kay... Tenth Edition is out. And sure, I could have discussed it last week when it was X Week, but how predictable would that have been? "An X List For X." You all would have seen it coming, so I didn't do it.
The Ferrett: Your Sign for Arbitrary Quality.
But now, I do feel like I should discuss this new set, because it's a goodie. I'm not terribly enamored of Core Sets to begin with, because they're all reprints... and by and large, I don't like opening packs of things I already have. But the good folks at Wizards went out of their way to make sure there were some multiplayer gems buried in , and so I assure you that if you play casual, there are some good cards stashed in those little plastic wrappers. It's probably the best core set they've ever done, and no, they did not pay me to say that.
(Okay, they kind of did, because they paid me to write the article. But nobody sent me an email saying "PLEASE HYPE OUR CORE SET TO THE HEAVENS K THX MUCH." This is all me, folks.)
Let's take a look at my picks for the Top 10 Multiplayer Tenth Edition Cards, shall we? (Once again, because I cannot rank things, these are in no particular order.)
The Top Ten Multiplayer Cards in Tenth
The Ambassador is the friend of multiplayer combos everywhere; given a ready supply of mana of any color, everyone gets decked. Plus, he's in blue, which is to say that you have some ability to draw the cards you need in order to find (and protect) the cards you'll need to enter some crazy loop.
But you know, for an Ambassador, he's pretty lousy at his job. In fact, quite often summoning the Ambassador over for dinner will inspire immediate and terrified bloodshed from people going, "What? Dang! Kill him before we get decked!" And the next thing you know, armies of angry goblins and zombies are climbing the fortress walls, knives in their teeth.
Compare the Ambassador to, say, Peacekeeper, which actually keeps some peace. But Ambassadors are supposed to negotiate diplomatic treaties, and this Ambassador encourages whole-sale bloodlust on a scale that even Jaya Ballard would envy.
It's kind of like Ambassador Vader, or maybe Chef Nicole Richie; not the best match of talents to skills. The Merfolk may be tricky little devils, but I have to give their job-placement skills a big "thumbs down."
Aura of Silence
I've waxed rhapsodic over this enchantment in my article about the Top 50 multiplayer enchantments, but suffice it to say that for a mere three mana, you get a Squeeze on artifacts and enchantments for all who oppose you.... Plus, you can pop it if anything makes it past the shields.
This brings up the question of whether you want to play reactive cards like this in your multiplayer deck. Artifacts and Enchantments are the least played (currently printed) card types in Magic, and many multiplayer decks simply don't have any enchantments or artifacts worth popping. Depending on your playgroup, the Aura can either kill The Deadly Artifact That Must Be Killed Now, or it can hang around mopily looking at Signets and going, "Wow, I'm doing pretty much nothin' here."
It's the ol' paradox: do you put what could possibly be a dead card in your deck, thus watering down the number of threats you can draw, or do you leave it out and risk losing to two entire card types?
There are four basic lines of thinking here:
I gotta have it. There are some strategies that just die to commonly played enchantments, and if you know you'll see them, then you really need to have them on the table. (For example, if you're playing a deck that revolves around keeping an Akroma, Angel of Wrath in play and you know your friends love to play with Persuasion or Take Possession, you're going to lose in short order unless you're prepared.)
I don't gotta have it, but I want to be prepared. This is called "I hate losing to randomness," and you put them in because you'd rather lose to bad card draws ("I have two Auras and no targets") than to things you absolutely can't handle ("Dread of Night? Who plays with that?").
It's Somebody Else's Problem. Sure, you can't deal with a Lifeline-based deck. But if it's a large enough table, you can bet that someone else will also be affected... So let them put the cards in! This is a classic example of "works right up until it doesn't," because you either win big or go home.
Put it on a creature. Why bother with a spell when you can get a creature with an effect like, say, Soltari Visionary or Harmonic Sliver? This is what a lot of people do, and it's why my Humility-based decks used to do so well.
Sure, it's expensive—actually, it costs one more red than you'd think, because you have to be ready to press the panic button at a moment's notice. So it's not eight mana, but nine. But once it's on the board, it's a major threat to just about anyone—none of the Sudden removal spells can kill it, and barring something like Stifle or a Story Circle set to red, you can unleash your mini-Inferno whenever you darned well please.
That's right—I said Inferno. Too many players skim this card and miss the "hits players" portion of it. But that's why it's so gol-durned awesome in multiplayer.
Sometimes, of course, you will be below 6 life yourself. That's fine. You still have a 6/6—start bashing! Make others go down with the ship!
This didn't make it big in the tournament circuit, because thanks to the rigid mana curves of Standard decks, generally you'd either be copying a smaller guy (and what fun is it copying a Kird Ape when you're the guy with Islands?) or copying something legendary, making it an overpriced removal spell.
Ah, but in Multiplayer, where the threats tend to be larger? There's almost always a good target hovering about. And you know who hates to see Clone? The guy who sweeps the board and plops down a Darksteel Colossus, then discovers that you have one, too.
Of course, there's a slight risk; if everyone's playing creatureless decks, it backfires. And if your metagame encourages a lot of board-sweepers, so that you see Wraths and Damnations every third turn, then this drops a bit in value. But generally, for four mana, you trade up significantly... And if you're playing some sort of blue-based control deck, if someone's just spent eight mana to cast his mega-gigantor guy, then you can play a Clone with enough mana up to cast a Cancel or two in case somebody tries something tricky.
Also, since it keeps coming up in our games: No, the Clone is not blue if it copies a nonblue creature. It takes on all attributes, including color and converted mana cost. It also does not take on any extra attributes the creature may have—if you've slapped a couple of +1/+1 counters on your Simic Sky Swallower with a Forgotten Ancient, the Clone will not have the +1/+1 counters.
Oh, and yes, you can Clone a Simic Sky Swallower. Note that the Clone merely requires you to "choose a creature in play," not "target a creature." Untargetables and dudes with protection from blue work juuuust fine.
Again, I discussed this in my Top 50 multiplayer enchantments article, but it's here because it's still good. There are myriads of ways to abuse this—black loves to sacrifice guys for gain, and while you do it everyone else is losing critters, one by one. Nice.
I am not sure why elephants are so good at giving life. I mean, I've been to the zoo, I've watched the Discovery Channels, and I have yet to see a single elephant casting a spell, let alone binding somebody's wounds. Dumbo flew around a lot, but I don't recall him splinting anyone's broken limbs.
Apparently, these are different elephants.
Still, for six mana to play it and equip it, the Warhammer is the third-best Equipment ever printed for multiplayer, and the only one that's still currently in print. (Umezawa's Jitte and Skullclamp? Still crazy broken, people.) Life gain, as I've said endlessly, is just better in multiplayer, buying you some breathing space to maneuver. And getting that life by doing a merry little jig upon your opponents' faces never hurts....
Okay, it always hurts, but never hurts you. That's the important bit. Spread the pain with big elephant feet.
The trick, however, is not to play this early. If you play it on turn three with the hopes of equipping on turn four, you're not going to get the bang for your buck; someone will kill your guy in response. Instead, treat it like a six-mana sorcery, saving it for something worthwhile; yes, it can turn a Grizzly Bears into a 5/2 monster, but wouldn't it be better to slap it on an Angel of Salvation and create some jaw-dropping life-sweeps?
I've won at least three games thanks to this plopped onto either a Spiritmonger or a Spirit of the Night, and I always kept my Warhammer kept firmly in my hand right up until I could bring the pain. Going up 9 life at a shot while having a big guy to smash with generates very silly wins.
(If by "silly," you mean "completely not fair.")
This isn't the best Big Dumb Black Removal Spell—that grace would go to Decree of Pain—but it's a darned close second. The nine mana is a lot, but the look on everyone's faces when you realize you've just pantsed 'em—oh, those guys you thought were going to block mine? They're not there no more—is well worth it.
Not that Damnation isn't a good card. Magic is, as always, a balance between "efficiency" and "effect." If we had access to twelve mana every turn, of course we'd choose the most powerful spells we could! But we don't.
Multiplayer allows you to stretch a little more, since the games usually go on for longer. That means you can slip in a few more spells like Plague Wind, and reasonably expect to cast them (particularly if you use mana acceleration like the Signets or Sakura-Tribe Elders or the like). But still, a deck with more than four nine-mana spells is almost guaranteed to punk out every time... So even though it's good, don't stock your deck with effects like these.
Supplement, folks. You're in black. You're good at killing things. Look at this as a wonderful finisher.
Untapping every turn is a very potent effect, especially when you're in a color that likes making tokens. What can't you pair this with? City of Vitu-Ghazi? Voice of the Woods? Clockwork Hydra? Heck, even something as unlovely as Granite Shard becomes a threat. You Johnnies should be salivating so hard your keyboard shorts out.
Seedborn Muse never quite made it in duels because the effect of a single extra untapping was never good enough. But getting multiple untaps makes this crazy-good... assuming someone doesn't target it.
Maybe your group doesn't sense the Seedborn threat yet. Maybe it's time to whip this out.
This is, again, pretty darned expensive. But for what it does, it does well—and that reads, "If you're comboing out and can't kill me at instant speed (or counter this), you lose. If you're attacking, you don't get through. If you have some unstoppable spell, well, I just stopped it."
Time Stop's not perfect. It can't help you against split second spells, nor can it help if someone fires off a bunch of other you-killing spells before it resolves. But it does often shut storm down in its tracks (gosh, that sure are a lot of copies of Tendrils of Agony on the stack—wave bye-bye!), and it's a good Tutor target for a blue mage.
It's a difficult thing to rank this, because in most circumstances Cancel (or, if you're a good ol'fashioned guy like me, Counterspell) is strictly better. But when you need Time Stop, it often wins you the game where Cancel can't. Thus, I'm listing this as a multiplayer card, because Cancel is going to come in handy in many duels, but a lot of people might overlook Time Stop. Don't.
It is one of the best multiplayer creatures of all-time—no ifs, ands, or buts. And particularly in these Thallid-happy days, when Saproling tokens have such great usage with Thallid Germinator and Deathspore Thallid and Pallid Mycoderms and so forth, I'm sure you can find some good cause to blow a Saproling on.
Oh, yeah—don't forget: every upkeep. If there are seven players, and Verdant Force lives for a turn, you get seven tokens. That's scalability, baby.
That's the Top Ten. Here are some other brief thoughts on cards I saw as I scanned the list of Tenth:
And the Rest...
This came so close to making it in the Top 10, if only because I used to have this in a Phyrexian Processor deck. It wasn't that great a deck, but when it fired I did so well. Talk about your Johnny-fest.
Ironically, Aura of Silence bumped this one off the list, just as it bumped that old deck off in real life. They're feudin' cousins, apparently.
I wish I went to school at this university. I mean, I have many friends who are going for their doctorate these days, and none of them can outwrestle a Grizzly Bear. That's a pretty amazing curriculum.
Coat of Arms
Everyone likes this card. I do, too. It also backfires a lot, particularly in these days when Saproling generation is a major theme. I don't like that. As such, I'll throw Coat of Arms into a fun deck, but quite often you wind up getting bonked on the hard with it.
Avatar of Might
If you're behind on creatures and you're playing green, you're probably not going to want this. Still, it's like a bad Defense of the Heart, and that makes it not entirely terrible.
People yelled at me for not including this on my list of Best Multiplayer Enchantments. It is still very, very good in the right deck, particularly if you're playing tribal soldiers; everyone overlooks 1/1s until they're in yo' face.
Wrath of God for artifacts is back? Oh, my stars and garters. If you have some friends who've never gotten over Mirrodin Block rotating out, this may be the time to remind them that those days are over.
Almost on the list. Still really, really good. Too low-profile to waste a removal spell on, but quietly generating life advantage for you, dude by dude.
Oh, and it's not optional. Unlike, say, Auriok Champion, where you have to specifically approve the life-gain, you muzzy-headed guys cannot fail to miss your life gain. That's a happy advantage in its favor right there, even as it infuriates the guys who carefully pay attention to each trigger.
If you haven't gotten the bulletin, this kills before damage goes on the stack. You declare it as the blocker, both the attacker and Loyal Sentry go bye-bye. This means no trample, no effects that trigger off of combat damage. If your friends haven't caught on to this bit of rules trivia yet, perhaps you might like to teach them by encouraging them to make a very bad choice in attacking you.
Top 10 Staple Multiplayer Cards You Should Already Have
I did not list these because, well, they're such old hat that I'm pretty sure most of you have them. Do I need to sell you on these guys? Still, if you haven't picked these up, you'll find a use for most of them sooner or later, so try these on for size:
Birds of Paradise
Furnace of Rath
(All the) Painlands
Wrath of God
Yeah, I know, I said that I don't like Megrim. Still don't. But occasionally, you'll find some cool idea that looks like it might work with Megrim, so keep it around to try it out. It's an uncommon, what do you have to lose?