The Land Tax is simply an engine for loads of strategies. Thinning out your deck while getting massive quantities of land in your hand is a definite good thing. Whether it is breaking Scroll Rack, various discard functions, or simply fixing your mana, the Land Tax is highly useful. Combo decks often build around it. Control decks can use it. Even aggressive decks can play it to get around a slow start, although they probably skip by the Tax most of the time.
Library of Alexandria
Drawing cards is good. Drawing cards for one mana is better. The restriction of having seven cards in hand is taken care of by so many cards in the environment. You can use your Weathered Wayfarer or Crop Rotation to get it if it is that important.
In control and combo, it might be that important. In aggro, find a better land. Play the Library if you have it, it might be worth it to find a beat up copy for cheap to toss in your Five Deck.
The last of the three good wishes. Getting any creature or land may appear to be the tamest ability of the group… And it would have been prior to Visions. Since then, we have so many creatures that simply shut down another deck. From Masticore to Flametongue Kavu to Highway Robber, there are way too many creatures out there that you might want in a specific situation. Pardic Arsonist will Lightning Bolt something post-threshold. Aura Thief will take a bunch of enchantments away from your opponent. And so forth.
Use the Living Wish well, and it will reward you. Aggressive decks might want just the right creature for the job – plus, the Wish falls smack in the middle of a color most aggressive decks use heavily. Control decks, and maybe even combo decks, can use the Wish to find an answer.
Pretty much every deck can utilize this Wish…. Unless you don’t want creatures, as some combo decks don’t.
Just like the Grim Monolith, you need a deck that cries out for a lot of colorless mana. Those decks are few and far between. Find something else for the typical deck.
The Tome is one of the funkier cards running around. You look at it, you see a long text. It takes a lot of mana to get it into play. It takes more to use it. Then it requires you to replace your draw. It is a very needy card.
But let’s look at what it gives you! You will have five cards in a certain order under the Tome, ready to be used. How could you abuse this – well, how about having some combo ready made and waiting? Classic combo decks get along really well with the Tome.
However, control has other and less mana-hungry ways of drawing cards. Heck, Opportunity alone costs around the same mana as the first activation of the Tome. Play it if you want, but it is another card that leans towards casual play and is less inclined to be seen in tournament play.
The Memory Jar serves several distinct functions. Firstly, it is a short-lived seven-card drawer that doesn’t always give you as many cards, but hopefully keeps your opponent from getting any. Secondly, it can be recurred in a Mono-brown deck with Goblin Welders, Hanna, and so forth.
The Jar might see play in an aggressive deck, although it is a bit pricey. It may also see play in a control deck to search for the right card. But it will see play in a combo deck – it finds cards fast and furious. Gotta love it.
It’s not card disadvantage like Diabolic Intent or Gamble, and doesn’t come with the play restrictions of, say, Rhystic Tutor. Nevertheless, the Merchant Scroll is has a limited use because it only gets a small segment of spells.
The question is, are you using enough of those spells to qualify?
If you are playing control, then the answer is yes. Toss in the Merchant Scroll and move on to the next category. If you are playing a beatdown deck, the answer is no, move on to the next card. However, combo poses a quandary.
Ancestral Recall alone warrants the play of Merchant Scroll. Otherwise, if you have blue instant countermagic, creature kill, and card drawing, I’d say play the card. Note that Fire / Ice and Spite / Malice are both blue instants that kill creatures.
Mind Over Matter
The MoM is an intriguing card. Mind Over Matter and Urza’s Blueprints were used as a combo to draw your whole deck. Now, you can still use Blueprints, or substitute uber-card drawer Arcanis. Still, you are left with the problem of finding your one single copy of MoM. And then playing it.
Academy Rector will solve both issues.
But is control or aggro playing this? Hardly. And only combo decks built around this can use it. All of a deck built around getting a single card out of a 250 card deck into play despite its unwieldy blue casting cost. Doesn’t sound so easy now, eh?
If I were to hazard a guess for the most commonly tutored-for cards, I know Contract From Below would be #1 and Balance would be #2. Jeweled Bird is probably in the top five somewhere; so is Mind Twist.
No card is as brutally effective as decimating your opponent as Mind Twist. Early or late, it does not matter to the Twist. And who doesn’t want to Mind Twist their opponent? Combo can use it to pull a counter out of a control deck’s hand – or to strip what’s left in an aggro deck’s hand – prior to playing the combo pieces. Aggressive decks can play it after slapping down a threat or two and forcing their way over. Control can use it to gain enormous card advantage,
Every deck can use a Mind Twist.
This card is so one-dimensional and narrow-minded that, unless you happen to be playing mono-brown, you don’t want to touch it.
Mox Crystal was not published by Wizards. The Five Color world had an Invitational tournament last year, and the winner was able to create a Five Color-legal card. The card that was made is Mox Crystal.
Mox Crystal is exactly like the other Moxen except it taps for colorless. You have to own one of the official copies of the card, by the way; you can’t just print one off or slap a piece of tape over a Phyrexian Walker and claim it’s a Mox Crystal.
If you have one, feel free to play it in your deck. Play it for pride. See my comments on Moxes, Generally, below.
This section pertains to the Alpha Moxes – not Mox Diamond, which is unrestricted.
Moxes are great, sure – we all know that. But in Five Color, Moxes are terribly overrated. In a regular deck, cards like the Moxes allow for a hyper-fast early game. They have a decent chance of being in your opening hand. In Five, however, there is only the tiniest of chances that you will open with a Mox. Usually, the Mox is a basic land. Yeah, you can play one post-Contract and also play a land. Yeah, it might speed up your deck. But it is also vulnerable to artifact destruction. In general, the Moxes make your deck better, but only marginally so.
In my personal opinion, if you want to brag that you have Moxes in your deck, feel free. Play some beat-up copies in your ante deck; I don’t care. But the Moxes are not that great in Five, and it’s better that you just play them in your Type I deck and leave them out of the Five deck, considering their monetary value. The marginal improvement that your deck receives with them is not worth the pain of losing them in ante.
I’ve seen just as many games lost because the player was so busy trying to find a Jeweled Bird to get his Mox back out of the ante. He might have won if he had tutored for a Balance or something.
Don’t get caught in the Mox trap.
I think this is the best non-black tutor. Every deck should play one. Get burn, get a Contract, get a ‘geddon, get removal, get broken cards that are on the restricted list.
Like a really good Recall. Nostalgic Dreams has two things going for it: It’s cheap, so you cast things after you get them back. And it is modular, so you can tune it to your needs.
However, the double-green cost can be prohibitive for some decks. Many decks have moved to having a decent green base for its mana-smoothing properties, so even the heaviest of control decks can often run one of these without any problems.
If you think that Nostalgic Dreams’ low casting cost makes it a good card to play in beatdown decks, think again. Control with a good green base can really play this card well. Combo with a good green base can think about it. Everybody else should go home.
Oath of Druids
Oath is not banned because it makes control too good, like you might think: Oath is banned because it makes combo too good.
Consider this: I have a deck with, say, two Anarchists as my only creatures. I Oath, and half my library ends up in my graveyard. And now the Anarchist’ ability triggers. I return that Replenish to my hand.
Graveyard full of goodies? Replenish in my hand? And now I can draw my card for the turn and play spells? Want to play another game?
Oath of Druids is simply brokenly powerful for combo; it can be that simple sometime. Other decks just don’t want or need the Oath.
Yes, Planar Portal costs mana a-go-go. Yes, it sucks down mana like Picard guzzles Earl Grey. A big fat artifact, but with such a meaty taste. The Portal can win games if you have the mana.
Beatdown will never have the mana. Combo will sometimes have the mana. Control probably won’t want to spare the mana.
The Portal is a relic. It should be thought of as a card that allows you to win more. However, in the control-versus-control matchup, the player with the Portal wins. The mana will be there, and if you can Tinker it into play or something, you will win.
Restricted because of its dangerous interactions with combo, Recoup would be a bad card if there were not so many ways of getting massive cards into the graveyard. Oath of Druids, Traumatize, Hermit Druid, Morality Shift, and so forth. Follow up with a Recoup-ed Yawgmoth’s Will or Replenish or Living Death. Each could spell game.
Combo loves this card. A sorcery-laden control deck can use it as well. Other decks should leave well enough alone.
The Nightmare can be just that for opponents. It’s cheap recursion for the best creature in the graveyard. In some decks it has a great amount of usefulness.
Aggressive decks can trade smaller 2/1s for 3/3s with the Nightmare. Recursion-oriented decks can use the Nightmare as well. Combo doesn’t want to touch it, and control decks might use it only if they are running a toolbox-type deck with a lot of different creatures.
Another simple and basic card that is good enough to see play in every deck. There is no deck that does not want to get cards back. They only deck which might get by without a Regrowth is a hyper-aggressive beatdown deck. Even there, you can Regrowth some burn or a creature. Cheap in mana and in money.
This card screams”combo,” loud and clear. Really, who wants to bring back enchantments – beatdown? Of course not. Maybe an odd control deck would want one too.
Another entrant in the graveyard recursion theme. Restock is card advantage, but a little heavy on the mana. A deck would have to really like recursion in order to play this. That’s not aggro.
Now, on the other hand, control really likes this card. There is no pitching extra cards, like Nostalgic Dreams or Recall, just simple card advantage. It might be a little slow and powerless for combo, but I wouldn’t put this card past some combo decks where getting a couple of cards out of the graveyard would be quite valuable.
How desperate must a deckbuilder be to play a tutor that can be countered simply and easily? Not for control, whose opponents usually gather a lot of mana after being slowed down. Beatdown has better options than a three casting-cost tutor that might work. That leaves combo….
And really, does even combo want this? Do you want to draw a Rhystic Tutor needing to get your precious piece of the puzzle now, but staring down at five mana on your opponent’s side of the table?
So maybe a tempo deck with Rising Waters, Winter Orb, or Tangle Wire. Maybe it’s a good card there. Otherwise, look elsewhere to fill out your black slots.
For all of those not paying much attention, listen up. Sol Ring is unbelievably broken. And it costs five bucks. Play it.
The problem with Sterling Grove is that you never quite know which decks to play it in. Combo, of course, plays the Grove if they have key enchantments. Beatdown, of course, refuses to touch the darn thing.
But, where does control fall? Seriously. Ultimately, if you are running the enchantment redundancies like I discussed in a previous article in this series, play the Grove. I mean cards like Seal of Cleansing and Treachery or Confiscate. Play the grove to give you a little more power. It can also get or protect that Abundance/Sylvan Library combo that many control decks play.
Simply a land to take out other lands. Some decks might want to think of running one to tutor for via a Crop Rotation or Weathered Wayfarer. That way they can destroy a precious source of mana or a Library of Alexandria. Aggressive decks would love this, but combo and control might skip past it if troublesome lands are not played in their environment.
Stroke of Genius
A splashable draw spell that finds its way into more decks than Braingeyser might. One of the strongest benefits of the Stroke is that it is both an instant and splashable. Stroke is a mainstay in most control decks, and a lot of combo decks use it as well. Aggressive decks don’t have the time to develop a board position that makes Stroke a valuable card.
Time Spiral is a funky sort of combo card that sees little play outside those sorts of decks. For six mana, control has better options of card drawing. Heck, Opportunity at the end of your opponent’s turn is probably better, since your opponent won’t draw any cards.
But combo can either keep the opponent from playing those cards, or it can use the extra raw power. Maybe it can even abuse the untap mechanic. Still, Time Spiral is mostly relegated to the combo deck. Or maybe the casual deck.
Time walk is another one of those cards that is only broken because of its mana cost. Time Warp? Second Chance? Time Vault? You just don’t see too many other cards played that allow you to take another turn.
Time Walk is so cheap in mana, it could arguably see play in any deck. However, while aggressive decks get the obvious benefits of another attack phase and maybe another creature drop, control decks see less benefits. Here, a control deck might use the Time Walk to bait a Counterspell or to get an untap. Combo, of course, uses the Walk to win the game by taking an extra turn at a critical juncture.
So, while combo decks and beatdown have obvious uses, control has only a mild use. Control decks can feel free to pass this card by considering its expense.
Diminishing Returns and Time Spiral? Hey, nothing is as good as the original. In this case, the original costs little mana and allows a deck to reload. That’s good for aggressive decks and maybe combo decks. Control can try to find an answer and still have enough mana left to play it – that’s a good thing too.
Still, Timetwister is best in combo and aggro. Control can use it – just not as well.
The value of Tinker goes down as your opponent knows your deck. Bluff out a game-breaking artifact with this once and you never will again. Some artifacts are better than others, but running this is an excellent reason for any control deck to also run a copy of Nevinyrral’s Disk.
Combo decks can often use this to fetch combo pieces. It can also get a highly defensive card like Crumbling Sanctuary. A combo deck that hides behind a Sanctuary while setting up is quite lethal.
Of course, aggressive decks need not apply.
The problem is not the Academy’s strengths, which are too numerous to mention: The problem is finding and playing artifacts. Mono-brown strategies might be viable, so play the Academy if you are heading in that direction.
Solely in the realm of combo, few other decks can use the Academy. It’s not that powerful, not that broken.
Another Tinker variant that can cost more mana, Transmute Artifact is not played as often as Tinker. Lots of Five Color decks with a good selection of artifacts will play the Tinker – but not the Transmute Artifact. This card is much weaker. So much so that its use is relegated to heavy artifact decks.
There are not that many cards on the restricted list that every deck should play – one of them, however, is the Vampiric Tutor. It can get everything a Demonic Tutor can, and it’s disadvantages are easily surmountable.
Whatever the flavor of your deck, play the Vampiric Tutor.
The other newest member of the restricted list, the Wayfarer made its way onto the list with the cheapest possible cost at one white mana. Plus, its ability to get any land is a power on par with Crop Rotation. And Crop Rotation has so many restrictions that it’s pretty poor… Yet, it is still on the restricted list. That oughtta give you an idea of how powerful the ability is.
I think any theme can use the Wayfarer if they try. Aggro can use it to grab some lands prior to casting Armageddon; maybe get cycling lands, Library of Alexandria, Tolarian Academy, Strip Mine, and so forth. And it can fix mana problems. All of that on a tight 1/1 frame for one mana. Very productive.
Combo can use it, control can use, aggressive decks can use it. Everybody is happy with the Wayfarer.
Wheel of Fortune
This is often the best seven-card drawer after Contract. At least for aggressive decks. It fits into a color they are already using, no shuffling of cards back into the deck, and all at an attractive casting cost to boot.
Combo and control decks are often scrambling to find eighteen red cards to include. As such, the Wheel often makes the cut in those decks.
Windfall is best used when you have fewer cards in hand than your opponent. That fits aggressive strategies. Combo can use it as well, if it is the sort that plays a lot of cards, or”goes off.” Control has very little use for this uncommon.
This is the last card on the list… And the most broken. Narrowly avoiding outright banning recently, no card is single-handedly responsible for more wins. At worst, the Will can often be a Regrowth to cast another Contract.
Combo decks will win with this card. Aggressive or beatdown decks can play a bunch of cards from the yard yielding tremendous card advantage. And control can often play enough to stabilize. The last card, and one that should make every decklist around.
…And that’s pretty much it. Please keep in mind that many of these cards were characterized generally, not specifically. You might have, for example, an aggressive deck that utilizes a Transmute Artifact perfectly. Sure, it’s possible.
But, for the new Five deckbuilder, these general guidelines make for good guidelines. Before breaking them, make sure you have a good reason. An excellent reason is simply,”I want to play my big and splashy card.”
Otherwise, make sure you have a legitimate deckbuilding reason.