Looking back on 2016, what were the best Multiplayer card released? What were their stories? What successes did they have at your kitchen table?
This year had sets from three blocks worth of cards — Oath of the Gatewatch wrapped up Battle Block, then we had both Shadows over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon from that block and finally Kaladesh. Sandwiched in there were both Conspiracy 2: Conspiracy Harder and Commander 2016. That’s six sets of new cards.
That’s a lot of cards!
One of the valuable things about looking back at the year is seeing how cards are actually played. Sometimes you think a card is going to get more play than it actually does. Like Shadows over Innistrad. I barely had Cryptolith Rite in my Top Ten list, hitting last at 10 itself from that set. But it’s been a heavy heavy hitter and you’ll see it below. Meanwhile a card like Relentless Dead that I thought was the 3rd best from the set has been virtually absent from the various multiplayer games I’ve played all year long. So where cards wound up has changed.
And it’s not only that either. We’ve gotten a chance to muck about with newer mechanics like energy, vehicles, meld, colorless mana, and melee. We can legitimately rate these cards now. We have a good feel for Smuggler's Copter at the kitchen table.
Given that, I thought it would be awesome to conclude 2016 with a look back at the true hits of multiplayer this year. Let’s take a looksee!
10. World Breaker
In some ways, this has proven better than Woodfall Primus. Given that you are often playing it for the removal, so the 7 mana vs 8 mana Primus is not inconsiderable, especially given the heavy Green commitment the Primus has. Now the Primus has trample, persist, and can destroy Planeswalkers. But the cast trigger on World Breaker is just as good in a ramp deck, and exiling vs destroy is the game we already know works better. Cheaper? Easier to cast? Exiles? And with some colorless mana, you can sac a land to recur to your hand for another go, with gives it a long game stronger than the Primus’s persist. Barring a blink or reanimation deck, the Primus really isn’t as good as the World Breaker in most builds. And we’ve seen that this year. Our new Eldrazi overlord awaits.
I’m still not sure which of these two are my choice, so I am going with both. Now I have to admit that my fondness for these two early beaters may have impacted my decisions. My heavy play of them may have pushed people to realize just how good they are and led to them getting added to other decks. But this duo? It’s strong. Both are fast 3/2 creatures for 3 mana that smash. Both have the potential to get you quick cards. Shoot, I even built a Mono-Red Standard deck around these and some other Red aggro-card drawing with Abbot of Keral Keep and did some fun face-punching, card-drawing smash times. They just work so well together it’s great! Smash with Menace early and avoid blockers? When someone finally gets two blockers online just switch to someone else until they do? Smash and draw? I got my Occultist to smash over a Fog Bank, slipped that one trample in, so I still got that sweet card-drawing trigger. I played that revealed Mountain with all of the lip-smacking gusto of a Cheetos-eating-Cheetah confronted with its addiction.
This card was played a lot as a useful tool to get the right mana and to accelerate your stuff. All of your creatures are Birds of Paradise! Tap away my friends, tap away. Meanwhile it plays into a powerful place in Commander, particularly the various four color decks that run Green. I’ve seen this in rebuilds of all four because of how well the Rite plays here. It smooths mana, accelerates, plays with fun Jenny’s combo tricks, enables fun Tammy big plays, and can be used to Spike up a deck by letting it hit fast and furious all around the mulberry bush. Cheap to play, easy to use, and combos with pretty much any Green deck with creatures. You don’t even need to be playing multiple colors, it’s still a 2-drop enchantment that let’s your Mono-Green deck’s creatures tap for Green too. We all tap!
Kaya has proven to be a great planeswalker! Remember that you can use all three abilities as soon as she arrives with 5 loyalty for 4 mana. The Syphon Soul for -1 is great when you have nothing else running around. The 0 loyalty blink for herself or another creature for a full round around the block until your next turn is a great way to reset her loyalty or to send out a key opposing creature (like a Commander . . . ) for a while. But what makes her sing is that -2 Syphon Mind. It’s as awesome as we’d all hoped! And frankly, she was the best ‘walker printed in 2016 for multiplayer.
I’m not sure that I expected to see Gonti played as much as he has been. But I can certainly see why! A 2/3 deathtouch is no slouch. And then Gonti has this really cool enters-the-battlefield trigger. Reverse Impulse your opponent. Three of those four cards are heading to the bottom of that library. The other is exiled and you can play it when you want, no matter the color. Grab a Counterspell to protect yourself! Grab a Demonic Tutor or Regrowth! Grab a removal spell! Just grab a land! Grab a creature to play and drop and increase your force. Use your opponents’ best stuff against them! Our good Aetherborn Rogue plays into such a unique space that I can certainly see the temptation to run Our Luxurious Lord in many decks! Enjoy that Gonti!
The only thing that keeps this from the #1 spot is that colorless mana requirement. It’s a perfect card otherwise. Still, it’s pretty strong, and the one card that pulls people’s mana more towards a colorless making perspective. The Displacer has a powerful tournament pedigree as well as a multiplayer one, flashing back Mulldrifters, Cloudblazers, Gonti, the #3, #4 and #1 cards below and so much more.
Do you have a Red deck at the kitchen table? If you aren’t running these, then you are seriously missing out! These things have been downright ubiquitous at multiplayer gaming. They hit a sweet spot of value. They have a bit of an evasive quality with that 4/4 menace body. They are suitable for red zone fun. And when they arrive to the party, they bring their own party favor. It just has to be 3 mana or less, and you get it for free, like a Snapcaster Mage for small stuff, but where you don’t have to pay the extra mana of the card itself. They are great mid-game or late-game and there’s always have something cool to consider casting for free. Shoot, if all you have in your graveyard when you play them on turn four off your turn three Cultivate is, umm, Cultivate, then they are amazing, right? Right!
This card is doing some seriously heavy lifting. It’s perfect for early tutoring fun times. It’s great for later game recruiting spirit stuff as well. Get that perfect utility creature that will kill something like Shriekmaw or Reclamation Sage. Cloudblazer? Karmic Guide? You can fetch out */* creatures like Mortivore. Triskelion? Spike Weaver? There are so many options. You get the goods with this this thing, and then you enter a world of power and hurt when you bounce, recur, flicker or otherwise get another Recruiter off. And when I saw someone Mimic Vat this thing a few weeks ago? That was basically game over!
Ah yes, the Archangel arrives. She’s a more reliable flip here in multiplayer casual town than in duals. She’s one of the best Angels of all time, her flash + indestructible is a real crowd pleaser, and I just adore her so much. I also love it when she flips and kills some allied creatures with “friendly fire.” (Not so friendly, but definitely “fire”) She’s also the Commander for my Alphabet Deck where all of my non-basics begin with the first letter of my name — “A.” And she does amazing work as a Commander, let me tell you. Having a flash capable leader available anytime is just strikingly good. She’s awesome!
1. The Gearhulk Cycle – Noxious Gearhulk, Cataclysmic Gearhulk, Combustible Gearhulk, Torrential Gearhulk, Verdurous Gearhulk.
Ever since Kaladesh hit the street, it’s felt like the Era of the Gearhulk has begun. It’s like after the debut of the Titan Cycle in Magic 2011, Do you remember that cycle? It had one entry that was amazing in casual circles (Primeval Titan, duh) and the rest were on different levels of quality (with Sun Titan and Grave Titan were really top shelf, and Inferno Titan and Frost Titan were just good). But the Gearhulks are all on roughly the level of quality of a Sun or Grave Titan. There’s no “this one is the clear winner.” I like the Red and Black ones the most, but that’s because they play to my style.
Meanwhile, in addition to them hitting due to their power and quality, their artifact nature puts them in decks that Titans don’t. I can’t recall seeing any Titans in any Breya, Etherium Shaper rebuilds. But I’ve seen plenty of Gearhulks, with one local player putting in all four in-color Gearhulks into his deck. Long may the Era of the Gearhulk reign!
And that’s some of the best multiplayer cards released this year? How have they dominate your game? What did I miss on this list that’s absolute barnstormer of a card?
Oh, and see you next year!