Have you ever sat down at a multiplayer table with a janky pile of cards and a terrible vanilla general from Legends thinking there’s no way you’ll be the target, but still got eliminated first? How about doing nothing for the first 4 turns except playing basic lands and missing a color, and yet you were the first target? You, my friend, have gotten yourself labeled as The Threat at your table.
What does it mean to be The Threat?
Being The Threat means you’re the first target when you sit down at the table, regardless of the deck you bring. It could be your turn 4 combo kill deck, or something as terrible as a Lady Orca deck full of vanilla creatures. The contents of your decks don’t matter – you get pounded every time regardless. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. If this is a situation you have to deal with on a regular basis, you might just be The Threat with your group.
Being identified as The Threat can be caused by any number of things. You might have won too many games in a row one night, and it stuck with everyone. Maybe your preferred type of deck doesn’t mesh with your playgroup’s style. You might be doing an exceptionally bad job with managing table politics (aside – always tell the truth and follow through on anything you promise, or you’ll regret it later when no one ever believes you). Maybe your average deck is just better than what most people play with and the group decided they can’t take a chance on letting you get ahead. Regardless, you’ve been marked and everyone knows it.
How to Deal with Being The Threat
If you’ve been identified as The Threat, you have a couple options on how you can deal with it, some of which will be more effective than others. Here’s a list.
The most obvious answer is that you can just ignore the situation. If you don’t mind being targeted first and you’re there primarily for the social experience and the chance to sling cardboard with friends rather than winning every game, your best bet is to just not worry about it and continuing playing the game. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. If the situation isn't bad enough to ruin your fun, then the right answer might just be to just not change anything.
The obvious negative of going with this approach is delaying the inevitable. If you don't bring it up, it still could potentially grow out of control to the point that your group doesn't want to play with you anymore. Not talking about a problem doesn't actually solve the issue. I can't really recommend this approach, but it's up to you to decide what you want to do.
Talk It Out
If you take a few minutes and talk to your group about the problem, you'll be doing both yourself and them a great favor. The group has either decided you're a problem individually or collectively. If they aren't having fun because you're there, there's the definite possibility they'll just stop including you and you'll be out of the playgroup.
I realize most Magic players are socially awkward individuals, but it's not that difficult to just ask the group if you're making their play experience unenjoyable. I'd recommend broaching the topic casually. Don't make a scene or anything silly. Ask when you're shuffling up for a game, "Hey guys, I get targeted a lot – am I making it unfun for all of you?" and see what they say. If you get a lot of yes responses from around the table, you'll have to decide if the group's giving you a hard time or if they're serious and you need to consider changing something.
Change It Up
Sometimes the best solution is to just keep playing (or building) that terrible deck where it's basically impossible to win. Sometimes the right solution is to build group hug. Whatever you decide to do, it's important to present yourself as most definitely not The Threat for a while. It will do wonders for your ability to avoid being The Threat when you actually should be, and make it easier for everyone else to relax at the table every once in a while.
My own personal experience has found that just changing it up doesn't always cut it. I built a Jaya Ballard, Task Mage deck that was, shall we say, far from my most powerful deck ever. I played nothing but that for a night, and got eliminated first every game with the except of one where I Reiterated someone's Vampiric Tutor to find a Loxodon Warhammer to equip Jaya and blow up the board, gaining a silly amount of life. Granted, that play was kind of game breaking, but I still lost, and continued to get knocked out of the game first all night. I even played that deck again for an entire night's worth of games, and got it out again a few times after that. I still got targeted. Eventually I just gave up and took it apart. I tried explaining that the power level was nowhere near what I normally played after actually playing it a few times, but it didn't matter – I was still the threat because I was still trying to win.
Break the Rules
Before you get too excited, I don't literally mean breaking the rules. I mean the unspoken rule that you need to play the same way all the time. Have you considered Archenemy? How about Planechase? Both provide a very different play experience and are designed for multiplayer, just like Commander. Sometimes changing up your play experience a bit is enough to get people out of a rut and make things more interesting for everyone again.
A great way to get someone else flagged as The Threat for a game or two is to get someone else play as the Archenemy. Our testing has found that if you add 10 life to the Archenemy's starting total per opponent, Archenemy generally works out even with a base of 40 starting life. The Archenemy still might try to kill you first (and probably should if you have the best deck), but you have a whole team who should be helping to defend you so you can beat the bad guy as a team. I highly recommend doing a few Archenemy games and passing it around the table for a night or two if you feel like you're being unfairly singled out. It might not hurt to pick a worse deck when you're the Archenemy though, so if you do win, you can emphasis the impact the schemes had on the game.
Planechase is another animal altogether, though one with much potential for wackiness. I highly recommend playing with a unified Plane deck rather than each player having a single version. The Eternities Map variant is a good time, and provides a little more control than just having a random pile of planes that can sometimes totally destroy a good game randomly. I also like the draft method, where each player drafts 3 planes to include in a communal deck that is randomly selected from. Whatever variant you might try, leave Otaria out. I don't know who thought Time Walks were okay in a multiplayer format, but they aren't going to make you any friends.
Battle Through It
Maybe you don’t care if your group singles you out as The Threat. Maybe you enjoy the challenge. Maybe your group is really cutthroat and everyone brings their A game, and yours is just better. While I doubt this is the case for most people and you should really talk to your group if you think it might be, it could happen. Regardless, fighting back and making the best deck you can possibly make is an option. When you sit down to build your deck, you have to remember a few things if you know you're going to be playing against multiple people.
If you want to fight through hate from multiple opponents at once from turn 1, you're going to need spells that give you a significant advantage. There's no room for cute or pet cards. Pretty much every spell you play needs to have the potential to win you the game on its own with very few exceptions. You'll probably end up with a goodstuff.dec build, which if that's what you really want to play is probably fine, though a synergistic deck is probably a better way to win normal games.
Doing the Right Thing
I hope that this article gave you some ideas on what to do when you discover you've become The Threat in your playgroup. There's a strong possibility that you already are The Threat and don't realize it. Many casual players out there don't take the time to read articles on the main Magic website, let alone read additional sites like this one. While you've chosen to get more into the game, make sure your friends are on board and want to play the game at that level too.
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