Flying Moggs Below The Radar

One of the most unique features of multiplayer is the forced conservation of resources. You have seven cards and two or three extra opponents – so how many can you afford to throw away before they outrace you? It doesn’t matter how thorough you are; some threats are going to sneak through. The question then…

One of the most unique features of multiplayer is the forced conservation of resources. You have seven cards and two or three extra opponents – so how many Lightning Bolts can you afford to throw away before they outrace you? It doesn’t matter how thorough you are; some threats are going to sneak through.

The question then becomes, "What’s worth killing?", which is a complex answer determined by your deck’s method of winning, the competence of other players, their playstyles, your current vulnerability, the phase of the moon, how late it is, and how peeved you are at the guy to your left.

But I’m not here to tell you what to kill.

In traditional Sneaky Weasel ™ style, I’m here to tell you what doesn’t get killed.

Multiplayer Magic is filled with examples of good, solid cards that still aren’t quite worth throwing away offense to get rid of. If you’re a smart player, you can create decks that rely on cards that fly just below your opponents’ threat radar to last a little longer.

For example: My Bouncing Weasels deck, a speedy green deck that relies exclusively on Elves to produce riotously quick mana, would hardly ever fly in a head-to-head match. Once you’ve played this deck one on one, you’d understand that the key is getting out a couple of Elves and a Priest of Titania or two, which gives me access to such ridiculous mana that I can (and have) cast a Thorn Elemental and TWO Stampeding Wildebeests on the sixth turn. A single player would, quite rightfully, pick off my Elves – but in multiplayer? Is it worth leaving yourself vulnerable to everyone else in order to cripple little ol’ me? And usually, the Elves live.

Another example: I have a white Phyrexian Processor deck that relies on Congregates and Soul Wardens for lifegain, so I can pay, say, forty life for a Minion token. Again, in a single player game everyone would start cacking Soul Wardens. But generally, thanks to the "below the radar" factor, I can gain ten to twenty life with a first-turn Warden before people notice how much I’m ahead. Sometimes they don’t ever notice.

That said, the question becomes simpler: "What sorts of things are people NOT willing to waste a card on?"

Small Creatures With Helpful Abilities.
Llanowar Elves, Soul Wardens, and Mogg Fanatics are all perfect – nay, classic! – examples of Below The Radar cards. Each of them are near-useless on the attack or defense come the mid-game, so people are loathe to waste cards on them. Who wants to waste a Shock or a Swords on a lowly 1/1, when they may need it for that Rector or miscellaneous Djinn later?

But all of these little dudes have abilities which are annoyingly useful to you – extra mana, lifegain, a 2-point ping – and help your game tremendously. Other players may grumble about that Warden, but they’ll grudgingly tolerate her for turns at a time. Likewise, there are many slightly-larger creatures that are annoying but not quite annoying enough to axe. Almost every Wall falls into this category (I suggest Wall of Souls, Wall of Blossoms, and Wall of Fog), as do critters with weirdo-but-useful abilities like Soul Sculptor, Ovinomancer, Wizard Mentor, Orim, and Orcish Spy.

Note that Prodigal Sorceror, which is tiny but has a very dangerous ability, will get the little bright red dot centered between his shoulderblades almost immediately. Mother of Runes, who isn’t very useful by herself but can turn minor threats into unstoppable juggernauts, also draws fire like there’s no tomorrow. Blooded enemies will call truces to take a Mom out, with one of them firing to tap Mom out and the other lowering the hammer on poor Mommy the next turn.

Three other notes:
1) Sometimes, depending on your environment, some creatures fall below the threat level and others won’t – if you’re playing with a group who hates lifegain (as mine does), a Soul Warden might draw multiple Lightning Bolts. Or a group traumatized by one too many Recurring Hermits might annihilate every Elf in sight. You never know.
2) Also, multiples of the same card in play up the perceived threat levels. I’ve seen single Soul Wardens last through entire games, but I have NEVER witnessed a dual-Warden team last more than three turns. One of them always, ALWAYS gets cacked. Two Mother of Runes* causes the entire table to get up and punch you in the face.
3) Planning a deck around the benefits that these under-the-radar creatures give you may or may not be stupid, mainly because they often get killed incidentally. If you really like Elves, one Massacre can ruin your whole day.

Artifacts or Enchantments With Minor Abilities.
Nobody’s going to really try to Shatter your Marble Diamond, unless you’re totally manascrewed and they’re trying to keep you down – but under normal circumstances, who cares if you have an extra mana here or a Sol Ring there? (Well, they do once you Armageddon, but that’s a different matter.) Likewise, a Brilliant Halo or a Spidersilk Armor can hang around for months at a time, simply because nobody really cares about one of your creatures having a coupla minor pluses. (Multiplayer hint: Nobody EVER Disenchants the Veiled enchantments.) Small things add up, but individually they’re a bitch to get rid of. You can plan decks to take advantage of that.

Artifacts or Enchantments Which Affect Everyone Equally, And Positively.
That Howling Mine not only makes you everybody’s best friend, but it might just keep you in the game for a while longer. (I think just about every good multiplayer has learned this lesson by now.) Likewise, playing a Dual Nature, a Lifeline, and a Mana Cache can keep you around for turns at a time, just because it’s fun for the whole family. Nobody bothers getting rid of these puppies until it’s time to really pound down on you, and by then you should have set up for the kill (or at least defense).

Artifacts or Enchantments Which Affect Everyone Negatively, But In A Minor Way.
It’s not only positive things that work – give your crew enchantments or artifacts that have minor drawbacks they can work around, and your cards will stay in play for a surprisingly long time. Things like Crawlspace, Ensnaring Bridge, Caltrops, the Abyss or Drop of Honey (in a critter-heavy metagame), Takklemaggot, and others will stay glued to the table while everyone hoards their cards for the REAL threats.

Cool Cards.
If you can pull out a card that you are ungodly fond of and that nobody else plays with, people actually tend to avoid it. Pendlehaven, for example, is an incredibly useful card that literally no green deck should be without – but I’ve managed to avoid its destruction because I’ve always pointed it out with such pride. The other players have looked over and nodded, saying, "That IS a cool card," with genuine admiration. Then they all feel a little bit shabby about ruining the dang thing after cooing over it.

Not Named Cards.
By all the former criteria, Grim Monolith by itself would normally be a safe play; it’s nothing more than a helpful one-time mana accelerator, which is scary but not quite worth wasting a Shatter over. But in my real life experience a Monolith is a Very Bad Play, because anyone who’s been Wildfired (or Processored) to death will immediately assume the worst and attack on sight. Likewise, Rector is a card that could show up in many innocuous decks, but everyone looks at it and thinks "COMBO!" and then pounds the sand out of your ears. You don’t want this to happen. Any reasonably-prominent card that makes multiple tourney appearances will leak blood into the water – and then the sharks will begin to gnaw.

Remember, constructing a deck that takes advantage of the vagaries of multiplayer is what you want. And cards that hang around for a long time are the ones that help you stay alive.


First of all, I am looking for more MLB Showdown and WWF Raw Deal articles. Where the heck are you? Write something.

Secondly, the answer to a previous week’s question has been given: "What is the plural of ‘Wumpus’?" And, not surprisingly, there are two.

Matthew Oakley says, "I believe the flavor text on Thrashing Wumpus actually uses the word in plural form." And sadly, he is correct. "Young wumpuses are malevolent and vicious – but they grow out of it" proves, definitively, that the plural of Wumpus is Wumpuses. Now THAT sounds dumb.

However, the lovely and talented "Daniele" writes in to tell me that, in latin, "Wumpus" is a verb of second declination, though she herself does some declinin’ to tell me what to "Wump" means. Assuming that I wish to change "Wumpus" to the singular latin genitive root verb, it becomes "Wumpi." (Alternatives available to me are the dative "Wumpo," who I believe used to perform with the Marx Brothers, the accusative "Wumpum," which is fascinating because I didn’t know that the Indians paid for things with Magic cards, and the supermall-sounding genitive plural "Wumporum.")

Since Strunk and White have nothing to say about using old latin verbs to transform made-up words, I declare Wizards usage to be incorrect. The official plural of "Wumpus" is "Wumpi." The people have spoken!

Now if someone could only explain to me why nobody can ever spell "Stronghold Zeppelin" right….

Moving on, another previous column had me promising an email to members of Team AWWAJALOM. I have yet to do so. I am a bad person. Believe me, I’m takin’ this thing places.

However, I have decided that member #2 of Team AWWAJALOM is Franc Haverkort, for making me actually snarf my Diet Pepsi with the following line:

"After reading your article, I instantly considered joining Team Adults With Women And Jobs And Lives Outside Of Magic. But there seems to be a tiny problem: I can’t seem to figure out if living in The Netherlands means that I don’t have a life."

Maybe not, but we’ll take a sense of humor. Yer in.

Thirdly, to the very cool Rebecca Hubbard: I shall respond to you. Really. Every time I’ve gone to write an email, my computer’s crashed, and they’re always long emails. My editing takes all my time, and then I get depressed because I spent a half an hour composing something and my email dies. Ack.

NEXT WEEK: What Exactly Did I Do To Piss Off Sheldon Menery?

Signing off,
The Ferrett
[email protected]
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….

* – When attacking with a Mother of Runes, it is necessary – nay, obligatory – to scream, "MOMMA said knock you out!" when attacking. Likewise, when a Soul Warden or a Sol Ring comes into play, you must wail a long, drawn-out, "Soooooooooooul Warden!" as if you were announcing an airing of Soul Train. I’m sure there are other obligatory clever things other people must say; hey, if enough of you email me with ’em, I might be able to make a column out of them.