Hey folks, welcome back!
To start off, here’s a little recap of Tuesday evening. You see, my playgroup meets every Tuesday for some cool games of Magic, so at around 6 pm it was time again for me to head over to Torsten’s place. Torsten? Oh yeah, let me first introduce…
Torsten: It’s his place where we get together every week. When I told the guys that I’d be writing articles about Magic a few months ago and asked them if they were okay with my using their real names, Torsten answered with a totally straight face that he’d like to be called “Mr. Boom”. He was making fun of me of course, but you reap what you sow. So “Mr. Boom” it shall be! Mr. Boom is our tribal player, he plays 60-cards soldiers, merfolks and aurochs (!) as well as a Rorix Bladewing dragon tribal Commander deck. His 5-color elemental deck used to put auras like Shield of the Oversoul or Steel of the Godhead on rainbow monsters like Fusion Elemental or Horde of Notions but sadly doesn’t exist anymore. He also likes to play in a more controlling way sometimes. Then he brings out his feared Ghost Council of Orzhova Commander deck that obviously includes every mass removal ever printed in black and white, or that 60-card artifact concoction that generates a billion mana via Cloudposts and Glimmerposts and then proceeds to win with things like Staff of Domination, Pentavus, Triskelion, Tezzeret the Seeker and Contagion Engine. Mr. Boom’s (man, this is already starting to annoy me!) most important quality is that he quickly grasps every new situation and can easily adapt his play style. However, this is hampered somewhat by his attitude that at times leads him to do completely irrational things just “because I can”.
Daniel: He’s the youngest of the bunch and was the last member to join our group. He took his time finding his own spot (mainly because he was fairly inexperienced in Magic when he came to us) but has greatly increased his skills and knowledge since then. Sometimes, his threat assessment is still a bit off, but then again, this makes games more interesting because nobody can ever be sure that he won’t screw them over with some really inconvenient instant. He isn’t called “DAMN!iel” without reason! Daniel also likes himself some combos, meaning that he’s usually the one who brings stuff like Splinter Twin to the table – and then gets disappointed when everybody gangs up on him. Duh!
David: This man ticks a bit differently. I mean, we’re all there for the fun, but David sometimes doesn’t appear to be interested in winning at all. For him, everything seems to be about having a good time, and this doesn’t necessarily have to include Magic. So he tends to play decks that allow him to also focus on other things by not posing too many challenges. Don’t confuse this with harmlessness though! Even if his Lurking Predators build basically plays itself, it has won its fair share of games.
Marco: That’s me. I’m the player with the largest collection of Magic cards as I have 12 binders plus three or four boxes of stuff that hasn’t been sorted yet. In addition, I have been playing this game since the mid-90ies, although I really got into it with Invasion block. Taken together, this makes me the person most likely to construct something new. Concerning my preferences, I gravitate towards a controlling style of play although the occasional beatdown deck might be right up my alley as well, as my Commander decks around Xenagos, God of Revels, Kaalia of the Vast and Kamahl, Fist of Krosa can attest. My biggest problem is that I’m a slow player, and even though I have definitely become better in that regard, there’s still room for improvement. And then there are the moments where my mind seems to shut itself down, resulting in me doing something extremely stupid without even realizing it…
These four are the core of our group but there is a number of other players who join us now and then. Like Jojo, who was there with us last Tuesday.
Commander Under Time Pressure
So, back to the little anecdote I wanted to tell you. David had left relatively early, so there were four of us left. Mr. Boom announced that he’d like to end the evening in about half an hour as he was tired due to an exhaustive day at work, and we started discussing the format of our last game. This was when somebody (I don’t remember who) suggested “Commander but with 20 life only.” We looked at each other, shrugged, and grabbed our decks.
You see, this is something that happens quite often. Somebody has an idea, we discuss it for a little while, then another person utters “Why the hell not?”, and off we go.
Daniel has only one Commander deck at the moment, and it’s helmed by Crosis, the Purger. I knew that it’s a rather slow deck that can spend entire turns without doing anything relevant, so with a halved life total, I didn’t think he’d be fast enough. Mr. Boom chose his Momir Vig, Simic Visionary deck which has a fair amount of mid-range beaters but usually wins via a huge Genesis Wave. Jojo didn’t bring a deck, so I lent him Kamahl, Fist of Krosa. For myself, I decided to take Xenagos, God of Revels for a spin.
The first few turns, nothing much happened but Mr. Boom ramping like crazy. Sakura-Tribe Elder and Coiling Oracle were followed by Explosive Vegetation. Jojo played Awakening Zone and that was it. I had Sol Ring on turn three, so Xenagos entered the battlefield one turn later. This was already too late as Mr. Boom cast an entwined Rude Awakening and sent the horde of angry lands my way. With no blockers yet, I lost 16 of my 20 life… On my turn, I hit back for 10 with a hasty Steel Hellkite and looked at my hand and the lovely Relentless Assault I saw there. Next turn, someone was going to die for sure, perhaps even two of them. I was still deciding whom to attack when Daniel tutored for Ruination. Considering that I had that Sol Ring and four nonbasics, it was clear that he needed to go before he could totally cripple my mana base. Mr. Boom had three basic lands and would be almost as screwed, so we set up a truce for the time being. Unfortunately, we hadn’t thought about Jojo. Since he had Awakening Zone, a few Eldrazi Spawn tokens and four basics, he would come out of it quite well if Daniel cast Ruination. So he played Green Sun’s Zenith for 7 and searched up … Tornado Elemental! Nooo! My hellkite died, and with it my chances of taking out two players at once. I couldn’t even take out one player anymore, so Ruination was basically guaranteed. Since Jojo foiled my plan, he’d suffer pain now! Zealous Conscripts stole his Tornado Elemental, Xenagos doubled its power, and together with the conscripts, it dealt 15 damage to him. Of course, this wasn’t enough, so after Daniel destroyed all nonbasic lands, Mr. Boom and I were left without any meaningful mana sources and the game was soon over.
The question now is: Why did I tell you this, dear readers? Because there’s a lesson here. If you have an idea, however silly it may seem, don’t immediately sweep it under the carpet. Try out new things – you never know when you’ll strike gold! We were laughing quite hard and had a lot of fun with only 20 life in Commander. And even though I suspect that we probably won’t do this again, it was a successful and happy conclusion of the evening.
Twenty-Two Black Mana Symbols
Moving on, I have another fun multiplayer deck for you. If you’ve ever wanted to take out the whole table in one shot without having to limit yourself to a deck that can’t win anymore if your attempt failed, this might be something for you.
I’ve mentioned this deck before, and now’s the time to finally reveal it. Behold what happens when demigods and traders combine their powers to take over the world:
MULTIPLAYER MADNESS X – Devoted to the Demigod
Alright, what’s going on here?
Your first angle of attack includes casting Buried Alive while having a Demigod of Revenge in hand to put three more copies of the same into your graveyard. Then proceed to hit someone for twenty during your attack step.
If those demigods stay on the battlefield, just continue what you’re doing. If a Gray Merchant of Asphodel puts in an appearance, the game can be over very quickly. Four demigods and one merchant equal twenty-two black mana symbols, spelling game over for each opponent unless someone managed to gain a few life before the merchant hits the battlefield. In that case though, just send in your air force to mop up the rest.
By the way, don’t be afraid of board wipes. Even if your creatures die, a playset of Living Death ensures that you’re never really out of the picture and can actually win you the game out of nowhere. This is your second angle of attack. Imagine casting Living Death with the following creatures in your graveyard: three Demigod of Revenge, one Gray Merchant of Asphodel, one Vampire Nighthawk. This would result in every opponent losing 19 life and you gaining so much that you should be able to survive a few turns even if the remaining survivors form an alliance against you.
And then there is your third way to win the game – the nowadays well-known combo of Vampire Hexmage and Dark Depths. Marit Lage is a 20/20 flier that can take out a player in one swing, so feel free to sacrifice the hexmage to take all counters off Dark Depths and start killing people with your indestructible tentacle monster!
The Supporting Crew
This deck plays like a mixture of combo and control, so there is a slew of cards that defend you or destroy threats, like Vampire Nighthawk and Mutilate. Because it’s important to get the right pieces, there is card draw and tutoring at different spots on the mana curve. Sign in Blood at two, Phyrexian Arena and Buried Alive at three, and weaker and conditional card draw at four in Solemn Simulacrum.
One thing you might have noticed is that the five spot is rather cluttered. This is why Solemn Simulacrum and Liliana of the Dark Realms are crucial as you absolutely need that fifth land for the demigods, merchants and Living Deaths. The planeswalker can also get rid of troublesome creatures or pump one of yours to increase your damage output. Her ultimate, though, is not exactly necessary for the deck to function, so you should focus on using a combination of her first two abilities.
Tuning the Deck
You don’t think that the above list would be good enough in your meta? How about any of the following cards then?
Cemetery Reaper – Living Death is a powerful card. Sadly though, it’s also symmetrical. Normally, that shouldn’t really matter as you should have a few demigods and/or Gray Merchant of Asphodels in your graveyard which should spell instant doom for your opponents. If you want to make sure and if the two Withered Wretches aren’t enough, try this guy. Not only does he remove unwanted creatures from your opponents’ graveyards, he also provides you with some zombies in the process.
Garza’s Assassin, Nekrataal, Shriekmaw, Fleshbag Marauder – Creatures that destroy other creatures are great tools here as they have a body with black mana symbols in its upper right corner. If you need more control options, feel free to swap out other cards for some of the above. I used to have Garza’s Assassin in this deck as it’s especially interesting here with its three mana symbols but I found its recover ability to be too clunky and tended to forget it.
Pestilence – This little enchantment is very interesting as it serves three purposes here. First, it kills off creatures. Secondly, it provides more devotion. And thirdly, it can kill your opponents if they are already low on life. Hm, now that I think about it, why isn’t it in the deck?
Rescue from the Underworld – This one allows for funny tricks with Gray Merchant of Asphodel and really loves ETB effects. As an instant, it can be played at an opponent’s end of turn to bring back the two creatures almost immediately. The mana cost is a bit prohibitive though as the five spot is already quite full.
Tortured Existence – All demigods in your graveyard already and no Living Death in sight? Instead, your hand is cluttered with creatures that don’t help you any further right now? Tortured Existence might be just what you need.
Exsanguinate – This is a somewhat boring card but I’d still like to point out that between Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and Liliana of the Dark Realms‘s ultimate, this deck can produce rather large amounts of mana.
That’s All, Folks!
Alright, that’s it for today. What I really like about this deck is that you’re never out of the picture unless someone is running graveyard hate. In this case, good luck. Otherwise, your opponents might be in for a big surprise. Join me next time when I’ll finally be talking about something that has been on my mind for weeks now.
Until then, may you never miscount the mana symbols on your cards!