Serious_Fun

A strong multiplayer card from Betrayers

Swaying To The Stars

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The letter T!his week, I'd like to focus in on one recently printed card. I don't often do this outside of card previews, since there are so many capable columnists who'll give you great suggestions on how to play a card. However, this one has passed by without much comment (probably due to mana cost), and I'd like to make sure folks don't forget about it.

This doesn't mean I'm going to build you a deck. Readers often ask me for deck lists. I generally don't like being that precise with group decks. With the ideas I'm giving below, you should be able to tap into your own creativity and share thoughts across the message boards. What works for your group should be different from what works in ours, and vice versa.

Sway of the Stars caught my eye immediately upon reviewing the Betrayers spoiler as the likely "#1 heavy" in the set when it comes to multiplayer. What does being "#1 heavy" mean here? It means sheer impact. It means those of you who are familiar with my animal elements should be thinking of a particularly large gorilla. Sway of the Stars is a huge gorilla – and unlike many other "gorilla" cards, like Obliterate, it doesn't really punish players or make it difficult to recover. And unlike Upheaval or other "stall" cards, it contains a provision to quicken the game: the 7-life reset.

For these reasons, Sway of the Stars sets itself apart from most past global resets. In fact, players who want to use it may well have to think in a new way. Why? Because Sway of the Stars essentially turns one game into two games.

The Pre-Sway Game: Getting To Sway

There are at least three considerations to building your deck to prepare for Sway. (This is above and beyond including enough copies of Sway in your deck!) In decreasing order of importance:

  • You need to survive this game. The solution may sound simple – just put in good defensive stuff like Fog Bank – but as you'll find, most good defensive cards are not going to help you as much when it comes to the post-Sway game below. Think this through carefully – can you imagine cards that can serve as both good attackers and defenders?
  • You need to accelerate your mana. Sway costs ten. Even in multiplayer games, this is asking for a bit of investment. Disposable mana acceleration like Dark Ritual or Desperate Ritual is just fine – because you'll get those cards back in your deck as Sway resolves. Of course, you can sidestep the mana issues with a few tricky cards that let you play a spell without paying its mana cost (e.g. Dream Halls) – but more often than not, you need to build to ten.
  • You need to think through the symmetry of Sway. Are there cards you would prefer your opponents not play twice? If so, consider removes-from-game effects like Swords to Plowshares; Kumano, Master Yamabushi; and Syncopate. Cards removed from the game are, shall we say, unswayable.

The Post-Sway Game: Racing To Seven

Once you resolve a Sway, you have to overcome the most typical reset failure, which is: what now? Just because you've reset the board doesn't mean you're going to have all the answers. Everyone has the same opportunity you have to deal seven damage. To make things even more difficult, you can't keep whatever hand you had pre-Sway – so you don't know what you'll start your "second game" with.

Now what?

All that said, everyone around the table now has a fabulous opportunity to kill one or more players very quickly. How hard is it to deal seven damage? Heck, there are hundreds of cards that do it and don't even have X in the cost. Here are some general hints; and then we'll go color by color.

  • The same mana acceleration that got you to Sway should also get you to your victory condition. If you can accelerate to ten for Sway, why not to nine for Spirit of the Night, or eight for Verdant Force?
  • Pull things in from outside the game. I'm thinking particularly of the wishes (like Death Wish) since they can help your deck adjust post-Sway to things you saw pre-Sway. Think of it as mid-game sideboarding. You can even play that Death Wish pre-sway without effort – who cares if you lose ten life to Death Wish, when you're resetting everyone to seven anyway?
  • Don't be afraid to Sway twice. If the first Sway doesn't work, why not Sway again? You do have to be careful of the mood in some groups; but by and large, resetting everyone to seven life should make up for any slowdown effect a second Sway would have.

Now let's look at what each color might bring to a sway:

MONOBLUE: The mono-blue deck may be the most difficult one to pull off, since blue doesn't have too much in the way of aggression, mana acceleration, life gain, life drain, direct damage, or anything else that may come in handy when you're playing a game at seven life. On the other hand, there have been plenty of mono-blue decks that have given up less than seven life on the way to victory. Most of them have been highly defensive, with behemoths like Tidal Kraken coming in to sweep up.

BLUE-RED: My first thought for synergy with Sway of the Stars was Bloodfire Colossus. If you can accelerate to a Sway, and then accelerate to a Colossus, you hold an awful lot of power with a Seal of Fire. With cards like Desperate Ritual in the mix, making this work is not completely out of the question. Of course, it's highly dangerous – but then, blue-red decks generally risk a lot anyway.

BLUE-BLACK: Like red, black offers some fine acceleration. Unlike red, black might get off some life drain to break the seven-life synergy of Sway. Of course, if you're feeling frisky, you could always try something like Last Laugh in your Sway deck and see if you can stitch those two crazy quilts together.

BLUE-WHITE: The best bet here, I hate to admit, is Soul Warden. Fortunately (and I say this cynically), Soul Warden doesn't help you much in the early game, since any early wins in life will get erased by the Sway itself. But post-Sway, that Warden will be very, very useful. White also offers a nice range of weenies to deal seven damage early, if necessary – and cards like Silver Knight are also good early on, for defense and offense.

BLUE-GREEN: This combination may be my favorite. Green offers everything blue doesn't to make Sway work: sound mana acceleration (ranging from elves and snakes to Kodama's Reach and Dawn's Reflection), early creatures that can work either on offense or defense (such as Wild Mongrel), and huge creatures that can deal seven damage easily (like Thorn Elemental).

Beyond that, green offers the occasional treat like Eureka that can complement Show and Tell for a completely random "let's see who wins next turn" sort of game. Or you can play it more straight, and put out fast life gain (like Wellwisher or Spike Feeder) to put your opponents in a hard place. Green even offers Hurricane and Squallmonger as possible post-Sway victory conditions.

Whichever way you go, try to keep your balance as you Sway. And enjoy this underused treat from Betrayers!

Anthony cannot provide deck help. He's busy trying to keep his telescope in focus.

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