Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Miami Magic and the Missing Mana

Student life is vibrant at Miami University. Buildings and houses are still adorned with Halloween decorations. Banners call passersby to dances and performances. Students outside are engaged in discussion, music, and performance.

I met up with the Miami University Strategy Gaming Club, which meets Sunday and Tuesday evenings. The group started with wargaming and RPGs back in the mid-seventies, and was revived again by, among others, Dave Chalker in the late nineties/early aughts. Unfortunately, I didn't keep notes and so don't recall anyone's name (they were all nice people, however).

Five or six people played Pathfinder. The GM used his computer and an overhead projector to display the battlefield, and he positioned the virtual PCs in their locations, including such enhancements as line-of-sight, and so on. They all seemed to be having fun.

Three people played board games, from a stack which included the long and complex - Game of Thrones, Twilight Imperium III - and the very chaotic - Fluxx, Munchkin, Junta, etc, with nothing in between. There were no middle of the road strategy games like Settlers or Puerto Rico. I opted out of playing any of these. Later in the evening I convinced them to try It's Alive, I have no idea how it went over, except that they didn't play it a second time.

Around twelve people, including myself, played Magic: the Gathering. Eight of us played a tournament. We "booster" drafted from a collection of excellent cards from the past five years or so. Many rares and powerful cards in the lot, as well as some key commons such as Incinerate and Terror.

The remaining players played a Magic variant where you can play with any cards you want, but with only one of each card in the deck and a minimum deck size of 100 cards. Kind of bizarre.

All the players are regular players, with up to date knowledge of all the cards and how to integrate current strategy and tactics. My last analysis of Magic was around 4th edition, though I've played with the commons and uncommons of many of the sets since. None from the last year or so, however. I expected a) to take a much longer time drafting and playing than any of the other players, and b) to lose badly. But it looked like a challenge.

It's tough drafting when you have no idea of the relative worth of the cards you're seeing. And when of the fifteen cards from which you have to pick, four or five of them are simply awesome. I drafted nearly entirely black/red, with nothing but direct damage, creature kill, mana diversity and boosters, and fliers. I played a little light on land, only 15, plus some mana boosters, but it was also only a two color deck, and it was hard already leaving out cards that killed multiple creatures. Back in my hometown, the deck was unbelievably strong. How would it hold up here?

Against my first opponent, the answer was "fantastic". In our two games, I took maybe four points of damage in game two. His problem was, his deck was a control deck that used my creatures against me, but I had very little in the way of creatures. So he sat empty while I killed what he played and burned him down. I was surprised at my easy victory, and got a little cocky. Needless to say I lost the next two matches.

Both of them were very close. I went 2 games to 1 against both opponents, and in one of each of the games that I lost against each opponent I had him down to 1 point.

In my second match, my opponent played white, blue, and green. I lost the first game because he got out a nifty combination of cards: one imprinted a creature from his hand, so that, every round, he could pay its mana cost and bring out a copy of that creature; and the creature he imprinted was a Clone.

This also depended on me playing creatures he could use, but not entirely; he could target his own creatures as well. I got stuck. I also misplayed, having a hard time wrapping my head around the combination, and ended up giving him my cards to copy at the wrong times. He managed to clone one of his own creatures that let him draw two cards whenever such a creature came into play. He was drawing so many cards, he had to toss.

I won the next game, but lost the third from not having enough mana in my deck. I considered adding more mana to my deck, but I was reluctant to toss anything.

In the third match, I won the first game; he played a black and white deck, with multicolor splash. He knocked me down to 10, but I killed everything he had and then burned him. In the second game, I was a little light in mana, and he got out better cards, too many for me to control. In the third, I simply didn't draw lands until it was far too late. So I should have thrown in another land or two, after all. Die and learn.

Still, four games won and four lost, is not bad.

1 comment:

Simon said...

The 'collection' of excellent cards is a Cube, and the 100-card format was probably Elder Dragon Highlander (EDH), both common unofficial magic formats.