Multiplayer in a Few Packs

Posted in Serious Fun on December 7, 2010

Multiplayer is a curious beast. While we often spend time putting particular effort into "multiplayerizing" our deck ideas, how often are these decks the sixty card size? Have you ever had to craft and coax a deck "for multiplayer" out of something a bit more restricted like, say, six booster packs?

While I've talked about a Sealed League before I haven't shared exactly why multiplayer is such a huge part of the leagues my local troupe have generated.

And why you, too, should consider flexing multiple players into your Limited games.

    It's a Shortstack, But Rich

Limited—any time you choose to play by drafting booster packs or using only a set number of boosters to create your deck—is usually in the domain of duels. There's certainly a strong appeal to having just two of us sit down and duke it out without the limitless resources of all of Magic available to us. It's part of why drafting and the like is so popular: it's darn good fun.

But the complexity of multiplayer games is usually set aside. Sure, there is an exception in Two-Headed Giant Sealed (a staple of Prerelease Events and Launch Parties for new sets) but we all know there is so much more to multiplayer than just two heads becoming one.

Why set aside multiplayer in Limited? There are a few reasons, actually:

  1. Not everyone likes multiplayer.
  2. Multiplayer games take longer and can even grind to a halt.
  3. Building multiplayer decks with even less cards than normal can be very challenging.

And all of these reasons have their merits, but it's not the whole story:

  1. If you don't like multiplayer you don't have to play it.
  2. There are solutions to ensuring games move smoothly.
  3. Certain sets can make deck building easier in some ways.

For nearly every Sealed League I've been in, you can earn points just by playing and it didn't matter which you were playing—duels or multiplayer—but that you simply were playing. Not everyone likes every way to play but providing more than one option is always part of what we do.

The Rumble Rule

The Rumble Rule is very straightforward but opens up a world of possibility. Each time you cause life loss (damage causes life loss) or inflict poison counters to another player you gain that many rumble points. When you earn twenty 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 cast that card without paying its mana cost anytime you could normally cast that card.

If you choose a card with additional costs you do have to pay those costs if they're required (e.g. sacrifice a creature), or pay them if they are optional (like kicker). If the card has an in its mana cost you must pay mana if you want that to be greater than zero (e.g. you want to rumble out Fireball).

The Rumble Rule has been my group's solution to both giving incentive to attack as well as helping ensure games move along at a reasonable pace. Give it a try the next time you and a few friends have some extra draft or sealed decks laying around (like, say, after finishing up at the Mirrodin Beseiged Prerelease Events)!

And keeping games moving normally involves making attacking more desirable than simply hanging back. We've come up with what we call the "Rumble Rule" for our multiplayer Group Game Drafts and this year is the first time it's being applied to the league. Attacking is usually a fun thing and now there is more reason than ever for us to get in there.

Finally, the past few years have brought many sets focused on more restrictive ideas: Shadowmoor, Eventide, and the entire Shards of Alara block had a lot of multicolored cards. Lorwyn and Morningtide were all about creatures and their subtypes. Zendikar block had several cards that required a lot of a single color. Everything pulled us in specific directions that made considering multiplayer in Limited pretty tough.

Scars of Mirrodin, however, is a multiplayer Limited deck-building dream. The theme of artifacts ensures that we are looking hard at the grey cards we find in our hands and provides things to do even if we don't have all the colors of mana we need in a given moment: colorless costs could care less about the colors we use. This isn't to say that there aren't other considerations to take in mind, just that when you have more than just a handful of artifacts in your deck you'll always find something to do.

    A Case Study in Brewing

While reading about how the possibilities in Scars of Mirrodin are diverse can be fine, let's get our hands dirty and dive into some deck building. Here is my starting sealed pool for my league. Build the multiplayer deck you would want then click on the reveal link below to see what I had brewed up.

Adam's Sealed League Pool

Download Arena Decklist

Reveal the rest of the story! (Pro Tip: Write your deck list down and post it on the forum! I'd love to see how you thought about everything!)

Adam's Multiplayer Sealed Deck

Download Arena Decklist

There are a lot of options to consider in multiplayer: my pool has enough artifacts to ensure that things like Ezuri's Brigade and Snapsail Glider can always have metalcraft activated. Multiple copies of Halt Order and Grasp of Darkness can keep opponents on their toes. And the bevy of fantastic "bombs" to dish with is surreal: Strata Scythe (which I talked about last week), Precursor Golem, Lux Cannon, a (premium foil) Geth, Lord of the Vault, Grindclock, and the previously mentioned Ezuri's Brigade can all be intense given the right home.

The question when I started to put my deck together was, "What looks awesome?" As I pondered this question several players strolled by, looked over my organized piles, and asked if my Geth was for trade.

Clearly this was a sign.

Looking over the black I found it was strong with mundane, if useful, removal spells as well as my favorite new life-sucking Vampire (Bleak Coven Vampires). Checking the other colors for similarly suited stuff had me briefly pause at green, as I do love Spiders, and Ezuri's Brigade was desperately shouting to be played. I also glanced at red, if only because Shatter is exactly the kind of card I wouldn't want to see.

I did shed a small tear seeing a playset of Sunspear Shikari with only a dearth of Equipment to potentially use. I'll keep this in mind for the next pack or two I'll get to open and add in.

Commander? Didn't You Mean EDH?

In case you missed the amazing announcement last Thursday, EDH is no more! As this announcement covers, EDH will now be known as Commander thanks to the upcoming summer release of Magic: The Gathering Commander decks!

I was so excited that I was going to write all about it this week but as it was so artfully pointed out to me it's kind of hard to talk about something so many months in advance of being released. What I will say is that as time gets closer I'm sure you can expect all sorts of awesome information to be shared.

For those of you craving an additional tease of awesome, a little something special is available at the shiny and new! You know, in case you missed that on Thursday too.

Our collective excitement will just have to bear the (painfully everlasting) wait.

Sticking with the theory that my most awesomest card deserved to be sleeved up I kept the black and moved on to fill out my deck with artifacts. While the obvious remaining rares and mythic rare pointed out above made some choices easy, the rest was a bit more complicated. As you can see I settled into having more creatures for attacking and Contagion Clasp to go with Lux Cannon, making everything seem like something out of my Karn, Silver Golem Commander deck.

Snapsail Gliders and Golem Artisans, Myr of many stripes (with Perilous being the one I have a slightly unhealthy obsession with), and a Painsmith to play partner in pumping anything I want to have go marching off into combat filled out my deck to forty. Thanks to color Myr that make mana, I decided to stick with just sixteen lands, though one or two more would be completely reasonable as well.

I'm just like drawing spells more often. Less lands is always what I want to do anyway, and thanks to those reprinted Myr here I have the perfect reason.

    Taste Test

To feel out how things were going to work I played a few games against my friend Tim, a stalwart of the local store who happens to handle selling singles for the store on Thursdays.

Yes, I cornered the man who wasn't allowed to go anywhere else.

He picked up a deck another employee had already made (because a store league just for employees allows such conveniences), fanned through it briefly, and we went to town. A few discoveries:

  • Cerebral Eruption is mighty fine against my array of 1- and 2-toughness creatures.
  • Painsmith was definitely more fun to play with than I thought.
  • Golem Artisan makes untapped mana look very threatening, something I hadn't thought about.
  • Strata Scythe can wreak havoc out of nowhere.
  • Bleak Coven Vampires is still my favorite Vampire by far.
  • Big creatures are a big obstacle for me to tangle with.

All in all my deck felt right and I knew that I'd be ready for some multiplayer action. I'm looking forward to sliding down a Shatter or Ezuri's Brigade through the wonders of the Rumble Rule—and crossing my fingers someone isn't bringing a Mimic Vat.

So show off your thoughts on a multiplayer deck and tell me if there is something you would change (completely or just a card, it doesn't matter). I can't wait to see what you have cooked up!

Join me next week when we steel ourselves with the dark.

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