Casual Fridays #63: Hall Of Fame, Resumption: Red, Gold, And Lands

GENERAL COMMENTS: A bit like green, red has to give up a bit of its mindless rush instincts in multiplayer and concentrate on its control aspects. Of red’s two primary themes – DIRECT DAMAGE and LAND DESTRUCTION – neither can maintain its usual stock of staples (Lightning Bolt, Stone Rain) and expect to do as…

GENERAL COMMENTS: A bit like green, red has to give up a bit of its mindless rush instincts in multiplayer and concentrate on its control aspects. Of red’s two primary themes – DIRECT DAMAGE and LAND DESTRUCTION – neither can maintain its usual stock of staples (Lightning Bolt, Stone Rain) and expect to do as well in multiplayer. But red does gain a great deal of new card possibilities in multiplayer, most centered around UNIVERSAL DAMAGE. There are a few broad-reaching destruction cards as well, and even a tricky creature or two.

[3R Instant. Deals three damage to each attacking and each blocking creature.] SIMILAR CARDS: LAVA STORM deals two damage to every attacking OR every blocking creature.

WHY: The best time to cast this, of course, is during a combat that has nothing to do with you. Do be sure to wait until all combat damage is in the stack, so you can bring down the Serra Angels and Morphlings as well.

SIGNAL: Warpath is one of the few cards on this red list that is NOT that aggressive. It’s made for a more patient deck built around the notion of annoying other people.

ENHANCEMENTS: It would be nice to pepper your deck with some spot burn, so you can finish the job on a Thorn Elemental or respond to a River Boa’s regeneration shield. If you think you’ll be casting this during your own combat phases a lot, you could use pro-red creatures, of course.

COUNTERMEASURES: If you’re the defender, and you suspect a Warpath is coming, you might consider using tricks like Fog, Choking Vines, or Trap Runner to keep your creatures from having to block. Unfortunately, if you’re attacking, the best you can do is prevent or reduce the damage – after all, in Magic while you can block without really blocking, you can’t attack without really attacking! If you can get your mission accomplished other ways (e.g. burn or milling), you won’t care too much about this card.

I have never used Warpath. I haven’t found the right deck for it. But I keep thinking, this card has GOT to be fun to play. I might like a deck that puts together the following:


4x Warpath

4x Sandstorm

4x Mages’ Contest

4x Illicit Auction

4x Hail Storm

And a bunch of defensive creatures. No path to victory. Just screwing with all of the combats, making life difficult for everyone, waiting to see who gets tired of you first.

[R Enchantment. Sacrifice Seal of Fire: Seal of Fire deals 2 damage to target creature or player.] SIMILAR CARDS: The Seal is the enchantment incarnation of Shock, which is the little brother of Lightning Bolt. Both of these instants are inferior, in multiplayer. (And the angry reader response begins!) (Don’t bother, folks, he’s right – The Ferrett, in a rare moment of Alongi Agreement)

WHY: One day shortly before Nemesis came out, Theo and I were carpooling to a weekly game. He used the occasion to attempt to wear me down with his own take on multiplayer dynamics. "The Seals," he told me, "will be HUGE in our group."

At that time I hadn’t spent much time looking at the spoiler lists (which might explain why I went 1-4 at the Nemesis prerelease), and I didn’t know the Seals or what they did, really. I knew there was a Disenchant-styled one, and a Boomerang-styled one. Not much else. So my response to Theo’s wild assertion was tepid: "Yeah, whatever, watch the road dork you almost hit that wallaby." (We have no wallabies in Minnesota. But that won’t keep me from hoping.)

Unclued-into my deep lack of enthusiasm for the topic, Theo kept beating the dead horse. "They’re warning signals!" he insisted. "You lay them down, people leave you alone."

"Cripes, there’s another wallaby!" I cried out. "For heavens sake, man, be more careful! You’ll tick off the Australians!"

We really didn’t see any wallabies that night; but Theo was really right about Seal of Fire. This seal, easily the best out of the five due to its first-turn presence and overall flexibility, is one of the few first-turn drops that can directly lead to your domination of a group game. It is the red Propaganda: Why should your enemies attack you with a 4/2 Rancored Pouncing Jaguar and deal no damage (and lose a card, and a great deal of tempo), when they can hit the guy next to you, deal four damage, and be ready next turn for another attack?

Of course, it is only two damage. So it’s low on the list. But it makes it in, where Lightning Bolt and Shock do not, because neither the Bolt nor the Shock gain a single thing from multiplayer. The THREAT of a Bolt or Shock might… and hey, that is exactly what the Seal is. Advantage, Seal.

Of course, I pack four Seals, four Bolts, AND four Shocks in my red decks, just in case I’m wrong.

SIGNAL: The Seal is versatile enough, as a first turn play, that opponents won’t be able to read much into what you’re about to do. Perhaps you’re just putting up a warning. Perhaps you’re laying the groundwork for an army of haste-ridden first-strikers. Perhaps you’ll just try to control the board with Earthquake. It’s up to you.

ENHANCEMENTS: Did you know that Jokulhaups (and its newest cousin, Obliterate) leaves enchantments on the board? Why yes it does.

COUNTERMEASURES: I’ll be saying "pro-red" a lot today. Really, that’s about it. Your basic sackable creatures are better than usual with a Seal out; but then the damage might come directly at you.

[5R, 5/5 Creature. Haste. When Thundermare comes into play, tap all other creatures.] SIMILAR CARDS: The undeniably inferior Shrieking Mogg, which admittedly works better with Aluren.

WHY: The Thundermare is a classic finisher for duels. When there’s a mere five damage to be done, and the white-blue mage has set up an array of impressive blockers, nothing else is more fun than a creature that comes in raging like the Thundermare does.

In multiplayer, the Thundermare has to be played more carefully, but it can be even more devastating… to the two or three players to your right. In a five-player or larger game, they will be open to multiple attacks from the players to your left.

SIGNAL: There are two signals from the Thundermare. The first is the one you send when you play it and tap everything. You are opening up a gaping hole in the flanks of your rightward opponents. The players to your left will see this as an invitation. This is not playing politics, of course. This is helping the other players at the table recognize an opportunity.

The second signal is the one you send when you decide whom to attack, and with what. Since the rest of your army has also been tapped with the big bad horse, you might decide to keep it home as a blocker… that will make the first signal even stronger. Or, you can decide to attack: a player to your right, to reinforce the first signal; or a player to your left, to mitigate it.

ENHANCEMENTS: The ability to create cheap, instant-speed creatures wouldn’t hurt, since you’ll have little defense after the Thundermare swoops through. Goblin Warrens, Afterlife, and such are options. Vitalize is a classic combination with the Thundermare (to either attack with everything, or surprise-block).

COUNTERMEASURES: Your Horseshoe Crab will get trampled on something fierce, but you’ll be glad you have it. See also: Morphling, which stands a better chance of survival.

My first Thundermare was a Portal. I was only picking up Portal packs at that time, content to pay 1UU for the only Counterspell in the game ("Mystic Denial"… I couldn’t BELIEVE how powerful and cheap it was!), and enjoying the very cool Ebon Dragon (5B 5/6 flyer, forces discard as it comes into play, but really, you’re playing it for the very cool artwork). I had no spoiler lists, no interest in the Internet, no way of knowing what the next pack held. (I suppose I could call this time in my life "the Golden Age of Magic," but I have promised myself I would never be so narrow-minded.)

Anyhow, the Thundermare was a complete surprise. I immediately saw it as THE card in Portal. The fiery head of the mare filled the whole of the card. (Same artist, probably the same horse, slightly different perspective.) The big equine face stared at me and dared me to play it. "You’re not man enough!," it whinnyed. "I’ll tap YOUR creatures too! Little man! Neiiiiiigh. Neiiiiiiiiiiigh…"

I tamed that wild stallion, and married her. Hang on, that’s a different story. (One I haven’t told my second, human wife yet.)

[2R Sorcery. Deals three damage divided as you choose among target creatures and/or players.] SIMILAR CARDS: The Arc Mage deals a two-damage spread; Flameshot is an alternate casting-cost Arc for creatures only.

WHY: We’ll look at sweeping damage higher up on the list, but for now this card looks terrific in group play. You get to pinpoint two or three particularly annoying early creatures and, if you can’t find enough, just hit someone you don’t like with the remaining damage.

SIGNAL: Arc Lightning is a reactive spell. You are rarely pushing hard with this card; there are more efficient spells for the mana. You wait and pick off the targets that are most disruptive to your plans.

ENHANCEMENTS: Play your own Abyssal Gatekeeper and make it a target. Sure, it takes practice, but you’ll reap rewards from it over time.

COUNTERMEASURES: Do yourself a favor and wait until all targets are declared before playing your pump spells. Ramosian Rally, Reverent Mantra, even Magnify all hose the Arc.

    [3R Enchantment. At the beginning of your combat phase, separate all creatures defending player controls into two face-up piles. Only creatures in the pile of that player’s choice may block this turn.] SIMILAR CARDS: Raging River, an old friend from Alpha, appears to be the inspiration for this, and to a lesser extent the other Invasion divvy cards.

    WHY: Recall that attacking too aggressively in multiplayer is bad, since it often leaves you with few blockers to handle a crushing attack from a third player. Among all other divvy cards, Stand or Fall achieves the most additional impact from moving from duel to multiplayer. (With one possible exception; see below.) Your opponents have to recalculate their aggression repeatedly, bearing in mind that they get half as many creatures to defend against you as they normally would.

    SIGNAL: As with any red card that makes it difficult for opponents to block, you are suggesting that you are going to put hard-to-handle attackers out there.

    ENHANCEMENTS: You can either shoot for QUANTITY of attackers (with goblins, including Mogg Infestation and Goblin Warrens) and hope to overwhelm the reduced number of blockers; or you can shoot for QUALITY of attackers (most obvious example being Two-Headed Dragon) and make all but the largest armies helpless against you. Trample, as an ability, is particularly effective when you can limit the number and quality of blockers.

    COUNTERMEASURES: Choose the pile with Wall of Glare. (Of course, you could also use Entangler on a fat flyer.)

I’ve made about four attempts at a little humorous interlude here, and I don’t like any of them. I’ll make the next one twice as long. Promise.

[2R Sorcery. Deals one damage to each player for each land he or she controls.]

WHY: Everyone loves to put out a few more lands in casual multiplayer than they would in a duel. Sure, we each keep one or two back as fake spells or to pitch to whatever, but by and large no one likes to have less than seven or eight of them out. Seven or eight damage times the number of players for three mana is not bad at all.

SIGNAL: Acidic Soil is, not unlike Stasis, considered rather "rude." Penalizing people because they have lands sends a rather unusual, if creative, statement. Beyond that, it fits fine with aggression, control, or combo.

ENHANCEMENTS: This card cries out for a cheesy CoP: Red combo. I don’t know of a spell that does the reverse of Natural Affinity – i.e. turns creatures into lands – but if they ever come out with one, put it in there!

COUNTERMEASURES: Sunder is the most obvious. In most cases, you’re just taking it in the chin. I mean, who protects against having too much mana available? You can only go so far with artifacts.

[XR Sorcery. Each player sacrifices X lands.] SIMILAR CARDS: I was tempted to put in BEND OR BREAK here – the only divvy card that might gain more from multiplayer than Stand or Fall – but I think the break of the Tectonic sort is still superior in its efficiency. Nevertheless, I’ll be talking about both of them in this slot.

WHY: Both Tectonic Break and Bend or Break are adjustable, mass land-destruction. You can adjust, to a certain extent, their impact on the game. If you need the game to slow down just a wee bit, or there’s a blue player who’s wallowing in manascrew, you can just slice off one or two lands from everyone. If you need half (or more) of everyone’s lands gone, either of these two cards will fit the bill nicely.

SIGNAL: Slicing off lands is a risky, hateful strategy; but by the time you’ve played this, you have probably already let the world know that you’re trying to manastarve the table a bit. You will be well into your control mode.

ENHANCEMENTS: You can use a Groundskeeper to get your own lands back, of course.

COUNTERMEASURES: There are obvious anti-land-destruction spells, like Planar Rebirth and the like. Most are white. Any of those will do nicely. Your own Groundskeeper is nice; but the red mage will be packing burn, and the Groundskeeper isn’t exactly wearing sunblock.

I think Tectonic Break, along with Bend or Break and Wildfire, can form the basis of a true multiplayer land destruction deck. To wit:

4x Tectonic Break

4x Bend or Break

2x Wildfire (don’t overdo these)

4x Groundskeeper

4x Crenellated Wall

4x Arc Lightning

4x Arc Mage

2x Spidersilk Armor

2x Hurricane

Creatures with five toughness, or regenerators: Wall of Roots, Thran War Machine, Horned Troll, Uthden Troll.

Artifact mana like you wouldn’t believe.

Forests and mountains. Don’t sweat duals; you’ll just be losing them later.

The Crenellated Walls keep the Groundskeepers and Arc Mages alive through a Wildfire. (You can use Invigorate as well; the idea is to NOT need mana to pump.) There’s a lot in the "four" slot there, but you’re really not planning on playing the Bend or Break or Tectonic Break until the sixth turn or later.

As your lands go, you set up regeneration shields around your creatures. If you have a forest left, you might cast a Vitalize.

It’s a fragile deck right now, but I’ve been running a similar one (based on Wildfire) for a few weeks now, and it doesn’t completely suck. The toughest challenge is timing the Wildfire so that your own creatures survive. If you can get a Groundskeeper to survive a single Wildfire, the game is yours for about three turns. Make hay while the sun shines.

[2R Sorcery. Each player discards his or her hand and draws seven cards.]

WHY: Red mages can spend out heir hands pretty fast – faster, that is, than most others. Wheel of Fortune gains you card advantage, and may just flush out enchantments or other spells that might be difficult for you if played.

SIGNAL: You’re reloading. Actually, the signal comes before this card, and it’s usually aggressive.

ENHANCEMENTS: Once you have seven cards again, another Gamble makes sense if your first one didn’t work out the way you would have liked. Seven new cards could mean seven more creatures for your Sneak Attack. Or it might just supply seven new lands to make a Tectonic Break worth it.

COUNTERMEASURES: As with Windfall, you want instants and open mana, perhaps a more aggressive stance so most of your hand is played out… and, if you’re lucky enough to own one, a Library of Alexandria for when your hand gets back up to seven.

[6RR, 6/6 Creature. Flying. If any opponent controls seven or more lands, Avatar of Fury costs 6 less to cost. R: Avatar of Fury gets +1/+0 until end of turn. SIMILAR CARDS: Most dragons, including the classic SHIVAN DRAGON, have similar power/toughness and firebreathing.

WHY: The Avatar of Fury is the new assault weapon in the arsenal of the red mage. As noted above in discussion of Acidic Soil, most people in multiplayer spend out at least seven or eight lands. That means one of the greatest closers in the game for RR. Once on the board, like the Avatar of Woe, it’s simply a darn good creature that doesn’t gain anything in particular for having more than one opponent.

SIGNAL: To generate the opponent demand for lands that get you this creature for RR, you need to be rather aggressive. No one will ever get to seven lands if you keep playing Tectonic Break.

ENHANCEMENTS: Entice players to draw more lands with a Horn of Greed. If they know what’s coming and pass on the offer, you still get the card advantage.

COUNTERMEASURES: You can stay at six lands or less and make the red mage hard cast this, but eventually it will get on the board. Better to just let it come out and be prepared with blockers, or removal.

The Avatar of Fury is just ALL OVER my group right now. Perhaps the new Dragon legends will push them out of a few decks; but we all hit seven lands so often, this is just a deal that none of us can pass up. We’re beginning to see some real metagame choices come through:

  • A deck packing four Mirror Strikes
  • A deck packing significant bounce
  • A few extra Hurricanes
  • A deck using MOMENT OF SILENCE…I don’t even want to talk about this one.

Actually, Bill may be about to build a new deck using four Moments of Silence and four Blinding Angels, among other white control cards. I’ll keep folks up to speed on this.

But anyway, as you can tell, Avatar of Fury makes a group do craaaazy things.

[2R Enchantment. Whenever a player taps a land for mana, that land produces one additional mana of the same type.] SIMILAR CARDS: MANA CACHE is a more complex, twisted version that may or may not build up colorless mana that anyone can use on their turn.

WHY: A rare, sweet love letter from the red mage to everyone else. Of course, you’ll be powering X spells and other atrocities with it, while they’re just casting extra elves.

SIGNAL: Signal-neutral. Hey, we’re all just having a good time, right? (That’s sarcasm, folks – The Ferrett)

ENHANCEMENTS: Since I have a simple mind, I find it easier to make sure all of my creatures in a Mana Flare deck have an EVEN-numbered mana activation cost, like Masticore. That way, I can be sure that I won’t take burn for tapping a land for two when I only want one.

COUNTERMEASURES: Blue mages will want to let this card stay out and keep their Counterspells and Misdirections ready for the big X spell. White mages will want to keep their Congregates ready for the same reason. Green and black mages have to be more proactive, and assault the red mage before the mana can build up.

[2RR Enchantment. Whenever a creature comes into play, Aether Flash deals two damage to it.] SIMILAR CARDS: AETHER STING penalizes the creature’s caster, dealing one damage for each successful summon.

WHY: Make the battlefield your exclusive, "fatties-only" club!

SIGNAL: Control.

ENHANCEMENTS: Fatties or regenerators.

COUNTERMEASURES: Again, fatties or regenerators. Bubble Matrix works here, as well as for just about every other card on red’s list.

Aether Flash is a long-forgotten card in our group. There used to be several decks and players that ran it; but red fell out of favor last year and didn’t really come back until Prophecy. Aether Flash has not come back with it. It is harder than most people think to build a quality deck around Aether Flash. It’s a pain to come up with enough fatties that come out early enough; and it’s annoying that all of your creatures come in tapped while the white mage just casts his Paladins-en-Vec without any trouble at all.

But Aether Flash is still strong, and there are doubtless recent cards that go with it really well now that our group has not exploited. I would throw out for consideration, if any of you would like to experiment: Skizzik (hey, compare it to Ball Lightning!), Cho-Manno, Revolutionary, Inflame, Oracle’s Attendants, Maggot Therapy, Noxious Field, Cinder Shade, and Backlash/Delirium. Not all in the same deck, of course.

[2R Enchantment. R: Target creature gets +1/+0 until end of turn.] SIMILAR CARDS: Crown of Flames targets a specific creature and gives it the basic FIREBREATHING ability; you can recall the local enchantment to your hand if necessary.

WHY: A bit like Warpath, this is the kind of card you often make use of during someone ELSE’s combat. After a third-party creature slips through and whacks someone, pump it with the Cry. If you do it without gloating, you can usually keep the defender annoyed more at the attacker than at you, while making sure maximum damage was dealt. Because of the strong applications in team play, Ghitu War Cry gets the "GOOD TEAMMATE" award for red.

SIGNAL: You expect to punch through with something, somehow, which reeks of aggression.

ENHANCEMENTS: First strike creatures, those with evasion, and those that do not tap to attack, will help you use the Cry more often than typical ground-pounders.

COUNTERMEASURES: Lying in wait with bounce or other removal until after the pump is complete should do the trick.

    [2R Enchantment. At the end of each player’s turn, if that player didn’t play a spell that turn, Impatience deals 2 damage to him or her.] SIMILAR CARDS: The direct opposite, Spellshock, does 2 damage to a player every time he or she DOES play a spell. (I consider it similar because both enchantments link to the playing/not playing of any general spell.)

    WHY: Most red mages hate extraordinarily long group games. I’ve certainly got a splash of red in me, and I can appreciate what this card does.

    SIGNAL: Impatience is the first of four red enchantments on this list (see the top three for the rest) that drastically ramp up the pace of the game. This thing penalizes the defensive players that just sit back and build up their forces.

    ENHANCEMENTS: The most annoying combo in the game, in my opinion, is Impatience and Spellshock. There are surprisingly few dual-card combos that are so clean, cheap, and perfect in their ugliness. Impatience also works well with discard, since you give players fewer spells to play. Cards like Sphere of Resistance make it more expensive for players to avoid the damage.

    COUNTERMEASURES: Unfortunately, this card sticks a bit low on the list since it’s easy to overcome. "The red mage wants us to play spells? Fine. Play Rancor on my Endless Wurm, take eleven, smarty-pants. Next turn, sack the Rancor to the Wurm again, play it to avoid Spellshock damage, and… hmmm… ok, take another eleven." Blue mages can bounce it right before their turn so it applies to everyone but them, black mages can usually cast anything any turn they want, and white mages will just Disenchant it when they can’t stuff another weenie on the board. In other words, the red mage has to be careful what she wishes for – she may get it.

All right, all right, I did this for Congregate, and it’s only fair that I do this for the most annoying card red has, as well. Let it not be said I cannot recognize the flaws in the colors I like, as well. I hereby present: alternate responses to Impatience.

* PUMMELING: It works for Congregate, and it’ll work for Impatience as well. Again, let’s not hurt anyone for real, folks. Just bruise ’em.

* BUYING IN: At the beginning of the controller’s turn, get right in their face and razz them about how slow they are playing. "Come on, man, let’s go. Hurry up. Play the spell. You wanted us to go fast, let’s go fast. Go go go go go! What, no spell? Take damage. Hurry hurry hurry…"

* SNACKING. As soon as the caster lays it down, everyone call out "SNACK BREAK!" and get up to leave. Temporarily, of course. McDonald’s, 7-11, the vending machine in the dorm laundry room, wherever. When you come back, and the Impatience mage is twiddling his thumbs angrily, just ask innocently, "Oh, I’m sorry, were you waiting for us to play spells?!?"

[6RR Sorcery. Obliterate can’t be countered. Destroy all artifacts, creatures, and lands. They can’t be regenerated.] SIMILAR CARDS: Jokulhaups is the (counterable) original. Wildfire takes a more modest swipe at both creatures and lands, leaving artifacts alone.

WHY: The red Wrath of God and Armageddon, all in one, with Shatterstorm thrown in for good measure.

SIGNAL: The last pure control card on red’s list.

ENHANCEMENTS: Note that enchantments are the only permanents left alone by Obliterate or Jokulhaups – typical of red. Play into that oversight with stuff like Aether Flash and Soul Barrier.

COUNTERMEASURES: White does best here, as it often does against red. Sacred Ground is an enchantment that will survive the flood and bring back your lands; Angelic Renewal will bring back your favorite creature (bring back the Soltari Visionary, so you can destroy whatever enchantments the Jokulhaups leaves behind).

[XR Sorcery. Does X damage to all creatures and players.] SIMILAR CARDS: It might be easier to list the red cards that AREN’T similar. EARTHQUAKE is the original that the Hellion is based on. TREMOR does one point just to creatures; FIRE ANTS and SUBTERRANEAN SPIRIT can make their own Tremors; PYROCLASM and STEAM BLAST hit a bit harder than Tremor; WARMONGER gives everyone access to the quake machine; and even distributable damage spells like ROLLING THUNDER and FIREBALL aren’t too far off the Earthquake theme.

WHY: Of course, many might choose the sorcery Earthquake for this slot, since it deals damage to players and is adjustable. But for the moment, I really like the Hellion’s permanency, and the fact that it usually owns the board for as long as it sticks around. Longevity is good in group play.

SIGNAL: Even though it can wipe the board, it doesn’t always point to a control strategy. It is sometimes the last resort in an aggressive deck.


If you go to the local card store, find the thirty-something guy with white in his beard, pounce into his lap and say, "Grandpa, tell me a story about the old Earthquakes of 1995!", well son he just might share with you a little ditty about a bunch of Rukh Eggs that got cracked in the turmoil and hatched up some 4/4 flyers.

COUNTERMEASURES: Far and away the best is Reflect Damage. Barring that, Bubble Matrix.

Hellions are beasts, in creature type. That’s cool. Other beasts of note: most of the flowstone creatures (e.g., Flowstone Hellion!), the laccoliths, wumpi, Lesser Gargadon, and Scragnoth. Oh, and Rhox. See a green-red deck forming there for next theme night? Good for you.

[4RRR Sorcery. Set aside all permanents. You choose one of those cards and put it into play tapped under your control. Then your opponent chooses one and puts it into play tapped under his or her control. Repeat this process until all cards set aside this way have been chosen. (Local enchantments with no permanent to enchant remain removed from the game.)] SIMILAR CARDS: Illicit Auction allows players to bid life for a target creature.

WHY: Actually, the person sitting to your left thinks this card is the BEST red multiplayer card. You pretty much give them the game, or at least the power to decide who dies first. You probably do second best, and the person to your right just gets shafted. So sit to the left of the white mage.

SIGNAL: You’re just screwing around here, right? Right.

ENHANCEMENTS: Brand, of course: make sure there’s a red mana in your mana pool as you cast the Auction. Vitalize wouldn’t hurt, either. Bear in mind the artifacts and creatures you have ought to be "ownership-neutral" – stuff like Coat of Arms, Caltrops, Marble Titan, that sort of thing – so that no matter who owns them, you still enjoy the benefit.

COUNTERMEASURES: Darn few. If you’re the player to the left, you usually WANT this to happen anyway. A deck with control magic, of course, can overcome most of what the Auction does. Absolute Law, of course, works no matter who controls it.

[RR Instant. Any one sorcery or instant spell just cast is duplicated. Treat Fork as an exact copy of target spell except that Fork remains red. Caster of Fork chooses the copy’s target.]

WHY: Fork is high because it feeds off of the power of other spells whose casters think they have sole rights to all the fun. Your single, restricted copy of Fork works on Counterspells, Misdirections, Disenchants, Fireballs, Strokes of Genius, all sorts of game enders. It lets you feed off of Congregate, neutralize a Drain Life, and, hey, schedule a second Thieves’ Auction!

SIGNAL: Depends on how it’s used. Usually reinforces a pretty aggressive strategy.

ENHANCEMENTS: You can put a series of cheap spells in your hand worth duplicating, of course, just in case no one else plays anything juicy. A Bosium Strip or Relearn un-restricts this lovely card.

COUNTERMEASURES: Remember that Fork remains red, even if it duplicates a spell of a different color. Cho-Manno’s Blessing will wreck it on occasion. Ivory Mask is always a safe enchantment to lay down before you try to Stroke or Drain the red mage with two mountains ready.

Fork is restricted, and that’s a bummer. (Really, would it kill them to unrestrict it? What’s the worst that can happen, five Time Walks?) Personally, I don’t think it would be so bad if they would complete the Silverware Set:

Spoon, UU Instant. Tap two target creatures. They gain banding until end of turn.

"It’s the only way we can both get to sleep without knocking each other off the bed." – Sisay, regarding Gerrard.

Knife, BB Instant. Destroy target creature. It can’t be regenerated. That creature’s controller puts two X/Y Mutton tokens into play, where X = one half the power of the destroyed creature rounded down, and Y = one half the power of the destroyed creature rounded up.

"Two maggots are tastier than one fly." – Squee

Napkin, WW Instant. If a source of damage would deal less than target creature’s toughness this turn, prevent that source’s damage to that creature.

"You clean up real nice." – Orim, to Crovax

Lobster Fork, GG Instant. If any creature has the ability "this creature cannot be the target of spells or abilities," all creatures lose that ability until the end of turn.

"All crabs are, if you crush them hard enough, soft-shell crabs." — Multani

All right, enough of the bad jokes. The last three cards in red make games move rapidly. All signal rather brute aggression; control decks built on these cards run extraordinary risks.

[1RR Enchantment. Whenever a creature is dealt damage, Repercussion deals that much damage to that creature’s controller.]

WHY: Jackal Pup disease strikes! A true game-accelerator.

ENHANCEMENTS: Universal damage like Hurricane and Earthquake.

COUNTERMEASURES: #1: Bubble Matrix. #2: Cho-Manno. #3 No creatures!



[3R Enchantment. Whenever any creature comes into play, that creature’s controller may choose to have it deal damage equal to its power to target creature or player.] SIMILAR CARDS: Brawl is an instant sort of Pandemonium, using the creatures on the table already.

WHY: It’s a little-known ruling that when this card is played, its controller may cry out, "PAAAAAAN-DEEEEEH-MOOOOOWWW-NEEEUM!" If he or she does not, he or she sacrifices Pandemonium.

Pandemonium damage is a great way to announce new prey during a limited-target match, so it gets the "MASTER OF THE HUNT" award for red.

ENHANCEMENTS: These are your creatures. Pangasaur, Timid Drake, and Jackalope Herd are your best bets; Hunted Wumpus is just for fun… expect to get burned back. Wizard Mentor and Blinking Spirit aren’t half bad, either. An Ivory Mask will prevent direct damage to you.

COUNTERMEASURES: Don’t try to outdo the Pandemonium mage. Just get rid of the damn enchantment.

[1RRR Enchantment. Double all damage assigned to any creature or player.]

WHY: Every time I play the Furnace, I think of the riddle game in The Hobbit:

This thing all things devours,
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers
Gnaws iron, bites steel,
Grinds hard stones to meal,
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down.

The answer is time, and you just gave everyone half as much as they used to have.

ENHANCEMENTS: Rancor and Fireblast move from top-notch to stratospheric. And look at the other cards on this list: think Repercussion, Furnace… and Crater Hellion.

COUNTERMEASURES: Move quickly. Can’t move quickly? OK, try using Worship, Lich, Ali from Cairo, that sort of thing…but time is NOT on your side.

Honorable mention for red goes to CINDER ELEMENTAL, which upon losing summoning sickness tends to control the board like a Super Seal of Fire.



Gold cards, for those of you who are just starting the game right about now, are named for the gold border given to cards using more than one color mana in the casting cost. The expansion Legends is chock-full of ’em. They petered out over Ice Age, Mirage, and Tempest cycle. After a two-block absence, they are coming back strong with Invasion.

Despite their common use by many grizzled veterans of the game, the presence of gold cards in a group play should not intimidate the newcomer. There are surprisingly few gold-bordered cards, Pre-Invasion, that truly gain a great deal from multiplayer. Virtually all of the creature Legends actually lose effectiveness, from a technical standpoint. True, Nicol Bolas and Sol’Nar the Swamp King and the like have complex casting costs that are easier to manage in long, casual group games. But the abilities that come with these creatures usually doesn’t gain anything from the group dynamic. (Players lucky enough to have these cards, however, have a blast playing with them, and I recommend acquiring one or two of your own, once you know what you like in a creature. You can acquire white-bordered versions of many pretty cheaply, if collectibility is not important to you.)

Gold cards truly geared toward helping the multiplayer mage, unsurprisingly, combine elements of the cards already mentioned in the respective colors above. But these offerings are still interesting, and do neat twists here and there.

[1GUW, 4/4 Creature. W: Flying until end of turn. Target opponent gains 2 life. U: Return Phelddagrif to owner’s hand. Target opponent may draw a card. G: Trample until end of turn. Put a Hippo token into play under target opponent’s control. Treat this token as a 1/1 green creature.]

WHY: The only creature on this list, the lovable hippo has a combination of three abilities/drawbacks that collectively, I call "skip-to-the-loo-ing": the ability to fly, retreat, or trample on demand. (I mean, if YOU skipped to the loo urgently enough, you’d jump or run over anything that got in the way, too, I’ll bet.) There’s bound to be a player whom you wouldn’t mind if they gained a bit of life, drew a single card, or got a wee baby hippo.

In a poor field for team cards, Phelddagrif gets the "GOOD TEAMMATE" award for gold, since it’s a versatile creature that can give all the advantages to one opposing player and then slam her teammate.

SIGNAL: Other than your undeniable love for large, quasi-aquatic mammals, this card signals nothing.

ENHANCEMENTS: What, this thing doesn’t come with enough bells and whistles for you? I suppose you think Morphling is a little short on abilities, too…

COUNTERMEASURES: There’s nothing here that requires too much imagination to stop. Best bet from where I sit is to use simple removal and force the controller to give up card advantage.

[BU Creature Enchantment. Enchanted creature can’t be blocked except by artifact creatures and/or black creatures. Whenever enchanted creature deals combat damage to an opponent, you may draw a card.] SIMILAR CARDS: Sleeper’s Robe is a combination of two elder creature enchantments, Fear and Curiosity.

WHY: Sleeper’s Robe is the only creature enchantment in the entire Hall of Fame. (I’ve done this Third Edition on very little sleep, and hope that’s actually true. A few checkovers of the list tell me so, anyway…) As most experienced players know, creature enchantments are a raw deal, since you lose two cards instead of just one when someone plays a creature removal spell. But Sleeper’s Robe gains you a card whenever you damage an opponent, which makes the card disadvantage less of a problem.

In fact, in multiplayer, this is one of the very few cards that can repopulate your hand fast enough to keep up with the multiple threats you’re facing. With multiple opponents, you are virtually certain that ONE of them will be vulnerable to a Robed creature.

SIGNAL: Card advantage is a tool of all sorts of players; but since it can make a creature unblockable by turn two, this card signals aggression more often than not.

ENHANCEMENTS: Put on a black creature with high toughness for best survivability. (I’m thinking first turn Dark Ritual, Hidden Horror, second turn Sleeper’s Robe on the Horror. Ka-pow-ee!)

COUNTERMEASURES: Quick removal of the offending creature, even if it otherwise looks beneath your notice, is in order. The great thing about facing down a creature enchantment is, every color has a countermeasure. I’m sure you’ll figure out your own.

[All six-mana, 6/6 flyers requiring 3 different mana and using the "central" mana for a combat-damage ability…]
CROSIS THE PURGER, RBU3, Persecutes upon damage dealing.
DROMAR THE BANISHER, BUW3, bounces a color upon damage dealing.
TREVA THE RENEWER, UWG3, gains life upon damage dealing.
RITH THE AWAKENER, WGR3, generates saprolings upon damage dealing.
DARIGAAZ THE IGNITER, GRB3, deals additional damage upon damage dealing.

WHY: Okay, I’m cheating a little bit by putting five cards into one slot. But I think we can all agree that it would be a little unfair to use up five different slots for these guys; and none of them really deserve to be left out.

I have already been asked a few times "which of the younger dragon legends is the best." The black-based creatures, unlike in duel, are not necessarily the best: think of Swords to Plowshares, Hurricane, and other popular casual removal cards that don’t have a Terror-based restriction. In fact, Treva and Rith (the two non-black) probably get a slight advantage in multiplayer, since their abilities are both dependent on how many permanents of a given color there are.

We’ll skip the signal, enhancements, and countermeasures for these; these are finishers that each have their own flavor. The Interlude I did last week should give some ideas on what cards you can use to get the most out of your new dragon legends.

[1GW Enchantment. Whenever a creature comes into play under your control, you may destroy target artifact or enchantment.]

WHY: Every creature you play can be a Monk Realist or Uktabi Orangutan! The ultimate answer to so many of the other cards on this list. Gold is very versatile, so this doesn’t get as high as Creeping Mold did in green (or Aura of Silence in white); but it’s still an absolute wrecking ball against most control players.

SIGNAL: Your swarm will not tolerate a Stasis or Aether Flash.

ENHANCEMENTS: While you will rarely have to get rid of so many so quickly, it is amusing to note that you could machine-gun away a bunch of artifacts or enchantments with the Sliver Queen, Liege of Hollows, Verdeloth the Ancient, Waylay, or Deranged Hermit.

COUNTERMEASURES: Some decks will care deeply about this card, others not at all. Control-based players in a group almost always have to get rid of this card; one funny countermeasure is an Aura Shards of their own.

    [XRG Sorcery. Does X damage to every creature.]

    WHY: A blend of Earthquake and Hurricane, without the player damage. Useful if you’re not using Spike Feeders in your deck.

    SIGNAL: Rather controlling in nature, it still works well in aggressive schemes.

    ENHANCEMENTS: See Earthquake and Hurricane.

    COUNTERMEASURES: See Earthquake and Hurricane.

I really enjoyed the movie Twister. Helen Hunt is a goddess. I hear Pay It Forward is a bit sappy, though. I’ll probably skip that.

[3WR Instant. Redirect all damage dealt by any one source to that source’s controller.]

WHY: A largely situational card. Anyone considering playing an Earthquake, Hurricane, or even Tremor should take a quick look around at the mana available on the table. This card concentrates all of the universal damage caused by a catastrophic Wildfire or Evincar’s Justice and sends it back, in one fun package, back whence it came. Usually takes a player out. It’s OK against fat, too, so you may not lose too much if no one plays the sweeping damage spells.

Timed right, Reflect Damage can easily steal the "MASTER OF THE HUNT" award in gold for its ability to reverse a killing blow, or finish off an opponent without even targeting him.

SIGNAL: As a reactionary card, it doesn’t signal so much as counterstrike.

ENHANCEMENTS: Furnace of Rath doubles the original source of damage TWICE – once when it gets assigned to the creatures, and then again when it comes back to the controller.

COUNTERMEASURES: Ivory Mask won’t help you here; this spell is not targeted, odd as that seems. (Misdirection won’t work, for similar reasons.) If you see the reflection happen, you either have an additional redirection ready or you are dead.

Players with weenie decks, of course, have nothing to worry about.

[2BU Enchantment. All opponents play with their hands revealed. Sacrifice Seer’s Vision: 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.] SIMILAR CARDS: Seer’s Vision is a blend of Telepathy and Coercion.

WHY: All the annoying power of Telepathy, combined with a vehicle to actually do something with the worst threat. Seer’s Vision is more often than not sacrificed quickly, both to minimize the anger of your opponents and to take advantage of the Coercion ability when you know you can.

SIGNAL: This not only destroys combo decks, it also supports them. If you have the last piece of your puzzle in your hand, you can clear the last counterspell or removal spell out of your way before laying it down. (Of course, if the spell you’re targeting is an instant, you may have to face it anyway. But either way, it’s leaving your opponent’s hand.)

ENHANCEMENTS: See Telepathy in blue.

COUNTERMEASURES: See Telepathy in blue.

[2UB Enchantment. Whenever any player draws a card, he or she reveals that card. If the card is a creature card, that player pays 3 life or discards the card.]

WHY: The black mage’s joint partnership with Zur’s Weirding. A great game-changer and a challenge to everyone to remember what player Y drew three turns ago.

SIGNAL: A clear control effort.

ENHANCEMENTS: Graveyard recursion, don’t you think? Or creatureless from the start.

COUNTERMEASURES: Things that work against Zur’s Weirding will generally work here as well.

[RWG Sorcery. Deals 5 damage divided any way you choose among any number of target creatures and/or players. Target opponent gains 5 life.]

WHY: Can swing momentum radically. Imagine taking out a Soul Warden, an Overtaker, a Rackling, and, oh what the heck, why not your own Veteran Explorer, and giving the poor soul with three life another five to keep him or her humming a bit longer. How many friends did you just win there?

Yes, I am valuing this card based on players’ likely reactions to it. What good is a principle if you can’t bust it every once in a while? Besides, it’s a good card in its own right, giving up marginal life gain to an opponent to gain a massive Arc Lightning.

ENHANCEMENTS: Drop a forest, Mox Diamond, and Skyshroud Elf on turn one, and you’re playing this puppy as early as turn two.

COUNTERMEASURES: If you play Cho-Manno’s Blessing on a targeted creature, you get your choice of green, white, or red. Choose carefully, and enjoy the rest of the game

[3BR Sorcery. Choose a number. Destroy all creatures and artifacts with converted mana cost equal to that number. They can’t be regenerated. Then look at target player’s hand and remove all non-land cards with converted mana cost equal to the number. That player discards those cards.]

WHY: Oh, like you couldn’t see THIS coming. I love cards that both gain a certain global effect AND look a bit more harshly at a single player. Aura of Silence targets one player with its primary effect, and warns off everyone else with its secondary effect. Void can hit multiple players with its primary effect, and then zeroes in on one for an extra punch.

SIGNAL: A nice sweeper, definitely control-oriented. Can also play a role in aggressive decks that need to prevent certain enchantments from hitting the board.

ENHANCEMENTS: Well, you could use Telepathy or Seer’s Vision to get a sense of when the Void would do the worst damage. You could also convince your opponents to play their elf and goblin decks.

COUNTERMEASURES: It’s a shame there’s nothing you can do to modify the converted mana cost of your spells. You’re a sitting duck in the face of this one. Thus the number one slot. Play conservatively and pray the caster of Void doesn’t come after your hand.

The Honorable Mention for gold cards goes to the SLIVER QUEEN (GRUWB, 7/7 Legend, counts as sliver and pumps out more), which like the other pre-Invasion gold Legends gains little from multiplayer on her own. She is, however, typically found as the centerpiece creature in strong group sliver decks. Typically, the Queen is more welcome in team or emperor play for two reasons: (1) the sliver-based deck gains points in a rushing situation where a "weak link" player may not have any (or enough) blockers and can be used to pound on shared life or destroy an emperor’s flank; and (2) most people, preparing for team play, leave out the universal killers like Wrath of God or Hurricane that would also hurt their teammates… and this means they stick to targetable spells, which the Queen’s right-hand dude, the Crystalline, shuts down. So Sliver Queen kind of backs into this list here, but she belongs, and I’m happy to have two in my own sliver deck.



Much like gold cards, lands aren’t really designed very often to shine in multiplayer. While plenty of lands work just fine in groups, the fact that they tap even more often than creatures to gain their benefit requires more thought than is required in duels. The best example is Maze of Ith: When I am at seven life, do I use the Maze on player A’s Delraich, which is trampling over my lone Llanowar Elf as we speak, or do I save it in case player B’s Thorn Elemental decides to swing on over? With a Curfew and just those three creatures on the table, the issue is moot. Thus the difference between strong duel and strong multiplayer cards.

As I said in the green section, Awakening is just a huge enchantment for any deck that uses lands creatively, be it as a flexible mana source or even a path to victory. Rather than have me type that five times, I’ll say it once now, and let you repeat it in your head.

I don’t bother with countermeasures in these entries; where you’d want to bother, the shortest path is land destruction. (Ruination is probably the best single card to sweep all of them.) See also the Honorable Mention for this category.

[Comes into play tapped. Tap for G. 1G: Treetop Village is a green 3/3 creature with trample until end of turn; it still counts as a land.] SIMILAR CARDS: The Village is arguably the greatest in a pretty proud tradition of "man-lands" including Mishra’s Factory and Stalking Stones.

The Treetop Village gets the nod over other "man-lands" because is the fastest and fattest of the bunch. That’s an advantage when opponents are trying to pick who they’ll attack with their Pouncing Jaguar on turn three.

[Legendary. Tap for 1. 1B, Tap: Put target creature card from your graveyard on top of your library.]

No other land gives you such strong card recursion, which can be critical when playing against a group. The more you can use those Shock Troops,