Multiplayer Magic is very different than traditional head to head Magic. Because more humans are involved, more emotion is involved. Every time you have a choice to attack or target a permanent or player, you have many more options. Each comes with its benefits and costs. One cost of any action in a multiplayer game is table hate. In this article, I will explore the concept of hate and what actions generate it. In Part Two, we will examine the opposing force, love.
Every time one player makes a move against another, they generate some amount of hate from that player or the entire table. Those of you who are familiar with MMORPGs should be familiar with the concept of “hate.” If you have never accidentally pulled the attention of a boss monster with a 5x rogue strike, hate is a quantity like a life total. You can think about it like a counter that starts at a particular value and counts up or down based on your actions and the game state. When Sue attacks you with Dragonlord Atarka, the counter with her name on it in your mind tics up a few notches. When Anthony chooses you as the target of his Diabolic Edict, his counter goes up. These hate counters represent feelings. When one of our internal hate counters is high, we feel more compelled to get back at that person. Many players use these feelings to make decisions, sometimes at the expense of an obvious and more strategic path..
Humans are emotional creatures. We tend to take things personally. When I am chosen as the target among two other opponents, I wonder, “why me?” If you generate more hate than your opponents, you will likely lose the game as your opponents chose to attack and target you more. I find that one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in multiplayer Magic is to convince another player to act against their better judgement and attack my opponent instead of me. Hate generation often keeps competitive Magic players from winning multiplayer games. They just don’t understand this component of the game and throw their hands up in frustration. It makes sense to try and understand table hate and use it to our advantage to have more fun and win.
There are a number of actions that generate hate. Some of them are pretty obvious, others, less so.
One of the most underrated and influential hate generators is your commander. Commander or Elder Dragon Highlander, as it is also known, is one of the most commonly played multiplayer Magic formats. When you reveal your commander for the game, do any of your opponents groan or comment on it? If so, you have likely already generated some amount of commander hate. You may smile and say, “Heck yes, I am playing Sliver Overlord. Come get some.” You should also be taking notes. Identify who hates your commander, because those opponents will likely chose you as a target when the option presents itself. They simply do not like how your deck interacts with the game or their deck. Try to divert attention away from your commander by pointing out interactions in other player’s decks that are powerful or infinite. You don’t want all the players gunning for you right out of the gate.
When you attack an opponent, you will generate some hate. This hate is unavoidable, but you can sometimes deflect some of it if you are savvy. On a recent episode of the Command Zone, a wonderful podcast that covers all things EDH, Jimmy Wong and Josh Lee Kwai talk about some subtle political maneuvers to reduce attack hate. One suggestion they had was to roll a die to randomly determine the defender of this turn’s attack. You can then blame chance for the attack. Another suggestion from the boys was to ask the group, “Who should I attack?” If Anthony responds, “You should attack Sue,” then you can attack Sue and blame Anthony. Anthony gets the attack hate from your attack! Clearly you can’t use this trick every time, but using political strategies to deflect the hate is a good way to have fun and reduce the hate at the same time.
Spell Target Hate
When you target the permanents, hands, life totals, library, and graveyards of your opponents, you will generate some amount of hate. As long as you can offer a solid reason for targeting Sue’s permanent, you can reduce the hate you generate when you target it. You could also ask Anthony again, “Should I remove Sue’s Griselbrand or John’s Avenger of Zendikar?” If Anthony gives you feedback and you follow it, you can deflect some of the hate to him.
Won Last Game Hate
You won the last game, the other players will want to take you out first this game. This is natural, and will often show up most at the beginning of the next game. When players have a choice between targets, they will attack you and your permanents because you are the Yankees this game. I have found that this form of hate wears off when players get their board presence established. It is important to avoid taking an early lead the game after you win. You don’t want to establish a dynasty. It will cause the others to gang up on you for a longer period of time.
You Killed Me Last Game Hate
This form of hate is similar to the won last game variety, but there are differences. It only affects the players you personally took to zero life and is more personal. Winning is something other players often excuse with time, but if you killed a player and then lost, you will likely feel the hate more acutely from that player. Some players are very susceptible to this form of hate. This is especially potent when you kill a player first, and when you could have chosen to attack someone else. Some players will carry this chip on their shoulder for at least the next game. You better believe that if they get the chance to eliminate you, they will take it even if the action is detrimental to their chances of winning the game. You need to take this into account as you calculate what the actions of the other players will be in response to your plays. You can actively avoid attacking or targeting the hater’s permanents and draw attention to it at the beginning of the game to help mitigate the hate, “I am going to attack Jessie instead of Bill. I killed Bill last game, so I’ll give him a break.”
You Convinced Him to Attack/Target Me/My Permanents/Hand/Graveyard/Library Hate
When you respond to another player asking, “Who should I attack?” you put yourself in a position to receive some of the hate from the attack. If there is a permanent on the board that is preventing you from playing, Iona, Shield of Emeria I am looking right at you, you should speak up. If the cards in question are fairly equally detrimental to you, keep your trap shut! There is no reason to share in the hate unless you absolutely need to.
In the next article, we will explore the opposite of table hate, table love.
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