Ways to Play

Posted in Serious Fun on July 22, 2008

By The Mimic

Welcome to Mimic Week! All this week on magicthegathering.com, the regular columns will appear as usual… but with a twist. Your eight regular writers, plus at least two guest authors who've written for the site before, are hiding in the ten regular column slots—maybe even their own—under a clever pseudonym: The Mimic! Can you figure out who actually wrote each article? Tune in Monday, July 28 for the answers!

(All names have been changed to protect identities.)

I was hanging out at my friend Justin’s apartment a couple of weeks ago, when we decided to cook lunch and invite Gary, another friend of ours, over to eat with us.

We cooked up a salmon, some asparagus, and a big bowl of cheddar-mashed potatoes. I let our (vegetarian) friend Gary into the apartment and I started boasting about how awesome a vegetarian meal we were cooking. Gary’s portion of the meal might only have consisted of two different, very easy to prepare items, but that wasn’t about to dissuade me from talking it up.

As I was boasting, we walked over to the stovetop just in time for Gary to see Justin tossing the asparagus in with the salmon. Gary, who is a hardcore vegetarian, reached out his arm as though to stop Justin from contaminating his vegetables with fish juice, but of course there was nothing he could do at that point.

I felt pretty bad that Gary’s meal was going to consist only of some cheddar-mashed potatoes, but he was a good sport about it so I didn’t worry about it too much.


No, not that kind of teaching.
We sat down to eat our meal, and the salmon was completely uncooked and the asparagus was in almost as bad shape. So, it turned out that we all had to eat meals consisting only of mashed potatoes.

As soon as we were done with our one-course meal, Gary started talking about how he had bought a booster box of Tenth Edition and built five monocolored “teaching decks” so that he could (duh) teach people how to play.

Needless to say, we were intrigued. Next thing we knew, we were shuffling up some decks, getting ready to play three-player games with the teaching decks.

In the first game, I got the green deck, Justin got the red deck, and Gary got the black deck. I got off to a fast start, but both Gary and Justin had a bunch of removal, and suddenly I was back to square one. A little further into the game, Gary played a huuuuuge Nightmare that Justin and I had to team up to kill.

After the Nightmare was dealt with, I was able to hit Gary a few times with my Stalking Tiger, while Gary attacked me with a Severed Legion, and beat down on the then-defenseless Justin with a couple of Vampire Bats (I had a Giant Spider, so Gary couldn’t attack me).

After doing this for a while, Gary and I reached a point where either of us could kill Justin whenever we wanted, but we would lose if we did that.

After being stalemated for a while I drew what I thought was going to win me the game on the spot.

Verdant Force!


Verdant Force

Now if you’ve ever played a Verdant Force in a two-player game of Magic, then you already know how quickly a Verdant Force will win you the game. But if you’ve ever played Verdant Force in a multiplayer game, then you know what’s really what. Pumping out three, or more, tokens per rotation is just disgusting.

When Gary didn’t play a Terror to kill my Verdant Force at the end of my turn, I thought I had the game won.

When Justin couldn’t burn out my Verdant Force, I thought for sure I had the game won.

When Gary tapped a single Swamp and played a Deathmark on my Verdant Force, I thought that he was a jerk.

I mean heck, I haven’t played with a Verdant Force in five years, why couldn’t I just win with it once?

We went through another couple of turn rotations without much happening. Gary and I were still stalemated, and Justin had almost nothing. Then Justin burnt both of us out on a single turn.



Graveborn Muse
In the next game I got to play the black deck, Justin got the white deck, and Gary got the blue deck. I played out a turn-four Graveborn Muse, which, alongside my Scathe Zombies, let me draw a whole mess of cards, including the amazing Nightmare. On the sixth turn I played out my Nightmare and made short work of both of my opponents.

Our third and final game was definitely my favorite. I got the white deck (which looked positively terrible in the previous game), Justin got the green deck, and Gary got the blue deck.

On my first turn I played a Soul Warden, and the rest of the table started grunting and groaning. I was about to start gaining a bunch of life, and because they were playing blue and green, there was nothing they could do about it.

On my second turn I played a Starlight Invoker, and I could see the steam coming out of their ears. After a moment they composed themselves and started thinking, “Well, I guess we just need to start attacking him fast and hard. That way the life gain won’t matter.”

When I added a Samite Healer, Cho-Manno, Revolutionary, a Wall of Swords, and an Angelic Wall to my team, it was clear that they weren’t about to start killing me anytime soon. They were ganging up on me from the second turn, but it didn’t matter; my defense was just too strong.


Wall of Swords
Cho-Manno, Revolutionary

During the game I got in a few hits with an Angel of Mercy, and eventually I was able to kill both of them one point at a time with a Rod of Ruin.



League with Trading

time_machinePlaying those games with the Tenth Edition reminded me of when Magic was a much simpler game for me. When having a Nightmare meant that everyone else was in big trouble. When having a Pacifism meant that you could deal with a Nightmare, and having a Terror meant that you could deal with a Verdant Force.

Now, you can always build decks that replicate the feel of not having the right commons to build your deck, but once you get your first playset of Terrors for your black deck, and Llanowar Elves for your green deck, it’s pretty tough to go back.

I had a blast playing games with Gary’s teaching decks, but we stopped long before the novelty had a chance to wear off.

But there is a very real way to replicate the feel that Magic had when you just started, without feeling too artificial, and that’s to start an “X pack” league with trading. In a league with trading, each player opens up X packs to build their deck from. Players can then make as many trades as they want before each match.

This league with trading idea was crafted by Wizards of the Coast VP of Organized play Chris Galvin. Aaron Forsythe described the Wizards “You Can Go Home Again” Box League here, but there’s no reason why you need to use a whole box. You can do it with as few as six packs, but I’d recommend using at least eight packs so you’ll have enough attractive off-color cards to trade with.

If you’re looking to be transported back to a simpler time, when you weren’t worried about infinite combos or putting together that new, killer deck, then this just might be the thing for you. For more information on how to run a league with trading, I’d recommend reading Aaron’s article.


Anaconda Sealed Draft

Ok, so you’re not looking for a way to play Magic like it’s 1993. That’s okay. I’ve got a different casual Limited variant for you: Anaconda Sealed Draft.

anacondaTo play an Anaconda Sealed Draft, you need at least five people and a Tournament Pack for each player. An Anaconda Sealed Draft starts exactly the same way that a booster draft would, with each player opening up their Tournament Pack, taking a card from it and passing the rest of the cards to their left.

Then things change a bit.

When you get passed the next pack, you put the card that you already drafted back into the tournament pack and then take two cards. You can take the card that you originally drafted, or you can take two entirely new cards. When you get passed the next pack, you put your previously drafted cards into the pack and then draft three cards from that pack.

Repeat this process, drafting one more card each time, until you’ve drafted all 75 cards, including the lands, from the Tournament Pack.

There’s one big catch to Anaconda Sealed Drafts, and that is that you only get to play with the cards that you actually draft. That’s right, the only lands that you get are the lands that you draft. You have to be pretty careful to make sure that you have the right lands for your deck. You might start off the draft by taking a lot of red cards, but if you only get three or four Mountains for your deck, you could be in trouble. Similarly, you could start the draft by taking a bunch of Mountains, but not end up with enough red cards to use all of your Mountains.

Anaconda Sealed Drafts are a big departure from normal Limited formats. You actually have to ask yourself the question, “Will I get enough lands?” And that can be a tough question to answer.


Face-Up Turbo Magic


Wandering Eye
This variant is a lot more chaotic than Face-Down Medium Magic, which you may know by its more commonly used name, “Magic.”

The name of this variant is pretty self-explanatory. Both players play the game with their hand, and all other hidden areas such as a card removed under Spinerock Knoll, revealed. That’s the face-up part of the game. The turbo part of the game is that each player has only 5 seconds to make each decision.

Other than revealing all of your cards, and making all of your plays in 5 seconds or less, Face-Up Turbo is exactly the same as regular Magic. You can play it with any two decks, be they draft decks, Highlander decks, or super powered combo decks that can win on the first turn (come on Mana Clash!).

I’ve got a really big soft spot for Face-Up Turbo Magic. Oftentimes when I’m playing in a draft and I’ve got time before my next round, I’ll ask someone in the draft if they want to play a game of Face-Up Turbo.

I definitely make a lot more mistakes playing Face-Up Turbo than I do when I’m playing regular Magic, but so do my opponents. You always know exactly what your opponent has before you make every decision, but you often won’t have enough time to properly think out your plays. Your opponent might see that you have a Barkshell Blessing in your hand, and attack with two creatures not realizing that you can conspire it and kill both guys.

If you ever catch your opponent taking too long to make the next play, you have to do something to enforce the time limit. I generally give two warnings before I start penalizing my opponent for slow play.


Barkshell Blessing
How do I penalize them, you may ask?

Well, it’s actually pretty simple. I just do something annoying.

So, unless your opponent wants to hear the theme from Married with Children, the ending to the new Stephen King book that he’s already read the first 700 pages of, or some songs from Mamma Mia!, I’m sure he or she will start making plays in a timely manner.

If you don’t want to do something that annoying, you can just draw an extra card every time your opponent spends more than 5 seconds thinking about a play. Your hand is face-up, so they’ll never catch you.

Wait a second, that’s not how it works. Scratch that last idea.

Every time I play Face-Up Turbo someone will complain, saying, “I never would have made that mistake if we had been playing real Magic.”


Then they play another game of Face-Up Turbo.

I would recommend Face-Up Turbo as a good activity when you’re waiting for something to finish, and you don’t know how long you’ll be waiting for (like the end of a game of Emperor). Because it’s fast and bloody, you won’t have to worry about making other people wait long for you to finish your Face-Up Turbo game after they’ve finish their activity.


What Are Your Favorite Magic Variants?

I’ve told you some of my favorite Magic variants, but I want to know what types of variants you like to play.

Do you like super-powered variants where you can easily win on the first couple of turns? Or do you enjoy simplified variants, like leagues with trading, where you can enjoy Magic in its simplest form?

No matter what types of Magic you like to play, remember: The Wandering Eye can see you.

Can you guess who wrote this? Click Discuss below to talk about this article, or head to the Mimic Week thread in the forums to talk about all your guesses!

Mimic Week is over! Did you guess who wrote this article?

Kenneth NagleThis article was written by Limited Information author Steve Sadin!

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