The Great Eight

Posted in Serious Fun on August 23, 2011

Welcome to 2011: we mean business. This year has felt like one in warp drive, speeding up as the months pass. Perhaps my old-man mannerisms are finally catching up to my sense of relativity, but I could swear we just did a bunch of previews for Magic 2012.

I guess that's good news for you: next week starts three full weeks of Innistrad previews. Be there.

This week we'll be finishing off Feedback Week, answering a question that deserved a much bigger answer:

kaokun What's your top 8 funnest (sic) cards in all of Magic?

I can definitely name more than eight cards that I find fun. In fact, two dozen is easily a dozen too few. Taking the top eight of them is much tougher. In fact, I'm going to cheat a little and mention multiple cards that have very similar effects, as well as other fun cards where I can slip them in. Grouping together everything that's fun seems like a challenge worth exploring.

    Must Score More Goals

While I tried to grab a broad selection of the most awesome cards (including running out honorable mentions all along the way), there are going to be cards you find more fun than those listed here, and some listed here you find quite unfun. It's alright to be different.

What's important is that you know what excites you, and that you go after the opportunities to experience that. These are the experiences and opportunities many of us like to see; may you always see yours!

Rite of Replication is a phenomenal card. It's not quite as versatile as Clone (as Clone doesn't actually target anything, and is thus harder to stop) and is a bit trickier to cast (requiring two blue mana rather than just one). So what makes this card so much fun?

That little bit of kicker goes a long, long way! I'm notalone with this thought either. The only thing better than one copy of something is five, and when it's five copies of any creature, very wild things happen. Here is an abridged list of creatures I've seen copied with a kicked Rite of Replication:

You can get trickier by throwing the kicked version with any of the following cards:

Whether replicating with the rite is good or bad for you at the time, there's never a moment when it isn't a total blast. I could list many more cards, but I'm sure you'll find your favorite spot to put it.

Many of us dream of dumping stuff onto the battlefield. Elvish Piper and Quicksilver Amulet provide great ways to get a creature down in a hurry. Show and Tell sees play in the power-laden Legacy format. Wild Evocation is similar to the Gate, but isn't random as it's from everyone's hands.

Only Gate to the Æther provides that random, off-the-top-of-the-deck, hearing-your-heartbeat moment every upkeep. Is it a land? Is it Primeval Titan? It is another Gate to the Æther? Is it just a Rampant Growth? Kicking every deck up a random notch is one way to ensure games are both faster and more fun.

If you want to be a little tricky there's a lot to do as well. Brainstorm is perhaps the most classic example of a way to set the top of your deck (by tucking what you want from your hand), but Sensei's Divining Top and Crystal Ball can take care of things too. In fact, any instants with scry on them get a little silly when setting up the top of your deck becomes playing your deck, even if opponents can get in the action too.

Set Top Box

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No instants with scry, but plenty of peering to go around! Cryptic Annelid and Augury Owl provide scry action even if you're dropping them into play off of Gate to the Æther. With the green suite of Sylvan Ranger and Yavimaya Elder, eventually hitting Primeval Titan, mana shouldn't be an issue.

The real action is the bevy of entertaining options to load up for play. From Phyrexian Metamorph and Quicksilver Gargantuan to Avenger of Zendikar and Simic Sky Swallower, there's a little something for everyone. Capsize can clear the way thanks to the abundant mana, and Brainstorm can always put something in hand on top if the situation changes.

Adding more copy effects, such Clone or Phantasmal Image, can let you take advantage of the awesome things other players might flop onto the battlefield. Feel free to changing things up as you'd like to see it!

Howling Mine (and its newer brother Front of Mythos) is a classic "fun in Magic" card. Games get going when cards get drawn. While something like Gate to the Æther just dumps things into play, not every card in Magic is a permanent for good reason. Things are more fun when there's a little variety.

While giving out a table full of extra cards just for the sake of it is often enough, you can certainly plan to make use of the extra ones you draw. When I looked over Magic 2012, I mentioned that Zombie Infestation is a pretty fun card now available again. Howling Mine is just the type of card for a deck that wants Zombie Infestation.

Another One Bites the Dust

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It's still a madness and Zombie Infestation deck at its core, but it takes things to a new level with Howling Mine and Font of Mythos. Drawing more cards feeds the discard engine, playing up a painless way to restock alongside Graveborn Muse. Cemetery Reaper not only gives us another way to make Zombies, but pumps up our shambling army while it's at it.

Collective Voyage is a relative newcomer to cards in Magic, but it came with the pedigree of being part of the Magic: The Gathering Commander release. I shared some thoughts around the Voyage when I previewed Mana-Charged Dragon, and those thoughts still stand; Collective Voyage is a pretty stellar card.

Unlike the previous two entrants here, Howling Mine and Gate to the Æther, Collective Voyage brings a game up to speed in the most fair way possible. After taking the group on a Voyage, everyone should be able to cast their spells. Whether players came out of the gate fast or slow, they'll have something to do with all their mana (especially if Howling Mine is along for the ride.)

Getting tricky with Collective Voyage is pretty straightforward. While things like Avenger of Zendikar and Vinelasher Kudzu are certainly handy, it's a little card from Worldwake that takes the cake: Amulet of Vigor. Why wait to make the most of your extra mana when you can simply have it enter the battlefield untapped?

And if anyone points out the "problem" of your lands coming in untapped, remember that other players get to untap their lands on their turn. The Amulet makes things "more fair" if anything!

Did you think I could get through a list of fun card without including something amazing for Commander? While every card has its chances to shine, our surreal Hippo-maker features a special spot in the world of legendary commanders: Group Hug.

For those of you uninterested in reading a primer on Group Hug, the basic premise is this: what can I do to make everyone have the most fun possible? Phelddagrif is precisely the kind of creature that supports this since you can give other players life, tokens, or cards to draw.

Group Hug works best in when you pile lots of these similar effects and support cards together: Gate to the Æther, Heartbeat of Spring, Howling Mine, Prosperity, Collective Voyage, and more. You can even use things like Crystal Shard to help save other players' creatures for down-the-road fun. The more you save your opponents (and self) from being defeated, the longer and more convoluted the games become. It's like the randomness of red, but orders more entertaining!

Also, there's no other place where you can talk about spreading goodwill through your purple flying Hippo-thing and keep a straight face.

Getting tricky with Phelddagrif is pretty straightforward. Cards like Mind's Eye and Rhystic Study let you play off of the extra cards drawn and spells cast. Soul Warden, Soul's Attendant, and Essence Warden let you stock up on life as you pass around Hippo tokens (though Suture Priest does the same thing while whittling away opponent's life totals). Anything that lets you cash in on others cashing in should work!

What's an old-school-made-new spell like Polymorph doing here? Everything. Polymorph lies on an extraordinary line between absolutely random and cleverly powerful. Stick it into a random deck with blue, and you can convert a creature that's blocking (or otherwise about to die) into something new. Tricks that make Gate to the Æther run smooth also work for Polymorph, but you can go much further: just playing token-producers with a sprinkling of fatties lets you find one on command.

Polymorph can also be used to interfere with opponents. While they get a (perhaps) sweet creature out of the deal, a well-timed blow to Kamahl, Fist of Krosa or Furyborn Hellkite can do wonders to taking things down a peg. You can also use something that's indestructible (say, Darksteel Relic through Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas), then zap it with Polymorph and get both the old creature and the new, as the wording is "destroy" and not sacrifice.

Polymorph isn't about being the biggest or splashiest fun card, but it finds plenty of powerful and wacky ways to be loved by everyone.

Doubling Season is a fantastic card that many of you already love. It's a simple effect: double the counters and tokens coming onto everything. The result is a scaling complexity and requirement for assorted dice of all sizes and colors. Here is an abridged list of awesome things Doubling Season impacts:

That's a pretty good list of things, if I do say so myself. It doesn't take much convincing to show off our doubler, so instead of a deck list I thought I'd throw a little pop quiz into the mix. Can you answer the following, assuming in each case that you control a Doubling Season?

  1. How can you spend three mana to get a 10/10 that eventually results in 10 more total power and toughness?
  2. If you cast Cenn's Enlistment, then double your tokens through Rhys the Redeemed, how many tokens will you have after drawing land for five turns straight?
  3. What's the minimum value X to push through a Primordial Hydra to have a 10/10 on your next turn?
  4. You have a Mirror-Sigil Sergeant and you enchant it with Followed Footsteps. How many tokens will you have three turns later?

Math can be fun too! (Disclosure: I have a degree in mathematics.)

Some of you likeHive Mind. Others prefer Warp World. But above those two, the card I've seen and heard cause the most fun in games in Confusion in the Ranks.

Not everyone likes "playing with dice," as it were. Gate to the Æther and Wild Evocation can be manipulated to be more favorable for you. Doubling Season and Rite of Replication can do some very powerful things (the word "grotesque" comes to mind in some cases). Most of the most-fun cards can be pushed to service your desires most.

Confusion in the Ranks isn't as easy to break. In fact, it's generally accepted that Confusion is more for "funsies" than being fearsome. And that's a good thing. Trade, swap, debate your picks—everything that's fun about hot potato and finders-keepers is rolled up into one little enchanted package. Here's a module of awesome cards to try with Confusion in the Ranks:

Varchild's War-RidersWhile you can play it early, the War-Riders' effect will allow whoever is getting the tokens to swap them for it, assuming the cumulative upkeep is paid.
Forbidden OrchardGives your deck both mana fixing and a way to give someone a creature at instant speed any time
Neurok StealthsuitFor double blue you can say "Hands off!" about any creature you control.
Bronze Bombshell, Illusions of Grandeur, Delusions of MediocrityThese cards are bad news for opponents to gain control of. If you can pass it to them, why not?
Jinxed IdolJust casting it gives you a free swap, and it gives you a way to dump off creatures you don't want swapped away.
Homeward Path, BrandHomeward Path sends everyone's creatures back home, and Brand brings everything you own to you again.

If having a purpose and clarity to play with some of these chestnuts of cards doesn't excite you I'm not sure what will.

    Midseason Captain

I asked those on Twitter for their most-fun cards in Magic and received an incredible diversity in responses. Everything from Cytoshape to Jace, the Mind Sculptor popped up, and I was amazed that so many of us find such different things entertaining. Perhaps a few years down the road we'll revisit this idea to see how much has changed!

Last week's poll was as straightforward as can be:

What format do you enjoy playing the most?
Duels (traditional two-player Magic; Limited or Constructed)19246.2%
Multiplayer (using variant rules: Commander, Two-Headed Giant, etc.)15036.1%
Multiplayer (traditional three-or-more-player Magic)5914.2%
Duels (using variant rules: pauper, singleton, team Limited, etc.)153.6%

I find these results pretty interesting. Traditional duels are the bread and butter of our Magic gameplay, but the next largest chunk of you go after Commander and other multiplayer formats. It's a shame that more of us don't enjoy traditional multiplayer as much anymore, but that may just be a product of how awesome the formats with alternative rules really are!

This week I'd like to ask you a question to prime you for Innistrad.

Which horror trope creature type are you looking forward to in Innistrad most?Ghosts (Sprits)ZombiesVampiresWerewolvesVictims (Humans)

Join us next week when we take our first taste of a dark, new world! See you then!

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