Building Your First Five, Volume Seven: Dashing Through the Restricted List A-H

If there is one mistake that rookie deckbuilders make on a regular basis, it’s trying to include as many cards on the restricted list as possible in their decks. This might not be a bad idea if cards were placed there solely because they were so overwhelmingly powerful that every deck should play them…. But the problem is that decks were built around these cards. Your deck isn’t that deck.

If there is one mistake that rookie deckbuilders make on a regular basis, it’s trying to include as many cards on the restricted list as possible in their decks. This might not be a bad idea if cards were placed there solely because they were so overwhelmingly powerful that every deck should play them.

The problem is that many cards are restricted for other reasons. Some cards are restricted because that is the only way to check a potent combo. Other cards cost so little for what they do that they have to be restricted because they are dumb good. In some types of decks, at least.

In Type One, no person wisely tosses Lotus Petal and Frantic Search into a deck without any reason other than "They were on the restricted list." The same logic applies in Five Color. Sure, cards on the restricted list are good. That does not translate into being good for every deck.

As such, I thought it prudent to take a little time and look at every card on the restricted list in Five Color. One by one. Seventy cards are restricted, so it will take a little time. We’ll go alphabetically.

Academy Rector

We begin our trek through the restricted cards with the creature voted most likely to be restricted. There is so much wrong with Rector; as people who have seen a few decklists will note, there is a lot of utility out of a Rector. Play a few enchantments that are versatile, toss in a couple of broken ones, and you have uses for the Rector.

Getting the recently-restricted Future Sight is currently my personal favorite. Another popular option is playing four Sylvan Libraries and a copy of Abundance. That way you can get either half of the combo.

Plus, Rector is just crazy in combo decks that utilize enchantments.

Ultimate verdict – Rector in combo and control decks makes sense. In aggro, he’s a little too small.

Ancestral Recall

From stupidly broken to insanely broken, the Ancestral Recall is the best card at doing what Five Color is best at – drawing cards. Cheap and easy, the key benefit of the Recall is that drawing three cards is simply good in any deck. Nobody, short of that Ensnaring Bridge/Null Brooch/Grafted Skullcap/Bottomless Pit-deck doesn’t want more cards.

The short and long of it is simple – if you have an Ancestral, and if you don’t mind playing it in your deck, then do so. Now.


It’s not what Balance does that makes it restricted. It’s the casting cost. Put Balance on, say, a 4WW body and it looks tame. Balance is defined by three qualities: Firstly, it can be regularly played as early as turn 2. Secondly, it is highly splashable. Third, each deck can take advantage of some aspect of Balance.

A quick aggressive deck can use Balance as a pseudo-Mind Twist or semi-Armageddon. A control deck usually uses Balance as a mini-Wrath of God. In some decks, this is the only card they play that sweeps out creatures. A must have for control, and maybe combo. Aggressive decks can use it as too – although not as well.

This is one of the most tutored-for cards in the game.

Black Lotus

Black Lotus is broken in Type One: It’s still really good in Five Color. It’s often used simply to fix mana and play a card or two when you don’t have the colored mana for them. If you do happen to get a Lotus in your opening hand, you can get such a start that another Five deck cannot stop you from crushing them.

If you don’t happen to have a Black Lotus, don’t worry about procuring one for Five Color, though – it’s good, but not that good. The Lotus often comes late where it’s relatively useless. Aggressive decks scream for Lotus; other decks need not apply. Use it you have it, sure… But it’s not a big deal if you don’t.

Black Vise

Honestly, I am not exactly sure why Black Vise is restricted. It was on the list long before I started playing Five Color. Maybe it is a throwback to days when all you needed to win was a first-turn Black Vise. In an aggressive deck, play one on the first turn or two and then follow up with some quick beats.

Maybe combo decks were running amok with Prosperity. Who knows? Unless you have a tasty combo, I’d play the Vise only in a hyper-aggro deck.


It’s not splashable, it’s a sorcery, it takes a big chunk of mana – who would want to play with Braingeyser?

People who like to draw cards, of course.

Control loves one-sided cards like this. Combo decks can use them as well. While this card has been overshadowed by younger brother Stroke of Genius, the Braingeyser is still powerful at what it does – it wants to draw cards.

It’s not a card for fast decks or decks with a small and limited blue component. You don’t see many Braingeysers in Living Death decks, for example, which tend not to have too many blue cards.


Ah, the inner Timmy continues. Imagine looking through a deck of 250 cards and selecting a creature to be your one and only. Now, imagine that deck has a lot of big and fat creatures, like Dragon Legends or Spirit of the Night. Bribery is really good, eh?

Now, imagine that your opponent’s deck is some combo pieces with just a Rector and four Anarchists. Not so good now, is it? What if they are playing a really aggressive deck and all you can find are 2/1s, 3/1s and 3/3s? Not so good here, either. A five casting-cost sorcery that gets you a Rotting Giant is not that great.

In casual Five, Bribery is borderline broken. In a more competitive environment, skip past Bribery. Even then, I only see this in control decks.

Burning Wish

There are three good Wishes – and this is the first, alphabetically. You can get a lot of great cards with the Burning Wish. Every effect in the game has been a sorcery at one time or another. Creature stall? Get Overrun or Wave of Indifference. Need to kill a bunch of creatures fast? Get a Wrath of God or similar effect. Need to blow up every land in play? Armageddon. Need to blow up everything? Obliterate. Want to deal damage to your opponent’s head? Fireball. The list goes on and on. From Earthquake to Hurricane to Soul Feast to Prosperity, there are always cards you might want to play.

Burning Wish fits into combo and control quite easily. Aggressive decks might make use of it to get burn or removal, plus it is in the color of many aggressive decks.

Chaos Orb

The Orb is an old standby. If your dexterity is good enough, this card is the best in the game. If you are coordinatedly-challenged, like me, this card is funny. Not that great though.

For a card that depends so much on factors like how close your opponent keeps their cards together and what your flipping technique is, it still is a really powerful card. Play it for fun in any type of deck. If you are good, play it really well in any type of deck.


Here is another card on the restricted list I am not too crazy about. Yeah, Channel can win a game – but so can Hatred and Necropotence, and they are not restricted. This is another card not useful in multiples, which leads me to scratch my head and wonder why it is restricted in the first place.

The game of Magic has passed Channel by.

Anyway, if you have some funky combo with Channel, then by all means, go ahead and play it. If not, pass this clunker over.

Citanul Flute

There was recently a discussion about the Flute’s status on the Five Color mailing list. I think the Flute should remain restricted simply because it tutors every turn, and can do so cheaply.

Want to blow up an artifact? Three mana will get you an Uktabi Orangutan, Keldon Vandals or Thornscape Battlemage. Want to kill a creature? Three mana will get you a Ghitu Slinger, Bone Shredder, or Thornscape Battlemage. Want to pop an enchantment? Pay two and get a Monk Realist.

187 creature control is less of a viable decks these days with all of the aggro running around. But it is still a commonly played deck. Citanul Flute’s unrestriction might break it.

So, if you have the creatures, go for it. Aggro’s creatures are indistinguishable from each other, so no need for a Flute there. Combo usually needs only one creature, if any – Eladamri’s Call would be better suited there. But control, if creature based, is an excellent haven for the Flute.

Crop Rotation

So you can get any land. What good is that going to do you, really? If you need mana fixers, go look at Land Grant, Land Tax, Lay of the Land, and so forth. Crop Rotation is a lousy mana fixer.

Where Crop Rotation shines is getting any land. If you have a need for a Tolarian Academy, Gaea’s Cradle, or Library of Alexandria, make sure you play Crop Rotation. If you have a normal Five Color deck, let Crop Rotation languish in your box of crappy commons.

Cunning Wish

Another of the good wishes, the Cunning Wish is less broken than the Burning Wish. You may have a lot of broken sorceries in your trade binder. How many good instants are there? Where Burning Wish is abusably broken, Cunning Wish is highly versatile. Where Burning Wish tears down houses, Cunning Wish blows out windows.

It’s still really good, though.

Do yourself a favor: Make a small stack of cards that you will wish for during a game. That way you’ve put some thought into it.

Cunning Wish is a nice trick for a control deck. Maybe combo could use it too. Aggressive decks look elsewhere for your tricks.

Death Wish

Is Death Wish a viable card? Consider this – Life loss is nothing if you win. We all know that. If Death Wish gets you a card that wins the game, how bad was it, really?

But that’s a big if.

Death Wish excels in a combo deck where a variety of cards will fulfill one component of the deck. Therefore, when you need that component, you have targets outside of the game.

For example, suppose you were crazy enough to try Pebbles in Five Color. Golden Wish, Death Wish and Living Wish could all get a Phyrexian Walker if you needed it to win the game.

So, if you have a combo with a great degree of redundancy, Death Wish can seal it up. Very few decks are so hard up on tutors that they have to play this Wish. Unless you need tutors so badly that you are playing Rhystic Tutor and Diabolic Intent, look elsewhere for cards to fill up your black.

Demonic Tutor

Play it; it’s a great card. Control can get answers, aggro can get Contract from Belows and combo can get pieces. Each deck can use this tutor. Splashable to boot. It is also a fairly inexpensive card. Get it and play it.

Demonic Consultation

There are a few distinct differences between playing a Consultation in a 60 card deck and a 250 card deck. Rarely would you play more than one or two Consultations in a 60 card match when it was unrestricted. Unless you dig abnormally deep in a Five deck, you can keep Consulting for a while.

Secondly, resolving one of these is really fun. And there’s nothing like having a removed from game pile of 100+ cards. And you can use these removed cards as Wish fodder.

Play it like you do a Tutor in decks with a lot of redundancy built in. Aggro uses it to get a Contract. Combo uses it to get a piece of the puzzle. Many control decks might want to pass it by, for fear that it will remove a lot of their key "one ofs."

Diabolic Intent

How bad do things have to be before you play this lousy excuse for a tutor? It’s not so bad in decks with a lot of reanimation. Sacrificing a Wall of Blossoms to get a Living Death doesn’t sound so bad. And maybe – maybe – aggro would pop a Jackal Pup or something to get a Contract. Still, I think both decks would rather have something else in the slot.

Diabolic Tutor

If you can handle the double black in the casting cost, run this thing. Tutoring is so highly useful, and this card does so without any disadvantage. Combo and control for sure. Aggro might pass by, however.

Diminishing Returns

If your deck benefits from drawing a lot of cards, this is a great choice for you. If your deck likes to shuffle graveyards back into libraries, this is a good card for you. But, if you do not play a lot of blue, then ignore this card.

I have seen tempo-aggro decks with a strong blue component use this card to great effect. Control probably passes by this card without batting an eye. Combo decks have better ways to find key cards. But aggressive decks love the seven-card drawers…. And there, it can really shine.

Divining Witch

A flirtation with the removal of the Witch from the restricted list ended with her being placed back on after a few months. The lesson from Demonic Consultation bears repeating: You can Consult/Use the Witch multiple times in Five Color. That makes the Witch a permanent tutor.

Get a Contract; find a combo piece. Control might use her or pass her by, depending on the deck build. She is not an easy card to just toss in and use. It requires care and skill to construct a decklist that abuses her…But it can be done.


Now here is a card I can honestly say that I’ve never seen played. I guess an unrestricted Doomsday might set up a quick win. I guess. Still, unless you have some brokenly-destructive combo, and you already have the other pieces in the deck, give Doomsday a ticket to the crap rares box.

Enlightened Tutor

A lot of decks can really benefit from this tutor. Control and Combo both should have a lot of juicy targets. Tempo-oriented aggressive decks can tutor for the Tempo. As such, this card makes the cut in most, although not all, Five Color decks. Pure 3-2-1 Contract decks should pass this up.


The Fastbond is becoming a more critical card in Five Color. You didn’t read much about it a year ago… But now it allows you to plow though a Future Sight. Fill up your graveyard with Morality Shift, Hermit Druid, or Traumatize, and then cast Yawgmoth’s Will. Use that Will to put a Fastbond into play then lands-a-go-go come out.

Fastbond is looking more and more like an essential card for combo. Control and aggressive decks can pass this by with little energy, although an aggro deck could use the burst of speed it can provide in the early game.

Future Sight

The newest of the restricted cards, Future Sight allows for a massive amount of card advantage for a modest price. Its heavy commitment to blue suits it to control decks. Combo decks can break it in half as well. In these decks, Future Sight can be a bit too powerful, overwhelming the opponent with a barrage of cards. Even aggressive decks with a blue base can benefit from it.

If you have the mana for it, play the Sight.


Despite the fact that Gamble looks like a tutor, it does not fit into every deck. Combo wants as many tutors as possible for the game winning cards. As such, Gamble fits there. Aggressive decks like the one mana cost, and might use it for a Contract. Tutors usually shine in control, but this one’s effects are just too unpredictable.

Combo, yes; aggro, maybe; control? Probably not.

Golden Wish

Another of the wishes, the Golden Wish rides the line between playable and not. Enchantments and artifacts can win the game, lock down an opponent, and eliminate resources. At the same time, the Golden Wish has a prohibitive mana cost. Aggressive decks would never consider this. Traditional control and combo decks also seem to have problems with it.

Having that said, a specialized control or combo deck could easily break this Wish right open.

Grinning Totem

The totem is a highly seductive card; it makes you think that there are a lot of good cards out there you could steal. However, you’d always rather tutor your own deck than your opponent’s.

If you seek a Contract, there are better ways of getting one; therefore, aggressive decks should steer clear of the Totem. Combo wants to get their own pieces – cards which are often only in their own deck. Therefore, combo also disdains use of the Totem. That leaves control.

If you think that you can get a card whose value is equal to the six colorless mana that the Totem uses, then play the Totem. Usually, I think it’s wise to pass the Totem by. Leave it for casual Five, not competitive.

Grim Monolith

What sort of deck plays the Monolith? Aggressive decks can’t use all of that colorless mana. Combo and control have other and better sources of mana as a general rule. Maybe a combo with Power Artifact might be under consideration, and mono-brown decks would love the Monolith.

Otherwise, unless your deck points you towards a lot of colorless mana, find another mana accelerator.

Hermit Druid

Recently added to the restricted list, the Druid was placed there because of its combo-rific tendencies. Note, it was on our restricted list before it was unveiled as the engine behind the Angry Hermit deck part II in the recent extended tournaments.

Playing a handful of basic lands and then dumping mad cards into the graveyard on the third turn can change a game. There is flashback, Yawgmoth’s Will, Ashen Ghouls, Genesis, Squee, Goblin Nabob, and so forth. A legion of cards await when the Hermit Druid goes off.

The Druid still has a place in reanimator strategies. Other decks probably should lay off the Hermit.