Mining the Crystal Quarry: The Champions Multiplayer List

John takes a look at the Champions winners for multiplayer so that you can get everything situated before you are scrambling to grab the best cards from Betrayers as well.

After a good amount of time messing around with the set, Wizards still gives us multiplayer folks decent toys to play with. Before Betrayers of Kamigawa rolls out, though, we should take note of the multiplayer cards that Champions has given us.

Here’s the perennial dilemma with multiplayer decks: Too powerful, and other players come after you right away. Too weak, and you will spend game after game after game losing. Let’s be honest-no one likes losing.

However, here’s the perennial corollary to that dilemma-some of us just enjoy playing with fun cards, putting up a good fight, or causing so much chaos and trouble that when folks finally eliminate you, they’re all left weak and dying.

Wait. That last one is just me.*

The truth of the matter is, much to the chagrin of many (particularly the spikes of the world, as well as the Limited specialists), there are cards dedicated to the multiplayer folks out there who just enjoy a mellow fun game. Champions of Kamigawa in particular has given us a lot of toys.

Last time I touched on strange combos in Champions, some more effective than others. Folks look at pick orders all the time. Others look at how some cards impact Constructed formats. I want to look at the best Champions cards for multiplayer. I won’t even think about setting up an animal system like Anthony Alongi did (which, mind you, is a great criteria system). There’s only one criterion for making this list: How much trouble can you cause with the card? Note that many cards here screw with combat, since let’s face it-short of ridiculously broken combo decks, most of multiplayer is dominated by folks who dominate the red zone.

The problem with multiplayer is politics. If a card benefits only you, that gives folks incentive to smash you as soon as possible. It needs to be a particularly good card to make the cut. But cards that might benefit others? Alliances are fickle, but sometimes necessary. If you can provide reasons for your opponents to keep you alive for now, then that would be a good thing. But in the end, playing the game is about fun, and one of the cards down the list reflects that.

Oh well, enough talk!

Akki Coalflinger

That’s anyone’s attacking creatures that can gain first strike. Defense is much more difficult to plan around, and attacks get more interesting. Combine the fact that goblins are a popular multiplayer option anyway, and you have a pretty solid card. Now, if only there was a way to give it haste and have it cost less to cast…

Tide of War

I mentioned that this works fine and dandy with Gustcloak Savior, but the fact that it messes with everyone’s attack phases cannot be ignored. Any token generator will give your opponents pause to attack you, but Tide’s high cost keeps it from being any good. By the time it comes down, even in the slower pace of multiplayer, someone will have a solution for it. The good news is, people will focus on removing such an annoying card before taking a gambling risk, and even better, some people will try to protect it, particularly those that combat may not leave in such good shape! Put it down, have some blockers ready (preferably indestructible ones), and watch everyone else’s reaction.

Kami of Fire’s Roar

Kami of Fire’s Roar is one of those cards that can make combat decisions by other players so much more complex. Multiplayer is all about politics, and while other Falter effects are available, only Kami of Fire’s Roar presents an option that both does something on its own and has a modicum of surprise. Tappers and untappers telegraph themselves miles away, and are often targets before combat begins anyway. Playing an arcane spell as an instant (of which there are many-Rend Flesh, Pull Under, Soulless Revival, Glacial Ray… the list goes on) can really break the back of a player on the defensive, especially if the rest of the group smells blood. Kami of the Waning Moon and Guardian of Solitude are similar, and if they fit your colors, all the better, but Kami of Fire’s Roar has a decent body to it, which might mean something in the long run. Opposing multiplayer decks often play funny creatures such as Phage the Untouchable, Greater Harvester, or heck, even Naf’s Asp or The Fallen-creatures that will do severe damage to opponents should they connect, and of course, you don’t want coming your way. Unfortunately, messing with other people’s attacks, though powerful, is not quite the best thing available in the set. Which leads us to…

Teller of Tales

Speaking of substantial bodies, a 3/3 flier has never been something to sneeze at, and one that can do everything Kami of Fire’s Roar can do (barring an instant speed Masako the Humorless or similar mass untap spell) is better. One that can also get you another activation of Arcanis the Omnipotent, Avatar of Woe, or some other thing that has a great T-ability is wonderful. And when it can also screw with an opponent’s offense, not just his defense? Gravy.

But that’s not all! Teller also fixes your offense and defense as well. What else can you ask for? It’s a beautiful thing. The fact that it can swing and go back on defense is great, giving it virtual Vigilance. That it can let other attackers get virtual vigilance? Also beautiful. Despite the fact that people can still screw with Teller’s ability when you mess with their creatures via tappers or untappers, the fact that it’s so versatile is undeniable.

Forbidden Orchard

At the very least, you own the tokens you create (ditto Varchild’s War-Riders) so you can use Brand to get them back. Tainted Aether negates the drawback completely, as does Night of Soul’s Betrayal, and on a lesser note, Engineered Plague. As expected, it triggers Oath of Druids, and lets you play politics like nobody’s business. Hand out party favors like nobody’s business, but the trick is building around the land to make sure that all those “favors” don’t come back to bite you. 1/1 creatures by and large are not significant threats later on. Early on, it might be a liability, but assuming whatever deck you use with it doesn’t win, or if you switch to an Orchard deck later in the play session, you can twist and turn any lingering alliances or rivalries from previous games into something Picasso would be proud of.

Horobi, Death’s Wail

Boy, this guy is just showing up everywhere. Goblin Sharpshooter is the best thing to put this together with, its only failing coming in untargetability, Protection from Red/Creatures/Goblins, and Indestructibility. But even without the Goblin Gattler, Red speed burn decks suddenly become creature killers. Blue “Bounce Everything” decks become creature killers. White damage prevention decks become creature killers. Black creature kill decks become…. Creature killer decks. And of course, Green super-produce-tons-of-mana-and-put-out-stupid-timmy-creature decks become… useless. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!** If you can protect Horobi (Steely Resolve set to Legend or Spirit, Conspiracy set to Sliver and Crystalline Sliver, among others), all the better.

Keiga, the Tide Star

“Hello, my name is 5/5 beatstick whose death means I’m taking your best creature. I sure hope no one sends me farming!” Keiga has one of the best incentives amongst the dragons in multiplayer. Ryusei gets a nod as well, but because of the fact that Ryusei cannot get rid of a deadly flyer on the other side when he dies, or that Ryusei will occasionally wipe out your own forces, Keiga gets the nod for king of multiplayer amongst the other dragon spirits. It’s a no-win situation. Someone kills Keiga, you either take their creature, or if they have none, take someone else’s, which ticks them off at the Keiga-killer (okay, a little of that anger goes your way too). Keiga twists multiplayer politics into a pretzel-no one wants a player to have a 5/5 dragon, but then again, who’s willing to lose their best creature to kill it? The only thing keeping Keiga from ranking higher is that there are more remove-from-game effects in multiplayer’s wide open format than in Type Two or other formats. [Actually because Kokusho swipes life from everybody when he bites the bullett, he’s pretty awesome as well. – Knut, who learned this from Type 4]

Nezumi Graverobber

A Big Fat Target gets painted on this guy as soon as he gets flipped. Here’s the problem: if Nezumi Graverobber comes out too late in the game, he’s pretty worthless, unless you can generate ridiculously large amounts of mana. As a reanimator deck centerpiece, Nezumi Graverobber is slow compared to Exhume, Reanimate, and Animate Dead (and its kin). It’s a creature, so it’s susceptible to removal, yadda yadda. But because Nighteyes the Desecrator is a reusable source of reanimation, that in and of itself gives it credence as a threat. It gets you blockers. It gets you swingers. It swings for four. Some suggested cards to use it with: Syphon Mind, Putrid Raptor, and Strongarm Tactics. Go ahead, look it up. More than that, though, the Graverobber is versatile, and cheap! There’s not much else that one can ask for.

Uyo, Silent Prophet

People love Fork and Mirari, and Uyo is the next heir to the copy-a-spell dynasty. The fact that she’s a 4/4 flyer makes her a significant threat on her own, but the fact that with enough mana up, anyone who tries to counter a spell without using Boseiju, Who Shelters All or Last Word may not get that counter after all. That in and of itself can win you friends, if you need such things when Uyo is out.

USP demonstrates versatility in a single card: beater, recursive spells, and a decent defender when it comes down to it. Supported properly, Uyo, Silent Prophet might be one of the new gold banners that may make Blue a more viable option in multiplayer. Keiga notwithstanding, Uyo is the card that Blue mages in multiplayer have sought for a long time. Drawing cards is nice, but when the number of potential threats doubles or triples, one may not have enough one-for-one answers that blue tends to have (bounce, counters) in the multiplayer arena.

Cards that should make an impact but don’t:

Reverse the Sands

There’s too much risk to drop your life to dangerous levels, then cast this. Moreover, someone’s going to benefit, and it’s rare that it’s going to be just you. This card is for team multiplayer, not chaos. There’s little to be gained by leaving someone weakened, but alive, with no one to back you up. Worse yet, it won’t finish someone off right away, leaving them a few extra moments than other kill conditions would.

Put differently let’s say you cast Reverse the Sands, leaving yourself at a pretty life total. You’d better be able to finish the game right there, since successfully screwing everyone over with RTS will not get you any allies, and because of its huge casting cost, you need to have a way to get around that cost or follow it up immediately. Remember also that if your life total changes, it’s still gain or loss, so things like Sulfuric Vortex and Forsaken Wastes can put the hurt on. Long story short? Too much risk, too much investment, not enough bang for the buck. If you have that much mana to cast RTS, you can do something better with it.

Masako the Humorless

The surprise blocking factor is nice, but Masako is particularly weak. If you really want to let your creatures do double blocking duty, try Serra’s Blessing instead. Worse yet, her type has no synergy with any other “lord” in the game, sans Master of the Hunt or Brass Herald. Masako does have some synergy with sorcery speed tap abilities, such as discarding, but let’s face it-most creatures are best untapped, for instance, Pristine Angel.

Ben-Ben, Akki Hermit

Sure, it can screw with combat, but so can tons of other creatures, and they won’t force you to leave Mountains untapped until the last possible minute. Moreover, most other pingers don’t have that pesky “attacking creatures” restriction. Worst of all, he’s easy to remove.

No. Correction. Worst of all, that mana of yours just sits there, begging your opponent to do something. Ben-Ben is a passive, please don’t kill me, begging card, and has no place in your defensive line, or screwing around with other folk’s attacks. There are better ways to go about it.

Even then, though, Ben-Ben, Masako, and Reverse the Sands are welcome additions to the multiplayer toolbox. I’m glad that the casual player is never truly ignored, and I’m glad that there are some toys that just happen to work particularly well for the multiplayer groups out there.

Here’s to Betrayers of Kamigawa being just as good.

John A. Liu

*– and all the other control freaks out there.

**– Just to show that I’m not a pure Timmy hater, I recommend that y’all try Multani, Maro-Sorcerer, the original untargetable Timmy weapon of choice.