July 07, 2015

Magic Origins: Multiplayer Edition

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With each new set, I like to take a look at the cards to see how they function in multiplayer games. I'm looking for that card that gets an extra benefit in games with multiple players. Collected Company is a great card, but it doesn't get better with extra opponents. I want cards that go from good to great, or great to awesome, simply because there are more opponents.

Before we get started on the individual cards, I want to look at renown from a multiplayer perspective. Renown gives a creature a +1/+1 counter when it deals combat damage to a player. This can seem like a minor benefit, but there are so many cards that can take advantage of the +1/+1 counters on the field that any way you can add them is a major benefit. The reason I give this ability a nod for multiplayer stems from having multiple players to attack. With only one opponent, there are times when these creatures simply are not going to get through. Once your opponent has a way to block, the chances of getting the +1/+1 counter go way down. With multiple opponents, there is often at least one player who just didn't get a quick start and is vulnerable. The odds of getting renown to activate go up with more opponents. Therefore, the value of those cards goes up. When you look at a card like Kytheon's Irregulars, it gets even better. With the ability to tap away your opponent's blockers, he is more likely to hit, even when your weakest opponent manages to get a blocker or two up to try and stop you. Renown is no extort, but it certainly brings something extra to your kitchen table.

Hixus, Prison Warden

Hixus, Prison Warden doesn't scale up well in multiplayer games, unless you think the greater number of creatures attacking you scales him up. Hixus is that annoying card you wish worked differently. He doesn't show up until the creature has already done damage to you, then he locks up the miscreant—preventing that creature from doing damage to any of your opponents. I kind of want him there before the damage is done.

However, as your commander, Hixus offers a level of rattlesnake[1] that can make most opponents think twice. If you have the mana available, they know that Hixus can flash in and take away any of the creatures they might use to attack you. If they instead choose to attack elsewhere, Hixus will just sit quietly in the command zone and let them go about their business.

Hixus is the type of commander that you don't really mind sacrificing, since by then there is probably another creature you want gone. I'll be interested to see if truly dedicated pillow fort decks will opt to run Hixus as their commander.

Alhammeret, High Arbiter

Alhammeret, High Arbiter lets you look at your opponents' hands at a point in the game where the only things still in hand are the nasty spells. Now is the time when you want to be able to stuff that spell before it gets to you. Al's (he calls me Betty and lets me call him Al) ability lets you effectively counter spells that can't be countered.

While I wish Al would let me choose a card in each player's hand to counter, the ability to see what everyone is holding is something that should not be underrated. With complete knowledge like that, you will know if you can cast an essential spell next turn or if you should wait and let one of your opponents walk into that problem.

Do note, Al doesn't work well with flicker effects. His ability to stop a spell only works while he is in play. Since flickering means he leaves play, your opponent will be free to play that spell. Admittedly, if you just want to see what everyone has drawn since the last time you cast Al, flicker away. You can always choose that same spell again.

Enthralling Victor

Victor makes the list because he does get better with multiple opponents (more likely to have awesome creatures with a power of 2 or less on the battlefield), but primarily because he is red—and I like to include at least one card of each color on my lists. Victor just isn't all that impressive. I'd rather take any creature with Conquering Manticore than by limited with Enthralling Victor.

There are several creatures that can steal an opponent's creature for a turn, so you can look to decks with those cards to see how you can make Victor more than he is. While Victor's eight-pack abs are impressive and make him an auto-include in your Buff Dudes deck, I need a little more substance.

Managorger Hydra

Anyone who has played with Forgotten Ancient knows just how big Managorger Hydra is going to get. The difference between the cards lies with the flexibility the Ancient has in moving the counters. Forgotten Ancient doesn't have any evasion, so you are often shifting the counters to other creatures that can more effectively use them. Managorger Hydra has evasion in trample, so it prefers to keep the counters and finish opponents without any help.

While the Hydra can do the damage you need done all alone, it does need support. The Hydra does nothing to protect itself, so you'll be needing to find ways to stop your opponents from just destroying it. For flexibility, I prefer Forgotten Ancient, but Managorger Hydra offers up that same raw power and will demand answers from your opponents fairly quickly.

Tainted Remedy

In two-player games, a card like Tainted Remedy is a sideboard card, barely. In multiplayer games, life gain is rampant. In games where you start with 20 life, one big swing can bring your life total to dangerous levels, so most players include some way to gain life, even if it is incidental. Creatures with lifelink or cards that do something as well as add to your life total are commonplace.

Tainted Remedy takes all that and makes it into a curse. Courser of Kruphix isn't all upside for your opponents any more. A card like Butcher's Glee becomes so much more flexible. Instead of being a way to pump just your creatures, you can now use it on your opponent's creatures, particularly when they are attacking each other. Jorubai Murk Lurker gives you a way to make your opponents' creatures really hurt their controller.

A less obvious benefit to a card like Tainted Remedy is the effect it has on the length of your games. Many players bemoan the length of their games, and gaining life is one of the culprits. Just as someone is about to be eliminated, they gain life and put themselves out of reach. Tainted Remedy forces everyone to play fair and try to win with just the life they had when they started the game. Well, except you, of course.

Tainted Remedy also offers up the opportunity to really take your opponents' life gain to the next level. Kavu Predator is a card from way back that also took advantage of the times when your opponent would gain life. A friend of mine built the deck and included all sorts of ways to give his opponents life to make the Predator huge. He could then take away all the gains he'd given you in a single swing, and take you out of the game in the next swing. While Tainted Remedy and Kavu Predator don't work well together, the idea still shines.

With Tainted Remedy in play, Luminate Primordial is miserable and a slap in the face! Congregate—a card despised in many multiplayer circles—gets a new lease on life as a direct damage spell that eliminates players from the game for only 4 mana!

Knight of the White Orchid

Every time I play this card, the Moody Blues pops into my head. Probably because Knight of the White Orchid helps make my Wildest Dreams come true, who can say? This card has made its way into several of my decks as an easy way to ramp. With only one opponent, you may get to use this card occasionally; but you regularly have more lands than one opponent, so you end up with just a 2/2 for two mana. In multiplayer games, you are getting to use the ability almost every time. Most games have a green mage who is busily playing spells to get two or three lands down every turn. Thanks to their industriousness and willingness to burn up the cards in their hand, you get to use Knight of the White Orchid. And with a little help, you can probably come up with plenty of ways to bring the Knight into play again and again.

Kothophed, Soul Hoarder

A 6/6 flyer for six mana is something I'm generally happy to play all on its own, but lately Wizards has been giving us a little extra—and I've been excited about it. Kothophed is a card-drawing machine that will make you ask why Griselbrand doesn't do more. Multiplayer games are filled with removal, sacrificial lambs (or sacrificial thrulls, goblins, or various token creatures), and deaths by combat. Each time an opponent suffers one of these losses, Kothophed takes 1 life and lets you draw a card. I expect you'll draw all the cards you want after just one round of play with Kothophed. Consider how many cards you'll have in hand after playing Languish? Kothophed will demand an answer very quickly.

The unfortunate part is that most times, you'll be the one who has to provide the answer. Someone with several tokens and a way to sacrifice them can gift you with many cards, but can also leave you dead. Take note that drawing the cards and losing the life are not optional. If ten permanents leave play, you are taking ten damage. If you are playing Kothophed into an engine that can create and sacrifice permanents, you better be ready with a way to kill him off before he kills you. Even in Commander games with a 40 life starting total, games can get very complicated and seeing many permanents hit the graveyard can leave you with a precarious life total if you aren't prepared.

In spite of my anxiety, I intend to run him and have a removal spell at the ready if things get out of hand. The ability to draw so many cards is just too good to pass on!

Archangel of Tithes

Archangel of Tithes offers up a Propaganda on a creature. Your opponents are forced to pay extra to attack you. While this kind of effect is nice in one-on-one games, it just means your opponent has to pay it and sees their board development somewhat stymied. In multiplayer games, it means they pay or send their troops elsewhere. It is amazing how often this sends your opponents off to attack each other. Ahh, I do love it when my opponents act as my unwitting pawns, doing my bidding for me!

On the other hand, Archangel of Tithes does so much more than just help you build your pillow fort. The second ability forces your opponents to pay for every creature they use to block with. This is wonderful! You can attack the opponent to your right and force him or her to tap out to block you, leaving them vulnerable to attacks from the rest of the board. Many times, this is going to mean that much of your army is unblockable, as your opponents may prove unwilling or unable to spend the mana necessary to block.

The downside lies when you choose to attack. With your Angel tapped, the first effect doesn't apply. While you may have left one of your opponents open to attack, you have left yourself open as well. Vigilance is generally an underrated ability in multiplayer, and Serra's Blessing or Heliod, God of the Sun would be particularly useful with Archangel of Tithes.

I hope you've enjoyed our romp through some of the multiplayer-friendly cards in Magic Origins. I'm looking forward to getting these cards in my decks to enjoy everything they have to offer!

Bruce Richard
@manaburned
mtgseriousfun@gmail.com


[1] Rattlesnake is a term taken from the Multiplayer Hall of Fame. A "rattlesnake" card is a card that warns your opponents to stay away from you or suffer dire consequences.



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