I just got done playing a game of Magic: The Gathering with my wife. It was awesome. See, we got all of the theme decks for Rise of the Eldrazi, and we’ve been playing around with them some. The thing that I like a lot about the Eldrazi decks is that they do a good job of bridging the gap between theme decks and deck building.
We’ve tried our hand at deck building in the past, and the results were never particularly gratifying; we’ve always had a lot more fun playing with pre-built theme decks. The nice thing about the Eldrazi decks is that they come with a 41-card, pre-built theme deck, as well as a booster pack. We bought all five theme decks, and spread the booster pack cards amongst them all, effectively getting five decks that are mostly pre-built and designed with a lot of synergy in mind, but with some level of customization.
At any rate, our most recent game lasted more than an hour. My deck was red/green, while hers was blue/white. We spent most of the game at a stalemate, having creatures in play that effectively countered each other and discouraged attacking from either side. Occasionally one of us would get the upper hand for a little bit and make a push for the win, but such an advantage only lasted for a round or two at most before the other player got the right cards to counter the push.
We also spent most of the game at the same life point totals: she had 7, and I had 30. I had drawn some nice healing cards that had topped me up beyond 20, and she had suffered from some early attacks on my part before her defenses had really been shored up. Despite this seeming advantage on my part, she wound up winning the game in brilliant style. My heaviest hitters had been affected by Narcolepsy, a blue card that causes them to remain tapped indefinitely. I had some good blockers, but nothing that could really deal significant damage. Add to that the fact that she had some serious blockers–including one creature that was, I think, 5/12 by the end of the game–and I just couldn’t get through to deal those last 7 points of damage.
Then, she lured me into a trap. She moved a Narcolepsy card from one of my powerful, durable fliers to a powerful but fragile creature that I was less likely to attack with. That creature had a card called Splinter Twin on it, though, meaning that I could create a short-lived duplicate of that card every round and attack with it, even if it was always tapped. Puzzled, I decided to capitalize on what I perceived as a tactical error on her part (or her simply wanting the game to be over), and I attacked with my 7/1 Fire Boar and my 5/5 Conquering Manticore. She had 6 hit points at this point. She blocked the Fire Boar by letting one of her 2/2 creatures die, but let the Manticore through, bringing her down to 1 life point. I thought I had the game well in hand at that point; after all, I still had 30 life points.
Then, she played her ace in the hole, a card she had been sand-bagging since the beginning of the game: Near-Death Experience. It’s a card that’s very situationally useful, and hard to use effectively. Quite simply, it’s a sorcery that dictates that, if you have exactly 1 life point, you win. Which she did.
All in all, it was probably the best game of Magic I’ve ever played. So often in Magic, the strategy of the game is hampered by one player having too much or too little mana, restricting their ability to play effectively. That wasn’t really the case in this game. There was a lot of push and pull, give and take, and even though our life point totals were pretty far apart, there was a clear sense that it was anyone’s game most of the time; we were just waiting for someone to get a trump card. I assumed that it would be me: my deck was heavy on Eldrazi–large, high-cost, extremely powerful creatures that force you to discard permanents willy-nilly when they attack you–and I figured I’d eventually draw one and that would be that. I was not counting on Near-Death Experience (a card that came from a booster pack, by the way), and my wife used that to her advantage brilliantly. If only all games of Magic could be this epic.