David Price once said”there are no wrong threats, only wrong answers.”
That’s true in duels, but not always true in multiplayer. If you don’t believe me, try casting a quick Sneak Attack in a big game. Unless you have a great hand and mana free, that is the wrong threat, because everyone at the table will be coming straight for you.
In multiplayer games, slow but steady is often better than attracting attention. Build up a solid position, deploy your forces, and then strike with your secret weapon. Of course, your opponents will be trying to deploy their secret weapons as well. You may get lucky, get yours off first and win the game. But if you don’t, you need an answer to their secret weapons.
In multiplayer, answers are often better than threats. Threats are – to state the obvious – threatening. When you have many opponents, appearing threatening is bad: you become Public Enemy Number One. On the other hand, when your answer card gets rid of the problem card that was screwing everyone else, you become the noble benefactor. In general, most players kill the public enemy before slaughtering the noble benefactor.
Utility cards are necessary to survive in multiplayer games. You need ways of disrupting combos, killing problem enchantments and getting out of locks. Reusable methods of doing this are better than one-shot ones. Two-for-one cards are better than single shot answers.
Problem cards can come in all flavors. They can be lands, like Maze of Ith, Glacial Chasm, or Tolarian Academy. They can be enchantments, like The Abyss, Moat, Humility, Oath of Druids, or Astral Slide. They can be artifacts, like Force Field, Portcullis, or Power Conduit. They can be creatures, like Royal Assassin, Peacekeeper, or Molder Slug.
Here are some examples of my favorite answer cards in each color. I’m not going to include Nevinyrral’s Disk, Oblivion Stone, Powder Keg, or Pernicious Deed in these lists. They are all good at what they do, but putting them in every category would just jack the word count to no effect. For Gold, originally I started listing the Invasion block Charms and so forth, but since Vindicate is the best in every category, I’ll skip it.
Answers to Artifacts
Good: Crumble, Naturalize, Uktabi Orangutan (becomes better with recursion)
Better: Splinter, Woodripper, Caustic Wasps, Desert Twister
Best: Glissa Sunseeker, Molder Slug, Seeds of Innocence
If it doesn’t screw you too: Titania’s Song
Answers to Enchantments
Good: Clear, Cloudchaser Eagle/Aven, Seal of Cleansing
Better: Allay (buyback), Scour, Aura Blast, Dismantling Blow (w/ Blue)
Best: Devout Witness (except against Humility), Aura of Silence
If it doesn’t screw you too: Akroma’s Vengeance, Serenity, and Purification
Good: Dystopia, with Distorting Lens if necessary
Better: It doesn’t get better
Best: splash another color – like White for Vindicate.
Go to the blackboard and write”This color doesn’t do this.” Then play Nev’s Disk.
Good: Naturalize, Elvish Lyrist, Elf Replica
Better: Emerald Charm, Root Greevil, Nullmage Advocate
Best: Creeping Mold, Tranquil Grove, Desert Twister
If it doesn’t screw you too: Hush, Reverent Silence, Multani’s Decree
Good: Dark Banishing, Expunge
Better: Royal Assassin, Nekrataal, Perish, Bone Shredder
Best: Eradicate, Tsabo’s Decree, Consume Spirit
Combo fun: Grave Pact / Corpse Dance / Bottle Gnomes
Death Pits of Rath / Noxious Field
If it doesn’t screw you too: Mutilate, Pestilence
Good: Lighting Bolt, Thundermare, Disintegrate
Better: Fireball, Flametongue Kavu, Tahngarth, Talruum Hero
Best: Volcanic Wind (we’re talking multiplayer), Flowstone Overseer
If it doesn’t screw you too: Earthquake, Crater Hellion, Subterranean Spirit
Answers to Lands: (Wasteland, Dustbowl, and Tsabo’s Web are splashable)
Many of these cards are good on their own, but better in combination with other cards. Since Wizards is proud of having brought back the”classic” Icy Manipulator / Royal Assassin combo, I’ll mention a few other classics like that.
Merfolk Assassin / War Barge: It is Blue creature removal that can kill big creatures. It is also slow and clunky, and on second thought, I’m not going to waste time and bits listing these old combos.
Since a lot of casual decks were playing artifacts nowadays, I started maindecking Viashino Heretics, at least in the decks I grab when I’m pissed about my opponents. Heretic is an amazingly annoying card against artifacts, but just an overpriced 1/3 against other decks. However, Forge[/author]“]Thran [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] (a Weatherlight uncommon) can make any creature into an artifact. For four mana and no card loss, killing a Verdant Force and having the owner take eight damage is pretty good.
A few weeks back, I resurrected my Darkest Hour / Light of Day deck. That makes all creatures Black, and then prevents them from attacking or blocking. I use Distorting Lens to make my creatures some other color. I added Northern Paladins to the mix, to pick off problem creatures. However, I quickly realized that Distorting Lens and Northern Paladin were a combo that can destroy any permanent: Distorting Lens makes any permanent Black, and Northern Paladin then kills it.
You can have a lot of fun with Distorting Lens, given the number of cards that kill particular colors. However, my current favorite combo is Isochron Scepter, Distorting Lens, and one of the Elemental Blasts. The elemental blasts are modal, meaning that you can chose to counter a spell or destroy a permanent, and cards like Misdirection cannot change the mode. Unlike Pyroblast and Hydroblast, the elemental blasts can only target permanents of the right color, meaning you cannot counter them by Misdirecting them to a wrong colored permanent.
In thinking about this article and combo during my commutes, I began planning a deck. At first, I thought mainly about the Viashino Heretic / Forge[/author]“]Thran [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] combo, and the Isochron Scepter / Red Elemental Blast / Distorting Lens ideas. Over time, I started thinking about card drawing and making it a Survival / toolbox sort of deck. Here are some drafts of both.
4 Viashino Heretic
2 Dwarven Miner
4 Wall of Roots
1 Flowstone Overseer
1 Flametongue Kavu
1 Silklash Spider
2 Seedborn Muse
4 Birds of Paradise
2 Lightning Bolt
2 Tranquil Grove
3 Forge[/author]“]Thran [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]
1 Distorting Lens
2 Isochron Scepter
1 Red Elemental Blast
1 Artifact Mutation
1 Desert Twister
2 Phyrexian Furnace
4 Shivan Oasis
1 Shivan Gorge
4 Karplusan Forest
The deck has answers to practically anything (except Akroma’s Vengeance or Pernicious Deed (hmmm – Bind on a Scepter…)). The Phyrexian Furnaces take care of graveyard recursion, and”cycle.” The Heretics kill artifacts, occasionally creatures, and the other stuff kills almost everything else. Technically the kill is Flowstone Overseer, but if you get the combo out with Seedborn Muse and start killing every permanent in sight, your opponents will usually concede before you can kill them.
The Isochron Scepter can imprint the Naturalize, the Lightning Bolt, the Artifact Mutation, and the REBs. However, without any card drawing in the deck, the chance of getting the right cards at the right time is low – it is pretty much hit or miss. The creatures should stall in the meantime. This deck is tuned to a metagame with a lot of artifacts, and few enchantments. It also seems pretty inconsistent. A Living Wish and sideboard might help. I would also like to include a Night Soil to hose graveyard recursion, but don’t have room.
The Survival version is a lot more consistent, but it eliminates the Isochron Scepter tricks. That is probably a good thing. The above version was trying to do too much at once. The Survival version is really only vulnerable to Akroma’s Vengeance, maybe Planar Void, and Humility.
Surviving the Answer
4 Squee, Goblin Nabob
4 Survival of the Fittest
4 Wall of Roots
4 Birds of Paradise
1 Viashino Heretic
2 Wall of Blossoms
1 Dwarven Miner
1 Flowstone Overseer
1 Flametongue Kavu
1 Silklash Spider
1 Ogre Shaman
1 Spike Feeder
1 Avalanche Riders
1 Deranged Hermit
1 Wood Elves / Solemn Simulacrum
1 Shard Phoenix
1 Orcish Settlers
1 Tahngarth, Talruum Hero
1 Uktabi Orangutan
1 Seedborn Muse
1 Elf Replica
1 Spike Weaver
1 Elvish Lyrist
1 Stampeding Wildebeests
Same lands as above, but with a Gaea’s Cradle.
The card by card analysis (a.k.a. the waste of space.) I won’t waste a paragraph each – I’ll just list them by function.
Survival of the Fittest / Squee
The card drawing engine that runs the deck. The deck packs four copies because it uses him for other reasons. Creatures that interact well with multiple Squees – the reasons for having them, will be noted as Friends of Squee, or FoS.
Don’t Attack Me
Lifegain and Utility
I originally had Seedborn Muse, Anaba Shaman, Dawnstrider (FoS) and so forth, but that seemed like overkill. They were only really good when I was ahead. Wall of Blossoms and Stampeeeeeeeding Wildebeest seem a better fit for the deck. They advance the deck when it is not winning, and do good things when it is.
I worked on this article during lunch and the commute, then printed out the decklist, ran home and threw it together before heading in to the store for casual night. I already have a Survival deck together, so I played the non-Survival Answer. I had the Taigas and Birds, but only two Wall of Roots. I didn’t have time to find the Artifact Mutation, so I played a Terminate, an extra Scepter, a Mind’s Eye and a Wall of Blossoms.
The deck loved me. It played much better than it should have. I played mainly one on one, or three-player chaos, and while the deck is intended for larger groups, it worked just fine in duels. I was what Jamie Wakefield would have referred to as Super Lucky Guy.
Here’s a sample game. My opponent went first, and sacrificed Flooded Strand for Underground Sea. I opened with Forest, Birds. My opponent sacked a Bloodstained Mire to get a Bayou, and dropped Survival of the Fittest. A lucky player would have found one of the two Phyrexian Furnaces here – Super Lucky Guy played Taiga, Furnace, Furnace and emptied his graveyard. He played Merfolk Looter – I played FTK.
All my mana looked to be tapped, so he Survivaled away Akroma, Angel of Wrath and played Exhume – in response, I used the Wall of Roots he overlooked to pay to sacrifice the Furnace and remove Akroma, so he got the Looter back.
I imprinted Naturalize on the Scepter and killed Survival. Later, he Ritualed out Avatar of Woe. I topdecked Forge[/author]“]Thran [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author], and used it to make his Avatar an artifact.
“Naturalize Avatar of Woe.”
Beat with FTK for the win.
Did I mention that he tried a desperation Upheaval in there somewhere? I had the one REB in hand.
Super Lucky Guy.
Another game I beat him down to eight, then we got into a massive stall. I had two Scepters and land in hand. I ripped – Lightning Bolt. Nothing breaks stalls like a big jolt every turn.
Distorting Lens is really random in this deck. It is much more likely to be”dead,” since the chance of having the Lens and one of the three Scepters and the REB all at once is pretty slim. It isn’t totally impossible, since the deck plays control and likes a long game, but it is still a weak link. However, the Distorting Lens kept tripping opponents up. With it in play, I countered a couple Terrors and Dark Banishings, but there were better options.
My opponent was using Unholy Grotto and Cabal Archon. I could kill whatever creature he played, but he would play and immediately sac the Archon to drain me every turn. He commented”You should have LD in that deck.” Super Lucky Guy drew REB the next turn – and the Lens made Unholy Grotto blue.
In another game, I had the Heretic / Forge combo going, and had knocked him down to almost nothing. I was winning with Viashino Heretic beats. He drew, grinned and windmill slammed Akroma on the table. Him,”Pro-Red saves the day! Beat.” Me, tapping Distorting Lens,”Too bad Viashino Heretic is Blue. Kill Akroma, take eight.”
Another game versus an Oversold Cemetery deck – I played a turn 2 Tranquil Grove – with another in hand in case of Elf Replica or the like. Both Groves in hand against Cemetery, both Furnaces against Survival, and against the Dragon Legends deck, I imprinted Terminate on turn 2.
Super Lucky Guy.
The deck should be pretty strong against other causal decks, even if you are not Super Lucky Guy. Before I play this again, I will probably cut the REB and the Distorting Lenses. I will add another Naturalize, and maybe play Artifact Mutation instead of playing all four Heretics. Forge[/author]“]Thran [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] kills creatures when combined with Naturalize or Artifact Mutation, making the Heretics redundant. (I will probably play four Forge, if I can trade for a fourth.) Another Mind’s Eye might help, but I would need to find two more Wall of Roots to make the mana work.
But so long as I can keep drawing like Super Lucky Guy, I’ll keep playing the deck.