Construction: Sudden Death

Does this card belong in your Type 4 stack? No.

…unless you’re building a very specific style of Stack. Welcome to the world of Sudden Death.

Justin, parking his bike before going to judge a prerelease

I was introduced to this concept by my ex-boyfriend Justin, who I worked with on CommanderCast for like over a year but have no idea what he looks like and he never gave me a picture to represent him on the website. I’ll just splash what I imagine he looked like in the sidebar here to add a little visual flair to the article. Anyway, Justin was a judge in his local Magic scene. But not the awesome Judge Dredd-style of affair where he went around shooting neckbeards for being too stinky, but rather metaphorically shooting people with penalties for cheating in Magic.

Magic judges spend a lot of time collaborating to screw players they hate make sure they get things right and ensure everyone has a quality experience. Also, because of their position of authority when residing over events, they don’t get to play all that often and can end up getting in vicious side-games where they fight with one another to the death… with Magic cards. To pass time between rounds.

Justin (seen right) is a Type 4 enthusiast who was tired of settling for BORING MAGIC during these side games and brought in his Stack, but even playing a faster game mode like Single Stack, the games often ran too long before the judge group was called back into action to punish the wicked. He needed to find a way to speed up the game, so they could finish what they started. Justin took a pretty extreme measure on this one and threw in a bunch of instant-death cards like Ghitu Fire, allowing players to be eliminated super-quick and allowed for fast games that everyone could enjoy before being called back to their duties.

This, of course, carries dizzying implications.

Can a game where a player can instantly die by a single play be fair? How do you balance this kind of Stack? Should you bother playing this mode?

Can Sudden Death Stacks be fair?

Sure, but your perception of fair has to change significantly. I’ve discussed before that Magic hardcores are often bad at evaluating Type 4 cards for fairness, because they expect anything uysing Magic cards to play a lot like regular, boring Magic. Sudden Death stacks take this to the extreme. If you’ve ever played a game like En Garde, Bushido Blade or Flash Duel, these games all end in a single strike and it can happen suddenly. It seems a bit weird at first, but once you adjust your expectations, it’s no big deal. Games are fast and end quickly instead of demanding a long, gruelling grind. It permits for some crushing, decisive victories and some amazing comebacks. Once you get over that it won’t play like regular Magic, it’s perfectly fine… but then you need to fine-tune card selection.

How do you balance this type of Stack?

In short, you make it small, focused, and have tons of Stack Manipulation.

When you’re one Banefire away from death all the time, you need to make the opportunity cost of that Banefire substantial. Will one of your opponents turn it back on you? Will somebody Twincast it and win instantly? You will see a lot of red and blue in these stacks. In a way, it creates a stratification; the stack manipulation and quick-kill spells are one strata, and players can opt to take the risk of casting them or they can stick with more traditional strategies of pounding it out with creatures.

Should you bother playing Sudden Death?

It depends on the demands of your group, much like opting to take up Type 4 in the first place. Do you enjoy stuff like Express Deathmatch modes in FPS games? Do you often run out of time? Do you want a few ‘filler games’ for players to try between rounds? If you want a quick multiplayer game that can be banged out in multiple rounds in under five minutes, building a 150-card Sudden Death stack would be pretty awesome, light on resource demands, and I imagine people would love it for what it is–a fun and gimmicky distraction.

If that sounds good, you should try it. It’s like Type 4’s essence turned up to 11, and while I never dislike a Spinal Tap reference, there’s definitely cases of too much of a good thing. Type 4 is my favourite type of Magic but that’s because it has a lot of characteristics I like. Emphasizing one of them (the speed) at the exclusion of others can make it less appealing. I’d certainly not dismantle my Stack to build one of these, but it’d be pretty easy and fun to have it together on the side. If you already have most of the card that sound necessary to try it in your regular Stack, someday take them out, set them aside, and try it out.

You might hate it more than anything else you’ve ever tried.


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