To recap the first installment of this series:
Counterspells are a MUST
Global Removal is good
Creatures are good, so don’t overdo it on the removal
Use targeted removal.
Now to continue…
There are a few types of mass removal: The ones that hit creatures, the ones that don’t, and the ones that blow everything up!
The Ones That Hit Creatures
Wrath of God is the quintessential global removal spell. I use it only because the 8th Edition foil is really cool looking, but there are far more powerful and versatile options open to you in a format where mana is object and power is everything. There are many creatures in the Type 4 environment that aren’t easily dealt with by targeted removal, like Morphling, Plated Slagwurm, and the monstrous Darksteel Colossus.
It is debatable which is the best (as with most things in the format). Decree of Pain is a more beefed up Dregs of Sorrow, though the latter can function as a limited and more political Plague Wind, but the Decree cycles – an ability that comes up on a regular basis, not only to kill off X/2’s and tokens, but to act as a really weak Fog.
Plague Wind is great as a setup to knock off the player of your choice but has the side effect of pissing off everyone at the table and can make you a large threat upon it’s resolution. March of Souls softens the sting a bit by giving everyone fun little 1/1’s to beat each other up with. The most profound removal effect is that of Final Judgment. It does an amazing job of wiping up creatures, neutering graveyard recursion, and it kills indestructible creatures like the Myojins and Darksteel Colossus.
The most powerful creature removal spell in the stack is probably Fevered Convulsions: Selective, indiscriminate of creature color or type, and highly political at the same time, all valuable qualities in a multiplayer environment.
The Ones That Hit Creatures That Are Creatures
These are the cards like Vampiric Dragon and Smokespew Invoker that act in a way similar to Fevered Convulsions, only they can beat down your opponents at the same time. Flowstone Overseer, very similar to Smokespew Invoker in it’s ability to lower toughness as opposed to dealing damage, is also very powerful by allowing your creatures to hit harder or to let your opponent’s creatures hit harder… when they’re going after someone you don’t like.
Vampiric Dragon has a very unfortunate side effect in that it is a very big combo enabler. It works fabulously with Chainer combined with two life gain creatures, Ancestor’s Chosen and Kokusho, the Evening Star, the latter allowing you to not only gain ridiculous amounts of life, but to win the game at the same time. It also provides an instant win when combined with Glarecaster, and can become gigantic when combined with Tatsumasa, the Dragon’s Fang. Despite all of this it stays, mainly because it’s fun to breathe fire on people’s stuff.
The Myojin of Cleansing Fire is also a dude that Wraths, but it allows regeneration and doesn’t stop indestructible creatures, but it has a nice body and is a great blocker prior to removing it’s divinity counter. Combining it with That Which Was Chosen is also pretty awesome. My favorite has to go to the Legions superstar Bane of the Living. It doesn’t stick around like the Myojin does, but it takes out regenerators and indestructible creatures while being able to bluff while in morph form, threatening a Voidmage Apprentice, Krosan Cloudscraper, or even Mischievous Quanar, depending on what you’ve drafted.
The Ones That Don’t Hit Creatures (Or only certain kinds)
There are very few of these spells in the stack due to their narrow abilities, but they fill valuable roles that few cards do. Soulscour, while technically can hit creatures, doesn’t hit the artifacts or artifact creatures that other spells will. It is still a very solid spell regardless of this minor limitation. Purify is a spell I stumbled upon while in my search of awesome Type 4 cards and it went right on in when I found it. Artifacts and Enchantments are able to dodge the creature removal that is highly valued, but get smashed by this little known Urza’s Legacy card.
Gorilla Shaman also fits in this category thanks to its relatively uncommon ability. Being able to selectively use it makes it, again, a very good political card. Cards with narrow abilities, like Gorilla Shaman or Purify, should be given some thought before their inclusion. My stack used to use Flash Counter and Remove Soul, but upon realizing that I had too much countermagic, along with the fact that they spent most games sitting in someone’s hand, only to watch as someone cast Yawgmoth’s Agenda or Holistic Wisdom.
These types of cards help fill holes, but unless they’re really good, like Artifact Mutation, try to keep them to a minimum. It can be fun to play a lot of these types of cards, which can make games a bit more interesting. If all of the answers in your stack are narrow and generally useless, things get a lot more exciting when someone casts a huge bomb, everyone hoping that someone has some way to deal with it and the bomb’s caster hoping no one does.
The Ones That Blow Everything Up!
These are perhaps the most invaluable removal spells in the stack. If the game degenerates into a huge stalemate with each player having loads of creatures and other some such on the table, the game can get kind of dull. That’s why whenever that one brave soul casts Obliterate, the entire table cheers. Jokulhaups is an inferior Obliterate and Obliterate can only be countered by Time Stop and Ertai’s Meddling, which makes it very difficult to keep it from resolving
Another very good global sweeper is Pernicious Deed. It doesn’t hit lands like Jokulhaups and Obliterate, but its ability to hit Enchantments makes it invaluable. The added benefit of sitting on the table until you’re ready to use it only makes it even better. Something people overlook a bit is that they can set it to whatever number is beneficial to them, so if you want to save your Elder Dragon Legend, set it to 7 and blow up the rest of the world so your dragon can get in there!
There are two other global resets… in a very literal sense. Once More With Feeling and Sway the Stars are two of the more popular effects in Type 4, at least with the people that aren’t winning. They have the added benefit of resetting life totals to ten and seven respectively, which speeds up the game immensely. My favorite part about them is that each sets every player within kill range of Urza’s Rage and Searing Wind; two of my favorite cards in the format.
Having a hefty selection of fine men at your disposal is an important aspect of any good Type 4 stack. Generally they’ll be a 6/6 or more, but that won’t always be the case. Fortunately those men with a lower than house status (technically a house is an 8/8 or more, but for our purposes we’ll use 6/6 as the standard) have savage abilities that may or may not be game breaking.
The Elder Dragon Legends are a fine example of the houses available to us, though there are many, many more, and you can use whatever you’d like. Personally I’m looking forward to having a foil 9th Edition Verdant Force in my stack. Until then some of my favorites are Nicol Bolas, Arcaddes Sabboth, Plated Slagwurm, Bloodfire Colossus, and the two Krosan fatties (Krosan Colossus and Krosan Cloudscraper). There are plenty more that people prefer, generally Darksteel Colossus, but Pentavus, and Crowd Favorites are all very popular and valued very highly in a draft.
These come in many flavors, each filling a valuable function in the stack. The Voidmage dudes, their leader Ertai, and Mystic Snake add to the salvo of counters and the Voidmages in particular are drafted very highly in a specific archetype (more on that tomorrow). Glory and Genesis are considered bombs and make creature combat much more interesting. Some creatures provide recursion, card drawing, damage prevention, or even mass removal effects. What you use is entirely up to you, but be careful to avoid leaving out fatties for more utility effects. For many the combat of gigantic dudes is one of the appealing factors of the format, myself included, and that needs to be preserved unless you’re going for a highly control or combo based stack.
The Bombs a.k.a. Hate You Out Of The Game Creatures
Memnarch, Chainer, Dementia Master, Bosh, Iron Golem, Kiki-jiki, Mirror Breaker, and many others are some of the first picks that you want to open. These are all relatively easy to obtain and thusly are in pretty much every stack in existence. Bosh and Chainer in particular are a savage combo, and given enough life it’s possible to wipe everyone out of the game in one fell swoop. Memnarch is retarded based purely on the fact that he completely swings the game around when you cast him. Kiki-jiki combos with almost every utility creature in the stack: Siege-Gang Commander, Mystic Snake, Symbiotic Wurm, Eternal Witness, the list goes on and on.
One of the biggest controversies is that of Mischievous Quanar. His ability doesn’t require a tap to activate, so technically it would be possible to copy any spell you desire as many times as you’d like. That gets to be problematic with cards like Urza’s Rage or Searing Wind. Most players have initiated houes rules regarding Quanar. Many groups limit him to one activation of the “Turn face down” ability to once per spell played, others, my group included, limit it to once a turn. Despite these heavy restrictions the card is still ridiculous and fits into a strategy I mentioned earlier (again, more on that Friday!) and should always be first picked.
Oh, and under no circumstances ever include Nezumi Graverobber in your stack. Seriously, don’t do it. It makes Baby Jesus cry, and he’s been tear-free for some time now and I won’t tolerate messing with him. If you do, do so at your own risk.
The “Castle” cards
The “Castle” strategy is one favored by many control players, most famously among them StarCityGames own Stephen Menendian. It revolves around drafting defensive cards along with the occasional bomb to end the game once control has been established. The archetype revolves around powerful damage prevention and creature removal like Legacy Weapon and Fevered Convulsions.
The Castle’s dream creature is Glarecaster. Not only does its ability say “Step up off”, but combined with a Vampiric Dragon or Silklash Spider, it provides a convenient way of ending the game. Along those lines is the long forgotten Morphling, giving the deck a good win condition as well as an unstoppable blocker. The “Masticores” are also very popular, especially Crowd Favorites. Crowd Favorites provide solid crowd control and are another unstoppable blocker in the face of cards that may not be able to be targeted like Gigapede or Plated Slagwurm.
Mass removal is key to the Castle’s defensive strategy. The instant speed Rout and Starstorm are the ideal Wraths to have, but Evacuation can serve the same purpose in a pinch. As I mentioned yesterday targeted removal is important, not only to stop the threat that may be coming after you, but to be a deterrent against any aggressive action towards you. In my opinion the best is Seal of Doom. It survives any Wraths you may need to throw out there and is a constant reminder of who’s in charge.
Artifacts, Enchantments, and Lands
These are the more prominent parts of a Castle strategy. Pernicious Deed is the best card available followed closely by Legacy Weapon (or maybe vice versa; Legacy Weapon makes you a huge target where as Pernicious Deed not so much) and Fevered Convulsions. Shield of the Ages is the type of cards that protects you from the creatures you seek to eventually destroy, and Maze of Ith is a highly desirable card not only due to its ability to hold an attacker at bay, but by being a Land it doesn’t count towards your spell limit. There are many other cards that can serve similar purposes that I, for one reason or another, don’t have in my stack: Protective Sphere, Forcefield or Kor Haven to name a few.
Not a whole lot to say here. The bombs are the cards that will either win you the game, or at least put you well on the way to winning. There is no consensus “best” card in the stack; the list of candidates is as long as this series is, but in my opinion Chainer, Dementia Master is the most powerful card in the stack. I’ve used it to combo-win countless times, enough to possibly cut it from the stack, but it’s just so darned fun! Some say Memnarch is the best card, or maybe Vedalken Orrery. Others may say Kokusho, the Evening Star (especially in a larger game) or Mischievous Quanar. In the late game almost certainly Chainer or Yawgmoth’s Agenda are the best cards to draw, but it’s all based on preference.
Drafting the stack
There are lots of ways to play Type 4. You can pick it up, hand a small stack to each player and get started right away but my favorite, and possibly the most popular method, way to play is to draft it. There are many different ways to go about this, but the three I’ve used are the typical draft formats, Rochester and Booster, and the less conventional Rotisserie. Solomon Draft, a format used in the Magic Invitational way back when, is also a method I’ve never tried but is said to be very enjoyable.
In this you divide up your stack into three “packs” of anywhere between ten and twenty cards and proceed to draft them as you would in a regular booster draft: Pick a card, pass the pack to the left, get passed a pack, take a card, continue to pass until all cards are drafted. Do the same in the second pack only pass the pack to the right, and then pass to the left once you start on pack three.
This is a very interesting format to participate in as you know what cards are in the card pool, but not who has them. It does help in drafting a particular style without announcing to the rest of the table what you’re trying to do. It can be difficult to figure out what to take as there can be multiple bombs in each pack, but in the end it doesn’t matter. Casual formats are awesome like that.
In a Rochester Draft you have all of the players sit at a table and then for each “pack” put out a number of cards equal to twice the number of players. Draft in the traditional Rochester style, but you can be creative in how you go about it.
A Rochester Draft can take a while longer than a Booster Draft, but it can be much more interesting because of the amount of information each player has with regards to what each player has. There is also a bit of political interaction because of what you will be passing to your neighbor, but it doesn’t come up much. The decks also tend to be of much higher quality with the players being much happier with them.
The Rotisserie Draft
This is the longest to both set up and draft, but it is also a great amount of fun. I don’t remember who told me about it, but the concept is simple: Put out every card in the stack on a table, and then proceed to draft them as you would in a Rochester draft. In this format drafting preferences show the best as everyone has the chance to go right for whatever cards they prefer. It takes a long time, but is very rewarding in the end.
A few weeks ago my group tried it out and it was a very interesting session. The first picks were very interesting and helped set the tone for the draft.
Rob: Sneak Attack (A recent addition he wanted to try out)
Jacques: Blast from the Past
Tyrone: Sakashima the Impostor
Pat: Sensei’s Divining Top
Liz: Decree of the Creator
Carl: Urza’s Rage
Also interesting were the last picks.
Carl: Child of Gaea
Liz: Thicket Elemental
Tyrone: March of Souls
Jacques: Cruel Revival
Rob: Audible (No last pick. I grabbed a random card from the stack of stuff I cut) Ach Hans, Run
The most spectacular play had to be when Rob cast Sway the Stars and Tyrone responded with a Time Stretch courtesy of his Vedalken Orrery. Also at one point Liz played a Morphling which Jacques copied with Clone which was followed by Tyrone using Sakashima to get his own Morphling. With the three of them being the last people in the game, each player had a Morphling. It was pretty amusing.
Just for kicks, the final kill count had Tyrone at the top with four kills followed by Pat with one.
There are many different ways to draft, some better than others, but in general it’s better to draft what amuses you most. My favorite draft deck has every morph, preferably including Mischievous Quanar, and then a load of recursion and Savage Beating to combo with the Krosan brothers.
Control decks can be drafted, filled with countermagic and removal, combo decks can be made with cards like Chainer, Dementia Master, Kiki-Jiki, Siege-Gang Commander or Bosh, along with very odd combos which I’ll go over later. Aggressive strategies are more difficult to pull off, but thanks to cards like Myojin of Life’s Web, Metathran Aerostat, and Timmy, Power Gamer to let you play as many creatures as you’d like at instant speed to circumvent your spell limit, along with creature buffers like Sword of Fire and Ice/Sword of Light and Shadow, Tatusmasa, the Dragon’s Fang, and Savage beating.
What wins the most? It seems the archetypes are fairly evenly matched, but it is very difficult for aggressive decks to win in the face of a solid control deck. Combo decks have a tendency to get hated out once their game plan is revealed, but they can come out of nowhere, especially with cards like Yet Another Aether Vortex and Chainer.
My personal favorite involves drafting as many morphs as you possibly can, lots of targeted removal with a smattering of countermagic (ideally you’ll supplement that with the Voidmage morphs) to round it all up. I’ll avoid generic board sweepers, but try to pick up Pernicious Deed, Rout, or Starstorm. Beatdown is also a very fun and sometimes successful strategy, but you absolutely must have the cards that put creatures into play from your hand: Metathran Aerostat, Myojin of Life’s Web, and Winding Canyons (well, the Canyons don’t put them into play, but they let you play them at your leisure.
The Combo Deck is probably the hardest to draft, and even moreso to win with. These will tend to revolve around Chainer, Dementia Master and Glarecaster, usually combined with Bosh, Iron Golem, Siege-gang Commander, or a creature capable of dealing an arbitrarily large amount of damage to a creature (as is the case with Glarecaster). It is also possible to draft around Yet Another AEther Vortex and then cards like Sensei’s Divining Top, Aven Fateshaper, or even Eternal Dragon.
Combo decks don’t always have a “win now” combo, sometimes they’re full of cards that help abuse one another. Hoverguard Sweepers and Timmy Power Gamer synergize very well, keeping Timmy alive barring a timely removal spell from an opponent. Mystic Snake and Siege-Gang Commander can be used in tandem with Soul Foundry. Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker combos well with both of those, acting as a psuedo Soul Foundry, but with more ways to get it into play. These types of decks love to have Vedalken Orrery, Holistic Wisdom, Yawgmoth’s Agenda, or any combination of the three. Force of Will, Decree of Silence, and Misdirection are also highly valued to help protect combo pieces.
The main problem with the Combo archetype is that most of the cards your deck wants will be valued highly by other players as well. You may be forced to improvise, but if you can pull it off the games can be spectacular.
I hope this has given you some insight into not only how to build a stack, but how to draft it as well. There are countless other strategies that can be used and they’re all up for you to discover. If you find any you should totally post them in response to one of these articles or in a thread or article of your own!