As of this writing, my stack is a little over 330 cards with my target amount being three hundred fifty. The question remains, how do you build a stack of cards of that size and avoid using absolute crap?
To be honest, it’s difficult. I wish there was a set formula, like use X counters, X big men, X bombs, etc. Avoiding ridiculous combos is very hard because some of the most fun cards are combo enablers in and of themselves. Here are a few of the combos I’ve personally used to win the game:
Chainer, Dementia Master with Kokusho, the Evening Star or Ancestors’ Chosen combined with a way to kill them such as Flowstone Overseer or Vampiric Dragon to gain a lot of life with Kokusho even killing off everyone else. It’s also possible to get out other combos with him.
Yet Another Aether Vortex… and some of the freakiest cards you can think of. I’ve gone off with this card off of Aven Fateshaper, though never Sensei’s Divining Top combined with Aladdin’s Ring or Kamahl, Pit Fighter. I’ve used Eternal Dragon to cycle an amount of times during my upkeep to hit Chainer or one of the Shotguns (Kahmal or the Ring) and then repeated until I’ve killed everyone.
I’ve also pulled off a combo involving it and Volrath’s Stronghold: Have the Stronghold on top of your library, and then have a Riptide Shapeshifter. This won’t win you the game immediately, but if you can remember all of the creature types in your deck (or just name each creature type in the game a large number of times, just in case) you can get every creature in your deck into play and then attack with them.
Holistic Wisdom and Decree of the Creator: It won’t win the game immediately, but if you have a card drawing spell and enough sorceries it’s possible to cast whatever you’d like during your turn.
My personal favorite combo isn’t really a combo, but more of an awesome synergistic relationship: Phantom Nishoba and Arena. The Nishoba will survive whatever fight you put it into, it’s large enough to take down almost anything and then on top of that, you gain life! Throw in one of the Swords or Tatsumasa and you’ve really got yourself a powerhouse!
Without a “per turn” restriction of Mischievous Quanar, it would be involved in way too many ridiculous combos to allow in the stack. Just imagine being able to Urza’s Rage out each player, or gain infinite life with a simple Pulse of the Fields, or maybe get out all of your creatures with Tooth and Nail, or take infinite attack steps with Savage Beating. The possibilities are nearly endless.
This isn’t to stay you can’t or shouldn’t run any or all of these cards, but each player should eventually be aware of such synergies and be prepared to stop them should they begin to show up, although it’s always a shame to see Yet Another Aether Vortex be destroyed.
The most important thing to balance out is the amount of countermagic and removal to power cards and random men. If you have too much countermagic and not enough sauce to warrant a counter, you end up with each player doing nothing each turn in fear of wasting their turn. If you have too much removal and not enough men, you can find yourself never being able to attack or block.
Through the months I’ve had this stack built, almost a hundred cards have been added and cut from the stack. Here’s a very short list of some of those I’d like to see, but am probably better off without.
This card was ridiculous. It was highly political in that you could ask an opponent being threatened by a certain card to give the answer to said card, allowing you to get rid of the threat and make a friend in the process. It eventually became too nutty as the stack gained in power, so I cut it, to the dismay and delight of many players.
This card was pretty nutty. I liked the political part of the card, providing a mini-Fact or Fiction each turn, but in the end it turned out to be a bit more powerful than I liked. It and Grimmoire got cut at the same time. They were pretty insane when you had them both out.
Remember how I said Grimmoire was sick as hell? The Strip was even better. A friend of mine, Jason Stapels, the person who owns the webspace for TMD, abused this card back in the days of four Gush GroAtog, turning it into a mini Yawgmoth’s Will every turn. It did about the same thing in Type 4. After recurring Decree of the Creator with it once, I decided that it was probably a good idea to cut it.
Basically it was a slower Pernicious Deed. I wasn’t a fan, so snip it went.
Colossus of Sardia and Draco:
Two large artifact men. Didn’t I say the format was all about big, dumb, dudes? Well, yeah, I did. These just didn’t seem cool enough, but they may work for you, so don’t let me stop you from trying them!
A very interesting, customizable board sweeper. I just found it to get boring, so snip-snip it went.
Tower of Murmurs:
The decking effect is powerful, but got rather boring after a while.
Survival of the Fittest:
Former Extended powerhouse, this card was really savage in Type 4. Combined with Eternal Dragon it was possible to get every creature in your deck in to your hand. Why you would ever want to do this is beyond me, but all of the time it took for people to decide on what to Survival for made me sick of it. I’m a fickle master and away it went.
By no means am I suggesting that these cards are unplayable or too overpowered (You know you fear the Draco); building your stack is completely up to you and the possibilities are endless.
Type 4 is a multiplayer format. You can try to play it 1 vs. 1 duel style, but it gets pretty old, pretty fast. The best way to play is with more than two people. I recommend a group of around six players. Four or five will do fine, but for some reason I prefer six. Anything over that, if the players are really slow or don’t know all of the cards, the games can go longer than you may like, leading to a bit of boredom and fewer games you’ll be able to get in!
Wizards of the Coast has apparently released some comprehensive multiplayer rules. I haven’t looked at them yet, but I’m sure they’re all well and good. Nice though it was for them to give us a set of rules to play by, I prefer the old stand-by: The House Rules.
There are endless options for you to choose when it comes to rules. The classic is how to deal with creatures taking an arbitrarily large amount of damage and a creature able to regenerate an arbitrarily large number of times. The tried and true method of dealing with these situations (which come up a lot) is to decide which ability is the “defensive” ability, e.g. Regeneration, Phasing, raising toughness, etc, with that ability “winning out”. There can arise some sticky situations involving cards like Memnarch and other cards that can either copy his ability or gain control of him somehow. In that scenario either get out the boxing gloves and prepare to duke it out, or just flip a coin, whichever floats your boat.
Cards like Horobi’s Whisper, Etched Oracle, and Suncrusher require colored mana or a certain type of land to be in play. For these cases we just presume that you have whatever land type you need and have access to whatever colors of mana you may need. Not allowing those is fine, but I like the cards, and thusly they stay.
The Mischievous Quanar rule we follow is that it can only be morphed once a turn. Some groups allow for once each spell or just however many times you want to. The latter tend to have stacks including some really nutty cards, firebreathers, and no restrictions on anything.
Cards with an alternate casting cost such as Force of Will, Misdirection, Snuff Out, etc are widely considered to be able to be played without counting towards your spell limit for the turn, provided you can pay the alternate cost. I don’t observe this rule, but some groups allow Morph creatures to not count towards your spell limit and even allow cards like the Bringers from Fifth Dawn to be cast without counting towards your spell limit (due to their Sunburst alternate cost). Some groups take this to the next level by including Fist of the Suns into their stack. By giving each card an alternate cost, every card that player plays can now be played without restriction. I’m not a fan of it (Personally we tried out the Bringers ACC ability but nixed it in the end), but to each stack its own.
A fairly unique card is Betrayal of Flesh. Its Entwine cost requires the sacrifice of three lands, but playing strictly by the “rules” you can’t pay the entwine cost because you don’t have any lands! Some groups ignore that part, allowing the spell to be cast with or without Entwine as per the caster’s wishes. I like keeping the extra rules to a minimum, so I never included that rule, but my stack has ten lands in it, so it is possible, however unlikely, that the Entwine cost could be paid, though it has yet to happen.
Ring of Ma’Ruf, an old favorite that I haven’t seen in many stacks (probably because of its rarity). We decided that any card is fair game – provided it’s within reach. This includes cards removed from the game via cards like Force of Will, Dissipate, or Swords to Plowshares, along with cards removed with Spelljack, the last being particularly nasty. I have a few cards stuck in my Type 4 box that I never bothered to put away, so those are fair game as well.
A fairly odd rule I’ve encountered is that involving the card Cheatyface from Unhinged. I’m not sure how these people do it, but they allow it to be “cheated” into play. I’m not sure if they draft it or just bring their own to the table.
Rare-B-Gone is one of the coolest effects in the format. The card says that it gets rid of all “rare” cards, but what makes a card rare? We know that cards like Wrath of God are rare, but some of the older, more obscure cards are either Uncommon or Common or don’t even have the possibility of being rare. To get around that I changed the rule so that it would hit all cards with gold expansion symbols. This worked out better than I had expected because all of those nifty DCI and Arena foil promo cards have gold DCI logos for their expansion symbol! Because of this rule, Dismiss, Dissipate, Forbid, Willbender, Withered Wretch, and most recently Fact or Fiction now get nuked by Rare-B-Gone. Some people complain about it while I find it amusing. I suppose it’s a matter of taste.
The last that I can think of is how to decide who goes first. In multiplayer the player that goes first draws a card during their draw step, something that doesn’t happen in “normal” Magic, so obviously going first is a “Good Thing”. We do the normal roll of the die at the beginning of the first game we play, but in the following games we have the player to the left of the winner of the previous game start first. This is kind of cool as it puts the player that won at a very slight disadvantage and it means less rolling of dice and more playing.
The Birth of a Type 4 Stack
If you’re just starting out in the format and don’t have all of the cards you’ve seen here, worry not. Type 4 is very customizable and almost anything can be used effectively in a stack. Keeping the stack somewhat small, somewhere around 200 cards, and make sure you have enough ways to deal with the bombs. Acquiring most of the staple cards should be fairly easy. Vedalken Orrery, Yawgmoth’s Agenda, Memnarch, Chainer, Dementia Master and more are cards that aren’t in very high demand and you can occasionally find them in dollar binders or get them as throw-ins in larger trades. Don’t worry, if you stick with it long enough you’ll be able to get cards like Chaos Orb and Illusionary Mask into your stack. Just be sure to keep an eye out for good deals as those two cards are mainly collectors items and can sometimes be found for relatively low prices.
Your next step will be to figure out a good ratio of threats to answers. This won’t be easy, but after enough games it will be a lot easier to judge. Problem artifacts spending too much time on the board? Pack in some cards like Smash, Rack and Ruin, or Uktabi Orangutan will give you some good answers that generate card advantage.. Enchantments? Aura Blast, Aura Mutation, Cloudchaser Eagle, Devout Witness or even Tranquility will work just fine. For creatures most of the answers are fairly cheap commons or uncommons that will be very easy to pick up. Make sure that you have Grab the Reins, Betrayal of Flesh, and Annihilate as those are some of the more powerful targeted removal.
Another mistake I made early on was that I included far too much life gain, which would lead to extremely long and boring games. To fix that all I did was cut some of it, despite how cool it was (Granny’s Payback is a lot of fun!). Upping the creature count or lowering the number of Wraths in your deck will help games speed up a bit. Including more direct damage spells like Volley of Boulders, Ember Shot, or Liquid Fire can shore up some of those holes, playing double duty as finishers and creature removal.
Countermagic is a sticky category to deal with and should be a serious consideration when trying to balance the stack out. In larger stacks adding more counters like Remove Soul, Flash Counter, or Burnout can help deal shore up any problems.
Adding creatures is probably the most fun part of building a Type 4 stack. Giant fatties like the Invasion and Legends cycle of legendary dragons are a must. Rockshard Elemental can be used alongside Krosan Colossus and Cloudscraper to make morphs even more threatening. Basically so long as it either has an interesting ability or an abnormally large power and toughness, it will be a great addition to your stack. The Odyssey Pit Fighter Legends (Rorix, Arcanis, Jareth, Silvos, and Visara) are all really good. They have solid stats and really good abilities. Arcanis is my personal favorite.
Another neat category to fiddle around with is that of Equipment. I didn’t think that Skullclamp would be very good, but my group soon found that it was very good, especially in tandem with cards like Symbiotic Wurm and especially Living Hive. The Kaldra cycle from the Mirrodin block are also pretty cool and you can add Leonin Bladewarden and possibly Steelshaper’s Gift.
Some of the most fun cards in Type 4 come from the Unhinged and Unglued expansion sets. The cards are in most cases very easy to aquire and not in high demand. Finding an Infernal Spawn of Evil or Timmy, Power Gamer may take some effort, but they’re worth it. Yet Another Aether Vortex is one of the most fun cards in the format to play with, so definitely pick one of those up!
I don’t want to spoil any of your fun by giving too many suggestions – finding interesting, out of the ordinary cards is an enjoyable part of the process! Browsing the StarCityGames card database I noticed that most of the cards you may want to play are priced very low seeing as how they tend to be less than stellar on the tournament scene, so they’re a good place to start. Prereleases are also a treasure trove that bring tons of players along with access to the new cards that you may want to include. The more high-demand casual cards like Akroma or Reya Dawnbringer may be difficult to get, but you may be able to find beat up copies for a much lower price.