The casual play genie, out of the bottle
How many cards do you have in your collection?
How many of those are sorceries?
Congratulations, your deck now has 60 + X cards, where X is the answer you gave to that second question. Casual play is not a slave to the DCI's floor rules, which will prevent Wish-casters from leafing through binders, so remember that when playing for fun, this card allows you to do just what it says. Straight from the FAQ's mouth: "Outside DCI-sanctioned play, 'a card you own from outside the game' is one of the following things: (a) A card you own that's in the removed-from-the-game zone. It can be in that zone for any reason. (b) Any card in your collection. Go find the card that will help you most in the situation you're in."
Right of the bat, let’s admit to three very obvious truths:
1. Balance is best. While it takes the right kind of deck, perhaps the most sweeping measure you can take (if you have this sort of collection, as well as a thing for drilling your dead horse into the Earth’s mantle) is having four copies of Balance (beyond the fifth copy, which is already in your deck) ready to go. Yes, Balance is restricted in many formats and yes, this is still "legal" in casual play. (Unless your group rules otherwise, after you've Balanced things once too often.)
2. Other cards don’t stink, either. No other card by itself can give you guaranteed access to a third-turn Timetwister that you never had in your deck in the first place. No other card by itself (beyond Death Wish, see Mark’s preview yesterday) gives you access to five Time Spirals, five Time Warps, even five Time Walks (and just how good is your collection, anyway?!?). The most heart-stopping, earth-shaking, bone-splintering spells in the game are sorceries. With the right mana, your Wish deck can play any one of them, at will.
3. Color hosers are coming back. Unless your group specifically bans them, cards like Acid Rain and Perish are going to be making an appearance. Soon you will hear “Gee, I don’t like color hosers either, Frank, but what can I say…you’re playing so much white, how can I not get Anarchy?” Insist your name isn’t Frank all you want; you’re still getting your butt kicked.
That said, I want to try to deflect the gentle reader not from only color hosers, but also from some of the other incredibly obvious choices that will come to mind: Wrath of God, Upheaval, Tranquility, and so on. Sure, these will be effective. But no one will remember you playing any of those, a year from now. If you’d like to make a longer-lasting impression, try something more creative.
“I WISH I HAD THOUGHT OF THAT…!”
To get each of you started, I’ll give three suggestions from each of the five colors. The point here is not to be comprehensive, but to spur your own ideas. These cards are almost all rares, but for once that works for the average player -- some of these have been sitting in your box for ages, you never had four copies, and so you never felt like you could depend on getting one when you needed it. You hated having just one, but couldn’t bear to give it away. Well, now your day has come. Single-copy collectors, unite!
Don't even think about it.
WHITE: Group games can often feature a phalanx of high-powered creatures, either in their own right or because of something external (e.g., Coat of Arms). That single Retribution of the Meek you’ve had collecting dust since Mirage block is a slick answer. Tariff is less certain, but works similarly and plays a role in decks where casting cost is a consideration. There’s also something about the way you can jingle coins in your pocket while the green mage drops a freshly-cast Multani, Maro-Sorcerer into the graveyard.
While I’d love my third card to be Shahrazad; I’d get kicked in the e-groin by players who hate hard-to-find rares and players who like games to end. So I’ll suggest Replenish instead, if you have a deck that makes effective use of enchantments but doesn’t have the room to protect them.
RED: In your mono-red deck, you often don’t have a way to kill pro-red creatures. If Anarchy’s not your speed (and it isn’t mine), acquire a copy of Mogg Infestation, which is funnier anyway. If your group is in love with the recent offerings of excellent non-basic lands since Invasion -- or those old-school dual lands that you hate because you only have a single, half-eaten Taiga yourself -- have a Ruination ready.
For a third card, turn your mind toward flashback cards. Not every sorcery you wish for has to start the game outside of your deck! Seize the Day can now be used four times per copy; and I’m sure you can think of several games where you fell just a few points short of closing out the win.
GREEN: I’ll extend the flashback discussion by suggesting Call of the Herd, now good for four 3/3s (Roar of the Wurm is also nice here). A troop of elephants, sensibly costed, isn’t exactly a board-breaker -- but it demonstrates card advantage and more to the point, it’s fun to do. Another nice finesse move is finding a Nostalgic Dreams out of your collection to go retrieve the cards in your graveyard that you didn’t think would end up there (or else you would have put the Dreams in your main deck, right?).
My third choice for this color is Clear the Land -- good both for mana acceleration, and for those unpredictable moments influenced by Psychic Battle or Aven Windreader when you know what your opponents are about to draw. If you lose any sorceries, of course, you can always use a Burning Wish to get one back!
BLACK: Extinction is one of those cards that never gets played because you can never tell when someone is going to show up with their amazing minotaur deck. Well, now you finally have the answer at your beck and call. When you have an opponent playing white, you can roust up a Massacre for cheap mass removal. If you have Badlands, you may even get away with using those for your “swamp” condition in an otherwise mono-red deck.
My last choice here is, like Extinction, for those “you never know” moments… Twilight's Call would work really well in some situations, and less so in others. Better keep it in your collection, for those times when your wish starts to burn a hole in your graveyard.
BLUE: The only card on this list that isn’t rare, Theft of Dreams is for those times when Mr. Squirrel Lover just overran the guy next to you, and you need to draw into your Propaganda right now. (Of course, you could also use the Burning Wish to get an Earthquake and take care of the problem directly; but the point is, you can search for a non-sorcery card in your deck this way.) Those players who feel queasy about Show and Tell because they can’t predict what your opponents will play, will feel better now that they can call one up as needed when hand sizes are more favorable.
My third blue card is a “tie” between two cheats that I couldn’t resist. Urza's Guilt, technically a gold card, is a nice way to get through the last few damage to a board where players are all on the edge of dying. And if your group allows non-tournament legal cards, Extinguish from Portal Second Age and Portal Three Kingdoms (reprinted as an instant in the Starter set, so don’t use that version!), is the only sorcery that can counter a sorcery spell -- and therefore, it is the perfect answer to other players’ Burning Wishes. Just make sure you wish for your Extinguish during your own turn!
“I WISH PEOPLE WOULD LEAVE ME ALONE…”
One of the effects you may not think of immediately from this (or any other) wish card is the “rattlesnake” factor your deck gains. A good sorcery in your hand -- and especially one you can play at instant speed -- works just like Seal of Doom or False Prophet. Everyone knows you have Rout in your hand; you just pulled it out of your collection and put it in a sleeve to match your deck’s lovely copper hue. As long as you keep seven mana open, who is going to go out of their way to annoy you?
“I WISH WE WERE PLAYING AT MY HOUSE…”
This section is relevant not just for Burning Wish, but for all of the wishes you’ll see this week.
So far, we’ve ignored the fact that most of these cards are sitting deep in your collection, and it’s not at all clear what house rules ought to be for casual players. It sounds good in theory to say “you can get whatever card you want,” but the practical difficulty in having every player spend 10 minutes flipping through boxes looking for that Catastrophe they know they have around there somewhere should be pretty obvious. Here are three different schemes your casual play group can experiment with, to define “card you own outside the game”:
Ok, funny guy, you have fifteen seconds to resolve that Wish...
Scheme One: It means “any format-legal card in your collection that you can find and show the table in the next 15 seconds, starting from the moment you announce this spell.”
Pros: It gets at the heart of the issue -- time -- and leaves the number of cards players can “sideboard” up to the free market, which is what globalization’s all about, baby.
Cons: The guy who’s hosting that week has an amazing advantage, if he’s fast enough and knows his collection well.
Scheme Two: It means “any format-legal card from the X cards we’ve all agreed to keep on the table, like a tournament sideboard, as well as anything you own that has been removed from game.”
X will equal anything from 10 to 50, in the practical sense.
Pros: It sets a predicable and fair boundary for the cards you can get.
Cons: That’s not what the card says. No, really, look… it says right there, any card you own. Won’t you feel cheated if you forget to include Needle Storm in your sideboard, but everyone knows you have four copies in the closet down the hall?
This will probably be the scheme our play group uses; but I guarantee you there will be gnashing (or at least polite grinding) of teeth.
Scheme Three: It means “any format-legal card you claim to own, and please don’t bother getting up to get it.”
Pros: In a group of trusting friends where the average collection runs fairly deep, it’s a good way to save time -- “You say you’re getting a Wheel of Fortune? Fine, we’re sure you’ve got one somewhere. Use this Swamp as a proxy.”
Cons: The individual or collective temptation will be to bend the rules to cards that (a) you might have but can’t remember, or (b) you have in another deck that you lent to your cousin’s friend Charlie down in Tasmania, or (c) you had offered to you on a plate of rose petals in a dream last night by the object of your undying, unrequited love.
None of the counter-arguments above are fatal. Choose whichever format suits your group best. Note that all of these definitions start with “format-legal”. I wouldn’t suggest allowing people to cross creature types in a Tribes format, or letting an Unglued cards in if your group doesn’t normally accept them.
“I WISH I COULD USE YOUR CARDS…”
An intriguing variant on card access would loosen up the ownership requirement, so that players could have access to other players’ collections. I only recommend this where the bonds of trust within the group are fairly deep; but it does help even the scales where good friends have very unequal collections.
If you (or more precisely, the person with the largest collection) would prefer, this shared ownership could be restricted to those cards that began in the game, but were removed by a spell or effect like Syncopate or Jester's Cap. In this case, consider a red-black deck that uses Apocalypse, Mind Swords, and Haunting Echoes.
You could even consider allowing the use of Bronze Tablet in non-ante games, for purposes of Wishes only! But I think we’re getting a bit far afield, here. Let’s ground our preview card back in reality.
“I WISH THERE WAS A DECK I COULD LOOK AT…”
Below is a deck I had fun throwing together, starting with the red and green cards I mentioned above. It’s based on just about any red and green card I could find that takes advantage of building a deck around sorceries. Not a removal spell in sight, except one or two in the “sideboard.” (This wish, not so burning. What, you’re worried about flyers? Fine, put in Assault/Battery or Fireball for any rares you don’t have.)
There are as many possible deck-types for your Burning Wishes as there are styles of sorceries. Be as creative as you can, and don’t just adhere to the color hosers and board-sweepers that immediately come to mind. Finally, whatever you think you’ll wish for, consider bringing along a little Arabian-style lamp along to keep all your extra cards and sleeves in! Your genie will thank you for your consideration.Anthony may be reached at email@example.com.