Journey into Nyx: Multiplayer Edition

Posted in Serious Fun on May 13, 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.

We've reached that special time of the season where I look at the cards from the latest set, searching for ones that are particularly good in multiplayer formats. I'm not looking for cards that are good, no matter what format you play, but cards that are better because there are more players in the game. This list isn't going to provide you with the cards from this set that are going to see play at your kitchen table, but it will show off the cards that offer something extra in group-games multiplayer EV.

Inspired can be a difficult ability to pull off if you aren't focusing the entire deck around making it happen. One of the benefits of multiplayer games is that you are more likely to have an opponent you can attack without risk of losing your creature. This makes getting the untap benefit from King Macar much easier. With multiple opponents, you can also use your diplomatic skills to make it happen. Convince one opponent to take 2 damage, with the promise that you'll exile someone else's creature with the inspired ability.


I briefly mention Quarry Colossus as a card with value in multiplayer, because its tuck1 effect can cause problems in Commander. Whether you like tuck effects or not, Quarry Colossus gives us another way to mess with opposing commanders.

I don't know how good this is going to be. I don't know if I'll play enough enchantments in a single turn to make it the mass removal spell people think it can be. What I do know is that multiplayer games have more creatures, so a card like Doomwake Giant is bound to kill more creatures than it would in a duel.

The obvious issue with the card comes in Commander. A card that prevents opponents from casting cards with the same name as cards that were exiled is not all that good in a format where no one has more than one copy of a particular card in their deck. Maybe getting a card like Solemn Simulacrum or Acidic Slime will block someone else from playing those cards, but realistically, you are using Godsend as a way to exile opponents' creatures.

In spite of the Commander downside, I still like this card. I'm getting a solid +3/+3 bonus on a creature and exiling opponents' creatures. I've heard several people suggest that you'll never get to exile anything other than some token creatures because people won't want to block with a good creature, since it will be exiled. That is still a deal that I'll take. I can attack and hit my opponent for at least 3 damage or exile a token creature, then spend three mana to equip it to a creature that didn't attack this turn. In multiplayer, this becomes a deterrent to your opponents; they can waste their creatures on you, or attack someone else and still have their creature at the end of the turn. That sounds like a card that offers extra value in multiplayer games, including Commander!

(aka "An excuse to look at strive in multiplayer games!")

Aerial Formation gives a creature +1/+1 and flying, at instant speed, until the end of the turn. By itself, this isn't all that inspiring. The ability to give flying to a creature has been around since the start of the game. You only have to look at how often someone is willing to spend a card to make it happen (almost never) to know how weak the card is. Even adding +1/+1 isn't going to suddenly make this special.

Now, if you could give multiple creatures the ability, that would be a different story. This is where strive shines in multiplayer. Strive lets you target multiple creatures for extra mana. In the case of Aerial Formation, three more mana lets you target a second creature. For seven mana, three creatures can be a little bigger, and flying high. Now we're talking about a serious card.

Multiplayer offers two things that make strive just a little better: time and more players. When games run longer, more lands hit the battlefield. In duels, you can find yourself practically dead before you get close to seven mana. This limits how many creatures a card like Aerial Formation can target. If it can only target one creature most of the time, why are you running the card at all? You weren't running Flight or other similar cards, so why run Aerial Formation unless you can reliably target multiple creatures?

The other benefit multiplayer games offer is more targets. In a duel, you are looking to make your creatures fly either to evade a block or block an opponent's fliers. You are only going to use this on your own creatures. In multiplayer, there are plenty of times when an opponent is attacking another opponent and you want to make the combat either more or less deadly. Strive will let you target multiple creatures, making the attack a blowout.

With Aerial Formation, you can even get tricky. Let's say you want Alice to attack me, not you or Darren. You cast Aerial Formation to target three creatures. You choose your Avenger of Zendikar, Darren's Acidic Slime, and Alice's Doomwake Giant. I have no fliers. You have just created an option for Alice to attack me with the Doomwake Giant. She would lose the giant to your Avenger or Darren's Acidic Slime, so her best play, assuming she chooses to attack, is to attack me. Strive let that happen.

This is a more powerful strive option. Yes, it can make your puny 1/1 token army very big. It can also pick off the particularly ugly creatures your opponents control. I would recommend finding a better way than giving out 4/4 fliers, but the card offers that kind of flexibility. I love cards that can mess with combat between two opponents and this card does that in spades. Most opponents don't think about what you might do when they are attacking (what appears to be) a different defenseless opponent. Exiling troublesome creatures while creating surprise blockers that can kill off another problem is a huge bonus.

Stealing a creature is always wonderful. Now you can steal multiple creatures from multiple players! Harness by Force is cute in duels, where you'll end up stealing a 2/2 creature, because you are taking away all your opponent's blockers for an alpha strike. In multiplayer games, you can still do that, but with multiple opponents, you also have the option of just taking the absolute cream of the crop at your kitchen table. At my last game, this would have meant controlling Kozilek, Butcher of Truth; Sylvan Primordial; and Falkenrath Aristocrat. Annihilate six, 20 points of damage, then sacrifice all three of them to the Falkenrath Aristocrat.

Strive in multiplayer can be awesome.

I discussed Agent of Erebos during Constellation Week, so I won't dwell on the Agent for too long here. When a card allows you to repeatedly target opponents' graveyards, you pay attention. Most groups have at least one player who is taking advantage of all the graveyard recursion out there to make a deck run like a finely tuned machine. Most groups probably have more than one player doing this. Agent of Erebos gives you a way to eliminate that advantage and make those players hesitant to try and do it again.

The Gods in general are better in multiplayer, since games last longer. If the game lasts longer, there is a better chance that you'll reach the devotion you need to turn on creature mode. That alone, though, is not why I put Pharika on this list. I included Agent of Erebos on the list because it can repeatedly empty entire graveyards. I'm including Pharika since she has a more focused blast on graveyards.

Most people are okay with getting a 1/1 deathtouch Snake when they exile a creature in their graveyard. It allows them to threaten multiple creatures for defense if they have the mana and a few creatures in their graveyard. They don't even need to exile them most of the time, since the threat of killing an attacker with your deathtouch token usually sends people in another direction (barring some kind of evasion).

Where people have a problem is with giving the tokens to opponents. I don't have a problem with this. It should be remembered that this is just an option. You can do it, but you don't have to. If you think that a 1/1 deathtouch creature is worse than what a player currently has, then don't do it. I am rabid about graveyard-removal effects since graveyard recursion is a great way for players to get extra value from their cards. Cutting off that value can often neuter decks that are a little too reliant on their graveyards. I also like the surprise it can offer when opponents are attacking each other. Removing that Solemn Simulacrum from an opponent's graveyard to given its owner a 1/1 deathtouch creature to block a Sun Titan just sounds good to me. Be sure you have two more mana to exile that Sun Titan as well!

Brandon suggested this deck that runs both Agent and Pharika, along with another card coming later on the list:

Empty Graves

Download Arena Decklist

When people read Athreos's ability, they say no one will not pay it. I say, if the creature is annoying enough, any player will pay the 3 life to keep it dead. Consider these situations:

  1. Stop thinking of Athreos as a way to recur your creatures. If you read Athreos as, "Whenever another creature you own dies, do 3 damage to target opponent," would you still play this card? Knowing that you are getting 3 damage on your opponents when your creatures die is a great ability.
  2. In the midgame, there is usually at least one player low enough on life that you'll be able to get any creature back in your hand. When you know your opponents, you'll likely find that one or more of them overvalues their life total. Some players will lose the life when they are at 6. You just want to find the player not willing to lose life when he or she is at 10 or less.
  3. If you have a friend in the game, you'll likely get your creature back whenever you want it. If someone just wants to see crazy stuff in the game, he or she might be willing to give you your crazy creatures back. You would be surprised how often you'll be able to bring that creature back to your hand when you have the correct read on all the other players in the game.

Does Grave Pact get played in your group? If no, then you should start playing it. Whether your deck is running multiple little creatures or fewer large creatures, Dictate of Erebos warns everyone to find someone else to attack.

My friend George was kind enough to provide me with his updated Glissa Voltron Commander decklist.

Glissa Ultra-Aggro

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Glissa, the Traitor

Dictate gives Commander a second Grave Pact. Things will get ugly!

For those of us with Grave Pact in our metagames, expect Dictate of Erebos to be appearing shortly. Dictate of Erebos may cost one mana more, but it is only one black mana, so it is easier to play in multicolor decks than Grave Pact. It also has flash, so the first time it hits will be a complete surprise.

The cards these two are based off of are multiplayer staples. Getting extra mana and drawing more cards are two great things. Now, these cards let you be the first to enjoy the benefits, since you can cast them at the end of the turn before your turn. Dictate of Kruphix (everyone cheers!) gets played and you draw the extra card! Congrats!

However, consider this for a minute. You are holding a Dictate of Kruphix in hand, and play it at the end of the turn before yours (everyone cheers!). You draw two cards. Then each of your opponents draw two cards. All you have done is ensure that everyone has drawn the same number of extra cards. That sounds balanced, but you used up a slot (or four) in your deck to run the Dictate. You were a card down because you played the Dictate of Kruphix rather than a threat. Drawing that extra card just got you even, and everyone else is still a card ahead. Even if you manage to get rid of the Dictate right after you use it (and you don't use a card to do it), you are still only coming out even. It is better than Howling Mine, but you are still behind.

Dictate of Karametra doesn't fare much better. While you are the first to double your mana, you left five mana open to flash it into play. Essentially, you played it on your turn, but no one else used their mana. That turn you cast it? You wasted that turn holding that mana. Being the first to get to use double the mana is great, but the cost of that was throwing away the turn you used to cast it.

I love these cards. I love them so much that I'll likely play with them in spite of their drawback because I think it makes for more interesting games. Just don't play them because you think the drawbacks of the original versions are completely gone.


1: For those who are unfamiliar with the term, "tuck" is used to describe cards that allow you to put cards into libraries. Generally, these cards are used to deal with Commanders who, if killed will just end up back in the Command Zone, ready to be cast again. Tucking the card makes it difficult to get the Commander back into play.

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