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
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.
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.
1x Trumpet Blast
1x Tsabo’s Decree
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.
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.
[i] Perhaps this is why I play so slowly?