(Editor’s Note: Participate in the theme deck contest while you still can! The number of entries has been very low – don’t you guys want StarCity credit?)
All right – let’s get something straight here. We know much about the casual player, but it boils down to three things:
- Many casual players are new, and thus have only been playing for a little while – maybe a year or two.
- Many casual players are also loathe to spend a lot on Magic singles, and don’t have a big collection… Or if they do have a lot of cards, they’re all from recent sets.
- Still, they enjoy playing. A lot. And they like winning occasionally, too.
The problem with casual players is that they want better decks, but don’t have the money to expand their collections to the breaking point. Cursed Scrolls and dual lands are universally useful, and you can throw them into just about any deck – but dammit, $15 is still a lot to pony up for about four square inches of cardboard… Especially when you get only one, and you really need four to fill out the deck.
So what to do when you can’t afford Moxes?
Well, here’s a secret for you: There are a lot of inexpensive, very powerful cards out there that can be had for a pittance. Either they were never tourney-quality cards to begin with, or they were commons for the Type 1 formats that aren’t really popular anymore.
So do you wanna have better decks? Started collecting with Masques? Well, come on and check out cheap cards that every multiplayer enthusiast should know…. All for under three bucks a card, and usually less.
Artifacts completely ignore mana requirements, and as such can be thrown into any decks – which means, sadly, that most of the artifacts that everyone can use are used, making them kinda pricey. There are few decks that couldn’t benefit from, say, a Cursed Scroll or a Scroll Rack… But that means that pretty much everyone does try to use them. Still, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a couple of cheap overlooked suckers.
Sol Ring. ($3.50) The most expensive item in this little list, it’s worth it… Mainly because it’s a card you’ll throw into every casual deck. For those of you who don’t have it, here’s what it does: It’s a one-mana artifact that taps to produce two colorless mana, no waiting. It’s not quite broken the way that the moxes are, but they always help. If you have no restrictions on what cards you play with, get this now.
Tormod’s Crypt ($1.00). A zero-cost artifact that clears out entire graveyards at instant speed? Wizards had no idea what they were doing back then, since before Tempest the graveyard was basically a big empty space. But now with recursion and flashback and threshold and Living Death decks aplenty, this is perhaps the best bargain in all of Magic. If you know that your group tends to bring things back from the dead, then you wanna pack two or three of these suckers. And even if you don’t expect anything, throwing these in randomly never hurts. Trust me on this one.
Okay, every multiplayer deck wants dual lands – I mean hell, even if you’re creating your”smash ’em all” mono-red multiplayer Sligh deck, you still want to put in your dual lands just to show you have them. And if you play green, you go Gaea’s Cradle, sure. There are expensive staples.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a couple of other lands that aren’t immensely useful in multiplayer:
Pendlehaven. ($1.50 Italian, $3.00 American) If you’re playing green, there is practically no reason not to swap out a forest for one of these babies. It’s a Legendary Land, but it taps to produce green mana and can also tap to give any 1/1 creature +1/+2 until the end of turn. And people always forget about this. Save your elves from random burn! Make a Saproling bigger! Give a mini-Giant Growth to screw an opponent! This does it all…
Karakas. ($1.50 Italian, $3.00 American) ….except this is even more useful. It creates white mana, but also taps to return target Legends to their owners’ hands. In a large game, someone always brings some legendary sucker to the table; bounce him or protect him. And while you’re at it, why not protect your own Legends with this guy? Useful under a much wider variety of circumstances than you might think, and I’ve never been sad to draw him. At worst, Karakas is a plains with funny artwork.
Every good multiplayer has flirted with white at some point – mainly because there isn’t anything that white can’t do. It can destroy creatures, it can destroy lands, it can destroy enchantments, it can slice, dice, and gain so much damn life that five people have to smash you every turn for seven rounds before you get under a hundred life.
That said, white has some good cards you should never overlook:
Aura of Silence ($1.50). For two white and a colorless, you can put an enchantment on the table that will make all of your opponents pay two more mana for any enchantment or artifact they choose to cast… And sacrifice it to act as a Disenchant whenever you want. This, my friends, is utility. Note that although the card says” Artifact and enchantment spells cost target opponent an additional 2 to play,” the official Oracle wording has multiplayed the card, making it say,” Artifact and enchantment spells your opponents control cost 2 more to play.” Whee!
Soltari Visionary (a mere quarter). On the other hand, for the same mana as Aura of Silence, you can have an unblockable 2/2 that when it deals damage destroys an artifact or enchantment. (Well, technically the Visionary is blockable by other shadow creatures – but who plays with those anymore?) Sure, the Visionary gets blown up a lot, but it’s also more fun and more damage.
Congregate ($1.00). Let me put it this way: This is possibly the most hated card in the history of Magic. Sure, Necropotence has its day, but there’s nothing a devoted multiplayer hates to hear midway through an eight-man chaos battle than,”In response to that Wrath of God, I’ll Congregate for 200?” An instant that nets you two life for every creature in play, Congregate is quite frequently broken as all hell thanks to the multitudes of Saprolings and Pegasus tokens that take to the field in multiplayer games. If you doubt the power of Congregate, then realize this: It’s a common card from an old expansion, it’s never been played in tournaments, and it’s still hot enough that we can charge you a buck for it. That’s staying power.
Soul Warden ($1.50). This, on the other hand, is a classic one-drop that also makes opponents groan. Its ability is so insidious for a 1/1 critter;”Gain one life every time a creature comes into play.” But drop it on the first turn, and your opponents have to either waste precious removal on it or not play any creatures. This hurts.
(Fun fact! One of the funniest things I ever saw in multiplayer was a guy casting Living Death mid-way through a six-player chaos game with a Dual Nature in play. Boom! Two copies of every creature card in every graveyard came out to play. We were all happy until we realized that someone had a Crater Hellion in the graveyard, dealing twelve damage to every creature. Everything died – but my three (now six) Soul Wardens still triggered before they went away happily. Net result of that Living Death? I gained six hundred life, and nobody had any creatures left.
(Other fun fact: That game ended in a standoff; I was down to one card in my library with near-infinite life total and no way to win, but had seven cards with a Serra Avatar in the mix. I drew the card, discarded the Avatar, which went back into my library, which I drew again and discarded for all eternity… While the other player was down to one life and topdecked a Necropotence. That game ended with the two wizards, locked in helplessness for all eternity, going”grr” across the table at each other.)
Humble (.50). For one white and one colorless, you can turn any creature into a 0/1, abilityless critter until the end of the turn. The surprise factor alone is worth it, especially when an opponent needs some creature to bolster his defenses. Whee!
Mother Of Runes ($1.00). A 1/1 critter that can tap to give any creature you control protection from any color. She usually doesn’t survive long… But if she does and gets active, your opponents are in deep trouble. If you get two out and have some way of dealing with a Wrath, you’ve won.
Black is a fine splash color for multiplayer, but generally a single-color black deck doesn’t go the distance due to its inability to handle enchantments and artifacts. However, there are some fine black cards that just about everybody should consider:
Demonic Tutor ($3.00). The grandpappy of all fetch cards, Demonic Tutor gets you any card in your deck at sorcery-speed for a single black and a single colorless – no drawbacks, no nothing. It’s not as fast as Demonic Consultation or Vampiric Tutor, but it’s not a bad investment for any beginning player. Plus, the art is cool.
Wall of Souls ($2.00). The best wall in multiplayer, the Wall of Souls is a, 0/4 wall that has a fantastic ability; all damage dealt to it by creatures can be redirected to the player of your choice. In other words, feel free to attack with that Spiritmonger, chum; you’ll be taking the pain. A fantastic early-drop that serves as excellent protection.
Diabolic Edict ($3.00).”Target player sacrifices a creature.” Given how many games revolve around one gigantic creature that no one can deal with, for a low cost of a mana and a black, you can get any player to get rid of his sole defense. Not quite as hot when there’s other creatures around that said target player can sacrifice instead, but if you’re playing black and can’t destroy the flanking critters then there’s something wrong with you. Or at least your deck.
Spike Cannibal (.50). A lot of players like playing with critters that get +1/+1 counters – especially older ones, who looove playing their Survival of the Fittest decks with their Weavers and their pumpers. It’s a serious metagame call, but under certain circumstances it’s a joy to suck away everyone’s strength and leave you with a very large wormy-lookin’ thang.
Dregs of Sorrow ($1.50). It sounds stupid – who would pay x mana, plus four, plus one black, to destroy creatures? Well, considering that it’s a fairly game-sweeping effect in multiplayer games, which tend to drag out longer than others, it’s worth it. Destroy X creatures. Destroy X cards. Lord knows you don’t want more than one in your deck – but if you can fetch it on command….
Planar Void (.50). This is a bit of a risk, but guaranteeing that all cards that go to the graveyard are removed from play is a powerful effect against good players, who tend to use their graveyard again and again. It paints a target on your head, but if you’re playing some kind of multiplayer discard deck, you need this.
Eater Of The Dead ($1.50). On the other hand, if you want selective graveyard removal at a glance, this little puppy gets you a 3/4 body for five mana… Which isn’t great, but its special ability is. For zero, you can remove a creature card in any graveyard from the game. Reanimator? Bye-bye. Living Death? See ya. Threshold? Not for you. Sadly, it doesn’t get rid of spells, but the untap ability can be downright unfair combined with some nasty enchantment like, say, Psionic Gift. Hey, there’s another creature in the graveyard! Woo hoo!
That’s it for black and white, folks – next week, we’ll look at red, green, and pathetic old blue… If you have any suggestions on cards that I overlooked here, or suggestions on cheap cards (StarCity pricing only, please) for the next installment, let me know!