“Fun” is an extremely vague term, particularly when applied to multiplayer games. Every person has a different idea of what is “fun” and how to achieve it. Rather than provide an article-long discussion of what qualifies as “fun” and leave you feeling as though your version of “fun” is invalidated, I’m going to show you what my playgroup calls “fun.”
I sent out an email to the guys in my playgroup asking what they thought were the “fun” times from last week’s games. I left the email pretty vague, since I wanted to see how people would view what was fun. It wasn’t surprising to me what the answers were.
Before I get into the comments, I should mention that our group had a special guest for last week’s festivities. We were joined by Andy from Commandercast. For those of you who don’t know Andy, I recommend checking out the Commandercast podcast at commandercast.blogspot.com, channelfireball.com, or mtgcast.com. Even if your playgroup plays no Commander at all (I figured the topic of the podcast was fairly obvious), this is a great podcast to catch when you can. Card ideas and playstyles are almost identical from Commander to 60 card multiplayer formats, so I’m sure you’ll find something of interest.
Andy was in Boston for PAX East and suggested that we get together to play some Magic. As it happens, my playgroup plays on the evening he suggested, so everything fell into place fairly quickly. I am seriously thinking of trying to set up another multiplayer Magic evening next year and inviting many other players who travel into Boston for PAX.
There is always a concern when a new player is added to your group if the fun will still be there. A single player can dramatically change the group dynamic. If they are the ace that your group doesn’t have, a lame duck your group doesn’t need, or the jerk your group doesn’t want, the group dynamic can change. Thankfully, Andy blended in perfectly. His knowledge of the older cards that many in my group play, along with a quick awareness of the variety of playstyles let him jump in and fit right in.
With the extended introductions out of the way, let’s see how my playgroup defines fun…
Don’t click away yet! Land destruction, in and of itself is not fun, and no one in the group thinks so. One of our players played a “land destruction” deck early in the evening. While I haven’t seen the entire deck, Tyler, the owner of said deck, is not running Armageddon, Devastation or other mass land destruction cards. He isn’t running any recursion either, so a Crucible of Worlds, Strip Mine combination is not in there either. He is running Stone Rain.
Tyler is a cool guy who uses the land destruction to keep things under control. Any non-basic is a target for the LD in his deck. Gaea’s Cradle will not last long, nor will any man-lands. He played the deck and the game kept moving. The reason LD is generally so hated is that it absolutely shuts down mana production and brings games to a standstill without using Standstill. Tyler targeted the extreme mana producers and lands that did something else (I believe an Emeria, the Sky Ruin and Maze of Ith were other targets). Tyler increased the fun with his targeted land destruction.
The particularly funny moments for me were the threats to John. In that particular game, John had a terrible time finding lands in his deck. Once the two lands that were in his hand were down, he could find nothing else for the first ten turns of the game. Once he found a third land, there was still very little he could do. Everyone bemoaned his fate. Who can’t relate to being mana-screwed? While he was attacked occasionally, and did play a small creature or two, he was still well in the game when his third land finally came down. Tyler was quick to note the third land. He immediately grinned and threatened to “take it out” since John would quickly become the big threat on the board… with his third land. He later threatened to take out the 12th land I put into play, my fourth Plains. Tyler is always a fun part of the group, and his email suggestion that “slapping everyone [by] playing a land destruction deck” is all part of the humor.
(2) Ensnaring Bridge
Here again, it wasn’t the Bridge that was funny. What was funny was the complete and utter failure of everyone playing to realize what it did… turn after turn! You could see it happening again and again. Someone would be thinking and looking at their lands, determining who should attack where and figuring out the combat math. They would play cards that clearly should not be played while the Ensnaring Bridge was out, then they would try to attack, only to be reminded that “your creatures can’t attack. John only has one card in hand.” The disgusted look and frustrated “go” just made these moments funny. After the second and third time reminding the same people of this limitation (and yes, I am included in this), it was pretty funny for everyone.
(3) Bonehead plays
You would think repeatedly forgetting about the Ensnaring Bridge that was in play would be bonehead play enough, but there was another play that topped it. Since Tyler was the one who brought it up, I don’t think he’ll mind if I use his name.
This play needs some setup to understand its true glory. We were in the midst of our first EDH game of the night. There were five of us gathered around my dining room table, filling the space with playmats, cards, dice, tokens, plates with pizzas, beers, and soda. Our games are rarely quiet, with the topics ranging from a play just made in the game to what someone’s moron of a coworker did earlier that week. There is some table talk in our games but almost none of it involves cajoling or warning in the usually understood sense found in strategy articles. Our table talk consists of laughing and constant motion, with someone getting up for food or drinks, or myself getting up to do hosting duties.* Playing close attention to the board state is not always the top priority, even when you are holding priority.
We had reached a point in the game where Tyler had a Megrim out. He played out Syphon Mind and everyone was about to take the damage from Megrim when Eric played Fog, thinking it could counter the life loss from Megrim. At least that is what I think happened, but I don’t think that is accurate. Eric doesn’t just throw his Fogs around and he had played against and with Megrim before, so it seems unlikely he would make such a mistake. In any event, everyone saw that Eric had a Fog and the play was backed up. We all discarded our cards and took our damage. Eric did not discard the Fog.
There was a discussion afterwards where Andy brought up Liliana’s Caress. Tyler is a player from long ago who has recently come back, so he is unaware of many of the newer cards, including Liliana’s Caress. We talked about the cheaper cost and whether decks would want to replace Megrim or have eight Megrim-like cards in the deck. The discussion moved to Liliana Vess, and other cards that would work well in a forced discard deck and how you would defend yourself against a concerted table working against you, since discard decks are generally frowned on in multiplayer.
After the conversation, Tyler saw an opening on Eric’s board and attacked with his general, Kalitas, Bloodchief of Ghet, and another creature. He was chuckling since Eric had loaned him the general for that night since the general he was using was Baron Sengir. Tyler thought it was funny that he would be doing damage to Eric with the general Eric had given him.
Yeah, even in spite of the conversation, I still don’t know how he forgot about the Fog in Eric’s hand that he had seen EARLIER IN THE SAME TURN! That was just hilarious, and even Tyler thought so: “I thought Eric flashing the Fog, retracting, having me do a bunch of Megrim damage, then attacking all out and getting fogged was pretty funny.”
(4) No good deed goes unpunished.
Everyone has seen it in plenty of movies. The climactic fight scene at the end when the hero fights the final boss. Fists fly, and tables and chairs are destroyed. Perhaps it is swordplay. Perhaps it is the OK Corral. Perhaps it is killing the evil Zombie at the end of the movie. Invariably, someone believes they have won and turns their back on the other. This gives the hero the opportunity to rise up and stab the boss in the back.
About half way through the game, Eric realized he had a chance to put Andy out of the game. Andy was tapped out and there was an opening to take him out. Rather than do it, Eric went after someone else on the board. He felt like he had Andy in a solid position and decided not to take him out of the game. He said that Andy was the guest and it would be rude to take him out early on.
Not surprisingly, in about three turns, Andy recovered and blasted Eric out of the water. Eric had a good chuckle and noted that Andy was fitting in with the group already.
(5) “Pulling a John”
Over the course of the night, John was mana-screwed in two different games. When Tyler found himself short mana in a game later on, he referred to it as “pulling a John.” Feel free to let your mind wander into the gutter for this one, I know I did. I intend to keep that phrase going for a good long time.
(6) Mogg Maniac
I have a whole new respect for the fun level of the Mogg Maniac in multiplayer. In one of our 60 card games that night, everyone’s board was developing and Andy played out three Mogg Maniacs. At first, the cards appeared to fit into the “Don’t attack me” category. Why would anyone want to take the damage from their own creature when they could do the damage to someone else? Once Tyler played out Multani, Maro-Sorcerer, then the fun began. In a multiplayer game, Multani has so many more hands to build up his power and toughness. It was over 20/20 at varying points in the game. Andy suggested to Tyler that blocking his Mogg Maniac would probably make life very difficult for John, who was sitting behind a Propaganda with a fairly high life total. Naturally this is a risk for Tyler, since he doesn’t know, with certainty, where the damage will go once he agrees to block. For all he knows, Andy will surprise him and remove him from the game. However, it was perfectly clear from the laughter at the possibility of things to come, that the damage was going to hit John first.
While John prevented the Mogg Maniac from activating (I believe he used Swords to Plowshares, but I am not sure), just the threat of seeing the Maniac used in a way that Wizards clearly never thought of when they made the card, was good times.
For a guy who had never played with us before, Andy fit right in and everyone found him to be a fun addition. His decks did interesting things with cards we weren’t used to seeing. His banter and antics were just the right level of outrageous. And any Canadian who plays Magic and wears a Green Lantern shirt can’t be all bad! Andy, we’re looking forward to seeing you again the next time you’re in Boston!
(8) The whole night.
This one is mine. Fun in relation to Magic involves having a good time with friends. I didn’t manage to win any games that night, but I had a great time. The games moved at a good pace and no one was lulled to sleep. There were interesting plays and plenty of good times for everyone. The chatter was non-stop. There were no uncomfortable moments or opponents who were strange or outright rude. It was the kind of fun evening you hope for every time you get together with friends for a night of Magic.
* I’ll say my playgroup knows well enough that they are not guests in my house. These guys are friends. If they wait for me to offer them a drink or food, they will go hungry. Everyone knows they are welcome to whatever is there and they should just help themselves.