Eliminate The Lifers!

I have no quarrel with people who throw around twenty-point Drain Lifes or someone who triple-Spirit Links their Exalted Angels. These may be examples of sick, disgusting excess – but at least these people are advancing the game state. They are actually doing damage, not hiding behind unassailable walls and gaining life for the pure sake of gaining life. Well, friends, I want to say that I have the cure for this never-attacking, death-by-boredom madness…. And it’s something I work with every day.

The last time I wrote, I said that I would reply to some serious e-mails I received… But I’m gonna let that issue fester for a while longer. I have another, far more serious issue I want to deal with today:


You know who I’m talking about: Those idiots you come across whose only purpose in Magic is to make you hate them. This can be a good and convenient thing occasionally, as defeating a hated foe can cause you to pump the fist and leads to generally good feelings. Lifers, however, never allow you that opportunity. They spit in your eyes when they play Enduring Renewal and Bottle Gnomes. They gouge them out by Forking Congregate. They swallow them by playing Gerrard’s Wisdom/Anarchist/Equilibrium. And they flush them down the toilet when they play Soul Warden/Aluren/Shrieking Drake.

I hate Lifers.

I have no quarrel with people who throw around twenty-point Drain Lifes or someone who triple-Spirit Links their Exalted Angels. These may be examples of sick, disgusting excess – but at least these people are advancing the game state. They are actually doing damage, not hiding behind unassailable walls and gaining life for the pure sake of gaining life. They are trying to actively win, not just sit back and be the last one standing.

When I come across some doofus doing this crap in a multiplayer game, I become mildly irritated. I think, All right, you’ve had your fun; now put that deck away and play real Magic. Oh, I can take it once in a while – but when they play that same deck over and over again, I become ballistic. I just want to take their Green/White/Blue pile of *#$%@ and turn it into a Red/Black steaming pile of *&%$#@ ashes!!!

You know what I suspect about Lifers?

  • They never cut the head off their GI Joe just to watch his arms and legs fly off.

  • They never poured gas on their plastic army men and set them on fire.

  • They never blew tadpoles out of mud puddles with their Red Ryder BB guns.

  • They never sent frogs up 1,000 feet in model rockets.

  • They never got caught throwing rotten eggs at their school during Halloween.

  • They never played chicken with their friends while riding bicycles.

  • They rooted for Greg Brady over Danny Partridge.

All right… I beat that dead horse so long all the maggots evacuated. (I hope you got that picture, by the way.) The point is, you limp-wristed Lifers need to pull your Liberace CDs out of your orifices and play fair… Or I’m gonna hurt you so bad you’re gonna go home crying for mommy!

You know why this bothers me so much? I don’t know about you guys or your multiplayer groups, but mine is made up of mostly young, chronically-single males who are in desperate need of some kind of group social therapy in order to release their frustrations. Playing Magic provides a healthy outlet. There have been many weekends when I’ve shown up to play my friends, all tight and frustrated because I couldn’t download porn or my carpal tunnel syndrome kicked in or the one cute girl that winks at me at the gym didn’t show up and I need release, dammit.

My friends by and large understand that, and they let me have my fun. When I show up with a huge frown on my face and am cursing the world, they often will break out their weakest decks and let me destroy them with my most lethal concoction – and, darn it, it makes me feel better. Hell, I do it for them when they’ve had a bad week all the time – we all do. It’s a great social function that I can’t get anywhere else, and it keeps me from going postal and yelling in frustration at the idiots I work with.

Lifers interfere with this plan.

The deck in question that got me off on this spiel was played by a dude who has an unhealthy love of elves. He only owns this one deck, and it’s about three hundred cards full of nothing but green lifegain spells and elves. He refuses to play anything else, even when it’s offered to him. Now, this deck was harmless until Onslaught came out and gave him Wellwishers. That was bad – really bad. He started using all the green creature-tutoring spells and elves that sac’ed to get more elves just to get these into play. That stank.

Worse, when Legions came out he actively traded to get four Seedborn Muses. All he would do is get out as many elves as possible and tap the Wellwishers over and over again to gain life. He never attacked, even though he usually had out ten or more elves (unless I Earthquaked his ass!) and could’ve won a lot of games simply by beating down. He just sat back and tapped his Wellwishers… Eventually, I got sick of his game and stopped playing with him. Unfortunately, his style caught on and I played another guy with a similar deck… Except he added Jade Monoliths to keep me from burning out his elves, and tossed in blue for Clones and Vesuvan Dopplegangers to copy his Wellwishers and to add Imagecrafters and Invasion Plans. He would lock the table down using Mystic Snake/Equilibrium and use Soldevi Diggers to keep from running out of cards, and gain as much life as possible until everyone conceded. He would never attack!

Well, friends, I want to say that I have the cure for this madness.

It’s called poison.

You all remember good ol’ poison counters from way back, don’t ya? Yeah, they went out with the unicorns and dodo birds, showing up for the last time in Tempest. There are only six creatures that bestow poison counters, and one artifact that generates poisonous 1/1s (Serpent Generator). With the exception of Crypt Cobra, they are all pansy-ass wimps that can’t stand on their own in combat, so decks built around poison generally don’t fare very well in any format, especially multiplayer Magic. However, I have to say that given my scientific background and experiences in the field in general, I am uniquely qualified to study the poison phenomenon and my experiments have been… Fruitful.

You see, I have worked with almost every kind of lethal chemical known to man. You name it: Carcinogens, radioactives, infectious bacteria and viruses, explosives, and especially, poisons. Beta blockers, contact poisons, respiratory arresters; cyanides, curare, botulinum toxin – you name it, and I’ve either used it or studied it in my work.

Be nice to me.

Putting my experiences to work, I experimented with many different builds of poison decks, including trying to break Serpent Generator; using Relentless Assault for extra attacks; alpha-strikes using Runed Arch – I’ve tried it all. Nothing worked reliably, unfortunately – and I will admit that I still have not found the formula that will allow a poison deck to rule supreme in multiplayer Magic. However, I can damn well take out a single target in a multi-player game… Especially Lifers! I built the following deck specifically to deal with these idiots, and it is remarkable in its efficiency:

Maro’s Dream, Realized!

4 Swamp Mosquito

4 Suq’Ata Assassin

3 Crypt Cobra

4 Marsh Viper

3 Sabertooth Cobra

4 Royal Assassin

1 Phage the Untouchable

2 Dirge of Dread

4 Paralyze

4 Bubble Matrix

3 Icy Manipulator

4 Bayou

4 Llanowar Wastes

16 Swamp

The only poison creature I’m not using is the Pit Scorpion, since the other three-drop poison creatures are superior. I also don’t have the Serpent Generator in this build, but I have used it in a mono-black deck that used the Pit Scorpions (and no green poison creatures, of course) along with Cabal Coffers and it works okay.

Whatever builds you use, make sure it has Bubble Matrix in it: This card alone equals the field for you. Your creatures suck, but with this in play you can block anything without trample until the cows run away again. Plus, your creatures can’t be Shocked or Earthquaked or eliminated short of a Wrath of God-style spell! It also provides cover for your Royal Assassins, as they typically draw the first Lightning Bolt anyone draws.

Playing this deck is pretty simple: All you have to do is pick one target, and only one target, and hit him with as many poison creatures as you can! Do not, I repeat, do not dilute your poison threat by spreading them out among a lot of different people or you won’t take out anyone! The Icies and Paralyzes should open gaping holes for you, and in concert with the Royals you can take out the most threatening creatures. Ah, yes… A combo as old as dirt, but still highly effective! The Dirge of Dreads allow for an alpha-strike to finish someone, or… To get Phage through! Amazing the amount of squirming I see at the table when I get her into play with a Bubble Matrix down…

However, be aware when you play this deck that you will not win the table – it is nearly impossible to take out more than one person before people get antsy. There has always been some kind of bias against poison decks, to the point that some people go out of their way to kill you just for playing the deck! I guess there is a stigma to losing to poison counters… But I can tell you, if you stick it to a Lifer with this deck over and over again, it is worth it! Life totals are meaningless when you are dealing out poison counters.

(Just pray they aren’t playing Leeches!)

So beware, Lifers…

I’m gunning for you.

Tony Costa

[email protected]