The Casual Report #5: Three Important Multiplayer Lessons

Welcome back to both of you who have been waiting with baited breath for the next installment of,”The Casual Report.” Since the , I suspect anyone who was waiting for the next report has long since moved on to reading the lame, and (rarely) not-so-lame tournament reports being offered on the web. Since it has…

Welcome back to both of you who have been waiting with baited breath for the next installment of,”The Casual Report.” Since the last one was in August, I suspect anyone who was waiting for the next report has long since moved on to reading the lame, and (rarely) not-so-lame tournament reports being offered on the web.

Since it has been so long since the last Casual Report, I’ll bring the new readers up to date. What is the Casual Report? This entire article is written much like a tournament report – but is essentially what happened during my Monday night multiplayer group. I try to leave out all the boring stuff you normally find in a tournament report, and focus on the relaxed, fun atmosphere that is Magic for the average casual player. Take the Wacky Wednesday articles and spread them out over an entire evening of Magic. Occasionally, I will even try to demonstrate what I have learned from that game and alter my play or deck accordingly. I have also on occasion provided a decklist… But mostly that is an exercise in frustration, since my decks are generally dreck. Why people would want to see a decklist of any of my decks is beyond me, but it happens.

Enough with the dull intros – let’s get to the games!

Pre-game show:

I was the second person to show up at Shane and Colin’s place.* Harley had beat me by actually arriving on time. When Darren walked in we headed upstairs to start playing.

The room we play in is a converted bedroom with a folding table slightly bigger than the tables regularly broken in the WWF.** It is not a big bedroom, and there is just barely enough room for everyone to sit around the table. Some of the guys who play here also play D&D on Sunday nights, so the game room sees regular use. A window was cracked open to keep the place cool, as prior experience had told us that five guys in this room would raise the temperature dramatically.***

It was about this time that Dave and Scott showed up. This would make for seven guys – something that was usually a problem for me. My decks just don’t have the ability to hang in there as long as required when there are seven guys. I can generally manage a table of up to five players… But any more than that, and my win percentage falls off dramatically. My attitude about the entire night changed and I opted to play a couple of more experimental decks (I’ll get into those later). This was going to be a fun night, win or lose.

Game one:

This game would prove to be the biggest test of the night, as far as fun goes. Our group still plays attack left, with a forty life cap.**** As it is attack left (or in this case, attack right*****), the order of play (or more importantly, where you sit) is important. Harley, Shane, Darren, Dave, Colin, myself, and Scott made up the turn order. This would either blow up in my face, or be absolutely spectacular, as Colin’s decks tend to either do nothing or absolutely explode out of the gate, killing the poor schmuck sitting to his left who has built his deck for the long haul.

I was lucky, as Colin started out slow, with just a Bog Imp early on. I expected I wouldn’t have a problem with that.+

My deck for this game was my first, and probably last attempt with flagbearers. The deck itself was not all that imaginative. I tossed in a few flagbearers, along with Mother of Runes and the Acolyte brother, Crimson and Obsidian, as a way to try and keep the flagbearer in play, while my Crusading Knights and Serra Angels did the dirty work. It should also be noted that this all white deck has only one card that provides any kind of lifegain: Spiritual Focus. This card is terrible and should never be used, but my group has seen a number of Megrim-style decks and this card appeared to be the perfect fit. As I said, this is a terrible card.

The early game saw Darren and Shane combine for three Syphon Souls. I tossed out an early Obsidian Acolyte, and followed it up too quickly with a flagbearer. The Agonizing Demise hit while I was tapped out, and I looked quite the fool all around the board. However, I had two more flagbearers in hand and wasn’t too worried.

By turn three, Colin was irritating me with his Bog Imp. Having seen this deck, I knew the Unholy Strength on the Bog Imp was soon to follow, but it didn’t seem to happen right away, and Colin just kept flying over for one. I dropped another flagbearer – with some extra mana this time – in an effort to keep from getting hit for three. I would much rather the flagbearer have some Unholy Strength, or at least keep it from hitting the board. I knew there were plenty of flyers in my deck, and I would likely pick one up soon.

Shane’s deck, which appeared to be a creatureless B/R burn deck, really started to kick in now. His first Mana Flare hit the table and by the next turn, an Earthquake for five around the eighth turn ended my game, leading to the standard jokes that Bruce was back in form. I seem to regularly be the first person knocked out in the first game.

Darren’s deck was showing its true colors at this point. Various Specters drained his opponent’s hand, while Capsize returned permanents to his hand to be discarded by the Specter. If you managed to kill off his Specter, he would use Disturbed Burial to pull him back into his hand.

Once Shane played the second Mana Flare, Darren used Allay (“Allée, allée allée allée!++) and rid the board of both Flares. Darren didn’t really want to kill Shane, as it was obvious that his deck wasn’t going to hurt anyone too badly without the Mana Flares to pump up a Drain Life or Kaervek’s Torch, and he made a great wall for the next player to go through.

Harley was that next player, and he was not putting up any threats at all. He had drawn only one land to start, and not another one since. I scooped up his library and took a peek, since I was already out of the game.+++ It looked like his deck had not even been cut since the last time someone played it. The order of cards was: Four Arcane Denials, four Obsidian Acolytes, three Teferi’s Moat, a single Coastal Tower, four more creatures, then every single land in his deck. Everyone had a good laugh, and I shuffled up his deck while everyone was taking their turns around the board. It was no surprise that Shane was having such an easy time of it.

Within another two rounds, Dave had finally succumbed to Darren’s Specters. His threshold deck had put a solid beating on Colin, especially with the Specters filling Dave’s graveyard so quickly.

Colin had managed to do a few more points of damage to Scott, who lost to the fourth Syphon Soul of the game.

Harley managed to drop a land – but with only four life, he appeared to be the next victim of across-the-board burn from Shane.

This fear was not lessened by Shane’s next turn. He tossed a four-card hand to Wheel of Fortune, finding two more Mana Flares. He managed to put both into play, hoping that at least one of them would survive through Darren’s Allay (“Allée, allée allée allée!”). Unfortunately, he didn’t consider how much more mana Darren would have because of the Mana Flares. On Darren’s turn, he had enough mana to cast Allay (“Allée, allée allée allée!”) and Allay (“Allée, allée allée allée!”) again to get rid of both Mana Flares.

Colin made what I thought was his best play of the game on this turn: Casting Drain Life and targeting Darren instead of Shane. This play forced Darren to use his buyback spells exclusively on Shane, as his life totals were now dangerously low. This bought Colin some time to build up an adequate defence for the Specters now attacking him, while finding a way to start hitting Harley.

On Harley’s turn, he drew and played Congregate, pushing his life total to almost thirty. He had plenty of business spells in hand from the Wheel of Fortune Shane had played, but was still having mana problems. The thirty life would certainly buy him some time.

On Shane’s turn, he opted to slow Darren and Colin by casting Pyroclasm. I think he was afraid of another Congregate being played, because I could see no other reason to play the card. There were no creatures threatening him and the creatures that were out there, would be lowering life totals.

At this point the game slowed down. Harley managed to cast Teferi’s Moat, bringing Colin’s black creatures to a standstill, but not before his life total had been reduced to three.

Shane cast Subversion and the game looked as though it would be quickly reduced to just Shane and Darren, as Colin only had one life and Harley’s three life wouldn’t last long. Instead, Colin used the islands he had in play for the first time, casting Capsize… On Darren’s Specter! I couldn’t believe that he had just killed himself by not bouncing the Subversion, but the Specter was going to come in unblocked, so he would have died either way.++++

Harley couldn’t draw another Congregate in the three turns he had left, so the game was reduced to Darren and Shane. Both were at the maximum forty life, and they could see that the end of the game was nowhere in sight for either of them, so they opted to share the win.

While I don’t learn something in every game I play, I did learn three valuable lessons in this game:

Important Multiplayer Lessons Here

  1. Flagbearers are okay, but are probably best used as a diversion. Make a token effort to protect them, then surprise with a totally different tactic later on. Remember, only opponents must target the flagbearer, not you. How handy would be to be the only player allowed to play direct damage spells?

  2. Build decks that suit your style of play. Dave Price doesn’t play control style decks, and I shouldn’t be playing a deck that draws attention to me in a seven-player multiplayer game. While Alongi might want to create nasty decks that say,”come and get me,” I don’t have the cards (or the money to buy the cards) to play like that.

  3. Oh, forget Alongi – why would you build a deck that draws attention to yourself? You are forced to use up cards defending your”come and get me stance” while quiet boy at the corner of the table builds up resources and comes out of nowhere at the end of the game to win! Listen to the Ferrett! Listen to me! Multiplayer Magic is more like poker than one-on-one Magic: Having a good hand is helpful, but not the be all end all. Bluff, point the finger at others, or just blend into the crowd. I built a deck that drew attention to me, and I paid for that by dying before another player who didn’t have any land! Admittedly, I probably could have stayed in the game a little longer if I hadn’t played so poorly, but Harley still would have lasted longer than me, just because he was quiet and didn’t appear to be a threat. If his deck had been shuffled properly (that was just so funny – well, maybe you had to be there), he may have won the game.

End Of Important Multiplayer Lesson

Game two:

The second game would see me play another untested deck. This deck involved various black and blue creatures that destroyed the creature blocking or blocked by them if that creature was a particular color. I threw in Sways of Illusion, Tidal Visionaries and other helpful spells to improve the odds, and decided to give it a shot.

When it came right down to it, the order of play in this game really wasn’t all that relevant, other than to tell you who would die first. Scott’s deck was a five-color monstrosity that featured several Invasion Dragons and Tek. With the help of two Birds of Paradise, and Shane’s Howling Mine speeding things along, Dromar hit the table early and made things ugly for Harley, the first victim.

Harley’s deck was a much better flagbearer deck than mine, and he played it better than I did mine. Harley is a longtime player – like Alpha long time. He got out of the game right around Arabian Nights and now only plays occasionally, with someone else’s cards (in this case, it was one of Darren’s decks). If he was more aware of the current cards available, I’m certain he would have put up a better fight. As it was, I was only too happy to use my Tidal Visionary to make his flagbearer green and see him get bounced. In four short rounds, Harley was gone and Dave was next on the chopping block.

This time, Dave decided to run his flashback deck and I was the victim. While Dromar was pounding away on Harley, a 3/3 Elephant token was beating on me. Of course, Dave also cast Sylvan Might on the token, then also cast Seize the Day, dealing ten damage to me when I couldn’t block it. This, coupled with previous attacks, left me at one life. Shane decided that I wasn’t doing enough to slow Darren down, so on his turn, he cast Thornscape Battlemage and targeted me for the two points of damage, putting me out of the game.

Three rounds later, Dromar had Dave down to three life, and Dave had no way to stop the flying dragon. During those three turns, Dave did manage to hit Darren with another Elephant, flashbacking the same Sylvan Might and Seize the Day to deal ten points of damage to Darren. Dave again left his opponent at one life, but this time he wouldn’t live to see that opponent die.

On Darren’s turn, he managed to tap all of Shane’s creatures, leaving an open path for Colin’s Multani to come in. On Colin’s turn, he obliged and attacked. Shane’s attempt to Reverse Damage was countered by Darren, and Shane was put out of the game. Darren was hoping that a huge Multani would slow Dromar down, but instead Scott attacked and finished off Dave, then named green, bouncing Multani.

The highlight move of the game came just before Dave died. Darren played Fact or Fiction, choosing Dave as his target opponent. Here is a player who will be dead, and Darren is providing him with an opportunity to get back at his killer. Not surprisingly, Dave chose to stack five cards in one pile, and none in the other. This was an absolutely beautiful play.

And after describing it as the best play of the game, it ended up not helping at all. On Scott’s next turn, Dromar finished off Darren.

Colin’s only defence to Dromar was a single small flyer, and it was over.

It was eerie watching a single creatures simply march around the board. At various times, people could have killed Dromar, but at that time, Dromar wasn’t hurting them, so they left it alone. It ended up being a mistake.

Game Three:

This game proved to be a marathon, compared to the usual hour-long games, lasting over three hours. At this point, the smoke in the room was getting really thick, in spite of the window that was now wide open. Four of the seven players smoked, and this appeared to be bothering Scott. His play seemed to be off this game and he suffered because of it.

The turn order for this game saw Darren attacking first, then Harley, myself, Shane, Scott, Colin, and finally Dave.

Darren made the first significant play of the game, putting out a Thorn Elemental. He successfully+++++ attacked Harley, but Shane was not about to have the Thorn Elemental crashing around the board, so he cast Blood Frenzy on it, forcing Harley to take another four points of damage – but more importantly, removing the creature from the game. Somehow, Harley seemed grateful to take the extra four points of damage!

Darren’s deck continued to be active early on, as he cast Oath of Druids. Five of us were playing creature decks, and at least early on, we were all excited at the chance of pulling a huge creature. Only Shane and Scott were a little apprehensive, as Scott was playing a Goblin Trenches deck with no creatures, while Shane knew what would be coming out of Darren’s deck and wasn’t all that excited about it.

I was happy about it. I was playing my”Not Fires” deck^ and liked the opportunity of drawing two cards per turn.

On my first turn after the Oath was put into play, I flipped the one Shivan Dragon in my entire deck. He is the biggest creature running in this deck, and I wouldn’t have had the mana to cast him for several turns. Instead, he comes out early and immediately attacks, as I already had Fires of Yavamaya out. At this point, I have to think Shane was wishing that he hadn’t used his Blood Frenzy on a creature that was on the other side of the board, with a Shivan Dragon coming over for at least five each round.

This continued for at least five turns, with more and more creatures covering the table. I put Shane out of the game before Harley cast the Desolation Giant with kicker. This would prove to be only the first”restart” of the game.

Darren, Dave and myself began to restock creatures and the board was beginning to turn ugly again. Scott used the Goblin Trenches in play to create six goblins, then immediately cast March of Souls, reducing everyone else’s large creatures while essentially giving flying to his own creatures. This would be the second”restart” of the game. The Goblin Trenches were soon paired with a Powerstone Minefield, and Scott seemed to have created an ugly wall for me to try and break through.

At this point we were nearing midnight, and Darren had to be at work. Shane jumped into his place, but by then the deck seemed to have run out of steam. Dave hammered him with several token creatures and other creatures with protection and Shane was out of the game again.

Harley had been slow to build up his defences, but soon a pair of 8/8 Serra Avatars and a Teferi’s Moat, naming green, had his side of the board well defended, and he still had enough left over to cause me problems. On his next turn, Harley cast Congregate, creating a pair of 40/40 creatures. I could see that I would be dead soon, as I had only enough creatures to chump for a couple of turns. I had been hoping to draw another burn spell, in the hopes of bringing his life total to zero, but I could not kill him and get rid of the flagbearer that he had in play. I desperately wasted the Incinerate and Lightning Bolt on the flagbearer, hoping this would open up a play for someone else.

Important Multiplayer Lesson Here.

If you can give an opportunity to someone to mess with someone else without leaving yourself open, do it. In this case, Scott could see the writing on the wall for me and knew he would be the next one facing the Avatars. He immediately cast Tsabo’s Decree, naming Avatars and saved my bacon – all because I created an opportunity for him to do it.

End Of Important Multiplayer Lesson

While this may seem crazy to cast before Harley could finish me off, Scott knew (and had played against) both of the decks. He knew he had me stuck behind a wall that I couldn’t break through, but Harley’s deck probably could. He decided that I was a good buffer and should be kept alive.

Soon after that, I thanked Scott by playing Tranquil Grove. I didn’t immediately destroy all his enchantments, but let everyone stare at it and know that the board could totally change when I wanted it to. I didn’t gloat for too long, as Teferi’s Moat and all of Scott’s enchantments looked so much better from their respective graveyards.

Scott took a chance and played another copy of Fervent Charge and came across with six tokens, doing eighteen points of damage and killing Colin. I sat and watched the whole thing happen, leaving Colin a little bitter, but I felt it was time to drop another player from the ranks.

With only four of us left, I decided that I wasn’t ready to take a run through six flying tokens with my single Dragon Whelp, and decided that Dave should stay in the game. I activated the Tranquil Grove again, getting rid of another Fervent Charge, and brought the game to a standstill.

While this wasn’t another”restart,” the mood of the game shifted. You could see we were entering the final stages of the midgame – and at any moment, someone would do something dramatic.

Dave was doing six points of damage each turn in the air to Harley, while Harley was using a pair of Tims to get rid of small pesky creatures and bring everyone’s life total down. Dave, Scott and myself were all around four or five life, when Harley was simply unable to take another six damage and was finally out of the game.^^

I took the opportunity to hit Scott, who had been reduced to only two life by Harley’s Tims. I cast Rancor on my Dragon Whelp and attacked. Scott blocked with enough to kill it, but knew I would just pump him up to finish him off. I used the remaining mana to cast another Dragon Whelp.

Dave looked at the table and I looked at the table and I realized I had made a huge mistake. He had a creature with threshold that gave it flying that I had not noticed before. He simply had to attack with both of his flyers, and I was finished. Dave did not spot my mistake and instead attacked with only one creature, knowing I would lose the Whelp if I blocked. I surprised him by hard-casting Invigorate on my Whelp. On the next turn I attacked with everything, managing to do enough damage to kill him and much more. Dave had been gaining small amounts of life, keeping himself alive each time Scott had attacked with his goblin hordes, so I overdid it to make sure that didn’t happen to me. I knew I was dead next turn if I attacked with the Whelp and he could prevent enough of the damage, so I sent the works. Ahh, victory!

Important Multiplayer Lesson (good grief, another one? This article has turned into a lecture!)

This game perfectly demonstrates what I mean about not drawing attention to yourself. When there were seven players, I was quiet and most of the board wasn’t worried about what I was doing. Scott even kept me in the game at one point because I didn’t appear to be any kind of threat. When the game came down to four players, for over ten turns I sat quietly, simply drawing cards and ensuring nothing got out of hand. I held four creatures in my hand at one point, but refused to play any of them for fear someone would think I had too many creatures in front of me and was too strong. I simply brought the number of cards in my hand to seven, then dropped one land each round and continued to wait. It wasn’t until the last possible moment to I start to use up the cards in my hand.

End Of Important Multiplayer Lesson (that was the last one, I promise!)

Post game

The final game ended around 1:15 a.m. Three games took about six hours. Almost as soon as I left I could feel the headache coming on from all the smoke. This happens almost every time I play Magic with these guys, but I continue to go week after week. If others can brave the stench of hundreds of Magic players to attend tournaments, then I can certainly handle a short-lived headache. I can’t wait for next week.

Bruce Richard

[email protected]

* – For those with amazing memories, Darren did in fact live with Shane, but he moved out and his brother Colin moved in.

** – I have always thought that multiplayer magic is to Magic duels, what hardcore pro wrestling is to pro wrestling. I think there is a full article in there, not just a footnote. Stay tuned to future articles.

*** – The persons-per-square-foot in this room is even smaller than at a tournament.

**** – I just can’t say enough about a forty-life cap. Lifegain was just ridiculous with our group, and games just bogged down, leaving two or three players each with hundreds of life. It was just wrong. I can’t recommend this rule enough for other multiplayer groups who are having a similar problem.

***** – We are lazy and to always set up the die roll so as few people as possible have to move each game. Sometimes that means attack right.

+ – Everyone knows what foreshadowing is, right?

++ – It is required every time someone plays Allay, that everyone chant like European soccer fans”Allée, allée allée allée!” My apologies if I have spelled it wrong or used the wrong accent. You would think someone with a good French name like Richard would get that right.

+++ – The guy with one land, who didn’t have a single threat on the board the entire game so far, was still in the game, while I, was already out. Just how bad am I? I will complain about this later.

++++ – I still think the Subversion was the right target. Darren may not have used the Specter, or made some other error, leaving Colin alive. The Subversion was going to kill him, no matter what.

+++++ – Is there really such a thing as an unsuccessful attack with a Thorn Elemental?

^ – The older readers may remember this deck as being my poor imitation of the popular Fires deck, but without the Saproling Burst, and only one Flametongue Kavu. I am poor and cheap.

^^ – Okay, maybe it wasn’t”dramatic”… But it sure changed the look of the board.