The First Casual Play Report

Everyone seems to want to write a tournament report. The theory is that if everyone else writes a tournament report, then you will learn how various decks respond to other decktypes. In reality, most people writing tournament reports actually tell you very little about their decks, and far more about the tournament experience. They tell…

Everyone seems to want to write a tournament report. The theory is that if everyone else writes a tournament report, then you will learn how various decks respond to other decktypes. In reality, most people writing tournament reports actually tell you very little about their decks, and far more about the tournament experience. They tell you about the happenings and goings on at the tournament site, and what made the tournament an enjoyable (or horrific) experience.

These postings go on various sites and are read by us, the Magic Community. Apparently, 90% (at least that appears to be seen as the accepted number) of us never go to tournaments, yet we read the reports. Most of us are obviously reading for the story. My thought was to bring this to the next obvious level — the casual report.

This report details the evening of Magic enjoyed by six individuals, myself included. This may become a regular thing, but for now, it just seemed like something that I have rarely seen done before. If you find you like the idea, but don’t like how I am laying things out, let me know and I’ll change it for next time, assuming there is a next time.

Monday Night

Tonight’s event looked to be a promising one. We had six players for tonight, and that seems to make for fun games. Along with our core group of four, Colin and Scott were coming tonight. I don’t know how long Scott has been playing, but he works at one of the local card shops in town, and has a wide collection. We were all preparing for the worst, and Scott didn’t disappoint.

Scott would also bring a whole new dynamic into our playgroup; I had no idea how Scott would react in various situations. Not knowing if he would play the political game going on under the table would make him a dangerous wildcard.

My expectations going into tonight’s games were low, since my decks don’t work as well against six players as they do against four. For me to get wins in games with this many players involves a lot of meddling, background cajoling, and general bluffing. Six players does make for a good night of Magic, so I was looking forward to it.

I should also mention that the group religiously plays attack left, with a forty-life cap and a one-and-half-hour time limit per game. (Cowards — The Ferrett) Bad Chaos games with everyone simply refusing to do anything quickly became boring, and attack left has opened things up. The forty-life cap was a way to deal with the stupid lifegain decks getting played. The one-and-a-half-hour time limit is a recent thing that is not strictly adhered to; it is just there if it looks like three players are still left and things are going nowhere fast.

We would also be playing in new digs tonight. We normally play at Shane and Darren’s place, and they had moved. Our dark, cool basement, along with all the ambience and smoke (Shane, Darren and Colin all smoke) was exchanged for a spare bedroom on the second floor. The cool ambience of the basement was gone — but a warmer room with the same huge table remained. We feared the smoke could become a problem, but the open window kept everything comfortable (and ensured we could hear every single moron racing by on the street in front). If only there was a way to play multiplayer with everyone in a Lazy Boy… Hmm.

Game One

The die was rolled to set up the turn order. I would go first, followed by Scott, Colin, Dave, Shane, and Darren. The players in our group have developed very distinct play styles and deck types, so where you sit can dramatically determine how you will fare. For example, Colin’s decks invariably attack hard, and I can usually count on Colin killing me quickly, or putting me in a position where someone else can easily finish me off.

I was concerned about where I was sitting, as some of Darren’s decks come out blazing — but this was not one of those decks. The early game saw the board split into two sides: Shane, Darren, and myself had practically nothing on the board. Even by the fifth turn, we each had only one creature in play. The other half of the board built up into a large stalemate. Scott had managed an early Questing Phelddagrif, and Treva soon after, but he was holding back. I suspect he was worried that he had joined a group of players far beneath his abilities and decided to take things slowly, as there was no apparent reason not to attack. I had even seen his hand at one point, but the two cards I had seen were insignificant. My single inflatable ground creature was no real threat and his big flyers were essentially unblocked.

By about turn 8 or 10, things began to happen all around the board. Scott started flying in for damage. Colin was playing a shadow deck, using direct damage to protect his back. Unfortunately he wasn’t having much luck, and was seeing a slow but steady decline in his life. Colin had no reason to keep his shadow creatures back from Dave and was coming at him every turn. Dave had a few Tims in his deck, but never seemed to be able to keep them alive long enough to cure his shadow problems. Dave’s deck was set up with four Squee’s Embrace and four Iridescent Drakes, which gave him the blocking he was looking for. His flyers managed some hits on Shane, but Shane’s Rebel deck was finally beginning to come alive. With some lifegain, Shane managed to stay on pretty solid ground. He wasn’t able to put any pressure on Darren, which worked out for Darren. Darren augmented his flying wall with Mahamoti Djinn and a couple of Man-o’-Wars, leaving me in a precarious position.

I was sitting with a couple of Backlashes in my hand, as well as two Agonizing Demises. I felt confident I could deal with the board as is for at least a few more turns, then I would have to see what would happen. I was pretty confident in Scott’s ability at this point to clear the board, and was prepared to protect my back until it was just him, then do what I could to kill him off.

The board then soon made two changes, one of which was very significant to me: The first change was Scott finishing off Colin, which didn’t matter to me at all. Colin was having no effect on the board as a whole and losing him from the game made no difference to me, although with Dave at less than five life, I expected to see him fall quickly too. The real change came on Shane’s turn when he played Coat of Arms. He already had four Rebels out, so I expected he and Darren would really be fighting. Shane also had out Reveille Squad, so he could attack without worrying about keeping himself open. This should have really put the pressure on Darren, opening me up to get a few more creatures and start trying to do some real damage to Scott. No one else on the board was playing any kind of theme deck, so I expected few problems for a while.

For the next five turns, everything went to hell. Dave proved to be more of a fight than Scott had expected, with Iridescent Drakes bringing Squee’s Embrace from the graveyard, then dying, only to bounce back to his hand. With some smoke and mirrors, Dave was holding off what was now two Phelddagrifs. Shane took his turn and decided to find more rebels, playing another Reveille Squad. On Darren’s turn I considered tapping the Djinn, but chose not to. I expected Darren to need the blockers against the Rebels coming his way, so I chose to do nothing. I paid the price, getting hammered by the Djinn and the 3/3 Man-o’-Wars (Coat of Arms really sucks!) for eleven. After his attack, he took one of Shane’s Reveille Squads and I understood why he attacked. I felt really foolish for not having expected this from Darren’s deck, but I still sat comfortably above ten because of a previous Soul Burn.

The next turn continued with me doing nothing (still!), and Dave fighting off Scott. At the start of Shane’s turn I decided it was all or nothing here. I had decided to use a Backlash on the Djinn and the other on the Reveille Squad, pretty much taking Darren down to nothing; however, I would still get hammered by the Man-o’-Wars and be dead within a couple of turns. During Dave’s turn, I realized what I bonehead I was.

To make the best use of the cards in hand, I needed to use some politics. As soon as Shane started the first main phase, I Backlashed the Reveille Squad. Darren took six points of damage and was down to six life left. With the Reveille Squad tapped, Darren was wide open. Shane realized that this would be his best opportunity to be rid of Darren, and with his own Reveille Squad, he would be safe from Dave… Not that Dave was being all that threatening at this point. Shane pounded through the wall that was still untapped and took Darren out, leaving just the four of us left. With two Agonizing Demises in my hand and all the big fat Rebels in front of Shane, I was pretty sure I could do the three damage left to kill him.

The best part of this particular play is only realized when you know the group. Knowing how Shane plays, I was confident he would see the opening and move in, rather than sit back and let Darren slaughter me, as other people in our group might do. There are some in our group who would not have understood what I was trying to do. By playing with this group as long as I have, I know when to set things up.

This is when the next big mistake on my part takes place. After combat, Shane casts Armageddon. I could have responded with the Incinerate that would have killed him, but decided instead that I would probably need it in the coming rounds. The problem I later realized was that I would need two mana to cast it. Hmmm. Yes, actually, I do suck just that much.

In reality, not using the Incinerate does make sense. I was sure that Shane was the only one who could finish off Scott, so why would I kill him? If I had been playing for second place, I would have jumped at the chance to kill Shane, but I was gunning for first. I expected the pressure Shane would be facing against Scott to pretty much stop the pressure against me, giving me a chance to work Scott over.

…Yeah okay, I know. It was still a really stupid move.

Shane should probably get a nod for making a mistake as well. The Armageddon finished off everyone except Scott, who had two Elves and two Vine Trellises in play, to go with the land he topdecked. The five mana after the Armageddon allowed him to blow through Dave, who needed at least four mana to continue casting the Drake and fly over Shane.

Shane did manage to finish me off before Dave fell, but it would be too little too late against Scott.

I doubt that Shane could have stopped Scott, even without the Armageddon, but Shane didn’t give himself a chance, as he had no mana to cast any possible solutions he may have had in his hand.

That game left a sour taste in my mouth. I didn’t get the opportunity to meddle, as this deck is supposed to, and really didn’t do much of anything. I lasted as long as I did in that game, only because of where I was on the board. It didn’t sit well with me at all.

Game 2

The table order was Scott, Shane, Darren, Colin, Dave, and yours truly playing last. I didn’t feel like sitting still again so opted for my deck with Fires of Yavimaya. I would call it a Fires deck — but with only two Blastoderms, one Shivan Wurm, no Saproling Bursts or Flametongue Kavus, calling it a Fires deck would be an insult to Fires decks everywhere. The deck does have a solid mana curve and a few ways to pump up creatures. This game would demonstrate just how bad a deckbuilder I am.

My deck started off a little slow, as I was forced to sack two Elvish Lyrists to disenchant Dave’s early Pestilence, then the Lashknife Barrier. Dave has touched up this deck every week and now everyone knows how it works and the necessity in killing it right away. Soon enough, Dave had to deal with Colin’s pressure, leaving me free to hammer Scott right away. I was fairly confident, knowing this deck would probably put far more pressure than Scott could handle in the early game. I was well on the way, getting him down to five before the famous Cloaked Rith hit the board. I continued to beat on Scott, but all I was doing was taking out a few tokens each turn. With Scott, Colin and myself playing decks with green it them, it didn’t take long until there was almost forty tokens on the board. You really have to see that bad boy in action in multiplayer to realize just how nasty he can become.

Shane was the first victim and I expected to simply be the last one to writhe before Rith, as I knew I couldn’t do eight points of direct damage with my deck and I didn’t expect to get any help. Darren had other ideas, though, and Mageta was on the board the turn before Shane died. He waited until Shane was dead, and it was Scott’s turn again before the lion roared. I had picked up a couple more creatures and was happy to just sit back and watch the creatures on the board die.

On Darren’s turn, he played another 3/3 creature and began hitting Colin. Dave was starting to recover and was quite willing to leave me alone to hammer away at Scott, who had reached the maximum forty life. The turn after Mageta, I cast a Blastoderm, a Blurred Mongoose, and a River Boa, smashing in for nine life. With Mageta on one side and hasted creatures on the other, Scott had become neutered and wasn’t able to cast enough instant threats to stop me from finishing him. Within four turns Scott was out of the game, with Colin following him a turn later.

Darren’s use of Mageta, after the initial self-preservation, was beautiful politics. Darren had seen my deck before and was pretty confident he could handle whatever I could throw, so killing Scott made sense. He would use Mageta to destroy any blockers Scott could summon, usually waiting until my creatures were about to fade out anyway. With Fires in play, I would get a free shot at Scott every time Darren used Mageta. It was beautiful, and left us both smiling as Scott disappeared from the game.

At this time, I managed to cast Planar Portal. Up to this point, I had not drawn a single Lightning Bolt or Incinerate, but with Mageta torching my creatures almost every turn, I knew I was going to need direct damage to kill it. As soon as I could, I paid the six mana to search my library for the Bolt… And found nothing. For some amazingly stupid reason, I had no direct damage in my deck. It would be creatures or nothing.

The feeling you get when everyone watching expects you to pull something out of a RED and GREEN deck to deal with a creature, and you come up with nothing, is not something I want anyone else to share in.

Darren continued to use Mageta regularly, turning all my creatures into weaker, more expensive Ball Lightnings. At this point, Darren cast the Serra Avatar, while sitting at around thirty life.

At this point the game became two-on-one, as Dave and I knew it would be impossible to put Darren out alone. I had to rely on Dave to put something out that could get rid of Mageta, and he would still have to be able to deal with the Avatar. I was confident that Darren could stop me with the Avatar long enough to get another Mageta into play, so Dave was going to have to come up with something good.

Thrashing Wumpus along with Bubbling Muck is something good.

Dave cast the Wumpus and immediately did three damage, toasting Mageta. He already had the Lashknife Barrier in play, so his creatures were safe. I looked at this and decided that the Wumpus, along with the two chump blockers in play, would be a good thing. I took the opportunity to cast a Pumped Dragon Whelp with Giant Growth to hit for eight. I knew Dave could become a problem, but at least Darren appeared to be under control

Darren was determined to make this difficult, though, and cast Winter Orb. Dave had only two of at least seven swamps untapped, so the beating I was expecting everyone to take at the hands of the Wumpus would not be materializing until either Dave or I could destroy the artifact. I only had three mana available, so the Planar Portal would not be any help to anyone for a while, but I already knew that I had nothing in my deck that would help.

For those of you keeping count, my deck has no direct damage, and no way to deal with enchantments or artifacts. Please keep your scathing remarks away from the face and groin.

Within three turns, the Wumpus was forced to block and Dave was dead the next turn. I had no way to keep up with chump blockers while untapping only one land per turn, so I scooped.

It drove me crazy to think that a little direct damage with some artifact and enchantment removal, probably would have won me that game. I played the deck as perfectly as I could have for this game, but the cards were just not in the deck. After two games I have discovered that I can’t build or play decks properly.

I also thought I had made a mistake taking out Scott, but I was in a better position to do damage to Darren with Mageta and Fires in play, than Scott was. I don’t know what was in Scott’s deck, so perhaps it would have been better to let him live, but from what was on the board, it looked to me like I needed to get through Scott and hit Darren as hard as I could as fast as I could.

Game Three

The turn order for this game was Darren, the myself, Colin, Dave, Scott, and Shane. I Waxed/Waned Darren’s turn two Necropotence (“Ooooh, look, the writer managed to put in some cards to deal with enchantments in a W/U/g deck! He must have really had to think about that!”), and managed to get a Zephyr and a Bay Falcon into play. The game progressed slowly, with only a couple of points of damage being done here and there. At this point, Scott played Warped Devotion and Darren played Spreading Plague, which effectively stopped the game. I held a Serra Angel in my hand the entire game, but refused to play it, because Shane had a 2/2 white flyer out doing damage to Darren, and I desperately needed Darren dead.

My deck uses mostly creatures that don’t tap to attack, then forces tapped creatures to stay tapped and generally punishes the player when they tap. You would think there would be four Stasis in my deck, but as I don’t own any Stasis, there aren’t. It probably works better this way, as everyone who has a counter holds it and enough mana to counter the expected Stasis. This lets me get away with playing a lot of cards that would otherwise be countered.

After a few turns, Darren cast Necropotence again, and no one stopped him. This time it was bad deck luck, as I had at least five more cards in my deck capable of dealing with the artifacts on the board. Darren then Corrupted me and a couple of other players, keeping his life totals high and continued to draw a handful of cards. Some well-timed Disenchants would have been nice, but no one seemed be able to draw anything to help and Darren eventually managed to finish everyone off.

The only other note is the battle Dave and Scott were having: Dave was trying to hit Scott with creatures, while Scott would simply return the creature to Dave’s hand, forcing him to discard cards. A Ghitu Slinger was returned to Dave’s hand at least five different times, and he finally did manage to do enough damage to Scott to kill him off. The two of them going back and forth were quite a sight to watch and had everyone laughing by the time it was over.

Game Four

The turn order was really irrelevant here. Scott was playing Living Death with Survival of the Fittest. My fun Tim deck had no chance against his deck. The four Anarchists made sure that he always had Living Death, and he played the card at least nine times. He explained an infinite loop he had with the deck that would let him play an endless Living Death. With the Ghitu Slingers dealing two damage each time the loop wrapped around, he could just continue to do it until everyone was dead. He opted not to use it, but wanted to be sure that everyone understood that he could do it. He made short work of the first two opponents, then ground out a win with creatures the rest of the way.

What is worse: Losing to a player playing a combo deck or losing to a player playing a combo deck who only uses part of the combo? I have seen players play Living Death decks that were fun, but playing against this deck with only two counterspells in all five of the other decks in the game, was pointless.

Our gaming group frowns on sore losers and people who give up. With the”attack left” rule, when the guy on your right is getting killed, you need to know that you are getting as many turns as possible to draw the card you need, and that your opponent isn’t going to mana burn himself, leaving you open to an attack from a different player. Generally, this is a good policy… But in games like this, the Living Death player simply goes off, while you can do nothing about it. I hung in as long as I could, because I thought possibly Colin would be able to squeeze off enough direct damage to finish Scott off, but it didn’t happen and it wasn’t going to happen.

That is the way the night ended. With a combination of bad plays, bad deckbuilding and ugly combos, this night was the worst night of Magic I’d had in a long time. The funny thing is that it was still a good night. I had fun and got to relax with a good group of guys for the evening. I hope that Scott continues to come to our games, forcing everyone in the group to a higher level of deckbuilding (or at least to a level where you put some direct damage in a red deck! D’oh!).

Bruce Richard

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