Hello again, readers, and welcome to part four of five of my series on how to prepare for popular cards and generals you’ll find in various EDH metagames. Today we’ll be looking at multicolored strageties – the combination of colors that create effects neither can do on their own, and popular generals that highlight the strengths of cards in specific color combinations.
THE MULTICOLOR META
For when you can’t decide, just run everything!
Pegging down a ‘multicolor’ meta is difficult, yet simple all at the same time. Most players in EDH will lean on a commander of two or more colors, mostly their favorite, to get their favorite effects from both colors. To define a multicolor meta, the players will mostly play multicolor cards, nonbasic lands, and their commanders will mostly be of 3 or 5 colors.
Combo is often a degenerate side effect of a mulitcolor meta – the term “color enabling commander” will often come up here. People will play a commander of a certain color identity (and probably a “bad” one at that) just to get access to the cards in that color that allow them to accomplish whatever disgusting shenanigans they wish to carry out.
CARDS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Thank the powers that be this thing isn’t legendary. I would probably have multiple fits of rage had this thing received that status. This thing combines black’s affinity for reanimation with blue’s affinity for stealing things (in this instance, activated abilities). This thing has ridiculous potential in the right deck, gets better the more colors your deck contains, and is overall just an absurd engine of attrition. Exile is the best way to deal with the Lich or its effect (Dark Impostor, Relic of Progenitus, Bojuka Bog), but effect negation works just as well (Linvala, Keeper of Silence, Damping Matrix, Pithing Needle). Sweepers are powerful tempo plays against the Lich as well (Supreme Verdict, Hallowed Burial, Blasphemous Act).
This thing is everything Crop Rotation wants to be. This card doesn’t feel in the least part white, and with Life From the Loam it’s just absurd how ridiculous this card can get. Effect negation is probably the best way to deal with the Knight (Arrest, Humility, Phyrexian Revoker), but library lockout is another powerful option against it (Aven Mindcensor, Stranglehold, Mindlock Orb). Because the lands it tutors will often be nonbasic, nonbasic land hate is also a logical counter to it (Ruination, Tectonic Edge, Icefall).
This little bugger is a repeatable to-battlefield tutor, and thus warrants a spot on the most wanted list. He provides utility, pressure and incremental advantages – everything you want in a good multicolor card – and doesn’t even have to make its way around the table or lean on Lightning Greaves to do it. If you’re having trouble fighting this, the aforementioned cards to lock out libraries are all strong options against it (To be honest, it’s a popular counterplay strategy with a really shallow card pool, one I feel should be expanded upon – the fact that I have to reference Mindlock Orb as a “good” card is just sad), but preventing your opponent from attacking you is also fine (Ghostly Prison, Blazing Archon, Propaganda). Sweepers are also quite powerful against the general “bubble” (effects that give hexproof / protection) Auras that will inevitably be tacked to the creature in question (Chain Reaction, Life’s Finale, Planar Cleansing).
Like Sheoldred, Whispering One, Debtors’ Knell grinds out advantages like no other, and is in a great color combination to do so. Unlike Sheoldred, however, Debtors’ Knell happens to be an enchantment, meaning it’s much harder to remove. Aside from the obvious removing it, you can always hate out graveyards (Grafdigger’s Cage, Necromancer’s Covenant, Relic of Progenitus), but stealing it is also an effective way of getting around it (Memnarch, Volition Reins, Steal Enchantment). If you can’t stop it immediately, versatile sweepers can deal with it (Austere Command, Akroma’s Vengeance, Planar Cleansing).
The innocuous bad guy of Magic, Nicol Bolas is an extremely high-density threat the minute he hits play, and what’s worse, if the player playing him is smart enough to wait for sweepers to land before playing him, he can stop all answers to him in their tracks. Versatile removal is the best way to deal with him (Beast Within, Dreadbore, Vindicate), but stealing him for yourself also works (Confiscate, Word of Seizing, Zealous Conscripts). If all else fails, negate his effect (Pithing Needle, Voidstone Gargoyle, Phyrexian Revoker).
CHECK YOUR WHITE AND GREEN PRIVILEGE. Okay I got that out of my system. This card can be modestly described as “annoying“, because you often pair it with something like Greater Auramancy and you have what’s known as “The Bubble”, the strategy that just forts up and prevents all interaction. Enchantment sweepers are great against this card (Fracturing Gust, Merciless Eviction, Akroma’s Vengeance), but mass bounce works just as well, as you can counter the individual pieces, and Priv Prop is quite expensive to cast (Kederekt Leviathan, Devestation Tide, Cyclonic Rift). If all else fails, Glaring Spotlight can negate the effect of Priv Prop for creatures, because let’s face it, usually they’re going to be what kills you.
GENERALS TO WATCH OUT FOR
(To be honest, I could cover every popular EDH general in multicolor, but because of the sheer density of popular multicolor generals, I’m going to slim it down to the 10 I think are the most popular, each in different color combinations, because otherwise I’d be here forever.)
The tryhard taxman.
Grand Arbiter is probably the biggest way to tell if someone is a douche. This thing is just painful to play against, and it’s very easy to just get frustrated if they go for a Stax-style build (though most don’t). Definitely a kill-on-sight card; nobody likes having to pay more mana for their spells.
How do I stop Arbiter? Arbiter stops you more than you stop it, but there are plenty of countermeasures to him.
-Disrupt Arbiter. He’s a small body without hexproof. The deck is kept honest while Arbiter itself is out of the picture, and the deck is hard-pressed to tutor it, so tucking it is an effective strategy.
-Utility dorks are at a premium. So long as they aren’t running Linvala, Keeper of Silence, most Arbiter shells can’t keep up with resolved utility creatures. It’s either utility or stax, and both are wrecked by a well-placed utility creature (Viashino Heretic, Acidic Slime, etc.)
-Pressure their life total. If you can stick a creature, do your best to run them into the ground. Spearbreaker Behemoth is the true face of terror for this deck.
See, I like control, but I figured why not run that infinite mana combo? It wouldn’t hurt, right? …Right?
Oona, Oona, Oona. There are so many things politically incorrect about this thing. For one, so many just deviate to generating infinite mana to mill people with. Secondly, mill is perhaps the most disliked strategy in Magic – it’s just not very well-received overall, and for good reason; you’re not really playing Magic the way it’s meant to be played. Sure, you’re casting spells, but you’re not depleting their life total; you’re depleting their library, and the standard defenses for your life total are completely different than those for your library (granted, the printing of Elixir of Immortality has done wonders for graveyard mill, but Oona is exile mill).
How do I fight Oona? Most Oona shells rely on some dumb infinite mana combo to go off and mill you for your deck. It doesn’t help that they get the dorks to kill you with in the process, but at the same time…it’s a combo deck; it’s easy to disrupt if you adapt.
-Disrupt the combo. Grand Architect, Deadeye Navigator, Palinchron, etc. – most infinite mana combos have the telltale piece that’s particularly easy to disrupt. Targeted, instant-speed removal deals with any of these extremely well.
-Defensive artifacts and enchantments are at a premium here. Variants of Ivory Mask, Ghostly Prison and Damping Matrix are all very powerful against Oona. U/B is not a color combination that deals well with noncreature permanents.
-Pressure their life total. Oona’s a clunky combo at best that requires a lot of setup; be sure not to let games against Oona drag out too long and kill them quickly.
Gaddock Teeg has to be one of my personal favorites from a design standpoint. He’s a card not in blue that says “Players can’t do things”. Entire games revolve around him whether or not he’s in play, which is the mark of a card with strong elements of design. (How you feel about said elements of design is up to you.) I for one see way too many flashy bombs cast over the time of an EDH game, and when I wish I had the counter, there’s Gaddock going “I AM THE COUNTER, WHAT IS A PUNY ISLAND???”
How do I stop Gaddock?
Because Pernicious Deed is in two colors, I feel the more flexible option will win the day.
Gaddock is a difficult deck to disrupt, but is not without its weaknesses. He may make you whine when he slaps down a must-answer creature, gives it hexproof, and says “Suck a D, Wrath of God!”, but it’s okay. That punk will get what’s coming to him. Soon (TM).
-Utility creatures. Utility creatures. Did I mention, utility creatures? God, they interact with this deck so incredibly well it should be criminal. Void Stalker is absolutely exceptional at wrecking Gaddock’s face off. Tidespout Tyrant will pop whatever bubble the deck attempts to make. Dark Impostor will just happily feast on Gaddock all day.
-Cheap spot removal is at a premium here. Beast Within, Putrefy, Mortify, Dreadbore, Ashes to Ashes…I could go on. If you need Gaddock dead to cast important spells in your hand, spend that removal spell on him. Gaddock’s effect is generally weaker the more mana he costs to cast, especially when the deck he’s in leans on more of an aggressive shell.
-Play politically. Gaddock’s effect is incredibly effective at shutting down entire strategies by itself – if you aren’t being directly driven into the ground by its effect, there is no need for you to even bat an eyelid to it. In fact, while Gaddock’s around, why not help him beat the strategies Gaddock exists to stop, while they can’t answer him? It only makes sense to get mileage out of a global effect if it doesn’t affect you as much as the next guy.
I’m boring as hell, but I have a fast clock so everyone loves me!
I’m not even sorry – Rafiq is an incredibly dull deck to play. Look, I got something that produces mana on turn 1! I cast Rafiq turn 3! I have a way to deal double damage! I have counterspells to back me up! Can’t deal? GG! The lines of play are almost as atrocious as any combo deck, especially because the general lends itself to the “combo” in question. (Don’t even get me started on Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind; I could write an entire article on why I will personally destroy you in any game you put that on the table)
How do I stop Rafiq? Being in three great colors to shut down opposing strategies, the battle is uphill, but it’s a matter of “you have it or you don’t“, and any card that they disrupt you with is one less card to shorten your lifespan. This concept applies mostly to 1v1, but in multiplayer, most sensible folk tend to gang up on Rafiq because of the disgusting shenanigans he’s capable of. “Hurr, I equip Sword of Fire and Ice, I’m so pro.”
-Disrupt Rafiq. Rafiq is a creature without hexproof; despite its aptitude for defensive effects through Swords, Lightning Greaves, Privileged Position and other such effects, the right instant-speed removal will deal with him quite effectively.
-Prevent them from attacking you. As noted, Bant is the most diverse color combination when it comes to answers, but regardless, you have to plop down that Ghostly Prison even if all it does is buy you time.
-Artifact and enchantment hate is at a premium. Rafiq has his toys. You blow up those toys. You blow up Rafiq. Rafiq can never be allowed to have fun. Ever.
And you thought Rafiq was boring? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!
Zur is perhaps the most depressing part of this entire column that I will ever write. He has such dismal counterplay options it’s ridiculous. He turns into this disgusting bubble of pain you cannot deal with if left alone for even a turn. He creates a board state that is quite frankly unfun to play with or against. I don’t enjoy the time it takes to drag out the inevitable while playing this deck, and I don’t enjoy the feeling of helplessness I have when I play against this deck and I didn’t draw an answer on turn 3 for Zur so he attacked, got Vanishing, and you just sit back and watch the Zur player play with themselves until they decide it’s time to stop being scared of what could answer them and end your misery already.
How do I stop Zur? Zur warps the meta of EDH so badly that Wipe Away sees play in every blue deck primarily just to deal with it. (This applies mostly to 1v1, of course.) So many cards have merit in the format simply because they fill the quota of “I need to stop Zur so what terrible card do I play to do it?”
-Library hate is at a premium. This is literally the best way to do it. Praetor’s Grasp + instant-speed removal = you live to see turn 5. Aven Mindcensor keeps Zur honest, until they find a way to kill it, of course.
-Disrupt Zur. You don’t let Zur attack. Ever. Split Second is fantastic against him, but if all else fails, you’ll need to adapt your strategy to deal with Zur by running more instant-speed disruption.
-Prevent them from attacking. Ghostly Prison is great in this matchup, but if you’re in multiplayer, you need to go further. Arrest, Prison Term or Peacekeeper will keep Zur at bay so long as they remain alive.
There’s a fine line between smashing good fun and “goddamn it he has like 8 auras on him; how big is he now? wait he has hexproof, too? what the hell!”
Uril is a general I have a very mixed-bag opinion on. At 5 mana, it’s costed just right so it’s aggressively costed for a beater with hexproof, but without innate trample, and with few -good- Aura effects that give the ability, it’s difficult to hit 21 general damage without drawing the right combination of cards. At the same time, having hexproof means Uril is a nightmare if left alone. Its threat density is also extremely underrated – it can come out of nowhere and smack you in the face for Tons of Damage if you let it. Which is why most sensible players don’t.
How do I stop Uril?
They see me rollin’, they hatin’…
Hexproof is a silly ability in the first place, especially when tacked to the most insanely combat-relevant, three-color legend ever printed. Dealing with Uril through specific “answer the answers” roadblocks the deck may or may not put up against you can be downright infuriating, but that is a big “may“.
-Prevent them from attacking you. Most shells rely on the plan of getting in there for 21 general damage and will commit to that plan quite heavily, leaving them starving for answers to whatever roadblock you can put up. Blazing Archon and Peacekeeper are your best bets against Uril, as they prevent him from attacking outright (whereas, unlike Rafiq, Uril can throw its mana around if it can assure its damage will connect on the turn after it casts Uril)
-Enchantment hate is at a premium. Sometimes, dealing with Uril isn’t even the best way to do it – Uril is significantly weaker when he doesn’t have three Auras that give him every evergreen ability under the sun and make him a one-shot wonder Falcon Punching you in the sky while he annihilates you. Austere Command just kicks Uril in the ass.
-Outside-the-box disruption is effective as well. Evacuation will make Uril cry. Merciless Eviction wrecks the shells that preemptively pack Retether, Open the Vaults and Replenish to deal with enchantment hate. Grave Pact and other effects that force Uril’s sacrifice are also very effective at shutting down shells without Sigarda, Host of Herons.
“Will it blend?” – Aristotle
The Mimeoplasm is quite literally the most overdone general ever. Granted, there are a lot of very interesting and unique things you can do with such a well-designed card, but it doesn’t help me tell you what to do when I can think of three very broad archetypes of EDH strategies the thing can utilize, but being the most popular EDH general despite its relatively recent printing, I have to at least give it its due mention.
How do I stop The Mimeoplasm?
Well, good luck casting it now.
-Graveyard hate is at a premium. The aforementioned Rest in Peace will do wonders, but you have to make sure the player doesn’t have a wealth of targets to abuse, especially their own.
-Disrupt The Mimeoplasm. I think more than any other general in the game, the more The Mimeoplasm is cast over the course of a game, the weaker it gets (provided there isn’t a constant stream of targets for it). Constantly killing it will provide you a crushing advantage over it, as it costs more mana and there has to be good targets for it in order for it to take control of a match.
-Prevent them from attacking you. 99.8% of The Mimeoplasm decklists will turn it sideways. Don’t let its target be you. Deflection with Ghostly Prison effects work wonders here.
If you play this, don’t expect to ever attack with her. Ever. Seriously.
Everyone loves and hates Kaalia of the Vast equally. It’s a matter of give and take for Kaalia; I don’t mind if you plop down that Rune-Scarred Demon, but I’m just not letting you attack with her next turn to get out that Iona, Shield of Emeria. You understand.
How do I stop Kaalia?
Keepin’ the peace.
I don’t think this is rocket science for anyone – even newcomers to the format will understand how decks like Kaalia work, and act to prevent such shenanigans from ever happening.
-Disrupt Kaalia. She’s 4 mana for an incredibly combat-irrelevant body, and gets extremely weak by the time she costs 8 mana to cast.
-Prevent them from attacking you. Even if Kaalia cheats them in, Ghostly Prison still makes them pay two mana to attack you.
-Play politically. It’s an aggro deck stupidly soft to sweepers because it isn’t in green. So long as they aren’t killing you or playing Iona, Shield of Emeria, let them have their fun.
“Crush them with your wall-like walliness!”
Doran has to be one of my favorite cards ever printed. Ever since I got into Magic, looking at Doran’s ability just made me stop and think, something few cards have ever done. The possibilities are endless, but sadly, Doran is a very problematic deck to pilot because of how much it depends on its captain being at the helm.
How do I stop Doran? Much to my chagrin, it is not the most difficult concept in the world. The deck has a lot of potential to run you over, but really, it’s not even that difficult to deal with.
-Disrupt Doran. When Doran’s not in play, its pilot sighs and plays defense. When Doran is in play, its wall-like creatures crash into you unrelentingly for insane amounts of damage. I think the solution is obvious here.
-Prevent them from attacking you. Being in B/G/W affords it the answers to every hurdle you can put up against it, but there are only so many answers for each hurdle, and you can save yourself a lot of life and turns just by throwing out a Ghostly Prison or a “don’t kill me” creature.
-Play politically. It’s almost always going to be an aggro deck. Let them kill who they need to kill if that person isn’t you. As an aggro player myself, I can’t stress this point enough – if you want to win, don’t remove attackers that aren’t attacking you from the equation. They help you just as much as they potentially hurt you, and until they hurt you, let them hurt whoever else they need to hurt. Then, when they try and hurt you, cast Wrath of God. Simple as that.
Am I combo? Or am I a double-striking Hellkite Overlord? Who knows?
First and foremost, this isn’t really a point on Scion of the Ur-Dragon itself (who just happens to be the most popular of the five-color generals just because of how little you need to commit to its plan card-wise), but a point on 5-color in general. A lot of five-color decks will be combo unless a telltale spell is cast (Scarecrone in Reaper King, Shriekmaw in Horde of Notions, etc.).
How do I stop 5-color? Adaptation is the name of the game, but most combo decks are vulnerable to the same dreary lines of play provided you don’t play sloppy, tap out, or get greedy or stingy with what little disruption you have.
-Disrupt the combo. This is a really simple point to make, admittedly, and there’s not much to expand on, but if your playgroup contains that guy who just wants to run silly infinite combos, and you’re constantly getting rolled by him, adjust your deck to include more and more disruption until he either switches his deck or you can comfortably deal with the shenanigans he can put out.
-Play politically. Most EDH playgroups shun infinite combos. Remove this douche from the equation by ganging up on them and killing them. That’ll learn ‘em.
SUMMARY OF THE MULTICOLOR META
So I’m sorry if I didn’t cover every multicolor general out there, but like I said – if I did cover every popular multicolor general in the game, we’d be here forever, and I only have a week to write these articles. I covered the ones I thought were the most popular overall throughout this series, and I think I’ve done a decent job covering the various strategies you’ll face in your average EDH game.
Overall, there are a lot of counterplay options available to what you’ll find at your LGS or kitchen table, and if you feel like something’s getting out of hand, there is always going to be a silver bullet or safety net to try that can produce some great results if given the opportunity. Adaptation is the best way to deal with any strategy you find – which is why I’ve seen so many Boiling Seas lately that have shunned me from playing basic Islands. Metagames shift, and you can help yourself and others by playing cards – even “douchey” ones – that either help you get the edge in your meta or even change it altogether. Even building antithatguy.dek is a justifiable answer if that guy always wins and you’re tired of it.
Well, we’re at the home stretch now. Thanks for sticking with me if you’ve been reading from the beginning, and if you’re one of my new readers, fear not – when the last part of this article series hits the internet next week, I’ll be providing links to each part of the article series for ease of access.
Until next week when I cover the last of the popular cards you might find in your EDH metagame – artifacts and lands!
Also, this upcoming weekend we will be having a Star City Games Invitational Qualifier. Here is a link to the facebook event, make sure you come check it out, as it will be a blast!