Windborn Musings – A Painful Quandary

I’d always felt like there was something amiss with my multiplayer games, but I was never sure just what it was.  It wasn’t until I wrote my article on threat assessment that it all became clear to me.  I suffered a dilemma; a Painful Quandary if you will.

Before we get too far, some of you are likely wondering:  “This is Monday, right?  Where’s Graveborn Muse and an in-depth strategy article?”  Due to some very busy schedules early this week, Graveborn Muse and I have switched slots for this week to give him a little more time to write is article for the week.  I expect you’ll see Graveborn Muse back in his regular Monday slot next week.  In the meantime, I hope you can help me with my problem.

Let me set up the background for you.  I was running my Goblin deck.  I know, pretty much every casual player has a Goblin deck, so telling you I was playing mine doesn’t really explain a lot.  Let me lay out my decklist (and a few comments) for you. 

My Goblin Deck, Worts and All 

Creatures
1x Goblin Balloon Brigade – there just aren’t a lot of goblins that fly and sometimes you absolutely must block a flyer rather than burn it out of the sky.
1x Goblin King – I like what he gives to my goblins, but it just isn’t that important often enough.  He should probably come out.
4x Goblin Matron – The matrons rock since I can usually get them out of the graveyard and cast them again and again to get other goodies from my library.
1x Goblin Ringleader
1x Goblin Taskmaster – I put him in expecting to use his ability more often.  Too many times he is just a one-drop.
1x Goblin Tinkerer – my artifact removal.  I could probably stand to have more copies, but it just happens that I don’t have more copies.
1x Lightning Crafter – on the rare occasion when he works, he is awesome.  Too bad those occasions are so rare.
2x Mad Auntie – She is a star and there should be four of them in the deck so I could have two out at the same time more often.
4x Mogg War Marshal – I need goblins for fodder or as grenades.  This guy is great for that and for some early blocking. 
1x Spikeshot Goblin – he doesn’t get pumped up as often as I’d like, but he is still handy to do the extra point of damage for those bigger creatures that Fodder Launch can’t take down on its own.
3x Wort, Boggart Auntie – the lynchpin of the deck, keeping the Fodder Launch coming back.

Spells
1x Blood Frenzy – this is great in multiplayer when players attack other players.  Or on the front of your goblin for an attack when you plan on sacrificing him before the end of the turn.
1x Blood Lust – see Blood Frenzy
4x Boggart Birth Rite – I use these primarily to get Wort back when she is put in the graveyard
1x Brute Force – some times you need a bigger goblin
1x Dead // Gone
1x Fodder Launch – I wish I had more.
3x Goblin Grenade – another solid card in the deck.
1x Goblin Warrens – this is a backup plan that is nice, but not often used.
3x Tarfire
1x Trumpet Blast
1x Tsabo’s Decree

Lands
4x Akoum Refuge
2x Badlands
1x Blood Crypt
1x Forgotten Cave
9x Mountain
2x Rakdos Carnarium
2x Sulfurous Springs
1x Urborg Volcano

I know it isn’t anything special.  There are several ways that the deck could be improved.  My land ratio could be better.  Having four Fodder Launch would certainly ratchet the deck up.  In any event, these were the cards I owned when I wanted to build the deck, so here is the result. 

The deck tends to play out recursive aggressive.  I play out a few early goblins until I can set up Wort, then hit repeatedly with Fodder Launch or replay Goblin Matron to build up a solid advantage. 

I was playing this deck in a game with Jesse, Eric, and Josh.  I started out quickly, but not too quickly.  I wasn’t exploding out of the gates with my deck, but I was strong enough that no one was threatening to take me out.  This was mostly due to Jesse exploding out of the gates with his Quest for Ula’s Temple deck.  He has managed to reach a point where it seemed like he was dropping a Leviathan every turn.  Josh managed to eliminate the enchantment, and the huge creatures he already had in play were starting to be removed. 

After a couple more turns I noted that Jesse had 12 life, while I had a Fodder Launch and a Goblin Grenade in hand, and enough creatures to do the remaining two points of damage.  Before deciding what to do, I made my threat assessment.[i]  Josh and Eric had a small board presence, but neither had anything out that was truly horrible.  Generally when Josh has a slow start (and this game would be considered a slow start for Josh) it is often because he is setting things up for the long game to create a soft board lock.  When he is trying to do this, you generally want as much help as possible, so eliminating Jesse at this stage in the game is not a great idea. 

Eric does not play with a poker face.  Mana screw was hitting Eric hard this game.  While he had some mana, there was nothing in play.  I could probably handle him, but he would be no help in taking down Josh, if the game came to that. 

At this point it seemed to make sense not to take out Jesse, since I would likely want help taking out Josh.  The problem with this was that Jesse wasn’t interested in taking out Josh.  As the board currently stood, I was Jesse’s primary threat.  He had seen my deck run before and understood exactly how things worked.  He knew I could do a lot of damage quickly.  He could see that I was the most threatening player based on the permanents in play (other than himself).  He was not going to work with me to take out Josh; he would almost definitely keep attacking me. 

On top of that, I had no way to remove his Quest for Ula’s Temple, should he get out another one.  My decklist currently has no way to deal with an enchantment.  I admit that it is a horrible flaw in the deck, but it doesn’t tend to hurt me too badly, so I haven’t tried to fix it.  If I plan to take out Josh, then I am likely removing the one player in the game that can consistently remove that enchantment.  I need Josh alive, at least until Jesse is dead.  It will likely take some time to take out Josh and Eric since I’ll have to go after Josh next, since giving him more time to set up is not an option.  After that I’ll have to take out Eric and he will certainly have his deck running by then.  It will probably take me another 30 minutes to execute my plan while protecting myself from counterattacks. 

If the threat assessment was the only consideration, this would be an easy decision.  I should take Jesse out of the game.  However, this isn’t a tournament where winning is the only consideration.  This is casual Magic, where fun must be a consideration in every decision. 

While improving my chance of winning is not inherently fun, winning is definitely fun.  I like to win no matter what deck I use or what variant of Magic I choose to play.  Winning is more fun than losing. 

While Jesse losing isn’t fun, it is the early elimination that I’m concerned about.  We are playing multiplayer Magic; people are going to lose more often than they win.  It isn’t as much fun as winning but losing is a part of the game and Jesse will have to deal with it.  What I am concerned about is anyone who has to sit on the sidelines waiting and waiting and waiting to get into the next game.  This is just horrible. 

Some of you have never experienced this long wait.  Perhaps you play all your multiplayer games at a store where you can simply move immediately into another game.  Perhaps your games are all Emperor or 2HG with a single group of opponents.  When you lose the game is over and you just start again.  Perhaps you play only Respawn, so when you die you simply start playing again.

For the rest of us, we know the frustration of an early elimination.  You shuffle up your deck.  You pick another deck and shuffle that.  You watch the game continue.  You check your phone for messages.  Perhaps you grab a drink and a piece of pizza.  If you are the host, you clean up or get drinks or something else.  Maybe you play some other game while you wait.  But in the end, you are waiting.  This is a fun suck.  I hate it when it happens to me and it is no fun for anyone else either. 

All of this leads me to my Painful Quandary.  On one hand, I can follow the threat assessment and give myself the best opportunity to win, while Jesse sits on the sidelines waiting for us to find a victor, or I can keep Jesse in the game, and keep the fun rolling for everyone at the table. 

Fun is the absolutely essential part of casual Magic.  You can play all sorts of variants in all sorts of places, using all sorts of cards, or even with just proxies or no cards at all.  In the end, your Magic group will die if the players don’t find it fun.  Who keeps coming to play when there is no fun? 

I’m not suggesting that a play group will fall apart because someone is eliminated early in a game and has to wait for the next game to start.  What I am saying is that you want to create a situation where everyone is doing their best to make sure everyone is having fun.  If everyone is trying to have a good time and no one is having a good time at the expense of everyone else, then it is likely your group is going to thrive and be something other people want to be a part of.  This is only one area where fun can be maximized, and why shouldn’t efforts to make the game fun include keeping someone in the game.  

I’m also not suggesting that your group should be propping up players by letting them stay in games when they shouldn’t be there.  You don’t reward poor deckbuilding or poor gameplay decisions with more chances to win the game.  However, balancing fun and solid gameplay is something everyone should be working on. 

I hate the idea of having to choose between fun and maximizing my chances of winning.  This decision can hardly be seen as a corner case either.  It regularly happens to all of us that we face a deck that will likely kill us if we let the player survive, and we have a chance early in the game to eliminate them. 

In this particular scenario, I left Jesse alive, but did what I could to limit what he could do to me.  I’m not sure that I would make the same choice the next time the scenario comes up.  I’d like to think I’m fun-focused and would make the choice in favor of fun, but if you change the players, the decks, how many games I had won or lost before the game, I can’t promise that I’ll choose fun every time. 

I’d love to hear what others have to say.  Speak up in the comments, on Twitter or email me directly. 

bnrichard@hotmail.com
@manaburned
bnrichard<AT>hotmail<DOT>com 


[i] Perhaps this is why I play so slowly?

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About Windborn Muse

If you seek limited or constructed tournament knowledge, wrapped up with excellent comedic writing, you are in the wrong place. Planted firmly at the kitchen table, Bruce (the Windborn Muse) is all things casual, focusing primarily on strategies for multiplayer games wrapped up with horrific, train wreck attempts at humour. Bruce is married to an extremely tolerant woman and has three children who will not go near him in public. In real life Bruce works as an attorney and lives just outside Boston.
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16 Responses to Windborn Musings – A Painful Quandary

  1. Matthew Banister says:

    well personally, i would have taken him out. But then my playgroup normally has 2 or 3 multiplayer games going on, and a few 1v1 matches since its basically everyone we know from school that plays so there is like 15 of us. always easy to find another game. One thing i would like to know is how did the above game play out with your decision? If you still won it was the right choice…if you lost maybe not.

    • This is part of the reason I did not include who won the game. It isn’t a question of whether my threat assessment was accurate or not, it is a question of strategy v. fun and which is more important.

  2. Aiden says:

    I feel like long waits between games is one of those “you take the good with the bad” things that apply to any sort of Magic people play. You can do things to try and lessen the effects like not killing someone when you could/should, making sure no one is playing slowly, or running fog effects to give someone more time to defend themselves. Eventually though the long wait is going to happen to someone. They’ll be stuck on two lands and be easy pickings or be the person who takes an early lead and gets pounded into by the rest of the table, and then they’ll end up watching the game proceed without them for forty five minutes.

    I think anyone who plays free-for-all multiplayer should be prepared to take the long wait from time to time. It’s really only a true problem if it happens consistently or to someone who starts to get agitated and whiny when they have to wait. I think most people who have played a lot of free-for-all can take the occasional half-hour down time in stride, and if there are people in a play group that can’t then that play group should use different variants of multiplayer.

    There’s also the fact that your down time doesn’t have to suck all the fun out of you. Unless you’re playing with random people at a shop, you are still hanging out with your friends, and not having to pay attention to the board gives you the opportunity to tell stories and chit-chat without worrying about missed triggers or adding five minutes to your turn.

  3. Seedborn Muse says:

    I’d much rather be knocked out of a game in which I’m mana screwed/easy pickings than sit on death row/2 lands.

    • I disagree. https://musevessel.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/windborn-muse-quitters-never-win-winners-never-scoop/

      I do understand that it is very rare to pull out the win in those types of situations, but when it happens it is just so sweet!

      • Seedborn Muse says:

        It’s not about winning to me in those cases. I’m not going to quit, but I certainly would be happy if someone finishes me off.

        Some decks feel sweet winning like that, but others don’t; it depends on how fun the deck is to pilot in the first place. I played EDH recently where my turn 4 Chain of Acid came back on to my one Forest (playing Radha). I didn’t have any green mana for the rest of the game. That was a fun game to watch for other reasons, but I disliked being in that game, and it would have been awesome if someone had killed me so I didn’t spend an hour frustrated at my hand. NOTHING is sweet after an hour of hating your hand and your deck. Winning is cool, but not after that many negative feelings. That’s why I don’t mind if someone kills me in that circumstance.

      • Your comment relating to being left in a game reminds me why I like attack left as a variant. In Chaos, a lame duck player is only killed off when someone can do it without any risk to themselves. In attack left, the lame duck player gets completely rolled immediately and the next player is on the chopping block. Attack left tends to move faster because of this and the risk to attacking is so minimized since only one player can attack you. There is a dance at the end of the game to be sure, but even with that the games tend to wrap up faster and the question of eliminating a player early is gone. You have to do it so get it done and move on.

  4. HighlordBaiden says:

    I agree with Seedborn on that; he and I have had long talks about just scooping after not drawing a 2 or 3-drop land for 5+ turns or being severely ticked at drawing 10 land in 9 turns.

    I wanted to add one thing for you to perhaps consider as well. In the playgroup Seedborn and I are in we pretty consistently help others out. If we see the “optimal” play that someone skips over we usually try to point it out and let them back up. We use that as a good teaching tool; we can always improve as players.

    Sometimes we do have that one person that dies early and I agree with Aiden’s “you take the good with the bad” assessment. I think that we need to try to make it as fun as possible for the group but sometimes it is inevitable. The person who loses needs to accept it and not detract from the fun by pitching a fit or getting really bent out of shape. Your article on threat assessments was really good and I think we need to assess out own threats along the way to make sure we don’t get bumped out early by being a huge threat to everyone but also not take it personally if that happens; until the winner is decided in another way than the last person alive we can’t really blame the others for trying to win.

    • When I am knocked out early, I like to try and remember that it likely happened because someone saw me as the primary threat. I try to take it as a compliment and do my best to avoid being seen as the primary threat in the next game.

      Something I never really touched on in the article was the danger of taking someone out early. You have to expect that they wil will take an opportunity in the next game to attack you as a way to “even up.” Whether it is a vindictive move or just a quick attack early in the game to knock you down a few points, it should be considered in the threat assessment.

  5. Jesse says:

    You let me LIVE when you were staring down an Inkwell Leviathan? And my bigger fear was doing the math and knowing that losing 10 life put me in range of a Tarfire. I knew Eric was essentially out of the game (or his mana curves start at 6) while Josh needed several more turns to lock the game, that left me with just Bruce to finish off before striking at Josh.

    I know a big issue in our playgroup is how much the number of people fluctuate. It seems to be a crap shoot between four or us or eight, very rarely do we manage to get some number in between. When we have a larger number, there is much less downtime but with a small group there is a lot more. So when playing, I try to make it so my decks don’t create soft locks but it also means that when I die, I do what I can to make sure the game will end quicker – like doing the math in combat and instead of grinding down an opposing force I will simply declare no blocks so the same force can decimate the player to my right next combat.

    But I know at times stuff just happens that really draws aggro from other players, like when my Goblin deck realizes it can deal 20 damage on turn 3 and another 40 damage on turn 4. It’s the same thing when I manage to activate my Quest for Ulna’s Temple on turn 3: people don’t like facing down such massive threats that early in the game.

    Being taken out of the game early once and a while doesn’t bother me, but when I get taken out on turn 5 and the game proceeds to go another 20-some-odd turns without anything happening, yeah, that get’s annoying.

    Or I just need to start running more Back to Nature in all of my green decks to stop all those pesky enchantments.

    • This is why I prefer the nights with 8 guys. While they can get unwieldy, the games keep rolling. Getting knocked out early just means you’ll be playing with different people when enough players lose out in both games.

      … unless one group is running an endless EDH game. 😉

  6. Graveborn Muse says:

    I am torn on this one. There are times when i will deliberately reduce my chances of winning in order to increase the enjoyment of one or more other players, but there’s kind of a fine line. If I’m confident in the power of my deck it’s more likely, but I don’t have a hard and fast rule. I definitely agree with Bruce that it’s a legitimate decision to make in casual.

  7. Vrag says:

    I play with a group of friends on a pretty infrequent basis. So we pretty much all do what we can to make sure everyone is having fun. Usually when someone is sitting at two lands, no one attacks them. Sometimes that comes back to haunt me, when I know those extra points of damage would have won me the game. More often that not it creates situations that are more interesting because they actually get to play some of their cards and have an effect on the game (good or bad for me).

    Usually I see it in my best interest to keep the guy playing WG alive if I’m playing RB and the other person is enchantment heavy. For the most part in our play group, you don’t take someone out unless you see the game ending soon, or they are playing Underworld Dreams or some other nastiness, in which case they deserve it.

  8. Pingback: Graveborn Musings—Urabrask, the Killing You So Quick You Would Have Sworn He Was Hidden! | Muse Vessel

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