Most folks know this isn’t exactly my favorite color. It sports, however, an impressive array of utility, and some of the most classic and well-known spells of the game. And every once in a while, Wizards throws in a card that demonstrates the”harsh justice” side of white. I do like that.
As much as white lifegain disturbs me, it has always had a place in the hall. There’s no denying that having a bit more life than everyone else can be helpful in a five-player chaos game. Just do me a favor, folks, and don’t go overboard on this stuff. If you’re going to gain all that life, don’t just sit on it. USE IT.
The top 20 for white stays pretty stable from last time. I have moved out of my utility-rules phase, however, and there is a new #1. Now, remember what happened the LAST time you tried to skip ahead… That’s right, just sit tight.
25. ORIM’S THUNDER
[2W, R kicker, Instant. Destroy target artifact or enchantment. If you paid the kicker cost, Orim’s Thunder deals that permanent’s converted casting cost to target creature.]
While not a game-shaker, Orim’s Thunder is one of the better white multiplayer cards from Invasion block, since it gives you both card advantage and broad application. To have white capable of dealing damage to a creature is an opportunity you usually don’t want to miss, especially if you also manage to get rid of a Coat of Arms in the process.
Enhancements: Usually, the trickiest part of using Orim’s Thunder is finding an artifact or enchantment you want to destroy. You can be wily and use Soul Sculptor.
Countermeasures: Normally, this happens too fast for you to react. Converted mana cost is the key to how Thunder works; if you’re that worried about it, play with small, efficient creatures, and a minimum of oversized, unwieldy permanents.
24. OATH OF LIEGES
[1W Enchantment. At the beginning of each player’s upkeep, if that player controls fewer lands than an opponent, the player may search his or her library for a basic land card and put that card into play. The player then shuffles his or her library.
Similar cards: Land Tax is your own personal oath to yourself, and the card that served as the rough template of this Oath.
The Oath is a true boon to the entire table, since it really helps out those one or two players who seem to be mana-screwed early. I’m surprised I haven’t seen more readers send in decks using the Oath; I know Invasion block came with plenty of mana-fixers, but this is a very efficient, very congenial one for group play.
The Oath does get mild rattlesnake ability from two sources: First, it’s a warning to those mages playing Armageddon or similar strategies that they will not be as effective this game. Second is your opponents’ suspicion that you’re up to something…
Enhancements: …like Avatar of Fury.
Countermeasures: You shouldn’t bother.
23. COALITION FLAG
[W Creature Enchantment. This can enchant only a creature you control. Enchanted creature’s type is Flagbearer. If a spell or ability an opponent controls could target a Flagbearer in play, that player chooses at least one Flagbearer as a target.]
The Coalition Honor Guard is a great card… But in multiplayer, it often just gets itself killed by an easy Terror or Swords. Coalition Flag breaks into the Hall ahead of either actual flagbearer creature because of what it combines with.
Enhancements: To play the Flag properly, play it on a Glimmering Angel, Minotaur Illusionist, Armored Guardian, or Morphling. (Don’t activate their untargetability until the Flag is firmly resolved and on the creature.) Then, when a spell comes their way, activate the untargetability. The Flag stays on — it’s not targeting anything anymore — but the spell/ability on the stack fizzles.
You have now turned every spot creature removal and X burn spell into useless garbage. Congratulations!
Yes, you can do this. It’s a Sheldon-approved move. (And isn’t that what life is all about… Finding moves that Sheldon approves of?)
Countermeasures: Of course, global removal still wipes out flagbearers, along with everything else. And you can try to fizzle the target before the Flag resolves; if they make their Angel untargetable in response to your Bolt (which was in response to the Flag), both Flag and Bolt will fizzle.
22. MIRROR STRIKE
[3W Instant. Target unblocked creature deals combat damage to its controller instead of to you this turn.]
Similar cards: Kor Chant is another instant redirect, slamming only a creature, but from any source of damage.
This is a card that ranges from mediocre to spectacular, depending on what’s on the board and how close people are to dying. Perhaps the ultimate”spider” card, Mirror Strike begs you to field no blockers at all, inviting that tasty Serra Avatar across the table to come take a peek.
I wish there were more white cards like this one.
Enhancements: So many good white spells have a bit of red in them. Why not concede a (strong) splash of red, and play Ghitu War Cry? You could also use green pump, but that seems like a waste of another card for a one-off damage effect.
Countermeasures: Honestly, someone pulls this on you, you have countermagic or you are taking it on the teeth. Some green decks have Spike Weavers in them for other strategic reasons; if yours does, you might want to make sure you have a counter ready if you’re playing with Serra Avatar.
21. CELESTIAL CONVERGENCE
[2WW Enchantment. When Celestial Convergence comes into play, put seven Omen counters on it. At the beginning of your upkeep, remove an Omen counter from Celestial Convergence. If there are no Omen counters on Celestial Convergence, the player with the highest life total wins the game. If two or more players are tied for the highest life total, the game is a draw.]
Unlike most cheesy lifegain cards, Convergence puts a clock on the game. It loses considerable power when more players join the game, which pushes it firmly out of the top 20.
Enhancements and Countermeasures: Personally, I think the Convergence should be allowed to stay in the game, and that opponents should try to race with the controller to have the most life. I mean, you have seven turns. Short of Congregate (which someone doubtless has), what are you worried about? And if you’re worried about Congregate, see its listing below for tried and true countermeasures.
[3W, 3/3 Creature. 2: Target creature gains protection from the color of its controller’s choice until end of turn. Any player may play this ability.
I should probably have ranked it higher. It’s fairly solid across all elements, even serving as an excellent surprise for negating blockers when the battlefield seems tied up. But I’m still pretty convinced that the other cards in the top 20 are too solid to be trumped by a creature that’s so symmetrical.
Enhancements: Recently on the Star City mailing list, there was an interesting Type II”neo-God” deck idea that put Coalition Honor Guard together with Wishmonger. Think about it: Opponents control the Wishmonger’s ability when they use it. So they can only give your Coalition Honor Guard protection… And it’s protection from the color of YOUR choice. I don’t know if this turns into a rigorous Type II archetype — it seems a bit expensive and conditional — but in group play, this is a winner.
19. IVORY MASK
[2WW Enchantment. You may not be the target of spells or abilities.]
The asterisk under rattlesnake is there largely because Ivory Mask changes the purpose of rattlesnakes altogether. Usually, a rattlesnake card (say, Seal of Doom) sits out there and says,”You better not target me, man, or you’ll lose that creature.” The Ivory Mask says,”You better not target me, man… Because you can’t. It’s illegal.” The question is moot: Players will kill you with creature damage, or milling, or not at all.
Enhancements: Since you will need a firm defense to withstand the combat attention this card may draw, you might want to invest in sizeable, untargetable creatures like Zephid. (Sure, Zephid. Hey, I’m trying to use different card names, here. Anyone can say Morphling is a cool enhancement.”Hey, look at me, I’m using Eager Cadets! And I’ve enhanced them with a Morphling! Bet I win!”)
Countermeasures. …which is why Nevinyrral’s Disk is such a darn cool card. Short of removing the Mask, you can also push through with trampling creatures. Just be wary of the Mirror Strike, which is a nifty counter-countermeasure.
18. SERRA’S BLESSING
[1W Enchantment. Attacking doesn’t cause creatures you control to tap.]
If tapping in multiplayer is bad, not tapping is good. Serra’s Blessing gives your creatures something to do while they’re not tapping. While the Blessing itself is not exactly a rattlesnake threat, it allows your creatures to serve as their own rattlesnakes, which is pretty much the same thing. And the more players there are, the more benefit you get from a card that encourages would-be attackers to hunt elsewhere.
Enhancements: If all of your creatures are Grizzly Bears, no one will care if they tap to attack or not. First strike and haste creatures are the most valuable commodities in a no-tap deck. Pumping is also good (e.g., spike creatures, Firescreamer). Creatures already having the no-tap ability, as I said with Angel’s Trumpet last week, are inefficient choices.
Countermeasures: Like any player, the white mage will play off his good permanents as if they will stay on the board and be effective. The blue mage can surprise the white mage with a Turnabout or Ensnare after combat is over. (I suppose you could do it after attackers are declared, but you don’t gain anything from that.) Green mages need to find air defense, very quickly: Hurricane is the best option. Everyone else has spot removal, and can just target the untapping creature that hurts the most.
17. REVERENT MANTRA
[3W Instant. You may remove a white card in your hand from the game instead of paying Reverent Mantra’s mana cost. All creatures gain protection from the color of your choice until end of turn.]
Similar cards: There are all kinds of protection from color spells. Only a few can be done at instant speed, like Cho-Manno’s Blessing, which targets a specific creature.
This card is a worthwhile partial-counter to Earthquake, a fantastic combat trick (especially fun if you’re not involved in the combat), and a decent closer as well. And since you can be tapped out when you play it, this ranks as the best white”spider” spell out there.
Recall that you can also use the Mantra to wipe off Armadillo Cloaks, Coalition Flags, Diplomatic Immunities, Sleeper’s Robes…And so on. (The definition of”Protection” states that the permanent cannot maintain any enchantments of that color on it.) You’d only do it in an emergency, but it’s good to remember.
Enhancements: Creatures that already have protection from one or more colors (e.g., Sabertooth Nishoba, Voice of All) can be rendered even more effective after a Mantra. As with all color-specific spells, a Distorting Lens becomes helpful.
Countermeasures: Make your black and red removal instant speed. The Mantra mage has a hard time guessing timing correctly with Pestilence. Or Bolt a creature the Mantra must keep when he’s tapped out, wait for the Mantra, and then Fault Line everything.
16. HEAVY BALLISTA
[3W, 2/3 Creature. Tap Heavy Ballista to do two damage to target attacking or blocking creature.]
It taps to do its business. It’s only fairly strong at 2/3. So why do I have this listed as one of the top five multiplayer creatures for white? Because it’s one of the very few white creatures that sends out a signal worth a damn.
The Ballista doesn’t just stop creatures from attacking you in the early game…It often stops creatures from attacking altogether, since you can just wait for the damage on your opponent to hit the stack, and then activate the Ballista.
Enhancements: While this is a bit risky, I might try to use Pack Hunt to find two or three more, and then get them all into play. Control of the board increases exponentially with each additional Ballista.
A more certain ploy would be Vitalize, which recharges up a Ballista everyone thought was spent. Fatal Blow can help the Ballista bring down big game like dragon legends. And if you’re annoyed by a shy creature that won’t attack, use a Bullwhip to move things along.
Countermeasures: Insubordination is a bad, but funny, card here. Tappers like Stormscape Apprentice and Icy Manipulator can force the Ballista inactive before you enter combat. I still like Blastoderm the best, however.
15. BLINDING ANGEL
[3WW, 2/4 Creature. Flying. Whenever Blinding Angel deals combat damage to a player, that player skips his or her next combat phase.]
I still am amazed that Moment of Silence, which has to be on the all-time top 20 least useful commons list, has translated into such a fantastic creature ability. Often, other players are as happy to see the Angel as you are, especially if it is clear who has the dominant aggressive force.
Enhancements. For it to be useful as a rattlesnake, the Angel has to be complemented with a defense capable of handling a decent onslaught. A Wall of Glare makes for a good emergency blocker; most players won’t trade their ability to attack for the rest of the game for the sake of removing a mildly good 0/5 wall.
You should also pack Emerald Charms to ground potential blockers and occasionally save your Angel from a Hurricane — this is a creature worth protecting. Ditto Cho-Manno’s Blessing. And in this age of fascination with Dromar’s colors, why not throw in a Sleeper’s Robe as well for the ultimate late-game creature?
Countermeasures: If your path to victory is not found in the combat phase, don’t bother wasting your Fireball on the angel. Just wait for the right number of lands, and toast away on turn 21. Blue and white have enough fliers to hold the angel at bay. Black can just crush it. Green mages must resort to Hurricane, or lame”fog” effects.
[2WW Enchantment. Creatures without flying can’t attack.]
Similar cards in mono-white include Island Sanctuary, which lets you skip your draw step to keep away all but flyers and islandwalkers. Normally I don’t list cards beyond the color; but Teferi’s Moat in Invasion is an obvious, color-based, you-only update of the original Moat.
Enhancements: Ivory Mask and Moat should give you a nice fortress to sit in. You’ll still need some flyers: Consider Balloon Peddler, since you may want to encourage some opponents to attack others. A wackier idea would be to stock up on spiders like Pincer Spider, and then give them wings with a surprise Levitation to deliver a finishing blow to your last opponent.
[2WW Enchantment. All creatures lose all abilities and are 1/1.]
Similar cards: Humble, an instant that you use to drive home an inefficient point on the target arrogant creature of your choice.
Back in black, I asked you to pick a group game and count up all the plains, and creatures that a Massacre could handle. Now, I’m asking you to count how many creatures in any given game have special abilities — tapping abilities like Royal Assassin (stopped), comes-into-play abilities like Monk Realist (stopped), triggered abilities like Serra Avatar (stopped)… They’re all gone.
Since animated lands lose their ability to tap for mana (you really should go to the D’Angelo rulings at www.crystalkeep.com to look at all the nifty ways to abuse this card), you can shut down everyone’s game nearly completely with a Nature’s Revolt, or Living Lands.
12. NULL CHAMBER
[3W Enchant World. As Null Chamber comes into play, you and an opponent each name a card that isn’t a basic land. The named cards cannot be played.]
A card obviously designed for duel, Null Chamber is yet another rattlesnake with stars in its eyes. In some ways it discourages attention; and in other ways it invites more creative attention. (“Oh, I can’t play Urza’s Rage? I’ll just have to burn you out with Ghitu Fire, punk.”)
The good news is, with each additonal opponent, the chances that the player you choose will pick one of your cards to ban goes down proportionally.
Enhancements: Complement the Null Chamber with a Meddling Mage to put other cards off limits. (Anyone ever seen a Meddling Mage name”Null Chamber”? Let me know!) And since I mentioned Meddling Mage, most folks may already be aware of the blue-bounce trick: Wrap a permanent back up in a players hand, then play a Mage (or Chamber) to stop it from coming back.
Countermeasures: Use variations on a theme — Lightning Bolt and Incinerate, Nevinyrral’s Disk and Powder Keg, and so on. This is good portfolio theory, anyway, especially when you’re mixing a creature and a non-creature permanent that does a similar thing (like Pestilence and Thrashing Wumpus).
11. RADIANT, ARCHANGEL
[3WW, 3/3 Creature. Flying. Radiant, Archangel counts as an Angel. Attacking does not cause Radiant to tap. Radiant gets +1/+1 for each other creature with flying in play.]
Similar cards: The famous Serra Angel, as well as the high-powered Archangel, the echo-based Herald of Serra, and the sleeper Opal Archangel. There are many white ground-pounders that do not tap to attack as well.
The combination of flying, not tapping, and growing with every successive flyer out there makes Radiant a cheery gal, despite her appearance and flavor text.
Enhancements: In a three-color deck, Ordered Migration is worth it. Otherwise mediocre removal like Afterlife or March of Souls looks rather spiffy now. Slivers often fly, too, don’t they? They probably wouldn’t mind making a little room for this angel.
Countermeasures: Yet another card that makes Hurricane, a simple earthquake in the air, look brilliant. You only need to do three damage to get rid of most other flyers; once they’re gone, Radiant is typically back to 3/3 with three damage on her, so she goes too.
10. STORY CIRCLE
[1WW Enchantment. When Story Circle comes into play, choose a color. W: The next time a source of your choice of the chosen color would deal damage to you this turn, prevent that damage.]
Similar cards: Naturally, all of the circles and runes fit in here. Greater Realm of Preservation gives protection against both black and red. Hidden Retreat and Penance work like the Greater Realm in that they are geared toward red and black damage, but they give up card advantage.
While Story Circle doesn’t field incredibly impressive numbers, it does what it does well: gives you a flexible way to deal with whatever the nastiest threat on the board is. Since it can serve as a critical defense to just about any white deck — even white weenie — it remains in the top ten. It will likely never get higher, since Story Circle will forever remain a purely defensive card, with no way to help you achieve victory.
Enhancements: There’s color manipulation, of course. Whim of Volrath is the buyback version that should serve you well.
Countermeasures: In an age of five-color decks, Story Circle is struggling to keep up. Beast of Burden is a good attacker to use, if there’s no color-fooling. And of course, you can use Whim of Volrath (or Blind Seer, etc.) yourself.
You see what white spawns? I’ve listed Blind Seer and Distorting Lens as countermeasures, like, fifty times. Tidal Visionaries will sweep across large swathes of the Magic-playing populace because of these damn defensive,”please don’t touch me; you’re dirty and green” cards.
I pulled most of my old stories and asides from past versions of the Hall out of this one, to make it cleaner (and to prevent you all from getting sick of me telling the same stories over and over…I mean, how many fancy tricks can you pull with an Earthquake?!?) But because I feel it critical to your survival, I do want to reprint, pretty much word for word from the last Hall, one little ditty…
For those of you who think that telling (or listening to) stories cannot prevent damage, let me clue you in on a little fact of life.
When I was in my mid-teens (hey, you!…in the back!…stop snoring!), I read fiction pretty voraciously. One of my favorite books was The Princess Bride, which is pretty much a classic in much of the same crowd that plays Magic so I don’t think I have to explain it to you. (It’s in movie format, too, and the movie’s swell: But the book is better. Read it.) In the book, there is a part when the hero is bravely working his way through a rather nasty subterranean complex. Toward the end, one of the last challenges is a tiny but incredibly venomous spider hidden under a doorknob. Putting his hand on the doorknob will almost certainly kill him.
I won’t tell you how this all resolves, but I do want to point out that I am very careful to check doorknobs now for spiders. Because of this, I think I am generally better prepared to withstand spider-based (or heck, let’s extend that to the whole arachnid family) damage as a result of opening doors.
See? Stories can help prevent damage.
[3W Sorcery. Destroy all lands.]
Destroying all players’ lands is a sure way to get exclamations of disgust. If you play Armageddon, don’t play it just to be annoying; I’ve seen too many newer players do this. (Most of us in our group don’t.) It’s not cute-annoying like Tangle, nor is it even puzzle-annoying like Stasis. Armageddon reduces your multiplayer game to a frantic topdeck contest to see who can get the next three or four lands in play. That’s not especially engaging.
Of course, if you’re doing it with a deck that supports the card’s theme, then you may have something…
Enhancements: Old-school combos with Armageddon include Ernham Djinn for creature power without much drawback, Zuran Orb for lifegain, and Land Tax for land-retrieval. Don’t forget Sol Ring and other artifact mana! Dingus Egg will hurt a great many people as lands hit the graveyard. The Argothian Wurm and Yavimaya Elder are the slightly more recent examples of Armageddon-friendly cards. Masques and Invasion block have not brought us so much to support Armageddon; as this card was rotated out of the basic set, the general feeling is that Wizards may wish the card were a different color. (Say, red. Or, given Desolation Angel, black.)
Countermeasures: Sacred Ground and Parallax Tide are two cards that can counteract an Armageddon quite effectively… But since they’re both enchantments, you’ll be tipping the Armageddon mage off. Same deal with Groundskeeper. Sunder works nicely and makes you friends. Tapping mana in response to an Armageddon will let you bounce the Wurm, Terror the Djinn, or Disenchant the Sol Ring after resolution.
[3WW Sorcery. Bury all creatures. You may pay an additional 2 to cast this spell as you would an instant.]
Similar cards: The instant-speed version of a classic: Wrath of God. Catastrophe blends Wrath of God and Armageddon. Planar Collapse is an enchantment that threatens Wrath if the board gets too busy. Mageta the Lion is the legendary spellshaper who waxes everyone but himself.
Given its capacity for instant speed, and multiplayer’s traditional benefit of not having to worry overmuch about casting cost, Rout is usually a superior card to Wrath of God in casual environments. There are times when you’ll be facing down a massive army, and will have the mana open to cast Wrath of God… But won’t be able to, because it’s not your turn. So Rout takes the slot, and its spider value pushes it just a bit above Armageddon. (These judgments are all subjective, of course; I may just be tired of seeing Armageddon-styled effects go off in my group…)
Enhancements: Blinking Spirit and Wrath of God are old friends; the Spirit will work just as well with Rout. In white, your options for recursion are limited but still out there: Creatures like Avenging Angel and Serra Avatar, enchantments like Angelic Renewal and Squee’s Embrace, token generators like Kjeldoran Outpost, Sacred Mesa, and (gulp!) Security Detail.
If you shift into green, you have Apocalypse’s penumbra creatures, who”replace” themselves upon dying. And of course, black gives you plenty of ways to bring back the dead. Best bets are Volrath’s Stronghold, Haunted Crossroads, and Disturbed Burial, since all let you bring back multiple creatures for a very reasonable price.
Any mass creature removal doesn’t mind seeing a Dingus Staff on the board, so that players take damage as their creatures die. (Bear in mind it hits you, too, so mind yourself.)
Countermeasures: You can repair the damage with your own graveyard recursion, clear the board in a more friendly way with Evaculation, or just follow up the clearing of creatures with a sweep of other permanents (e.g., clear out the lands with Armageddon), especially if you have a life-grinder like Subversion or even Barbed Wire out.
7. LIMITED RESOURCES
[W Enchantment. When Limited Resources comes into play, each player chooses five lands he or she controls and sacrifices the rest. As long as there are ten or more lands in play, players cannot play lands.]
If there is a white card even less friendly than Armageddon, this is it. Again, you often have no need to warn off retaliation, since an early enough Limited Resources will stifle the game so thoroughly that you will have sent all the signal you need. In an average-sized (e.g., five-player) chaos game, each player will have exactly two lands to use. Not much gets done in casual play for two mana.
Enhancements: If you can get to three mana (using artifact mana like Diamonds), you can start to Stone Rain (or Rain of Tears, or Winter’s Grasp, or Boomerang/Capsize) each opponent’s lands out of existence, so you can lay down your own and squeeze them out of playing any more. There’s no need to play anything costing more than three or four mana in a Limited Resources deck – and with the Invasion block bears available, you ought to be content with the majority of your deck sporting 2cc cards. Goblin Legionnaires will help you take care of just about anything that makes it on the board for two mana.
Countermeasures: Abolish is the alternate casting-cost Disenchant; not many people play it. If there’s a Limited Resources deck bouncing around your group, you should heavily consider it. If you aren’t ready to commit to that just yet, a simple mana diversification strategy (artifacts, elves) ought to be doable: Sol Ring to bring out Marble Diamond to bring out Tooth of Ramos to bring out Thran Dynamo and then, if you feel like it (though why would you?), Disenchant.
6. FALSE PROPHET
[2WW, 2/2 Creature. If False Prophet goes into any graveyard from play, remove all creatures from the game.]
It’s a phenomenon in casual Magic (and, perhaps, tournament players do this as well) that as each new expansion comes out, we tend to forget the cards that were three to six expansions ago. False Prophet was one of those cards that every group had represented for a while; then people got a into some of the cool Masques rares for multiplayer, like Thieves’ Auction; then around when Prophecy came out, everyone got excited about Avatar of Woe and what few Prophets were left hit the showers. Well, they’re all soaped up, rinsed off, and plenty clean by now, and you ought to consider reintroducing them to the group.
Enhancements: Most are red, to give you the ability to destroy the Prophet at instant speed. Sneak Attack is more clever than a simple Shock; Pandemonium will allow the Prophet to kill itself upon entry. While we’re dreaming, how about a Death Mutation on your False Prophet, so that as everyone loses their creatures for good, you’re getting four saproling tokens? I’m not sure it’s worth twelve mana for this trick, but it’s an intriguing possibility.
5. SOUL WARDEN
[W, 1/1 Creature. When a creature comes into play, gain one life.]
There are few, if any, more quality one-drops in multiplayer Magic than the Soul Warden. It may make you an early target of sorts, but the life gain is worth it, if you’re into that sort of thing. Two things in the rules you need to be sure you know: The lifegain is not optional, so opponents should remind the controller if he forgets to tip up one life; and phasing doesn’t work with this card. (It’s some”subzone” of the play area, or some such. Cripes, I don’t know why; go bother Sheldon with this silliness. Phasing… Honestly!)
[3W Instant. Gain two life for each creature in play.]
This card actually has a tangible plankton effect, since all of the negative pressure will suddenly veer from all other players to you. I suppose, in some twisted way, I owe a white mage or two a”thank you” for playing this card so I could regroup myself long enough to get out of a thorny situation here and there.
I hope, for the sake of all of us, that this is the last card Wizards prints that rewards a player for the number of creatures that are on the board. (Though I’m hearing things about this”threshold” dynamic in Odyssey… Sounds suspicious…)
Enhancements: Well, if you can’t figure this one out, I can’t help you.
Countermeasures: My favorite, by far, is Misdirection. Of course, you could also rid the board of creatures quickly — nice of white to give us Rout, isn’t it? Blue brings you Evacuation, red brings us Fault Line and Warmonger, black brings us Forsaken Wastes and Thrashing Wumpus… And the green mage, as usual, sits and watches the action unfold. Perhaps he could take a moment to swing a trampler or two over at the guy with 124 life by turn four.
Perhaps my best-received portion of the last Hall of Fame was my”alternate countermeasures” portion to Congregate. With so much interest in anti-lifegain strategies, who am I to deny you all an encore presentation of my favorite solutions to this sore on the soul of Magic? Without further ado, may I suggest the following measures against the Congregate player…
- PUMMELING. Physical violence is really underrated when it comes to phenomenally annoying cards. You don’t want to do actual physical damage or cause lasting mental anguish, mind you — this isn’t hockey — but a sound, firm boxing around the ears, shoulders, and kidneys by two or more opponents ought to remind the white mage that there’s more than one reason to congregate.
- INTENSE SHRIEKING. In response to Congregate, and starting with the player to the caster’s immediate left, begin squealing at the highest pitch and volume you can muster. In a seven-player game, it’s very likely that no six opposing players will be able to manage the exact same pitch. This should give the effort a more urgent, off-harmony fire alarm effect, fantastically disorienting for the mage who played the offending card. They may just pick it back up and untap their mana. At which point you all stop at once and pretend nothing happened.
- PURGING. No, nothing so digestive. Rather, everyone tears up and throws away all of the creatures on the board at once into little tiny shards. HINT: Play with commons – or better yet, tokens fashioned from Pokemon cards.
- JOINING IN. Whether you have it or not, announce”I Congregate in response to your Congregate!” At which point the next player shouts,”I Congrate in response to the Congregate you played in response to his Congregate!” At which point the next player proudly proclaims,”I Congregate in response to her Congregate which was played in response to the Congregate played in response to the first Congregate!” And so on. The fact that none of you are playing with any white cards at all is irrelevant. You keep it up until (a) the original player picks up the card or (b) plays yet another Congregate in response to all of the fictional ones, at which point you move on to one of the other three responses above. Maybe all three.
3. AURA OF SILENCE
[1WW Enchantment. Artifact and enchantment spells your opponents play cost 2 more to play. Sacrifice this: Destroy target artifact or enchantment.]
Similar cards: Where to start? Of course the original Disenchant, Scour (which can only target enchantments, but lobotomizes them), Purify (which waxes ALL artifacts and enchantments), Devout Witness (spellshaper that lets you Disenchant over and over), Monk Realist and Cloudchaser Eagle (creatures with the”comes into play” ability of nixing an enchantment), and Seal of Cleansing (enchantment you can sack to Disenchant). Note that the ratings below are only good for Aura of Silence, particularly the rattlesnake rating.
Aura of Silence (and many of his cousins) are the ultimate solution to at least a third, and probably more like half, of the cards in the Hall of Fame. (Remember, there are 25 artifacts in here, too!) While not a path to victory in itself, the Aura changes the game when played, and should let your deck’s strategy — whatever it is — work more smoothly.
Note that the errata on the card means that all opponents, not just one, will be affected by the Aura while it’s out. Of course, you’re free and clear to play whatever annoying garbage you want.
Enhancements: There’s really no need. The objective is threat removal, not path to victory.
Countermeasures: Helm of Awakening will make everyone’s spells a bit cheaper again (though the Aura mage will still be two ahead of everyone else). To protect your own artifacts and enchantments from the Aura’s sack ability, you can use Hanna’s Custody to protect artifacts (or play regenerable artifacts, like Masticore), Spectral Guardian to protect your non-creature artifacts, Sterling Grove to protect your enchantments, and/or Fountain Watch to protect any of the above. Of course, of all of these options, the Fountain Watch is the best bet, not just because it’s more versatile…But because it won’t cost you two extra.
2. PARALLAX WAVE
[2WW Enchantment. Fading 5. Remove a fade counter from Parallax Wave: Remove target creature from the game if Parallax Wave is in play. When Parallax Wave leaves play, each player returns to play all cards other than this card removed from the game with Parallax Wave.]
Not many enchantments get a spider rating this high over 5; but then again, not many enchantments can clean the board for no extra mana once they’re out. Whipping off multiple temporary Swords to Plowshares is always a good thing.
Enhancements: Why not a Monk Idealist, who can bring the Wave back from your graveyard as he comes back into play upon the Wave’s demise? Other comes-into-play creatures worth exploring include Thundermare, Bone Shredder, and Deranged Hermit. Replenish is a bit gaudy to get spent Waves back; but it was a Type II tourney deck for a reason.
Countermeasures: Your own comes-into-play creatures will probably get a wide berth from a Parallax Wave. If you have a Disenchant, time it carefully… Usually your best bet is in the middle of combat, before blockers are declared, to force the white mage’s hand.
[2WW Sorcery. Each player chooses from the permanents he or she controls an artifact, a creature, an enchantment, and a land and sacrifices the rest.]
Similar cards: Balance whacks hand size, lands, and creatures in similar fashion, using current loser in each category as a measuring stick.
When you just want to get rid of as much as possible, without caring much what specifically leaves play, this is the card for you. It smashes so many strategies that are focused on one type of permanent (e.g., squirrel decks, or enchantment-lock control decks), that you will rarely find a moment when it’s not a good idea to cast it.
Cataclysm is also a great card because it tests players to make the right strategic choices, and teaches them the benefits of diversification (of mana base, of path to victory, etc.). Cataclysm’s been around for a while, but it hasn’t gotten boring for me. (It has gotten looks from our group, though; so I’ve given the deck a rest for the past six months or so. It’s still together, though!)
Make sure you work through a Cataclysm player by player, starting with the caster and going to the left. Many choices (e.g.,”I’ll sack my False Prophet”) may very much impact what later players do. It all resolves at once; but the decisions should be made one at a time.
Enhancements and Countermeasures: There’s a lot going on with this card, but it all comes down to deck construction and conservative play, to break the card’s symmetry. That goes for controller and opponents.