Friday, August 05, 2016

The Gauntlet

A segway obstacle course seems like an oddly appropriate comparison

Magic can be intimidating for those outside the game. People may not want to start either because they know they'll be spending lots of money, or they think it's too difficult of a game to learn. This makes it hard to get some of your friends to start playing Magic and can lead to small play groups and playing with the same people. Dan and I have this issue but that's just because we don't really have friends. So after playing with the same people (or person maybe) over and over and playing the same decks over and over it can get kind of stale. There are lots of different formats in Magic that can keep things fresh but maybe you're all Standard, Modern, and Commandered out. Our first suggestion would be to check out Wizard's Tower. There's the intro on how to play and then a bunch of other articles on ideas of how to enhance your tower. If that doesn't keep your airplane afloat then stay tuned!

When you play with the same person and same decks over and over you start to see a rock paper scissors pattern. My deck A beats your deck A, your deck B beats my deck A. My deck B beats your deck B but your deck C beats my deck B but loses to my deck A. Sometimes you may have two decks that play really well against each other and you go back and forth between wins and losses which is probably better than rock, paper, scissors, but can still get old. Introducing: The Gauntlet.

You can pretend this is what you look like when playing this format

Now The Gauntlet requires you to have 3 decks and at least 1 friend with 3 decks. You can also get by with 3 decks and someone who may not be your friend but is willing to play Magic with you and has 3 decks. If you don't have that, you could probably make this work with 6 decks and your cat who won't actually sit with you. So it's really just you playing with yourself (heh).

So you and your opponent each pick 3 decks (or really any number of decks depending on how long you want this horror of a game mode to go on) to play. Make sure all three decks each of you pick are all from the same format. Meaning you both pick either 3 standard decks, 3 modern decks, 3 pauper decks, etc. Call one deck "A", one "B", and one "C" without telling your opponent which deck is which. Your opponent will do the same. They may know by your sleeves or deck boxes but that's why you don't sleeve your cards. This way all your decks look the same, all of your cards are sticky, and later in life you can regret how beat up they are when you find out that the card you had was worth about $200 but no one will buy yours for more than $10. Seriously though, take the time to sleeve your cards. You know what they say "Don't be a fool, sleeve your cards or watch them depreciate in value with extended play." Or something like that. MOVING ON!

"I don't have a table big enough to layout out three decks side by side like this." Can you not see this is just a visual representation? Just keep in mind that visually your decks are laid out like this and as mentioned above, a table large for three decks worth of play space is not required. It just will give you more of a gauntlet feel as you actually move down the table. Plus it gets you to move which is nice once in a while.

Step one to the gauntlet: Each of you grab deck "A" and play a game of Magic. Easy right? Wrong. Magic is hard, making this first step somewhat difficult. So play out your game of Magic. How did it go? "Well I would have won but I got land flooded" I don't need your excuse filled sob story, I just need your ending life totals. "Well I lost, so mine was 0 and theirs was 6." Great now here is the next step:

Unlike normal Magic, you do not play best of 3. When your deck loses, it loses and is eliminated. So in this example, your deck "A" has been eliminated. Your opponent shuffles everything back in to their deck "A" and you move on to your deck "B". You play another game of Magic except the difference is that you are playing deck "B" and your opponent plays deck "A" again BUT their starting life total is whatever they finished that last game with. This means although you lost the first game you start with a sort of "advantage" since you're starting with a much higher life total. In this example you start at 20 and they start the second game at 6 life. You now play out game 2. Oh, you won? Hooray for you! You beat your opponent's deck "A" and finished with a life total of 15. Now it's your opponents turn to slide down the table.

Now your opponent grabs their deck "B" and you shuffle yours back up and you play another game of Magic with your starting life total being 15. This pattern repeats. If you lose, you move to deck "C." If they lose they move on to their deck "C." If you were brave enough to have more decks than "C" I will pray for your soul, but also you would just keep going down the line until someone runs out of decks to slide down the table to. Whoever loses the game while playing with their last deck loses the whole gauntlet. In this example whoever loses the game while playing their deck "C" loses the gauntlet. It doesn't matter what deck you lost to, if either of you lose while playing your last deck or deck "C" then you lose. Then if you are truly adventurous and love the burn of a good workout, you rearrange the order of your decks and you start the gauntlet again.

"What have I done? What choices led me to this point?"

You might need a breather and a clean shirt after all that Magic. As you can see this format can take some time and could be up 5 games of Magic in one sitting depending on how things play out. It can also be a refreshing way to play Magic with that person you play Magic over and over with. If this becomes a repeating format that you play, then you can strategize what order you want your decks in to be most effective against your opponents decks. Maybe you have your aggro deck first to burn through as much life as you can before it's defeated. Maybe you play your control deck first so you can gain a bunch of life and start game 2 at 30+ life rather than 20. It adds a new level of depth and new level of thinking to how you want to play. Maybe you just have 3 aggro decks and try and hit as fast and as hard as you can. The possibilities, much like this format, are endless. The biggest issue is defending your honor. You may have just lost the gauntlet and of course you need to defend your title, but do you really challenge your friend to another gauntlet?

This could also be tweaked a bit to work with 3 or 4 people play at once if your play group require that. Have each player grab three decks and play a free for all multiplayer game. Play out the game until only one person remains. All those that lost move on to their deck "B" while the winner keeps their deck "A." Play rounds until all but one person has lost with their deck "C." I have never tried this so someone will have to try it and maybe change the rules a bit to make it fit more for multiple people, but I don't see why this couldn't work if done correctly.

I played this a lot in college when it was just my roommate and I who played Magic. We each had three decks and didn't have 5 dollars or gas money to go play at our local FNM. So we played each other non-stop. We would just cycle though our 3 decks until we basically knew who was gonna win before the match even started just based on the match up. This format was a nice change and as mentioned above added a new level of strategy to how we played our decks. Since we new some match ups were better than others we tried to order our decks in a way that best took advantage of these match ups. I would recommend it if you have a whole afternoon or evening to kill. Even if you only play this once every couple of weeks it's still something I recommend adding to your collection of game modes.

Want to tell us how your gauntlet went? Want to tell us how many decks you each used in your gauntlet? Want to send us your American Ninja Warrior audition tape for pointers? Send us a message or leave a comment!

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