Magic 2015: Multiplayer Edition

Posted in Serious Fun on July 15, 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.

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 due to multiple players. These cards aren't necessarily the best cards in Magic 2015 for your multiplayer decks. Nissa, Worldwaker is a great card and will likely see play at your kitchen table. The problem is that Nissa isn't any better with multiple opponents, so you won't see her here. Given the choice between her and Endless Obedience, I'll take Nissa, Worldwaker. However, for this list, Endless Obedience makes the list while Nissa sits on the sidelines.

Ajani Steadfast. Ajani is the first card on the list and there is no doubting that he is going to be a beast in multiplayer games. That +1 ability is an Akroma-like blast of abilities to give to a creature. First strike, vigilance, lifelink, and +1/+1 until the end of the turn is crazy good. It lets you swing with your best dude, probably kill any blocker in its path without dying itself, gain you a bunch of life, and still have the creature around to use on defense.

Vigilance is an underrated ability in multiplayer games. So often, it just doesn't make sense to attack with a creature and leave yourself open to getting hit by the three other opponents once your guard is down. Vigilance lets you take advantage of the smallest openings in your opponents' armor, while never risking your position.

Vigilance is not the only reason Ajani Steadfast makes the list. Ajani is here for the -2 ability. Adding counters to each creature and other Planeswalker you control is just crazy for multiplayer games. Adding counters ramps up the pressure on your opponents to deal with the situation, since there is a good chance it will happen again the next turn—or, at the least, one of those newly pumped creatures will be attacking the next turn with another power/toughness bump, first strike, vigilance, and lifelink. Even if you only have a couple of creatures out, getting the counters is often enough to force an opponent to use up a precious board-wipe spell. This Ajani will make things happen in multiplayer games.

Perilous Vault. I have relied on Oblivion Stone and Nevinyrral's Disk for my off-color mass removal for some time, but I'm really liking the look of Perilous Vault. Indestructible creatures have become the bane of my playgroup for quite some time, and exiling a creature has become the default way to deal with it. Sliver Hivelord is going to set off Sliver decks again in plenty of casual playgroups. Thankfully, Perilous Vault is the silver bullet against indestructible Slivers.

The obvious problems are the cost and time. Four mana to cast it and five to use it make it difficult to surprise anyone. Either you are waiting a turn between casting and activation, or you have access to a lot of mana.

The best way to use this is the same way you have been using other permanents that wipe the board. Put it out there and threaten to use it if X happens. The idea is to force your opponents to warp their plans around when you will activate Perilous Vault. Aggro players are forced to slow their pressure, knowing that at any time you can take out their entire armies, leaving them to rebuild from scratch. Control players knows that their carefully constructed defenses will be crushed into dust at any moment. Since you are the only one who knows when you are activating it, you can either continue to play and force your plans, or load your hand and activate it at the optimal moment.

When I'm playing against these permanents, I prefer to go after them right away. I don't want my plans stymied by someone who is controlling the battlefield with a single-card threat. I don't want the aggro player attacking me because if she attacks the fellow with the Perilous Vault, he'll blow up her dudes. In the end, it usually makes sense to do what you need to do to get the Vault activated ASAP. Don't allow the controller to dictate how everyone else will play the game. Force its controller to use the threat earlier than he or she wants to, and it will benefit you. You'll lose your permanents on the board, but you were going to lose them anyway. Think of all the cards in your hand you'll be able to play knowing that the Perilous Vault is already gone.

Indulgent Tormentor. A quick look at the card and you're left thinking this Demon isn't all that big a deal in multiplayer. The benefit, though, comes in the choice. You choose the opponent. If you really want to draw a card, you can choose another player who also wants you to draw a card. If the other players are stacked against you, you can choose the player who is least able to pay the 3 life and won't want to lose the creature. You aren't always going to get to draw the card; sacrificing a creature or losing 3 life are things most players are willing to do to prevent someone from drawing a card, but with multiple opponents, you will get that card more often.

Avacyn, Guardian Angel. While the Guardian Angel's big sister, Avacyn, Angel of Hope is far more impressive, and making all your creatures indestructible is a particularly good thing (unless you run into a Perilous Vault), I like the casting cost and the interactive nature of 'lil Avacyn more. You lose out on the 8/8, but you also miss the eight-mana casting cost, which usually left Avacyn, Angel of Hope sitting in a graveyard, hoping to get on the battlefield by way of graveyard recursion.

Avacyn, Guardian Angel can actually be cast! From your hand! A 5/4 flier with vigilance is nothing to scoff at. Her abilities are rather impressive as well. Two mana to prevent combat damage to a creature is cheap enough that it can be used multiple times to protect multiple creatures. Seven mana to prevent all damage to a player from a particular color is a bit heavy, but handy nonetheless. This is going to be fun to play.

When looking for the multiplayer angle on this card, it boils down to "target creature," not "target creature you control." It is rare that you are going to spend seven mana to use the second ability to save an opponent, but there are more times when you'll want to mess with two opponents in combat. That creature that got first strike from Ajani Steadfast will be disappointed when the creature blocking it suddenly takes no damage and gets to swing back. Perhaps there is a particular creature that is the only way to deal with another opponent's current board position. Perhaps you want to accumulate some good will with a particular opponent and two mana seems like a small price to pay. When your guardian angel will work for others if you say so, you have a powerful political tool.

In Garruk's Wake. This is what Plague Wind looks like in 2014. Oh, you don't know about Plague Wind? When it first came out in Prophesy, I was shaking with anticipation over the chance to play this card. Are you kidding?! Get rid of all of my opponent's creatures? But not mine? So I can play Plague Wind, then use my current batch of creatures, aka the only creatures on the table, to run over anyone? I'm in. And now, Garruk's Wake lets creatures regenerate (which almost never happens) but also takes out Planeswalkers? Let's get started!

Even for many casual games, In Garruk's Wake's mana cost is too high. No one doubts the power of the card, but nine mana can be oppressive. Even given that, nine mana isn't too oppressive for every group. While many of my group's games may end before I reach nine mana, many others don't. The ability to wipe out every opposing player's defenses without touching my own is how I like my cards: all upside.

Endless Obedience. When cards like this show up in duels (one-on-one games), it is because the controller plans to have all sorts of great creatures in the graveyard. Why would you try to rely on a single opponent to have powerful creatures in the graveyard? That is just a little too dangerous. Too many times, your opponent will let you down. What you want is a game where you have a bunch of opponents. Creatures tend to pack graveyards in multiplayer games. In these games, why would you want to limit your choice of creature to just your graveyard? That Hornet Queen that just went to the graveyard? Why not get that out of the graveyard and under your control? Oh, and the four 1/1 flying deathtouch insects are coming with the Queen!

Convoke is just a beautiful bonus here. Creatures to spare? Perhaps those four 1/1 deathtouch flying insects you got from the last time you used Endless Obedience can help make the next creature you borrow from a friend's graveyard a little cheaper.

Another use for Endless Obedience is as a way to interrupt an opponent's recursion efforts. In most multiplayer games, you can rely on someone to be using his or her graveyard as a value engine to get an advantage. If you can disrupt that plan by taking away at least one or two creatures, you'll earn an edge bigger than simply the creature you took.

Hornet Queen. Most players use this card by finding a way to repeat the enters-the-battlefield effect, getting more and more hornets for the Queen. It is hardly a surprise that a card that represents a Hornet is an annoying pest.

The reason I include it on the multiplayer list of cards is the deterrence effect. Attacking with a 1/1 flying, deathtouch, green Insect isn't going to do much. The defensive benefit is off the chart. Are your opponents going to attack you, knowing that their biggest creatures will be chump blocked by 1/1 deathtouch tokens? Why attack when you know your creatures will die? Deathtouch creatures leave your opponents looking at other, better targets to go after. Deathtouch creatures are your friend in multiplayer games. A deathtouch creature that brings four other deathtouch creatures is practically an unassailable wall that no one wants any part of. If you have a way to bring your Hornet Queen onto the battlefield repeatedly, then your defense starts to turn into a nightmarish offense for your opponents.

Waste Not. "Whenever an opponent…" is a phrase that is music to my ears. With multiple opponents will come multiple Zombies, plenty of extra mana, and extra cards to draw, and that will all happen without much effort on your part. If you start forcing discard, things only get better and better. And all this for only two mana?

I don't think you'll want to run this Specter-themed deck without adding a few wrinkles to surprise your opponents, but it shows just how strong Waste Not can be when multiple opponents are discarding cards on a regular basis. Now, if you can just catch someone running a looter…

Make Waste

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Bruce Richard


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