CASUAL FRIDAYS #138: Random Topics In The Dog Days Of Summer

Wanna hear about a new Team Sealed with four packs? How about an all-green super-highlander variant, and the power card that Anthony misses? Check it out and say howdy!

Part One: Kudos

I want to congratulate those casual and multiplayer writers who have stepped in so ably lately with value-added material. There’s an economic concept called”crowding out,” where one (usually large, inefficient, bureaucratic, monolithic) supplier of goods or services makes it difficult for smaller, newer suppliers to get a foothold. I had no idea I was crowding out casual play articles! And I’m just as happy to get out of the way with my biweekly schedule.

So kudos to Stijn, Sam, Andrew, and a bunch of other folks who have stepped up to the plate in recent months with substantial offerings. Also kudos to Peter and Ingrid Jahn, who predate all of them and still occasionally dabble in our part of the world.

If you’re interested in writing about casual topics, there’s never been a better time: There’s more interesting deck types, writers, and ideas out there than ever before… And the audience is only getting larger.

Part Two: A New Team Sealed

A quick format to throw your way, if you’re looking for something interesting to do with the extra tournament packs of Odyssey and Torment/Judgment boosters you may have lying around. (If you don’t have any, go buy a bunch, then spread them over your kitchen table. Presto! They’re lying around. Now keep reading.)

The next time you have an even number of players, split into teams of two and give each team a”stunted” amount of product – that is, one Odyssey tourney pack, and one each of Torment and Judgment boosters. The team builds two decks from this pool. Then play whatever format you like – two-headed giant, duels, etc.

One thing you’ll learn immediately upon building is that you’ll have to use suboptimal cards. I love formats like this, because we get”more bang for the buck” – you use more of the cards you purchase, rather than just recycling them or throwing them away.

Another thing you’ll learn is that you can still have atrocious things happen.

Pete and I were on the same team. We looked at the pool a bunch of different ways – red-green and a black-blue-white, red-black with blue-green-white, red-green-white and black-blue-white, and finally we realized the red just sucks (surprise!) and we’re trying too hard, so we constructed a green-black and a blue-white deck, splashing a bit of red into the latter. It’s not important that you know exactly cards were in what deck; it’s just important that you know that Pete’s UW-r had Standstill, which most experts I’ve read say can be good but only in the right style of deck, and Confessor, which even non-experts like myself won’t play willingly in sanctioned Limited formats.

We’re playing three teams of two players, teammates sitting directly opposite each other, shared life. Pete goes first, drops a plains and the Confessor. We go around the table; nobody else has a first-turn play. So turn two, Pete drops an island… And the Standstill.

Now, strategically, this is a bad move. (We can’t do eighty damage before we deck ourselves, and while we might be able to pull off a mass decking by waiting until everyone has two cards in library and then playing a spell, it’s unlikely we’d win the ensuing stack war and avoid getting decked ourselves, instead.) But philosophically, it’s a beaut.

Nobody can figure out if it’s a good idea or bad idea to get rid of the Standstill – most of us around the table figure it doesn’t hurt to just leave it there, anyway. So Pete goes into”Confessor beatdown” mode, pinging away fairly uselessly at the hapless defenders around us.

Then people start running out of lands to play, and the Confessor comes alive! Discard phase becomes our favorite phase as we gain mad, mad life advantage. (I think, um, maybe six or seven life gained total. Not quite as good as Heroes’ Reunion, of course, but you have to remember: This isn’t Invasion block anymore!)

Eventually, Theo crumbled in the face of our incredible lock, and played a Worldgorger Dragon. One swing from that, and all the Confessor’s painstaking work came unravelled. Five or so more hits, and we were dead.

Did I mention no one had a Kirtar’s Desire? Or Second Thoughts? Or even Coral Net? Shame.

It’s a fun format with more than a little strategy, since one teammate usually has to carry a substandard, three-color deck. Give it a twirl, if your group’s looking for a limited variant.

Part Three: Pete’s Continuing Madness

Not content to devastate the table with his amazing ConfessorStandstill combo, Pete decides that the next format we will try will be”super-highlander” – or, as we might say back home in New England,”supa-highlanda.” The rules are as follows:

  • Only one copy of a card per deck (except basic land), like regular Highlander;

  • If a card is played (other than basic land) and a copy of that card exists in play or in graveyard by the time it seeks to resolve (e.g., someone else discards that same card to Wild Mongrel), the spell is countered.

  • If a card (other than basic land) would show up in any other visible zone than”in play” or”stack” (e.g., cards milled by Oath of Druids) and a copy of that card exists in play or in graveyard, that card is removed from the game. (So Gaea’s Blessing would not work with the Oath if there was already another Blessing in a graveyard.)

Pete believes in piling it on, so he threw up some additional restrictions:

  • You must play only one color in your deck – no artifacts, and any mana sources can only be used to get colorless or the color you choose.

  • And, oh yeah…

  • That color must be green.

Now, I have no idea how this will turn out – we’re not playing it until after I submit this article. But I can give some general impressions of strategy:

  1. It’s a race to Overrun. Isn’t it? There are variants worth thinking about – Stampede, Centaur Chieftain, etc. – in case you don’t get one off first.

  2. Advocates are going to be cool. How about using a Nullmage Advocate to pop a deceased Wild Mongrel and Gaea’s Cradle back to your opponent’s hand, destroying an Elephant Guide, and then dropping your own Cradle, Mongrel, and Guide once the coast is clear?

  3. Rhox is king. Seriously. How is any mono-green deck going to deal with this beast? Venomous Breath? Sure, if they remember to pack it. Lotsa luck.

  4. Krosan Reclamation is actually interesting. No, really! Go ahead and look it up; I know full well only one out of ten of you even remember what it does. And the darn thing’s in Judgment!

  5. This format may have been better off in another color. I’m thinking red. But I won’t be sure of that until after tonight. A banned list may be suitable for each color, if you go nuts with this week after week.

If anyone gives this format, or a similar one, a try, give me a holler and let me know how it went!

Part Four: Hall Solicitation

Most of you are familiar with my periodic series, the Multiplayer Card Hall of Fame. This sucker is getting huge, and I’m looking forward to revving it up again after Onslaught. What I hope to do is do the entire thing in one chunk this time, give it to The Ferrett, and then let him decide how to split and release it. There’s likely to be less poetry in this one, and more examples of how the cards work. But it all depends on the time I have.

Three issues for you all to respond to:

1) I am considering documenting the Hall in an Excel spreadsheet, in addition to the articles. Would this be useful/interesting to anyone? It would list card names, similar cards, and rating along all the measures. Please speak up, if so (or not)! If I hear twenty or more requests for it, I’ll assume it’s worth the time.

2) A couple weeks ago on magicthegathering.com, I came up with a name for the elusive”sixth” element that’s been tickling my mind for the past couple of versions: Beyond rattlesnake (warning/preventing), spider (baiting/surprising), gorilla (clearing/swinging), pigeon (mooching), and plankton (giving/socializing), there was something else that had to do with card advantage, stamina, and endurance. Most of the cards that screamed for something more tended to have multiple-use abilities (like Volrath’s Stronghold) that gave the user the chance to”outlast” the chaotic atmosphere of group play. Readers had suggested bees, or turtles; but ultimately, I’ve landed on wildebeests, who are well-known to zoologists for their stamina. (The fact that multiples of these cards tend to add exponential strength also helped.)

I’m still not married to that animal’s name, so I’ll still take suggestions. But it will need to be a very obvious and convincing creature. In any case, expect to see cards that allow you to develop additional resources repeatedly get an additional boost in the Hall!

I don’t think I’m interested in completely new aspects – I’m pretty sure I have the important elements of multiplayer covered.

3) As always, I welcome suggestions for the Hall. Be specific as to why you feel the card shines. Please read the last Hall first!!! (See featured writer archives… The last version suffered some misleading titles that were all my fault, but you’ll figure it out.)

I’m looking forward to hearing back from you! You can reach me at [email protected], as usual.


Anthony Alongi

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