The Casual Report #7: A Pregnant Pause

Ahh, only in multiplayer do people die from Scryb Sprites.

Pre-game show:

We started the night with seven of us there, with everyone having an immediate advantage over Jason. He informed us early on that his wife is due with their first child… Tomorrow. Everyone was rather surprised that he would be here, playing Magic, when his wife could go into labour at any moment… But apparently, she was the one who told him to go. Halfway through the night, I could see why she wanted him to get out and away from her: He was a nervous wreck, and it showed during the game. Nothing quite like watching an opponent totally lose his focus every time the phone rings. Ahhh, nice.

Everyone was happy to take advantage of the situation. Jason’s decks are very solid and he is a good player, so even with this distraction, he could be dangerous. We were careful not to overlook him.

Game One:

The D20 decided the order of play* around”The Big Table”: Colin would go first, followed by Jason, Scott, Darren, Shane, Richard and ending with me.

The game started out much like any other, with the only play of mention in the first few rounds was Darren’s early Plague Spitter, which caused problems for a couple of players who were relying a little too heavily on their one-toughness creatures. The Plague Spitter problem was resolved when Jason decided a couple of Blastoderms would work well. With Darren keeping the number of creatures on the board much lower than normal, I expected the Blastoderms would wreak havoc until they faded from existence. How do two Blastoderms solve the Plague Spitter problem? Scott had decided that he actually wanted to win this game, but the only way he had to stop the Blastoderms was to cast Living Death. This repopulated the board with the many tiny creatures that had tasted the plague-tainted spittle… And rid the board of the Spitter. Therefore, two Blastoderms killed the Plague Spitter.

Within another turn, Scott played Survival of the Fittest, marking himself as a target. Scott rarely plays this deck, but everyone recognized the key components of the deck and could recall the last time they were run over by this irritating (and effective) deck.

Our group tends to be quite willing to let someone hammer around the board, keeping their solution to the deck to themselves, until they are personally threatened by the ugliness on the board. As Darren would prove to be the first victim, it would be up to Darren to stop the deck or die, while everyone else just sat there and let it happen. Vindicate does a good job, at least for the short term, and soon Survival of the Fittest was resting comfortably in the grave.

Colin’s deck seemed to just continue plugging along through all of this. The Scryb Sprites he had played early on, and lost to the Plague Spitter, made a return and were enchanted with Predatory Hunger. Amazingly, Jason wasn’t able to do anything about it (or was perhaps a little distracted with non-Magic related issues) and died to the ever-bigger Sprites. Ahh, only in multiplayer do people die from Scryb Sprites.

Richard had cast the Sengir Autocrat, only to see him die to Living Death. That should have warned me, but I didn’t clue in that Delraich was probably on the way. Invariably, Richard uses the serf tokens, a.k.a. Surfer dudes, to bring out Delraich. By this point in the game though, the Surfer dudes were not required and Richard was able to hard-cast Delraich. Things were not looking good for me, although I did have some defence in place for Delraich. I wasn’t too worried, as the cards in my hand would allow me to stuff the Delraich and other attackers for a number of turns.

My well-laid plans were blown to pieces when Darren decided to Armageddon. Delraich alone would start causing serious damage within a few turns, with only the creatures I had on the board. Things were not looking good. Not surprisingly, I found myself at four life within a few turns, when Darren brings out Mageta. I managed to hang on, and Darren was good enough to activate Mageta, saving me from imminent death.**

The turns go around the board and back to Richard, who casts Nether Spirit, then Victimizes it to get Delraich and the Catacomb Dragon into play. Hmm… Something about a frying pan and fire applies here I think. I had no way to stop this, so I looked to find a way to force Darren to activate Mageta again. Still nothing. I would be relying on luck to survive through this round.

Colin and Scott do nothing of interest or that is a threat to the board. Gee, no help there. Darren decides that Living Death could hit at any time and he likes Mageta in play better than in the graveyard, so he decides to Death Grasp Scott, finishing him off. The life gain would also allow him to use the newly-cast Yawgmoth’s Bargain. It was readily apparent who the dominant player on the board was… But what could be done about it?

Richard dealt fourteen damage to me, ending my interest in how to stop Darren at this point. Darren then finished off Shayne with Mageta and a Sengir Vampire. Darren then cast Noble Purpose, making the situation even uglier.

Richard managed to kill Colin, but knew there was nothing he could do about the enchantments and that inevitably, he would die. Rather than fight to the bitter end, stalling the game out and forcing everyone to needlessly wait, Richard opted to just bow out. A lesson can be learned here by those who feel the need to fight to the bitter end, in spite of the hopelessness of the situation: There is nothing on the line here, except everyone’s fun. Just give up and let the next game get started. There were five other guys waiting to play. Besides, Richard would only have time for that one game tonight, as he was working a late shift and needed to get home.

Game Two:

The second game of the night played out like my favourite multiplayer games do – plenty of action with a quick, non-cheesy end. The order of play was Shayne, me, Darren, Scott, Jason and finally Colin. Colin used the same deck he did in the previous game. This time Predatory Hunger ended up on a Giant Spider who went the distance against Shayne. This is unusual, as Shayne normally doesn’t have a problem with one creature, but his deck conspired against him, and he just couldn’t get any mana on the board.

I was next up against the growing Spider, but I did have a solution for it. My mono-blue deck focused on theft and some basic library manipulation to get to the cards that I needed. I used the Binding Grasp sitting in my hand to take the Spider from Colin. Blue certainly can be frustrating to play against.

The table was starting to shape up nicely. I had Colin’s Spider; Darren’s deck to this point seemed to revolve around Specters; Scott had the Spiritmonger out; and Jason was sitting with Multani. Scott decided that the Specter damage was something he wasn’t willing to deal with, so the Deed (for four) was done. This reduced the board to Spiritmonger and Multani. I expected everything would just sit, as it was unlikely that Jason would use Multani to attack, knowing that he would just get Mongered as soon as he tapped the Legend. I expected Scott would leave the Spiritmonger as long as Multani did not tap, knowing that he would be pounding against a brick wall.

Bonehead play of the night:

This is where my bonehead play of the night comes in. I played Shimmer, choosing Mountains. At this point, there were no threats to anyone around the board, so why play Shimmer? There was no reason to waste this card, and it may have proven more useful later on against a different land type. In the end, it had little effect.

Darren broke the stalemate by playing Skizzik. Jason realized that this would force Scott to keep the Spiritmonger back to defend, so he could freely attack with Multani. Admittedly, if Scott should find another creature big enough to stuff Skizzik, Jason could be in trouble, but I expect Jason had some type of backup in his hand. Multani started to hit and after a few chump blockers, there was nothing Colin could do about it. I knew that Multani would be a problem for me, as the only real way I had to stop a creature assault was to steal a creature and use it to block. By sheer luck, I did manage to topdeck one of the few creatures in my deck – and the only creature in my deck that could have helped in this situation: The Cerulean Wyvern. With the one creature, I managed to lock up Multani and shut down Jason’s attack.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t providing any pressure on Darren. Mahamoti Djinn joined his Skizzik, then a Hypnotic Specter was added the next round. Scott could only hold out for so long, and finally died. With only three of us in play, Multani was a normal size, and was forced to chump against Darren’s army. This only bought Jason one more turn, but it wouldn’t be enough. I had only been lucky enough to draw one theft spell (Dominate) and Darren countered it, then barrelled in. My Wyvern hardly put up a fight.

Game Three:

Everyone was excited at this point, as it looked like we were going to get in more than three games tonight. In the previous nights, there always seemed to be some tie-up in one or two games that left those games dragging on and on. So far, that hadn’t happened tonight.***

I went first in this game, followed by Shayne, Darren, Colin, Scott and Jason. I wasn’t too disappointed with the seating arrangements. This deck is not really designed to pound on the person on the left, but to spread the damage around the table, using kicked Agonizing Demise, Backlash, and the standard Drain Life and Soul Burn. Sure, it is mostly cheese, but what the hell.

Darren made the first notable play in the game, playing Death Pit Offering. This, coupled with Ashen Ghoul (which would be Rancored later) and Spined Fluke, would send Darren flying around the board again, killing off Colin and Scott before either of them could really get started.

For once, I was doing my part. The Specters in my deck were wreaking havoc with Shayne’s elves. The Spider Climbs and Creeping Molds just didn’t show up and I walked over him.

This left only Darren, Jason and myself. Jason had been getting manascrewed, but since no one was doing anything particularly nasty to him, he managed to get the mana he needed just in time and his white deck got rolling.

Darren and I had both seen this deck before and knew it had to go. I just sat back and let Darren hammer away. Table talk isn’t illegal at our games, but it is generally frowned upon. However, when Darren has no way to stop flying, and I still don’t attack, it didn’t take him long to realize what was happening.

This strategy was effective for a while, but Jason managed to find a lifegain spell to push his life total over twenty again. His next draw was Story Circle and he named black. At this point, Darren and I were both ready to give up. Neither of us had a way to get rid of the enchantment, and both of us were playing predominantly black decks. The little bit of red in my deck was for mostly gold cards and some small direct damage. Darren continued to come at him full out, forcing Jason to use up his mana on the Story Circle. This left his creature attacks on me, extremely weak, as he needed all his mana to stuff Darren. At this point, I can see that Darren really isn’t helping any more, so I begin to fly over with the Specters to finish him off. Soon enough, only Jason and I are left.

Jason manages to get an Archangel on the board, along with a Serra Angel, but my Flying Gnats are keeping me alive. At this point, I finally draw the answer that I have been waiting for: Backlash. I gang blocked the Serra Angel, killing it, then Backlashed his Archangel, adding Bloodlust to the insult. The damage Jason had to take was dealt from his creature, not the Backlash, so he could not Story Circle around it. I came in with every creature I had and forced him to tap every land but one. I then cast two Soul Burns, each with enough to kill him off. Ahh, victory is mine! I even managed to win while playing around the Story Circle, which was much sweeter.

I suppose I should mention that earlier in the game, Jason could have used the Story Circle to prevent direct damage from me (I was trying to get him to use up his mana), but he chose another play, which ended up costing him five life. That play made the difference in the game, and would not have happened if the phone had not been ringing non-stop throughout that game. Jason was thoroughly distracted, and I was surprised to see he only made that many mistakes.

Game Four:

This game saw me play my mono-white deck. After all the complaining I have done recently about white decks, you would think that I would refuse to play them. I do play them, I just try to do something other than gain life and hide behind a wall.

The order of play was Scott, me, Jason, Colin, Darren and finally Shayne. I was worried about being attacked by Scott, but more worried about Shayne. He normally manages to win a game every night, yet tonight he had been knocked out early in the games. I expected an all-star deck and some tenacious play from Shayne this game.

Bonehead play of the night (part 2):

In the end, Shayne’s play had almost no effect on me at all. Scott started with Rith, then quickly added Tek to the mix, making my life total seem very illusionary. The closest thing to a solution that I had was Conversion, so I played it. This would be bonehead play of the night part 2. Scott was using Invasion lands to get his red mana, so Conversion had no effect on him. I did succeed in frustrating Jason, who was playing almost exclusively red, but since my hands were full playing defence, I couldn’t take advantage of the situation. All I succeeded in doing was slowing the game down a little. Shayne had out a Rabid Wombat with three enchantments on it, which forced Scott to leave Rith behind to defend, but I still ended up getting Tek smacked. Darren played out Crosis and was harassing Shayne with it, so everyone around the board seemed to be having difficulties.

I finally gave up paying the upkeep on Conversion to get some creatures out to block Tek. It was at this point that Jason’s deck came to life. The Flowstone Overseer hit the board, along with a Citadel of Pain and Power Surge. These cards kept things moving along very nicely. I was a little worried, as I had nothing to sink mana into, but in the end, it didn’t seem to be too much of a problem.

Shayne’s Wombat managed to get around Scott’s defences and soon it was my turn to face the Wombat. I cast Voice of All and made it Pro: Green, expecting that the Overseer would leave it alone until he had dealt with everything else. Jason could see that I wouldn’t be attacking any time soon.

Darren opted to change the look of the board, and cast Global Ruin. My mono-white deck was crushed, leaving me with only one land, compared to the seven that I had out. Darren finished off Shayne, then on the next turn cast the Legacy Weapon. The rest of us were dead in short order.

Game Five:

We couldn’t believe that we were going to get in five games! With the way everything had been moving along, it just all worked out. This game is practically a blur and my notes are pretty spotty. Darren ran me over with green weenies fairly early on and I was out of the game quickly. I was playing a Soldier deck that uses Goblin Trenches. I had envisioned a deck that would produce tokens like crazy, and be supported by white soldiers and Coat of Arms. Unfortunately, I don’t own Coat of Arms and needed to borrow them from Dave. This left me with a deck that can make puny soldier tokens, but has no real way to pump them up. In this game, it really wouldn’t have mattered. Even if I got Coat of Arms in play, Darren’s Squirrel tokens would have been far bigger than my soldiers.

Shayne was playing his Enchantress deck. Not Yavimaya Enchantress, but Verduran Enchantress. His deck uses Whip Silk cast over and over to draw tons of cards, then runs you over with Aspect of Wolf. I was quite happy that he wasn’t beating me with that thing right away. I did get a brief reprieve from Darren, as he had to leave to go to work. This kept me alive for one extra round, and Scott stepped up to finish me off.

Colin would be the next to die, killed by an Enchantress with numerous enchantments on it. Scott was up next, but he managed to slow things down with a Desolation Giant. Unfortunately, the slowdown lasted only one turn and Shayne put him out quickly. Jason was unable to muster any kind of real defence and Shayne managed to win his game for the night. The entire game could not have been more than fifteen rounds. This was just insanely fast, but considering the time, everyone was happy to wrap it up.

Post-game show:

Darren proved to be the powerhouse of the night, taking three of the five games. He probably had a chance to take the last game too, if he hadn’t been forced to leave early. Each of Darren’s deck usually involve getting some kind of big creature in play, then getting some major reset button to go off. Actually seeing it in play shows that it is far more elegant than I have described. I suspect that next week’s game will see Scott get a number of wins, as he is just too talented to be shut out for two weeks in a row.

I repeatedly talk about using care when playing your cards. In multiplayer, you are outgunned, as everyone else draws a card for each card you draw (normally), so you have to play your cards carefully. Tonight I did not do that. My plays of Conversion and Shimmer probably did not cost me those games; I was going to lose anyway. In spite of that, they were bad plays and I should take more care to heed my own advice. We’ll see next week.

Bruce Richard

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* – Our group plays exclusively attack left, with a forty-life cap. Bad experiences in previous games from years ago has led to these now hard-and-fast, rules. My apologies to the two guys who have read these articles before. You should know better than to actually read the footnotes by now.

** – Clearly, Darren didn’t activate Mageta to save me. As I just said, unless the threat is against one of us personally, it is mostly ignored. Darren just decided that it would be a good time for him to activate Mageta, and it was perfect for me.

*** – Is this foreshadowing a long, stalled out game coming up, or am I just teasing? Well, you scrolled all the way down here to check the footnotes, so you must have noted the subtitled games four and five. You can guess what happened.