Temptation from the Gods

Posted in Serious Fun on September 3, 2013

By Bruce Richard

Bruce's games invariably involve several friends, crazy plays, and many laughs. Bruce believes that if anyone at your table isn't having fun, then you are doing it wrong.

Would you open Pandora's Box? You know you're not supposed to, but who knows what could be in there!? Admittedly, in hindsight, things didn't really work out for Pandora, but the allure of the unknown is strong, and resisting isn't easy.

Oh, so you think Pandora just lacked willpower? If it had been you, the world would not be inflicted with all the ills that were released when she opened the box, huh? Well, I bet that many of you only clicked on this article to see the preview card, so in a way, you already opened the box. So much for all that willpower!

How about I give you another chance? There is a link right below this paragraph. All you have to do is demonstrate that amazing willpower of yours and not click it.

Here it is: Click this link and open Pandora's Box. Or save humanity.

>> Click to Show

I knew you couldn't resist!


Pyxis of Pandemonium is the flavor-laden preview card!

For those of you wondering, cards that are exiled face down can't be seen by anyone, including the owner of the card. This means that you don't know what you are exiling, and your opponents don't know either.

Now the question is, "Are you going to use it?" I see Pyxis of Pandemonium as appealing to some groups of players, while others will hate it. If you love predictability in your games, you are going to hate this card. For you, this is an artifact that helps in a milling-style deck and will limit tutor abilities that put cards on top of libraries. That probably isn't enough. You can do your best to load crazy permanents face down with library manipulation, but then you never know what your opponent is going to get.

Pyxis of Pandemonium | Art by David Palumbo

There are the Vorthos players out there who are going to love this card. The art is beautiful and truly guides you to Pandora's Box. The card recreates the feelings of unknown and curiosity that Pandora had. Not knowing and needing to know!

Then there are the players who love some chaos! The players who love to roll the dice and see what happens. Find some players who enjoy a Planechase game using a single library in the middle, and I'll show you some players who would love Pyxis of Pandemonium!

All right, though, this is Serious Fun! Is the card playable at your kitchen table? Of course it is! Practically every card ever made is playable in the right deck. What I'm really looking for are cards that make the Big Bang at the table. Eureka and Hypergenesis come to mind when I see this card, and I can see this being amazing.

Eureka
Hypergenesis

The key to any card like this is to limit the negatives while accentuating the positives.

The positives are fairly obvious:

  1. Big boom. There is no doubt that this is a game-changing card. The desired scenario is playing this out on the first turn and exiling cards every turn after that until you have seven mana. Even assuming some mana ramp, you should be looking at four exiled cards for each person playing. That will probably mean three permanents per person, with two of those permanents being something other than land. This will likely mean that someone is getting a serious boon to his or her board state and the game will be changing significantly. This kind of random change to a board state adds to the wild, big-play atmosphere in your games, which is a ton of fun for many players.
  2. You can exercise some control. You get to decide when things happen. Exiling a card each turn is probably a good idea. Without any library manipulation, everyone is just losing a random card each turn, which is neither good nor bad for you or any of your opponents, barring a milling strategy. However, when you have the opportunity to sacrifice the Pyxis, you can determine if it makes sense for you to do so. If you are comfortable with the board as it is, you can simply continue to wait and leave your opponents wondering when you are going to make the change to the game.

I initially wanted to compare this control to Nevinyrral's Disk or Pernicious Deed, but it is a different type of control. When you control a board-clearing spell that everyone knows about, it has a dramatic effect on how everyone else plays. Your opponents have to determine if they want to continue to put permanents onto the battlefield and risk a board wipe, or if they want to hold off. This kind of control over your opponents' plays makes for fun game play, but it also makes you, and the Pernicious Deed, the focus of the game. They need that card gone to return to their game plan.

Nevinyrral's Disk
Pernicious Deed

Pyxis of Pandemonium plays out differently. The randomness means that the likelihood that things will work out in your favor is reduced. You can wait until you are in a dire situation to sacrifice Pyxis, but you may end up with a Guildmage while your opponents are getting Primeval Titans and other game-ending bombs. This randomness can work in your favor, though.

Having control means more than just controlling when you will sacrifice the Pyxis. Sensei's Divining Top, and other cards like it, will give you much more control over what cards are getting exiled, as well as ensuring you hit every land drop to get yourself to the point where you can sacrifice Pyxis of Pandemonium. You can also try to control your opponents' card draws, but this can be much more difficult and may not be worth it. I suspect simply controlling the cards you are exiling will be enough to tip most Pyxis reveals in your favor.

Primeval Titan
Sensei's Divining Top

The negatives are threefold:

  1. Your opponents are likely to get good cards. It is unlikely that you are only going to hit their lands. I trust your opponents have built decent decks and will benefit when you decide to open the box. Giving any deck a handful of cards to put into play should help out those decks and assuming otherwise is silly.

    One way around this is packing mass removal. Sitting on a Day of Judgment, ready to be used if the results of Pyxis of Pandemonium aren't in your favor, is one way to reduce the randomness. If you have ensured your exiled cards are all artifacts and enchantments, a Day of Judgment may end up leaving you in a truly dominant position.

    Another way to limit this negative is to remember that you can use this to your favor. Once Pyxis of Pandemonium is gone, you may not be the dominant player. An opponent getting good cards may prove to make him or her the most dangerous player on the board and that means the attention of the entire board needs to be placed on someone else. This is not the best way to avoid the negative of your opponents getting cards, since it means that you really didn't get a great benefit from your Pyxis, but it is a consideration.

  2. Day of Judgment

  3. Destroying the Pyxis. Opponents may (or may not) want the Pyxis destroyed. Just as you have control over when to sacrifice Pyxis of Pandemonium, your opponents have control over when to destroy it. Someone in a lousy position in the game will want to see the Pyxis activated and will have little interest in destroying it. Someone in a stronger position can simply destroy it when you don't have the means to sacrifice it. Krosan Grip is one of the best cards in the game, specifically because of cards like this. Even when you have seven mana to sacrifice Pyxis in response to someone trying to destroy it, Krosan Grip just says "no."

  4. Krosan Grip

  5. Time. It will take time for it to be ready (seven mana) or worth it (you want several cards). To get several cards exiled with Pyxis of Pandemonium, you will be waiting through several untap steps and you'll need seven mana to make it happen. Hoping that permanents stay in play for several turns is rarely a successful plan in multiplayer games, particularly when this level of randomness is involved.

    While mana ramp resolves much of that problem, there is an alternative. There is no requirement that you wait for several cards to be exiled before "popping the Pyxis." An alternative strategy is to use it as a way to put a single off-color card into play. If you play Pyxis of Pandemonium, tap it to exile a particular permanent, then sacrifice as soon as you can, you know that you are getting exactly what you wanted. Your opponents are getting a random card that may or may not be the card they were looking for. This strategy eliminates a lot of the risk that multiple exiled cards provides. It also reduces your opponents' ability to react to the Pyxis when it enters the battlefield.
Inkwell Leviathan
Sphinx of the Steel Wind

However you choose to use Pyxis of Pandemonium is up to you. I love wild changes and will likely put it in a deck like this one:

Open the Box

Planeswalker (3)
3 Liliana Vess
Enchantment (2)
2 Omniscience
Other (4)
4 Next Week's Preview Card
60 Cards

Between the Sphinx Ambassador stealing creatures and the Specters forcing discard, my opponents will have a tough time disrupting my plans. Liliana Vess and Sensei's Divining Top can find cards for right now and cards for Pyxis of Pandemonium. With Omniscience, I can opt to use the single-card strategy with Pyxis and get a single Omniscience in play, or just load a handful of cards under Pyxis. Grave Titan adds a little nasty when you open Pandora's Box.

Sphinx Ambassador
Omniscience

And next week's preview card just adds to the chaos!

However you use Pyxis, the card promises to bring big changes to your games!

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