I've been a member of the CPA for about a year and a half now and one of my favorite features was Mark Ortego's Road to Tourneyland (where have you gone, Mark?), especially when it started featuring his adventures in the Multiplayer Magic League. I love chaos games and Mark's stories and decks were great lessons in how to succeed in such games. So I've decided to pay homage to (or rip off, whichever you prefer) Mr. Ortego's columns with my own tale of multiplayer Magic.
First, I should inform you that I really only play chaos games online. I've tried playing them in real life. Unfortunately, most of my available competitors are teenagers or younger. This tends to make games a little slow, boring and hard to follow. You line up eight to ten kids around a table and by the third turn, the people at one end have no idea what's going on at the other end of the table, nobody's listening to anyone else and suddenly you realize that no one has done anything for half an hour and nobody remembers whose turn it is. If I could get all my dedicated Magic-playing friends together at once, it might be great, but I've come to realize that having any more than four random people in these kinds of games can cause the fun factor to drop off significantly.
On the other hand, online multiplayer games tend to be well paced. You sit in front of your computer and play. You know that everyone else is sitting in front of their computers playing. Everyone's paying attention. Everyone's board is clearly visible. For the most part, players are friendly and personable. If someone's acting stupid or not taking their turn, a simple majority is required to eject them from the game. And finally, my favorite thing about the online free-for-all experience: nobody knows you. No one knows what deck you're playing or how it works or what it's capable of. You can play ten different games with it, crush every opponent in every game and still not face the same guy twice. That reason alone allows me to get away with playing this deck:
Indestructible Mess v3
4 Myr Retriever
4 Darksteel Brute
1 Darksteel Forge
3 Darksteel Ingot
2 Dawn's Reflection
4 Echoing Truth
2 Isochron Scepter
1 Shrapnel Blast
4 Sun Droplet
4 Darksteel Citadel
4 Great Furnace
4 Seat of the Synod
4 Tree of Tales
Oh yeah. Total deck tech, right there. As you could probably tell by the "v3" in the title of the deck, this was my third iteration on this basic deck idea. The original was actually much more fitting to the deck name, as it had a much bigger "mess" of artifacts that I would make indestructible. I used Vedalken Orrery, Shell of the Last Kappa, Howling Mine, Crystal Shard and a host of other artifacts that I only owned one of and had no other use for. The new version is a lot more streamlined, plays much more defensively and only has one true win condition.
The way I try to use the deck is by playing a lot of defensive spells. Sun Droplets and Darksteel Brutes will do a lot to prevent early attack damage. Even Ornithopters will get in the way of damage through the air. Eventually, the idea is to build up a decent mana base, play a Darksteel Forge, making almost everything indestructible and then waiting for an opportunity to cast an Isochron Scepter imprinted with Shrapnel Blast. Two Myr Retrievers will ensure 5 damage a turn to any target you desire. Obliterate is the trump card in case things get out of hand. In my experience online, very few people play with indestructible cards, so once the Obliterate is cast, you can power up those Brutes for a slow win. Naturalize will deal with any pesky enchantments that may get in the way.
One day in early October, I went online to join a multiplayer game. The first game I entered ended on turn one when two of the five people who joined the game dropped out. This tends to be the biggest problem with the online free-for-alls. A lot of people drop out early, from boredom, time constraints, stupidity, or whatever, leaving the remaining players stuck using decks built to play four or more opponents facing off against just two. This example is a little extreme, but it's actually quite unusual to play a game without any early concessions.
So I entered a new game, which started with five players. I'm going to change their handles so as to avoid any possible unwanted publicity, but I have to say they were all great people to play against. Everyone was friendly and easy to joke with and everyone played well-built and original decks.
The first person to play was Hero. He used a primarily red deck, with white and black for Fervent Charge.
The second player was Evil. He wasn't really evil, but that's what I'm going to call him because I forgot his name, but I remember it having an E, V, I and L in it. He played a blue-white deck with Proteus Staff and a bunch of fat monsters to call up with it.
The third player was Ward. He was playing a 300-card four-color deck that utilized a lot of sunburst cards.
The fourth player was Jeff, who played with a 500-card rainbow deck that seemed to have an answer for everything. He was the one I was most worried about.
And, of course, there was me, playing with my Indestructible Mess deck.
Like most online free-for-alls, the early game was spent getting a feel for the other players and their decks. I played out a couple Myr Retrievers and a Brute. Evil had tried to get an Aether Vial going, only to have it blasted by a Viridian Shaman. Ward played a Pentavus and Hero played Gratuitous Violence, but neither got any use before Jeff Purified the board. This is when I started realizing that Jeff was my biggest threat. Despite playing a 500-card deck, he used a lot of land-fetch spells and a lot of cantrips to keep his hand full. The variety of removal worried me and I knew if anyone would play with Altar's Light or Splinter (two cards that can absolutely wreck my deck), it would be him.
By the tenth turn, Evil was getting antsy with the game. No one was really attacking, so he kept hitting Ward with a Clone of my Myr Retriever. Hero tried to create some excitement by hitting Jeff with a Goblin Legionnaire and Jeff's Threatened Viridian Shaman with two Fervent Charges in play, only to have Jeff answer with Rending Vines (on one Charge), Regress (on the Legionnaire) and Prophetic Bolt (on the Shaman). Hero sacked the goblin to put two damage through, but essentially, it amounted to nothing. The next turn, I attacked Hero with one of my Myr, just to say I attacked. He came back at me the next turn with a Blistering Firecat and Chaos. Luckily, I had a Sun Droplet in play and was able to recoup the lost life eventually.
On my next turn, I drew Fabricate and made the mistake of playing it before I had enough mana to cast it and the Darksteel Forge I was tutoring for. Usually, when people see me Fabricate the Forge, I'm a dead man if I can't play it right away. Nobody seemed to pay attention, though, so I was able to cast it on my next turn. Ward played a Mycosynth Lattice, which would have helped me that much more if Jeff hadn't laid a Dismantling Blow as soon as it was cast. On my next turn, I was able to Fabricate a Scepter and play it with my Shrapnel Blast. "The combo is revealed," said Hero. Indeed, I thought. The game was mine.
Still perceiving Jeff as the most dangerous player (he also had 15 life, meaning I could kill him in three turns), I blasted him at the end of his turn. He responded with an Altar's Light on my Scepter. Damn! I knew it. Just like that, he took away my only real win condition. I did manage to cast Echoing Truth to save the Scepter, but the Shrapnel Blast was lost and gone forever.
At this point, I feared everyone would start hating me, despite the fact that I explained that my only win condition was gone. When Hero played a Browbeat, I took the hit (I did still have an indestructible Sun Droplet). Luckily, Evil popped out an Akroma with his Proteus Staff and attacked me, solidifying himself as the new major threat. Jeff took care of Akroma with a kickered-up Stormscape Battlemage. Evil wrathed on his next turn, taking all the remaining creatures off the board. He seemed to enjoy being attacked, so I started going after him with my brutes.
Meanwhile, Jeff played an Ancestor's Chosen, gaining some ungodly amount of life and then went to finish off Evil with a Solar Blast. Evil jokingly cried out, "superman save me!" to which Hero responded, "ok" and sacked a Goblin Legionnaire to leave Evil with one life to spare. I thought this was amazingly noble. Not a lot of people are willing to sacrifice in order to save opponents in a free-for-all unless they feel they can directly benefit from it. I think Hero just enjoyed having Evil around.
On Hero's next turn, he cast a Firecat Blitz, attacking Jeff. Jeff had enough answers to deal with the majority of the cats, and stay close to 40 life. Before Hero's turn ended, Jeff entwined a Grab the Reins to finally finish off Evil. Then on his next turn, he played a 15-point Death Grasp to take Hero out of the game. With a ton of land, ton of life and six cards still in hand, it was becoming apparent that Jeff was about to quickly take care of his two remaining competitors. And then I drew. And started to laugh. Right off the top of my deck was my trump card: Obliterate. I cast another Brute and blasted the board.
At this point, death would be extremely slow for both opponents. I had three Darksteel Brutes in play, meaning I could do at most six points of damage a turn. Jeff had around 45 life, giving him close to eight turns to rebuild and team up with Ward to defeat me. I wasn't expecting the Obliterate to win the game outright. But, alas, Jeff conceded, presumably not wanting to take the time to start over from scratch or watch me peck away at him. Ward stuck around for the four turns I needed to kill him. He even came close to reestablishing board position (thanks to a Darksteel Ingot he had cast the turn before I Obliterated) but his life was too low to mount a comeback.
This was only the third chaos game I've played with this version of the deck. Its record is 2-1, which is pretty good considering each game started with no less than 5 players. There's nothing quite like pulling off a crazy last minute win in a huge game, but I also learned that sometimes having quality opponents who are enjoyable to talk to can make the outcome irrelevant.