With some encouraging responses from last week’s quiz on Multiplayer Threats, I am moving ahead with this effort and have more fun for you all this week!
Quick patch for last week: Natural Affinity doesn’t target a player, which I implied. It’s still a devastating threat for you (as well as everyone else) and green mages are pretty good at recovering from mana depletion. I’d still rank it as that mana-intensive white mage’s number one instant concern.
I’d like to focus more on IMPLICIT THREATS this week. For those of you just joining us, implicit threats are those threats that you or your opponents keep in reserve, or are dying to topdeck. They are the instants you hold in your hand with open mana, the last piece(s) of a combo you’ve begun to form, the duplicate permanent you are going to issue proudly after everyone wastes so much energy and resources getting rid of the first one. They are both aggressive and defensive, but they have this in common: No one is completely sure if or when you will cast them.
That makes quizzing a little difficult, since I can’t exactly write up a quiz that says "guess what player B has in his hand…ennnnnh!!! You guessed wrong. Okay, now, what number am I thinking of?" All of these questions have different ways to go, and I expect – in fact, I invite – readers to send in their own answers, if they differ from what I put forward.
For the following questions, all of these conditions hold true unless specifically changed:
* You have four opponents: Players B (black), G (green), R (red), and U (blue).
* You are the white mage. AGAIN.
* Splashes are possible, but by and large folks will stick to the color I’ve assigned to them.
* Player R is to your left, U to his, B to hers, G to his, you to his.
* Type I card pool.
* Color hosers (e.g., Chill, Gloom) are generally considered impractical in your group.
* Everyone is at 20 life, zero poison counters, and somewhere between 30 and 50 cards left in their library.
* At the time you make your decision, it is the beginning of your main phase.
* No creatures have summoning sickness. (That is, they’ve been out long enough to be "active".)
SCENARIO ONE: Here’s how the board looks for questions one through six:
* Each player has three lands out, the basic lands that correspond to their color. They’re all untapped.
* The red mage has an Arc Mage out.
* The blue mage has a Prodigal Sorcerer out.
* The black mage has a Crypt Rats out.
* The green mage has an Albino Troll out.
* You have an Alabaster Wall out.
* You have one Mageta’s Boon, one Humble, one Honor the Fallen, another Alabaster Wall, and two Plains in your hand.
1) If no one EXCEPT you plays any spells out of their hand, can your wall be killed?
2) What one spell does each mage have in their hand that could make it more likely that your Wall will be killed through damage (i.e., Terror-style removal) this turn?
3) Suppose for now the Rats are silent. Play the second Alabaster Wall – good idea or not?
4) Suppose you pass priority and the Black Mage activates the Rats for three. Are there any creatures worth a Humble?
5) What two white instants are your opponents most worried you are holding? (Hint: they might not all be worried about the same two cards.)
6) BONUS QUESTION: Suppose nothing at all happens during your turn. What’s the best move for you before the start of your next turn?
* If no one EXCEPT you plays any spells out of their hand, can your wall be killed?
According to my math, not unless you want it to go. The Crypt Rats can do three, the Arc Mage can do another two, and the Sorcerer can do another one. If you play Mageta’s Boon, your Wall should be 1/6, with the ability to tap and prevent one. It’s a long way to go to save a Wall, but if everyone’s coming at you (and they’d have to be to do all that stuff, right?), you may want to make sure it hangs around.
* What one spell does each mage have in their hand that could make it more likely that your Wall will be killed through damage (i.e., Terror-style removal) this turn?
The red mage is easiest, of course: More burn. If he tapped out for the Arc Mage, he can still use Thunderclap or Fireblast if he’s committed enough. The likelihood is low, of course; but red certainly has the arsenal.
The blue mage, of course, can Counterspell your Boon. It’s a lousy use of a Counterspell in a multiplayer game, but it’s been done. A more appropriate spell might be Enchantment Alteration. She waits until your Boon has resolved, and then neatly moves it over to her own creature before the Rats’ damage resolves. The Sorcerer will still die, but both Wall and Boon will still go, and with more style than a brute Counterspell. An even smoother move would be to use the Alteration to slide the Boon over to her new friend, G’s Albino Troll.
The black mage doesn’t need a Terror, if removal through damage is more his style. A single Dark Ritual will allow the Rats to go off for five, enough in concert with the dying Mage and Sorceror to see the Wall out the door.
The green mage is trickiest. How can the green mage assure enough damage? Well, how about this: Rats go off for three, priority passes to the green mage who sets up a regeneration shield on the Troll. Priority continues around the circle until it gets to the red mage. He activates the Mage for another two and goes for your Wall. The blue mage happily joins in and pings your Wall as well. ("Six damage!" they all say. "That ought to do it!" How little they understand the devious white mage’s mind.) Since new spells have been played, there’s a new opportunity to respond: You play the Boon and tap your Wall (this can really happen any time; I’m just keeping it simple here). Seeing that the effort is about to be thwarted, and really wishing he could attack you next turn with his Troll…the green mage untaps the Prodigal Sorcerer with an Emerald Charm.
Naturally, you’ll be Humbling his Troll sometime in the near future, but he doesn’t know that; and everyone has fun at your expense in the meantime.
* Suppose for now the Rats are silent. Play the second Alabaster Wall – good idea or not?
Given the number of instants you have in your hand, and the need to hold on to your wall, no, this is not a good idea. Part of understanding implicit threats is understanding when YOU should hold onto YOUR implicit threats. Another Wall will be useful, soon, but it can wait until you have five mana (three for the Wall, two for a possible Boon).
* Suppose you pass priority and the Black Mage activates the Rats for three. Are there any creatures worth a Humble?
The Albino Troll, you say? Well, not really. In all honestly, the Mage and Sorcerer are far more likely to unite against the Troll than they are against your Wall. So despite all the figuring above, the most likely chain of events is Rats-to-everything, Troll regen, whatever tricks you do, Mage-on-Troll, Sorcerer-on-Troll. There’s very little chance that the green mage can time the regen shield so that it survives both the Rats and the parting shots of the other two creatures. So why bother with the Humble? Save it for the Thorn Elemental down the road.
* What one white instant are your opponents most worried you are holding? (Hint: they might not all be worried about the same card.)
There are several from each color’s perspective. The red and black mages are most worried about Cho-Manno’s Blessing, an enchantment they can’t remove on a creature that suddenly turns near-invulnerable. (At less-than-instant speed, you can handle both of colors at once with Mask of Law and Grace.)
The green mage, once you put that fourth land down, should be concerned about a Mirror Strike. This is one of the few white cards I genuinely like – some good aggression to it, while fitting white’s more passive theme. An unblocked Albino Troll, or Thorn Elemental, is suddenly doing a nasty jig in the wrong direction.
The blue mage isn’t much worried about anything that can be stopped by a Counterspell, but most of your threats will fall under her radar, especially if they are defensive in nature. Even that Enchantment Alteration thing I described above is unlikely. You can do the least to her, but all things being equal, she cares least about you in turn.
* BONUS QUESTION: Suppose nothing at all happens during your turn. What’s the best move for you before the start of your next turn?
Your best move is NOTHING. I say this not just because it is the correct answer (once again, leave that mana open for your own implicit threats!), but because I generally believe white mages should just sit and do nothing. Of course, if the Rats go off and the fur starts flying, you can gain cheap life with an Honor the Fallen before your next turn. Why hold it? You know you have three more of them, and four Congregates, and four Soul Wardens to boot.
SCENARIO TWO: Here’s how the board looks for questions seven through twelve:
* Each player has only one land out; the basic land that corresponds to their color. They’re all untapped.
* It is the beginning of round two (everyone’s second turn).
* Like the idiot white mage you are, you kept a hand with only one land and you just drew…not land.
* Your hand contains an Enlightened Tutor, two Swords to Plowshares, a Cursed Scroll, two Story Circles, and two Paladins en-Vec.
* Somewhere in your library is one Sol Ring and one Land Tax.
7) Pick a theme for the black mage: Mass Discard (represented by Bottomless Pit and Megrim), Mass Removal/Control with Fat (represented by Living Death and Morinfen), or Continual Graveyard Recursion (represented by Unearth and Hidden Horror). Which is his best bet against YOU this game?
8) Pick a theme for the red mage: Mass Land Destruction (represented by Wildfire and Shivan Dragon), Horrific Burn (represented by Pandemonium and Furnace of Rath), or Goblin Swarm (represented by, well, goblins). Which is his best bet against YOU this game?
9) From your answers to #7 and #8, what kind of deck does the green mage hope he has?
10) From your answers to #7, #8, and #9, what kind of threats is the blue mage going to save her four precious Counterspells for?
11) What are you going to Enlightened Tutor for this turn?
12) BONUS QUESTION: Three turns later, the black mage is sporting a Flesh Reaver, the red mage a Fickle Efreet, the blue mage a Troubled Spirit, and the green mage an Apes of Rath. What color will the first Story Circle be?
* Pick a theme for the black mage: Mass Discard (represented by Bottomless Pit and Megrim), Mass Removal/Control with Fat (represented by Living Death and Morinfen), or Continual Graveyard Recursion (represented by Unearth and Hidden Horror). Which is his best bet against YOU this game?
The only hopes the black mage has against your Story Circle are (a) overwhelming it with creatures or (b) getting it out of your hand before he plays it. So traditional concerns about multiplayer discard aside, that may be his best shot.
Living Death is a good second answer, since it deals with the Paladins and provides threats that outweigh the Paladins themselves. Those of you who can’t stand the thought of multiplayer discard could probably go with this one.
* Pick a theme for the red mage: Mass Land Destruction (represented by Wildfire and Shivan Dragon), Horrific Burn (represented by Pandemonium and Furnace of Rath), or Goblin Swarm (represented by, well, goblins). Which is his best bet against YOU this game?
Goblins can peck away through a Story Circle but get swiped by the Cursed Scroll. Horrific Burn is promising, because Pandemonium shifts the color of the source of damage (it stays with the color of the creature played), so Story Circles are useless; but now the Cursed Scroll is doing FOUR damage each blast through the Furnace. So even facing you down with Swords, Mass Land Destruction may be most promising: It keeps the Story Circles and Scroll underpowered, may just keep you below the three you need to cast a Paladin, and overpowers your Paladins with big creatures anyway.
* From your answers to #7 and #8, what kind of deck does the green mage hope he has?
If black has discard, and red has land destruction, green may just be the only player with a hope in the world of producing enough mana quickly enough to play decent spells. A rapid mana-development deck (with Exploration, Eladamri’s Vineyard, Walls of Roots) will set a good base. He will be the number one threat to the red and black mage, since he can thwart their strategy. He’s hoping for moderate-sized, recursive creatures capable of attacking in packs to single out a player in four or five attempts. Weatherseed Treefolk is risky (since it might get discarded) but worth it; regenerators like Albino Troll will also be helpful.
* From your answers to #7, #8, and #9, what kind of threats is the blue mage going to save her four precious Counterspells for?
Of course, it depends what else the blue mage has in her deck. Assuming a generic, modest, non-combo deck, the blue mage simply wants to play cards from her hand, when she feels like it. The worst sorceries, like Persecute and Wildfire, have to go. Everything else passes, and U copes. Her deck should have strong creatures capable of withstanding considerable burn, and some bounce to save a finisher (or remove a pesky enchantment).
* What are you going to Enlightened Tutor for this turn?
The Sol Ring is tempting but really, the Land Tax will help you more in the long term. It absolutely neutralizes Wildfire or other land destruction, since you know you will be able to at least keep pace with the red mage. And the black mage’s discard will be less effective as you thin out your deck to get land and reduce the chances that you’ll be caught with a high-casting cost spell in your hand for more than a turn.
* BONUS QUESTION: Three turns later, the black mage is sporting a Flesh Reaver, the red mage a Fickle Efreet, the blue mage a Troubled Spirit, and the green mage an Apes of Rath. What color will the first Story Circle be?
White. You play this asinine color, the person you need saving from the most is yourself.
Oh, okay, in all seriousness, red is probably best, since it will stop ANY player who gets the Efreet from coming at you. Green would be next on my list, since you already know the blue mage is not likely to concentrate on you with so many other annoying things happening. But she’d come in third, since your Paladins can’t cope with (or outrace) her Spirit. Black’s Reaver is least of your concerns to begin with; you can’t even see him take damage if you prevent it. Better to let it come through and hit you, and gain life later to outrace.
As I said at the start, many of the questions in both of these scenarios could go many ways. Feel free to enter the dialogue, and I’ll post the more interesting responses in a future installment on multiplayer threats. I still have to deal with combos, I think; though I’m honestly glad I’ve skipped them until now, since I don’t want to encourage infinite loops or that sort of silliness in any way.
COMING SOON: Globalization, Muggles, and Mice. Also, why our playgroup (or any playgroup, really) should beat on Theo more often.