Monday, July 16, 2012

It's The Magic: The Great Dominarian Planeswalker Showdown

I'm not in a financial position to sample the newly-released M13, I haven't gotten out to play FNM, and I'm not gettin' any play at home, so there hasn't been much to explore on the Magic front. However, while reviewing the new set's planeswalkers (now, with the fortifying power of Bolas!) I thought about which planeswalker would win in a fight.

Then I thought, "Bolas always wins a duel." Because I owned and played with Bolas versus Ajani. Then I realized that most Jaces are useless in a standup fight. In the end, I decided that a tournament of four-way free-for-all games, played with standard decks constructed exclusively from commons would be the way to go. The twist: Each deck's planeswalker begins in play and when its planeswalker leaves play, it loses.

There were eight first-round games and the winners were forwarded to the finals. The finals consisted of two rounds of four-player games, with the top two planeswalkers advancing to the championship round.


The winner was Karn. It's not surprising that a guy with the ability to kill planeswalkers at will won, but considering that his competition was:

A woman who can kill everyone else in two turns

A man who can punch other planeswalkers for 6 damage on turn one

Nicol friggin' Bolas

The messed up thing about Bolas is that not only did he not win; he wasn't even in the championship round. His game in the finals put him up against Karn. In a nightmare of unbalanced gameplay, whoever went first would destroy the other (or else be destroyed on their opponent's turn). Karn, in the best tradition of sci-fi heroes, shot first.

The fourth place on the final round was surprisingly occupied by Liliana Vess.

Plain, simple Liliana. No bloody A, B, C, or D. 

Liliana--like Tamiyo--had a particular skill set that made her valuable as an ally, but not quite powerful enough to decimate an entire field of opposition. In both of their games, they supported a concerted effort against stronger planeswalkers that were a common threat (Chandra the Firebrand and Sorin, Lord of Innistrad respectively), only to destroy the next common threat (Ajani Vengeant and Garruk Wildspeaker) and finally beat out the remaining enemy.

Did you say "three," my lord?

The only exception to that was Gideon's sprint around the board in the finals, when Liliana was in line for punching after Sarkhan Vol and Venser, making her second by default, a championship contender, and second ranked overall when Karn did the same thing in the championship game.

Those "1"s are for "won games." 
That was a pattern that emerged; either the strongest contender would be shoveled under by weight of enemy numbers (Like Koth), or they'd soldier on and come to rest at the top of a pile of wrecked cardboard (like most of the finalists).

I was worried that irrelevant decks helmed by powerful planeswalkers without respect for their individual cost would take a lot of the variety out of the game. That did happen in some cases (Koth v Bolas), but the championship game was quite different.

In reality, Karn went first, followed by Gideon, Liliana, and Elspeth. Ignoring Liliana, Karn could kill one planeswalker on turn one, use his +4 ability on turn two, and then finish off a second one on turn three. That would mean that Elspeth would have to die first, or else she would kill everyone and win. That would leave Gideon--and his deck--three turns to slam a 6/6 body into Karn's face as his loyalty varied between seven and three. Problematic.

Gideon's plan would be--if not instantly vaporized by Karn--to slam himself into whichever of the two opponents (again, ignoring Liliana) would get taken out by a 6/6 Soldier. Otherwise, he could draw an enemy attack and swing in when they were tapped out on his next turn (if they couldn't play a creature).

Elspeth's plan was the usual: destroy everyone on turn two.

Liliana's deck planned to play creatures to stop Gideon and Elspeth while using her +1 ability to disrupt Karn as much as possible.

For the first two turns, Karn used his +4 ability, passing the onus of dealing with Elspeth onto Gideon. Despite having to juggle his hand with Liliana's attacks, Karn managed to draw and drop enough creatures to fend off Gideon and restart the game on turn four. He immediately eliminated Gideon and took care of Liliana on turn three, cinching his position as The Great Dominarian Planeswalker.

It wasn't all planeswalkers. Unless he was drawing creatures quickly enough to stop Gideon, there was no way--even going first--that Karn could have won the game. If Elspeth's deck could have dropped enough creatures, Karn would have had to have spent his second turn destroying her instead of him.

One more or less of these guys would have swung the game.

The decks needed some fine turning, but they supported the game well, and I'm satisfied that the contest was more interesting for Bolas not being in the finals. I might revisit it if I can think of some better tweaks for the decks and do something about Nissa Revane.

Fucking Nissa.

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