CASUAL FRIDAYS #121: The Pain In Torment

What opportunities does Torment provide for multiplayer? What opportunities does it miss? And what Card can we Break? Anthony examines the set broadly, color by color… And then channels rules-lovin’ Rizzo like it ain’t no thang.

By the time this article’s over, we’re going to have our”Break this Card” candidate for the Torment expansion.

Ready to take Torment color-by-color? Don’t panic; I’ll stick largely to the rares and occasional uncommons. This analysis will, of course, focus primarily on cards for their multiplayer value.


Let’s get this right out of the way: there are no traditionally viable Break this Card candidates in black. While Break this Card does not always focus on bad cards; it tends to focus on questionable ones, or ones that may be tricky to operate.

And virtually all of black’s rares – Shambling Swarm, Mutilate, Dawn of the Dead, Ichorid, Insidious Dreams, Chainer Dementia Master, Sengir Vampire, Laquatus’s Champion, Hypnox, and Nantuko Shade – are all potential chase rares. (Please stop scoffing at Hypnox; with a Buried Alive and Dawn of the Dead, you can swing three consecutive 8/8 flyers through the air by turn eight…Or seven, if you throw a Cabal Ritual in there. And I haven’t even left Odyssey block, yet.)

Mortal Combat (I keep wanting to spell that with a K, which I suppose Wizards expected all along for us) is an intriguing alternate win condition. This card doesn’t infuriate me like Battle of Wits does… You have to work at that graveyard condition. But I suspect that Traumatize will be the mechanism of choice for many, many people… And I would like my contest to show more variety than that.

That leaves Last Laugh, which is unlikely to be a chase rare but is still very much one of the best multiplayer cards in the set. The ways of using this card are probably endless, and it may make for an interesting Break this Card. However, I usually like to have a bit more scorn for the card I select, and I like Last Laugh too much. Well, we’ll see…

Beyond Break this Card purposes, I would obviously rank black as getting an amazing boost in multiplayer. Beyond the stunning rares noted above, there are a bunch of removal and universal damage options (Dry Spell with flashback, selective creature-based Massacres at threshold, new swampwalking tech, etc.) that will add great range and depth to any black multiplayer deck. Black just plain rocks. None of us are surprised at any of that – but there, I’ve said it anyway, in case it needed to be official.

White and Green

Since white and green shrank to make room for black, each only has a few rares. Each has a possessed creature (Nomad and Centaur); each has a creature that hoses black (Nantuko Blightcutter, Major Teroh); each has a major fattie (Gurzigost and Angel of Retribution); each has a quality Dreams card (Nostalgic and Vengeful); and each has a creature that will take some strategy to reach full effectiveness (Nantuko Cultivator and Reborn Hero). They also each have overly-specific cards (Insist, Morningtide) that don’t work well in Break this Card.

Each one also has a bit of a”freak” rare, in Parallel Evolution and Transcendence. These are clearly the nominees from each color; we’ll let them slip to the final round, down below.

White and green are going to see a great deal of play in many multiplayer circles where metagaming is an issue. What I hope will happen is that recent Odyssey gems like Beast Attack won’t be forgotten – with Nostalgic Dreams, Beast Attack can actually be cast three times. And Hypochondria just adds a ton to a deck that already has Embolden and Shelter at its disposal. I also like Cleansing Meditation’s ability to wipe all enchantments except your own – this one of those cards that will be forgotten, but shouldn’t be.


Radiate, Radiate. Radiate Radiate Radiate; Radiate Radiate Radiate Radiate. RadiateRadiate Radiate! Radiate Radiate Radiate Radiate RadiateRadiate. Radiate? Radiate Radiate Radiate Radiate.

Also, Devastating Dreams.

Of red’s rare creatures – Lavamancer, Petradon, Balthor the Stout, Possessed Barbarian, and Hell-Bent Raider – only Balthor is likely to impact a casual group, and only that in barbarian decks. Overmaster and Hell-Bent Raider are fun-lovin’, efficient creatures – maybe that will help them along. But casual players don’t go running out to get four copies of a creature just because he’s efficient. They go out and get four copies of a creature because he’s exciting; and the Hell-Bent Raider and Lavamancer are boring in their efficiency. Don’t get me wrong – once I bust open my fourth by chance, they’re all going in a deck.

Skullscorch is the last red rare. Since it targets a single player, it doesn’t give much scope for a multiplayer card contest.

Unless, of course, you cast Radiate right after it.

Overmaster would be better for casual gamers if there was more countermagic in multiplayer. Like Insist, it’s too specific for Break this Card. This is rather one of those cards that I’m genuinely interested to see if it makes the cut for Constructed tourney formats. That’s a strange feeling for me, since I normally don’t give a whoop.

In any case, no Break this Card nominees for red – they’re either too good, or too tilted to duel. Looking further down the rarity list, we find some cards that are going to be crawling all over red multiplayer decks, particularly if the deck is running Devastating Dreams. Violent Eruption and Fiery Temper are two of the best madness cards in the set, and make random discarding way more fun for the casual player. Bring back Balduvian Horde… Play the Minotaur Explorer…fill that graveyard up! Then drop the Lavamancer to deal out more damage. Good times.


Red was singularly unhelpful in providing Break this Card nominees, but blue helpfully stepped in to fill the gap. While Ambassador Laquatus, Plagarize, and Turbulent Dreams are too good; and Alter Reality, Llawan Cephalid Empress, and Possessed Aven are too narrow (and yes, I get that these go together well); any of the other three rares could be a viable Break this Card candidate. Let’s break ’em down:

False Memories: A tempting, instant-threshold trick that would probably generate more Odyssey block entries than I could shake a stick at. Not likely to spur creativity, even among you crazy readers. Keep looking.

Retraced Image: A fattie-duplicating monster. But the mechanics necessary to make it work consistently (get two identical cards in your hand, get one in play, etc.) would probably force most entries into the same ploys, over and over. Show and Tell, Sneak Attack, and various tutors would all make this look good. I’m looking forward to hearing readers’ experiences with this card – just not for this contest.

Cephalid Vandal: now we’re talking.

Let’s look at the stats: 1U for a 1/1 cephalid. Ability reads:”At the beginning of your upkeep, put a shred counter on Cephalid Vandal. Then put the top card of your library into your graveyard for each shred counter on Cephalid Vandal.”

This card has that great intangible quality, that bit that makes you wonder if you’ve missed something about the card and if you just stare at it for long enough, you’ll figure it out. I mean, you’re not that stupid, right? It looks like a drawback. So your eyes crawl up to the casting cost, and then down to the power/toughness, and your brain tries to piece it all together. Did you miss a +1/+1 comewhere in there? Perhaps the word”draw”? It’s all a torturous mystery.

None of the other nominees – Transcendence, Parallel Evolution, Last Laugh, or the other blue cards – comes even close. Folks, we have our Break this Card subject.

There are other people who have looked at Cephalid Vandal on other web sites; I am not going to lead contestants by the nose. Do the work, and you’ll see the major possibilities. Do even more work, and you’ll avoid those possibilities to generate something unique.

I don’t think the card is very vague, from a Magic rules standpoint. Bear in mind you add the shred counter before you count to mill the cards, and I think you’re all set to go.

Here are the Official Break this Card Contest Rules, as lovingly dictated by John F. Rizzo:

Thanks, chief. Sit your semi-colon-lovin’ colon down and watch a man who uses sentences shorter than The Ferrett ferret. I’ll take her from here, and then ride her like a mountain goat on crack. Yo, multi-taskers in casual Dockers pants, here are the rulez…

  • Use the card. I mean, seriously, folks. How many times does this Alongitog have to tell you: if you don’t use the card, you can’t win. Righteous.

  • Get your deck in on time. If you submit your deck after Senor Radiate-and-don’t-be-late actually posts the results, your chances are not good. On the other hand, chances are good that you’re a screaming moron. Are you a screaming moron? Yes? Then don’t bother the man. Send your entries to me instead, so I can roll ’em up and smoke ’em like it ain’t no thang.

  • Say useful stuff. Like your real name ([email protected] is not as impressive to the rest of us as it is to you), and an email address that actually works. Count Freak of Fridays wants to let you know he got your entry all right, safe and sound, snug as a bug in yer big ugly mug.

  • Keep your deck reasonable. As in, likely to win a game. As in, not designed by me.

  • Don’t talk too much about your deck. Quadruple-A is too busy talking to his dog to read the 1,453,289 combos you needed to describe in loving detail. He’s a smart chocolate chip in the cookie of been-there, done-that. Describe it, but don’t circumscribe it. And here’s a big-time, over-used-and-way-out-of-date catch-phrase whazzzzzzzzzzup with me and the big words, anyway?

Circumscribe to Rizzo: You don’t know what I mean.

Rizzo to circumscribe: Well, no, I don’t taste that flavor, if you know what *I* mean.

Circumscribe back at Rizzo: I taste it, man.

Rizzo back at circumscribe: Thanks. Now go taste your mother.

Anyhow, there’s a bunch more rulez ‘n stuff, but I can’t sing what I don’t swing, can’t get behind what I don’t dare remind, can’t pontificate what I don’t scratch ‘n sniff too late, et ceteramus and deux machina.

Thanks, Rizzo. Couldn’t have done it without you.

The deadline is MIDNIGHT C.S.T., THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 26. Get those Cephalid Vandals shredding!


Anthony Alongi

[email protected]