Sometimes No Means No

Posted in Feature on October 28, 2005

By Brian Rogers

Over the many years Magic: The Gathering® has been around, there have been a lot of variations on Counterspell. Beginning with Alpha, the ability to thwart your opponent’s plays has been critical to the success of blue mages. The original three cards that would let you shut down your opponent’s spells were Spell Blast, Power Sink, and Counterspell. Since then, every new Magic set has offered some sort of counterspell card. Some of these cards have been some of the most powerful cards ever printed, like Force of Will, Mana Drain, and Counterspell itself.

In recent years, counterspells have started to come down in power level. For a long time, decks around the Magic world that dominated the play scene revolved around the counterspell. After Legends® came out, there was “The Deck” that used the powerful counter spells of the time and creature shutdown like Moat to control the game. After Alliances™, players started playing “Counter-Post”, taking advantage of counterspells and the mass creature production of Kjeldoran Outpost to control the ground and win the game. During the time of Tempest™ block, the deck used to control the field was called “Counter Phoenix”. Not long after that there was “Draw Go”, an all-blue control deck. Then when Invasion™ rolled around, players took advantage of the black creature Nether Spirit in the deck “Nether-Go”.

Today, there are still a lot of options for the blue mage that would like to counter his or her opponent’s spells, but the options are much more limiting than they have been in the past. A card like Perplex is an excellent example. While Perplex can counter a spell, it allows the caster of that spell to have the option of discarding his or her hand to force the spell through. Similarly, Convolute will counter a spell, but it gives your opponent a chance to pay 4 mana to avoid having the spell countered. Cards like Hinder or Remand will counter a spell, but instead of putting that card in its owner’s graveyard, it will put it back into his or her library or hand where it can come back to be used again. There are also some counterspells that will counter a spell outright; however, these spells, like Remove Soul or Muddle the Mixture, can only counter a certain type of spell. To find a card in today’s Standard environment that can do the same thing that Counterspell can do, you will find yourself paying much more than before.

During this period in Magic history where counterspell options are a little weak, the DCI® is offering a way for players to get a more powerful counterspell so that when you say no, it will really mean no. In the month of November, players who participate in a Friday Night Magic tournament have a chance to leave with a premium version of the original Counterspell from Alpha embossed with the FNM seal. At each FNM event, the top two players win one of the premium cards, and two additional cards are given out as a door prize.

The Place To Be

The DCI has been making your local gaming store the place to be for years now by offering special promo versions of some of the greatest cards from Magic history at Friday Night Magic tournaments. To find a store near you where you can play FNM, you can check out the Wizards of the Coast Website or contact your local store and ask them to run FNM. FNM is a great way for serious and casual players to come together and experience the game that started the TCG craze.

FNM tournaments can be run using Sealed, Booster Draft, or Standard deck construction rules. If Sealed or Booster Draft is used, you will not need to bring your own deck; you will build it at the tournament with cards you get there. If Standard deck construction is used, you need to bring a deck that is at least 60 cards. You can use as much basic land as you like and up to 4 of any card from a legal set. Sets that are legal for Standard play include Champions of Kamigawa™, Betrayers of Kamigawa™, Saviors of Kamigawa™, Ninth Edition, and the newest expansion for Magic, Ravnica: City of Guilds™.

For players who are new to the tournament scene, Friday Night Magic is a great way for you to integrate yourself into the world of tournament Magic. FNM events are run at Rules Enforcement Level (REL) 1, which is a set of rules designed to be more relaxed while still maintaining a serious level of play and not penalizing players for making errors due to inexperience. This makes FNM an excellent way for new players to begin to participate in organized play.

If you don’t currently have a DCI number, you can get one at your local event. This number will allow you to keep track of your rank online and compare your rating against players from your area and around the world. Once you get your DCI number, you will get a card with your number on it. It is best to remember your number, but the DCI card you get is an excellent way to make sure you have your number when a tournament organizer asks for it to keep score.

Multiple Worlds Sharing a Multiverse

There are two very distinct ways to play Magic. One way is to play just for fun. You might play at lunchtime or you may have a group of people meet in your friend’s basement. Magic is a game, and a great one at that, but there can be more to it than just the interactions of the cards in two players’ decks.

The other way to play Magic is a little more organized. It involves a structured tournament where rules are more clearly defined. In this form of Magic, there are rules outside of the game you are playing you need to understand. The interaction between players and tournament officials is a little more formalized.

FNM is a link between these two worlds. While FNM is a structured tournament, it is much more casual than many tournaments. FNM creates an environment that allows experienced tournament players to feel comfortable with a familiar format they are used to, while not being so formal and strict that a new player in his or her first tournament would feel uncomfortable or out of place. Whether you are a new player or an old pro, if you find yourself with nothing else to do this Friday, stop at your local FNM tournament and play the game.

Brian started playing Magic in spring 1994 (when you could still buy Antiquities boosters!) After becoming a DCI Judge in 1999, he has judged numerous Grand Prix, PTQs, local events, and even a couple of Pro Tours. He joined the Wizards of the Coast Delegate program in June 2004 and in what free time he has left after judging, delegating, and playing will be a contributing writer for the MPR newsletter.

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