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Playing MECCG

Copyright Nigel Buckle ©2003

Edited by Nicholas H.M. Caldwell for The Guild Companion

Introduction

Many articles written about MECCG detail decks and possibly where to play the resources and how to use the hazards. However not much has been said about actually playing the game. In my opinion, a good deck is only half the battle; a good player using an untuned deck can often beat a weak player who has a strong deck.

Unlike some card games, MECCG has a hand-replenishing mechanic, and you draw cards in your movement phase and your opponents'. This means players often have to discard cards - and I believe it is this that many players find difficult.

The rest of this article is split into six sections:

  1. Resource Play
  2. Hazard Play
  3. Combat
  4. Untap, Organisation, Long Event, Site& End
  5. Phases
  6. Character Draft
  7. Tournaments

Parts 1-4 have been covered in previous months. This month, we will look at the Character Draft. First I'll cover the rules for the draft, then a sample deck. I'll use this deck as a source of examples for covering the various drafts you might face: playing against the same alignment (Hero/Hero, Minion/Minion), then against a Fallen Wizard (or playing a Fallen Wizard), and finally against an opposing alignment (Hero/Minion).

Rules

Most people play with the tournament rules even for casual play; I'll assume you're playing using the following:

Each Player selects up to 10 characters to put into his or her pool of potential starting characters. This happens before characters are selected for the play deck. Certain cards may be revealed as though they were starting characters. These cards are included in the pool of starting characters, but do not count against the 10 character maximum. Each player reveals his or her first choice for a starting character simultaneously with his/her opponent. If a unique character is duplicated by opponent's selection, both characters are set aside (this character may not appear in either player's starting company).

Each player then selects a second character to reveal (but not a unique character revealed earlier). Each unduplicated revealed character goes into its player's starting company. Each player continues this process until one of the following occurs: the player has 5 characters in his or her company (6 for a minion player), the total Mind of that player's starting characters is 20, the player has exhausted his or her pool of 10 potential starting characters, or the player decides to stop revealing characters (i.e., he or she is satisfied with the starting company). Note that when one player stops, the other player continues revealing characters until one of the four conditions is met. A player may not reveal a character that would bring the total Mind of all of his or her starting characters above 20.

In his or her play deck, each player may now assign up to 10 characters, and this may include any unrevealed or duplicated (set aside) characters from his or her pool of starting characters. Note that the Character Draft differs from the rulesbook in that a duplicated starting character does not automatically go into the play deck, and that its inclusion in the play deck does count against the deck's 10 character maximum.

Allowing players to introduce characters in this fashion minimizes matches where each player starts with very few characters because of multiple duplications.

Sample Deck

For the purposes of this article, this is just a deck list (and character pool), with no notes on how to play the deck, nor a sideboard. Saying that, this deck is tournament viable, so with a bit of work you could use it. Additionally, following comments from players, it's a deck that only uses cards from the original Wizard's set and the first 2 expansions. Players have asked me if I could suggest a deck that would be viable against opponents if you don't own many/any of the later cards.

If you have access to hazards from the later sets you could improve the hazard strategy somewhat.

  • Character Pool (10)
    • Balin
    • Beorn
    • Beregond
    • Beretar
    • Dain
    • Eomer
    • Gloin
    • Hama
    • Oin
    • Thrain
  • Minor Items (2)
    • Black Arrow
    • Cram
  • Characters for the deck (3)
    • Alatar (x2), Pallando 
    • [Plus some unused characters from the draft]
  • Resources (30)
    • A Friend or 3 (x3)
    • A Short Rest (x3)
    • Blue Mountain Dwarves
    • Durin's Axe
    • Dwarven Ring of Durin's Tribe
    • Forewarned is Forearmed (x2)
    • Glamdring
    • Goldberry
    • Gollum
    • Gwaihir
    • Hey Come Merry Dol (x3)
    • Orcrist
    • Precious Gold Ring (x3)
    • Rangers of the North
    • Ring Lore
    • Risky Blow (x3)
    • Smoke Rings (x3)
  • Hazards (30) [vs. Hero/Fallen Wizard]
    • Ambusher (x3)
    • Cave Drake (x3)
    • Raindrake (x3)
    • Ren  the Unclean
    • Mouth of Sauron
    • Daelomin at Home
    • Itangast Ahunt
    • Uvatha the Horseman
    • Badulia
    • Foolish Words (x3)
    • Times are Evil (x3)
    • Lost in the Free Domains (x3)
    • River (x3)
    • Mordor in Arms
    • No Escape From My Magic
    • Eyes of the Shadow
  • Hazards (30) [vs. Minion]
    • Badulia
    • Cave Worm (x3)
    • Daelomin At Home
    • Doubled Vigilance (x2)
    • Foolish Words (x3)
    • Giant Spiders (x3)
    • Itangast Ahunt
    • Redoubled Force
    • Ren the Unclean
    • Revealed to All Watchers
    • Seized by Terror (x3)
    • Smaug Ahunt
    • Spider of the Morlat
    • Times are Evil (x3)
    • Twilight (x2)
    • Wisp of Pale Sheen (x3)

Drafting against the same alignment

On the face of it, this is the hardest drafting to do, as you are in competition with your opponent for characters. You should have an idea of what your ideal starting company should be (based on your deck design) and also which of those characters are vital or the most important.

For example: With a deck planning to recruit Army of the Dead and play Return of the King, then Aragorn is going to be vital.

You want to play your most important/vital character first, to increase the chance of you getting it into play (or denying it to your opponent as well as you). What you play next depends if you get your character or not.

Consider what character(s) your opponent has played, it might give an insight to what character will be drafted next. It's worth taking time to work out what the maximum mind of a character that your opponent could play – if it's less than the character you were thinking of drafting next you can afford to draft that character later as there is no chance of your opponent playing it. Look at the skills of your opponent's characters  – if a particular skill is missing (such as Ranger) then it might be an indication a character with that skill will be drafted next.

In the draft you have two goals, get your preferred characters into play and deny your opponent theirs. The worst outcome is your opponent playing your characters first, at least if you duplicate the character in the draft then neither of you can start with it.

When building your character pool, try to include a back-up (replacement) character for each of your ideal characters, so you have a fallback to use if you are unable to play your ideal character. Remember that mind and skills are important, so there's no point in having a character as a back-up if it doesn't have the necessary skills or their mind is too high.

Using the sample deck, the ideal company is:

Beorn (bearing a Black Arrow), controlling Hama
Thrain (bearing Cram), controlling Beregond

I'd put the order of draft to be:

  • Beorn
  • Thrain
  • Hama
  • Beregond
Other Characters:
  • Balin – Backup for Thrain (combined with Oin)
  • Beretar – Backup ranger if necessary, usually to go in the deck
  • Dain – Backup for Beorn (combined with Eomer)
  • Eomer – combined with Dain as a backup for Beorn
  • Gloin – Backup dwarf if necessary, usually to go in the deck
  • Oin – combined with Balin to backup Thrain (and usually to go in the deck)
So the first card I'd draft is Beorn, then unless Thrain has already been played, Thrain. If Thrain has been played (1st card) then I'd play Balin (Thrain's backup).

If Beorn is duplicated on the first draft, then I'd still play Thrain, then unless Thrain also duplicated I'd play Dain (Beorn's backup), followed by Eomer. If Thrain was also duplicated I might consider playing Beretar, Eomer or Oin, since if you don't get two of them into play one of your companies will be short a ranger.

Part of the draft is trying to anticipate (guess) what characters your opponent is going to play (and in what order).

If your opponent gets a character into play before you, don't despair – just put the character into your deck and then try to influence it away from your opponent using your wizard during the game!

Fallen Wizard Drafting

When facing a Fallen Wizard you need to remember that a Fallen Wizard can't normally play a character with a mind greater than 5, but with certain stage cards can play 6 mind characters. However to get a 6 mind character the Fallen Wizard would first have to draft the stage card.

This means that you should alter your order for playing your characters (when compared with drafting against a Hero player). You are guaranteed you'll be able to play any/all of your characters of 7 mind and above. Hence you should concentrate first on getting your lower mind characters into play. If you have a vital 6 mind character you can guarantee that by playing the character in the first round of the draft.

Using the sample deck, the ideal company is (still):

Beorn (bearing a Black Arrow), controlling Hama
Thrain (bearing Cram), controlling Beregond

I'd put the order of draft to be:
  • Hama
  • Beregond
  • Beorn
  • Thrain
Other Characters:
  • Balin – possibly to go in the deck (if Gloin is played by your opponent)
  • Beretar – Usually to go in the deck
  • Dain – possibly to go in the deck (if Beretar, Balin, Gloin are played by your opponent)
  • Eomer – possibly to go in the deck (if you also include Dain)
  • Gloin – Usually to go in the deck
  • Oin – Usually to go in the deck

So the first card I'd draft is Hama, then unless Beregond has already been played, Beregond. Beyond that there's no chance of your opponent playing your 2 high mind characters.

If you're playing as a Fallen Wizard, then you need to draft those unique character that match alignment with your opponent first. Non-unique characters and those of the opposing alignment are guaranteed. The biggest problem for a Fallen Wizard in drafting is if you're facing another Fallen Wizard – as you have access to all the same characters. In this case just follow the advice given under "Drafting against the same alignment" above.

Drafting against opposing Alignments

You can just put your characters down and effectively ignore the draft when you play against an opposing alignment – as there is no chance of duplicating characters, and for many decks this is probably sufficient. However some decks are designed to go after your opponent, if you're playing that type of deck you might want to take a bit more time over the draft and insist that it's played out by the rules. You'd only want to do this if the characters your opponent plays influence your choice of starting characters.

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