Commander (2014 Edition): Multiplayer Edition, Part 2

Posted in Serious Fun on December 2, 2014

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.

Did you miss Part 1? I'm looking at the cards in Commander (2014 Edition) that love extra opponents. I covered white, blue, and artifacts in part 1, and I'm finishing things off here. Let's get started!

Necromantic Selection[1]

Necromantic Selection is part of a newer collection of mass removal effects that cost more than four or five mana, but offer something extra to offset that higher cost. In this case, you get to take the best creature that died due to Necromantic Selection and return it to the battlefield under your control.

Often, since you know Necromantic Selection is in your deck, the best creature to return to the battlefield will be one from your own graveyard, but the option to get someone else's creature should not be undervalued. With multiple opponents, the options only multiply and the odds of getting an even better creature from someone else also improve. Multiple opponents also improve the likelihood that Necromantic Selection will be useful, since the likelihood of your opponent running enough creatures that you'll want to cast it improve as well.

Necromantic Selection is not all upside. The mana cost is significant. In the Ob Nixilis Commander deck, the three black mana in the cost is not really an issue; but in other decks that will be running two or more colors, it is something that needs to be considered. This card is a serious haymaker in a game, and you'll likely be using it when multiple opponents will be unhappy with the result. If those players can counter it, you've pretty much spent your resources for the turn and will need to shift your plans to find a new way to deal with the board state.

A more subtle issue is that the creature you are getting back doesn't have haste. If you were picturing a scenario where you cast Necromantic Selection then smashed an opponent with the big nasty creature that is sitting all alone on the battlefield, be sure you find one that has haste printed on it. If you have seven mana to cast Necromantic Selection, your opponents likely have enough mana to cast creatures to protect themselves. You have reset the board and put yourself well ahead, but it won't stay that way for long.

Finally, the card exiles itself, so don't think you'll be getting to go all recursive, wiping the battlefield again and again.

In spite of the negatives, Necromantic Selection is a powerhouse card that gets more awesome with every opposing player.

Overseer of the Damned

Seven mana seems to be the top of the curve for creatures. There are some that cost more, but when you consider that the Titans seem overpowered at six mana and the Primordials are good, solid cards at seven, seven mana seems to be the sweet spot for big creatures that have amazing abilities. This explains why the Overseer of the Damned costs seven mana.

For that seven mana, you get a flying 5/5 Demon, a 2/2 Zombie token, and one of your opponent's creatures dead. There may be times when your opponents won't have a creature that you can kill when Overseer of the Damned enters the battlefield, but when you consider when you'll have seven mana to cast it in the first place, the odds of there being no creatures for you to kill are pretty slim.

This card makes the multiplayer list because it doesn't stop there. It continues to give you 2/2 Zombies when your opponents' creatures die. With multiple opponents, creatures will die more often, and your Zombie horde will grow quickly. Even without trying, creatures die in combat, they get sacrificed, are burned with fire, or are just destroyed by spells. Overseer of the Damned will get you a sizeable army of Zombies fairly quickly.

Of course, if you're going to run Overseer of the Damned, you probably don't want to just let things happen naturally. You want many creatures to die quickly, and for that, you'll want to step in. Khans of Tarkir happens to have a great card that really helps this along in Duneblast. You'll choose Overseer of the Damned and watch as every other creature dies, leaving you with plenty of token creatures, and your opponents with nothing.

Another option that I think is a little better, if not a lot more old school, is Pernicious Deed. The Deed might not kill all the other big creatures on the board, but it takes out a more selective set of cards, and more importantly for us, let's us do it at instant speed. Duneblast is a sorcery so your opponents will get a turn to try and put up some token resistance before the mass of Zombies come stumbling over. Pernicious Deed can be used at instant speed, giving us the Zombies at the end of an opponent's turn, giving us Zombies that can attack right away. A nice way to take advantage of a nice, clean battlefield.

Raving Dead

The obvious comparison is to Ruhan of the Fomori. Ruhan decks either embrace the chaos and let him attack wherever he wants, or they limit the randomness of the card in a variety of ways, in an effort to focus his commander damage on to one player.

I don't like how the game evolves when Ruhan is involved. If Ruhan is permitted to attack at random, opponents can't rely on the controller to behave in a predictable manner. Most players can't tolerate this, so you are forced to build your deck with the understanding that you will be targeted immediately and until Ruhan is gone, or you are dead. This is a tough way to play Commander as it forces you to use your resources constantly in an effort to protect yourself, when if you weren't the constant center of attention, you could save some of those resources for later.

Given that, you would expect that I don't like Raving Dead either, and you'd be right. Ruhan, as a commander, only needs to hit you three times to take you out of the game. Ruhan, if destroyed, could just be right back the next turn. This was miserable. Raving Dead can't take you out of the game with three hits, or return to play immediately after you kill it, but it does a good job of making randomness deadly. You need to sacrifice a good creature to kill it (something that can do 6 damage to Raving Dead is probably something you would have preferred to use elsewhere), or constantly have a chump blocker ready in case Raving Dead is coming your way. If you opt to roll the dice, you could go from a starting 40 life in a Commander game to 38 from the combat damage, then 19 more, bringing you to 19 in a hurry. I like a little randomness in my games, but Raving Dead is a card that demands you kill it or be prepared to deal with it turn after turn.

Playing Raving Dead is bound to encourage players to treat you the same way they do when you play Ruhan. If your group likes that sort of game, Raving Dead should be safe. If Ruhan brings everyone after you, expect more of the same from Raving Dead.

Incite Rebellion

Incite Rebellion is the kind of powerful card I really like; it shines in the right deck and is a toilet-smearing piece of poo in others. Many red multiplayer decks look to overwhelm their opponents with weenie hordes, then follow that up with a Dragon or two in an effort to dominate. Incite Rebellion offers those decks nothing. Multiple Goblins, Dwarves, and Orcs will die and their numbers will likely take down a Dragon, and inflict serious damage on the player. Incite Rebellion is not for those players. Other red decks rely on direct damage, or sacrificing creatures to help get bigger effects. As long as the creatures are sacrificed before Incite Rebellion hits, things are bound to go well.

Incite Rebellion is particularly nice if your group is lousy with token creatures. When you know your opponents are going to have plenty of creatures, Incite Rebellion in a few games will encourage countermeasures or some shift in your metagame.

What about games when your opponents aren't cooperating? Some people insist on running decks with few or no creatures. Perhaps they need some encouragement?

Incite Rebellion…Elsewhere

Download Arena Decklist

Sylvan Offering will give at least one opponent a pile of creatures, promising a pile of damage to that player as well. Hunted Dragon and Hunted Troll also provide your opponents with creatures that won't stay long and will only hurt them in the end. Eldrazi Monument quells the Rebellion in your creatures, as they'll be indestructible. With a little luck, you'll be able to kill off the player with a lot of creatures just with the Incite Rebellion damage, then use your horde of indestructible flying creatures to finish off another!

Wave of Vitriol

When I played Freyalise's Commander deck, twice I had this card in hand. And both times, casting it would have wrecked me far worse than any opponent. In spite of that, mass removal for artifacts, enchantments, and nonbasic lands is a great thing, especially in the right deck.

Wave is best in green decks that rely on creatures and spells to ramp up their mana. Some decks rely on artifacts to ramp their mana (aka "mana rocks") and those decks are particularly vulnerable to Wave of Vitriol.

I would not be leaning too heavily on the idea that you can get rid of nonbasic lands as a reason for playing this card though. By the time you can pay the seven mana, opponents will have multiple lands out. Letting your opponents replace their nonbasic lands with basic lands will likely allow them to ensure they still have all the colored mana need to continue to play out their cards. Destroying all nonbasic lands gives you a chance to get rid of Maze of Ith or Kessig Wolf Run. If you are planning to play the Wave of Vitriol in the hopes of leaving an opponent color screwed, you will want to look elsewhere.

If your multiplayer environment is seeing plenty of artifacts and enchantments, it is probably time for Wave of Vitriol to sweep the board clean.

Wolfcaller's Howl

Just what does this card really offer? If we assume a four-player game, there will be three opponents, so this card offers, at best, three 2/2 Wolves per upkeep. If the card is played in the early game, you are more likely to get three Wolves, as your opponents will not have had a chance to play out their hands. If you play it at the end of a long game, you'll likely get three Wolves as well, as a stalled board state often leads to players filling their hands with cards. The style of play for your opponents also has an effect. If you play with control players, they are more likely to have plenty of cards in hand, while aggro opponents are less likely to have four or more cards in hand.

Given that you are likely looking at one or two Wolves per upkeep, is four mana and a card really worth it? Those 2/2 creatures tend to be quickly outmatched in most multiplayer games, unless we are talking about significant numbers of them. Due to this, Wolfcaller's Howl doesn't look like much, but it is that subtle, below-the-radar effect that I adore. Opponents are going to look at this card and save their precious removal for the truly ugly stuff they expect to see in the coming turns. This means that Wolfcaller's Howl will stay in play for upkeep after upkeep. Whether you are accumulating them to make a single alpha strike, sacrificing them for a myriad of reasons, using them as chump blockers, or just adding a card to that tribal Wolf deck; Wolfcaller's Howl offers a repeatable effect of creatures entering the battlefield turn after turn. Four mana for a card that will get multiple 2/2 creatures seems like a great deal, all while not being all that threatening to anyone else.

Another interesting aspect is whether this will change how opponents play when it is on the battlefield. Will some of your opponents opt to cast cards in their hands that they would have otherwise held, waiting for a more opportune time? While it seems unlikely, that players will actually do that, there are many players—like myself—who will hold extra lands in hand, in an effort to convince my opponents that I may have a card that threatens them in some way. I can see myself playing out that land, thinking one less 2/2 wolf is better than an illusion that may or may not be doing anything.

Now…can someone explain how Cat tokens and wolf tokens are both 2/2?

Bruce Richard

@manaburned

mtgseriousfun@gmail.com

[1] I love the name!  Nothing natural about this selection.

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