Yawgmoth’s Whimsy # 145: Dissension in Multiplayer, Part I

It is the season for set reviews. A deluge of opinions, praise and diatribes is pouring down on Craig like a monsoon with double strike. Every blowhard out there is hammering their keyboards to shower you with brainstorms (and light drizzles). I’ll add to these widely scattered phenomena — my take is, of course, multiplayer and casual.

It is the season for set reviews. A deluge of opinions, praise and diatribes is pouring down on Craig like a monsoon with double strike. Every blowhard out there is hammering their keyboards to shower you with brainstorms (and light drizzles). I’ll add to these widely scattered phenomena — my take is, of course, multiplayer and casual.

A quick caveat: I have played Magic for years. I have written almost 250 articles, and most were paid for with store credit. I have a real job, and my wife also plays. We buy each other cards for Christmas. I almost never trade or sell anything. As a result, my card pool is insane: playsets or double playsets of almost anything from Ice Ages on. That tends to make me a bit cynical/overly critical about newer cards — I mean, why would I play Condemn when I could play Swords to Plowshares instead? I’ll try to control that — and playing online is helping. It’s almost refreshing to have to build and play decks where I don’t have all the cards I need.

Yah — it’s tough being me.

I’ll do this backwards — lands first:

Let’s start with the basics: the new duals (Blood Crypt, Breeding Pool, and Hallowed Fountain) are just fine. Get four of each, or at least of any colors you regularly play, as soon as you possibly can. Online, getting the lands has been my main priority, way ahead of all the fun cards like Heartbeat of Spring and Loxodon Hierarch. Tier 1 decks come and go. Individual cards fluctuate — but only lands hold their value, and are always playable. Look at Standard over the past months: what part of Owling Mine is still really valuable? The Steam Vents and Shivan Reefs.

I will also mention that I love the fact that the bounce lands (Azorius Chancery, Rakdos Carnarium, and Simic Growth Chamber) are also pretty nice. I love having multicolored lands available to new players. I also like being able to mix them with Tendo Ice Bridge, Gemstone Mine, and even depletion lands, to get a lot of colors relatively painlessly. Their only downside is if someone plays land destruction, or effects like Political Trickery/Annex. I carry a box of “deck fixers” — cards like Llanowar Elves, Darksteel Ingots, and other cards that I can give new players to help their decks, and I will probably stick some of the bounce lands in that mix.

Okay, on to the set-specific cards:

Ghost Quarter: I really like the idea of this in multiplayer. Provided you are not going to be color screwed as a result, you can add this into your mix and have a moderate answer to certain combo decks. I can think of several decks that have infinite combos based off certain lands (Maze of Ith), and some lands that are just too annoying in Multiplayer (Maze of Ith again). You kill those lands with Strip Mine or Wasteland, but Ghost Quarter has some political advantages over those cards. Ghost Quarter assures people that you are not going to use it to manascrew someone — merely to stop combos and take out cards like Library of Alexandria. Of course, against some 5-Color decks that run no non-basics, this could be Wasteland/Strip Mine 6-9, but that is a different story.

That said, I would be very worried about anyone who paired this with Crucible of Worlds — and if anyone has Crucible and Exploration/Azusa, Lost but Seeking/Fastbond, I’ll kill them immediately.

Novijen, Heart of Progress: Unless someone beats me to it, I am going to write about my Doubling Season/graft deck. For complete multiplayer brokenness, however, I keep thinking about this in decks with Deranged Hermit (also fun with Doubling Season), or Patriarch’s Bidding, or Living Death. Hey — this could even be a “combo” with Ghostway.

Pillar of the Paruns: Yes, but here’s where I get all cynical and piss people off. This is a playable land, if you don’t have anything better. However, with casual and multiplayer usually allowing everything from Undiscovered Paradise to Mirrodin’s Core, there are better options. This is great (and faster, and less painful) than most alternatives – if your deck is full of multicolored cards — but if not, having a land that taps for nothing is less than amazing. Of course, multiplayer is slower, and being manascrewed/not developing is not as dangerous in multiplayer than in duels, so it’s worth a try.

It is going to be fine in Block, with all the multicolored decks running a host of dual lands. I just pity the fools that find their opening hand to have one shockland, two of these and a couple of Farseeks.

Prahv, Spires of Order: Preventing all damage that a source would deal is a good thing. Spending six mana, plus tapping an additional land, is not. Reflect Damage does more for less (although Reflect Damage could be countered.)

Rix Maadi, Dungeon Palace: In multiplayer, if you play cards like Howling Mine and Mikokoro, Center of the Sea (and don’t follow it with Underworld Dreams) then you are Santa Claus. Everyone loves you, because they love your presents. This, on the other hand… Well, it’s like Lister, in the Red Dwarf episode where he’s on a world where time runs backwards, says: “Santa? What an ass! He’s the bloke that sneaks down the chimney and nicks all the kids’ favorite toys.” Rix Maadi has a very powerful ability — in multiplayer, that ability will probably be uniting all the players in trying to kill its owner first.

The White Cards…

Aurora Eidolon: The ability to sacrifice a creature to prevent damage is marginal — but in multiplayer you can at least use it for political purposes. Saving an opponent or an opponent’s creatures can earn you a future favor, or at least [Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation] “I like you. I kill you last.” [/S. I.]

Azorius Herald: In multiplayer, lifegain can be useful — and the ability to be sure you can get through for damage is even better. This creature can carry a Sword, a Jitte, Curiosity or even Mask or Memory. About the only downside is that it dies to practically anything.

Carom: I play Shelter in multiplayer decks, because it can save my creatures… and use other cards like it for the politics of saving other player’s creatures. Carom may be better — I can see times when this will save a blocker or attacker, and kill off another annoying dude (like Goblin Welder, Peacekeeper, or Royal Assassin) as well.

Proclamation of Rebirth: This is only useful if you can perform some sort of combo with it. My first thought was to use it to reanimate three Phyrexian Dreadnoughts, but their errata make that impossible. Alternatively, you could use it to generate a bunch of mana with Blood Pets (actually, that merely turn 2W into BBB), or something like that. Buried Alive could prime the pump. Grave Pact, Blood Pets, Bloodbond March — that would be a free board control and a bunch of mana — but the forecast cost is so high the “combo” generates negative mana. This might work if Sol Ring was a creature, but it’s not.

Proper Burial: The old Sneak Attack multiplayer decks used to run Angelic Chorus to build life totals while running out creatures. This would do the same basic things — too bad so many of the reanimation effects around nowadays remove creatures from the game instead of killing them. However, you can always get around that problem with Greater Good, or something like Goblin Bombardment, so that won’t be a problem. What makes it better is that bad players may aim their Disenchants at this instead of Sneak Attack.

Wakestone Gargoyle: It is the new Rolling Stones. The old Rolling Stones was pretty useless, but Wall decks were fun. Unnatural Selection decks were better, up until creature type “wall” became keyword “defender.” Unnatural Selection decks worked because Unnatural Selection had other uses besides making walls walk. Like Unnatural Selection, and unlike Rolling Stones, Wakestone Gargoyle is marginally useful in it’s own right.

The Slightly Soggy Splash of Blue Cards…

Court Hussar: This is a great example of a decent, if not spectacular, multiplayer card. If your playgroup runs towards game-ending combos on turn 3, this is pretty much worthless. In normal games, this is an Impulse that leaves you a creature to keep weenie beats away — or to buy you a turn when a monster charges you. I would put this in the same category as Benalish Heralds, which was another card I really like in multiplayer games. Cheap, effective, but not enough to get anyone worrying about you.

Cytoplast Manipulator: Compare this with Court Hussar: Cytoplast Manipulator is the exact opposite. Court Hussar says, “I’m just keeping up — don’t worry about me,” while having a big enough butt to keep the bears away. The Manipulator says “look, I’m going to steal the best creature on the board — and possibly every other creature if my controller has something to give creatures counters. Fear me!” — and it dies to practically anything. The secret to multiplayer is to look unthreatening and ineffectual while being too tough to be worth killing. This is extremely threatening but barely able to protect itself. If it grafts and steals once, it dies to Zap. That’s not good.

Govern the Guildless: All Control Magic effects can be good in multiplayer — and this is no exception. It has the advantage that, like Dominate, it does not die to a Naturalize at inconvenient times. The cost to hit a mono-colored card is high (6UU), but not impossible. The forecast ability could even be useful — for example, in a Light of Day/Darkest Hour deck.

Novijen Sages: In the past, I have played decks that developed card advantage by reanimating Mindless Automaton with Corpse Dance or Coffin Queen. The Sages will get you two cards when Corpse Danced, every turn. In Extended or Standard, you would have to flip a Nezumi Graverobber to get the effect every turn. Vigor Mortis would be only one shot, but it would get you a spare counter.

Now for the Black Cards

Bond of Agony: On the plus side, this multiplies the life you risk by the number of players in the game. On the down side, you really are gambling that life: you pay life when the spell goes on the stack — if it gets countered, or you get burned out while the spell is one the stack, you lose. In multiplayer, this is a very high-risk, high-reward spell. I would hate to have this one Twincasted or Forked!

Delirium Skeins: This will be far more reaching in multiplayer than in duels, but it is powerful in either case. Players’ initial reactions will be to hate you for casting it, but that will be tempered as they look around the table and see all the good stuff their opponents lose too.

Nightcreep: This has three possible uses. The first is to allow a bunch of Swampwalkers to get through where they could not before. (“Haha! Sol’Kanar strides across your plains and smacks you one!”) The second is some sort of combo land destruction: this, Kormus Bell, and Simoon, perhaps. The third is to shut down responses before casting something you really don’t want countered — like Bonds of Agony. Just cast this first main phase, go to combat to empty mana pools, then cast Bonds second main phase. To counter, your opponents will either need artifact mana, color washers, or Force of Will.

Ratcatcher: This is not even a Legend — so you can have several in play at once. It will let you search out Crypt Rats, discard rats, Ink-Eyes, etc. If you are into rat-themed deck — hey, Willard! — this one’s for you. As for the rest of us, we’ll just shudder and call Will-Kill™ pest control service.

Wit’s End: I just had to mention that this is as expensive (or more expensive) than Mind Twist in every case (unless your opponent has played nothing but Spellbook all game.) Bad card! No cookie for you!

And after opening the packs I won at the prerelease, this is my first duplicate rare.

Let’s light up some Flaming Red Cards…

Demonfire: An uncounterable X spell is always good. It is very difficult to stop (but not impossible — just make the target illegal, e.g. by giving it protection from Red with Shelter, and it will be countered by the game rules.) Kaervek’s Torch is nearly as good, since that is also hard to counter, but this better.

Ignorant Bliss: This is clearly a Hellbent enabler, but it has other benefits. In multiplayer, this spell can read “Counter target discard spell or ability, draw a card.” It would also be amusing to combo this with Delirium Skeins — cast Skeins, cast this in response — everyone discards but you. Then they all gang up on you, of course — but with far fewer cards in hand.

Kindle the Carnage: When I first heard about this, I was told it targeted a creature or player. I had visions of casting Congregation at Dawn for three Autochthon Worms at end of turn, then Vision Skeins to draw all three, then discarding Wurms until at least two opponents are dead. In duels — well, Stomping Grounds, Birds, turn two kill if you had a Wurm in hand… if not, Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author], Congregation at Dawn end of turn, kill on turn 3. Throw in some Remands, Telling Time and so forth, and have at it — but then I saw the real card. It’s just a bad Earthquake; worse, since it does not hit players. I liked my version better.

Stalking Vengeance: Here’s another card for your Sneak Attack deck. Cheat cards out, sacrifice them and smack more people. If you don’t like Sneak Attack, try one-shot creatures like Ball Lightning and Skizzik. Of course, in that case you have to actually cast Stalking Vengeance, but that isn’t impossible.

If you like building around bad rares, this is a combo with Junkyo Bell. If that doesn’t float your boat, try Insurrection and a handful of Phyrexian Dreadnoughts.

Stormscale Anarch: Long ago, Mike Hron played a Squee Abuse deck to a money finish at an extended Grand Prix. His deck played Ogre Shaman, which was pretty much the same card as the Anarch. Mike used Squee, Goblin Nabob, to power the discard. Absent Squee, the best options might be the Eidolons, the 2/2s that you can return to your hand whenever you cast a multicolored card. That said, cards like Kumano or Masticore might be more cost effective if you have to kill a lot of creatures or players.

War’s Toll Wow, will this mess up opponents. Anyone that wants to play spells on their turn (and instants or abilities on other turns) is hosed. Anyone with cards like Royal Assassin or Goblin Welder must decide between attacking with them or staying home, unless they can use them before combat. This will really screw up some decks, but it is not going to win you many friends. Remember what I’ve said about cards that piss off the table without winning the game?

Weight of Spires Price of Progress costs one more mana, and kills half the table. If you want a cheap burn spell that only targets creatures, this is probably it. If you want a more powerful hitter, Price of Progress.

The Tree-Hugger’s Guide to Green Cards…

Cytoplast Root-Kin: The graft is not that special, nor is the counter moving ability. However, the “comes into play” ability could be amazing — if you have three creatures in play, you have a 4/4 with a free Thrive thrown in. In large creature stalls, this is incredible — especially in a Spikes deck. I like it — but I also like putting counters on my Birds of Paradise with Fangren Firstborn.

Flash Foliage: I love the ability to block unblockable creatures. I love the idea of blocking Sol’Kanar in a swamp. I love the idea of Keiga flying headfirst into a tree. I also love cantrips. That said, this is a very specialized card — and I don’t know that I would want to waste space in the maindeck. I might put one in my Cunning Wish sideboard, however.

Indrik Stomphowler: Of course I’ll rave over this. I play Viridian Zealots in practically every Green deck in every format where they are legal. I play Viridian Shamans, Uktabi Orangutans, Elvish Lyrists, and Cloudchaser Eagles. I have even played decks with Woodrippers. Stomphowler is more versatile than any of those. Sweet.

Protean Hulk: I keep talking about Sneak Attack decks — but this would also work with Through the Breach, if you prefer Standard or Extended combos. Simply bring this into play with Through the Breach, and when you sacrifice it at end of turn, get a Birds of Paradise, Sakura Tribe Elder and an Eternal Witness — and next turn get Kokusho, Yosei, or Keiga, as appropriate. It should find a home in a Greater Good deck, as well.

Sprouting Phytohydra: I want to try this with Pestilence or another source of repeating damage. The ability to put tons of creatures into play seems really good — but I’m not sure what to do with the resulting hoard of walls. Some options are too good: Aether Flash, and something like Spidersilk Armor to keep them alive, would result in infinite creatures — and unless you can interrupt the chain, the game becomes a draw.

Two pingers, like Viashino Fangtails, plus this and an Intruder Alarm would be infinite damage. Have the first pinger ping something, then have the second ping a Phytohydra and everything untaps when the new Phytohydra appears

Stomp and Howl: Nice, but no cigar. Unless you have both an enchantment and an artifact to target, you cannot cast this. So, if your opponent is about to win via Battle of Wits, and there are no artifacts to be found, this is dead. This card is better in multiplayer than in duels, because the odds of finding both targets is greater, but you can say exactly the same thing about Decimate. That requires four targets — artifact, sorcery, land, and creature, and it has proved unplayable.

That’s enough for now. In part two, I’ll cover the fun cards: Gold, Splits and Artifacts. Okay, the fun cards, and artifacts.

pete {dot} jahn {at} verizon {dot} net