Look over there! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a character from the Marvel Super Heroes series? No, it’s a Zephid. Now that’s something we don’t get here very often… Don’t look at it, maybe it will go away.
I wish I had more time to play Magic. Every Saturday, when I’m at my parents’ place, I head down to the Labyrinth (up, actually) and play. I can’t play during the other days because I’m trying to live on my own in a city in the Netherlands, Nijmegen, where there’s no fun Magic scene that I can find. If there is one, please mail me – unless, of course, you want to avoid me, afraid of losing to all the finely tuned decks I surely must possess. So I’m stuck with playing on Saturdays.
But every Saturday I see a decline in the number of players attending. Now, it isn’t the fact that the actual headcount lowers each day – it’s the fact that the accomplished players seem to disappear that worries me. About three years ago, we had multiplayer games with six people about thrice a day, all three times with five other opponents while all the others were duking it out somewhere else.
But since last year, we’ve had to play with the same six players each day. And now we’re lucky to gather six, so we can play some decent emperor. Emperor isn’t only the most fun multiplayer because it makes for some fine tactical involvement needed…. No, it’s also named after the best musical formation after the year 1980, thus cleverly excluding Rachmaninov and the Beatles from the discussion.
But as I mentioned, the headcount isn’t lowering… Great numbers of new players stream in, bringing along their decks with Trained Orggs, Vizzerdrixes, and Eager Cadets in them. If you’re lucky, they bought a preconstructed deck – because with a pre-con, you have at least a little resistance to your finely-honed skills with the cards.
I know, I don’t have to play them. But why shouldn’t I? Playing is still fun. If I’m playing such an inexperienced youngster, I just try and beat them with style. Insist on beating them silly with your Bottle Gnomes, while you could just as well Corpse Dance some Shaukus out of some shallow graves. Only whip out the old Corpse Dance, or target something else with your Dawn of the Dead than a Flaschengnome, when the opponent does something menacing. Not only is it more fun for you, it also teaches your apprentice something.
“He has a single creature, attacking me each turn. It’s smaller than my Scaled Wurm… But my Scaled Wurm can’t enter play. And when it does, it gets seduced in a very deadly fashion by some black monster resembling the Drow Matron Malice Do’Urden. So maybe my Scaled Wurm isn’t the end-all, be-all after all.”
“He has a single creature, attacking me each turn. It dies to my Hand of Death. But then it comes back somehow. I have to wait seven turns to draw a new Hand of Death. But then the creature popped back over and again. I lose because of tricks. I need tricks, too.”
“He has a single creature, attacking me each turn. He also had one during our last game. And during the game before that. He had a plan. I need a plan, too.”
This all adds up to the following simple concept: To win, you need a plan, some tricks, and no Scaled Wurms in sight. Not that Scaled Wurms are horrific. It can be more humiliating for an opponent to kill him with a Scaled Wurm than to kill him with Bottle Gnomes… For Bottle Gnomes is an accepted Good Card.
Now I’ve said a whole lot, I even grossly exaggerated newbies. While some still brandish their Scaled ones, most have already switched to Rhox. And who can blame them? The darned thing is only 5/5 for 4GG – already better than 6/6 for 6R. It also regenerates, making it better than Craw Wurm. But now: It always strikes home. Like an imbued arrow. It hits, even when blocked. How do you explain that Rhox isn’t the end-all, be-all? It’s quite hard. Rhox is just good – I can’t deny that. Only the likes of Shauku Endbringer, Infernal Denizen, and Wrath of God can bring it down. And before two of those three even hit the board, Rhox has already served for ten to fifteen to some head. Add in a Nantuko Elder or Krosan Restorer, or some other Llanowar Imposter, and you’ll be dead before you can deliver the Rhox a coup de grace.
Of course you can show the futility of praying to Rhox by slamming down a Propaganda, followed by some Marble, Sky, and Moss Diamonds, topped off with an Armageddon or a Winter Orb. Or both. Maintain the status quo with some Mana Leaks, Force Spikes, and Counterspells. Finish with Pendrell Mists and, if the need arises, Aura of Silence. Gerrard’s Wisdom keeps you alive when they try to burn past your Propagandas. Wrath of God kills mana producing critters and swarms that are too quick for your Orbaganda to handle. Gaea’s Blessing makes sure the lock can be maintained after your 53rd turn and Intuition finds you what you want or puts Blessings from your library into your graveyard.
These kinds of decks were Type II legal during that blessed Mirage/Tempest season – and designed to run a knife right down creature decks’ throats. They can show the weaknesses of Rhox all night. They can also show the weakness of Kird Ape and Serendib Efreet. Stompy can prove Mana Drain’s weakness. Sligh can prove Land Tax’s weakness. And how can I possibly say with a straight face that Rhox just”ain’t that good” while I am tapping the mana for my second Deep Spawn? It’s one of the few fatties I don’t own four of because I think it’s not good enough. I do have four Multanis (untargetable), Nematas (leaves something behind when killed), Children of Gaea (seven trampling power for six mana), Verdant Forces (I was told it was good), Maros (seven power for four), Weatherseed Treefolk (Immortal), Thorn Elementals (takes only three turns, Rhox needs four), Force of Natures (if it’s even larger than Lord of the Pit, it must be good. I got four about seven years ago, when there was nothing else), Lhurgoyf (ten-plus power for four).
And those are the only green ones I can think of from the top of my head; my collection’s currently some hundred kilometers away from me. But Rhox didn’t really do anything new. It just trashed, and wasn’t particularly cheap or innovative in its ways. So I chose to skip on Rhox the same way I would choose to skip on Avatar of Might or Llanowar Behemoth. But I must still admit that even today, I get a special feeling when I see a third turn Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary, followed by a third turn Rhox. I’d have fallen in love with it some years ago too.
There must be fifty ways to leave your lover… Or to be forced to leave him by some opponent not completely agreeing with your plans for world domination. Still, Rhox seems tough. And feels tough, too, when you’re the one he’s charging towards. I guess I should be glad that most of the amateurs at the Labyrinth have reached their Rhox period. If I just build my decks with more fun and less efficiency in mind, they make for interesting games against those new mages. It feels just like the days of old, where a quick Ironroot Treefolk might end your hopes of a Breeding Pit feeding its Lord of that Pit. Leave behind your sophistication and embrace the Rhox; feel it, experience it, kill it, die to it. This is not a tournament. You need not further improve your reputation of being invincible.
(And now for the controversial quote…)
Lower yourself to their level.
Just because you have the four different Hymns to Tourach doesn’t mean you’re obliged to play them. You can leave that Moat at home if you like to. There’s no law that forces you to play with your Ice Storms; pull out your Mirozels and Phantom Monsters and Ghost Ships and fly over that Rhox’s angry head. Bring your whole Soltari crew and chew a hole through that Rhox’s owner. Contact Titania’s Priestesses and let the opponent smell Verdeloth’s seven Saprolings before there’s even a glint in the milkman of mama Rhox’s eyes. Eron the Relentless can perfectly race a Rhox – and when he has a Flaming Sword, he can even successfully block one over and over again. When you use your Dark Ritual not for a Necropotence on turn 1, but for some Hyalopterous Lemures on turn 3, you will see a much tighter game. Who can loose after a turn 6 Greven Il-Vec? But don’t forget to absolutely beat the living daylights out of them with Nomad Mythmaker, who’s frantically trying to put a Chimes of Night on an Obsidian Acolyte. Just to show them that there’s more to magic than attacking for five. One can also attack for two, metaphorically speaking.
“Ball Lightning, Fireblast you twice.”
“Vine Dryad, Rancorred up. Rogue Elephant, Bounty of the Hunt.”
It does make for some memorable quotes.”I drew my Rhox and still I lost!””He won, even though I had Rhox out!” Cries of disbelief will ensue from the little guy’s friends. But also cries of interest:”How?””Why?””Let me see the deck that can accomplish such feats!” It sparks their interest. And the next week, they will have evolved.
Thus they learn and grow. Am I patronizing or what? Like they can’t take care of themselves. And shouldn’t that be the case – like I then should be the one to teach them? They don’t need teaching. They’re happy as is. There is no”they”; everybody’s equal.
But I have been what they are now. I can also be more, as my winning streaks indicate… But I can fall back there anytime I want. And I would like them to come up to my level as well. My competitive Type I decks are gathering dust. My casual ones too. My multiplayer decks are too good to let loose on them. How I would love to struggle again. I don’t want to present myself as their deity; I want them to ascend.
Being worshipped feels nice, though.
I sense an interruption forthcoming….
Wacky Wednesdays, Part Googolplex: I Wish.
Playing my Corpse Dance deck (my favorite for the past few weeks, hence it’s numerous mentions in this article), which is intricately described in a previous installment, I have a usual amount of Mountains and Swamps in play. Then I draw my single Plain. Offensive actions from other players made my Infernal Tribute and Dawn of the Dead end up in me grave. I have two Death Wishes in my hand, which I slipped in a few seconds before the game started, just to see how Wishes behaved in multiplayer. That single plain….
No creatures on the board due to a Nevinyrral’s Disk….Wish for Replenish, go to eight. Next turn, Wish for Armageddon, go to four. Win with Dawn of the Dead and Bottle Gnomes and Bloodshot Cyclops. In a totally unexpected manner. Wishes are so cool, who cares about the four life one might end up at?
I have two Bayous and two Taigas. A single Volrath’s Shapeshifter had the time to make use of my Volcanic Islands before they were wasted. My opponent has three zombie tokens. He swings savagely each turn because my Shapeshifter is just a puny 0/1. He has eleven life and lots of lands. I have seven lives and will lose in two turns. But then I draw Death Wish and win. What would one Wish for in such times of strife? A Phyrexian Dreadnought, of course. That’s a goal! A little less conversation, li’l mor’action…
Derk (one of the store’s owners), could I just peek through the Dark binder for a brief moment? It’s not that I don’t own a Martyr’s Cry, of course – I just left it at home. No, for real, ask Werner.”Yes, Stijn has one.” Aahhr. What does it do? Swords to Plowshares all white creatures? D’oh…. It’s so good to have been around since the store ever opened. And I’m not only talking about the experience it gave me, I’m also talking about the vast quantity of cards your Wish can now access.
You now what’s stupid? I once played Burning Wish for a Demonic Tutor, then Tutored for the creature I needed. Burning Wish finds you almost everything when you have a Demonic Tutor and your deck is good. For a good deck contains almost any card you could ever want in specific situations.
Heh, I could have made some bucks by just sending this in to Wacky Wednesdays. But I just wanted to spice up my own stuff, egomaniac that I am.
Would Wacky Wednesday-Gis accept Mind Magic stories? Now remember, in Mind Magic, every card is another card of your choice, with the sole restriction that the casting cost must be the same. Furthermore, all cards may only be cast once during each game. We play it with random piles of cards from behind the shop’s counter. his guarantees a healthy mix of Judgment rares, Tempest Uncommons and Italian Legends commons, for example. I was holding a 1U and a 1W. I controlled a Hollow Dogs. My opponent, Peter, had nothing on the board, save the eight land we both had (eight is our limit.) He had a single card in his hand and looked disgusted when he drew it. But then he cleared up when I attacked with my Hollow Dogs.
“Second Thoughts,” showing me a Border Patrol.
I could have countered easily with the 1U. Confound, Arcane Denial, Alexi’s Cloak, Mystic Veil, Reality Ripple. The 1W gave me Shelter. But all those cards were already played once. Should I play the 1U as Impulse, hoping for some U, UU, 1UU, 2UU, 3UU counter? Hoping for 2G to play Foxfire (remove creature from combat, cantrip, looks like a season’s greetings card)? Hoping for WW, Ward of Lights, with Cho-Manno’s blessing already played? I was almost out of options, impossible as this might seem in Mind Magic. Then I got it:
“Manacles of Decay, 1W, becomes Errant of Duty.”
“So now you have an instant 1/1 white banding knight token?”
“Yes. Jaded Response.”
>Laugh out loud like Krusty the Clown<
“That earns style points.”
“What, the laughing?”
“No, dimwit. That action.”
“Oh, das machen wir immer so in Hanover.*”
Now I’m not one to blow my own trumpet (cough) but I thought that a pretty funny play. The Dogs hit for five – just like a good old faithful Rhox would do. When an opponent has nothing, it doesn’t matter whether you attack with a Rhox, Hollow Dogs, Ishan’s Shade, or Blastoderm. Or Hypnotic Specter with Gaea’s Embrace on it. They all come on for five. Even a Zephid, backed up with a Fervent Charge, hits for five. Which reminds me:
Recipe for a Zephid:
1x Diplomatic Immunity
1x Stupefying Touch
1x Nomad Mythmaker
First, play the Mythmaker and the Rhox. Then activate the Attunement to drop the other enchantments into the graveyard. Then add the creature enchantments to the Rhox, using the Mythmaker. Wait for four turns. Make sure you add the Immunity last and to cast the Lace in response, making the Rhox blue. Now make the firm decision not to have your Rhox deal damage to your opponent as though it wasn’t blocked anymore. It demands some serious investments, but the result is not to be mocked with: one clean and tidy Zephid. Even the casting cost matches, so that it will respond naturally to Powder Kegs and Pernicious Deeds. We even shut down its regeneration! Add Fountain Watch for absolute untouchability. This also allows for the Immunity to become a Robe of Mirrors.
Recipe for a Zephid:
1x Multani, Maro Sorcerer
1x Phyrexian Boon
1x Rabid Wombat
1x Shifting Skies
1x Crown of the Ages
1x Ill-Gotten Gains
1x Chains of Mephistopheles
1x Anvil of Bogardan
1x Visions Charm
1x Morning Tide
1x Limited Resources
10x Snow-Covered Mountain
1x Planar Birth
1x Mind Twist
Play the Multani and the Wombat and cast the enchantments, naming blue for Shifting Skies. Then move the creature enchantments to Multani, using the Crown. Then cast the Chains and the Anvil, ensuring that nobody gains any new cards at all, keeping the Multani at a steady power and toughness. Then Mind Twist your opponent’s hand away. Then cast Morningtide. Then mill the opponent for four with the Charm, ensuring that there are exactly four cards in his or her graveyard. Remove one of them with the Cremate. Then play the three Meddling Mages, naming the other three cards. To ensure he doesn’t play a land, play your ten mountains with the Fastbond, cast Limited Resources, then the Armageddon, then the Planar birth, putting ten lands into play on your side. Now cast Ill-gotten gains, making the total of cards in players hands equal to the number six. This makes Multani as strong as a Zephid, flying, blue, untargetable and with a converted mana cost of six. It ensures that no spells are cast by your opponent and that no lands are played by him or her. The icing on the cake is the fact the nobody draws any new cards – so as long as you play nothing yourself, your Multani will be as good as any Zephid!
That’s enough of that silliness for now.
Now we need a little controversy, for it feels so empty without me:
Did you notice the list of the top 10 multiplayer cards that Anthony Alongi wrote some days ago? Did you also see the Wild Mongrel and the Swords to Plowshares? Did you also miss Martyr’s Cause, Academy Rector, and Phyrexian Plaguelord? How different would such a list have been had I published it! Now, I am not going to publish such a list myself – how good a card is is wholly dependent on the metagame you’re in… And I’ll assure you that our metagame is one where one doesn’t thrive when you’re not able to sacrifice his own permanents at will. I’d rather have the Rats of Rath than a Wild Mongrel. Let me demonstrate Wild Mongrel in a hypothetical Fashion:
“Swing you with the Mongrel.”
“Block with the Wall of Blossoms.”
Is he going to discard two cards? For a measly wall? I think not.
“Swing you with the Mongrel.”
“Block with White Knight.”
“Activate Seal of Fire in Response.”
Now pumping once, though not favorable, is an acceptable way of killing a Knight. But is he going to pay three cards for a single Knight and Seal? I think not.
“Swing you with the Mongrel.”
“I take two.”
I don’t think you’ll want to discard cards to deal damage to a player on a one to-one-basis. Especially not at the start of the game, where the Mongrel ought to shine.
“On my turn, Ghitu Sling the Mongrel.”
“Swing you with the Mongrel.”
“Block with the Slinger.”
That’s yet another two-for-one.
I think I’ve demonstrated my Mongrel point well enough, but let’s also give some credit where credit is due – the thing has its moments.
“Swing you with the Mongrel.”
“How many cards are in your hand?”
“Block with my Negator, I can spare the three permanents.”
“Discard Violent Eruption, pay the madness. Mongrel becomes white with Divine Sacrament and Jihad in play. Sacrifice eleven permanents, please.”
I’m not trying to be sarcastic; I just wanted to cover all the good aspects of the Mongrel in a single fictitious example. So in conclusion, the Mongrel is good, but not worthy of a top ten spot. Not by a long shot. A quick ten cards better than the Mongrel:
Reins of Power
Wall of Blossoms
I think Rhox is even better than the Mongrel. It swings for five. It always comes through. It regenerates. It inspires awe in happy casual players, not knowing of evil Psychatogs ruining the dreams of more advanced players. And even though that list is nowhere near my multiplayer top ten, notice how it still doesn’t have Swords to Plowshares in it. Simple removal, without advantage, just won’t cut it for my standards. I admit that the”removed from game” clause is so very very tempting, but it takes more to make it to the top. One mana isn’t much – but Annihilate gives you back your card, Nekrataal gives you a creature, and Attrition gives you good prospects for further opposing culprits.
Those three other cards can’t kill black stuff. Exile can, removes, and gives life. Second Thoughts can, removes, and gives cards. Balance can – and can do a lot more. Maybe Unsummon is even worth more than Swords to Plowshares. It can also save your own creatures, should the need arise. Swords is good, but I just think it doesn’t belong in the multiplayer’s top 10. I myself use it sparsely; only my Blazing Effigy deck sports it…. And that’s only because I designed it together with somebody who insisted on the wretched things. Maybe it’s just my personal philosophy, keeping those two cards, the dog and the plow, beneath the weird Rector and the insidious Plaguelord.
Heh, I just read it back – and it wasn’t his top ten list, it was just a list of often-played cards. Am I a fool now, or what? But hey, the fact that they play a lot of Mongrels must mean that they hold them in very high esteem, so I’m at least partially righteous
Oh, and Peter Jahn says he makes infinite mana with his Maze of Ith and his Argothian Elder. Then I say I am going to deal infinite damage with a Prodigal Sorcerer and a Reconnaissance. With Force of Will back-up. On turn 3, with a Mox.
It cannot be done. The Maze and the Reconnaissance both state that they can only untap and remove attacking creatures from combat. Once the creature has been untapped for the first time, it is no longer attacking. Thus it becomes an illegal target, and the rest of the untaps fizzle, or are countered. Just as when a spell suddenly becomes another color than blue after being Gainsaid, often done in Mind Magic, with the aid of the otherwise useless Laces.
We’ll end with a last recipe for Zephids:
2x Ivory Mask
1x Stupefying Touch
1x Cloak of Mirrors
1x Prismatic Lace
1x Laquatus’ Champion
Try and figure this one out for yourself. It won’t be hard. This one even has the correct creature type.
One last apology, to those who eagerly expected a decklist with a Rhox in it. And, should you happen to spell Rhox with double x, Rhoxx, I also apologize to the Ferrett, for making him have to correct the same word about forty times.**
Rhox would fit beastly in a Beasts tribe.
May you think of some funny things to write,
Stijn van Dongen,
Send impulsive love confessions to: [email protected]
* – This last sentence is, of course, German for:”We always do things like that over in Hanover.” Not that I’m from Hanover, praise be, but my Dutch Teacher once said it out loud while we were sent away from a museum because our group behaved rude. Heh. We were sent away because of inappropriate behavior, so we act like we’re Germans. Heh. I thought that was funny, even though it’s not magic related. Volkswagen. Bratwurst. Kaulen graben. Autobahn. Das gibt mir Wurst. Gib mir nog ein Bier. Heh.
** – Not that this doesn’t just only involve a single click on a”replace all” button. It’s the idea that counts. (And he spelled it right anyway – The Ferrett)