This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Commander With A Comedian

378127_10150441621792624_1477312954_nA  lot of kerfuffle (Yeah, that’s right. Kerfuffle. I’m bringing it back.) is made of designing decks for multiplayer as opposed to 1v1.  A lot of people suffer under the misconception that cards like Swords to Plowshares suffer in multiplayer because they only trade 1 for 1, and then whine when they don’t have the spot removal to deal with the Wurmcoil Engine that is about to turn their face into finely ground hamburger. If you listened to “Six Pack Set Reviews” with Calvin and myself, then you already know that we think a good multiplayer deck is less about what you play then it is how you play it. I have personally always designed my decks for 1 on 1 and then brought them into multiplayer games, to great effect. Winning in multiplayer is more about using the table, and you opponents to your advantage.

This guy would rock at multiplayer.

This guy would rock at multiplayer.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to garner yourself a reputation. Once people know something about you, they are going to react accordingly without any further interference at all. It’s like playing politics on autopilot! Unfortunately, the problem with a reputation is that it can cut both ways. Have a beneficial reputation, and people will always behave in a way you like. Have a detrimental one, and people will automatically be acting against you. So, to help out those of you with a lack of social understanding, here is a list of three reputations to seek out as well as three reputations to avoid getting stuck with.

Don’t Be: The Kingmaker

One of the first traps people fall into with multiplayer politics is overusing them. Once people start to notice that you always seem to want other players to solve all your problems, they will be far less inclined to give you a helping hand. And if you keep winning solely with the help of others, people will start trying to off you first to try and prevent you from leeching off their hard work .

Basically, they picture you as the guy on the left. And they don't want to end up looking like the guy on the right.

Basically, they picture you as the guy on the left. And they don’t want to end up looking like the guy on the right.

The problem with this guy is that almost everyone starts off being him. When people say to use politics, they invariably picture it as “If you do this, I won’t blow up your stuff”.  But that kind of politics is like viagra; a little of it will save an otherwise impotent player, but a lot of it will end up with you in the hospital crying about how sore you are. Everything in moderation, kids!

Do Be: The Man with All the Answers

Hehehe. Sorry, I was laughing because it sounded like I said “Doobie” in that title. Moving on.

Control players rejoice! This is the easiest reputation for you to garner by far, and it’s one that will carry you through many a EDH game. All you have to do is pack all your usual counter spells, wraths, and spot removal and then use them wisely.

You see, control players are already privy to the benefits of their reputation. They have seen players sit on a mitt full of playable cards for fear of running into a counter spell or sweeper. But in multiplayer, you can play this too much bigger advantage. Not only can you bluff as you usually do, but you can also play up whenever you do stop something.

It works like this. You are Player A at a table with Players B, C, and Q (What? You expected D? He wasn’t invited, D sucks. He only plays land destruction and combo. F#%^ that guy). Player Q is about to drop an eldrazi-sized bomb on all your precious and fragile dreams, so you counter to save yourself. But by pointing out to the other players that you also saved their butts, B and C consider that having you around is useful. When Q later reanimates his eldrazi (because that dude just doesn’t know when to quit), B and C will remember that you solved the problem before and endeavour to keep you alive so you can make it go away again.

Notice how all the people with actual superpowers are standing in front of Batman? That's because they need to protect him so he can actually fix whatever is going wrong.

Notice how all the people with actual superpowers are standing in front of Batman? That’s because they need to protect him so he can actually fix whatever is going wrong.

A couple games like this (as long as your only keeping down the guy who seems to the whole table like he’s going to win) and you will find that attacks habitually head in directions other than you. Which is pretty much the best direction an attack can go. It’s like your playing “I’m rubber, you’re glue”, but you’re the only one who knows it. Try not to give it away by giggling.

Don’t Be: The Sharer

The sharer can be anyone from a group hug player to someone who just likes to make alliances. This is another trap that’s easy to fall into, because it seems like giving someone a big advantage in order to get them fighting on your side would be good politics. Plus, you can make pretend you’re Santa Claus while you do it.

This is another problem of simple math. You will be getting one player (probably) on your side, but you are going to guarantee that the two other players will turn against you. When you start up a new game, people might clamour to be your bosom buddy, but they are just as likely to try and off you to rob their opponents of an advantage (and since they have two other opponents, it is statistically more likely that they will not be getting your help).

And when people feel like they lost because you played favourites, things can get ugly. Better to avoid this bear trap altogether. Stick to small, brief alliances in the face of overwhelming threats.

Do Be (Hehe): The Revenger!

This is another case where it is better to be feared and loved. Wait until someone does something damaging but unnecessary to you, and repay the favour in kind (but multiplied by a factor of several dozen). Do it right, and you can avoid coming off like a jerk while simultaneously insuring that your opponents think long and hard about poking your stuff.

If people know that you are always going to respond to throwaway damage coming at you or having your mana rocks blown up, then they are less likely to aim their interruption your way. Do it dramatically enough, and players will warn will even warn others off from taking a hack at you.

For example, one time I sat down to play a game with my old Sigarda deck. I turn one’d my Dryad Arbor, only to have another player Go for the Throat it. He thought it was cute that he made an improvised Sinkhole.

Since my Dryad Arbor wasn’t exactly a clear and present threat to the board, this made my opponent fair game for some good ol’ fashioned payback.

I went to the Mel Gibson school of getting insane revenge. I skipped all his class on racism and drunken abuse though, they were electives.

I went to the Mel Gibson school of getting insane revenge. I skipped all his classes on racism and drunken abuse though, they were electives.

I waited for another opponent to ramp out an eldrazi, then my Preacher put on a shiny pair of Lightning Greaves and took it. The titan spent the firstseveral turns swing at the mono black player, until he had no more lands. Then I stopped, shrugged, and said “We’re even now. I’ll stop hitting you.”

He starts every multiplayer game we sit down to by telling that story. Nobody pokes my lands anymore.

Don’t Be: The Angry Player

I get very comedically enraged when I play EDH. I pretend to be faux-furious and shout expletives and inventive insults at my opponents. And my opponents allow it, because it makes them laugh (I even have a good friend who makes it a point to swing at me, hoping to illicit an entertaining response). People put up with or encourage my antics because it is done in the spirit of fun and entertainment, and because no one ever thinks that I am actually going to lose my s#!%.

I’m only going to say this once. You are never justified in getting angry at a game of Magic. You are never justified in ranting and roaring at someone else, belittling someone else, or acting like a jerkbag because you are sore about your loss. It is a card game.

If you find yourself getting sincerely and unreasonably upset, get up and walk away. Tell everyone politely that you just need to go cool off, and do that. A lot of people play Magic because they find other forms of social interaction stressful. You might be doing more than getting mad because someone Mindslaver’d you, you might be taking away one of their few safe social outlets.

And no one will want to play with someone who throws a hissy fit. And if they do play with you, you can bet good money they’re gonna vent their frustrations by blowing up your stuff.

Do Be: The Peacemaker

This is one of the few cases where being the nice guy is and advantage at a multiplayer commander table. If you are the guy that calms down angry people, or shrugs your shoulders and says “someone had to win” when your opponent combos off, then you are way less likely to get beaten up on the board.

Because people will like you. More importantly, they will like playing with you and want you in the game for as long as possible. Knowing for sure that you are going to do your best to make sure everyone at the table has fun is a very good incentive to keep you around longer. And people are gonna have trouble swinging at a guy who reacts by shrugging his shoulders and saying ” Them’s the breaks”.

The best part of this strategy? It doesn’t cost you any cards at all. All it requires is that you behave like a decent human being.

I take back what I said earlier about Aaron Eckhart. Now, this guy would have played some mean EDH.

I take back what I said earlier about Aaron Eckhart. Now, this guy would have played some mean EDH.

Eric is available in the comments below, at EricBonvie@gmail.com, or @ThatBonvieGuy on twitter. And don’t worry, he’s going to have his full Prossh deck list online soon!

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