CASUAL FRIDAYS #116: A Slice Of Mind

Discard, the Holy Grail of multiplayer Magic, have two new champions in Odyssey. But are they enough? Also, Anthony sells out but asks you to keep him honest. But are YOU enough?

The New Beasts Of Hand Disruption

About a month after Odyssey came out, I began sporting my latest version of an occasional hope of mine: A discard deck that will work, really work, in rigorous chaos play.

Both the Ferrett and I have expressed our thoughts on this in the past: It’s fairly easy to build a discard deck that will have a somewhat regular impact on a multiplayer game, and even pull out a rare win. What’s hard is sustaining the deck with enough gravitas so that it has staying power under fire.

Part of the problem has been substantial creatures that can hold the ground against waves of attacks. Hypnotic Specter is the pinnacle of creature efficiency, but it too often finds itself on defense as a chump-blocker… If it even lasts that long. Wall of Souls and Bottle Gnomes are nice, but won’t stop the ever-more efficient flying creatures like Gaea’s Skyfolk and Lightning Angel – the ones that punish so much in the early game, you’re afraid to put down that Bottomless Pit. Fog of Gnats is the most frequently used creature I’ve seen among our group and others; the only thing it can’t really deal with is tramplers. And it’s a darn slow slog to lethal damage, if so much as a single Tranquil Grove hits the board to wipe out Megrim.

Enter Odyssey, which brings us two very fine creatures capable of fitting into a discard deck – and both of which become even more impressive with more than two players at the table.

Mindslicer, that nice 4/3 for four with the universal discard”drawback,” is the first. He’s efficiently costed, discard-compatible beef, which is nice. But more importantly, he’s a big Seal-of-Do-You-Like-Your-Hand, and coming down the turn after a Megrim, he is a closer from two directions. It is great fun to be incredibly reckless with a Mindslicer, even if you’d rather keep your hand. Many players you wouldn’t expect would do a great deal to save a Mindslicer (at the very least, Embolden). I believe he is as indispensable to a multiplayer discard deck as Megrim itself.

The only problem with the ‘Slicer is that he does also dock your own hand, and you really ought to have something that can counteract, or even take advantage, of that. (Parallel Nexus comes to mind – The Ferrett, who’s been thinking about this)

Enter the second creature: Mortivore. This is what I’d consider the original Lhurgoyf”come home,” in the right color with the right ability (regeneration). And like the Mindslicer, he’s a four-drop – not that you’re likely to drop him that early. It feels more right to run only a couple of copies off your deck, and then peel one off the top (or with a tutor card) once a Bottomless Pit or Mindslicer has done its job.

Given these two beasts, how would a more modern multiplayer discard deck look?

4x Fog of Gnats

4x Hypnotic Specter

2x Bone Dancers

4x Mindslicer

2x Mortivore

4x Bottomless Pit

4x Megrim

2x Unnerve

4x Vampiric Tutor

2x Null Brooch

2x Tsabo’s Decree

4x Charcoal Diamond

20x Swamp

The Bone Dancers are just plain hilarious; why don’t I see or hear of more people using these Weatherlight classics? Sure, it messes with part of your game plan. I suppose if you’re a synergy stick-in-the-mud, you could just use two more Mortivores instead.

I have a less developed version of the deck (my Specters are elsewhere right now, and I’m playing with blue for Marsh Crocodile, Spite/Malice, and Windfall), but I imagine I’ll adjust to this before long; the blue is distracting me too much from the deck’s mission. There are simply too many limiting factors to multiplayer discard, even with the new injections of good creatures and spells, for it to do anything but focus on what it does best.

That said, the Decree and Brooch may turn out to be the two most important cards in the deck, after Mindslicer. The first deals with the creatures that have hit the board; the second deals with those sorceries your opponents may topdeck. If you build this deck, consider boosting both cards to three.

Developments Readers Should Know About

At least two large Magic-related changes are coming up for me that may (or may not) influence Casual Fridays. I owe it to readers to let you know of both of them. Both are happy developments from my perspective.

First, within the next few months, a few of my colleagues and I hope to open a retail store for collectible card and miniature games. We’re finalizing the location (southern or eastern Twin Cities metro) and our store manager (an experienced storeowner from the Madison, Wisconsin area) right now. I am serving as the president of this venture, and the name will be Casual Play Games. It’s not 100% off the ground yet; but it’s close. Here’s keeping our fingers crossed.

While I don’t feel we’ll have to worry about gratuitous mention of the store in this column, the fact is our group would be playing there every single week, and I’d be likely to run into lots of new players as a result of this. New experiences, new people, new subject matter for columns… So bottom line: Indirectly, the store would affect the stories I tell, and therefore my writing. You, as readers, should at least know that.

The second development may be more directly relevant to those of you who don’t live in the southern Twin Cities metro area, which will soon be served better than ever for all your Magic, Lord of the Rings, Warhammer, Mage Knight, and other collectible gaming needs. (KIDDING.) In 2002, I will be a regular writer for a Wizards of the Coast web site. It’s all quite hush-hush, I gather; but since Aaron Forsythe alluded to it a few weeks ago here at Star City, I think I can say that much.

I will still write Casual Fridays, for as long as I can maintain the energy for two weekly columns. Subject matter is less of a concern: My column has been designed so that the two shouldn’t compete too much. The new column will not explore our casual group’s dynamics as deeply, stress deck construction as tightly, emphasize typical multiplayer formats as relentlessly, or needle Wizards as dutifully as I’d like when they make”fun” cards like Battle of Wits.

Together with the store, my writing for Wizards even more regularly than I have in the past means that my view of Magic is expanding to include money. I will always welcome feedback from readers who feel at any time like I’ve lost my connection with the fun of the game. I know intellectually that the spirit of Magic should always be my touchstone; but I am human enough that I may need your help keeping me focused, at times. Write away to let me know how I’m doing, whenever.


Anthony Alongi

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