I guess it’s because Type 1 attracts lots of people that have, for all intents and purposes,”quit” Magic, that people have a lot of misconceptions about how the format works. I really do hope that these are eventually conquered so that the format can grow even more. I mean, once people realized”Hey, we can use our Moxes in decks other than Keeper!” a lot of new deck design emerged. That’s just one example.
Broken Cards Don’t Make Broken Decks
There are a lot of broken cards in Type 1. Everybody knows this. A lot of these cards can win the game on their own. A great example of this is when I was once asked if there were cards you could replace the power in Keeper with in order to make a”budget Keeper.” Everybody knows that this is an oxymoron, but then I tried to think about why you couldn’t make a budget Keeper. You can’t make a budget Slaver deck or a budget Draw-7 deck, for instance because those decks depend on their Moxes in order to fuel Goblin Welder and Tendrils of Agony, respectively. Psychatog can’t run on a budget because it loses too much speed and can’t beat aggro any more.
But when I thought about why Keeper couldn’t work without power, it seemed that it couldn’t work without power simply because it didn’t have power. The deck’s focus just seemed to be based around the fact that it’s the deck with lots of restricted cards in it. If we look back to 2001, the only other deck out there that had more than a couple restricted cards in it was mono-Blue, which still probably only had about half as many as Keeper.
Because it’s so easy to just randomly win with these restricted cards, a lot of people get blinded when by their results when they’re building or testing decks. When I test combo decks with Steve Menendian, we don’t count games towards the combo deck’s win/loss percentage if the combo deck randomly got Necropotence, Yawgmoth’s Bargain, and/or Mind’s Desire, since it’s next to impossible for a combo deck to lose if it draws one of those cards. It’s almost like people just forget that they need to actually start with a sound core behind the deck with lots of synergy between their cards.
Going back to Keeper, why is it the kind of deck that”needs to get tuned to specific metagames?” Ultimately, it’s because the deck has no core focus, so the gameplan usually becomes”how do I maximize the broken cards in my hand?” or”how do I get access to my single game-winning card in time?” Oh, and also, do these questions amuse anyone else as much as they amuse me, since before the Type One metagame really started to open up in late 2002, Keeper was touted as”the deck you can play in any unknown metagame?”
Synergy Isn’t Enough
The idea that pure power really isn’t really the best strategy has started to be a bit more accepted. One of the other strategies that sprung up in its wake is pure synergy. This one is fairly well accepted, however it has its flaws as well, but hasn’t really been widely viewed as flawed yet. My favorite example of this is Landstill. Landstill is crazy synergetic. It’s got synergy between manlands and Standstill, it’s got synergy between Decree of Justice and Standstill, it’s got synergy between manlands and Nevinyrral’s Disk, and it avoids running Moxes in order to keep Disk from being symmetrical.
The problem here is that the deck is woefully underpowered. Think of some the most explosive opening draws that you can think of for decks like Tog, Keeper, Slaver, or combo. They’ve got lots of different hand combinations that win the game that turn, either literally or figuratively. Landstill really can’t hope for much outside of turn 1 Ancestral Recall or Balance which would generate probably only around four-for-two card advantage. Or think about Mana Drain. If Keeper casts Mana Drain, it can fuel a large Mind Twist or Skeletal Scrying. Tog can fuel a decent sized spell chain, such as Intuition into Accumulated Knowledge or Deep Analysis. Drain Slaver (I dislike calling this deck”Control Slaver” because it establishes a binary between it and Workshop Slaver of making this one”control” and the other”not control,” since it would seem strange that you would single one of the decks out as”control,” even though both decks are technically control decks) could turn its Mana Drains into expensive, game-breaking artifacts. But the best that Landstill can do is cycle Decree of Justice – and only if it’s running White. If it’s not, the deck’s only other options are Nevinyrral’s Disk or dumping the mana into Mishra’s Factory to keep from taking mana burn.
As you can guess, I’m going to say that the answer is to find decks that have a strong blend of synergy and raw power. And if going to admit something right now: it’s really freakin’ hard to do. One thing that is important to learn about when you’re designing decks is that there are very often”best” ways to utilize cards or strategies. Working with Thirst for Knowledge and Goblin Welder here, there are a lot of different possible ways that you could build a deck with them. You could play an aggro deck and discard Juggernaut to Thirst for Knowledge, a prison deck and discard Smokestack, or you could just discard Mindslaver and win. It might seem a lot cooler to discard and then return all sorts of crazy artifacts, but as the Mindslaver decks are showing, you’re really just best off returning Mindslaver or a powerful creature.
Yawgmoth’s Will worked in a similar way. It looked like Keeper was using it the best, since it would take massive five-minute turns with it where it would replay like ten cards at once and completely wreck its opponent. Looking at Will now though, as Tog and Long showed us, sometimes you really only need to replay a couple cards in order to win. In Standard, lots of times all that Napster would do with one of its Wills was to cast say, a Vicious Hunger and Vampiric Tutor, but that was enough
I don’t have any. Honestly. There’s no need to blame”team secrecy” or whatever. I just don’t have any new decklists or anything for you. But here’s something you can try-try to apply the non-decklist sections of articles that you read. It’s usually the most important part, after all.
One of the lamest excuses/reasons that I hear about deck choice is”this deck is good in my metagame” or”this deck is good, but you obviously need to take your metagame into account.” There is just such a massive number of possible decks in Type 1, but there is also a very small amount of actually good decks. If you were walking into a metagame full of Parfait, Stax, and Vengeur Masque, I guess you could take say, White Weenie and make sure to fill it up with lots of Disenchant effects and stuff, but you could just play Slaver instead and win.
I see a lot of interesting (if ultimately not really necessary) deck design come out because of this. For instance, I’ve heard that Oshawa Stompy was built in order to beat Landstill, and I’ve heard of people with sets of power playing R/G beatdown because it beats the random budget decks that would show up at their proxyless tournaments. In order to explore this idea more, I started making a metagame matrix with just about every Type 1 deck I could think of on it in order to see if there actually was a single possible environment where for instance, it would be advisable to play Suicide Black over U/G Madness, or Mud over Slaver (or Suicide Black over Tog, for that matter.) Unfortunately, the results were inconclusive, since I just got really bored trying to figure out completely pointless matchups like if TnT had a favorable matchup against mono-Blue Fish.
But rest assured that I couldn’t think of a single environment in the time that I did spend where there would be a point behind playing Suicide Black.
At Least Somebody Applied What They Learned About
[knutedit] JP, what’s that martial arts film your article refers to?
[jpmeyer] naked killer
[knutedit] I may have seen it in the video store yesterday
[knutedit] and may have rented it
[knutedit] will it get me in trouble with my wife?
[jpmeyer] 64 seconds before some lesbians started kissing and 76 seconds before the first naked lady shows up
[jpmeyer] first-naked-lady-killing-and-castrating-somebody scene at 3:25
[knutedit] How Lucky!
Bonus: How to Play Around Standstill
People used to play Standstill in Tog back in Standard around the time of Regionals 2002, as a way to supplement the card drawing from Fact or Fiction. The list looked a little something like this:
4 Nightscape Familiar
4 Circular Logic
4 Fact or Fiction
4 Aether Burst
I played a list like this at Regionals that year and I was amazed how many people would do one of these things when I dropped a Standstill:
A. Never break it
B. Break it a few turns later during their mainphase
Suffice it to say, if they did choice A, they’d lose to Upheaval, and if they did choice B, they’d just walk into a counter or bounce spell, which would then lead into a Fact or Fiction or another Standstill. At GP: Milwaukee shortly after Regionals, people had figured out that it’s really easy to play around Standstill. They’d just wait till the Tog player had six to eight cards in hand and then cast an innocuous spell like Ice or Opt and the end of the Tog player’s turn to break the Standstill and force the Tog player to discard the cards from Standstill. Once people figured this out, Standstill hasn’t seen play in any other Constructed format – outside of Type One of course, where people steadfastly refuse to change their play styles.
So basically, you can’t count on Standstill as draw because you can’t control the trigger. It’s the kind of card that you should avoid when you build decks because it depends entirely on your opponent for the effect to happen. Seriously though, next time your opponent casts Standstill, don’t give him what he needs.
And Now, Some Arbitrary Lists To Cause Senseless Bickering
Food Chain Goblins
Back when I did my survey of TMD users at the end of last year, one of the most common responses as to why people liked playing Type One was because they liked how they got to play with the cards that they first started playing with, and that these cards would never rotate out. Similarly, the fact that they would constantly need to get more new cards was one reason why they didn’t like playing Standard. Hate to break it to you, but Type 1 does have set rotations in a way. Pip’s Type 1 metagame articles provide great evidence of this reversal. Now, instead of how people pour over each new set in hopes of finding that one card that might be playable in their Type 1 deck full of old cards, it’s the old sets that are dying. Arabian Nights is pretty much reduced to Library of Alexandria and Bazaar of Baghdad. Legends, Ice Age, and Alliances are really badly off too, as they’re almost just Mana Drain, Brainstorm, and Force of Will. Meanwhile, look at Odyssey and Mirrodin, which have tons of cards that see play in Type 1.
I guess this really is hitting people pretty hard in Type One. It’s no longer the format where you can play with your cards forever. I’m constantly closing tons of threads on The Mana Drain where people just keep bringing back decks that have”rotated out.” I guess”rotated out” is a kinder, nicer way to say”died a slow, painful death, a long time ago.” People also are going to have to come to grips with the fact that these newer sets are adding a lot of cards to Type 1, so it’s not just the people that are playing Standard that need to keep current with the new hot rares – Exalted Angel and Decree of Justice are $15 cards because of Standard, not Type One, even though they’re important in Type One as well.
This is also really going to mess up the whole”Type One is cheaper in the long run” argument. If future blocks keep up the trend that recent blocks have had of creating mechanics with such powerful synergy between cards in that block, not only will Type 1 players need to invest the thousands of dollars for power cards, dual lands, and other expensive, out-of-print cards, they’ll also need to get the hot new chase rares as well.
Here’s something really easy to do to improve your playtesting: when you playtest, keep track of how and why you are winning each game, and then in future games, mix up what you do. This is one of the ways that Team Meandeck decided on a transformational sideboard for Workshop Slaver. We found that Null Rods from decks like Fish and Oshawa Stompy were just shutting down the deck’s gameplan of activating a Mindslaver in order to take out the opponent using his own cards. But during playtesting, we also discovered when we looked at our results that we usually won games when we just randomly brought a larger creature into play.
In a similar way, I’ve seen people post playtesting analyses where they’d say”the matchup against deck X is pretty favorable, since they’d usually let important spell Y resolves and then try to deal with it.” Let’s also forget that any kind of strategy that requires putting all your eggs in a basket is really bad in a format where the most played card is Force of Will.
Oh and also, never ever leave out good old-fashioned racing your opponent. With all the control decks and disruption cards in Type 1, this gets forgotten a lot. I bet a lot of it also comes from having the old”The Deck” style of grinding gameplay ingrained in a lot of people’s minds, where you just can’t drop your Serra Angel until your opponent has no hand and no permanents because they might, just might, be able to do something. There is actually a grain of truth in that, though. It’s pretty easy for decks to”do something” that can possibly win the game, so therefore, instead of potentially giving them the time to draw and cast it, just win ahead of time! Force of Will be damned – winning is so the best answer in Magic.
jpmeyer at case dot edu