The Four Faces of Manifest

Posted in Serious Fun on February 10, 2015

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.

To those of you who missed yesterday's articles, welcome to Manifest Week! To those of you who read yesterday's articles, welcome to the continuation of Manifest Week! For those of you already sick of this gag, let's move on!

For those of you who were looking for my slant on manifest, I recommend checking out my preview article for Jeskai Infiltrator. I provide my take on manifest, with a nuts-and-bolts look at how manifest works, along with what you can and can't do. The article laid out all the tricky parts of manifest and suggested a number of ways to use manifest creatures beyond just attacking and forcing opponents to guess what you have. I have a couple of interesting deck ideas that include Phyrexian Dreadnought and Sphinx Ambassador. I also have all the best and brightest manifest puns you have and haven't yet heard!

With the "basics of manifest" article out of the way, I thought I'd look at how manifest will work with your play group. Since every group is different, I can't simply say that manifest is great in all casual groups. There needs to be something more. To determine how manifest will be received, we'll need to know the type of player in your group. I'm not talking about the Johnny, Timmy, Spike categories, or even the Melvin/Vorthos sliding scale. In this situation, we'll need a manifestly[1] different set of criteria and categories. Welcome to the Four Faces of Manifest.

Soul Summons | Art by Johann Bodin

Careful Chloe

Careful Chloe never takes a risk. If Chloe were looking to invest in the stock market, she would run screaming and complain that bonds were too dangerous. She drives Swedish cars. Careful Chloe wears a parka on a nice autumn day because "you never know." Chloe likely works in the insurance industry, probably as an actuary. She is not a fan of restaurants since you don't know what they might have done to the food.

Spotting Careful Chloe during your game is easy. Chloe chooses the seat backing up to a wall. Her decks are all double-sleeved. She prefers to play decks that allow her to build pillow forts.[2] She'll hide behind those forts and rarely attack, since attacking almost always involves some risk. She rarely talks, since she doesn't want to draw attention to herself.

My group used to have a Careful Chloe. He was regularly among the last players to be eliminated but rarely won games. He was a fun guy to have at the games. Unfortunately he moved on due to a more reliable, better job.

Careful Chloe hates manifest cards. Chloe wants to know all the variables and manifest limits that. If she is attacked by a manifested card, she will definitely block, as she can't risk what it could become. If she has a manifested card she won't block with it unless she must or she can flip it to kill the attacking creature. She won't attack with a manifested card unless she is sure it will do what she wants.

Careful Chloe's favorite manifest card: Dulcet Sirens. A card that sends attackers elsewhere. While Chloe likes the card to protect her, the ability to use it as a hammer, forcing players to go after each other, is a wonderful thing that all characters will enjoy.

Dulcet Sirens | Art by Magali Villeneuve

Careless Kim

Careless Kim always takes risks. If Kim were looking to invest in the stock market, she would choose penny stocks teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. She doesn't drive a car, she hitches rides. She wears whatever is lying around and will try to remember to wash clothes tomorrow. Careless Kim likely works a series of short-term projects, quickly wrapping up one and moving on to the next thing. Careless Kim likes restaurants and believes the five second rule is far too short.

Spotting Careless Kim during your game is easy. Kim chooses the seat with the broken leg and tries to balance on the other three for the rest of the night. Her decks are all un-sleeved, including the deck with Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and it makes you cringe when she shuffles. She prefers to play decks that allow her to run on autopilot. Part of Kim's carelessness is that she's more interested in sharing a night with friends than winning at Magic, so she only pays cursory attention to the current board state. She seemingly attacks at random and laughs about it afterwards.

The Careless Kim in my group is Jesse. He runs decks that encourage crazy games and a level of random chaos that goes beyond what anyone expects. Jesse, like anyone, is not completely a Careless Kim. He runs plenty of decks that encourage his opponents to dance to his tune. The difficulty lies in determining when he is chaotic or when he is laughing in his head, screaming, "dance puppet, dance!"

Careless Kim loves a manifested card. The unknown factor with manifested cards plays perfectly with Kim's laissez-faire attitude. Since other players are also playing with limited information when it comes to manifest, the playing field is balanced out. Kim is also willing to take chances, so the bluffing aspect plays well with the Careless Kims in your group.

Careless Kim's favorite manifest card: Ghastly Conscription. Kim relies on opponents loading their graveyards with great creatures and getting to seven mana before the opponents find their own way to use their graveyard-bound creatures. The chance that you could empty the opponents' libraries then flip their cards against them is enough to make even my normally dormant Careless Kim drool just a little.

Ghastly Conscription | Art by YW Tang

Calculating Cassidy

Calculating Cassidy weighs the odds and goes with a measured prediction. If Cassidy were looking to invest in the stock market, she would pick "safe stocks." She drives Japanese cars, expecting the best value. She checks the forecast every morning and dresses accordingly. Cassidy likely works as a mortgage broker. Cassidy checks Yelp before going to any restaurant and pays in cash, since only fools let their credit card out of their sight.

Spotting Calculating Cassidy during your game is easy. Cassidy chooses the seat across from the least threatening player, since she knows you are most likely to attack the person across from you. Her decks are all sleeved and carefully tagged with a decklist in each deck box so she can note changes to the deck after each game experience. She prefers to play decks that allow her to make decisions, confident that she'll make the best decision for each situation. She chats politely, but is always thinking about the constantly changing board state. The player who appears to be distracted but knows what every card on the table does is likely a Calculating Cassidy.

The Calculating Cassidy in my group is Josh. Josh plays decks designed to give him options, trusting in his ability to choose correctly from those options. He is always aware of who is doing what and generally has the best sense of who is the real threat to him at all times. There are times when he will discard his careful logic and just go for it, but most of the time Josh is logic personified.

Calculating Cassidy enjoys the extra layer of strategy manifest brings. Cassidy tends to look at the odds and play accordingly, so manifest can be used against her and it can also play perfectly to her style. She can measure the likelihood that an opponent will block with or block a manifested creature and determine if it is the correct play or not.

Calculating Cassidy's favorite manifest card: Jeskai Infiltrator. It requires some setup, but then it allows you all sorts of options and forces your opponents into apoplectic fits to determine what to do. I made a couple of suggestions in my preview article, but I'm confident the Calculating Cassidys out there will find even more interesting ways to abuse Jeskai Infiltrator.

Jeskai Infiltrator | Art by Cynthia Sheppard

Instinctual Ida

Instinctual Ida lives according to what seems right. If Ida were looking to invest in the stock market, she would pick based on a good feeling she had. She picks cars based on how nice the salesman was. When she sees puppies in the clouds, she knows it will be a beautiful day. Ida works as a farmer, trusting the look and feel of her produce. She chooses which restaurant to go to because a friend said the waiters were cute.

Spotting Instinctual Ida during your game is easy. Ida chooses the same seat every game. Her decks are the same decks she has played for years, with only minor changes. She prefers to play the decks she knows, understanding that her instincts work best with decks she knows well. She bases her attacks on when it seems right to attack. If Instinctual Ida has been playing Magic for a long time, she likely wins regularly but not too often. She is slow to accept new cards, but when she does, she seems to "have a knack" for them.

I am the Instinctual Ida in our group. I have played long enough that I often just infer what I think the correct play is and do that. Before I was writing regularly, I tended to be slow to use newer cards. I tend to lose games where if I had just considered all the options, I would have discovered that my play was not the correct play, but it felt right at the time.

Instinctual Ida tends to accept change slowly, so she may not jump to manifest right away, but it is a style of card that she likes. She sees how the game is progressing and can make generalizations about what the manifested cards in the game likely are and play accordingly. She can often intuit the right time to bluff with a manifest card, so that also makes manifest an excellent strategy for Instinctual Ida.

Instinctual Ida's favorite manifest card: Whisperwood Elemental. It offers up an obviously strong effect that is best used when you think it is the right time. As an Instinctual Ida, I'm looking forward to running it as a deterrent for others' mass-removal cards.

Whisperwood Elemental | Art by Raymond Swanland

Manifest will affect each playgroup a little differently. Some groups are quick to adopt new cards, while other groups are filled with players who only pick up a few boosters of each set, making manifest something they will only see in small numbers. I expect most players, based on the four characteristics I've laid out, will enjoy manifest and what it brings to the game.

Manifest offers so many different things that many different players can each enjoy manifest for different reasons. The flexibility of the ability should make it a favorite of most play group that gives it a shot. I recommend you start by feeling your way around the cards, but that could just be my inner Instinctual Ida talking.

Bruce Richard


[1] I said this would be a different article. I never said the puns wouldn’t continue to be bad.

[2] A pillow fort is a deck style that involves creating a board state where your opponents are discouraged from attacking you. Island Sanctuary, Propaganda-style spells, cards that allow you to bounce creatures attacking you, and creatures with large toughness are hallmarks of these decks.

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