When Craig asked me if I could do the dailies for the week before Christmas I jumped at the chance. For the past few years, Christmas and Magic have gone together like chestnuts and open fires, Santa Claus and Rudolph, and real trees and headlines about “a tragic holiday fire.” I like to create casual, kitchen-table decks to give to certain Magic-playing people as presents. I like to get Magic cards, too. Remember, when you don’t know what to get that Magic player on your list, there’s always a new set of cards.
We expected my brother, Jonathan, home for Christmas in 2005. Instead, he took a month in September to find a house here so that he and his wife would have a place ready to move into when he was discharged from the Navy. You can’t blame the guy, but we really did want to see him at Christmas. Since he’d used up leave in September, there’d be no December leave. Unfortunately, I had already made three decks for Christmas 2005. One was for Jason, one was for my brother, and one was for me. We didn’t actually get to play them until May 2006, but it’s the thought that counts.
When I build these multi-player decks, I do three things. First, I make sure that they fit the person’s style and the cards s/he likes. For instance, Jason likes Green. He likes Green and Red, Green and White, Green and Black, and Green and Green. He’s not too high on Green and Blue, but I think Graft may end up changing his mind. Jason’s deck always has a Green base.
The second thing I do is that I make these decks a minimum of a hundred cards. You see, several years ago we came up with house rules that involve a virtual Howling Mine. Our regular draw for the turn means we draw two cards, not one. Even the player going first draws one instead of none. We came up with this when we noticed that defending on two or three fronts was – duh! – twice or thrice as hard as defending yourself against one player. Disagree with the rule if you want. We just found this to be a better answer than “splash Blue for card drawing or add Jayemdae Tome to every deck.”
Third, I make sure that at least one of the opposing decks has a way to deal with the win conditions of the third. For example, if one deck was designed to mess with its graveyard, at least one of the other two (or three or whatever) would have a way to hose that up. I never want to create a deck that will always beat the others if it gets a certain card. (This is not to say that I won’t try to build combo decks. If I do, though, someone else will have a way to disrupt the combo.)
Jason hadn’t played in a tournament in a while, so he had missed out on some fun cards. I decided to build him a deck that allowed him to abuse Patron of the Orochi with Centaur Glade. An active Patron of the Orochi with Centaur Glade is bad, bad news in a multi-player setting. The PotO’s ability can “only” be used once per turn. That means Jason could do it on his turn, crank out a bunch of tokens, my turn, crank out a bunch of tokens, and Jonathan’s turn, crank out a bunch of tokens. Three times per turn cycle, Jason could make massive numbers of Centaur tokens. I called it:
- 4 Patron of the Orochi
- 4 Lifespinner
- 4 Quirion Elves
- 4 Elvish Aberration
- 4 Feral Deceiver
- 4 Dripping-Tongue Zubera
- 4 Tornado Elemental
- 2 Fierce Empath
- 4 Brawn
- 4 Krosan Constrictor
A couple of cards look out of place, so I need to explain them. Krosan Constrictor was in there because I knew that I’d be building something with Swamps for my brother. Akroma’s Blessing would allow Jason to alpha strike with his horde of Centaur tokens. Dripping-Tongue Zubera was simply early defense but also gave the Lifespinner another Spirit to sac to go find the Patron of the Orochi. Tornado Elemental was added because I planned on adding fliers to Jonathan’s deck, as well as a couple to mine.
Essentially, this deck is all about (a) getting the Patron and the Glade into play, (b) protecting them, and (3) swinging for massive damage. It, of course, can win simply by casting big dudes, but that’s not nearly as fun as trouncing two or more opponents with Centaur tokens. Heck, even finding tokens is fun. Many matchbooks from exotic locales that my brother had visited as a sailor stood in as 3/3 Centaurs.
Jonathan had been in Iceland for two years and Japan for four years before that. Like Jason, he hadn’t seen many cards from the past couple of years. For him, I built two decks. I figured I’d let him choose which one he actually wanted to use, and I’d just use the one that was left. I presented the two decks, and started describing them. I got as far as “This one’s Black and…” when he said, “I want that one.” That one was:
- 4 Fallen Angel
- 4 Festering Goblin
- 3 Ebony Treefolk
- 4 Civic Wayfinder
- 4 Drooling Groodion
- 4 Golgari Grave-Troll
- 3 Golgari Guildmage
- 4 Golgari Rotwurm
- 4 Savra, Queen of the Golgari
- 4 Shambling Shell
- 4 Stinkweed Imp
I know. It’s mostly just a Golgari deck with about forty cards added to it. What can I say? I know what my brother likes. I knew from the moment I first heard about Ravnica that he’d be all over the Golgari like college boys on drunken co-eds at Spring Break. And he was. Adding in Fallen Angel was just the fungus frosting on this rotting cake.
I’m not going to bother you with the decklist for the one I ended up with. It was Red and White with lots and lots of creatures and Soulblast.
It was great to get back into some sloppy, kitchen-table Magic, the kind that gets interrupted every thirty minutes because Jason and Jonathan have to smoke. (This is indicated by tapping your library. This cannot be responded to. It’s like Split Second, but even more harsh. One of them indicates a smoke break, and all play ceases.) Part of the reason that it’s so fun is watching their eyes light up when they flip over the next card in their deck, a card they’ve never seen before, and figure out what it really means to their deck. It’s like watching a six-year old get a new Transformer for Christmas, or whatever kids play with today.
Tomorrow, more Christmas fun. Ho ho ho.