My Five Color Vision

This is what things would look like if Abe ran the Five Color world.

Hello and welcome once again to an Abe article discussing Five Color. In just a few days, I’ll be celebrating my Fifth Anniversary as a player of Five Color. That’s a lot of time playing a single format regularly. I’m lucky to love the format so much.

For those who are not aware, Five Color is a casual format where a deck must have at least 250 cards including 20 cards of each color. The format uses all Type One legal sets, including all Portal cards. However, due to the nuances of the format, we have to maintain our own Banned and Restricted list.

Some people have difficulty wrapping their mind around that last bit. Wild Research was never broken in Type Two or Extended, yet it was so powerful and abusive in Five Color that we had to ban it. Recoup is on the shortlist for possible banning someday. Holistic Wisdom is banned. However, each of these has occurred for a very good reason. The environment is significantly different.

Recently, Brian Epstein wrote an article for the Five Color website wherein he discussed the changes he would make for the format if he had the power to do so. In the wake of that article, a variety of people started talking. I got calls from some of the local players, asking if I’d read the article. People mentioned it on the forums and the mailing list. It was getting people thinking.

I agree with several of Brian’s ideas, however, I think in some cases he doesn’t go far enough and in others, he goes too far. In that spirit, I would like to present my own vision of Five Color. Neither Epstein nor I possess the Keys to the Five Color Kingdom. Instead, we are just two voices on a ruling council of nine.

Please note that the following ideas are just that. They are ideas. I reserve the right to change my position at any time. If I playtested an idea, and it didn’t work, I’d be very comfortable changing my mind.

Additionally, these ideas are not supported by anybody other than myself. In fact, I wouldn’t even introduce any of these ides to the council unless other members wanted me to. I don’t believe that many of my ideas would ever pass, it’s just my vision.

With that in mind, I’ll use the Epstein way of listing my ideas. They’ll go in order from least controversial to most controversial. With that in mind, here we go:

Leave the Wishes Alone and Work on Something Broken

We currently have a good, solid, defensible ruling on the wishes. Yet, it seems everybody has an idea of how to make them better. Maybe they should only get cards removed from the game. Maybe we should have a sideboard. Maybe we should limit the time used to wish for a card. Maybe we should ban the wishes

Maybe we should just all stop for a second and breathe.

There’s nothing wrong with the Wishes that the DBAD (Don’t Be a Dodohead) rule doesn’t cover. If someone brings a 600 count card box to wish through and spends ten minutes looking for the card, then you have every right to summon the judge at a tournament or clunk him on the head Hahn-style with a Gatorade bottle.

The current ruling is an elegant interpretation of the wording on the card. You can wish for any card that does not make your deck illegal, and whatever card you wish for has to be able to be retrieved from where you are sitting. This prevents scenarios like rummaging through the closet for fifteen minutes looking for the exact card or casting the Wish, then before it resolves, purchasing the card you need from the store or trading for it.

As mentioned above, I feel that the Wish ruling combined with the DBAD rule, is already sufficient to curtail these situations. Judges are empowered to tell people to hurry up. I encourage players to chide ands berate their opponents for taking forever and a day.

Clean Up the Banned and Restricted List

The B&R List currently has almost ninety cards on it. When we vote on the five “power” Portal cards later this month, that list will grow by several cards. The larger the list, the more unwieldy it looks and feels.

I think that it’s time for us to take a look at a few cards for unrestriction. Not all of these cards may be unrestrictable, but I’d want to seriously look at four cards: Black Vise, Rhystic Tutor, Bribery, and Doomsday.

Black Vise is great on the first turn or two, but after that, I think most decks want creatures. It fits nicely into the Armageddon-Aggro decks that are popular these days, but most aren’t even playing one copy of Vise. With faster and faster decks, I think the time has come for us to safely unrestrict the Vise. Time may have passed the Vise by.

Rhystic Tutor gets restricted due to the “It’s a Tutor” clause, but its not like people are currently playing with one copy right now. If Rhystic Tutor were a reliable tutor, then it’d be played heavily because it’s splashable. Instead, it is simply a dead card way too often, and by the time you can use it, your opponent has already been playing the game, and has out threats, has you lower of life then you are prepared to be, and so forth.

I’ve read the claim on several occasions that Bribery is on the restricted list for the casual crowd. Well, as the token representative of the casual crowd, let me say that I don’t want special cards clogging up the list for us. Bribery is hardly at the same power level as some of these other cards.

Doomsday can win you the game, but does it? You have to build your deck around the combo, and you could be in serious danger of decking. A lot of modern decks contain a healthy smattering of countermagic. Combined with the already diverse card pool that many players use, you could have one headache in store if you resolve Doomsday. If your opponent counters one of the critical five spells, that could be the game right there. In order to solidify your Doomsday, you need to play more and more cards around it. Maybe a Soldevi Digger will need to be in play. As your deck becomes more focused on Doomsdaying, it becomes less concerned with winning. I doubt that any Doomsday deck would be so bad as to warrant restricting Doomsday again, but I’d like to find out.

As I mentioned above, I don’t know that I would restrict any of these. What I would do is announce that I am considering taking these off the lists, and allow players to demonstrate how taking these cards off would be bad. I’d want decklists, experiences, playtesting, and so forth. That way I’d work with the community to decide whether or not to take these cards off the list.

I’m going to give you fair warning. The first two ideas are fairly normal, run of the mill, “Sure we agree with that” sort of ideas. However, the next three I expect to be quite controversial.

Remove Ante From Five Color

I’m sure that some people expected me to list “Restrict Contract from Below” here instead. However, my vision for Five Color is to remove ante from it altogether.

Now, before I continue, allow me to dissuade those hard core 5c players who are already getting ready to hit the “Forums” link above and are formulating an angry response. I am not going to submit a vote to eliminate Ante anytime soon, unless other members voice their support first. Let’s get back to our regularly scheduled vision, already in progress.

Ante is the single largest deterrent to keeping away new players from the format. Trust me, I know. I read all of the posts, hear all of the dialogue, and get all of the e-mail responding to my articles. I have written dozens of Five Color articles, and no issue has received more conversation than the issue of ante.

The sheer number of people who have stated, “I would play Five Color except for that ante thing…” would fill up their own casual format three times over. Ante is a bigger deterrent than decksize, how many cards a player owns, and so forth. Sure, I hear “I don’t know how to begin building a deck,” or, “I don’t have the cards to build a deck.” However, I can’t point the former to my own series of articles designed to help the new deckbuilder, and I can alleviate the fears of the latter.

No matter how much I may try to debunk the ante issue with the people who have an issue, it doesn’t matter. I can tell them that most people don’t play for hard ante. They might play dollar buyback or ghost ante or beer ante or whatever. Yet, it still doesn’t matter. Without ante, we will have a much larger pool of players.

Despite all of that, there is another reason to be against ante. Ante goes against the very nature of the format itself. Five Color is supposed to be a relaxing, fun format. We’re supposed to be casual, laid-back layers who are playing to have fun and enjoy each other’s company. We’ll help players with their play mistakes, we’re very generous with mulligans, and so forth.

When the game has something on the line, some stake, then you encourage cutthroat play. We all know people who play casual Magic much differently than tournament Magic. I play differently as well. When you play for ante, there’s something on the line, there’s a risk factor in involved, and you have to up your game as a result.

It’s creates a tension in the format that is untenable. I think a lot of people have intuitively noticed, but haven’t placed their finger on it yet. I believe this is the most important issue for the format.

Increase the Number of Cards by One Hundred

When I started playing Five Color five years ago, I remember what the format was like. Decks were slower and unreliable. Even then, we had problematic combo decks, such as Mind over Matter with Urza’s Blueprints. The restricted list included such powerful cards as Corpse Dance and Recurring Nightmare. Invasion hadn’t even been released yet, but it was about to be.

Since then, we’ve seen the publication of numerous cards that have significantly helped to streamline Five Color decks. Cards have been published like Fact or Fiction, Sterling Grove, Diabolic Tutor, the Wishes to add more consistency and card drawing. Recursion has become crazy good with Restock, Nostalgic Dreams, All Suns’ Dawn, Eternal Witness and Recoup all getting printed. We’ve received staples like Vindicate, Orim’s Thunder, Dismantling Blow, Hull Breach, Terminate, Rend Flesh, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Krosan Tusker, and much more.

Now, imagine a format without some of these game winning cheap beaters: Psychatog, Mystic Enforcer, Spiritmonger, Guiltfeeder. From powerful Incarnations (Genesis, Glory, Wonder, Anger) to splashable countermagic (Circular Logic, Exclude, Evasive Action) to actually playable bounce effects (Upheaval, Recoil), we’ve added an awful lot to Five Color.

Decks have become increasingly streamlined. Between tons of tutors and a quartet of Contracts, a variety of cheap draw spells, all of the dual lands, plenty of fast artifact mana and highly efficient creatures and removal, a deck plays much more smoothly than it used to. Combo decks talk about regular fourth turn kills, fifth turn if they are running a bit slow.

I hear people argue against my ideas for ante or the least the restriction of Contract by saying that they like the format the way it used to be. “We can’t get rid of Contract/ante because this format was built on ante. Five Color is the format of big decks and big swings.”

Those folks should love this proposal. Additionally, a lot of folks opposed adding Portal because we’d get several new tutors all in one fell swoop. They thought that the format may have reached a flashpoint where tutoring becomes so reliable that the format is broken. Those people should love this proposal as well.

By adding one hundred cards, we decrease the impact of each new powerful card. We also keep decks from being so streamlined that it feels like an extended deck. That takes a while to shuffle. Increased card count brings decreased efficiency. The deck becomes more random, more unpredictable, and the game becomes more fun; it becomes more like yesterday’s deck.

In fact, I’d also want to have an automatic addition of fifty cards every two years, like clockwork. In two years, we’d go to a four hundred card deck, and so forth. This way we’d continue to grow as more powerful cards entered the format. We might even be able to take additional cards off the restricted list as their power diminishes due to the size of the deck.

Alternatively, Unban and Restrict Sundering Titan

Hello angry e-mails. I suspect that this will install me as the king of angry forum writers, providing them food for weeks. Let’s jump in with both feet firmly planted in front of us.

If you do not like my 100 Card March plan mentioned above, then here is what I’d do in the alternative. I’d bring back the Titan. No card garnered more wroth or disdain like the 7/10 Titan.

The problem with the Titan is that decks would build themselves around getting him out as quickly as possible. You’d use Tinker, Goblin Welder, or whatever else you needed to run in order to get out the Titan. When the Titan came to play, it’d be the third or fourth turn. You’d get a big beater and maybe lose a land. Your opponent would lose two or three lands. Then you’d swing mightily.

The reason the Titan was so powerful in fully powered environment is because he’d kill virtually every land that you played. If your deck’s landbase was 40 duals, 4 Cities, a few restricted lands, and basics, then the Titan could take out virtually every single land.

Therefore, Titan was the nuts against powered decks. However, if your land base included 20-30 painlands, Cities, a few tap duals, a handful of fetchlands, some basics, Gemstone Mines, and whatnot, then the Titan was just a big creature.

If I Tinker out a Titan against this second deck, all I get is your Island while taking out two or three of my own lands. That’s no longer a winning proposal for me. You have our four or five mana and plenty of options to destroy the Titan, from removal (either artifact or creature) to bounce.

Against those decks, Titan was a bad choice to Tinker out. In other words, Sundering Titan was an amazingly good card against the metagame. He worked great at hosing decks that ran as well-tuned a manabase as possible. Against everyone else, Titan was a 7/10 that hurt the Tinkerer as much or more than the opponent in most scenarios.

Titan’s continued existence in the format would force changes in deck design. I think that’s a very good thing. So, to shake things up and disrupt strategies, I’d bring back the Titan if I couldn’t increase deck sizes by a hundred.

Well, there you go folks. Here are five ideas that I’d pursue if I were the dictator of Five Color. Of course, no one is the dictator. We have a ruling council of nine. I’m sure that everyone on that council would have a different set of proposals. That’s why we have a council. However, if people want to do any of these ideas, I’d be willing to listen.

I hope that you enjoyed our little excursion through Five Color land.

Until Later,

Abe Sargent

* DBAD – The second ‘D’ in DBAD isn’t really Dodohead, but I’ll leave it to your imagination as to what it does stand for.