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My Column Doesn’t Have A Title Yet

You know, I just don’t get enough email with one column on one web site. I’ve decided I need more. So here I am, expanding my miniature empire, regaling you with yet more stories, thoughts, and meanderings on casual Magic play. This column doesn’t have a title yet – I wanted to call it "Star…

You know, I just don’t get enough email with one column on one web site. I’ve decided I need more. So here I am, expanding my miniature empire, regaling you with yet more stories, thoughts, and meanderings on casual Magic play.

This column doesn’t have a title yet – I wanted to call it "Star (City) Wars," but Pete Hoefling muttered something about trademark and liability; so then I suggested "Palinchron Finds a Pal", but Pete pointed out that was a little geeky (I’ve discovered Pete’s pretty darn harsh with his criticism); so then I grasped at straws with "Anthony’s Readers Are the Best!" but Pete shot that down too, and he told me not to tell you he said this, but he said you guys actually are a pretty distant third in quality, somewhere behind Cathy Nicoloff’s and Omeed Dariani readers (to which I said, yeah, Pete, you’re probably right). So we agreed: no title, for a while.

Have I given up Casual Fridays on The Dojo? Absolutely not. I don’t know how you folks think I’m going to be able to give you any material here if I don’t have a source to cut and paste from… er… that is, if I don’t have the intellectually stimulating environment of The Dojo to keep my creative juices flowing. I see my Star City articles (and for the moment, let’s all stay in the dreamworld where they actually tolerate these ramblings for more than three weeks) as an opportunity to do one or more different things with exploration of casual play. Things I wouldn’t do on the Dojo. Things I COULDN’T do on the Dojo. Things that are PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE in the Dojo. Things that only the NON-EUCLIDEAN-GEOMETRIC UNIVERSE THAT STARCITYCCG.COM REPRESENTS can tolerate the stresses of (I am the dark matter of the Magic world – I’m apparently everywhere, but no one understands me).

In all seriousness, I am open to hearing what readers would like to see in my occasional articles here at StarCityCCG.com. We’ve got an opportunity to do something a bit different, so creative ideas are welcome. My one caveat: I want to stay focused on actual, tournament-legal (of whatever Type) cards and decks. Other than that, fire away.

I’ll get us started with some new thoughts on an Exodus card that’s getting better and better with every release: Pandemonium.

When I first looked at Nemesis, I’ll admit I was underwhelmed by the potential for casual play. The set, by and large, looked fine for a variety of formats, and there were one or two standouts, but because of its smaller size, there were predictably fewer chances of pulling a killer multiplayer card like Thieves Auction, Hunted Wumpus, or Shoving Match. I looked to fading to add some new dynamics, and felt Parallax Wave was the best of the five "so-so" Parallax rares (many people have pointed out, since I came out in tepid support of Parallax Wave, that the synergy with Opalescence is great. I agree. I also think that Opalescence has great synergy with about 10,000 global enchantments ranging in quality from spectacular to awful, so whatever).But it took someone smarter than me (and I believe that criterion guarantees their near-perfect anonymity) to point out that if you have a Pandemonium out, you can do, at instant speed, 6+5+4+3+2+1 = 21 points of highly distributable, GREEN damage. Wow. That’s probably going to take too long to set up in a serious duel, but it’s a fun trick to play on your friend (once), and in your group, you should milk that for all it’s worth (that is, you should keep slamming them with a Pandesaproling deck until someone finally begins playing four Scours maindeck).

Come to think of it, Pandemonium and Opalescence are a lot alike: a lot of otherwise bad cards look pretty darn good when you have one of them in play. Other players scaring off your Timid Drake with creatures? Play Pandemonium! People keep playing lands after your Pangosaur is out? Play Pandemonium! Can’t think of why else you’d play an Ignoble Soldier? Play Pandemonium! I think there ought to be a K.O.P. (Karn-Opalescence-Pandemonium) value given to every artifact, enchantment, and creature. That way, people could rate new cards effortlessly against the index and speak the same language. Birds of Paradise would rate a 0 on the scale: everyone buy four! Sol Ring and Limited Resources would certainly not be played for their Karn and Opalescence index values of 1, surely. Death Pits of Rath makes more sense to most decks as a 5/5 creature. Pangosaur rates a hefty 6 on the scale, while Saproling Burst would rate an insane 26: the 21 points of damage possible (for Pandemonium) PLUS the five casting cost enchantment (for Opalescence). People, when you see a K.O.P. rating of 26, you watch your step.

Anyhow. My for-now-theoretical take on what a very multiplayer-oriented Pandesaproling deck ought to look like…

The Fireworks (16):

4 Pandemonium
4 Saproling Burst
4 Spontaneous Generation
2 Verdant Force or 2 Hunted Wumpus, depending on how funny you want to be
1 Pangosaur
1 Jackalope Herd

The Support (15):

4 Spike Feeder
4 Sizzle
3 Howling Mine (to assure land drops and provide more cards for Saprolings, late game)
2 Rejeuvenate
1 Hurricane
1 Regrowth (will probably be used to get back a Pandemonium)
1 Revive (for a Spike Feeder, a Burst, or other successful used green spell)

The Mana (6 + 22 lands):

3 Vine Trellis (remember, your opponents can use Pandemonium, too… Llanowar Elves and BoPs are less useful)
3 Veteran Explorer
4 Taiga (no, I don’t have four Taigas, but the great thing about writing these articles is, you can pretend you do!)
11 Forest
4 Mountain
2 Gaea’s Cradle
1 Shivan Gorge

Your four-drops are a little heavy here, but you should get there with the Trellises and Explorers, which will ease the crowding. And hey, best part, if your hand crowds, who cares? More Saprolings when the Spontaneous Generation is played.

Those tiny Saprolings are very susceptible to Pandemonium damage – but hey, if your opponents want to blow damage on them, great. A greater danger is a Tremor or Earthquake. Scour will wreck you, white, in general, can handle this OK with enough Story Circles or other namby-pamby protection. The best part is, a blue bounce mage either becomes an ineffectual enemy (if it’s a defensive deck) or your best friend (if it’s offensive). Black mages? Let me tell you a story: I played a Pandemonium deck – not this one, but something similar – in an Emperor format recently (I’m not a very patient general!) and saw a black mage come out with a NEGATOR. Hmmm. It came out with a splash, but the player was pretty much screwed after that. That pretty much typifies what happens to black against Pandemonium; we all knew that, right?

One of the funnier tricks with Pandemonium is Hunted Wumpus. This makes everyone else a little less angry at you for playing Pandemonium, since they get to have immediate fun too. The odds are about even your Wumpus will die by committee decision, but it’s still good yucks.

My favorite Pandemonium deck to date was with Viashino creatures. My memory is fuzzy but it had a base that looked something like this:

3 Pandemonium
3 Viashino Cutthroat
1 Viashino Sandstalker (my favorite, especially when measured by artwork, but I only have the one)
4 Viashino Sandscount
1 Viashino Sandswimmer (it has a use! K.O.P. index value = 3!)
1 Dragon Mask
2 Urza’s Incubator ("ummmmm… VIASHINO!")
2 Viashino Outrider
a few dragons

This was SO not meant for multiplayer play when I made it, but the dragons gave it staying power. The Cutthroats are just insane with Pandemonium:

ANTHONY: Start turn, no upkeep, draw whatever, main phase, play Cutthroat, five damage to Pete, combat phase, five damage to Carl, go to end of turn, return Cutthroat, done.
PETE: Hmmm…Wall of Fog? Done.
CARL: Mmmm…Fog of Gnats? Done.
ANTHONY: Start turn, no upkeep, draw whatever, main phase, play Cutthroat, five damage to [pick a creature here], combat phase, five damage to [whoever has no defense], go to end of turn, return Cutthroat, done.

Even better is when the others are playing fatties of their own:

ANTHONY: Start turn, no upkeep, draw whatever, main phase, play Cutthroat, five damage to Pete, combat phase, five damage to Carl, go to end of turn, return Cutthroat, done.
PETE: Start turn, no upkeep, draw whatever, main phase, play Rathi Dragon, five damage to Anthony, go to end of turn, done.
CARL: Start turn, no upkeep, draw whatever, main phase, play Thorn Elemental, seven damage to Anthony, go to end of turn, done.

Those games get really close. That’s why I like the Wumpus with Pandemonium — it encourages close games, and I love fast, close multiplayer games.

A note in closing: the Skyshroud Behemoth has a K.O.P. value of 10. Bear that in mind before you believe you should go out and buy four! For seven mana, your money is better spent on the Thorn Elemental, Delraich, or one Hunted Wumpus and one Cradle Guard. Trust me, the fireworks will still be great.

Happy playing,
Anthony Alongi
alongi@usinternet.com