Multiplayer & Pentagram

When many people think of casual play, they think of multi-player. And nowadays, there’s a lot of talk about Commander (aka EDH), and how awesome it is, especially as a multi-player game. Wizards of the Coast is even designing cards specifically for Commander now, and has been designing some cards that are clearly meant, and worded, for multi-player play. Recognizing this, I should make it clear that even though I call myself a “super casual” player, I am not actually a big fan of multi-player. To me, Magic is a duel of the mind – your deck against mine – not a game of politics and diplomacy. If I want to experience the sociality, diplomatics, and politics of a multi-player game, I’ll just play Diplomacy, the best of this sort of game ever made, IMHO. I’m just not that interested in a game that drags on and on, which tends to punish someone for playing out early threats (i.e. doing what their deck was designed to do), and where winning feels lucky more than skillful.

This is one reason why I loved the Archenemy set when it came out. It’s the best of both worlds when you have more than 2 people who want to play at the same time (which is common enough at my house): it’s a multi-player duel. I do probably need to design some decks for that to help the non-Archenemies better compete with the Scheme cards (another good topic for a future post here), but we’ve had a lot of fun with it anyway. I am definitely more interested in playing something like Two-headed Giant or Emperor than a pure free-for-all chaos multiplayer game of any sort. (I’ll talk about my thoughts on Commander another time.)

This is also why I was excited to read about another multi-player format that I’ve never heard of before in a recent article on GatheringMagic.com. In a follow-up Google search, I also found this article which explains the details of play and has some sample decks, so I don’t need to do that here. Basically, it’s five players, each with a mono-colored deck, duking it out against their color enemies. I’ve always been a fan of mono-colored decks (ah, the purity), and this is a multi-player variant where you have definite and clear objectives for winning besides just “survive longer than everyone else.” I’ll have to play it some before I can decide whether the “political” angles mentioned in the articles are too much for me, but I have been known to play games with this kind of multi-player dynamic (in Settlers of Catan, for example – a pretty awesome game in its own right, by the way) by simply ignoring most of my opponents and focusing on the controllable strategic dimensions of the game; so, if that’s possible, it might be OK.

I totally agree with the author’s stance on color hosers. Each color already has a tendency to work against its enemy colors, so there’s still plenty of stuff to help you defeat your enemies without being a jerk about it. In general, I prefer a proactive, “make the best/coolest X colored deck you can”, approach. My decks don’t usually have a ton of removal – I want to win by executing my strategy better than you execute yours. But if I design decks specifically for Pentagram, then I might include a few cards I know would be good against its enemy colors, as long as every color gets its share of the action.

For now, I plan to use my “Planeswalker Commander” decks to test out this new (well, old, really) format, since I happen to have a Planeswalker deck of each color: Elspeth, Tezzeret, Liliana, Chandra, and Garruk. Perfect! (I do plan to discuss these decks and format more in a future post). Hopefully in a week or two I can report back on my experience.

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