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A Multiplayer Case Study #1: Umbilicus
By Mike Marino
NOTE: THE FIRST 3 PARAGRAPHS ARE DEDICATED TO RHETORICAL INTRODUCTORY JARGON, READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.

Why doesn't the CPA have a regular Multiplayer author?

Its the type of question that keeps me up late at night and leaves my to ponder the meaning of life and such (well not really but I felt like being a little dramatic). We should, I mean we are the Casual Players Alliance so reason would lend itself to say that the CPA deserves some Multiplayer representation. I think I'd like to give it a shot, and why not? Should be a fun ride.

As a lot of people do, I read the regular articles by Anthony Alongi and Stijn van Dongen at Starcitygames.com (and if you don't I highly recommend you do, both of them supply the Magic community with some great MP* material). Well, I'm not as a good a writer as Anthony, I'm not as good at Magic as Stijn, and I'm definitely not as entertainingly sarcastic as The Ferrett was when he was writing regularly.

'Then why should I bother reading your article then Mike?' Good Question, and the more I think of this question the harder it is for me to answer. But seriously, my mind has a tendency to work in very odd ways when it comes to the Magical cardboard and every once in awhile I'll actually come up with a decent idea. I'm notorious in my group for taking a janky rare and
building a solid theme around it. These decks don't always win, but they sure are a hell of a lot of fun to play. I figured I might as well try to scheme some


MY DIABOLICAL MASTER PLAN:
- To come up with 1 janky rare per article that I own 4 of (or I can get 4 of easily). I define janky rare as a rare that you doubt will (or has) ever seen any tourney play, looks like it can hurt you more than help you, and/or get significantly better when played in an MP environment. A combination of the 3 is what I'm shooting for.

- Build a deck around said janky card with a breakdown of each individual card selection.

- To stay away from cheesy combos within the deck (no Survival/Squee, no Abundance/Sylvan Library, etc.).

- To specify which type of MP format it is to be built for (I'll go into more detail in a minute) and to list alternative cards for different formats.

- To stick to the Type 1 Banned/Restricted list (there is a reason Sol Ring is restricted, b/c 4 Sol Rings make ANY deck 10x better than it should be).

- To try to limit myself to 60 cards, although sometimes I just can't resist the urge to up the card count to 70-80. Hey, enjoyment wins out over
consistency 9 times out of 10.

- I won't use color hosers unless its part of the theme of the deck.

- I'll usually stay away from things like Discard and LD because all that usually does is remove 1 other person from a big MP game. Remember, winning isn't #1 in MP (but it does make your night better).

- To give you a re-cap of how the deck did in the next article.

- To score with fly Magic hotties (just seeing if you're paying attention).

- To try to keep my use of parentheses to a minimum (yeah right!).

Here are the MP formats I build for. If you'd like more info on a particular format email me, it takes awhile to list every rule for every format:
2 Headed Giant
3 Headed Giant
2 Headed Giant Chaos
Emperors
Secret Kill (aka Hunter and Prey or something like that)
Allies and Enemies
Chaos / attack left (very rarely do we play this format)

Enough jibber-jabber! Onto the cards.

This week's Case Study:
Umbilicus
Urza's Saga Rare
4
At the beginning of each player's upkeep, that player returns a permanent he or she controls to its owner's hand unless he or she pays 2 life.

Why I chose Umbilicus?
Its a relatively goofy looking, overcosted Saga rare that simply looks to annoy anyone who happens to be playing in the same game. However, its a relatively easy card to use to your advantage while it continues to pester your opponent during every upkeep. Plus it wants to work with creatures, and creatures are fun! Also, its an artifact, so a deck can be built around it in every color combination possible. Last thing, you can return echo creatures back to your hand without paying the upkeep: Echo and Umbilicus trigger simultaneously, but since you're the active player you can choose how they go onto the stack, put the echo activation onto the stack and then put Umbilicus' ability on top of it selecting the echo creature. Umbilicus resolves bouncing the creature, and you don't have to pay the upkeep. Isn't that swell? However, I'm about 99% sure this trick does not work with fading cards (because the sacrifice is immediate). If I'm wrong on either, someone please clarify me (I'll check it out anyway).

[Edit - No, I'm pretty sure it will work with Fading too; the check for a Fading counter is a "Beginning of Upkeep" trigger also. So you can stack it the same way as Echo. - Spidey]

G/R/W Umbilicus - 70 cards (yes 70, trust me its more fun) made for any format with teammates, but it should work as an individual deck too.

Creatures 29
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Wall of Blossoms
3 Wall of Roots
3 Blastoderm
3 Flame-tongue Kavu
3 Thornscape Battlemage
2 Thunderscape Battlemage
2 Kavu Titan
1 Avalanche Riders
1 Radiant's Dragoons
1 Deranged Hermit
1 Spike Weaver
1 Crater Hellion

Spells 16
4 Umbilicus
4 Eladamri's Call
3 STP
2 Erratic Portal
2 Saproling Burst
1 Regrowth

Mana 25
1 Sol Ring
1 Strip Mine
1 Yavimaya Hollow
2 Gaea's Cradle
2 Rith's Grove
4 Savannah
4 Taiga
4 Plateau
4 Forests
2 Mountain

NOTE: I heavily considered Going G/U for Mystic Snake/Tradewind Rider** but recursive counters have an uncanny tendency to make people especially angry.

CARD BREAKDOWN:
4 BoP - Its a 3 color deck, need multiple color production. SUBSTITUTIONS - Llanowar Elf, Quirion Elf, Utopia Tree, Skyshroud Elf.
4 Wall of Blossoms - Its maybe my favorite green creature ever, and it allows for the card drawing engine to get underway. Bounce the Wall to Umbilicus during the upkeep, replay to draw a card, bounce, repeat....
3 Wall of Roots - A little more mana acceleration is necessary, and since it depletes itself it works nicely with the Umby.
3 Blastoderm - They will be nearly impossible to kill and they will hit hard every turn.
3 FTK - Its a great 187 creature, simple as that.
3 Thornscape Battlemage - Both kickers are very useful in MP, especially the green direct damage.
2 Thunderscape Battlemage - Both kickers are useful in MP, but they are both a little more situational than his green brother.
2 Kavu Titan - He's a bear early in the game until I'm ready to bounce him back to re-cast him as a 5/5 trampler. Shivan Wurm might be better in here, we'll see.
1 Avalanche Riders - Silver Bullet card, I could easily run more, but I don't want it to be a theme of the deck; Land Destruction makes enemies that last the entire night. However, sometimes you just need to blow up a Maze of Ith, a Tolarian Academy, etc.
1 Radiant's Dragoons - Silver Bullet, sometimes you need to gain life back quickly. These lovely ladies make that possible.
1 Deranged Hermit - Silver Bullet, because its simply one of the coolest cards ever made (and it combos with the Umby). How could I not include it?
1 Spike Weaver - Silver Bullet, because I don't feel like getting my butt kicked.
1 Crater Hellion - Silver Bullet, my 1 token mass removal spell.
4 Umbilicus - I'll let you figure this one out
4 Eladamri's Call - Creatures make this deck tick, and I can go fish for my Bullets
3 STP - So I can make sure a particular creature definitely does not make it back into play
2 Erratic Portal - Umby backup plan, protects my creatures, protects my teammates creatures, makes life slightly more annoying for my opponents (and I like the card).
2 Saproling Burst - Umby says "choose a permanent", but I'll probably end up removing this for something more fun (Or I can add Fires of Yavimaya but where's the originality there?)
1 Regrowth - Hey, its Regrowth
1 Sol ring - See above
1 Strip Mine - See above again
2 Gaea's Cradle - Just because they are better than basic forests
1 Yavimaya Hollow - This card just doesn't get the respect it deserves, for 1G you can regenerate TARGET creature, including your teammate's Serra Angel
Dual Lands - Because you would too if you owned them...sorry that was catty of me. These can be easily replaced by tap-duals or even basic lands
2 Rith's Grove - There are my 3 colors! Woo-hoo.
6 Basic Lands - Because I can't run more than 4 of each dual land (damn rules!)

NOTE: If you want to build this deck for a Chaos type of format, I would recommend putting in Johan from Legends/Chronicles, he is a great defensive creature for Chaos MP.

LAST WEEK'S COOL PLAY OF THE WEEK
I was playing a duel against my friend, we were both playing rogue Type 2 decks. I had a R/W deck with a Skizzik and a Glorious Anthem in play, he had a B/W deck with 2 Serra Angels and a Glorious Anthem out. I'm at 15 life, he is at 12. I see I'm in a tough spot and I cannot block next turn so I attack with my Skizzik. He decides to gang block the Skizzik. Damage goes on the stack and I assign 5 to 1 Angel and 1 to the other. At the end of my turn I Orim's Thunder with kicker his Glorious Anthem, dealing 3 damage to the other Angel who then dies b/c she lost the +1/+1 bonus of the Anthem. I got lucky, but I'll take what I can get.

Well I hope you've enjoyed this article, all feedback is welcome whether it be positive or negative. And feel free to post suggestions about this decklist or share any similiar decks you've built.

Until next time stay out of trouble, well at least try not to get caught.

Mike Marino
mike_marino@lycos.com (that's original huh?)
Mikeymike on the CPA boards


---
I apologize for the use of the now clichéd asterisk asides, but there is a reason so many people use them, they work.

* MP = Multiplayer, but you probably figured that out.
** Here is the other decklist, this one probably isn't too much fun but it is extended legal (I make no promises to its success)

Creatures 23
4 BoP
4 Wall of Blossoms
3 Wall of Roots
4 Mystic Snake
3 Tradewind Rider
3 Deranged Hermit
1 Spike Weaver
1 Guilded Drake

Spells 14
4 Umbilicus
2 Worldly Tutor
4 Counterspell
4 Broken card drawers of some sort like Fact or Fiction, Impulse or Whispers
of the Muse

Mana 23
4 Tropical Islands
4 Yavimaya Coasts
2 Wastelands
2 Gaea's Cradle
6 Forests
5 Islands

Read More Articles by Mike Marino!

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