Hour of Devastation: Multiplayer Edition
The hour of devastation is upon us! Thankfully it is a multiplayer game, so we probably have two or three hours of devastation! I thought I would take a look at Hour of Devastation through the lens of multiplayer. What cards are stars when you add multiple opponents to the mix? What cards offer interesting shifts with multiple opponents?
This list is certainly not exhaustive; this is not a review. Chaos Maw, Solemnity, Unesh, and even Nicol Bolas aren't here. All solid cards that are more interesting with more players, but between Nicol Bolas getting plenty of press and the others not being quite as interesting as the cards here, cuts had to be made. Consider this the cards that I found particularly interesting and deserving or love (or perhaps deserving of a warning)!
Torment of Hailfire is going to produce interesting results in games, for a moderate amount of mana. Spending six mana could result in each opponent losing 12 life. Getting 36 life for six mana seems like an insane return on investment!
The problem with Torment of Hailfire (a great name!) lies in giving your opponents the choice – lose three life or sacrifice the nonland permanent you care about the least. You are never going to get the cards you really want off the battlefield. Opponents are unlikely to allow their life totals to get too low either. The token player just sacrifices a handful of tokens and moves on. The player with 40 life will have no problem losing 12 life. Other players will look to mix the life loss and sacrificing permanents to minimize the damage all over.
In the end, the only way around this is to make X a particularly huge number. Forcing opponents to make the choice eight times means that there will eventually be some hard choices. My problem is that I'm not as excited about a card that needs to cost 10 mana to be particularly devastating.
Bontu's Last Reckoning is another card with promise and a miserable downside. Only three mana for a mass removal spell is great. Mass removal is supposed to get you out of tough situations, and for a card to only cost three means you have access to it sooner and you'll have more mana to use for other things that turn.
The problem is that Bontu's Last Reckoning is just delaying the inevitable. Consider this hypothetical: you are in dire need of mass removal and draw this. You cast it and have four mana left. You can use that mana now to play a creature to have an advantage over the rest of the players, or save it, because that is all you get on your next turn. Assuming you don't use it because you want to see what everyone else does, and find that everyone spends their seven mana on their turn and sees their board returning. On your turn, you have four mana and put out a creature. Now everyone else gets to spend their seven or eight mana again and you are once again behind the proverbial eight-ball. Whether you change that hypothetical to early or late in the game, things don't look good for you.
Crested Sunmare is a Horse lord that brings its own followers! It can build up a herd of Horses over a few short turns. A creature with lifelink and you are set. Swing with the lifelink creature and at the end of your turn, you get a 5/5 indestructible horse! The downside lies with not getting the horse until the “beginning of each end step.”
“Each” end step? Did I read that…
Woah, that is completely broken!
It is easy to miss it on Crested Sunmare, but it says, “at the beginning of each end step.” Not just your end step. Every end step. All you have to do is gain life on someone's turn! Pair this with a few lifelink creatures and who is going to attack you? When you block you'll get a 5/5 at the end of their turn. All you need is a way to gain life on your opponents' turns and Crested Sunmare turns into a monster! On your end step, get a Horse. On each opponent's end step, get a Horse. By the time your turn comes around, in a four-player game, you'll have four 5/5 indestructible Horse Tokens. I understand they don't fly or have trample, but at this rate it doesn't matter. Crested Sunmare is a beautiful appetizer, main course, and sides. You'll just have to figure out the dessert on your own.
In the end, you just need to find a way to reliably gain life on your opponents' turns (Authority of the Consuls). Adding a 5/5 indestructible creature at the end of every turn would build up quickly (Soul Warden). What card or cards could someone use to reliably gain life on opponents' turns (Soul's Attendant)? You'd probably want to look at the things players tend to do on their turn (Auriok Champion). You know, players tend to cast a lot of creatures on their turn. I might look at ways to gain life when players cast creatures. I bet there are cards that would help you with that!
5/5 indestructible Horses are going to be practically unstoppable! Finding a card that does five damage to all creatures for a reasonable mana cost is tough, but finding one that can also deal with the indestructible aspect is going to be tough.
When I looked at Hour of Devastation I saw a five-mana Pyroclasm that deals five damage. While I joked about all the charred Horse meat this card can make, taking indestructible away from all creatures will be irrelevant mostly, until it isn't. We are seeing more and more creatures that have indestructible and it has meant that the truly valuable removal spells have all been ways to exile creatures. This variant throws red a bone here.
The real benefit though is the five damage to each planeswalker. There are going to be plenty of times when you are going to suck it up and lose some valuable creatures because an opponent has a couple of planeswalkers that just need to be dead. Even if it doesn't kill the planeswalkers outright, it puts them into range, or takes them away from threatening an ultimate ability. This flexibility is something I really like about the card.
While Bontu's Last Reckoning and Torment of Hailfire have conditions to their removal that makes them much weaker, Hour of Revelation just gets better. We are left wondering, is Hour of Revelation better or worse because it says “nonland permanents” rather than “creatures? A mass removal spell that removes creatures allows you to set up the board. You can hoard a few creature spells and play out other permanents to set things up for the removal spell. Removing everything but land is a reset button that requires some finesse.
Having said that, I can't ever picture a scenario where I'll be paying more than three to make this happen. I can barely picture a scenario where someone would cast Hour of Revelation for more than three mana even if the card said “creatures” instead of “nonland permanents.” By the time you'd want to cast Hour of Revelation, your three opponents will certainly have at least 10 nonland permanents on the battlefield.
The closest thing to a true downside for this card lies with the three mana you are going to pay. Demanding that it all be white mana will limit what white decks the card gets into. It will put a strain on some mana bases, so be wary.
I'm not going to go too deep into The Scarab God; many others have talked about it in detail. It doesn't care if you have one opponent or multiple opponents, they each lose X life and you scry X. This is the real deal. It can take over as commander for Zombie decks and will make them better.
If you were complaining about Crested Sunmare not doing enough, then play The Scarab God; it is the setup, does the work, and offers the finishing move, all in one card that is difficult to keep off the battlefield.
While this is a Spider card, it certainly acts like a rattlesnake! Every time an opponent attacks you, all of your opponents are going to be mad they did, since they'll all lose a life. This will discourage opponents from ever attacking you.
All of this works because of the 1/4 body. It is going to take a serious creature to actually kill off the spider, and realistically, that is going to be the only reason why anyone would actually attack you. Obelisk Spider is an uncommon that doesn't have the splashy effect that most of the other cards on the list have, but the effect makes this one of my favorites in the set.
Obelisk Spider is the very definition of a “rattlesnake” creature. A rattlesnake card discourages opponents from attacking you, generally by threatening a consequence that makes the attacker think about going elsewhere or just not attacking at all. Ending up with a smaller creature and taking a point of damage while giving you one life is bad enough, but giving all of your opponents a point of damage because you chose to attack the person with the Obelisk Spider can prove to be a pretty significant deterrent for an uncommon that only costs three mana.
The question with Obelisk Spider lies in whether your opponents will be mad at the opponent for attacking you or mad at you for having the creature in the first place. This will likely demand some very careful political maneuvering and may still blow up in your face.
Another option is to attack with it! An opponent can take one damage or can block, get a -1/-1 counter and cost everyone one life and gain you a life. If that is the choice they think they have, will they block? Is getting a -1/-1 counter on a creature worth doing a point of damage to the other two opponents? Add in the possibility of pumping the Spider into something much bigger and suddenly you are adjusting your opponent's desire to block. All the nuances make this card one of my favorites in the set!