With each new set, I like to take a look at the cards to see how they function in multiplayer games. I'm looking for that card that gets an extra benefit in games with multiple players. See the Unwritten is a great card, but it doesn't get greater with extra opponents. I want cards that go from good to great or great to awesome simply because there are more opponents.
Before we get started, I wanted to mention raid as a multiplayer ability. Raid basically says that when you attack an opponent, you either get or will get a benefit. In a one-on-one game, you have one opponent to choose from, so you better hope that your creature can survive the attack. In a multiplayer game, you can pick the opponent to attack. If you are only attacking to get the raid bonus, you have the option of attacking the player with the weakest defenses to get the raid bonus. This means that raid will be easier to use in multiplayer games. I tip my hat to every raid card in the set. Now, on to the individual cards.
Altar of the Brood
I rarely include cards that try to win games by running opponents out of cards in their libraries (aka "decking"), but this card is just such a ridiculous powerhouse I feel that I must include it. Most cards that try to deck your opponents only hit one opponent at a time, but this one hits early and often. When you remember that you play a land and try to play at least one spell every turn, you realize just how effective this card can be. Added to a deck that is already trying to deck opponents, Altar of the Brood can be a game winner. An added bonus is that this makes the top card of an opponents' library an unsafe place to put cards. Cards that scry lose a lot with Altar of the Brood in play.
Do keep in mind that you may be playing right into the hands of some of your opponents, filling their graveyards for them, so they can play their recursion strategies without ever needing to work to fill their own graveyards.
Dealing 2 damage to each opponent is annoying, and in some very limited situations will win you games. The meat to this card lies with the second sentence. Getting rid of each opponents' biggest creature is huge. Often this is impossible because it has hexproof or is indestructible. Forcing players to sacrifice those creatures gets around all that, making this a great removal card.
Also, Crackling Doom doesn't require you to sacrifice your biggest creature or take 2 damage. This is all downside for the opponents. That this is at instant speed means you can sit on it until your opponents decide to attack you. No good reason to kill their biggest creatures if they are going to do that by attacking each other, is there?
While the 2 damage from Crackling Doom to your opponents isn't too important, giving all creatures -2/-2 hits them in the teeth. Crackling Doom does a number on opponents who are setting up to kill with a single big creature. Death Frenzy goes after the Goblin horde player, looking to wipe out all that player's smaller creatures. Death Frenzy is an all-star against token decks generally. That player who likes to use up every bit of mana to get the biggest White Sun's Zenith wails in agony when you destroy fifteen Cat tokens and gain 15 life.
In multiplayer games, you will almost always run into someone trying to win with huge numbers of creatures, and you can cackle gleefully when you play Death Frenzy. While the sorcery speed on this card limits when you can really use it, Death Frenzy promises some serious swings in your future games.
If I was forced to make a choice between Duneblast and End Hostilities (see next card), I would likely choose End Hostilities. It is cheaper, only one color, and gets a few extra permanents when it goes off. The problem that so many mass-removal spells have is that there is nothing there to take advantage of the clear board. You want to swing with your creatures, really making your opponents feel the pain.
Duneblast solves that issue. If you are running Duneblast, you are going to have a big creature that you want to see standing in the eye of the Duneblast, watching everything else fall, leaving only your powerhouse to come in and crush an opponent. I can't think of a card better suited than Teneb, the Harvester. Destroy everything on the battlefield, attack with Teneb, use his ability and get one of the creatures that was driving you crazy back onto the battlefield, now doing work for you! I know it costs ten mana to do all this! Don't bother me with your realism!
Any card that destroys all creatures earns extra value in multiplayer formats, and End Hostilities is no different. While five mana is one more than the old-school Wrath of God, End Hostilities also destroys all permanents attached to creatures. This means that bestowed creatures and Equipment, both cards that would survive a Wrath of God, will die here. While I understand the value killing bestowed creatures offers in Standard, in open casual formats, destroying attached Equipment is the big deal. Seeing a Sword of X and Y, Umezawa's Jitte, or a Cranial Plating get destroyed along with all the creatures is going to be a beautiful thing.
Seedborn Muse and Prophet of Kruphix are the bane of many multiplayer games. Ivorytusk Fortress doesn't offer the level of advantage those cards do, but it has a similar effect. As anyone who has played against or with these cards knows, being able to untap on other players' untap steps can completely warp a game. This lets you attack with no fear of a swingback from multiple opponents, since your creatures will be untapped and ready to go. Anyone trying to abuse these cards loads up with creatures that have some kind of effect that involves tapping the creature.
While the Ivorytusk Fortress only helps creatures with +1/+1 counters, there are plenty of ways to make that happen, particularly in a set with outlast. I recommend looking at Forgotten Ancient. The +1/+1 counter restriction is practically eliminated in games where the Forgotten Ancient is involved.
This card is obviously better with multiple opponents. Hitting all opponents, no matter how many, is a good thing, so the card belongs on the list. However…
I'm not sure I like the idea of losing a creature I control with 4 or more toughness to make this happen. If that is happening too often, the life loss and lifegain Kheru Bloodsucker offers probably isn't all that helpful. Perhaps all of you can convince me otherwise, but this is a card that is going to sit on the sidelines for most of my decks.
This card is as straightforward as it gets when looking for the advantage in multiplayer games. Add an opponent and Siege Rhino does 3 damage to that player as well. Oh, and a 4/5 trample creature in Doran colors just makes sense. That extra point of toughness might as well give you something extra, and Doran offers that extra to you.
I wouldn't have been all that excited about this card if I hadn't played against it recently. Just reading the card, you get the sense that it can do some damage to a few people's board positions, but nothing serious. The key with this card is the long-term repercussions. If you are forcing opponents to return two or more creatures to their hands, you are likely creating a situation where they won't be able to replay everything the next turn. This can set their board development back and put them in uncomfortable positions for the next several turns.
The interesting part of Thousand Winds comes when you turn it face up. You are not going to want to do this when you are attacking, since your other attacking creatures will get bounced (barring a Brave the Sands). And realistically, your opponents' tapped creatures aren't going to affect your combat. If you morph it when you're being attacked, you'll likely nullify the attack. If you wait until the end of the turn, then morph, you leave your opponent unable to recast all his or her creatures. You can also do this when your opponents are attacking each other if you are looking to mess with other people's combat!
The problem I foresee with this card lies in the predictability. Once you've used this a few times, people are going to be expecting it. Keeping seven mana available is quite telling. This is going to discourage your group from attacking, and that's not something I'm a fan of.
This is a great card for those of us who are poor deck builders. I've built more than one deck that seemed like an amazing set of cards, only to discover that I left myself completely vulnerable to some obvious attack, like flying creatures. Windstorm, or even the threat of it, discourages those players from coming your way. Warning someone not to come your way, then following through with a Windstorm, makes the next time you warn someone even more threatening. Instant-speed, mass removal is always a joy. I personally have often relied on Hurricane, but when your own life total starts to get low, a Hurricane (particularly at sorcery speed) just doesn't do the job. Windstorm fills the hole in your decklist.
I've included Zurgo here, not because he offers something extra in multiplayer games, but because he will haunt your multiplayer games. Picture this scenario that will be coming to your casual games soon:
Your opponent, Gurgen, plays out Zurgo Helmsmasher and swings at one of your other opponents. The turn ends and the players play through their turns. You look at your hand and see the Dark Betrayal, so you know you can kill Zurgo Helmsmasher, as long as it isn't Gurgen's turn. There are other big creatures in the game that you can kill with Dark Betrayal, but you aren't interested in doing any of your opponents any favors. If you are going to kill one of them, you want to kill the one attacking you. Your problem is that you don't know if Zurgo is coming your way until he is indestructible. Now you are forced to either use the Dark Betrayal and find that Gurgen was going to attack elsewhere, or not use it, and risk him attacking you. Dark Betrayal is a valuable asset and you don't want to waste it, but Zurgo Helmsmasher demands it.
I don't have a solution. Just be aware of the potential danger of the situation.
I've noticed many of the cards fall into Abzan colors, my personal favorite. I've always been an Orzhov mage, and adding green just seems to make things bigger. That is something I can get behind. With all this Abzan, I'm sure we can come up with a deck that will cause problems for your opponents in multiplayer games.
Abzan, taking the fight where your opponents aren't expecting it!