Careful With That Card, Weezie

Posted in Serious Fun on September 20, 2005

By Anthony Alongi

When I saw this week's preview card, I thought immediately of a song I loved back from a few years ago, even though it got limited radio play. "Careful with That Mic" was a wonderful spot of refreshment from the corporate rock that was withering the airwaves (and has dominated since, oases like System of a Down notwithstanding). It slammed pretentiousness, overbuilt images, and style over substance.

So does this. Uh ha ha, ha ha!

Uh mmm mmm, mmm mmm!

Did You Know The Answers Or Did You Guess?

Here are some rules notes to keep in mind:

  • You may play the ability the same turn you play the Boiler itself. Of course, it would take quite a bit of mana () to make it go off right away.
  • Regeneration abilities "work" in response to destructive abilities, so your Horned Troll is okay as long as you pay in response to the last triggered ability ("when Plague Boiler has three…")
  • When you pay , you do not have to say if you are adding a counter or removing a counter from Plague Boiler. All you have to say is, "I am paying 1BG for this activated ability." Of course, if there are no counters on the Boiler at the time the ability resolves, you're not fooling anyone - you're forced to add a counter.
  • Once the Boiler has three plague counters, removing (or adding) counters to it will not stop the necessary sacrifice or subsequent destruction.
  • Once the Boiler has three plague counters, playing Naturalize on it in response to the last triggered ability will stop the destruction. This is because Boiler will not be available to its controller to sacrifice – and destruction only happens upon sacrifice.
  • You cannot counteract this Naturalize ploy by adding another counter to the Boiler, hoping to trigger the last ability again and get you sacrificing the Boiler before the Naturalize can resolve. That's because the ability is a "state trigger", which is the sort of trigger that doesn't happen a second time while a copy of that trigger is still on the stack (see 410.11 of the comprehensive rules if you're dying to know about state triggers...) .

Your Style's Like Garbage Cans, Meant To Be Taken Out

In most multiplayer games, large and complex permanents accumulate like smelly trash. Stuff like Humility, Ensnaring Bridge, and the inevitable 10,000 saproling tokens come out like clockwork. Where do people get this stuff? And more to the point, what can you do about it?

Some might say, "the last ten years have been pretty intense." Fortunately, Wizards has been gracious enough to provide us every few years with a way to deal with that intensity – mass board-clearers.

Plague Boiler's most venerable ancestor is Nevinyrral's Disk, which for four mana and a turn's wait could finally clean up a lot of the stuff mono-black decks have struggled against since the beginning of time.

Since then, there is a fairly short but distinguished bloodline of permanents that are capable of wiping out large numbers of other permanents – not just creatures, mind you, but creatures and artifacts and enchantments. Here's a listing I wish I could guarantee is comprehensive – but inevitably on stuff like this, an author will miss one or two that would probably fit just fine (or come very close, like Powder Keg and Apocalypse Chime):

Of all these cards, the most impressive and consistently useful is probably Pernicious Deed. I can't help it – whenever I see a card like Plague Boiler, I inevitably compare it to Pernicious Deed. (Of course, I do this after I think of really cool Clutch songs.)

How does Plague Boiler stack up against the gold standard of mass destruction?

The Only Friends You Keep Are The Ones You Pay


Pernicious Deed
In a raw comparison, the Boiler is a notch or two short of Pernicious Deed's potential. But it's still excellent; not least because of how much flexibility it gives you in timing.

I imagine lots of players in group games are going to have fun teasing the board with the addition and removal of counters. Save mana for the ends of turns, and keep people guessing as to whether you'll add or subtract counters from the Boiler! With enough mana, you can crank the number of counters up to two at the end of one player's turn…and then ramp it back down to one at the end of the next.

But in addition to the timing fun, it's worth noting that Boiler does not require you to pay another darn thing to make it work. If you want to reserve your mana for other things (e.g., Darksteel Ingots), you can do so. In three turns, everything's gone without any further investment from you. Technically, the Deed can also activate without mana – but it only looks impressive in a game with lots of myr tokens and artifact lands.

Which brings us to the last notable advantage the Boiler has over Deed: decks that can't possibly play Deed (like mono-red decks, or the sealed deck you just opened that really screams green-white but not green-white-black) can still play Boiler with some success.

Don't get me wrong. Deed is still better 90 percent of the time. But Boiler is very, very good.

Take A Deep Breath And Count To Ten

So there's another Deed out there. If you hate global clearers like this in multiplayer games, what do you do?

Quack Quack, Flap Your Arms, Leave You Confused But Completely Unharmed

"Alongi gets this card?!" the tournament jockeys shriek. "Why didn't Wizards use Zvi to preview Plague Boiler? Zvi wouldn't be yapping about red-blue multiplayer decks or bouncing song lyrics off his readers right now! He'd be engaged in deadly serious analysis about this game full of colorful cardboard!"

So he would, and bless him for it. And I'd sure read that article! Think of all the stuff we could learn. Man, I wish Zvi was here. Does anywhere know where he is? I love that guy…oh, he's not around on Tuesdays? Darn.

But never fear: as a four-time Pro Tour champion, I am more than qualified to tell you what to think about this card. Also, I can bend spoons with my mind, and do the dishes while chewing gum.* Hear my voice and obey, tournament-lovers of the world:

Play Plague Boiler, in any format you can squeeze it in. It's really quite good and it blows up a lot of stuff. But, you know, not lands. So don't play it as a replacement for Armageddon.

Now that you've received Anthony's Official Tournament Advice, you are prepared to go out there and conquer. Of course, as Clutch would say, do you really think it's that easy?

* Disclaimer: Anthony Alongi may not have actually won four Pro Tours. In fact, it's also quite possible that in addition to attending Pro Tours only as a spectator, Anthony can only bend spoons with his hands, and does not do any dishes around the house at all. He might not even chew gum. Folks, he's a politician. If you expect a continual stream of truth from this guy, you probably also expected Serious Fun to have helpful tournament advice. Get real.

First, don't panic. A Boiler on the board is not like a Deed on the board: it can't hurt you right away without silly amounts of mana, and there are lots of ways to get rid of it before it can hurt you. And don't forget the trick I mentioned in the rules section above. Careful timing of your Disenchant or Naturalize can deflate a carefully crafted Boiler strategy. It can be just as fun to wreck a Boiler as it can be to have a Boiler wreck the board.

If you don't like using really good, efficient, common utility cards, there are other options. Try one of these three:

  1. Anti-destruction effects. From simple regenerators like Uthden Troll to ridiculous stuff like Darksteel Colossus, there are many ways to get around destruction.
  2. "Less is more" philosophy. Many control decks succeed by controlling the number of permanents on the board. By keeping lots of cards back in your hand – counterspells, spot destruction, or other useful instants – you can keep yourself fairly insulated from the worst damage the Boiler dishes out. Other players will take a disproportionately high hit. Of course, this is a risky strategy since permanents have something of an advantage in multiplayer games over instants and sorceries – but if you have a deck that already plays well in your group, give it a freshen-up and see how it does against Plague Boiler.
  3. Mana denial. Yeah, this is a bit harsh – especially toward a player who isn't threatening your mana base. But it's also full of delicious irony. After all, with less land, it will be harder for Boiler's controller to manipulate the plague counters – and harder for him to recover from the inevitable board sweep once the Boiler goes. As he watches his world crumble, you can tell him in your best Neil Fallon voice, "Oh, my bad: I didn't know you were lactose-intolerant…"

Wait For The One To Come And Get It Done

At this point in a preview article, most readers are expecting a decklist. Those more familiar with my columns know I tend to avoid those; I prefer deck fragments to inspire creativity.

With a utility card like Plague Boiler, I think my job is even easier. The Boiler is not a "proactive" victory path unto itself, but rather a "reactive" card you use when your group starts going nuts with enchantments and artifacts. (Most decks already have a way of dealing with lots of creatures.)

So what deck should you put it in? Why, any deck you think can use it. Try the deck that fails against complex combo decks that "lay low and wait for the right moment to strike." After that, see if it doesn't play well in the regenerator-heavy deck that seems to lose gas against decks built for the long game. And after that, give it a whirl in that black-blue deck that has no other way of dealing with enchantments.

Plague Boiler is strong, broadly useful, and flexible enough to assist a wide range of decks. Be happy when you bust one. Build carefully when you use one. And be prepared to face one.

You can find the full lyrics of "Careful with that Mic" here. All lyrics are, of course, copyrighted by the original artist. If you search for Clutch on the Internet and like what you hear, make sure you pay for any music you download. They deserve the royalties.

Anthony has been playing multiple Magic formats for several years, and has been writing for much longer than that. His young adult fantasy novel JENNIFER SCALES AND THE ANCIENT FURNACE, co-written with wife MaryJanice Davidson and published by Berkley Books, is available now.

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