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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Jul 02 2013 10:26am
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 [NOTE: This article is a reworked version of the old introduction to what is now a separate entry called The Colossopedia]

 One thing I wanted to do with this series of articles is showing how this game would look in a world where Spikes didn't exist, or at least where they were just a minor, necessary evil. More so, I'm set to explore what being an Accidental Player means: someone who likes the deckbuilding process more than the actual play. And that's accomplished only by inserting a strong Johnny superstructure over a solid Timmy foundation. In fact, while the Johnny/Spikes are probably the best possible players (where for "best" I don't mean "the most successful" as much as "the classiest, the most skillful"), I argue that the Johnny/Timmies are the ones that took the most pleasure from the game. And this pleasure comes in no small measure both from thinking about whatever extraordinary feats you could concoct within the game, and from dreaming of whatever awesome effects these feats will produce on the battlefield. No matter how often this will happen, or if it will actually happen at all: the Johnny/Timmy mind will still be filled with delight just by considering the idea of a complex combo or an exciting battlefield state. Yet making the extraordinary and the awesome happen, at least once in a while, is definitely a goal. And that's why these articles exist to begin with.

 In fact, to further explore this Weltanschauung, and maybe inspire others to embrace it, I started a series of constantly updated, hypertextual Encyclopedias covering different areas: specific creature types, like Angels or Demons (and next we'll have Dragons); but also Planeswalkers and, over the course of time, whatever else I will think of or someone will suggest to me. Within these Encyclopedias, each single element will be listed, analyzed, commented upon and given a rating. It's what I like to call the "Know Your Tools" series: useful means to have a comprehensive and easily accessible view of a particular subject, to make better use of it. See, everything is a tool for a Johnny, even if some cards are more Johnny-related than others. At the same time, nothing says more "Timmy" than creatures, especially when they are big, fat creatures. So the first Encyclopedia to ever come to my mind was, quite naturally, the Encyclopedia of Colossal Fatties (a.k.a. the Colossopedia). 

 That surely sounds as a gift for all the Timmies out there, and for all the inner Timmies inside us. Yeah, right, that very part you always try to hide every time you're talking about serious stuff like prison decks or counter magic or tempo, while secretly ogling that Godsire or daydreaming about a game where you have a fully-supported Devouring Strossus on the battlefield. Don't be ashamed of it! Come out of the closet! There's nothing wrong in enjoying your enormous fatties! Especially when they're not just giant chunks of damage-dealing meat, but possibly oversized pieces of combos; and that's exactly where Johnny steps in to guide Timmy's hand towards the light, involving Spike's help in the process. No, my friend, you don't want to play with Skyshroud Behemoth, no matter what. Yes, there's a way to exploit Eater of Days that doesn't involve you almost conceding the game.

 But first things first: we need a working definition of Colossal Fattie (usage note: I prefer the singular form "fattie" rather than "fatty", because it's morphologically resonant with its antonym "weenie"). This entails an arbitrary size, and three operative words: certain, immediate and permanent.

 When is big really big?

 The first element to define is the actual extent of this "colossal size". In Magic slang, the term "fattie" (or "fatty") usually applies to any beater large enough to become a clock on your opponent, arguably starting from a 4-powered creature, which is capable of winning the game in 5 attacks. On this subject, you can read a good article by Aaron Forsythe here (which also reference another one my Mike Flores: keep in mind that it was 6 years ago and even if creatures were already starting to becoming good, the last half of the decade would be even more amazing for them.)

  

 Big, flashy creatures clearly represent a big threat either on their own due to their sheer potential amount of swinging damage, or in virtue of the superior abilities they bring to the table, which in turn make them cost more than your regular fast aggro dude (of course this is far to say they are the best creatures in the game, since one of the primary elements in the assessment of a creature quality is the low casting cost, which means fast access to their advantages; that's why among the best creatures ever printed you should list things like Birds of Paradise, Goblin Welder, Dark Confidant, or Mother of Runes). But there's a point when a fattie is something more. Something flashier. Something scarier. Or, in certain cases, something dorkier.

 These are the Timmy-level fatties, the ones that truly trigger an excited response in our inner creature-loving selves. And how sheer BIG they need to be to do that? I decided the threshold is 8/8, or better body 16 (where body is the sum of power and toughness; so a 7/10 qualifies, while a 9/5 don't). While 16 is clearly an arbitrary amount that leaves out high-profile, hard-hitting creatures like Nicol Bolas, Iona, Shield of Emeria, Griselbrand or Verdant Force (which back in its times was even nicknamed "Best Fatty Ever Printed"), it feels like the point where a big creature really start to bring that particular "wow" factor to the field. It's also a homage to the very first big guy from Alpha, Force of Nature, while the term "colossal" references the first time a creature really seemed larger-than-life: the nearly forgotten Colossus of Sardia, back in the Antiquities.

 

 And there's one omnicomprehensive rule to identify colossal fatties: their total power and toughness amount of 16 must be written on the card itself. This brings us to the trio of abovementioned words, which in turn define what might turn out to be colossal as well, but it's still not the type of colossal cards we're talking about.

 X marks the "I don't know what I'll get here"

 Rule #1: A colossal creature's status must be certain. Some creatures only provide the potential for a colossal body, but they can exist on the battlefield as less than that. In general, these are all the creatures with an X or * somewhere in their rule box (an interesting category that might warrant an Encyclopedia of its own) because they have negotiable bodies, like Hydras, or because their body depends on external factors. The most common cases are:

   

 And they don't even need to be creature cards at all, which illuminates an important concept: we're talking about any type of cards, not just creature cards, that'll get you a creature on the battlefield. But regardless of the type, if the creature is going to be colossal, somewhere in the rule text there have to be clearly stated that its body is 16. Which is true of something like Xanthic Statue or Grove of the Guardian, but not of stuff like this:

   

 This said, the opposite case exists: there's a few cards whose printed body is actually a potential, not a certainty, since it mechanically hindered by external conditions. Cards like Death's Shadow, Grief Tyrant, Etched Monstrosity. However, their definite potential for being properly colossal is enough of a written certainty to warrant inclusion in the club.

 The work-in progress and the ephemeral

 Rules #2 and #3: A colossal creature's status must be immediate and permanent. This means our colossal fattie has to be recognizable so from the instant it hits the battlefield, and, under normal circumstances, stay colossal for the full course of its natural life. In fact, you can end up with a colossal creature on the battlefield which yet didn't belong to this category when it was dropped. One of the most notable cases is this one:

 Good ol' Chameleon Colossus may start as a 4/4 beater, yet given the right board state, like, for instance, this one...

 

 ...it may become... let's just say... larger.

Here's a case where Path to Exile is strictly better than Swords to Plowshares

 Even without resorting to infinite mana, the changeling Colossus can fulfill its name's prediction and easily become really scary really fast. I remember a casual game where a turn after dropping Avenger of Zendikar with 8 lands, one Birds of Paradise and Mana Reflection in play, I Deserted Temple'ed a Gaea's Cradle, ending up with this:

And after that, I discovered my opponent did have a Path to Exile in hand

 The Chameleon's colossal status, however, is neither immediate nor permanent. It needs resources to be spent on it in order to grow, and its growth expires at end of turn anyway.

 There's a vast range of creatures that come with abilities allowing you to dump any amount of mana into them over time to make them potentially infinitely large, some of them even permanently:

   

 None of these are immediately colossal, though, which is already enough to dismiss them. On the other hand, there are cards able to create a creature that would result colossal from the get-go, but which would last only temporarily. In a previous version of the Encyclopedia, I included the Construct from Stone Idol Trap, and although I mistakenly thought it would die at the end of the opponent's turn (it gives you one opportunity to exploit that trample, after all), I then realized it doesn't really matter: this is a card that doesn't give you a colossal creature, as much as it makes you use a colossal creature for one turn (or one turn and a half, if you like). There's still something borderline in the list, like Skyshroud Behemoth, which doesn't give you much more that Stone Idol Trap in terms of time spent with your fattie. But I like to think of it as a colossal creature that just comes with an unfortunate set of "abilities" (fading, entering tapped). Plus, I just couldn't miss the chance to mock him.

Yeah, yeah, your next end step. Like if that would make this super-playable

 The self-contained principle

 It's interesting to note that the infinity achieved through Chameleon Colossus, with its geometric progression, may be seen as of a larger magnitude (also: it requires a lesser magnitude of infinite clicks on MTGO) than any other mentioned creature able to grow over time. But gaze into the transfinite aside, a similar argument can be made for all the creatures that enter the battlefield with a given number of counters, like Spike Feeder, Mindless Automaton, or Triskelion, and all the ones with abilities like Amplify, Devour, or Graft. A few of these are colossal in their own right (Sekki, Seasons' Guide is, for instance: it's a case where you need to look at the whole rule text, not just the P/T corner), but if we imagine a very degenerate board state like this one...

   

   

Granted, you don't see this very often

 ...then even our old, faithful Trisky suddenly commands a huge amount of respect (especially if you don't use the coffeemaker art from Antiquities):

Now you can ping every single one of those 768 plant tokens!

 This is what we could call "colossal by interaction" (and this is game of interactions, after all). Truth is: given enough mana and some other cards , every creature can become colossal, either for a limited amount of time or indefinitely. Howl from Beyond or Strength of the Tajuru on Birds of Paradise is proof enough.

 +  = 

 This is why we need a Rule #4, after all:  A colossal creature's status must be brought to be by a single card, plus whatever resources are required by its mana cost and rule box (for instance, if you need to sacrifice creatures to put the colossal fattie on the battlefield, it has to be clearly stated on the card, not on another, distinct card that could then make it colossal somehow).

 All of this was just to say that the Colossopedia will not cover creatures enlarged or made more powerful either temporarily or by interactions with other cards; in its list of colossal fatties, it will only account for those with certain, immediate and permanent (i.e. whose colossal status is directly deducible from the card text, doesn't require to be built over time and doesn't expire at end of turn), and that are obtained through the use of a single spell or permanent (even when that's not a creature card).

 Who's a good boy!

 Finally, while we're considering this kind of big, big creatures, it might be worth reminding ourselves why we should be even playing them at all, and what's the best way to do it anyway. After all, when we talk about colossal fatties, we very likely talk about enormous amounts of resources required to bring them to the battlefield on our side. And these resources better count for something, right? To make sure they do, we have to choose our colossal creatures carefully, based on a trifecta of principles that makes them great. Or at least worth inclusion, especially as the far end of a ramp process or other more or less complex strategy aimed to enable their presence on the board.

  1. Resilience: You don't want for your colossal fattie to just come and go, a sour victim of your opponent's removal suite. Nothing's sadder than spending all that time and resources only for a 5-second payoff. Of course, nothing's also really protected from everything, not even Progenitus, who despite what its rule text says just dies to non-targeted removal. But the more insurance you can get against the greater number of killing effects, the better. You usually achieve this with either a protection from targeted removal (the abovementioned Prog, Emrakul, Inkwell Leviathan) or a protection against sweepers, in the form of indestructibility (Ulamog, Avacyn, Blightsteel Colossus) or other ways to insure a "life after death" kind of deal (Worldspine Wurm).
  2. Inevitability: Sometimes you just don't care if your colossal fattie will be killed, because its presence is so threatening that your opponent will be faced with the choice to either deal with it soon enough, or lose the game. Even a somehow dorky Krosan Cloudscraper can be menacing enough that if you don't respond to it somehow in a couple turns, you'll succumb. And there's only so many removals in any given deck after all, plus it might be part of your strategy to lure them out, if your deck packs a large amount of (possibly recurring) threats.
  3. Impact: There's a case where that 5-second payoff is all you need, because the real strength of your colossal fattie resides in the mere fact that it hit the board at all. Think Terastodon, for instance: 99% of the times you don't play the big Elephant because you want a 9/9 on the board (although the remaining 1% you do win after creating one 9/9 and three 3/3s on your side). In other cases you might be willing to take the chance to see your colossal fattie immediately obliterated because what it does isn't just providing a dangerous body to swing with, as it affects the battlefield in such a way that it changes the face of the game. Stormtide Leviathan is one of these occurrences: it's fairly possible to win the very turn you drop it, and the board status it creates might be able to paralyze your enemy entirely, buying you enough time to seal the deal.

   

 And that's all I have to say about that. Now all you have to do is click here and start browsing the amazing Colossopedia!