Deviations from the Norm with John B. Turpish  



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12.26.01  Ah, working retail right before Christmas.  What could be more fun (or leave more time for writing a column) than working a 9 hour shift every day?

In my last article I promised to write on the subject of readers' choosing.  I received 3 suggestions for the first portion of this article, and a solitary suggestion for an alternate format to review.  Here it goes!

The first suggestion was that I discuss some decks for Peasant Magic.  Although my definition of an alternate format would include Peasant Magic so that should fall under my "expertise", I've never reviewed the format, and I feel that the Pojo's Peasant Magic section would do a much better job of tutoring in this area than I ever could.  You can find it at:

The next I'll deal with was a recommendation to review the "vampires of Magic".  He claimed that they have been quite powerful, and the new (powerful) ones should spark newer Magic players' interest in vampires.  Well, first let's list them all alphabetically.

Arrogant Vampire – Portal
Crovax, the Cursed – Stronghold

Krovikan Vampire – Ice Age
Ravenous Vampire – Mirage
Repentant Vampire – Odyssey

Sengir Vampire – Alpha, Beta, Revised, 4th edition, and rumored to be in Torment

Skyshroud Vampire – Tempest

Stalking Bloodsucker – Odyssey

"New" is a relative term, but I'm pretty sure Repentant Vampire and Stalking Bloodsucker qualify.  I hate to do this, but I have to wholeheartedly disagree with he who suggested this.  They are not that powerful, and most have gone all but unnoticed.  Arrogant, Krovikan, and Sengir Vampires are balanced.  They're good enough to play in some decks in some formats.  The rest are sub-par.  I'm sorry, bud.

I don't believe there's enough interest for me to go too far in-depth on this.  If I'm wrong, email me. (  If there's a large response, I might do an entire article on the subject.  That would be a bit odd, though, wouldn't it?  An article on a creature type.  Anyhow, to overuse a phrase that seems cliché to those who read my articles, moving on…

The last suggestion actually came from someone I met in high school.  He asked me to use his name, and I told him I'd call him Mr. Sillyputty.  Joseph Griffin suggested I discuss how Magic has been different in the different places I've played.

It has always been interesting to me how Magic groups all seem to be related, but the Magic community is very regional at the same time.  I've really only been involved in Magic in any noticeable way in three places: Wayland, New York; Alliance, Ohio; and Orlando, Florida.  Now I realize that not everyone cares about where I've played, or what it was like there.  For those people, I would recommend skipping the next few paragraphs and look for bold-faced type.  If you do decide to read it, though, I think you'll find similarities to places you've played, which is what I find so interesting.

In Wayland I played mainly within the confines of my High School, and most of the people I played with did also.  This was easily the most isolated group I've played with.  I knew one guy, perhaps two, who read the Dojo or went to any sanctioned tournaments.  Even that group was separated.  There were those who, like myself, typically played on Tuesdays after school in the library.  Then there were those who played in a classroom about the same time.  There were even a few who preferred the science lab.  Magic was very personal there, as certain decks became synonymous with the one who played it.  Sadly enough, I became known for Tim decks, though I also introduced the group to a combo deck based around Jangling Automaton, Tolarian Entrancer, Gaseous Form, and Lure.  Ah, what a scrub I was.  I knew it too, and it didn't matter.  Strategies were built less on the clear logic the cards create in a vacuum, and more around the people one played against.

In Alliance I generally played against those who went to college with me and those who played at the local card store.  At First Choice there was a relentless  clash between those who understood the rules and those who thought they did.  Otherwise the scene there was much as one would expect, where a few good players totally dominate the tournaments.  When I went to that college I found two people who played.  By the end of my freshman year we were having chaos games involving nearly a dozen people on a regular basis.  Even though Magic was less a competition there and more like a small party among friends, it still generated a number of competitive players.  I don't think I've ever had more fun playing Magic than I did there, and perhaps that's why we created good players.  Some people just fell in love with the game, and then their competitive spirit can take over from there.  Paul, my freshman roommate, originally picked on us for playing "that game".  Once he gave it a try and built a deck with my cards, though, he couldn't get enough.  Now his rating towers over my own.  He brought his friend, Matt Miller, into the game, and now he too is quite competitive.  Andy Chapman was always the runt of the group (I hope he doesn't read this). When he joined our group he was playing a deck where he fully intended to play spells causing his opponent to draw cards so that he could Stormseeker them.  He still plays, and though his strategy discussions rarely make sense to anyone other than himself, he gets the job done quite well, and his rating also towers over my own.  There is another side to this, though.  Matt List, for example, was clearly one of our strongest players.  He rarely plays anymore, though, and seems to have lost interest in Magic.  Kathy, who was Andy's girlfriend (now wife), almost never plays, according to Andy, and doesn't find nearly as much enjoyment in the game as she used to.  So Alliance was really a fork in the road, where good players became bad, bad players became good, and I went just about the middle of the road, improving at about the rate I always have.  Or at least that's how I see it–I'm not exactly objective on this point.

When I first moved to Orlando I didn't know anyone who played, and so I didn't.  A few months later my sister heard about a Magic tournament because her coworker had a son who played.  I went to said tournament, and by doing so found out about the Strategy Center.  The Strategy Center was a great place to play and trade, as there was almost always people there willing to do so.  About the time I moved, coincidentally ending up much closer to the Strategy Center, the shop up and relocated to a place rather close to where I used to live, goshdarnit.  I've found other places to play, and I've found that Orlando generally has four types of players.  First there is the truly competitive players.  I love playing with these guys, because it's a challenge.  You all know Spike.  Then there's the truly casual players, who absolutely do not want to go to any tournament of a respectable size.  Tournaments seem silly to these people.  Then there's the casual player trying very hard to become competitive.  There's lots of these people, and I think that's a good sign for the health of the Magic community in the area.  The fourth is something I really have only encountered in Orlando.  They're the people to whom Magic is secondary.  They're Warhammer players, AD&D players, Star Wars players, et cetera.  Apparently, Magic was all but non-existent in the area a few years ago, and was more or less imported, due to the constant influx of people Orlando is always seeing.  It's a very different sort of place, and certainly more competitive than either of the previous play groups I was with.

This week's alternative format that has no name as far as I can tell

There was only one suggestion for an alternate format, and I still have the email it was sent to me in.  Quoting, then, from Mr. Tang's email:

"…have 5 players, each who can only attack the people across from them (like a star formation).  Once those two opponents are dead, you win the game."

Apparently one can do multiple rounds this way if you want to do a tournament in this style.

"The winner(s) of that round gets 4 points automatically, the 1st person(people) to die do not get points, the next person to die gets 1 point unless a winner has been chosen, the person after that gets 2 unless a winner has been chosen, and then survivors get 3…Each round has random seating."

And just because I find it humorous, I'll quote him one more time.

"…me being the rare drafter since my friend's abilities resemble a potato with a smiley face…"

Yes you can do drafts in this fashion too.  Actually, I think this setup welcomes drafting, because you generally want to sit next to those you won't be playing when you draft.  Here you will be playing them, so that's something to take into consideration, but you don't need to kill them to win, so that's good for the draft.

This format intrigues me.  In a normal chaos game of that size (chaos is multiplayer with no extraneous rules) aggressive maneuvers are often avoided for far too long, as people don't want to attract too much attention.  This slows the game down tremendously.  It also more or less forbids land destruction, and to a great extend, discard and various other strategies that need to target a particular player early on.  In this format, however, going cutthroat from the start wouldn't be a bad decision.  When your opponent only has two targets to choose from anyhow, that player taking special retributive measures against you isn't far from what they would have done anyway.  Meanwhile, this format retains some of the politics that makes multiplayer fun.  Consider this situation: it's the upkeep of the fellow sitting to your left.  You suggest to that player that he attack your mutual opponent with some of his large creatures.  During that turn, he does not.  During his end of turn step, you disenchant his Jayemdae Tome.  Now you might say, an enemy of an enemy is a friend, so why should you try to disable that player thereby making it easier for your opponent to beat him?  Well, you're giving that player incentive to attack your enemy, not your other friend, while at the same time making him look like a more appealing target for your mutual enemy to direct attacks toward then yourself, therefore giving you a better chance of victory.  So there's additional considerations for when you make game decisions.  Extra strategy is good in my book.

Yes I believe this is a format you could really get your mind into trying to figure out the strategy, which is one of the things I look for in a format.

May you find what you seek.

John B. Turpish

Copyright 2001

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