Those of you who remember last week’s column will be tremendously ironic, since the whole POINT of last week’s column was that nobody ever remembers what I wrote the week before.
You guys are screwing up my curve.
However, among my other various tirades, last week I posted a sneaky Living Death multiplayer deck— which went something like this:
2x Living Death (should be 4, but these things cost money)
4x Engineered Plague
4x Plague Witch
4x Dark Ritual
2x Sengir Vampire
2x Massacre (with two or more players, someone’s playing white– this is almost invariably a free casting)
2x Dread Of Night (Incidentally, I do feel ashamed about the two Dread Of Nights— I hate playing with color hosers— but so many of White’s staple creatures have incidental protection from black that it’s darn near a necessity.)
2x Will O’Wisp (regenerating cheap flyers— gotta love‘em)
1x The Wretched
1x Demonic Tutor
1x Vampiric Tutor
1x Grandmother Sengir
1x Ascendant Evincar
1x Spike Cannibal (I love using these against Spike Weaver)
1x Phyrexian Plaguelord
4x Hunted Wumpus
4x Birds O’Paradise
4x Pouncing Jaguar
2x Creeping Mold
1x Elves Of Deep Shadow (should be four, but there’s that money thing again….)
1x Thran Golem
2x Thran Lens
1x Pine Barrens
The point of this deck was basically to get out big creatures, throw them away in with frustrated pseudo-“I’m landscrewed!” faces, or in seemingly meaningless exchanges — remember, as a sneaky player your job is to make people think you’re not a threat — and then cast Living Death to bring them all back for one ferocious attack. Generally, it’s worked pretty well.
However, this deck has a huge gaping flaw in it, which lost me a lot of games last week. Can any of you spot what the big flaw is?
Of COURSE you can, because you’re not big honkin’ idiots like me.
The flaw is that frequently other players will have graveyards. If you’re dealing with a combo deck that goes through cards rapidly, you might actually put yourself in a losing position by casting Living Death — which makes you a big stupid moron, and you sit there like a jerk while people romp all over your dead body like maggots on a four-week-dead elephant.
However, my friends — deck repair is not why I brought you here*. (I would apologize profusely for handing you a deck I hadn’t adequately playtested yet, except that frankly I hate people who just copy decks off the internet. You guys should get a life. I think everyone should start posting REALLY BAD tournament-winning decks online, just to watch a bunch of 14-year-old mindless deck zombies play Jon Finkel latest Type II “Carnival Of Souls with Grollubs” deck. They’d be sitting there with tears running down their faces as everyone who brought a real deck kicked their butt all the way to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin as they cried, “It worked on the Dojo! IT WORKED ON THE DOJO!” And yet I digress.)
What I DO want to write about is Covering Your Bases.
Multiplayer is a different animal than tourney play; for one thing, tourneys tend to boil down to a single deck that either everyone plays, or plays against. Right now it’s Opalescence and Lin Sivvi decks. Earlier it was Necro-Donate. Basically, at a tournament you know what you’ll be facing — and if you’ve shielded your deck from the top two or three threats, generally you can do pretty well.
Not so in multiplayer.
For one thing, if “no cards restricted” is Type I and “the last two blocks” are Type II, then multiplayer is “Type WHO?” Nobody really gives a horse’s patoot about all the stupid tourney limitations in multiplayer, so the variety of threats you face come from ALL expansions. It’s not at all unusual to find a guy playing with the Power Nine facing off against some kid who started his collection six months ago. (And it’s also not unusual to see that kid winning once in awhile.)
And when faced with a bunch of decks, you have two choices: narrow the number of threats down (which is what you do at tournaments), or make sure you can handle anything.
Naturally, you can’t handle everything with your deck alone. No deck can work against ALL the threats mentioned here consistently — but by thinking about what you can’t handle, you can see who you target first. If you know you can handle a weenie rush but are screwed if someone Armageddons, you know that you have to take down the white player first.
As such, here’s your Deck Checklist to see what you can handle. To help you out, I’ve ranked them each from one to ten on the “D’oh!” scale… which is an indication of how often I’ve had to handle these in multi games. Note that I am not telling you how often *I’ve* been caught short by them; that’s what my years of experience are here for, kid.
CAN YOU HANDLE A CREATURE RUSH? (D’oh Ranking: 10)
Really? No crap. EVERY deck has to prepare for this— but creature rushes tend to work a little different in multiplayer. You might have to fend off two or three attack phases for every untap you get; that Spike Weaver is still nice, but you’ll burn through him a lot quicker than you might otherwise. Do you have reusable ways of preventing damage?
CAN YOU HANDLE A RESET BUTTON? (D’oh Ranking: 7)
A.k.a., “Is your mana base reasonable?” If you find you have problems recovering from a creature or land wipeout, then it generally means you have too many high-cost cards sitting around.
CAN YOU HANDLE A RESET BUTTON WITH A MAJOR THREAT REMAINING? (D’oh Ranking: 4)
If someone casts a Wrath of God, a Lhurgoyf, and then an Armageddon, will you be able to recover in time? Or if someone Jokulhaups with a Phasing critter out, how badly will you be hurt? A lot of “combo” multi decks work around this concept, so be prepared; generally decks like this don’t work at all, except when they do. When they do, you’re dead.
CAN YOU HANDLE A SINGLE CREATURE? (D’oh Ranking: 9)
One forestwalker or shadow creature can spoil your whole day. Can you target one creature for removal outside of combat?
CAN YOU HANDLE A 40/40 CREATURE? (D’oh Ranking: 4)
Don’t laugh; they come out more often than you think in multiplayer. Serra Avatars, Phyrexian Processors, Titania’s Chosens, Multanis, Beasts Of Burden… if all of your creaturekill is stat-based (Lightning Bolt, Vendetta) as opposed to target-based (Fissure, Dark Banishing), then you may be in trouble. And frankly, you can expect to see more of these once Prophecy hits.
CAN YOU HANDLE A LARGE, UNTARGETABLE CREATURE? (D’oh Ranking: 8)
No regeneration and no chump blockers makes Blastoderm a bad boy.
CAN YOU HANDLE A CREATURE WITH PROTECTION? (D’oh Ranking: 10 when playing black or red, 2 when playing anything else)
A lot of black decks simply break down and cry when faced with a Nightwind Glider. Red and black in particular have a lot of casual hate out there — white’s best creatures also are protected. Do you have colorless methods of removal, or a colorless source of damage to throw? This test is particularly critical for black decks, which frequently not only have white creatures to worry about… but black creatures that can’t be gotten rid of by the usual black removal spells.
CAN YOU HANDLE TWENTY TO THE HEAD? (D’oh Ranking: 3)
Eventually, if left unchecked, the red or black player is going to shoot you with a twenty-point Drain Life or a Fireball. Whango. Can you get around it?
CAN YOU HANDLE NINETY TO *HIS* HEAD? (D’oh Ranking: 6)
Lifegain is a surprisingly effective tactic in Multiplayer, thanks mostly to Congregates. A lot of decks don’t have ways of bashing large life totals. The only way of really seeing whether your deck can handle it is playing against some annoying white deck.
CAN YOU HANDLE ENCHANTMENTS? (D’oh Ranking: 7)
If your deck has no way of getting rid of enchantments, you’re gone if a Circle Of Protection hits the table… and although they’re horrible cards, a lot of newbies pack ‘em. Even the reddest or blackest deck should have at least two sources of enchantment removal, just in case. A lot of enchantments come out in the course of a game, but I’ve generally found that only one or two will stop you from winning.
CAN YOU HANDLE ARTIFACTS? (D’oh Ranking: 8)
Slightly easier to handle since every color but one — hi, black!— has SOME way to get rid of them, but there are a surprising number of decks that don’t know what to do if an Ensnaring Bridge hits the table. Make sure you can blow up an artifact or two, and preferably more; in my experience, artifacts hurt more than enchantments.
CAN YOU HANDLE GRAVEYARD RECURSION? (D’oh Ranking: 4)
Combo decks thrive on this. Combo decks are bad. Must kill combo decks. Kill kill kill.
CAN YOU HANDLE GRAVEYARDS GOING BYE-BYE? (D’oh Ranking: 1)
If your deck requires having access to a graveyard, you’d better have some way of protecting it. A “Swords to Plowshares”, a “Tormod’s Crypt”, and an “Eradicate” can kill you right quick.
CAN YOU HANDLE THE BIG BOUNCE? (D’oh Ranking: 3)
A disproportionate amount of blue multi decks revolve around Tradewind Rider and Capsize. This can seriously hurt you, or slow you down to the point where it’s impossible to win the game. If you can’t race a bounce deck by playing more threats than he can bounce, or stop him from bouncing altogether, then just go home, pally.
CAN YOU HANDLE THE BIG TAP?
Some idiot always plays with Puppet Strings. Do you have some way of untapping your big guys, or summoning more to beat the crap out of him?
Note that I do NOT mention land destruction or counterspell, decks which traditionally do not translate well into multiplayer environment. Just plan on losing a land and a spell once in awhile.
Now: Looking at the SneakyWeasels.dec, what are the weaknesses? What can we add?
Creature rushes and reset buttons are no problem. There’s enough small critters to hold off the onslaught, and the mana mix is right, thanks to Jay M. A reset button with a major threat remaining could be troublesome, but if I get a Will O’-The-Wisp, I could be okay, so I’ll leave it at that. Will O’s also handle Blastoderm protection nicely, although I should look into getting four of them.
Single creatures I can take with Eradicate, if need be. The mix of Green and Black saves me from creatures with protection, since practically nothing has protection from green. I am weak against enchantments and artifacts.
What this deck is utterly useless against is:
TWENTY TO THE HEAD. Make sure I target the red and black players first.
GRAVEYARD RECURSION and GRAVEYARD REMOVAL. A definite flaw in this deck, so I’d better bolster that up.
THE BIG BOUNCE AND TAPDANCING. Wait; get the blue player, THEN get the red and black players.
So in the end, what we need to add to this deck to round it out is:
4x Carrion Beetles (a decent first-turn drop, great removal, works better with the Ascendant Evincar I always seem to topdeck)
4x Tormod’s Crypt (bye-bye, competition)
2x Ihsan’s Shade (protection from Plowshares)
4x Pouncing Uselesses
1x Caltrops (what WAS I thinking? Why did I throw one of these in?)
I might, depending on what players I was going head to head with, throw another two Creeping Molds in, but considering how black-heavy this deck is I am loathe to throw in a double-cc green. I’d just be asking to get manascrewed. But that might be something to work on. If the field was Replenish-heavy, I might go for a Refreshing Rain or two, but I’ll hold off.
NEXT ARTICLE: Really, Like I Promised Last Week — The Silence Of The Licids!
Visit The Ferrett Domain if you’re not easily offended. Matter of fact, stay away if you’re offended at all. Probably it’s best if you leave now, really….
*— Although I will fix the deck before I’m done with this column**.
** — But if you’ve scrolled all the way to the bottom of the article and are reading this footnote, you have no doubt READ my SneakyDeath.dec patch already, rendering both of these footnotes useless. God, I love weirdo things like this. By writing in a certain way, I can predict what you will do next! I CONTROL YOU! And for my next amazing trick….