GENERAL COMMENTS: White is probably more able than any other color to recover from massive board-clearing spells. That?s a good characteristic in multiplayer. White?s basic strengths — LIFEGAIN, PROTECTION, UTILITY, and MASS REMOVAL — all translate just fine into multiplayer. All of these characteristics are represented here.
Note that white and green are the two colors with the most creatures on the list.
20. CELESTIAL CONVERGENCE.
[2WW Enchantment. When Celestial Convergence comes into play, put seven Omen counters on it. At the beginning of your upkeep, remove an Omen counter from Celestial Convergence. If there are no Omen counters on Celestial Convergence, the player with the highest life total wins the game. If two or more players are tied for the highest life total, the game is a draw.]
WHY: While it loses some power as more and more players join in (and the periods between Omen counter removal get longer), there is no doubt that this card focuses everyone?s mind wonderfully. And unlike most cheesy lifegain-styled cards, the Convergence puts an absolute clock on the game.
SIGNAL: Perhaps the clearest signal of any card in the Hall of Fame. You intend to hold everyone off for seven rounds. You typically don?t do that by being overly aggressive.
ENHANCEMENTS: I see no reason to help white lifegain mages improve their chances of winning. And there are no tricky cards to think of here; the obvious ones should do just fine.
COUNTERMEASURES: Naturally, if the Celestial Convergence is removed before it runs out of Omen counters, it is useless. But an even better trick is reserved for the black mage, who can Drain Life or Corrupt during the last round and swing the balance in their favor with precious little time left.
So far in our group, we?ve only played this in the "Deck of Many Things" (or what I call "Quentin") format. This format has each player bring one or two game-changing artifacts or global enchantments into a common pool; one card at a time is revealed (replacing the last one) each round if a die is rolled on a certain score. So for a while people may be playing under Stasis, then Awakening, then Infernal Genesis, and so on. So an effect may stick around, or it might not.
Well, we did this one night, and Celestial Convergence found its way into the mix. The chance of a card getting replaced is rather low (about 25%, the way we roll it); but still I was surprised to see this in there. I mean, it has to last seven die rolls, right?
It did respectably well, I think, losing three or four Omen counters before traipsing off into oblivion. I?m glad it did, because I have NO idea what we would have done if there had been no Omen counters on it. Who, really, would have won? Quentin? All of us? None of us?
Maybe Convergence isn?t that good in that format. It?s great for hunt, though!
19. REVERENT MANTRA
[3W Instant. You may remove a white card in your hand from the game instead of paying Reverent Mantra?s mana cost. All creatures gain protection from the color of your choice until end of turn.]
WHY: A fantastic trick to play in the face of an Earthquake, a Pestilence (if timed right), even combat between two other players?one of whom you may not like very much.
SIGNAL: This is an odd trick in just about any kind of deck. It finishes, it protects, it meddles.
ENHANCEMENTS: Played on an array of creatures that already have protection from some colors (e.g., Sabretooth Nishoba), you can render them virtually unblockable or invulnerable. Try it with Darkest Hour and then pick black for the Mantra? it?s an instant-speed Absolute Grace trick.
COUNTERMEASURES: You can shift the color of your creatures or spells, Magical Hack-style. Or you can hold the extra instant in your hand (Fault Line, Terror, etc.) to use in response to the Mantra.
18. SERRA?S BLESSING
[1W Enchantment. Attacking doesn?t cause creatures you control to tap.]
WHY: In multiplayer, tapping creatures is bad. Every time you have a creature sleeping on the job, you have several opponents ready to step over its prone body and whack you. Keeping your troops lively is the best way to make you an unattractive target, all the while allowing you to attack.
SIGNAL: While you may just be interested in putting up a good defense, the Blessing actually sends a rather strong signal that you plan on attacking with creatures? and probably creatures with evasion.
ENHANCEMENTS: Your creatures should be capable of setting up a good defense for the Blessing to be worth it. First strike, high toughness, and/or special pump abilities (e.g., spikes) are all excellent options.
COUNTERMEASURES: I?m in strong favor of making white mages miserable, so let me help the blue mage out here a bit: play Turnabout or Ensnare after combat?s all over and the white mage is feeling real satisfied about keeping defenses strong. Green mages should just lay out the beef thickly enough to make tapping/untapping defenders irrelevant. Everyone else has removal.
Having Serra?s Blessing on the list makes me glad I?ve extended each color to twenty cards. The Blessing is an underheralded champion of group decks. I think with Invasion cards adding a whole list of Masters and other activated-ability creatures, not having to tap to attack will become even more powerful.
One weird thing I have seen, though – more often in the occasional shop than in our own group – is people using BOTH Serra?s Blessing AND naturally no-tap creatures in the same deck. Folks, that sort of redundancy is what makes pro players snicker at us. If you have Serra?s Blessing in your deck, use closers that tap when they attack. It?s better if they have "Z" and/or "K" in their name. (Zephid! Darigaaz! Kezzerdrix! Skizzik!) It?s not that Serra Angels are bad. It?s just that, as the old schools of Magic say, every card should be maximally useful.
Of course, mono-white mages have no access to cards with "K" or "Z" in their name. "K" and "Z", as letters, are considered too evil for white. Consonants are limited to "R" and "N" (Gerrard, Hannah, etc.). Thus "Gondor" and "Rohan" in Lord of the Rings. (Don?t anyone get started on Nazgul. The "Z" is much nastier in that word than any other letter. The "Z" is the bully of that alphabetic neighborhood. The "G" is pretty harsh, too; it?s like the toady pretending to be the bully?s friend that no one likes. I didn?t type the "U" right because of my worries of symbol-translation on a web page, but in this word it normally wears a spiffy hat so no one can recognize it, standing there all embarrassed next to Toady-G and the Z-Fresh Bully.)
"S" and "D" can go either way. They?re the perfect bookends on "Switzerland", which has both an "N" and a "Z" to keep you guessing.
17. OATH OF LIEGES
[1W Enchantment. At the beginning of each player?s upkeep, if that player controls fewer lands than an opponent, the player may search his or her library for a basic land card and put that card into play. The player then shuffles his or her library.
WHY: Have you ever been in a game with five players, two of whom are mana-screwed and having no fun? It drags down the game and the emotion of playing together. Oath of Lieges is the pleasant, inexpensive solution to the problem. Your group may forgive your white lifegain if you?re putting each of them on a level playing field when it comes to lands. I also think this card will make a bit of a resurgence in casual groups as Invasion multicolor themes settle in.
SIGNAL: "Just being friends." Also a sign to your group that land-reset buttons (Armageddon, Jokulhaups, etc.) will be less effective.
ENHANCEMENTS: How about this, laying down seven lands, and having an Avatar of Fury ready?
COUNTERMEASURES: There really aren?t any. Nor, if you think about it, should there be.
16. HEAVY BALLISTA
[3W, 2/3 Creature. Tap Heavy Ballista to do two damage to target attacking or blocking creature.] SIMILAR CARDS: D?Avenant Archer, Crossbow Infantry, and Ballista Squad all do the same thing, at varying levels of passion.
WHY: A ballista works for white much like Propaganda does for blue, raising the cost to an attacker and usually diverting the assault elsewhere. However, it is not rated as high in white as Propaganda is in blue because there is an activation cost which includes tapping — and tapping, all things being equal, is bad in multiplayer. That said, you often don?t have to tap it at all, and can just leave it there, daring the other mages to make a move.
SIGNAL: Ballistae send a light control message. Since it?s obvious you?re playing with creatures, most of your opponents will assume that finishers like Serra Angel are on the way.
ENHANCEMENTS: It?s fun to tap it for one player, pretend it?s all spent, and then Vitalize in response to another player?s attack. Combine with Fatal Blow to bring down big, hard-to-reach game like a Shivan Dragon. Force an attack with Bullwhip if you?re trying to get at a shy creature.
COUNTERMEASURES: Would you believe Insubordination? Like a wall, the ballistae don?t often attack (although they can, so have a blocker ready). If they stay back to ping, the controller takes two damage through Insubordination. Cheesy but true. Of course, you can also pre-empt the ability by using an Icy Manipulator, Trickster Mage, or Opposition before you enter combat. The best of all countermeasures is the Blastoderm, which will spend at least three productive turns whaling on flimsy humans with oversized crossbows.
How do these guys see shadow creatures? Are they THAT good with an oversized crossbow? "Ach, Hans, look! An absolutely invisible gust of plasma-person moving at high speed! Quick, turn this enormously large and unweildy bow-and-arrow contraption to the right vector, lead the target appropriately, and? FIRE!"
My group has a long-standing but unfulfilled promise to play "logic-based Magic" some day, when anyone can overrule a spell or effect by pointing out something that provides a logical basis for why it shouldn?t happen. ("The Blinking Spirit has wings?in early edition artwork, anyway. It should have flying." "Why should angels die to Wrath of God?" "My Extinction on undead should kill vampires, too?") It would be messy, but if we do it, this shadow-ballista thing is going to be on my list.
15. BLINDING ANGEL
[3WW, 2/4 Creature. Flying. Whenever Blinding Angel deals combat damage to a player, that player skips his or her next combat phase.]
WHY: Has such a crappy card (Moment of Silence) ever translated so well into a top-notch creature ability? Typically, the most useful strategy with the Angel is to send it over to stop the dominant creature force, while the rest of your troops tough it out with lesser opponents.
You have to pick a single player with the Angel, which rates it low on the list. But it?s still on the list, because it sends such a brutal signal and protects you from the one guy who?s playing with 2,000 slivers.
SIGNAL: The Angel is the control closer that tells your opponents their attacking days are over.
ENHANCEMENTS: Keep Emerald Charms handy, both to ground potential blockers and/or to ground your own angel if a Hurricane comes along. A Cho-Manno?s Blessing serves a similar double-purpose — make blockers irrelevant, and stop the removal.
COUNTERMEASURES: Aside from having bigger and better blockers, you can play tricks like Chaosphere to make the flying useless. Or you can play Gaseous Form or other lame "fog" effects on the Angel so that it never deals combat damage.
[2WW Enchantment. All creatures lose all abilities and are 1/1.] SIMILAR CARDS include Humble, an instant that you use to drive home an inefficient point on the target arrogant creature of your choice.
WHY: When the game?s getting really noisy with complicated beasts, every once in a while it?s nice to just make everyone think about how puny they really are.
SIGNAL: Making every creature a weakling fits well into control-style thinking.
ENHANCEMENTS: Well, you might as well generate squirrels or saprolings?or even better, Breeding Pit now gives you 1/1 tokens instead of 0/1!
COUNTERMEASURES: Glorious Anthem. Parapet. Spidersilk Armor. Game-breakers, all!
Instead of a blurb by me, I thought I?d entertain you all with the rules listings found from www.yavapaiopen.com and www.crystalkeep.com for this extraordinarily rules-conscious card:
* Removes all creature abilities. This includes mana abilities, such as with Llanowar Elves. Animated lands lose the ability to tap for mana. [bethmo 97/10/14]
* Will not remove card text which defines characteristics of the card which are not normally done in the text, such as "This card is a Wall" or "This card is red.". These things are descriptive text and not abilities. [bethmo 97/10/23] See Rule G.9.2. (Older cards used to say "Counts as a Wall" and fall under this ruling.)
* Does remove abilities from a creature entering play before any "comes into play" abilities can trigger. [D’Angelo 99/06/01]
* When figuring out your creatures’ abilities and power/toughness, apply all card effects in the order they entered play. Built-in abilities of a creature and any counters on the creature are applied first. Then, you apply all external effects in the order they entered play. The result of this is that any effects on the creatures’ abilities or power/toughness in play before Humility enters play are completely overridden. But that any played after Humility enters play stay. [D’Angelo 97/12/01] For example, a Crusade is in play, then a Humility enters play. All your white creatures are 1/1. If Humility enters play, then Crusade, your white creatures are 2/2 (they become 1/1 then get +1/+1 in that order). See Rule K.10.Ruling.1.
[2WW Enchantment. Creatures without flying can?t attack.] SIMILAR CARDS include Island Sanctuary, which lets you skip your draw step to keep away all but flyers and islandwalkers.
WHY: Would you like to have a little, private game amongst the flying-conscious in your group, while everyone else looks on? This card is for you.
SIGNAL: This is the classic old-school control card.
ENHANCEMENTS: No extra points for guessing "flyers"! Consider Ballon Peddler, since you may want to encourage some opponents to attack others. You could build a deck with spiders and moats only, and then let your arachnids take to the air with a sudden Levitation for a finishing blow to an opponent.
COUNTERMEASURES: This is your typical Hurricane/Chaosphere territory.
12. NULL CHAMBER.
[3W Enchant World. As Null Chamber comes into play, you and an opponent each name a card that isn?t a basic land. The named cards cannot be played.]
WHY: What a fabulous way to make a friend! Meant originally as a combo-stopper in duel, the Null Chamber is certainly a more usable card in group: the chances that your would-be ally decides to name one of YOUR cards goes down with each additional opponent.
SIGNAL: Hey, we?re all friends here. Except for the jerks with the cards we don?t like.
ENHANCEMENTS: Use Presence of the Master so that other enchantments are off limits. (Make sure you put down Null Chamber first!) That way you can focus on a smaller pool of cards. Or use blue bounce to send an already offending permanent back to a player?s hand, so she can?t play it again.
COUNTERMEASURES: Keeping variants of key cards — Lightning Bolt and Incinerate, Pestilence and Thrashing Wumpus, Nevinyrral?s Disk and Powder Keg — in your deck will make the Null Chamber more difficult to use effectively.
Figuring out what card to ban can be a tricky process. Here?s my six-step process for picking the right card so that your opponent gets the right signal and chooses the one that would have been your second choice:
FIRST, in considering your partner, weed out the mages who are playing strategies opposed to yours. The remaining pool should have your pseudo-allies: In all probability, if you?re playing this card, you want only control freaks to be in the mix.
SECOND, from that pool, choose the mage with the life total closest to yours. Slightly higher than you is better than slightly lower than you. You want someone who will have interests very close to your own. Someone who thinks like you. Someone who, if you added a funny mustache and glasses, could actually LOOK like you.
THIRD, think of the top five cards that will absolutely wreck you. (If you?re a control player, perhaps you?d think of Hymn to Tourach, Skizzik, Disenchant, Might of Oaks, and Phantom Warrior. Hey, whatever, just work with me here.)
FOURTH, pick the top two out of those that you think your new partner would hate. (For now, assume Hymn and Disenchant.)
FIFTH, pick the one that ISN?T your partner?s chief worry. (Assume Disenchant.)
SIXTH, turn to him or her and say, "Jeez, I totally forgot about Hymn. Man, that would WRECK you, wouldn?t it???"
11. RADIANT, ARCHANGEL
[3WW, 3/3 Creature. Flying. Radiant, Archangel counts as an Angel. Attacking does not cause Radiant to tap. Radiant gets +1/+1 for each other creature with flying in play.] SIMILAR CARDS: The famous Serra Angel, as well as the high-powered Archangel, the echo-based Herald of Serra, and the sleeper Opal Archangel. There are many white ground-pounders that do not tap to attack, as well.
WHY: Staying untapped while attacking keeps your defense up for the six opponents that are coming after you. Having that creature fly as well is terrific. Having that creature gain power and toughness for every other flyer in a group game is stellar.
SIGNAL: Opponents will expect you to try to win the game through eventual creature beatdown.
ENHANCEMENTS: Aside from lots of other flyers, how about mediocre removal like Afterlife? Kill an opponent?s creature, put a 1/1 flying token into play, see Radiant get fatter at instant speed. Your own Giant Caterpillar works off the same principle (but the Butterfly token doesn?t show up until the end of the turn, so time it right). Throwing Radiant in a sliver deck with the winged flavor isn?t the worst idea I?ve ever heard, either.
COUNTERMEASURES: When you play Hurricane — and you ARE playing Hurricane against this — make sure you realize you usually only have to do a three-pointer to get rid of Radiant?s steroids, and then she goes down herself as a weaker creature with three damage. (That?s why Needle Storm works well, too.) Radiant works less well in a Chaosphere (though she still stays pumped from other flyers).
10. STORY CIRCLE
[1WW Enchantment. When Story Circle comes into play, choose a color. W: The next time a source of your choice of the chosen color would deal damage to you this turn, prevent that damage.] SIMILAR CARDS: Naturally, all of the circles and runes fit in here. Greater Realm of Preservation gives protection against both black and red. Hidden Retreat and Penance work like the Greater Realm in that they are geared toward red and black damage, but they give up card advantage.
WHY: This will be a staple in the Hall of Fame for the foreseeable future. The ability to put out flexible protection, even if you have to activate it multiple times between your turns, makes this a critical multiplayer card for a monowhite deck, and even a few splashers. The advantage this gives you in dealing with Earthquakes, Pestilence, Hurricanes, Drain Life, just about anything is phenomenal. Really, this ought to be higher, but the other white cards in the top ten are just huge, and typically play a larger role in a deck?s path to victory.
ENHANCEMENTS: A Whim of Volrath will change a permanent to whatever color you like. If you?re facing down two different beatdown colors and you?re desperately wishing your second Story Circle would show, use the Whim in the meantime to make that Shivan Dragon or Avatar of Woe green, so that you can handle it with the Circle you laid when you saw the Child of Gaea.
COUNTERMEASURES: Play your favorite five-color deck. Or how about slivers? Beast of Burden doesn?t care much for Story Circles. And two other artifacts — Thran Lens and Distorting Lens — will let all of your creatures infiltrate and bust up that little crime ring (let?s not kid ourselves, they?re not telling stories in that circle, they?re selling something).
For those of you who think that telling (or listening to) stories cannot prevent damage, let me clue you in on a little fact of life:
When I was in my mid-teens (hey, you!? in the back!? stop snoring!), I read fiction pretty voraciously. (Now I just stare at rules and numbers. Hey, I could work at Wizards!) One of my favorite books was The Princess Bride, which is pretty much a classic in much of the same crowd that plays Magic so I don?t think I have to explain it to you. (It?s in movie format, too, and the movie?s swell; but the book is better. Read it.) In the book, there is a part when the hero is bravely working his way through a rather nasty subterranean complex. Toward the end, one of the last challenges is a tiny but incredibly venomous spider hidden under a doorknob. Putting his hand on the doorknob will almost certainly kill him.
I won?t tell you how this all resolves, but I do want to point out that I am very careful to check doorknobs now for spiders. Because of this, I think I am generally better prepared to withstand spider-based (or heck, let?s extend that to the whole arachnid family) damage as a result of opening doors.
See? Stories can help prevent damage.
9. WRATH OF GOD
[2WW Sorcery. Bury all creatures.] SIMILAR CARDS: Catastrophe blends this card and the next one. Planar Collapse is an enchantment that threatens Wrath if the board gets too busy. Mageta the Lion is the legendary spellshaper that waxes everyone but himself. (Not much of a leader, is he?) And Rout is the new, instant-speed Wrath of God. (Yeep!)
WHY: A classic card.
SIGNAL: You are seeking control in one of two
ways: you are either playing LOTS of creatures and feel you can recover more quickly, or you are playing NO creatures and need the board to stay clear so you can survive until you set up your win condition. By the time you play this, your opponents will probably know which path you intend to take.
ENHANCEMENTS: The tried-and-true combo is the Blinking Spirit, who never seems to annoy God quite enough to get axed with everyone else. Having an Angelic Renewal or two might not hurt, if you?re not lucky enough to have rares like Avenging Angel and Serra Avatar. And of course, let?s not forget token generators: Kjeldoran Outpost, Sacred Mesa, and the awe-inspiring Security Detail. (Um, did someone also say Chimeric Idol? No? Strange. – The Ferrett)
As with a lot of creature removal, no matter what color, Dingus Staff is a good insult-to-injury sort of card, as it damages players for each creature that hits the graveyard. It hits you, too, so this works better in creatureless decks.
COUNTERMEASURES: If you don?t want to lose your creatures permanently to an opponent?s Wrath of God, play graveyard recursion. If you?re okay with seeing the board clear but don?t want anything to actually die, use Evacuation. If you want to make sure the white mage doesn?t take too much advantage of the situation, follow up with a Sunder, Wake of Destruction, or Armageddon. Speaking of which?
[3W Sorcery. Destroy all lands.] SIMILAR CARDS: Catastrophe gives the caster a choice of Armageddon or Wrath of God. Global Ruin is an Armageddon that graces multicolor players with a softer touch.
WHY: As quickly as white can recover from Wrath of God, it can recover even more easily from Armageddon.
SIGNAL: Mana denial is an unmistakable control strategy.
ENHANCEMENTS: Old-school combos with Armageddon include Ernham Djinn for creature power without much drawback, Zuran Orb for lifegain, and Land Tax for land-retrieval. Don?t forget Sol Ring and other artifact mana! Dingus Egg will hurt a great many people as lands hit the graveyard, just as Dingus Staff does for creatures. The Argothian Wurm and Yavimaya Elder are the latest examples of Armageddon-friendly cards.
COUNTERMEASURES: Sacred Ground and Parallax Tide are two cards that can counteract an Armageddon quite effectively; but since they?re both enchantments, you?ll be tipping the Armageddon mage off. Same deal with Groundskeeper. Sunder works nicely and makes you friends. Tip for newbies: If you think there?s an instant you want to play later in your opponent?s main phase, tap the mana and get it in your pool. That way you can bounce the Wurm, Terror the Djinn, or Disenchant the Sol Ring.
Armageddon has been talked to death. I love it, but what can I tell you that you don?t already know? I?ll give you guys a pass on the "witty" commentary and just move on.
7. LIMITED RESOURCES
[W Enchantment. When Limited Resources comes into play, each player chooses five lands he or she controls and sacrifices the rest. As long as there are ten or more lands in play, players cannot play lands.]
WHY: Limited Resources gains true killer instinct in multiplayer, since it typically reduces a three-player game to a battle of grey ogres, and a five-player game to a battle of grizzly bears. Play it at the right time, and you can lock out 75–100% of your opponents. The speed at which this card comes out is just sickening to the blue mage.
SIGNAL: As a pre-emptive Armageddon of sorts, this sends a strong control message. Even if you play white weenies afterward, it?s still control.
ENHANCEMENTS: In a white-red deck with Stone Rains (or white-black with Rain of Tears; or white-green with Winter?s Grasp, or even white-blue with Capsize!), you can squeeze out your opponents? lands while laying down your own.
COUNTERMEASURES: In the last version of this Hall, I pleaded with Wizards to make an alternate casting cost Disenchant. Their answer in the very next expansion? Abolish. (Okay, they probably already had the card designed. Let me keep my illusions of influence.)
Your only other hope is a ladder of artifact mana: Sol Ring to bring out Marble Diamond to bring out Tooth of Ramos to bring out Thran Dynamo and then, if you feel like it (though why would you?), Disenchant.
6. FALSE PROPHET
[2WW, 2/2 Creature. If False Prophet goes into any graveyard from play, remove all creatures from the game.] SIMILAR CARDS: Swords to Plowshares, Exile, and Avenger en-Dal are good spot removal cards that don?t approach the breadth of False Prophet.
WHY: Combines the satisfaction of watching your opponents? fall in uncertain anguish as they realize they don?t know when this thing is going to go off, with the thrill of taking a Spirit of the Night, Multani, and Squee and literally throwing them off the table. An excellent antidote if graveyard recursion is plaguing your group.
ENHANCEMENTS: Sneak Attack. Shock. Heavy Ballista. Claws of Gix. Pandemonium (Prophet deals damage to itself.) The list goes on. Take note of what happens if you have a Lifeline out. This is perhaps the only use of Lifeline that I don?t find tremendously tedious and contrived.
COUNTERMEASURES: Bounce it or remove it from the game. If you can slap an Inviolability on it, that might be pretty funny.
At what point do you suppose the followers of this prophet realized just how badly they?ve been screwed?
PROPHET: So, anyhow, this is a nice nature walk, isn?t it? Okay, here we are, at the cliff. You?ll all just want to step over it, now?
FOLLOWER #1: Step over what?
PROPHET: The cliff.
FOLLOWER #1: What, it?s like a small chasm we can just jump over?
PROPHET: No, it?s a cliff.
FOLLOWER #2: Oh, I get it. It?s an illusion that LOOKS like a cliff, but really when we step out there, we?ll just be walking on a cleverly painted stone bridge, like in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, right?
PROPHET: Er, no?it?s a cliff. You have to jump off it. You?ll fall down.
FOLLOWERS #1, #2, #3, and the next THIRTY OR SO: Ohhhhh. Hmmmmmmmm?
PROPHET: BUT you will be remembered fondly.
FOLLOWER #3: You mean, when they bury us at our funeral, there?ll be a big celebration and folks will shower our graves with flowers and?
PROPHET: Um, I don?t know how to tell you this, but there won?t exactly be a, well, a graveyard. You?re going to, kinda, you know, skip that part?and go right to a fabulous afterlife!
FOLLOWER #1: With other heavenly hosts, and harps, and endless supplies of Bit-o-Honey bars?
PROPHET: I don?t? you see? oh, for crying out loud, just get off the cliff! [PUSHES.]
5. SOUL WARDEN
[W, 1/1 Creature. When a creature comes into play, gain one life.]
WHY: Do I have to explain? This card would be higher up if there weren?t such a thing as an Arc Mage. NOTE: Some of you may be tempted not to tell your opponent when the Soul Warden activates and gains life, but the card doesn?t say "you may", so it?s not optional. You have to go back and do it, retroactively if necessary. ANOTHER NOTE: Phasing doesn?t work with this card.
SIGNAL: Since it comes out the first turn and you could be either creature rushing or (bouncing) control, it stands in high regard as a pretty standard white weenie that fits into multiple strategies. Most players won?t bother to see what exactly you?re up to before killing it.
ENHANCEMENTS: Anything that causes creatures to leave and/or come back into play. Examples include Evacuation, Tombstone Stairwell, Flicker. I once built an otherwise ineffective deck that sported the Warden and Aether Sting: that way, whenever a creature came into play, the caster would take one damage while I gained one. That bothered people.
COUNTERMEASURES: Arc Lightning and Arc Mage are all you need to know.
[3W Instant. Gain two life for each creature in play.]
WHY: Like the Soul Warden, this card works off of the abominable "you-have-creatures-so-I-get-life" principle. You use this card? Shame on you.
ENHANCEMENTS: Play in your infinite squirrel or sliver deck, I don?t care, just don?t ever talk to me again.
COUNTERMEASURES: I thought you?d never ask. Deflection/Misdirection or Evacuation for the blue mage. Fault Line or Warmonger for the red mage. Forsaken Wastes for the black mage. The green mage kind of has to sit there and accept it, but he COULD help by taking the assault lead and sending his tramplers over to Mr. Congregate.
Many groups just outright ban this card. I see that as a wasted opportunity. There are plenty of ways to discourage use of this card without resorting to bureaucratic solutions:
PUMMELING. Physical violence is really underrated when it comes to phenomenally annoying cards. You don?t want to do actual physical damage or cause lasting mental anguish, mind you – this isn?t hockey — but a sound, firm boxing around the ears, shoulders, and kidneys by two or more opponents ought to remind the white mage that there?s more than one reason to congregate.
INTENSE SHRIEKING. In response to Congregate, and starting with the player to the caster?s immediate left, begin squealing at the highest pitch and volume you can muster. In a seven-player game, it?s very likely that no six opposing players will be able to manage the exact same pitch. This should give the effort a more urgent, off-harmony fire alarm effect, fantastically disorienting for the mage who played the offending card. They may just pick it back up and untap their mana. At which point you all stop at once and pretend nothing happened.
PURGING. No, nothing so digestive. Rather, everyone tears up and throws away all of the creatures on the board at once into little tiny shards. HINT: Play with commons, or better yet, tokens fashioned from Pokemon cards.
JOINING IN. Whether you have it or not, announce, "I Congregate in response to your Congregate!" At which point the next player shouts, "I Congrate in response to the Congregate you played in response to his Congregate!" At which point the next player proudly proclaims, "I Congregate in response to her Congregate which was played in response to the Congregate played in response to the first Congregate!" And so on. The fact that none of you are playing with any white cards at all is irrelevant. You keep it up until (a) the original player picks up the card or (b) plays yet another Congregate in response to all of the fictional ones, at which point you move on to one of the other three responses above. Maybe all three.
3. PARALLAX WAVE
[2WW Enchantment. Fading 5. Remove a fade counter from Parallax Wave: Remove target creature from the game if Parallax Wave is in play. When Parallax Wave leaves play, each player returns to play all cards other than this card removed from the game with Parallax Wave.]
WHY: This thing whips off multiple Swords to Plowshares; for four mana (two of any color) you get four such spells, lasting two turns. That ought to be enough to clear the path for your (or someone else?s) beefy creatures. This card will work true magic in team play, and gets the "GOOD TEAMMATE AWARD" for white.
SIGNAL: This is a nice finisher in a more aggressive deck.
ENHANCEMENTS: Comes-into-play creatures if you want to use it on your own (how about Monk Idealist to get it back from your graveyard when all is done?), or Aether Flash if you want to use it on someone else?s.
COUNTERMEASURES: If you have the means to get rid of the Wave prematurely, make sure you time it to best effect — that probably means in the middle of combat, before blockers are declared. Playing with your own comes-into-play creatures like Nekrataal will give you additional bang for your buck.
[2WW Sorcery. Each player chooses from the permanents he or she controls an artifact, a creature, an enchantment, and a land and sacrifices the rest.] SIMILAR CARDS: BALANCE, which whacks hand size, lands, and creatures in similar fashion, using current loser in each category as a measuring stick.
WHY: When you just want to get rid of a whole bunch of crap, and don?t care necessarily what goes out the window, this is the card for you. It gets top billing in this slot instead of Balance because I prefer to wax more stuff in play, and because it?s not restricted in Type I, our group can pack four. But by all means, if you have a Balance, throw that in there, too!
SIGNAL: Like most of these big-name white sorceries, you are placing a bet that you can recover more quickly than anyone else.
ENHANCEMENTS: Lots of cards work here. Your good deck construction and play is the best enhancement. Think of diverse mana sources — e.g. Elves, Moxen, and lands — and you?re probably on the right track.
COUNTERMEASURES: Make sure you resolve the spell player by player. (The caster chooses what he keeps first, and then it goes clockwise.) Pack permanents that do nasty things when they hit the graveyard — False Prophet, Reliquary Monk, Plague Dogs — and make sure you punish the Cataclysm Mage. Use Hunting Moa, Yavimaya Elder, and other beneficial last-gaspers to improve your position, or the position of a new friend.
I actually want to talk about Global Ruin here. Can I do that? Thanks. I just think the artwork there is terrific. I pulled a foil out of a random pack. Somehow, the shiny, glistening nature of the mushroom cloud makes up for the fact that millions of people, kavu, saprolings, zombies, and whatever are experiencing fantasy-ized nuclear fission firsthand.
Or maybe not. Okay, let?s think of those lands that get waxed as empty, unpopulated lands. Nothing lives there, except perhaps a few cockroaches and that grumpy old Type I tourney player who scowls at you from the back of your local store. There, that?s easier. Bombs away.
1. AURA OF SILENCE
[1WW Enchantment. Enchantment and artifact spells cost an additional two mana for target player. Sacrifice Aura of Silence: Destroy target artifact or enchantment.] SIMILAR CARDS: There are tons: of course the original Disenchant, Scour (which can only target enchantments, but lobotomizes them), Purify (which waxes ALL artifacts and enchantments), Devout Witness (spellshaper that lets you Disenchant over and over), Monk Realist and Cloudchaser Eagle (creatures with the "comes into play" ability of nixing an enchantment), and Seal of Cleansing (enchantment you can sack to Disenchant).
WHY: I had Disenchant in this slot for a couple of versions. The basic argument is, cards that operate like Disenchant are answers to the substantial majority of the rest of the cards in the Hall of Fame. But I always had an empty feeling in my gut about this choice, and the fact is, Aura of Silence can do just about anything Disenchant can do, PLUS it can punish a player who?s living off of annoying enchantments. That wins you friends. And white mages need friends.
Aura of Silence, because of its focus on a single opponent while still being a terrific group card, wins the "MASTER OF THE HUNT" award for white.
SIGNAL: You are letting everyone know that you don?t like one particular person, and with some good planning and a bit of luck, you can get everyone else to agree with you. Beyond that, though, the Aura gives you quite a bit of leeway on what style of deck you?d like to play.
ENHANCEMENTS: No need. The objective is threat removal, not path to victory.
COUNTERMEASURES: White?s worst enemy is? white. Ivory Mask will prevent you from being the target of an Aura. If it?s already out, you have a mana-intensive path but you can still protect a bit against the sacking ability. Hanna?s Custody will protect your artifacts — you?re effectively putting a one-Disenchant barrier between your valuables and the white mage. A tougher barrier for the white player to overcome is Spectral Guardian, a creature that protects your non-creature artifacts. Even better, Fountain Watch protects all of your artifacts and enchantments, and won?t cost you extra if the Aura is already out.
The Honorable Mention for white goes to Mirror Strike [3W Instant, Target unblocked creature deals combat damage to its controller instead], which is just about the funniest thing I?ve ever seen played on a Serra Avatar. Mirror Strike, all by itself, almost makes me like white.
OVERALL COMMENTS: Green, aside from blue, suffers the most moving from duel to multiplayer. Green?s traditional strength of FAT CREATURES is still viable, but rushing more than one or two opponents becomes very difficult in an environment where everyone but you has mass removal. Green?s other major theme, MANA ACCELERATION, gets plenty of play below. So do minor themes of COMBAT READINESS and UTILITY.
But the most interesting dynamic about most of the best green multiplayer cards is the way they benefit everyone. The key to playing them right is making sure your deck gives you the full advantage of the mechanic at hand.
[G Enchant World. All players play with their hands revealed.]
WHY: See Telepathy in blue. The reason Telepathy is #3 on that list, while Revelation is only #20 on this one, is due to two factors: (1) Telepathy lets you hide your own hand, and (2) green mages care less what is in other people?s hands than blue mages do. Counterspell and Perish notwithstanding.
SIGNAL: A green mage who throws this out there is either really interested to know when the best time to pump his creatures is (therefore aggression), or is looking to create some light combo (e.g., Darigaaz or Persecute).
ENHANCEMENTS: See Telepathy in blue.
COUNTERMEASURES: See Telepathy in blue.
Really, I?m putting this on the list grudgingly. And with tremendous respect for my readers? ability to spot inconsistency in my logic. If I leave it off, some extremely enterprising soul will ask, "How could you remember it for blue, but forget it for green?" I?ll also get accused (not entirely unfairly) for preferring more recent cards over most "old school" cards. There are plenty of slots for me to applaud recent expansions! Let the grizzled Beta crowd have their day.
19. LIEGE OF THE HOLLOWS
[2GG, 3/4 Creature. When this is put into a graveyard from play, each player may pay any amount of mana. Each player puts into play a number of 1/1 green Squirrel creature tokens equal to the amount of mana he or she paid this way.
WHY: A squirrel party for everyone! It?s pretty funny to watch how many players don?t play spells for three to five turns so that they?ll have mana ready in case the Liege dies.
SIGNAL: "I am playing Deranged Hermit in this deck. Oh, and Overrun, too."
ENHANCEMENTS: Aside from obvious squirrel cards like Squirrel Wrangler and universal pumpers like Vitalizing Wind, you can sack those squirrels to black nasties like Lord of the Pit, Devouring Strossus, or Cateran Overlord.
COUNTERMEASURES: Packing immediate removal so that an early Liege does no good, or using creative white removal like Swords to Plowshares or Humble, will keep the squirrels away.
18. ELADAMRI?S VINEYARD
[G Enchantment. At the beginning of each player?s pre-combat main phase, add GG to that player?s mana pool.]
WHY: Gets the game moving! The people who like you when you play this are people you want as friends. The people who hate you when you play this deserve the mana burn.
SIGNAL: You wouldn?t play this if you didn?t expect to use the mana during your turn. Aggression.
ENHANCEMENTS: Creatures with haste are best, since you would play them during your first main phase anyway. But if you don?t mind wrecking the surprise, you can simply pump your creatures so that they?re combat-ready; or clear out blockers with red-splash damage spells, or whatever.
COUNTERMEASURES: You only want to counter this if you don?t have a use for the mana. But there?s little need to get rid of the enchantment itself: you can find mana sinks like Masticores and the new "Weavers".
You will hear this several times in this part of the Hall of Fame: green is full of "Party Cards". After all parts of this version of the Hall are available, I encourage you to go back and look at each color and see the threads that permeate each color in multiplayer. It?s not just the obvious "green is the color of creatures, black is the color of death, blue is the color of mysticism" silliness. It?s more like this: green is the color that gives gifts to everyone. Black is the color that takes those gifts away. Blue is the color that adds more information and calculation to the game than any other. White is the color of game-prolonging, through lifegain and mass destruction. And red becomes the color of game-shortening, through its inventive universal damage-dealing schemes.
These characterizations aren?t absolute, but the exceptions typically prove the rule. Green holds to its theme most strongly; you?ll see what I mean as you keep reading.
[2GG Enchantment. At the beginning of your upkeep, put a wind counter on Cyclone; then you may pay G for each wind counter on Cyclone. If you pay, Cyclone deals damage equal to the number of wind counters on it to each creature and each player. If you don?t pay, sacrifice Cyclone.]
WHY: We?ll see Hurricane come up in a moment, but I see this as a distinct "old school" card with two very different dynamics. First, Cyclone can repeat its damage every turn as long as you have the mana to keep up. (And you will, most likely for four turns.) Second, this will deal damage to ALL creatures, Pestilence-style. The upkeep prevents it from outranking Hurricane (or many other cards on this list); but it?s a little-known powerhouse that could create real problems in many groups.
SIGNAL: Almost alone on the green list for being a control card. You might be able to go creatureless with this!
ENHANCEMENTS: If you decide to use creatures (and you probably should), you can either use fat like various treefolk or regenerators (black regenerators are better, since they won?t use your green mana). I might look for a particularly far-out player or two to use Hanna Ship?s Navigator to bring back upkeep-dependent enchantments like this one.
COUNTERMEASURES: If you think you can just wait it out, then just wait it out. But some regenerators of your own, as well as white high-toughness creatures like Tortured Angel, will keep your army active in the meantime.
16. VETERAN EXPLORER
[G, 1/1 Creature. When Veteran Explorer is put into a graveyard from play, each player may search his or her library for two basic land cards and put them into play. Then, each player who searched his or her library shuffles it.]
WHY: Every player should be a happy camper when you pack the Veteran Explorer?s bags! An imminent mana boost for everyone. It gets the game going quickly, and you may even get a couple of points of damage off if no one has any quick blockers.
SIGNAL: This is a solid start to an aggressive deck, but really, you could be working on anything. Everyone will find out soon enough!
ENHANCEMENTS: An Arc Lightning will kill this and up to two other weenies, opening up the board for whatever your new mana can produce.
COUNTERMEASURES: You don?t want to stop this. If you can?t stand the thought of killing it and giving everyone mana, you deserve the unblocked damage when it attacks.
One of the most depressing things in Magic is when someone won?t kill your Veteran Explorer, no matter how hard you try:
ANTHONY: Pete, I?ll attack you for one.
PETE: Okay, I?ll take the damage.
ANTHONY: But you have a Pouncing Jaguar that can block!
PETE: I know.
ANTHONY: But?but you ALWAYS block my Veteran Explorer!
PETE [all mysterious-like]: Well, I?m not doing it this time.
ANTHONY: Ugh. If I?d known you?d be a spoilsport, I would have attacked Gary?
GARY: I would have let it through too.
ANTHONY: How about you, Toim?
TOIM: I probably would have blocked it.
ANTHONY: Attaboy. Gain three life from Invigorate. Pete, take five.
15. CONCORDANT CROSSROADS
[G Enchantment. All creatures have haste.]
WHY: This gives creatures with abilities? or mass? a real leg up. More things get to happen each turn, more surprises get sprung, more fun is had.
SIGNAL: It?s possible to go control or combo with the Crossroads (think Tradewind Rider), but it?s more suited to smashmouth decks that like to tap or kill possible blockers.
ENHANCEMENTS: Let?s see, what would I want to have haste? A Royal Assassin? A Ballista Squad? A Blastoderm? A series of Llanowar Elves?
COUNTERMEASURES: You will need to keep plenty of mana open, and more tricks back in your hand. Instant spells become even more important than sorceries than they already are; for example, Rout becomes a better choice than Wrath of God.
14. HUNTED WUMPUS
[3G, 6/6 Creature. When Hunted Wumpus comes into play, each other player may choose a creature card in his or her hand and put that card into play.]
WHY: The drawback hurts you as more opponents join the table?but if you?re playing this in team, suddenly this card looks phenomenal. It gets the "GOOD TEAMMATE" award for its inclusion of non-opponents.
SIGNAL: You may be letting many creatures on the board because you?re a nice guy. Or you could be setting them up. Either way, 6/6 on fourth turn is in and of itself an aggressive move.
ENHANCEMENTS: Rancor looks good on anything, but an 8/6 trampler for five mana looks pretty hot. Use Ostracize or Unsummon if you suspect the drawback will come back to haunt you.
COUNTERMEASURES: When the wumpus gives his mating call, you?ll want to be sure you have something that can either supercede it, or at least block it.
For a few weeks, I decided to play an intentionally suicidal deck that featured both Hunted Wumpi and Pandemonium. My intent was to create several instances where we?d all just trade damage randomly, without much thought of revenge or even strategy. Then here and there, I?d swoop in for a lucky win. (See Pandemonium in red for a description of some of the cards I used.) But unfortunately, my group is smarter than that. They just used my own combo against me, pounding me with whatever the wumpus brought out. Well, that?s the last time I try to be nice to THEM. I?ve since pulled the wumpi out and put in Pangosaurs. (Hey, I have three. I have to use them SOMEWHERE?)
13. CITY OF SOLITUDE
[2G Enchantment. Each player may only play spells and abilities during his or her turn.]
WHY: The City locks out the blue, and to a lesser extent red, mages out of their meddling ways. Disenchant and Swords to Plowshares become less effective, and Terror loses its surprise.
SIGNAL: You are turning the game into a predictable slugfest, with creatures lasting long enough to attack, sorceries clearing the way, and instants put where they belong: during your combat, when you want to pump.
ENHANCEMENTS: Nothing you care to play on anyone else?s turn!
COUNTERMEASURES: Whatever you do about it, you?ll be doing it on your own time. So keep it cheap; that way you can get other things done. Best bet is the Soltari Visionary, which will disenchant it without spending mana.
[2GG Enchantment. At the beginning of each player?s upkeep, all players untap their creatures and lands.] SIMILAR CARDS: Vitalize is a one-shot instant that works only for your creatures. Llanowar Druid is a creature with a one-shot ability that works only for your lands.
WHY: As I mentioned when discussing the white angels, having untapped creatures is essential in group play at least 80% of the time. Awakening is another card on green?s list that gives everyone an equal shot at this benefit. Of course, the idea is, you should be readier to take advantage of it.
SIGNAL: Awakening is a very versatile card that fits a variety of styles. Aggression, control, and combo are all made a bit easier when you have mana every player?s turn. (Well, combo gets roasted a bit since there?s more response possibility.)
ENHANCEMENTS: Tradewind Rider suddenly becomes a terrific multiplayer card, with Awakening reloading him. Shivan Gorge does a number, too. Goblin Medics, "Tim" creatures, Llanowar Behemoth?you get the idea. Maze of Ith gains a lot too: in fact, when we get to the Lands section of the Hall of Fame, let?s just spray-paint a big AWAKENING across the Enhancements section of each entry.
Finally, you want nearly no sorceries, and plenty of instants. Might of Oaks is a favorite.
COUNTERMEASURES: If you?re playing against this card, you do not necessarily want to remove it. You are probably better off getting rid of whatever keeps tapping and untapping. Of course, if there are too many of those things, shoot the Awakening. Note that having an Opposition on the board can certainly make things interesting for the Awakening mage and everyone else. (I?m not sure if that?s a countermeasure or not?I get a headache just thinking about it.)
Do you suppose, after several turns of this, representing days, maybe even weeks of battle, your forces (or perhaps Eladamri?s, since he gets the flavor text) might get a bit annoyed at you continually waking them up?
ELADAMRI: Okay, troops, here we go again! The time is now, er? the people are us?
ELF #1: Stuff it, chief. We?ve been slogging about with no more than a catnap for the past two weeks. How about some R&R? How about some nice, leafy lean-tos? How about a hammock strung between those two treefolk over there?
ELADAMRI: But the Phyrexians are coming! Or is it the Urborg?
ELF #2: Well, look at them over there! THEY look tired too. I?ll bet Yawgmoth gives each of THEM the AMA?s recommended daily allowance of sleep for optimal health. Sure, he?s a demon lord with no respect for the sweet kiss of death. But I?ll bet under that smelly, "eternal-damnation-for-all" exterior, the guy knows how to kick back and relax?
[2GG Enchantment. Any player may play a creature card with total converted casting cost 3 or less whenever he or she could play an instant and without paying its casting cost.] SIMILAR CARDS: Vernal Equinox allows all players to play all summon and enchantment cards at instant speed – but you must pay the mana cost.
WHY: The fifth consecutive party for everyone, thrown by the green mage, on this list! Throw small to mid-sized creatures out as surprise blockers, or use instant utility, however and whenever your heart desires.
SIGNAL: Cheap and easy creatures, and lots of them, coming everyone?s way.
ENHANCEMENTS: Any card, creature or enchantment, that says "comes into play". Equilibrium, Uktabi Orangutan, Bone Shredder, Pandemonium, and Monk Realist are the first to come to mind. Slivers with Aluren are terrifying, and in fact this was almost certainly the first use Wizards had in mind for the card.
COUNTERMEASURES: If you know this card gets use in your group, be sure to pack a few small creatures in most of your decks. Rest assured that a timely Evincar?s Justice or Pyroclasm will knock out 80% of the 3-cc creatures out there.
[XG Sorcery. Deals X damage to all creatures with flying and all players.] SIMILAR CARDS: The Squallmonger lets just about anyone put up a mini-hurricane at instant speed. Ifh-Biff Efreet puts mini-hurricanes in your own hands. Needle Storm will pound all flyers for four damage, without hurting players.
WHY: One of the very few green sources of direct damage out there (the short list includes Squallmonger, Heartwood Giant, Storm Seeker, Unyaro Bee Sting, and maybe one or two others), Hurricane can make a strong statement against many creature-type decks, including slivers, angels, skirges, birds, and dragons. It?s good even if the game is dominated by ground-pounders?as long as you?re ahead in life.
ENHANCEMENTS: The ability to give a creature flying suddenly wouldn?t hurt here. Bouyancy, Jump, Balloon Peddler, and Sailmonger can all help with that. You may also want to ground one of your own valued flyers with an Emerald Charm in response to your own Hurricane. Also, to boost your own life so you?re not afraid to use this card, throw in a Spike Feeder or other cheap lifegain.
This card has saved my hiney countless times. It is probably my favorite closer, since so few people pay attention to the possibility of direct damage from green, and throughout most games everyone is focusing on your massive creatures. It was my path to victory once for my Birds & Bees deck in a ten-player game, when neither of my control cards (Ensnaring Bridge or Tranquil Grove) showed up at all. It was my metagame in one or two different decks against a vicious series of angel and sliver decks that coursed through the group about seven or eight months ago. And it even found a way into a couple of my black-green recursion decks, since it fits on a couple of different levels with the great-when-recurred Spike Feeder.
My favorite Hurricane, and I?m speaking in terms of artwork here, is from Portal II. I happened to get this without opening a single pack of Portal II, since they used that artwork in the Battle Royale set that came out last year. It?s nice, understated, and very descriptive. Of course, real hurricanes (and I?ve lived through several, though none since I moved to Minnesota) aren?t that understated?but then again, maybe they are at 10,000 feet, on the edge of the eye. I?d like to think so, anyway.
9. DROP OF HONEY
[G Enchantment. At the beginning of your upkeep, destroy target creature with the lowest power. It can?t be regenerated. (If two or more creatures are tied for lowest power, destroy only one of them.) When there are no creatures in play, sacrifice Drop of Honey.]
WHY: Universal creature removal for green! Universal creature removal for green!
SIGNAL: Man, can this send mixed signals! "I?m playing a creatureless green deck!" "I?m playing big fatties!" "I?m playing graveyard recursion!" Let ?em guess.
ENHANCEMENTS: Create an army of untargetable creatures, like Vintara Snapper and Deadly Insect! Till the Night Soil and get a mass of 1/1 worms! Use burn to rid the board of smaller creatures, so you can get to big game more quickly!
COUNTERMEASURES: Remember that the Drop of Honey has to target a creature—and also, that it gets buried if there are no creatures on the board. You should be able to come up with your own strategies to get that done, by now.
8. NATURAL AFFINITY
[2G Instant. All lands become 2/2 creatures until end of turn. They still count as lands.] SIMILAR CARDS: Living Lands is an enchantment that makes all lands 1/1 lands. Verdant Touch is a buyback spell that affects one land at a time, but permanently. Jolrael, Empress of Beasts, is a legendary spellshaper that turns all of a single player?s lands into creatures.
WHY: While you may put yourself at a small disadvantage relative to others (since up to three of your creatures will be tapped to play this spell); you can still use it to block, for a final offensive push, or in a diabolical response to a Wrath of God.
ENHANCEMENTS: A deck with Natural Affinity should also have artifact mana, both to keep your "creatures" untapped when you cast it and to diversify your mana base in case of disaster. Gaea?s Cradle is really nice here, but don?t go nuts on precious non-basics: remember, if they?re creatures, you?re thinking of attacking or