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Advanced Multiplayer Strategies #2: The Density of Creatures

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Hello awesome multiplayer/Commander folks! I hope you are having a super awesome day today! Welcome to the second article in my new series looking at Advanced Multiplayer Strategies on my Tuesday columns! Last week I published my first one about the dangers of Hull Breaches here. Today we'll be advancing the plot with the Density of Creatures, a phenomenon that I first discovered and wrote about back in 2008, and we'll update it for today!

Ready? Let's get started!!!

The Density of Creatures

Just like the Hull Breach Effect last week where we envisioned a four player Commander game, let's envision another four player Commander game where the players are 1-4. Here is what they are running:

Player 1. Bant with Arcades: defender-matters but can attack.

Player 2. Rakdos with Prosper, Tome-Bound: could be cast from exile matters with pact boon, or Treasure matters with it instead.

Player 3. Muldrotha: probably some form of recursion, mill, or self-sacrifices.

Player 4. Mayael: power matters is so fun and easy and cheap to build around.

Now let's look at the game over the first few turns:

Player 1 - first turn ETB tapped land, second turn Fog Bank, third turn Wall of Blossoms, fourth turn Cultivate.

Player 2 - first turn ETB tapped land too, second turn Arcane Signet, third turn Prosper, fourth turn cast Xorn

Player 3 - first turn nothing, second turn Mind Stone, third turn Seal of Primordium, fourth turn Greater Good

Player 4 - first turn Birds of Paradise, second turn Mayael, third turn Lightning Greaves, equip Mayael, swing for two, fourth turn Sigarda, Host of Herons and equip.

Who is player 4 swinging at? Let's look.

The first player has two blockers, one flies and will stop all damage, so not them.

The second player has two dorks on the ground.

The third player has no dorks at all anywhere and will play their Commander next turn.

So, you have two safe lanes of attack. But here is how most players are looking at things - they'll see Player 2 with a deathtouch blocker to trade with their beater and then the Xorn and probably won't attack them, and then they hit the player with no dorks since it's the method of the fewest issues. Barring flash, nothing can block your attacker. And they just tapped four mana and have one left so they likely wouldn't even have that, and they don't have the ability to answer the attack with a Pongify since the Angel is shrouded.

People didn't come to the causal multiplayer night to hang out with their friends to do work. That was during work hours that day or if on the weekend a day or two ago, right? So, people often aren't in doing math state of mind. That means that people are more often to attack the easy route instead of the best one.

Enter the Density of Creatures principle, which just kept the Rakdos player from getting attacked from the evasive and hasted Angel even though they couldn't block anyway!

Have you ever been sitting on a way to block a flying beater that still swung your way with a blocker like Fog Bank or Silklash Spider since you had the fewest dorks out and appeared to be the path of least resistance?

When This Won't Work

Now let's turn to times when this won't typically work in a multiplayer game.

  1. The first time this typically won't work is with a Commander, since you reveal them at the beginning of the game and then play them many times and they are set alone in the Command Zone, so that's won't work.
  2. The smaller your multiplayer pod is, the less likely people are distracted in a bigger game. In a three-person game, everyone sees everything very closely, so it's harder to hide stuff. In a 6 or bigger pod, that's much harder to keep up, so it's harder to keep track of.
  3. When the person is next to you. Obviously, in a bigger pod, this won't work on the person to your left or right.
  4. If you are playing a nasty Commander. Have you ever seen someone try and play a nasty unloved Commander that gets the table turned at them? They will kill you. You cannot hide with the free casting Meren of Clan Nel Toth.
  5. Ditto for nasty permanents. If you control a few of Commander or multiplayer's greatest hits like Consecrated Sphinx or Esper Sentinel, then you will also get the heat.
  6. If you have been attacking others or targeting their stuff for removal, then you are most likely to be attacked back.
  7. Is everyone else locked up by permanents to keep them safe like Maze of Ith or a Collective Restraint with all five land types? It's hard to swing at anyone else, so even if you have more creatures, they may come your way!
  8. When you have used famous art. If you are dropping Mana Dorks like Birds of Paradise, great, but if everyone knows the art from the first few sets, and you are using that, it's easy to know.
  9. When it's obvious. For example, if I have a dork with fear or intimidate, I can tell from far away who doesn't have that color or artifact dorks. That's true of many things too.

When You Shouldn't Use It

Now let's turn to times when you shouldn't be playing into it.

  1. When someone has out a mass removal thing like Pernicious Deed or Nevinyrral's disk. I try to force the player to use it now by targeting it with removal, so, for example, your Naturalize could target the Disk and then you'd be the first to use your main phase mana after getting popped.
  2. When you don't want to walk into mass removal from someone playing those colors or against a deck archetype that likely leans into them like with an indestructible Commander.

Strategies to Harness

Now let's turn to strategies to harness this:

1. Every color has weaknesses, make sure you are able to handle them. For example, if you are playing mono-Green, people will assume you don't have flyers, so run reachers like Silklash Spider to block and a reach + deathtouch to kill like Thornweald Archer.

2. Don't use dice as token makers. For example, if you cast a spell that makes a few dorks, like 1/1 Squirrels from Deranged Hermit. Rather than grabbing a die and setting it to four, grab four Squirrel token cards and drop them to make it seem like your Density is stronger. This cannot work on things with big numbers like Martial Coup with 12 tokens. But you can grab the token cards rather than dice for your tokens.

Specific Archetypes

Alright, now let's look at key archetypes to play to get the best out of your archetypes:

#1. Mass Removal Defense

Darksteel Sentinel
Hapless Researcher

Since this strategy is weak to mass removal, run cards that are resilient to mass removal:

a. Indestructible - The first way to do so is to run dorks with indestructible like Darksteel cards or Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre.

b. Sacrifice - The second way is to run things that either self-sacrifice ideally for free like Hapless Researcher or Sakura-Tribe Elder or for mana for an effect like Caustic Caterpillar. Also, run free sacrifice things like Viscera Seer or Goblin Bombardment to sacrifice.

#2. Different Power and Toughness

Reckless Scholar
Esper Sentinel
Charismatic Conqueror

We often tend to run a bunch of dorks with the same power and toughness like the two vs in the above pictures. We often run Mother of Runes, Llanowar Elves, Merfolk Looter, the mentioned Esper Sentinel, and way more. So, when it comes time for someone to attack, they can ask your power and toughnesses, see that your three dorks are all three 1/1s, and do quick math. But if you pulled that Merfolk Looter for Reckless Scholar and than Sentinel for the Conqueror then the math becomes much more difficult, so mix it up.

#3. ETB Effects

Ravenous Chupacabra
Eternal Witness

Since you'll need dorks out in numbers, why not even things out by running dorks with ETB abilities that have trigger abilities that gain you a card somehow to then block and trade for 2 for 1s or walk into a Swords, or keep back attackers. The Ravenous Chupacabra is iconic for killing a dork on arrival to the battlefield for four mana, and there are many others you can run. Shout out to the flying blocker Dalek Drone. You could also run the damage-based removal of Flametongue Kavu effects or Naturalize on stick of Reclamation Sage or Acidic Slime. Also, recursion ETBs like the above Eternal Witness, Timeless Witness, Sun Titan or the flying pro-Black Karmic Guide work here. Also, ETB that draw like Mulldrifter or Cloudblazer that fly I love here. Or the aforementioned Wall of Omens or Wall of Blossoms to make a big blocker cheap and draw. I also like land ETB stuff like Avalanche Riders here too since people will play nasty lands to destroy like Gaea's Cradle or Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx.

#4. Mana Dorks

Birds of Paradise

I know that Mana Dorks aren't often welcome in Commander circles since Green rampers run Cultivate and Rampant Growth with the exception of one-drop mana dorks, and others run rocks like Arcane Signet. But, if you run them, then early you get ramp and later you'll keep those foes from swinging, or will grab a piece of equipment like Sword of Fire and Ice and swing, or will chump block an attacker like Birds of Paradise with flying. Also, many colors outside of green have access to mana dorks from colorless casts like Silver Myr or Scuttlemutt.

#5. Permanents that Shut Down Attacks

Maze of Ith
Tawnos's Coffin
Lieutenant Kirtar

Now let's turn to permanents you can run to stop attackers that will preclude you from being the path of least resistance. The best are hard ones to answer in land form like Maze of Ith or Kor Haven that will shut down attackers. Then you have artifacts like Horn of Deafening or Tawnos's Coffin that will answer dorks attacking. The Horn will tap to stop an attacker's damage and then the Coffin will tap and phase out a dork and you can do that for blockers or to perma-answer a Commander and leave it tapped too.

Then you have dorks that can answer dorks like Kirtar that costs three for a 2/2 flying body and then that adds to your density of dorks and sacrifices with two mana to exile an attacker. You could also run enchantments that stop attackers like Seal of Doom for non-Black attackers and Seal of Fire for one or two toughness attackers. Or you could run dorks with abilities to stop attackers like Songstitcher or make a dork a 0/2 with tapping of Sorceress Queen or Serendib Sorcerer. Or you could run tap to kill tapped stuff that keeps people from tapping to attack you but that won't work on vigilance stuff like Royal Assassin. And loads more!

#6. Deathtouch Blockers

Typhoid Rats
Acidic Slime
Baleful Strix

I have alluded to this before with Thornweald Archer but having deathtouch blockers is another way to keep people from swinging your way! No one wants to trade down with a small body or casting cost with their stuff and then remind them when they're looking where to attack. The best deathtouch blockers have flying or reach like Baleful Strix above and Vampire Nighthawk. The former draws you a card and is a Commander Essential, and the latter is a powerful lifelink addition that's beloved with its casting cost. Then you can drop first turn deathtouchers like the heavily printed and iconic Typhoid Rats. I also mentioned Acidic Slime in the ETB since you'll take one thing out on ETB and then trade for another with deathtouch or play keep away. See also the key equipment Basilisk Collar. I also love Poison Dart Frog that costs two, taps for any color so it counts here as a mana dork, and then has reach naturally and deathtouch if you spend two mana.

And there we go! I hope you enjoyed my Density of Dorks article! Thanks for reading!

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