I know most of you have selected this article in the hope of getting to read about some real teched-out strategy on multiplayer. You will get some, I promise. But first you’ll have to digest the prolongation of the list of misquotes on magic cards:
- Beta Goblin Balloon Brigade:”R: Goblins gain flying until end of turn. Controller may not choose to make goblins fly after they have been blocked.” This should help against those pesky Paladins en-Vec! Just fly over them with your Flunkies and Fanatics at the cost of a mere R! Only it’s a shame one can’t use the ability as a mana sinker after blockers have been declared. Thanks to Tim Willoughby, a three-foot tall Englishman.
- Floral Spuzzem:”If Floral Spuzzem attacks an opponent and is not blocked, then Floral Spuzzem may choose to destroy a target artifact under that opponent’s control and deal no damage.” Oh my, this card has a mind of its own! But how exactly do you get to know what the Spuzzem decides? Do you place him on an ouija board or something? I heard that Floral Spuzzem was the only card to ever be given a warning. For stalling. Thanks to Richard Drijvers, proud owner of a Floral Spuzzem; he feeds him every day. (Who, Richard or the Spuzzem? — The Ferrett)
- Any fetch lands from Mirage:”Sacrifice ~ this ~ to search your library for a (basic land) or a (other allied color basic land) and put it into play.” For example Mountain Valley:”Sacrifice Mountain Valley to search your library for a mountain or a forest and put it into play.” Now when first looked at, these cards look perfectly fine. That’s also what Matt Henstra thought when he sacrificed his Rocky Tar Pit to look for a Badlands. But then his opponent called a judge and told him Matt shouldn’t be allowed to look for a Badlands. The Tar Pit clearly states a Mountain OR a Swamp, he said, and Badlands is both. In some twisted way, the opponent was right. Submitted by Werner Kocken.
Now that you’ve all plowed your way through that and I have most probably repulsed all of my new readers, let’s just start with the article.
One of my more demanding readers has demanded me to write an article at his whim! Can you imagine the sheer nerve? Like I don’t have anything better to do! Like writing about my Reins of Power deck.
But wait; he actually asked me to do what I already planned on doing… To share my secret Reins of Power tech with the world, thus letting my own Reins slip a little. But I’m an altruistic guy, so I’ll just do it.
One of the basic principles of deckbuilding is that you include your most-needed card as many times as possible… And I’m here to tell you that that amount of times is four (some of you might already have known that too, but now that I’ve told it already there’s no way to check it anymore, so I won’t believe you). But a deck list that consists of…
…won’t actually win you each and every group game you engage in. So we’re going to try and think of a deck that breaks the Reins, or otherwise just bends them in a favorable fashion; like Origami does with a square piece of paper. The sole difference here is that our deck won’t end up looking like a peacock or a lily — it will end up looking like a black cube of approximately 3.5 x 6.5 x 9 cm. (That is, when you use black sleeves.)
The first question we ask ourselves is, what do we do with the creatures we steal from our opponent? It would be mightily fun to lock them all up in a Cold Storage. This allows great political situations to arise, for now you’ve got hostages! You have the power to give the captured creatures back at instant speed, and when you’ve been wise enough to also put a Treasure Hunter and a Scrivener in the Storage, you won’t lose a card to boot — just a whole lot of mana and time. Maybe just killing the creatures right away is much more efficient.
Early Tempest/Stronghold decks featured Reins of Power and Goblin Bombardment. Don’t go there; it’s boring. It lacks style. It doesn’t give you yourself an advantage, but instead it handicaps your opponents (unless you fire the Reined creatures at yourself), which is bad for your political relations… So we’re looking for a cool way to sacrifice our (their) creatures and gain something from it. Worthy Cause comes to mind, but that’s quite mana intensive. Is there anything cheap that requires large sacrifices? Why, indeed there is. And it has trample.
Phyrexian Dreadnought is so cool. It is a 12/12 trampling creature that, when it enters play, eats away at least twelve creatures’ worth of power in order to let it survive. So the plan is: Play Reins of Power and then cast Phyrexian Dreadnought. It will kill all of a target opponent’s creatures and give you a 12/12 friend that tramples stuff as a kicker.
While observing the Dreadnought from a third-person limited objective point of view, I concluded it was useless without the Reins. So playing four ‘Noughts with four Reins seems out of the question because you don’t want to draw a 12/12 when you aren’t holding the Reins. So I decided I was in desperate need of something that eats creatures and is useful on its own. And do you know what’s useful? That stain remover they sell… But giving all your creatures +2/+2 comes pretty close to being just as useful.
I always thought the Death Pits of Rath were a pretty scary place, but Nemesis revealed to us that it is also a site for ritual sacrificing of living entities. Those sacrifices are called the Death Pit Offering, and it is an enchantment for 2BB. As it comes into play, sacrifice all creatures you control, and creatures you control get +2/+2 in recompense. Celts sacrificed men from their own tribe, and the Offering wants you to do the same… But Incas were smarter and sacrificed hostages from other tribes, and so will we when using Reins of Power. And it is useful on its own because you can always cast it. I’m going to make sure the creature base will be adapted to the Offering, and it can always be cast on turn four when you haven’t got any creatures out yet. Casting a Death Pit Offering as your first permanent will draw some negative attention, but the worst thing that could possibly happen is getting smacked by some bears and elves. Well, worse things could happen — like hasted Blastoderms coming to take your life — but some proactive whining on turn three should keep them at bay.
Magic Multiplayer Trivia: Does proactive whining count as politics? The answer will be given to you below with the letters all mixed up. Good luck finding the original word! And don’t resort to using anagramgenius.com.
S Y E
Come to think of it, the Offerings might also get splashed into my Gargoyle deck (see my archive somewhere; it was my first article).
Now for the creatures. They should be able to survive the casting of a Death Pit Offering, like Nether Spirit… Or they should become mightily impressive when having +2/+2, like our favorite combat cow, Tahngarth. But we’re not playing red, and Nether Spirit is very bad in decks with a lot more creatures in it. So we try to find what we need in Fleeting Image. He survives the Death Pits by just returning to your hand and getting cast anew a turn later, since you need not sacrifice anything until the Death Pits come into play — unlike many sacrificial effects, which require axing your creature on announcement. Besides, while in the Pit he becomes mightily impressive, because he can now block and kill almost everything that flies while bouncing back to safety when the stack becomes too crowded with unwanted damage.
And everybody loves large flying beating sticks, n’est-ce pas? That is because flying creatures are tougher to block than your average walking beast. And you know what’s even harder to block? Besides a train, I also mean creatures with shadow. And while most blue shadow creatures suck, some of them can bounce. To your hand, or to the top of your library. But those shadows are all 2/1, hence ‘aggressive.’ The 1/1 Thalakos Seer is much less intimidating to opponents, and when you have to sacrifice it, it replaces itself with a freshly-drawn card. As an added bonus, an early Seer is an excellent ‘stay-away sign’ for early beatdown. I’ll show you an opponent’s thinking process:
“By Jove, who to attack? I have a Llanowar Elf but don’t need his mana… So I want to attack with it. Do I attack the guy with the bear? This will kill my elf. Do I attack the guy with the shadow dude? This will cost me a life, for he will certainly retaliate. Will I attack that guy with the Seal of Fire? This will cost me my elf. I think I’ll just tap the elf for mana anyway.”
Now there’s just one little phrase on the Seer that screams abuse; instead of the usual”is put into the graveyard” thingy, the Seer gives away free cards when he leaves play instead. And this can be used and abused. Did you know that phasing out will trigger leaves-play effects, while phasing in won’t trigger come-into-play effects? So we’re trying to let our Seer phase out.
Teferi’s Veil would work out nice. In fact, an entire deck can be built around it with Teferi’s Veil, the Seer, Magpies, mana creatures and Jokulhaups/Apocalypse/Obliterate. That deck is exactly the reason I didn’t include the Veil in this deck; I only own four Veils and they were already used. So even though a Phyrexian Arena, where the opponent is taking the one damage each turn, might be better then a regular Arena, this forced me to look a little further. And this is what I found:
This uncommon from Visions was exactly what I was looking for! It heightened the low creature count of the deck and, combined with a Seer, gave me an extra card every other turn. And when you don’t have a Seer in handy, do not call me or Alongi or the Ferrett to ask what to do; just phase out potential blockers or Peacekeepers or any other potential treats. When there’s nothing better to do, phase out tokens for good fun and an angry look from an opponent. This part-time buddy is also very good at soothing the harm of a Catastrophe or other extinction-level event like Wildfire. When you just have the feeling or simply know for sure that an adversary of yours is holding a mass destruction spell, phase out your own best creature so that it will emerge from the destruction unscathed. While it might seem dumb to disable your own champion every other turn, the benefit of having him around under your control as the only card in the in-play zone far outweighs all less positive aspects. And when you just can’t do without your creature, you’re probably losing anyway, right?
But no, I’m not completely insane in the midbrain; I will only include two Efreets. Not four. That’s because they’re not good cards. They’re just good in some situations, like with the Seer or with Death Pit Offering in play. But because they’re unfathomably funny, I wanted to play with them. I suggest not removing these from the original deck when you decide to build a version of this. That way you can also feel the thrill.
Now for the inevitable part with Death Pit Offering: tokens. When they’re not Penumbra tokens, they often come in great numbers. And every random bear quickly becomes a boar with an Offering in play, with every random 1/1 token morphing into a Hill Giant. Now there is only a slight problem — the incapability of black and blue to produce tokens in an efficient way. We can, of course use the absolutely broken Homarid Spawning Bed (and I mean it! I built a deck with this that killed on turn four, using the Bed and Deep Spawn and Earthcraft), but the amount of blue creatures in this deck is not exactly as high as the number of red blood cells in your body, so it won’t be efficient. We can also use the incredulous Carrion… But that’s an official Bad Card, even though it becomes better with the Pits in play. So how about The Hive? Too expensive. Serpent Generator? Right price, but can only be used once per turn. The solution? (And I ain’t talking about 4x Crimson Acolyte and 4x Galina’s Knight) Lab Rats and Breeding Pit.
Lab Rats are as expensive as The Hive when you want to play them with buyback, but they can be used as many times as your mana or mother allows you to. For five mana you just spawn another 1/1, 3/3, or 5/5 rat to carry the beatstick around with. And the artwork is just so cool, I couldn’t resist it. Besides, you don’t have to pay the buyback. Sometimes it is just a 7/7 for B.
Breeding Pit only spits out 0/1 Thrulls, but at least they come at the cheapest price I could find; namely, BB. And because the Pit gives you tokens at the end of each of your turns, you immediately get a Hurloon Minotaur or an Earth Elemental to block with when you’ve just cast an ‘unsupported’ Death Pit Offering. These two cards are going to prove quite useful with our next card added…
He’s bad to the bone and sick as hell. He also makes other creatures sick and he is not Disease Carrier or Plague Bearer. So he must be Phyrexian Plaguelord.
That’s the alarm bell the good deckbuilder just heard, because they saw Phyrexian Plaguelord side by side with Reins of Power. Who wants to give an opponent the opportunity to sacrifice al of your creatures? I’ll calm them down by telling them that the Lord proves to be useful enough to include it anyway, for remember: Sacrificing it to give a creature -4/-4 in response to your own Reins of Power is no card disadvantage. It’s just a little inconvenience that has to be coped with.
We include Phyrexian Plaguelord because…
1. He is a reasonably fat creature, and that’s something this deck was lacking before.
3. He can be cast after Reins of Power has been played, granting InsaneCardAdvantage™. Destroying all creatures that two of your opponents control with a single card is quite good — at least, that’s what I had heard the other day.
4. Joost J. Winter thinks I am a multiplayer scrub but I just think it’s quite suspicious that he talks negatively about multiplayer scrubs when he knows most of my articles by hearth. I also think he is a serial killer due to his J. in between the Joost and the Winter.* He also pronounced ‘Effigy’ wrong. This isn’t a pro-Plaguelord reason, but when facts are given in a list people usually pay more attention to them.
5. It’s an easy answer to threats like Elvish Lyrist and Devout Witness for people who don’t like to use valuable pinpoint removal for tiny creatures like those, yet still play with indispensable enchantments… People like me. (Heh. That last sentence can also mean,”People like me”, as in:”I like the people, and the people like me.” Am I not the cockiest Featured Writer ever? I just boldly stated my own popularity, without any proof to base it on!)
6. It allows you to sacrifice all your creatures as an instant, which is an accommodation I search for in each of my decks. Getting Eradicated just sucks. Being sent out to milk cows and jiggle plows just bites. Getting your creatures stolen is a personal insult. When McDonald’s is out of Ice Cream cups, they put your ice in a Coca-Cola cup and apologize… But an opponent won’t apologize when he removes one of your cards from your reach forever, no matter how many Time Spirals or Phyrexian Reclamations (Neuer Anspruch Phyrexias) you are running.
7. Mayas and Incas are not to be confused, neither are Mayas and Aztecs. As a direct result of this, Aztecs and Incas are not to be confused.
8. When you kill someone during the winter, smoke comes out of his wounds.
9. You don’t know where I am.
10. That rug certainly tied the room together.
11. Bruce, Lance, and Julian where the toughest names we had.
12. You shall count to three, and three shall be the number of thy counting.
13. It becomes truly broken with Noble Steeds. Imagine the terror an opponent must be in when he’s trying to flee the room but finds his laces tied together. Now he still has to face the nightmare of a 4/4 first striking creature on the wrong side of the board!
People who were scrolling past this list can now quit it. I just did, too. (Who are you, Rizzo? — The Ferrett)
I am a firm believer of the fact that I have now added enough creatures to my deck. There are, not counting the Dreadnoughts, only fourteen of them…. But they should be large due to the offering. And when they’re not large, you can deflect negative attention for a very long time by playing a Reins of Power at a very cool moment. This relieves your creature lightness. To even further relieve the lightness, I am going to add some utility in creature form. All that after this little list!
Is this article full of lists or what?
Thrashing Wumpus is impressive with all your creatures having +2/+2. Your own creatures will now almost never die to it’s thrashing, and neither will he himself. But with all your creatures getting +2/+2, is Thrashing Wumpus the best choice for a global damage effect? I think Crypt Rats is better in this situation, and I do so because of the following facts: Crypt Rats has an activation cost of X instead of B. Therefore, you can mise a draw when you need it, because the X damage is dealt simultaneously instead of one by one. When you’ve got the lowest life total, you won’t die before your opponent bites the dust. I know this reason is only for weenies who’d rather draw than lose with honor, but I have more reasons.
The following one is theoretical: Some effects, Like Urza’s Armor’s, Ogre Taskmaster’s or Callous Giant’s, prevent or reduce each amount damage under certain conditions. Crypt Rats evades this problem. Now some arrogant readers might think:”Hah! But stuff like Invulnerability and Story Circle is much more common in multiplayer than that damage prevention stuff Stijn is whining about! Now I’m better than Stijn!” Other readers might think the same, except for the better-than-me part.
Those readers aren’t arrogant; they’re kind of smart. But I can cure what ails them: The Crypt Rats don’t have to be activated for all of your desired X at once. You can just activate each point of X separately. For example, when you want an X = 5 effect, just do an X = 1 effect five times in a row. It is the freedom of choice you get with the Rats that makes me like it more than the Wumpus. They also look better, have cooler flavor text, and cost less. And when you think they’re going to die to their own effect, go read Death Pit Offering.
Am I good at thinking up theory or not? The only real reason I chose Crypt Rats over Thrashing Wumpus is that I didn’t own any Wumpi at all when I built this deck. Now I have four of them, but I don’t feel like replacing the Rats. Because of the reasons given above, I think.
Do you know what time it is? No, it is not tool time; it is utility time. Which means enchantment control, creature removal and global threat neutralization a-gogo! First for the enchantment control: How do you deal with enchantments while playing Black and Blue? You could counter them, but that isn’t always possible. Anything that has slipped past your permission will be a thorn in your side for all eternity. But black doesn’t know it is possible to remove enchantments at all (except for that new Quagmire Druid guy, yes, for all you smart alecks out there), and blue is kind of uneducated on the subject as well. Shall we just leave the enchantment removal to other players under our political influence?
Unlicenced quote:”Of course, I would have to say that if you build a deck that can’t deal with enchantments, you’re usually destined to lose anyway — The Ferrett, who believes in streamlined decks but knows that enchantments are too powerful nowadays.”
Oh no, we have to do something! Think, dammit, think…Eureka! Blue has another potential: Stealing enchantments. Steal Enchantment can work as enchantment removal, as it has been designed to steal enchantments. Even better and creature-count-increasing-er is Aura thief. It is a 4/4 flyer for 3U most of the time, but can be sacrificed to and for all kinds of fun and games, as I had already described in my Spirit of the Night (Who shall forever prevail) article.
We arrive at creature removal. We already have plenty of it, relying on our Reins of Power engine to solve most problems for us. The Plaguelord also kills creatures every now and then, and the Crypt Rats aren’t like Ned Flanders all that much either. What do we lack? Imagine the following: A Thorn Elemental is striding your way. Do you supply you Plaguelord with seven corpses to toy around with, killing the Elemental? Do you feed your Crypt Rats seven mana, killing the Spiky One? Do you waste a Reins of Power as a Fog? Or do you wish you had some solid removal instead? Of course, you just blow the Rats for seven! Any scrub can think of that!
– Something is wrong here –
Ahem; let’s just wish for solid removal, and fulfill our own wishes by including some. I just mentioned wasting Reins of Power as a Fog; this happens when you play it outside of your main phase. But there are times that you want to do this so badly that you wish you had something to sacrifice creatures to that isn’t a creature itself, and cannot only be played when the stack is empty. Combine this with creature kill and what do you get?
A whole lot of stuff, from Last-Ditch Effort to Attrition… And the latter is the one we’re going to play in our deck. It’s solid as hell, and turns a Reins of Power into a sort of Plague Wind. It also gives actual use to your Thrull tokens when you haven’t got Death Pit Offering out yet, or it can be used as prelude to the Offering. It just makes all of your creatures as good as the best creature in play. Except of course when the best creature on the board is a Zephid, but we don’t get that here very often.
Is Phyrexian Retribution a good card? No. Do I own a Gate to Phyrexia? No. So what do we do against artifacts? We let it be. Use politics to shatter them. Or counter them with Dismiss, which we are going to pack for sure. People asking the why are kindly prescribed to read my”I love Dismiss” rant in my story on Blazing Effigy. The only people who I won’t demand to do this are those who can still write that article down from the top of the head.
And now it is time to choose the last spell. Clean card drawing is good, methinks, and when playing blue you’ve got a wide variety of card drawing spells at your disposal. So which one do we choose? Well, you’ve all probably noticed my confidence in having at least one Death Pit all filled up with Offerings. How could I probably get so confident? A lot of”draw seven card” spells are the answer here.
Time Spiral draws seven cards — perhaps a good deck could be built around this, and maybe a land that produces more than one mana. Like Tolarian Academy. Maybe someone could try and break those two cards for the next extended season? But I don’t want to think about new combo decks now; I just want to add four Time Spirals to my deck so that I can play a total of sixteen Reins of Power. And so that I have a much larger change of getting multiple Offerings out. The Academy/Spiral idea might be something for the Rogue Deck Clinic, though.
Rent lament barely flung above a whisper: How can one possibly make it in a Team Sealed PTQ when the best cards one has got are a Barrin’s Spite and a Magma Burst? I still managed to make it 5-2 (people who are good at multiplayer are also good at limited, or so I hope). Team mate Jeroen Remie also made it 5-2 (people who finish second at Nationals are also good at Limited, or so I hope for them). The last team member, however a good player he was (otherwise he wouldn’t have been in the team), couldn’t do better than 1-6! It wasn’t Mark’s fault. I’ll give you an average game example:
Opponent:”Magma Burst with kicker.”
Mark:”Ha ha — you Bursted my worst two creatures! My best two are left!”
Opponent:”Magma Burst the remaining two creatures.”
Mark:”Well, at least he hasn’t got a creature either.”
Opponent:”Crypt Angel, raise Tahngarth from the Dead.”
Mark:”Hey, team, can’t we just drop this stupid tournament?”
Team:”No — and by the way, our next round is against the guy with the three Terminates! He had one foil, I heard. But buckle up, what are the chances of him also drawing his Pyre Zombie?”
So we did badly. By my standards, 5-2 is only mediocre for Sealed play. But hey, we (except for Mark Brouwers) had great fun! If you think the ‘play of the week’ Alex Shvartsman gives you each week is great, take a look at this one: Yavimaya’s Embrace wins you games when cast, right? It sure does when you cast it on your own Skyfolk, and your opponent has only four life left with no flying blockers. Sigh. And it was the only time in the entire tournament I cast it at all. Yet still I’m not sure whether I’d play it main deck again next time I get one or not. It’s still game-breaking when cast.
The Netherlands <— The only country in the world where audience and players alike still cheer when a foil rare gets opened during Rochester draft in the finals of a PTQ. To our defense, it was already the third one, and it was a Meddling Mage.
In between rounds, I had great fun with my Dwarven Patrol/Quicksilver Dagger deck. It’s chock-full of Opts and Chromatic Spheres and Sisay’s Ingenuities. Spectators were actually laughing! I’m not sure whether they were laughing at me or with me, however. I’m going to cut Fact or Fiction from this deck, since it costs four mana. I think any one- or two-mana card that draws you at least one card is way better in this deck. I mean a card like Worldly Counsel, which I’m already playing four. I’m even playing four Evasive Actions, and actually win some games due to four Repulses and four Jilts. Four Excludes don’t do me harm, either. But now I’m already leaking out my IBC-tech — and while I know tech wants to be free and that keeping it locked up is akin to seal clubbing, I am not going to talk about it any more here. This is about multiplayer. Or, more accurately, this is about the following deck and its mana base:
4x Reins of Power
4x Death Pit Offering
2x Phyrexian Dreadnought
4x Fleeting Image
4x Thalakos Seer
2x Shimmering Efreet
1x Lab Rats
1x Breeding Pit
2x Seigneur della Peste Phyrexiane
1x Crypt Rats
2x Aura Thief
4x Time Spiral
The mana base of a two-color deck isn’t all that hard; I won’t resort to using dual lands this time, but that won’t stop people who want to include them anyway, since the deck does become better with duals. I just don’t think it’s fair towards people not owning any that I suggest using them every time I write. I guess I’m just happy with mine (I’d better be, for the money I spent on them).
But I do feel I have no moral obstructions when I suggest the use of Salt Marsh. It’s just like a dual land, only it comes into play tapped and can not be sacrificed to Soldevi Excavations, which we’re including for two reasons. First, it has a neat ability; and second, it synergizes well with Time Spiral as it produces more than one mana. But don’t include more than one, for they do require Islands being sacrificed and we don’t have room for more than nine of those. Swamps are even played only eight times. That leaves us with only two cards short of sixty.
Two lands missing. Which could they be? Don’t get too funky, they aren’t Library of Alexandria (which is, however, recommended because of the four Time Spiral) and The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale. They’re just two Mishra’s Factories. Or, in my deck, a Factoria de Mishra and Mishra’s Fabrik. Whey don’t die to an Offering, yet still reap the benefits of one. Just pay one mana and you’ve got yourself a 4/4 attacker or a 5/5 blocker. What more could you want — safe, warm feet?
There we go again. I hope my demanding reader has been satisfied. I just pushed 28,726 buttons on my keyboard for him for free. How nice would it be to get more than appreciation alone… (I’m working on it — The Ferrett)
Next time: I don’t know what I’m going to write about, not even when. I’m in a very tight schedule right now since I just graduated and all those graduation parties demand attention. But I’ll certainly try to squeeze some writing between the drinking, sleeping, and the working. In the meantime, I’ll get plenty of rest. And will practice on the piano plenty of times. I have my final musical exam on the 20th of June. It’s a public recital, so you’re all invited.
Now I’m going out to stalk Lenny and Carl.
Stijn van Dongen,
* – Joost J. Winter, Kamiel K. Cornelissen: notice a pattern here? The DCI forms are so unclear that people tend to write their entire name in the”name” part, and then get confused when a surname is also asked. Besides, the people at the DCI are so dim-witted that they don’t notice the mistake and then start using the wrong name in their records. Luckily I’m ever so smart and just filled in”Stijn van Dongen” instead of”Stijn S. v. Dongen **”.
** – For the record, I’m Stijn F. M. van Dongen. Now if all serial killers got a middle name, what kind of freak would I be? I’ve got two of them! Should I be counting my victims on an abacus, strung with labial rings and hearth strings undone? By the way, come a little closer…