Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Goodbye, Daddy M.

This week a player left our playgroup. 

Our principal magic playgroup is at our place of work during our lunch-hour. That's pretty neat if you can accept the various constraints, such as the strict time limit and that you could be playing your direct superior any given afternoon. While the nature of the company and commander, our favoured format allow for a certain measure of familiarity, you can't just call your boss a douchbag when he pulls out a questionable play. Luckily, despite him being one of the 3 bosses who partake in our group, this was never the case with Marc anyway.

When he was called on to give his going-away speech, he covered the professional side pretty comprehensively but he skimped a bit on the gaming side so I’ve decided to list some of the Magic things that we’ll miss about Marc now that he’s gone.

Marc is a 40+ year old Timmy. There’s something really great about a guy who just loves his Timmy moments and really couldn’t give a damn what you think. It’s all about the full-on “Leerooooooooooyyy Jenkins!” and, now that he’s gone, we’re slowly realizing that he was pretty much the only full-on Timmy we had.

The profile of Timmy caring more about the EPIC wins rather than the quantity of wins was especially true for Marc and he notched up as many war stories for his epic blowouts as for being epically blown out himself because he waited just one turn too long. He just wanted to go big all the time.

One of the things that isn’t mentioned all that much about Timmys is their love for the red zone. For Marc, there was only one way to win: laying down the beats. So much so that the attack phase was renamed the “Yaaaarrrggghhhhhh” phase in his honor. Picture this jovial, middle-aged man up off his seat, turning his creatures, tokens, playmat and sandwiches sideways while shouting “Yaaaarrrggghhhhhh!!” often accompanied by diverse charging noises and other random battle sound effects while the rest of the company looks up from their lunch platter in bemusement. A full throated bellowing of The Flight of the Valkyeries a la Apocalypse Now was for those exceptional moments of face-smashery. That was Marc every day.

Of course, these epic calls to war wouldn’t be half as memorable if there weren’t equally copious examples of “yyyaaaaaarrrrgggghhhh…….oooooooohhhhHHHHHSSSHHIITTOHSHITOHSHITOHSHIT” mixed right in there too. The attack was the “moment”, the pinnacle of all his hard work. It just that the execution didn’t always match the vision. 

Still, on those occasions when when Rhys & Seedborn Muse both survive a full, mana-rich turn around the table to be boosted by Garruk & Overrun once it come back to Marc, there’s not a huge number of possible results: You either have the Fog (and he generally had it but no-one else did!) or there’s a lot of dead or critically wounded planeswalkers!

Of course, timing was never really one of Marc’s strong suits. Picture the scene: the turn passes to Marc. He draws his card and goes deep into the tank calculating his potential damage. He realizes that he has just enough to deal lethal with cards in hand if the opponent does block but he’s got to finish the job because he’s wide open for the counter-strike.

He thinks some more.

Finally he leans forward and gives us his patented “Yaaaarrrggghhhhhh!!” as he moves into his attack phase. The unlucky defending player(s) go into the tank and calculate damage and blockers and realize that, unless something funky happens, they will survive the turn and kill Marc when the turn comes round to them.
So much better like this.

“No blockers,” they announce.

“No blockers? Then….. [and here he’d pause, draw himself up majestically and shout]… OVERRUN!!”

Now, if this had happened once, maybe twice, it wouldn’t be interesting but it actually happened so often that it got to the point where we could tell if he had the Overrun and could stop him (or not, depending on our life totals) before he got into his attack phase. He even managed to accomplish this magnificent, speed-changing feat twice during the same game! Some humorous cad decided to print out a HD proxy of the card with “Sorcery” replaced by “Instant” and slide it into his deck just to mess with his head a bit and he was presented with a play set of these errata versions upon leaving the company. 

So, what do you get when you give a Timmy a Grand Arbiter Augustin IV and tell him to make a deck? 

A full on Stax prison lock? Noooooo! Counterspells? Sure, a couple. Leviathans? Of course! But a rapid Rhino beatdown was probably not what you expected. We gave Marc a GAAIV and he gave us this:

Turn 1: Land, Sol Ring, Pearl Medallion
Turn 2: Land, GAAIV
Turn 3: Land, Mirror Sigil Sergeant, go.

When your opponent starts with a second turn Grand Arbiter, you know you’re in for a rough ride. Add everyone’s early game mana development torpor to a prison effect and garnish with a self-replicating rhinoceros across the table from you and it all spells >ouch<.  Fastest table kill ever and he achieved it with just one creature.

What about putting Celestial Mantle on a Battlegrace Angel before equipping on a Lightning Greaves and sending it into battle? I think we stopped counting at 3000+ life. There are games when you really need your Wrath of God to resolve and games where you really need to kill someone with your general. We didn’t get there with either solution and Marc stayed above 3000 from there on. He eventually ended up taking it out of his deck after repeated 2-for-1s but that never took anything away from that one occasion when it got there in a big way. From then on any significantly high life total has been regarded with distain and a “Pffff! Well, it’s not 3000+, is it?” by the entire group.

It wasn’t all good times though; Marc could be frustrating to play with and against. His turns would often take the following form:

“Ok, em,  go!
No, wait! Land, go!
No, wait! Attack you for 15!
Eh…… NOW go!” 

When it happens once in a blue moon, you can let this kind of thing slide but when it’s every other turn, it gets to be frustrating very, very quickly. Towards the end, if it seemed like it was one of those days, the table would gently nudge him along with innocent suggestions like “How may lands do you have there, Marc?” or “Gee, that’s a lot of creatures you’ve got there!!” during his pre-combat main-phases. Those touched by the Beatdown Gods have their minds on higher matters and such minutia as phases and being aware of what's happening can often be beneath them. 

Picture Marc as some sort of Beatdown Buddah (but with a lot less inner peace) and you’re half-way to knowing him already. 

With such great and ponderous thoughts of beatdown also comes the ability to realise belatedly what's actually going on and lead to last minute changes of mind. Being the beatdown is a complicated business. Do this first or do that first? Attack him over here or attack him over there? The number of takebacks our playgroup allows is actually pretty low with the exception of Marc who was constantly stuck on “actually, no, I think I’ll do that instead” mode.

This, unfortunately, extended to stuff that uses the stack, which, in Magic, is quite a lot of stuff. Those dreaded words “In response….” engendered a flight instinct in Marc that Norin the Wary would have been proud of. The usual response to another player’s “In response….” was always “In that case, no, I think I’ll do that instead.” If you worked it enough, I’m sure you could achieve a state of perpetual take-backs even when holding only a hand full of land.

That is until he got fed up and just pounded your face into the ground with 475 trampling damage from the pick’n’mix of creatures he had summoned. I suppose the moral to that story is not to bait the bear, the bear has claws.

And we’ll miss you around the table, old bear!

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