I appreciated the feedback on the first part of this article, which allowed me to do some creative filling in this half. Sorry about the cards I missed. For example, Grimjack commented that Narwhal should have made the staples list. No idea how I missed that.
More seriously, I listed Capashen Unicorn as a searchable, Living Wish target that can destroy both artifacts and enchantments. Devout Witness does that as well, and is a much better card. That one has me pretty red-faced. I used to know better.
Just to recap what I’m doing: This is a list of good, solid multiplayer cards – the cards to look for if you don’t have them. Each group starts with really inexpensive cards – generally commons, all available cheaply. Then I throw in a couple slightly more expensive cards towards the end, and finish it up with one or two expensive cards that are nearly always worth it.
Arc Lightning: This is cheap, splashable, and most of all versatile burn. In multiplayer games, this will frequently be a many for one card – and even if there is no creatures worth burning, you can always go to the head.
Incinerate: This is what Volcanic Hammer should be. It is instant speed removal, and it can kill a Masticore. Lightning Bolt is nice, but Incinerate is less costly – although it does cost one more mana.
Fireblast: Arguably the best burn spell ever printed, Fireblast will deal lethal damage to a lot of creatures, and the alternative casting cost means your opponent always has to be thinking about this, even when you are tapped out.
Mogg Fanatic: This little guy has been called Mogg Fantastic for most of his career – and for good reason. He is a fast one-drop that can also kill a lot of annoying creatures – Birds of Paradise, Royal Assassins, etc. Although fast beatdown is not a great multiplayer strategy, the Fanatic is still useful – and pretty insane with Lifeline or Enduring Renewal.
Arcane Teachings: An enchantment that turns any creature into a pinger can be pretty good – I wrote an article about it a while back. Arcane Teachings also bulks up the creature, which is good unless someone has Meekstone. Other enchantments (Fire Whip, Hermetic Study, Psionic Gift, Lavamancer’s Skill) can also provide the ping ability, but without the +2/+2.
Viashino Heretic: He blocks little dudes and blows up annoying artifacts. I like him because he says,”let’s play slowly and nicely” in multiplayer. He’s kind of pointless if your opponents just play creatures, but if they play artifact mana or creatures, he looks really good.
Shattering Pulse: Of all the buyback spells, only Shattering Pulse is the same base cost as Shatter. Given that, there is no reason to play Shatter. On the other hand, if your opponents are playing a number of artifacts, having a reusable artifact kill is okay – but Viashino Heretic is better.
Avalanche Riders: It’s a Stone Rain that beats. Avalanche Riders are very good. They can destroy lands that stop your attacks, like Kor Haven, or that beat back, like Treetop Village. Like any echo creature with a decent”comes into play” ability, they are pretty sick with Lifeline.
Flametongue Kavu: If you like to (in the words of Mike Flores)”swing with men,” this card can provide a great boost in tempo. It is both a solid removal spell and a strong attacker. Two-for-ones are not as impressive in multiplayer as in duels, but FTK is pretty good in both environments.
Volcanic Wind: Volcanic Win, as it was called in Masques drafts, is marginal in constructed, but pretty good in multiplayer games if your opponents like to play lots of creatures. It is amazing in Emperor or teams games, where it can often act as a one-sided Wrath of God.
Wheel of Fortune: Card drawing in red is unusual, and this is pretty good. I have seen games end with the red player beating on the opponent, then casting Wheel, Lightning Bolt, Fireblast, Fireblast for the win. I hate it when that happens, since I am rarely the red mage.
Hammer of Bogardan: Red is often all about burn, but red is also all about running out of cards in your hand if you aren’t careful, or if the game goes on for any length of time. With Hammer, once you get enough land into play, you can bring it back and throw it at something every one of your turns if you don’t have anything better to do.
Llanowar Elves: The basic one casting-cost elf that lets you cast 3cc creatures on turn 2. Basic, affordable mana acceleration, along with Birds of Paradise, a staple of green decks. If you like to play large green creatures, start with 24 land, four Llanowar Elves and whatever other mana acceleration you can find.
Wild Mongrel: Everyone knows the Mongrel by now. It is the best Grizzly Bear printed to date. If you need a two-drop, and you are playing green, here it is. The only comparable choice in that position is the next card.
River Boa: The River Boa is blue’s most hated opponent. The fact that he is also about as a cheap regenerator as you can find does not hurt. He is better in duels than multiplayer (in duels, you get an untap phase between each of the opponent’s combat phases, as opposed to in multiplayer where you may have to endure three or four combat phases before he untaps), but the Boa is still a very good card.
Yavimaya Elder: This guy deserves the name”Green Ancestral Recall.” He smooths your mana and gets you the colors you need, draws cards, and provides shuffle effects for cards like Sylvan Library and Brainstorm.
Wall of Roots: I play these in practically every green multiplayer deck I make. It is mana acceleration and early game defense, all in a very affordable package. It is especially useful because you can get mana on an opponent’s turn, even if you used it on yours.
Calming Verse: It costs one more mana that normal Tranquility, but the ability to destroy all other enchantments while leaving yours standing can be pretty useful at times. Reverent Silence, a Tranquility with an alternative casting cost (very useful at times) is also worth considering.
Night Soil: Night Soil is one of those forgotten tricks. It allows you to remove dead creatures from the game and create blockers or attackers. I drew one of these in 5 color, the turn before my opponent was due to trigger a Living Death that would have brought back twenty or so creatures; instead, I got a bunch of Saprolings. In multiplayer, it is nice to sit back, knowing that you can empty someone else’s graveyard to create instant blockers.
Emerald Charm: The card is great, primarily because it is never useless. You can attack all-out, then use the Charm to untap a surprise blocker. Charm can introduce those annoying fliers to those big, earthbound blockers. Finally, Charm can destroy that Moat or The Abyss that stalled all your green monsters. It is particularly good because it is so versatile. It’s not quite as amazing now that green has Naturalize, but it is still solid.
Explosive Vegetation: While this might be a little slow in competitive T2 right now, it has been pretty good in Onslaught block decks, and is really good in multiplayer. One of the regulars in our group has a G/R deck with elves and Vine Trellis that often has seven mana on turn 4 or 5. Turn 5 Hull Breach and Flametongue to mess up opponents, then turn 6 Mythic Proportions on the FTK can be pretty scary.
Creeping Mold: I’ll admit it; I am a not a beatdown player. I love strange combos and control. That means I have a great liking for cards that let me deal with problems. Creeping Mold is like that – it can deal with Maze of Ith, Kor Haven, Moat, Pacifism, Juggernaut, etc. It’s my kind of card: It makes sure I’m not prevented from killing my opponent, once I get around to it. A 4GG, Desert Twister is more expensive, but it also kills creatures.
Regrowth: Get any cards from your graveyard to your hand at instant speed. The uses should be obvious.
Living Wish: The best casual play green rare around – this is the one to treat yourself to. Genesis is okay, and Natural Order is still pretty cool, but Living Wish has won more games, and made possible more cool tricks, than any other card I have ever owned.
Shield Sphere: When I started playing, a lot of these were in the nickel box. If some of your group plays fast beatdown, these are easy to cast early, so they can soak up the damage while you get set up. Bottle Gnomes do the same sort of thing, but they cost a bit more.
Fellwar Stone: In multiplayer, and 5 color, the Fellwar Stone is likely to produce the color or colors you need. At that point, it is cheap mana acceleration. Other options include Star Compass, an Invasion uncommon that produces any color your lands could produce. These are hardly Mox Diamond – but they don’t cost what Mox Diamond costs, either.
Dancing Scimitar: The big advantage of Dancing Scimitar is that it is a great blocker. There are not very many things that can block a Serra Angel turn after turn, and almost none of them are as affordable as the Scimitar. Multiplayer revolves around blockers and sending attackers elsewhere – something that the Scimitar does well.
Power Matrix: This is a beating in draft, but it is also a blast in casual and multiplayer. If you are playing a deck with a mixture of medium large common creatures, adding Power Matrix is amazing. Take a look at the following scenario: You have two 3/3s, two 2/2s and a 4/5. Your opponent has two 4/3s. If you attack, you will lose at least one creature, and your opponent gets to chose what dies.
Now assume you have a Power Matrix – once you declare your attack, you can wait until blockers are declared, then turn any one of your creatures into a first striker big enough to kill any single blocker.
Sol Ring: Sol Ring is cheap mana acceleration that fits easily in any deck. It is too good – it is restricted or banned in every sanctioned format. It costs at least five bucks, but Ingrid and I find it is our single most commonly-played card.
Masticore: Okay, it is not cheap, but it is still a completely insane card that can fit into any deck.
Cycles are cards that were printed in a set and range across the colors. The original cycle was the boons, giving you three of something for one mana. They were Healing Salve, Ancestral Recall, Dark Ritual, Lightning Bolt, Giant Growth. That particular cycle was a bit unbalanced – the price on these cards ranges from $0.25 (Healing Salve) to $250.00+ (Ancestral). Of these, Dark Ritual and Bolt are the ones I most commonly play in multiplayer – plus Ancestral if I am playing people who also own power nine. Here are some other cycles worth looking at:
The Nemesis Seals (Seal of Doom, Seal of Cleansing, Seal of Fire, Seal of Removal, Seal of Strength) The Seals are enchantment versions of common spells (Disenchant, Unsummon, Dark Banishing, Shock and Giant Growth.) The enchantments have to be sacrificed to have the effect. The biggest advantage of the Seals is that they sit on the table, waiting for the right time to be used. This can have a big effect on opponents. It is one thing to hold one green open, letting opponents decide whether or not you have a Giant Growth. It is another to have the GG sitting on the table, all ready to pump a blocker. In multiplayer, the seals are all good, but some are a bit better.
Familiars (Nightscape Familiar, Thornscape Familiar, Thunderscape Familiar, Stormscape Familiar, Sunscape Familiar): The Familiars were cheap creatures that reduced the cost of allied color spells by one colorless mana. In any deck where you can expect to cast multiple spells in one turn, these cards can be worthwhile. I find this is most often the case with blue decks, where I am casting search and card drawing spells, but it also works with buyback spells and the like.
Battlemages (Nightscape Battlemage, Thornscape Battlemage, Thunderscape Battlemage, Stormscape Battlemage, Sunscape Battlemage): The Battlemages were a collection of 2/2 creatures with allied color kickers. In many cases, these kickers are very useful. With the right Battlemage, you can deal damage, destroy artifacts, enchantments, or creatures, bounce stuff, gain life, or draw cards. Basically, these cards are cheap utility that are never completely dead.
Split Cards: Invasion also brought the split cards – cards which combined two different spells on one card. Wax / Wane was enchantment kill and a mini Giant Growth. Spite / Malice combined a Counterspell and Terror. Both are nice combination cards, with both halves being generally useful in multiplayer games. Finally, Fire / Ice is both Arc Lightning’s little brother and a cantrip”tap that” card. Proof it works: Fire / Ice gets played in Keeper – T1’s”best” deck.
Gold / Multicolor:
Dismantling Blow: Disenchant is almost always useful in multiplayer. Card drawing is always good. Dismantling blow combines the two. It is just a bit better than the other Disenchant with kicker spell – Orim’s Thunder. Orim’s Thunder combines Disenchant with Lightning Bolt. Both are worth getting.
Armadillo Cloak: Okay, looking at the list these are almost all from Invasion – but there are very few cheap and effective gold cards from older sets. Besides, the Cloak does some very strange things. In a memorable Invasion draft, Barry and Adam were locked in a creature stall. Barry dropped a Plague Spitter, which would normally have killed Adam in a couple turns. However, Adam responded by casting Armadillo Cloak on Barry’s Plague Spitter. On Barry’s upkeep, the Plague Spitter did one damage to Barry, one to Adam and one to half a dozen creatures, so Adam gained eight life. (Remember, Barry may control the Spitter, but Adam controls the Cloak, so he gets the life.)
Hull Breach: Prior to Naturalize, this was the closest thing to disenchant. Naturalize is better, in that it is an instant, and doesn’t require red. However, if you are playing these colors, Hull Breach can be better in multiplayer, since you can frequently get a two for one. If I am playing R/G in a larger game, I generally think about Hull Breach – although I might consider Decimate if I am sure opponents will have both enchantments and artifacts. Decimate is a four-for-one, but it can’t be played unless there’s one of everything on the board.
Sleepers Robe: This card combines Fear and Curiosity in one card. Both of those used to be playable, and the combination is okay in multiplayer games. You can always find someone who can’t block, so you can almost always draw a card.
Fires of Yavimaya: Fervor, or other enchantments that give creatures haste, tend to be rares. Fires is an uncommon, so it is a lot cheaper. Fires also allows you to develop (play elf, tap elf same turn to play another elf) and to beat down faster. Fires of Yavimaya was at the heart of a Tier 1 deck in Masques/Invasion T2 for quite a while. Check out the archives for more on the deck.
Prophetic Bolt: Four points of damage and an Impulse in one, and it is still an instant. The Impulse effect is always useful – and in a multiplayer game, there is always going to be some target deserving of the damage. Ingrid loves this card, so all too often, that target has been me.
Pernicious Deed: Deed is one of the best board sweepers in the game. It is a Nevinyrral’s Disk that does not come into play tapped – and can be manipulated to keep some stuff around. It is not cheap, but if you can play these colors, play this card. In multiplayer, this is extremely good.
Just one simple example: I’m playing rock against an opponent with birds, and an opponent with Elves. I had Deed, Kamahl, Fist of Krosa, and Visara in play, and lots of land and mana creatures. I used most of my mana to turn opponent’s lands into creatures, then Deeded for four. The opponents’ lands, the birds, the elves, the Soulcatcher’s Aerie and the Worship all were blown away – about an eighteen-for-three (counting my mana creatures as part of the trade).
The Invasion tap lands (Coastal Tower, Elfhame Palace, Salt Marsh, Shivan Oasis, Urborg Volcano) These are the cheaper dual lands – a bit slower, but they provide two colors of mana painlessly. If you play allied color decks, and don’t have the duals, get these.
Dragon Lairs (Darigaaz’s Caldera, Treva’s Ruins,) Planeshift also had a cycle of uncommon lands. These tapped for three colors of mana. They are also excellent methods of powering multicolored decks, if you don’t have the duals. I even use them for filler in decks where I do have the duals. Just don’t play too many – they require you to return a land when you play them, so an opening hand with nothing but Lairs is not a good thing.
Treetop Village: The Village is a great addition to the green mage’s bag of tricks. This is a land that taps for mana when you need it, but attacks of blocks when necessary. You can even activate the Village, then cast Rancor on it and attack for five. At the end of the turn, the Village reverts to being a land and the Rancor goes back to your hand.
Gemstone Mine: Any color of mana without pain, and without coming into play tapped, is okay. The land does die when the counters are gone, but that may be enough to get you going – and if it’s not, then add Cartographers, Storm Cauldron, or Lairs.
Wasteland: If your opponent has a cool land, this will get rid of it. That’s why Wasteland is so often played in extended tournaments. It’s reasonably cheap, and will make sure you don’t get wrecked by those good lands you opponents have.
Volrath’s Stronghold: Getting dead creatures back is just plain good. I have killed people by recurring Highway Robbers over and over again, and have had some fun with Volrath’s Stronghold and Infernal Genesis. I have found Stronghold to be reasonably cheap, and definitely worth the investment.
Okay, that’s done. If I missed anything, tell me via email or in the forums. Next time, we’re back to decklists and strategy.