Multiplayer Is An Art: The Ivory Gargoyle Deck

Reading articles about multiplayer or other sorts of casual play is a favourite pastime of mine. I always enjoy reading about good plays made by others in epic games with six or more players. I always enjoy reading about multiplayer strategies, and I always enjoy reading about decks created especially for multiplayer. And that’s why…

Reading articles about multiplayer or other sorts of casual play is a favourite pastime of mine. I always enjoy reading about good plays made by others in epic games with six or more players. I always enjoy reading about multiplayer strategies, and I always enjoy reading about decks created especially for multiplayer. And that’s why I thought to myself: Why don’t I write about my decks as well?

I suppose a brief introduction of myself will be appropriate. I’m a seventeen-year-old kid from Holland, spending most of his spare time in his local store. The group I play with consists of all other visitors there, and therefore changes day by day. I’ve been playing for about six years now, as I started playing when the Dark was released (I still have my first rare ever, a Preacher, which is now being used as a removal-card in my 150-card highlander pile). All that time, I have mainly been playing casual games and especially multiplayer. I even organise some multiplayer tournaments at our store* and I am charged with organisation of the Arena leagues here. But let’s get to the point now.

I’m writing this article to increase the amount of muliplayer stories out there, and I’m going to do so by sharing with you some of my most successful decks (Whenever I’ve built a deck, I never break it apart again – and as a nasty side effect of this I’ve spent about $75 on sleeves). I sure hope nobody’s going to copy my deck card by card, that would be netdecking in multiplayer and we all know how stupid netdecking is. But I do hope people will be inspired by me and start using less blue. But now let’s get to what you’ve all been waiting for…

4x Ivory Gargoyle

Ivory Gargoyle is an immortal creature – that’s good! Whoever kills it will see it coming back to play at the end of the turn at the puny cost of a single drawstep. This ability asks for two things: A solution to the lack of drawsteps, and a way to abuse the death of creatures. The first difficulty should be no problem to overcome, since lots of popular enchantments force you to skip your drawstep anyway. Or they do nasty things to drawing cards. Examples of these are Necropotence, Yawgmoth’s Bargain, and Zur’s Weirding… But playing with power cards like these will put a big target on your head, begging for Overruns or Flame Waves (Well, Zur’s Weirding isn’t actually a power card… But it will grant you a target on your head nonetheless). That’s why I chose Fecundity.

People are always happy when they see Fecundity hit the table, so no one in his good mind will even think about punishing you for it. Being allowed to draw a card when one of your creatures die is a good thing, isn’t it? But a smart observer will soon figure out how much you benefit from it in contrast to others only once in a while drawing cards. Your Gargoyle is going to die every turn, being sacrificed to various artifacts or other creatures that require blood as a power source. It could also just block an incoming Morphling or – this being multiplayer, where everything is possible – an incoming Baron Sengir (this Bad Baron hurts just as much as a Morphling when he hits you, n’est-ce pas?). This will cause you to skip virtually every drawstep you will ever have, but drawing a card each single turn seems like a good deal to me.

4x Ivory Gargoyle
4x Fecundity

Now that the Gargoyle’s drawback has been turned into an advantage, let’s turn his advantage into a path to victory. We’re looking for cards that do neat things when a creature dies and are preferably white or green (Fecundity is green). The first thing that came to my mind when I built my version of the deck was Field of Souls. This white enchantment grants you a 1/1 flying token for each creature you control that hits the graveyard, no mana costs involved. This is kind of neat, since it will provide us with an additional chump blocker each turn. Or when we have accumulated a lot of tokens we can even block and kill incoming large tramplers, providing us with a warm and secure feeling. It can also provide you with an enormous, yet unnoticed, airforce. Some flying tokens are soon overlooked because everybody will concentrate mainly on your Gargoyle, lacking to pay attention to your other goodies.

These feelings of warmth can also be strenghtened by a higher lifetotal. No matter how many essence tokens you’ve got, a fourteen-point Fireball will burn you anyway; this is why I added two copies of Angelic Chorus to my deck. When a Gargoyle dies, he doesn’t only leave play – he comes into play at end of turn as well. And remember, the essence token generated by Field of Souls will also net you a life.

4x Ivory Gargoyle
4x Fecundity
4x Field of Souls
2x Angelic Chorus

But staying alive ourselves won’t kill off our opponents by itself. We need something to do it with, and that something will have to kill creatures or deal direct damage. Or both. Being able to kill a hell of a lot of creatures is what you could call a way to victory, since your creatures will then be able to fly in for the win… But I’ve learned from experience that being able to deal direct damage to players is invaluable. You can give a finishing touch to someone else’s attack with it, you can pierce through the most thoroughly set up defenses, and you can counter spells like Tranquility by just blasting its caster to death while it’s still on the stack. (This works, right? When a player dies, aren’t all his permanents removed from game? So is there a reason for his spells to remain on the stack? I think not. Anyway, it’s a house rule of ours.)

(Actually, this varies, but the usual house rule I’ve seen is that once a spell is on the stack, it goes off no matter what happens to the caster – which makes sense ruleswise. After all, since killing a Prodigal Sorceror in response to him pinging doesn’t remove the damage, why should killing a player prevent his spell hurting you? – The Ferrett)

An enchantment nicely fitting the bill of creature kill is Grave Pact. It synergizes well with the Gargoyle and stays on the board ‘after use’ to booth. It also affects everybody, so whenever you cast it everybody will try and destroy it – or just try and destroy you. That’s why I don’t reccomend playing four of them. It just signals too much aggression to be risked playing in the early game. I even go so far that I only play it when I’m able to use it to totally wipe out every opposing creature. Don’t hesitate about sacrificing your own creatures; they’ll be back from the dead and hungry for more soon enough.

Another nice treat is the Helm of Possession. Sacrificing your Gargoyle to gain some life, cards, and tokens has never been cooler – since we now also gain control of the best creature on the board, or we gain control of the largest attacker menacing us. Or we gain control of the Scavenger Folk while it still has summoning sickness, just to keep our Helm alive. And this brings us to another point where the sacrifice of creatures is more beneficial than maintaining them: A possessing a creature with your Helm costs you nothing, while it has cost the creature’s former controller one of his minions. And as an insult to the injury, you gain from it by sacrificing it to the only other creature in the deck, the Krovikan Horror.

Krovikan Horror is a 2/2 creature for 3B. Whenever it is in your graveyard with a creature card directly above it, you may return it to your hand at the end of any turn. But most important: It eats a creature and then spits their skull at a target of your choice. You can sacrifice your Ivory Gargoyle to it, paying a single colorless mana, to have it deal one damage to a target at the end of each turn just to make all your enchantments trigger again, netting new cards and giving birth to more tokens. And as has been said, you can also sacrifice stolen beasties to it. It even protects your Gargoyles from Swords to Plowshares – or, worse, from Eradicate (did you know Ivory Gargoyle has its own plowshare with him? Whenever it’s controller feels tired of him, he may choose to pay it’s casting cost and this wondrous creature removes itself from the game, going off to the eternal farming fields. I’ve never used this ability even once, but an opponent of mine once activated it after a Reins of Power). And its ability to return from the grave makes all of your creatures an everlasting torment for your fellow players. In secret, the Krovikan Horror is the star of this deck. When you wouldn’t be able to eat your Gargoyle each turn, the rest of your deck doesn’t do what it is supposed to do and you’d be crippled.

4x Ivory Gargoyle
4x Fecundity
4x Field of Souls
2x Angelic Chorus
4x Krovikan Horror
3x Helm of Possession
2x Gravepact

The next cards will make the Horror even more indispendable. Having only eight creatures in your deck demands ways for you to find them. And the Horror’s raise-death ability makes Buried Alive an excellent Tutor card for it. For only 2B, you may search your libraby for up to three creature cards and put them into your graveyard. Searching for three Krovikan Horrors on turn three will cause two of them to be in your hand on turn four… But searching out three Horrors with that sorcery from Weatherlight isn’t the strongest move to make. Sure, it does give you two Horrors, but the third one is lost forever. To prevent this, we search for two Horrors and an Ivory Gargoyle, putting the Gargoyle on top of the creature pile. While the Gargoyle’s special ability won’t cause it to enter play at end of turn, it is now easier to get into play, especially while playing with Victimize.

Picture this :
Turn three: Play Buried Alive for a Horror and two Gargoyles,
Turn four: Summon the Horror you’ve brought back to your hand.
Turn five: Victimize the Horror, bringing back two Gargoyles to rule the skies with.

It must be said that this isn’t ideal. Victimizing for a Gargoyle and a Horror is much better, as it puts the core of your entire ‘engine’ into play with just one spell. In general, the rule is when you’ve drawn either a Horror or a Gargoyle in your opening hand, search for a total of two of each with your first Buried Alive. Any Buried Alive cast after the first one should be used to search for the remaining Gargoyles. This increases the quality of potential future-Victimizees.

4x Ivory Gargoyle
4x Fecundity
4x Field of Souls
2x Angelic Chorus
4x Krovikan Horror
3x Helm of Possession
2x Gravepact
4x Buried Alive**
4x Victimize

Now we’ve only got little space left in our deck. The first thing we notice is lacking is artifact/enchantment destruction. A nice card for this is Aura Shards, since Gargoyles tend to come into play once in a while, allowing you to Disenchant yet another pesky permanent obstructing your victory. Let’s add one.
Another nice thing to have is the ability to recover from mighty blows your adversaries might strike you with. Purify is a deadly sorcery, and an exploding Serra’s Liturgy is terrifying as well. Nevinyrral’s Disk is quite annoying, too. So what to arm ourselves with against this sort of violonce? Our creatures come back all by ourselves, so we don’t have to worry about them. Only three artifacts are used in this deck so packing spells to recover them might also be overabundance. Bringing back enchantments on the other hand is quite rewarding.

In an earlier design of my deck, I played Skull of Orm. But since this was rather mana intensive in an already mana-hungry deck, I switched it with Replenish, hoping a massive one-time shot would be better than gradual-but-consistent enchantment retrieval. This has worked miracles, so the switch will be a permanent one.

In large multiplayer games, there are lots of opponents having draw steps which they might use to draw a card with which on turn might be used to defeat you. To prevent all those people from casting that card, a little lock would also be nice. In the late game you’re likely to have a Gravepact and a Horror out, haven’t you? I always notice my Gravepact being ‘useless’ when none of my opponents control any more creatures. So let’s give them some animals by casting Nature’s Revolt. With the Revolt out, all of all your opponent’s lands should be gone in about two turns, and any new lands they play will have summoning sickness, preventing them from being tapped for mana. This is rather efficient… But since it is also rather lame, I will include only one Nature’s Revolt in my version of the deck.

Now we’ve reached the point where only two more spells can be fitted in the deck. And because we are playing Black and Green, we would be violating God’s will if we didn’t play Regrowth and Demonic Tutor. So let’s make an old man happy and add those two beautiful cards.

The Deck: Possible Replacements:

4x Ivory Gargoyle Not Possible.
4x Fecundity Yawgmoth’s Bargain, any kind of Tome.
4x Field of Souls Not Possible.
2x Angelic Chorus Moonlit Wake, Soul Warden.
4x Krovikan Horror Goblin Bombardment, Phyrexian Plaguelord.
3x Helm of Possession Attrition.
2x Gravepact Wrath of God.
4x Buried Alive Survival of the Fittest, Polymorph (scores points for coolness).
4x Victimize Living Death (This may be even better than Victimize).
1x Aura Shards Any kind of Disenchant.
1x Replenish Skull of Orm, Fountain Watch.
1x Nature’s Revolt Living Plane.
1x Demonic Tutor Any black Tutor.
1x Regrowth Elven Cache, Restock.

Recommended land mix:

4x Plains Mox Pearl (in case you don’t own enough plains?)
6x Swamp Hmmm.
2x Grassland Any manasource’ll do, actually. I’ve had lots of good times paying
4x Bayou
4x Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author]
4x Savannah

There it is: The famed and feared Gargoyle deck. Each player at our store will start rushing at me with their mana elves as soon as they see a Korean Swamp hitting the board on my side (I’ve got to stop using only one type of basic land in each of my decks, especially when they’re so recognisable). The only times I’m ever able to use this deck with success again is whenever I’m visiting another store, or when there are people from another city visiting our store to play. That’s when nobody’ll fear me from the very beginning and no one will start trying to kill me as soon as possible – and time is very essential for this deck. It takes a good five or six turns to set up a good defense, but once you’ve established control, there’s almost nothing to worry about save Sharazad (a pox on that wretched card!). The first few turns playing with this deck are usually spent making deals involving you not being attacked.

One last word of warning: You might want to consider not killing your own Gargoyle during any blue mage’s turn; I’ve had my precious Gargoyles Time Spiralled away once too often. Also mind stuff like Cremate or Thran Foundry. Aether Flash is disastrous…

Well, that’ll be the end of my first article. I hope at least one person enjoyed it. (Well, *I* did – The Ferrett) I also hope he will now write an article himself to make other people enjoy themselves. Satisfaction comes in a chain reaction, you know. I would greatly apreciate some feedback, like suggestions or complaints about the deck. I especially encourage people with similar decks to tell me about them… That’s because I like to read.

Next time: The most political deck of all times, which causes your victory to be almost totally based on your diplomatic skills or on your ability to keep your Peacekeeper (= Kofi Anan) alive.

Emperial Regards,
Stijn van Dongen,
Team RVWM***
send impulsive love confessions to [email protected]

* – For each Dutchman reading this: visit our tribe tournament! Mail me for more info.

** – When casting this spell, one should always sing the title of the card to a BeeGees tune called "Staying Alive."

*** – Raad Van Wijze Mannen; that’s Dutch for Counsel Of Wise Men. It’s presumably the only multiplayer team in the entire world.