Can these cards work together?
I don’t want to reveal too much of the rigorous editorial process that dictates our content for these weekly features -- Aaron Forsythe still has dignity, and I do what I can to help him out. But suffice it to say that when enough monkeys type at enough keyboards for long enough, you can get some fantastic column ideas.
Two cards from Odyssey caused quite a stir when they first shipped out, but then disappeared from conversation quickly for unclear reasons. Mirari, an artifact that generates Fork effects for your spells, and Standstill, which begs the player with lesser board position to give up card advantage as well, are well worth a second look.
For kicks and giggles, I’d like to put both into a deck, even though they sort of work against each other. This article will explore the making of a multiplayer creation, and explain some of the beliefs I have as to what makes for a “good” group play deck.
PRINCIPLE #1: YOU’RE IN THIS TO HAVE FUN
Mirari makes copies of your spells so that you can pepper the board more easily with your Blazing Salvos and Reckless Spites. (Note that you can only make one copy of each spell you play, and that only one Mirari can be in play at a time.) It speeds your late game up, and of course encourages casting spells.
Meanwhile, Standstill slows the game down by daring the each player to cast a spell so that all of her opponents can draw three cards. It encourages permanents with abilities, and discourages casting spells.
Why would we use these two cards in the same deck? Eh. No particular reason. Just sounds fun. We’ll take it easy on copies of Mirari -- not everyone is flush with rares, and after all the thing is legendary…
PRINCIPLE #2: USE CARDS THAT WILL GET ATTENTION
So what cards will we use to tie these distant cousins together?
First, a bit of Alongi-tinted philosophy. There are a number of multiplayer veterans who will write articles (and emails to me, no doubt) insisting that the only way to win a group game is to make sure no one sees you. Play mediocre, unthreatening cards (like Wall of Lava, or Jhoira's Toolbox, or goodness knows what) for, like, 40 turns. Stay quiet, don’t do anything, and then seize the late game with a massive surprise bomb!
There are two problems with this school of thought. First, if you wanted to play a game where no one can see you, and then you jumped out and surprised them, you could play hide-and-seek, or Marco Polo, or catch-the-rabid-alien, or whatever. Second, you’re not fooling anybody. Any group with players who have been at this game for more than four days will know what you’re up to. The clock is ticking -- but for you, not for them.
You are playing Magic with your friends, ostensibly, to pull off your deck’s theme, and perhaps even win the game. Very well, then. Let’s not fool around; let’s get the job done before they can establish themselves and have answers ready for our questions. The more cards we put in that actually do something, the more chance our deck has of, well, doing something.
There’s a fairly well-known casual deck type that chokes opponents on the cards they draw. It starts off something like this:
With the exception of the Sentry, none of these are very subtle. Prosperity may win you a few friends at first; but eventually folks are going to turn on you, rather forcefully. We’ll have to be ready for that.
PRINCIPLE #3: BACK UP YOUR THREATS
Acting like a big shot and playing aggressive cards won’t get you anywhere, if you’re not ready to respond to the rage of your group. Since Prosperity is the only spell we have so far that Mirari can copy, we’ll throw in a series of punishing and/or protective instants.
Rules clarification: After Standstill gets sacrificed (and cards are drawn), you still have an opportunity to respond before the spell that blew the Standstill resolves. So let the sacrifice and draw happen; with luck you’ll draw into one of these, and can play them…
There are plenty of able substitutes for the rares we’ve collected so far: Reconstruction, an old-school common that acts as a Raise Dead for artifiacts, can replace any mix of Iron Maidens and Mirari (as well as the uncommon Viseling). Replacing an artifact you lost early is just about as good as drawing a new copy!
Misdirections can be replaced by other rare spells such as Divert or Deflection; or you can just protect artifacts with the simple Vision Charm. Urza's Rage could be any expensive damage spell, from Prophetic Bolt to Fireball.
Reins of Power is completely unnecessary; it’s just there because I think it would be fun to put another copy of Reins on the stack, and have a three-way swap of armies. Hey, you never know: you might wish you could do that, some day!
PRINCIPLE #4: TOURNAMENT PLAYERS AREN’T ALWAYS WRONG
Part of the casual “counterculture” sometimes involves doing things that are unnecessarily bad, like stuffing 95 or 137 cards into your deck because “pro players don’t understand what Magic’s about.” (Yes, I’ve heard that excuse.)
In general, I like to keep my casual decks down to the pro-player-approved 60 cards. This does three things: first, it keeps me disciplined and focused. Second, and this falls directly out of the first, the more focused your deck is, the more likely you’ll get to pull off the trick you’re looking for. (A tournament-minded fellow would tell you that it’s more likely you’ll get the cards you need to win. Same principle, different ends.)
Lastly, cutting out cards that I wish made the 60-card cutoff makes me feel sorry for those cards… and I usually end up building a second deck, just for them, that goes off in a slightly different direction. (For example, I really wanted to put in Repulse, Recoil, Mind Bomb, Windfall, and a bunch of other cards into this deck, and then finish it off with a Megrim. That would be a decent Standstill - Mirari deck, in its own right.)
No matter what you like yourself, this deck’s sticking to 60 cards. With 36 cards in the deck, and some of them a bit expensive (including Mirari, which always wants you to have 3 extra mana after you play it), 24 lands seems like a reasonable minimum. I don’t think duals are necessary, given that you’re only in two colors and red is a minor splash; but play ‘em if you’ve got ‘em:
And there you have it: an old casual deck type, spun a new way with two cards that don’t look like they go together.