I want to cover the multiplayer decks I am playing at present. At least one of the groups I play with now tends to switch decks frequently, so I have started carrying several at any given time. Some are variants of previous decks, but at least two are new.
The Megrim Deck:
I haven’t done this for a while, so I built a deck around Megrim and Underworld Dreams. Megrim makes opponents take damage when they discard, while Underworld Dreams makes opponents take damage when they draw cards. The kill card for this deck is Wheel and Deal. I have four – it’s a bad rare that often ends up on the table after a draft. However, with a Megrim and Dreams on the table, casting back-to-back Wheel and Deals will deal at least twenty-one damage to everyone else at the table. That’s pretty good in multiplayer games.
In an emergency, you can cast Wheel and Deal targeting zero players, and just draw your own card. Just think of it as very expensive cycling.
This is a combo deck so you need lots of ways of finding the parts. That has to include card drawing, tutors, and some defenses. It will also be two colors, blue and black, so the mana isn’t much of a problem.
I was going to start with the mana, but that is tied up with the card drawing, so I’ll start with one of the main reasons this deck works at all: Brainstorm. This deck absolutely needs to find the protection and combo pieces early, together with the other useful cards. Brainstorm is pretty good at that sort of thing – for one blue mana, it gets to dig three cards deep. With fetch lands, Brainstorm is an unrestricted Ancestral Recall. The combination is good enough to justify running the fetch lands, even though the deck wants all the mana it can get. Brainstorm also helps by putting dead cards like Wheel and Deal back in the deck when you don’t have Megrim and Underworld Dreams in play.
The mana is a combination of U/B lands. I run the following:
4 Underground Sea
4 Polluted Delta
2 Bad River (Mirage fetch land)
4 Salt Marsh
1 Cephalid Coliseum
It’s not exactly mana, but I also run three Sapphire Medallions (although Nightscape Familiar) would also work. Many of the people I play with are willing to waste burn spells on Familiars, so I prefer Medallions.
The next part is the card drawing. In addition to the four Brainstorms, I run three Repulses. I also run some tutors, but since I play Type I rules, these are restricted. I have one Vampiric Tutor, one Demonic Tutor and one (restricted) Fact or Fiction. I also run four Shadowmage Infiltrators for multiplayer games. Shadowmage Infiltrators are great in multiplayer games, since they will always be able to attack someone. The only time this does not work is playing Emperor as Emperor, since the Infiltrators cannot attack, unless you give them to a Lieutenant, in which case they draw the cards. For those games, I replace the Infiltrators with Rhystic Study.
I have been playing Rhystic Study in this deck, on and off, even in multiplayer chaos games. It is either insane or useless – and it depends a lot on who you are playing with. If your opponents don’t pay the extra mana, then you draw a ton of cards. If the opponents are good players, they pay the extra mana and Rhystic Study is useless. In many ways, I think Rhystic Study is a great method of determining just how good your opponents are. Far too many casual players don’t think about including card drawing in their decks – and don’t worry about an opponent who is drawing more cards. They will learn – or lose – but in the meantime, Rhystic Study can wreck them.
For defense, I have found that three Fog Banks provide sufficient defense, when combined with the Repulses. I also have some utility cards, including two Arcane Denials and two or three Recoils or Rushing Rivers. As an alternative win condition (or emergency defense) I run two Morphlings. So far, I have only cast the Morphlings twice, and only attacked with them in one game.
The kill is three Underworld Dreams (I would play four if I had them), four Megrims, and four Wheel and Deals. I try to hold the Wheel and Deals until I have both an Underworld Dreams and Megrim in play. By that time, I usually have two Wheel and Deals. On a good turn, I can cast them back to back, and even if everyone has empty hands, back to back Wheel and Deals deal twenty-eight points of damage. On a bad day, I may have to cast one at the end of my last opponent’s turn, then the other on my own turn.
A couple of notes on what is not in the deck: I do not run any targeted discard – no Duress, no Hymn to Tourach, no Cackling Fiend. While that type of discard is extremely useful in T1 duels (well, except for Cackling Fiend), it isn’t all that useful in multiplayer. In a duel, cards like Hymn to Tourach can rip critical cards out of the opponent’s hand, potentially giving you a winning position. In multiplayer, however, ripping critical cards out of one player’s hand is not all that useful – you have too many opponents, and all you’ve done is annoy one of them.
Discard can combine very well with Megrim, since every card discarded also causes two points of damage. However, that is a bad thing in multiplayer games. In multiplayer, it is never good to give a wounded enemy a chance to retaliate. It is very bad to annoy or irritate them without putting them out of the game. Playing a Megrim/discard deck is threatening, and playing individual discard cards merely stresses that fact. In most multiplayer games, people will be building their positions and deciding whom to attack in the early and midgame periods. Playing combos like Megrim/Duress in that period merely attracts notice – it angers and threatens people without crippling them.
I win often enough that people target me already on general principle. Goading them one, with non-lethal tricks like Megrim/single-card discard, is just begging to get slaughtered. It is bad enough that I am playing Megrim and – especially – Underworld Dreams, which are threatening. I want the discard to be a single, massive kill, which Wheel and Deal generally is.
I avoid cards like Hypnotic Specter and Doomsday Specter for the same general reasons – I don’t want to inflict a lot of little wounds early. Instead, I want to inflict one big wound and end the game.
Let me try an analogy: Here’s what my opponent may be thinking in a game where an opponent is trying a death by a thousand little cuts.
Ouch! Okay, that’s his plan …. Ow! I’ll hit him back… Ouch – I’m getting tired of this!! … Ow again – I think it’s time to teach him a lesson…. Damn! I’m really hurting!! Enough of holding back for greater threats – I’m gonna smash him if it’s the last thing I do!! … That’s it – time t offer an alliance – I promise immunity to everyone else if they help me SMASH THAT GUY!
That is not what I want opponent’s thinking about me. Here’s what I would prefer:
Okay, he’s not doing much… I wonder if he’s mana screwed… He must be drawing poorly…. That’s a strong card, but he has some defenses – it is going to cost me to attack. I don’t see anything to combo with that – I’ll wait…. I wonder what he is trying to do… His position is strong, but I still don’t see what his deck can do – and he is not a threat. That other guy is – I’ll attack over there…Humm, nothing happening… His deck must do something…
And, if I play it correctly, this is followed by:
Wait – what does that card do? Let me read it. Huh? And that does what?! WTF!! Are you sure?!? Okay, I guess we lose. (or, alternatively) That’s a wicked combo. I think I’m screwed. Is there anything in my deck that gets me out of it? In time? Scoop!
In short, it is a lot easier to survive if you don’t look like a serious threat right up until you win. In those situations, your opponents can almost always find some other threat to whale on, first. Sure, my reputation for winning generally gets me a couple hits early, but that’s why I play some cheap walls and blockers, like Wall of Roots, Wall of Souls, or Fog Bank. Generally, people won’t waste great removal cards on those non-threatening defenders, leaving me time to set up the kill or lock. However, looking sufficiently non-threatening also means you have to avoid playing the minor annoyance cards – and not giving people the idea you might be holding them. That’s why I avoided any discard in the deck, other than Recoil (and I seriously considered playing Boomerang or Raging River, instead.)
The Ferrett would call this politics. Anthony Alongi used to say there are no politics in multiplayer. I agree with both – I call the principle of laying low and looking non-threatening”common sense.”
Here are some simple rules for common sense deck building. The rules come in couplets (okay, pairs – I’m not doing this in meter). The first half of each pair are things every deck should have. The second are the circumstances in which you use those cards.
It is always important to be able to kill a creature that messes with your game plans, whether that creature is a Royal Assassin, Peacekeeper or Masticore. Having a Swords to Plowshares in hand and one white mana available means peace of mind.
Creature Removal Circumstances:
Save that creature removal for creatures that can kill you or ones that lock up the game. Never kill anything that is just doing a couple points, unless the loss of life puts you at real risk (like into burn range) Generally, let other people kill the annoying creatures.
One exception to the rule is that you can use removal to interfere with other people’s battles – killing one of a bunch of chump blockers, for example – but make sure you don’t seriously hurt anyone in doing so. Finally, burn spells are removal. Never fire off a Lightning Bolt randomly at some one’s head – not unless you a) kill him, and b) benefit because he is out of the game.
Artifact And Enchantment Removal:
Have a way to deal with Worship, Humility, Nevinyrral’s Disk and so forth. Disenchant, Tranquility, even Serenity can all have their uses.
Artifact and Enchantment Removal Circumstances:
Never waste these on trivial targets. Squirrel Nest is merely annoying – but it is not a fatal threat until Earthcraft hits the board. If you have instant speed enchantment kill, wait for that moment, then kill the Nest in response to Earthcraft going on the stack. Killing enchantments and artifacts that are not a fatal threat merely draws attention to yourself. Killing ones that would otherwise win the game makes you a hero with the other players.
Don’t Forget Land Kill:
Creeping Mold is better than Naturalize, and Pillage better than Shatter, in one respect – they can both kill Maze of Ith or Library of Alexandria.
Land Kill Circumstances:
Never, ever kill land just because you can – and think long and hard before you kill land to mana screw someone. Odd are, no one else will see them as a threat while land screwed, and they will survive to draw land – and come seeking vengeance. There are very few lands I would consider killing – Library of Alexandria, perhaps, Kjeldoran Outpost, Volrath’s Stronghold, a land enchanted with Squirrel Nest, Noxious Field, or Caustic Tar in some cases, Gaea’s Cradle or Tolarian Academy if someone can clearly abuse them, and Glacial Chasm in a deck with Squallmonger. And Maze of Ith, on general principle. That’s probably about it. Land destruction pisses people off without killing them off – so don’t ever use it casually. That said, the other deck I want to talk about is a multiplayer land destruction deck.
Before that, however, one last story about the Dream deck. One game came down to me, with the Dreams deck, and a kid with a mono-white deck running lifegain and some defensive creatures. I was at five life or so, he was at about seventy. The kid’s friends were all excited – lots of”He’s at sixty-nine life! Awesome!” – and so forth. I’m drawing cards off a couple of Shadowmage Infiltrators. The kid is all excited, but he isn’t getting any damage through – and if you are not getting damage through, and are not playing Test of Endurance, then lifegain just delays losing. In this case, I got two Megrims and two Underworld Dreams into play. He ends his turn with 1 card in hand, after activating Atalya, Samite Master for another nineteen life points. I cast Wheel and Deal. He discarded the card he had in hand (four damage from the Megrim) and drew seven cards (fourteen damage from the Underworld Dreams.) I untapped and cast Wheel numbers two and three during my upkeep. He pitched all seven cards to the first Wheel (taking twenty-eight damage), drew seven more (fourteen damage), pitched them (another twenty-eight damage) and drew seven more for a final fourteen points of damage. Over a hundred damage in his end step and my upkeep phase. Lifegain is not a winning strategy. The Dreams deck, on the other hand, seems to be.
It also makes a great Emperor deck. Both Megrim and Underworld Dreams only affect opponents.
The LD Deck
Okay, now on to the land destruction deck. In some respects, it is similar to the Marksman deck Jay M-S is playing online and writing about. While I like his deck concept for duels, I would make some basic changes for multiplayer. First off, I play in real life, so I can use cards from Urza’s Saga and older editions that don’t exist online. Kamahl is an okay method to turn lands into creatures, but he takes one mana per land. That means that you cannot usually afford to wipe out all opponents’ lands in one big swoop. The Marksman requires several swipes – and that violates the main rules of multiplayer: Never hurt anyone who can strike back, and never look threatening until you can win.
Now, if I have an active Sharpshooter, I don’t want to play Kamahl to affect lands. I want to play something like Living Lands, which makes all lands 1/1 creatures. Then I can clear the board. Or if you don’t want to play green, try Blanket of Night and Kormus Bell – it works, and earns some strange style points.
The problem, of course, is that you want to clear the board. Sharpshooter and Living Lands just gets rid of the lands – meaning that the enraged opponents still have creatures left in play. Creatures can kill you. That’s why I would play Venomous Fangs on my Sharpshooter, before making all lands into creatures. Then I would consider Nature’s Revolt, which would make all lands into 2/2s. A Sharpshooter with Venomous Fangs could still kill all opposing lands, but now your lands could also swing for the win.
Anyway, I did the Sharpshooter/Fangs thing a while back, so I wanted a different approach. I still wanted to use Terravore, however, and global LD spells. I decided to start with some mana creatures, some artifact mana and lots of land. Something like this:
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Yavimaya Elder
4 Wall of Roots
3 Moss Diamond
4 Fire Diamond
1 Sol Ring
4 Wooded Foothills
4 Shivan Oasis
4 Karplusan Forest
forests and mountains for a total of 24 lands
I could probably have used Star Compasses as mana accelerants, but the Diamonds worked. My first thought was to use Medallions, but medallions only work better than diamonds if you can cast multiple spells of that color per turn. Otherwise, use the diamonds, which can provide colored mana.
The next part of the deck is the land destruction element. I wanted cards that can clear all the land from under everyone’s feet, setting everyone back quite a bit. Wildfire has the added advantage of clearing out weenie hordes and most mana creatures – which is a strong advantage. Tectonic Break clears the board – leaving me with mana creatures and mana artifacts, if all is going according to plan.
4 Tectonic Break
My main kill card is Terravore, of course. With 9 artifacts in the deck, I can also run two Covetous Dragons reasonably safely, although Rorix is a reasonable alternative. However, Terravore is the best option. The first time I played the deck, I was able to Wildfire on turn 5, then drop a land and Terravore. With five other players in the game, each sacking four lands, Terravore came into play as a 20+ creature. That’s big.
Finally, I have included Starstorms as general removal, Creeping Mold for problems, and Pattern of Rebirth just for fun. Putting a Pattern on Birds of Paradise, then casting Wildfire and fetching a Terravore does sort of surprise the opponents. It’s even better to Wildfire away a Pattern-equipped Yavimaya Elder, fetching both lands and the Terravore.
That’s basically it. I play around with the deck a bit. I play it at exactly sixty cards, and would love to have some card drawing in the deck. Wheel of Fortune would be pretty good. The problem is finding the room.
Enough for now.