Different ways to command

This post is all about multiplayer EDH and how different-sized playgroups might find different ways to enjoy the game. These are all tried-and-true by yours truly.

Chase (3-X players): Chase has no maximum number of players in theory, but in practice anything above 6 will probably get boring quite quickly. Simply, you attack to your right and block to your left, meaning you can only attack one player at a time. This leads to some interesting board states where one or more players is desperately trying to keep another player alive since he or she is effectively shielding the others from an aggressive player. Another upside is that it’s a very simple way to do multiplayer EDH and easy enough to understand to newcomers. A downside is that it takes quite some time to finish a game most of the times, meaning if a player is knocked out early, he or she has to wait for a long time before the game finishes. magic-backside-round-corners

Pentagram (5 players): Pentagram (“Penta” for short, or “Pentagon” for the less-demonic playgroups) is a play style originating from other multiplayer Magic outside EDH. Basically, the idea was that in a group of five players, each player represented one colour from the Magic card back. Each colour then had the mission to defeat the two enemy colours on the opposite side of the colour wheel. Each player played a mono-coloured deck and the game went on until someone defeated his or her two enemies (i.e. white defeats black and red, or blue defeats red and green and so on). This format, as interesting as it is, isn’t that well-suited for EDH, since many players like to play multicoloured generals. However, the basic rules can still be used – just randomise the five positions and figure out who your enemies are. The player to your immediate left and right are your allies, meaning you don’t have to defeat them to win, you can’t attack them, and stuff that would effect “your opponents” do not effect them.

This variation is extremely interesting, since it leads to very interesting situations, since each pair of allies share one common enemy but not the other. For example, imagine “Red” and “Black” on the Magic card to the left is in fact players sitting at a table. They both share “White” as an enemy but while “Green” is “Red’s” ally, he is also “Black’s” enemy. Imagine “White” is knocked out of the game. What happens to the board is that “Red” and “Black” are in a race to defeat the last standing opponent, but also to save their respective ally, since failing to do so will result in a loss. I strongly recommend any play group of 5 players to try this. The politics aren’t lacking either, on surface it might seem like just standard free-for-all leads to more politics and alliance-making, but that’s not true. The politics tend to work differently in Pentagram than in free-for-all. Later on in Pentagram games, for example, alliances tend to get broken, in the case above, maybe “Black” has to point a removal spell towards “Red’s” creature to prevent him from killing “Blue” before “Black” can take care of “Green”, meaning though “Black” and “Red” are allies on paper, they are enemies in reality.

Two-Headed Giant (4 players) and Three-Headed Giant (6 players): Multiplayer games can take a long time to finish, and if you are one of six players at a table, chances are you will spend most of your time taking your turn. If you get knocked out early in a game, you can often make a pizza-and-beer-run and make it back in time before the next player is knocked out, let alone before the finish of the game and start of the next game. This leads to frustration and boring games sometimes, but not when it comes to Two-Headed Giant (2HG for short) or Three-Headed Giant (3HG for short). Here, players play as teams with 60 life instead of 40, and each team take their turns together. This means that you get to play Magic about as often as in a regular 1 vs. 1 game, though turns might go on longer sometimes as players work to coordinate their spells in a proper sequencing order. When a team hits 0 life (or 21 commander damage from any one commander, or 10 poison counters etc.) the entire team loses – meaning no single player ever sits around after losing a game.

magistersphinx.hqSome cards might need local power-level errata. For example, Magister Sphinx is an extremely potent card in EDH, especially since reanimating him with Sharrum, the Hedgemon means you have 10 flying power on the table. Similarly, Sorin Markov’s -3 ability sets a player’s life to 10. Clearly, in a format where players start with 40 life, this is great, and in a game where a team has 60 life, it’s awesome. Locally, we’ve decided to interpret Magister Sphinx’s ability as equivalent to “Target player’s life total becomes half of that player’s starting life total”, meaning in a regular game of EDH, a player would get to 20 life instead, and in a game of 2HG or 3HG, the team would lose half a player’s life, meaning 15 in 2HG and 10 in 3HG – assuming each player “contributed” an equal amount of life to the life total. It’s convoluted and complicated, but it’s a lot more fair than just setting a team’s life to 10 and swinging for 10 in the air.

Taking extra turns is also very complicated in team games, but very powerful in EDH. Cards like Time Stretch are easily castable in an UGx deck with some ramp, and having the entire team taking extra turns could easily swing a game around or outright finish it, even if the team taking extra turns is in a losing position to begin with. Locally, only the player casting the spell gets the extra turn, not the entire team. Conversely, Mindslaver would in theory target a single player and take a single player’s part of that team’s turn, and not the entire team of players. Mindslaver has been gentleman-banned (gentlebanned?) locally anyway because of it’s inherent ability to ruin all sorts of fun, especially when recurred.


These are just a few of the many ways available to us to play multiplayer Magic and EDH, but these are the ones that are tried-and-true in our group and the ones I’d recommend anyone to try.

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  1. Sibling rivalries | Goyf Wars

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