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Archive for December 2008

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Multiplayer Magic meta-strategy

Last night I played multiplayer Magic with my usual group, and for the first time we have 5 players instead of the usual 4. Usually we play 2 headed giant (2 players act as one giant and duel against the other 2 players), or occasional chaos magic – basically Last Man Standing, where everyone fights against everyone.

Two headed giant is rather simple in its meta strategy, and Chaos multiplayer is usually about who can hide his intentions long enough, not be noticed, and then wipe out everyone else.

Last night was different. We played an unnamed variant (didn’t find it here) that has the following rules:

  • A player can only attack the players opposite of him (his opponents)
  • A player can target whatever he wants (opponents’ creatures, allies creatures, …)
  • A player wins if his two opponents are dead

We’ll use the back of a magic as a convenient representation for the players (suppose for simplicity that there are 5 mono-colored decks that sit at the appropriate positions).

It appears this format has much meta-strategy: At first, you have your two “opponents” and two “allies”, and the game seems orderly. You attack your opponents and encourage your allies to attack your opponents instead of your other ally. Around mid-game, you start seeing one or two players with a bad board position and/or low life score. This immediately turns them to the underdogs.

The allies of these players do not want them to go out. If the weaker player dies, his allies are more vulnerable. So, his allies start defending the weak player more vigirously, throwing precious spells at their own allies, in to save their other weaker ally.

When the first play dies or is very near death, things change again. Let’s say the Black player dies. If Blue will die, then Green wins. Therefore, it’s in everybody’s interest except Green to prevent Blue from dying. The same goes for Red – if he dies, White automatically wins. So Blue, White’s ally, will do everything possible to prevent Red from dying – even though Red is Blue’s traditional opponent.

What should Blue do? The answer is simple – quickly take out Green. Once Green is out, the game degenerates into 2 on 1 – Blue & White both take on Red and usually win together (if their one remaining opponent dies, both win at the same time). Symmetrically, Red must take out white as soon as possible. What might happen is that with Red protecting Blue and trying to kill White, it might be in Red & Green’s best interests to unite against White – the sooner White is out of the equation, the sooner both can win (in a joint victory). If Green doesn’t want to share victory and refuses to turn on White but tries to kill Blue directly, most likely that all three players will kill him off first.

We played two very interesting games last night, and I died first in both, so don’t take my post-analysis here too seriously. What I think is certain, is that like chaos multiplayer, you should beware of appearing as the strongest player on the board. The strongest player will be taken care of before everyone else, and will eventually die (in my case, I had Avator of Woe out, which would have dominated the game if I hadn’t been killed straight after I played her – great card btw for multiplayer magic)


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