July 14, 2015

Gideon and the White Weenie Dilemma

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Welcome to Gideon Week! I've always liked the idea of a Planeswalker who gets into the trenches with your creatures, and Gideon, in all his forms, certainly does that! I like to picture other Planeswalkers standing beside you, casting their spells, while Gideon just charges right in!

I've tried to make him work in various decks, but when it comes to bringing Gideon into combat, it just hasn't ever worked out like I hoped. In my games, Gideon tends to get into play and then get run over, or he just doesn't do enough. Too often it feels like I should have just played another creature. Will Kytheon, Hero of Akros be the difference maker? If Gideon starts out as a creature naturally, will that make him better?

Kytheon, Hero of Akros | Art by Willian Murai

When trying to determine the success of Kytheon—and most other cards—in multiplayer games, I want to see how the card reacts to multiple opponents. The card encourages you to overextend early to try and flip him. If you choose to attack with the three creatures you control, Kytheon becomes Gideon, Battle-Forged—and has no way to defend himself. You don't want to use his first ability and force an opponent's creature to attack Gideon, because you have no defense. The second ability, giving a creature indestructible until your next turn, is cute—but it's pointless if all your creatures are tapped. Even if you choose not to pick an opponent's creature and just bump the loyalty count to five, your opponents will be gunning for you.

Instead, you want to wait until you have at least four creatures before trying to ignite Kytheon's spark, leaving something there to block the attacks on Gideon. Kytheon's ability to make himself indestructible is valuable when attacking, but also makes him a formidable blocker. An indestructible blocker can make life very miserable for your opponents unless they find a way around him. Admittedly, the three mana to activate him is not something you'll be wanting to do repeatedly before your next turn, but Kytheon does work in the long game.

When Gideon flips, things don't get much better for multiplayer games. Forcing an opponent's creature to attack Gideon is hardly a saving grace. Many times, your opponents were thinking of attacking elsewhere, so forcing them to attack Gideon seems silly. Making one of your creatures indestructible until your next turn just screams out defense, since you'll be able to use it again and again to ward off opponents' attacks just with the threat of the indestructible creature. The ability to make Gideon a creature is all offense, since he reverts back to just a planeswalker at the end of your turn. You can't save him to block for later.

Considering the abilities on the card, it seems like it is best suited for control decks that play for the long game. Yet, Kytheon is aggressively costed as a 2/1 creature for only one mana. Should this card sit in the White Weenie decks around your multiplayer table?

White Weenie in Multiplayer

When deciding where Kytheon should go in multiplayer decks, I was left pondering the bigger question of the viability of White Weenie decks in multiplayer games. White Weenie decks, like Red Burn decks, tend to use up resources as quickly as possible to try and overwhelm the opponent. You want to run effectively costed creatures that pile up the damage before an opponent can mount any kind of defense. By itself, this doesn't even work in one-on-one games, since the opponent tends to stabilize before you can come in for the win. The solution tends to be mass removal spells. The idea is to wipe the battlefield of creatures, then quickly play out new creatures and overwhelm your opponent for the last point of damage. Most decks also take advantage of ways to surprise your opponents in combat and pump up your creatures—or just the creature that gets through—to do enough damage to win games.

Grasp of the Hieromancer | Art by Igor Kieryluk

Multiple opponents make this very difficult. White Weenie decks are designed to get 20 damage in quickly. But in multiplayer, there are still two opponents left—and you have generally run out of cards and have limited ability to keep up with the survivors.

Changes

So can this classic style still work in multiplayer games? To make it happen, we are going to need to make some changes.

CreaturesWhite Weenie decks in one-on-one games tend to see their creature curve top out at four mana, with most of the creatures costing two or three mana. For multiplayer games, you are going to want to run that curve a little higher. The games just aren't going to end early, so your opponents are going to get some bigger creatures out, and you'll need to keep pace a little. We don't want to go too crazy, since the deck is white weenie, but a few cards that can keep pace are probably a good idea.

To keep the white weenie theme, you want to look at cards that can play the role of early damage-dealer or late game killer. Kytheon, Hero of Akros fits this role perfectly. He comes down early and hits for a few points of damage here and there, then in the later game, Gideon, Battle-Forged becomes the 4/4 indestructible beat stick. Having both in a single-card package makes things efficient and fits our white weenie theme.

Morph and megamorph are other examples of creatures that can come out early for a minimal price, then change into something you want to see in the late game. Exalted Angel and Shieldhide Dragon exemplify the kind of misery you'll want to visit upon your opponents.

Going a little more old school, creatures with kicker or level up offer that cheap early creature, with something more threatening for the end game. Transcendent Master and Figure of Destiny (not officially a level up creature, but certainly one in spirit) are both great options, while Kor Aeronaut demonstrates how giving one of your creatures evasion, even if only for a turn, makes for a great late game play.

My personal favorite method lies with token creatures. In particular, I'm looking at the cards that let you pay variable amounts for variable numbers of creatures; cards like White Sun's Zenith, Entreat the Angels, or Decree of Justice. While the first two tell you to pay more and you'll get more, Decree of Justice does that or gives you the option to choose smaller token creatures and draw a card.

Personally, I love the Mirage rare Sacred Mesa. It isn't going to win any power competitions among token-producing cards, but the ability to dump any extra mana you have each turn into it is great. It was one of the first cards I found that made it possible to overwhelm my opponents with creatures, and I happened to get three of them just by opening packs. While I wouldn't recommend this card for a dedicated White Weenie deck (it really does require at least five mana just to get started), it is wonderful in plenty of black-white decks that are looking for cards that give you a benefit when you sacrifice creatures (I'm looking at you, Twilight Drover).


Land destruction—One of the benefits of a white weenie build is the low casting cost. One way to really take advantage of that is with land destruction. Armageddon, Ravages of War, and Catastrophe take down all the lands on the battlefield. There are plenty of other cards that hit fewer lands and they can be used as well. The idea is to get to between four and six lands, then wipe them all away. Your opponents, expecting to have plenty of lands, are handcuffed and struggling to get any of their expensive cards into play while you already have an army on the battlefield and are starting your way back up to the four lands you need to do it again.

You'll note that the cards I mentioned are all older cards that tend to be more difficult to find. Land destruction, particularly mass land destruction, is something Magic doesn't really do any more—mostly because no one likes it. I mention it here because it is very effective with your strategy, but don't expect your friends to agree to play against you again if "LD" is prominently featured in your deck. Games with land destruction tend to take longer, since no one is able to do much. I recommend not running land destruction unless your group is particularly open to any style.


Pump—Most pump spells tend to be huge sorceries that give all your creatures a boost, or instants that surprise your opponents by making a single creature bigger. Pump spells are traditionally there to make your opponents afraid to let even a single creature through unblocked, for fear of a pump spell that takes them out of the game.

While I do love keeping your opponents off balance, multiplayer games demand so much from your cards that simply casting an instant—even one that kills an opponent—often isn't enough. You need ways to reuse these cards. The most basic strategy lies with switching to equipment. You can equip a creature and attack. And when that creature dies, the next creature can grab the sword from their fallen hands and continue to press on. With particularly good equipment, your opponents are forced to deal with the equipment first, then the creature. Your creatures gain a slightly longer shelf life.

The downside with using equipment is the loss of surprise. The combat math may not be great for your opponents, but at least it is predictable. They'll be able to set up their blocks to minimize their pain. I do like to try to keep a few instants as a surprise, but we are probably best choosing creatures and equipment that help us avoid the blocks in the first place!

Kytheon, Weenie Hero

The deck applies early pressure with the smaller creatures, then ramps up with Equipment and bigger creatures. Stoneforge Mystic's younger cousin, Relic Seeker, is there to find your Equipment when the deck isn't supplying them off the top. Mirran Crusader is one of my favorite small creatures, since it protects itself from so many cards. Even without flying or trample, it can usually find an opponent who will die quickly to it.

When things start to get a little out of control, drop the mass removal. While I didn't give removal a section above, you still want to choose your removal with an eye to flexibility. Wiping the board is generally the goal, but getting something more is important in a longer multiplayer game. Martial Coup comes with an instant army, while Fell the Mighty just gets rid of the creatures bigger than yours. Austere Command offers the flexibility of eliminating all the creatures, or just the big ones and all the enchantments that may be slowing you down. Phyrexian Rebirth is ideal in multiplayer games, since there are so many creatures on the battlefield most of the time. Rebirth can give you a massive Horror artifact creature to start attacking on the next turn.

I chose the Equipment just to give you a sense of what is out there. Equipment can pretty much do it all now, so even if you are looking at a quicker deck, or a more controlling deck, Equipment can probably help you out.

I like to try and maximize my land base, particularly when I only have one color, so I found some ways to dig a little deeper into your library, and give a creature a little evasion. I may have gone overboard with lands that tap when they enter the battlefield, but that's nothing a little tuning can't cure.


Finding the right deck for Gideon in a multiplayer environment can be challenging. Once you consider how the deck works and how that fits into your group's metagame, you'll already be well into a successful deck build. Good luck!

Bruce Richard
@manaburned
mtgseriousfun@gmail.com



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