In Multiplayer, Everyone Can Hear Your Play

Posted in Serious Fun on March 15, 2011

You may not have noticed (and, really, it's not meant to be noticed in this way), but I've been paying close attention to the things you've been saying. Whether it's on the forums, through email, or even on Twitter (I'm @the_stybs on there), it's the words, kind and critical, you share that I've been keying into.

For example, take last week's living weapon / Equipment challenge, where Petr showed off this gem:

Lhurgoyf Obsession

Download Arena Decklist

As Petr sent this one in, I'll let him share what he had to say about it:

I have had an obsession with Lhurgoyf since the dawn of the Ice Age, and have built many different Lhurgoyf decks over the years: Natural Order decks, Jokulhaups Decks, Groundbreaker/Yavimaya Ants decks, Skullmulcher decks - you name it, I've probably done it.

The deck is slightly more geared towards Multiplayer, with my playgroup in mind. Unlike your [Lhurgoyf/Bonehoard deck], which seems to only want to plop your own creatures into the bin, mine has in mind taking all the opponent's dudes with it.

Fleshbag Marauder and Abyssal Gatekeeper are great mini-board sweepers, especially when combined. These are the crux of the deck, and can be played around, [sacrificing] a germ token and keeping your 3/1 to equip later is always funny! Shriekmaw and Vampire Nighthawk also act as (pseudo) removal, and are absolutely devastating when wielding Bonehoards late game. Sakura-Tribe Elder acts as ramp, and the 8 sacrifice effects allow Viridian Emissary as well.

Sylvok Replica was included over card draw like Moriok Replica because being able to deal with Repercussion and Akroma's Memorial and other busted things my playgroup routinely plays is better than just a couple more cards.

Finally of course my 12 Lhurgoyfs, ready to stomp some major butt.

Pretty sweet, huh? While I liked my approach of "just fill my graveyard first," the idea of expanding that to filling up others as well can work even better. Some of you pointed this out without a deck list to show exactly what you meant. Thank you, Petr, for giving us another side of the Lhurgoyf love story!

But not everything you share are deck lists and doodads. Sometimes, it's little stories that get things going. Jay shared a story that I think many of us can relate to:

Have you ever encountered the phenomenon that I would call "playing loudly"? There are certain cards that shout "Kill me now!", clouding men's minds.

Just last night, I was playing an Echo Mage deck in multi[player] against J's Ula's Temple deck, B's White Knight deck, and D's Merfolk deck. When my Lighthouse Chronologist hit the table, D forgot about multiple Honor of the Pure, multiple Knight Exemplar and a Sun Titan... the Chronologist was simply too loud. D spent all of his resources for three turns to keep my Chronologist from becoming active, while B's knights attacked him to death.

D asked B, "What are you killing me for? I'm keeping Woof under control!" She replied, "You sure are." and then proceeded to kill me in one combat phase with a bunch of 7- and 8-power guys. And all because I played a 1/3 dude with the wrong name!

I'm not complaining; it was a fun game. But it seems to me that something went awry and messed up people's ability to think straight.

This isn't about cranking up but looking at the dynamic of playing with powerful things. While I briefly touched on this when I spoke to our individual fears, the issue is much more complex than simply "Perhaps change a few cards."

Sometimes, messages and communication gets a little mixed up. However, this is a case where perceptions are truly different.

    Power Outage

Let's start with the easy stuff: awesome stuff is awesome. The pizazz of Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Sword of Feast and Famine is nigh untouchable. They're one-of-a-kind cards that do one-of-a-kind things. Let's look at another, Sundering Titan.

It's got 7 power. It's got 10 toughness! A mechanical fatty for all our stomping needs!

It also blows up lands. Lots of them.

This is the kind of card that can be considered "loud" in the sense that when you play it (or reanimate it, or something else) other players will notice. A 7/10 for just eight mana is a fine deal, but it's destroying up to 10 lands total that runs this through a megaphone.

And that's okay.

Enjoying what you enjoy and playing what you play are the things to do. The myriad of Magic tastes make up a broad range that each set is artfully designed and developed to meet.

Moreover, it's often the uniqueness of a card that makes it powerfully exciting. As mentioned above, there's really only one card that works like Jace, the Mind Sculptor: Jace himself. There's no way to force others into seeing the exciting thing you're doing for what you think it is. And you shouldn't let that stop you along the way.

    Started Getting Real

So if some cards will just be "loud" regardless then what do we do? The answer is to be simply honestly unafraid of laying it out. It's not a clever tack about "playing smarter" or "beating opponents better" (ideas that have their times and places), but accepting the reality of using powerful cards.

They get blown up too.

While you may be quite thrilled with using a Tinker to slip a Blightsteel Colossus onto the battlefield some of your fellow players will probably be more than disapproving. Path to Exile, Fleshbag Marauder, Final Judgment, Into the Core, and other spells that neatly tuck the Phyrexian weapon away are bound to show up. Perhaps these won't appear every time, but they certainly will at some point.

Accepting that others may actively resist your plan doesn't have to mean figuring out ways to fight the resistance—just recognition that laying all your eggs in one basket requires some fearlessness and humility when an egg-smasher comes along.

This is why having a back-up plan built into a deck is a pretty common theme. Like a logic circuit, if your initial awesome turns out to be a dud for you, going to the next route can feel good and make sense. There's no law or requirement to build it that way, but if you haven't tried it before then I'd encourage you to look over your decks and see what else lies hidden.

I've continued to tweak our Quest for Ula's Temple deck for no other reason than I've developed some weird obsession with flopping fish onto the battlefield. While others have taken note to nick the namesake quest when it appears, I've been sneaky and slipped back-up plans of Deep-Sea Kraken (I can suspend it early and everyone usually helps me play it faster!) and Wrexial, the Risen Deep (the abundance of Preordain type cards lets me hit my sixth land like clockwork).

If you take another look, you might just find something else exciting to add in too.

    The Only Guide That Matters

And what if we're on the other side of this coin, grappling with the echoing blast of someone else's megaphone? What can we do about things?

For starters, grab your towel and don't panic.

It's really easy to have an immediate and emotional reaction to seeing something you feel strongly about. It's a natural and universal experience. But that doesn't mean that it's right to quickly and carelessly rain on someone else's parade.

Breathe. Relax a moment. You're probably still going to want to "deal with it," but how you deal with it is important. Just as we want to have a chance to do awesome stuff, it's sometimes fine to just let things lie. "Every dog has its day," is the applicable cliché here. (So is "Stuff happens.")

While we might be looking closer at a Sundering Titan because it nabbed one or two of our lands, is it really as scary as we might feel it is? If you have an army of tokens, or some creatures with deathtouch, suddenly it's not quite as bad as we perhaps first thought. And if they're directing the titanic focus elsewhere you might just like what they had in mind after all.

Every game has a winner (or winners) and, therefore, a loser (or losers). It's impossible to win every game of Magic. If we somehow were winning every game what experience is that leaving with those we play with? Having "all the answers" leaves us with a bigger question: is everyone else still having fun?

For the same reasons we want our best stuff to go the distance, accepting when its someone else's best that's doing it is important.

    Sight Beyond Sight

What Jay meant by "clouding men's minds" is that visceral reactions from others to something that is just another card to you is difficult to understand. Perspectives are wildly different and it's next to impossible to bridge two oppositional views in the span of a few minutes of gaming.

This leads to the common occurrence where someone feels unfairly targeted. If you don't see any issue with what you just did, how can you hope to understand why everyone is suddenly intent on running you out of town on a rail?

Being honestly unafraid, and accepting that disappointment will pop up as much as success as shared above, is a start. Going further, one of the most destructive things to any group of gamers is the accumulation of grudges. Holding some against others who had a different idea of what to do isn't healthy. When you take an emotional reaction to one game into the next, you're asking for trouble.

It isn't that being an emotionless android is the only way to play Magic, but separating the excitement of what you want to play from the reality that not everything goes to plan is important. When I play Gaea's Cradle or Sword of Feast and Famine I get a little pulse boost from the thrill of sweet stuff. Those cards are a total blast to play with!

But I also don't fault the next player who rips out a Strip Mine and sends the Cradle packing, or the Naturalize in the middle of combat on my favorite new Equipment. I plan to use my best stuff and get a kick out of while I'm doing so, but accept the idea of an end to the shenanigans.

It's not easy and it takes active work to feel comfortable with this. It's not the natural reaction but one that must be trained. After hundreds of games there little that bothers me anymore. I've already seen so many of the amazing combinations and crazy confluences of cards!

To invoke a third cliché today: just take it all in stride.

    Vox Populi

What are the loudest cards you've seen or played? How do you think and feel about them? Are there other ways to handle the blasts?

I know that many of you have struggled with the concepts, both as the player of the noise and receiver of the sound. Share what you have on the forums, through email, or Twitter. Talk to your friends and fellow players and get their thoughts.

There isn't one answer or one way to feel about everything. Putting a little effort into understanding the other perspectives will go a long way in better games for everyone. Sound off and we'll see you next week!

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