For those of you that haven’t been keeping up, the following links might prove useful.
Part 1 – Standard
Part 2 – 2HG Draft
Part 3 – Team Trios (Legacy)
Part 4 – M11 Draft
So here we are. The final game. The final event. We’ve been competing with and against each other for almost 3 months, and we are now down to 5 players. The format? Star Eternities Map EDH. That’s pretty convoluted for players who aren’t familiar with all the great variant formats magic has to offer, so I’ll run down the rules.
Star is a multiplayer format which is inspired by something we’re all very familiar with – the back of a magic card. Simply put, you play a free-for-all multiplayer game, but you don’t have to defeat very single other player. You need only defeat the players directly opposite from you to win. This does mean that 2 players can win at the same time (such as if they eliminate 1 enemy each and then their common enemy loses), and Matt (The TO) was kind enough to create different prize scenarios depending on how the game ended (i.e. how many winners and losers).
A variant on Planechase, the Eternities map gives you a bit more control over what planes you walk to. I can’t really give a better explanation than this.
Since its inception by a group of judges many years ago, Elder Dragon Highlander has become one of the most popular magic variant formats. Players pick a legendary creature to be their “general” and can only play cards which contain mana symbols of their general’s colours. More information can be found here.
Without further ado, let me introduce you to the players of the finals of the 2010 Wizard’s Comics Championship.
That’s me! I came in as the second seed from the Edmonton store, and I’ve been running pretty well in this tournament. For the EDH portion I played Zur, the Enchanter, one of the most-powerful generals in the format.
Buddy was the 5th place seed from the Sherwood Park store and has teamed up with me twice in this event (2HG and trios). He was really miffed at the final format being such a wacky format, but he brought Progenitus to the table.
Matt was actually the 10th place Sherwood Park seed but because of scheduling conflicts with the top 8 he got a berth into the championship passed down to him. He’d never played EDH before today, and chose to use Sen Triplets as his general.
Another EDH novice, Jim is my normal 2HG partner and has got through this event by the skin of his teeth, being on the cusp of elimination in pretty much every event, although he came in as the third-place seed from the Edmonton store. He didn’t think he would be advancing to the finals, and thus didn’t have an EDH deck prepared. I knew something like this would happen, so I was happy to lend him Doran, the Siege Tower for the finals.
Adam is a player whose strength lies in limited, but he is trying to break into constructed. He’s a fine player who chose to bring Jenara, Asura of War to the table. He was the 7th place seed from the Edmonton store.
We started out on the Pools of Becoming plane, where I rolled chaos, excited to get some huge advantage from the top 3 planes. Of course I whiffed and hit Stronghold Furnace, Fields of Summer, and Sanctum of Serra. I was all the more upset when Buddy also got a chaos roll on that same plane, and all the more relieved when he whiffed as well.
Jim resolved a Skullclamp and then tried to roll a planeswalk symbol to get over to Goldmeadow so he could harvest his goats for cards. Luckily he didn’t get it and Adam quickly walked in the other direction to Horizon Boughs. I rolled a chaos and got to triple-Rampant Growth.
Buddy cast a Diabolic Tutor to get something mysterious on his turn, and Adam resolved an Ant Queen, which had insane synergy with Horizon Boughs, letting him make multiple ants on each player’s turn.
I cast my Zur, the Enchanter and pass the turn, while Matt casts Mystical Teachings for Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir. On his turn he cast Enlightened Tutor for Wound Reflection and brought out an Erayo, Soratami Ascendant. This was the starts of Matt’s offence, and we knew that we would need to find away to other break the potential lockdown from Erayo, and the massive life loss induced by the Reflection.
When play passed back to Adam, he started bashing in with his army of ants. I attacked with Zur, and fetched Vanishing, to make the number of ways he could be dealt with extremely small. Buddy gets rid of the potential troublesome Erayo with a Comet Storm, and Jim planeswalks to Celestine Reef. Matt plays a morph face down, and then flips it up to reveal Vesuvan Shapeshifter, which is pretty much one of the few ways that could possibly kill my Zur. Adam proceeds to roll chaos 3 times in a row, eliciting laughter from the rest of us, until he finally planewalks to Undercity Reaches and draws 13 cards from his ants.
On my turn, I draw an Eldrazi Conscription, which I could have played by fetching Arcanum Wings, had my Zur survived.
The game takes an interesting turn when play passes back to Buddy, who’s done nothing but tutor a few times and play a few removal spells. He casts a Hive Mind and it resolves, as the blue mages at the table are either tapped out or don’t have countermagic in hand.
I’m ready to scoop it up to a Pact when something even worse happens. Buddy casts Shahrazad. I’ve never seen the card in person before, and quickly understood the implications of what was about to happen. 5 Shahrazads meant 5 subgames, each of which could take an hour or more. Not to mention that in the regular game buddy had ways to rebuy the game-creating sorcery, and he could even do it from inside the subgame with a Burning Wish.
This cause a great ruckus and we all stood up and took a break while we decided what to do. Those of us that take public transit couldn’t really afford to stay at the store for 5 hours, and when Matt (The TO) called the store owner, he impressed upon us that we would not be able to stay very late, as the store was already closed for the day.
With the Shahrazads on the stack, Adam declared his concession, as he had school the next day and had to get home sooner rather than later. Here I realized my opportunity, as I also declared my concession. Both of us conceding meant that Jim would get the win, and it was a win we could share in. Him winning would be like me winning, as we’ve helped each other out in order to make sure we both got this far: lending cards, talking strategies, brewing decks, and if I had to surrender that last game, I was glad Jim would get the win.
When this fact was realized, Matt also scooped, meaning that both Buddy and Jim would win. However, there was a tiebreaker that needed to be made, and so Jim and Buddy sat down to play 1 game of MiniMaster to decide the Wizard’s Comics Championship.
So before I continue, time for another rules segment!
MiniMaster a.k.a. Pack Wars
MiniMaster is a format where each player uses one sealed pack of Magic. The players open the packs without looking at the pack and take out the token/tip card. They then shuffle in 3 of each basic land to comprise a 30 card deck, and play 1 game with 15 life apiece. Some player like to use this as a way of gambling packs, where the winner takes the contents of both packs.
This MiniMaster game was rather unexciting, as Jim had never played it before and to say he mulliganed aggressively would be an understatement. He went to 3 or 4 looking for an early creature drop, whereas most players never mulligan in MiniMaster, and keep any hand with a mix of lands and spells, regardless of colour.
Jim’s mulligans did him in, as Buddy cast 2 creatures early on and that was enough to take him all the way. For his troubles, Buddy received a large amount of store credit, as well as a year’s VIP membership to Wizard’s Comics, meaning that for any large tournaments (Prerelease, Launch Party, GPT, etc.), he would receive free entry. I got a fair bit of store credit and an intro pack for my troubles, and a fair bit of enjoyment out of the day.
To end this series, I feel like I must address Buddy’s last play that preemptively ended the game. Buddy was so dead-set against the format of EDH that he built his deck to prove a point – that we shouldn’t have played EDH for the finals. However, he did it in a way that left a sour taste in pretty much everyone’s mouth.
From Dragonhighlander.net, the official EDH Source:
[EDH] is founded (and dependant) on a social contract, otherwise known as a gentleman’s agreement. Unsporting conduct (whether extreme or simply “being a jerk”) should not be tolerated by players.
Now the question here is whether or not the Shahrazad-Hive Mind constitutes unsporting conduct. Now neither card is banned in EDH and is such a legal play, and I have to admit that Buddy played a deck designed to fulfill a very particular purpose. Had Buddy cast something like a Pact of the Titan, causing everyone else to lose the game, I would have been a great deal less upset. That is a combo which remains entirely within the dimensions of the game, and is a legitimate (although abrupt) way to win that is very decisive.
However, the Shahrazad way to win is different. This combo breaks the bounds of the game. Real-life commitments now become a factor into how a game of Magic is played out. Obviously this is sometimes unavoidable if a player has to leave due to other obligations, health problems, etc. However, playing the Shahrazad combo is this scenario has fairly large implications. The store owner gets an angry call from the security company if anyone is still in the store past a certain hour, and those players who have school and jobs to attend to need to be able to go to bed at a decent hour to perform at their best. If this was a Saturday night and we were planning on playing Magic until all hours of the morning with relatively little at stake, that would be different. Unfortunately, this was 5pm on a Sunday, and anyone who has played 5 player EDH knows that those games aren’t exactly quick.
The end result of this combination of real-life time constraints and obligations and in-game effects results in players involuntarily conceding the game. Did I want to play this game to completion? Of course, it was a championship that I (and many others) had spent 3 months qualifying for and 2 days playing, and we had to concede in the finals. When I came home that night and my family asked me how I had done I couldn’t say “I lost fair and square to a player who outplayed me”. No, I said “I conceded in the finals so that I would get home before midnight”.
So now, we return to the original question. Was this unsportsmanlike play on Buddy’s part? I have to say yes, as instead of outright winning the game (which he could have done with a Pact), he chose to put everyone else in an uncomfortable position and get people to concede to him. There is a difference between being competitive and “being a jerk”, although many players treat the two as being synonymous. It is my belief that opting for a game plan with the sole intention of inconveniencing the rest of the table falls under the “unsportsmanlike” label, and that last game was one of the few negative experiences I’ve had in a game of Magic.
If you’re reading this Buddy, don’t take this as an attack against your person. You’re a fine player whom I respect, but I do think that you could have been more considerate when choosing the Shahrazad kill instead of a Pact.
That pretty much wraps this article series up. I’m going to have some videos posted soon, and I’ve already made my travel arrangements for GP Toronto. If any of you guys are going to be there, find me (I’ll be in the bright orange Power 9 Pro T-Shirt) and say hi.