You can find part 1 here – Soft Skills Development in Multiplayer Magic – Commanding Armies by Cyd Oliver
To kick us off for part 2, there’s one person in every gaming group that is like this:
You know who you are… so how can we avoid tedious sequels (not that more Liam Neeson is ever a bad thing).
Commander games can be the making or breaking of a good week. When you have not played the game for a while, the anticipation of an eight man multiplayer smackdown can be feverishly exciting. Sometimes, four turns in, when Possibility Storm and Mishra, Artificer Prodigy are on the table, and another opponent is ramping into Decree of Justice, the build-up seems hardly worthwhile. What do you do? What skills can you draw on?
This all boils down to communication and politics.
You have to vie for your very life, over a contested war zone and through flame and aether. During the last post, I introduced the concept that soft skill development is a benefit to playing Commander. This post, I hope to show you how. How do you make your opponent CYCLE that Decree of Justice, and not cast it? How can you convince the mono-green player to destroy that evil Possibility Storm, levelling the playing field… even when you have a creature on the field with 10 power, protection from green, and you swung at him last turn?
You use the Three Cs.
Show your opponent that you are willing to offer something in return. If they cast Naturalize on a mutually beneficial target, you will swing at the player giving them a problem in your next available combat step (wherever or not you will fulfil your promise is another question). Let us assume you are a nice human being, for now. Turn taking is something I see a lot in Commander. People swinging will swing at each player at the table in turn. They do this until somebody becomes a clear threat, and then go for broke.
Sometimes, you need to offer more than just positive action. You can offer Bribery, offering an opponent you need help from control over who your Door to Nothingness targets, and whom gets the Jinxed Choker for the thirteenth time in a game. Just like a job interview, or at a meeting to decide who gets a promotion, you need to sell yourself. In the third part of this series, we will look at how you can start compromising during the deck building process, and how card choices can win you friends before you have drawn for turn 1.
Be clear about everything you do. This is difficult at times, because eight people, often with beer and pretzels (or a heated discussion about last night’s TV), tend to break into six conversations at once. First thing you can do is make sure your cards are clearly visible, set out logically and that your Command Zone is separate from other zones. You do not want your opponent to assume you snuck Zur the Enchanter into play and ‘accidentally’ left it near Pemmin’s Aura.
Do not stop conversation around the table. If people want to talk whilst thirty minutes passes until their next turn (some of ur players leave to go to a fast food restaurant r a supermarket and return with two turns to spare…) Only attract the attention of people who are affected by what you do. Announce your actions clearly and promptly. If your opponent does not like the fact they did not get to Quash your rise to triumph, they should have been paying attention to the game, and not talking to another player about which Taylor Swift song is best to use as a theme track for their new theme deck.
Not losing your cool is paramount in any game. It does not matter if it is Standard, Modern, or Commander. Even without the expectations we have on one another as human beings, nobody comes to the kitchen table to shout and threaten. At least, not serious ones. There will always be someone in a gaming group that goes one-step too far. Remember that one man’s trash talk is another’s offensive snipe. Be considerate. Mediate. If your game is not going to plan, try to keep your spirits up and use the same techniques above to get your opponents to help you.
Convince them that, even though weakened now, you can be a valuable ally with a little extra card draw. Get your opponents to drop Howling Mine and Dictate of Kruphix, get yourself back in the game with communication, not a Collective Voyage in an Alpha Strike. Conceding at the right time can keep the game exciting for you, and not drag it out needlessly. Only you can judge when the cause is truly lost, but do not think that one simple knock back is always the end. Talk the situation through. Tell your opponents why you concede if you do, and be gracious in defeat.
In the end, Commander is like leading an army. You need to mediate, give orders, gain allies, and deal with enemies. By now, you have considered what general to use, how to approach deck building, and learnt a little more about communication over the tabletop. Think about how you act and about what you say during your next game. Take notes. In the next article, we will start to Amass the Components and look at development in time – adapting your deck, play style, and approach as an ongoing exercise in becoming a more diverse and trick some player.