Don’t Play That Deck! The Three Most Annoying Strategies In Magic

This week’s Casual Challenge is “The Three Most Annoying Cards In Magic” – and Kevin not only hates these cards, but the strategies that come with the cards. So what strategies invalidate your entire deck? Kevin told us, and he might win $20 for his complaint! How about you?

Magic players play this game for a lot of reasons. Some people make money at it (and boy, do I wish I was one of them). Some people love the flavor, and some people love the competition.

Mainly, though, I think we are all here to have fun. That’s why mana screw (whether it’s flood or scarcity) sucks – because it means we’re not having fun. We’re not slinging spells or sitting around with creatures; we’re just drawing our card, frowning, discarding, and saying “go.”

Magic players also love a challenge. There are very few things more exhilarating than being down in game 3, behind on the board, about to lose – only to find the key play to win the game. This might be why Mindslaver is such a neat and fun card (besides that it wins games when you recur it). Picking up a hand of cards you’ve never seen and making the absolute worst play is a challenge. Anyone can swing creatures into obvious bad beats, tap out and say “go” – but it’s more challenging to use Yawgmoth’s Bargain or Worldgorger Dragon + Mishra’s Workshop to win the game right there. That’s why we love new and innovative decks because they pose a challenge for us. Cards and strategies like the three below are awful because they stop us from playing our decks and searching out the right plays.

Card #1: Stone Rain

Remember how I said that Magic players hate mana screw? It’s not fun, challenging, or exciting to lose to the randomizer. There is nothing worse than needing one more land, only to sit back for four turns while you topdeck and are forced to discard good spells while your opponent kills you with a 2/2.

Dedicated land destruction strategies are awful for players – so much so that many casual groups have banned those strategies. The point of land destruction is to prevent your opponent from ever being able to play a spell. This can be very strategic because it invalidates your opponent’s entire deck – but damn, is it ever annoying.

Standard-Legal R/G Land Destruction

// Lands

10 Forest

10 Mountain

1 Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep

“>Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers

// Creatures

2 Solemn Simulacrum

3 Arc-Slogger

4 Birds of Paradise

4 Eternal Witness

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder

3 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker

// Spells

3 Naturalize

4 Magma Jet

4 Stone Rain

3 Plow Under

4 Molten Rain

// Sideboard

SB: 3 Aether Vial

SB: 2 Sword of Fire and Ice

SB: 4 Viridian Shaman

SB: 3 Pyroclasm

SB: 3 Flashfires

There’s something else that needs to be included in this category: Anyone who’s played Type One recently has seen Crucible of Worlds. Crucible of Worlds with Wasteland is nasty and caused a big shakeup in T1 manabases. What’s even worse is Crucible of Worlds and Strip Mine, which is land destruction every turn for free. So the first annoying strategy in Magic is land destruction.

Card #2: Force of Will

Counterspell is probably more emblematic of the strategy, but Force of Will is worse – you work hard to tap them out and they still counter you. Don’t you nasty blue players have any shame?

Countermagic is almost as bad as land destruction, and it may even be worse because countermagic is good. Countermagic can create a feeling of helplessness because you don’t get to do anything. You just play lands and try to do something until they finally finish you off. Then occasionally for style, they’ll use something like Powder Keg to kill some guys or Vedalken Shackles to steal some guys who’ve slipped through – or they’ll just make a fattie like Mahamoti Djinn or Morphling and kill you.

The worst, however, is when they play something like Mana Drain because they get a benefit off countering your spells.

BBS in Legacy (T1.5)

// Lands

4 Wasteland

4 Flooded Strand

14 Island

// Creatures

4 Ophidian

2 Morphling

// Spells

3 Brainstorm

4 Fact or Fiction

4 Impulse

3 Powder Keg

3 Back to Basics

3 Misdirection

4 Mana Leak

4 Counterspell

4 Force of Will

// Sideboard

SB: 4 Chalice of the Void

SB: 4 Vedalken Shackles

SB: 3 Stifle

SB: 4 Submerge

Card #3: Dark Ritual

Another difficult choice. I almost put Mind’s Desire in that slot, but Mind’s Desire seems balanced in Extended, as is Tendrils of Agony. I almost put Yawgmoth’s Will here, but Yawgmoth’s Will is restricted and it’s not exclusive to combo: Dark Ritual is.

Combo decks are fun as hell if you’re piloting them, especially Storm-based combos. There are as many decisions in one turn as the other player will make over the entire span of a game. You get to invalidate all but the starting hand of the other player, and you get to win on the first or second turn in Vintage.

But every silver lining has its rain cloud, and combo sucks to play against. The Waterbury videos are rather famous for the Smmenen vs Mykeatog round 1. Steve Menendian took one of his famous twenty-minute turns with Meandeck Tendrils, and then won the game off Yawgmoth’s Will.

Me? I was at the local store playing some games casually. I found myself sitting across from the local shark, but I didn’t know it at the time. We started playing, and he asked if I care if he uses proxies. I said no, so he won the roll and he won off Yawgmoth’s Will. On turn 2. I had never seen Vintage combo at the time and was slightly blown away. (Looking back later, I think he miscounted storm as he only had nine spells, but that’s neither here nor there.)

So we got in another game – a 2v2 game where he switched decks. We all had fun casual decks (I think I was running Elves). My teammate groaned when he saw what the shark is playing: He says, “Metalworker, pass.” Then he played Possessed Portal and won, killing both of us… On the second turn. His words were something like, “Thanks for letting me play my first land.”

At least with countermagic or land destruction, you think you’re in the game. Combo breaks you of your delusions. Most of the time with combo if you fail to go off, you stand a good chance of winning the game – so the combo player either wins the game or loses. You? You don’t matter.

Meandeck Tendrils, which is one of the best examples of “you win or lose the game on turn 1”:

// Lands

1 Bayou

1 Tropical Island

1 Polluted Delta

// Spells

4 Tendrils of Agony

4 Spoils of the Vault

4 Night’s Whisper

4 Sleight of Hand

4 Brainstorm

4 Chromatic Sphere

4 Darkwater Egg

4 Dark Ritual

4 Cabal Ritual

4 Land Grant

1 Ancestral Recall

1 Hurkyl’s Recall

1 Chain of Vapor

1 Yawgmoth’s Will

1 Demonic Tutor

1 Demonic Consultation

1 Lion’s Eye Diamond

1 Black Lotus

1 Mox Sapphire

1 Mox Jet

1 Mox Emerald

1 Mox Pearl

1 Mox Ruby

1 Mana Crypt

1 Sol Ring

1 Mana Vault

1 Lotus Petal

// Sideboard

SB: 1 Bayou

SB: 2 Hurkyl’s Recall

SB: 2 Chain of Vapor

SB: 4 Force of Will

SB: 3 Tormod’s Crypt

SB: 1 Black Vise

SB: 1 Necropotence

SB: 1 Chrome Mox

Honorable Mention: Affinity (pick a card, they’re all ridiculous).

Everyone hates Affinity because it’s practically unbeatable. You play against Affinity, and you might start out feeling good because you think the matchup is winnable. Each every topdecked threat and ridiculous creatures or Disciple of the Vault leaves you thinking that it doesn’t matter what you do, you can never win. Affinity is almost as fast as combo and as good at stopping your cards as Counterspell is. (Hah! I don’t care about your removal, I sac it to Arcbound Ravager!)

Notable runner-ups: Stasis+Millstone, Trinisphere

Lock cards are obnoxious as well because they try and stop you from doing what you’re planning on doing… but it’s basically the same concept as Stone Rain.

So the general trend is, Magic players like playing spells. We hate cards that make us not be able to do cool stuff, like smash face or win games. We tend to react negatively to anything that stops us from doing that. So there you have it: The three iconic cards of the three most annoying strategies in Magic.

Kevin Binswanger

Anusien on The Mana Drain and The Source

[email protected]