Multi Kill

Posted in From the Lab on October 13, 2014

By Mike Cannon

Mike Cannon started writing From the Lab at the end of 2012 after two years with GatheringMagic. He is an ardent casual player and loves finding uses for bad cards.

Welcome, students. Throughout your training, you've been instructed in techniques best suited for destroying a single opponent. Now it's time to throw all that out the window. On this battlefield, you'll have multiple enemies to take down. Some may ignore you at first, but rest assured they will all be coming to kill you eventually. Turn your back for a second and you'll find a knife making a new home in your spine. Killing one opponent isn't good enough anymore.

You have to kill them all.

Duneblast | Art by Ryan Alexander Lee

That's Life

It's time for Multiplayer Week, and today I'll be looking at a few strategies that work best with multiple opponents at the table. When I first saw the theme for this week, I knew exactly what my first deck was going to be. It's an updated version of one that I built back in the days when I had never been to a Magic tournament other than the Prerelease for Mirrodin, and almost all of my games were multiplayer. Magic for me was a group of friends sitting in a circle on the floor or around a table that was far too small, building decks around themes like "Angels" and "Black Knights" with whatever cards we could trade for.

For most decks, games become harder to win the more players you have against you. Not so here. This deck gets more powerful as more players enter the game. Be warned, however. It will make all of them hate you.

Copper Tablet is one of the cards this deck was built around. I happened upon one in the bargain bin of my local game store and was instantly intrigued. It's not exactly the fastest way to win the game. In fact, chances are it won't win the game at all, since if you take even a single damage you'll die before your opponents do. However, if you have multiple effects like this, that damage starts building up, and suddenly players will find the game is ending much more quickly than expected.

Spiteful Visions is like two Copper Tablets in one, and it comes with a free Howling Mine to make sure you can continue casting spells that hurt all your opponents at once. As good as the first copy is, the second is far better. Suddenly, your damage output jumps from 2 per turn to 6, which will end the game astonishingly quickly.

Seizan, Perverter of Truth isn't quite as good as a second Spiteful Visions, but so long as you have one it still takes away 6 life per turn for as long as it stays alive. Of course, getting a 6/5 for five mana isn't half bad either, and goes a long way toward stopping attackers from coming your way.

Speaking of stopping attackers, it doesn't get much better than Wall of Souls. This card is incredibly effective in this deck. With multiple opponents, each will want to wait for one of the others to bite the bullet and attack, making the Wall able to hold off creatures for far longer. With the deck constantly chipping away at everyone's life total, attacking into Wall of Souls with anything big enough to kill it is often a death sentence, and no one wants to make that sacrifice.

To supplement Wall of Souls and give you protection against larger armies of creatures, I also included Batwing Brume. If someone attacks with a horde of tokens to kill you despite your Wall, Batwing Brume will often kill that player instead. You often won't even need the white half of the card, since your opponent will be dead before damage goes through.

If things get too hairy, Damnation is a sweet reset button that can wipe the board clear of any creatures that could attack you. Meanwhile, Copper Tablet and Spiteful Visions will keep the pressure on your opponents.

Deathrite Shaman is a pretty solid way to get some extra mana early in the game if you have fetch lands to support it, and the black activated ability is perfect for this deck. As long as there's an instant or sorcery in the graveyard, the Shaman can take 2 life from each of your opponents for just one mana.

Now, there are a lot of cards here that kill everyone, but I haven't yet made it clear how this deck actually wins games, After all, Copper Tablet and Spiteful Visions deal just as much damage to you as to your opponents. Fortunately, this last group of cards will break that symmetry in a big way.

Syphon Soul is the original card I had in the deck, stealing 2 life from every opponent and giving it to you. With three other players at the table, you're effectively getting an 8-point life swing for just three mana. More recent sets have brought some new and better cards to the table. Blood Tithe is pretty straightforward, simply bumping up Syphon Soul's numbers by one. Then we have Exsanguinate, which can drain as much life as you want, provided you have the mana to pump into it. At lower mana costs it's less effective than the other two, but once you hit six mana it starts to become impressive, giving you 12 life from three opponents.

Everybody Dies

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God of Straight-Up Murdering Folks

There's one format in particular that comes to mind when talking about multiplayer, and that's Commander. The entire format is built around having more than one person at the table, and that often leads to games of politics, with players debating who's the real threat and what most needs to be dealt with. Now, I don't mind a bit of politics now and then. In fact, I'm pretty good at it. "I should have killed you when I had the chance" is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot in my playgroup.

However, there's a second reason for that phrase, and that's the fact that most of my deck are built to kill everyone. Playing it safe and surviving until the end of the game isn't my style. I prefer doing something absolutely crazy and challenging the other players at the table to stop me before I can kill them all. Sometimes they succeed. More often they do not.

There are many commanders that can support that kind of strategy, but one of the best is one I hadn't yet built a deck around. Today, I decided to fix that. Purphoros, God of the Forge is perfect for a deck that plans on turning everyone against you and winning anyway. Since it hits every opponent at the same time, you don't need to choose who to kill. Your opponents will die together, trying to claw at your life total as theirs drop precipitously.

I'll give you this enormously long decklist to start off with, then highlight some of the key cards in the deck, and some of the more unique choices.

Tokens of the Forge

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COMMANDER: Purphoros, God of the Forge

Obviously, most of the key cards in the deck involve making tokens. If you make twenty creatures enter the battlefield with Purphoros out, you probably win the game. Tokens are the fastest way to make that happen. Cards like Goblin Offensive and Tempt with Vengeance are the best, effectively functioning as a double Fireball that hits every opponent at once. Also you get a pile of 1/1s. Yeah, it's pretty nuts. With cards like Caged Sun, Gauntlet of Power, and Extraplanar Lens to double your mana production, you can potentially kill every opponent in one shot.

These X spells also benefit from Ashnod's Altar and Phyrexian Altar, which turn tokens into more mana to make more tokens. If you don't have a second X spell to get the maximum benefit, Recoup can allow you to rebuy the first one from the graveyard. If you cast Tempt with Vengeance for five and sacrifice all the tokens for colorless mana, you can use Recoup to cast it again for nine, using one mana to help pay for Recoup. Altogether, that's 28 damage to each opponent.

Since there are only so many huge token-making spells available, much of the deck is filled with creatures that make three or more tokens. Cards like Emrakul's Hatcher and Siege-Gang Commander are fairly straightforward, while Thopter Assembly and Goblin Marshal require a bit more time to do their jobs.

While these creatures are fine on their own, many of them get much better when you add Cloudstone Curio to the mix. Emrakul's Hatcher creates four Cloudstone Curio triggers when it enters the battlefield. Fortunately, you don't have to use the ability if you don't want to, so simply use one of them to return the Hatcher to your hand. Sacrifice the three tokens for mana, and cast the Hatcher again. You can repeat this as long as you have mana, and with Purphoros on the battlefield you'll deal 8 damage to each opponent for every two mana you have. Sounds like a good deal to me.

Spawnsire of Ulamog performs a similar function, with a lower output but less setup. All you need is the mana to cast it, and you can get two Purphoros triggers for every two mana you spend after the first activation, turning that ten mana you just spent to cast the Spawnsire into 16 damage to each opponent.

I've also included several ways to turn your tokens into more tokens, getting you more trigger from Purphoros. Mogg Infestation is the best option, as it will give you twice as many creatures as you had before. Hellion Eruption only provides half as many Purphoros triggers, but it also give you back 4/4s instead of 1/1s, which is a pretty big upgrade. Tooth and Claw and Spawning Pit provide even fewer tokens at first, but they stick around on the battlefield, allowing you to continue to turn tokens into tokens. Tooth and Claw is particularly amazing, since you can sacrifice the new tokens again to make more without having to pay any mana. Eight tokens turns into four, which turns into two, then one. All together, you get seven extra Purphoros triggers for your initial investment of just four mana.

Gratuitous Violence is a card I've used in Commander many times, but never before has it been this good. With three red mana symbols in its cost, it will get you to the devotion you need with any other red permanent, and once Purphoros is a creature his damage output will be doubled by Gratuitous Violence. Instead of 2 damage to each opponent, each trigger will deal 4, allowing you to end the game in short order.

The Past is History. The Future...

Now that I've made everyone hate me, it's time to disappear for a while. Never fear, for I'll be back next week with more interesting decks to share. What those decks are no one knows, but check back on Monday and we'll solve the mystery together. The answer may be quite different than what you expected. Until then, keep on bringing the bitter taste of defeat to all who oppose you. See ya!

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