A.D. February 2011. War was beginning.
"Somebody set up us the league! We get poster."
"Main board pin on. It's you!"
"How are you players? All your Mirrodin are belong to us. You are on the way to awesome."
"What no way!"
"You have every chance to play make your time. Ha, ha, ha!"
"Take off every deck! You know what you want for great gaming."
Do you like taking names? I'm sure you like kicking Magic around. If you happen to not mind either you're in luck: it's Pick a Side Week, and if you've taken a look around recently, you may be a bit perturbed. The entire plane of Mirrodin is at war, and you have the chance to align with one side, the native Mirrans, or the other, the infesting Phyrexians, and join in the battles abroad.
Actually, "abroad" is a bit of a misnomer there. The battles are all quite close to home. A quick trip to your local Wizard's Play Network location should reveal a scene of controlled carnage: players of both Mirran and Phyrexian affiliation slinging some cards in the name of their faction, earning points to show which one rules here.
Whether it's Friday Night Magic, an elaborate league for everyone to jump into, or just your usual busy day of in-store gaming, the Mirrodin Besieged War Leagues are upon us.
- More Than You Besieged For
While Magic is certainly played in a variety of forms and timeframes, many of you simply get together every week to share some tabletops. Each week it's your decks and theirs, dueling and engaging in multiplayer, with some fresh booster pack cracking thrown in for good measure. If that sounds nice, it's because it is nice, and often as easy as pie.
And the War Leagues are simply that idea extended. Instead of bragging rights for a little victory, now it's glory for and progression of your faction within the store. It isn't a contest or competition—as there is no ultimate reward for one side or the other "winning" in the store or overall—but an emphasis to focus on for deck building and game playing.
Last week I touched on moving levels of deck aggression down a peg. Engaging an entire community simultaneously is one way to help foster less "Pow!" and more "Wow!" in games. Even the Mirrodin Besieged Game Day events are factionalized, albeit with stricter rules and actual prizes, to levy some focus on your alignment as much as your competitive interest.
What I mean here is that War Leagues are almost anything your group wants them to be. Ripping those crunchy, foil packets of fresh cards (a Sealed league, described here and there) is just one way to do it. As I briefly mentioned a few weeks ago, my local game store group opted for just such a league over the holiday season into 2011. After an epic series of multiplayer "playoff" games, most of us are all Sealed out.
But we're primed for a little deck-building fun.
There are any number of ways to set up a system to align with the faction of your choice. Some ways we took a look at were:
- Having some majority of our nonbasic land cards (all our creatures and other spells) being from the faction of our choice.
- Using any cards except those of the opposing faction.
- Making any decks we wanted, just picking the faction we want to represent.
- Starting a new Sealed League anyway.
These are just broad strokes, though. We settled down to using only Scars of Mirrodin and Mirrodin Besieged cards, and making sure around two-thirds of our spells are the faction we represent. It's a blend of our desires to make it easier to get into deck building, using only recent (and therefore hopefully easier to acquire) cards, with some flexibility in picking from cards available, in that mixing Mirran and Phyrexian cards is okay.
Any way you and your friends want to slice it is just fine too. Of course, multiplayer (and many other ways to play for that matter) is the feature of our fabulous troupe. With that in mind, I set about looking at both Mirran and Phyrexian decks.
The Copypasta deck from a few weeks ago is in the right direction but uses a lot of cards from outside of our two new sets. As I'm trying to get my yearly recommended dosage of blue out of the way early, here's a slightly different take on the same copy idea.
It's copies! It kills! It's taps, tickles, and thrills! There's a lot of coping and pasting going on here. From the old deck we keep Cryptoplasm and Quicksilver Gargantuan. The rest is some Mirran ingenuity at work.
Mimic Vat adds to the copying (or pasting, really) in the form of tokens from something that died, and Mitotic Manipulation "copies" things already in play. Sphere of the Suns helps power us along, with Tumble Magnet, Contagion Clasp, and Contagion Engine helping to hold back any hordes. Once we've powered our mana up some we can proliferate every turn, ensuring our mana and tapping abilities grow.
While copying the best creature in play or getting an oversized version of one is fine, the Mirrans called in a favor from Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas. If the copying fails, we can paste a 5/5 body onto any artifact we already have out, or go find an artifact already close at hand. And proliferating him can also be a pretty sweet deal if we'd like to drain some life along the way.
But the Phyrexians aren't just sitting on the sidelines; while the Mirrans might run out something like the deck above (or a battle cry–backed army of red and/or white creatures), the other side can be different in their own ways. While red is most closely aligned with Mirrans, there are a few tricks to be had by a Phyrexian player interested in the color of fire.
At a glance it's "just another infect deck" that throws down the infectors and swings through for the Great Work. But there's more to the story, as there always is when it comes to Phyrexians.
The standard suite of green infect dudes are here for the party, everyone from the Blight Mamba and Tangle Angler to the newest kids in Viridian Corrupter and Rot Wolf. Putrefax still levies a high toll on the offensive and Untamed Might is often a face full of infect for the opposing player. Yada yada yada.
Then, in a sliding burst through the door, Red Sun's Zenith clears a blocker away (and recirculates to potentially do so again). Into the Core exiles any pesky artifacts you really want to send away. And Assault Strobe suddenly makes a formidable blocker into chump change (and living the dream with a Putrefax is always out there too).
And it gets trickier. Bellowing Tanglewurm turns all of the green infectors into evasive poison practitioners. And to ensure the slippery hijinxs ensue, Green Sun's Zenith can grab said Tanglewurm straight to the battlefield. Talk about luxurious.
- A Well-Oiled Machine
And while budding deck builders may be getting exciting about building for faction fun, there's the whole other side still considered: those of us with packs to be opened. And I mean "us" here because I happen to be one of those folk.
Since I had enough packs of both Scars of Mirrodin and Mirrodin Besieged, I pulled in some friends for a little Two-Headed Giant action. Except there was one problem: it turned out there were five of us. Since two doesn't divide into five very evenly we opted to instead redistribute packs and end up with a five-way multiplayer Sealed shindig.
While building a deck for your faction in advance is pretty swanky, the challenge of dealing with the cards your dealt can create some pretty surprising concoctions, like my red-black Phyrexian amalgam.
While Koth didn't make my deck this time either, playing the Phyrexian side with a twist of color made for an interesting game. One fellow Phyrexian (Taghi) and three Mirrans (Ian, Matt, and Moe) were the final tally on a busy day. We decided to play with "the Rumble Rule" to ensure that the things would move swiftly, not that many of us needed encouragement to come crashing at each other anyway.
The Rumble Rule is a very straightforward way to keep a game moving in multiplayer Limited. Each time you cause life loss (reminder: damage dealt by a source without infect causes life loss) or inflict poison counters to another player, you gain that many rumble points. When you earn 20 rumble points, search your sideboard (every card not in your deck but that you opened in your boosters) for a card and set it aside. You may then play that card without paying its mana cost, playing it anytime you could normally play that card.
If you choose a card with additional costs you do have to pay those costs if they're required (like "sacrifice a creature" or "discard a card") or choose to pay them if they are optional (like kicker). If the card has an X in its mana cost, you must pay mana if you want that X to be greater than zero (that is, if you want to rumble out Comet Storm anyway).
While things started out as they usually do, with lands being played and a little poking with our cheap critters, Ian and Matt had other plans. Ian's revolved around racking up some life gain thanks a flock of Glint Hawks and a Peace Strider.
Matt's ditty was to drop a Bonehoard after some early removal (much of it mine) was played. I wasn't alone in disliking where that was going. The True Conviction and Argentum Armor Matt had to follow up put all eyes on him.
Sometimes the spotlight's not the place you want to be.
In short order Ian, Moe, and Taghi took their turn to beat on the burgeoning board, and rapidly dipping life total, of Matt. And then that was that.
Before he died I managed to sneak in my Exsanguinate, racking up a hefty 12 life and rumble points in the process. Ian, however, was the first to pass the 20 mark, and rewarded himself with a Spine of Ish Sah that took out my first (and at that moment only) creature, Scourge Servant.
The tables were turning.
But just as Glint Hawks were about to make me their prey, Moe decided to wake up and do some destruction of his own.
After we all cajoled each other into attacking, Moe laid the Sunblast Angel bomb on us all, then followed it up with a Psychosis Crawler and some attacking into the 20+ rumble club. Without much in the way of flying resistance, I took my first opportunity to Spread the Sickness to his Angel.
It netted me a quick reminder why the rumble rule is so sweet.
With my plans scuttled I set about a different approach. I landed my Mimic Vat and waited for the next creature to die. Taghi, not through any direct altruism, helped me out and cast his Putrefax. Thanks to some end-step finagling, I got to attack with two
Since Taghi's efforts to "distance himself from it all" were less than inspired, he was the next to fall, thanks to some heavy lifting by Moe's Sunblast Angel. It eventually netted Moe a second rumble card, this one to be revealed as Blue Sun's Zenith.
I'd like to point out here that Moe was not playing blue in the slightest.
Through my own rumble shenanigans (grabbing a Bleak Coven Vampires while I was at 1 life) I managed to stay alive after Moe drew seven cards with the Psychosis Crawler still in play! By doing so it put him right back into rumble striking distance.
I fell soon thereafter (as 5 life is usually a little precarious) and even Ian's bubble of life eroded away. Moe's Praetor's Counsel and Fangren Marauder made catching up pretty difficult, and getting to rumble a third time sealed the deal.
A Mirran took the win!
- Saddle Up, Partner
While Moe's top cards were certainly spicy in our game, thanks to the beauty of multiplayer I managed to hang in there for quite a while despite drawing just two of my creatures. Taghi had a steady stream but had it fold in one fell swoop. It's always surprising what happens when playing back-and-forth games like that.
Whether it's a planned-out approach with the wares well stocked or an extemporaneous confluence of new cards, joining in a Mirrodin Besieged War League is a great way to flex whatever muscles you'd like. And for an added bonus, create some Mirran and Phyrexian "achievements" to shoot for, as were available for the Prerelease Events. This lets you build while you build so you can play with you play.
I know I'm game.
Join us next week when we come back to put icing on a cake. See you then!