When I say the word”angel,” what do you think of? If you’ve been playing Magic for a while, the buxom, non-tapping babe Serra comes to mind. Possibly, you started, as many, many people did, during Invasion block. If so, you may be thinking of Desolation Angel, Lightning Angel, Voice of All, or any of the other members of The Bustier Battle Brigade. (Their Motto: Hey! Look at THESE!… Gotcha!) You might even be playing that nasty Astral Slide deck, which makes you think of Exalted Angel. Those of you who are more well rounded and actually get a chance to watch television or read magazines between Magic tournaments might even be thinking of Tyra Banks, Adriana Lima, Daniela Pestova, and the other Victoria’s Secret Angels. (I know that I am.)
Hold on. I’ll be right back.
Okay, why am I asking about angels? I mean, Serra was reprinted in 7th and has hardly made an appearance on the tournament scene in more than a year and a half. Don’t blame the busty one for that, though: Flametongue Kavu was all too ready, willing, and able to blow her from the sky. She had to stay in hiding until he was gone. It’s now safe for her to come back out and play.
It’s a happy little confluence of events that has me writing about angels this week. First of all, it’s Christmas season, my favorite time of the year. (If only it didn’t get so cold.) Of course, this is a season of angels: There’s”Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.” There’s the angels that told the shepherds to follow the star. The angel on top of your Christmas tree. Second, there was that Victoria’s Secret holiday special on CBS a few weeks ago. I’m sure you saw it. What with Phil Collins singing and all, it was Must-See TV. Plus, there was the aforementioned Ms. Banks, Ms. Lima, and Ms. Pestova in angel wings and very little else.
Also, I started thinking about angels because of this black deck I was working on. I needed a bigger…
“Wait a cotton-pickin’ minute!” the crowd yells.”Black deck? I thought we were talkin’ about angels!”
You forgot the hottest angel of all, dincha? Fallen Angel. Here she is:
She’s a 3/3 flier for 3BB. She gets +2/+1 until the end of the turn if you sacrifice a creature to her. And StarCity sells the 6th and 7th Edition versions for a measly $2.00 each. Two bucks?!? What a bargain! I’ll take 4, please.
By the way, did I mention that she flies?
I started looking for ways to sac creatures when I opened my first Oversold Cemetery. I figured I had three ways to get them into the graveyard: I could put them there directly from my library (Entomb, Buried Alive); I could discard them (Wild Mongrel, Putrid Imp); or I could get them into play and sac them.
I like the last option best because I get to use the creatures for something first.
[Of course, if I had four Oversold Cemeteries, this would be a completely different deck. But those are .00 each, and I don’t want to proffer a deck that requires you to spend on one slot. If you have them, though, I’ll show you later a couple of decks that use them.]
Another Magic babe that could fit the same requirements as the Fallen Angel is, of course, Braids. Again, however, this is still an expensive card. And, you get no additional effect from sacrificing something to Braids. On the other hand, she’s just brutal with Oversold Cemetery.
Okay, to get back on track here, how could I abuse the Fallen Angel’s ability? There is a rather nice group of creatures with leaves-play abilities right now. Unfortunately, most of them (Shambling Swarm, Rotlung Reanimator, Mindslicer, et al) are rares. The commons are the Nightmare Horrors like Faceless Butcher and Mesmeric Fiend. Those aren’t really very good leaves-play abilities since they return the creature or card that they took when they came into play.
Unless we do…
STUPID TIMING TRICKS!
“Welcome to Stupid Timing Tricks. I’m your host, Troy McClure. You may remember me from such cable game shows as Waiter, There’s a Fly in my Soup and Name That Odor.
“Our first contestant today is Joey. He’s a self-described scrub from Newark who likes to play in the mud. Welcome, Joey!”
“Hi, Mr. McClure. It’s great to be here.”
“Joey, I didn’t ask you how you were, did I?”
“Um, no, sir.”
“You gotta be careful in this game, Joey. Are you ready to play Stupid Timing Tricks?”
“Joey, that one was for you.”
“Yes, I’m ready to play.”
“Okay, you have a Fallen Angel on the board. Your opponent just cast a Serra Angel on his last turn. You drew a Faceless Butcher. How do you make sure that Serra Angel stays removed from the game?”
** tick tock tick tock **
“Well, when the Butcher comes into play, I have to remove another creature from the game. So, I’d just remove Serra Angel.”
“Is that your final answer?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry, Joey. That was close but wrong. You see, you were supposed to make sure that Serra never came back. The way you did it, if and when the Butcher left play, your opponent would get Serra back.”
“Aw, geez, that’s right. I have to stack the abilities. I should have sac’d the Butcher to the Fallen Angel in response to his first ability going on the stack. That would trigger his leaves-play ability. But, since Serra wouldn’t have been removed from the game yet, there wouldn’t be anything to return. I’m such an idiot.”
“Yes, you are, Joey. Would you like to try again?”
“You betcha, Troy.”
“Call me Mr. McClure. Okay, you have a Nantuko Husk on the board. Last turn, you cast Duress and took your opponent’s Wrath of God. But she still has another one in her hand. This time, you get a Mesmeric Fiend. How do you make sure that the second Wrath goes away forever?”
** tick tock tick tock **
“All right, let’s see. Just like with the Butcher. The Fiend comes into play. In response to its comes-into-play ability hitting the stack, I sac it to make the Husk a 4/4 until the end of the turn. Then, when I take the Wrath, it will stay removed from the game. Right?”
“You are correct, Sir!”
** APPLAUSE **
“So what do I win?”
“What do you win? A prize coveted by people the whole world over. I, Troy McClure, will record the greeting for your answering machine!”
WE NOW RETURN TO OUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED ARTICLE ALREADY IN PROGRESS
Here we are, then, with at least 16 creatures for our deck: four each of Fallen Angel; Nantuko Husk; Mesmeric Fiend; and Faceless Butcher. Nice little mana curve, too. I’d like a 1-cc creature, too. Luckily, Festering Goblin can pick off Birds, Elves, Grim Lavamancers, and Merfolk Looters when he leaves play. And, if I’m playing a cheap black deck, I have to have Crypt Creeper.
Okay, we’re at twenty-four creatures. Let’s look at mana and or support spells.
The vast majority of the spells are three or less. So far, only the Butcher and the Angel are more (four and five, respectively). Since we know that most of our support spells will probably be three or less, we can use only 22 lands. Since we’re playing mono-black, we’re going to make two of those Cabal Coffers. The extra mana might be nice. Heck, it’s entirely possible that we could cast an Angel and a Butcher on the same turn if we have a Coffers out.
This brings me to the decklist. I hope you can figure out why it’s called:
2 “Cabal Coffers
4 Festering Goblin
4 Mesmeric Fiend
4 Crypt Creeper
4 Nantuko Husk
4 Faceless Butcher
4 Fallen Angel
SUPPORT SPELLS 14
4 Chainer’s Edict
2 Aphetto Dredging
Those two Aphetto Dredging are in there as a way to refill your hand with creature cards. The deck has twelve Zombies, eight Horrors – and, of course, the four Angels. With all of the saccing going on, you will often have enough of one type in your graveyard to get three back. It’s a suh-weet trade.
What we have here, then, is a black beatdown deck with nine uncommons, four rares, and a lot of problems for the other guy. If you built it from the ground up, it should cost less than $30. Be careful when playing this, though. You might make enemies very quickly.
Warning: Really Expensive Deck Section
Oversold Cemetery puts a whole new wrinkle in things. You have to remember that the Cemetery only brings cards back to your hand. In other words, unlike a true Reanimator deck, you don’t necessarily want huge monsters in the ‘yard just because you have the Cemetery out. They’ll just come back to your hand. Without enough mana, you still won’t be able to cast them. You must avoid the temptation to start the decklist with four each of Entomb and Buried Alive.
In my mind, crowded as it is with baseball and lingerie references, the Cemetery points to one of two types of decks. First, there’s a toolbox deck. Load up the main deck with a variety of one-shot creatures that can get you out of certain situations. That deck would look awfully janky but will often save itself. You probably want to go green and black since green gives you via creatures most of what black doesn’t: Enchantment and artifact destruction. The second deck would simply use the Cemeteries to refill your hand and bring back an undying army. As with the Fallen Angel deck, though, you wouldn’t want to just start loading up the ‘yard.
Here’s how I think a green and black Cemetery deck would look. (Special thanks to Karl Allen for suggesting some of the toolbox creatures):
[INSERT YOUR OWN CATCHY NAME HERE]
4 Tainted Wood
4 Wild Mongrel
3 Crypt Creeper
2 Krosan Tusker
1 Visara the Dreadful
1 Dakmor Lancer
1 Abyssal Horror
1 Cabal Archon
1 Elvish Scrapper / Scavenger Folk
1 Elvish Lyrist / Druid Lyrist [You could make these last two slots into Nullmage Advocate, but I hate giving cards back to my opponent when I don’t need to.]
1 Ravenous Baloth
1 Fallen Angel
1 Silklash Spider
4 Oversold Cemetery
4 Chainer’s Edict
4 Buried Alive
2 Diabolic Tutor
You have eight 2-cc creatures (Wild Mongrel and Crypt Creeper) as well as the Oversold Cemetery. So, you should be fine in the early game. Having the Genesis in there as well allows for more Stupid Timing Tricks with the Cemetery. But, more important, it’s an alternate route to get creature cards back into your hand if the Cemeteries get countered or destroyed.
Krosan Tusker is just sick in this deck. With four or more creatures in you graveyard, you can bring him back, draw your card for the turn, cycle him, grab a land, and draw a card. I’m thinking that thinning your deck of lands as well as drawing two cards per turn for only three mana is A Good Thing.
The one-shot creatures are all for certain match-ups. Some of these you’ll have to look up. I mean, who uses Dakmor Lancer? Well, if you’re looking for a 187 CIP effect, this is your only option in Standard right now, the aforementioned Faceless Butcher aside. Suffice it to say, you have enough tools for the random Bad Enchantment (Elvish Lyrist / Druid Lyrist), Bad Artifact (Elvish Scrapper / Scavenger Folk), or direct damage deck (Ravenous Baloth) as well as way to control the opponent’s hand (Abyssal Horror).
So, why not Duress? For two reasons. First, there’s no room. What would you take out? For me, the answer is: Nothing. Sure, you could take out the two Tutors, the Hurricane, and the Mutilate… But what fun would that be? I want everything that’s in here. Second, what are you afraid of? Artifacts and enchantments can be handled. Haunting Echoes won’t hurt a whole lot with all of the one-shots. Counterspells roll over and die. Fliers hate Silklash Spider.
Speaking of fliers, Hurricane is in the deck for ending the game as much as it is to kill fliers. If you use the Cabal Archon and the Baloth to stay ahead of your opponent, Hurricane can end the game quickly.
Warning: Expensive Deck Alert, Part II
The second type of deck that Oversold Cemetery suggests to me is simply one that wants to sac creatures. Again, we have a deck that just ignores Duress because the typically Duress-ed spells don’t matter. You’ll see what I mean when you notice the four Cabal Archons in there. (Special thanks to Bill Bryant and Charles Dykes for lotsa ideas and playtesting time):
[INSERT YOUR OWN CATCHY NAME #2 HERE]
4 Barren Moor
2 Unholy Grotto
4 Crypt Creeper
4 Wretched Anurid / Nantuko Shade
4 Cabal Archon
4 Rotlung Reanimator
4 “Nantuko Husk
4 Faceless Butcher
2 Fallen Angel
4 Oversold Cemetery
4 Chainer’s Edict
I like the Barren Moors because there isn’t a one-mana play in the deck. As I said before, we don’t care what the opponent has, so we don’t use Duress. If you’re one of those folks who can’t play black without Duress, then go ahead. We really have found that it’s not needed, though.
While this deck has the look and feel of a combo deck, there are no true combos per se; this deck is one of those that just has a whole lot of synergy. For example, the Cabal Archons work well with both the Cemetery and the Rotlung Reanimator, but neither is required for it to do a great job. The Reanimator works well with the Cemetery, Husk, and Angel. And so on.
Don’t scoff at the Unholy Grotto, either. If you go the Wretched Anurid route, the deck has sixteen zombies. Sometimes, you win the game simply by recycling the Rotlung Reanimator and saccing it to an Archon.
One thing that all three of these decks have in common (aside from the Swamps and the Fallen Angel) is that they’re fun to play. I know I say that about most of my decks; hey, it’s true. I like to build decks that are fun to play. But these are especially so. You often have a lot of choices and decisions to make. And all of them are good ones:
- “Hmmmm… Which opposing creature should I remove from the game forever?”
- “Bring back the Rotlung Reanimator or the Fallen Angel?”
- “How many Zombie tokens can I make if I sac this Cabal Archon?”
- “How many Zombie tokens should I sac to the Fallen Angel?”
- “How do I want to kill you: sac Clerics to the Cabal Archon or fly over with the Fallen Angel while saccing creatures to her?”
See what I mean? Talk about fun!
Dr. Romeo’s Response To Jimmy Chow’s Article On Banning Certain Cards In Casual Play: A Totally Biased And Unexpected Editorial
I don’t normally comment on other people’s StarCity articles. But Jimmy Chow’s piece on banning certain cards in casual play got me thinking. I may have the gist of his article wrong, but I believe that he was talking about banning certain cards in one-on-one casual games. While I don’t like the idea of this, I do understand it.
I have been teaching a couple of people at work, Richard and Kristi, how to play Magic. They also have other friends outside of work who play. Since they’re new to the game, Richard and Kristi, obviously, have a limited card pool. I gave them some cards, but I don’t have extra Morphlings and Spiritmongers to throw around. So, I restrict myself from playing certain cards or decks. You see, I don’t want them to get frustrated by not being able to win. I mean, it’s okay if a newbie isn’t winning because they’re still learning; we learn best from making mistakes and doing our best not to repeat them. But losing because your opponent’s cards are exponentially more powerful than yours are is a different story.
Case in point: A couple of weeks ago, Kristi played Magic on the weekend with one of her friends who had been playing for a long time. She whips out her all-common Goblin deck. She had built it herself and was rightfully proud of it.
Her opponent whipped out a Sneak Attack deck. Now that’s just not fair. But I don’t believe in banning Sneak Attack or Serra Avatar or anything else.
Make sense? Probably not.
What I’m saying is that I don’t believe that a group of friends should have a list of cards that people can never play. That’s not fair to the people that own the cards. There are, however, certain situations in which you need to patrol your own dang self. You don’t drop Sneak Attack on someone who’s been playing for only eight weeks.
Of course, Kristi now wants to spend some money and build a more competitive deck. Let’s say that she builds and learns how to play Counter-Phoenix or an Opposition deck. Would it be okay to drop Sneak Attack then? You betcha – because in that case she herself has decided to take the next step forward. But by playing such a powerful deck against Kristi, someone whom he knew did not have the skill or cards to combat it, her friend risked alienating a new player.
That’s not good for the game. Or for friendships.
Of course, in multiplayer, it’s a whole different ball of wax. To me, that’s where it’s fun to play with so many different cards. Any banned or restricted list should be very small simply because there are so many people with weapons to handle the threats. Will you be playing this weekend against a friend that likes his artifacts? Shattering Pulse is a common, while Shatterstorm is a cheap rare. How about that annoying woman with the Shadow Wall deck? Shadowstorm is huge, and Pyroclasm has been reprinted, and Massacre and Infest are very nice answers. Are you bringing Opposition? Better hope none of your three opponents have Disenchant. Also, they’re gonna gang up on you. That’s a promise.
I’ll give you another example of why fewer cards should be banned in multi-player games. It’s what I call the Bull’s Eye Effect.
Last weekend, I got together again with Jason (he of the Elves and huge, green beef) and John (of the Goblins and massive Fireball). I had decided that I would try to play my Cleric deck with Doubtless One. Between the damage prevention of Battlefield Medic and Master Apothecary and the lifegain of the Doubtless One, it was going to be hard for them to bring me down. There just isn’t a Fireball big enough or a green monster beefy enough to handle a 15/15 Doubtless One backed up by two active Battlefield Medics.
“Oh, geez, I hope neither one of them is packing black. Doubtless One still dies to Dark Banishing.” Luckily, neither one was.
Playing this deck was like wearing a shirt with a great big Bull’s Eye on it. They simply ganged up on me, doing everything they could to stop me. I did get pretty far ahead in life… Then, Jason played Pacifism on two of the Doubtless Ones. At that point, it didn’t matter how much life I had. I would be losing it quickly. And I did.
My point is that there are very few cards that should be banned even in casual and/or multi-player games. A list that includes all creatures with Shadow, Opposition, Worship, and Wellwisher is too broad. Your group should be able to deal with this stuff. Why isn’t anyone packing Disenchant – or, even better, Allay? I mean, Holy Crap, Tremor takes care of Wellwisher and most Shadow critters.
To put it another way: if the answer is”Tremor,” the question ain’t that tough.
When banning a card in your casual playgroup, think long and hard about it. Why are you banning it? Did you decide that Opposition has to go because no one ever plays with Aura Blast? Then maybe someone should. But, if you’re thinking of banning things until someone new to your group can catch up on the learning curve, that’s not such a bad idea.
So, what would I ban or restrict? Well, I’d ban anything to which the only answer is”You could counter it.” Yes, I mean Upheaval. You should never allow that in multiplayer games. (Hell, The DCI shouldn’t allow it in tournaments.) I don’t mind reset buttons. What I mind are reset buttons that have no valid answer outside of”You could counter it.” Wrath of God? Fine. I’ve got Remembrance on the board. I’ll be fine. Armageddon? Good thing I have some artifact mana. Earthquake? My Dragon doesn’t care. Or maybe I’ll just cast Akroma’s Blessing, saving all of my guys while you wipe everyone else’s out. Heck, even Magnify, the worst green growth spell that I’ve ever seen, might save some guys from an Earthquake.
I would also ban degenerate combos. You can play Yawgmoth’s Bargain. You can play Congregate. You can not play Yawgmoth’s Bargain and Congregate in the same deck.
So I would like to throw my two bits of advice in as far as casual, multiplayer ideas go. Abe Sargent did a much better job on 5-color decks than I ever could. And while he wasn’t technically talking about multi-player games, I have found that many multi-player groups are basically 5-color groups. Read Abe’s stuff first. Then read this.
Dr. Romeo’s Ideas, Basics, And Ground Rules For Multi-Player Madness
- BRING ENCHANTMENT AND ARTIFACT DESTRUCTION: Do you realize how annoying a single Circle of Protection: Green can be if most of your creatures are green? How about Worship plus Iridescent Angel? You need to be able to blow up enchantments and artifacts.
- BRING YOUR OWN ENCHANTMENTS AND ARTIFACTS: Sandstone Deadfall kills Iridescent Angel. Pit Trap stops Spiritmonger. Goblin Festival is fun.
- THINK MASS REMOVAL: Winds of Rath. Kirtar’s Wrath. Purify. Tranquility. Massacre. Mutilate. Evacuation. Armageddon. Ruination. Plague Wind. (I warn you, however, that Plague Wind will create The Bull’s Eye Effect for you and make your game very short if you can’t win right after casting it. You will be marked.)
- DECIDE WELL AHEAD OF TIME WHAT CARDS ARE BANNED OR RESTRICTED: It’s not fair that someone shows up with a white weenie deck packing four Congregates, and THEN you tell her it’s banned. Not cool.
- COME UP WITH HOUSE RULES: My favorites are these three. First, each player starts with ten life for each player at the table. Makes sense to me. In a duel, you each have twenty life – two players times 10. If there are four of you, start everyone at forty. Second, we play with a virtual Howling Mine sort of. Each player draws two cards instead of one each turn. The player who goes first does get to draw a card. (Of course, this means hand size is up to eight.) Third, all basic lands have Cycling – 2 just like the cycling lands from Urza’s Saga. This allows you to have fun even at the end of the game. I mean, did you really need that thirteenth land?
Basically, just be careful in casual and multiplayer games. Bring the necessary tools, but don’t just ban certain cards because you don’t like them. This game, to me, is about creativity. If someone can build a great deck, you need to build the answer. Don’t stifle the other guys’ creativity.
And to think – I was worried that this piece would be too short!
As usual, you’ve been a great audience. Please, give a big StarCity welcome to the Cirque du Sol Grail.