Hello, dear readers, and welcome back to Multiplayer Madness!
Last week, I met up with some friends and we had an awesome day that consisted of nothing but eating delicious food (Pizza! Pizza! Pizza!) and slinging cards. It was quite obviously the perfect day for people who are gamers at heart!
In total, we were eight players, and since eight is a rather large number and we don’t exactly fancy splitting up into smaller groups, we had planned to play a lot of Attack Left and –
Yes, that’s right, we played four against four. And boy, that was amazing! However, it wasn’t the first time we did this so we knew what was coming. Since you might not, I’ll first talk about the general aspects and issues of this very special format and then show you some cool cards that get better (or actually start being playable!) the more players the teams have.
In team Magic, all players on the same team share their turns, including phases and steps. It is therefore impossible for a player to still be in their first main phase while another one starts declaring attackers. You might think that this is pretty obvious but sometimes things get muddled really quickly so that people could get confused. Communication is the bread and butter here – with your team mates but also with the opposing team.
Of those two, talking to your team mates is easily the more important aspect as you have to plan your turns. Using the correct sequence of plays is crucial to reap the most benefits which is why you should always make your team mates aware of your plans or ideas. For example, imagine your team is facing an overwhelming army of monsters when you draw a Hornet Queen. “Great!” you think and windmill-slam it onto the battlefield – only to see it getting killed by your neighbor’s Wrath of God two seconds later just because none of you knew what the other wanted to do. Yes, the other way around would have been faaar better.
Funnily enough, we had a very similar situation during one game where my team followed exactly the wrong sequence. However, we actually had a secret agenda. Let me set the stage for you:
Our opponents came out of the gates with guns blazing. Within a few turns, a horde of merfolk and knights was preparing to wipe us from the face of the earth, supported by an annoying Jund value deck and an Esper control deck. Our decks were Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle combo, a rather unimpressive goblin deck, RW artifacts shenanigans and my own Abzan lifedrain construction. We knew that the other team had at least one counterspell to protect their army and had to bait it out so that my Day of Judgment could save the day. To this end, the artifact deck cast two Goblin Welders and Valkut went with Primeval Titan. By themselves, these cards would never have turned the game in time and the opposing team was aware of this, but us casting them in the first place convinced the other team that we wouldn’t try to wipe the board as these creatures were far too valuable to lose. And seriously, who can resist rubbing salt into a wound if your enemy is already down? Sure enough, Counterspell made short work of Primeval Titan but in turn, Day of Judgment then made short work of our opponents’ creatures. From there, we proceeded to win the game.
This only worked because we talked to each other. The RW Artifacts player didn’t want to lose his two welders and wouldn’t have cast two of them under any other circumstances, and Primeval Titan is extremely important for a Valakut deck to do its thing. However, all of us knew we had to do something to survive, and my Day of Judgment was the only way out. If the others hadn’t known about my board wipe and hadn’t gone along with the trap, we would have lost that game.
As you can see, the spoken word is essential in team Magic. However, do not neglect the words written on the cards either. Why? Because there are a few phrases you should look out for if you want to build a deck that specializes in team Magic. For example, something that always makes me take note is the phrase “each opponent”. It is easy to see that something like Unnerve becomes better the more opponents you have. If you are playing 4 vs. 4, that’s a freakin’ eight cards you make them discard! Wow! So take a closer look whenever the word “opponent” appears on a card – it might be more interesting and more powerful than you thought.
Then there’s “each player”. This phrase should be regarded with caution though as it may just as well contain advantages for your opponents or disadvantages for you and your team mates. Take a look at Howling Mine for instance. This card means a direct advantage for the opposing team as it lets them draw first. And if you’re playing 4 vs. 4, that’s an additional four cards you gave them before you drew any yourselves. Not good. Here, Temple Bell would clearly be the better choice. It’s still not perfect as your opponents draw cards too, but if you activate it at your opponents’ end step and then again during the beginning of your own turn after you untapped, at least your team now has eight (!) additional cards and all their mana available to spend on spells before the others can cast anything that’s not an instant or doesn’t have flash. That should be worth something, don’t you think?
Turns, Phases and Steps
An interesting aspect here is that triggers that specifically say “at the beginning of each [player’s/opponent’s]” upkeep / main phase / end step etc. will trigger for each of these players / opponents separately. So yeah, Luminarch Ascension will actually trigger once for each player on the opposing team, becomes more powerful the more opponents you have and is therefore obviously bonkers in team formats.
In contrast to that, if a card says “at the beginning of each upkeep / main phase / end step”, it will trigger only once because the number of players doesn’t matter. Teams share turns, phases and steps, so all team mates go through the parts of a turn simultaneously. So Dragon Broodmother will always only give you one token per turn, regardless of the number of players on each team.
And now we finally come to something very special: extra turns. As it is, in team formats, if one player would get an extra turn, the whole team gets it instead, and the same applies to steps and phases. Similarly, if one player has to skip a turn, the whole team skips it – which of course also applies to steps and phases. The result of this rule is that cards like Time Warp or Waves of Aggression can be extremely powerful and have the potential to actually steal wins out of nowhere. In the same vein, something like Yosei, the Morning Star may really screw you over if it’s used against your team. “No untap step? For all of us?! F@#!ing dragon!”
How About Some Actual Cards Then?
Alright, so there are actually quite a few cards that get better the larger the teams are. Especially black offers us very interesting things. Let’s have a look, shall we? For brevity’s sake, I’m only going to show you a few cards that begin with the letters A, B and C but as you will see, that’s already an awful lot. So use Gatherer and find even more treasures to help you fight against that evil alliance on the other side of the table!
Agent of Masks – This girl looks harmless enough but if you check, you might realize that she means serious business. A life swing of 4 through 8 points depending on the number of players on every one of your turns? Not bad. Not bad at all.
Akroan Horse – An initial investment of four mana provides each player on your own team with a steady stream of tokens for the rest of the game unless your opponents manage to kill it. The nice thing about the horse is that they actually might not want to do so immediately because it’s also a 0/4 blocker. And who likes to kill their own creatures? Just be careful not to run into a Massacre Wurm (which just so happens to be amazing in team formats as well)…
Alhammarret, High Arbiter – Information overkill! Having this guy entering the battlefield means that your opponents’ plans are laid bare. If your team cannot use this knowledge to their advantage, you’re doing something wrong.
Angelic Arbiter – Annoyance incarnate. Just saying.
Archers’ Parapet – Early defense with the option to steal a serious amount of life? Sign me up!
Archfiend of Depravity – As long as this bad boy is on the battlefield, no opponent will ever have more than two creatures while your team can spam the board with critters.
Atarka’s Command – A converted mana cost of two offers you versatility in spades. If your deck is red and green, you should definitely include a few copies of this card.
Baneful Omen – Yep, seven mana is expensive. However, this enchantment will usually win you the game within three turns at most. All you have to do is survive to let it do its thing. Brutal.
Basilica Guards – A big butt and extort make this a powerful three-drop in any deck of its colors. Just like Agent of Masks, the guards don’t really look threatening at first glance which makes them even better. When your opponents realize what’s going on, it might already be too late.
Blatant Thievery – Stealing all the things!
Blind Obedience – You really want to piss them off? Cast this on turn 2. Sooo much value for a measly two mana!
Blistergrub – If you have a sacrifice outlet and a way to recur this a few times, it’s really going to hurt them. Then again, just playing this as a blocker might make them think twice about attacking. Because losing six or even eight life is nothing to scoff at, right?
Boldwyr Heavyweights – What?! How did they sneak in here? Get you gone, evil buggers! Nobody wants you!
Butcher of Malakir – Yeah, seven mana is a lot, and in this case, it might be a bit too slow. However, if your team manages to survive until you can cast this guy, you’re in a really nice spot. Alternatively, you could just play Grave Pact or Dictate of Erebos to circumvent the hefty mana requirement.
Chancellor of the Annex – Normally, you don’t want any fatties clogging your opening hand. In case of the chancellor cycle though, you might actually like finding them there. The white chancellor is interesting as it works like a speed bump that could help your team grab the momentum to win the game before it even started. However, there may also be games where it is completely irrelevant, and in those cases, you end up with a seven mana creature that you can’t cast for a long time. High risk, high reward, eh?
Chancellor of the Dross – However, starting with a difference of 18 life points (given a 3 vs. 3 match) is absolutely brutal. Considering that black has lots of options to let you discard things for profit, Chancellor of the Dross is an extremely powerful card in the right deck.
Chandra’s Ignition – Each other creature and each opponent? WHAM! This is easily one of the most powerful board wipes you can play in team Magic. Combine it with deathtouch creatures to kill everything or large beaters to take out the opposing team in one go. Failing that, how about something with lifelink? Or, you know, why not all of that at once? Say hello to Wurmcoil Engine…
Citadel Siege – White seems to have a decent amount of enchantments that rock the multiplayer team table. This is another one that might annoy your opponents like hell as it taps down one attacker per opponent everytime they want to attack you. And later on, if you’ve stabilized the board and draw another copy, you can instead choose Khans and go on the offense. Nice.
Crackling Doom – In a Three-Headed Giant match, this equals three dead creatures and six damage to the face for only three mana at instant speed. I’ve been playing this card ever since it came out, and let me tell you: It’s fantastic!
Crypt Ghast – And we’ll end with another powerful black monster. In a monoblack deck, this doubles your mana and drains your opponenents’ life like crazy. The biggest problem you might encounter when you try to use extort effectively is that you might not have enough mana to fuel it. Crypt Ghast makes it so that you’ll always have enough mana which makes it a team Magic powerhouse.
So, that’s twenty very cool cards that increase your chances against opposing teams. There are many more out there though that can really push your deck into overdrive. In some cases, the cards might even be too strong! I never thought I’d hear people calling for banning Breath of Malfegor but it’s something my playgroup has been discussing with regard to team Magic. And now that Fiery Confluence is around, it has been included in the discussions as well. Oh, and don’t get me started on what some of my mates want to do to the person who designed Urborg Syphon-Mage…
See You Later, Aligator
This was it for today. Shadows Over Innistrad is looming on the horizon and will be upon us soon – and boy, is it shaping up nicely! I can’t wait to try out the new cards, especially that shiny Sorin! So next up, you’ll be able to read my thoughts on the new set as I’ll be evaluating what that dark and chaotic plane has to offer us this time around.