Magic Memories: Pandemonium

Discussion in 'Single Card Strategies' started by Oversoul, Feb 24, 2017.

  1. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    It's too bad that Time Spiral with its awesome throwback reprints was so long ago. I never see Pandemonium anymore. It is probably my favorite red enchantment of all time, and generally one of the coolest enchantments out there.

    At four mana and with a rather volatile effect, it is unfortunately lacking in a home as a tournament card. It is not Legacy playable and doesn't have a niche in Modern either. Then again, those formats have huge card pools and tend to see focus on breaking the game. Pandemonium was viable during its tenures in Extended (once from Exodus and once from Time Spiral). So for a casual player who likes fun cards, but doesn't want the most broken stuff, maybe Pandemonium is a great fit. I can think of a lot of uses for it. My earliest attempts involved Phyrexian Dreadnought, but power-level errata invalidated that deck, something that was eventually reversed.
  2. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Pandemonium is in a weird spot. Its effect is very powerful, albeit symmetrical. The decks that are best-poised to exploit the effect are ones that use fast, high-power creatures, especially ones with haste. Pandemonium can clear blockers or just hit opponents directly, going for the kill. But at four mana, such decks hope to have dropped their aggressive creatures already. A simplification of the problem is that aggro wants the effect Pandemonium gives, but doesn't want to spend a four-drop on something that won't have any effect until later, whereas control doesn't want to give aggro a chance to use the effect at all, so neither aggro nor control are inclined to use the card. That leaves combo. Well, that's generally true for tournament decks anyway. In casual play, the card makes quite a splash in multiplayer games. As it so happens, Extended was a pretty big deal back when Exodus was in the format. After Urza's Destiny gave us Replenish and Nemesis introduced Saproling Burst, PandeBurst was born.

    The particulars of the deck varied, but the general goal was to get stuff into one's graveyard, then cast Replenish, bringing back at least one each of Pandemonium and Saproling Burst. Remove a fading counter from Saproling Burst, Pandemonium triggers when a 6/6 enters the battlefield. That's 6 damage. Do it again for 5, then 4, then 3, then 2, then 1. 6+5+4+3+2+1=21, which is enough damage to one-shot an opponent who hasn't gained life. Most opponents weren't running lifegain, but these decks could go off pretty quickly and often dealt 42, 63, 84, 126 or more damage off one Replenish. The combo got Replenish banned in Extended and for the first several years of Legacy, the card was banned there too.
  3. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I've already mentioned the period in which I had and used only cards from Prophecy and earlier even as newer sets were being released (I don't think that I actually acquired cards newer than Prophecy on my own until 2009 or 2010, but by that point my collection was mostly consolidated with my friend Nick's collection and he had a lot more cards than I did). Well, before I traded away my Invasion Block cards, I did use Pandemonium alongside cards like Fires of Yavimaya. Such use pales in comparison to Replenish and Saproling Burst, but it is fun. One of my favorite cards to use with Pandemonium back then was Raging Kavu. It had haste even without Fires of Yavimaya, and using it on an opponent's turn as a sort of Lightning Bolt with legs was always surprising the first time they saw it.
  4. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Pandemonium also played a role in my "multiplayer fun deck." It was a dumb idea that I had back then and I know others have hit on the same concept. Use a bunch of cards to foment chaos and throw everyone off, with no real built-in way to actually win the game. The point of Pandemonium in that deck was more in line with the card's name than it was any real combo or purpose. When every creature is also a burn spell, the game changes drastically.
  5. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    While it's not practical for competitive play, a fun creature to use with Pandemonium is Saber Ants. Give those things some form of regeneration or make them indestructible for large-scale token generation. Or just cast a really big creature, hit the Ants with it, then hit your opponent's stuff with the resulting army of insect tokens. And Saber Ants are actually not bad even without Pandemonium. Really, both cards are explosive and versatile, it's just that they're inefficient for the mana cost by today's standards, which obviously wasn't a concern for me back in 2001 or whenever.
  6. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Pandemonium came out in the block before Replenish, which itself came out in the block before Saproling Burst. Although all three are good cards, using them together in the same deck is just about the most powerful thing that one can do with any of them. So once PandeBurst was a known entity, doing something else with Pandemonium seemed tame in comparison. But then Pandemonium was reprinted in Time Spiral. Without its old friend, Saproling Burst, the card lost its one-two punch that let it imitate a 20-point Fireball. While it wasn't the powerhouse it had been in the old day, Pandemonium still managed to show up. One reason was the infamous Extended "Hypergenesis Cascade" deck.
  7. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Looking back at old tournament data for usage of Pandemonium hasn't really led me to anything else that impressive. After it was reprinted, Hypergenesis Cascade decks and Pattern Rector decks seemed to be the main niche for the enchantment. Pattern Rector doesn't really need Pandemonium, which becomes a win-more card if the combo goes off, but some versions did use it. I'm sure I'll make another post about Pattern Rector at some point. Hypergenesis Cascade isn't very robust as combo decks go, but then Hypergenesis is banned in Modern, so what do I know?

    The idea is to build a deck with lots of big, expensive threats, some three-drop Cascade spells, and Hypergenesis. With no one-drops or two-drops, a Cascade spell will automatically hit Hypergenesis, which has a converted mana cost of 0, and cast it, circumventing the Suspend mechanic. Then a handful of big, expensive threats hit the board all at once, hopefully killing the opponent. I've seen a wide variety of creatures used in these decks, but the perquisite of Pandemonium is that one need not wait a turn to attack, because with Pandemonium and so many big creatures coming in at the same time, the opponent could potentially be killed on the spot by direct damage.

    I have found records of rogue decks that employed Pandemonium in other ways. Time Spiral Block was such a fascinating environment! In Standard, where gameplay was slower than Extended or Legacy, people were able to get away with some really wacky stuff, like a deck based around Wild Pair and elementals, or another one that was kind of a control-combo deck with controlling spells and a Magnivore + Pandemonium finish.
  8. Psarketos Metacompositional Theoretician

    Surprised you did not mention my first combo deck, Pandemonium with Aluren, Horned Kavu, and Fleetfoot Panther - free creature bouncing for unlimited multiplayer damage. These days you can add Wild Cantor and Burning-Tree Emissary for early acceleration to throw out both Aluren and Pandemonium together as early as turn 3 with cards like Wall of Roots, Wall of Blossoms, and Wistful Selkie.
  9. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Well, I didn't mention it because I never used it! Don't think I even saw it before. Really, I haven't seen many other Pandemonium enthusiasts since the tournament days of PandeBurst. Aluren is popular, though, but I don't think I ever saw the cards used together. But I can see how it might be fun.

    Hm, in retrospect, I did witness Pandemonium being used with Horned Kavu. But it was many, many years ago and I forget the details. No Aluren in that case though: I'd remember something like that.
  10. Psarketos Metacompositional Theoretician

    I made that PandAluren deck because a friend claimed that we had seen everything interesting Magic had to offer. I segued that initial counter-response into the deck that became Transcension as an attempt at illustrating the myriad possibilities Magic deck building has to offer. Pandemonium providing me a fun combo with Aluren can be thanked for my enduring focus on casting a deck without traditional mana constraints in new and unusual ways.
    Oversoul likes this.

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