Yawgmoth’s Whimsy # 146: Dissension in Multiplayer, Part II

Pete presents part two of the review slanted towards Multiplayer, plus some too-late-for-Regionals “tech,” and a fun multiplayer deck. You know when you are really busy but have a taste for something, so you throw together a strange mix of stuff for dinner? Yeah, it’s like that.

It’s part two of the review slanted towards Multiplayer, plus some too-late-for-Regionals “tech,” and a fun multiplayer deck. You know when you are really busy but have a taste for something, so you throw together a strange mix of stuff for dinner? It’s like that.

Wrapping up the multiplayer review:

Gold Cards

Aethermage’s Touch
This is not exactly Sneak Attack, but it is pretty close. You can use a lot of things to put creatures on the top of your library — Worldly Tutor, Scroll Rack, Congregation at Dawn, etc. — and this will get the creature into play long enough to block. If you pop it out on your end step, it will hang around through your next combat step. If you really want to keep the creature in play, use something like Otherworldly Journey to move it out of the game, and back in, so that the “return to hand” effect loses track of it. That works, but I question whether a tutor plus a two-card combo is a better way of getting creatures into play than just casting them. It depends on the creature, of course — but I still think I would prefer Tooth and Nail in most cases. One card for two creatures…

I like having cards that meddle in everyone else’s combat phase. I also like the ability to wait until Verdant Force is declared as an attacker, then have him turn into one of his Saprolings — or have a chump blocker become a Verdant Force and trade. That said, you are trading the staying power of rares like Clone and Vesuvan Doppelganger for the instant speed and combat trick. That’s quite a sacrifice (but it is removal when you can copy a spike or graft creature).

Experiment Kraj
This is a casual multiplayer card. It is extremely powerful, since multiplayer games will generally have a lot of creatures with activated abilities. It is also somewhat slow, and powers up opponents’ creatures, so it won’t look really threatening. It is also hard (although hardly impossible) to kill. On the downside — it is S — L — O — W. In higher power multiplayer games, with lots of machine guns like Wraths / Deeds / combos, this is merely a very pretty knife.

Grand Arbiter Augustin IV
This is a very powerful card, and a very powerful effect. One opponent at the prerelease had one in play turn 4 both games, and I had a heck of a time winning that match. In multiplayer, the main problem with this sort of effect is political — adding a mana to all their spells is going to anger your opponents, who may well decide it’s time to kill the Arbiter — or its controller.

Isperia the Inscrutable
This card almost makes playing with Telepathy effects worthwhile. It’s an aggressively costed 3/6 flier, and it can usually get through the first time and hit, especially if you play a Boomerang, first. After that you can fetch Wandering Eye, and hitting in the future will be a lot easier. It’s a fine casual card: just powerful enough to win games, but not enough anger everyone. In a Wrath / Deed / combo multiplayer metagame, of course, it’s just this side of useless.

It’s cute, I guess, for a frog. However, like every other judge out there, I want to remind you this is not Humble. It does only what it says — makes a creature’s power and toughness 3, and it’s type “Frog.” It does not change colors, or remove abilities, or anything else that might be useful. That last pretty much sums up the card: not useful, unless your primary goal is to take 1/1 unblockable creatures and turn them into 3/3 unblockable frogs. It can do that.

In multiplayer and casual, a card that combines life gain and a reasonably hard counter is quite playable. In duels, this will require testing, but I doubt it will make a splash. In long, slow multiplayer games, where you might only see one or two opposing spells that you absolutely have to counter all game, this is pretty good.

Pain Magnification
Remember how I said that, if a card is going to piss people off, it should win you the game? This will piss people off, and it might be good enough to win you the game. I keep having visions of playing this and following it with Sizzle, then Earthquake for three plus. They don’t win if they don’t have cards.

Pride of the Clouds
I’m not sure why this is a cat, not a bird, but either way it is playable. Radiant, Archangel has been seen in casual and multiplayer decks for years, because you can see a lot of fliers in a big multiplayer game. The legendary pumpers can get huge. I’m not convinced about the Forecast effect – Sacred Mesa seems to be a better way of producing fliers, but you could always play both.

Simic Sky Swallower
Large, evasive creatures are very good multiplayer, where games are often slow enough to allow you to cast them. Akroma was powerful because she was untargettable by Black and Red removal — this is untargettable by any removal. Cruel Edict, Wrath of God… or it lives — and it wins fights with all of the Kamigawa block dragon legends.

Swift Silence
In most cases and most multiplayer groups I am familiar with, this is only going to counter one, or maybe a couple of spells. In one other place, however, this spell will rock: Eye of the Storm decks. Once this resolves, if someone has any mana left, they should win. They simply put any spells they want, like Early Harvest, on the stack above this. Then this goes on the stack, then all the spells they don’t need to have resolve underneath this. Then the good stuff resolves, and everything else gets countered — and the caster draws a bunch of cards. As long as the mana holds out, that player should be able to draw their deck and win that turn.

Trygon Predator
In multiplayer, it is critically important to have answers to the strange and wonderful artifacts and enchantments players may have. That’s why I always play cards like Nantuko Vigilante in my Five-Color deck, and cards like Viridian Zealot whenever possible. Trygon Predator is a reusable Naturalize that does not hit you own stuff on an evasive beatstick. What’s not to like?

If Trygon Predator is “what’s not to like,” Voidslime is all that in ALLCAPS. It counters practically anything.

Split Cards

Bound / Determined
The Bound half of the card may see some play in Five-Color. Maybe. The advantage is that, if you sacrifice the right creature, this can be another All Sun’s Dawn or Restock. The disadvantage is that you have to sacrifice a multicolored creature to get a decent effect. This card is great when you sacrifice Transguild Courier — but that required you to actually play Transguild Courier. Even though the courier can count as one of the hard-to-fill Red slots, that’s asking a lot.

The Determined half does make a nice counterspell for counterspells, of course, so the some decks may want it. And it’s a cantrip. I’m just not wild about it.

Crime / Punishment
Crime is a fine multiplayer card. Beacon of Unrest costs about the same, and it was/is a great card. In multiplayer games, you should always be able to find a creature worth taking — and having the ability to get an enchantment is gravy. Vindicate Debtor’s Knell, steal Debtor’s Knell — I’m still grinning. After all, it wasn’t my Debtor’s Knell — at least, not at first.

Hide / Seek
Both halves are cheap, which is a plus. Hide deals with recent annoyances like Darksteel Colossus, and even old school problems like Drop of Honey and The Abyss. In multiplayer games, this will almost never be dead. As for the Seek part of the card — well, this is absolutely brutal if imprinted on an Isochron Scepter. Just remember to target the most dangerous, most feared player at the table, otherwise that player might become you and you will get creamed. Of course, as long as this remains active, creaming you can be tricky — especially if you also have a Seedborn Muse in play.

Research / Development
I have had a long love affair with the Wishes, ever since they were introduced. Online, Living Wish was the first expensive old card I bought (along with a couple of fetchlands.) Putting cards into your library is never as good as putting them in your hand, but adding sideboard cards to your deck game 1 is still fine — especially if you have tutors. Just remember that adding card can mess with your odds of drawing lands, so make sure you have your mana base established before you cast this. As for the other half, I have never been as excited by “opponent chooses” cards, and this doesn’t change my mind.

Rise / Fall
This is a reasonable multiplayer card. Rise — a combination of Unsummon and Raise Dead — is more likely to have two deserving targets in multiplayer than in duals, where it could be stranded. Fall is very close to Hymn to Tourach, but without being able to hit lands. Ingrid, my wife, loves Hymn — so I have learned to fear and hate it. I expect to have the same reaction to Fall — I’m just glad it isn’t an instant. Fall on an Isochron Scepter: *shudder*.

Supply / Demand
It is a shame — or maybe a good thing — that this is not an instant. Getting a bunch (Stand? Grove?) of Saprolings at instant speed would be almost Decree of Justice. Fetching Putrefy or Terminate or even Hide/Seek at instant speed would too good. Even as a sorcery, I expect the 5CRC will be voting to restrict, because this is a pretty decent tutor.

Guild Mana Cards

Azorius Guildmage
This may be an example of a card that is better in duels than in multiplayer. The ability to counter activated abilities is wonderful, and often useful, but it costs three mana. That may be affordable when every other untap is yours — less so when your untaps come less frequently. It is also an easily targetable 2/2. In multiplayer, I would almost prefer a Squelch — and that’s not a card I play, either. (Okay, once, in an Elder Dragon Highlander deck, but I didn’t draw it…)

Biomantic Mastery
Here’s the reverse — a card that is much better in multiplayer than in duels. In multiplayer, this should draw you a new hand every time — and possibly more. The only downside is the casting cost, and that is less of a problem in multiplayer, where slow development is usually not as crippling. In multiplayer, there are usually other targets for your opponents to beat on when you start slowly.

Dovescape is going to be a total house against some decks, and do almost nothing against others. One thing it won’t do is make you a lot of friends. To really push this over the edge, however, I would play this with some enhancers. Simoon on an Isochron Scepter would be fine, so long as you can get the Scepter in place before the Dovescape. Dovescape and Boseiju are also a nice combo, if you can afford the life loss, since Boseiju means you get the Doves and the spell. As for affording the life loss — Congregate should fit into such a deck nicely. Or, if you don’t like letting you opponents keep their birds, try playing Dovescape and Goblin Sharpshooter.

Simic Guildmage
Wow, is this guy sweet! I’m trying to remember exactly when I fell in love. Was it when I moved an opponent’s Faith’s Fetters off my creature and onto a land? When I moved a Pillory onto a Genju land post combat, then watched it fall off EOT? How about when I started moving Elvish Guidance from Forest to Forest to generate a pazillion mana? Nice — but I think I really fell when I put a Moldervine Cloak on my Kodama of the North Tree.

Opponents are not happy when you do that.

I have been goofing around with a UG aggro deck, with Plaxmanta, Simic Guildmage, Birds of Paradise, Moldervine Cloak, counters, Kodama of the North Tree and so forth. The ability to move Cloaks at instant speed is very good — it made combat math a mess for my opponents. I had flashbacks to playing beatdown with Spike creatures — except that my Spike creatures were 5/5s.


Bronze Bombshell
Every so often I build a deck that combos just once, for laughs, then gets discarded. When I opened my fourth Bronze Bombshell, I made one: Bronze Bombshell, Followed Footsteps… and Reins of Power. Hehehe.

Of course, after I traded my five Bombshells for an opponent’s creatures, no one would ever let me get a Followed Footsteps on a Bombshell again, but it was fun once.

Evolution Vat
I don’t like this too much in multiplayer. I can see a couple of clunky infinite combos that could be built around the Vat. The problem is that everyone else will worry about the same thing, meaning that you may become Public Enemy Number One. None of the combos look good enough to win automatically, so getting killed for looking like they can is not worth it. None of the non-combo uses look good to justify that hate. Wait — I tell a lie: this could be a lot of fun with Etched Oracle in play, and that synergy might be obvious enough that the other players won’t expect another combo.

Walking Archive
I want to like this. I really do. I want to find some silly combo, like this, plus Evolution Vat and twenty-five mana. (That would allow you to put an extra counter on the Walker, then double the number of counters five times — meaning your opponent will draw 65 cards next turn, and thus deck themselves.) Okay, maybe that qualifies, but I’m still not convinced I want to play a Howling Mine that dies to practically every removal spell ever printed, including Chaos Charm. Huh — it doesn’t die to Chaos Charm. Why haven’t they errataed Chaos Charm to destroy creatures with Defender? Oh well — it is still a Howling Mine that dies to Zap! That is not a compliment.

I meant to write a separate article about Doubling Season / Graft decks, but I am so far behind on everything that I’ll just add it in here. I will note that I tried tweaking this deck for Standard and Regionals, but it is not quite good enough. I don’t really see this as amazing for Standard, but it should be a blast in block — and it is a fun multiplayer / casual deck.

Let’s look at what happens with Doubling Season in play.

Plaxcaster Frogling: It’s just a 6/6 for three mana, with a nice protective ability. I guess he’d make the deck.

Plaxmanta: He’s even better. When grafted, he’s a 4/4 for UG that counters removal spells or leaps in front of attackers. “Aha! I’m not dead” or “Aha! You are!”

Vigean Hydropon: It comes into play with ten little counters, and whenever another creature comes into play, it loses one counter and puts two counters on that creature. Still, it can’t attack, so it may not always make the cut.

Helium Squirter: a 6/6 for five mana — pathetic by the standard of this deck. However, the ability to give other creatures evasion is worth considering. That said, when creatures begin getting into the 10/10 range or better, do you want flying or trample? Cytospawn Shambler costs 6G, but you get a 12/12 that can give everything trample.

Cytoplast Root-Kin: It is an 8/8 for 2GG that puts two counters on practically every creature in the deck. Its second ability reads: 2: take a counter off some other creature, put two on Root-Kin.

Leafdrake Roost: Probably unnecessary, but in the late game, when you have few cards in hand but plenty of mana, it reads UG, {tap}: put a pair of 2/2 Drakes into play.

Simic Guildmage: It’s primary ability reads: “1G: take a counter off one creature, put a pair of counters on another.” It’s even better than the old Spike tricks we used to play with Secret Force decks.

Novijen Sages: They are an 8/8 for six mana that can draw a lot of cards. That said, they seem to be a “win more” card. If you have some graft creatures and a Doubling Season in play, you may not need to draw a lot more cards.

Rounding out the deck:


Birds of Paradise: Birds of Paradise will help accelerate and fix mana, and can beat down later in the game. Usually, drawing a Bird in the late game is nothing special, but they get better when you have a pair of Doubling Seasons, a Root-Kin and a couple Vigean Hydropons in play. Then they become the 6/7 flying, trampling Birds of Doom! (If I were premium, Yawgatog would stick a Birds of Doom in here. First time I’ve really regretted not being premium.) [Heh. Just for you, Pete. — Craig]

Cytoshape: If you are playing graft creatures, you have to play Cytoshape. You can target an opponent’s Keiga, then choose one of your graft creatures. Keiga becomes a copy of the printed values of your chosen card: meaning a 0/0 graft creature. The former Keiga dies — but since it is just a graft creature, it no longer has the nifty “go to graveyard steal some creature” clause.

Supply / Demand: Tutor for the good stuff, or just make a lot of tokens. You probably don’t need many copies, but even two would help. Demand would also allow you to play a handful of silver bullets, like Trygon Predator — or Research / Development, the silver bullet for silver bullets.

Remand: Why not?

Other options worth considering include some form of Naturalize (maybe Sundering Vitae?), Peel from Reality (to reset graft creatures running low on counters and to eliminate blockers) and an untargettable, like Kodama of the North Tree. Graft does not target, so you can counter up North Tree. If you do run North Tree, and Simic Guildmage, then think about Moldervine Cloak.

Here’s another Doubling Season deck scenario, just for giggles:

Turn 1: Forest, Birds.
Turn 2: Land, Signet, Signet.
Turn 3: Land, Doubling Season.
Turn 4: Witch Maw Nephilim, Sleight of Hand.
Turn 5: Land, Simic Guildmage, Thrive for two, move counter, move counter, Gather Strength (tapping Guildmage), beat for seventeen.

Likely? Not really.
Fun? Could be, could be…


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