for publishing some of the most fundamental principles of Magic. Almost all strategical theory can be
traced back to the Dojo’s loyal writers, and any serious Magic player owes these old vets a debt of
business in 2000. In a last-ditch effort to save the four years of wisdom that had been collected there at
the time, the editor asked the community to archive the articles for future reference. The best of the
Dojo articles are reprinted here because they’re still vital to Magic today… StarCityGames.com merely
reprints them, adding links to clarify older cards that new players probably won’t have seen so that they
can understand some of the strategy. Many of the Dojo’s writers are still active in Magic and write for
other sites; give them a shout-out for helping the community grow.
Invasion and Investment and the Introduction of”New Section”
It’s been some months since Eric Taylor asked me to do a write-up of the Investment theory as applied to Invasion cards. For those of you not yet familiar with Investment, I will outline the theory in brief below. The original Investment article can be found in The Dojo archives. Please keep in mind I was several years younger when writing this article; be kind.
Put simply, Investment is the mechanic by which a player voluntarily concedes short term card economy for the purpose of a long-term advantage… he is literally”making an investment” in the progression of the rest of the game. Investment is also, however, an essentially symmetrical element of card counting, meaning that both the Investment and the possible advantage that it generates long-term can be negated by the behavior of either player (see below).
Now I know that this is rather a dense introduction, so I will try to demonstrate a couple of examples of invested and non-invested card choices and behaviors. In all cases, let us assume that both Player A and Player B have four lands in play and four cards in hand; we have no information about them otherwise.
- Player A taps 4 mana to play Jayemdae Tome: Investment
- Comparing Jayemdae Tome with Whispers of the Muse: Investment v. Non-Investment
- Player A casts White Knight: Non-Investment
- Player A finds Necropotence using Demonic Consultation: Non-Investment
- Player A finds Necropotence using Vampiric Tutor: Investment
- And some common Invested and Non-Invested card choices:
In this case, Player A has gone from four cards in hand to three cards in hand, tapped all of his mana, and left his opponent with four cards in hand and four available mana.
Now suppose that the game ends at this point. The Jayemdae Tome has had no effect on the game but to be put into play. Player A has used a resource (a card in hand) for no appreciable effect (I know of no particularly useful game mechanic that properly explains or quantifies purely putting a permanent into play). Now of course his plan is to use that Jayemdae Tome to draw extra cards (long-term advantage plan). At the very least, Player A’s -1 card economy/Investment play can be negated if Player B counters it, uses a Disenchant on it, or engages in some similar behavior, as per above.
If you read the original article Investment, you will know that the origin of the Investment argument proper is based on the Jayemdae Tome/Whispers of the Muse question. Why in 1998 did the perennially powerful Jayemdae Tome find itself displaced by Whispers of the Muse in blue control decks? Beyond the simple power of Whispers as a cantrip, it did not require even a short-term concession in card economy, but generated immediate card advantage. Now obviously, given two otherwise reasonable card choices, the day’s best deck designers (primarily Andrew Cuneo and Mike Donais) would choose to generate card advantage without said short-term loss, essentially gaining a card in the early game.
Let us assume that instead of our four cards/four mana template, both Player A and Player B have four cards in hand and six mana available to them.
Player A casts Jayemdae Tome during his main phase.
Player A afterward has three cards in hand and insufficient mana to activate Jayemdae Tome.
Player B casts Whispers of the Muse with Buyback during his opponent’s end step.
Player B has drawn an additional card and has five cards in hand.
In either case, if the card-drawing engine were to draw a permission spell, its caster would be exactly in the same boat, economy-wise (three cards left with the same number of mana in play). This argument is not meant to advocate Whispers of the Muse’s superiority to Jayemdae Tome as a card choice, but simply to illustrate the economies involved with either as a card drawing engine.
I tend not to count creature plays as Investment. I think either position is defensible, but creatures generally come into play with at least some utility (e.g. the ability to block), and can dramatically affect opponent play behavior. Even in our example, if Player B has Ball Lightning or Viashino Sandstalker in hand, he might be loathe to cast it directly into a White Knight… at the very least, the White Knight play will likely net short-term virtual card advantage (the Ball/Sandstalker”sits in hand” a turn).
Ah, a play near and dear and hated to our hearts… in this case, Player A will use a card in his hand (the Demonic Consultation), go to three cards, but then immediately go back to four cards in hand.
As Donald Lim points out, it is a common error for players to say that Tutor use (Enlightened/Mystical/Vampiric/Worldly)”gives up a draw.” More specifically, the Tutors ensure 100% knowledge of one’s top card at the price of one card in hand. If Player A uses Vampiric Tutor to fetch his Necropotence, he will do so with only three cards in hand (from four).
Feldon’s Cane or Soldevi Digger; Lodestone Bauble or Gaea’s Blessing
Sylvan Library; Impulse
Frantic Search; Intuition
Mystical Tutor; Opt
Wrath of God; Teferi’s Moat
Now obviously not all of these are 1-to-1 comparisons, but I’m sure you get the idea. With the choices on the left, a player is forced to concede at least one card in order to establish his goal, be it library recursion, card selection, fattening up the graveyard, general search, or creature defense.
By now, I’ve probably painted rather a bleak picture of the Invested card. Though when given the option, I think that players will choose non-Invested options for their decks (just look at the comparisons above), I don’t mean to make Invested cards in general out to be weaklings. In fact, I remember about a year ago, I took some heat for”slamming Dead Weight cards” in Dead Weight and More on Mirrors… but then I built the (second?) most powerful Dead Weight deck ever, so there you go.
Invested cards have a great deal of force and are perfectly defensible card choices. Besides the issue of redundancy (e.g. a deck that has not only Brainstorm and Impulse but also Enlightened Tutor and Trade Routes… you can never have enough search), Invested cards tend to be played for pure speed or pure power.
By their very”sit there” nature, Invested cards can often make their best appearances on the early turns… a player can easily get out a turn-1 Feldon’s Cane, for example, but an early Gaea’s Blessing may have little or no non-cantrip effect. Adrian Sullivan, in his Chicago analysis, conceded his Air Elemental deck’s sometime trouble with opponents able to sneak the Millstone under his counters. The Millstone is a perfect example of an Invested card, and the beating it has taken over the years in criticism proves that. The Millstone is absolutely a dead play. It never has an effect on the game. It has the long-term possibility of depleting some element of the opponent’s classes of cards (all his Disenchants, all his win conditions, etc.), and the longer-term possibility of winning the game: Investment at its essence.
Beyond that, Invested cards are often extremely powerful. We find it worth it to play them because they can generate lots of card advantage, lots of virtual card advantage, lots of life, or just win the game. Think of cards like Oath of Druids, Survival of the Fittest, Cursed Scroll, and Predator, Flagship, and I think you’ll see what I mean. Not only do some of these powerful spells kill tons of little creatures, they tend to force the opponent to hold back at the same time, force him to find an immediate answer, or simply bury him under a mountain of extra cards.
Before we continue, it is probably important to acknowledge the difference between Investment (what we have been discussing up until this point) with cards that are merely Symmetrical. Symmetrical cards like Armageddon, Wrath of God, and Obliterate speak nothing of card advantage on their faces (unlike Investment, at its core)… the main thing we can say of them are that if both players have exactly the same resources, the player who casts the Symmetrical spell will lose short-term card economy by one card.
And now, after all of that preamble, we shall apply the elements of Investment to some of Invasion’s more interesting cards. Now I know there are many more Invested cards in Invasion, such as Elfhame Sanctuary, Juntu Stakes, Mana Maze, and Meteor Storm, but for the sake of brevity I chose to focus only on some of the most profound.
No more than one creature may attack each turn.
No more than one creature may block each turn.
Dueling Grounds is quite interesting in its apparent symmetry (but lack thereof), as well as its pure power. I know that prior to PT Chicago, Bob Maher, Jr. worked on a G/W control deck running Dueling Grounds with Kor Haven support! Non-Blastoderm players need not apply.
Look at Dueling Grounds based on the pure numbers. Let’s say that your opponent has four fiercely dangerous Kavu Chameleons in play and you have one creature. Your creature is a Jhovall Queen. Not only is your Dueling Grounds single-handedly neutralizing three of the Chameleons, it is not penalizing you at all, as you have built your deck with it in mind. Your Jhovall Queen can act just as it would normally… just with a much safer master.
Fires of Yavimaya
Creatures you control have haste.
Sacrifice Fires of Yavimaya: Target creature gets +2/+2 until end of turn.
Ah, the Invested card that spawned a new and extremely potent archetype! Fires of Yavimaya comes down, costs you a card, and then dramatically affects the face of the game from that point on. All of your green and red animals, already good, are now a full turn better. Your Blastoderms can each win a game single-handedly (and there are three more, tee hee)… while your Saproling Bursts are nothing short of”the fix.”
Beyond its (quickening) quickness and ability to re-shape the game, Fires of Yavimaya has a rare Invested ability to recoup its own Investment. The next time your opponent casts Assault/Battery in order to kill a Birds of Paradise and you sacrifice your Fires of Yavimaya to protect your lone source of white mana, remember that you have just traded your Invested card for one of your opponent’s cards, essentially negating the initial Investment.
As Teferi’s Moat comes into play, choose a color.
Creatures of the chosen color without flying can’t attack you.
The pure power of Teferi’s Moat should be obvious, particularly against very focused limited beatdown decks. As Zvi Mowshowitz once said, it is almost always worth splashing for if you are already either blue or white.
Beyond limited, the Moat’s constructed applications include redundancy of”Wraths,” card advantage, and tremendous virtual card advantage. Think of it like this: if you cast Teferi’s Moat and name”green” against Chevy Fires there are now only a few cards in the entire deck that you possibly need to answer. Two-Headed Dragon should obviously draw a true Wrath of God (or an Absorb if Fires of Yavimaya is in play)… but beyond that, you may take some incidental Assault/Battery, Idol, or Earthquake damage… and that’s about it. Not only does a single Teferi’s Moat answer each and every green non-flyer in play, it answers every card in the opponent’s deck that is not either a Two-Headed Dragon, Chimeric Idol, or burn spell… all by itself. Considering the fact that you will be drawing a card per turn yourself (at least), this is a profound advantage.
That is the power of some Invested cards.
Chevy Fires – Zvi Mowshowitz
4 Chimeric Idol
4 Fires of Yavimaya
4 Birds of Paradise
3 Jade Leech
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Saproling Burst
3 Two-Headed Dragon
2 Dust Bowl
4 Karplusan Forest
4 Rishadan Port
Against the average Rebel deck Teferi’s Moat will be just as strong… Wax/Wane, Chimeric Idol, and maybe two true Rebels out of dozens (a Sky Marshall and — gasp — a Rebel Informer) will be the only worries. Slaughter the opponent at will.
Play no more than one spell each turn.
You may play cards in your graveyard as though they were in your hand.
If a card would be put into your graveyard from anywhere, remove that card from the game instead.
Yawgmoth’s Agenda is quite an interesting spell, though I have not yet seen any tuned decks that truly exploit it. While it has a hefty one spell per turn restriction, the Agenda is generates card advantage in a largely Investment-esque way. Not only does it require the short term use of a card, its”recycle” nature basically forces you to plan long-term.
The interesting thing about Agenda card advantage versus classical black card-drawing engines, such as Necropotence, Yawgmoth’s Bargain, and Yawgmoth’s Will, is that this card not only doesn’t help break Dark Ritual… it has no synergy with my favorite card at all. Furthermore, classic black card-drawers all tended to reward the play of quick, cheap, spells with the goal of beating the opponent with a thousand cuts of free elimination, 1 CC manipulation, 2 CC creatures, or”one-turn win” combinations. By contrast, the Agenda promotes the use of expensive, powerful, spells (you can only cast one spell per turn anyway… if it was countered initially, mize well recycle with this thing) and can’t be used in a combination deck at all.
Yes my pretties. This is like when Brian Hacker invented”Props and Slops” or Theron Martin stapled his first Fun Fact to the end of Metagame Madness. Welcome to”New Section,” the part of the article most beloved by Mouth, where I talk about something random.
This week: the new word altran and I made up.
We all know what”sausage” is. You know, when you go to a party and there are lots of guys there but no honeys, you call it a”sausage hang” or”sausage fest.”
Brian Kibler has been asking me”if I have any sauce” for months. Kibs, who violently inserted”savage” into my everyday speech, had struck again! I started associating”the sauce” with anything positive, and it eventually became a replacement for”chick” or”honey” in the vernacular of my social circle (and for some reason was more-or-less palatable by my female friends). An acceptable use of this term is
“I am disconcerted by the sauce-to-sausage ratio at the is party. It is a veritable sausage hang.”
So anyway, while chilling at Ben”manascrew” Murray’s dance club, altran and I noticed a friend of his walk in.
“Who’s the sauce?” asked your narrator.
“You can’t have her,” replied altran.”She’s with him.”
In one of those magical moments that births the light bulb or the PS2, al and I looked at each other… and thus was born au jus. Au jus means”served with the natural juices or gravy,” but stupid Americans like me think of it as the little plastic container of drippings that comes with my French Dip sandwich at Arby’s. In our context, au jus is”sauce you can’t have… because it comes with the meat.”
Don’t say I never taught you anything.
Kibs: for the sauce
bschneid: for liking Magic some of the time now
Lanimal: where’s my f@cking video you f@cking f@ck?