The Fairies’ Corner #1: You Can Never Have Too Many Four-Drops

I’m presenting to you — my very special friend — this article-series-of-as-yet-undetermined-length, a Standard casual cold buffet, roughly resembling Chris Romeo’s smooth and tender operatings. In other words, just to throw out my entire audience with the bathwater, the series is casual without being particularly budget-oriented. But hey, it has “fairies” in the title! Fairies! I know that I love it.

Introduction to the Mini-Series
What with my life’s work and all, I haven’t had much time on my slim and beautiful hands as of late, meaning that I’ve fallen out of the vaguely competitive scene entirely. Oops. However, I’m presenting to you — my very special friend — this article-series-of-as-yet-undetermined-length, a Standard casual cold buffet, roughly resembling Chris Romeo smooth and tender operatings. In other words, just to throw out my entire audience with the bathwater, the series is casual without being particularly budget-oriented. But hey, it has “fairies” in the title! Fairies! I know that I love it.

A Note on Arghh! Ratings
In my years of teaching young people how to play Magic, I’ve found that far and away the most difficult concept to instill in fresh, uncorrupted minds is the virtually unoverestimable import of placing as many huge monsters as possible in one’s deck. Far too often, I find ignorant kids playing bad cards like Rakdos Guildmage when they could, instead, be playing Dread Slag. Not that I have anything against Rakdos Guildmage. It just doesn’t have a terribly impressive Arghh! Rating. Let me explain: Arghh! Ratings are — as opposed to Mike Flores‘ purely subjective Big and Dumb Ratings — a sort of science. A creature’s Arghh!-factor can be calculated by dividing its power by its converted mana cost. If a creature has trample, 0.5 points are added to its rating. If a creature has a power lower than three, 0.5 points are subtracted from its rating; after all, Isamaru, Hound of Konda might be a nice beater for a single mana, but it definitely is not Arghh! incarnate. Furthermore, for every point of power above six, a creature receives an additional 0.5 in Arghh! So, to use our previous example, Rakdos Guildmage has an Arghh! Rating of -0.5 whereas Dread Slag weighs in at a hefty +3.3. No contest whatsoever. In the article below, Arghh! Ratings will be rounded off and given in brackets.

The Article Improper

As even Donald Rumsfeld knows by now, the Timeshifted gimmick has had dramatic effects on the Standard environment, changing the very way we make war with our silly little cards. There are just so many options out there in the battlefield that countless of them have been left unexploited, much like children in a third-world Nike factory. One of the cards to catch my eye when Time Spiral was first released was Pandemonium, that semi-old timer bad boy who really, truly wants to get into a fight but only if it’s on his own terms. If Pandemonium were a school bully, he’d be the kind who torments the Chess Club and borrows his father’s stockpiled machine guns when he goes off hunting those goddamned peace-lovin’ squirrels. Some people claim that Pandemonium is a Timmy card, but these folks have gotten their intelligence wrong. The fact is, Timmy likes attacking with huge monsters whereas Pandemonium likes going to enormous effort to produce huge monsters just for the hell of it.

Had Pandemonium been re-released a few years ago, it really would have been just a win-more card, sort of the Magic equivalent of giving Paris Hilton a cameo appearance in an already bad movie. Today’s Standard, however, is not that of a few years ago. Today, we’re spoiled for huge monsters at low prices. Unfortunately, they’re nearly universally awful. Cosmic Larva [2.8], who I loved like a brother, was pretty bad, but at least it wasn’t Phyrexian Soulgorger [3.7], Sheltering Ancient [3], Sky Swallower [2.6], or Jokulmorder [5.2]. That said, we seem to have hit the threshold of terrible monsters necessary for Pandemonium to be played. The ideal Pandemonium deck, in my opinion, looks something like this:

(Because it’s all about getting a good pluck)

See, although the average casting cost of this deck’s monsters is lower than the landlord’s daughter’s neckline, the average power is higher than Mel Gibson’s blood alcohol level. That, and there’s the shocking Norin the Wary [1.5] + Pandemonium combo. Here’s how it works: Play Norin the Wary, and then play Pandemonium. Presto! Two damage every turn (including those belonging to your opponents), virtually guaranteed! Even better is the insane Norin the Wary plus Primordial Sage [0.7] combo. Norin draws you a card every turn, virtually guaranteed! My only concern is that this deck has too much mana. I’m thinking of removing some Mountains in favor of Verdant Force [1.5]. The 61-cards might be a bit unconventional, but I’m convinced that it works best this way since it maximizes my chances of drawing huge monsters.

The Article Proper

Alternatively, one could attempt to build a Pandemonium deck that is, perhaps, slightly less focused on huge monsters but makes up for this deficiency in actually being able to win. Occasionally. Consider the following:


(Because it’s all about having a fling)

This deck’s fastest possible win is on turn 5, which, so far as goldfishing with a Combo deck goes, is not so impressive. There are, however, numerous means of achieving the turn 5 win, the only requirements to it being a single mana accelerator, a copy of Pandemonium, some eight-power beast, and a dirty magazine. Still, a Dragonstorm opponent will often be going off on turn 4, especially if you help her out by playing Pandemonium. This might appear to be a crushing blow for Bachelor Party, but the deck does have a few advantages over Dragonstorm: 1) Against Aggro, you actually have an interactive gameplan, with Kird Ape [1.5] and Call of Herd [1.0] providing decent blockers while Yavimaya Dryad [0.2] and the mana men can start chumping once they’ve lost their usefulness, and 2) you get to play Phyrexian Soulgorger.

Phyrexian Soulgorger is immensely bad, and the times have been few when I’ve even let it live a single upkeep. The Construct’s great charm is that it not only deals eight damage to your opponent’s lovely dome, it also holds off an attacker for a turn, a surprisingly relevant ability when you’re playing a deck which rewards opponents for casting creatures. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t give Soulgorger a second thought if not for Greater Good. Greater Good is what permits Bachelor Party to rise above being yet another bad Combo deck with one win condition and no tutors. It isn’t a disaster if you can’t cast Pandemonium on turn 3 since chances are that, in these trying times, Greater Good will be around to pick up the slack. Not that you all really need me to do the math for you, but Greater Good + Soulgorger or Spectral Force [3.1] really does equal a heck of a lot of cards. Greater Good also prevents you from running dry once Pandemonium is on the table since, to be entirely honest, one doesn’t exactly relish playing the latter enchantment unless the path to lethal damage is clear.

Giant Solifuge [1.5] — usually a sweet, sweet slice of invertebrate — is sub-par here, and I’ve been indecisively switching over from the Insect to Rumbling Slum [1.3] and back. Bachelor Party doesn’t run any burn, primarily because burn looks awfully silly when Pandemonium is around, but this decision stops you from clearing the way for the Insect, and Rumbling Slum’s extra point of power can make quite a difference with Greater Good. The untargetability of Giant Solifuge is likewise pleasant, but when playing something as risking as Pandemonium, I’m often glad when opponents target my creatures instead of speeding me on towards my demise. To Giant Solifuge’s credit, however, its Haste and Trample can speed up your win by a turn in the correct situations, and it’s obviously a huge boon against trigger-happy Control.

Speaking of Control, a single-minded deck like Bachelor Party might appear to roll over to anything packing counterspells, but this isn’t quite the case. The size of your creatures means that enemy removal really is at a premium. While it’s true that there’s absolutely nothing you can do about Akroma, Angel of Wrath [1.3] (no, Pandemonium plus Spectral Force doesn’t work), what’s a supremely deadly creature amongst friends? Why, just recall: You’re the one playing Phyrexian Soulgorger. Besides, the really sneaky stuff against Solar Flare variants happens after Game 1, when you side-out a bushel of cards (-4 Phyrexian Soulgorger, -3 Greater Good, -4 Pandemonium, -2 Carven Caryatid [0.2], -2 Kird Ape) and side-in everything you’ve got, turning into a cozy land destruction deck sporting six 8/8 monsters that may, in fact, attack occasionally.

Now, the fun bit is that G/R Pandemonium decks are nearly infinitely adaptable. I mean, you’re not going to be winning a major tournament with Bachelor Party anyway, so why not manipulate the list into your own, private love-beast? With this in mind, and in order to preempt anyone else from feeling smug and clever, we’ll look at some of the deck’s possibilities for variation.

Different Huge Monsters
This is everyone’s favorite part, so we’ll get it out of the way first, in the manner of a loved one who eats all of the best-flavored Skittles, the ones you were saving for the end.

Sheltering Ancient: Unlike Phyrexian Soulgorger, there’s a decent chance that Sheltering Ancient could push through some damage in combat. Once you have Pandemonium out, you’re probably either winning or losing within two or three turns, so the long-term isn’t all that important. When judging Sheltering Ancient, we have to realize that, tempting though it may be, we can’t use it to replace Soulgorger since the deck really is dependent on that quick burst of eight damage. This means that Sheltering Ancient would have to replace a good — or at least decent card — and make the deck even more Combo-oriented than it already is. Arghh! Rating: 3

Rumbling Slum: In the opposite end of the ring is Rumbling Slum, a monster with staying power and no real disadvantages. Definitely bolstering your game against Aggro, this Elemental has no real disadvantage and has, perhaps unfairly, been sidelined by Giant Solifuge. Of course, my motto is: “You can never have too many four-drops.” Arghh! Rating: 1.3

Burning-Tree Shaman: Sadly, the disappearance of Umezawa’s Jitte and the return of Call of the Herd has made this 3/4 scarcer than a whore with a heart of gold. It might appear impressive, but remember that that extra point of toughness makes it no more Arghh!y than a mere Elephant token. Arghh! Rating: 1

Loaming Shaman: Loaming Shaman has been similarly ignored but with less good reason. At the risk of explaining the All-Encompassing Self, this is a Green beatdown or Pandemonium deck’s best answer to graveyard-centric strategies. One must, however, ask whether or not Loaming Shaman out of the sideboard is superior to more direct anti-Control strategies. Arghh! Rating: 1

Hunted Wumpus: Descent Arghh! mingles pathetically with an environment full of costly Angels. Arghh! Rating: 1.5

Hunted Troll: Unlike Phyrexian Soulgorger, Hunted Troll can be a menace in combat. This, however, is only in the long-term since, barring something like Pyroclasm, the Troll will be chump-blocked by Faeries until long after Iraq becomes a stable representative democracy. Still, it’s an eight damage Pandemonium pop. One suspects that there’s too much competition in the four-drop slot for this beastie, but hey, that’s only a valid argument if you care about things like tempo and win percentages. Arghh! Rating: 3

Protean Hulk: Having a dead Protean Hulk with Pandemonium on the table will nearly always lead to a win. At seven mana, however, these Beasts aren’t so much made for walking as they are made for sitting forlornly in your hand. Arghh! Rating: 0.9

Durkwood Baloth: This is a really interesting option. Since your most important spells cost four mana, one could, hypothetically, hold off on casting a mana producer on Turn 1 and suspend this feller instead. You’d get a piping hot 5/5 on Turn 6 for nary a mana, which could get you out of some fixes if you’re in a situation in which you have Pandemonium in play and a few mid-sized creatures in hand but are lacking eight-power monsters. Arghh! Rating: Sort of 5.0ish

Greater Gargadon: Unlike Durkwood Baloth, you’ll never be hard-casting this. Greater Gargadon is inferior to Phyrexian Soulgorger in just about every way. You won’t be willing to sacrifice half your permanents unless you’re going to win the moment Greater Gargadon hits the board, yet Soulgorger does 8/9 of the job with no serious drawbacks. Arghh! Rating: If you really must, 10.5

Indrik Stomphowler: Like you care about Glare of Subdual anyway… Arghh! Rating: 0.8.

Non-Huge Monster Options
Bachelor Party v. 2 actually started out as more of a Control deck, replacing its small-time creatures with the likes of Search for Tomorrow and the archetypal sweepers, Pyroclasm, Sulfurous Blast, and Savage Twister. I had to ask myself however: 1) Is this really better against Aggro than simply playing my own small creatures?, 2) Is it worthwhile to give up on Pandemonium damage just to gain card advantage, and 3) Why bother playing Pandemonium if you aren’t playing as many huge monsters as possible? The answers were, naturally, all “no.”

Hypergenesis was another idea, principally because it’s difficult to think of any other deck in which this premium Green Suspend spell would have any use whatsoever. Playing Hypergenesis would reduce the temptation to run bad but high-powered creatures and would permit you to “go off” in one turn, a less risky proposition than giving your opponent so free a ride on Pandemonium. Nevertheless, Hypergenesis’ inclusion would make this a true but difficult to assemble Combo deck.

Finally, for help against Control, I considered some copies of Stormbind in the copy. Then, I realized that I only considered this because Stormbind was, like Bachelor Party v. 2, a hunk of Green/Red gold. So, I dropped the idea.

Will Bachelor Party v. 2 make you a star? Probably not. Is it better than Bachelor Party v. 1? Definitely. All we ask for is improvement. Baby steps, my friend, baby steps.


Adam Grydehøj
[email protected]