Article #23: The Ten Worst Mislynches in Champs History and How to Avoid Them
- written by GeneralHankerchief
Note: This article was written shortly before the start of Season 7.
Hi, GeneralHankerchief here. The annual Mafia Championship is my single favorite event on MU, and it has been ever since I first joined the site in March 2016. In my time on the site and as a part of this community, I've followed countless Champs games as a player, a two-time member of the jury, a host, and simply as a spectator.
While each game creates its own unique sequence of events, it's pretty hard to deny that a pattern has emerged: Champs games are far more prone to... let's call it head-scratching lynches than your average game is. This can be for a number of reasons: the increased pressure on players to perform well or even be the town hero, the inevitable culture clash that occurs, and the comparative lack of meta that people are able to rely on to provide a baseline for analyzing other people's behavior. I'm here today to talk about some of these historical mislynches that we remember years later.
I won't deny that this article's creation is an excuse for me to write a fun list and spark debates, both here and in spectator chat. That said, I firmly believe that not only every game but every phase is a learning experience that teaches us a lesson we can hopefully apply in order to become better mafia players. As a spectator of Champs and just someone who likes watching good play, my hope is that this article will bring some lessons from these historical mislynches to light so that we - not just future Champs players, but everyone - can learn from them and improve our town games in the future.
Now that we've gotten the educational disclosure out of the way, let's present the mislynches in the most clickbait-y form imaginable: a top ten list!
#10: romanov, Season 3, Game 4, Day 1
The background: Day 1 of a Champs qualifier is always when culture clash is at its highest, because the players are potentially easing themselves into the unfamiliar environment for the first time. Some people are super polite when entering into this environment for the first time. Others are friendly, trying to establish a rapport with these new players. Others still are cautious, trying to feel people out and get a grip on things. And some people come barreling straight out of the gate. romanov was part of this final category of players.
In the first 20 posts of the game, seven of which were pregame information/flavor and six more of which were his own, romanov came out with two separate scumreads and even managed to form an associative read based off an opening interaction between two other players.
romanov later backed off on one of the reads, but he grew more confident in his second scumread (Collector Elwood) that he doubled down and claimed cop with a n0 guilty result on Elwood.
The problem was that cops can't get n0 guilty results on MU, only innocent results. The second problem was that the rest of the players eventually became made aware of this through a combination of someone figuring it out and Thingyman confirming it in the thread. As a result, romanov's fakeclaim became the leading topic of the day. That combined with his aggressive temperament made momentum very much against him, and even though he made cogent cases against people, his lynch was never really in doubt.
Why it was a bad lynch: For starters, a lot of people outright admitted that romanov was at least partly a policy lynch. While policy lynching people for behavior is something that I won't touch on here, policy lynching people for their gameplay is something that generally should be avoided. A lot of people in this one saw "romanov lied about his claim and got caught in it, get him", which is something all of us need to get beyond if we want to take the next step as players. Fancy plays can be annoying, but they can also be useful, and you need to learn how to handle them.
This lynch isn't higher up on the list because D1 in Champs is always a bit of a crapshoot with the culture clash and there are some mitigating factors of people maybe just outright not wanting to play with him, but at the end of the day I think romanov's aggression should have fairly easily been read for what it was: aggressive solving, and not general incompetence made by a wolf. A few people got there, but not nearly enough.
To make matters worse, romanov was rather on-target. He had two wolves nailed for pretty much the entire day, and for good reasons too.
Lessons learned: We get a couple here. To start, keep in mind that culture clash exists. For a lot of players in this qualifier, romanov might have been the first player they ever experienced with such an aggressive style. Not to put words in that town's mouth, but I do think that several people thought along the lines of "he's not behaving along the lines that town players in my homesite meta do, therefore, he's a wolf". You need to put yourself in your target's shoes and see if they're actually solving, regardless of how they go about it.
The second lesson here is to think through somebody's reasons for claiming. Real or fake, putting yourself in the headspace of the claiming player is a worthy skill. Here, romanov claimed cop several hours into D1. Even if he was going for a quick mislynch, is this the kind of claim that a wolf can skate by indefinitely on given its timing? Yes, it was proven to be fake, but fakeclaiming doesn't necessarily mean a person is mafia. When caught in his lie, romanov gave reasons for why he did what he did. Do they hold up to examination? Don't automatically believe a claim - or disbelieve it, for that matter.
#9: Angrypotato, Season 5, Game 5, Day 8
Background: Game 5 of that season had quite a few twists and turns, but it all came down to a final three of SA_Ninth, the wolf, against BlackDragonSlayer and Angrypotato, the townies. It was a fairly standard (if low-activity) Final 3 scenario, in which BDS, the clearest player alive, bemoaned the situation he was in and wished the other two, especially Ninth, would post more as he tried to work back through the game and solve.
Potato, very new to mafia at this point and playing in one of her first forum games ever, eventually resurfaced and got fed up, correctly voting Ninth. Specchat erupted in glee, but in Season 5, votes were not locked in LYLO situations, and people were thus free to change them. Which Potato did, four minutes later... to No Lynch.
She didn't actually want No Lynch, but she wasn't sure how to unvote, and the main thing was that Potato left her vote on No Lynch for hours. So while BDS first lost an opportunity to end the game by hammering the wolf (granted, only for four minutes), Ninth now had an opportunity to end the game by hammering No Lynch, as he would have reached parity after the next nightkill. But Ninth didn't seem to realize this either, and thus the f3 dragged on with the completely unprecedented scenario of a wolf literally being able to win the game with a single vote and not realizing it. Specchat was losing its mind.
Hours upon hours passed, Potato and Ninth eventually crossvoted, leaving BDS with the hammer. After some time trying to psych himself up, he finally hammered... Angrypotato, who he was previously townreading and who had previously voted No Lynch in a LYLO situation. I don't think I've ever seen specchat in quite a state of shock after his vote; not before, not since.
Why it was a bad lynch: Final Threes are their own special and unique form of torture in a mafia game. If you're lucky, you only have one horrible f3 story. If you're extremely lucky, you don't have any. They do things to your head and in general I like to treat players of both alignments who make it that far with sympathy. This will be the only f3 vote you see on this list.
That said, this f3 situation broke the mold simply because of the missed opportunities. BDS had a chance to win immediately! Ninth had a chance to win immediately! And neither of them took it. But once that part had resolved itself, it was a classic case of BDS talking himself out of the correct lynch. Early on in the f3, he was right on target, and even some analysis of voting didn't do much to change his initial conclusion:
But he talked himself out of it. BDS didn't say why, at least nothing that is outlined in his progressions that day. Ninth and AP both defended themselves, attacked the other a bit, but nothing in those posts were earth-shattering. BDS was right, he was right for the right reasons, then he changed his mind, and none of us know why. Two years later and it's still a mystery, and this unexplained switch is a big part of why this lynch cracked the list.
Lessons learned: Two of them. First, if you have the hammer in an f3 situation, thinking out loud can be helpful. Sure, there's the opportunity for the wolf to twist what you say, but there's also the opportunity for the villager to explain themselves. Either way, it helps far more than it hurts on average.
Secondly, BDS was already on the right track with a particular line of thinking. I explained this somewhat in my previous article, but he was correctly categorizing AP and Ninth by their archetype and using this to help guide his thinking. I believe that archetyping is a very strong tool in any townie's arsenal. If you can properly archetype other players, it allows you to get in their headspace a lot easier and see if their actions make sense from a town perspective.
AP's archetype was easy: the fish-out-of-water newbie. This was one of her first (if not her outright first) games of forum mafia ever, and it showed. She voted No Lynch on multiple occasions, including in a final three. She had openly said as much too, so it's not like she was hiding it in an attempt to look more experienced. Additionally, you have access to player bios in every Champs game to further your process of archetyping people. Considering the player type AP projected as, did her actions make more sense as a townie not really sure what she was doing, or as a wolf who somehow hadn't been coached by any of her buddies while they were still alive? Contrast this to Ninth, who had played a far more classically wolfy game, but was also vastly more experienced.
BDS knew this, and was halfway home to applying it, but at some point down the line he got derailed. If your player archetyping is telling you something, listen to it!
#8: rainbowsaurus, Season 6, Game 11, Day 2
Background: After a fairly standard D1, the POE was set and the town was looking to approach Day 2 as normal. They'd work through their suspicions, talk to and about people, and come to a decision at the end of the day. One of the main names up for discussion was rainbowsaurus, who had been in contention for the D1 lynch. Fairly standard stuff. But then, a little over an hour into the dayphase, Telleo came in and dropped a bomb: as the N1 Watcher, they had guessed right and personally saw JDS make the N1 kill.
The initial reaction in the thread was "cool, but let's talk this through," which was fine. JDS counterclaimed Voyeur and postulated that mafia used a ninja action to kill the N1, but the town in general deemed the claim to be plausible but unlikely. JDS was marked as a wolf and was set to go down. But then, things turned south.
Telleo, of all people, first suggested that despite the outstanding Watcher issue, the town lynch rainbowsaurus instead, in order to get a better idea of associatives and possible teams. A couple of other players agreed with this logic, momentum built, and all of a sudden the all-but-outed wolf had a chance.
In the final hours of the day, JDS posted well enough, and enough people had problems with rainbowsaurus's posting that they became competitive wagons, but when the dust cleared rainbow went down and JDS, the guy who Telleo had watched visit the N1 kill, survived.
Why it was a bad lynch: On some plane of reality, I can see where the town's logic in leaving JDS alive made sense. He was a known quantity, they thought they could control him, and they thought they had a good beat on another player in the game and figured they could get two for the price of one.
In practice, though, this strategy is fraught with peril and can backfire in so many different ways. There's always the danger of mislynching, which is what happened here. Possibly even worse is that you leave a wolf role alive at night. In a role madness game like the Season 6 setup was, night actions are an important aspect of the game and you want to be able to corner the wolves and/or clear people through them, if possible. Leaving an all-but-outed wolf alive allows him to use his ability at night, especially since there's no guarantee that a roleblocker is present or even on the town's side. The same goes for a town vig.
Indeed, here JDS carried the factional kill on N2, and it went through. Michelle, the town roleblocker, blocked ~Rosen, another wolf. Had JDS been lynched, there was a possibility that ~Rosen would have had to carry the kill himself. A town player would have been saved, ~Rosen would have been in big trouble, and the town would have been in that much better of a position if they had just taken out the wolf handed to them on a silver platter.
This is the downside of infolynching, especially in a setup like this. The goal is to reduce the wolves' numbers, so they can do less stuff at night, and they have that much less voting power in the thread.
Lessons learned: Mostly covered in the last section, but for emphasis: Infolynching is bad, just kill the wolfiest player. In 99% of scenarios, if there's an outed (or mostly outed) wolf, you lynch them. The other 1% covers weird variants like there being two wolves left and you need to lynch a specific role in order to stave off an immediate loss, and this scenario didn't cover that.
#7: Linkcat, Season 3, Game 5, Day 6
Background: The town in this game had started off as strongly as possible, chainlynching three wolves on the first three gamedays. One, however, eluded them, and after two straight dayphases of mislynches the situation was starting to look a little bit less rosy. The game was still in the town's favor, but now they actually needed to start working and fashioning an ironclad POE to see out the win. To their credit, they recognized this.
These were the main topics of discussion heading during into D6:
- The town had one power role left, a so-far unclaimed Bodyguard.
- Beck was preparing a large case on his top suspect, MyImmortal.
- Panther wasn't letting Beck off the hook and tried his very hardest to keep him in the POE, possibly even get him lynched. They even thunderdomed for a while.
- Discussion eventually shifted to Linkcat, and consensus was that his formerly clearing behavior (wolf spew) wasn't as good as it looked initially.
All of this is fine and falls within the normal course of proceedings during this part of a game. But then, with three hours to go before EOD, Linkcat - who had mostly been AFK to that point - arrived to defend himself. It didn't go well. The following posts are quoted in order of occurrence, with nothing in between that I've left out.
This one was a crusher, and the surviving townies immediately realized as much upon start of the following day, but how much of a crusher it was wouldn't be known until the game ended. Sorian, the final wolf, went super deep and pulled off the reverse sweep by triumphing in the f3, on a day when the town really could have used one last cleared player.
Why it was a bad lynch: You know how a lot of times people are skittish about leaving the votecount too close to majority too far away from the scheduled EOD? Situations like this are exactly why. Linkcat's inclusion in the POE, while incorrect, was a product of standard solving and was without issue. Even punishing the "slip" itself, while certainly an overreaction, isn't the reason this lynch is included on this list. The problem was that he was a PR, and the quick hammer after the "slip" denied him the chance to take himself out of it by claiming Bodyguard.
This was a POE game, where every cleared player mattered. Had Linkcat been able to claim, the town would have lynched down the line as normal, but they would have had one extra body the wolves had to get rid of. This would have mattered when it came to the f3, when Sorian would have had a much more difficult time explaining why he was still alive when he probably should have been nightkilled ages ago.
From start to finish, the final push on Linkcat was an eight-minute period of momentum and madness from a town desperate to wrap things up, but in the end it could very well have cost them the entire game.
Lessons learned: On a base level, be careful of accidentally hammering if you don't explicitly want to. Beck and Ghowilo, the two townies guilty of this, obviously immediately regretted their actions, but still.
On a deeper level though, the final push on Linkcat came out of a place of emotion and momentum, and while that's an awfully hard impulse to suppress in a mafia game, especially as town, sometimes it's a necessary one. Linkcat was in the POE and dropping, but there was still one unclaimed power role running around and the hammer denied him the opportunity to use his get out of jail free card. In quickly-developing situations, sometimes it's worth it to stop and think about what you're doing. In a best-case scenario, it can put the entire game back on the rails.
We take our first tier jump from 7 to 6. The first four entries were all extremely unfortunate but ultimately forgivable for one reason or the other. Starting with the next entry, though, we move into the realm of the truly inexplicable.
#6: rob77dp, Season 4, Game 5, Day 6
Background: The game was down to Final 5, with one wolf remaining, coming after a day in which the town pretty much was forced to mislynch because their target had insisted on a v/v thunderdome. Given what had happened the previous day, you'd think that the play here would be to be thorough and open to any possibility, carefully examining everyone left in the game and really talking things through with the other players. rob77dp was certainly of this mind, talking through his headspace and asking questions of the people he more strongly townread.
Not everyone had that idea, though.
I followed this dayphase in realtime, and it was one of the most hilarious and shocking things I had ever seen in a mafia game. DS and Dimi, both villagers, were so thirsty for a redflip and so confident that Rob was exactly who they were looking for, they threw all caution to the wind and tried to end the game right there. It was almost admirable in a way, but it was incorrect. As Rob was begging for more time, his accusers were absolutely merciless.
From start to finish, this dayphase lasted 70 minutes out of a possible 2,880. That's 2.43% of the allotted time. No useful analysis was done in that time period. Town grew no closer to figuring out the last wolf. Nothing of value was produced. There was only a quick case, some egging on, a thunderdome, more egging, a hammer, and Modbot's trademarked immediate $%#!slap. That was it. It was incredible to watch, but oh man was it bad.
Why it was a bad lynch: There have been other unfortunate quick hammers in Champs. D4 of the Season 6 finale comes to mind, where 112 was mislynched nine and a half hours in. There were a couple of other quick ones in Season 4 as well, including a second in the very same game (also initiated by DS). But this one takes the cake. At least in the others, everybody had time to check in and discuss it over before pulling the trigger. Here, though, Rob was begging for more time, Yeti had posted exactly once, and Trash - the last wolf - said she wouldn't be around for a while in her hammer vote.
Bloodlust and momentum overcame all rational thought. The Linkcat lynch was a tragic mistake coming from a slip in concentration by two town players, but this one was a deliberately calculated act of self-sabotage. Everyone had their individual POEs and ideally that day was the day to work them through, but they threw caution to the wind in the name of getting it over with. Coming immediately after a day in which quite a lot of discussion was consumed by an oxygen-sucking thunderdome, the town really could have used this day to think things through. They did not do that, and they did not do that on purpose. The game was entirely mountainous and there was no mechanical information whatsoever pointing to Rob as the last wolf. His lynch was the ultimate gamble, but they played it with bad odds.
Lessons learned: As tempting as early hammers can be, they backfire far more often than not. The only thing you really have to lose from waiting a little and talking it out is time. I'm not against early hammers by any means, but not 2.43% of the dayphase early. Hammering because the group has come to a consensus, the wolf is probably dead to rights, the day has started to drag, and you're eager to move on with the game is ok. Hammering because you're excited to potentially end the game Right Now is not.
Would Rob living for another 23 or 47 hours changed anything? Probably not, because he was set on thunderdoming another villager, Dimi. But you never know. Trash, the last wolf, might have made some really wolfy posts. Perhaps Rob and Dimi would have found each other, as two v/v players going at each other sometimes do. The shockingly early hammer took that opportunity away from everybody, though.
#5: Zarathustra, Season 5, Game 7, Day 1
Background: Day 1 lynches in Champs are a crapshoot. Sometimes, they can hit a random low-posting townie, or somebody who, probably through culture clash, just doesn't fit in with the vibe of the rest of the thread. Sometimes, they can hit a player who made genuinely wolfy posts. Sometimes, they can even hit a wolf! Sometimes, though, they can hit an obvious villager for incredibly dubious reasons. This one had a fairly tame origin, but like a boulder rolling down a mountain, it just tragically continued to pick up momentum until the mislynch became an unstoppable juggernaut and it plowed straight into the village.
It started off innocently enough. Quick and Zarathustra had a misunderstanding about how Quick thought Zara should be reading him given their prior experiences together:
The misunderstandings and questioning piled up, and finally Quick dropped a vote on Zara in Post 163, less than one hour into a 72-hour dayphase. On its own, fine, it's a vote early on, the game has to start one way or another. But Quick never moved his vote for the rest of the day. And somehow, the wagon picked up momentum.
So, before EOD really kicked in, we had three votes on Zara: One of them (from Jack) was a wolf doing wolf things. Another (Dante) was the dreaded infolynch. And then there was Quick, who just got tunneled super hard and spiralled into reading every single solitary thing Zara did as having sinister motivations. Here's an excerpt of some of his D1 posts towards and about Zara:
I could go on, but I'm genuinely worried about this post breaking the character limit, so let's just leave it there. Quick was dead set on Zara for reasons that basically snowballed, and through sheer persistence and force of will he got other people to jump on (though, in his defense, one of them was a wolf). EOD approached and Zara was viable. Sometimes, during a chaotic EOD, "currently viable" is all people need to pile on. After a late PR claim, everybody scrambled, and when the dust settled Zara went down.
Why is was a bad lynch: There's multiple dimensions to this lynch, so let's unpack them. First of all, while the initial tunnel and Quick's refusal to get off it was a big factor in this lynch, it takes a, well, village to mislynch. People piled on. Zara was viable in the first place, for reasons that still elude me. Certainly, a couple of people were skeptical of this lynch from the start and tried to move elsewhere, but it wasn't enough. Zara never should have been viable in the first place.
If this was just a random D1 shrug lynch, this would not have made the list, let alone the Top 5. But its genesis was an outright case for extremely petty reasons that just snowballed. Zara was by no means inactive or overwhelmed; the guy made 286 posts on D1, posted legitimate cases, and defended himself as best he could from that questionable onslaught. Yes, Zara only went over the top after the town's first choice claimed a PR and thus took himself off the table, but Zara never should have been in contention in the first place. The lynch should have defaulted onto a wolfy low-poster or something, not the target of a tunnel from someone fallen victim to Champs Hero Syndrome.
People should have realized Quick's tunnel for what it was - a bad tunnel that shouldn't have taken up so much thread space on D1. They did retroactively, of course, and said as much, but not when it counted. Nobody who was on Zara at EOD1 escapes blame - nobody except for Jackofhearts2005, who was a wolf and who was only too happy to help see this atrocity of a lynch through.
Lessons learned: Look, I'm not going to say "don't tunnel". All of us do from time to time, and as much as we may try to take it out of our playbook, sometimes, momentum just carries us. I like to pretend this article and this entire subforum operates at a higher level of thought than "don't tunnel".
Instead, let's take a different tactic: don't fall victim to bystander syndrome. I came down hard on Quick in the above sections, but the bottom line is that fault also lies on the others for allowing Zara to become viable in the first place. Mafia is not an individual game, it's a team game, and the town needs to work together as a team in order to check each others' worst impulses. This did not happen here. Much more critical analysis of the Zara tunnel should have been applied beyond the simple "oh maybe it will provide information" or "let's just resolve this now so it doesn't take up our D2 as well" logic that I saw in the thread. A lot of people, both before and during EOD, didn't really give this case the full extent of their attention and only really made side comments about it. Quick, ironically so insistent on getting explanations from others for their other reads, gave the people scumreading Zara a pass and took those posts at face value.
Critical thinking is not something that can be applied selectively, not if you want to win a game as town.
#4: tartina, Season 6, Game 4, Day 5
Background: This lynch happened on Day 5, but let's flash back to Day 3 for a second. Town has two wolves down and is in a pretty good spot. A third, digitialdude, was visibly demoralized ever since a particular turning point that was the start of the downward swing for the wolves. tartina started the day shading digitaldude heavily, and then a bit later on dropped the bomb: She was the N2 cop, and got a guilty result on digitaldude.
digitaldude's reaction was not inspiring and he basically outed and started lolcatting after a bit, not to mention self-voting. Case in point:
This reaction, combined with his earlier demoralization, combined to make digitaldude seemingly a no-brainer lynch that day. Specchat was celebrating. Town was finally in a good position to win one! There was some minor tinfoil that tartina/digitaldude was a spat designed as a Hail Mary play in order to send tartina deep, but for the most part this lynch was set.
tartina, for her part, continued her great play by pulling the rug out from under digitaldude completely, revealing that she had fake redchecked him, causing him to out, and providing her true check, an Innocent on Sothys:
To summarize, in the span of hours, tartina: a) all but cleared herself, b) outed a wolf using little more than guile, and c) provided a true peek. In 99% of games, the town would be congratulating tartina for her fantastic play and immediately getting to work on setting up a game-winning POE. And, to their credit, some people did. Not all of them, though. Here, the tinfoil immediately began. Maybe digitaldude was actually town, despite his defeated reactions. Worse, maybe tartina was actually a wolf, because, uh, idk, reasons!
People questioned tartina's choice of fake peek. People questioned tartina's choice of real peek. One player in particular was determined to believe that the situation was more complicated than it appearead, largely on the basis of him wanting this to be correct. He ended up forcing a thunderdome between himself and tartina. He eventually self-voted. And digitaldude, the wolf outed from his behavior and reactions, lived for another day.
The town wised up and finally lynched digitaldude on D4, but on D5 they couldn't find their last wolf. Meanwhile, this delay worked in the mafia's favor. They killed some voices of reason. The last true bastion of sanity left in the game, Apoc, was under increasing suspicion as to why he hadn't been killed yet. This opened a gap for the wolf and the incorrect townies to take the lead in terms of suspecting people. And they had never quite gotten over their tartina tinfoil.
It was a combination of tinfoil and simply thinking too hard, but at the end of the day tartina went down.
Why it was a bad lynch: In brief, because tartina served up digitaldude for the slaughter and added a little flourish on afterwards by clearing a villager. A wolf might do the initial fake redcheck on a partner in weird world. A wolf never does a fake redcheck, rescinding it after their target started lolcatting, AND THEN greenchecking a villager for good measure. Ever. It just doesn't happen.
When I was rereading D5 of this game for research for this article, what struck me most was how at SOD, tartina was lock clear. She wasn't mechanically clear like her peek, Sothys, but she was basically one tier down. There was UNANIMOUS sentiment about her always being town no matter what. I actually questioned myself on whether I was reading the correct day. But I kept reading. And I watched the players slowly immerse themselves in their isos, and try to clear people, and figure out a game-winning POE, and reevaluate old information and assumptions. And little by little, tartina became vulnerable.
On one hand, the super-involved ISOing and POEing is generally the correct approach. Hell, it's what I've argued for at other points in this very article! But on the other hand, the proper execution of this approach is just as important as the approach itself. The town entirely forgot what was important here, talked themselves into circles, and lynched one of the clearest players in the game (not to mention one of the sanest remaining) at a critical moment.
Lessons learned: So, let's talk about the POE approach. Ignoring it entirely and going based off gut - or trying for an early hammer - is not the right way. This game has demonstrated that going super heavy into it and reevaluating and questioning everything is prone to failure as well. I think the proper route, when in lategame, is to triage the thread and solve based off set assumptions that you strongly believe to be correct. These assumptions can be anything: Two players can't be w/w. Player X wasn't bussing Player Y here. You can certainly question other players on their assumptions and adjust yours as necessary, but at the end of the day you need to have some or otherwise you'll talk yourself in circles.
This is a lot easier to do with flipped wolves. What should have been done was this: The players took a look at digitaldude. Who'd he have interactions with? How did he get in a bad situation in the first place? Who put him there? How did he react when tartina peeked him? Was this clearing for tartina, especially considering her flourish afterwards? (the answer here, btw, should have been 'yes'). If that's an ironclad assumption, you lock that in and move elsewhere. Circle back to tartina if you absolutely need to, but otherwise, put her in your top tier and move on. The town didn't really have that sort of focus here, and while it was a better overall approach than some others that I put on this list, ultimately, it was still flawed. This one hurt.
As a postscript, seasoned Champs watchers will note that I made no mention of a certain post that started the mafia's downfall earlier in this game. That will be addressed in a further entry.
#3: hey_monkey, Season 5 Finale, Day 4
Disclaimer: This was the only lynch on this list that I was personally involved in (I was a wolf). As such, it's likely that I'm treating this entry with bias.
Background: This was the final dayphase of a mafia sweep. There were dozens if not hundreds of little turning points over the course of the game, individual decisions made and wolf-pushed agendas that people accepted as true, that got the town to this point in the first place. It's impossible to recount them all and beyond the point of this article, but for our purposes, I'll highlight one. Despite it being 6:4 MYLO and there being a JOAT still active (and unclaimed at SOD4), the town decided to go for the lynch that day rather than No Lynch. In other words, it was do or die.
The players all did heavy analysis over the course of the day, as befitting the status of the game being a Champs finale, and the conclusion that many of them came to was absolutely correct: I, GH, was extremely likely to be a wolf through wagon analysis and me being unable to be ruled out of the most-likely-to-be-correct mafia teams. There wasn't really much I could do to defend against this, as a) the accusations were correct and correct for the right reasons, and b) the most likely mislynch target was hey_monkey, someone who many in the game widely perceived to be my mafia partner. This was an assumption that I very much wanted to maintain. As a result, I had to tread lightly.
I was probably the most fashionable lynch target that day, but Monkey had had lingering suspicion since the first or second dayphase and was being strongly tunneled by one of the clearest players in the game. It was a hard obstacle to overcome, and when two of my partners made a late push on Monkey to force the issue and stave off what was looking like my lynch, it seemed to have worked. The momentum was now against Monkey. I was still looking terrible, but might have been given enough respite to live. Most players had made up their minds to follow wherever the JOAT, Nego, voted, and Nego was now leaning Monkey.
If the story ended here, this lynch wouldn't have made the list. But the story didn't end here.
We needed two villagers to vote for Monkey before we could safely pile on and end the game. Two of us were already on Monkey. Nego voted for Monkey, as did another villager, Boquise. In wolfchat, we were primed, and SilverKeith and I tried to coordinate to vote for Monkey. We did so, albeit poorly, and thought that we had the game wrapped up. There was just one problem: Nego, suspecting this, unvoted Monkey before Keith and I could finish her off. We were now incredibly exposed.
Specchat, which had had excellent reads for once, was all over this sequence of events and immediately recognized it for what it was: a mafia quickhammer attempt that had been thwarted by Nego's timely unvote.
Specchat knew we were caught. We knew we were caught. We knew that that single move reduced our win chances from something like 99% to something closer to 60%. But, well, the villagers were just out of it enough after a grueling game and so taken aback that there was just enough cover for us to slip by.
The three post-Nego voters on Monkey - Boquise, myself, and SilverKeith - all instantly unvoted. Everybody got spooked. Everybody was trying to figure out what happened. Five, another clear villager, was terrified that the entire POE jumped on Monkey while the clear town stayed off. Monkey, naturally, as the target, came closest to the truth: she had just nearly gotten speed hammered by the wolves to seal the win.
But the hammer was SO badly coordinated, there was JUST enough cover laid by the fact that all of the late Monkey voters pledged to follow Nego wherever and that Boquise, a villager, was one of the three late voters, and Empoof and DS - my partners already on Monkey prior to all of this - were there the whole way hammering home the "Monkey is a wolf, this changes nothing, wolves had to do this no matter what" angle, that momentum started shifting back. Boquise unvoted me, then Nego. People started looking around for answers. Monkey came closest to the answer but didn't realize that Boq was a townie caught up in the storm and was thus at a loss to explain the exact circumstances of what happened.
There was a time limit. Nego had to go to sleep basically immediately. The tide was too strong to fight against and there simply wasn't enough time to talk things out. And so, Monkey got voted a second time, and this time the hammer went through.
Why it was a bad lynch: The Monkey lynch demonstrated the devastating power of momentum, both from that immediate point in time as well as the rest of the game's events, and how it can overwhelm a demoralized town. Boq was a villager who provided cover, yes, but there were three naked votes IMMEDIATELY on Monkey after Nego had put her in range of being hammered. The key word here is "naked". Monkey had it right in the post I quoted earlier. There was no hesitation, there was no considering, there were no well-wishes or doubts expressed. They were votes with an intent to kill.
At the end of the day, the fact that Boq lent some credibility to the mafia's actions by inadvertently joining them shouldn't have mattered. Even though the hammer attempt outright outed two of the four wolves (the other two already being on Monkey), the town didn't need to get the entire team right at that juncture. They just needed one. That one clearly was not Monkey.
If she gets cleared from the attempt, the wolves still might have won, but the game would have gotten a LOT harder. A wolf was almost certainly getting lynched next. I was next in line. Empoof was pretty closely tied to me. The Butterfly Effect comes into play, but the situation would have gone from "nearly impossible" for the town to "doable". All they had to do was realize what was going on right in front of them. And catastrophically, they didn't.
Lessons learned: It's a bit pithy to say "when a bunch of people try and fail to speed hammer someone, don't lynch that same person 20 minutes later". That's certainly the effect of what happened, but there's a larger underlying cause that we need to discuss: don't get caught up in momentum.
This is an incredibly hard lesson to put in practice, and unfortunately I don't have any particular tips on how to do this. If I did, this game would be so much easier. The pressure of a Champs finale is immense, and a week and a half into the game where absolutely nothing has gone right for the town never has you at your best thinking anyway. But you have to try. Sometimes when events are spiralling out of control, you have to shut out all distractions and try to think things through as best as you can.
Specchat was very hard on the villagers involved in this lynch postgame, certainly harder than I'll be - even despite my ranking of the lynch here. It's impossible to experience the overall feel of a game if you're not personally playing it, and even rereading that section of the game for this article, I felt what I was feeling back then: that inescapable flow pushing against the town, the irresistable momentum that, while briefly stemmed by the unvote, led them to a single conclusion that meant immediate doom. Halting this momentum and forging your own path is extraordinarily difficult. It might be the hardest thing you ever do in a mafia game. But you have to try.
The answer was right there for the town. But they couldn't get there.
The second tier jump takes place between 3 and 2. The final two are lynches that, years later, still make me irrationally angry. My sincerest hope is that this tier of mislynch never gets any larger.
#2: Sooh, Season 4, Game 11, Day 1
Background: This is the third D1 lynch featured on this list. The first one was due to culture clash. The second one was due to a tunnel that spiralled out of control, with a liberal side helping of Champs Hero Syndrome. This one was for no reason at all.
You might think that I'm joking or using exaggeration, but I only wish I was. Sooh's main pusher, Awaclus, was incredibly paranoid about potentially allowing the mafia team access to his thoughts, and he wasn't shy about explaining the "benefits" of his strategy:
So, to summarize: In a game all about the town needing to find each other in order to smoke out the wolves, one of the players was openly advocating that the town not do this. This was a mountainous game too, which meant that there was no possibility of waiting around for power roles to clear things up and do their work (which is a dumb strategy anyway). In this player's perfect world, everybody keeps their information super close to their chest, saying very little in the thread, and somehow translating that to success when it comes time to vote.
Naturally, when he picked a target, he became infuriatingly obstinate about why.
Yes. His "case against Sooh", such as it was, that consisted of him demanding that she defend herself but not providing any actual accusations which she could defend herself against, followed by more proclamations about how if she was town, she would instinctively know his accusations and thus be able to defend herself against them.
For a while, Awaclus actually led the game in votes on D1, one of the few times in which a lynch on a likely villager would be entirely justified. In most games, he would be lynched, the disease would be confined to this single day, and the players of G11 would pick up the pieces and start fresh on D2. In the absolute worst-case scenario, a party entirely separate from this discussion would be lynched and it would be punted for a day.
But here, though, Awaclus's case picked up steam.
By EOD, Sooh became the runaway favorite for the lynch for reasons that amounted to little more than... well... no reason at all, initially, and then momentum. Awaclus never explained his rationale, at least not in a sane way. Enough people (correctly) townread Awaclus for his behavior and weren't intent enough on taking him out of the game. Sooh posted well, but not well enough. At some point down the line, helped along by the wolves, the original reason for voting Sooh in the first place was lost and inertia took over. Panther started a brief CFD attempt at EOD, but it was too little, too late. Sooh was lynched for literally no reason at all.
Why it was a bad lynch: It should be stated that Sooh was quite villagery during that dayphase. She displayed extreme patience in dealing with Awaclus and others who made that atrocity of a push on her, tried to do her own solving despite the entirely unfair pressure, and generally did her best in an attempt to guide the town in the right direction. This was not some random shruglynch on a null poster. Sooh had value.
But even beyond Sooh's contributions, this would still make the list - and this spot - if it had been on a 0 poster. This lynch was an affront to the entire game of Mafia and every villager who took part in it should be branded with a scarlet letter for the rest of their careers. It went against the entire concept of correct town play - sharing information and thoughts, trying to find each other, and talking things over to see if other people's statements rang true and to get down data points for later analysis - on a base, deep, core level. The kind of gameplay demonstrated by certain individuals on D1 was anti-Mafia - not the faction, the game - and honestly dangerous to the very future of the game if it had picked up steam and gained popularity. I cannot possibly condemn it enough.
Imagine, if you will, a world where Awaclus's preferred playstyle is paramount: Everybody keeps their cards close to their chest at all times, waiting for someone else to scumslip. Nobody takes initiative. Nobody provides reasons. Nobody says much of anything at all, and what little is said is of remote value at best. Not only is it a hell of a lot easier for the wolves to successfully blend in in this environment compared to an open, free-flowing one, it's antithetical to fun gameplay. Mafia is, at its core, a very social game, and robbing people of that in an attempt at a misguided strategy takes it away from the point entirely.
I'm singling out Awaclus here, moreso than any other player on this entire list, but Sooh was lynched with seven votes that day and five of them came from villagers. That is equally if not more atrocious than the initial "case" on Sooh. Some of them suspected Sooh for their own reasons, but some of them absolutely piggybacked off Awaclus. You cannot, under any circumstances, allow that sort of anti-reasoning to pass without extreme scrutiny. It is your absolute duty as a villager to call out that sort of thing for what it is. Do not give the wolves anywhere to hide. Do not let anybody get by without providing satisfying reasons. Do not let this happen.
Lessons learned: Strategically withholding information in certain instances is forgivable. Let's say you're a power role and have a night result, for example. You don't want to kill off a day's discussion by dropping it immediately, so you try to reel your target in first. That's fine. So too, to a lesser extent, is you withholding a read or a lean on a player because you're waiting for them to do something in particular, or you just want a little bit more time for it to develop without alerting them. That's fine. But you have to explain it eventually. You have to give your reasons. It might not be important for you, but it's critical to everyone else in the game that you share your work. Otherwise, the other players have nothing to base their own decisions and conclusions off of.
Mafia is a team game and a two-way street. The town works best through collaboration and critique. You give out content, the other players look through it, and determine a) if it's correct or not, and b) if it's coming from town or not. The other players do the same for you, and from there you build a web of connections, associative reads, and a POE. Remove that pillar of good play and towns have very little to stand on. It's a very basic lesson, but sometimes even the foundation needs to be reinforced. Even if your own foundation is solid, make sure that the other players' are as well.
#1: Apoc, Season 6, Game 4, Day 6
For nearly two years, I thought the Sooh lynch could never be topped. Then, this happened.
Background: Apoc was lynched on Day 6, but the genesis of this tale dates back to Day 2.
This is the infamous 1610. It was a rare, genuine, no-doubt-about-it scumslip that roro accidentally posted in the game thread instead of the provided mafia chat. Doubly devastating for the mafia team is that the slip not only outed roro, but it also outed one of his partners: Definition. A third, digitaldude, became visibly deflated upon the reveal of this slip and was quickly placed in the POE. Finally, it spewed Apoc clear.
There was some initial tinfoil that this was all a dastardly trap by the wolves, but then they started flipping as expected. 1610 was what it appeared to be on the surface. Apoc wasn't mechanically clear, but he was as clear as he could possibly be otherwise. There was no talk in the post about bussing. There was no talk in the post about cred. There was no talk in the post about creating any sort of distance between two partners. The talk in the post was about getting Apoc lynched. You literally had a window into wolfchat and saw that they were strategizing to take Apoc out of the game.
The slip was belatedly "discovered" (by Dendrek, who would later be the last wolf standing). roro got lynched that day. Definition was vigged that night. digitaldude eventually went down, far later than he should have. But the game dragged on and the town's POE wasn't quite good enough to the point where they could immediately pinpoint the last wolf. And when the game drags on, people can get a little squirrelly. People wondered why Apoc wasn't dead yet. The tinfoil came out in force, eventually culminating in the fall of tartina. She flipped town, though, and most of the remaining villagers were at a loss.
Apoc wasn't, though. During that day, when most people were running around in circles with their POEs, Apoc first took Dendrek out of his town core, then put him in the POE, then put him at the bottom of the POE. And, at SOD6, he buried him with a thorough and accurate case.
I have nothing to add onto here. The case was correct. It was correct for the right reasons. It came from a villager who was spewed clear by a genuine scumslip. Dendrek had played very well, but he did so in a classically wolfy way that doesn't really stand up to thorough examination like the way Apoc did. Everybody else was either mechanically clear, spewed clear, or cleared through behavior and/or interactions. This should have been the easiest slam dunk in the history of slam dunks.
Dendrek defended himself as best as he could, and it must be said did reasonably well about standing up to Apoc's accusations. He gets full credit for surviving and partial credit for helping turn it around on Apoc. But he was dead to rights.
Apoc's allies, the other reasonable people in the thread, had been systematically killed off over the past several days. There weren't many townies remaining, and those who were had always been skeptical of Apoc. They had always disagreed with him, or prioritized different traits, or read mechanics a different way. They had tinfoiled him harder than many of the dead players. And they found what they thought were holes in Apoc's case.
There were six people alive: Apoc, Dendrek, mendel, Archangel, sothys, and sKeith. Apoc had Dendrek as a wolf. Dendrek was a wolf fighting for survival. sKeith wasn't sure of who the wolf was between Apoc and Dendrek but voted with Apoc that day. mendel had been suspicious of Apoc for multiple phases. Archangel was wavering but her paranoia put her on Apoc. sothys wasn't sure of who to lynch between the two.
The day ended with a votecount of 3-2-1. Apoc was lynched thanks to mendel, Dendrek, and Archangel. Dendrek had two votes, from Apoc and sKeith. sothys did not vote and was not around at EOD.
The guy literally spewed clear by a scumslip, the guy who had spent the entire day burying the last wolf more thoroughly than I can remember anyone doing to anyone else, the guy who had spent the entire game preaching sanity and patience when the tinfoil threatened to go off the rails and was always, always proven right by the flips, was lynched.
Why is was a bad lynch: This was the perfect storm of circumstances to top the Sooh lynch for worst ever. Firstly, Apoc was spewed clear. Not through interactions, which can be faked by skilled wolves, but through a genuine scumslip that had no indications whatsoever of being fake. Secondly, it didn't happen in a moment or even a dayphase of madness, but was a slow burn that built up steam through multiple dayphases. Over the course of a week, specchat joked about the possibility of it happening, then were scared that it might happen, then acted in horror as it was happening, and then finally came to terms with it having happened. It was a slow-motion train wreck that people saw coming from hundreds of miles away but could do nothing to stop.
But the cherry on top, the capper, wasn't that Apoc was just some random villager who was coasting on his clear status. He wasn't even a decently productive townie who just didn't see eye to eye with the consensus. Apoc had the last wolf nailed. He exhaustively, meticulously, and openly worked through the game multiple times to arrive at the conclusion he did. He was open about his process, his prior mistakes in the game, and produced detail on request every time it was asked for. He tried harder than I had ever seen anyone try in a mafia game in order to get people to see. He went well beyond the extra mile. He truly Wanted It Most.
For the town to ignore or not properly read any one of these factors (1610, the slow build and not checking yourself in time, Apoc's case/WIM) is bad enough. To ignore or not properly read all three is a failure on every possible level.
The narrative of Apoc's lynch is "he was spewed clear by 1610 and they lynched him anyway". But it goes beyond that. People can be overcome by tinfoil. People can fail to reevaluate the game when necessary. People can misclear and mis-suspect people. People can get lost in tunnels. People can not recognize the merits of an individual case and/or defense. You can try to limit these in your own town game, but everyone makes mistakes. But making all of these mistakes in the same game, at the expense of the same person? That's a one in a million scenario.
The reasons for lynching Sooh were perhaps worse than the reasons for lynching Apoc, but the Sooh lynch happened on D1 with a clean slate. The confluence of events surrounding Apoc's lynch were so incredible, and so stacked in his favor, that the fact that he got lynched anyway is what puts this one over the top.
To make matters worse, by EOD, Apoc had mostly accepted his fate and was begging that the town just listen to him and lynch Dendrek on the final day for the win. Everybody swore up and down that they would. When that day came and the game was down to final 4, the town of course did not lynch Dendrek. It was merely par for course for them.
Lessons learned: The circumstances behind Apoc's lynch were so unique that they're not really necessary to put as a lesson, but there are a few larger concepts that relate to this lynch that I can discuss. The first is that tinfoil has its place, but keep it there.
Tinfoil, in a broad definition, is a bit beyond merely going against the grain. It's taking a commonly accepted-as-true aspect of the game and postulating that it is in fact false, working from there as you solve in this alternative world. It can be a useful tool for worldbuilding, but it can also be incredibly distracting and disruptive to a cohesive group solving process. Tinfoil is best deployed when the town is actively losing a game; when the gamestate as it currently stands is favorable to wolves and thus you need to shake it up in order to reset the status quo. The S6G4 town fell victim to tinfoil harder and faster than I had ever seen before, and none of it was justified. It was why they left the all-but-outed digitaldude alive on D3. It was why they lynched the should-have-been-crystal clear tartina on D5. And it was why they took down Apoc on D6. The town's numerical advantage on D6 was 5:1 with multiple clear players, one of which was mechanically cleared. That is not the time to break glass in case of an emergency. You can start thinking about it and putting it in your back pocket then, but not actively voting based off that.
The other lesson I'm going to emphasize is sometimes it's worth it to take a step back and see the forest as a whole, not just the trees. Everybody on that day was knee-deep in isoing. They were parsing through interactions, working through worlds, and determining most likely scenarios. I'm certainly not saying this is a bad approach. But it needs to be balanced out with, occasionally, taking a zoomed-out view of the situation on the ground.
Too much of any one playstyle or approach is a bad thing, even the good and thoughtful approaches. Sometimes, a perfect storm can come along that fully renders your preferred playstyle incorrect for the given moment. In times like that, you need to have other tools in your arsenal and rely on them. Otherwise you stand the risk of getting too lost in the minutiae and missing out on what's truly important.
Speaking of missing out on what's truly important and not getting lost in the minutiae, let's summarize what we've learned.
- Every single lynch, including mislynches, carries a lesson or lessons that can be applied to improve your play.
- Recognizing and halting negative momentum can be one of the hardest things to do as a townie, but it can be key to preventing disaster.
- The blame for bad mislynches is not individual, it's collective. Even if you don't make a bad case yourself, if you see a bad case, it's your duty to call it out and do your best to stop it from becoming viable.
- It is worth your time to take a moment, center yourself, and become aware of the complete picture so you can focus on what's important.
- If there's an outed or near-outed wolf in the thread, just lynch them. Don't get fancy, and don't get distracted.
- If you're only here for the list itself, I've numbered the names in bold and with a slightly larger font than the rest of the article.