Proactive vs Reactive Multiplayer Strategies

I hope that it's no secret that I'm continually improving my overall game knowledge by following the trends of the decks in the various duel formats. I have a good bead on Standard, Legacy, Vintage, Modern, etc. and even follow MODO fairly closely. A lot of the inspiration for my multiplyer decks stems from the innovations of others and I make no effort to hide that.

Today I want to look beyond the card choices and focus on overall strategy and a trend that I've noticed. I've been condemning the use of reactive spells in multiplayer for some time now. Spot removal, counters, O-Rings, etc. are all garbage in my mind and my decks and card suggestions reflect that. I do get a fair amount of criticism for taking that stance but I mean after 12 years of playing multiplayer Magic I have a good idea on what works and what doesn't. If people don't agree with me, that's fine, but I do believe that they're too low impact to have a significant effect on the game. I think that trying to react is horrible and that you're much, much, much better off being the person doing the stupidly powerful thing and forcing people to react to you. I find that they fail more often than not and so game winners tend to be the players who took the proactive approach to win and not the reactive approach to try to "not lose."

A trend that I'm noticing across all formats is that proactive Magic is starting to edge reactive Magic out of the game. The last 2 big Vintage events were won by Dredge. The last Legacy SCGs were won by Storm. Standard has been dominated by Junk Reanimator and Naya Blitz for some time now. Eggs has been crushing Modern and has claimed the titles of the last 2 big events. Wanna know what all of these decks have in common? They are incredibly linear pressure decks that couldn't care less about what your opponent is doing. They're too busy winning to concern themselves with the cards that other people are playing. That, to me, is exactly where you want to be in Magic.

Let's think about this on a broad perspective. The ultra-linear pressure decks are always going to beat you in a race. Always. In order to beat them you have to A) draw something that can slow them down and B) still find a way to win yourself. That is a horrible place to be in my opinion. And like, let's be clear here, it's not like hate spells trump these decks. They can all easily win though graveyard hate and whatnot and still race your ass with relative ease. Your answers are bad so drawing them isn't even close to being good enough. You still have to be doing something wildly powerful yourself. What's the point? Why be the guy desperately trying to dig for O-Stone or O-Ring or whatever just to avoid losing on the spot? Like, you're not winning, you're just buying another turn or 2. Why wouldn't you want to be the guy asking "do you have it?" every few turns. He comes out on top way more often than not.

If you're wondering how this translates into multiplayer, take a common deck of mine. I love recursive engines such as Volrath's Stronghold, Phyrexian Reclamation, Oversold Cemetery, etc. with creatures such as Demigod of Revenge, Wurmcoil Engine, Sepulchral Primordial, etc. At some point I'm going to ask "can you answer my 3 Demigods every turn?" If not, you lose. The people trying to stop me with spot removal, counters, O-Rings, O-Stones, etc. are stone-****ed if they think that they stand a chance. Between sac outlets such as Phyrexian Tower and High Market I'm not concerned with exile effects and I mean have fun casting Terminate or Wrath of God on my guys. The people asking the questions are the people winning games in my experience. Your reactive answers are, at best, buying you a bit of time so that you lose slightly slower. Congrats I guess? If that's all you want, fine, but I mean I want to win personally.

I'm not just talking about Black decks either. Emeria, the Sky Ruin on Angel of Glory's Rise, Lurking Predators, Genesis on Dungrove Elders, there's tons of examples of cards that will simply grind people out over time.

Now, let's talk about hate for a second. I think that there's a lot of misconception floating around it. First of all, almost no one is actually going to MD random hate cards. Like, no one actively wants to play with Tormod's Crypt or whatever. No casual deckbuilder sits down and says "oh yeah, this will be fun!" What this usually means is that your gameplan to inevitably grind people out is probably going to go untouched (at least in game 1). Moreover, I find that very few people think about sideboarding for future games. I carry my Big Black Binder with me whenever I play but that's not a common trend in my experience. People will have generic "catch alls" such as O-Ring but I mean very people have dedicated answers to X and Y ready to go. Additionally, most casual metas seem to frown on land destruction, and that makes leaning on lands especially appealing. It's unlikely that people will ever have good answers to them after all. Finally, hate is actually much weaker than what people probably think. Like, let's say you draw a Tormod's Crypt against me. So what? I'm still casting ridiculously powerful creatures. Exiling my GY is worthless if you can't handle what's already in play. And like, exiling my GY isn't mcuh different than playing a Wrath against an Aggro deck. Sure, it hurts, but you can easily recover from it and build yourself back up.

Still, that's just one player's perspective. If anyone has any thoughts that they'd like to share, please feel free to chime in. I'm not saying that you can't possibly win by playing a defensive, reactive game but I am saying that I don't think that it's an especially powerful/consistent/appealing option.


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