ost players think of multiplayer environments as being slower than typical duel environments. The decks have less raw efficiency, you’ve got more players to slog through, and you’ve also got one or two freaks who are just pulling annoying stunts for the heck of it.
But you also have, on rare occasions, a card designed to quicken a group’s pace a bit.
What a bullseye this thing has painted on it, am I right? We’ll set aside the matter of Naturalize and other artifact kill for a moment. Here we have a card that comes down on turn three and says “6/6…with trample”. It doesn’t die at the end of the turn, it requires no further action on your part, and it can repeat the ability several times in one game.
And best of all, the more opponents you have, the more non-artifact spells you’ll see pumping the charges on the egg. This is an excellent example of what I like to call a “pigeon” card (see inset box).
Animal Elements: A Re-Primer
When I look at a card’s value in multiplayer formats, I consider six different aspects. For amusement (perhaps only my own), I’ve named each after a suitable animal. (The plankton emails have been done to death. Don’t bother.)
Rattlesnake is the part of a card that warns off enemies, and redirects their attention elsewhere. No Mercy and Seal of Fire are generic examples.
Gorilla is the part of a card that pounds – permanents, hands, players, whatever. It’s all about sheer scope and scale. Akroma’s Vengeance is a recent example.
Spider is the tricky part of the card – the part that seeks card (or other) advantage by fooling and trapping an opponent or two. Spinal Embrace is the classic. Generally, a card high in rattlesnake isn’t high in spider, and vice versa.
Pigeons are birds that tend to thrive in environments with lots of people. So do pigeon-style cards, like Congregate or Syphon Mind.
Plankton, as the start of any self-respecting food chain, is a hard life form to hate. Plankton-style cards, like Helm of Awakening or Eladamri’s Vineyard, are a feast for the whole group.
Cockroaches are all about longevity, replication, and persistence. Cards with repeatable effects – especially if they earn you more cards – make for excellent cockroaches.
These elements do intersect here and there, but in general they create a decent framework for judging how well a card takes advantage of multiplayer formats’ special qualities. That’s as far as they go. There are, of course, plenty of cards that are solid in group games (e.g., Swords to Plowshares or Air Elemental) that don’t show much evidence of any of these animals.
Since I am not a Wizards employee, readers should not assume that these elements have any sort of official endorsement. They should, however, feel free write to anyone they know in Research & Development and tell them how brilliant I am. I mean, come on, animals! That’s just pure genius.
When Pigeon Eggs Attack
It is always something special when you can benefit from a crowded board. “Pigeons” like Chimeric Egg don’t just get better because they’ll generate more counters more quickly. They get better because each additional opponent gives every other opponent someone to worry about, too.
Look at it this way. If you see multiple creatures on the board, know that you have to weather five different attack phases, and you’ve only got one bullet in your gun, are you going to spend it on a 6/6 trampler before you’re sure that thing is charging at you (or for that matter, even becoming a creature at all)? Yes, 6/6 tramplers are good. But they’re not unbeatable. Good opponents will be patient in the early game – and for once, you’ll actually have that 6/6 trampler in the early game!
Because Chimeric Egg comes out early, and because smart attacks will only go after those opponents who can’t fight back very well (unsporting, but effective), the Egg is best seen as a sort of Darwinian device. It beats on player A, who can’t stop it without playing spells to get up a defense, which recharges the Egg so that it can keep pounding on player A (or, if player A has become less appetizing, player B). Meanwhile, players C through G will happily keep playing spells and recharging the Egg, since they’re confident in their own defenses.
You don’t have to attack. Threatening a 6/6 blocker is a fine defensive tactic, though I wouldn’t bother in the early game unless there was worse than a 3/3 sniffing around. Generating “good will” across the entire board is overrated. The same players that will love you for not attacking them will still love you for not attacking them, while you’re attacking some other guy. And that other guy? If he’s not packing a way to get rid of an occasional artifact creature, it sounds like a personal problem he’ll have to grapple with on his own.
Of course, as anyone who cleans statues for a living knows, pigeons come with their drawbacks. Their very nature is to want more opponents in a game – but all other things being equal, more opponents in a game is bad, since that’s just one more obstacle between you and victory. Plus, if you want to attack with it, you have longer to wait between combat phases – and if you want to block with it, it may have a tougher time showing up to block multiple times. Does a potential 6/6 trampler on turn three make up for that?
The math doesn’t look good at first. Even if no one else is playing with artifacts, each opponent would have to play (or inspire) three spells a turn to give you the 6/6 defender you may need every combat. And if attacking’s your thing, how can a mere 6/6 keep up with each additional 20-point life total that joins the game?
But that math assumes an awful lot. It assumes that everyone will attack right into the possibility of a 6/6 trampler, just to get you to take charge counters off and block. In practice, it’s unlikely that each additional opponent will risk their own creatures just to pressure you. And if they’re not attacking you, then maybe they’re attacking someone else. If so, that’s reducing the amount of work your 6/6 will have to do on the attack.
Put into my stupid animal terms, good “pigeon” cards can use a bit of “rattlesnake” in them.
Of course, we must briefly consider the possibility I put off earlier – that someone will just take a Disenchant to this thing and crack it open before you can ever really use it well.
And I do mean briefly. I’ve never been one to avoid playing a card because I’m afraid of spot removal that might happen. Do you avoid playing Worship or Sneak Attack because you’re afraid of Naturalize? Crosis the Purger or Hill Giant because you’re afraid of Terminate? Glory because you’re afraid of Withered Wretch? Island because you’re afraid of Stone Rain? Chimeric Egg may feel a bit more fragile because it’s an artifact and a creature, but it’s a big creature, so a lot of early-game creature removal (e.g., Lightning Bolt) won’t be as effective.
Ultimately, the Egg’s success depends on the deck you build, and how well you play it. Everything else is just yolk and mirrors. (Get it? Yolk and…damn. Rosewater snuck into my column again. Gonna have to put a cowbell on that boy.)
Cooking The Perfect Omelet
A first thought on an “egg” card is that certain parts of the world will have new fodder for Easter-themed decks this year:
I find it amusing that Kezzerdrix and Chimeric Egg actually have a similar mechanic – they both benefit from opponents’ spells. And Rukh Egg doesn’t really produce a viable creature until something big attacks you. Meanwhile, you’re restricting your own spells with Jackalope Herd. Somewhere in there, these things all connect…
As for Rith, I was thinking she kinda looked like a cross between a bunny and a lizard. You know, with wings. Did you know that lizards are thought of as heralds of spring and celebrated as embodiments of reborn gods, in some parts of the world? (I actually have no idea if they are; but the world’s big and old enough that somebody, somewhere, must have thought that about some random iguana at least once. If not, I’ll be the first when I visit the zoo with my kids in a few weeks, so we’re covered.) Anyway, Rith’s staying in.
Back to the Egg. A more serious take on something that comes in and out of creature shape might be to use creature sweepers. This has the double benefit of destroying threats and requiring your opponents to play new spells, if they want to renew their board presence. And as a bonus, we get to work a little “chimeric” theme into the deal.
You’re likely to inspire a bit of early attention if you drop down the Planar Collapse
all quick-like, but white can handle that sort of thing better than most colors. The nifty thing about an early Planar Collapse
is that red and black players often have no solution to it – if they can’t make it past your chimeric stuff with the creature(s) they have, they’ll have to (a) resort to killing other creatures so that they can play under the limit-of-four, or (b) bite the bullet and lay down that extra creature that will trigger the Collapse on your turn. Either way, the Collapse is highly effective against these colors. Against heavy white or green, you can either leave the Collapses in to absorb stuff like Naturalize
so your artifacts stick around, or replace them with another Wrath of God
The Sunrises are there to counteract other players’ untimely board sweepers – this deck can’t afford Shatterstorm! If you’re not worried about that sort of thing, basic utility like Disenchant is fine.
Another approach with a card like Chimeric Egg is to embrace the strategy of forcing out spells and get the thing to become a 6/6 trampler as often as possible. That’s what the card does, so why run away from it?
Now, if only I could think of another card that benefited from the spells opponents play…something that generated counters of its own…something ridiculous and unfair…hang on a moment, it’s coming…
There’s a lot of counter-shifting going on here, and not all of it requires the Power Conduit
. The Ancient can boost the Egg’s size on each of your upkeeps. Here, the fun of the deck is keeping your charge counters separate from your +1/+1 counters on the Egg. (Yes, you keep the +1/+1 counters, even when the Egg is just an artifact. See 212.1b: “when an object’s type changes…counters, effects, and damage affecting the object remain with it, even if they are meaningless to the new type.”) Timing is important here: you can only move the Ancient’s counters onto a creature
. So at the beginning of your upkeep, you will need to put the triggered ability on the stack – recall you need not name targets – and then turn the Egg into a creature. That Egg ability will resolve first, and then the Ancient’s – now you throw some +1/+1 counters on the Egg. This sounds involved, but since you’ll end start each round with as many new counters on the Ancient as you put on the Egg, you’ll likely be looking at a 9/9 or better when you attack on your fifth turn.
Power Conduit, of course, can use the Ancient’s counters any time to give the Egg a needed charge. After all, it’s better to have a 6/6 that can block now than a potential 9/9 that can’t shake the rust off! And if you find yourself needing an alternate path to victory, you can move charge counters off the Egg and onto…Molten Hydra, who can always use a few extra +1/+1 counters to go straight to the head.
That’s an awful lot of work for a lonely Power Conduit (or even two!), so I’ve added Awakening. Note the lovely side benefit of giving more opponents more opportunities to cast spells. You’re gonna win this game for sure, I promise!
Okay, a bit more truth in advertising. Like most of my favorite decks, this strategy is not for the faint-hearted. Playing in a chaos game you are, in essence, begging
the table to throw down spells that will likely hurt you or your permanents. Heck, you’re making it easier! But you’re also throwing out very strong reasons to leave you alone, or at least to reserve judgment until your combat phase. The Weaver and Feeder both ought to help, and of course serve as sources (and/or conduits, and/or deposits) of counters when times are good. If you’re really getting beaned, take out Impatience
– there purely for style points – and put in anything from Wall of Roots
to Seal of Fire
Against unpracticed players who are likely to overreact, this deck will struggle and be the second one out. (It’s your job to make sure the guy who overreacted is the first.) Against more seasoned players who have seen 6/6 tramplers before and would just as soon see you keep it and use it against other opponents, you will find the Eggs last longer, and break harder.
But don’t feel bad if a few of them do break, from time to time. After all, there is a saying about omelets…
Should the DCI try to sanction one or more team formats (e.g., Two-Headed Giant, or Emperor)?
|Maybe, if you can work out some unique issues.
|I don't care. Where are the Psychatog-Upheaval articles?
|No, because there are enough sanctioned formats.
|No, because it's impossible to do.
Bear in mind these polls are never scientific. This column's readership skews heavily toward people who enjoy multiplayer formats. That said, it's gratifying to see potential support for this sort of thing. If the "maybes" (or anyone else) would care to email me or post to the boards with their reservations, I'd be interested to hear what you have to say. I'll repeat for the record that I have no authority in this matter and do not work for Wizards - I'm just getting a sense of the community, here.
You may email Anthony at email@example.com. He cannot offer deck help.