A BRIEF, BUT CRITICAL, ASIDE: CCGPrime is holding a "battle of the internet writers" to determine who is the best writer. But Alex Shvartsman, editor of Meridian Magic, is using his clout to sway the results – by asking his readers to vote for him! SHAME!
Of course, I wouldn’t tell you who to vote for, being an editor and all, but are you really going to allow Alex to get away with such dastardly shenanigans? If I were you, I’d go to http://www.ccgprime.com/mtg/writers/pool8.htm RIGHT NOW and vote for some other writer, just to show him that editors can’t abuse their power for some stupid popularity contest!
As to who you should vote for… Maybe it might be a good idea to vote for some other major Magic editor – an editor with morals and fine upstanding behavior.* Just to teach Alex a lesson. You know how it is.
And now, the tourney report!
"Us do opposite of all earthly things!
Us hate beauty!
Us love ugliness!
Is Big Crime to make anything perfect on Bizarro World!"
Bizarro would have been proud.
Bizarro, for those of you old enough to remember the old Superman comics,** will remember that Bizarro was the craggy-faced opposite of Superman. He said "Hello" when he left and "Goodbye" when he showed up. He wrecked dams and flew cats to the tops of trees. He wasn’t a danger – in fact, he was kind of goofy – but he was destined to do everything Superman did, in reverse, and Supes spent a lot of time cleaning up after him.
Eventually Supes got the bright idea of creating an entire world of Bizarros – Bizarro Lois Lane, Bizarro Jimmy Olsen, a Bizarro Lex Luthor who built wonderful things and gave away money – and he put the original Bizarro there, where all lived happily ever after.
But I had no idea that the Multiplayer Invitational would be PLAYED on Bizarro world.
Don’t believe me? Witness THIS!
- Anthony Alongi, the man who says that "There’s no such thing as diplomacy in Magic" and champion of smash-yer-face aggression decks, WON THE GAME thanks to a sneaky deck and an unexpected set of negotiations with Chad Ellis. Bizarro?
- Whereas The Ferrett, who champions sneaky psychological tactics and letting other people do your work for you, made hideously aggressive plays designed to piss people off and lost because of politics.*** Bizarro?
- Randy Buehler, a major talent who certainly could have made a deck that would have crushed us all like ants, designed a goofy deck because Richard Garfield told him, "There’s no strategy in multiplayer, it’s all just politics" – and then got killed by his own creature, thanks to politics. Bizarro?
- Sheldon Menery, DCI Level III Judge and grand hoo-hah of Magic rulings, was the only person at the table who didn’t know that Syphon Soul was type II legal. Bizarro?
- Chad Ellis, who created his deck to serve as support and permission for Michelle Bush’s deck, actually was the second-most effective player in the game, handily dispatching two players. Bizarro?
Michelle Bush, the Magic Diva, um… She played a combo deck. Bizarro? No, wait, she always plays combos, even in Limited games… Crap. She played well? She was a she? She said hello to me? Okay, I guess this doesn’t work all the way around. In any case, the irony at the table was so heavy that you could have bottled it up and sold it to Quentin Tarantino.****
I didn’t win, of course, but I never intended to. Okay, check that; I DID intend to win, but it became obvious that I was going to lose when I woke up on Thursday morning. Ten inches of snow had kiboshed my plans.
Because the preparation for the tournament was just about killing me. I was in a heavy work-time at my day job, so I was working fifty-hour weeks trying to get enough done in advance so that I could leave for a week and not come back to find smoking rubble. And then, for StarCity, I had to edit three additional days of articles in advance (Friday, Monday, Tuesday) so I could be ahead of the game – another thirty hours right there. And then I had to finish up books for my freelance job. GOD!
I had tossed around some deck designs, of course, but they wouldn’t have worked. Type II is an evil mistress for multiplayer – I had to choose wisely. I initially made a couple of builds of RuptureDerm, which consisted of a core of four Jade Leeches, four Invigorates, and four Ruptures – "Oh, I give YOU three life! And YOU three life! And then I Rupture and clear the board for a whopping fourteen points of damage!" But even though Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar liked it and there were others who thought it nifty, it was Rizzo who pointed out that Rupture was a sorcery. Too slow. And SOMEONE would be able to kill my Leech in response. He was right.
What I SHOULD have played was CounterRebels, packed with nifty goodness like Bribery, Absorb, Dominate, Wrath, Armageddon, and my extra-special tech, Liberate. Add that to some low-chain Rebels to hold the low ground and a Lin-Sivvi or two for the only real graveyard recursion in Type II, and you are up for something that would really kick butt.
Nary a Bribery to be found. No Livvis. Not enough Absorbs. And it turns out that Pete, the guy I’d buy my cards from (and you should, too) would be arriving AFTER the Invitational. So even assuming that I wanted to lay out $80 for a deck that I’d play once, I couldn’t get all of the cards in time.
So I threw together two last-minute decks: A green/white control with chunky Panthers, Charging Trolls, Armadillo Cloaks and lots of deific Wrath, and a black/red control with nasty stuff. And I was so exhausted from my work and StarCity and Amazon.com reviews that when I got home on Wednesday night that I just fell asleep, thinking that I’d throw the cards together when I woke up.
Ten inches of snow means we have to leave an hour early to get to the airport.
Suddenly my amazing decks became like all of those horrid mid-afternoon shopping shows – you know, the ones where you have ten minutes to throw as much merchandise into a shopping cart as is humanly possible? I raced around the house, screaming, "WHERE ARE MY BIRDS OF PARADISE? WHERE ARE MY SAPROLING BURSTS? WHERE ARE MY VOIDS? AAAAAAGH!" and hurling cards into my UltraPro case at random. I had half an hour to find everything, if I was lucky.*****
Not entirely sure what the hell I had in my briefcase, I raced over to the airport, hoping I had enough to literally throw something together out of what I had. This was not a way to win a tournament. I knew I was coming in last no matter what I did.
Lacking three Plague Spitters that I needed for said deck, I discovered something fascinating about the Pro Tour: After the drafts, the players just leave all of the non-rare cards in large piles in corners like snowdrifts. Literally hundreds of cards were there for the taking. I managed to scrape together three Spitters in about ten minutes flat while serious players wondered what the heck I was doing. I felt like a bag lady.
So I threw together my decks and headed off, slapping together my final build two minutes before the actual game. Ouch. I decided to play the B/R deck and not the green/white one, just because I was so happy at finding Spitters.
So now, rather than much tedium, I will break down the essential plays of the game as they related to me:
1) Randy lays down a Ley Line, and I feel smug because I’m the only person who actually knows what that does. (But then again, I AM an editor.******) For the record, Ley Line allows you to play a +1/+1 counter on a creature during every one of your upkeeps. All of our creatures get very large, very quickly.
2) Randy then admits that he was seriously designing a deck to kill us all like roaches in the Trump Tower, when Richard Garfield dropped by and said, "Why bother? Multiplayer’s all about politics. Do something fun." We then realized his entire deck was a big pile of goof, which amused me to no end.
3) I watch with amusement as I watch Sheldon lay down a forest and a plains, then a Charging Troll, then a Noble Panther, and a River Boa, and an Armadillo Cloak… And I realize that Sheldon is playing MY DECK.
Well, not the deck that I have in hand… But upon looking through it later, it turns out there’s only a nine-card difference between his deck and my alternate deck that I threw together – the main changes being that Sheldon is running Armageddons in lieu of Wrath of Gods, and lacks my secret tech of Liberate. (I can now feel smug because a good Wrath could have won Sheldon the game. Hee!) Neither of us has talked to each other about the Invitational.
I found it fascinating that two players of different mindsets and independent thought basically came up with the same deck. How fun is that? Noam Chomsky, eat your heart out.
4) I discover that there is a distinct lack of global removal – nobody’s playing with Wraths or anything, so it evolves into a gigantic creature standoff. Boo.
5) Randy plays Infernal Genesis, which basically has you flip the top card of your deck into your graveyard, giving you a number of 1/1 Minion tokens equal to the mana cost of the card. At the end of Sheldon’s turn, I Vampiric Tutor for an Avatar of Woe… Which, as I discover, is already on the top of my library. Nothing like paying two life and wasting a search card for a free effect… But I still get eight 1/1 Minion tokens. Whee!
6) Anthony is getting smacked around and is very low on life thanks to manascrew. He is down to six.
7) Randy summons a Chameleon Spirit, which has power and toughness equal to the number of permanents of any one color your opponents control. Being no fool, he looks at all of the 1/1 black Minion tokens about and names "black." He now has a 19/19 creature at his control. Scary.
8) He then attacks Anthony, trying to put Mister Alongi out of his misery. Chad, for no apparent reason, Dominates the large critter, taking it out of combat and saving Anthony from certain destruction. Anthony then Spinal Embraces it a turn later, gaining him lots of life and putting him back in the game. Note that POLITICS AND FRIENDLINESS ARE WHAT KEPT ANTHONY ALIVE. Bizarro!
9) Michelle Bush, who has been Harrowing and Worldly Counselling a lot, has two dragons out and a Captain Sisay. She then casts Coalition Victory, meeting all the conditions… And the world spins into slow motion.
I scream "Hold!", tapping six lands.
Here’s the situation: Anthony has a Seal of Doom out. I myself am holding a Ghitu Fire that could axe Sisay. I know that I could simply sit back and let Anthony pop his Seal, which would absolutely be up my alley, or even if Anthony plays chicken with me, I could Ghitu Sisay out.
But I’ve been playing hard for the Pro Tour, and frankly I’m SICK of smart moves.
I wanna do something bold, and dumb, and more fun than a barrel of baby ferrets. I want to ENJOY this game, dammit.
I cast Tsabo’s Decree, naming "Legend." And strip every Legend from Michelle’s deck in one fell swoop as they all die or get dumped from her hand. She even tries to search out an additional legend using Sisay, but it is pointed out to her that it, too, would just get discarded – so she doesn’t. Turns out that this slim squadron of Dragons was all she had in the deck, and I have just ensured her demise.
10) Randy draws a card and cracks up. I mean, literally throws his head back and laughs maniacally. He shows the card to two people behind them. They burst out in laughter, saying, "Oh, you GOTTA cast that!"
A full two minutes later, Randy reveals the card: Thieves’ Auction.
Set aside all permanents. You choose one of those cards and put it into play tapped under your control. Then your opponent chooses one and puts it into play tapped under his or her control. Repeat this process until all cards set aside this way have been chosen. (Local enchantments with no permanent to enchant remain removed from the game.)
Keep in mind that there are twelve minion tokens out, nobody has less than eight lands, everyone has at least three creatures, and this is hellafun. "Let’s start this hootenanny!" I cry…
…Or would, if Chad wasn’t such a sourpuss. Counterspell. He fobs us off with some excuse like, "But I have to play in the Pro Tour tomorrow, and the auction alone would take two hours!" Suuuure, pal. You just want to lull us with your PT whiles. What, you’re not willing to stay up until four a.m. to finish this?
11) Chad attempts to Dominate one of Anthony’s dragons. Chad has already Dominated two other creatures, including a Cloaked River Boa from Sheldon. Anthony, feeling generous, Misdirects the Dominate to a Vine Trellis so that Chad will now have the green mana to regenerate the Boa if he needs it. POLITICS! Chad then Dominates something else: Randy’s Rhox.
Chad then starts attacking ME. I am at nineteen life, but thanks to that damn Ley Line – remember #1, way back when? – this thing is an 8/8 beast.
Now, let’s be honest here and say that Chad and Michelle weren’t too honest. The multiplayer rules specifically forbade collusion, yet Chad designed two decks that were designed to interact with each other. Michelle’s deck is a Coalition Victory deck. Chad’s deck is all about Blind Seers, counterspells, and color changers. In other words, Chad protects Michelle and allows her to reach her victory in peace.
Needless to say, this was a little distressing when we all figured it out.
The reason Chad is attacking me is because Anthony stole my Tsabo Tsavoc a while back, and he’s afraid that Anthony will use Tsabo to kill the Blind Seer – and he needs to use the Blind Seer if Michelle has any hope of casting a winning Coalition, now that I’ve stripped all of her Dragons out. If he kills ME, then by the rules of this game Tsabo leaves play and he can safely win the game by tweaking Michelle’s creatures.
He can kill me in two turns because I have a Plague Spitter out, and that Ley Line is really making that Rhox big. I Ghitu Fire the Vine Trellis to stop him from regenerating it again, but now it’s inevitable; Chad will bring me down to one, and my own (Ley Lined) 5/5 Plague Spitter will kill me.
I know this because Chad told me, incidentally.
And here’s the deal: I could have taken Chad with me, had I not outsmarted myself by holding back a land. I saw that Sheldon was holding an Armageddon, so I kept one of my lands in my hand. I had eleven mana. If I was smart enough to just drop all my land and go for it two turns earlier, I could have put the fatal point of Spitter damage on the stack, Urza’s Raged (with kicker) to do ten to Chad, then sacced a Seal of Fire to do the final two, taking him out with me.
But I didn’t. Boo!
And so I died. Why? Because Anthony and Chad were being all political with each other. Which proves my point: All other things being equal, the more political creature will win.
And I wasn’t political. I played it stupid. I lost to a guy who was kind of tweaking the rules and two players who were goofing it up with each other. And you know what?
I had a hell of a time.
I write about the collusion simply because it’s why I got attacked, but the fact is that Multiplayer Invitational was the most fun I’ve had with Magic in months. I blame nobody. I could have played it smart and let Anthony deal with the threat – and, perhaps won the game from then on, since I certainly could have Decreed "Beasts" and gotten rid of Rhox straightaway – but I returned to my old form, shot something straight and made a play that became legendary (literally), and had a ball.
I don’t care whether I lost. I regained that fun that we all seek going for Magic, and by God I was glad.
For the first time since he started his Quest for the Pro Tour, you can now see a happy weasel. And next time, I’ll actually make a deck beforehand.
* — Leave that cheating column out of this.
** — Not these newfangled comics, where Bizarro is just some weirdo clone. Boo! I want Bizarroworlds!
*** — Which I think proves that my strategies are better than Alongi’s. I think.
**** — No, I don’t know what this means either.
***** — Those of you who pay attention to my columns will note that after four years of keeping all of my cards in a large moving box, I eventually split them down into boxes split by expansion. However, this means that I then had to look through all of the assorted commons, uncommons, and rares for two booster boxes of each expansion. Gah.
****** — An editor who should, perhaps, be voted in at CCGPrime’s poll as a reward for my total lack of self-promotion! Please direct all rewards for my self-effacing nature to http://www.ccgprime.com/mtg/writers/pool8.htm. Thank you.