The Kitchen Table #136: Miscellany

Read Abe Sargent... every Thursday at

Today, I have several topics to explore. None are sufficient for an article of their very own, so I am combining them to create a miscellany; a nice tableau of article-ettes. Therefore, without further ado, let’s head into the bite-sized article nuggets.

Today, I have several topics to explore. None are sufficient for an article of their very own, so I am combining them to create a miscellany; a nice tableau of article-ettes. Therefore, without further ado, let’s head into the bite-sized article nuggets.

A Quick Aside for Five Color Fans

We restricted Contract from Below. Other stuff happened too, but that was the big news, and arguably the biggest news in Five Color since the last big news banning a bunch of tutors. I voted on this side – to restrict the Contract – although I voted against the Great Tutor Ban of Winter ‘05.

Contract is simply worthy of restricting, at the very least, due to its power. I didn’t lead this charge, I followed others. Except for one article, The Contract Question, I’ve decided to lay low on this issue. Contract is the abortion issue in Five Color. No one gets their mind changed on either side, and everybody gets very emotional and thinks the other side is stupid. I believed that, as a representative on the council, I should just keep still on the issue unless there was a chance of getting a change through.

Therefore, I am still surprised that we ultimately voted to restrict Contract with little threats on the message boards and the newsgroup. I was expecting a score of people exclaiming that they were leaving Five Color, quitting, going home, and taking their ball with them too. There has been very little vituperation of this type, and I really appreciate it.

I wanted to take a second and commend the Five Color community, because it really seems like people are simply moving on for the most part. Imagine banning abortion except in specific situations in America. Would the pro-choice side be silent and relent? Of course not. It seems like my abortion analogy with Contract was stretched, and I’m glad my worst fears were not realized.

To the online Five Color community: I’m glad I was wrong about you. Keep me proud!

Other changes were minor. We made ante officially optional. We also restricted Infernal Tutor. I expect that we will soon revisit the dark horse of the format – the Wishes. Every six months it seems like someone wants to change the rules on the Wishes. We allow Chaos Orb, but it seems some players just can’t handle the casual-ness of the Wishes.

As a reminder, my position on Wishes is the same it’s always been – keep them in, rule them to work virtually the way they are supposed to, with minor, common sense rulings. Stuff like “you can’t play a Wish and spend 30 minutes searching for your card,” that sort of thing.

We just finished yet another vote to ban Recoup. After Wishes and Contract/ante, Recoup seems to get the most attention of any issue in Five Color. Once again, we voted not to do anything with Recoup. I wonder how long it’ll be before we vote on Recoup again.

Equinaut Updated

I was playing around with a couple of cards from Dissension in my online version of Equinaut. Allow me to recount how they played:

Azorius Aethermage was nice in that it was still a creature. It could be pumped by Tolsimir, it activated other Aethermagi, it activated Equilibrium, and so forth. When my deck started working, if it drew an Aethermage, it was harder to stop than otherwise. In other words, Aethermage was an Armageddon.

I recounted in an earlier article that I think game changing cards are either Armageddons, Wrath of Gods, or Living Deaths. An Armageddon takes the game from a state where you are slightly winning or have tempo and makes it much more likely that you will win. A Wrath of God effect takes the game from a losing state and brings you back to neutral. Both are big game-winning swings. A Living Death does both, taking you from a losing state to a winning one, and usually only does so in certain circumstances.

Azorius Aethermage is an Armageddon for Equinaut. Once you get momentum, it allows you to massively outdraw your opponent, practically ensuring a victory. The problem is that this deck does not need an Armageddon-type effect that puts the game away. It already establishes dominance well after gaining momentum. Therefore, I think the Aethermage is simply too much.

Another card I tried out was Momir Vig, Simic Visionary. Virtually every creature in the deck is Green. Therefore, Momir Vig was a tutor for the next creature I need virtually every time I played a creature. Since this deck is very creature intensive, his ability is nice. This deck also needs a lot of mana to work well, and it needs the occasional enchantment. In other words, it doesn’t want to always be drawing creatures, although there is a point in the game where you like it. However, like the Aethermage, once you get to that point, you’ve almost always won anyway.

Patagia Viper was the best card I tried out from Dissension. I was experimenting with a Glare of Subdual version of the deck, and the Viper was a key component. Would you like to see the latest version of Equinaut that I’ve been playing with?

This deck is interesting because it is one of the first versions that saw me pull out all countermagic other than the Mystic Snake. The original version was very counter heavy, and the deck has evolved into a different deck over time.

The land base is so screwed up because this is my actual online deck, and I don’t have many of the new dual lands.

Other options for this deck include adding back the Mana Leaks, trying out Voidslime (the original ran Absorb after all), and adding the ubiquitous Goblin Bombardment effect in the form of a Blasting Station.

The Patagia Viper is really good in this deck because it gives you three tappers for the Glare, while also being a great creature to bounce back to your with numerous effects. It is also the only flyer in the deck with power greater than zero. I’m tired of beating with Birds of Paradise pumped by Tolsimir, and I wanted a real flying threat.

If you want to try out this deck, you can easily replace the Glare with Opposition. I have been reducing my Blue component over time, and I wanted the Glare not only to lock creatures down, but also to give the deck a way to survive long term without two Blue mana. Feel free to Opposition the deck up, which is an obviously better card. I’d probably do so myself, if I had a better manabase.

Revisiting Shandalar Revisited

I’ve received emails and PMs from several people who are interested in sharing with me how their group is trying out Shandalar as a campaign! I love reading this stuff, and if you also want to share ideas and tell me what did and didn’t work, feel free to drop me an email or post in the forums here.

One group created an ante pool randomly each night, and the winner of each game gets draws from the ante pool. That way you don’t lose cards. Another group pushed the ante envelope and required a deck to ante three cards, and the winner chose which card of the three anted they wanted to keep.

As you can see, different groups treat ante and Shandalar in very different ways. I hope your groups are trying out Shandalar and tweaking the rules for your own interests.

A quick plug: if you like the idea of a recurring Limited campaign, but you don’t like the Shandalar idea, you can check out my article on MagicShop (Building a Better Plot). It has a similar feel to Shandalar, but with a very different rules structure and setup.

I actually prefer Shop. Of course, my favorite experience in Magic, ever, in my entire life, was playing Shop, so I’m biased. I’m a guy who writes for StarCityGames.com, is on the Five Color Ruling Council, and is on the Peasant Magic ruling board, has Top 8’d PTQs, has placed in several prereleases, writes for Scrye, was a judge, and yet my favorite Magic experience is playing Shop. That’s high praise for someone whose Magic life has been so abundant.

Try out one or the other, and I hope you’ll find that your group really likes the idea of building your cardpool over time, and seeing the evolution of your deck.

On Ante

On a related note, some of you may have noticed a bit of a disconnect in my writings. I love casual formats with ante, yet in a previous Five Color article, I said that the first thing I would do if I were allowed to shape Five as I wanted would be to get rid of ante entirely. How can this be?

I think Garfield was absolutely spot-on with the addition of ante to Magic. I loathe that the game has gone so far away from ante that it has become, to many, a dirty word. Why can’t Wizards of the Coast print optional ante cards? Sure, no one likes opening up Timmerian Fiends, but that’s because Timmerian Fiends is all about ante, and you can’t even play it without playing for ante. What if the following card were printed:

Creature – Bear
When Ante-Bear comes into play, if you are playing for ante, you may choose to ante an additional card. If you do, give Ante-Bear three +1/+1 counters.

In Limited, people would draft and play with it, because it’s a Grizzly Bear. You could toss Ante-Bear in your Honey and Bees and Bears theme deck without having to worry about pulling it out because your group doesn’t play for ante. The card could be used in any state or country that bans ante. However, if your group wants to play for ante, you can. It doesn’t decrease any options for players who don’t play with ante, but it increase options for those who do.

Admittedly, the ante-playing public is a very small segment of the community. However, Wizards has admitted that they are willing to print entire cards designed only for a very small segment of the community. No one likes opening Goblin Game, except for a very small group of people. However, with Ante-Bear, it is at least playable by anyone, and you aren’t wasting a card slot for a card only a small section of people like, because everyone can play Ante-Bear, and it doesn’t muck up Limited.

I think it’s a shame that Wizards has never explored ante the right way, and Ante-Bear does that. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t play for ante. In fact, I encourage it in some situations.

I do not like ante in most situations. Tournaments, for example, should steer clear of ante. Multiplayer should likewise eschew ante. I do think there is an area where ante shines:

Limited Universes

When I begin playing Magic twelve years ago, a group of us began a limited universe. We each bought a starter and some boosters. We had to record everything we opened. We then built decks and made trades from just those cards. The games we played were for ante, and it was the first time I had ever played ante. In this format, I loved it.

I loved it in MagicShop and Shandalar as well. These are limited universes where everyone has a Limited cardpool. Anteing a simple card, like Scryb Sprites, has a significant effect.

It has a greater value than just that, however. It makes the environment organic. You lose and gain cards over time, thus changing your deck. Your deck grows and morphs as your cards change. Sure, it sucks to lose one of your best cards, like an Incinerate, but it also really helps to shake up your deck, and you’ll occasionally score a great card as well.

No game mechanic in common use makes the game more organic than ante. However, it only works to do that in a limited universe. If your playgroup tries any form of a limited universe, I hope that you’ll experiment with ante. It can really make the game more interesting in a lot of different ways.

BPS Sighting

If you’ll recall, I once pointed out a multiplayer phenomenon called the Best Player Syndrome, where the best player at the table often gets picked on solely for that reason, and not because it is the tactically sound decision. I came across another example of BPS just last week, while I was playing multiplayer at a friend’s house.

I had just played Genesis, which would have given me a 4/4 blocker, and I was being attacked by a player with an Ophidian who wanted me to remain open. Therefore, that player countered my Genesis. I’m okay with this play, because it made sense.

Then the player next to me, a different player, who controlled a graveyard removal card, (I think it was a Tormod’s Crypt, but I can’t be sure), looks over and asks what Genesis does. I show him the card.

He reads the card, and then immediately uses the Tormod’s Crypt to destroy my graveyard. I ask him why, and he says because he wants to take out Genesis. I point out that I don’t have any other creatures in my yard to return, and he says it doesn’t matter. I then point out that another player has both Genesis and several other creatures in his graveyard, and taking out my Genesis when I can’t abuse it is just silly. I point out again that another player has had Genesis there for a while with other creatures.

He says, “I know.”

First of all, I was a bad target for the Crypt tactically, when the same card in a better situation is being activated and used. Second of all, the player’s defense was just poor. If he knew that Genesis was in an opponent’s graveyard all along, then he is admitting he made a bad play on purpose. However, he had to read my Genesis in order to figure out what it did, so I doubt he knew all along that my opponent had a Genesis and was using it. He was just trying to cover up a bad play, I bet.

You see, very few players will just outright admit that they are BPS’ing you. Instead, they will often create some flimsy excuse. I’m attacking you because you are the best player, even though you have a better defense than Player A and are not as much of an immediate threat as Player B.

I sometimes think the Best Player remains the Best Player because they never have to worry about succumbing to the Syndrome.

In a way, this almost feels like I wrote a series of daily articles and then bunched them up together. There are five subjects above, and five workdays in a week, so you have to figure that subconsciously I was writing dailies or something. On the other hand, maybe it was just coincidence.

I hope that you haven’t become too bored by the trek through all things casual. Well, I’m off to watch more of the World Cup!

Until Later,
Abe Sargent