Prove That I Suck, Win An Avatar Of Will!

There’s basically three-and-a-half approaches to designing effective multiplayer decks: 1) Create a totally unstoppable deck that’s a constant threat — if anyone takes their eye off of you for a split-second, you win. EXAMPLE: A recursion deck that uses Elves to generate quick mana, Coats Of Arms for beef, and for a final attack with…

There’s basically three-and-a-half approaches to designing effective multiplayer decks:

1) Create a totally unstoppable deck that’s a constant threat — if anyone takes their eye off of you for a split-second, you win.

EXAMPLE: A Deranged Hermit recursion deck that uses Elves to generate quick mana, Coats Of Arms for beef, and Overrun for a final attack with about thirty trampling 33/33 tokens on turn seven.

ADVANTAGES: When it wins, it wins big; if players get caught up in squabbles elsewhere, you can frequently “go off” before they know what’s happening; wonderful for first-time games with new groups.

DISADVANTAGES: Players will all cooperate to kill you in future games; the combined expertise of everyone at the table ensures that your combo-critical cards are always the ones that get zapped; creates tension, since either you continually feel picked on or the other players get frustrated.

2) Create a deck that’s not an overwhelming threat at anytime, but plays well during the beginning, mid, and endgame.

EXAMPLE: An Elf deck that splashes white for Disenchants and Humbles, steadily bringing out a line of critters from Elves all the way up to Verdant Forces.

ADVANTAGES: No worries about being smashed in the early game or destroyed in the endgame; good against various decks (and what’s more varied than multiplayer?); flexible enough to get around specific threats that would destroy a one-win deck (like Eradicating someone’s Deranged Hermit); keeps a reasonably low profile.

DISADVANTAGES: Every card devoted to utility is one that’s not doing damage; lack of focus; drawing utterly useless cards is a real possibility when you’ve topdecked a Disenchant in the face of a creature onslaught.

3) Create a seemingly harmless deck that bursts into a player-killing explosion once it achieves critical mass.

EXAMPLE: An Elf deck that splashes white to cast Worship, then uses Elf mana to cast a twenty-point Hurricane that blows everyone else away. (Sorry — couldn’t resist.)

ADVANTAGES: Lowest-profile deck of all; difficult to convince other people that it’s a threat until they see it in action; since every card isn’t geared towards creating the eventual death-combo, allows enough room for flexible utility.

DISADVANTAGES: Inspires instant and deadly retaliation if the big threat is neutralized; combos become more difficult to pull off, since using the usual array of “combo-riffic” cards (Rector, Grim Monolith, Recurring Nightmare) will tip your hand; future games may involve perpetual pig-piles on you, since now you’re viewed as a threat no matter WHAT card you play.

And then there’s also:

3.5) Create a deck with no beginning or mid-game, but a great endgame.

EXAMPLE: A blue deck with no little creatures, consisting of all counterspells plus huge Mahotmis and Morphlings.

ADVANTAGES: Survival past a certain point almost guarantees a win as you overbear your opponents; your enemies may ignore you because you’re no threat in the first few turns.

DISADVANTAGES: Your opponents may be in a position to kill you by the time you start bringing your heavyweight cards out; zero chance of recovery from a global reset; smart opponents will take you down when you’re helpless.

So now the question is raised: What about my fantabulous Rebel deck/my Draw-Go deck/the Survival/Recur deck I have in my closet? Why should I have to design a deck for multiplayer, when I can just take my fave rave single-player and use THAT?

Good question, jerky.

Most novice multiplayers will take a solid single-player deck and just plunk it down into an MP game— which, depending on the deck, can be a mild drawback or a fatal flaw. Multiplayer deck design has to account for the following issues:

1) GAMES LAST LONGER. A five-turn game is rare in multiplayer, and generally doesn’t happen twice in a row. Most MP games last around eight to fifteen turns, and can sometimes hit thirty or forty if there’s a real lockup.

2) SINCE GAMES LAST LONGER, THE MANA CURVE CAN BE BENT. The traditional Sligh-style mana curve would have you lay down a land every turn and cast increasingly bigger creatures until turn four (or five), at which point your hand should be empty and your opponent should be nearly dead.

However, at the end of turn five in a multiplayer game, things are just starting to get interesting, and at least one of your opponents is probably still alive and kicking. And you’re dangerously overcommitted.

By no means do you want to pack a deck with nothing but fatties — you need early defense and low-cc spells so you can cast more than one spell a turn. But the slower nature of the game means is that you can throw more high-end spells into your deck, and expect to cast them.

3) ONE-FOR-ONE IS NOT ENOUGH. If every card you play neutralizes one of your opponent’s cards — well, you’re still down a card thanks to the other opponents playing spells. By getting only one-for-one, you’re losing the race. (This is why Draw-Go and Ponza decks do HORRIBLY in multiplayer, by the way.)

What you need to design a deck for is mass destruction, multiple card discards, huge amounts of damage. If you can’t get multiples with a single card, get a reusable source of damage. Whatever you do, multiplayer deck design has to squeeze the maximum usage out of every card that goes in there.

Most single-player decks fall into a couple of categories:

THE SCARY SMASH. This is a classic “Category 1” deck: A huge threat that needs to be dealt with OR ELSE. And usually it works once or twice. But the other players will start ganging up on you, getting you out of the way first before they get to business cutting each OTHER to pieces.

(I once witnessed a guy lose two straight games with a Dojo-style Tinker deck who whined, “This is a great deck, but everyone always gangs up on me and I lose!” Um… yes. This is true. Have you learned your lesson yet?)

THE DISSIPATED. This poses an overwhelming array of threats to one player — but when the same threats are spread among two or three players, it gets horrifically diluted and dies a horrid death.

THE LOCK DECK. If one person breaks it, then you’re in deep trouble. And generally SOMEBODY can break through in a three-player game, and it’s almost certain in a four-player free-for-all.

THE COMBO DECK. Generally a combo deck will deplete itself by the time it gets to the kill card. And after you’ve killed player one, what do you have left for player two? Not much.

(NOTE: It’s very easy to change a single-kill combo deck into a global annihilation. You then turn into“The Scary Smash,” as outlined above. Oops.)

THE WEENIE RUSH. Red, white, or green, these can sometimes be an autowin in multiplayer — but generally a swarm of tiny creatures isn’t enough to get through the mid-game defenses which pop up. The horde of small things is good on defense, which can last awhile, but generally when it comes to a war of attrition the weenies lose.

LAND DESTRUCTION AND COUNTERSPELL DECKS. Didn’t I tell you that you need better than one-for-one? For every land you take out, two more are being laid down. For every spell, two more are being cast. This doesn’t work.

SUCK DECKS. They suck more in multiplayer.

Which brings me to the final trouble with multiplayer deck design:


My decks are competent, but they’re not world-breakers. I have a decent MP win record thanks to effective playing, psychological trickery, and a basic understanding of MP deck design principles (when most people have none at all)… but I don’t win because of my decks.

And because of this, I have been asked whether I suck. Take this piece of random hatemail regarding my last Prophecy article, for example:

“The winds would be bad, too, if you were playing real Magic instead of ‘never attack unless I can win’, ‘gee my deck needs eight cards together in order to win, good thing it’s multiplayer so I can ignore all the fundamentals of the game and just wait to draw them all’ scrub Magic.”

Or this batch of incoherence from some other randomite:

“For some time now I have seen you (I guess you could say”people”) who play multiplayer magic absolutely suck at Standard type 2 tournaments so you (expletive) whine and cry and (expletive) and complain…etc…”

Now, these people are obviously in desperate need of a life if they can find time to insult me this much. But do they have a point? AM I a scrub?

Could be.

But I know only two other guys who seriously design MP-only decks. I may, in fact, be missing the thousands of StarCityCCG.com readers who routinely create MP decks that would leave me crying with joy. It could be that I’ve been hanging out with bozos.

So I’m willing to give away one of my precious, precious Avatars Of Will to find out exactly how badly I suck — and see how good you all are.


I want discard deck designs that incorporate either the Avatar Of Will and/or the Avatar Of Woe, themed around emptying your opponents’ hands and filling their graveyards so you can cast them at their cut-rate cost. (And don’t tell me you haven’t been thinking about this — I know you have.)

Keep in mind the following limitations, though:

1) KEEP IT REAL. I hate Wizards of the Coast, and therefore I am not going to sponsor them by choosing a deck that’s nothing but rare cards. Each deck can have only twenty rares in it — yes, the Avatars count. This makes the winning deck actually playable for the vast majority of players out there. (Incidentally, any Power Nine cards count as TWO rares apiece. So does Force Of Will. Take that, cardhogs!)

2) PLAYERS HATE DISCARD WORSE THAN ANYTHING ELSE. I’ve seen players get Duressed when they had nothing discardable— and then they spent the rest of the game beating the living crap out of the guy who TRIED to Duress them. MP Discard is VERY unfriendly. You’d best have some heavy defenses up before you start.

3) USE THE PRINCIPLES. Heck, I could design a Type I Will, You Discard deck in my sleep. But a multiplayer discard? Where you hit more than one guy at once? That’s the real trick. Decks that concentrate on one opponent will be docked points, but someone who manages to break Unnerve has a real shot at winning.

4) THIS IS A “TYPE WHO?” TOURNEY, SO PREPARE APPROPRIATELY. There are no restrictions on cards except for the rare ban, no color hosers — and there’s NO SIDEBOARD. Your deck lives or dies by what you brought with you. Better get it right the first time, dude.

5) MANA CURVE. Remember, if you cast nothing by the time you hit turn four, you might be dead. Spread the love.

6) ALL ENTRIES MUST BE IN BY JULY 31st. You get about a month to come up with something. Email it to [email protected], with the header “This Is How Much You Suck” so I know it’s you.

Remember, the prize to prove the Ferrett sucks is an Avatar Of Will — and just to make it fun, I’ll throw in a Congregate, personally signed by me and then shredded into tiny pieces — because every multiplayer HATES Congregate.

Get crackin’! And good luck!

NEXT WEEK: Once Again, You Completely Ignore What I Put Down Here, And Therefore I Can Just Waste Time Here And Not Really Write Anything Of Interest

Signing off,
The Ferrett
Visit The Ferrett’s Domain if you’re not easily offended. Matter of fact, stay away if you’re offended at all. Probably it’s best if you leave now, really…