing the last little bit of a decklist.

Decks tuned so finely that they practically hum middle C.

And sometimes we forget that Magic is a social game. It’s fun, or at least it’s supposed to be. That’s why I play. Sure, I want to win, but that’s not enough. Sure, I like to personally challenge myself in group play by seeing how much I can handicap myself and still win. But there’s a social aspect to Magic.

Have you ever asked yourself if you can remove an opponent from the multiplayer table by killing with a Disintegrate? Has your group?

Do you have an opinion on Shahrazad? What stories do you tell?

One week I flipped a Chaos Orb at a tasty stack of permanents on Aaron’s side of the table. I usually target him, and this week was no exception. Aaron’s table has an extension that we have to get out for larger multiplayer games. The extension causes two cracks no more than a millimeter wide to run the length of the table. The Chaos Orb landed, then fell horizontally through one of these tiny cracks in the center of the table where the joins meet. After flipping my Chaos Orb, it landed on the floor by falling through the freaking table.

Another week, several of the players had already lost and it was just me and two friends duking it out. I bounced one player’s Phage the Untouchable. Then I played Mind Twist and made him discard Phage. Phage was also in the other player’s graveyard. A Twilight’s Call followed and I killed them both with their own Phages.

Do you have a set of Vanguard cards or the Power Nine?

I call it the PJ Rule. I’ve only met him once, but at a large multiplayer game, a guy named PJ played a Black Vise on the first turn. It was one of the old ones that was very vague as to whom it effected – one opponent, or us all? We had a three minute argument, and the ruling was made that the cards are to be played exactly as they are read. So, his Vise affected everybody.

So two full turns later, PJ was dead because no one wanted to take a bunch of Vise damage. Lightning Bolts, Savannah Lions, a massive horde of damage engulfed him.

It took us hours before the next person even died, and PJ just sat there watching us play, watching TV, working on decks, and so forth. I was saddened because he had argued that his Vise should affect everybody, won the argument, then lost because of it.

I was saddened because Magic is, at its heart, a social game, and he was excluded in a very real sense. Make sure everybody has fun, that no one is left behind… The PJ Rule.

I play a lot of Constructed decks that were once Type 2 decks, with maybe a tweak or two. I think that’s fair, and it’s about as trim as I want my Friday Night Magic to be. You know, the real FNM – the kind played at Kitchen Tables and Rec Rooms.

I took an Urza’s Block era Wildfire deck, (man did I love that deck), added in Molten Rain and a few artifact tricks from Mirrodin like Gilded Lotus. It runs well, but it’s nothing compared to modern Extended or Type One decks. I get an idea and I run with it, like”maybe a fun Fires of Yavimaya deck would work well with Molder Slug,” and away I go.

Anyway, the decks aren’t the most powerful around, that way everybody has fun. Somebody came after me hard a few weeks ago with a burn deck. I responded with my Burning Desire Type One deck that literally decked every player at the table on my first turn. And that table included two decks with over five hundred cards each. It took me twenty minutes to kill them all.

However, do you think that anybody else enjoyed that? Watching Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Moxen flying about, being Recalled by Hurkyl, getting played again, until a Brain Freeze goes off for three hundred cards. After that lather, it’s rinse and repeat as Regrowth, Timetwister, or Cunning Wish tries to acquire another Brain Freeze. All in all, decking around thirteen hundred cards in one turn takes a lot out of a deck. And of my life total, I think I ended the game at four.

But it’s not fun for others. Remember Fun? The PJ Rule.

A few weeks ago everybody but Aaron and I had been knocked out. It was late, so after a bit of watching us duel it out, everybody else left. We continued for over an hour finishing up the game. I’m glad it wasn’t earlier in the evening, who’d want to twiddle their fingers for that long?

This is where Mario Party steps in. Because of the PJ Rule, there has to be something to do for those who are eliminated early. Now, it’s Mario Party. These days, if half the table gets knocked out by a huge Hurricane, and the other half of the table has a bunch of life through resolved Congregates, those of us eliminated can load up a game of Mario Party.

Of course, there are other games available like Mario Kart or Soul Caliber II. If we are playing at my place on that weekend, I have a couple of coin operated arcade games – Mr. Do’s Castle and Rush ‘N Attack. We have some board games as well. Yet, in spite of all these options, we keep playing Mario Party.

Why? Is it because Mario Party is some amazing game that beats anything else? Hardly. What then? What attracts us to Mario party?

Other than Magic itself, Mario Party is the most social game that we have. And now we’ve we come full circle, because, Magic is about the social aspect of the game.

Welcome to the holiday season, at least here in America. It is a time for family, friends, and toasty warm feelings to keep us comfortable on long, cold winter nights. For me, where there are friends, there is also Magic. So, what is your Magic group doing for the holiday? Here are a few suggestions to make things a little extraordinary:

Decorate a tree during Magic Night: Have those who are eliminated early from your multiplayer playgroup work on the holiday tree. You might even have some who want to get killed first because they want to trim the coniferous-yet-plastic tree.

Decorate your apartment/house, but use Magic decorations: How about a tree with Magic Cards as ornaments? If you have a fireplace, why not alternate Stocking, Magic Card, Stocking, Magic Card? Or try using those Eighth Edition Box Toppers. They might come in handy as decoration in a variety of areas. How about one of those felt Magic playmates as the Tree Skirt? One of the larger oversized cards might be a fun tree topper.

Play at a restaurant: Go out to a festive restaurant and play some Magic around a large table. Order fun holiday style food and beverages.

Have a Magic Card Gift Exchange: Just about everybody who celebrates Christmas has had a gift exchange at one time or another. Put everybody’s name in a hat, and whoever’s name you pull out, you have to find some Magic cards for. Don’t be stingy here, it’s the holiday season! Mr. Nine Birds of Paradise can manage to part with one. You should know by now what cards each person has been looking for.

Use opened booster packs as wrapping paper: When you open a booster pack normally, instead of ripping it open like a first aid kit with the anti-venom that will save your life, you are left with a neat foil rectangle. Why not place a bunch of these rectangles beside each other and make a pretty and shiny wrapping for your gifts!

Use opened cardboard booster boxes as gift boxes: My grandmother always sends gifts inside of whatever box she can get. It’s a pair of socks, instead a Duncan Hines Cake Mix box. A Legions Booster Pack, but inside a Jell-o Box. The leftover cardboard boxes from booster or the tournament pack boxes can both be used.

Take a collection of Magic cards for the poor: Collect some cheap and easy to use cards from everybody. Include classic deck stock cards like Stone Rains, Disenchants, and so forth. Then go and try to teach someone how to play Magic. If they are interested, then they can keep the cards you collected in order to build their own deck and learn how to play. After all, what is better than giving the gift of Magic?

Serve Eggnog or Punch: At next week’s Magic Night, try to be a little more Christmas-y with punch or eggnog instead of Mountain Dew Code Red. You could have Ginger Snaps instead of Chips, Candy Canes in lieu of pretzels, and warm cider replacing coffee.

Have your play surface decorated with a holiday mat: You know those relatively cheap felt tablecloths that your Aunt Edna has three boxes of? Borrow one for your table. It adds an atmosphere of the season, and it protects your cards at the same time. Something for everybody to love!

Play Manheim Steamroller: Play Christmas favorites over the stereo, like Manheim Steamroller, instead of Abe’s All Night Techno Party. Again. I even have a Strobe.

[My holiday gift to Abe shall be refraining from making comments about his taste in Christmas music. – Knut, who prefers Harry Connick Jr. and classic crooners like Sinatra and Crosby for the holidays]

Make Popcorn Life Counters: You know the old string and popcorn garlands? Make a garland with thirty or so pieces of popcorn and some extra space so that you can slide the popcorn around. Give these out to players and make them use the garland as their life counter for the evening. It’s like a party gift and a neat edible life counter all in one! If you want to get fancy, make one string with cranberries (10 life apiece) and another with 10 pieces of popcorn (1 life) and tie them on each end to a stick. An official yule tide abacus!

Play Variants: Create your own variants on multiplayer. Christmas is about sharing, why not share decks, life totals, lands, mana pools, or hands? Create rules for giving away permanents and then try to Donate away things that hurt you a la Thoughtlash. After all, it is the thought that counts.

Use Christmas miniatures as tokens: Everybody has their own tokens. Maybe you use those glass beads, maybe its little slips of paper, or plastic dinosaurs, or, like me, you have a variety of types of tokens for all occasions. Require that, in December, all tokens have to be Christmas miniatures?”What’s that Santa miniature over there?””Why, it’s a Roar of the Wurm token, of course.”

Holiday lights and cheer are easy enough to obtain. What are you going to do this yea for the holidays? Whatever it is, remember that the core of Magic is each other. We are the game of Magic, not the cards. Us.

Until Later,

Abe Sargent