CONVERGENCE IDEA #1: A DECK YOU CAN PLAY.
Okay, so here’s the deal: I recently designed a deck that has gone 5-1 so far in multiplayer games. Big whoop. You can find a deck like that anywhere, especially if you’re looking at Jon Chabot’s evil multiplayer combo decks.
The difference is, I won with Celestial Convergence.
All five times.
Well, let’s be honest; technically I didn’t "win" with Celestial Convergence, because people scooped long before the last counter actually slid off that little slice of white goodness. I simply created a lock deck around Celestial Convergence that basically made it impossible for people to win, and it’s actually done quite nicely.
The trick is quite simple: Go Type 1. And use Replenish.
CONVERGENCE IDEA #2: WAIT, COME BACK!
In Alaska, they might think that low rumbling sound is yet another minor earthquake, but I know better – it’s the sound of all of you readers tromping off in sheer anger. I know what you’re saying:
"What a frickin’ idiot! He wants me to play a deck with ALL the Power Nine? I DON’T HAVE THAT BUDGET, BUNGIE BOY!"
Of course you don’t. I don’t, either. My entire Power Nine set – and I do have it – was acquired for the low, low price of a hundred and fifty bucks. Total. And they’re nice-looking cards.
No, my firstborn son remains unsold to Satan. I simply have to make certain… allowances. Because there is a very cheap alternative for the megapower cards that practically nobody knows about, if you’re willing to hunt for them, and I’m here to tell you all about it:
The Magic Collector’s Edition.
Generally treated as chaff – StarCity doesn’t even carry them officially, though they auction ’em off on eBay when they get ’em- the Magic CE was printed back in 1995 or so as a sort of commemorative edition, kind of like those "Boba Fett Collector’s Plates" you find on QVC at three in the morning. The cards in the collector’s edition are an EXACT REPLICA of the entire Beta set, but for two things…
1) They are black-bordered and have perfectly (I mean baseball card-style) square corners.
2) Their backing has a gold rim and the words "Collector’s Edition" printed in gold ink underneath the words "Magic: The Gathering."
So they’re not tourney legal.
Put ’em in black sleeves and nobody knows the diff. Especially when it comes to casual play, and ESPECIALLY when all of your friends already own most of the Power Nine. If you really wanna get anal, I suppose you could cut the corners off with toenail clippers so they’re soft and rounded. The important thing is that functionally, they’re exactly the same as the Power Nine…
…and since nobody wants ’em, you can pick ’em up for a song.
How wouldja feel about getting a Black Lotus for $27? I did. An Ancestral Recall for $15? Way to go. Complete set of all five Moxen for, oh, $68? (And that was me overbidding on eBay because I was tired of hunting them down individually. I could have picked ’em up for ten bucks apiece, had I been patient.)
Oh, you can’t play ’em in the local tourneys. They are verboten. And you do have to deal with the snide comments from players who feel that just because THEY were silly enough to spend $800 on their own collection – or worse yet, bought them for cheap five years before you even heard of the damn game – but that’s easily tolerable. You know you’re just having fun going nutso with the power, and they’re jealous because they want you to jump the same hurdles that they did.
And if your non-P9-totin’ friends complain, you can let ’em in on the secret. Hey, who doesn’t wanna play with Moxes and Loti on the cheap?
There is one major drawback that you can’t get around, though: The CE only covers Beta cards. So don’t expect to find a Library of Alexandria, a Moat, or a Juzam Djinn – they’re from Legends. *sigh* I actually had to pay $50 for my Library of Alexandria, and I think it’s the most expensive card I own.
But on the plus side, you can the get FUN cards really, really cheap. I just got Illusionary Mask, a completely psycho artifact – basically, it lets you pay extra mana (or no mana) to summon all of your creatures face-down, so your opponent has NO idea what you have on the table until he blocks it – for $5.00.
For five bucks, this is a really neat card. But StarCity wants $40 for the "real" (and much rarer) Mask… and although I have no problems giving my darlin’ employer that much dough, $40 is three Gaea’s Cradles and a Yawgmoth’s Bargain. Which cards would I be playing with more often? Come on. And my Gauntlet of Might will soon be making an appearance for all. Wee haw!
So anyway, the Collector’s Edition set has made my life infinitely more fun. I advise you all to do a search for "Magic CE" on eBay so you can build this deck. And others. Really.
(Wow. Am I channelling Deranged Dad today or what?)
So, back to the deck:
Lands for Sorrow, Lands for Pain
2x Tundra (all I have)
1x City of Brass (same thing)
1x Kjeldoran Outpost (Same thing)
1x Maze of Ith (Same thing again)
1x Library of Alexandria (yet again)
Islands and Plains to taste
Total: 65 cards.
Now, I really should have a Mystical Tutor in here, but strangely enough I don’t own one. Yet.
The deck is not your standard Replenish deck, which basically dumps everything into the graveyard at once and then throws it all back out in one game-ending regurgitation. In playtesting this deck, I’ve found that you have to Replenish two or three times for maximum effect, since you won’t get everything at once. This is, astoundingly enough, a planned feature of the deck, since most players will look in your graveyard and see nothing of substance. "I’ll let that through," they’ll say, assuming that I’m desperate to do anything, saving their counters or attacks for bigger threats.
Little do they know. Two Replenishes later, it’s too late.
But once you get the soft lock going (Humility, which makes all critters generic 1/1s and Orim’s Prayer, which gives you one life for every attacking creature) and throw in an Ivory Mask to ensure that nobody goes straight for the dome, it generally is game over.
Admittedly, this is a heavily-metagamed deck, but I’m willing to bet that a number of you have this same basic problem that I do – namely, Living Death and Survival Decks are big. Experienced players are always big on 187 creatures that have "comes into play" effects since they’re effectively two cards in one, and the majority of folks in my area don’t even bother to pack a spell that can be duplicated with a critter. Pillage? Pshaw, go green and get the Uktabi. Recursion? Monk Realist. Don’t even get me started on Academy Rectors.
You can make them pay for their efficiency. One single Humility ruins them all, and the fun was watching their faces as they went through their decks trying to decide if they even HAD a noncreature answer.
Then I’d waggle my cards to indicate counterspells. In most cases, that meant game.
The great thing about countering is that you don’t have to do that much of it. Once the lock is in play, you really only have to worry about four things:
* Creature enchantments on the measly 1/1s, which is what the recursable Auras are for;
* Creature enhancements like Vitalizing Winds, which can wreck your whole day right quick (Misdirect!);
* Global enchantment removal (and who plays with THAT?)
* Competing enchantments (like, say, Aura Shards or Subversion – NOT targeted enchantments like Goblin Bombardment, since once you don the Ivory Mask you are untouchable)
You don’t really have to worry about spot removal, because in my experience you’ll be Replenishing multiples out onto the table anyway. (I generally have about two Humilities and three Orim’s Prayers by turn 7, if experience is any guide.) I initially thought about a Sterling Grove or two, but redundancy is better than protection in this case.
It’s also not a true combo deck (ick!), and although you have the occasional turn where you spend ten minutes meticulously rearranging and shifting cards while everyone else watches the paint dry, generally your plays are mercifully quick.
Now, some notes on playing the deck:
* Ivory Mask is MVP, and if I were playing in a combo-and-bolt-crazy environment like Jon Chabot’s (What? You’re not reading his stuff? Go read it immediately; he’s a far better multiplayer writer than I am, and the only reason he’s not breathing down Alongi’s neck is because Anthony is FAR more amusing), I’d definitely run four copies of it as opposed to two.
* …but if I was playing in a game where I knew annoying lifegain mages were hanging about – like, say, MY metagame – I’d make sure that I had the Aura of Silence out at the same time. Because you know there’s going to be some sneaky last-minute Congregate or Heroes’ Reunion to try to beat you out, and then you can have the oh-so-rewarding experience of saying, "In response, I’ll pop my Mask and Misdirect that seventy-point Congregate to me. Anything else?"
* If you’re facing a bunch of creatures and you get the choice of what to Tutor for… go for Orim’s Prayer. I’ll never forget when Sheldon* and I were both facing a face full of six 2/2 Squirrel tokens and I Tutored for the Prayer. "Bad idea," he said. "That won’t prevent him from attacking you, or from making more tokens when he recurs that Hermit. I’d have gone with the Humility." And then, after Sheldon had taken twelve rabid points of Squirrel bites to the face, I said, "That’s very true. But I wasn’t trying to stop him from attacking me. I was making it more effective for him to attack YOU." It’s like the old saw about the two guys who get attacked by a maddened, food-crazy bear; one runs immediately barefoot out of the camp, and the other one stops to put on his sneakers. "What are you, crazy?" shouts the naked guy over his shoulder. "You’re not gonna outrace a bear!" "That may be," replies the guy serenely. "But all I have to do is outrace YOU."
* You almost always want to discard your Attunements. Later in the game you’ll be Replenishing twos and threes of them back into play and then drawing and dumping more insane cards.
* Humility removes all creature effects. Do not forget this, and remind people gently. That is not an mana source; THAT does not give you five squirrel tokens anymore. I am, however, unsure as to how Humility interacts with Kicker, but I suspect it isn’t pleasant. Better counter ’em.
* One or two large creatures aren’t necessarily a big deal before you establish the lock, thanks to two lands: Maze of Ith (go get one; it’s an essential tool in any multiplayer’s toolkit) and Kjeldoran Outpost. Weenie, weenie, weenie. If your local group is swarmish, make it four Orim’s Prayers.
* Your win condition is simple: Put out all the land you can. Have a Zuran Orb out. At the last moment, sacrifice all of your land to it and then ACC away any last-minute threats.
* And one last piece of advice: Pray heartily that nobody is playing with that abomination of all recursive mages everywhere: Tormod’s Crypt.
This deck isn’t great for Chabot chaos, but for that four- to five-player game, it fires quite nicely. In fact, in the various games I’ve played I’ve won several killer rares, including a Pale Moon, a Stronghold Gambit, a Lichenthrope, two Loafing Giants, a Ruby Leech, a…
…wait. You don’t think those are great cards?
CONVERGENCE IDEA #3: THE TRIUMPH OF THE CRAP RARE.
One of the great ideas that has circulated around Anchorage recently has been the resurgence of the ante game. But nobody wants to ante up valuable cards, since we’ve spent time trading and paying for them, and nobody needs commons. Therefore, a simple solution: Every time you sit down at a multiplayer game, you MUST ante a crap rare.
The rares are freely signed by the defeated party, and quite a few of them here look like graffittied street signs in Los Angeles. The rares I got from my Replenivergence wins read: "Humility bites!" "Humility is biting, always biting," "This card is poo," "You call that a win?" and, on a frequently-anted Akron’s Legionnaire, "This card has been passed around more than Ferrett."
Hmm. I’m still not sure what that means.
It’s a great solution; you come away from the table with an appropriate prize, and the better you are the more cards you get. But there has been some debate as to what a crap rare is. People have tried to ante cards like Mana Cache – which was used by Adrian Sullivan in a tourney-winning deck to great effect – and Lotus Guardian, which is a powerhouse in Limited play, leading us to ask the question:
What IS a crap rare?
I define it simply: A crap rare is a card that you would not play under any circumstances, in any format, for no reason. A card that is crap in Limited and crap in Constructed and crap all around. Pale Moon is a textbook example of a crap rare: It does nothing in Limited play, and in Constructed you wouldn’t waste a card on it. Psychic Battle is another one.
Now, there are those crap rares that suck SO badly that people feel obliged to go to bat for these pathetic creatures, kind of like Jerry Lewis shilling for Muscular Dystrophy. Daniel Crane in particular has made great strides in rehabilitating Carnival of Souls and actually created a five-card combo that works… but the fact is, he’s doing this BECAUSE the card sucks. He’s in it for the challenge. It doesn’t count.
Ruby Leech, on the other hand, is arguable. I’d never play it. As a matter of fact, it was one of our wondrous rares in our Team Sealed challenge, and we didn’t play it. I think it sucks, and evidently someone else agreed enough to ante it.
And occasionally, someone will throw down the gauntlet. I anted a Coalition Victory once. They could have debated, but the steely glint in my eye told people that this is indeed a deeply-despised card that I would never EVER play with. They shrugged and drew seven.
But the amazing thing about crap rares is that they are actually rarer than REAL rares. For example, according to MTGNews’ spoiler generator, Invasion has 127 rares. Now, some are basically pathetic creatures, but have some advantage that makes them hotly-sought in Limited (like Dromar the Banisher, who stupidly bounces HIMSELF three out of five times, yet is still a 6/6 Dark Banishing-proof flyer and thus worth playing). Others, like Tsabo’s Web, barely make the sideboard cut in Limited but can work as an option in a Constructed deck.
Let’s take a look at the widely-agreed "good" rares that I’ve seen played in both tourneys AND casual games in Invasion:
Marauding and Crusading Knight
Verdeloth the Ancient
Reya, Dawnbringer (treat Aaron and Pat well, O Loved One)
Four of the six Dragon Legends
That’s twenty-four good rares… AND we’re excluding rares that are okay in Constructed but real dangers in Limited, like the four Masters and Crypt Angel.
And now let’s take a look at the crap rares in Invasion – and some are debatable:
Think about it! ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-SEVEN cards, and only SEVEN are utter and complete dog crap! That’s an amazing percentage. Just over five percent.
And that’s not all, folks: As has been stated repeatedly, at least one crap rare per set turns out to be powerful when combined with some other card – think about Dream Halls and Necropotence, former crap rares – so we may one day see hundreds of Kangee-fueled SuperBird decks flying over Blastoderms for thirty to the dome.
Or maybe not. The point is, apparently Wizards has managed to make consistently good rares, but hasn’t quite got a handle on crap rares – since crap rares are by far in the minority. And say, that idea appeals to me….
…oh, what the hell. I’ll hold a content. Really, this is totally spontaneous, since literally AS I WRITE THIS I am making up the rules. This is freestyle writing, baby. I had no idea I’d do this.
So anyway, send in YOUR dream example of a crap rare, and the winner will receive a set of three crap rares of your choice. Any three you want. (Of course, I have to agree that it is, in fact, a crap rare, so your attempts to convince me that you’d never ever ever play with Gaea’s Cradle or Parallax Wave will fall on deaf ears**.) Keep in mind the following guidelines:
1) We are talking "crap rares." Crap commons have an entirely different flavor. The best crap rares are both complex AND stupid.
2) It cannot be good in any format. Think tourney play, Limited play, and casual play.
3) It’s easy to come up with a rare that is utterly useless or that automatically loses the game for you. That’s not the point. A truly great crap rare, I feel, is Carnival of Souls: The sort of card where you feel that this COULD be useful, somehow, in SOME situation – but damned if you can figure what it is.
4) Understand that nothing you can do will ever beat the Crap Rare Of All Time: Rakalite. You really can’t do any better than this. Look it up, folks.
As I edit this, it occurs to me that I should probably put a deadline up for this. Next Friday. There.
Lordy, but I’m wingin’ this.
In any case, there you have it: A deck, a tip, and a piece of crap. What else could you ask for?
What? A better ending? Don’t be silly.
NEXT WEEK: Head Games That Don’t Involve Tommy Lee
* — I pick on Sheldon routinely because he probably is the strongest multiplayer deck designer around… And he knows it.
** — What?