For the Timmy in Us All
By Andy Batts on December 25th, 2008 · Filed in Casual, Variant Formats · Comments not available just now
When was the last time you opened a fresh pack of a new set, flipped immediately to the rare (admit it… we all do it), and saw a brand spanking new splashy rare like Prince of Thralls? The first thing we do is look at the abilities:
"Whenever a permanent an opponent controls is put into a graveyard from play, put that card into play under your control unless that opponent pays 3 life."
WOW! The ability is simply stunning. Attached to a 7/7 beat-stick, this card seems completely broken. Then you look at the upper right-hand corner of the card.
Equally broken. Equally overcosted. With a casting cost like it seems that hard-casting him might be a little difficult. Maybe you can find a way around that.
Well, there's always the tried and true method of reanimating him. Zombify, Makeshift Mannequin, or the old reliable Exhume, take your pick. There is another option, however, and most people are unaware of it. Cue the dramatic music for TYPE 4!
Yeah, why not just throw him in the middle of your Type 4 stack? What? You mean to tell me that you don't have a Type 4 stack? Or have any idea what I'm talking about? You poor, deprived Magic player.
Type 4 is the format that appeals to the Timmy, Power Gamer, in all of us. It takes us back to the days (and it's been a while for a lot of us) when we used to sit around the kitchen table and play our favorite Wurm deck against our best friend's smash-mouth Zombie deck.
The reason I call it a "stack" and not a "deck" is that there is usually only one stack for each Type 4 game. It tends to be anywhere from 250 to 500 cards, and whoever wants to play just takes a chunk of the stack and uses that as his deck, then shuffles the deck back into the stack at the end of the game. This is nice because it makes sure that each time you play Type 4 everyone gets different cards in his deck. Also, since everyone plays off of one stack, it means that everyone can play, even if they didn't bring any cards of their own.
Imagine, if you will, playing the most ridiculously powerful cards of all time regardless of casting cost. Imagine running out a Darksteel Colossus on turn one… without Tinker! Imagine that same Colossus being trumped immediately. No, Vintage players, not by Swords to Plowshares, but by Krosan Cloudscraper! Consider playing Krosan Cloudscraper and not having anyone laugh! Sound like fun to you? I thought so.
Now that I've piqued your curiosity, allow me to explain how Type 4 rules differ from your standard multiplayer game.
Allow me to repeat, for those who blacked out when they saw that. You have infinite mana. Of all five colors. With no mana burn. Period.
Unglued, Unhinged, Alpha, Beta, Collector's Edition, World Champs cards... anything you want. I know people that go so far as to make their own cards.
Five card hands!
This rule is just a matter of practicality. Seven card hands and infinite mana tend to give short games that aren't very fun.
One spell per turn!
You knew there had to be a catch, right? We can't let you just run wild with infinite mana and the most broken cards ever printed. This is one spell every turn, though. So you get one on your turn and another on each of your opponents' turns. The other cool thing is that this is one spell per turn, not one card. Lands don't count as your spell for the turn. The normal timing rules apply, though. Sorceries, creatures, artifacts, enchantments, and lands can only be played on your turn when the stack is empty unless an ability changes the rules, like Vedalken Orrery.
Spells that are played for free don't count as your one spell!
You pitch a blue card and pay a life for Force of Will. You just countered a devastating spell from your opponent and you can still play another spell. The same goes for suspended cards, the Future Sight Pacts, and spells that get played off of cards like Sins of the Past or Memory Plunder. If you don't pay anything for the spell when you play it, it doesn't count! Suspending a card also doesn't count, since that's a special ability and not casting a spell.
Create your own rules!
This is optional. Some people like to make their own rules for the format, such as "This card's ability can only be used once per turn," or "That card must be countered if able." These rules tend to come about when someone wants to put a card into his stack that is simply way too powerful with infinite mana. (I'm looking at you, Mischievous Quanar.)
Those are the ground rules for this format. Let's go over some of the types of cards that I think are important/good/necessary to play. Just remember, this is a casual format, so these are just some of my suggestions in no particular order:
Okay, so I lied. I made sure to list this first for a reason, but the rest of the list is in no particular order. I currently have every "hard" counterspell in print in my stack, and I wish I had more. You just cannot have enough of these. Counterspells may seem un-fun to some players, but a lot of the cards in the stack are simply too ridiculous to let hit play, and once they do, they are not always easy to get rid of. Cards like Mana Leak or Force Spike don't actually do anything because all players have infinite mana, so make sure they don't find a way into your stack.
The bigger and nastier the dudes in your stack, the better. Like I said earlier, Krosan Cloudscraper is perfectly fine in this format. But even better than the ‘Scraper are creatures with absolutely broken abilities, like Reya Dawnbringer or Glarecaster. Morphs and flash creatures provide you with valuable tricks to sneak creatures into play under your opponents' counterspells. But be a little wary of creatures with abilities that don't require tapping (Kumano, Master Yamabushi, for instance). Many of them are too powerful to play with, since they can immediately kill all of your opponents. This is a casual format, so insta-death is big no-no.
Probably too good to play.Artifacts and enchantments
I lump these together because they tend to essentially serve the same purpose. They have a repeatable or constant effect to help you out. Only the top-tier cards from this category see play here, as these tend to replace your creature for your turn.
Removal, of both the creature and artifact/enchantment variety, is absolutely essential for a well-balanced stack. The creatures in this format tend to be huge and ugly. You probably don't want to be on the receiving end of an attacking Nicol Bolas; so if he makes it into play, you're going to be glad you put enough removal in your stack.
Non-removal instants and sorceries
Only the most powerful of the most powerful spells should make it into the stack. Instants are obviously superior to sorceries in this format because playing a sorcery will count as your one spell on your turn and deny you creatures. I keep the number of sorceries in my stack to a minimum - Cruel Ultimatum is an example of the power-level of a sorcery that is good enough to get played.
As I keep saying, this is a casual format. It's meant to be fun. If you get a laugh every time someone plays Yet Another Æther Vortex, make sure it gets into your stack. If you just love playing with Gate to the Æther, throw it in! Both of those are in my stack, and it always gets a laugh out of me when people drop one into play for the first time.
Here are few more recommendations beyond pure card selection that I can offer before you start building your own stack:
Trust me on this one. The more the merrier. I usually won't play unless I have four or more players. Having more people keeps someone from getting a completely broken hand and just dominating the game. With more people, it gets harder for one player to just win.
Evolve your stack
As you play Type 4, take note of which cards work in the stack, which ones are only okay, and which cards just aren't worth your time. There is no specific set of cards you have to play with, and there's no set number of cards that need to be in the stack. Add as many cards as you see fit, and take out any that don't work well. My stack has ranged anywhere from a measly 200 cards at its smallest to a scale-tipping 750 cards at its greatest.
Keep it fun
The whole point of this is to get back to the good ol' days of Magic when you didn't care about mana curves, tempo, or card advantage; you just played because you enjoyed the game. So if a card seems like it isn't fun, just take it out. Replace it with something that makes everyone laugh when it gets played.
This is a lot of new information, and you may be asking yourself "Where should I begin?" So, to point you down the right path, let's analyze the role of each color in the Type 4 stack. Keep in mind, the colors do not necessarily have to be balanced, since any of the cards can be played by any player.
White is known for small creatures and mass removal. Since Type 4 is a format based on huge beaters and not curving out into Glorious Anthem, the White Weenie strategy really doesn't translate well. Mass removal, on the other hand, is fairly crucial. It is sort of a catch-all when it comes to resetting board positions. You can let nasty creatures resolve on each of your opponents' turns, and just restart from scratch on your turn. White also has a ton of good answers to artifacts and enchantments – some of the most dangerous cards in a stack. Playing with these will allow you to cripple one of your opponent's threats and usually get some sort of extra effect in the form of a kicker or flashback cost. White also tends to have a knack for being able to remove creatures without having to worry about that whole graveyard mess, so there is also some very useful spot removal spells in White, like Swords to Plowshares or Condemn.
Not surprisingly, Blue is the most important color in a good Type 4 stack. As I said before, counterspells tend to be the best cards in the stack because they neutralize almost any opposing threat. However, counterspells are not the only thing that Blue adds to the mix. Card drawing is also incredibly important in a good Type 4 match. If a player runs out of cards, he starts to fall behind very quickly. Ripping an Opportunity off the top of your deck can put you back in the game before the other players can think twice. Bounce spells can be a huge contributor, too. When you bounce a creature that someone has just played, you essentially have just Time Walked them. Your opponent just took his or her turn and basically did nothing.
Black is traditional removal color. There is a virtual ton of fantastic answers in Black. Some answers come in the form of instants and sorceries, while others show up as creatures, like Nekrataal or Dark Hatchling. Black even gets a few mass-removal spells. If you can't remember any good Black mass removal other than Damnation off the top of your head, that is because they are usually overcosted for "real" formats, but price is no worry in Type 4. In addition to the removal, there are loads of repeatable-effect spells in Black. These are some of the most important kinds of spells to include. They deal with all your opponents' creatures and leave yours sitting pretty on the table. My personal favorite is Plaguebearer. Remember to pack a reasonable amount of removal in your stack to deal with big baddies that don't get countered.
The first thing people think of when I say "red creature" is one of two creature types: Goblins or Dragons. One of these creatures appeals to the Spike player, the other gets Timmy all riled up. Dragons are awesome. Plain and simple. Hands down one of the coolest creature types in Magic. Dragons usually fit the bill of what qualifies as a good creature in Type 4: they are big, ugly, and have great abilities. Watch out for the firebreathing dragons though, as they usually spell out an instant kill for at least one opponent - I don't include them in my stack. Burn is another characteristic card type for Red. I am not a big fan of burn spells in Type 4 unless they have some other cool ability to go with it, or if they deal a massive amount of damage for one card. Prophetic Bolt is a fine card. So are Urza's Rage and Searing Wind. Smaller (and usually more efficient) burn spells like Shock, on the other hand, just don't get the job done.
Oh, Green... the color of beasties. The first thought that comes to mind when I think "Green" is some sort of guttural growl. This is absolutely 100% the color of big, nasty face-smashers. Sure, there are some artifact and enchantment removal spells in there somewhere, but let's be serious: we just want to play our monsters. Some of the most ridiculously big monsters ever printed are in Green, and I love playing with all of them. Slam a Krosan Colossus or Plated Slagwurm on the table and watch your opponents cower in fear! You have to have creatures to win, and Green is your color for some of the most ridiculously oversized creatures that have ever been printed.
Artifacts play a huge role in Type 4. They are just so incredibly versatile and have the added bonus of not having summoning sickness. There are an inordinate amount of artifacts out there that have disgustingly broken repeatable effects. Sure, Altar of Shadows comes down and kills a creature or two before someone kills it, but Legacy Weapon gets rid of everything as soon as it hits the board! Be careful, though. Some artifacts are just too good to see play when you have infinite mana.
Last, but certainly not least, are lands. Lands are fantastic resources in Type 4. They give some sort of bonus to you without using up your spell for your turn. On top of that, they can't be countered, allowing you to pretty much get a free card. Of course, lands with only mana abilities don't matter, but there are lands out there that have fairly broken effects, so be on the lookout.
That's just about everything you would need to know to get started on building your very own multiplayer Type 4 stack. So start rummaging through that dollar-rare bin at your local card shop, brush off that collection of cards from the late 90s, and start looking for the biggest baddies you can find. Grab a group of friends, and start card-slinging! These games can be some of the most fun, memorable, and occasionally mind-bending multiplayer games you have ever played, and certainly can create some interesting situations. Some games can go on for hours. A lot of people ask me what the most ridiculous situation I have ever seen in a Type 4 match was; this is the story I tend to tell them.
I gathered seven guys together after a PTQ and we played one game of Type 4 for almost two and a half hours. Usually in a seven player game someone takes a quick beating – often the result of trying to resolve a card like Memnarch or Legacy Weapon – but in this game, we were still playing with all seven players more than an hour into the thick of it. Then, all of a sudden, someone seized control of the game. He dropped Vedalken Orrery into play on his turn, which no one saw as a threat. As it would turn out, by the beginning of his next turn, he had resolved both Aladdin's Ring and Filigree Sages and was at a paltry 3 life. Now think about this situation. When you are playing with infinite mana, having these two cards in play spell out death for everyone, unless something bizarre happens - and I wouldn't be telling this story if it weren't bizarre! He ended up killing three of the seven players with this combo before he decided that it was my turn to die. As soon as he targeted me with Aladdin's Ring, I scored the knockout blow with a one-two combination of Willbender to change the Ring's target to him, and Sudden Death to kill off Filigree Sages, so he ended up dying to his own activation of Aladdin's Ring. But the story doesn't end there! Now there were only three players left, and we were all almost spent, with one player and me at 7 and the last guy at 16 life.
The best combo card?Fortunately, the very last turn of the game ended up living up to the craziness that had been happening during the rest of the game. After we had all been drawing semi-useless cards for a few turns – like Wrath of God when the board was empty – one player drew his card for the turn and smiles the most devilish sneer that has ever crossed the face of a human. He waited for me to take my turn. I played Promise of Power with kicker. It would have easily won me the game, since I would have five extra cards and a 9/9 flyer in play, but in response my opponent windmill slammed down Urza's Rage and announced "Targeting you, with kicker! Good game!" Hah. He thought he had killed me. I was about to react when the other player at the table – the one still at 16 life – laughed hysterically and cast Radiate, thinking that he had just won, since everyone would take 10 damage, and he would be the only one left alive at 6 life. Well, I was just not going to be beaten like that. I let Radiate resolve, allowing an Urza's Rage copy to target each of my opponents, all creatures on the table, and the original targeting me. The guy at 16 life is certain he has now won the game, since everyone has played a spell this turn. It was then my turn to smile. I announced "I am removing a blue card in my hand from the game and playing…" I paused, both to see reactions and soak in the moment... "Misdirection!" Sure, I've played one spell this turn already, but I can play Misdirection because it has a free alternate cost. I let the opponent at 16 life know that I was targeting him with the Urza's Rage that was so very recently targeting me, and then gave a Tiger Woods fist pump as I stood up from the table. It was far and away the most amazing and thrilling win I have ever had at any game of Magic I have played.
Have you ever been in anything similarly insane? I'm looking forward to hearing some crazy stories on the forums!
If you want to see what my stack looks like, click here. I will be updating this list as I add or remove cards, so keep checking back!
Until next time,
By Andy Batts on December 25th, 2008 · Filed in Casual, Variant Formats · Comments not available just now