It’s been fairly quiet on the Five-Color front for several months. As such, I haven’t had to do one of these articles for a while. I kind of miss it. Anyway, Legions did not provide us with any issues as far as card power and balance go. With Five-Color in equilibrium, the council has not taken any major action for a while.
However, times change. This month, the Ruling Council of Five-Color is considering six changes on cards and one rules change. This will be among the largest group of potential changes ever considered at one time.
As a reminder, Five-Color is a separate format wherein players must play eighteen cards of each color and have a minimum of 250 cards. The format has its own restricted and banned list and uses Type I legal sets.
The official ballot that the Ruling Committee votes on is posted on the Yahoo! Five-Color newsgroup. So the public has a chance to voice their opinions and e-mail people on the council.
Different council members have different philosophies behind their votes. Some are more liberal and votes for changes frequently. Others are more conservative. Some are old guard, wanting to keep the rules similar, while others are new guard, wanting to experiment and modernize the rules. Some vote as their own ideas warrant. Others listen to people in their area and vote accordingly.
So the fate of the format lies in our nine pairs of hands.
Here are the proposed changes:
1). Death Wish (Unrestriction)
2). Divine Intervention (Unban)
3). Golden Wish (Unrestriction)
4). Long-Term Plans (Restriction)
5). Merchant Scroll (Unrestriction)
6). Parallel Thoughts (Restriction)
Draw On First Turn Changed To Draw/Play Choice
Let’s go through these changes slowly, shall we?
Proposed to be Unrestricted. In an attempt to clean out the restricted list, the Two Wishes That Can’t are on the ballot for removal. A year ago, all of the wishes were banned from Five-Color. Then, after a few months, a new committee was formed to rule Five-Color and make changes. One of the first changes made was to unban and restrict all five Wishes and errata them to only get cards that A) Can be retrieved without getting up, and B) Do not make your deck illegal. Good rules for your casual group as well, by the way.
While Living Wish, Cunning Wish, and Burning Wish are good enough to remain restricted, the Golden and Death Wishes are just not seeing much play, if any. Obviously, Death Wish, although powerful, comes with simply too much of a disadvantage. And where the Three Good Wishes are splashable, Death Wish takes two black mana. It’s certainly possible that some combo deck will arise that does not care about the life loss of Death Wish… But let’s not keep cards restricted because of something that might happen someday. If that arises, we can always restrict Death Wish again. Vote for Unrestriction.
Proposed to be Unbanned. Divine Intervention is banned for much of the same reason that it was banned in Type One for so many years – no one wants a hard-fought game to end in a draw because of some enchantment.
However, Magic has changed a lot in these past years, and a high casting cost white enchantment that does nothing until a draw happens is not exactly tech. If you are going to die and want to avoid losing an ante, then you get a Jeweled Bird, not something that costs a planetful of mana to play and doesn’t work for two turns.
Divine Intervention has simply ceased to be a major issue. Maybe it was never an issue. Vote to Unban.
Proposed to be Unrestricted. Like the Death Wish, the Golden Wish just does not see much play. Frankly, I think that the Golden Wish is close to remaining restricted. While it sees little use, keeping it restricted could be keeping it that way.
While Death Wish is just plain bad with its disadvantage, Golden Wish only has a high mana cost. However, please note that Golden Wish still costs a castable amount of mana. Five mana is not cheap, but ever deck will be able to afford it. Planar Portal costs six to play and six to use, yet it’s very restricted here.
Does Golden Wish have a high enough casting cost to prevent it from being broken in multiples? A combo player might salivate over the potential. I have a Sylvan Library in play? Golden Wish for Abundance or Words of War! I have a Goblin Bombardment in play? Let’s get Enduring Renewal.
An unrestricted Golden Wish could very well be the combo player’s dream. Instead of running four of a card that you need, run three to give you plenty of tutor targets. And four Golden Wishes can retrieve that last one.
However, no one would be using Golden Wish right now because that would not provide them with any advantage. Playing four copies would essentially give them three extra copies of their combo cards (assuming a combo with enchantments and artifacts, which are what practically all good combos use).
There is only one question to answer. Would an unrestricted Golden Wish environment where combo decks play one less copy main and four Golden Wishes be broken? It might be good, sure… But would it be actionable? Would the committee be looking at this problem a few months down the road in terms of readjusting?
Those are completely unanswerable questions. The committee unrestricted Divining Witch for a few months and they dominated local tourneys. It had to be restricted again quickly. And Golden Wish is much like Divining Witch then; played a bit, but many people leave it out of decks.
But that doesn’t mean that someone can’t build a deck around the four of them as soon as they are given their Unrestricted walking papers. Golden Wish, then, in my estimation, is simply too dangerous to keep around unrestricted.
Should I vote to restrict a card that may be dangerous but that has not proved that it will be… Or should I vote to unrestrict a card right before the Five-Color Championships and several qualifiers to see what happens? It could ruin the events, or it could enlighten them.
I have no idea what would happen with this card, but I have asked and e-mailed a few players out there who play combo. Some say it’s overcosted crap and they won’t play them. Others, however, claim that they have actually playtested an unrestricted Golden Wish and it is simply not good for the environment.
Without more empirical evidence that they environment will be safe from harm, I cannot unrestrict the Golden Wish in good conscious. Vote for Remaining Restricted.
Proposed to be Restricted. I’ve asked this question before and I’ll ask it again – How bad does a tutor have to be before it is unrestriction worthy? Insidious Dreams was banned. Diabolic Intent is restricted, as is Rhystic Tutor. The creature tutors are legal in groups of four.
Long-Term Plans suggests that you should tutor now and get what you want three turns in the future. What it also allows you to do is get to it more quickly with any number of blue draw spells such as Impulse, Brainstorm, and the like. Even Opt or Sleight of Hand will work to retrieve the tutored-for card during your next turn. Play-Long Term Plans at the end of your opponent’s turn, play Opt, then untap and draw your tutored card.
Long-Term Plans is not that bad because it is an instant. Its only disadvantage is that you need some draw or sift method like Sylvan Library in order to use it immediately. Otherwise, it takes a few turns. That’s not such a disadvantage after all. Long Term Plans will probably see more play off the restricted list than some of the above mentioned tutors – Diabolic Intent and Rhystic Tutor. As such, this is an easy call. Vote for Restriction.
Proposed to be Unrestricted. The argument is made that, with Intuition being banned, Merchant Scroll is no longer as valuable as it once was. And while that is certainly true, Merchant Scroll remains a viable tutor. It’s just doesn’t get anything broken.
Oh yeah – except for Ancestral Recall! That’s a broken card. I mean, if all Merchant Scroll could do for you was get Spite / Malice to kill a creature, Fire / Ice or Prophetic Bolt to get you some burn, countermagic or card drawing, then it would be pretty ba….
Wait. That’s still pretty good.
Merchant Scroll targets are much more than just Intuition. Need something non-blue and non-instant? Get Mystical Tutor or Long-Term Plans. Ancestral Recall, Meditate, or Stroke of Genius might be nice to get. Go get that Counterspell or Force of Will. Or Stifle. Take Spite/Malice or Dominate for an unruly creature. Get Capsize to deal with permanent issues. Fire/Ice and Prophetic Bolt are pretty good cards too. A single copy of Illusion / Reality will allow you to Merchant Scroll from something to destroy an artifact.
That’s a pretty useful tutor. Sure, it won’t get you combo piece #3 or anything, but it can get you a tutor that will get it. A tutor doesn’t need Intuition to be restricted. Vote for Remaining Restricted.
Proposed to be Restricted. Parallel Thoughts has one major issue – it combos too well with cards that run rampant in Five-Color. The Thoughts is very reminiscent of Mangara’s Tome, a card that was restricted in Five for a long time, but recently was given a walking pass into the land of the Unrestricted. And it has not caused any problems. Mangara’s Tome, after all, was a fragile and mana-heavy machine. It was clunky.
Now comes Parallel Thoughts, which does everything the Tome did. Except you get seven cards not five. And they are in random order, not chosen. And – oh yeah – it costs no mana to get one.
Take, for example, this little known card Contract from Below, the Banner Card of Five-Color and probably the best card-drawing spell of all time. And it’s allowed in copies of four.
Play Contract from Below, for example, and you can choose all seven cards under Parallel Thoughts in one fell swoop. Wheel of Fortune, Timetwister, Diminishing Returns, Time Spiral, or Memory Jar your way into a hand of seven cards where you choose every card.
Pretty good, wouldn’t you say?
Kind of hard to lose when you get to select the seven cards in your hand, isn’t it? That makes Contract from Below virtually risk-free. And it makes Parallel Thoughts pretty good. I wouldn’t be surprised if we revisit Parallel Thoughts in a few months to try and ban it; it’s pretty broken for the environment. Vote to be Restricted.
Proposed Rules Change – Change to Play/Draw Rule.
For years, Magic tournaments have had the play/draw rule. The player who goes first does not draw. It seems simple.
See, for a long time in Magic, the player who went first got a card, and the game seemed fine. In most of the casual circles that I have played over time, this rule is still adhered to.
There are two worlds in Five-Color, and you can feel the tension here: One world is the competitive world. Some play in Five-Color Qualifiers and tournaments regularly. They play for hard core ante. And they want the play/draw rule imposed.
And other Five players are more casual and laid-back. This is their only chance to play with the old rule that you can draw on your first turn. Makes sense; you have a draw step, after all. Why should the first turn skip steps?
Here is what I think is funny – at one point, we were debating and discussing allowing players to use sleeves. Mind you, if I don’t want to use sleeves, I didn’t have to. We were discussing merely making it an option for those who wanted to. And there was major resistance.
Don’t touch my cards! they said. Only wimps wear sleeves! they said. (Well, the epithets were worse than”wimps.” I’ll leave what they actually said to your imagination.) People exclaimed that they would quit Five-Color if we allowed those who wanted to sleeve their decks to do so. Serious anger.
But when the play/draw rule was suggested? Silence. Very little debate, very little noise. Apparently, some traditions don’t matter as much as others.
Think about changing a rule that does not affect you if you don’t want it to, and go crazy nuts.
Think about changing a rule that will directly affect every single game from here on out – silence.
I like the old-school feel of the”draw first” rule. I really do. But it’s antiquated. Although the hypocrisy from some of the masses makes me want to change my mind in order to prove a point, I feel that I must be consistent in my voting. Change for the better of the format is good. Change for change’s sake is bad. This is good for the format. Vote in favor of going to the Play/Draw rule.
Now, with all of that out of the way, you’d think we’d be all done, right? Wrong. In addition to those seven proposed changes, the council has also placed on the Watch List the following two cards for unrestriction:
Braingeyser? Seriously? Although I recognize that cards like Stroke of Genius, Deep Analysis, and Fact or Fiction have largely supplanted the old standby, it’s still a broken card. I don’t think that I want five”draw X” spells running around. The current unrestricted X draw spells have massive flaws, like Prosperity or Illuminate or Read the Runes. I don’t want to unrestrict one without any flaw except that it’s a…*gasp*…sorcery.
Windfall. Windfall has got to be the least sexy”Discard and Draw” card on the list. Mislabeled a”Draw seven” card, Windfall simply doesn’t fit into a lot of decks. However, it’s very effective draw for three mana. It might be broken in multiples and I’d have to give it another look.
Here are my recommendations for unrestriction:
I have always thought that people just unnaturally fear the Black Vise. Everybody has had a slow hand or mana drought right as their opponent drops a Vise first-turn and they die. Happens to all of us. But hey, just because the Vise is effective at hurting those with mana screw doesn’t mean that it is this all broken card. Lots of things handle mana screw just as effectively. Dark Ritual–Phyrexian Negator will kill faster, Jackal Pup will kill a little slower.
Bu the Black Vise is just fine. In a deck where there are 250 cards, the likelihood of ever dropping two Black Vises in the opening hand is slim. And if it does happen, so what? I think people fear a Black Vise or two when they have a slow hand. 250 cards of all Five-Colors suggests that hands will sometimes play slow.
But that ignores a basic fact of Five-Color: Every opening hand you have will likely have at least two lands (unless you take a hand with less, like, say, an opening hand of land, Mox Emerald and Birds of Paradise). We have generous mulligan rules, and that makes it much harder for the Black Vise to exploit.
It’s just not that threatening a card in Five-Color.
What does a plural Channel allow you to do in Five-Color that a single copy of Channel cannot do? If you said”nothing,” then give yourself a gold star. Channel, in duplicates, is useless. It just makes it slightly more likely to draw one naturally as opposed to tutoring for one. If people think time has passed by Braingeyser, then it has galloped swiftly past this dinosaur.
Some say that Doomsday is broken and they’ve done it…. But I can’t ever recall seeing a broken Doomsday deck. Not even when Darren di Battista and others went crazy and made a fake Doomsday deck for Beyond Dominia to trick people as a joke.
If Doomsday is so powerful, then why isn’t it seeing use as a restricted card? If it sets up these uber-powerful combos, then it should still be able to do so. I think two to four of the cards in a 250 deck could be harnessed in a Doomsday combo already. Why not toss in the other card needed and a Doomsday?
Because it does not work effectively, is dangerous, is vulnerable, and costs three black mana.
I think we can safely consider the unrestriction of Doomsday.
Sooner or later, Recurring Nightmare will be unrestricted. This has got to be an remnant of previous restriction mania. It was on the watch list at my suggestion late last year, and I still think that it should be removed. It was a player suggested that I should vote to take it off, and I was convinced by his e-mail. It’s harder to stop than most enchantments, but there should be enough cards in most Fives to handle the situation.
Restock was voted on once already for unrestriction almost a year ago and just missed the cut. Restock is a good card, but it’s hardly on a broken power level like the other cards. Return two cards for five mana, two of it green, as a sorcery. Where is this card broken?
…And a Challenge
There is another area to consider. Unbanning cards as well. There are two cards that I think warrant attention: Darkpact and Bronze Tablet.
Both of these cards essentially snatch cards from the ante. First of all, a little information.
“Ante” is now an official Five-Color keyword. It is defined as:
“Shuffle the library. After an opponent cuts the deck, the top card is revealed. If it is a non-land rare card or a foil that is not a land, the ante is automatically accepted. The opponent may also accept the revealed card as ante. Repeat this process until a card is accepted as ante automatically or by an opponent. Shuffle the unaccepted cards into the library.”
So if you go to Darkpact, then you have to ante up both the Darkpact itself and a card from your library using official Five-Color ante rules. Since antes now require a shuffle and cut, you cannot”Set” the ante by using Portent, Brainstorm, Sylvan Library, or whatever. Darkpact is now much weaker.
Bronze Tablet costs ten mana to use, and is preventable by your opponent paying ten life. Why should that be banned?
Here is what I think:
Contract from Below players want to play their Contracts out of context of the initial game. When you Contracted, you had the potential to lose, and if so, lose an additional card. However, another legitimate loss of your ante would be if you Contracted and were winning – but before you won, a person Darkpacted your Contracted ante or something.
In other words, adherents to Contract from Below that want to play with it in copies of four should at least have the balls to allow Darkpact and Bronze Tablet into decks. If you want to play Contract, you need to be able to face the consequences. If you want to allow one of the ante cards, then you gotta let them all in. All of them.
So I am publicly declaring my position. Although I believe that it is healthy for the format to restrict Contract from Below, the most broken card drawer of all time, I will change my stance publicly and privately if Darkpact and Bronze Tablet are unbanned and unrestricted.
Feel free to fire off a comment in the forums.