Casual Fridays #62: Interlude

With the Hall of Fame taking up time and energy on both the Ferrett’s part and mine, I figured this week I would give both of us just a small break and do something more simple. There are some things I would like to cover anyway, without waiting three weeks. I apologize to those who…

With the Hall of Fame taking up time and energy on both the Ferrett’s part and mine, I figured this week I would give both of us just a small break and do something more simple. There are some things I would like to cover anyway, without waiting three weeks. I apologize to those who were expecting the next installment of the Hall; I promise it is coming next week.

Here’s a preview, just to tide you over: Shadowstorm, Stangg, and Wintermoon Mesa AREN’T in the Hall. That oughta answer some early questions… on to this week’s items…

First, I appreciate the feedback thus far on the Hall of Fame. Do keep the emails coming. You can suggest additional cards, ask why I did one thing and not another, thank me for reminding you of X and Y so you could make Z deck, etc. There are no stupid questions; and often your viewpoint will be at least equal in value to mine.

One incredible oversight that I’m still stunned that I made was in black. Underworld Dreams (BBB Enchantment, Whenever an opponent draws a card, this deals one damage to that player) is a STELLAR old-school card. In Version 4 of the Hall (which will come out after Planeshift and Apocalypse), it will be somewhere in the top five, barring extraordinary circumstances. I recently acquired an Italian one, and it’s one of the prides and joys of my collection. I forgot about this gem because I haven’t had time to build a deck with it yet, and because we all make dumb mistakes from time to time.

Of course, you are all as responsible for this disaster as I am, since any of you could have reminded me of this card after the FIRST TWO Halls of Fame. Where the hell was my posse? Where’s the support? Where’s the love?

Second item, I am being a little extra introspective this week since our play group, which has been enormously healthy and growing for the past three years, actually parted ways with its first member under troubling circumstances. I do not think it is appropriate to get into detail (I will not even give the fake name here), and I do not expect it to have any kind of long-term impact on my group’s growth or sustainability; but I do bring it up because the unpleasant experience has made me want to revisit group dynamics in this column, on perhaps a regular basis.

I get a few emails a month from readers who ask me to help them think through tough situations in their group: "so-and-so is a boring player who never updates their decks and plays the same three-card combos all the time", "my cousin and I are new to this game and I’m trying to figure out how to get a few more people for a group", etc. While I give personal responses to these requests, I think I would like to try to turn this into a more public, community-building activity.

If you have a group issue that you would like Casual Fridays to take before its readers, send it to me right away at [email protected]. I will post those that I find intriguing, and that I believe will get a vibrant discussion going. I will also provide an answer of my own, which need not be seen as a final judgement, but rather an invitation to additional comments and experience-sharing. All posts I make will have the names left out, and I reserve the right to edit the question/situation/case study in the interests of time, space, and other dimensions.

If we do this right, we’ll get some good conversations going about what makes groups healthy, what makes them stumble, and what makes them recover.

On to some decks.

Since I simply cannot wait to try to influence everyone’s group deck ideas, I thought I might throw out a few ideas that have been boiling in my head lately. Only a one or two of these ideas are in any kind of real deck of mine; but I’ll be putting together others soon, I expect. Most of these are three-color, exploiting the presence of the mighty dragon legends. A couple are not. A few are rare-heavy and I’m sorry about that; I’m just so excited about some of these cards!

DECK #1: CRISIS OF CROSIS. Crosis is probably my favorite Dragon legend, since he is probably the jewel that will begin a small but successful resurgence of multiplayer discard decks. With a defense like him, ganging up becomes less savory for your opponents, because no one wants to take the first shot. Any discard deck will still need Bottle Gnomes, of course; and for those of you too weak-kneed to try the discard version, I’ve supplied another one here…and it may be even more fun.

Start with a base:
3x Crosis the Purger
3x Cauldron Dance
3x Crypt Angel

These are among the very best cards that fit the blue-black-red theme. Just from those THREE cards, you have the capability to control the air, force discards against troublesome opponents, raise the dead, surprise people in the middle of combat, and give the white mage heaps of trouble. What’s not to like?

>From there, you go in one of two directions: emphasizing the Dancing, or the Purging. For the purging (discard), I might recommend additional cards:
2x Alexi, Zephyr Mage
4x Bottle Gnomes
4x Unnerve
4x Megrim
4x Recoil
4x Curfew
1x Void

For the Dancing:
2x Nightscape Master
1x Tsabo Tavoc (dance, my spidery friend, dance!)
1x another Cauldron Dance
2x Metathran Aerostat
4x Show and Tell
2x Distorting Wake
4x Plague Witch
4x Exhume

That should get you started. Yes, you can use the Gnomes with the Dancing version, too (just like everyone did with Corpse Dance). But try to be more imaginative than that.

For either scheme, you can go with fewer copies of just about any card since blue and black are terrific at getting you the card you need. Fact or Fiction, Demonic Tutor, Impulse, whatever you like. Even Gamble will work just fine, especially in the Dancing version.

Tsabo Tavoc is just angry in the middle of a Cauldron Dance.

Additional cards that might fit both themes that I’ll throw out there for you: Breathstealer’s Crypt (really!), Drain Life, Wall of Souls (as surprise Cauldron Dance blocker… that one’s for you, Ferrett, happy now?) (Thrilled – The Ferrett), Fog Bank, and Wall of Tears. Both decks are rather control-based, so think defensive, think coy, think annoying, think playful. You don’t want the game to last forever, but you DO want it to last long enough to see your deck’s tricks pay off.

DECK #2: WAKE UP, RITH! The red-green-white possibilities that open up with saprolings and pump cards are rather frightening. As with the last deck, we start with a base:

3x Rith the Awakener
2x Verdeloth the Ancient
3x Coat of Arms
2x Reverent Mantra

We’re starting off here with the idea that some day, we’ll sneak through an opponent’s defenses and smack him with a pumped-up piece of tree.

There are two ways to "branch out" (GET IT?!?…*BRANCH* OUT?!? Ugh. I think Boydell’s rubbing off on me): more aggression ( through red), or more control (through white)

3x Fires of Yavimaya
2x Ghitu War Cry
2x Overrun
3x Multani’s Acolyte
3x Skyshroud Elves
4x Blastoderm
4x mix of Restock, Reclaim, Regrowth, or some other "Re" card
Heavy forests, medium mountains, VERY light plains

3x Aura Shards
1x Castle
4x Ramosian Rally
3x Wall of Blossoms
3x Vine Trellis
4x Saber Ants
4x Hurricane
Heavy forests, medium plains, VERY light mountains

It should be pretty clear how each deck intends to win. Both probably end in a smash of saproling tokens, but the control version is going to raise less eyebrows along the way.

Additional ideas for both versions, depending on your group, your sense of humor, and your mana curve: Deranged Hermit and some squirrel-based cards (to complement the Verdeloth/saproling theme), saproling generators like the Cluster, Burst, and Spontaneous Generation, and loads of quick, small creatures (from goblins to elves to clerics to kavu) that can keep you healthy and active in the short-to-mid-game. Search for creatures with Worldly Tutor… top of the deck is fine; your mana should give you the colors you need to put it in play. And yes, you may put in ONE (but no more!) Verdant Force.

DECK #3: RENEW *THIS*. While I’m not on speaking terms with Treva right now (recall my PTQ report), a go-between did suggest the following base:

3x Treva the Renewer
4x Celestial Dawn
4x Phyrexian Processor

May God forgive me for what I might have started, there.

DECK #4: IGNITION. Darigaaz is my second-favorite dragon. I think he should cost only five mana (or better yet, three), but I may be biased in my opinion here.

3x Darigaaz the Igniter
3x Latulla, Keldon Overseer
3x Mana Flare

Easily the stupidest of the five Dragon decks, but I have a feeling no one will be calling you stupid to your face while you’re playing this. As with the first two decks, you have at least two paths from this base: green acceleration, or black life-stealing… oh, screw it, let’s do both in one deck:

3x Overabundance
4x Bog Initiate
4x Drain Life
4x Syphon Soul
4x Wall of Roots
4x Wall of Souls
4x Seal of Fire
2x Hurricane

This is a pretty near-complete decklist, but I haven’t played it yet…it may require more red and/or color-washing, since you could use all three colors quite early.

A redder, dumber version of this could simply use Walls of Stone to hold off the ground attack, more burn to light up the skies, and a splash of green for enchantment removal, since Story Circle is just about the only thing that can Darigaaz AND Latulla back.

DECK #5: BANISHED. I think a deck built around Dromar the Banisher can look VERY similar to the deck with Crosis… in fact, you might try putting two of each in the same deck. You’d want to cut back on the Cauldron Dances (to lessen dependence on red mana) and keep white to a minimum. Try this to start:

2x Dromar the Banisher
2x Crosis the Purger
4x Bottomless Pit

To avoid hurting yourself with the Pit and your diverse mana needs, try Show and Tell, Phyrexian Delver, and Reanimate so you don’t lose a dragon unnecessarily from your hand. This is a deck where both old and new dual lands should be used liberally. Countermagic wouldn’t hurt, since there are several specific land-squashing spells that can hose you hard, ranging from Armageddon to Back to Basics. Putting in a Recall might not be a bad idea, either.

Other than that, go for a strong black-blue creature and discard base, from Ravenous Rats to Avatar of Will.

Again, if you can’t stomach discard, drop Crosis from Dromar’s invitation list and ramp the white (and artifacts) up:

3x Dromar the Banisher
4x Viseling
3x Wash Out
4x Tidal Visionary
4x Story Circle

with a support crew of:
3x Swords to Plowshares
3x Galina’s Knight
3x Man-o-War
3x Monk Realist
3x Bone Shredder
4x Clay Statue

The comes-into-play creatures help you when you have to pick a color that bounces Dromar as well; the artifact creatures are there to hold the fort no matter what color you choose. You’re a little weak in the air until Dromar shows, but you’ve got the Man-o-Wars and Bone Shredders to help with most early flyers.

DECK #6: COOOOOOOOOOOOAL!… COOOOOOOAL… ITION VICTORY! All right, I haven’t seen anyone do this yet, so I’ll go ahead and take first stab. I THINK this base will give you the fastest win, short of extra-turn loop cards. (There are doubtless other variants using less cards. I only gave myself fifteen minutes to think about this one, folks; cut me some slack.)

4x Coalition Victory
4x Show and Tell
4x Sliver Queen
4x Skyshroud Elf
1x Voltaic Key
1x Sol Ring
1x Grim Monolith
4x each of the old-style dual lands (or as many as you have, anyway)

On your draw, you want Bayou, Tundra, Skyshroud Elf, Sol Ring, Grim Monolith, Show and Tell, and Voltaic Key. You’ll topdeck the Volcanic Island (or any other dual land that includes a mountain), Sliver Queen, and Coalition Victory, in that order, being the lucky guy you are.

* Turn one lay Bayou, tap it to play Sol Ring, tap the Ring to play Grim Monolith.
* Turn two lay Tundra, tap Bayou and Monolith to play Skyshroud Elf, use remaining two colorless and Tundra to play Show and Tell, lay out Sliver Queen. Tap the Sol Ring, play Voltaic Key, use remaining mana to untap the Grim Monolith.
* Turn three lay Volcanic Island, tap all three lands (GBU) and Ring (filter to WR through Elf) and Monolith (3) for a total of WBURG3 to play Coalition Victory. You can even attack with the Sliver Queen AND Elf beforehand, if you like living dangerously. (Think Exile, Sandstorm, etc….better yet, why don’t you just keep those creatures at home and play your lame combo spell?)

If you envision the game going longer than three turns, use Fact or Fiction to get the card(s) you need. Lots of luck with that.

And please don’t come crying to me when someone plays a Boomerang on your Queen (or your Tundra, which may actually be funnier) in response to the Victory.

DECK #7: BLAZIN’. I think red-black is about to get a whole lot better in multiplayer. How about something like this:

4x Mogg Fanatic
2x Ravenous Rats
4x Blazing Specter
4x Hypnotic Specter
2x Bone Shredder
2x Two-Headed Dragon (why the heck not)
(18 creatures)

4x Dark Ritual
4x Seal of Fire
2x Soul Burn
2x Cauldron Dance
2x Death Pits of Rath
4x Earthquake (Tremor will do in a pinch…NOT Pyroclasm)
2x Void
(20 other spells)

Yeah, I know, discard again. What is it with me today? And I don’t even include some great new gold cards. If you wanted to give up the Death Pits/Earthquake control method, you could squeeze in these cards into those six slots:

4x Vicious Kavu
2x Smoldering Tar

This puts you in a more aggressive stance of twenty creatures, eighteenother spells. The Tar is not very aggressive, I admit: but it gives you a slow clock on an annoying stall player. But please note that the Tar can only be sacked as a sorcery; that means you want to play it on someone OTHER than the white mage. If you have too many white freaks in your group, give up the Pits/Earthquake ploy and just play 3x Vicious Kavu and 3x Shivan Zombies. You know where to send them.

That ought to hold folks for a while! I’ve got full plates for the next two months, I think. Two more weeks of the Hall of Fame (red/gold/lands next week, followed by artifacts, where I think I will test out the idea of POWER/ATTENTION RANKINGS), then results of the Connect the Dots contest, an update on gender and group play dynamics, and of course the letters you will all send with group dynamic questions…s tarting NOW!

Thanks in advance for your thoughtful contributions. I will keep up as best I can.

Anthony Alongi
[email protected]