ith all the previews and Halls of Fame and such lately, I haven't had much time to talk to you all about what Mirrodin does to a multiplayer environment. Of all the formats that are out there, sanctioned or unsanctioned, very few are going to get as brisk a breeze as multiplayer environments.
After all, most casual groups play with Type I restrictions - either formally or informally - and so we experience the full gamut of card interactions. At the same time, we don't have a tournament or duel atmosphere that sharpens decks to the point where we can assume a metagame and test our decks against a "gauntlet" of tried and true types, like red beatdown or white-blue control.
All this means that decks are less predictable. At least four different things might happen to your group as Mirrodin rolls out. It all depends on how your group thinks and acts:
1) Mirrodin cards dominate your group's decks, and gently slide away as new expansions become available. When I say "dominate", I mean four-fifths of the non-land cards in every deck. This will happen more commonly than veterans realize, because we all forget that the new generations of Magic players have to start somewhere. Those who started with Onslaught or later are going to embrace Mirrodin, and the decks will play like fairly solid limited or block constructed decks, depending on the group's resources.
There's not much groups in this category need to worry about, in terms of metagame. Most of them are still learning the finer points of the game, and predicting/adjusting to opponents' decks isn't really a concern. It's a wild and fun time, and they don't need my help today. Let's move on to a more interesting case.
2) Mirrodin will inspire a new phase in your group, where old and new artifacts become more dominant in most decks. Especially if the next two expansions also feature artifacts, we can expect to see quite a few common and uncommon artifacts that are going to feel like Wild Mongrel or Man-o’-War - too good not to include in any deck that can run it. If a group has healthy but not incredible collections, chances go up that bombs like Isochron Scepter to reprint favorites like Yotian Soldier to color-tainted treats like Goblin Replica all get a serious look for years to come.
Of course, I mention Goblin Replica for a reason - it's a slow but very real representative of what may amount to a multiplayer backlash against artifacts. In this scenario, though, I'm assuming that nothing worse than a bunch of Disenchants, Naturalizes, and Hull Breaches show up to haunt you. Some groups just don't (or won't) pack that much hate. It wouldn't be so bad if every casual player just learned to pack a little utility in his or her deck, right? It would be like running creature decks where you knew Terror and Swords to Plowshares were out there.
But we have to consider other, more extreme possibilities...
3) Mirrodin begins to push artifacts, but your group pushes back violently, and the set has a short-lived effect on your group. I hope this doesn't happen in your corner of the world, but I have to believe that there will be some groups where two "deep" pools intersect: deep collections featuring cards like Splinter and Shatterstorm, and deep desire to penalize the latest "trend".
This desire would be the very same that inspired dusting off Tsabo's Decree and Extinction during Onslaught block, or Tormod's Crypt during Odyssey block. In small doses, it's no big deal - one guy packs the "perfect hoser" in a random deck or two - but if three or four players start to put it in more than one deck, it chills enthusiasm for the new set's flavor, and a lot of creativity gets lost.
4) Mirrodin cards make star appearances in new decks, and may not necessarily leave until pushed. Groups with already strong collections will pick and choose those cards that seem particularly interesting, and build decks around them. These cards may or may not include artifacts - for example, someone might decide to "break" Confusion in the Ranks.
Decks that use artifacts, but don't depend on them too heavily, won't inspire much backlash on the order of Meltdown or anything like that. But in more veteran groups, they might provoke a couple copies of Aura of Silence or Viashino Heretic. More likely, a deck that succeeds with a very specific artifact will just inspire a style of deck - heavier beatdown, tighter control, faster combo, whatever - that happens to beat it without necessarily targeting the key card. For example, Confusion in the Ranks loses effectiveness against a deck that wins through instants and sorceries. This sort of "metagaming" happens all the time.
So What To Do?
It's all very fine and well to ruminate about what might happen. But most of us are already integrating Mirrodin into our decks, so readers are already seeing how their group will react. What do you do, in each situation, to maximize your chances of success?
Personally, I hope most groups tolerate the infusion of artifacts on the scene, without too much hate. Not only will it be more fun for groups as a whole - it's also smarter to play cards that won't be "dead" if the group doesn't break the way you think it will (or if decks change faster than you can keep up).
So my advice is consistent, no matter how Mirrodin
breaks upon your group: find the cards that work no matter what. Let's go back to that Viashino Heretic
example from above. The Heretic is a house against artifact-heavy decks, especially if they have high casting costs. (I once got absolutely frozen by a single Viashino Heretic
, because the deck I was playing revolved around Draco
. Stupid 16 in the righthand corner.)
But what if your opponents aren't playing a single artifact? Well, it's not a total loss: you still have a 1/3 for three, and there are worse things in the world. (Is it just me, or did Wizards just release three more 2/2s with converted mana costs of 5 or higher? Did we learn nothing from Brass Herald?)
Following are three decks for consideration in your multiplayer group. The first deck is set up to take advantage of some of the more efficient commons and uncommons in Mirrodin, but assumes that artifact hate will be low. Artifact-heavy decks allow for a good many color splashes - don't be afraid to experiment!
The second deck blends a few boutique artifacts with some older cards, and is set up to withstand a bit more artifact hate. It does this by de-emphasizing artifacts a bit, and coming up with at least one lovely rare to pull them back from the dead. Veteran players may be better able to handle the deck's timing tricks. They're also more likely to be up to the challenge of the Jangling Automaton - Copperhoof Vorrac combo. (They may even have a couple of Early Harvests they can slip in here, for an extra-obtuse combat trick.)
The third deck is a fairly silly Type I artifact-hate deck, based on the Thran Forge combo many veterans have toyed with in the past. It seemed ridiculous not to pay homage to it.
Honestly, the dual lands are just in there to be obnoxious. Take out the Dominates and you can run whatever mana base you want.
I hope these decks get you started in thinking about how to operate in an artifact-rich environment. The decision to hose is up to you, and the other players in your group - but however you make your decision, do so with eyes open.
You may contact Anthony at firstname.lastname@example.org. He cannot provide deck help to readers. However, much like the Myr Mindservant, he knows what you are planning...and does not approve.