I stood in the auditorium/gymnasium/cafeteria that has long served as a meeting place for my Boy Scout troop, silently wondering why, exactly, I keep coming to these meetings. Thirty boys aging anywhere from ten to sixteen littered the tables, chatting away about things that boys chat about. I mingled for some time, conversing with my friends, catching up with some of the guys I hadn't seen in a while. And that's when I saw it. The greatest travesty to befall the knowledgeable Magic-playing man. It was...
The Noob Game.
Noob is a word I do not use lightly... especially among players with more than a year's experience, so forgive me, please, but there is no other way to describe it. Serious players (competitive or not) would shudder at the sight. "What is this abomination I see before me?" they would shout. For this is not Magic. This is...
The Noob Game.
Allow me to elaborate the various differences that stand between your run-of-the-mill "according to the rules" game of Magic and this here noob game.
Have you ever heard of fast mana? I didn't think so. I don't know who created it or what they were thinking, but this is the difference between regular mana and fast mana: When you play with fast mana, there is no limit to the number of lands you can play in a turn.
. . .
Has that sunk in yet? To put it bluntly, every land in your deck becomes a Mox. This is the sort of rule you find in the noob game.
A second rule of the noob game can sort of be derived from the first. Given that fast mana really means fast lands, we know that mana = land. Therefore if a card says, "Add one green mana to your mana pool," this really means, "Search your library for a forest and put it into play." I kid you not.
Applying these rules, I'd like to demonstrate how one of my decks would perform after being placed in a noob game.
Green Weenies (Almost an Elf Deck)
4 Defiant Elf
2 Elvish Lyricist
4 Elvish Scout
2 Elvish Scrapper
4 Fyndhorn Elves
4 Ghazban Ogre
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Taunting Elf
4 Treetop Scout
3 Glimpse of Nature
2 Concordant Crossroads
1 Lotus Petal
1 Crop Rotation
4 Giant Growth
4 Wirewood Pride
The reason this deck works so well is because all the forests are from 4th Edition. Therefore each Forest actually acts like a Mox Emerald with the following ability added on: Tap Mox Emerald to search your library for another Mox Emerald and put it into play.
Let's take a sample hand and see how it plays out.
Forest, Concordant Crossroads, Llanowar Elves, Fyndhorn Elves, Glimpse of Nature, Wirewood Pride, Ghazban Ogre
I should be able to work with this. On my first turn, I'll play a Forest, use it to fetch another Forest, which I will then use to fetch another Forest, et cetera, until all my Forests are in play. Then I will cast Concordant Crossroads. On my second turn, I will untap my 12 Forests and draw a Taunting Elf. I will then cast Glimpse of Nature, followed by Llanowar Elves, Fyndhorn Elves, Ghazban Ogre and Taunting Elf. I draw four cards as follows: Elvish Scrapper, Llanowar Elves, Giant Growth, Treetop Scout. I will then cast the three creatures in my hand and draw another three cards. I draw a Crop Rotation, Llanowar Elves, and Taunting Elf. Cast all three spells, fetch Pendelhaven with the Crop Rotation and drawing another two cards: Wirewood Pride and Defiant Elf. I'll cast the Defiant Elf, drawing an Elvish Scrapper. Cast the Elvish Scrapper, drawing a Lotus Petal. Now let's evaluate my board position as of the second turn:
11 Forests (tapped)
1 Pendelhaven (tapped)
3 Llanowar Elves
1 Fyndhorn Elves
1 Ghazban Ogre
2 Taunting Elf
2 Elvish Scrapper
1 Treetop Scout
1 Defiant Elf
2 Wirewood Pride
1 Giant Growth
Glimpse of Nature
I observe that I have ten elves in play and two Wirewood Prides in hand. I elect to attack with everything except two Llanowar elves. If my opponent has no blockers, I will cast a Wirewood pride on each Taunting Elf and the Giant Growth on the Ogre. My opponent is now dead.
Yup, that's the noob game, for you. And that's just two of the differences. Another difference is that if you accidentally look at the top card of your library (such as drawing before you are supposed to), you may put that card on the bottom of your library, the top of your library, somewhere in the middle of your library or you may shuffle it into your library. If this rule were placed on an enchantment, it might read as follows:
Whenever a player makes a mistake, that player may either shuffle his or her library or Scry 1.
Not too shabby. Some other observations from the noob game are that combat damage is assigned by the loudest, bossiest, or most experienced player at the table. It usually sounds something like this: "Your guys die and mine survive." So if you ever enter a noob game, make sure you're either the loudest, bossiest, or most experienced player there. If a tiebreaker is required, be the first player to get mad and quit.
Another nice perk of the noob game is that the color of the mana is sort of irrelevant. Lands are colorless, aren't they? You should try to match it up as best as possible, but if you only have one Forest and two Plains, it's no problem for you to cast that Gnarled Mass. If someone else thinks it is, simply stack your lands such that the Plains is directly under the Forest. You now have two Forests.
Finally, all the creatures have weird or incomplete abilities. Emperor Crocodile, for example, is a 5/5 creature that costs four mana to cast and has no drawback. I'll bet you didn't know that.
So these are some of the ways of the noob game. As I watched the noob game progress, I pondered what I should do. What does an experienced Magic player do when witnessing such a game?
On the one hand, I would like to interrupt the noob game. I would like to oversee it and regulate it. I would like to teach the rules to these players since it is obvious that no one has done so before. I would like to be a judge, ruling over the game, saying things like, "lands are not mana," and "you can only play one land per turn," and "that card goes back on top of your library; try not to do it again." I would like to correct these mistakes before these young men try to enter the greater Magic-playing community and get lambasted by the people who can't stand their level of incompetence, who don't have the patience for scrublings, and who will send them back to their noob games, vowing never to return again, because it hurt to much to take that step to the next level.
But I worry. I worry that I will come across as a cocky, arrogant, know-it-all who doesn't understand the game the way they do. Maybe they never intend to go to the next level. Maybe they're happy in their small groups, playing by their rules, judging for themselves what's fair and what's not. I played once, thinking that Moxes were just lands that were artifacts and that a Black Lotus was nothing special.
So maybe it's not my right to tell them what's right and what's wrong. But maybe they don't need to be told. How did I get out of my own personal noob game funk? For one, I had a friend that read the rulebook cover to cover. Every edition from Revised to Mirage. Maybe even more. And he recommended that I do the same. So I did. And I learned the details, the subtleties of the rules, the fine points of the game. It's hard to read the rules nowadays. Rulebooks don't come in tournament packs anymore. That leaves us with the ungodly comprehensive rules or the ones in the starter set. And how many of those are we going to buy?
But maybe that's not the issue here. What I witness is not a misinterpretation of the rules. It's not an oversight, but a disregard. They know the rules say, "You may only play one land per turn." But they deliberately choose to ignore it. Because they don't know how powerful, how utterly "broken" the game is without the rule. So how did I learn what makes the game too powerful? I got my butt kicked. I got beat up in games that I had no right playing. I got schooled by first turn Black Vises, with Timetwisters and Wheel of Fortunes.
So I guess that's what I have to do. I have to play my way out of this. I have to sit down and shuffle up and say, "Okay, let's play by your rules." And by the end of my first or second turn, maybe they'll understand why the noob game will never last.