For the first of our two "Best Of" Weeks, my handsome and charming editor asked me to select two of the best Serious Fun columns from this year. I knew I wanted to devote my first "Best Of" slot to The Ferrett, who shepherded this column through the first half of the year (and for over a year before that).
This article is my all-time favorite from The Ferrett's run on magicthegathering.com. It touches on so many of the different reasons people play Magic, and it pulls no punches along the way. These are the plays you remember. The forum thread is worth a gander too—inspired by The Ferrett's example, forum dwellers produced fully six pages of hilarious, ridiculous Magic tales from around the kitchen table. And ultimately, this article has served as inspiration for me as well. Enjoy!
he universe has a way of handing what I need to me, when I need it. Take this past Tuesday, for example.
I was feeling pretty down because, well, it's springtime. Every spring, the chemicals in my brain go haywire, and I get very blue. * It's a struggle to remember the good things in life.
But Tuesday was the weekly multiplayer Magic game, and I was opening up the night's festivities with my new souped-up Rogue deck. The Rogue deck is one of those decks that seems like it oughtta win (I've chronicled its losses here) but doesn't really. It comes out fast, takes one or two people down, and then—because it's a creature-based deck—tends to run out of steam very quickly, collapsing underneath the weight of an angry God. It's won a handful of times, but for every occasional victory it's faced three or four losses.
Still, I kept at it because it felt like it should win, and win big. I've played it far more than its win record deserves. But this time, I felt that victory would be around the corner, since I had my new, special multiplayer card to deal with—which is not only a Rogue, but will be one of my top five multiplayer cards for Shadowmoor once we get the video down.
That single card would now allow me to solve the problem that faced the Rogue deck—namely, that it ran out of steam in the late game. I now had a source of cheap card drawing that, I was betting, nobody would waste removal on:
Sygg, River Cutthroat.
Sygg's a nasty little card in a blue-black deck. Someone's always taking damage in multiplayer, so it's almost a guaranteed free card a turn. Either they're forced to waste a Lightning Bolt-quality spell on him, in which case I've lost a two-drop—not a big deal—or I draw tons of cards. Either way, I win.
(I'm never going to attack with Sygg unless I have another one in hand, so forget white and green's usual ways of getting rid of him in combat, and most of black's good removal spells target nonblack creatures—though lesser-used cards like Rend Flesh and Nameless Inversion will do the trick, natch.)
I'd done nothing but take out a few cards in the deck to add four-of slots for Sygg, but I thought that would indeed juice it up. And lo, here's what I ran!
And you know what happened? Wouldn't you expect it, on turn five, Paul tapped all of his red mana to play a Pyrohemia. I had a Sygg and a changeling and a token from a Violet Pall, but my entire deck was about to die to an enchantment. Everyone else was tapped out.
So I drew and laid my sixth land, then attacked for 4. But I had a chance to not die from Pyrohemia!
"Prowl Notorious Throng
?" I asked. Sure enough, it resolved—and why not? Everyone else was tapped out. I drew a card at the end of turn thanks to Sygg, and then a card on my next turn, and lookie loo! Another Notorious Throng
That had never happened before. I attacked Paul for 8, putting him out of the game (I'd been attacking him beforehand to draw cards with Sygg), drew a card thanks to Sygg, and then—with an army of thirteen fliers and other attackers—I drew Stinkdrinker Bandit to attack for 39-plus unblocked damage in the air.
A total table kill by turn six. ** With the Rogue Deck.
That is just one of the kinds of plays you remember: the power play. The time when, for whatever reason, the cards just flipped up in precisely the way to win when you could not be beat. Was it likely that I'd win on turn five with the Rogue deck? Heck, no, but dangit—I can retire that deck now. I lived the dream.
Because, as you may have guessed, this column is devoted to the kinds of plays you remember, the plays that were so cool or so funny that you talk about them to your friends years later, remembering how awesome that was.
Really, isn't that what Magic's about? Fun? We talk strategy a lot on this site, and rightfully so, but considering this is my down time of year I'd like to cheer myself up by talking about the really good parts of Magic, the things that make you smile later. Let's stop talking about how to make these plays happen and just ruminate on the fond reminiscences of those plays, shall we?
'Course, my example's not such a good one, because it's not that fun for the other players. They got stomped without much of a chance to react, which is what happens when you unleash the power play. But you know what people do remember?
The Funny Play
As an example, our pal Metal Jack kept a hand with no lands, betting that it'd be decent if he drew just one. Of course he didn't. So he spent the next five turns doing nothing but drawing and discarding, drawing and discarding without a permanent on the table.
We started joking that Jack could earn a "Zen Victory" if he just went the entire game without playing any cards. "If Jack's the only other player left," I said, "I'll concede to him for the purity of his vision. But he can't lay a land. That would spoil the effect." Everyone agreed, and we started encouraging Jack to keep doing nothing.
Later on, Jack started laying lands, getting to three mana. We groaned. "You ruined it, man, you ruined it!" We yelled at him because he'd spoiled the flawless victory. Then, after several rounds of razzing, he looked at us, a glint in his eye.
"Really?" he asked. "Seething Song, Seething Song, Seething Song, Seething Song, Earthquake for ten, you all die. I was at twenty, and I hadn't cast a spell before that. How's that for flawless?"
We had to admit, it was pretty pure. And we were pretty silly for letting it happen.
Then again, we do stuff like that all the time at my table. There was that five-man game where it turned out three of us were playing Slivers. We destroyed the other two players, at which point I convinced the other two Sliver players that we could declare a joint victory for the hive.
That's silliness incarnate. But let us not forget...
The Victory-from-Nowhere Play
The other two plays involve little skill. But this kind of play you tend to crow about, because it almost always has luck combined with the perfect play. Things fell right, and you played it perfectly.
This one took place at our first (and last) five-team game. Ten players, arranged in teams of two, went head-to-head in a very long game. I wound up making a bargain with my friend Ian's team that we would not attack each other until the other players were dead—which was to his advantage at the time, since he was at 2 life and I was playing red.
In other words, I said, "You can work with me or be out of the game," and Ian—being no fool—took my offer. Unfortunately, this rapidly wound up becoming a bad deal for me because Ian was playing Slivers, as was his teammate. And while I had 11 points of burn on the table, Ian not only had Victual Sliver to sacrifice Slivers to gain him life, but he also had Muscle Sliver, Psionic Sliver, and Fungus Sliver for an endless machine gun.
(In case you don't see it, tap the Psionic Sliver to do 2 damage to any target. The Muscle Sliver makes it big enough to take the 3-damage hit and survive, and then the Fungus Sliver allows you to put +1/+1 counters on it.)
Basically, Ian could machine gun me for 20 in response to anything I did, and sacrifice his guys to gain life. Since I had five burn spells in hand and he was at 5 life, victory for him would involve some stack shenanigans to dodge certain death, but that Victual Sliver left him some room. (And remember, if he killed me, my burn would vanish from the stack!)
He destroyed everyone else at the table with a tide of swelling Slivers, then aimed his gaze in my direction.
I had one chance. If he'd forgotten the spell existed, or suspected.... But if Ian has a weakness, it's that he tends to get cocky.
"Fine," I sighed. "The final team is dead. I'll start the festivities by Lightning Bolting you to the dome."
"That's fine," Ian shrugged, readying the mana to sacrifice one of his Slivers for 4 life when my next spell hit. "It resolves. I'm at two."
I pumped the fist. He had gotten cocky.
"Good. Sudden Shock. I win."
My teammate, who'd just met me for the first time that night, was flabbergasted. The thing is, writing columns for Wizards and Star City Games, I find that people tend to overestimate my talents; I'm good at multiplayer, but no means am I the best. I'm not mandated to win every game.
But I could see the legend in his eyes. I had been doomed to lose, and suckered a friend into making the one fatal misstep he could make that would allow me to win. And that is where the victory-from-nowhere plays come from.
But there's another type of play you remember! How about...
The Bizarre Play
This is one of my all-time favorite stories, and I've related it a couple of times before, but not to you folks at magicthegathering.com. So let me share.
It was a huge, ten-man group game, and I was playing my Angelic Chorus / Phyrexian Processor deck (you pay gigantic amounts of life to get a big Processor, then get it all back courtesy of Angelic Chorus when the first token comes into play). David was playing Dual Nature just for fun, which puts copies of everyone's creatures into play.
Then, about twenty turns in, someone cast Living Death. All ten of us were still alive, and about forty creatures came back out to play. That forty became eighty thanks to Dual Nature.
I had three Soul Wardens in the graveyard. They became six thanks to Dual Nature. (I forget the exact nature of the ruling at the time, but we had a level 3 judge playing with us, so it was all clean.)
Unfortunately, someone else had two Crater Hellions in the graveyard. So what happened?
Everything came back out.
- My Soul Wardens triggered for every creature that came out of the graveyard.
- Four Crater Hellions came into play, doing 16 damage to every creature. Nobody had protection from red, so everything died.
- The board was then completely wiped, except that I was now at 300 life.
There was a massive pileup to kill me, which I couldn't argue against. Every player went for my throat, and I killed some, and others killed each other, and by the time it was down to the wire after about three hours of play, my only remaining opponent was a guy with Necropotence in play.
I knocked him down to 1 life. Thanks to Necropotence, he would draw no more cards to hurt me... and he couldn't kill me with what he had in hand. That was good.
Unfortunately, he'd just destroyed my last creature, and I had only one card left in my library... But fortunately, I had seven cards in hand. And one of those cards?
I realized that I could draw my final card, discard down to seven at the end of the turn, and thanks to the Avatar's triggered ability, it would go back to my library where I could draw it again. But that meant if I cast any of the spells in my hand, I would die.
So the biggest, most brutal multiplayer game of my life? Ended with two mages, both unable to make a move lest they die instantly to their own decks, glaring angrily at each other across a kitchen table for all of eternity.
I rather like that image, I really do.
So. Let me ask you a question, and I'll request that you keep it to one single cool play:
What's the Coolest Play You've Ever Made?
Tell me in the forums. I think we could all use some good times—just remember, the best stories tend to come in at under six paragraphs! (I broke this rule, but I'm a professional. Like Jamie and Adam before me, I'm advising you not to try this one at home, kids.)
Share your stories. Let's exult in the Timmy side of Magic for a bit. I wanna know!
* – It's called Seasonal Affective Disorder, and most people who have it are triggered by a lack of sunlight, which means they get it in the fall when the daylight hours fade. I, on the other hand, am reverse-triggered, which means that I get it in the spring. Which is fine by me, since I largely consider the outdoors to be this big scary space that inconveniently fills the areas between two air-conditioned rooms.
** – Okay, turn eight, but you know what I mean.