To the great surprise of everyone concerned (including myself) I managed to win the first LXG Grand Melee for 2010. It was a game that had horrific indestructible beasties rampaging around the board, vast goblin armies, big life gain, evil black spells sucking the life out of everyone and the potential for infinity life and damage.
Obviously the big gun players were out and hitting the ground running in 2010 to claim their first victory. They had carefully constructed their decks to make ideal combos that instill terror in any seasoned Magic player. I had not played in an LXG Grand Melee for over a year. Not because I don’t like Magic – I had just made a conscious decision to take a year off playing in the monthly Melee so I would have more time to explore all the new board games the club won in its grant. This year I decided to get into Magic again.
On the morning of the club meeting, I hastily threw my deck together without having any grand scheme or winning combo in mind. So how did I end up winning? I certainly don’t believe it was from any personal brilliance at playing the game but I do believe I did a few things that contributed to my chances of winning if luck went my way.
Firstly, I made up a White/Blue deck of things that I consider are individually ‘handy’ in a Grand Melee-style Magic game. They are not combos but I think they are of a great benefit when playing a melee. The creatures I used were Zephyr Falcons and Serra Angels, which don’t tap – handy for attack and defence. I threw in a few cards to boost their strength, a few red and black Circles of Protection for defence. I also added four Counterspells and a heap of Sleights and Hacks (these are handy to change the colour of my Circles and I have a lot of fun stuffing around with other people’s cards when I use them).
Secondly, I had Ado on my right. Normally this would be a bad thing, except Ado had constructed a deck that took out players with indirect fire (i.e. it was not a massive beastie deck). This was particularly fortunate as my first hand consisted of 5x land, a Disenchant and a Tormod’s Crypt. What’s more, I didn’t get a creature down for 5 rounds and then that was only a Sage Owl!
Thirdly, the fact that I have no reputation in Magic and had crappy cards on the table contributed to my survival. I sat there being inoffensive, not being able to do a thing, while huge creatures attacked around the circle and spells did damage. At times I felt I was sitting in a foxhole in no-man’s land, watching huge waves of destruction rain down to the left and right of me. I believe the big guns felt threatened by each other and made it their first priority to take each other down – Keith could be swept away at the end. I agreed.
So, for most of the game I just sat there, doing nothing. Hang on – I’ll clarify that. I did do a few things that I believe were quiet, key tactics that did have an effect on the game and delivered the final outcome. I managed to disenchant some nasty artefact that David Kay was going to put on his huge 20/20 indestructible creature and make it untargetable. I think that helped reduce David’s machinations. I Sleighted Terry’s Circle of Protection Red, allowing Jeremy’s Goblin horde to attach Terry and then go on to Ado. At the same time I put a Spirit Link on a big 21/21 creature Jeremy had created to build my life points up (to avoid being taken out by any collateral damage going around as Ado and Jeremy battled it out in the big finale).
By the time the smoke had cleared between all the mega-decks, Ado was left standing on 6 life points, with a 1/1 ground creature. He had exhausted a lot of his deadly cards he had been holding in hand on Jeremy. I drew a Serra Angel and, combined with the Sage Owl and Falcon, they attacked and took out Ado.
Did, I deserve to win? I think so. A Grand Melee is a very different format of Magic, where the best deck does not necessarily triumph -that’s why I like the dynamics of a Grand Melee and why I eventually returned to playing them. I didn’t win through expertise of deck construction but I believe I gave myself cards that would help me survive and sometimes that’s all you have to do to win. The actions I performed that helped me win were subtle manipulations of the status quo between other players.
Steve Bradbury is famous for being the “Last Man Standing” at his famous ice-skating win at the Winter Olympics. In the end, he got the Gold and that’s what counts on the day.