As we settle in for the next expansion, here’s a look at four casual, multiplayer decks that use plenty of new cards – and a few old ones in new ways – for consideration. As I usually try to do, I only provide sketches of the decklists; the exact details are for you to create. Fair warning: I’m reveling in a lot of rares, here. It’s not snobbery; none of us actually have these cards yet. And in fact, one or two of these may not exist, or may exist a bit differently. So let your inhibitions go, and dream with me a little. After the set comes out, you should check the card details…And if they match, you know what to grab up!
THE FIRST HORSEMAN: BRINGER OF LIGHTNING
One of the more intriguing multiplayer possibilities comes from a new creature type, the Flagbearer. Flagbearers essentially suck all targetable skills and abilities to themselves. These willing lightning rods can really mess up the board in terrific fashion, if you plan it right.
I’m not interested in the actual Flagbearers – as creatures, they are rather unspectacular. But the dynamic itself is rather frisky, and fortunately (as with Laccolith Rig) they put it on a creature enchantment for us to play with. Coalition Flag, since it’s an uncommon enchantment that you can put on any creature, is rather intriguing. Here’s where I’d start:
If I recall Retromancer correctly, you’ll take damage yourself the first time you target it with the Flag. (If you can’t stand it, you could cast the Flag on something else, and then play Enchantment Alteration… But now you’re trying my patience.) In return for a little initial pain, you assure that targeted spells come with a price – and player-killers like Ghitu Fire and Corrupt now can’t come at you until the stupid Flag is gone. Hey, what do you know? They came up with another annoying way for white to thumb its nose at red and black.
Of course, if you put this on an untargetable like a Glimmering Angel, the creature needs to be targetable both when you announce the Flag (and its target), and when the Flag resolves. After it’s on, its stays on even as you make your creature untargetable in response to whatever comes afterward. Congratulations, you’ve locked the board against any spell that can target one or more creatures!
Once you’ve done that, you might as well put in
1-2x Blood Oath
1-2x Captain’s Maneuver
Let’s take a quick look at Captain’s Maneuver, which redirects X damage from one target creature or player to another. Sheldon Menery will no doubt publicly humiliate me if I’m wrong, but I’m thinking the explicit use of "another" means that if someone targets your flagbearer, you can (and indeed, must) target something else. If this trick doesn’t work, I’d throw in more Blood Oaths.
Blood Oath is there because you can reasonably expect some players’ hands to be full of instants and sorceries. Even if the Flag ploy doesn’t work, these things are insane. Our group did a Saga-Masques sealed a couple of weeks ago (don’t ask) and Pete ripped off 12, 15, 18 damage at a time with alarming frequency. In non-Limited environments, where creatures in hand are a bit less predictable, you can still be reasonably certain of at least one player’s desire to hold back big sorceries or instants.
Earthquake is, well, Earthquake. Only the Retromancer dies to it in the deck I’m thinking of building.
But your true path to victory? Well, whaddya know: You’re playing red, white, and blue – so I guess four Lightning Angels (1RWU, 3/4 non-tapping flyers with haste) are in your future. As long as you have a Flagbearer out there (and it’s NOT the Angel!), you’ll be just fine.
Other anticipated Apocalypse cards to consider: Goblin Legionnaire (for the flexible options), Minotaur Illusionist (for the untargetable/sack options) and Wild Research (for the fun searching of the Flag…you may want to replace Earthquakes with Fault Lines so you have more instants).
THE SECOND HORSEMAN: BRINGER OF SHADOWS
One of the color combinations I’m dying to return to wholeheartedly is green-black. This has always been my favorite – the use of the graveyard as an additional resource has just always seemed ultra-efficient to me. Here, we don’t do an amazing amount of recursion, but we pay attention to the graveyard all the same.
3-4x Penumbra Kavu
2-3x Penumbra Wurm
The penumbra creatures, when they hit the graveyard, trigger the creation of an exact token replica of what you lost (except black, instead of green). I have to say, I was honestly tempted to use Lifeline with these little buggers. Then I remembered I hate what Lifeline represents: Sloppy design work AND an infinite combo route absolutely lacking in any sort of finesse. (Thank you! – The Ferrett) Instead, I went with a simpler synergy using one of Apocalypse’s power cards:
3-4x Pernicious Deed
Without having to do anything special, you can wipe the Deed and automatically get new creatures to replace the old ones.
I did toy with the thought of significant graveyard recursion; but in the end I opted for only one: Victimize (3-4 copies recommended). In the mid- to late-game, if you have two creature cards in your graveyard and at least one penumbra creature on the board, you can sack the penumbra, get a token to replace it, and then get the two additional creatures.
I would also suggest the following Apocalypse cards: Llanowar Dead (2/2 taps for mana), Ebony Treefolk (3/3 for three mana, pumps), and Spiritmonger (a color-changing, regenerating, combat-feeding madman). The Dead and Treefolk give the deck some much-needed early plays; and the Spiritmonger is a good closer. (Kudos to fellow Star City writer and tournament veteran Elliot Fertik for being the first to point out the Monger’s synergy with Pernicious Deed, and the potential for a Type II or block deck around it.)
There’s so much more those penumbra creatures can do! All sorts of creature coming into play (Pandemonium), sacking creatures (Reprocess), and whatnot. The deck above is, believe me, only an early test of what these little buggers can do.
THE THIRD HORSEMAN: BRINGER OF DEATH
When Lashknife Barrier came out, many casual (and pro) players immediately noted the synergy with Plague Spitter. The problem with most attempts was the lack of quality black-white cards, especially early plays that could survive the Spitter. And as long as these two colors were fighting (with blue caught in the middle), it seemed difficult to pull the deck off right.
Apocalypse has solved this problem pretty darn well. Of all the decks I’m suggesting today, I think this one has the most potential to evolve into a tournament-worthy deck:
2-4x Longbow Archer
2-4x Chimeric Idol
3-4x Thrashing Wumpus
The key to the creatures is making them an automatic two (and preferably three) toughness…Otherwise, suboptimal cards like Shield Dancer and Silkenfist Fighter are decent substitutes for Longbow Archers in a casual game.
Then, you will want to take advantage of at least three cards Apocalypse has to offer:
2-4x Death Grasp
2-3x Soul Link
The new Drain Life, Desert Twister, and Spirit Link should all have a place in this deck. It will be hell for your opponents to deal with. Fortunately for them, a good Earthquake shakes up most of the deck. Adjust appropriately.
THE FOURTH HORSEMAN: BRINGER OF…PERMISSION?
It’s a relatively accepted truth that pure permission doesn’t stand much chance in multiplayer. However, I think a deck with a heavy permission element just got a lot easier with the introduction of Suffocating Blast and Mystic Snake. Both counterspells give you the potential to gain some additional permanent advantage – either by eliminating a creature, or creating one of your own. I wonder if the time has not come for some bold fellow to build a U-g-r deck that goes easy on the creatures and high on the drama.
There’s two ways you can go with this deck: Emphasis on the U-G, or on the U-R. We’ll do U-G first.
4x Mystic Snake
2-4x Suffocating Blast
It’s hard to think of green without putting in some creatures — and since it’s not critical for your Counterspells to go off in the second round, we can take advantage of some early entrants:
2-3x Ribbon Snake
2-4x Wall of Blossoms
2-4x Jungle Barrier
2-3x Yavimaya’s Embrace
Then we might throw in some of the blue-red cards you’re going to see from the second version:
2-4x Mystic Snake
This blue-red dominant version appeals to me a bit more, because of the board sweepers you have available:
3-4x Bloodfire Kavu
3-4x Bloodfire Dwarf
And then you’d have to find some room for green spells.
I guess if I had to merge the two, this is the final decklist I’d build:
4x Mystic Snake
1x Guided Passage (what the heck)
I’m not sure how the heck this thing wins. But it’s an interesting spectacle, to say the least. People should steer pretty darn clear of you in the early to mid-game, if you’re sitting out there with a Jungle Barrier, a Bloodfire Kavu, five untapped mana, and six cards in hand.
COMING SOON: There’s so much more to explore with this set! I mentioned several possibilities in my last Casual Fridays (e.g., the Desolation Angel and Desolation Giant), and haven’t even begun to explore those yet. I have set aside full-five color decks (Cromat and Draco tag-teaming!) for exploration in an entirely different article. And there are still more hidden gems – how to sit to a player’s left and play Suppress on him – that will be worth a look.
Also, I’ll have Prerelease happenings to report. Good luck at your own local event!