Combos In A Multiplayer Environment


Forget Combos.

Really. There is a scene in a recent Avengers comic that reminds me of combo decks in a multiplayer environment. (I’ll summarize it for you if you don’t read the Avengers, but really. What kind of geek are you if you surf the web, play dweeby card games and don’t read comics? Shee.)

Anyway, in the storyline, the a team of superheroes are going up against Ultron, Mark-17— a robot which they’ve fought over and over again, and not only does he keep coming back, he keeps rebuilding himself after every defeat so he gets better. And this time it’s for keeps. He’s made of a special metal that can withstand any impact, and he has a forcefield that protects his one vulnerable area, so their only hope is to pound him hard enough that something breaks internally. They give it all they have, every team member pushing their powers until they’re practically unconscious— and then, just as it looks like they’re all going to be ground into hamburger, the most powerful guy, Thor, summons his special super lightning bolt and, finally, demolishes Ultron.

The team’s wasted. Exhausted. Immobile. But they’re happy because they won.

Until Ultron-18 pops up, smiling. And Ultron-19. And Ultron 20, and 21, and 22…

…you see, Ultron’s finally figured out how to mass produce himself.

And that’s the way combos generally work in multiplayer. Most combos have one or two kill cards that work in conjunction with other cards— and the rest of their deck is geared towards getting those cards out, generating mana to fuel the engine, and then kamikaziing itself madly at that kill goal. It doesn’t matter if you’re down to card #59 or a single life if your opponent is dead by the end of the turn— you’ve won.

What happens in multiplayer, however, is that you raze your deck, throwing maybe thirty or forty cards into the graveyard, and blowing away one player with a nuclear force four hundred-point Blaze— or maybe burst his heart open like a hand grenade with a seventy-card Stroke. You smile. Then you turn to your left, to a happy smile.

Now can ya do it again? Betcha can’t.

That’s why he’s smiling.

He’s also smiling for another reason: Even if you were to find a combo deck that can fire twice— or three times, or four times— then you’d still have to deal with that large, ugly tattoo you just got needled into your forehead. You know, the one in the shape of the red-and-white concentric circles?

That’s right, dude, you are now an official Target. Nobody wants to think that they can be wiped off the map on round three— and now you have made that a reality. And they don’t know who you have your sights on this game. Players will gang up on you. Every Disenchant will be saved for your Squandered Resources. Those Counterspells will be polished and lovingly thrown at your Necros. Creatures will suddenly start showing up on your door while you’re setting up your happy little combo shop and saying,”Hi! I’m a goblin! I’m here to bite you in the butt! And that over there is my friend, the Wild Dogs!”

“Growf! Growf! Growf! We’re here to take a bite out of crime! Woof!”

Okay, the Wild Dogs don’t say much, I admit. But they’re still better than Grizzly Bears.

The point is that you’re gonna get whomped by everyone as fast and hard as they can manage, simply because they’ve found a common enemy. Combo decks are megaunfriendly— and you need friends in multiplayer. Regularly. They might not be helping you win, but if they’re not attacking you, they’re helping.

Having a dogpile land on you every game is No Fun. Gee, it’s almost as fun as… oh, I don’t know… playing against a stupid combo deck!

I firmly believe that if you try and play a combo deck you get everything you deserve. Bad enough you wanna play solitaire with one person on the other side, but three or four people on the other side? Jesus. Go home. Leave me alone, deckwimp.

That said, the art of the combo is not entirely without fruit in multiplayer. What you need, chumley, is a global combo that can a) affect all players at once, or b) spread the damage among a range of players during your”go off” turn.

Can it be done? Of course it can. There are three basic combos I’ve seen in multiplayer that do work, and astoundingly well at that:

(Why am I giving these to you? So you will realize how much smarter I am than you are. I’m not playing a Dojo deck with my friends, bozoboy.)

Enduring Renewal / Shield Sphere / Goblin Bombardment: Get the Enduring Renewal out, throw the Shield Sphere, sack it to the Bombardment, and it’s machine-gun time for everyone else! Wheeeeee!

(Incidentally, it’s probably a Bad Idea to play actual Shield Spheres. Anyone who stays atop the current scene will say,”Hmm— a Wheaties deck!” and immediately know what to counter or strike out. To be a little sneakier, play with Kobolds. That’s right, I said Kobolds. Free red 0/1 and 0/2 creatures. You can make it seem like you’re playing with a REAL sucky deck, apologize, bring out the Goblin Bombardment and make it seem like you have a real pile… and then sneak out an Enduring Renewal and see the look on their faces as they realize that it’s too late! Mwoo hah hah!

(Of course, if I see anyone playing this then I’ll realize that you stole it from me. DojoDork! DojoDork!)

Necro / Scent Of Jasmine / Pestilence / Skirge Familiar: Get the Necro out. Draw cards with it until you’re at minimum life. Then cast Scent Of Jasmine— because you do have white cards here, don’tcha?— and get 2 life for every white card you have. Continue until you have a lot of life and some time to make some enemies. Then pitch all of your cards to your Familiar, generate black mana, and Pestilence everyone away! Also is mega fun with Congregate.

Fault Line / Repercussion: A new guy hit the table and decimated us with this one in a modified Wildfire deck. Basically, he used Grim Monoliths to get his stuff out quickly, then sat back and waited for us to cast creatures. When we did, he played Repercussion (all damage done to creatures is also done to the creatures’ controller) and then zapped us with huge Fault Lines. This devastated me the first time I saw this and took me out of the game; I had four guys out and it was a four-point Fault Line. Do the math.

Sounds good, right? But the lesson I intend to teach about combos in MP can be summed up to what happened to this guy with the Wildfire deck. Neil and I, realizing that we were completely unable to take him solo, ganged up on him. I had a green deck— what the heck could I do? Well, I could wait for Neil to get out a creature with haste, then cast two Might of Oaks on it when he attacked Mister Wildfire. I died soon after, but Neil and I were both happy we’d taken down Combo Boy.

Is this unfair? Sure. You know what else is unfair? Bad draws, people who play decks they could never design in a million years, cheating on Pro Tours, and the fact that milk goes bad if you leave it in the fridge for long enough. It’s a fact of life— if you’re overly powerful, you will have your head handed to you. And combos don’t let you keep your head down.

Combos in multiplayer are mean business. They don’t make friends— and you need friends in multiplayer. My advice: Don’t do it.

How To Pretend Everyone’s Your Friend When You’re Desperately Trying To Kill Them

Signing off,
The Ferrett
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Visit The Ferrett Domain if you’re not easily offended. Matter of fact, stay away if you’re offended at all. Probably it’s best if you leave now, really….