Diplomacy only exists for casual players.
Diplomacy does not exist in tournaments. In tournaments, you only face one player, and there is no reason not to destroy him as fast as possible. The closest thing to diplomacy in tournaments is when you decide to draw out for the mutual benefit of making the top 8.
Oddly enough, the casual players might want to take a cue from the tournament players.
You see, diplomacy is a Mogg Fanatic.
You’re playing a five-player free-for-all. You’re at 1. Somebody else has a Mogg Fanatic on the table.
Understand that you are that person’s slave. They can take you out of the game at instant speed, and there’s very little you can do about it.
You have to know that this is the most extreme case of diplomacy in MTG.
“Do this for me, and I won’t kill you. For now.”
Diplomacy is a Mogg Fanatic because at any moment it can disappear, and somebody’s gonna take the fall for it.
The tournaments players have it right. Kill, or be killed. Even in casual play you can play nice only for so long.
You have to know that some day you’re going to die.
There are some players out there who think diplomacy means, “Hey, I’ll counter that spell for you if you don’t attack me for a few turns.”
Don’t counter spells for people who are just going to end up wanting to kill you anyway. “Fun” is not how you describe that situation. Diplomacy means NOT being stupid.
I repeat, Diplomacy means NOT being stupid.
Tell me if this has happened to you.
Three people play a game.
Player A is playing with something fast and exhaustive, (Sligh, let’s say).
Player B is playing with some medium-speed annoying infinite combo. (High Tide + Palinchron, let’s say).
Player C is playing with something normal or goofy. (Hooray for Thallids!)
Player B goes first, and drops an island.
Player A says, “Not THAT deck again. I hate that deck! You always win with that deck!”
Player C plays a Thallid.
Player A goes, and over the course of seven turns, proceeds to smash Player B in the face.
Player A has two cards in hand, four land, and a raging goblin.
Player C has seven forests, a full hand, and a bunch of thallids and saprolings in play.
Guess who wins.
After we play a few games like this we start to think, “Hey, maybe I shouldn’t be so vindictive. Maybe I should play a bit more intelligently. Maybe there’s an advantage to not focusing all of your attention on one player.”
And so it begins. We start confusing “Diplomacy” with “Let’s sit back and watch.” or even worse, “Let’s cut deals.”
Thing is, in a multiplayer, all you have to have is an answer for threats. If somebody attacks you with something big and you return it to their hand, they’re not gonna attack you again unless you give them a good reason. They’ll work on somebody whose defense gives them less trouble. You don’t have to cut a deal for this sort of stuff.
Diplomacy means convincing people to do things WITHOUT doing them any favors in return.
In multiplayer, players will tend to go after one another based on a combination of two factors:
1) How easy the target is to kill.
2) How dangerous the target is.
Of course, the “danger” factor sometimes acts as a deterrent - Why provoke the guy with a bunch of fatties on the table? – but usually players seek to prevent somebody else from winning first. If there is no obvious threat, then they usually take the path of least resistance.
If you desire to exercise diplomacy in multiplayer, here’s what you do:
1) Have a good defense. (Don’t be an easy target).
2) Don’t appear dangerous.
Okay, so the above scenario: Somebody attacks you with something big, and you bounce it. Well that’s all well and good, and they probably will think twice before attacking you again, but if they’re really intent on getting you, they might just assume you don’t have another bounce spell, which might be true. If they take this gamble, you’ll have it put in your eye.
What you need to do is telegraph your defense.
Since this is the CPA, I suppose I wouldn’t be out of line to just suggest that you show off your control spells, but this, oddly enough, borders on cheating. The strategic implications are there: If somebody knows you have an answer to their threat, they won’t use it against you, which means you still have the answer in your hand, which means they will continue not to use it against you, which means THEY ARE USING IT AGAINST SOMEBODY ELSE.
Diplomacy means trying to be Player C, the player that nobody wants to attack until they are the last opponent left standing, at which point their card and life-total advantage should win them the game.
Even in casual play, effective diplomacy can only be feudal. A true MTG diplomat’s goal is to pit everybody else against each other.
So, like I said, telegraph your defense.
For a budget player, the best way to do this would be to pick up the seals from Nemesis. The blue and black ones especially.
Seal of Doom, is the easiest one to explain:
Seal of Doom – 2B
Sacrifice ~this~: Bury target non-black creature.
It’s an enchantment, so everybody can see clear as day that you can kill a creature at instant speed. As outlined above, you will probably convince a lot of people to attack each other and not you.
The blue and red seals can have a similar effect:
Seal of Removal – U
Sacrifice ~this~: Return target creature to owner’s hand.
Seal of Fire – R
Sacrifice ~this~: Deal 2 damage to target creature or player.
Seriously, if you’re making a multiplayer deck, play with these cards, if you’re playing the colors. The green and white seals have their strategic implications, but they are a little different:
Seal of Cleansing – 1W
Sacrifice ~this~: Destroy target artifact or enchantment.
This one is great because you can grab it with Enlightened Tutor, making for timely enchantment/artifact removal. It’s good in multiplayer anyway. Just as Seal of Doom will make the beatdown decks think twice about annoying you, this will make most combo decks tread lighter than they’d want to. Plus it owns Trix, if you know anybody who still messes with that.
Seal of Strength – G
Sacrifice ~this~: Target creature gets +3/+3
Not only can this be your 5th-8th copy of Giant Growth, but telegraphing your ability to pump up a creature will make people think twice about messing with them. People are less likely to block, and they are less likely to attack if you hold blockers back; they don’t want their creatures to die to your 4/4 Scryb Sprites.
Remember, the strategic advantage to telegraphing your moves is that your opponent’s won’t want to provoke you, which means you don’t have to waste your ability teaching them a lesson, which means they will continue not to provoke you because you still have your ability.
Conversely, you DON’T want to telegraph your threats, because that just gives your opponents a reason to smack you.
Now, for players willing to go after the occasional rare, here’s one that just screams multiplayer diplomacy:
Propaganda – 2U
Players must pay 2 for each creature attacking you.
Players only have to pay mana when attacking YOU, which means they’d probably rather just attack somebody else for free, at least in the early and mid-games. This is a great way to subtly convince everybody else to beat up on each other until you can get more established. Remember, use your opponents to kill your other opponents.
Okay, so those suggestions should get you thinking along the right lines for a diplomatic multiplayer deck: Set-up obvious defense without looking dangerous.
But how do you win without looking dangerous? Well, doing that usually involves being a cheese-ball control player. Sit back until everybody overextends themselves, then play mass-removal and drop a fatty. Either that or sit back and let people bicker, and then drop your combo in one turn. Whatever it is you need to do. The idea is you play diplomacy long enough so that you can set yourself up beyond the point of no return.
But this is the CPA, and we’re here to have fun.
So now that we know what diplomacy is, let’s not use it.