As I start off this article, I’m hoping to have enough time this week to cover both gold cards in the Hall of Fame and the Cephalid Vandal contest. Let’s see how we did – and no fair scrolling down to find out, because I may just intersperse Cephalid Vandal decks throughout the Hall of Fame. (This would not be the first time I intentionally destroyed the writer/reader bond of trust surrounding narrative flow just to make a point for those impatient freaks among you. Don’t test me.)
The color that best represents Invasion and its expansions, gold certainly has a distinguished history that predates one of casual players’ favorite blocks. Old-school players have a healthy reverence for cards like Nicol Bolas, Stangg, and Nebucchadneezer. Sometimes this reverence is justified, sometimes it’s not. But you can’t argue with these people; they’ll deluge you with email and tell you why the game”back then” was so much more fun when everything cost twice as much. (In best possible Grandpa Simpson voice:”In my day, the games were slow, I tell you. Slooooooooow! Anyone who played a creature before turn 9 had to eat that creature, or we’d shoot him and use his carcass as an elephant token.”)
In any case, this wing of the Hall does take moments where it can to respect that history; seven of the following thirty cards are from earlier gold-laced sets, ranging from Legends to Stronghold.
And what impact does Odyssey have? (Torment, of course, has no gold cards.) While there’s no Atogatog here, four of the eleven gold cards in Odyssey made the list. That’s a fairly good ratio, and these numbers leave just a bit more than half of the gold Hall for Invasion block. Dominating, but not all-consuming: I think that fits with most group players’ perceptions of how Invasion affected this color.
The animal elements, for those needing refreshment, help rate the cards along certain aspects. Rattlesnake is the”warning” power that often focuses attention elsewhere, Gorilla is the”smash” power for the impact on the board, Spider is the”surprise” power that creates sudden card advantage or swings in board/life position, Pigeon is the”people” power that comes from simply having more players around, and Plankton is the”friendly” power that comes from feeding all players.
As we’ve seen, each week brings a different poetry structure to the Hall. This week, to celebrate the”five-color” nature of gold, we will be using cinquains.
What is a cinquain, you ask? Well, it’s a five-line poetry structure that can be more or less rigid about what’s in those lines, depending on who your English Literature professor was. Mine was somewhat strict:
One word: Subject
Two words: Adjectives
Three words: Verbs or action
Four words: Emotional responses
One word: Synonym for the first line’s word
So a cinquain about cinquains might look like this:
Counts your words
I always hated poetry
As a sort of protest, and also because not every card elicits a strong emotional response that I am prepared to lengthen to four words, I have often used the fourth line as a sort of extension of the third. So the action kind of gets two lines, a lot of the time. Poetry purists can go to their local pretentious coffee shop and do a heart-filled rendering of some random work by Lady Mary Wroth to release any angst caused by this situation.
Right. On to it.
30. SHADOWMAGE INFILTRATOR
1UB, 1/3 Creature. This cannot be blocked except by black and artifact creatures. When this deals combat damage, you draw a card.
Similar cards: The Infiltrator takes over the slot once filled by one of the few creature enchantments on the list – Sleeper’s Robe. Of course, there are plenty of cards that represent one or the other half of the Infiltrator’s and Robe’s heritage (Curiosity and Thieving Magpie, Fear and Duskwalker, etc.)
Spider: Very low
As a well-known”chase tournament rare,” it may seem odd to have the Infiltrator on a list of top multiplayer cards. And it doesn’t rate too high with the animal characteristics above. The fact is, card advantage is a very important part of multiplayer; in the next edition of the Hall; I’m considering adding a Bee or Turtle element (thanks to those readers who have sent in suggestions since the last version of the Hall!) that would reflect either the impact of working together with your other cards, or winning the”slow and steady” race of card advantage. Probably Bees. Heck, I’ll take votes on it if anyone feels strongly enough. The killer point is, someone has to remind me to insert Bees/Turtles into my analyses before I start the next round in about four or five months. Anyone up for the job?
As for the card itself, this creature is hardly unstoppable in group play. It excels at getting you the first few answers you’ll need for the mid-game, as the table really heats up and players jockey for position. Swing aggressively with it – it’s only one damage, no one should cry too much – and get that larger answer into place, because groups like going after the life leader with all the cards in hand.
Loves drawing cards
Not easy to find
1WB. Destroy target permanent.
Similar cards: Terminate is another beautiful and simple one-off answer to most of the threats (that is, creatures) you’ll see in a multiplayer game.
Pigeon: Very low
Another”chase rare” that rates low among many elements – even card advantage, in multiplayer – Vindicate is nevertheless an essential staple for any multiplayer deck running both black and white. It is probably the only expensive rare where I would actually encourage readers to lay out the money. They will always be useful, for as long as Magic is a game; and it is very hard to imagine Wizards making the ability less expensive, or more common.
Vindicate is the always-answer. The conditional”plankton” rating is based on what you destroy. The vast majority of the time, you are saving Vindicates for an enchantment or artifact that is locking up the game, or a massive creature that everyone fears. So if you would force me to put a real value on plankton, I’d say”medium-high.”
Talk of enhancements or countermeasures doesn’t seem to apply too much to this card, but bear in mind that regeneration and recursion both work against such straightforward removal.
Kills almost anything
A relief to topdeck
28. HYMN OF REBIRTH
3WG Sorcery. Take target creature from any graveyard and put it directly into play under your control as though it were just summoned
Similar cards: Cauldron Dance is an instant speed graveyard-and-hand exchange that puts two creatures into play for a turn; but you can’t pull from other graveyards.
A very unique tool for green-white decks, Hymn of Rebirth is an excellent surprise who don’t play with older cards – or have forgotten about this little gem. The kick is, how does green and white get creatures into the graveyard?!? It’s actually not that difficult, with Wrath of God, Tariff, and other tools for getting desirable resources in opponents’ graveyards.
Unfortunately, anyone who is metagaming against the current Odyssey block them of recursion (or threshold, or flashback) may also unintentionally hose your hopes with this card.
Steals from graveyards
Did you expect this?
1BU, 12 Creature. Discard a card from your hand: this gets +1/+1 until end of turn. Remove two cards in your graveyard from the game: this gets +1/+1 until end of turn.
Similar cards: The Odyssey atogs each get small bonuses for one or both of two sacrifices. Psychatog is the only one with obvious synergy between its two abilities.
Pigeon: Very low
The fact that Upheaval and Psychatog are a workable Type II (and Odyssey Block) Constructed combo really speaks to how much tournament play and multiplayer themes have collided over the past few expansions. Folks, this is a nine-mana combo (play Upheaval, float the three extra mana in your pool, drop the Psychatog, win). What on earth is it doing in a tournament?!? It’s like something that came out of Break this Card: Psychatog.
Stuff like Bottomless Pit, Windfall, and so on probably work better against the Psychatog than against it; but if you want a real countermeasure…try Megrim.
Ends the game
“How big’s my graveyard?!”
26. SLIVER QUEEN
WUBRG, 7/7 Creature (Legend). This counts as a sliver. 2: put a 1/1 colorless sliver token into play.
Rattlesnake: Medium-low, increases with Muscles and Crystalline out
Gorilla: Medium, increases with Muscles and Crystalline out
Spider: Very low
Plankton: Very low
Sliver decks are fairly well explored across the Internet. I won’t waste readers’ time here with combos (um, other slivers?); but I will profess being glad to see more of the Queen since Coalition Victory came on the scene.
The Sliver Queen still does not protect her brood from mass removal – but then again, what creature does? If that fact bothers you, a Hibernation Sliver can join the royal court.
Leads the others
Love that infinite army!
ALERT! Cephalids have broken into the Hall of Fame, and are vandalizing it as we speak! Here are some Honorable Mentions out of the fifty or so very creative entries that I got for Break this Card: Cephalid Vandal:
- Tommy Ashton suggested using Bazaar of Wonders, and whatever cards are popular in your group, to shut out the metagame with the Vandal’s increasing blacklist ability in the Bazaar.
- Graeme Taylor was one of the first to propose the most common combination: Cephalid Vandal and Gurzigost.
- Craig LaVarnway , apparently caught in the intersection of several Break this Card contests across multiple hypothetical universes, submitted a deck with the Vandal, Bloodcurdler, Pedantic Learning, and Mortal Combat.
- Mike J. (can’t credit a last name I don’t get!… Damn Rizzo’s fast and loose rules) submitted multiple decks; my favorite was one that Donated the Vandal and then won with other Cephalids (Looters and Brokers) to finish the milling job.
- Gis Hoogendijk put in a terrific theme deck that added to the vandalism and shredding theme with Unglued cards like Chaos Confetti and Scissors Lizard, as well as more conventional cards like Bone Shredder and Goblin Vandal. There was plenty of fodder to shred in various Tomes, Spellbooks, and other paper-based titles!
25. DEATH GRASP
WBX Sorcery. This deals X damage to target creature or player. You gain X life.
By the time we were in the mid-20s for red, I believe we already had cards with high rankings. Not so for gold, a less well-developed color. Death Grasp makes it in for its ability to swing life from one player to another, usually changing control of the game’s pace in the late game.
Life drain is more difficult to Deflect or Misdirect than straightforward damage, but it’s still a good plan for survival. Mana Barbs is a great countermeasure for any X spell.
It kills, anyway.
It’s prettier than Congregate.
24. LIGHTNING ANGEL
1UWR, 34 Creature. Flying. Haste. Does not tap to attack.
Similar cards: Charging Troll is another non-tapping gold creature, which has regeneration instead of flying and haste.
The three abilities this angel has are key for multiplayer – it strikes immediately, stays back to block, and rules the air on turn four. There is a very, very short list of creatures your opponents can play on turn 4 (much less turn 3, if you go before them!) that can stop this, so it’s punching through for something before it dies, 80 percent of the time.
For reference, here are some of those creatures: Flametongue Kavu, Bone Shredder/Faceless Butcher, Herald of Serra, Angelic Wall, Wall of Swords, and Giant Spider.
Wears patriotic colors
Feel her sharp sword
2RG. Destroy target artifact, target enchantment, target land, and target creature.
Similar cards: Hull Breach can swipe at both an artifact and/or an enchantment.
Rattlesnake: Very low
Very conditional to cast – you must have four distinct targets when you announce the spell – Decimate is an amazing play anyway, especially for a red-green deck. It is quite unexpected, when you’re dropping goblins and River Boas, to suddenly let loose with one of the most spectacular control cards of the last few expansions.
What will work with this card? Forge[/author]“]Thran [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author], Soul Sculptor, and a bunch of other stuff we all did (or do, or will) put in our”make our own artifacts and enchantments, and then kill them” decks during our more creative stages of deckbuilding evolution.
Needs four targets
But worth the trouble
(Okay, hyphens are cheating. I won’t do it again; but can you think of a single-word expression for card advantage?!?)
22. FIRES OF YAVIMAYA
1RG Enchantment. Creatures you control have haste. Sacrifice this: target creature gets +2/+2 until end of turn.
Even with no creatures out, you will give smart opponents pause before they attack you, if you have a Fires out. Redundant copies are fine, since you can sack for the pumping bonus.
Many players make the mistake of putting creatures with haste in their Fires deck. You don’t have to be an efficiency freak to see how silly that is. If you want to be impractical, that’s fine – play with over-expensive creatures with flying, trample, or some other ability. You’ll get more bang for your buck.
Blastoderms run around
You can’t pump them
21. SUFFOCATING BLAST
1UUR. Counter target spell. This deals 3 damage to target creature.
Rattlesnake: Very low
Spider: Very high
A counterspell built for group play, the Suffocating Blast gives counter-burn a real boost against multiple opponents. You’re more likely to see a target for the Bolt half, and the Counter half is more likely to catch a real board-clearing bomb or other juicy target.
Kills Giant Growth
Sometimes frustrating, sometimes exhilarating
VANDALISM UPDATE: Some additional honorable mentions for Break this Card: Cephalid Vandal:
- Ian Fleischer and Eric Anderson both proposed Psychic Vortex as a way to put additional resources in your graveyard, and draw cards at the same rate of increase that you mill them! Paths to victory ranged from Unyaro Bee Sting to Aeliopile to Terravore. (Please, folks, don’t feed the Aeliopile.)
- Jensen Bohren came at me with a shoebox-sized deck filled with graveyard counting and recursion – everything from Corpse Dance and Living Death to Mortivore and Chainer, Dementia Master.
- Tom and Berend Booms each submitted a deck combining the milling power of the Vandal with the amazing lifegain power of Ancestral Tribute – and then Zur’s Weirding for the viable control lock. Christopher Hearns also submitted a more obvious lifegain deck entitled”Anthony Alongi Hates Me,” but I don’t want to talk about it.
20. MYSTIC SNAKE
1UUG, 2/2 Creature. You may play this any time you could play an instant. When this comes into play, counter target spell.
Rattlesnake: Low, grows rapidly if returned to hand
Spider: Very high, decreases rapidly if returned to hand
Pigeon: Medium low
Plankton: Medium low
More consistent than the Blast, more reusable… And increasingly more predictable (it seems that every blue-green deck I see or hear about nowadays has at least a couple of these in there). Mystic Snake is a creature that begs for bounce – Sunken Hope, Withdraw, Erratic Portal, Man o’ War, Doomsday Specter, Fleetfoot Panther, and Aether Mutation are all great options.
I mentioned this in the last edition, and it’s worth repeating: If you play Mystic Snake when there’s more than one spell on the stack, do not announce which one you are countering right away. You don’t have to. Let other players sweat it out a bit; you might tease out some additional removal or interesting trickery from around the board. After the Snake resolves, it will come into play and you can still counter your choice of spell on the stack.
Stops unpopular cards
Leaves lovely creature behind
19. FIERY JUSTICE
WGR Sorcery. This deals 5 damage divided as you choose among any number of target creatures and/or players. Target opponent gains 5 life.
This is pretty much the definition of an excellent”workhorse” multiplayer card – not horribly flashy, not horribly effective, but enough of both that you can always fit four in a deck with the right colors. Formerly #1 in the Hall, Fiery Justice pales in comparison to younger blood, but will always have a place here among the champions.
Evens the board
Can you make friends?
(A bunch of you are now going to write to me and give me crap since I just used”diplomacy” in a description of a good multiplayer card. Believe me, the only reason that word is there is because I’m a bad poet.)
18. IRIDESCENT ANGEL
5UB, 4/4 Creature. Flying. Protection from all colors.
Wow, this thing looks like a lot better deal at seven mana than Lotus Guardian, doesn’t it? But at least Lotus Guardian could block it.
Creatures without activated or triggered abilities typically don’t rank very high in”rattlesnake,” but the fact that this Angel will survive and smash through just about anything but mass removal makes it a threat to attack on any given turn. The fact that it can make it through Inferno, Hurricane, and other extreme red-green measures makes it particularly bad news for those colors.
The second-best gold card from Odyssey for multiplayer, many players call this”The Radiation Witch” (and other, less polite, names) for her artwork and closing ability. She’s perfectly costed for multiplayer. Play her.
Owns the air
Can’t stop an Ornithopter?!?!
17. SAVAGE TWISTER
XRG Sorcery. This deals X damage to each creature.
Gorilla: Very high
I like any card that promotes the use of Cerulean Wyvern. I don’t know why I like Cerulean Wyvern (and it also mystifies me that I would make such a big deal of this largely unimpressive blue flyer while discussing a gold card); maybe it’s just the name, and the connection I make to a certain X-Files episode. This would be back when X-Files was worth watching. (No, I don’t care what happens to Scully’s baby at this point, or Mulder, or if Scully’s baby is Mulder, or whatever. I have enough children of my own to track.)
Crosses the horizon
Kills groundpounders, kills flyers:
16. QUESTING PHELDDAGRIF
[1GUW, 4/4 Creature. G: this gets +1/+1 until end of turn. Target opponent puts a 1/1 green Hippo token into play. W: this gets protection from red and black until end of turn. Target opponent gains 2 life. U: this gains flying until end of turn. Target opponent draws a card.]
Similar cards: The original, legendary, stay-at-home sort of Phelddagrif got pump instead of trample, bounce instead of protection, and flying instead of… Er, flying. I guess Hippos have had wings since the beginning of eternity, from Wizards’ perspective.
It’s easier to count on blue (Collective Restraint, bounce, etc.) to control the hippo tokens than white or green -although there is Dueling Ground. For a less tournament-inspired taste, you could try Aether Flash or Tremor, or even Nausea.
Countermeasures against the actual Phelddagrif almost always have to be a color other than black or red, unless you’re talking about a massive sweeper like Jokulhaups or Plague Wind. Try Peacemaker (since the hippo’s colors aren’t that good at removing a 1/1 permanently), Fog Bank, and other passive defense. The more you try to kill this thing, the worse it gets for you.
Closes the game
Purple fat with wings
15. SEER’S VISION
2BU Enchantment. All opponents play with their hands revealed. Sacrifice this: Look at target player’s hand and choose a card from it. That player discards that card. Play this ability only any time you could play a sorcery.
The child of Telepathy and Coercion, Seer’s Vision works just fine as a”sorcery” – just play it on your turn, give everyone a glimpse of each other’s hands (except yours, of course!), and then sack it to get rid of the nastiest card you see.
If you decide to leave it out, consider throwing out a Bottomless Pit as well. You’ll get to see cards get blown away bit by bit, and any top-decked Disenchant will probably hit the Pit first.
Lays plans bare
Wishes rise for instants
14. AURA SHARDS
[1WG Enchantment. Whenever a creature comes into play under your control, you may destroy target enchantment or artifact.]
Rattlesnake: Medium-high and growing
Every time someone plays this in our group, Theo picks it up and looks at it, excited at first to think that eventually, the controller will be forced to destroy Aura Shards itself. But no:”May” is present on the card, and that makes all of the difference.
You can leave the permanents you like on the board, and get rid of the pesky control stuff. All the while, you’re advertising your willingness to play creatures – especially instant-speed creatures like Simian Grunts or Beast Attack. Or maybe you’ll let a bunch of saprolings off of Rith, the Awakener or Death Mutation wipe out a stream of artifact creatures. The ratings can often be far higher in practice than the credit I’m giving above.
Fear stomping feet
“Is that Beast Attack?”
13. SOL’KANAR THE SWAMP KING
2RBU, 5/5 Creature (Legend). Swampwalk. Whenever a player plays a black spell, you gain one life.
In honor of Torment’s influence on many group environments, I’ve pumped Sol’Kanar’s stats a bit and elevated him a bit higher than I normally would. In an age when black cards will be king, but mono-black decks will get metagamed, Sol’Kanar is a beauty of a call.
One of the actually efficient original Legends, Sol’Kanar fits with lots of blue- and red-splash spells; and you should also consider zombie decks that would include the Zombie Trailblazer (which can turn lands into swamps) and Vodalian Zombie (which can hold back green fat so Sol’Kanar can feel more free to swing).
Sneaks through swamps
Thrives in Tormented environment
MORE VANDALISM: From the continuing saga of the irrepressible Cephalid Vandals:
- Christopher Hearns , still pushing the edge of my patience with strategies I dislike, came up with admittedly excellent entries involving Mortal Combat. Had we reached 80 entries (my threshold for three prizes), one of those decks would probably have gotten a prize.
This is my way, I suppose, of applying more peer pressure for next time! Christopher will no doubt come knocking on everyone’s door, since he missed the fabulous prize of a vandalized Vandal. I honestly am surprised that we didn’t top 80 entries again with this card in the contest; the Vandal was easily one of the more diverse contests we’ve had, even with slightly less entries. When you see a card like this, folks, get involved! The chances to get mentioned are excellent – and the chances to win are solid – if you show enough flair.
12. VAMPIRIC DRAGON
6BR, 5/5 Creature. Flying. Whenever a creature dealt damage by Vampiric Dragon this turn is put into a graveyard, put a +1/+1 counter on Vampiric Dragon. 1R: Vampiric Dragon deals 1 damage to target creature.
Rattlesnake: Very high
The best multiplayer creature, and the best multiplayer gold card, in Odyssey. This thing is part Masticore, part Sengir Vampire. The casting cost is perfectly affordable in most groups. I think this thing probably works better in primarily-red decks that splash black, rather than primarily-black decks that splash red – the ability to deal multiple shots of damage to creatures is generally important right after casting it.
As with most expensive bomb creatures, protection of your investment is pretty important. Neither red nor black do a particularly good job of this. At the same time, you probably don’t want to splash, for fear of weakening the ping ability. So what to do? Well, perhaps Shade’s Form will be sufficient protection. Heck, it’s a new card… Give it a try.
Flies, removes, wins
How to stop this?
11. TREVA, THE RENEWER
3UWG, 6/6 Creature (Legend). Flying. Whenever this deals combat damage to a player, you may pay 2W. If you do, choose a color. Gain life equal to the number of permanents of that color.
Pigeon: Very high
The five younger dragon legends of Invasion are all strong multiplayer cards. Two still do not make the Hall, and probably won’t ever (unless I expand the damn thing to 40 or 50 entries with no additional gold cards in release, at which point it would be silly to leave any of them off at all). When you get up this high in the list, you need to really show something in multiplayer besides”I’m a really big creature that will smack you if I don’t like you.” Treva does just that, by counting up permanents of a certain color and giving life for it.
Renews life totals
A relief to topdeck
[ORDER] 3W Instant. Remove target attacking creature from the game.
[CHAOS] 2R Instant. Creatures can’t block this turn.
Spider: High/very high
Not exactly a gold card, there’s nowhere else for this fine specimen to go. While Spite/Malice, Assault/Battery, and Fire/Ice are all decent choices in group play, there simply aren’t enough quality split cards to have a separate section of the Hall. So into gold this goes.
Chaos probably sees more work in multiplayer – it is the perfect card to end the game against your last two (or even three) opponents. But Order is perfectly respectable, and finds terrific targets in an age where graveyard recursion is more annoying than ever.
If you have non-creature reasons for attackers to stay away from you (e.g., No Mercy), feel free to play Chaos during another player’s turn; you might get some interesting fights started out there.
Devastates the unprepared
The battlefield changes radically
9. SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION
1BR Instant. As an additional cost to play this, sacrifice a creature. this deals 3 damage to each creature.
Gorilla: Very high
Spider: Very high
Really, sacrificing a creature as an additional cost is not a big deal – not when the creature is Ichorid, or Disease Carriers, or Avenging Angel. The first instant, universal damage in gold (and I’ll admit to a cursory check here; fire away if I’ve missed something), I suspect that this Tempest card was the first glimmer Wizards had that they were seriously underpowering gold cards.
Consumes, burns, transforms
Rukh Eggs in metamorphosis
8. DROMAR, THE BANISHER
3BUW, 6/6 Creature (Legend). Flying. Whenever this deals combat damage to a player, you may pay 2U. If you do, choose a color. Return all creatures of that color to their owners’ hands.
Pigeon: Very high
How hard could it have been to add the words,”This ability does not affect Dromar, the Banisher?” It’s not a fatal flaw; but it is annoying to know that your opponents can fairly easily predict the first couple colors you’ll choose in most games. (Red and green.) Shift the balance a bit with color-changing cards, or have a Dragon Arch ready for easy redeployment.
Most bounce cards like Dromar can be countered with creatures with haste, and/or enchantments that give your creatures comes-into-play abilities like Equilibrium.
Hates one color:
What if it’s his?
7. CAPTAIN’S MANEUVER
XWR Instant. The next X damage that would be dealt to target creature or player this turn is dealt to another target creature or player instead.
Similar cards: Reflect Damage and a green card that may as well be gold, Mirrorwood Treefolk, both use the redirection method. Soltari Guerillas can redirect their own damage to a target creature.
Spider: Very high
This is ranked lower than where it first came out (#2), because I’ve noticed how hard it is to play. Keeping enough mana open for X to be large enough to make a difference is no easy task. But the Maneuver is still a killer shot, capable of ending the late game in a brilliant flash.
The Maneuver is nearly impossible to counteract, short of basic UU-based spells. Since the damage can be collected across multiple, smaller damage sources, you have to peck the red-white mage to death a bit at a time if you fear the Maneuver, and accept that if you get to close to lethal damage, you’ll take a little in the teeth. Of course, loss of life spells like Brush with Death, Subversion, and Highway Robber get around this card.
Avoids the blow
Attacker watches in horror
6. POWERSTONE MINEFIELD
2WR Enchantment. Whenever a creature attacks or blocks, this deals 2 damage to it.
Rattlesnake: Very high
Gorilla: Very high
Don’t attack, don’t block… You get the idea this thing doesn’t like creatures much at all. Of course, that’s not entirely true: It’s just fine with creatures that use activated abilities, such as Ertai (either version), Tahngarth Talruum Hero, and even an Elvish Piper to bring out fat capable of surviving the mines.
Also for your consideration: Fervent Charge, which was probably designed to go with the Minefield, and Karn Silver Golem, which should never ever die to this enchantment.
Forces a truce
No weenies dare attack
VANDAL RUNNER UP: The first runner-up to the Break this Card: Cephalid Vandal contest is Joshua Sharp, a past contest winner, and this time coming forward with an Extended-legal deck:
4 Cephalid Vandal
4 Shard Phoenix
4 Hammer of Bogardan
4 Flame Burst
3 Flowstone Overseer
4 Nevinyrral’s Disk
4 Arcane Denial
4 Engulfing Flames
4 Volcanic Island
4 Shivan Reef
4 Caldera Lake
Caldera Lakes aside (really, wouldn’t islands be fine?), I really like the way Vandals get used here to set up the red win condition of Shard Phoenixes and Hammer of Bogardan. The Kindle and Flame Burst additions are also nice, cheap ways to make the Vandal’s”drawback” more aggressive. The fact that the Vandal dies to Phoenix when you’re ready is just a nice little bonus. Joshua, email me your mailing address (I don’t hang on to them from the past!) and I’ll send you a scribbled Cephalid Vandal.
5. BREATHSTEALER’S CRYPT
2BU Enchantment. If a player would draw a card, instead he or she reveals it, then draws it. If it’s a creature card, that player discards it unless he or she pays 3 life.
Gorilla: Very high
Plankton: Ultimate (but see below)
You know what I realized as I did up this wing of the Hall? Gold has very, very few cards that could be described as good plankton.”Ultimate” is a relative rating, as I’ve explained in the past. It can only show up once on each wing, for each animal element. It would be very easy for another gold card to come along and knock the Crypt’s plankton rating down to its raw”medium-high.” Yes, revealing cards and suppressing unimpressive creatures is what passes for”ultimate plankton” in gold, nowadays. I’m not that happy about it, either. (Perhaps Fiery Justice should come back toward the top of the list!)
Anyhow, I find this card less fun than I used to… So I sunk it a little from where it’s been in the past. It’s still a game-changer, so I don’t imagine it will sink much further. But who knows? I’m a rather fickle soul…
The Crypt combos pretty well with Vile Consumption.
No souls escape
We Ostracize the survivors
4. SPINAL EMBRACE
3UUB Instant. Play this only during combat. Untap target creature you don’t control and gain control of it. It gains haste until end of turn. At end of turn, sacrifice it. If you do, you gain life equal to its toughness.
It’s hard to remember that this can only be played during combat. But do make sure you play it properly. (It can be done on your turn before you declare attackers, if you need to use it offensively.)
The Embrace needs a large creature for it to be worth the mana; it is far less useful against a series of weenie armies. But group games almost always have one or two fat beasts sitting on the board, waiting to do your bidding. Tasty!
Corrupts the fattest
It chucks the carcass
3BR Sorcery. Choose a number. Destroy all artifacts and creatures with converted mana cost equal to that number. Then target player reveals his or her hand and discards from it all nonland cards with converted mana cost equal to that number.
Gorilla: Very high
Like Powder Keg, this is a great card for people who like the strategy behind”choosing a number.” You have to recognize that this is often the only chance you as a black-red player have to get rid of a game-altering enchantment… Who’s holding it?… What does it cost?… How does that match up with the creature and artifact threats on the board?
Selects and slashes
Deduce the right number
(That one’s for Theo.)
2. RITH, THE AWAKENER
3WGR, 6/6 Creature (Legend). Flying. Whenever this deals combat damage to a player, you may pay 2G. If you do, choose a color. Put into play a number of green 1/1 Saproling tokens equal to the number of permanents of that color.
Gorilla: Very high
The best gold multiplayer creature, Rith just gets worse and worse for your opponents, the longer he stays. He’s quite protectable (Dense Foliage, Cho-Manno’s Blessing, Liberate), his saprolings grow at an amazing rate, and the guy is a clock in his own right.
Large green beef that generates saprolings and benefits from bigger groups – this should faintly familiar to many of you. He’s not as good as Verdant Force… But he’s very, very good. He benefits a good deal from my closer scrutiny of many gold cards that used to be up in the highest slots. Only one gold card really deserves praise higher than Rith…
Watches children grow
His troops surround you
1. PERNICIOUS DEED
1BG Enchantment. X, Sacrifice this: Destroy each artifact, creature, and enchantment with converted mana cost X or less.]
Spider: Very High
Pigeon: Very High
Plankton: Very High
Now that I’ve had enough experience with it, I have no problem crowning the Deed as The Best Multiplayer Card Out There. Period. All colors, all types, all expansions. The Winner.
There really isn’t a card that comes close (though Furnace of Rath, my previous all-around favorite, really swings at this slot from a completely different direction). The Deed is the ultimate in flexibility and strategy:
A Nev’s Disk: Reset the board, and leave everyone’s mana intact
A Propaganda: Warn away armies, simply by leaving mana open
A Pyroclasm: Knock off the weenies and keep the heavies on the board
A Purify: Blow out the most annoying artifacts and enchantments in one sweep
A Plague Wind: Design your own army to survive the Deed’s sweep (use expensive creatures, or regenerators)
A Ruination: Many non-basic lands are man-lands; wait for them to activate (or use Natural Affinity to simulate an Armageddon, in a pinch).
When you’re facing a Deed on the board, your best bet is usually to go after the controller, and try to get her to blow it up as quickly as possible. Trust me – you can’t wait for her to tighten control. Life is going to get worse and worse for you like you would not believe. The problem is that your other opponents will gladly watch you dash yourself against the rocks, and refuse to help. Hey, no one said it would be easy.
Controls the board
You name the terms
VANDAL WINNER: The winner of the Break this Card: Cephalid Vandal contest is Jay Strode, who sent in a nicely-focused deck that uses Pedantic Learning (an entrant favorite this contest!) and uses an atog beyond Psychatog to help close out the win:
4 Cephalid Vandal
4 Pedantic Learning
4 Planar Birth
3 Death Grasp
2 Vampiric Tutor
4 Caves of Koilos
4 Underground River
2 Faerie Conclave
2 Forbidding Watchtower
In Jay’s own words:
“The main point of this deck is to abuse the Pedantic Learning with the Vandal, sending lands to the graveyard and drawing more and more cards. As soon as you get your engine going, you have two options: 1) Cast a Planar Birth to bring all those shredded lands into play, giving you mana insanity for a Death Grasp the next turn, or 2) Lay down beats with a Psycha/Phantatog with your full graveyard and a large hand, while getting more atog food each turn.”
He’s even pithy with his deck explanations! Sweet. What I also like about Jay’s deck is the ability to substitute plenty of uncommons or commons for the rares beyond Pedantic Learning and Planar Birth (and of course the Vandal). Death Grasp could be Drain Life or Syphon Soul; Vindicate could be any sort of removal spell that focused on either creature or non-creature permanents (depending on what your group plays); the Tutor could be Diabolic (or additional blue card-drawing like Dismiss); and the non-basic lands could just as easily be basic ones, or the uncommon dual lands from Invasion.
Jay, do email me your mailing address. I’ll send you a foil Cephalid Vandal (vandalized, of course!) and an Apocalypse dual land of your choice.
NEXT WEEK: White’s Hall of Fame.
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