wo weeks ago, I asked you to vote for the most powerful card in Planar Chaos. Many of you did - though interestingly enough, overall voting was down a little from Time Spiral.
But is that really surprising? There were fewer cards to choose from, so it's not as exciting. As opposed to Time Spiral, which had 301-someodd (non-"timeshifted") cards, Planar Chaos only had about 120 once you strip the timeshifted cards from the equation. And unlike Time Spiral, where the votes were concentrated very disproportionately among a handful of clear winners (Stuffy Doll, Deep-Sea Kraken, Teferi), the choice of cards for Planar Chaos was all over the map - there really wasn't a clear winner vote-wise in the "power" category.
I was also surprised by the number of people who didn't know which cards were timeshifted - and remember, one of the criteria for "Most Powerful Card" was that it could not be a timeshifted card. Now, don't get me wrong; it's easy for me to remember which cards have been around before, since I've been slinging Magic cards since The Dark. I've memorized 'em in the course of my job of editing StarCityGames.com, but that's not something I expect you to do. And it's doubtless difficult for newer players to realize which cards may have been printed before in the decade-long history of Magic, so I have sympathy.
But the cards are different. And before you enter a contest, one would hope you'd double-check the art on the card to see… as this poor fellow obviously did not….
"DAMNATION!! Oh, crap, you said non-timeshifted... How about the red Pestilence? Oh crap, that one is timeshifted also. Let's go with something more subtle.
I will list the deck first I am sure you will get the combo by the time you start reading the rest.
Hint: The card is the only Planar Chaos listed here. Hint 2: It is the first one on the list.
4 Null Profusion!!!!!"
- An Unnamed Player Who Accidentally Chose His Third Timeshifted Card, Thus Rendering the Rest of the Deck Sadly Useless
Here are the multiplayer power cards you all made your case for:
That's a lot of votes. So just like I did the last time, let's look at what is - and, more importantly, what is not - powerful.
What Is Not Powerful?
Extirpate? (6 votes)
Here's a little irony for you: I started writing this article to distract myself from what I am about to go through in two hours. See, at 10:40 a.m., as I write this, I have an appointment to have a rotten tooth yanked from my jaw. I've never had this done before. I'm terrified of not only the discomfort of a doctor getting in there with a set of pliers and wresting it loose, but the problems of having a raw nerve in the socket healing afterwards.
"Magic," I said. "I'll just write about Magic. That has nothing to do with dentistry whatsoever - a pleasant game like that will help me forget my troubles! And oh, the first card I'm writing about is Extirpate! What does 'to extirpate' mean, anyway? I'll look it up…."
To pull up by the roots; to remove by surgery.
Thanks, Magic. Thanks a whole lot.
Hell, I might as well design a whole deck based upon this new "rotting teeth that need to be removed" theme:
Alas, Magic currently has no cards with the words Yank, Evulse, or the frightening-yet-my-thesaurus-suggested-it Catheterize. (I don't wanna know what the Oracle wording on that one would be.)
In any case, Extirpate is not the most powerful multiplayer card in Planar Chaos for one reason and one reason only: It's conditional. And conditional cards, by and large, tend to be narrow and not particularly great.
Okay, let's look at the positives: It's unstoppable, barring some shenanigans with Willbender. And it removes all copies of Your Most Hated Spell from the game.
But let's look at the negative: It removes all copies of Your Most Hated Spell from the game, assuming it's in the graveyard.
That's a pretty significant drawback, really. I heard several times from people that "This card smashes the Urzatron!" - but those Urza's Power Plants don't just fall into the graveyard accidentally. No, to make Extirpate work, you have to put the Urza's Power Plant there and then follow up with an Extirpate.
Okay. So what does that mean? Well, it means your deck has to have a land destruction spell in it (or possibly hand destruction). So for this to "smash the Urzatron," the following things must happen:
1. Your opponent must be playing a deck containing the Urzatron.
2. You must draw a spell that places an Urza's Power Plant in the graveyard.
3. Before your opponent can play another copy of Urza's Power Plant (for remember, Extirpate does diddly about things already on the board, and you can't respond to someone playing a land), you must draw your Extirpate and play it.
Hmm. That's a lot of things that have to go right for this to work! Your opponent has to draw the card at the right time for you to target it, and then you have to draw two spells with the mana to play them at the precise moment when he has those cards out, and then suddenly it destroys his strategy.
Well, not his whole strategy. Just the whole "Urza" strategy.
That's an awful lot that has to happen at once for this to work. And even then, you haven't gotten closer to winning the game, since you have done not a single point of damage to your friend; you've just set your opponent back.
Compare that to Stuffy Doll, which requires one card and actually gets you closer to winning. Sure, your opponent can kill it with a -X/-1 effect, but if he doesn't he'll be taking at least one point of damage every turn and possibly more if he attacks with a non-trampling creature.
In one scenario, several cards have to appear at the right time for you to cripple your opponent's mana development. In the other, you have to draw a single card that starts killing your opponent right away, and the only condition is that your opponent has to not have an immediate answer.
Which is more effective? And which is more likely?
Let's be honest here: The love of Magic runs on great dreams. You play because you're going to get that God Hand where everything comes together perfectly, and your wacky combo goes off, and then everything in the universe is just in its right place. For example, in the last Sealed Deck game of Time Spiral I played (one where we both had cast multiple Sulfurous Blasts to clear the board), my opponent cast Disintegrate for fourteen and I went, "Draining Whelk?"
That was frickin' brilliant. It was one of the reasons I put the Whelk in my deck. Then I won the next turn by attacking with my swollen Whelk, and oh my God it was glorious.
But you have to remember the bad times as well. I also have to keep in mind that for every time I Whelked away a Dark Withering, protecting my Deep-Sea Kraken and netting a 7/7 flier in the process, I had a time when Draining Whelk sat stupidly in my hand because I didn't have six mana. Or there was a time when my opponent had near-fatal damage on the board, and my Draining Whelk had arrived too late to help. Or there was the time my opponent was pressuring me so badly that I couldn't afford to keep six mana open because I needed to play blockers, so I played something else and then he Fireballed me for fourteen.
There's a reason why Draining Whelk, though it's undeniably potent, is not consistently powerful. It only works when the stars align just right. And if you want to win, you cannot build decks based on best-case scenarios.
When it fires perfectly, Draining Whelk is on. It's amazing. And so is Extirpate. But when it it's off, you wind up with a dead card that doesn't do anything to help you win the game.
Don't get more wrong: Extirpate is a lovely card. I'll probably put a copy or two in my black decks, because for a single mana in a large game where a lot of creatures get killed incidentally, it's quite a nice effect.
"I'll reanimate - "
"No you won't."
But Extirpate depends on too many other things to be über-powerful (assuming you're not facing some recursion deck, which it just hamstrings). You have to either build a deck around it, or you have to acknowledge that sometimes it's a dead draw.
A card that sometimes sits in your hand while you lose the game? It can be a powerful card, no doubt. But the most powerful card? Certainly not.
Body Double? (4 votes)
Hmm. I believe some hack has written about this before. But is it as good as it looks?
Oh, most likely. But like Extirpate, it's also narrow in the sense that Body Double requires there to be a goodie in the graveyard to go Doppelganging before it can do anything. Admittedly, it doesn't have the lack-of-threat factor that Extirpate does - once you Body Double, you have a nasty critter on the table - but the conditionality of it makes me wince.
Besides, there are better options. The winner even combos quite nicely with Body Double, actually….
"Body Double also works with Pongify, which is in the same color. Get rid of their creature for one blue and, although they get a 3/3 green Ape, you can now use Body Double on the creature that went away."
- Spencer V.
"I believe that the best multi-player card in Planar Chaos is Body Double. You can pair it up with so many different cards. To get cards in the graveyard for copying, you can use global creature destruction, such as Pyrohemia and Wrath of God. Or you could think of a cool combo with Nullstone Gargoyle. You could make a Blue/White deck that includes Wrath of God, bounce cards so that you can re-use its ability such as Unsummon, Cloudstone Curio, or Tidespout Tyrant (Momentary Blink, too), and even pair it up with Æthermage's Touch and cards like Azorius Æthermage. You can also copy a Windreaver, which has its own 'bounce' ability built in. Grand Arbiter Augustin IV will increase you opponents spells costs', making your counterspells more powerful, to put more creatures in the grave. How about adding in Eternal Dragon?? Plainscycle it and then copy it, return it to your hand, etc.
You could also include high-costing creatures. Wouldn't your opponent hate a turn 5 Blazing Archon?
"On the other hand, you could combine it with Black and Blue cards
such as Glimpse the Unthinkable to help put creatures in the graveyard.
Also, you could put in Brainspoil to:
- Destroy creatures and
- Transmute for Body Double
"There are also green and blue cards that could pair up good with Body
Double, too. Vigean Intuition can help with creatures in the graveyard,
if you choose a type other than creatures. There's also Omnibian, which
can help if you can think of any combos."
- Nick T.
Chronozoa? (3 Votes)
Chronozoa is a strong card if people leave it alone. And it's certainly fun. But is it strong enough to be The Most Powerful Multiplayer Card?
Probably not. Don't get me wrong, a couple of turns of Chronozoa action will create a wall of really scary fliers (especially if you have Paradox Haze out), but a Damnation will handle 'em all just the same.
"But Ferrett!" you cry. "They're blue! You're playing the color that has Counterspells!" And that's true, but you can't counter every threat that five opponents send in your direction. You have to have creatures that protect themselves from targeted removal so you can save your spells for ones that will really hurt you… And sadly, Chronozoa fails at this.
Again, a great card. I'll be building a deck with it soon enough. But strongest? Probably not. There's pretty much one deck that Chronozoa shines in - Jhoira's Timebug and Clockspinning - and that's so obvious that many people thought of it. Though Andy here probably give it the best shot:
"Not only will you be able to 'split' (as I like to call it) your Chronozoas during the end step and swing for x2 (or at least three more), you'll also be able to evade any kind of removal (even Split Second - more on that in a minute). This guy has a vanishing 3 mechanic, which would normally make him suck something awful. But that's not so, thanks to his ability!
The only stuff that can get this guy is mass removal, but most people can't afford four Damnations AND four Wrath of God, so as long as I stick to FNMs I should be fine (Watch your metagame, son!)....
Anyhow, on to the removal explanations. Your Chronozoa gets Mortified? Jhoira's Timebug and Clockspinning got your back. Your Chronozoa gets Sudden Death-ed?... Well, it's likely that your Chrono's been on the board for a turn, so Timebender's your best friend (I'm sure I don't have to explain this bit here to ya). No Timebender handy? Willbender is more than happy to take a bullet for your Chrono (or maybe even a Quicksilver Dragon?).
Here's my version 1 build for the deck:
"And there you have it... More of a proof of concept than a deck, but yeah. Not sure how it'll work but I'd definitely say Chronozoa is the most powerful of the new Planar Chaos stuff.
- Andy S.
"Chronozoa is a good way to remember what a cell is supposed to look like while I take my Biology exams. (Not that I'm cheating mind you, but it's such a powerful card that its very image has been etched into my brain.)" - James L.
Someone didn't read the rules… And that's too bad. If it wasn't for those pesky "rules," I'd agree with you folks that this is the strongest card.
Shivan Meteor? (3 votes)
Dan Gant summed it up best with the following picture:
And he is correct. Shivan Meteor (among others) is tailor-made to go with Stuffy Doll… But a one-trick pony needs more!
There's also the fact that 13 damage will take out just about anything in the game. But a spell that only removes creatures - and only some creatures at that, not being able to hit guys who have protection from red or untargetability or some kinda weird pumpiness - isn't that good. And really, five mana for a sorcery-speed removal spell is a lot to ask for.
The art, however, may be the finest in all of Planar Chaos. Go, Chippy!
"Since Stuffy Doll came in Time Spiral it has an endless combo combinations, including mixing with Pyrohemia and Volcano Hellion. So a competitive mono-red deck would be like:
- Rodrigo R.V.
Magus of the Tabernacle? (3 votes)
Ooo. Now that's a nice card, obliterating whole strategies in a moment flat. Is your opponent trying to muster a Thallid army, or swarming you with Slivers, or pounding you with Goblins?
Not any more! He's either gonna have to slow his Onslaught down by either losing guys or paying mana to keep them in play. And as a 2/6, it's pretty effective for its four-mana price, too.
Any card that can short-circuit whole decks for four mana has to be taken seriously… Especially when it can block, too. It's a dang fine choice for the strongest.
But there are two drawbacks here: First, it does nothing against the "I attack you with one big guy" strategy, so if your opponent has a Darksteel Colossus or a Simic Sky Swallower out, he will cheerfully pay the one mana and then swing fearlessly. And secondly, it doesn't attack particularly well, because 2 damage per turn can reduce a mere two opponents to dust in twenty turns flat.
But fortunately, we are playing white.
"But Ferrett!" you cry. "I thought you said that 'We're playing blue' isn't a good enough reason to play Chronozoa! Aren't you just a hypocrite?" And the answer is, "Maybe, but not here."
See, white has tons of cheap ways of dealing with a single creature, going back all the way to Swords to Plowshares and ramping up through creature enchantments like Pacifism, and then later on Temporal Isolation and Faith's Fetters and Condemn. But its signature method of destroying creatures, Wrath of God, destroys your guys, too.
Which means that this card fills a gap in white's strategy. Now you can have one card to deal with the teeming masses of little guys without annihilating your own defense, and another set of cards to handle the individual fatties. (And maybe, I don't know, a Serra Angel or an Akroma, Angel of Wrath to finish everyone off.) That makes this quite synergistic, and a solid contender.
But is it good enough to win? Not quite. There are three that are stronger, and I'm surprised that more people didn't vote for them. But hang on.
Akroma, Angel of Fury? (2 votes)
My favorite email in this whole contest was someone touting the power of "Aroma, Angel of Fury." I mean, she's awfully pretty, so it only makes sense that she smells nice, too.
That said, I'm not a big fan of the alternate Akroma. For one thing, she lacks haste - and that's a huge issue in a multiplayer table, where four or five other people may get a chance to react before you can turn her sideways. And you have to turn her sideways, because unlike the old girl she doesn't have vigilance - another strong drawback in multiplayer, where Akroma, Angel of Wrath was insanely great because you could attack and leave back an awe-inspiring blocker that every succeeding player would have to get past.
I mean, it's nice not to have someone steal Akroma with, say, Control Magic or any of its variants. And I guess the fact that she can't be targeted by Swords to Plowshares or Condemn is nifty. But most of the problems you'll face in multiplayer come from blue, black, and red spells, and this Akroma only handles the weaker one-third of them. And even if blue does steal her, you can Terror her just like any other dude.
Sorry, Akroma. You're just not good enough.
Dust Elemental? (2 votes)
A darned fine choice. It's close to the top, since it saves your guys from removal.
"Dust Elemental. What did you think I was gonna say?
One of the problems of multiplayer Magic is that committing to a full-blown attack on one player leaves you totally defenseless to everyone else. Now when you smack down player 2, player 3 thinks he's gonna come at you with his Serra Angel nonsense. BAM! 6/6 flier out of nowhere.
Not convinced yet? Let's say one of your opponents are playing the Dust Elemental wannabe, Damnation. Sure, his spell might take out everybody else's creatures, but not yours. Your four mana allows you to save three of your best creatures - or two of them and the dustman himself.
Need more? Now all your creatures with CIP effects get to serve double duty. Aven Riftwatcher not only gives you an extra four life but doubles his vanishing lifespan. Let's not even mention what this thing does to 5/5 untargetable Calciderms...
What's wrong - worried you might not have enough creatures in play? A minor rebel chain will take care of that for you. As an added bonus: Defiant Vanguard's ability triggers when he blocks, and sets up a delayed response at the end of combat. So search him out, block a fattie, then return him to your hand and watch your opponent's creature die the hell anyway.
"And I probably don't need to point this one out, but come on! 6/6 flying and fear? I can't think of a single creature that can block this baby and live to tell about it. And six damage... That's almost seven damage! I like knocking out a third of someone's life total.
"Combos with other good cards!
"Still pretty damn big!
"Have fun smashing face."
When You Surprised Me
There were several cards that, to me, looked very strong - and I'm surprised that more people didn't choose them. And those cards are below.
This is the prototypical multiplayer card - gigantically expensive, but huge in effect. Nobody ever played Blatant Thievery in Constructed and won a Pro Tour with it…. But in multiplayer games, where things tend to run for at least ten or twelve turns, it's a standard threat just because it's so powerful. (Also see: Insurrection.)
I'm not saying that it's an auto-include - you don't want to suspend it, lest you make some serious enemies and/or have people start to throw away their best guys to keep you from making your own copies - but even at ten mana, it's worth considering.
Plus, it's in the same color as cards like Deluge, Ensnare, Gigadrowse, Thundercloud Elemental, and Turnabout. That makes it work better.
But strangely enough, only two people considered this "powerful," whereas nine people - more than for any single card in the "powerful" category, mind you - voted this as the "most fun" card. Weird. Do they think it won't work often enough to be powerful? Or do they think stealing all that stuff is more fun than it is powerful?
In any case, isn't it worth trying something like this?
Certainly there are better builds of this to be had than this throw-together, but it oughta be tried. Just get a lot of land, and then go for broke by stealing the best stuff out of everyone's deck. You never know.
I don't know that it is the most powerful, but I thought more people would look. And they did, but for some reason they thought decks like this were fun:
"Deluge during end of turn with a Leyline of Singularity on the board. Then as it de-suspends, you cast Radiate on it. Bye bye, all your opponent's fields… That is, until someone goes singleton on you."
- Gary D.
"I like both Frozen Aether and Dichotomancy... but I can't do a timeshifted card, so Dichotomancy it is. With their stuff coming into play tapped, you can Exhaust them to keep them from having untapped permanents. Suspending the Dichotomancy and then hitting them with Gigadrowse just before it goes off can be insane. Annex helps to take away their mana sources while Mana Leak and Remand just stall and aggravate them. Coldsteel Heart allows a turn 3 Frozen Aether, and Dream Leash acts as Confiscate -1cc because their stuff will be tapped. Manipulator can help keep them tapped out, as does Gigadrowse. While we're tapping things, why not add Howling Mine. You can tap it off for their turn and allow it to untap, drawing you an additional card every turn. Also, if you have the mana to morph a Brine Elemental, they just don't untap... And he's also a 5/4 beater."
- Mike K.
"Here's a quick decklist. Because everyone loves decklists ! (It's Extended-legal because I play my multiplayer on MtGO, where Extended is the card pool of choice.)
"So I'm looking at what might be fun yet devastating and I came upon Dichotomancy. I didn't really give it much of a look. Then I saw another... and another... Yep; I pulled three from my one booster box.
"So I gave it another look over and thought to myself, 'Self, this is actually a card that can be abused with some fun results, were it employed amongst your oddball friends.' So, I made up a deck. It's quickly put together and will obviously need some fine tuning when playtested, but here it is:
"The concept is pretty straight-forward: You put Awakening out so you can steal their creatures on their turn and use Turnabout for their artifacts. Enchantments are usually untapped, so there's no real problem there. Then, using Isochron Scepter and Counterspell/Boomerang, you start controlling the board. Mirari is in there for the fun of multiplying your instants and Dichotomancy, so you can grab everybody's stuff and then chuck their permanents in the bin. If it looks like a stalemate where they're not going to play anything and just wait for someone to draw out, then you've got Feldon's Cane and can wait them out as well.
Oh, and I included the Birds and Utopia Trees in case anything you steal needs mana that isn't blue or green to use. Plus, they're mana advantage and can chump block if needed.
Anyhow, I thought that would be powerful in the fact that it would really cheese everyone off enough that they wouldn't want to see it played again."
- Wyle F.
Crovax, Ascendant Hero?
Ooo. For six mana, you could do a lot worse. I used to play with the old Crovax, and he was a house, destroying Saprolings by the bucketful and making everyone else's armies a little less threatening.
But the ol' Crovax hurt sometimes, too. If someone had a black army, he would help them to hurt me! The nerve! But that wasn't a big drawback in black, since mostly black was all Mutilates and Syphon Souls and Plague Winds and big ugly destruction spells. Nobody played Black Weenie.
White dudes, however, are much more prevalent, and you're far more likely to help an opponent with your Crovax. On the other hand, Crovax returns to your hand at a moment's notice and a mere two life, making him just a little more bearable.
But nobody chose him. (Okay, I lied; one person chose him on the final day, literally as I was finishing up this article.) I mean, I'm not saying he'd win, but you know… Shivan Meteor over this? This, no question.
And Lastly, The Winner!
"What?" you cry. "Ferrett, this is the most powerful card in multiplayer? It's six mana, and it's an enchantment! How can you say that it works?"
Of course, you're correct. It's expensive. And it doesn't do anything on its own. But the thing about Wild Pair is that it achieves two things that the other listed cards do not do:
1. It solves a lot of problems with multiplayer. A lot of times, long multiplayer games come down to who can best reuse or recycle their resources; decks that rely on the topdeck for the win tend to lose. Wild Pair fetches some of the best creatures out of your deck, and it puts 'em right into play.
2. Wild Pair also lends itself to creative deckbuilding, meaning that you can build a variety of powerful decks around it. As witness!
"My pick for the most powerful card is Wild Pair. I could give you a deck description, but you probably already figured out that it's insane.
The only things you need to do is accelerate your mana, make sure you draw a Wild Pair and start playing creatures for almost free.... Oh, did I mention the acceleration, card draw and Wild Pair are all three of Green's strengths? (thanks, Planar Chaos, for the card draw!)..."
- Mart L.
"Late-game Llanowar Elf seem like a useless play? Not when he comes with a Phantom Wurm! Wild Pair also facilitates fun combos. (Sacrifice Protean Hulk to a paired Sanguine Praetor, grab a Gleancrawler, and repeat.) Wild Pair may not win every game, but it literally doubles your fun.
- Johnny O.
"I love doing stuff. I love throwing down ten permanents in one turn, and nothing is cooler than watching my life total plummet to 1 before I attack for forty damage. That's why I think that Wild Pair is the most fun Planar Chaos card. I only have one copy, and it is easy to destroy, but when I make it work, it's a blast.
With Wild Pair and a Primal Forcemage or two out, every hasty creature in your hand is basically two Ball Lightnings on the cheap. Who doesn't want to drop Ball Lightning every turn? Wall of Roots is cool on turn 2, but I've never wanted to play it on turn 6 before… But now that Wall is worth early mana, and can summon up a late Giant Solifuge pumped to 7/4 by a Forcemage.
I can't think of a creature that doesn't have a good combo with Wild Pair. I'm currently experimenting with Ashcoat Bear. Even if I'm just chump blocking with him, he just put Avalanche Riders into play, destroying your last untapped land. "But your deck has so many expensive weenies!", you say? That's fine. I'll chump block with anything, then reload with Feldon's cane for another round of 5/5 attackers and four more destroyed lands.
Here's my Primal Ball Lightning deck (keep in mind that I designed it to help me get that one precious Wild Pair):
"When I get tired of this, I have a couple of ideas for Dust Elemental…. Or maybe I'll start slow with the Whitemane Lion. Think about it! Search for all four Forcemages for eight mana. Maybe I'll use Spellbook with the Dust Elemental and put all my creatures into my hand. How about searching for Mishra, Artificer Prodigy? Wall of Shards for a Nullstone Gargoyle? Blazing Archon for Chorus of the Conclave! And Akroma. I mean, how many ways could you pull out Akroma? Hell, chain one Akroma off the other!!
And those are just the Type 2 ideas I had in ten minutes on Gatherer! Imagine the options that an Extended card pool gives you!!!! Pull out those creatures that were too expensive to cast! Play off-color creatures! Discard them w/ Greenseeker if you draw them… You can play any creature now!!!"
- Carter M.
See, the thing about "Most Powerful" for me is that a powerful card goes in more than one deck. I mean, I like Chronozoa, but outside of a deck that protects its splitting dude with Counterspells and speeds its division up with counter-removing spells, there's really no deck that fires off of it. And Dichotomancy, though a contender, is also narrow - it's gotta be a blue or a blue-green deck that taps a lot of stuff.
But Wild Pair? Your imagination's your limit! You can do a lot with it, and unlike many combo decks, even if you never draw a Wild Pair you'll still have decent creatures in your hand.
As such, the award goes to Johnny O. He did not, sadly, provide a decklist, but he did note the power of Wild Pair and backed it up the most with some cool ideas.
Next week, well… I have to talk about the tournament scene. But after that, we'll discuss the Most Fun Planar Chaos card, and why Braids isn't quite it.