Creatures and spells of more than one civilization have been a mainstay in most competitive decks for about two months now. Clash of the Duel Masters gave us many dual-civilization cards of "allied" civilization combinations (Light/Water, Water/Darkness, Darkness/Fire, Fire/Nature, Nature/Light). These cards have been shaping the meta ever since, giving decks from rush to control more support. In fact, the only current competitive deck that doesn't run any multi-civs is mono-Fire. With that being said, it can be very easy for someone to overlook the downsides to running a bunch of multi-civilization cards in his or her deck, and in this article I'll be going over ways to assess how many you might need.
The benefits to a multi-civilization card are often pretty clear. Most of the time, a multi-civ card will have effects of even raw stats that simply blow a single-civilization counterpart out of the water. Take [ccProd]Aqua Strider[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Rain-Cloud Kraken[/ccProd]; Strider has more power, an additional race to potentially have synergy with, and the same level. It's obvious that if both of these are in play, Strider is the more useful card. Many more multi-civ cards have been thriving in competitive play for similar reasons. Another benefit to multi-civ cards is their usefulness for unlocking more than one civilization in the mana zone quickly. When Saracon, Storm Dynamo was the only multi-civ card released (before Clash of the Duel Masters), many control players were excited to use a copy or two because it made their early mana decisions so easy in addition to being a great finisher at the time. In a three or four civilization control deck, getting two out of the way on the first mana drop is very helpful, and it allows the player to summon or cast anything in his or her deck at a much earlier turn. With the announcement that we'll be getting "enemy" combination dual civs such as Nature/Darkness with the next set, Shattered Alliances, more doors are sure to open for innovative deck-building.
The Downsides[ccProd]Aqua Strider[/ccProd] isn't always better than [ccProd]Rain-Cloud Kraken[/ccProd]; in the battle zone, it's obviously superior, but there are times when you'll have a Strider in your hand and wish it was a Kraken. The most obvious downside is that these cards require you to have both civilizations in your mana zone. Now, it's very easy to get there with all the multi-civs available, but this problem is still noticeable in regards to the cheaper multi-civs. There are times when you'll draw a Strider in a three or four civilization control deck and not be able to play it because you'll be missing either Light or Water on turn two. This usually doesn't stop people from running a card like Strider since the payoff is so high compared to Kraken, but it is sometimes an issue, especially for aggressive strategies.
The other major problem that comes from saturating a deck full of multi-civs is having them all enter the mana zone tapped. In a perfect world, we'd be able to throw a multi-civ down turn one and maybe turn two and never have to mana one again, but that's not the case. Imagine you're a control player with a lone [ccProd]Andromeda of the Citadel[/ccProd] in your hand against an aggressive deck, and you're sitting at eight mana. You draw for turn, and it's a multi-civ. This causes you to miss the crucial turn nine Andromeda and in many cases, lose the game. Drawing a hand with too many multi-civs is especially a problem for aggressive decks since they need to draw certain progressions to win. Being able to play a turn three [ccProd]Sword Horned[/ccProd] is great and all, but what if you miss out on your turn four [ccProd]Keeper of Laws[/ccProd] against control because the rest of your hand is all multi-civs?
With all that in mind, it's important to find the right balance of multi-civs for your deck. This can be tricky, but I'm going to post some previously successful builds and try to analyze why they used the amount they did, starting with Brian Durkin's top 8 list from KMC Oakmont, PA for an example of an aggressive deck!
Brian Durkin: "Naya Dragon Beatdown"
3 [ccProd]Manapod Beetle[/ccProd] 3 [ccProd]Lux[/ccProd] 3 [ccProd]Sword Horned[/ccProd] 3 [ccProd]Keeper of Laws[/ccProd] 3 [ccProd]Gilaflame the Assaulter[/ccProd] 3 [ccProd]Herald of Infernus[/ccProd] 3 [ccProd]Steamtank Kryon[/ccProd] 3 [ccProd]Lyra, the Blazing Sun[/ccProd] 2 [ccProd]Tatsurion the Unchained[/ccProd] 2 [ccProd]Spellbane Dragon[/ccProd] 3 [ccProd]Andromeda of the Citadel[/ccProd] 3 [ccProd]Root Trap[/ccProd] 3 [ccProd]Stormspark Blast[/ccProd] 3 [ccProd]Reinforce[/ccProd]
This list, which fellow ARG writer Zach Hine covered a few weeks ago, is a prime example of a typical 40 card midrange deck, even though it was an anti-meta choice for the event where it made top 8. There are very few multi-civs in the list, with Durkin opting to max out [ccProd]Sword Horned[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Steamtank Kryon[/ccProd] and ignore anything else. [ccProd]Sword Horned[/ccProd] is easily one of the best turn three aggressive plays in the game currently, as the only blocker that can contend with it around that time is [ccProd]Scaradorable of Gloom Hollow[/ccProd]. Steamtank is another excellent choice here and one of the centerpieces of the deck, in truth; after testing with the list some, I got to do a number of cool combos with that card and the plethora of dragons the deck has access to.
The rationale was that this deck would be up against a number of control decks and have a very good matchup by putting its opponent on the defensive early. Though it runs three copies of Andromeda to give itself an answer to rush and other aggressive strategies, this deck definitely doesn't want to stay in the late game. Because it needs to hit its progressions, keeping the multi-civ count at a minimum is absolutely key - note the use of [ccProd]Manapod Beetle[/ccProd] over the potential inclusion of [ccProd]Weaponized Razorcat[/ccProd]. Manapod shines here even though it's not a Megabug deck because it's able to be played on turn two very consistently. In addition, not only does it not cause a problem for your mana drops, it actually makes them easier by going to your mana zone when it's banished. A deck like this might not always be able to retain a hand, so not having to put more cards into mana is a bonus that should not be overlooked. When this deck does put things into mana, the last thing it wants to do is have to wait a turn to hit its progressions due to putting down a multi-civ. Things like [ccProd]Keeper of Laws[/ccProd] on turn four are too crucial to this deck's success. Tempo decks such as the recently popular LWN Megabug deck require the same line of thought. Generally, packing a fourth of a deck like that with mulri-civ cards is asking for trouble.
Now, let's take a look at something completely different - the deck I used at the same event to get second!
3 [ccProd]Keeper of Laws[/ccProd] 3 [ccProd]Lyra, the Blazing Sun[/ccProd] 3 [ccProd]Andromeda of the Citadel[/ccProd] 2 [ccProd]Keeper of Dawn[/ccProd] 2 [ccProd]Stormspark Blast[/ccProd]
3 [ccProd]King Tritonus[/ccProd] 3 [ccProd]Crystal Memory[/ccProd] 3 [ccProd]Bottle of Wishes[/ccProd]
3 [ccProd]Mesmerize[/ccProd] 3 [ccProd]Bone Blades[/ccProd] 3 [ccProd]Terror Pit[/ccProd] 2 [ccProd]Razorkinder Puppet[/ccProd] 2 [ccProd]Skull Shatter[/ccProd] 1 [ccProd]Dark Return[/ccProd]
3 [ccProd]Root Trap[/ccProd] 2 [ccProd]Reap and Sow[/ccProd] 2 [ccProd]Mana Storm[/ccProd] 1 [ccProd]Kurragar of the Hordes[/ccProd]
3 [ccProd]Piercing Judgment[/ccProd] 3 [ccProd]Fullmetal Lemon[/ccProd] 2 [ccProd]Aqua Strider[/ccProd] 2 [ccProd]Squillace Scourge[/ccProd]
As you can see, we've made it to the opposite side of the spectrum from the first deck I looked at. Not only is this deck larger and more civilizations, it has a completely different goal; to make it to the late game and drop bombs like King Tritonus and [ccProd]Skull Shatter[/ccProd]. This deck is allowed to run more multi-civs because it's less reliant on its early progressions. There's even room for more multi-civs than the ten I ran; for example, a third [ccProd]Aqua Strider[/ccProd] could definitely be included with little harm to the deck's function. Once the deck reaches the late game thanks to mana ramp and [ccProd]King Tritonus[/ccProd] can be dropped, mana ceases to be a problem. If there's a reason to reach a higher amount of mana, your hand will probably be big enough to where there are many choices beyond multi-civs, something that would be rare in a more aggressive deck.
One thing I feel warrants mentioning is the ability to run a few multi-civs in an otherwise mono-civ deck. For example, if you have a [ccProd]Piercing Judgment[/ccProd] in your mana zone and everything else in your mana zone is just Water, a [ccProd]Reef Gladiator[/ccProd] you control would still have its effect since the Piercing is a Water card. It's also Light which means you can then play Light cards or Light/Water multi-civs from your hand, but Reef Gladiator doesn't care about that as long as every card in your mana zone is at least part Water. Because of this, some mono-civ decks have been able to run a few multi-civs to give them access to abilities they wouldn't normally be able to run, such as a Water deck using [ccProd]Freakish Test Subject[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Featherfin Stalker[/ccProd] for Slayer. Make sure you realize your deck's function before going this route; a tempo deck like mono-Water Cyber Lords might not want to splash Darkness just for Slayer. Putting a multi-civ in mana after turn one might mess up progressions, and Slayer doesn't seem that important in a deck that can just bounce threats away and hopefully win before the late game. However, if the deck was also trying to focus on an Aquan lineup, a small Light section might perhaps be warranted for the use of [ccProd]Aqua Strider[/ccProd] as evo-bait and [ccProd]Piercing Judgment[/ccProd]. It all comes down to knowing your deck's function and assessing the potential payoff of the multi-civs as opposed to how bad it could be if you draw them at the wrong time.
I think that about wraps it up for this article! I hope if helped some of you out there and that you all enjoyed reading. As you know, the very first Kaijudo Championship is just one week away, and I'll be attending along with the other writers at ARG. I'll be back next week to give some of my expectations going into the event, and hopefully be able to put up a great showing. Until then, Play Hard or Go Home!