Windborn Musings – “Did You Pay an Extra Mana for That?”

Jimmy leaned forward, trying to appear all kinds of nonchalant.  “I’ll cast Rhystic Study.  I’m done, go ahead.”  He rocked back in his chair, as though putting his body farther from the table would make everyone forget about him.  Then it began. 

“I’ll play Wurmcoil Engine,” Frank announced on his turn.

“Did you pay an extra mana for that?” was Jimmy’s response.

 “I’ll play Primeval Titan.”

“Did you pay an extra mana for that?”

 “I’ll play…”

“Did you pay an extra mana for that?”

 “Did you pay an extra mana for that?”

“Did you pay an extra mana for that?” 

"Did you pay an extra mana for that?"

Every fiber of my being says that playing Rhystic Study is a mistake.  I have always been a big believer in trying not to draw attention to yourself in a game of Magic.  I always knew that I could not possibly win if all the players at the table were attentively watching my every move, and preventing me from doing anything dangerous.  

Is there a card that flies in the face of that theory more than Rhystic Study?  Admittedly, you can choose to say nothing, but if you do, your opponents don’t have to pay the extra mana and you will never get to draw a card.  Saying nothing simply means you spent three mana for a useless card.  To get the benefits Rhystic Study offers, you need to remind everyone of the benefit you are getting. Every. Single. Time you use it.  Every time someone casts a spell, you are reminding them of the benefit you are getting.  Their spells cost one more, or you are drawing another card.  Reminding people again and again that you are hampering their board development or drawing another card that they aren’t drawing seems like a surefire way to bring the wrath of all the other players down on you. 

That is even the best case scenario!  Imagine the poor player with the whiny, sniveling voice, repeating that phrase again and again.  “Did you pay an extra mana for that? Did you pay an extra mana for that,” screeching in your ear like fingernails down a chalkboard.*  Rhystic Study just seems like a complete liability. 

While I’ve been using Rhystic Study as the example, it isn’t the only card that I think is the problem.  Any card that demands you remind your opponents repeatedly about something can be included.  Rhystic Study gives you a benefit if your opponents do not do something, while other cards such as Suture Priest, Fatespinner and Bottomless Pit, to name a few, hurt your opponents each turn.  All of them require you to remind your opponent that you are there and something you have done is either giving you a benefit or harming them.  Why would you play with these cards? 

Keeping quiet and “off the radar” is a useful tactic in multiplayer.  I would go even farther and say that it is an essential tactic in multiplayer, but that is a different article.  Most decks can’t possibly match up with the full power of three other players, so irritating everyone is rarely a good gameplan.  Considering this, why play with these cards?  

When determining if Rhystic Study and other cards of its ilk belong in your deck, you need to consider the players in your group.  Playgroups tend to respond to different threats in different ways.  Since we’ve been using Rhystic Study as the example, let’s look at drawing cards.  All playgroups respond within a spectrum when it comes to drawing cards.  My group tends to sit at one end of the spectrum. I play Rhystic Study fairly regularly.  I only have a couple of copies, but they are always in one of my decks.  As soon as that deck gets pulled apart, the Rhystic Studies go into another deck.  In spite of my determination to keep a low profile, I keep using them.  In my group, drawing cards (or forcing others to pay one extra) doesn’t seem to draw the ire of most of the players.  I try to keep the obnoxiousness way down with Rhystic Study, to avoid getting attacked.  There are times when I have simply not asked if they paid the extra, since I knew that speaking up at that moment would mean I’d be attacked.  When there is another player on the board who is the clear leader and the target for everyone else, I phrase my query in the best way possible.  “Can I try to find an answer for Aaron’s Emrakul or Jesse’s Kraken hordes?”  I’m doing my best to appear non-threatening.  For the most part, the players in my group do not attack me for playing Rhystic Study.  Drawing a few extra cards just doesn’t seem as dangerous to my opponents as the latest Big DealTM to hit the battlefield.  

Matt from Commandercast, has a group that is fairly similar to mine:  “I seem to be alone in my playgroup in being super hateful to anyone who plays Rhystic Study.” 

Other groups stretch across that spectrum.  Some groups can’t stand the annoyance.  “Did you pay an extra mana for that?” just drives them crazy to the point of, at the least, taking out the permanent causing the problem, or at worst, taking out the player causing the problem.  Figuring out where your group lies within this spectrum is essential when determining the effectiveness of the card.  

Not surprisingly, most groups will treat card drawing, lifegain, and damage differently. My group will tolerate some lifegain, but once your total is 10 life higher than anyone else’s life, you are a prime target. However, even the response to someone’s lifegain is often based on how they gained the life.  If you have a Soul’s Attendant in play slowing gaining life, you will probably be fine for a while.  At some point, someone will notice your ridiculous total, and then you’ll be a target.  However if you gain half as much life in one fell swoop with a Congregate, you are instantly the target. Other groups have a much higher tolerance for lifegain, and may not care how you get the life.  

"Suture Priest. Lose a life!"

A Suture Priest is a very different story.  Reminding your opponents that you are the reason they are taking a point of damage every time they play a creature is a surefire way to quickly become the focus of attention.  While a Soul’s Attendant can bring the life swing quickly in your favor, you aren’t reminding anyone of your growing life total. Suture Priest demands that you remind your opponents every time you want to use it against them.  I might forget about an opponent’s Soul’s Attendant for a few turns, but I never forget about his Suture Priest … because he reminds me of it every turn. 

The annoyance level to the group may be more important that the actual value of the card.  I spoke to Andy, the host of Commandercast about these cards.  His focus was on the perceived threat: 

The issue with these cards is their perceived threat (esp. something like Sulfuric Vortex) is way worse than their actual danger level, mostly because you are annoying somebody with constant pings. Once one person says “hey f*** this guy”, it’s open season and even the most socially retarded neckbeard can likely convince a whole table to just avalanche you to take away your annoying card that requires constant reminders. 

Most times, that level of response from the table is way beyond the threat that the card provided, but if you’ve been annoying the entire table for several turns, you can expect the overblown response.  Everyone is piling on the Suture Priest player, while someone else is sitting quietly with his Consecrated Sphinx, filling his hand with cards.  

A better alternative?

Once you know how your table reacts to this type of card, you can better judge what type of card you should be playing.  Rhystic Study will often let you draw cards for free, but Mind’s Eye (my friend Harry’s favorite card) lets you draw many cards for only one mana each, and you don’t have to annoy everyone at the table.  If your table is okay with Rhystic Study, it is the better choice, but if your table rages against the annoyance, Mind’s Eye is probably the better card draw option.  

Suture Priest damages your opponents and reminds them every time that you are the one doing the damage, but Soul’s Attendant gives you a life instead and you simply have to reach over and adjust the life total on your dice.  At many tables, Mind’s Eye and Soul’s Attendant are the correct choices.  

Justin from Commandercast described the difference between Rhystic Study and Mind’s Eye:  

Mind’s Eye goes much further under the radar than Rhystic Study because everything that happens is controlled by the player who controls Mind’s Eye.  The Mind’s Eye player just discreetly pays his 1 and draws his card.  Nobody even notices this happening.  Rhystic Study is by design very in-your-face and upfront, so it’s impossible to ignore it. 

When looking at all of this, the goal is simply to avoid any attention that is going to bring the table charging against you.  Many of the annoying cards we’ve discussed are the better option, cost wise, but a horrible option when you consider how your table responds.  Get a feel for your table and choose accordingly. 

Recommendations

Commandercast is simply the best Commander podcast out there.  Andy and his crew have been putting together great work for three seasons now and you would be remiss if you are missing out.  The website is growing quickly as well, with articles on Wednesday and Friday just about every week.  They are putting out great stuff on a regular basis.  Be sure to check them out. 

My thanks to Matt, Andy, and Justin for their opinions and insight on today’s article topic. Getting a wider range of viewpoints is always a good thing. 

Props 

The Muse Vessel has reached a significant milestone.  Six months ago our little space on the internet started putting out multiplayer articles.  Graveborn Muse, Seedborn Muse, and I took up our places on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and began bringing you articles on multiplayer Magic.  We have been a model of consistency, getting a new article up every single time.  We started out small, with a small group of people reading our stuff.  Gradually others in the Magic community began to take notice of what was happening here.  Our connections with other sites and people in the Magic community began to grow.  In that six months we’ve done strategy, tournament reports, rants, and set reviews.  We’ve appeared on Commandercast, offered deck building tips and built decks.  We even had a preview card (Go Dread Cacodemon!)! 

For all of this, we’d like to thank our readers.  We started with the belief that there was a need for multiplayer Magic articles, and you have shown us that there is.  We have seen the readership grow throughout these six months and are thrilled that so many of you come back again and again.  We look forward to the next six months and hope to be even bigger and better when we celebrate one year.  

Personally, I want to thank Daryl and Brandon for their efforts over this last six months.  Daryl is an editor extraordinaire whose work behind the scenes is a big reason why the articles have the polish they do. Brandon is an idea guy who has come up with article ideas for me more often than he realizes.  I never expected the three of us to work so well together when Brandon proposed the idea and recommended Daryl as another writer.  If I had tried to do this alone, the site would have been abandoned months ago.  My thanks to both of you. 

Bruce Richard
@manaburned
bnrichard<AT>hotmail<DOT>com 

* This is so outdated, but I can’t picture the modern equivalent.

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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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8 Responses to Windborn Musings – “Did You Pay an Extra Mana for That?”

  1. Kuchi says:

    Yeah, as I said before, I really enjoy your articles. Thanks a lot, and keep up the good work, guys!

  2. Seedborn Muse says:

    I just realized why this plays out slightly differently in my group: we’re expected to announce ALL our optional triggers. Mind’s Eye gets announced as frequently as Rhystic Study would be if it were played. Soul Warden triggers, mandatory as they are, get announced the same as optional Soul’s Attendant ones, often from another player who has to remind the forgetful Warden player. So they all are held in equal contempt.

    As the player in the group with the most extensive Magic Online play and above-average rules knowledge relative to the group, I tend to ask about optional triggers regardless. That gives me an advantage of reminding the table that someone’s drawing a lot of cards off Mind’s Eye. I’ll MAKE it annoying for the table if I want to point the focus elsewhere.

    • We don’t even necessarily announce all the creatures we cast! Unless the creature has some effect on the game for everyone right away, we don’t tend to announce. When I cast a bigger creature or something that I think is relevant to someone else on the table, I’ll announce it, but otherwise, it stays quiet. Caveat player seems to be our rule.

  3. Vrag says:

    I think my playgroup is somewhere in the middle. Given your extreme example of Rhystic Study, Wurmcoil Engine, Primeval Titan, I would not be getting much attention despite the annoyance factor. But if everyone has a few 1/1s or 2/2s then I might take some attacks. It all depends on who’s the threat. While we don’t require that you announce everything like SBM, Mind’s Eye and Soul Warden have a bit of the annoyance factor too in our group. Usually there is some chatting going on in the group so we tend to get stuff like “did you draw yet?”, or “did you cast a creature?”. Sometimes they go under the radar, but not always. Like you said I guess it just depends on your playgroup.

  4. Fred says:

    My group is probably one of the most polite play groups around. When someone casts Rhystic Study, we tend to actively tell the player controlling it whether we’re paying extra or not. Of course, in my case, I do it to remind everyone that some guy has a Rhystic out, and we don’t, so I suppose “polite hostility” is a good term for it.

  5. Pingback: Seedborn Musings – The Ultimate Nightmare(s) of Wizards of the Coast® Customer Service | Muse Vessel

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