Sonam, and the strategic use of spite.

“I started playing Magic: the Gathering in 1994 in high school, and in the CCG boom that followed (roughly ’95-‘98) I tried a whole bunch of other CCGs. I bought a little bit of Jyhad during this time, along with some Dark Sovereigns, and played a few games. Later, someone in college gave me a Sabbat War starter, which I played around with.

I started playing regularly in late 2005. I had just moved back to NYC, and I was playing a game of Shadowfist at Neutral Ground (the big gaming space that existed for a long time).  I bumped into Adam Hulse, who I knew from high school. He said they were playing VtES the next night, and invited me to join.

I asked if my old cards were still good. People said yes. So I started playing. A few months later, they hosted the NYC qualifier. I built a Stanislava deck with my old cards and won.

I’m a fan of multiplayer dynamics… and while a free-for-all is too loose, I feel VtES‘ predator-prey system provides enough structure to encourage negotiation and social interaction. I particularly like the five-player dynamic, where two people start, not in direct opposition to you… but not exactly your friends either. Oh, and they are direct enemies with each other.

There are differences in how people approach the game in different countries, but it’s less of a cultural difference than it is something driven by the experience of the players. If you can see how the lines of interaction will go, then you can negotiate better. But that only works if the other player can follow your reasoning. Some players and groups are more about the letter of the deal. Others (like myself), find it annoying if people try to “lawyer” deals… particularly since deals aren’t enforceable anyway.

I would say I’m good at interaction but not among the best. I’m good at pointing out mutual advantage or danger in a situation. There are some people who can actually just convince others that the sky is green. I’m only good at telling the truth to my advantage.

I play a Giovanni bruise-bleed deck with Cold Aura and thrown junk. I’m the only person I’ve seen with that deck, and it’s made a lot of finals over the years. I’ve also used Flash Grenade and Penitent Resilience together in a Blanche Hill + Fortitude/Dominate tap and bleed deck. I first saw the combo used by John Flournoy in the States, but he was playing a White Lily trick deck without good oust. So I took the combo and attached it to a more vicious payload. The deck turns heads and has disgusting burst potential.

Beyond particular decks, other players know me best for my strategic use of spite. People I play with regularly get to know that I don’t punish people for doing their jobs – I don’t attack my predator for trying to oust me, or my prey for trying not to die. I like to let people play their game. I usually let my prey’s first Govern go without interference (even if I can). You want the player on your left to have enough minions to go forward and reduce the table’s pool.

But – if you screw my game when it’s not your job, or it was unnecessary, I will try to make sure you get 0 VPs. So if my predator is wrecking my vampires while bleeding for one, I just pool sack and hope he gets ousted before me. If my prey pre-emptively starts rushing me when I’ve done nothing, I’ll suicide forward. In the context of a single game, it doesn’t make a difference. But in the long run it makes people think whether they really need to do that.”

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