The Casual Report #6: Mono-white, Mono-tony

This report is an example of multiplayer Magic gone horribly wrong. The games describe everything that is wrong with my current playgroup. This isn’t an attack on any of the members in particular – just read on and you will understand. A quick note before I get right into things: my thanks go out to…

This report is an example of multiplayer Magic gone horribly wrong. The games describe everything that is wrong with my current playgroup. This isn’t an attack on any of the members in particular – just read on and you will understand.

A quick note before I get right into things: my thanks go out to George and Stijn for their compliments and helpful suggestions after last week’s Rizzo-lengthed report. While Rizzo offers deck construction, deconstruction, construction, road trip stories, photo ops, and game summaries over the course of many pages, I offered half-witty humour (you can take that either way) and a long summary that dragged at times. Hopefully I have learned something and this report will offer full-witty humour and a long summary that doesn’t drag.

Pre-game show:

I made it to Shayne and Colin’s place about five minutes before our usual 7:00 start time. I managed to avoid Scott, who was pulling his beast into a parking spot, while trying not to hit any of the cars around on the icy road.

Even coming in ahead of Scott, I was still only the fifth person there. Darren and Harley had already arrived, so it looked like tonight would be another big turnout. Before I even had a chance to get upstairs, Richard walked in. We were up to a very healthy seven players and Dave had not yet arrived.

Richard is somewhat new to our group, but has been playing for a long time. Richard is a large, bald guy (by choice) whose personality simply throws away any sort of intimidation factor he might use in Magic. He is a genuinely nice guy who is just there to have fun.

He is an old friend of Dave’s and has been playing since Arabian Nights/The Dark. Unlike Dave, who faded out of the game through several sets, Richard continued to play and has a wide range of cards. Richard is definitely the black mage in the group. Almost all of his decks are mono-black or a black/something combination. Richard has a solid understanding of the game which, coupled with his deckbuilding skills, keep him in many games.

Richard’s love of black leads to his one weakness involving Magic: His willingness to get hosed in a trade. In one night, he traded two Morphlings and two Masticores for four black creatures. I don’t remember which creatures, but does it really matter? Richard fully realized how one-sided the trade was, but he really didn’t care. The guy has even bought a full set of black Portal 3 cards (“From StarCitygames! We have the widest range of singles available anywhere in the world, and at the best prices! StarCitygames, where our prices are better than MagicOnline!”).

Dave managed to arrive before we started, so the first game would see eight players. Thankfully, the big table is big enough to fit us all.

Game one:

The turn order for our attack left fun was Shane, Harley, Darren, Colin, myself, Scott, Richard, and Dave. You would think having all the smokers on one side of the table would be a good thing, but in a room that size, within two minutes it really didn’t matter.

I decided to play a deck that I had played last week. This is the deck that changes creatures to the colour of my choice, giving me various advantages: Destroying green creatures, making creatures unable to block my pro: black creature, that sort of thing. I want the chance to mess with everyone on the board, and tilt the scales in my favour. It really didn’t get a chance to do that the last game, so I thought I would try again.

The first two rounds saw nothing of particular note. No one seemed particularly mana-screwed, and a few of us had a couple of creatures out, but nothing intimidating. I managed to get a Tidal Visionary and a Vodalian Zombie into play. While the Zombie’s protection from green ability didn’t need any help against Scott’s early green creatures, I really didn’t get the chance to send him in as he was tied up with the Visionary, defending against Colin’s white weenies.

It was about this point when Jason limped up the stairs. He suffered a workplace accident (also known as: He dropped some heavy stuff on himself while slipping on the aforementioned ice) that day leading to a limp. The game paused briefly while another seat was found and several”gimp” jokes were told. This would be a long wait for Jason.

Dave’s Chatter of the Squirrel on the first turn, flashbacked the second turn, brought out Shayne’s Earthquake for one at the start of round three. It seemed like overkill, considering all he was really doing was trying to kill a couple of squirrels, but after watching Dave use Sylvan Might and Seize the Day to pound on a few of us last week, Shayne didn’t even want to give Dave the chance to use either of those cards.

Just a few short rounds later, Darren, playing a mostly blue deck, chose to play Wash Out on all white permanents. With Harley on his right and Colin on his left both playing white, it was very helpful. I had a brand new Visionary in play, but opted not to use it to bounce something else, as I didn’t see another truly beneficial target. Scott’s green creatures were taking a beating from the Zombie that they couldn’t stop, so there was no point there. Everyone else was not an immediate threat, so I let things continue.

By this time I noticed that Scott’s red/green deck was running several Penumbra creatures, along with the appropriate Familiars. Now, if you could see that an opponent was using Penumbra creatures, and playing red, what cards do you think he might have in his deck? I did not stop and even consider the possibility of Jokulhaups – or in this case, I was oblivious to the obvious Obliterate. My lack of attention would cost me dearly later, while my lack of good taste cost you right now (oblivious, obvious, Obliterate? Yeesh).

While this was all happening, Dave was making things ugly for Shayne again. More squirrels were on the board. This time, instead of Sylvan Might, Dave simply Overran Shayne. Shayne was naturally upset. Being the first one out in an eight-player game makes for a very long wait.

One round later, Harley would be the next squirrel victim. Dave cast another Overrun, which along with a Muscle Burst, was enough to finish Harley. Darren was the next opponent up and he decided to slow things down with Rising Waters. This would bring Dave’s squirrels to their knees. Do squirrels have knees? Either way, you understand what I am trying to say: Dave was screwed.

At this point, the game was locked down for several turns. This was my downfall. I continued to hit Scott with my Zombie for two, but also continued to play lands as a way around the Rising Waters lock. Even the smallest bit of attention to the impending Obliterate would have led me to hold my land. This would have allowed for a quick recovery.

Darren bounced Rising Waters for one turn, and Richard took advantage, casting Dakkon Blackblade. While the Rising Waters lock was back the next turn, Dakkon was a 7/7, even with all Richard’s land tapped. Within a few more rounds, Dakkon had destroyed Dave’s (kneeless?) squirrels and put Dave out of the game.

Within two rounds, the beginning of the end hit. Obliterate hit the board, and it was all over. Richard lasted one round against four black penumbra tokens that did ten points of damage. Darren managed to kill one of the 2/2 tokens but died turns later. Colin was the next to die, but my stupidity again cost me. Colin had a Rune of Protection: Blue out. It may sound crazy, but Darren’s mostly blue deck had been kept at bay. I cast Sway of Illusion to get another card, and turned the tokens white instead of blue. I could have bought myself another round, as Colin would have held the horde off for another round, but I did not.

I am not sure if the extra round and the extra land I would have had if I had been paying attention would have mattered, but it was a frustrating way to end the game.

This game lasted about an hour and a half. I would say that is a respectable length of time for an eight-player game. This is when things turned ugly.

Game two:

The game started innocently enough with nine players in one group. Colin, Richard, Scott, Dave, Jason, Shane, myself, Darren, and Harley was the order of play.

The game started like gangbusters, with Darren exploding out of the blocks, casting a Phyrexian Colossus on turn two. On the next round, he added a Spirit Link and hammered Harley. Soon after, Harley’s Spirit Link landed on the Colossus as well. The end result was a net gain of eight life for Darren, as long as the Voltaic Key continued to do the job.

Scott decided to have a little fun this game, playing a Dragon Arch deck with no real threats in it. The first creature he cast was Riven Turnbull, which drew a number of laughs around the board. If you don’t know what Riven Turnbull does, I’ll leave it to you to find out; I promise it won’t be worth your while.

The board progressed for several more rounds before Jason decided that he couldn’t handle the beating that Dave was dealing, and cast Wrath of God.

With everyone restarting their efforts with plenty of land, the fatties would rule the day. Harley started everything off with a 12/12 Serra Avatar. Richard followed things up with the Avatar of Woe. Scott brought out Lady Orca, while my end of the table saw Shane, Dave and Darren each bring a Serra Angel on the table.

The first casualty came at this point. In spite of his attempts to burn Harley into the ground, his Serra Avatar was nasty enough to put Colin out of the game. At this point, we were about a half an hour into the game. While Colin couldn’t kill off Harley, his efforts brought Harley’s life totals down and Darren was only too happy to fly over with his Serra Angel to finish him off.

At this point, Darren offered the second global destroyer of the game, casting Desolation Giant with the kicker. This time, things didn’t seem to rebound so quickly, and it took almost another half a hour for everyone to start feeling pressure from the other players. Darren again offered to bring things to a grinding halt with a Crater Hellion. It was apparent at this point that doing damage was not going to win this game, but simply sitting on high life totals and outlasting opponents was the goal for several players.

Richard attempted to get things going again, this time by casting Delraich – and it was Jason casting Balance that truly brought things to a halt. The balance that was struck was one card in hand, three land, and no creatures. This essentially reduced everything to the start of the game, but with reduced libraries.

There were some attempts by some players to get the game moving again, but this time, Dave would cast Balancing Act, bringing everyone to four permanents. On the next round he cast Honor the Fallen, bringing him to the forty-life maximum.

Rant About Lifegain

Just when I thought Congregate was truly one of the ugliest multiplayer cards out there, Honor the Fallen receives new respect from me. With all the current efforts apparently involving the graveyard, and filling it as quickly as possible, this card is even worse. Like we really needed another way for white to gain life.

End Rant About Lifegain (Sort Of)

Darren thought he spotted a way through the insanity (that he had helped to create) and cast Sneak Attack. He never did get a chance to get going, as my shadow creature managed to finish him before he could draw any kind of lifegain.

At this point, I was the next to go, when Shayne used his Veteran Bodyguard and Phyrexian Splicer to kill me off over several turns. In truth, I hurried along my own demise. By playing an Aven Cloudchaser, I put the only creature with flying on to the board. Shayne simply took flying from my creature, and gave it to his, letting him fly over unharmed. Other flyers did hit the board soon after the Cloudchaser, but I would have survived at least one or two turns longer. In the end, it really didn’t matter.

The same Bodyguard went to work on Richard, and soon he was gone too.

At this point, my notes got shaky. Richard had put Scott out earlier, using shadow creatures to finish him. This left only Dave, Jason and Shane. All three played white and were simply tying each other down, while playing lifegain to get to forty life. I watched the three of them play for about half an hour, then a group of us decided to start another game, as it became apparent that the three of them were not going to be finished any time soon.

Their game did eventually end. Somehow, Shane was put out of the game, but I can’t even think how. Dave managed to cast a Feldon’s Cane and refill his library. The turns continued to pass between him and Jason, as they each attacked each other until one would get to around ten life, then that person would cast some kind of lifegain and be right back up to forty life. This continued until Jason ran out of cards in his library.

This game was a three and a half-hour charade. This is exactly the kind of gameplay that I was poking fun at in my last article. Dave and Jason and Shayne didn’t win this game of Magic. They simply bored the rest of us to death. Our group has found a solution to these sorts of games.

What we are doing now, is simply starting another game as soon as there are four players available. This way, the players who simply want to win by boredom can do so, while the rest of us play real Magic. Our little group of five players played two more games of Magic in the time it took Shayne, Dave and Jason to finish their game. The best part is that Scott won one of those games using a Memory Jar/Megrim/Megrim combo. This was as ugly as combo gets. Wow, did it feel good to see the game actually end because of what someone did, as opposed to just continuing on and on.

Post-game show:

At the end of the night, our group decided to consider whether to even have multiplayer games that big. Even if no one is playing white, these games last much longer than four and five player games. If we get eight players again, I expect that we may just split the table and play two games at once. It will keep things moving along a lot better.

I am not fully satisfied with that way of dealing with the matter. I am looking for other suggestions, preferably cards, that I can use in various decks to really beat the snot out of lifegainers. Please don’t send me decks that mill libraries. I just don’t have the cards to pull that off quickly and I’m not interested in dragging the game out even more to do it. I am thinking more along the lines of Forked Wheel of Fortunes, and other ideas that will particularly piss off the lifegainers in the group.

Finally, there will be no Casual Report next week, as I am going to see Nickelback with Dave this Monday night (or I just saw it tonight or last night, depending when the article is posted). Offered in its place will be an article about card advantage in multiplayer. Or maybe I’ll just cop out and rant and rave about $5.31 e-boosters (Wizards really hates Canadians). Of course, if Dave and I both miss Monday night, there is a good chance we’ll get together with at least a couple of the guys and play another night. Umm, I think I just committed myself to three articles this week. Uh-oh.

Bruce Richard

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