CASUAL FRIDAYS #81: Funky Animals After Twilight

First, the outcome of the Keldon Twilight”Break this Card” contest. Then, a proposed change to the Hall of Fame, for which I would appreciate reader feedback.

Another two-parter for you this week: first, the outcome of the Keldon Twilight "Break this Card" contest. Then, a proposed change to the Hall of Fame, for which I would appreciate reader feedback.


Keldon Twilight, as a card, is not as flashy as Coalition Victory. Regrettably, that translated into less than a hundred contest entries. (We hit our average; about seventy-five.) So there will only be one prize-winner this week.

Perhaps the most popular companion to Keldon Twilight among contest entries was Dingus Staff (4cc artifact; every time a creature hits the graveyard, its controller takes two damage). But there was still an incredible amount of variation among the entries. I’ve grouped them into categories. (Of course, several of these submissions could have gone in more than one category, but I chose the primary emphasis of the victory strategy.)

THE PEACEKEEPERS. Using the card of that name, there were several people who tried to demonstrate that I should have banned this creature. I stand by my decision to permit it, but there were three strong approaches:

The problem with Peacekeeper, as these people generally admitted themselves, is that it takes several cards, all in position at the right time, to make the Peacekeeper work at the same time as Keldon Twilight, AND have a shot at winning some day.

A variant on the Peacekeeper-style deck was the BRIDGEMAKER, which used Ensnaring Bridges to hold off the attack and force the sacrifice. These were automatically a bit more rigorous than Peacekeeper-based decks, since the Bridge was not itself subject to the Twilight’s effect. In addition, the Bridge is a card that good decks can design themselves around:

  • Leonard White took a page from my Birds & Bees deck and went the black-creature route (Vampire Bats, etc.); he also put in Dense Foliage to prevent these fragile creatures from getting waxed.

  • Bob Burdalski used Firestorm as a board clearer. This card has terrific synergy with Ensnaring Bridge.

What happens a bit too often with Ensnaring Bridge decks, however, is that the deck becomes all about the Bridge – protecting it, manipulating its drawback, etc. These (and several other) decks were a bit less about Keldon Twilight, and a bit more about the Bridge.

THE DEFLECTORS. There were two primary enchantments that defined this group: No Mercy, and/or Propaganda (and its variants). The idea here was to make attacking perfectly acceptable – and just have the heat go somewhere else.

  • Job van der Zwan expected to see creatures die to his No Mercy (and tricks like Balduvian Trading Post), and prepared himself with strong attackers like Bone Dancer.

  • Paul Miller offered up the only entry using Khabal Ghoul, that fabula-riffic creature that grows as things die.

  • Chris Smith and Matt Hughes each offered a vision of an Earthlink-based "armageddon" by setting up lands as creatures through Natural Affinity or Living Lands (respectively). (Chris Smith’s deck was particularly hard to push out of the winner/runner-up circle. Sorry, Chris.)

  • A.J. Newhausen, one of our Coalition victors in the last contest, offered up a green-red-black deck that did NOT use a certain younger dragon legend. He explained through haiku:

"Use Darigaaz? Hah!
Vaevictis Asmadi could
Kick his sorry butt."

Whereas the above entrants (and many others) used No Mercy, those below used Propaganda, Collective Restraint, or similar measures:

Keldon Twilight was a bit closer to the path to victory in these deflector decks than it was in many others; but it still often got lost in the noise of a more efficient (to be fair) path to victory.

The last group, BLINDERS, were collectively the most impressive without actually having a winning representative:

  • Jon Blevins used recursion (Animate Dead, Dance of the Dead) to bring back whatever gets stalled by the Angel and dies.

  • Mikko Punakillio used Angels, as well as a Humility/Caltrops combo, to confound his enemies. (This deck, unfortunately, also confounded any Blinding Angel that tried to use its excellent ability.)

Our runner-up used a completely unconventional, don’t-try-this-at-home method for forcing the Keldon Twilight/Dingus Staff damage:

4x Shrieking Mogg
4x Winding Canyon
4x Dingus Staff
4x Keldon Twilight
4x Erratic Portal
4x Icy Manipulator
4x Terminate
4x Terror
4x Incinerate
4x Badlands
4x Sulphrous Springs
7x Mountain
7x Swamp
2x Rocky Tar Pit

Of course, you need Winding Canyons to be active, enough mana for both the Canyons and the Mogg (and, probably, activation of an Erratic Portal), and probably some lands to spare to throw a Terror or Terminate at the next opponent’s assault. I suspect this deck would play inconsistently, and have a tougher time the more opponents you have. But the Mogg is intimately tied with the Twilight as a victory condition – after all, it can attack itself in the late game to finish off a Dingus-dinged opponent!

But I had to pick a different deck for a champion. I chose the creation of Tom Booms, who blended a few of the above strategies (Bridge, recursion, Manipulator), and added a little Delirium/Backlash nastiness, for a rigorous multiplayer deck:

4x Keldon Twilight
1x Nether Spirit
4x Delirium
4x Backlash
4x Gamble
4x Ritual of the Machine
4x Ashen Powder
2x Yawgmoth’s Agenda
1x Claws of Gix
2x Ensnaring Bridge
3x Mages Contest
1x Soldevi Digger
2x Tangle Wire
2x Sands of time
2x Icy Manipulator
6x Mountain
12x Swamp
2x Ghitu Encampment

Quick introductions, for those of you who haven’t met: Ritual of the Machine is a 2BB sorcery (rare, Alliances) that has you sack a creature to gain control of another one. Ashen Powder is a Mirage (and Sixth Edition) sorcery that lets you put another player’s dead creature into play under your control.

But the real star of the deck is Nether Spirit, a creature that often doesn’t work in multiplayer. Here, the lone Spirit is often the target of Gamble, and is used to fuel Ritual of the Machine and serve as early defense.

The recursive stealing engine gets three things done: First, it takes huge creature threats away from your opponents and gives them to you. Secondly, since it’s easy to do more than once (since the Spirit comes back), it serves as a warning to other players to use their attack on other players instead of yourself. Third, it blends with Keldon Twilight to lower opponents’ options of what creatures they have to attack/sacrifice (and then get stolen anyway by Ashen Powder). That’s pretty good synergy. Since their options are lowered, Backlash and Delirium become devastating.

And Keldon Twilight is the hidden master behind it all, forcing bad choices and keeping the game moving along – we hope in your favor. All the other cards (Sands of Time, Icy Manipulator, and yes, Ensnaring Bridge) are there more to support Keldon Twilight than as ends to themselves.

I occasionally take the presumptuous liberty of tweaking the winner’s deck to demonstrate what I might have done. Here, I would seek to make it just a wee bit more consistent, and really assure a twilit nightmare:

4x Keldon Twilight
4x Icy Manipulator
4x Delirium
4x Backlash
1x Nether Spirit
4x Ritual of the Machine
4x Ashen Powder
4x Gamble
1x Feldon’s Cane
3x Null Brooch
(33 spells)
3x Charcoal Diamond
2x Fire Diamond
4x Spawning Pool
4x Urborg Volcano
9x Swamp
5x Mountain

I’m just favoring a few more "4x" and "3x" here, and sacrificing a few of the cool things Tom does. I think enough tapping (and the regenerating man-lands) will make the two Ensnaring Bridges less necessary. I pulled out most of Tom’s recursion in favor of a single Feldon’s Cane and more mana – that, again, is just stylistic difference. I also like Null Brooch’s simple, recurrable "no" in favor of the (funnier, more daring) Mages’ Contest.

Whichever way you go with Keldon Twilight – Tom’s build, mine, or any of the fun and excellent ideas summed up above – do keep in mind that the Twilight demands a (primarily) red-black build, and red-black builds are pretty much insanity in multiplayer. Walk carefully, and use huge, honking sticks.

And that, my friends, is the end of our twilit madness. Rather than start a new Break this Card this week, I’ll wait a little while (for Apocalypse) and instead give you a different opportunity for influencing this column: A shot at helping me design the Multiplayer Hall of Fame.


I know Planeshift is still very young, and it won’t be another couple of months before Apocalypse (and we also have the release of Seventh Edition to entertain us in the meantime!). But I have to think about these sorts of things well in advance, and here’s my mission: I would like to make sure that the next edition of the Hall of Fame, to be released shortly after Apocalypse hits shelves, continues the tradition of past Halls of adding some new value to readers.

You might imagine (and your imagination would be right on target) that coming up with new tricks for the Hall every time is not easy. Putting in countermeasures was easy, and I can always expand the number of entries in each color. But I want to try something even newer for this time around. Care to help?

I’m always open to random ideas. Send them any time. I tend to find it more helpful to have an idea to bounce off of everyone else. I’ve spent a while on it; but don’t let any polish I’ve used distract you from changing the basic idea, if you want to go past tweaking.

My current idea is to start with the same base entry for each card: Title, Rules Text, Similar Cards, Why It Works, Enhancements, and Countermeasures.

Then, I would Build the Funky Animal.

"Wassat?" I hear you say. "Build the funky whatimal?"

You heard me. Build the Funky Animal.

Do you remember those kids’ books that had the pages cut all the way through, so that you could turn it sideways and then flip over a section and see different artwork for just that section? Usually, the technique was used in books that let you build a dinosaur with, say, the head of a brontosaurus (the name "apatosaurus" is dead to me), the body of a pterodactyl, and the tail of a stegosaurus.

Well, I’d like to take a look at how each card in the Hall of Fame might get built in one of those crazy books.

Here are my five candidates for animal parts, based on good principles of multiplayer play that I believe cross over different schools of thought:

THE RATTLESNAKE. If a card has a rattlesnake element, it is sending a warning signal that discourages attackers/damage, or keeps permanents and spells off of the board entirely. To illustrate here and now, good examples of Rattlesnake cards are Seal of Doom, Propaganda, and Wall of Souls.

THE GORILLA. If a card has a gorilla element, it cuts right to the chase and seeks maximum impact, smashing bluntly and thoroughly. Where the rattlesnake seeks to prevent situations from happening in the first place, the gorilla seeks to slam the problem off the board. Examples of Gorilla cards are Armaggeddon, Plague Wind, and Furnace of Rath.

THE SPIDER. If a card has a spider element (and this could be either a web-based spider or a hunter spider – see how wonderfully flexible my analogies are?… however, it is embarrassing how long I spent trying to come up with the right animal for this element, so I should probably just cut my losses and move on here), it embodies a hidden threat that comes out suddenly and very effectively to stop the problem. Rattlesnakes warn off, Gorillas smash…And Spiders coax the opponents into a nasty trap. Examples of Spider cards: Spinal Embrace, Reflect Damage, Misdirection.

THE PIGEON: Yeah, really, the pigeon! I have bestowed this less-than-impressive title around those cards that simply benefit from having more people around. (I also considered other urban favorites like the Rat and the Cockroach; but I DO play with some of these cards…) Where previous animals use the idea of multiple players to deflect wrath, gain card advantage, or provide surprise opportunities, pigeons just use multiple players directly in the impact of the card. Good Pigeons include Multani Maro-Sorcerer, Congregate, and Syphon Soul.

PLANKTON: This was a fun one to put into animal form. Plankton are the tiny animals that reside near the bottom of the ocean food chain. (Don’t talk to me about algae. I needed an animal, here!) Every other ocean animal feeds off of them and benefits from them, one way or another. In the Magic world, the benefit is not always as clear for everyone…but the potential is certainly there. Good examples of Plankton include Howling Mine, Awakening, and Exhume.

So those are the five animals. To Build the Funky Animal, I would rate each card in the Hall on a scale of 1 to 10, based on how strongly each animal’s element was present in the card. Let’s look at a few examples:

The Thrashing Wumpus threatens to do broad damage, as its controller chooses. So its Rattlesnake element is high, and its Gorilla element is undeniable. But it doesn’t exactly surprise anyone with its ability after it comes out – permanents will typically have a low Spider rating – and it doesn’t get better directly from having more players around. (I’m not saying it doesn’t give you greater card advantage…That’s covered in Gorilla element. If Thrashing Wumpus was a good pigeon, it would spend X damage for each B you spend, where X is, say, the number of opponents you face.) And is it good for everyone, like Plankton? Um, no.

Rattlesnake 8
Gorilla 9
Spider 2
Pigeon 2
Plankton 2

Here’s a card that has a different Animal mixture: Rout. Dealing massive effect, and the possibility of doing so without warning, gives Rout a high Gorilla and Spider effect. The way that I think I will scale Plankton (1 = the card is narrowly focused on your benefit, 10 = the card is obviously designed to give each player a reasonable benefit, with 5 = neutral as to whether the card helps one or several people), I think this ends up a 5. Just as Spiders tend to be instants or sorceries, so Rattlesnakes tend to be permanents. And the effect of Rout doesn’t care how many players or creatures or cards are in the game, so no real Pigeon factor.

Rattlesnake 1
Gorilla 9
Spider 7
Pigeon 2
Plankton 5

This is fun! I did three more, but I’ll spare the commentary:

Subversion: a slow threat to everyone else that needs multiple people to be effective
Rattlesnake 3
Gorilla 5
Spider 1
Pigeon 10
Plankton 1

Goblin Game: a universal, random mechanic that changes radically as more players enter the game:
Rattlesnake 1
Gorilla 7
Spider 3
Pigeon 8
Plankton 6

Portcullis: has relatively strong elements of multiple animals – one of the reasons why it’s always so high on the artifact list:

Rattlesnake 6
Gorilla 7
Spider 2
Pigeon 6
Plankton 6

Those are a few of the more interesting cards. Often, a card will be a "9" in Gorilla and a "1" or "2" in everything else. But what I like about this proposed change to the Hall is that it will really help players think about the card, react to my ratings, and then either accept my interpretation and use it as I suggest… Or try to prove me wrong, which is a great spur to creativity.

But please let me know what you think. Is the basic idea of Building a Funky Animal something you would want to see in the Hall? If so, are the animals the right ones? If not, what else would you like to see happen in the Hall? Email me at [email protected]. Do it, right now. No, don’t bother reading what’s left of this column; the last couple paragraphs of Casual Fridays are always chaff. Get to work, dammit!

If you have suggestions for actual cards you think should be in the Hall, please accompany such suggestions with answers to the above questions! The Hall is a public building, and with your donations of time and energy it will look all sparkly and neat.

COMING SOON: The further adventures of Super-Hippo, a week of Magicpalooza, and our group’s tentative first steps into 5-Color Magic. AND some fun group plays. AND the rubber match between the Birds & Bees, and Vortex/Equilibrium monstrosities! (See the second half of CF #72, found at http://www.starcitygames.com/php/news/
, if you want to experience the intense excitement of the first two games! Plus, you can refresh your mastery of Alongi’s Wheel in that article.) AND a look at a casual collection. AND…hmmm, well, that should keep us all busy for a few weeks.

Anthony Alongi