Gold Star!

Posted in Serious Fun on May 19, 2009

By Kelly Digges

Kelly Digges has had many roles at Wizards over the years, including creative text writer, R&D editor, website copyeditor, lead website editor, Serious Fun column author, and design/development team member on multiple sets.

It's Solid Gold Week! What does that mean? No, we're not going to talk about carats and troy ounces (although I did once calculate whether some Magic cards might be worth their weight in gold). This week is all about Alara Reborn, pretty gold borders, and cards that take two colors to cast.

I've written in the past about the ten two-color, "mono-multicolored" decks my friend Laura put together from my collection. They started out, before Shards of Alara was released, as Ravnica / Shadowmoor decks. Since then, I've been updating, most recently with all the golden goodies in Alara Reborn.

As you might recall, those decks have a "schtick" above and beyond being (originally) made of cards from just two blocks: every colored card in each deck is exactly two colors.

Quick aside: Unlike Alara Reborn, these five decks are not quite solid gold. They are, however, 100% multicolored. See, a number of the cards in them are hybrid. The rules treat hybrid cards and gold cards similarly—Bull Cerodon and Hearthfire Hobgoblin are both red and white—but in practice, I think of them more as opposites. Bull Cerodon takes red AND white to play; Hearthfire Hobgoblin takes red OR white. Anyway, these decks aren't all gold, but they are all multicolored. Close enough theme week purposes!

Bull Cerodon
Hearthfire Hobgoblin

With such a big influx of new gold cards courtesy of Alara Reborn, it was time to give these decks (along with my five three-color shard decks) a major overhaul. And having overhauled them, it was time to actually use the five allied-color decks for their intended purpose: Star.

The Decks

Tapped Out?

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Wall of Denial
Grand Arbiter Augustin IV

This deck has improved significantly of late. It gained an Ith, High Arcanist and Grand Arbiter Augustin IV that I picked up since the decks were made. I'm especially a fan of Grand Arbiter Augustin IV, even if he does draw major hate. Making every spell in this deck cheaper and all my opponents' spells more expensive is just too much fun. The Overrules came out in favor of Offering to Asha, the deck picked up Borderposts to help with mana, and, most importantly, four Wall of Denial came in to significantly bolster its early-game defenses.

Stolen Secrets

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Nemesis of Reason
Wasp Lancer

This deck was overhauled substantially. The idea was that it could beat down one opponent with flying and unblockable creatures will milling another—a strategy uniquely suited to Star. It didn't quite work out that way, as you'll see, and my friend Dave concluded that the deck would work better if it focused on evasion creatures and left milling to a deck that could include Forced Fruition, Memory Erosion, and Jace Beleren. This is the deck that, last time I wrote about it, I accidentally played with 74 cards. This time, there was apparently a different glitch: after the overhaul it only has 15 creatures, and the deck as a whole doesn't do much.

Like Hell

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Breath of Malfegor

Note the Breath of Malfegor in the red-black deck, which is probably the deck's biggest gain from Alara Reborn. As you may recall, according to the rules of Star, the two players across from you are your opponents, while the two people next to you are your allies. Breath of Malfegor lets you slam both people you're trying to take out at the same time, while leaving your allies alone.

Boartusk's Bite

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Predatory Advantage
Colossal Might

Predatory Advantage is not at its best here for the same reason that Breath of Malfegor is; only two of the people at the table are your opponents. Colossal Might is a wrecking ball (unlike Wrecking Ball, which is more of a Terminate). Also: Dragon Broodmother, Dragon Broodmother, Dragon Broodmother.

Token Effort

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Dauntless Escort
Behemoth Sledge

Wow, Alara Reborn (and my Alara Reborn opens) was very good to the green-white deck. Dauntless Escort keeps the team alive, and Sigil Captain (and Juniper Order Ranger) gets them beefy. Behemoth Sledge is and continues to be just plain dumb, and Enlisted Wurm is good times.

All Star

As you may recall, in Star, five players sit in a circle. The two players across from you are your enemies, the two players next to you are your allies, and you win when your two enemies are no longer in the game. In the variant we play, the turn is passed across the circle and to the left.

In its most classic incarnation, Star is played with five monocolored decks, arranged as on the back of a Magic card. And as on the back of the cards, each color is enemies with the colors across from it and friends with the colors next to it. You can play Star with any decks, but the color-based version is the original.

The two-color pairs—as with the five shards—can easily be arranged in a similar pattern. Green-white is friends with red-green and white-blue, the two pairs it shares a color with, and enemies with blue-black and black-red, the two pairs it doesn't share a color with.

(The same principle can be applied to the five enemy-color pairs, although I find that a little harder to wrap my head around. The tricky part is that you could argue either way as far as allies as enemies. It makes sense to say that white-black and red-white are allies because they share a color, but extrapolating that out, you end up with white-black's enemies being the two pairs that contain white and black's common ally, blue. Going the other direction, it would make an inverted sort of sense for white-black to hate red-white and black-green—enemy-color pairs are weeeeeird—but the color-sharing method makes more sense to me.)

With the five allied-color decks fully updated, I gathered four friends for a game of Star. I grabbed the green-white deck, since that's my favorite allied-color pair. Laura sat on my right with the red-green deck, and her friend Matt sat on my left with the white-blue deck. Across from me on the left was my co-worker Dave with blue-black, and next to him was another co-worker, confusingly also named Matt. For convenience, Ally-Matt is Matt W., and Enemy-Matt is Matt T.

We rolled two ten-sided dice to see who would go first. As my roll tumbled, Dave cried, "Multiply!" We all laughed about it and agreed, and I won the right to take the first turn, 32 to 21 to 15 to double zero. ("Multiply" is pretty harsh on standard ten-siders, which go from 0 to 9.)

Almost from the word go, this game of Star had a lot more interaction between multiple players—"multiplayer" activity, if you will—than many others I've played. Dave used Agony Warp to keep Laura's Tattermunge Maniac from damaging him while killing my Qasali Pridemage. Dave then put a Helm of the Ghastlord on Matt T.'s Rakdos Guildmage to help him beat up Matt W. and myself, because, as I mentioned, his deck was very creature-light.

Qasali Pridemage
Helm of the Ghastlord

Matt W. wasn't a tempting target, having thrown up a Wall of Denial on turn three, and I was even less so with a Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers. The Rakdos Guildmage sat tight. Laura, however, made a run past Matt T.'s Wall of Denial with Boggart Ram-Gang, whose wither would bring the Wall down in just a few blocks, while still hitting Dave with Tattermunge Maniac.

Meanwhile, over the course of two turns, I landed and equipped that hammer so big it shares a name with a form of transport, Behemoth Sledge. But when I sent my 5/6 with trample, lifelink, and vigilance sailing toward Dave, Matt T., his ally and my other enemy, intervened with a timely Wrecking Ball.

As an aside: I love attacking with huge creatures with vigilance. There's something about the way I slide them forward to show that they're attacking that reminds me of battleships setting sail.

After Matt T. sunk my battleship, I tried to reload with Enlisted Wurm, but had a somewhat frustrating cascade. I gaped as I flipped up every non–Enlisted Wurm six-drop in my deck—Pollenbright Wings, Tolsimir Wolfblood, Pollenbright Wings—before cascading into a slightly disappointing Selesnya Guildmage.

I equipped my Enlisted Wurm with Behemoth Sledge the next turn and attacked, but Matt T. Terminated the Wurm. I played the only card in my hand and passed, leaving me with a decidedly unimpressive board of two Behemoth Sledges—high potential awesome, but no actual awesome, leaving me a spectator for the ensuing events.

The armies mustered quickly after that. Matt W. played a Swans of Bryn Argoll, which weirdly transformed Laura's red-green deck into the deck with the most card draw. Matt T. gave her some competition, though, with a pair of Rakdos Ickspitters also pinging the Swans.

Laura tried to suit up one of her (now two) Boggart Ram-Gangs with Runes of the Deus, but Matt W. had Offering to Asha to stop that potentially punishing play. Laura shrugged, and a few turns later we found out why: Dragon Broodmother. Laura opted for the "stream of huge flyers" option, making Dragon tokens on successive upkeeps then devouring them all on the turn before hers.

Dave managed to answer the Broodmother with Deny Reality followed by an attack from Ghastlord of Fugue to pluck it out of Laura's hand, but the damage was done. When the baby Dragons were done devouring each other, even with the Broodmother gone, he and Matt W. were still facing down two flyers, one 7/7 and one 5/5.

Matt W., however, had built up a brutal air force of his own, with another Swans of Bryn Argoll and the other transformed into some kind of crazy super-swans courtesy of Steel of the Godhead and Shield of the Righteous.

Steel of the Godhead
Shield of the Righteous

Dave, unfortunately for him, had made a sacrifice play taking care of the Broodmother, whose children avenged themselves upon him and his life total of 12, such a convenient match for their combined power. Dave was out, so Laura was halfway to winning—but so was I, in a different direction. All I had to do was take out Matt T.—

—who had brought in Demigod of Revenge and Deepfire Elemental to go with his Rakdos Guildmage and Rakdos Ickspitters. My Behemoth Sledges were not going to get the job done, and Deepfire Elemental ensured that if I drew a small creature, it was toast before I could do anything with it.

Matt W. made Laura's half-win moot when he killed her with Swans, gaining a ton of life in the process. That meant it was Matt W. and me against Matt T.—usually a great position to be in. But I wasn't doing anything of note, and Matt T. had added Kaervek the Merciless and Lyzolda, the Blood Witch the Blood Witch to his team, pretty much locking us down. It was only a matter of time before he killed me with attacks, whittled away Matt W.'s life advantage, and burned him out with Lyzolda, the Blood Witch. Victory to Matt T.!

And Again?

That really hadn't taken very long, so we tinkered with our decks a bit and laid into each other again. I took out three Sigil Blessing for three Mercy Killing, realizing how tough it was that neither of Matt T.'s enemies had any removal in their decks.

Several of us got great openers this time—myself with two Selesnya Evangels that set to work making an army, Dave with Inkfathom Witch and Wasp Lancer, and Matt W. with not one, not two, but three Wall of Denial. Laura wrecked Dave's opener with a Branching Bolt, though, and Dave didn't do much else this game besides play Deny Reality three times on the Deus of Calamity she coughed up on turn five (cascading into Agony Warp for Boggart Ram-Gang one of those times).

Matt T. didn't like what he was seeing across from him, so he played Void for 3, taking out two Borderposts of mine and all three of Matt W.'s Walls. I was very, very glad he hadn't opted to play Void for zero, which would have destroyed six Saprolings at this point and really set me back.

Even down on mana, I was in great shape, landing Dauntless Escort to protect my fungal squad and making ever more Saprolings. Laura was making the flashy plays, like suiting up Deus of Calamity with Runes of the Deus and walloping Matt W.

All well and good. Amazing, actually. But the goal in Star is not only to beat your opponents; it's to beat your opponents faster than your allies beat theirs. Laura had also knocked Dave very low while trying to beat Matt—but not quite getting there—and I was able to take advantage of it. Before anyone knew what was happening, I was able to split up a huge assault force at Dave and Matt T., both of whom were at 5. Nobody was able to stop me, so I took out both my opponents in one turn, winning the game. With Saprolings.

Good Times

As always, Star is a great evening of Magic. It's quick, it's brutal, and it's the fun kind of political, at least for me. I highly recommend it in its monocolor, two-color, three-color, or non-color-based incarnations.

Boartusk Liege
Pillar of the Paruns

But these decks are also worth a look. I don't know how appealing it is to any of you out there to build decks that are 100% multicolor, but there is something to be said for decks in which every creature (or nearly every creature) can fully activate a Shield of the Oversoul, Boartusk Liege, or, in the enemy-colored decks, Nightsky Mimic. With Alara Reborn filling out the ranks of even enemy-colored gold cards, it's more possible than ever to go solid gold. I love the idea of a five-color, all-gold, all-creature deck packing Ancient Ziggurat, Pillar of the Paruns, and Reflecting Pool. I'll have to see if I can scrape that one together.

Does anybody else out there have any crazy mostly or entirely multicolored decks? I'd be interested to hear about them.

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