Multiplayer Rules

I’ve had the chance to try out the new multiplayer rules with my play group. Let me start by saying that I love the new two-headed format! While there are certainly still some kinks that need to be worked out, the fast pace and necessary coordination between team members are really enjoyable. That said here are a few problems that I forsee for other multiplayer formats, especially emperor:

  1. Emperor uses a format, where the emperor has a spell range of 2, while the spell range of the flanks is limited to 1. This is a great solution to what would otherwise be a rules nightmare: How do you prevent flanks to just play lots of burn, targeted at the enemy emperor? (And to a lesser degree: How do you prevent flanks to move creatures to the other flank?)But there is the danger that the format degenerates, similar to the way Magic Online 1-1-1 Emperor (a format, where every player has a spell range of 1) has degenerated. The emperor can setup and play stuff without any serious disruption. He can even attack opposing flanks or support his own flanks without fear of retaliation. Only when a flank has been killed, will he be able to be reached by the opponents.I have to admit though that I haven’t tested this version of emperor, yet, and my fears may be unfounded. Also, some of the really degenerate combos that are possible in MTGO 1-1-1 are not possible in this new version of emperor, since the effect range of the emperor is not limited to his own flanks. This means that effects from cards such as Howling Mine or Weird Harvest are not as broken. Let’s see how this format develops. (I really hope that it will be made available at MTGO.)
  2. I also see a problem in the new rules for moving creatures:

    603. Deploy Creatures Option

    603.1. The Emperor variant always uses the deploy creatures option, and it can be used in other variants that allow players to compete in teams. Multiplayer formats in which players compete as individuals usually don’t use this option.

    603.2. Each creature has the ability “{T}: Target teammate gains control of this creature. Play this ability only any time you could play a sorcery.”

    I am a strong proponent of a teammate gaining control of creatures as part of moving (or “deploying”) creatures. In fact, this was one of my proposals after a first draft of the multiplayer rules was posted. But this breaks Sneak Attack and possibly other cards. Sneak Attack reads:

    {R}: Put a creature card from your hand into play. That creature gains haste until end of turn. Sacrifice the creature at end of turn.

    Now, put a creature into play with Sneak Attack. Since it has haste, you can move it to your left flank (or to your emperor if you are the right flank). At end of turn, you can’t sacrifice it, since it’s not your creature anymore. But during the left flank’s turn, she can immediatly attack with it, and she will keep it.

    I see two solutions to this problem: Either just ban this card (and similar cards) from multiplayer formats, or errata it to “Its controller sacrifices the creature at end of turn.” Personally I think that the former solution is cleaner.

  3. The last point raised another important point: There is a big imbalance between the left and the right flank. Such an imbalance has always existed, but the new Deploy rules amplify this problem. Now, a creature that’s moved to the left of you can immediatly be untapped and used by its new controller. On the other hand, a creature moved to the right needs to wait nearly a whole round. This mean that for example the right flank in an emperor game could move a creature to the left flank where it can attack during the same “turn” of that team. A creature moved from the left to the right flank, on the other hand, needs two “turns”.This opens new strategies. For example, right flank and emperor could hold back haste creatures that attack the opposing right flank all at once for a lethal strike out of the blue. Another tactic is “mana hoarding”, where emperor and right flank play lots of cheap mana creatures like Birds of Paradise or Llanowar Elves. Supposing both right flank and emperor managed to play one each during turn 1, this would mean four mana available to the left flank during turn 2, without that flank needing to play any acceleration of their own.In general I don’t think that these strategies have great merit, since they imbalance the left and right flank. where the latter is pressed in to a defensive and supportive role against a very aggressive opposing flank. Personally I would like to see that moving creatures will always come at a cost. (And the established cost is a delay for using that creature.)

    I think a simple rules change could fix this problem. Make the ability granted to all creatures read: “{T}: Target teammate gains control of this creature. It doesn’t untap during the next untap step. Play this ability only any time you could play a sorcery.”

    Please note that it doesn’t say “during its controller’s next untap step”! This would mean that if you move a creature to the next person in turn order (for example the left flank of an emperor), that player wouldn’t untap that creature immediatly, so moving it to a player farther away (the right flank, for example) becomes more “fair”.

    This solution might have its own problems. For example, other abilities of that creature can be used immediatly, but I think activated abilities that require tapping and attacking are the most pressing issues. I will test this suggestion with my play group to see if it works (better).