Gosh, this hand would be perfect if it wasn’t for all the land.
Who hasn’t thought this at some point? You have six land and one huge spell that’s almost guaranteed to win you the game if you can get it out. Or you have six killer spells and one land to start with.
But you’ve always chickened out and mulliganed at times like this, just because you couldn’t chance getting there— haven’t you?
No, of COURSE you haven’t!
You do what we ALL do from time to time— you’ve thrown caution to the winds, and Seen What You Can Make with this potentially wondrous hand. What the heck…. it’s multiplayer, and you can take the chance and just have fun. And hey, sometimes it works!… and when it does, it’s better than that optic rush you get when someone injects fresh heroin in the corner of your eyeball.
Um…. or so I am told.
But sometimes it doesn’t work out right. You draw, and now you have SEVEN land and one big spell. Then EIGHT land. Next thing you know, you’ve drawn four cards, they’re all land, and now you’re dead. Why? Because you’re defenseless. Everyone else saw, they came, and they put a boot up your butt.
Ah, but did you try… SNEAKING?
Yes, there are ways of stopping the beatdown when you’re helpless. Of course, they all involve psychological dirtywork that involves severe manipulation and bald-faced lies to get you through the day… but then again, this is what you folks COME to me for, isn’t it? Siddown. I’ll teachya.
TECHNIQUE #1: RELY ON THE CONSCIENCE OF GOOD PLAYERS. By“good” players, I don’t mean the really talented ones. No, the really smart players will correctly note that you’re as helpless as a bound baby seal smacked out on Roofies— and then pound you over the head while they still can.
No, when I say“good” I’m talking alignment. Remember those days from Dungeons And Dragons, when everyone got to wear a big nametag that said,“Hi! I’m Bob! I’m Lawful Evil!”?
Actually, it didn’t matter what alignment you took, because D&D was basically total carnage. I mean, considering the only way to get ahead in D&D was to a) kill bigger and bigger monsters or b) take treasure, which strangely enough was always guarded by large ferocious monsters… well, it was kind of weird when TSR made you take an alignment just so the DM could decide WHO you got to kill:
“No! Zod! Bad paladin! BAD paladin! No kill King! Kill DRAGON! Kill DRAGON!”
But in any case, every guy at your table has an alignment. (We all know the chaotic guys, and we kill them quickly, don’t we?) The trick is to find someone who will sympathize with your plight. And there’s two ways to do it, depending on how they fare on the Wheel Of Morality:
Talking To Gary Good:“Oh, man, I get landscrewed and you dogpile me? I mean, I have NOTHING here! Gary, can you BELIEVE this? This is so unfair….”
(Acting Hints: Remember, you are not talking to Gary, or even expecting him to rescue you. You are, instead, lamenting the fate of living in a cold, callous, despotic universe, where the player with the best draw always wins, and brute strength means all. You have no hope. You anticipate your demise very soon. It’s just that… sniff… Things Shouldn’t BE This Way…)
Talking To Everly Evil:“Hey, look! Phil’s open. Remember how he beat the crap out of us with this deck last week? Once he gets rolling, we’re all dead…. I’m just the first; you wait long enough, and his defenses will become unstoppable…”
(Acting Hints: Everly could care less about you, and will be happy when you’re dead. You know that, she knows that. But even though you may be dead in three turns, the thought of Phil winning just SICKENS you. Phil, that ignorant reprobate? Phil, who still plays with Grizzly Bears? Shucky darns, Ev, I don’t care WHO wins this crazy game as long as it’s not that utter jerkwad Phil….)
At that point, Gary and Everly will note the hole in Phil’s defense and attack— Gary will attack because he remembers how bad HE feels when HE gets manascrewed, Everly because she wants an easy potshot. Besides, Everly’s just trouble. I wouldn’t trust her if I were you. Matter of fact, if you play with anyone named Everly I advise you to kick her out right now, before she pours a glass of Elmer’s Glue on your Arabian Nights set.
But anyway, the worst-case scenario is that Phil keeps attacking you, but now he’s paying for it. The usual scenario is that he stops attacking and goes defensive. The BEST scenario is that Phil becomes so outraged by this meddling that he changes gears and starts the beatdown on Gary and Everly, and then you can just shrug and say that you don’t have anything to help them.
A warning, though: Practice your acting. If you sound like Polly Puregood (or whatever— *I* never watched‘em) in the Underdog cartoons, they’ll be on to your sorry butt in a New York Minute.
TECHNIQUE #2: AH YES, I HAD PLANNED THIS. Another method that only works for land hands: say nothing and quietly lay down cards. When you first see that hand, simply raise your eyebrows like Spock does whenever he’s finally figured out how to defeat the Klingons. If someone asks how your draw was, simply purse your lips in a soundless whistle and state,“Not bad.”
Actually, UNDERstate it. (Remember,“Not bad” is the universal sign for,“I HAVE A HAND THAT COULD DESTROY RUSSIA! MWOO HAH HAH!)
When someone attacks, pull the ol’“Yes, I left those two islands untapped for a Counterspell” routine and look over your hand. Pause. Touch a card, as if you’re considering casting that now— then shrug as if to say,“Nah, it’s not worth wasting this obviously valuable spell on a measly 2/2 creature”. Repeat.
When you DO draw a spell you can cast, do yourself a favor and don’t say something doofy like,“Oh my sweet Lord Jesus, THANK you for this bounty that I hath received!” Just keep it in your hand and play it like you normally would. In fact, wait. When that jerk with the 2/2 attacks again, consider deeper— and finally say,“All right, I guess I’d better” before reluctantly Shocking it. Make it seem like this was something you have been able to do since turn one and this other guy has finally forced your hand.
Does this STOP anyone from attacking you? In a sense, yes. The one guy who’s crushing you under his heel won’t stop, but your card-ruffling may cause others to think twice before they join in. In other words, it reduces the TOTAL number of attackers, which is better than nothing. Unfortunately, this technique is easily seen through, as there’s only so much hmphing and hurring you can do when someone’s throwing a pair of Shivans at you.
But it helps considerably if being passive is your style of play. I myself hardly ever cast a kill spell UNLESS someone’s attacking me. I’ll frequently stockpile several kill cards, then wipe out three or four creatures at a shot when someone tries to rush me. As such, I can get away with this technique a lot more than Joe“I Draw It, I Play It” can. Sometimes they don’t even notice anything’s wrong.
TECHNIQUE #3: LAUGH, CLOWN, LAUGH. The third and final ploy is to make yourself laughably insignificant. This is a dangerous method, as it involves pointing out your total vulnerability… but in some ways, it’s the most effective.
Here’s what you do: When you get your hand and see that it’s completely useless, immediately do a raspberry: Laugh loudly at yourself for drawing such a suck hand. If it’s TRULY all-land or all-creatures, you might even wave it briefly in front of everyone— not for too long, you don’t want them to see exactly what it is you’re holding— and then look at your cards with a devil-may-care twinkle in your eye, and say,“Aw, WHAT THE HECK! I’m GOIN’ for this baby!”
The rest of the game then involves turning your patheticness into a table-wide joke that everyone can share in. Make everyone smile at how useless you are this game. You have no hope of winning. Just keep up a steady line of patter, play the comic relief… and make the game go a little faster than usual.
If you’ve got an all-land hand, every time you lay down another Forest, say:“Oh, look! WHAT— A— SURPRISE! More Forests! I’ve got more real estate than Donald Trump here. Think I can buy a hotel for these? If you land on my Forests, you pay me three creatures. What? You’re ATTACKING me? Look, don’t MAKE me manaburn myself to death…” Later on in the game, when someone else attacks you, throw a Swamp in front of it and say,“I block it with this land!”
If you’ve got all creatures, no land, then joke about that, too:“Shyeah, RIGHT— I guess I COULD play, with, like, cards and stuff… but I’m going clean. See this whole area in front of me? Not a thing. I’m a Zen player, man. It’s like one of those Japanese rock gardens with no rocks. Look, why don’t you put your cards over here so I can feel like I’m playing?” Lean over and offer to tap other people’s cards for them so you can feel useful. Yuck it up.
The tricky part is breaking the silence. Casting your first creature or laying your first land could suddenly turn you into a threat. What you need to do is keep highlighting your patheticness.
If you have an all-land hand and you get a creature, seriously reconsider casting it right away. If no one’s attacking you, keep laying land and keep the yoks up. Matter of fact, get three or four creatures all going— do NOT let anyone get a glimpse of your hand at this point— and then, when the fun’s over, cast them all in one turn.
All-creature hands are a lot harder. They know you have a time bomb of threats waiting to come out, and the more lands you play, the closer you are to victory. It helps to discard a couple of high-casting-cost creatures, saying,“WHOOP goesa baby!” as you toss your Spirit Of The Night. Then when you finally get those first couple of lands, laugh some more—“Oh, crap, I’m STILL manascrewed, except it’s color now!”
And the first creatures you can should be pathetic. Don’t cast anything bigger than a 1/1. Then yuk it up, pointing out how insignificant this small thing is next to all the fatties on the board and how easily any ONE of them could crush you.
“Hey, look! I cast— hee, hee, hee— a FLAILING SOLDIER! With one mana on the board! Okay, who wants to kill it?”
“My Mogg Maniac is just WAITING to kill you, man! Go ahead! It’s craaaaaaaazy!” (Lay it atop someone’s Blastoderm and move it around, making growling noises.)“Aaagh! Rrrrr! Me kill Blastoderm! Me kill it!”
Then slowly joke about how you might be able to pull this game off as you build your armada. Thank random religious figures very loudly.
Then, when you’ve hit your critical mass, stop laughing and start to kill. Of course, you need to kill gleefully, with a happy“who woulda thunk it?” look— and if you’re doing it right, the other players will be laughing as you annihilate them. Ideally, they should be happy for you, the idiot who chose to stay with the whacko hand and SOMEHOW managed to pull it out:
“Man, Ferrett, I can’t believe you did that! That was SO COOL!”
You and I, of course, will be the only ones who realized you completely suckered them. But hey, we’re friends, right?
NEXT ARTICLE: The Enemy Of Your Enemy Is Still Your Freakin’ Enemy, Unless You’ve Shaken Hands And Can Really Trust Him