GAME ONE (2/25/12)

Some of us got our pre-game information.  Some of us did like me and forgot I’d gotten it (see above).  But all of us arrive at the warehouse at the behest of our guilds.  We do not know anyone there.  My character arrives first, the rest filter in one after another.  The only noteworthy elements:  My character stands around and stares like he’s only half there and when greeted repeats the greeting and mannerism of the greeter.  Scott’s character arrives with a big cat (lion?) in tow.  The Golgari (NPC) is covered in bugs, who it turns out are his pets.  Robert’s character is super effeminate.  Many of them are willing to interact, I think there was only one that wouldn’t shake hands… was it the ogre?

Four people arrive:  Creed (the mouthpiece, a normal looking guy in leather), a minotaur with a missing horn and a skull deformed by combat, a young woman with blonde hair, and a man whom she is leading by the hand.  They tell us they are part of the Guildpact, a group that acts outside the guild but that has existed for thousands of years and was assembled by the guilds, to fight big world threats.  Apparently we’ve been identified as having some sort of ‘spark’.  (That spark being that we are PC’s.)  But before they can induct us we must show ‘em what we got.

Team BLACK:  Joe (Red/Black), Golgari guy (Green/Black), Me (White/Black).  Lack of Blue there.

Team AZORIUS PLUS:  Scott (Blue/White), Alanmichele (Red/White), Jim (Blue/Green).  Lack of Black.

Team LEFTOVER:   Paul (Green/White), Robert (Red/blue), Mark (Red/Green).  Also a lack of Black.

And now a 3 second roleplaying break:

Joe (to his team):  “Concentrate on one person at a time.  Who do you think will be a problem?”
Paul:  “Attack!”
Darren:  “Them.”

Initiative is done. Team Leftover summon creatures and put them right at the Golgari guy.  At this point, Joe calls out to them and asks for a truce, which is actually pretty crafty.  They agree, and suddenly it’s two teams on one!

Michele’s character, being a hand-to-hand tough-guy(girl) stands on the front line and tries to beatoff the enemy.  Wait, that’s not what I meant.  Well, okay, maybe it was a little.  That’s the problem with stream of consciousness writing.

To their credit, the Azorius (Azori?) hang on for quite a while.  It looks like I, in particular, am going to do much of nothing (in fact prompting a “Hrumph.” From the NPC, Creed, when he sees me do nothing for the second consecutive round), but after that I start laying down the creatures.  Fortunately for us, both of my summoned “Hunted” creatures—(creatures whose summoning also causes some creatures to come into play under opponent control) have their hunters killed pretty quickly, mostly due to their controlling players taken out.  Meanwhile Mark is stockpiling large creatures and making Joe nervous.

Michele’s character goes down first, mostly because she is taking the brunt of things from everybody.  There’s some discussion of spatial mechanics: At first creatures take up space and can keep people from moving in close, but then that’s reversed when we realize any old group of creatures can prevent a group of superior creatures from attacking due to space/reach issues, so now creatures don’t prevent attacks by simply being in the way.

The Golgari keeps buffing my guys who are already big.  I am instructed to attack our allies, however, being Orzhov, I’m all about deals and contracts.  Thus I refuse to break the truce myself.  So instead I smack  Jim and Scott around.  Robert is offered the opportunity to surrender but refuses and promptly is knocked unconscious immediately thereafter.  As dinner is approaching and Mark’s array of big-guys goes down, we call it right there, the last of the foes surrendering.  Team black wins.

Whereupon I heal everyone back, thanks to having mana ready and a cool feat for doing so.

We are told that to join the guildpact we must hand over our signet (casting focus) of our guild and sign a contract.  Some of us read the contract and find it’s pretty straightforward.  First to sign is Robert’s guy, who promptly discovers they are disconnected from their guild, their sense of being part of something greater (In his case, a sense of the glorious guild master of the Izzet being there in the back of his head) just fades.

For some of us this is disquieting, for others it’s outright disturbing.  My guy loses his connection with the ancestral voices and thus there’s a whole lot of quiet up there.  For Paul, his guy’s guild is all about connection to his fellow members in a sort of hive-mind… he cries a little.  So does his character.  Michele’s character also has some kind of hive-mind thing going on.

Well, now we are each other’s guild.  To start off, we are given materials to imbue as our new spell foci, and a mask, because it’s important that no one know who we are else we be targeted or our families we left behind be targeted.  We are asked to come up with a pseudonym by which to be called.  Some have something right away, whereas my character in his dead state has a lack of imagination and thus is given his name by others.  We are shown our new quarters hidden away below ground in a very old part of one of the layers of city.  We have five rooms.  With 9 of us that means the girl gets one and the rest of us split up into pairs.   Golgari guy and Me.  Robert and Joe.  I think, Scott and Jim, Mark and Paul complete the pairings, but I’m not sure.

Our first order of business is to imbue our new foci.  Except Robert, whose first order of business is to girlify his room.  He needs décor, and goes to the surface for it.

Creed has some contacts, but feels we should make our own contact with them, to make ourselves useful.  We want to go immediately, Robert’s guy wants to go in two hours after he’s gotten ready to go out.  We wait 20 minutes and he’s not there.  After 25 we leave.  His roommate must gather Robert up and make him catch up.

The place we get to is some sort of fight club.  There are battles to the death taking place, although they accept other types of battles as well.  We meet the contact—

…and then I leave for the evening.  I hope we started off on the right foot.

GM Addendum!

Here's the recap of what happened after I left, courtesy of Alan:

You met with Endarin Winsivil, the owner of a bar called The Drench.  Camyron/Knuckles had been to the place a few times.  He can tell you that it is called The Drench because if you don’t get one of the tables off the ground, you can experience an excess of blood in your food.

Knuckles did most of the talking, and convinced the Orzhov to let you collect a debt for him.  A Rakdos named Mayhem had placed a large bet on some of his crew taking on some rivals in the pit.  He lost, but managed not to be there by the time the fight was over.  Endarin asked you to find him and collect 1,000 gold.  You would get 10% for your trouble.

You found the broken down hovel that Mayhem and his crew were supposed to be living in.  Outside you saw a goblin and a human, both looking scruffy and tough.  Someone tried to scare them off, but just made them laugh.  Then Eat/Thug roared at them and they fled into the hovel.  Inside you encountered and defeated a pile of goblins and humans, along with their two ogre buddies.  Then you moved into the back yard to find another array of Rakdos thugs waiting with Mayhem, who is a spell caster.

Mayhem had been building up spell while you fought outside, but in the end wasn’t a match for all of you.  He refused to surrender, so you clobbered him.  You found 300 gold in the pockets of Mayhem and his thugs.

You returned to Endarin with Mayhem and his 300 pieces of gold.  The Orzhov told you to keep the gold, and that Mayhem would be paying his debt in the fighting pits.  Endarin, amused by you all, asked if you wanted to place a bet.  Any game you wanted.  Thug was chosen to have a “lift things!” contest.  Endarin picked a random ogre sitting at a table nearby and offered him as his challenger.  You all headed down to the wine cellar and Thug out-lifted the random ogre, barely.

You headed back to base to rest.  A few days later you headed out to meet one of the other contacts, an Izzet mercenary named Gritivig.  He’s a gnome that looks a lot like the standard Izzet gnome.  He decided to trust you to take a task for him to save him some time.  He asked you to go out to Utvara and locate a shaman called Dranglot of the Bloodriven clan.  He makes a special version of firebloom, but will not sell it.  So you need to get it, but don’t harm the shaman or his student.  Killing them would end the supply.

Creed supplied you with horses and you headed out to Utvara.  We stopped when you were about to set camp for the night at the edges of Utvara.


GAME TWO (03/10/2012):

Since last game there was one switch-out.  Seems the black/green NPC decided to leave our company and try to go back to his guild and capitalize on the information he gained by being a part of the Guildpact.  He was rebuffed by his guild and is suffering for it (we were given no details).  To compensate, we were introduced to Snitchy Reb (Jeff) who now rooms with Blank.

The team, having made friends with one contact last game, must now ingratiate themselves to another contact.  The task this time is to go out of the city, journey about 40 miles (or more) into the desert, and locate a member of the Gruul Clan called “The Blood Ribbon”.  Their leader makes a red powder called “Fire Dust” which is used in magical experimentation.  Problem is, this particular guy will not bargain with outsiders, and never bargains with non-lizards.  So we got that not going for us.

First random encounter involves two enormous lizard creatures.  We beat them without too much difficulty.

In an Orzhov controlled city at the foot of a volcano (which is capped with a sort of power plant), we get some supplies, try to gather information, and talk to the envoy to the Gruul Clans.  He tells us we’re insane to go out there and try to talk to this guy and is very reticent to give us any info.  Eventually we get a vague direction.

We are assailed by spiders!  A bunch of spiders of varying sizes try to close in on us and we win.  There’s some discussion of converting every non-summoned creature to “Life Point” values.  Not sure if that means a creature that was a 2/2 who would go *poof* if you smacked him for 2 points or more now has 2 Defense you have to defeat before you do X life points or what.  As long Alan understands, that’s fine.  Also some card effects are being adjudicated on a case-by-case basis—as in “Is it too powerful if we let that card affect opponents with life points”, which seems fair, as adhering to a strict yes-or-no for everything could make the game either too difficult or too easy.

We run afoul of the Gore clan while looking for the Bloody Ribbon.  We dispatch their first, smallest group, and capture a centaur.  He’s not all that helpful.  Next we encounter a small cluster of Gore envoys who come to see what we are about.  There’s some discussion of gaining safe passage and directions toward the Bloody Ribbon.   It involves freeing the Centaur and giving them some cards (spells).  The centaur is tasked with leading us there.

When we get close we send out a spy to sneak up there—the new guy, Reb.  He avoids the first sentry and walks smack into the second one who engages him.  He gets back close enough to us to send a missive to tell us where to rendezvous.

We rendezvous and now we know the Bloody Ribbon will be upon us soon.  They could have hundreds, but often these numbers are inflated.  We find a defensible place, the enemy comes to us, and ultimately decides we will be too difficult and they run.  We capture two of their guys for questioning while the others run.  We use one to get us back to their camp, which has packed up and split into two.

We follow one of the two groups, which is not easy because of the shifting desert and its tendency to disappear into sinkholes beneath our feet, but eventually we get to a spot where we can engage them.

There’s a fight.  Well sort of.  I presume it remained a fight after I left.  There was a lot of gamesmanship involving use of a hill to conceal their casters from us and sending their little guys over the top to draw us in.  It works and it doesn’t.  Eventually we decide to go over the top and come at them, bro.  When I left the game we were all still vertical.  Their wizards had some big guys but we were doing a decent job of disabling their biggest summonings and beating down their little guys.

Hope the fight went well.  Michele was tasked with continuing my hand, which was 1 more swamp away from bringing in a 7/7, had a couple of “radiance” auras (could buff or protect all creatures of a color), and the agent of masks who could do 1 to all their casters every turn (and make me 1 healthier for each).

Non-GM Addendum:  Apparently we beat our opponent down enough that he was willing to deal.  We then traded for some fire dust and beat a path home.

GAME THREE: (03/24/12)

We had a few days of down-time following the last game, so we tried to go out and look for trouble.  This included visiting our favorite bar and handing over the fire-dust.  The proprietor paid us our 100gp each and Paul explained in a roundabout way how we got the dust.  He then basically told us that he has been known to trade magic and if we are looking for something special then he is willing to give us fair trade (unlike his normal kind of trade).  He extends this to all the members of our team.

On the way home, Leaf spots something in an alley that he thinks might be a snake, but turns out to be a vine.  We investigate and find that a Kudzu vine has taken over a warehouse and attached courtyard.  If defeated we might be able to turn it into a card.  So the three of us (Leaf, Frosty, Blank) wade in.  The second we power up he stirs to consciousness and engages.  Turns out the vine is all about draining land of its energy, which it ends up doing regularly to Leaf.  Fortunately we get a couple big creatures up to do some damage and Frosty manages to get rid of the Centaurs that are summoned when I put my Hunted Horror into play.  We extract its essence and Leaf has the raw materials for the card.

We get a few more details from Weave (the female elf survivor of our predecessor team).  We are the first team of guildpact members who are removed from our guilds.  The previous teams remained members of their guilds and as a result tried to do their guilds’ bidding.  She feels the whole thing is a wasted effort, mostly due to what happened to her team, all of whom have their issues.

She also tells us that there’s something for us to check out.  Crosstown there is a crush of frogs and toads that have descended on a zone that is, not surprisingly, Simic controlled.  We head there and find that as we get closer to the source the frogs get bigger.  By now there are four of us (Knuckles having showed up but changed his name to Enigma).  One frog tries to jump on one of us from the roof but it doesn’t last long.

We find a man unconscious and his cohort who is still conscious and who is a Simic wizard but who insists we leave the area.  While the team are trying to pry from him what is going on, Blank goes to a door to try the knob but is assailed by a roof toad.  This sets off a fight as when we take one of them out a few more are drawn to the scene.  We find out from the conscious wizard that the labs are nearby.  Looking through a nearby fence we see a courtyard with enormous frogs and toads in it.  Frosty summons a gatecrasher to crash the gate and we engage the frogs, mostly because we still had magic up from the last fight and we wanted to keep rolling.  So the next sequence is the classic right-out-of-Jim’s-game assault on the facility where we roll from room to room burning cards to keep our magic up.  It actually works pretty well.

About now the most horrifying beast of all shows up… Sean McDowell, who sits in a chair and has a running commentary on how slow our game is.  Robert shows up, but being full of wake-juice, heads off to bed.

We find an office with a view to a warehouse (that is essentially empty), a storage room, and ultimately a room below that is flooded (on purpose) with one platform for us and a few platforms out in the water with toads on them.  One toad is producing these little white toads that sacrifice themselves to neutralize the damage that turn, which is how he keeps most of his big toads alive.

We’re doing pretty well, but I had to leave by then, as is my custom now during the biggest fight of the night.

GAME FOUR: (04/07/2012)

Having won the war of the frogs, we have the unconscious Simic Wizard who we found last game.  We bring him conscious and try to find out from him what happened.  He’s not thrilled that his pets are dead, but we try to show him the extent of the damage he’s done.  Turns out he was trying to make bigger, strong frogs, though we fail to find out why.  On our way out of the zone we are stopped by the authorities.  We are questioned and ultimately allowed to go.  We stick around long enough to see the Ember mages come in and burn the froggys down.  They take the Simic wiz for questioning.

We return home and report in whereupon we’re asked, “Okay.  But WHY was he doing this?”  This seems like a reasonable question so we head out to search the wizard’s warehouse again.  Paranoid about the authorities possibly watching the warehouse and the possibility that we might be hauled in again if found in that area, we keep an eye out.  Leaf manages to spy an enormous camouflaged lizard on the wall of a building, probably keeping an eye on the courtyard.  We do our best to sneak in.  All we really know at this point is that this guy was using some kind of plant to beef up his experiments.  We don’t find out much more.

Back at base, we’re told of something we can investigate.  Seems a poor and downtrodden man was killed by a bunch of men dressed in Azorius Senate gear (Armor, blue clothing, etc.).  He has a daughter that we think may be missing.  We start by investigating the place he lived; small structure underground that’s quite dirty.  There we find little:  Meager furnishings, a grating in the floor that hasn’t been disturbed, and after a good search, a secret panel that leads further into the sewers.  Leaf finds, and then has to pursue, a little girl.  He gets her, but at the cost of a few kicks to the face by the tot.  She’s of little help at first, being afraid of us because we’re wearing masks and so did her dad’s killers.

We take her back  and try to get information but can’t find out much.  Turns out Enigma is the Rakdos with a heart of gold, and insists on finding her a place to live.  He decides virtually his only recourse is to go back to his family, whom he had to leave behind to do this job, and talk them into watching the girl.  He then wants to gather some money so that he can get her guild sponsored, which would get her out of everyone’s hair (except some guild).

We check out a couple more places, starting with the Rot Farm (Zombie growing facility) where the body was found.  They still have the corpse.  No one saw anything, and the foreman is insulted by Blank’s (low-ball) offer of a shiny gold piece to let him go look at the body.   Claw pays him fifty GP to let us look.  Turns out Blank’s guess (That the reason you dump a body on a rot farm is so it can be disposed of quietly and evidence can decay) was probably wrong as we go away with no clues.

Rumor is now that the deceased was a thief who got away with it.  This points to the Azorius Senate attackers as vigilantes (whether they were real Az or not).

At this point Claw has decided he wants nothing further to do with the investigation or the child.  He looks up from counting money and beating Bob Cratchet to ask, “Are there no prisons?  Are there no workhouses?”  He did have a point about maybe she should die and decrease the surplus population.

We now hear (from a contact?) that maybe this guy was involved in kidnapping.

We go to the guy who got robbed.  He’s a merchant on Tin Street, the low-rent merchant district.  He’s a potter, which means he has nothing of serious value.  We find out during a contentious discussion with the merchant that he had stolen some bowls.  Cheapass bowls.  They were never recovered.  Rather than beat up the merchant, which feels like a bad choice at this moment, we go back to the original scene we investigated in order to poke around the sewers further.  During a search for the bowls instead we find where the little girl used to hide (in the grating, with a dirty blanket and her dirty stuffed bunny.  How Eastery!)

After visiting the Toad-summoner from earlier and not getting much out of him, Claw is back on board with us now.  Trudiging the opposite direction below ground we find the scene of a different crime.  There are bodies that have been tortured and there are blood magic runes on the wall that are badly drawn, as if the artist didn’t know what he was doing.  The bodies are fairly fresh.  A good search turns up some actual treasure: Hidden behind some stones are some real essences, taken from victims, obviously done using runes that were much better drawn than the others.  This brings us to search for how the bodies got here.  Through tracking we find the way to the back to the surface.

We decide to wait in hiding for whoever is using this access to the sewer.  Sure enough we spy a guy and while three of us dismount the roof we’re on, Claw tries to hold him up by sending a creature after him.  He flees into the sewer and a minor chase takes place with us trailing him all the way back to where we found the bodies.  In the interim some other people have shown up… A gnome male and female, an ogre, and the guy we were pursuing.  They think we are probably the Azorius.  Leaf summons an elephant and that almost deters the ogre, but they engage.  It takes one hit for the Ogre to go down and the gnomes try to flee.  Blank stays with the Ogre and bodies, one gnome gets tackled by Enigma, while Leaf and Claw pursue the gnome female back toward the surface.  Their Athletics is insufficient to catch her before she makes the surface, whereupon they subdue her and make enough noise that everyone on Tin Street is interested.  When a call is made for the militia, they decide to wait and discuss it with them.

The militia sort things out.  This involves listening to the Gnome (who claims Leaf and Claw are attackers and rapists) and our story of her being a kidnapper.  Then they get some backup and come below ground and investigate the scene.  We disclose everything except for the “essences” we found in the hidden location, because, L3wt.  The phrase “The Arm” (referring to who we are) is thrown around just enough that when we end up at the police station they end up releasing us after interrogation as Creed shows up.  He sees us home but is unhappy with our inability to remain low profile.  None the less, he does not give us much of a scolding, except that it would have made more sense just to drag the girl back below ground before the militia showed up.

We spend the next evening at the fights at our favorite club downtown.  A map is drawn, thus there shall be trouble.  Alan has a quick fight between his two criminal wizards and an “experiment” that has been brought in.  After it utterly crushes them it decides to ascend into the stands and eat us.  Its primary ability is to hit HARD, and when you block with a creature and it dies, it comes back in his service and comes after you.  Blank absorbs some damage by not blocking, gets some minor healing from the Orzhov in the balcony, and our hand-to-hand man, and Enigma takes some hits.  A pumpable enchantment placed on Enigma by Blank is mirrored by our ally in the balcony and soon between Enigma’s pumped up attack and a very nasty blow by Leaf’s creatures, the foe is felled.  (His procured creatures were taken out as well).

FLASHBACK… I can’t remember WHERE in all this that this even happened so rather than figuring out where it goes in the timeline of the evening here it is: Much the way that last game some Toads were attacking an area of the city, we ran across an area where some Bugs had decided to start attacking a fungus farm of the Golgari.  We pitch in to take them down.  The second one of us powers up some land they charge us.  Their armor is a pain as it stops all but the heartiest hits.  And when one of the smaller bugs is about to die, the big bug can make that bug dissolve and then regenerate.  Eventually we get enough firepower together to start taking them down.  (I think all I did was block.)  In the end we win.

GAME FIVE (04/21/12)

We start off at a near standstill.  We’re having trouble finding ways to further follow up on our previous issues.  It turns out that we should be contacting our contacts more.  Something has happened and we aren’t even aware of it, as the Rot-Farmer from a game or two back has sent word that he needs help.

The farm was overrun by some strange plant creatures.  We arrive and encounter one right away.  The first one was a massive hitter at 14/4 or 14/5, so you had to really hit him to crack the armor and when he hits you, you notice it.  But a lack of trample helped, as we put up enough blocking creatures to keep ourselves alive while we got our damage together and whittled away at him.

Shortly thereafter, we came across 3 more of these guys who are lesser on the damage and armor.  But still… ouch.

In the tunnels below the rot-farm we find a small army formed.  They are being given their instructions by the actual HEAD of the GOLGARI guild.  The head cheese.  He finds out we are The Arm and puts us with him.

With him (Jerrod, I believe) we come across a group of 6 of these plant guys who are slightly smaller, but still pretty big.  With out spell decks ailing this takes much longer before we get things going, but they are taken down.

Now comes the source of the craziness.  There’s a big chamber with the rest of the Golgari troops coming in from other sides to fight the army of plant monsters that are generating each turn.  These are the smallest yet, as we get closer to the middle because the ones closer to the source are the newest made and haven’t had much time to grow yet.

This is our 4th fight without being able to renew.  Fortunately, this is only Jerrod’s second, so he’s not as depleted… still, his deck does have a mechanic for forcing himself to cycle through his deck quickly, so he’s catching up.

We meet the enemy and hit across a mechanic that will help; The mechanics that cause an enemy to “tap” can be used to turn off the plant generator for one turn.  This is a turn during which we can direct our attacks at the source itself rather than at the individual plant enemies.  PINTA shows up right now and assists with his full deck.  On the final round, CLAW and BLANK both fall unconscious due to running out of cards and trying to pull from the deck.  LEAF runs out of cards as the last damage is dealt and therefore can end his combat, staying conscious because he doesn’t have to draw from an empty deck.  We basically overwhelmed the source-thing with damage.  If we hadn’t taken it down then, LEAF would have gone down next, leaving just Pinta and Jerrod.

4 Fights in a row was pretty hairy, but fun!  It’s always fun when you survive too.  Helped that they were in receding level of difficulty rather than increasing.

Comparing the stuff that made the mulch-pile go wild and increase growth does seem to be the same plant stuff that caused the frogs to go crazy.

We ask around and manage to track down the name of someone who is an expert in wild plants of this sort, but they live out in the wasteland outside the city proper.  We go out to find her.

We fight a flock of birds that seem to think we’ll be no problem.  Boy are they wrong.  Apparently our horses make us easy to spot, but like I said, we take out the birds when we manage to get some fliers into play.

We find a small camp.  The people there make us wait until the man-of-the-house comes back.  He leads ONE of us to the sorceress who can help us.  Apparently, Claw does not have enough juice with her to get her to give us information about the plants.  Instead she comes back to our camp to try to drum up more stuff in the bargain.

After trying to interest her in a bunch of our (lesser) cards, she decides she wants to make cards from us.  Yes, FROM us.  The same way we draw the essence from a downed real creature, she can use us to make useful, if somewhat lesser, summonable versions of us.  She also requires a lab.  We are creeped out by the idea, but agree.

[At this point (Now, as I type this), I begin to realize that the other avenue to finding out about this stuff would probably have been to go back to the first Simic wiz and beat the tar out of him until he confessed who was selling him the stuff.  But that probably would have caused some argument and besides, hindsight is everything.]

We bring her to the city and use what little juice we have to get her through the gates and into a lab (the latter, by calling in a favor from the Golgari guild master).  She’s making something but won’t let us know what.

I should point out that these are our levels of interaction with her:

We head back out to the wild.  The belief is that this stuff, called Gruul Vine (I’m guessing it’s quite related to the plant that overgrew the warehouse building earlier), grows out in the wild only under special circumstances.  Apparently, to make this crazy, virulent version, you have to sacrifice someone and burn the body ritually and the result is this stuff which they then plant and hope it makes seeds.  Some of it “takes” and some of it doesn’t.

We find a spot where two of these implantations have “taken”.  Since they are close together we think maybe it is a result of someone purposely planting a bunch in the area and having only two survive.  The area is an abandoned stadium that has long given way to the sands and time.

What’s that up on the top edge?  A sphinx?  And it sees us?  Let’s go talk to it!

So there’s a discussion.  Unfortunately, that leads to him wanting something to keep us alive.  He wants magic.  We offer him some but it’s not sufficient to keep all 4 of us alive AND our guide.  Rather than let him eat our guide and give up the offered magic, we throw down.

The fight breaks down to

So, do I make a new character or did you guys miraculously pull this one out?

ADDENDUM: Courtesy of Joe

The Sphinx was focusing attacks on Pinta and Blank since he was afraid I'd hit him back and Leaf had good blockers. Pinta brought out a card that stunned the Sphinx (in virtue of the cards rarity), who immediately offered to let us live if Pinta gave up the card. We gave the Sphinx the finger and kept attacking.  What made the fight difficult besides him being a flyer with good defense, he could also counter a spell at will each round (as noted in Darren's recap). So, we had to be cagy with our magic.

He finally dropped Pinta despite Blank's healing. He swept down and picked up Pinta and started to fly off. Can't remember why he just didn't bail.  Probably because he was whuppin our butts and felt a little greedy. However, he jumped back into combat. At that point, we got a little lucky. Leaf's cast a spell that allowed him to keep burning land to dig through and burn cards off of his deck...although he kept coming up with crap. Finally, it all came together right before Blank was going down. Blank cast a spell that the creature had to counter. That gave Enigma the ability to throw a spell that weakened the Sphinx's power by 2. Then Leaf gave Enigma the ability to fly.

The Sphinx realized he was suddenly in trouble and fled.  He was now too weak to pick-up Pinta and run so he just sped away.  Leaf chased him with a creature but couldn't catch him. That's where we ended. It was an ugly fight that almost ended very badly. In the end, Blank healed Leaf.  I think Leaf showed his appreciation by doing something to Blank that I shudder to even mention, but let's just say Blank will have nightmares for a while...or Darren will at the very least.  


GAME SIX (5/5/2012)

We are still in the desert.  Last game the sphinx had flown off leaving the depleted team to try and recover.  We rest and stake things out a little longer when finally we spy something happening.  Turns out three people are running past our position while pursued by something.  When we inquire they tell us to run, but one of the guys will stop because he’s too injured to continue running.  The only information he can give is that something appears suddenly, takes a bite out of people, then vanishes, only to repeat the procedure.

After a few minutes something appears:  A swarm of rats.  It’s particularly tough to target them because you can really only target them with instants (because they don’t appear until their own turn when they’re attacking) or be on the receiving end of the attack and be ready to defend.  Like everything we fought this game, it was no pushover.  But it was probably the easiest thing we’d fight all day.  It did manage to kill the injured man though.

We are still staking out the spot where the plants were growing that can be harvested and applied to make creatures tougher.

Someone is spotted by Leaf sneaking around near us.  Turns out he’s hunting for food at the insistence of a group of Rakdos who are keeping his son/grandson as collateral while he’s out.  We promise to help him, give him some food and send him back.  We get our act together and come along by following a very rough map and almost miss the spot.  We descend below and into a cavern where we meet the enemy.  There are three Rakdos wizards, a couple ogres, a bunch of large rats, and something they’d summoned—kind of a bigger, nastier ogre.

The summoned guy is the first we manage to take out.  The rest of the fight is primarily us drawing CRAP and slowly retreating, trading off who stays in front to take damage since the non-summoned foes can only line up one at a time to fight us in the passage.  Pinta goes down.  We retreat up to the surface but that just changes the battleground.  Blank goes down.  Now with just Leaf and Claw up and fighting, our “guide” runs over and uses his one potion to give me two points of health, bringing me to barely conscious.  Leaf and Claw go down immediately and so Blank calls for a parlay with the one remaining foe, who is a single wizard.  I’d have been tempted take him on now that I had a hand again and he’d dropped all his creatures, except that I have 1 health and he’s uninjured.  So I promise him the Rakdos Riteknife that Paul had gotten recently, a couple of my spells (that I keep around for trade), and I promise to help him extract the magics from his unconscious (but soon to be dead) leader.  I agree to the deal and he barely keeps his promise.

We decide we’ve completed the deal and now we optionally can go back and kick the guy’s butt.  But he’s run back to the city and done so faster than we can pursue, so we went back to town to check messages and sleep in our beds one night.  Then back out to the wild because we have zero leads.

We have a random encounter with some kind of rock creature.  It seems to be a bunch of hunks of animated rock with air between.  Every turn it is able to animate EVERY CREATURE IN ALL YOUR GRAVEYARDS for the duration of its attack.  This means that we have to judiciously supply only small creatures to the graveyards.  Conveniently, it helps that Leaf summons saprolings (which do not go to the graveyard when they die), Claw summons a creature that goes to his hand after it blocks, and Blank not only gets his creatures that benefit from enchantments but also manages to enchant them.  Everyone treads water, Blank chips away, and Leaf finishes him off with one onslaught of saprolings to take out its last few points.

We take another night at the site of the plants.  After discussing doing one more night then giving up on that, someone arrives.  A man with two warrior helpers shows up and Leaf and Claw engage him in a confrontational conversation about what he’s doing there.  He and his friends decide to run and at least one gets away.  They come back later with their small army.

This is another long, brutal fight in which we cut it dangerously close.  In fact, by the time I left, Blank was down and everyone else was struggling.  We’d taken out a large portion of the enemy.  It was getting toward that time when a discussion of truce was likely to break out (even if it didn’t sustain).  I’ll have to find out how it ended.

Turns out 4 players is a tough way to go against these decks.  The one time we did good strategy and worked well was against the guy who kept using our graveyards, and it had a real potential to get ugly.  The rest of the time it was a real struggle.

GAME SEVEN (5/19/12)

End of last game we had another near “do the party” moment.  We survived, likely because it’s not fun to do-the-party.  This game we pick up with trying to follow the folks who had come at us in an attempt to find out where they were coming from, and presumably to find the source of the plants that are making things bigger.

We have a number of skirmishes with small groups of Gruul patrols, without much trouble in beating them.

There is an enormous camp with the largest number of Grull we’ve seen (possibly a couple hundred).  They seem to be of varying size, as some of these guys are unusually big, which means they are using the grow-plant (Miracle Grow?).  Some investigation by sneaking around the camp uncovers that some, but not all, of the alcohol they have on hand is innately magic.

We decide we need to either capture someone and question them, or maybe hold up until we find someone going into or out of the camp with the next supply of alcohol.  In any event, the fact that they’ve been sitting here in this spot a while tends to indicate to us that their supply may be underground somewhere in the area.  We figure they’d want to stick close.

Eventually a caravan leaves and we are proven right to some degree when they reach an area and stop.  We fight some of the guards that are covering the rear of the caravan, making our way to the middle.  Once there, we discover they’ve got a concealed area to get below ground, capped by an enormous rock that requires many of our creatures to move.  We use one of the goblins we captured to get some vague intel about what is below.  We wait until the caravan leaves, then we move the rock and head down into the brewery below.

An enormous fight breaks out.  They have 4 casters (to our 5, as Robert has stepped away for this fight) and an army of non-summoned guys, though most of them run away out of fear of the army of summoned creatures we’ve had time to summon and bring down with us.

Let me tell you, preparation is everything!  That, plus the fact that Alan wasn’t drawing all that well from his decks.  We do a pretty solid job of smacking everyone down, even though their casters were ALL ‘roided up and thus had large amounts of life points.  Once we’ve cleared the masses, two of the wiz’s get away long enough to juice up even further and come back.  Doesn’t matter, as we do a pretty solid job on these two as well.

Also helping was that Paul and Jim working two decks each managed to get lots of synergy with themselves.

After we beat the enemy down and seized the brewery, I bailed, leaving the epilogue to the others.