It has been officially proved that I suck. And not just because of this contest, either! Chris "Better Lucky Than Good" Cade combed my article to find that I had said:
"(And incidentally to the incidentally, Sealed Deck and Draft are the closest thing to "fun" you’ll find in tournaments. I like Sealed Deck, even though I personally suck at it. But more on THAT later, too.)"
And then went on to say:
"Considering a court of law would find you guilty of sucking, as per your own conviction, I too find you guilty of sucking. :-)"
By God, he’s right, you know that? I DO suck! And you were all eager to prove it, too; I received over a hundred entries into the contest (which probably wasn’t hurt by Star City’s constantly pushing it – I swear to God, I never once used my editorial power to keep that damn thing up there).
And in the process, I learned that :
1) PEOPLE LIKE EXPLAINING THEIR DECKS.
It was really nice to get a paragraph of explanation, telling me why they chose what cards and how to play it. Generally you could tell by the decklist how it was supposed to go, but the methods behind your collective madness were laid bare to me. How cool is that?
2) SO MANY DIDN’T GET IT.
Rob Kinyon wrote, "The following decklist is a multiplayer discard deck. It’s ugly. It will not win you any friends. But, it should work … once."
Commend this man. He is self-aware. He may not have understood that winning CONSISTENTLY was one of the main criteria for the winning deck, but at least he knew that his deck, though effective*, was a one-trick pony. After that, everyone would stomp your head in.
Listen up; it’s easy to create a deck that wins once. Creating an MP deck that wins when everyone knows exactly what you’re trying to do is the trick. Single-trick decks didn’t do it.
3) NOT ENOUGH PEOPLE THOUGHT ABOUT DEFENSE. People were pouring cards into their deck that made their opponents discard, blithely not thinking about what happens when they get peeved. Not to mention what they might lay down in the first couple of turns. There were an awful lot of decks that would cause everyone to discard their hands but had nothing to stop a quick beatdown.
4) NOBODY LIKED PARALLAX NEXUS. A total of THREE decks used it. Three! (Thank you, Job van Maurik, Ben Schlessman, and Dan Johnson.) My God, if you want that Avatar of Will out, a Nexus gets rid of four cards just in time for you to cast it for free. Furthermore, only two people liked Chilling Apparition – and considering that it’s a regenerator that not only smacks defense-screwed players but can block Blastoderms, I was shocked.
5) EVERYBODY LIKED SCANDALMONGER. The number of you people who played with Scandalmonger ASTOUNDED me. Really. It’s a card that I’d never play with, as I don’t believe in handing people a gun they can point at my own head. But people offered various defenses for Mongomeat boy, saying things like "It stops people from feeling like you’re ganging up on them" and "It gets people discarding other players’ cards." Oh, man, don’t you people LEARN? (That said, I’ll have to play with it some day to see whether any of you have a point.)
6) EVERYBODY LIKED MEGRIM AND BREATHSTEALERS’ CRYPT. A nasty minicombo I had somehow missed, Megrim does two damage to you if you discard a card, while the Crypt forces you to pay three life if you want to keep a freshly-drawn creature. Wow, that would piss everyone off.
But before I get into the actual decks, here are the "Brilliant Play" Highlights:
* Koen Moerman was the only guy to push the rules to the absolute limit, actually playing with four Mox Jets (and hosing pretty much his entire rare count in the process).
* Deane Beman had the ridiculous, yet somehow appealing, idea of waiting for your opponents to build up masses of creatures, casting Reins of Power to take control of all of their creatures, and then sacrificing them all to the Altar of Dementia to deck them WITH THEIR OWN CRITTERS. Wow. Brilliant play. But man, they’ll still be attacking you first come the 22nd century.
* Aaron Simpson was the only person to select Scandalmonger, but then put in Guerrilla Tactics in. For those of you not in the know, Guerrilla Tactics allows you to do two damage to any target – or FOUR damage to any creature or player if you’re forced to discard it. Boy, I bet they’ll only Monger him once.
* [email protected] provided another way to get around Scandalmongering: He used Ivory Mask.
* Aaron Forsythe had the brilliant move of creating a deck that could first-turn Mind Bomb (which deals three damage to each player, but they can reduce that by one point for every card they discard) to ditch an Avatar, cast a second-turn Abyssal Gatekeeper, then Recurring Nightmare the Gatekeeper on the third turn to bring the Avatar back into play… and cause everyone to sacrifice a creature at the same time. MAN is that nasty. No wonder he wins tourneys and stuff.
* Gary Cosgrave used a Rec/Sur deck that threw in a Cackling Fiend to be Recurred for multiple discards.
* Matt Green, of Team Spike UK, figured out that he could get around the drawback of Chains of Mephistopheles (more on that later) by using Abundance to replace the effect.
* Christopher Smith submitted a great Pox multideck, but then forgot to include the Avatars, saying that they "just weren’t that cool anyway". While I appreciate a man who must go his own way, it doesn’t win contests. He also stated that "Your stance on music isn’t real well thought out though,", which I find amusing simply because my opinion on pretty much EVERYTHING isn’t well thought out.
That said, let’s point out the finer (or most commonly-seen) decks – and that said, Joshua Sharp presented us with:
4x Rag Man
4x Ravenous Rats
4x Bone Shredder
4x Demonic Tutor
4x Wall of Souls
3x Memory Jar
2x Avatar of Woe
2x Avatar of Will
1x Diabolic Servitude
3x Spawning Pool
4x Underground Sea
The Equilibrium is an inspired touch, as it allows you to bounce your Bone Shredders and Ravenous Rats ad infinitum. (Normally I’m worried about counters when it comes to a continual bounce-and-recast cycle, but hardly anyone ever plays with counterspells in multiplayer anyway.) It also uses my favorite multiplayer card ever, Wall of Souls. (And Joshua wasn’t alone – of the hundred decks, twenty of them used Wall of Souls.) To be honest, though this offers decent defense, I’d probably lose the Avatar of Will here in favor of something else – probably a bit of targeted destruction. Play Diabolic Edict. I love Diabolic Edict.
But those of you who know me KNOW that I would never give my precious Avatar up to a dumb combo that was banned before it even got started. It lacks the panache, the elan, I require of a truly winning deck. It smacks, in short, of a ‘net deck – and although Joshua has definitely made great strides towards altering it for multiplayer (many others didn’t), it’s still slightly too canned to win the prize.
(It should be noted for the record that Joshua, in a heartwarming show of honesty, reengineered his deck upon reading the official "Type WHO?" rules to yank all the excess Tutors. Since he wasn’t technically breaking the rules, however, I used his original and more powerful version.)
An amusing variant was created by Nick Lynn, definitely falling into the "One-Trick Pony, but What a Pony!" category – I’ll have him explain it in his own words:
"Give them all a full hand (~10 cards)…here, they’re happy. Then Ill-gotten gains them. Dead. All of them. 🙂 Until then, be nice to everyone. Afterwards…run fast."
A card I hadn’t thought much about (mainly because I wasn’t playing Magic much when it was popular) was a deck centered around Pox, of which Star City’s own Nicholar LaBarre came up with the quintessential deck:
2x Mox Jet
2x Sol Ring
2x Mox Diamond
And on the "creative but unfocused side" we have Kelly Husband, along with Kelly’s comments on why Kelly chose the cards:
4x Unnerve (obviously)
4x Demonic Tutor (go get an Avatar)
4x Chain of Mephistopheles
4x Black Knight (best two-drop ever)
2x Feast of The Unicorn (b’cuz on a Black Knight or a Wisp it’s a beating)
1x Dregs of Sorrow (if there is black deck you got to have this – such card/board advantage)
4x Will o’ Wisp (hold off all sorts of attackers; also see Feast of the Unicorn)
2x Royal Assassin (good to slow a game down. Great with Icy)
3x Bone Shedder (fill up the graveyard)
2x Avatar of Woe (DUH)
2x Amnesia (5 or 6 for 1)
2x Windfall (Fill up that graveyard)
2x Deflection (protect your stuff)
4x Counter Spell ( see above)
2x Air Elemental (Beat down, intimidation. Not so big that it will get targeted)
4x Fog Bank (Best defense blue has. No one ever wants to waste a Terror/Swords on it)
1x Avatar of Will (DUH)
3x Icy Manipulator (Swiss army knife of magic)
4x Ticking Gnome (Best artifact creature ever, Also 2 for 1)
Now this is a great deck for several reasons:
* It uses Chains of Mephistopheles, a truly excellent rare that should have been in more decks. Sure, it’s expensive moneywise – but go read the text if you don’t believe me. Really.
* It is sneaky enough to use Winds of Change in conjunction with Chains. Again, read the card. Then gasp.
* It uses Fog Bank – but MORE than that, Kelly understands the multiplayer concept. Annoying threats that aren’t quite annoying enough to waste a spell on are precious in a multidude game. I myself have now resolved to throw a Fog Bank into my next blue deck.
* It uses Dregs of Sorrow, one of the best ridiculously overcosted-but-overkilling black spells there is. For every critter you kill, you draw a card. How ridiculous is that? I myself use it in my red-black Ensnaring Bridge deck.
* I just really, really like the idea of a Feasting Will O’Wisp. A 4/1 flier that regenerates is enough to make people mad.
However, the deck is 97 cards – and even though I routinely top out at 80-card decks, that’s FAR too much for me. It’s got great parts and would offer a multitude of fun plays, never having the same game twice – but it wouldn’t be consistent enough for the win. Besides, Kelly didn’t tell me exactly what Kelly is, and so I’m forced to write awkward sentences to get around using pronouns. Still, an excellent try for the Avatar.
Okay, now we’re getting into the "I Really Wanted to Give These Guys The Win, but There Were Problems" decks. Take Steven Merritt. His deck is a brilliant idea, but falls prey to the "no defense" style of deck design:
3x Grave Robbers
4x Wheel of Torture
4x Bazaar of Wonders
3x Avatar of Woe
2x Feldon’s Cane
4x Bottomless Pit
4x Sky Diamond
4x Charcoal Diamond
4x Dark Ritual
4x Maze of Ith
2x Underground Sea RC(20)
4x Spawning Pool
Bazaar of Wonders is a brilliant choice; when it’s in play, whenever a spell is played, you counter it if a card with the same name is in play or in any graveyard. Put into play, then use the discard effects to fill everyone’s graveyard and render their hands useless – and pop the Feldon’s Canes to clear your own ‘yard if you need to. However, there are no creatures, and even with the Accelerated Blue mana-style curve, he doesn’t have enough to stave off a desperate attack by two other players in the first few rounds, even with Pox. So he’s a no go. Darn.
Graham-John Salvaterra has the opposite problem – a scandalously-tight defense, but practically no discard:
4x Silverglade Pathfinder
2x Fog of Gnats (or Sanguine Guard if you don’t expect beatdowns)
4x Wall of Blossoms
3x Hidden Horror (or Vampire Hounds for safety)
4x Coffin Queen (or Necromancys if you expect a lot of creature-kill)
1x Deranged Hermit [Rare]
2x Necrosavant [Rare]
2x Avatar of Woe [Rare]
3x Bottomless Pit (or Oppressions if against fast decks) [Rare]
1x Recurring Nightmare [Rare]
2x Taste of Paradise (Alliances common sorcery, G3 gain 3 life, 1G: gain 3 life) (or use Multani’s decree if you expect a lot of enchantments)
2x Mind Swords (or Unnerve if other players have good creatures)
1x Urza’s Blueprints [Rare]
3x Nevinyrral’s Disk [Rare]
This is a potentially-explosive deck that really uses the graveyard well, is low-profile enough to have a good chance of firing, and works great as a deck on its own – but doesn’t really make your opponents discard as much as it makes use of your OWN discard effects. So it doesn’t fly. Snif.
But the absolute winner is fellow StarCity writer DAVID PHIFER, for his amazingly-cheesy white/black deck:
3x Fountain Watch (Rare)
3x Spiritual Asylum (Rare)
3x Rackling (Uncommon)
3x Bottomless Pit (Uncommon)
3x Island Sanctuary (Rare)
2x Megrim (Uncommon)
4x Fog of Gnats (Common)
4x Screeching Harpy (Uncommon)
2x Avatar of Woe (Rare)
1x Feldon’s Cane (Uncommon)
1x Demonic Tutor (Rare)
1x Vampiric Tutor (Rare)
1x Enlightened Tutor (Uncommon)
2x Unnerve (Common)
4x Null Brooch (Rare)
1x Sol Ring (Uncommon)
1x Volrath’s Stronghold (Rare)
2x Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author] (Rare)
7x Plains (Uber-Common)
2x Remote Farm (Common)
7x Swamp (Uber-Common)
2x Peat Bog (Common)
It looks innocuous, doesn’t it? Much like a fine game of tinker toys, David sets up his various enchantments – and then sets in for the kill. Unlike many other discard decks, which have no idea what to do when they have no cards, David’s deck is BASED around having no cards – using the Avatars for creature control, the Spiritual Asylum to prevent you from whacking his critters and lands, and the Null Brooch to control global effects and other creatures.
And the reason he wins is because he uses an INCREDIBLY stupid card – ISLAND SANCTUARY, for God’s sake! When everyone’s figured out what you’re trying to do, for the investment of two mana you can stop everyone from attacking you. (He also puts in cheap regenerators to stop any onslaught for when he DOES want to draw cards.) The only problem here is that it definitely needs some card-drawing engines to get around the Sanctuary drain, but a minor redesign could be done.
This may not be the most powerful of the decks out there, but it certainly is the sneakiest – and therefore wins the crown.
Or does it?
It is now time to reveal the shameful secret: Even though David has the best deck, he is also one of the guys in my gaming group.
Does that provide him with an unfair advantage? I don’t think so, and I think he probably would have won it anyway. But still, he listens to me bitching constantly about the problems of multiplayer deck design, and he knows me well enough to have a psychological edge – so I can’t let him win.
But he DID win.
So what do I have to do?
Give out TWO Avatars, of course! And man, does that hurt. Because there was one other player who came close for fiendish nature – just ONE MAN who came up with a defense-strong deck that worked quickly and efficiently – only ONE PERSON who created a discard deck which not only welcomes its own discard, but DEPENDS on it – ladeez and gennulmen, I hereby present to you RICHARD GREENLAND’S WINNING DECK!
4x Chains Of Mephistopheles
4x Anvil Of Bogardan
3x Avatar Of Woe
4x Wall Of Souls
4x Syphon Soul
4x Ashen Ghoul
4x Nether Shadow
2x Recurring Nightmare
2x Maze Of Ith
1x Volraths Stronghold
It doesn’t depend on Megrim for the kill – it just depends on everyone starting to dump everything into their graveyard, fast. The Chains and Anvil action come out quickly at two apiece, causing each player to draw two cards and and the surfeit of Walls, graveyardable Shadows, and two Iths help on defense, too. Recurring Nightmares help needful Avatars, and it’s a beating. It is weak when it comes to removal of ANY sort, and could definitely use some Rituals to speed the whole thing up, but considering that the Engine Of Death can be fully in place by Turn Three, who cares? Again, it’s not a guaranteed win against concerted effort – but dangit, it ain’t bad either.
So that’s the contest. Yes, I’ll be holding another one. But not soon. Go home. Oh, and if anyone’s going to be at the Farscape convention in LA this weekend, look for the weirdo with the red hair and the nametag that scans "Ferrett" and say hi. I’ll be packing the Bouncing Weasels deck if you wanna play.
NEXT WEEK: God Knows – I’m Exhausted
EDITORIAL QUESTION OF THE WEEK: How come nobody ever remembers the hyphen in "Cho-Manno’s Blessing"?