Last time I talked about the broken Worldgorger Dragon multiplayer deck – but also mentioned how, once we had won the match, we pulled out fun decks and played some real Emperor. I want to describe those decks… But first some comments on Magic, having fun, and the problems with a win-at-any-cost attitude. And some comments on Mark Rosewater article on Type 1 that went up on some other website.
I have been playing games for a lot of years. I have had gaming groups appear, grow and fade away. Sometimes people move on because life is like that (e.g. graduation, new jobs, etc.) Other times, people leave a group because they can find better ways to enjoy their evenings.
If you get the crap pounded out of you every game, every session, it’s pretty easy to find a better way to enjoy yourself. I know of one store where new players were beaten to pieces by the owner, who would play really tough control decks or draft killer decks – and play for the rares.
But at another store in town, the owner would play any game with any new player, using a deck made primarily of the commons and uncommons left on the table after drafts. That owner often didn’t win the games, but he generally won the customers.
The same thing can be true of your playgroup. If you build decks that walk all over everyone, every week, then your opponents are going to lose interest.
I used to play a lot of Squad Leader, Illuminati, Call of Cthulhu and random games like Dr. Who and Talisman. I rocked at Squad Leader – in the last year of playing it I lost exactly one game, and that was a small scenario where my opponent got random reinforcements on turn 5. We both had a handful of light infantry units, no armor or artillery, and I had one heavy machine gun. Nearly all the random reinforcement rolls would have given him a couple squads, maybe one support weapon like a flamethrower or PanzerFaust, and so on. He maxed out on the reinforcement roll and got 2 Panzer IVs and a King Tiger.
The fact that I still remember that game – and am still pissing and moaning about it – says two things: First, I took Squad Leader way too seriously, and, second, that I wasn’t very humble about being damn good at it. Which, of course, lead to the next problem – I could not find anyone willing to play Squad Leader with me after a while.
I try not to do that with my Magic decks. I have finally learned that it is more fun to still be playing a year later than it is to rack up twenty straight wins, then stop playing. Which is why I carry good (but not amazing) decks for casual play and group games.
The first deck I carry around is an old favorite I talked about a long time ago, but which sits in my bag almost unchanged. It got built back before 7th edition came out. It does illustrate the basics of my deck building philosophy, with the added twist that it contains no rares at all. (I hated whiny kids complaining that I won because I had better cards.)
The deck has some reasonable power, and can be aggressive, without looking too threatening in a large multiplayer game. Blastoderm is an example of this – it is a tough threat, but it won’t last long enough to worry too many players.
The deck has answers to stupid enchantments and so forth, in the form of Creeping Mold and Wax/Wane.
The deck has solid mana acceleration, in the form of Llanowar and Quirion Elves, plus Silverglade Elementals.
Finally, the deck has a cute little trick for multiplayer: Squallmonger and Armadillo Cloak.
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Quirion Elves
4 River Boa
4 Silverglade Elemental
4 Armadillo Cloak
2 Creeping Mold
2 Wax / Wane
2 Skyshroud Claim
2 Desert Twister
4 Elfhame Sanctuary
Simple, cute, and it produces enough mana that you can often drop an Armadillo Cloak on a Squall Monger, then activate it a couple times, all in one turn. On a good turn, with four opponents and three fliers in play, each Squallmonger activation will do one damage to eight targets, gaining you eight life. If you are really lucky, some opponents may chip in some additional mana just to kill off an annoying flier or two.
It does not have any global effects, so you have to play around stuff like Wrath of God as best you can – but what more can you expect from a no-rares deck that used to be Type 2 legal?
The second deck is a bit more interesting. This is my current favorite. It runs some janky mana acceleration, can drop some serious fatties quickly, and has an infinite mana engine and can use that for the kill.
1 Verdant Force
1 Child of Gaea
1 Multani, Maro-Sorceror
1 Ancient Silverback
R Sol Ring
4 Wall of Roots
4 Argothian Elder
4 Wall of Blossoms
4 Maze of Ith
2 Hidden Spiders
The other stuff:
2 Creeping Mold
2 Gaea’s Blessing
2 Sylvan Library
4 Rocket Launcher
24 mana-producing lands, including 4 Treetop Villages
The deck is simple enough; it stalls a bit on the ground with the Walls and so forth. When Argothian Elder (2/2 for 3G, tap to untap two lands) hits play, most people want to read him. I generally make some disparaging remarks about wanting some non-elf as mana acceleration, and people generally let him alone.
If things are going my way, I will actually cast Ancient Silverback or Child of Gaea and beat down. If it looks like that will not be enough to win the game, I can use the combo. I have an advantage in that the combo is hard to spot and people frequently don’t realize that it’s out and ready.
An example: It’s my turn, and I have a Rocket Launcher and Argothian Elder in play (everything needs to be over summoning sickness, and Rocket Launcher is the only non-creature artifact I can think of that has it). (Well, Nevinyrral’s Disk has it built-in, but we’ll cede the point – The Ferrett) During my first main phase, I play Maze of Ith. At that point, I make a point of announcing my attack phase and asking whether anyone has any effects. Most times, people just stare, wondering what difference it makes if I beat with a 2/2 mana creature. At that point, I declare the Elder as an attacker and say, "I win. Want to play again?"
In response to the confused stares and the "What the hell?" comments, I demonstrate. I untap Elder with Maze of Ith/tap a Forest for G/untap Maze and Forest with Elder/rinse and repeat until I have tons of mana and then shoot everyone with Rocket Launcher. If I have Whetstone instead, I can mill out them – and since I have Gaea’s Blessings, I don’t lose to Feldon’s Cane.
Sure, it’s cheesy… But it isn’t Worldgorger Dragon.
After I win a game that way, I generally don’t have quite as easy a time keeping an Elder in play in future games, but that’s okay. This deck can also drop a turn 3 Multani or turn 4 Verdant, so winning more traditionally is also possible.